TOTO: THE DOG-GONE AMAZING STORY OF THE WIZARD OF OZ Written by Michael Morpurgo Illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark (HarperCollins Children’s Books; $17.99, Ages 8-12)
The beautifully illustrated middle-grade chapter book, Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of the Wizard of Ozgives voice to Toto, providing an interesting and refreshing viewpoint. Each chapter orients the reader to current day as Papa Toto recounts his adventures to seven sleepy puppies; only Tiny Toto always stays awake until the tale’s end. Kids will enjoy Papa Toto’s sausage cravings—delicious food is scarce on that long yellow brick road.
More than 250 full-color drawings by Emma Chichester Clark create vivid, engaging scenes; Papa Toto is Chichester Clark’s recognizable black scruffy dog. Both artist and writer are masters at their craft. A former Children’s Laureate, Morpurgo has published over 130 books. His novel, War Horse, was successfully adapted into a Tony Award-winning Broadway play and a Golden Globe-nominated film by Steven Spielberg.
Morpurgo, an expert storyteller, introduces new generations to the timeless Wizard of Oz. Whenever Dorothy says, “Home is home, and home is best,” Toto woofs, “You’re so dog-gone right.” A gentle reminder to appreciate life before a twister strikes.
As the story progresses it becomes clear that Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion possess what they seek; they just don’t know it. The surprise, of course, is believing in an all-powerful wizard who proves to be “nothing but a humbug, a low-down trickster, a miserable fraudster.” However, with some “upside-down thinking,” the way home is within reach.
Happy Valentine’s Day!! We all know that love comes in all shapes and sizes. There’s the love of a child, a parent, a sibling or a spouse. There’s also the love of a pet, and the love of a best friend. Then of course there’s the love of one’s country or birthplace, and a love of Mother Nature’s gifts on Earth. There’s even the love of a film, a TV show or a book, although I’ve never sent a Valentine’s Day card to a book. In this Valentine’s Day Books Roundup we’re celebrating the myriad things we love and the ways we express our love on Valentine’s Day and every day.
I LOVE YOU ALREADY! Written by Jory Jon and illustrated by Benji Davies (Harper; $17.99, Ages 4-8) Sure to be a hit with youngsters, this follow up to Goodnight Already! has everything you’d want in a good read aloud or bedtime story. There’s a duck and his next door neighbor, a bear. There’s humor and great artwork. But best of all, there’s an undeniably adorable premise – duck won’t let Bear have a day of rest because he just does not feel confident he is loved, or even liked by Bear. Duck, in true duck form, insists that two go out together. “You don’t look busy! Besides, we’re going for a walk, friend. No arguments., Chop-chop!” Hard as he tries, Duck eventually learns that he doesn’t really have to do much because by the end of this entertaining tale, it’s obvious that Duck is loved very much by Bear. I got such a kick out of these two totally opposite characters who share the bond of friendship in such a special way.
LOVE IS MY FAVORITE THING Written and illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark (Nancy Paulsen Books; $16.99, Ages 3-5) Fans of Emma Chichester Clark and dog lovers everywhere will not be disappointed with her latest picture book, Love is My Favorite Thing, based on her own dog and celebrating “unconditional love.” We’re treated to plucky Plum’s (aka Plummie) point of view right from the get go and what we learn endears her to us instantly. Brimming with genuine affection, Plummie professes love for everyone and everything, from the sun to sticks, from little Sam and Gracie, the next door neighbors’ kids to owners Emma and Rupert. Very British sounding names, right, but that just adds to the charm. In fact, when we first moved to London, my daughter had a classmate whose parents called her Plummie and she wasn’t even a pooch!!
Here’s my favorite sentence: “I love it when Emma says, ‘Good girl, Plummie!’ when I do a poo, as if it’s so, so clever.” The repetition of Plum saying “LOVE is my favorite thing” is really one of the clever thing going on in this story. As are Chichester Clark’s illustrations which give readers a real sense of what Plum’s all about. Even if she sometimes gets up to no good, her intentions are never bad. That is until she ran off with a child’s bag that had an ice cream cone dropped in it. Then Plummie just could not resist. Poor Plummie! Would her owners still love her after her big mistake? Plum ponders this question that children also often wonder, “Does being naughty make people stop loving you?” And the answer is a resounding no, they absolutely still love you as long as you’ve taken some time to think about what you’ve done. That’s why, Plum reminds us, and I am certain, too, that “LOVE IS MY FAVORITE THING!”
WORM LOVES WORM Written by J.J. Austrian Illustrated by Mike Curato (Balzer & Bray; $17.99, Ages 4-8) Here’s a super new story that turns the idea of what invertebrate marriage is right on its head, if worms had heads! And so begins this gender bending tale of two worms who want to tie the knot, only their friends expect them to go the traditional route. With same-sex marriage now the law of the land, it’s an ideal time to gently and thoughtfully introduce this subject and Worm Loves Worm does it beautifully with humor and tenderness.
When the pair of worms express their love for each other, the next step feels right. “Let’s be married,” says Worm to Worm. With Cricket performing the ceremony, Beetle on hand to be best beetle and the Bees eager to be the bride’s bees, the worms wonder, “Now can we be married?” Of course the answer isn’t so simple as they’re told they need to have rings, ( despite having NO fingers), a band and all the other accoutrements of a wedding. When ultimately asked who is the bride and who is the groom, the worms explain that they are both, clearly a break from the norm in the eyes of the worms’ friends. “Wait,” says Cricket. “That isn’t how it’s been done.” The reply is powerful and appropriate. “Then we’ll just change how it’s done,” says Worm because, in the end, what does tradition have to do with it? It’s love that matters.
CHICK ‘N’ PUG: THE LOVE PUG Written and illustrated by Jennifer Sattler (Bloomsbury Children’s Books; $16.99, Ages 0-5) Chick ‘n’ Pug are certain to garner new fans from this latest installment, the fourth in Sattler’s popular series. BFFs Chick ‘n’ Pug are introduced to Daisy who falls hard and fast for Pug and attempts to win his love. The catch is Pug would prefer to continue napping. Much like in the friendship of Duck and Bear, Chick’s the energetic one, eager to help show Daisy that her wooing of his pal is worthwhile. Daisy tries and tries to use her feminine wiles to get Pug’s attention by hinting how she adores flowers, can’t find her favorite bow or is being chased by a bully. It’s not until a bee, first observed when Daisy wished for flowers, begins buzzing around sleepy Pug that the pooch is stirred annoyingly awake. Daisy and Chick get into the act as the three ward off the intolerable insect. Soon, it’s not just Chick ‘n’ Pug who are exhausted and in need of nap. Love can sure tire you out in the best possible way.
Beginning today, Monday, September 10, 2012 through Wednesday, September 12, 2012 of this week we’ll be reviewing and/or briefly mentioning picture books that we’ve read recently then giving them away! And guess what? If you LIKE us on Facebook and also send us your name and contact info in an email to Ronna.L.Mandel@gmail.com by Monday, September 24, 2012 you’ll be entered to win a prize package of all books covered!! Remember to write Picture Book Giveaway in the subject line. YOU MUST LIST ALL BOOKS COVERED as part of your entry eligibility so be sure to read the blog every day. One lucky winner will receive eight hardcover books worth a total retail value of $136.88! We’re making it SO easy for you to get your kids reading again this back-to-school season. And isn’t that priceless? The giveaway opportunity ends at midnight on Monday, September 24, 2012 and a winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. Click here now for rules. Good luck.
Today’s theme is family.
The Roller Coaster Kid($16.99, Viking, ages 4-8)written by Mary Ann Rodman and illustrated by Roger Roth. A young boy called Zach spends time with his grandparents every summer and always visit Oceanside Park, an amusement park with a roller coaster called the Whipper. In fact one summer decades earlier Zach’s grandfather earned the moniker, The Roller Coaster Kid, having ridden the Whipper 100 times! Because both Zach and his grandma both dislike roller coasters, they enjoy the Big Wheel instead. When the next summer arrives and Grandma has passed on, Zach must find a way to reinvigorate his grieving grandfather. Will this perhaps involve the Whipper? I love the subtle spin on such a sensitive subject that allows parents to gently broach the topics of love, loss, facing fears and the unique thread that ties children together with their grandparents.
Also worth noting:
Who’s In My Family? All About Our Families ($15.99, Candlewick Press, ages 3 and up) written by Robie H. Harris and illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott. Whether you live with your parents, grandparents, guardian, mother and stepfather, with siblings or a pet, they are all families and not one is better than the other, just different. Here’s a picture book that will get kids interested in talking about all kinds of families who live in all kinds of homes in oh so many places sharing the good times and the bad, but most importantly, sharing the love.
($15.99, Templar Books, ages 3-5) written by Nanette Newman and illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark. Now here’s a book I wish I’d written. This new twist on the “What do you want to be when you grow up?” theme introduces delightful Lily who proposes to her grandma the most imaginative careers a grandma could possibly have. And her cool grandma simply adds to the ideas as she cleverly and lovingly indulges her thoughtful granddaughter’s whims. “Or you could grow up to be a fairy with a magic wand who stops rooms from getting messy.” Now there’s a little girl who thinks big thoughts any child would adore. The artwork by Chichester Clark is colorful, vibrant and keeps us turning the page to see her take on Grandma in all her glory. Give this to a cherished grandparent or add it to your own collection so you can return to it again and again.
**Recap – To be eligible for the giveaway:
1. Read our blog this week
2. Like us on Facebook
3. Send us an email to Ronna.L.Mandel@gmail.com by Monday, September 24, 2012. Write “Picture Book Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, write:
a. The names of all the books mentioned in our blog posts from Monday September 10 through Wednesday September 12, 2012.
b. Your name
c. Phone number
A winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday, September 25, 2012.