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Turkey Tot by George Shannon

Share Turkey Tot with your kids this fall and all year ’round!

Turkey Tot (Holiday House, $16.99, available in ebook format, ages 3-6) by George Shannon with illustrations by Jennifer K. Mann, is reviewed by MaryAnne Locher.

Turkey Tot cover art
Turkey Tot written by George Shannon with illustrations by Jennifer K. Mann, Holiday House, 2013.

Turkey Tot. The title made me think it might be a good book to review this time of year. Other than having a turkey as the main character, this book has nothing to do with Thanksgiving. That is, unless you want a book with a turkey in it who would be smart enough to think of a way to escape being cooked for dinner! But that’s not the story.

Turkey Tot, written by George Shannon with artwork by award winning illustrator Jennifer K. Mann, is so engaging with its repetitive verse and brightly colored illustrations, I almost didn’t notice the lessons hidden in the story.

Chick, Hen, Pig, and Turkey Tot are four friends who all want the same thing; sweet juicy blackberries. The only problem is the blackberries are too high on the bush for any of them to reach. Turkey Tot, being quite the visionary, gets excited when he finds some string, and decides that if he could only find balloons, he and his friends could all float up to the blackberries. There are no balloons to be found, but Turkey Tot finds a hammer, nails, and two tin cans. His friends don’t share in his excitement, think he is being silly, and go off to take a nap leaving Turkey Tot, who “has been different since the day he hatched,” alone.

Little ones will see how sometimes, being different is a good thing, especially when you set a goal and have the creativity, ability, and determination to think outside of the box to achieve it.


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Otis is Back and Puppy’s Got Him!

9780399254697HOtis And The Puppy ($17.99, Philomel, ages 3-7), by #1 New York Times Bestselling author/illustrator Loren Long, is going to win a lot of new fans who were not previously familiar with the engaging red farm tractor. The seeds of popularity were sown with two previous titles, Otis and Otis And The Tornado so it’s wonderful for children to have a new addition to this vibrant, lovingly rendered series.

After reading Otis And The Puppy I am fondly reminded of Benedict Blathwayt’s Little Red Train books featuring Duffy Driver. At age five, my son was obsessed with these tales of an anthropomorphic train whose exploits were both entertaining and upbeat. While Long’s artwork with its retro look is certainly different than Blathwayt’s, the themes the stories explore – friendship, loyalty, and perseverance – are the same which is why they resonate with readers.

With Otis books children not only get a benevolent tractor character but a whole bunch of other friendly farm animals to boot. We’re instantly drawn into the story with Otis playing hide-and-seek with his pals after the workday has ended. He discovers them in the most humorous positions guaranteed to get lots of giggles! But what happens one evening when the farmer introduces a new member to the group? A precious, affectionate puppy is welcomed by all. The trouble is that he’s put in a dog house on his own, away from his new friends, and he’s also afraid of the dark. Otis hears him whimpering and brings him into the barn so he can curl up and fall asleep in the comfort of the tractor’s seat.

One day during another round of hide-and-seek, the puppy wanders off into the woods as he follows a butterfly.  It soon gets dark and no one can find the puppy, not even the farmer.  Although the search is called off until morning, Otis feels he must fight his own fears and foray into the dark forest to find his friend. Of course, despite the darkness and nighttime noises all around, a determined red tractor is not going to give up.  It sure helps to have some headlights!  Otis counts … “one-putt, two-puff, three-puttedy four chuff” and is delighted when he tracks down his puppy pal.  And so are the readers who will feel empowered by Otis’s tale of courage and caring. What a beautiful way to end a busy child’s day – with thoughts of Otis and Puppy dashing around happily in their heads.

-Reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

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Interactive Farm Fun

Playbook Farm by Corina Fletcher and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup ($24.00, Nosy Crow, ages 3 and up) is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

Playbook Farm is a multi-faceted treat that has engaged my three-year old daughter for hours. It is a combination of a pop-up book and a 3-D play mat that comes in an 8.5” box with an inner flap to store the stand-up animals and farm vehicles. The bottom side of the mat is the book. Children can read about the important work that farm animals do in simple, straight-forward language written by Corina Fletcher.  All the animals on the farm have jobs to do. Can you guess what they are? What do farm cats do? Farms cats keep the mice away and stop them from eating the wheat. What do sheep do? Sheep give us wool to keep us warm.

The sturdy 3-D mat opens up to roughly 24”x32”. There is a path that winds through the farm and takes us through the fields and pastures past the windmill, chicken coop, and more. Along the path is text that explains what we are passing: “Moo, moo, moo!” The cows are ready for morning milking. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whirs the windmill, grinding the grains of corn. The pop-up buildings have movable parts, such as doors and gates that open and windmill blades that turn.

The stand-up animals and vehicles are easy for little fingers to move across the mat. Move the tractor driven by the female farmer across the corn fields. Drive the truck through the farm to pick up supplies. Have the sheep dog guide the sheep and goat into their pen. Set the rooster high on the roof to announce the dawn. This tactile introduction to farm life is a treat.

The illustrations by Britta Teckentrup are delightful and present the images of an idyllic farm that children so enjoy.  Beyond the farm and its environs, there are duck ponds, trees, flowers, insects and various birds that dot the landscape. Details abound! Find the mother cat and her kittens. Count how many chicks are following the hen. What’s hiding near the flour sacks by the windmill? Who’s peeking at the horses through the wheat field? The illustrations alone provide great fun for youngsters who will eagerly look for the cleverly placed details.

Playbook Farm is play and learning stored nicely in a box.

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Spring is Here, There and Everywhere

If you could see my shelves at home, you’d know how much I love books about gardening. And one of my greatest pleasures is sharing my gardening knowledge with children. And Then it’s Spring ($16.99, Roaring Brook Press, ages 4 and up) is a perfect book for curious little gardeners. There are but a few wonderful words on every page, written by Julie Fogliano, and a whole lot of story telling going on with the illustrations, by Erin E. Stead. The story is about a boy and his dog who are eager to be done with winter so they can see less brown in the garden and more green. Yet day after day, week after week, brown is all they see. Until one day spring has arrived. I love the way this story charmingly epitomizes the anticipation every child experiences while waiting for something truly important to him or her. It also inspires kids to want to get out in their yards and plant seeds. And that is a very good thing.

What better time than spring to read a book about farmyard animals? Even better yet, this book should be read on a night when your little one is having trouble settling down to go to sleep. Farmyard Beat ($15.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, ages 1 and up) by Lindsey Craig is a catchy rhyming story about different farm animals that cannot sleep because they’ve got a beat going on in their heads. What you’ll truly love about this book is the fact that the animals eventually do wear themselves out, hopefully inspiring your child to do the same! You’ll also admire the illustrations by the inimitable Marc Brown (of the Arthur books and cartoon fame). The vivid pictures are actually collages made from hand-painted papers, and they’re just so darn cute.

-Reviewed by Debbie Glade. To see Debbie’s organic tomato garden video, click here.

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Born To Run Wild!

cvr9781442406735_9781442406735CHICKS RUN WILD ($15.99, Simon & Schuster, ages 2-6), written by Sudipta Bardan-Quallen and illustrated by Ward Jenkins, really tickled guest reviewer Lindy Michael’s fancy! Find the enthusiastic Lindy at BookStar on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City and she’ll take you right to where a copy of this terrific new children’s book can be found.

I think we all know how hard it is to get a wee one to go to bed, especially if they don’t want to, which as a parent and grandparent, I know is almost all of the time. After yet another story, another drink of water, another song, how many times have we kissed our child’s forehead, hoping, beyond hope, for not another peep out of them?

Well! What if you’re a mama hen with five little chickies, none of whom want to lay their little feathered heads on their pillows? After mama tucks them in their feathered beds and kisses them for the umpteenth time, then tip-toes out of the room for some much needed rest, yes, those CHICKS GO WILD!

“First they wiggle and they jump
Then they giggle and they thump,
Playing, swaying in pajamas,
when they hear their tired mama…”

Now, of course, like all smart little ones, they fake “catching zees” when mama peeks in the room and is finally satisfied her babies are indeed, asleep. But then, wait for it… CHICKS GO WILD, yet again… and again… and again.

But don’t mess with mama. She has a plan to finally get her babies off to dreamland. And she’s one smart, albeit, weary and worn out mama hen.

After reading this delightful story, I give all of you frustrated and tired and at the end of your rope mamas (and papas, too), permission to definitely try this at home. Then you can drag your exhausted selves onto your living room couch and run wild, also, just like mama hen does!

lindymichaelspic2The very versatile (and energetic) Lindy Michaels aims to inspire young minds through children’s literature. Lindy owned L.A.’s first children’s bookshop, OF BOOKS AND SUCH (1972-1987) where she did storytelling, taught drama to children, had art and poetry contests and the like. According to Lindy, “It was truly a ‘land of enchantment.” She also spent years lecturing on realism in children’s literature at colleges in the state. For close to five years Lindy has worked for Studio City Barnes and Noble (BookStar) in the children’s section and does storytelling every Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

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