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The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski

THE WHISPER
by Pamela Zagarenski
(HMH Books for Young Readers; $17.99, Ages 4-7)

is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

 

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Pamela Zagarenski’s The Whisper, a beautifully illustrated, brilliantly conceived story, will wow readers of all ages who marvel and wonder at the mystery inside the pages of a book.

Our young heroine borrows a book from school that her teacher assures her is magical. As she runs home clutching the treasured tome, a cloud of letters – all the words from the book – spill out behind her. Although she doesn’t see this happen, a beautiful fox carefully collects them all from the air in a delicate, long-handled net.

 

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Interior artwork from The Whisper, written and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, HMH Books for Young Readers, ©2015.

 

Finally opening the book, she is puzzled to find that the beautiful pictures are wordless.

It’s just not a book of stories, without any words, she thought.

But a whisper on the wind encourages her to use her imagination, look at the pictures closely, and weave a few simple words into the beginning of a story that is hers alone.

With each page, the girl’s stories become more colorful and complex, demonstrating her growing skill and confidence in her ability to interpret the images. It is an inspiring demonstration for those just beginning to explore ways to “read” and think about wordless books and their use in sprouting imaginary tales.

 

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Interior artwork from The Whisper, written and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, HMH Books for Young Readers, ©2015.

 

There is much to praise about Zagarenski’s paintings and imagery, as evidenced by her two prior Caldecott honors. The layers of light, rich color and depth, cleverly paired with repeating symbols that will delight little eyes, make this book perfect to pore over and discuss. Crowns, bees, foxes, a tiny rabbit and a golden orb in many incarnations are tucked here and there as part of each illustration. Imagining how and why they are connected is a delightful exercise in fantasy and storytelling that echo the young heroine’s tale.

 

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Interior artwork from The Whisper, written and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, HMH Books for Young Readers, ©2015.

 

After she falls asleep, the girl’s dreams swirl with the stars, winds and gentle creatures in the book, bringing her mysterious and enchanting story full circle. The fox who captured the book’s words in a net re-appears at the end, and makes a special, charming request. The Whisper is a tender book to enjoy with the heart and mind, reminding us that our own stories are the most potent and powerful of all.

 

  • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

 

Where Obtained:  I reviewed a copy of The Whisper from the publisher and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

 

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FOOD TRUCKS! by Mark Todd

Food Trucks!
written and illustrated by Mark Todd
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $16.99, Ages 4-8)

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The food truck phenomenon has its roots in Los Angeles, and local writer-illustrator Mark Todd pays homage to food on wheels in Food Trucks! The thirty pages feature a variety of edibles highlighted in the fourteen trucks. Short rhymes mixed with food facts provide an amusing and informative read.

Amigo (Taco Truck)

What’s up?/Surf’s up!/Hang ten and then/Head on over to the taco truck!

Carne asada and empanadas/With rice and beans/Seem to really hit the spot!

Holy moly, guacamole!/How about a hot tamale?/Bean burrito or quesadilla?/We’ve got the whole enchilada.

Dare to add the haban~ero/If you like it REALLY hot!

 

Better Burger Builder Bus (Hamburger Truck)

The world’s largest burger weighed 2,014 pounds and was ten feet in diameter. Before it was topped with sixty pounds of bacon and forty pounds of cheese, it took a crane to flip the patty! Americans eat an average of three hamburgers a week, which amounts to nearly fifty billion burgers per year!

Each food truck has a distinct personality. Bubba Q, the barbecue truck, sports long horns and a nose ring. The grilled cheese truck, Cheddar Chuck, has a grater ornament atop the roof and side mirrors in the shape of cheese wedges. Curry in a Hurry, the Indian food truck, is adorned with tassels, beads, and brightly colored lights. These extra touches on the details, such as the broccoli hood ornament on Mr. Cobb the salad truck and Sprinkles the cupcake truck’s license plate, SWTOOTH, make for entertaining viewing.

Whether your child is a foodie or a picky eater, s/he will find something to enjoy in this tribute to movable culinary delights.

– Reviewed by Rita Zobayan

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Garden-Themed Books for Spring: Lola Plants a Garden & In Mary’s Garden

Lola Plants a Garden
Written by Anna McQuinn and illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
(Charlesbridge; $15.95, Ages 2-5)

In Mary’s Garden
By Tina and Carson Kugler
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $16.99, Ages 5-9)

Spring is only a few short weeks away, and most of the country can’t wait to thaw out. In anticipation of sunshine and warmer temperatures, here are two picture books about different types of gardens.

Lola-Plants-Garden-cvr.jpgIn Lola Plants a Garden, young Lola is inspired to plant a garden after reading the “Mary, Mary, quite contrary” poem. First, she conducts her research with books from the library. Next, she and Mommy make a list of Lola’s favorite flowers. Then they’re off to buy seeds and carefully follow the instructions on the seed packets. But growing a garden doesn’t happen quickly, and Lola has to wait. Not to worry, as Lola and her parents have plenty of ways to keep busy.

Lola makes her own flower book…She finds shells and some old beads. She even makes a little Mary Mary. Daddy helps Lola hang her shiny bells. Lola finds Mary Mary a special spot. It’s just perfect. And, before Lola knows it, her flowers grow and her friends visit. They share the crunchy peas and sweet strawberries…What kind of garden will Lola plant next?

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Interior artwork from Lola Plants a Garden by Anna McQuinn with illustrations by Rosalind Beardshaw, Charlesbridge Publishing ©2014

This sweet book highlights the fun of getting back to nature and teaches the virtues of hard work and patience. Good things come to those who wait, and Lola must wait for her flowers to sprout and grow. With the help of her parents, Lola doesn’t dwell on the waiting and enjoys her time with related activities. I just adore the illustrations. They are bright with the little details that convey so much meaning. We know Lola is working hard on her flower book when we see her tongue stick out from the corner of her mouth. And pulling weeds isn’t easy as we can tell from Lola wiping her brow. I especially liked seeing how Mommy and Lola lean into each other as they make cupcakes. These touches are the illustrator’s mastery. The font is also spot on with just the right size and style (modern with clean lines) to help emerging readers identify letters and words.

 

InMarysGarden-cvr.jpgIn Marys’ Garden brings to life a true story of art and inspiration. Mary Nohl was a little girl in Wisconsin who loved to create, invent, and build things. Mary tried woodworking. She helped her father build a house on the shore of Lake Michigan. She won the first place prize in her industrial arts class for building a model airplane. This was unusual for the time, as girls were supposed to follow traditional paths. In fact, Mary was one of only two girls in the class. But Mary had an intrepid spirit and a keen eye for art. As she grew older, she traveled the world and drew inspiration from everywhere. One summer, her dogs, Sassafras and Basil, found driftwood on the lakeshore. Mary then began to hunt for more items—old keys, shiny rocks, feathers, cogs, combs, and on. She began to create. It took a long time to put together all the odds and ends and bits and bobs, but finally Mary was done. The creature was magnificent. She continued to create art piece after art piece in her garden and then in her home. After her death, Mary’s art is being preserved.

My daughters and I greatly enjoy this story. It shows a woman who follows her own path and mind. Despite society’s conventions, Mary Nohl kept true to herself and her muse. These are lofty concepts, but even young children can understand the idea that a person can do what she loves. Older children will hopefully take away the lesson that gender shouldn’t stop someone from achieving milestones and following a dream. The book ends with factual information and photographs of Mary and her garden.

The book’s art is traditional watercolor with digital painting, collage and vintage papers. Postcards, patterns, and writing are used as backgrounds for the main illustrations and offer a look at Mary’s creativity. The “creatures” (statues and creations) are unconventional but fun to study. They demonstrate Mary’s incredible imagination. There’s a lot to take away from In Mary’s Garden—creativity, inspiration, challenging society’s norms, being true to yourself—and it’s well worth the read.

NOTE: If you live in L.A., you can see Tina and Carson Kugler at Once Upon a Time Bookstore at 11a.m. on March 28th.

Here’s a book trailer to enjoy, too.

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Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis

 Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis
with illustrations by Gilbert Ford
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99, Ages 4-8)

* A Junior Library Guild Selection

MrFerris-Wheel-cvr.jpgBefore I read this fascinating nonfiction picture book about the history of the first Ferris Wheel, I had no idea of the backstory; the competition to find and build a structure for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair that would be taller than the Eiffel Tower, the lack of financial support for its construction, the grueling work on the foundation in the dead of winter, the tight timeline in which to complete it, and the lack of faith professionals and the public had in the project. I’m thankful to Kathryn Gibbs Davis for opening my eyes to innovator, George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.

“George had an idea, an idea for a structure that would dazzle and move, not just stand still like the Eiffel Tower.”

What wonderful feats of engineering and willpower enabled Ferris to prove all the naysayers wrong! Over 1.5 million naysayers to be precise, the amount of people who rode on the wheel at 50 cents apiece in the “nineteen weeks” that it was in operation. And they said it couldn’t be done. Not only did Ferris change the public’s mind, but he changed history by building out of steel, what is now a staple of amusement park rides.

“George knew something the chief did not. His invention would be delicate-looking and strong. It would be both stronger and lighter than the Eiffel Tower because it would be built with an amazing new metal — steel.”

On almost every spread, Davis has managed to weave in assorted facts about the wheel’s invention in a way that will keep youngsters as engaged and enthralled as I was. The story itself flows easily and the artwork is simply lovely to look at. Ford‘s fabulous jewel-toned illustrations of 19th century Chicago took me back in time to an era in the industrial age when even electricity in homes was not yet commonplace. But as the sun set each evening, Ferris’s wheel, with is 3,000 electric light bulbs, lit up the night sky and was visible “as far away as forty miles.” I was happy to learn that after the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, in 1894 “the next Ferris wheel appeared in California on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.”

How sad I was to discover in the back matter (where sources are quoted, and a bibliography along with helpful websites are provided) that a New York Times obituary says Ferris passed away on November 23, 1896 while still in his thirties. I can just imagine all the other innovative contributions he could have made to society had he lived longer. As it is, the enduring popularity of his ride is a testament to Ferris’s genius, and Davis has done a terrific job conveying that in a most readable, enjoyable way.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Click here for a link to a reading guide.

WIN A COPY!
Leave a comment below about your favorite carnival ride then follow us on Facebook for a chance to win a copy of this must-have picture book. No entries after 11:59p.m. PST on February 11, 2015. One lucky winner will be randomly selected on Thursday Feb. 12, 2015. If you do not leave a comment you will forfeit your chance to win.

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Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold

Written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Rick Allen

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; November 2014, $17.99; ages 6-10)

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Living in southern California, my children and I can only imagine winters with the landscape covered in snow and animals nestling against the cold. Luckily, we have Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold, a new picture book by Joyce Sidman. Twelve poems capture how animals and nature manage during the north’s long and often freezing season. Some subjects, such as tundra swans and snowflakes, are cute and others like springtails (also known as “snow fleas”) and skunk cabbage, not so much. Cute or not, all topics are fascinating. Here is the first stanza of Chickadee’s Song:

 From dawn to dusk in darkling air

we glean and gulp and pick and snare,

then find a roost that’s snug and tight

to brave the long and frozen night.

Facts accompany the various poetic forms. For instance, for chickadees, we learn that “weighing less than a handful of paperclips…spending every waking moment searching for food…chickadees hunt for seeds, berries, and hidden insects to build up a thin layer of fat, which must last them all night.” That is just a little tidbit of the plentiful information given. The book also includes a glossary. This makes for a wonderful way to teach poetry, science, and vocabulary from one source.

The artwork by Rick Allen adds to the feeling of a frosty winter. The book’s description states, “The individual elements of each picture… were cut, inked, and printed from linoleum blocks… and then hand-colored. Those prints were then digitally scanned, composed, and layered to create the illustrations.” Keep your eye out for the beautiful red fox that guides the reader through most of the pages.

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold gives us a glimpse into the natural wonders of winter.

– Reviewed by Rita Zobayan

 

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Very Little Red Riding Hood by Teresa Heapy

What Great Personality You Have!

Very Little Red Riding Hood, the first in a series of three picture books by Teresa Heapy with illustrations by Sue Heap, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, $16.99, Ages 4-8), is quite possibly the most adorable retelling of a classic fairytale.

Very-Little-Red-cvr.gifJust as in the original fairy tale, Very Little Red Riding Hood is going to visit her Grandmama. In this version, Red, a wee toddler, is taking her suitcase and red teddy bear with her for a sleepover. Along the way, Red meets Wolf, but instead of being afraid, she’s excited and gives him a big hug. Heapy chooses her words wisely, and masters the voice and diction of a toddler. Heap’s illustrations show the wide-eyed innocence and playful antics of a child that age.

Red captures the wolf’s heart and wraps him around her very little finger. They pick flowers for Grandmama, but “Foxie” as she calls the wolf, doesn’t get it right.

“NOOO!” screamed Very Little Red Riding Hood.
“Not LELLO flowers. RED!” So they picked some red flowers.

Between carrying her suitcase and the flowers, and playing chasing games all the way to Grandmama’s, Wolf is tired out by the time they arrive. Red is still bubbling over with energy. Grandmama is reluctant to let the wolf into her house, but Red, like many toddlers, manages to get her way again. The wolf comes in for a cup of tea, and stays to play hide-and-seek, to dance, and to draw. Grandmama and Wolf are very tired and want Red to go to sleep. But, Red misses her Mummy, bursts into tears, and can’t be consoled by her Grandmama, who turns to the wolf for help. Wolf gives it a try, and just when you think he’s going to eat Red … well, that wouldn’t be a very good ending for a children’s book especially just before bedtime, now would it? Not as sweet an ending as a good tickle, a lot of laughter, a sleeping toddler, and a happily ever after.

Click here for a Very Little Red Riding Hood Activity Kit

NOTE:  This is the first book in a must-have read-aloud series of three, followed by Very Little Cinderella, and Very Little Sleeping Beauty.

– Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

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Picture Books Back to School Giveaway

Enter our exciting picture books giveaway today!

Out here in California, lots of kids have already returned to school. Others across the country will head back after Labor Day. Either way, parents are looking for new reading material to share with their children and we’ve got a set of three new and soon-to-be-published picture books for you to win courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt & Clarion Books! Scroll down after the reviews for our Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway.

9780544104433_lresNANA IN THE CITY by Lauren Castillo (available in bookstores September 2, 2014) $16.99, Ages 4-8  Now a 2015 Caldecott Honor Book!!

Review: I couldn’t wait to read this book starring a Nana as one of the main characters because I, too, had a Nana and growing up there were no books mentioning Nana (unless you count Nana the big sheepdog in Peter Pan). However, unlike Nana in this story, my Nana did not live in Manhattan (the water towers on top of the buildings along with the subway art shouted the Big Apple to me.)

This picture book’s young narrator goes to stay with his grandmother “at her new apartment in the city.” From the very start, the little lad makes it clear he does not like the city nor the fact that his nana is living there. It may be a busy, loud, and scary place (Castillo’s illustrations depict construction and scaffolding, menacing-looking graffiti and homeless people asking for money) to a child, but to Nana the city is “wonderful – bustling, booming and extraordinary.”

With the help of a knitted red cape, and an eye-opening walk around the neighborhood to see close-up what is really going on, Nana shows her grandson that the city, though busy and loud, is  actually a “perfect place for a nana to live.”

Castillo’s use of primary colors interspersed with blacks and whites conveys the city’s mood and totally complements the text. Whether your child is heading to NYC or any other city for that matter, sharing Nana in the City with them is an ideal way to allay any trepidation they might have about visiting someplace new and different.

9780544233515CREATURE_FEATURES_HICREATURE FEATURES: 25 Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page (available in bookstores October 4, 2014) $17.99, Ages 4-8 A Junior Library Guild Selection

Review: Creature Features’ authors and illustrators, Jenkins and Page, have come up with an interesting and fun way to engage readers in this nonfiction picture book about all sorts of animals, from the blobfish to the Egyptian vulture, from the axolotl to the thorny devil. There are so many neat new facts to learn and bright bold artwork to enjoy. By addressing each creature individually  …

Dear red squirrel:

Does that fur on  your ears help you hear better?

children will feel as if the first-animal (can’t really say first-person now can I?!) response is directed to them personally.

No. It’s there to keep my ears warm. It falls off in the summer and grows back in the winter.

There is also a spread in the end pages with a chart showing animal sizes compared to humans, a map with the locations of where the creatures live and what their diet consists of.  Check out www.stevejenkinsbooks.com/creaturefeatures to get details on this delightful book.

9780544164666SMALL BLUE AND THE DEEP DARK NIGHT by Jon Davis (available in bookstores now) $16.99, Ages 4-8

Review: Small Blue, a young rabbit, has an active imagination, especially in the deepest, darkest night. It’s then she’s convinced her bedroom is full of “creepy things” like gremlins, goblins and giant hairy spiders. In other words, all types of characters that are intent on preventing a little bunny from getting a good night’s sleep.

But Big Brown comforts Small Blue by offering up a completely new perspective after turning on the light It’s just as likely there could be delightful doggies riding around in a unicycle convention. Or, maybe a smiley spaceman is hosting “a zero-gravity birthday party.”

I love how Davis has introduced a plausible new paradigm for parents to share with an upset or  frightened child. Kids will be empowered by this picture book. They can choose to be scared of the nighttime, preoccupied by all the sneaky things lurking in the dark, or they can re-envision their room as a realm of positive possibilities; a place where doggies, spacemen and yes, even retired sock-knitting pirates parade about, and by doing so welcome the darkness as one big adventure.  And isn’t thinking that way a great way to greet the night?

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz

Boy-and-Jaguar-cvr.jpgA Boy and a Jaguar written by Alan Rabinowitz and illustrated by CáTia Chien is reviewed by MaryAnne Locher.

Starred reviews from both Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus.

“Moving and sweetly resonant.”
—Kirkus Review, starred review

 

Alan Rabinowitz, author of the new nonfiction picture book A Boy and a Jaguar (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; May 2014; Ages 4-8), grew up as a stutterer, someone who has trouble forming words and getting them out. His difficulties speaking, and a lack of understanding by those around him, caused him to feel “broken” and separate from people. As a boy he spent much of his time with animals. They never hurried him or made fun of him for stuttering. In fact, when he spoke to animals, he didn’t stutter at all! He makes a promise to his pets and to his favorite animal, a sad caged jaguar at the Bronx Zoo.

“…if I can ever find my voice, I will be their voice and keep them from harm.”

In A Boy and a Jaguar, illustrated by CáTia Chien, Rabinowitz has found his voice. By doing so, he has given hope to people of all ages, that no matter what their personal obstacle, with hard work and a sense of purpose, that obstacle can be transcended, and great things can be achieved.

While in college, Rabinowitz finally learned to speak without stuttering, but still didn’t feel whole. He enjoyed his study of bears in the Smoky Mountains, but found that he was more comfortable in the jungles of Belize tracking and studying jaguars than he was anywhere else. Rabinowitz never forgot the jaguar at the zoo from his childhood, or his promise to the animals, and so he convinced the prime minister of Belize to set up a preserve to save jaguars from the trophy hunters who were killing them. Quite an accomplishment, stutterer or not!

By the end of the book, Rabinowitz speaks fluently, feels whole, and has a very special close encounter in nature. This is a beautiful inspirational story in and of itself, but Chien’s use of charcoal pencil and acrylics enhances the mood of the book. Solemn grays and blues, peaceful forest greens, and bright and cheery golds compliment the metamorphosis that occurs for Rabinowitz.

Bonus: There is a Q&A with the author himself on the back cover flap, where we discover Dr. Alan Rabinowitz has devoted his life to being the voice for those who can’t speak for themselves, whether animal or human.

Here’s a link to Publisher’s Weekly interview with Rabinowtiz.

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Farmer Dale’s Red Pickup Truck by Lisa Wheeler

MaryAnne Locher reviews FARMER DALE’S RED PICKUP TRUCK (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $7.99, Ages 2 and up) .

Are you ready to take a ride in Farmer Dale’s Red Pickup Truck? (Author Lisa Wheeler has the reader chugging along down a country road in her rhyming board book. Wheeler’s words and Ivan Bates’ illustrations give personality to the farm animals that fill the pages and Farmer Dale’s truck. Until…

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Farmer Dale’s Red Pickup Truck by Lisa Wheeler with illustrations by Ivan Bates, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2014.

The truck bounced up. The springs all popped.

The bumper bumped. The pickup stopped.

With the truck broken down on the side of the road, tempers flare. Then, cow, pig, goat, sheep, rooster, and Farmer Dale, work as a team to try to figure out how to get the over-loaded truck moving again. Until…

The pickup bounced and shimmied.

It groaned and squeaked and wheezed.

It spit a thankful cloud of smoke

and started with a sneeze.

The rhyme in this book moved along perfectly, even when the pickup truck didn’t. The illustrations of the anthropomorphized animals were full of life. My favorite part of the book is the ending. Not because I want the book to be over, this is one I’ll read many times over, but because there are even more animals to see and Bates’s illustrations paint a picture worthy of another story.

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Interior images from Farmer Dale’s Red Pickup Truck by Lisa Wheeler with illustrations by Ivan Bates, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, © 2014.

 

 

 

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Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood

Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood
with illustrations by Jonathan Bean
is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

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Bad Bye, Good Bye written by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Jonathan Bean, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.

Bad Bye, Good Bye (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, $16.99, Ages 4-8) is such a great title. Even my almost 13-year-old who hasn’t read picture books for quite some time remarked about how clever the title was and how he instantly knew what the book would be about.

Families move. It happens all the time. Moms or Dads get new jobs and whammo, it’s time to pack up, head to another city (or country as it was in our case) and start all over again. It’s never easy to move and leave behind all we know and love, but having a picture book like Bad Bye, Good Bye to share with kids when relocating can really help parents broach the topic gently and also help kids open up about their hopes and fears.

As I mentioned earlier, Bad Bye, Good Bye is such a terrific title that I’m surprised no one thought of it sooner. Having moved three times with my children because of my husband’s job, I know firsthand how unsettling and sad it can be for youngsters. If the change is hard and stressful for an adult, imagine how overwhelming it is for little ones who don’t have all the coping skills yet in place for dealing with these kinds of major life events. Underwood wastes no time in setting the scene by beginning the picture book with moving men loading a family’s belongings onto a moving van while two red-faced children cry. In fact the little boy even clings to a mover’s leg in an attempt to stop him. Everything is rotten.

Bad day,
Bad box,
Bad mop,
Bad blocks.

What can go right for this brother and sister who do not want to leave their home and their friends? Even their car journey to their new home is filled with anxiety. The sparse rhyming text manages to convey the reluctance of the kids even as the artwork begins to show more positive parts of moving.

As the jacket flap copy reads: “Bad Bye, Good Bye is perfect for moving day or any of life’s tough transitions.” What parents can do is have this book on hand to read when there are no big moves planned so children can see that not all aspects of a move or a change are sad. For example, one of the two child characters in the story meets a neighborhood boy he spies from upstairs while he’s checking out his new bedroom and soon they’re watching fireflies light up the night together.

New kid,
Good throw,
New Bugs,
Good glow.

Bean’s illustrations work beautifully with the text. His paintings combine both the deep darker colors of the mood everyone is feeling as well as less prominent sketches on the same page to indicate movement and progression of time. I cannot picture this book with anything but these illustrations because they’re so full of the emotion and local color that Underwood’s story has set up so well. As someone who has experienced the sadness and apprehension of moving multiple times with my young children, I would not hesitate to recommend reading Bad Bye, Good Bye as a way to make any move or change acceptable and perhaps even looked forward to!

And for a bonus – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s provided a page of moving tips for families you can find by clicking here.

 


 

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The Song of the Quarkbeast: The Chronicles of Kazam, Book 2 by Jasper FForde

Kazam and Quarkbeasts: a Survival Guide

The Song of the Quarkbeast: The Chronicles of Kazam, Book 2 by Jasper FForde (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99, ages 10 and up), is reviewed today by Hilary Taber.

“I work in the magic industry. I think you’ll agree it’s a pretty glamorous: a life of spells, potions, and whispered enchantments…if only. No, magic these days is simply useful…” –Jennifer Strange

The Song of the Quarkbeast

The second in the Last of the Dragonslayer series finds us once again at Kazam, an employment agency/living quarters for wizards. Our hero, Jennifer, is once again back home at Kazam, filling in for the mysteriously missing Great Zambini. Her job is to find employment for the strange, but strangely loveable group of wizards under her care. At sixteen, she’s more than competent at dealing with wizards in the fictional setting of the “Ununited Kingdom” who need work, but are not all that well acquainted with a watch. She finds them jobs, but not in “Big Magic” as it was called in the good old days. Although in the last book there was a surge of magic, since then magic or “crackle” as it is referred to in the book is again in short supply. A real energy crisis is taking place, and wizards have been reduced to using magic for very prosaic reasons. Finding jobs for wizards in pizza delivery, bridge building, finding lost things, and so on are what fill Jennifer’s day. Then there is always the official government paper work to fill out after each use of magic. Practical Jennifer and her replacement-in-training, Tiger, are back at Kazam after a particular incident that involved a Dragon, a Quarkbeast, and really, you should read the first book, The Last of the Dragonslayers for more on that adventure! It was a great read!

While life at Kazam is seeming a bit humdrum, suddenly a mysterious woman appears with an offer of a great deal of money in return for a favor. She’s looking for a ring, and not just any ring, but one that doesn’t want to be found. Full of negative magic, the ring resists those who would pursue it, but Lady Mawgon, one of the better and scarier wizards at Kazam, insists on finding it. Kazam is in needs of funds, and no one at Kazam can argue with that.

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Friendship Poems for Kids

We Go Together!: A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse by Calef Brown (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $9.99; ages 6 and up) is reviewed today by word lover Rita Zobayan.

Calef Brown mixes pithy diction with fantastical imagery in We Go Together!: A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse. This 18 poem collection celebrates the quirks and intimacies of friendship, whether it is between boys, girls, animals, or even aliens! Fun words—scallywags, mirth makers, chorkle, concoct—are sprinkled throughout, making each poem a new adventure in language. Some poems use simple rhyme schemes that are easy for young readers to follow and read aloud.

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Throughout the poems there is a kindness and hopefulness for the type of friendships we want for our children. “Because of You” captures the sentiment precisely:

I was once/a half-emptyer./Now I’m a half-fuller./Because of you—the together-puller./So if I should smile/and say something sunny,/don’t look at me funny/or act surprised./Because of you,/I’m optimized.

Simple and sweet. The sweetness of the poems is matched by the artistry of the illustrations. In Calef’s world, green aliens take tea, a dog in a hat rings doorbells, a kiwi floats high above the cityscape, and panda faces appear in the rain. Slightly odd and intriguing, the illustrations will draw in the reader and bring the words to life.

Perfect as a gift for a good friend, We Go Together!: A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse is a pint-sized package (the books measures just about 6” on each side) that packs a lot of love.

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All Things Trucks and Construction

LETS LOOK AT VEHICLES

Bizzy Bear: Let’s Get to Work! by Benji Davies ($6.99, Nosy Crow, ages 1-3) and Tons of Trucks written by Sue Fliess and illustrated Betsy Snyder ($13.99, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, ages 1-4) are reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

                  The world of a toddler is filled with fascination and discovery. Almost everything is viewed with new eyes.  This is true for large vehicles, such as trucks and scoopers —they’re big, loud, and powerful –and a source of wonder for toddlers. The two books featured in this review provide fun, hands-on reading for toddlers to learn more about large vehicles.

Bizzy Bear: Let’s Get to Work! written by Benji Davies (Nosy Crow, 2012; $6.99) is a cute introduction to the goings-on of a construction site. We see Bizzy Bear start his work day by picking up his hard hat and then follow him as he performs different job duties. He operates a number of construction vehicles and uses hand tools, too. This 9-page board book has a kinesthetic activity on every other page that engages young readers (ideal for ages 1-3). Little fingers can help Bizzy scoop a hole and then tip out sand. Presented in a simple rhyme scheme, the text has a sing-song feel that toddlers enjoy hearing over and over again: Bizzy Bear, Bizzy Bear, lending a hand. Bizzy Bear, Bizzy Bear, push that sand!  The illustrations are simple and charming with just enough details to keep a toddler’s attention without overwhelming the young one. Of course, a cast of animal characters adds to the fun. And, lest a parent be concerned that a girl won’t want to read about construction sites and large vehicles, rest assured that my three-year-old daughter enjoys this book immensely.

Have you ever noticed just how many different types of trucks there are? I never had, but Sue Fliess and Betsy Snyder sure have! Their book Tons of Trucks (written by Fliess and illustrated Snyder) explores the variety of trucks and the specific jobs those trucks perform. This fun read provides plenty of hands-on opportunities for young readers to lift, open, fold-out, move and turn flaps to reveal aspects of trucks. See what an army crew truck transports, help a sweep truck clean the streets, and look out for the sticky tar truck! The muted colors and whimsical representations of the trucks and their animal operators are pleasing to the eye. The text is simple and straight to the point. The opening line–Tons of trucks before our eyes, in every color, shape and size—is followed by a naming of the trucks: Milk trucks, fruit trucks, on-the-move trucks! Each page is a discovery into the world of trucks and ends with the trucks and their operators drifting off to sleep, which is an ideal angle to read this book as a bedtime story, too.

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