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An Interview With MG & YA Author Deborah Lytton

THE FANTASTIC LIBRARY RESCUE
AND OTHER MAJOR PLOT TWISTS
Written by Deborah Lytton
Illustrated by Jeanine Murch
(Sourcebooks Jabberwocky; $7.99, Ages 8 and up)

Cover art of Ruby Starr from The Fantastic Library Rescue and Other Major Plot Twists


Read Our Q & A With Author Deborah Lytton

On today’s post I’m excited to share a recent interview I had with author, Deborah Lytton, about book #2 in the Ruby Starr series, The Fantastic Library Rescue and Other Major Plot Twists, which came out earlier this month. Having thoroughly enjoyed this chapter book for middle grade readers* that includes illustrations of Ruby’s active imagination at work, I can see how much tweens and bibliophiles will gravitate to the series, and this new book in particular, especially since it tackles two important issues: libraries losing funding and friendship predicaments. I especially like that Ruby’s friend Will P is also in a bookclub, something I don’t usually see depicted in stories. Here’s how Sourcebooks Jabberwocky describes Lytton’s latest:

The second book in this fun series that’s perfect for younger fans of the Dork Diaries and Story Thieves series. Ruby Starr is an older Junie B. Jones with a big imagination and a love of reading.

Ruby Starr’s life is totally back on track. Her lunchtime book club, the Unicorns, is better than ever. And she and Charlotte, her once arch enemy, are now good friends. The only thing that’s really causing any drama is her upcoming poetry assignment. She’s a reader, not a poet!

But disaster strikes when Ruby learns that her most favorite place in the world, the school library, is in trouble. Ruby knows she and the Unicorns have to do something to help. But when Ruby’s plans end up hurting a friend, she’s not sure her story will have a happy ending after all.

 

Q & A:

GOOD READS WITH RONNA: Ruby is a charming, book-loving outgoing yet introspective fifth grader. And while she is not perfect she certainly is someone any parent would be proud of. Do you happen to know any Rubys? And if not, how did you wind up with her as a main character for your series?

DEBORAH LYTTON: I do know a Ruby. My inspiration for this series came from my younger daughter who was in fifth grade when I began writing the first book. My YA SILENCE had just been released, and my older daughter was reading it. My younger daughter wanted me to write something for her to read. She asked for a story that would make her laugh. I based the character of Ruby on her initially, but then as I began to write, the character took on her own qualities. My favorite part of writing is when the characters begin to shape themselves. That definitely happened with Ruby Starr.

GRWR: What do you love most about her? 

DL: I love that Ruby makes a lot of mistakes, but always tries to fix them. My favorite thing about Ruby is her kindness. She thinks about other people and their feelings and tries to help them when she can. This is a quality I truly admire. I also enjoy writing Ruby because she is so imaginative.

GRWR: I realize this is book #2 in the series but yet I felt fully up-to-speed. Can you please tell readers briefly what happens in book #1? 

DL: I am so happy to hear that you felt up-to-speed! It was really important to me to write a second book that would let readers jump right in. Book #1 establishes Ruby’s character and her love for reading. The story centers on friendship troubles. When a new girl joins Ruby’s fifth grade class, she begins pulling Ruby’s friends away from her. Then she threatens to destroy Ruby’s book club. Ruby has a difficult time, and then she learns something about the new girl that changes everything. Ultimately, books bring the friends together.

GRWR: Is there a book #3 on the horizon? 

DL: Yes, I am really excited about Ruby’s third adventure. I have just finished the manuscript and I can tell you that Ruby and her friends get into a little bit of a mix-up and that it all begins with a very special book.

int art from The Fantastic Library Rescue and Other Major Plot Twists

Interior illustration from The Fantastic Library Rescue and Other Major Plot Twists by Deborah Lytton with art by Jeanine Murch, Sourcebook Jabberwocky ©2018.

GRWR: As a kidlit reviewer I love that Ruby is in a book club (The Unicorns), and as a writer I love Ruby’s vivid imagination. Did your own childhood inform these traits or did you feel she’d need these qualities to be a role model for tweens or someone many young readers could relate to?

DL: Growing up, my sister and I were like Ruby. We loved reading. Both of us cherish books and have saved many of our favorites from when we were young readers. My own daughters also love to read. In spending time helping out in their school classrooms and libraries, I have seen how many students enjoy books. I loved the idea that a fifth grade student would be independent enough to start her own book club at school to celebrate reading. Then I thought it would be fun to see where her imagination would take her, especially since she would be inspired by all the books she had read and loved. I hope young readers who have stayed up late just to read the next chapter of a book will connect with a character who is like them.

GRWR: The hero’s journey that Ruby embarks on is to save the school library where the hours have been reduced and new book purchases have been shelved due to funding cutbacks. Was this plot line inspired by stories you’ve seen in the news or even closer to home here in L.A.? 

DL: I have volunteered in the libraries at my daughters’ schools so I have seen first-hand the way that budget cuts have impacted the libraries. I have also helped students search for the perfect book to read and then watched their faces light up when they discover something really special. Libraries are so valuable to our youth. I wanted to highlight that message in this story.

Epic 18 Twofer Tuesday: Penguin & Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime! and Iver & Ellsworth

Unlikely friends have delightfully different,
unexpected adventures in two new picture books
from debut, Epic 18 authors.

PENGUIN & TINY SHRIMP DON’T DO BEDTIME!
Written by Cate Berry
Illustrated by Charles Santoso
(Balzer + Bray; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

&

IVER & ELLSWORTH
Written by Casey W. Robinson
Illustrated by Melissa Larson
(Ripple Grove Press, $17.99, Ages 4-8)

are reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

Penguin & Tiny Shrimp Don't Do Bedtime! cover imageWhat do a penguin and a shrimp have in common? It’s their dogged insistence that PENGUIN & TINY SHRIMP DON’T DO BEDTIME!, no matter what sleep aids and comfy settings surround them. Author Berry poises the pair in the midst of a typical toddler bedtime routine. With toothbrushing over and jammies on, Penguin and Shrimp remain positive that they are not heading to bed. Their anti-bedtime speech bubbles pop in counterpoint across the page, tracking their sleep evasion tactics despite big soft beds, cozy covers, or squishy soft pillows.

The story quickly ramps up as the pair celebrate colorful fireworks, escape from lions, swing on rainforest vines and ride hot air balloons. Minute by minute, they grow zanier and more out-of-control as their desperate-but-denied need for sleep escalates. Song, jokes, and the arrival of a uni-hippo aside, the pair confidently assert that,  “One thing this book will never do is make you tired … This book will never make you yawn.”

Santoso’s comic digital art contradicts and amplifies the duo’s predicament in bright, strong colors and crisp outlines. Penguin and Tiny Shrimp gush personality with big eyes and expressive mouths which eventually–inevitably–transition to droopy eyelids and gigantic yawns. The fun and games draw to an appropriately snoozy conclusion that will ring true with all parents who must wrangle not-sleepy kids and toddlers to bed.

 

Iver & Ellsworth cover illustration Another unlikely pair, a solitary senior factory worker and an immense, inflatable polar bear, star in IVER & ELLSWORTH, a sweet story about steadfast friendship and devotion. Iver, a trim, mustachioed gentleman with square rimmed spectacles, packs his lunch and heads to work in an urban factory. Ellsworth, a chubby and observant bear, remains tethered to the factory roof. High above the city, the stationary bear watches the world rushing by. Iver visits at lunchtime, offering commentary on the view and bustling traffic.

Robinson makes it clear that the two share a bond built over many years. Iver tenderly cares for Ellsworth season after season. He dries away spring rain, sweeps away autumn leaves, and clears snow before his daily final check to make certain the anchor ropes are secure. But one day, the day Iver is retiring from his factory job, he is slow to perform his tasks and say farewell to his faithful, inflatable friend.

Illustrator Larson employ several wordless spreads to show us the separate adventures that unfold next. Iver begins to embrace retirement, and Ellsworth becomes unmoored from the factory roof. Her delicate pencil and watercolor images are restrained and subtle, ranging from muted gray greens to glorious rosy sunsets. The peaceful landscapes pair beautifully with Robinson’s spare, understated text, leaving ample room for readers to absorb and appreciate this unique friendship tale that ends with joyful reunification. IVER & ELLSWORTH is a cozy book perfect for reassuring readers that true friendship endures.

  • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

 

Where obtained:  I reviewed either an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher or a library edition and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Read another of Cathy’s recent Epic 18 reviews here

 

Trailer for PENGUIN & TINY SHRIMP DON’T DO BEDTIME! here:  

Reluctant Readers Love Timmy Failure and Tom Gates Series

TIMMY FAILURE & TOM GATES
RECOMMENDED BOOKS FOR RELUCTANT READERS

Huzzah and hooray! A world class detective and a passionate doodler are back in the continuing series of two popular Candlewick Press middle grade books.

If you’re not familiar with either either Timmy Failure or Tom Gates, please take a look at earlier reviews of previous titles right here at Good Reads with Ronna (see below). Both series are a hit with fans of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid and employ a diary or journal style novel filled with pen and ink illustrations. The illustrations not only add to both series’ humor, but, as one of my students, a reluctant reader (and now big fan) told me: the illustrations increase his understanding and enjoyment. Both are recommended for ages 8-12.
So check out more hilarious adventures– and misadventures– of Timmy Failure and Tom Gates.

Timmy Failure: Sanitized for Your Protection (#4)Timmy Failure Sanitized For Your Protection book cover
Written and illustrated by Stephan Pastis
Candlewick Press; $14.99, Ages 8-12)

The young “ … founder, president, and CEO of Failure, Inc, the greatest detective agency in the nation …” is forced to go on a road trip to Chicago to help his mom’s boyfriend move, instead of working on his latest case: the theft of money from a school fundraiser. Extremely put out, Timmy endures miles of cornfields and country-western music with his mother, Doorman Bob, his polar bear ex-partner, Total, arch-enemy and “criminal mastermind,” Molly, and her family. Like the Pink Panther’s clueless Inspector Clouseau, the equally clueless Timmy accuses everyone but the actual thief and tries to elicit confessions from the innocent while advising them on their “Carmen Miranda” rights. Can Timmy solve the case while far away in Chicago? Can he trust Molly, one of his many suspects, to help him find the crook? Be prepared for “greatness!” Visit Candlewick Press for information on the books and see Pastis’ wonderful Timmy Failure website for more information on the series, the characters, trailers for each book, and activities.

Read Good Reads with Ronna’s past reviews of the Timmy Failure series here.
Tom Gates Everything's Amazing (Sort of) book coverTom Gates: Everything’s Amazing (Sort of) (#3) 
Written and illustrated by Liz Pichon
Candlewick Press; $12.99, Ages 8-12)

Tom has a lot on his mind and some big problems. Not his usual problems: an irritating older sister, an obnoxious classmate who is always trying to get him in trouble, school, teachers, and math homework. Actually, any homework.

No, he’s got much bigger worries than that. His birthday is coming up and no one seems to notice the wish list he’s conveniently posted on the refrigerator door. His weird, but sweet grandmother has promised to whip him up a special birthday cake. Not so good … she’s been known to mix jello and peas together. His parents have promised to take him and four of his friends to Dino Village for his birthday (where his father works). Four friends? No problem, he’ll invite best “mate” Derek, Norman, and two others. Things quickly go awry, when Amy, the girl he has a crush on, sees the invitations and asks if she can come … and bring a friend. He agrees before realizing the numbers (there’s that pesky math again) don’t add up to four.

His band, Dog Zombies, which includes Derek and Norman, has been “volunteered” by Principal Keen to perform at the school dance. The inexperienced trio, with only one previous engagement under their belts, is going to need a lot of practice. A lot! Even worse, Tom’s father, a loveable and delightfully quirky man, has been hired to be the DJ at the school dance. He plans to wear his dinosaur costume from Dino Village … and silver disco boots. Positively cringe-worthy.

Will this doodler and homework dodger get what he wants for his birthday? Will he figure out how to include Amy and his four friends at Dino Village? Will the Dog Zombies go up in flames at the school dance? And then there’s his father … and his grandmother’s special birthday cake. Read the book and be prepared for a laugh-out-loud experience!

Oh, in case you don’t speak British (“choon” means an excellent tune), Pichon has included a British to American glossary. Don’t forget to check out the recipe for Tom’s “Doodle Toast” at the end of the story.

Visit Pichon’s and Candlewick’s websites for more information on the author and the series as well as fun activities.

Check out Good Reads with Ronna’s earlier reviews of previous titles in the Tom Gates series:

The Brilliant World of Tom Gates (#1)

Tom Gates: Excellent Excuses (and other good stuff) (#2)

  • Reviewed by Dornel CerroVisit Dornel’s blog, Mile High Books, here.

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Hilary Taber tells us about Neil Gaiman’s newest book, Fortunately, the Milk with illustrations by Skottie Young, (Harper Collins Children’s Books, $14.99, Ages 8-12). Click here for Mouse Circus, the official Neil Gaiman Website for Young Readers.

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil GaimanA Tall Tale Well Told

“We have come to your planet from a world very far away,” said the people in the disc.

I call them people, but they were a bit green and rather globby and they looked very grumpy indeed.

“Now, as a representative of your species, we demand that you give us ownership of the whole planet. We want to remodel it.”

“I jolly well won’t,” I said.

One day two children are left alone with their father for the weekend. Their mother is gone on a business trip. The last thing their Mum told their Dad was, “Oh, and we’re almost out of milk. You’ll need to pick some up.” Time passes and suddenly the brother and sister duo inform their Dad that there is no milk for their “Toastios”. After waiting for Dad to come back with the milk, “For ages…” he finally returns with the milk and a tale to tell. This is a tale of high adventure involving aliens, pirates, a Professor Stegosaurus who pilots a floating balloon/time machine, and all of these combined together make for the perfect blend of humor, imagination, and two skeptical children who wonder if Dad is just making it all up. Maybe he is, and maybe he isn’t. You will have to read this wonderful book yourself to find out!

I found this book just cheered me up so much. Jumping from adventure to adventure was great fun, and Skottie Young’s illustrations make a wonderful second voice to all the incredible situations that could befall one father trying to get milk for
his “breakfastless” children. This book is sure to please younger readers, and their fathers (especially those fathers who like to tell a tall tale or two). You could not have picked a better book for an amusing read aloud that would please anyone in your family. In fact, I ended up reading it aloud to my family! Gaiman’s signature style shines through with a sly, humorous, but well intended wink to the reader, plenty of jokes, and plot twists galore. You can also purchase this as an audio book, and your family may sit together to listen to Neil Gaiman tell you his story himself. He even does the voices well, so you know you are in good hands. Fortunately, the Milk is an ideal audio book to take on a road trip for it will be sure to amuse everyone. Highly recommended reading! This book left me wondering if a bottle of milk, used correctly of course in all situations by a highly intelligent Dad, could actually save the world? Well, as Professor Stegosaurs says, “Where there is milk there is hope.”

Click here for Neil Gaiman’s blog.

Jack & The Hungry Giant: Eat Right With MyPlate by Loreen Leedy

 HELPING KIDS TO MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES AND EAT RIGHT

Jack & The Hungry Giant: Eat Right With MyPlate by Loreen Leedy from Holiday House Books For Young People

Jack & The Hungry Giant: Eat Right With MyPlate by Loreen Leedy from Holiday House Books For Young People

Jack & the Hungry Giant: Eat Right with MyPlate, (Holiday House, $16.95, ages 4-8 written and illustrated by Loreen Leedy, is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

Teaching kids about nutrition is an important, if somewhat difficult, task. Young kids might understand the need to eat healthily, but don’t necessarily want to. To help parents and nutrition teachers with this endeavor, Loreen Leedy has written Jack & the Hungry Giant: Eat Right with MyPlate. At 32 pages, Jack & the Hungry Giant: Eat Right with MyPlate is long enough to present the necessary information and short enough to keep the attention of young readers.

Just like in the fairy tale, Jack climbs the beanstalk and meets a hungry giant. This giant is named Waldorf and he isn’t interested in eating Jack. Nope, he is, in fact, quite the kitchen connoisseur and is far more engaged in preparing a feast for his wife Zofia. Jack joins him in the kitchen, and together they transform vegetables, fruit, grains, protein, and dairy items into plates of delicious and healthy meals. During the process, Waldorf and Jack helpfully name the foods in each of these categories and explain the concept of the nutrition plate. (The plate replaced the food pyramid in 2011. More information on the food plate can be found at choosemyplate.gov.) They also show options for exercise, another important component of keeping healthy.

The artwork is bright and bold. Most of the book is illustrated with cartoonish style drawings. Peppered along the way are (what look like) scanned images of food items, such as brown rice, bran cereal, cottage cheese, and lettuce. Be sure to keep an eye on Waldorf and Zofia’s wily orange-striped tiger cat!

Jack & the Hungry Giant: Eat Right with MyPlate is a good start to eating right!

A New Look For Good Reads With Ronna


WE’VE CHANGED OUR LOOK!
KEEP CHECKING US OUT DURING CONSTRUCTION BECAUSE
THERE’S LOTS GOING ON.

Under Construction, but still blogging!

Under Construction, but still blogging!

We’re almost done cleaning up our site. It was truly a case of out with the old and in with the new, and long overdue! Thanks so much for your patience during our blog remodel. Please let us know what you think about our updated look.

The current blog tour is for Super Schnoz and the Gates of Smell along with an author signed book giveaway. Enter by clicking here now for your chance to win because that great opportunity ends this weekend.

Our next blog tour in conjunction with Peachtree Publishers begins on Friday, October 4th, so watch this space for more details about the surprise book review and giveaway. But in case you can’t wait, here’s a little preview:

Some other stops on the Peachtree Publishers Blog Tour & a chance to win a copy of the book!

Visit Blue Owl Reviews today to get a taste of what’s to come.

On Tuesday, check out Gidgets Bookworms and Maestra Amanda’s Bookshelf

Wednesday stop by the Peachtree blog for the giveaway contest!

Thursday’s the blog tour is on Kid Lit Reviews

and Friday it’s here at last: Good Reads with Ronna.

Aw Gee, Dad!

Untitled1With Father’s Day approaching, Debbie Glade reviews
MY DAD THINKS HE’S FUNNY.

I don’t come across many picture books about Dads, so I was especially happy to read this one. My Dad Thinks He’s Funny ($14.99, Candlewick Press, Ages 5- 8) is the ideal bedtime book for every child (and adult for that matter) who has a jokester for a dad.

Written by Australian author, Katrina Germein, this cute story told from the child’s point of view is all about the silly ways that Dad responds to his son. It will take you back to the days when your own dad or grandpa joked with you as a child. Perhaps these were the types of comments that made you roll your eyes, even though you loved hearing them.

“At bedtime when I ask Dad if I can stay up late he says, ‘Not tonight. But you can last night.'”

The book is written in simple prose, complemented nicely by the cartoon-like illustrations by Australian artist, Tom Jellett. This story will teach your kids a few plays on words and will make them feel proud to have a lighthearted comedian for a dad.

“When people say, ‘Would you like sugar? Dad says I’m sweet enough.'”

I hope My Dad Thinks He’s Funny inspires others to write more children’s books about dads! We sure could use some.

0763665223.int.1

To Yawn or Not to Yawn?

I Dare You Not to Enjoy This Book!

Yawns are contagious as is the new book I Dare You Not to Yawn ($15.99, Candlewick Press, ages 4 and up) by the winning combination of author Hélène Boudreau and illustrator Serge Bloch. I happen to adore Boudreau’s inner-child channeled sense of humor and Debbie Glade is a huge Serge Bloch fan. So what’s not to love?

“Yawns are sneaky.
They can creep up on you when you least expect them.”

It’s true. Watch out, kids! DO NOT YAWN!

0763650706.medThis cleverly conceived cautionary tale is a bit conspiratorial, too. The author/narrator is speaking directly to children to teach them the signs of an approaching yawn and how to keep said yawn from … yawwrrr – popping out. Why does this matter you might ask? Because, along with eye rubbing, the  yawn is a major indicator that someone (and that someone is you,  kiddo)  is getting sleepy.  And the only place that gets you is the dreaded Put To Bed.

Bloch’s bold colors and whimsical characters delight the eye.  Yawns have never looked this funny.  “And WHATEVER YOU DO,” warns Boudreau, “don’t think of droopy-eyed baby orangutans holding their long arms out for a hug from their mamas …” No that simply won’t do.  Practice all the suggested skills needed to shove that yawn right back where it came from and then, only then, will you be the master of your bedtime.  But if you cannot keep that stubborn yawn from escaping, it just might be your body playing one last round of dare before you drift off to dreamland.

-Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

The Funniest Comedy Routine of All Time

Who’s On First? by Abbott & Costello, with illustrations by John Martz, is now available in a picture book format from Quirk Books ($16.95, ages 7 and up). And, as the name implies, this publishing house is anything but conventional having gained recognition with its popular Mashup series of books including a personal fave, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. I’m so glad they’ve decided to add Abbott & Costello into their mix.

Now, as we approach baseball season, it’s time to introduce a new generation of fans to one of America’s most beloved comedy teams. Abbott & Costello’s genius for fast-paced, perfectly timed routines should hook your kids as it did mine. In fact you may not know that Abbott & Costello’s Who’s On First sketch has been named the best comedy sketch of the twentieth century by Time magazine and the duo was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY.  I’m still trying to figure out their Loan Me $50 routine!

whosonfirst_catalog_72dpi

If you’ve got a child with a great sense of humor and a good memory, try practicing this most hysterical of routines with him or her. My 11-year-old son may not read picture books anymore, but he’s a huge Abbott & Costello fan just like his mom and dad. The minute he saw this book land on my desk he picked it up, read it and pronounced, “This is perfect! The rabbit and bear even look like Abbott and Costello.” He also wanted me to tell readers how well imagined the artwork is and I agree. From the fabulous selection of colors Martz (who also happens to be a cartoonist) has used on every page to the way he captures Costello’s (okay, the rabbit’s) facial expressions as he gets more and more frustrated is a big part of why the book works. Even the title design shouts “Batter up!”

Come meet the kooky cast of characters including Who’s, the first baseman snake; What’s, the second baseman dog; I Don’t Know’s, the third base chicken; Why, who just happens to be an alligator and the left fielder and of course, Because! Because, the red-capped cat covers center field and Tomorrow, a duck, is the pitcher. Got that? Don’t forget the heavy hitter, an elephant who is going to bunt the ball. Terribly exasperating? Imagine how the rabbit feels! 

If you think it’s over when the rabbit proclaims, “I said I don’t give a hoot!” Think again! That’s the shortstop (an owl).

There’s a brief history of “Who’s on First?” in the end pages to share with your children and if you’re like my family, you’ll probably want to rent a few Abbott & Costello movies to see how they perform the sketch.  So, in case you couldn’t tell, this book’s a hit with me. NOTE: The book’s publication date is February 19, 2013.

Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Epic Antics Mockumentary-Style

Yesterday I attended what has become an annual and much looked forward to event, the Mother/Daughter Book Party at Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse in La Canada.

Seven super talented female authors attended and lots more moms and daughters.  I had a chance to sit down at each author’s table and learn more about the books they had written and I am delighted to be able to share that information with you.  If you’ve got a 3rd – 6th grader who loves to read, here are some great books to choose from. Today I’ll cover  San Luis Obispo author Robin Mellom’s middle grade novel.

tmb_240x240_bks_the_classroom_1423150635Mellom has penned a clever mockumentary in book form called The Classroom: The Epic Documentary of a Not-Yet-Epic Kid ($12.99,  DisneyHyperion, ages 9 and up), and it’s not just for girls. The title alone conjures humorous images but the illustrations by Stephen Gilpin really add the “you are there” quality that will bring a smile to every reader’s face. Mellom described the artwork as having a “Far Side” comic strip feeling, which it does, and which works perfectly considering the storyline.

Trevor is starting 7th grade and on his very first day he learns from his best friend Libby that he must find a date by day’s end for the dance that is just around the corner. If he doesn’t ask someone to the dance, all the girls he could invite would already have been asked spelling disaster for Trevor. Plus on top of all this, a film crew has come to the school and his every move will be captured up close and personal! This was not the 7th grade life he imagined and could it get any worse?

Kids will get a kick out of the way the book includes one funny antic after another. Also featured are “documentary-style” items found by the film makers to help paint a picture of Trevor such as drawings from Trevor’s notebook and an old yearbook picture. In a nutshell, if Trevor can just get through 7th grade until the big dance, things could turn out okay, even epic.

Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Why Can’t You Tell Jokes to an Egg?

monkeyfarts-wacky-jokes-every-kid-should-knowBecause it will crack up!

Monkeyfarts!: Wacky Jokes Every Kid Should Know ($8.99, Quirk Books, Ages 6 and up) is chock full of silly jokes like the one above and is sure to give you and your kids a good laugh. Inside the 94 pages of this compact book you’ll find everything from classic jokes, knock knock jokes, originals, one-liners one or two paragraph joke stories and some really cute cartoon-like illustrations.

Author David Borgenicht is the creator and coauthor of all the books in the Worst-Case Scenario series, and he obviously has a great sense of humor.

“What do you call two people who embarrass you in front of your friends?”

“Mom and Dad.”

What I like about this book is that it represents the innocence of childhood. Let’s face it. Our children unavoidably hear inappropriate words, jokes and more out there. But a book like Monkeyfarts! gives your children the opportunity to enjoy some wholesome humor and well, just be a kid. Along the way, they may learn a thing or two. And most importantly, they will be able to entertain their friends and generate a great deal of laughter. I’m sure you agree, there’s no better sound on earth than a child laughing.

“Where was the Declaration of Independence Signed?”

“At the bottom.”

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

NOTE:   Incidentally, if you’re unable to read  the poster on the cover  that supplies the question to the  answer “Monkey farts.”  It asks the extremely profound, “What’s invisible and smells like bananas?”

Enamored With Eyewear

Glamorous Glasses by Barbara Johansen Newman ($16.95, Boyds Mill Press, ages 4 and up) is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

I started wearing glasses when I was seven years old. Back then in England, there weren’t many stylish options, especially as I wore National Health Service glasses. I remember both my mother and the optometrist talking to me about any potential teasing I might face and how to deal with being one of the first students in my grade to wear glasses. Many years later, more children are wearing glasses at an earlier age and have many shapes and colors to choose from. In fact, glasses have gone from a fashion fail to fashion fun, so much so that my oldest daughter wants to wear glasses even though she doesn’t need them!

Enter Bobbie from Glamorous Glasses by Barbara Johansen Newman. She is enamored with glasses and badly wants to wear a pair, especially as her favorite cousin, Joanie, has to start wearing them. However, Bobbie’s vision is just fine and Joanie isn’t thrilled about her prescription. It’s up to Bobbie to help Joanie come to terms with sporting specs.

“You are so lucky,” said Joanie. “Wearing glasses makes me feel different. I don’t like the way I look. I wish I didn’t have to wear them.”

                  I couldn’t believe my ears. I’d give anything to wear glasses like Joanie’s. That’s when I got another idea…

                  “Listen, Joanie,” I whispered. “While our moms are trying on dresses today, we can go get some candy. I’ll wear your new glasses, and you can carry my new pocketbook. We’ll both look very glamorous.”

                  We read along as the pair follows the plan. How will Joanie manage without glasses? Will Bobbie ever get a pair, especially as the eye doctor has already tested her for perfect vision?! In a fun and fashionable manner, the book provides plenty of discussion points to help youngsters deal with the process of accepting who they are and figuring out the importance of what they need.

The illustrations of the characters are exaggerated, almost between a caricature and a bobblehead, and cartoonish enough for children to enjoy. The colors are vivid, and Barbara Johansen Newman delights in patterns. Find polka dots, checkers, flowers, stripes, stars and hearts on the glasses, hair ribbons and clothes. She fills the pictures with outfits galore–boots, purses, dresses—that reflect the personalities of the characters.  Bobbie and Joanie’s world is filled with fun tchotchkes and spotting them in the pictures is part of the enjoyment. And, I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that the author’s French bulldog, Bitty, makes a cameo in one of the scenes.

Glamorous Glasses includes a spectacle of spectacles, and is a spectacular read!

Curl Up With A Cat

Reviewer Ronna Mandel’s face lit up after reading Up Cat by Hazel Hutchins with art by Fanny.

I love animals. All things cat, dog, bear and bunny interest me so naturally I gravitated towards Up Cat ($6.95, Annick Press/Firefly Books, ages 2-5) when it arrived at my doorstep earlier this year.

This charming board book, and its companion, Up Dog, are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers ready to learn new words and grasp new expressions. From the onset, little ones will be in for a treat when they meet the darling little gray feline and follow just what he gets UP to during the day. Whether it’s watching him wake up, hearing him speak up, seeing him tear and rip up, and make a pretty big mess, the activity never ends. Nor will the giggles.

The artwork is bright and cheerful. Fanny’s style is simple yet says so much that children will absolutely adore the cat and all his antics, naughty or not.  I’m betting there’ll be some serious snuggle time after a read through and like kitty, you might just want to “cover up, curl up and soak up the sun.”

Jon Klassen Steals Our Hearts Not Our Hats!

This Little Fishy Should Have Stayed Home!

Ronna Mandel, today’s reviewer, is hooked on Jon Klassen.

THIS IS NOT MY HAT. Copyright © 2012 by Jon Klassen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

If you loved the subtle hilarity of author-illustrator (and L.A. local) Jon Klassen’s multi-award-winning 2011 picture book,  I Want My Hat Back, prepare yourself for yet more fun and understated humor with This Is Not My Hat ($15.99, Candlewick, ages 4 and up).  In his new book, on sale this coming October 2012,  Klassen has swimmingly cornered the market on black humor and hat thieves while still keeping things suitable for children since (spoiler alert!) the culprit once again gets caught or as I like to put it, beaten and eaten!

In his first book Klassen introduced readers to a big bear in search of his stolen red hat. Now with his latest title, one that is certain to secure an even bigger fan base, Klassen lures us in ever so easily. Meet one small, overly confident fish wearing a blue bowler he has just nicked from a rather large sleeping fish who
“probably won’t notice that it’s gone.” It may suit him and he may convince himself he deserves it more than its owner, but it’s just not his.

What works so well in this story is that rather than sharing the story from the perspective of the victim (the bear in This Is Not My Hat), Klasssen switches narrators and this time chooses to give the thief’s point of view. Will this little crook manage to outsmart the big fish by keeping several strokes ahead and hiding in a place where the plants are big and tall and close together?  Or will he get his just deserts? 

THIS IS NOT MY HAT. Copyright © 2012 by Jon Klassen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

I’ll admit I may have initially found myself rooting for the small underdog of a hat thief, but it did not take long to get Klassen’s message loud and clear; hat swiping will not get you ahead. Undeniably funny and fab fodder for a storybook, but for young readers what’s also important is that the big fish gets his bowler back and will achieve that end one delicious way or another. I raise my hat to Klassen’s fab follow-up work, an irresistible easy-to-read or be-read-to picture book that has left me with bated breath as to what thefts are in the works.

THIS IS NOT MY HAT. Copyright © 2012 by Jon Klassen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

What the Heck is Your Dog Thinking?

Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know ($12.99 Sourcebooks, Family Reading) by Hy Conrad and Jeff Johnson is downright cute and clever. A panel of 11 dogs share their insight on a wide variety of topics relating to well, being a dawg.  Think of it as a cheeky, humorous blog for people, written by their pets. Cuteness aside – all the entries are actually very helpful to dog owners.  Inside you will learn why dogs wag their tails, how they feel when you dress them up in silly costumes, the lowdown on walks, why they eat your furniture, why they love car trips and so much more. In addition to the fun and helpful information, the book is visually appealing. Each entry includes a headshot of the canine “writer,” and the pages are very colorful.  I love the fact that this book is both laugh-out-loud entertaining and includes so much valuable information about dogs I have not read in any other book.

Note: This book was not written for children, but the subject matter of pets applies to the entire family. There are a couple of entries in this book that parents may find are not appropriate for young children.

-Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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