skip to Main Content

A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko

A DOG WEARING SHOES
Written and illustrated by Sangmi Ko
(Schwartz & Wade Books; $16.99, Ages 4-8)

ADogWearingShoescvr

 

Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews

In A Dog Wearing Shoes, a lovely picture book about being lost, found, lost and found again, we are first introduced to Mini and her mom stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. There is a wonderful sense of being in the midst of a big bustling city, yet through the warm and humorous dialogue and engaging illustrations of black and white (with a pop of color) we are given a more intimate view of Mini’s world. When a small dog with huge eyes, no collar and wearing shoes wanders into traffic, every car screeches to a halt. Mini begs to keep the lost dog. Mom agrees. “We’ll have to take him home for now.”

IntspreadADogWearingShoes

Interior artwork from A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko, Schwartz & Wade Books ©2015.

After a couple of days, Mom tries to convince Mini that the dog might be missing his owner. But Mini is certain that her new dog is happy. “He has no collar, he belongs to me.” All is well until the day the dog breaks loose from his leash and runs off. The once lost dog is lost again. After lots of tears and even more hugs from Mom, Mini and her mother go to the Pet Adoption Center, the best place to find lost pets. When the little dog with big eyes is found everyone is happy. Mini now knows that this dog wearing shoes was never really hers to keep. She realizes that someone else must love and miss this dog too. Soon after tacking up “found” posters throughout the city, the owner shows up. The illustrations of the happy reunion are joyous. Even Mini is happy.

IntartDOGWEARINGSHOES_2_300

Interior artwork from A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko, Schwartz & Wade Books ©2015.

 

This very satisfying story ends with Mini returning to the Pet Adoption Center to find a dog of her own. Sangmi Ko has created a highly enjoyable debut book based on a true story. From beginning to end, this humorous yet gentle fast paced story is filled with heart and soul. The consistent attention to active visual storytelling will engage readers, prompting them to want to examine and relive each page over and over again. The back matter holds an extra treat where readers can learn How to Adopt a Dog.

  • Reviewed by Lisa Saint

 

Today’s guest reviewer, Lisa Saint, has just completed writing and illustrating her first picture book and is now working on a middle grade historical fiction novel based on true events. Lisa is a painter and teaches writing, illustration and book making in South Pasadena, California.

 

 

R is for Rocket: An ABC Book by Tad Hills

R is for Rocket: An ABC Book
Written and illustrated by Tad Hills
(Schwartz & Wade Books; $17.99, Ages 3-7)

r-is-for-rocket-360x400

 

 

A is for alphabet book!

Alphabet books are so important in fostering early literacy by teaching children to recognize letter shapes and their associated sounds, often in very creative ways. In addition, alphabet books, like R is for Rocket: An ABC Book, also help children build vocabulary recognition. We could have children chant “B is for boy,” but I bet they’d enjoy this more:

Bella balances on a ball while
a big blue butterfly watches.

The repetition of a single letter also creates a mood and a rhythmic effect, and, in longer sentences, encourages children to use words to expand beyond “C is for cat” and create sentences that contain multiple alliterative words. These in turn could be used to describe an activity or event:

Owl offers a cookie and a crayon to crow.
“Now will you stop cawing?” she asks.

What might children’s responses be if asked why was the crow cawing? How did this story begin or end? Can they think of other hard “C” words that could be used to tell their story? What a great precursor to creative storytelling/writing.

Tad Hills, the author and illustrator of numerous books, including the Duck and Goose books, depicts his well-known Rocket characters “ …having fun while learning the alphabet.” Unlike basic alphabet books, Hill’s popular Rocket characters are engaged in activities beginning with that letter, and accompanied by a short, alliterative sentence or two:

Rocket paints a picture of a peacock. Owl prefers her pumpkin.

My first and second grade students, already fans of Hills’ earlier titles, squealed with pleasure when I showed them the cover of this book. The students quickly caught on to the alliteration and soon the reading became dynamic and interactive as students discussed which sound they heard and how many times it occurred in each sentence.

While my students enjoyed Hills’ brightly colored and adorable characters, my favorite illustration is a two-page spread uniting letters E and F:

In the evening, Emma finds an egg.

Fred frolics with fireflies

Hills depicts a pleasantly darkening sky, dotted with “starry” fireflies. In the shadowy grass, Emma finds a delicate blue egg while Fred chases after glowing fireflies. This reminded me of a lovely summer’s night.

An extra bonus is that the book jacket doubles as an alphabet poster.

Highly recommended for schools and libraries where this author/illustrator is popular and where alphabet books play an important part in early literacy. Visit Tad Hills to learn more about his books.

  • Reviewed by Dornel Cerro

A FINE DESSERT: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins

One of BuzzFeed’s 25 Ridiculously Wonderful Books to Read with Kids in 2015

Starred Reviews – Kirkus, School Library Journal, & Booklist

A FINE DESSERT:
Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat

by Emily Jenkins, illustrations by Sophie Blackall
(Schwartz & Wade Books, $17.99, Ages 4 and up)

Read Cathy Ballou Mealey’s rave review then enter our giveaway to win a copy! 

A-Fine-Dessert-cvr.jpg
Jenkins and Blackall combine Literature, History and Home Economics into one most scrumptious and delightful course in their stellar new title A FINE DESSERT. Following one sweet treat – blackberry fool – through four families, four cities, and four centuries, the book succeeds in creating an authentic and engaging portrayal of food history perfect for children and adults alike.

A-Fine-Dessert-1213spread.jpg

Interior spread from A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Sophie Blackall, Schwartz & Wade ©2015.

Readers will follow the creation of blackberry fool from the first scene – a field in Lyme, England in 1710, where a mother and daughter are shown picking blackberries. Smoke curls from the cottage chimney, and berry juice stains their white aprons. They return home where the mother milks the cow, skims the cream, and whips it for fifteen minutes with a wooden twig whisk. Combined with the squashed and strained berries, the mixture is iced outdoors in a hillside pit. Finally it is served for dessert by candlelight in front of a roaring fire.

The tale next leads us to a plantation in Charleston, South Carolina in 1810 where once again the dessert will be prepared. Readers will immediately notice changes not only to the characters and the setting, but also to the methods, preparation, family, and society where the dessert is served. More changes are revealed in the third preparation, set in Boston, Massachusetts in 1910 and finally in a modern portrayal in San Diego, California in 2010. Each segment is tied together by various text details and artistic elements, and especially focuses on the gusto with which the delicious treat is enjoyed. The child always gets to lick the bowl clean!

A-Fine-Dessert-2829spread.jpg

Interior spread from A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Sophie Blackall, Schwartz & Wade ©2015.

This book is a must-have for classrooms because of the infinite and engaging connections to Common Core teaching. It is also a wonderful book for families to bring right into the kitchen to prepare the blackberry fool recipe provided at the back. There is also an extensive note from the author about exploring history, research, and food preparation methods as a way to encourage conversations about work and social roles. The illustrator’s note is equally charming, and discusses the materials she used to create the unique purple endpapers.

Jenkins and Blackall have choreographed a delightful rhythm and repetition connecting the words and images throughout this book. There are endless marvelous discoveries on page after page that encourage readers to flip between the tales, uncovering similarities and differences that will challenges them to think and question. Have a second or third helping of A FINE DESSERT – you will be glad you did!

– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey 

Where Obtained:  I reviewed a promotional copy of A FINE DESSERT from the publisher and received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

WIN A COPY!
Leave a comment below about your favorite dessert then follow us on Facebook for a chance to win a copy of this scrumptious picture book. No entries after 11:59p.m. PST on February 18, 2015. One lucky winner will be randomly selected on Thursday Feb. 19, 2015. If you do not leave a comment and follow GRWR on  Facebook you will forfeit your chance to win. If you are not on Facebook, following on Twitter will qualify instead.

 

The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia

by Candace Fleming is reviewed today by Ronna Mandel.

⭐︎Starred Reviews in Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist and The Horn Book

9780375867828.jpg.172x250_q85I spent several evenings during my recent vacation immersed in the late 1800s and early 1900s thanks to the riveting writing of Candace Fleming. Her latest historical nonfiction young adult novel reminded me of why I devour these types of books. I may know the ending, but it’s getting there that’s the best part, and essentially every chapter of The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia ( Schwartz & Wade, $18.99, Ages 12 and up) is the best part!

How many teens know the fascinating story behind the last Russian royal family – the real story, not the glamorized version of films and legend? While I’ve traveled to Russia a handful of times, I clearly was not aware of all the details and all the players Fleming wrote about. I felt certain that The Family Romanov would fill in all the gaps and enlighten me so I couldn’t wait to head off on holiday for some quality reading time. I just didn’t realize how conflicted my feelings would be about this fateful period in world history and have been thinking about the book and its characters ever since.

Reminiscent of an Erik Larson novel with its intertwining plot lines, in-depth character exploration and deft mixing of current events and first hand accounts, The Family Romanov takes readers on a journey through history that eventually leads to the rise of Lenin, the disastrous Romanov downfall and the Russian Revolution.

Nicholas II, Imperial Russia’s last tsar, we learn, was not only unprepared to take the throne in 1894 following his father’s death, but he was uninterested in the role as well. That alone explains his pathetic attempt at running of his country. In fact, Fleming takes us further back to “a frosty March day in 1881 …,” for it was on that day that thirteen-year-old Nicholas’s grandfather, Tsar Alexander II, was killed by a bomb that “landed between his feet,” laying the groundwork for events that would ultimately change the course of the 20th century geopolitical world. The deceased liberal tsar was replaced by Nicholas’s father, Alexander III, whose harsh autocracy would reign for 13 years only to be succeeded by the ill-equipped son for whom he held contempt.

We are also introduced to a young Alexandra, granddaughter to Queen Victoria of Great Britain. Once married to Nicholas, the Empress Alexandra bears him four daughters (including Anastasia) and a hemophiliac son and heir to the throne, Alexei. She also encourages her husband to retreat from public life and begins depending more and more on a charlatan named Rasputin whose alleged healing powers help keep Alexei alive. This mystic manages to wield much influence on the Romanovs and, despite the scandal that their dependence on Rasputin brings, they naively allow him to dictate many political decisions that further alienate the family from the Russian people.

Add WWI and immeasurable loss of life to this scenario of two immensely wealthy and privileged “Imperial Majesties” who are in total denial as to the deplorable lives the vast majority of their citizens lead, and you have the classic makings of a truth is stranger than fiction story guaranteed to keep your eyes glued to the page. Get ready for a gripping novel that warrants more than one read and a place on every bookshelf.

 

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox and Illustrated by Brian Floca

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox
with Illustrations by Brian Floca
Enchants, Educates and Entertains!

★ Publishers Weekly starred review,
“The low-key text is beautifully amplified by Floca’s visual narrative, which takes readers from the busy downtown to distant, misty shores.”

Elizabeth-Queen-Seas-cvr.jpgLet’s head down under for a tale inspired by the true story of an elephant seal who, rather than live amongst her fellow seals, chose to make her home in the Avon River of Christchurch in New Zealand’s South Island.

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas (Schwartz & Wade Books, $17.99, Ages 4-8), by champion swimmer and bestselling author Lynne Cox, is one of those feel-good stories that will bring a smile to readers’ faces not only because of its cheerful images and happy ending, but because of the care one community showed to a determined mammal. Pair these positives and the easy-to-read prose with 2014 Caldecott Medal winner Brian Floca’s just perfect pen, ink and watercolor artwork and you’ve got a winning combination. And like the Avon River where much of the story’s action takes place, Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas flows in a most delightful direction.

In an Author’s Note in the beginning of the book, we learn how, many years ago, before heading home to California from Christchurch, Cox met a boy called Michael and his sister Maggie. They shared the story of this eight foot long, 2000 plus pound animal who preferred the coziness of the Avon’s “sweet shallow waters” to the open sea. What comes next is amazing.

When Elizabeth made herself comfortable one day by stretching out across the two-lane road in the city center, things got dangerous. Brakes screeched and cars veered off the road to avoid hitting Elizabeth. Soon citizen grew alarmed, not just for the safety of the seal, but for drivers who might cause accidents trying not to kill the massive mammal. Even three attempts to relocate Elizabeth far from the Avon River proved futile.  She kept returning. Something about this river and this city spoke to her.

The people of Christchurch, including Michael who, in addition to one very charming elephant seal, is the other main character in this picture book, were so enamored with the mammal that they “put up a sign on the road where she liked to sleep.”

SLOW.
ELEPHANT
SEAL
CROSSING

And do you know what happened next? Elizabeth became a city slicker!

The back matter includes interesting facts about elephant seals including how much a bull (the male) can weigh, how long they can remain under water before coming up for air, a black and white photo of the real Elizabeth, and details about a new important role elephant seals are playing in science with their ability to explore the oceans’ depths.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Duck & Goose go to The Beach by Tad Hills

Duck & Goose Go to the Beach by Tad Hills, (Schwartz & Wade Books 2014, $17.99, ages 3-7), is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

Duck-Goose-Beach-cvr.jpg

Duck & Goose Go to the Beach by Tad Hills, Schwartz & Wade Books, 2014.

It’s summer, and Duck is eager to explore. Goose, however, is reluctant to leave their perfect little meadow with its tree stump, hollow log, stream, lily pond, and shady thicket.

“A TRIP? A trip sounds far away. I like close…An adventure? That sounds scary,” Goose honks.

But Duck is determined, and Goose grumpily follows him on their hike. When they arrive at the beach, Duck gets more than he bargained for. The waves are loud, the sand is hot, the ocean is big, and the beach dwellers are different. The beach isn’t what Duck expected, but it isn’t what Goose expected either, and, suddenly, he’s up for the adventure!

Goose stared at the vast stretch of sky, sand, and sea. “Isn’t it magnificent?” he said.

 “Oh dear, the beach has SO MUCH water,” quacked Duck. “I feel tiny.”

 “Have you ever seen SO MUCH sand?” honked Goose.

  “It’s getting in my feathers, and it’s too hot on my feet,” said Duck. “Let’s go.”

  “Go swimming? Good idea, Duck!” said Goose, and he raced to the water’s edge.

Duck & Goose Go to the Beach is a story of many levels. It presents the idea of having an adventure and doing something new. It deals with facing fears and being open to changing your mind. It’s a fun summer read. Most of all, it is charming and humorous. Duck and Goose are adorable characters. They are who they are, and that trait is so appealing to young readers (and their parents).

The oil paint artwork is almost too cute. The images of the feathered friends running down the hill and peeking over the sand dune are picture perfect. The artwork adds to the massive appeal of the book.

Whether they’re in a meadow, at the beach, or in your home, your kids will delight in Duck and Goose.

Poor Doreen: A Fishy Tale by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Poor Doreen: A Fishy Tale is reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

“Ignorance equals bliss in this amusing, cleverly executed tale.” – Kirkus Starred Review

Poor-Doreen-cvr.jpg

Poor Doreen: A Fishy Tale written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger, Schwartz & Wade, 2014.

Anyone who has ever gone fishing or known someone who has, has told, or been told, a fishing tale. An eight inch long fish becomes two feet long, and we’ve all heard of the big fish that got away. In Poor Doreen: A Fishy Tale by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger, (Schwartz & Wade Books 2014, $17.99, Ages 4-8), Mrs. Doreen Randolph-Potts has a fish tale to tell of her own, only hers is true!

Boiger uses watercolor, gouache, pencil, and colored pencil on unbleached Fabriano watercolor paper to achieve the vibrant watery world Doreen travels through, happily ignorant of the perils lurking around her. Doreen is swimming upstream to visit her second cousin twice removed, who’s just had 157 babies, when she sees a delicious dragonfly which is, unbeknownst to our heroine, a fisherman’s lure. “GOODY!” Doreen cries. “How lucky for me! A lovely snack for my journey!”

A myriad of fish look on sympathetically, as the narrator bemoans Doreen’s bad luck.

It’s not a dragonfly.
Oh, poor Doreen. No.
It’s a HOOK.
And it’s not a treat.
It’s a TRAP.
And the one thing you’re not is lucky.

I adore how ​Lloyd-Jones has written Doreen’s story from the perspective of a child who has never had their innocence taken away by having had a bad experience. Always positive, Doreen exclaims, “BRAVO!” and thanks the Great Blue Heron, who swoops in and takes her from the fisherman, for helping her on her journey upstream. (Of course, he intends to eat her!)

Parents, and fish afficianados, don’t fret. By hook or by crook, Doreen makes her way to her reunion with her second cousin twice removed, and her 157 babies, unharmed. This is a perfect cautionary story. It allows the reader to see the dangers Doreen faces for themselves, but with a sense of lightheartedness that opens the door to deeper conversation.

Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian

Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian is reviewed today by the newest member of the GRWR team, Dornel Cerro.

Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian and iIlustrated by Jeremy Holmes (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2014. $17.99, Ages 4-8) is a collaboration by two accomplished and prolific children’s poets whose imagination, word crafting skills, and humor know no bounds. Lewis, author of over eighty children’s books and winner of the National Council of Teachers of English 2011 Poetry award, was the U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate from 2011-2013. Florian, who has written and illustrated over fifty children’s books, won Parent Magazine Best Book of the Year award in 2003 for Bow Wow Meow Meow: It’s Rhyming Cats and Dogs.

cover

Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian with illustrations by Jeremy Holmes, Schwartz & Wade, 2014.

The two poets have combined their prodigious writing talents to create a collection of poems about cars. Oh, I’m not talking about the boring kind we adults drive, but really wild, weird, and wacky cars. You know, the ones children would like to drive. Like “Balloon Car” (p. 20):  “My daddy drives a car that floats/an inch above the street a hundred colorful balloons/tied to a bucket seat.” Along with some luscious vocabulary (fiery, sudsy, plop, fragrant), the poets use a variety of signature techniques such as rhyme, alliteration, and word plays that tickle a child’s fancy and delight the ear:   …”I’m a battery-powered/ automobeeeeeeeeeel!” (“Electric Eel”, p. 11).  “…The cars behind our school/ Are big Tyrannosaurus wrecks …” (“Jurassic Park(ing”), p. 12).

Holmes’s digitally colored, pencil and watercolor illustrations are set against a pale background dotted with inventive, mechanical looking elements that enliven the words and increase the zaniness of the poems. Children will want to pour over the illustrations to discover all the neat objects Holmes has inserted into his illustrations.  The collection received great reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, and School Library Journal. I read this collection to my K-1 classes who laughed out loud with delight (their favorite poem was “The Banana Split Car,” of course) and found both the poems and the illustrations humorous and imaginative. Adults will enjoy sharing this with their young children (ages 4-8) and, with the intriguing selection of vocabulary and word plays, creativity, teachers will find that any poem in this collection would make a wonderful creative writing or arts and craft project.

dcParisMeet our newest reviewer, Dornel: Dornel Cerro has been a children’s librarian for 17 years and has spent the last 10 years as librarian at Sequoyah School in Pasadena.

Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller

Sophie’s Squash (Random/Schwartz & Wade Books, ages 3-7) by Pat Zietlow Miller with illustrations by Anne Wilsdorf, and reviewed by MaryAnne Locher, is a perfect fall book.

Sophie's Squash cover art

Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller with illustrations by Anne Wilsdorf, Schwartz & Wade, 2013.

As parents, we all hope our children will love vegetables, right? Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated in watercolor, Chinese ink, and ink by Anne Wilsdorf, gives a whole new meaning to loving your vegetables. I’m not saying that this book will help you get your children to eat their vegetables, but it might save you some money on toys. After all, who needs expensive toys, when a trip to the farmer’s market will get you a squash?

This book reminded me of how truly creative children are when we allow them to be. Sophie and her parents bring a squash home from the farmer’s market. Her parents intend to cook it for dinner, but Sophie has already drawn a face on it, wrapped it in a baby blanket, and named it Bernice. Like any good mother would do, Sophie’s mom orders pizza.

Bernice and Sophie are inseparable, doing summersaults in the garden, taking trips to the library, and visiting friends at the farmer’s market together. Though “love springs eternal,” nothing lives forever. Especially not a squash that has been bounced and tumbled and hugged. So, who do you go to for advice when your squash looks ill? Why, the farmer who sold it to you, of course. Sophie follows his expert advice, and with a little patience, gets a nice surprise from Bernice!

This is a great book of love, letting go, and renewal. I recommend it for youngsters with an appetite for imagination, and for parents to start a conversation about friendships in all its glorious forms.

Click here for a fun fall activity.

Back To Top
%d bloggers like this: