Monday, December 31, 2012

Reading Roundup: December 2012

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 15

Library: all

Writing: Lester's Dreadful Sweaters by K.G. Campbell
Anybody who's ever had a terrible-gift-giving relative will recognize Lester's angst. But Lester himself is a quirky treat, a control-freak of a kid who keeps lists of things to be afraid of and yet ultimately finds his own unique way to solve the Cousin Clara problem.
Illustration: Hippopposites by Janik Coat
Super-simple drawings of a hippo illustrate the concepts on the page to pull this boardbook together. Everyone I've showed it to has said, "Hey, this is great!"
Overall: Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems
Ahahahaha! Not just another repackaging of the classic story, this plays with narrative and reader's expectations for a fun and witty ride. And plus, dinosaurs! (Bonus: watch out for the wall art. It will crack you up.)

Because I Want To Awards
Made Me Want to Crank Up My iPod: Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald by Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Sean Qualls
This picture-book biography of one of the greats of vocal jazz made me want to bring up everything she ever recorded and play it as I read.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Book: Chalk by Bill Thomson

Book: Chalk
Author: Bill Thomson
Illustrator: Bill Thomson
Published: 2010
Source: Local Library

Three kids find a bag of sidewalk chalk in the playground one rainy day. To their astonishment, whatever they draw comes to life. A scrawled sun banishes the rain. Scribbled butterflies flutter up out of the pavement. And when one mayhem-prone kid sketches a dinosaur? Uhoh.

Wordless books are always fun to read in storytime, because they give you even more of a chance than usual to start a discussion about what’s going on in the pages. This one led to lit-up faces in my storytime group, as they delighted in the fulfillment of a common fantasy, and the kids’ quick thinking that got them out of a dangerous situation.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Book Review: Up Above and Down Below by Paloma Valdivia

Book: Up Above and Down Below
Author: Paloma Valdivia
Illustrator: Paloma Valdivia
Translator: Susan Ouriou
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

In this trippy little book, there are two kinds of people: those who live up above and those who live down below. The ones down below look very much like the ones up above, except for being upside down. There are differences: when spring comes up above, it’s fall down below, for example. But people everywhere are just about the same.

I call this trippy because the art is downright surreal. You can get a taste of it up there. But of course, behind the surrealism there’s a very simple point about tolerance and universalism. And kids will have a great deal of fun twirling the book around and studying “up above and down below” in different ways.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Reading Roundup: November 2012

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 18
Early Readers: 1

Library: all

Writing: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce, illustrated by Joe Bluehm
Yeah, it's kind of an obvious pick for a librarian, but what the heck. I'll be obvious today. A young man acquires a job caring for books, and shares his love of words with as many people as possible.
Illustration: The Book With a Hole by Herve Tullet
I admit it; I was hoping for another storytime hit. This ain't it, but I'd give this imaginative and imagination-prompting book to every kid with plenty of time on his hands.
Overall: A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
It's an absolutely awful idea, and here's why, in exhaustive and drily hilarious detail. Review soon.

Because I Want To Awards
Perfect Thanksgiving Book!: The Thankful Book by Todd Parr
What are you thankful for? Todd Parr offers suggestions, in his inimitable way. Review soon.
Unexpected Storytime Success: Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salimieri
When I first picked this up, I thought it was pretty keen, but a little long for my purposes. Then I tried it on a group, and they adored it.
Darkest: Bear Despair by Gaëtan Dorémus
This wordless story of a bear who eats all the animals who keep him from his beloved teddy bear will cause some kids to squirm and whimper, and some to lap it up.
D'Awww: A Home for Bird by Philip C Stead
A toad is determined to return his new friend Bird home, even though Bird can't seem to tell him where that is. Who's going to tell him that Bird is a wooden toy? Not me, that's for sure. And, this being a Stead book, the toad succeeds in the end.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Reading Roundup: October 2012

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 19

Library: all

Writing: Goldilocks and Just One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson
Any long-time reader of this blog knows that I love a retold fairy tale, and this is one of my favorite kinds--the kind that speculates what happened after. A bear lost in a city finds himself in an apartment, and the owner (when she finally comes home), is awfully familiar . . .
Illustration: Flora's Very Windy Day, illustrated by Matt Phelan, written by Jeanne Birdsall
The soft, swirling, curling shapes and lines of Phelan's distinctive style are just right for this tale of two siblings carried off by the wind. Just lovely.
Overall: This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
Really, can there be two opinions on this subject? With the same dark-edged storyline and the amazing-in-their-simplicity illustrations that set I Want My Hat Back out from the crowd, this book is going in my storytime collection forever.

Because I Want To Awards
The Book That Inspired a Surrealism Storytime: I'm Bored by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Um, yeah. We haven't done it yet, but a surrealism-themed storytime is just the place for this story of a bored kid and a bored-er potato. Yes. You read that correctly.
You Will Never Look at a Salad the the Same Way Again: Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds
This story of a carrot-lovin' bunny (is there any other kind?) who suddenly starts seeing creepy carrots everywhere will just flat crack you up.
Butt Humor FTW: Hippospotamus by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross
Second-graders won't be able to get enough of this book about a hippo that finds a mysterious spot on her rear and the various animals that attempt to cure it. The reveal of the spot's true origin will bring down the house. Promise.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Roundup Delayed

I'm going to have to postpone the reading roundup until tomorrow. Almost too tired to operate.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Book Review: Big Mean Mike by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Scott Magoon

Book: Big Mean Mike
Author: Michelle Knudsen
Illustrator: Scott Magoon
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

Big Mean Mike is rough and tough and mean, mean, mean! And he only likes things that are rough and tough and extra-super-mean. That’s why he’s so dismayed when a little pack of fluffy bunnies attaches themselves to him. Fluffy bunnies do not suit his image (even if they are pretty darn cute). What will he do if all his big, mean friends find out?

From the first image of Big Mean Mike, with his spikes and his claws and his teeth, to the final page with the fuzzy bunnies accompanying Mike to a demolition derby, this charmed me. I loved that Big Mean Mike remained essentially himself at the end. He still likes rough and tough, he just knows that being true to friends is more important than any image.

Scott Magoon plays up the incongruity of the cute bunnies in Big Mean Mike’s hard-edged world by making them little balls of fluff, all soft roundness. They’re not even outlined--they’re pure white fuzz. They're more than capable of holding their own, however. It's got to take some serious bunny-guts to sit there being fuzzy and adorable in the face of Big Mike's determined meanness.

This book just made me laugh and laugh. I can’t wait to see what a first or second-grade class makes of it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Book Review: Lucy Can't Sleep by Amy Schwartz

Book: Lucy Can’t Sleep
Author: Amy Schwartz
Illustrator: Amy Schwartz
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

A little girl lies awake in her sleeping house. After various unsuccessful forays toward the Land of Nod, she decides that she really needs Dolly and Bear, and sets off through the still, quiet night to find them.

Even after you grow up, there’s something magical about the stillness of a quiet night. Your familiar surroundings become wrapped about in a benign hush. Amy Schwartz has captured that magic and set her small protagonist free to go walkabout through it.

What charmed me the most about this story was that no appalled parent came rushing out to shatter the illusion and herd Lucy back to bed. The magical quiet stillness of the night does the work all on its own. It may make some parents nervous, but I’ll lay you money that’s just what some kids will find the most intoxicating.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Stack-buster #6

Caveman: A B.C. story by Janee Trasler

Here’s a different alphabet story. Working her way through the alphabet with one word on each page, Trasler follows a caveman through his day, including encounters with dinosaurs, lightning, and other prehistoric dangers. Sweet, silly, and unpredictable, you’ll enjoy this one.

It’s a Tiger! written by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard
There are tigers everywhere for the hapless narrator of this charming story within a story. Tankard’s distinctive illustrations are thick with color, and kids will be able to spot the tiger before you turn the page and get the chance to yell, “IT’S A TIGER! RUN!”

One Pup’s Up written by Marsha Wilson Chall, illustrated by Henry Cole
Ready your squee-o-meters, folks. This tale of ten adorable puppies doing all their puppy-things is really incapable of evoking any other emotion. The story counts up to ten and then back down again as the puppies gambol through their day. I’ve already made a spot for it on my storytime shelf.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Reading Roundup: September 2012

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 24
Early Readers: 1

Review Copies: 1
Library: 23

Writing: Lucy Can't Sleep by Amy Schwartz
A breathless magic pervades this story of a little girl's midnight wanderings. Review coming soon.
Illustration: Up Above and Down Below, illustrated by Susan Ouriou, written by Paloma Valdivia
There's something brain-twistingly modern in these illustrations, which tell the story of the differences, and more, the similarities between you and the people on the other side of the world.
Overall: Bear Has a Story to Tell by Phillip C Stead, illustrated by Erin Stead
Like A Sick Day for Amos McGee, the main character is a self-effacing and generous soul, who helps his friends first. Glowing with autumn colors and gentle lines, it's definitely a quiet book. Not one you put in the hands of the most zooey kid in the room. But then again, the gentle story may have a calming effect. You never know.

Because I Want To Awards
Yay! Sequel!: Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hill
I've been using the first book, How Rocket Learned to Read, in school visits for a couple of years, so I was extra-excited to see this second book. Like the first one, kids struggling with the whole writing thing will recognize themselves in this determined pup, and everybody, canine or human, should have a teacher as warm and encouraging as the little bird.
There's a Reason It's a Classic: King Bidgood's in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood
We all have a tendency to focus on the cool and new, but there are books that should never leave our shelves. I was doing a bathtime storytime, and remembered this last-minute. The kids adored it.
Giggles Galore: Big Mean Mike by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Scott Magoon
Big Mean Mike is afraid of only one thing: having his rough, tough image compromised. When a herd of adorable bunny wabbits attach themselves to him, he may be in big trouble. Review coming soon.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Book Review: The Day Louis Got Eaten by John Fardell

Book: The Day Louis Got Eaten
Author: John Fardell
Illustrator: John Fardell
Published: 2011
Source: Local Library

Louis and Sarah were out for a bicycle ride one day when--yikes!--Louis got snatched up by a Gulper monster. Lucky for Louis, Sarah knew just what to do in such a situation, and she set off after it, determined to get her brother back. Of course, it complicates matters somewhat when another monster eats the Gulper--and another monster eats that one . . . but don’t underestimate a determined big sister.

Can you tell I enjoyed this book? I really, really did. The matter of fact recitation of disaster, and then Sarah’s practical approach to the problem just tickled the heck out of me. Kids will get a kick out of the nutty details in the pictures (Sarah builds herself various traveling devices out of what she has on hand, and Louis is reading a comic book by flashlight in the monster’s stomach when she finally catches up with him), and the names of the monsters evoke Seuss and Dahl in their melodic nonsense. (Undersnatch! Saber-Toothed Yumper!) I may well do a monster storytime, just for the chance to read this one.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Reading Roundup: August 2012

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 26
Early Readers: 3

Review Copies: 1
Library: 27

Writing: Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Moose isn't patient enough to wait for his turn in the alphabet show, and horns into earlier letters. Kids will love impetuous Moose, and also pointing out that "I" doesn't have anything to do with the word Moose.
Illustration: Think Big! by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton
So if you read my review, you'll see why I loved this book. The collage style was especially appealing.
Overall: One Pup's Up by Marsha Wilson Chall, illustrated by Henry Cole
Cute puppies, counting up (and then down again), and tongue-twisting wordplay made this one of my favorites all month.

Because I Want To Awards
I May Be Overthinking This: Bad Apple: a tale of friendship by Edward Hemingway
It's about an apple that wakes up one day with a worm protruding from his noggin, and they become friends. Basically a sweet story about an unlikely friendship, except . . really? Becoming friends with a creature that is, not to put too fine a point on it, consuming you? Yep. I'm probably overthinking.
For Your Little Emeril: Even Aliens Need Snacks by Matthew McElligott
Aw! I just enjoyed the heck out of this. Realized after the review went up that it would pair well, thematically and tonally, with Earth to Clunk, a fave from several months ago.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Book Review: Even Aliens Need Snacks by Matthew McElligott

Book: Even Aliens Need Snacks
Author: Matthew McElligott
Illustrator: Matthew McElligott
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

A budding young chef finds that nobody wants his creations. Really? Nobody wants to frequent a mushroom iced tea stand? Dispirited, he closes up shop and goes to bed . . . only to discover that he’s just focusing on the wrong clientele. Aliens love his unique cuisine! He revels in his extraterrestrial popularity, creating more and more unusual dishes. But is it true that there are some things that absolutely nobody will eat?

There’s a lot to giggle over in this clever tale. I got the most giggles out of the nutty, punny customer preferences (for instance, bean puffs went over well with the guys from the gas giants). With a wild variety of aliens and a twist at the end, I think this will go over well with preschool and early elementary kids, especially those that love crazy kitchen combinations themselves.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Book Review: Think Big! by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton

Book: Think Big!
Author: Liz Garton Scanlon
Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley Newton
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

A preschool class explores different creative expressions, from painting to dance to cooking and in the end, come together to create a show that incorporates all their different experiences.

Like a lot of books lately, this isn’t written in full sentences but rather short rhyming phrases that encapsulate the action on the page. I’m a little over that myself, but it does make for a short text that invites a lot of dialogic reading. The pictures are a mixed-media collage that splash and scatter across the page in a tumble of delight.

I was happy to note that the book isn’t about “this child is good at this, this child is good at that.” It’s about trying different things, enjoying yourself no matter your skill level, and sharing that joy with friends. I also really liked that boys were shown in the same measure as girls, taking unabashed pleasure in stereotypically female pursuits like cooking and knitting.

This sweet book celebrates the joy of creativity, no matter what form it comes in.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Book Review: Small Bunny's Blue Blanket by Tatya Feeney

Book: Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket
Author: Tatya Feeney
Illustrator: Tatya Feeney
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

Small Bunny and his constant companion, Blue Blanket, do everything together. Then one day, Mama Bunny decrees a separation. A bath, to be precise. For both of them. But Blue Blanket can’t get clean in the tub, and Small Bunny can't go in the washing machine. How will he ever survive?!

Linus and Charles Schulz may have introduced the idea of a security blanket into American thought, but I’m quite sure that there were cave babies hanging onto their ratty saber-toothed tiger pelts for dear life. There have always been books about kids and their blankies. This one is particularly charming in its simplicity.

The art is sweet and childlike, with occasional dabs of watercolor for effect on a mostly white page. It’s still expressive, though. My favorite spread shows Small Bunny standing vigil in front of the washing machine for 107 minutes, ears getting droopier and droopier as the anxious separation stretches out.

My favorite part has to be the end, where Blue Blanket is returned, “good as new.” But Blue Bunny doesn’t want new. It requires much activity to get Blue Blanket up to perfect, but he’s up for the challenge.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Reading Roundup: July 2012

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 8

Library: all

Writing: What to Do if an Elephant Stands on Your Foot by Michelle Robinson, illustrated by Peter Reynolds
Are you totally over the structure of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? Then this is the book for you. The narrator spends the whole time warning the main character what not to do, only to (sigh) see him doing exactly that thing. A clever subversion, and enough mayhem to entertain the kids too.
Illustration: Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, illustrated by Mehrdohkt Amini, written by Hena Khan
While the story was a very basic affair, introducing concepts associated with Islam via different colors, I wanted to slide into the illustrations and just lay there for awhile. The patterns and colors of Islamic cultures make it a feast for the eye.
Overall: Rat and Roach: friends to the end by David Covell
A vermin odd couple clash over everything from cookery to cleanliness to hugs, but in the end remember that they really are friends 'til the end. Guys, I hate roaches with every fiber of my being and even I liked this.

Because I Want To Awards
Timely Book is Timely: Olympig! by Victoria Jamieson
Just gave me a big ol' giggle. Review soon.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Book Review: On My Way to the Bath by Sarah Maizes, illustrated by Michael Paraskevas

Book: On My Way to the Bath
Author: Sarah Maizes
Illustrator: Michael Paraskevas
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

Bathtime is no fun. Livi has so many better things to do than to take a bath. Why, she has to be a snake, and scare her little brother! She has to put on a show to her sister’s music! She has to harnass her hamster minions and plot to take over the world! But mom is firm. It is bathtime, and a bath must be taken. But will Livi ever get to the tub?

We’ve all been there, and many of us on both sides of the equation. Livi allows herself to be distracted as much as possible while avoiding the inevitable. Her mother, seen almost entirely as an exasperated speech bubble from off-page, keeps reminding her of the task at hand. Livi’s imagination is the star of the show, conjuring up wild and funny scenarios that spill all over the page in a colorful, witty mix of reality and fantasy. (One thing did tickle me enormously, and that’s in the illustration of the musical sister: her boom box features an iPod dock. Welcome to the future.)

This imaginative kid (and her progressively less patient mother) will bring on gales of laughter and nods of familiarity.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Book Review: Small Saul by Ashley Spires, illustrated by Tara Walker

Book: Small Saul
Author: Ashley Spires
Illustrator: Tara Walker
Published: 2011
Source: Local Library

Saul loves the sea, but it doesn’t love him back. He’s a little too neat and clean and, well, nice to be a proper pirate. So the captain pushes him overboard. (He is a pirate. It’s just something they do.) But they soon start to miss the freshly scrubbed decks, the yummy lemon cakes, and most all, the bandaids during battle. Is it too late to get Small Saul back?

Kids will giggle over the text and the pictures, which are jam-packed with silly details (his Pirate College Diploma says “You ARRR a pirate.” HA!) Both sweet and tongue-in-cheek, this is a book for everyone who’s been a square peg in a round hole, and unexpectedly found that’s where they were meant to be.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Book Review: What Are You Doing? by Elisa Amado, illustrated by Manuel Monroy

Book: What Are You Doing?
Author: Elisa Amado
Illustrator: Manuel Monroy
Published: 2011
Source: Local Library

A little boy reluctant to start his first day of school goes around his town and sees most of his neighbors engaged in a peculiar activity. “What are you doing?” he asks. Reading! The paper, a repair manual, a comic book, a magazine. He decides that school may not be so bad after all, if he can learn to read while he’s there.

It’s obvious why this book charmed me utterly. My favorite part? Well, there’s two. One, there are just as many men as women reading. And second, they read for all kinds of reasons and all kinds of things. Use this to talk about all the reasons we read.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Stack-Buster #5

Little Pig Joins the Band by David Hyde Costello
Little pig is having some trouble. He’s too small to play any of the marching-band instruments that his older brothers and sisters do. What can he bring to it? Only the very special bossiness that the youngest child possesses. With funny side conversations in the illustrations, this charming book will strike a chord with every baby of the family.

Rooster/Gallo by Jorge Lujan, illustrated by Manuel Monroy
In a bilingual poem, a rooster greets the day and watches as it turns to night again. A beautiful piece of poetry, paired with dreamy illustrations, this has a permanent place in my storytime rotation.

One Foot, Two Feet: An Exceptional Counting Book by Peter Maloney, illustrated by Felicia Zekauskas
Let’s face it, you guys, English is confusing. There’s all these words like men and women and children and feet. This book collects several together and combines them with a counting progression. With cut-outs and sweetly quirky details, I predict that this slightly off-the-wall offering will enchant kids.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Reading Roundup: June 2012

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 14
Early Readers: 1

Library: all

Writing: On My Way to the Bath by Sarah Maizes, illustrated by Michael Paraskevas
The protagonist takes bathtime avoidance to a whole new level with her imaginative distractions. Can't wait to see what the storytime folks think of this.
Illustration: The Tree House by Marije Tolman and Ronald Tolman
This wordless picture book follows a couple of bears who discover a tree house and are joined by friends. Read it through a few times. Linger for awhile. You'll find yourself wanting a treehouse of your own.
Overall: Small Bunny's Blue Blanket by Tatya Feeney
It's the classic tale of separation from your best blankie. Like all the best picture-book writers, Feeney pares her story down to the bare essentials. In so doing, she both taps into and respects the raw emotions of a small child. I want to see more from her.

Because I Want To Awards
Read it Solely for the Illustrator: Elephants Swim by Linda Capus Riley, illustrated by Steve Jenkins
I think at this point I could recognize Jenkins' animals, as realistically rendered as cut-paper collage will allow, from across a room. Love 'em.
Big Giant Hee!: Oh No! Not Again!: (Or How I Built a Time Machine to save History) (Or at Least My History Grade) by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Dan Santat
The young narrator of this pair's first outing is back, and attempting to fix her A- grade on a history test (horrors!!) by building a time machine and going back so her answers are all correct. As you do. This is one for older kids, particularly those who like to pore over the pictures to catch all the jokes.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Reading Roundup: May 2012

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 15
Early Readers: 1

Library: all

I'm just going to go with an Overall award this month because I'm having a hard time picking out specific art and writing standouts. Wait, didn't I do that last month? Oh well; you get extra Because I Want To awards in exchange.
Overall: Press Here by Herve Tullet
This is a little bit of a cop-out, because in fact I read Press Here months ago, but I just got around to recording it in my database this month. But honestly, if there's a book that deserves any award that will stick, it's this one, which is maybe the best audience participation book on the simplest of concepts that I've ever seen. So. Much. Genius.

Because I Want To Awards
Exactly as Promised: The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems
When I hear a new Pigeon book is coming out, I expect a smart and witty readaloud about a self-centered and histrionic bird who could double as one of my storytime toddlers any day of the week. That's what I got. Thanks, Mo!
Entertaining Reversal: The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas by Tony Wilson, illustrated by Sue DeGennarro
You've heard of the high-maintenance original? Feh on her. This prince would rather have a rough-and-tumble chick who demands an entire packet of frozen peas, for the purpose of icing bruises, of course.
Grabbed This One for Storytime: Red White and Boom! by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated Huy Voun Lee
If there's one storytime theme that makes me grit my teeth a little, it's July 4th. Not because I'm unpatriotic, but because it's really very hard to find good readalouds for the preschool set that don't get jingoistic or just recite our National Anthem. This one, which follows a multi-ethnic group through the holiday's entertainments, works pretty well.
Yay for Everyday Multi-racialism!: Whoa, Baby, Whoa! by Grace Nichols
What do you call it when members of one family come in all colors and yet nobody makes a fuss about it? You call it daily life for many kids in America. A baby toddles around his house and is preserved from constant disaster by loving hands that are brown and white and tan, of all ages and sizes. D'awwww.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

RIP Maurice Sendak

I was reading through my Google Reader this morning, and came across the news that Maurice Sendak had died. I made one of those little noises, that "Oh!" of combined horror, sadness, and disbelief. Here's his obit at the New York Times.

Now, the NYT doesn't exactly have a shining track record as far as children's and YA book coverage goes, but I have to give them props for this lovely obit, which acknowledges Sendak as a picture-book creator that both defined and stood outside the genre.

Even now, Sendak's books have teeth that you don't often find in the picture-book shelves. They're a little sharp, a little hard-edged, a little dangerous, and the kids love them, because their world is not the soft and fuzzy baby-ducks-and-mama-bunnies that we often get in 32 pages with illustrations. Their world is full of uncertainties, new people, desperately dangerous situations. (You try being two feet tall and encountering a 180-lb dog, even a nice one. That's some George-and-the-Dragon stuff right there.) And the kids themselves aren't docile cherubs.

He wrote a small-form picture book called Alligators All Around. A child's world is full of alligators. Sendak knew that. And he sent his heroes out into the alligators, and they beat them. They even romped with them.

We'll miss you.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Reading Roundup: April 2012

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 7
Early Readers: 1

Library: all

Writing: Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff
Okay, we've all seen it before: the "Mama what's that?" structure. But I like the way that Ashley Wolff does it, folding in color concepts and seasons with an affectionate-but-not-adorable mother-child relationship.
Illustration: Extra Yarn, illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett
It could be my yarn-lovin' ways that ensured a place in my affections, but I think there's more. Klassen's spare lines and taciturn faces are livened only by the wild and lovely colors of the knitted creations Annabelle gifts upon all and sundry.
Overall: Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Allison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile
Teeming with imagination, quirky wit, and a friendship of opposites, this 2010 award winner feels like a classic that I've already loved for years.

Because I Want To Awards
Sorry, guys, not this month. Too small of a pool. I will say this: all my standouts battled each other fiercely for their respective spots. It was very nearly a three-way tie for overall.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Reading Roundup: March 2012

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 15
Early Readers: 2

Library: all

Writing: Another Brother by Matthew Cordell
Ugh, siblings! The most annoying things ever . . . especially when they ignore you. The first-born in a very large family hates being imitated constantly, until his brothers suddenly stop and he realizes that he kind of likes being idolized. Luckily, there's always somebody else coming along to toddle in his footsteps.
Illustration: Randy Riley's Really Big Hit by Chris Van Dusen
I do love Van Dusen's mid-century stylized illustrations, especially paired with his always-quirky storylines. Besides, how can you lose with giant robots? Answer: you can't. Really.
Overall: And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
You know that early-spring feeling? When it feels like you'll never see anything but mud again? That brown, brown, brown, wait-what's-that feeling? The pairing of Fogliano and Stead capture it beautifully.

Because I Want To Awards
A Twist in the Tail: Dogs by Emily Gravett
See what I did there? Hee.
I Had the Worst Time Tagging This: Time to Say Bye-Bye by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
This book follows a toddler through his day, saying bye-bye to one delightful activity in order to greet a new one. So instantly recognizable it's actually sort of hard to describe.
Let's Hear It for More Creativity!: Crafty Chloe by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Heather Ross

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Reading Roundup: February 2012

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 20

Library: 20

Writing: Let's Go See Papa! by Lawrence Shimel, illustrated by Alba Marina Rivera
A little girl learns that no matter where she is, she's going to be separated from someone she loves, but there's always a way to keep close to them in her heart.
Illustration: Moonlight, illustrated by Laura Dronzek, written by Helen V. Griffith
The lovely acrylics in this peaceful book celebrate the full moon, and the animals bathed in moonlight. Very much in the gently curving style of Kevin Henkes, if he's a favorite.
Overall: TIED
I Don't Want to be a Pea! by Ann Bonwill, illustrated by Simon Rickerty
This story of two friends who both want to be the most important element in their dual costume will strike a chord with kids just learning how to navigate friendship.
Mitchell's License by Hallie Durand, illustrated by Tony Fucile
Given a license to drive his car (really his dad) to bed, Mitchell makes the most of it. Car-obsessed kids will probably get the most giggles out of this, but really it's buckets of fun for everybody.

Because I Want To Awards
Universal Experience: Omer's Favorite Place by Ifeoma Onyefulu,
Even though this takes place in Ethiopia, kids everywhere will recognize themselves and their families in Omer's tour of his home.
Aww-Worthy: Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Peter Reynolds
When a little girl plants a kiss, she finds that the harvest is more wonderful even than she expected.
Diff'rent Strokes: Rosie Sprout's Time to Shine by Allison Wortche, illustrated by Patrice Barton
As someone who's been both the quiet kid in the corner and the one grabbing center stage, I appreciated the nonjudgmental attitude of this book. Just right for your quiet kids, and maybe something to think about for your little divas as well.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Book Review: Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers

Book: Up and Down
Author: Oliver Jeffers
Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Published: 2010
Source: Local Library

There were once two friends, a penguin and a boy. The penguin wanted to fly. Like a true friend, the boy did his best to help his friend. When the penguin discovers a way to achieve his dream, he’s so excited that he rushes off without telling the boy where he’s going. As the penguin gets closer to flight, the boy gets more and more worried about his missing friend. Will he ever find him? And will the penguin succeed in his quest for flight?

What is it about Oliver Jeffers' books? Dreamy, sweet, a little kooky, they captivate me every time. The soft-edged watercolors act as a perfect complement to the just slightly off-center stories. Penguins wanting to fly is not new, but by means of a living cannonball? Genius. And the tender ending, with the penguin realizing his dream wasn’t exactly what it was cracked up to be, but the boy is there for him always. Awww.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Book Review: Art and Max by David Wiesner

Book: Art and Max
Author: David Wiesner
Illustrator: David Wiesner
Published: 2010
Source: Local Library

Art is a very serious painter, and when pesky Max wants to paint too, his agreement is reluctant in the extreme. His doubts prove well-founded when Max doesn’t paint exactly the way Art thinks he should. But the little lizard's exuberance sets off an artistic free-for-all that will change more than Art’s mind.

Oh, like you haven’t heard about this one. It is David Wiesner, after all. But besides the brain-bending storyline that falls in line with his other reality-optional classics, there’s a real sibling vibe about Art and Max. Any kid reading is gong to identify with either the serious and rather pompous older brother or with the bright and curious and not-a-little copy-cat younger brother, or maybe both.

I tried this out in a storytime with school-age kids, and they were fascinated with the storyline and the bickering characters. This is a group that demonstrates their enjoyment of a book by reading it themselves afterwards, and I practically had to peel them off of Art and Max.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Reading Roundup: January 2012

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 32
Early Readers: 1

Library: all

Writing: The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic, illustrated by Oliver Tallec
Don't ever, ever read this in storytime. You'll be sobbing too hard. But if you're a believer in bibliotherapy, keep it on hand. This book follows a little boy after the death of his mother. Realistic in its portrayal of grief and acceptance, it'll be the right book for the kid who needs it.
Illustration: My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall
Just looking at these animals, all created out of various sized hearts, is enough to make you want to cut out a stack of hearts and see what kind of wildlife you can create.
Overall: One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by David Small
When the extraordinarily dignified main character adopts a penguin from the zoo, he's faced with the problem of how to care for him, and rises to the occasion. Includes the funniest illustration of a gobsmacked librarian I've ever seen.

Because I Want To Awards
Because Names Are Important!: My Name is Elizabeth by Annika Dunklee, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
Elizabeth prefers to be called just that. But she has to put up with various incarnations of her name, until the day she puts her foot down and declares that she is to be called Elizabeth! With an exception made in one special case.
The Most Incredible Little-Boy Book: Dinosaur Dig! by Penny Dale
There are dinosaurs and construction vehicles. How can you lose? Tailor made for the vast majority of little boys, and quite a few little girls too.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Book Review: Earth to Clunk by Pam Smallcomb, illustrated by Joe Berger

Book: Earth to Clunk
Author: Pam Smallcomb
Illustrator: Joe Berger
Published: 2011
Source: Local Library

What would you send to an alien pen pal? Since the narrator of this book never wanted one in the first place, he sends the most disgusting things he can think of, in hopes of scaring off Clunk for good. Dirty socks! Old lasagna! His big sister! But the packages from Clunk are twice as weird, and when the letters finally stop, he’s sort of dismayed. How can he get his unlikely friend back?

I didn’t adore this book straight off, you guys. It took me a little while, a few reads in front of a group, before I began to appreciate it. This is a great readaloud for older kids, opening up avenues of discussion every which way. What would you send to your alien pen pal? Do you think that the kid really always liked getting stuff from Clunk? With colorful and sly illustrations, this one will be a favorite with your school groups.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Stack-Buster #4

The Longest Night by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ted Lewin
On the longest, coldest night of the year, various animals attempt to wake the sun. But it’s the humble chickadee who can bring the spring back again. This book with its chilly colors and simply storyline will take your breath away.

My Little Polar Bear by Claudia Rueda
Both a tender mother-and-child story and a description of polar bears for animal lovers, this book hits a trifecta with its glorious art, which is rendered only in white and shades of blue. Okay, the cover’s pretty sparkly. Hang onto this for storytimes, but get another copy because people will want to take it home.

Cool Cat by Nonny Hogrogian
In a brown and barren world, a cat with a paintbrush sets about transforming it into a lush wonderland. This wordless picture book is a treat for the eyes and a kickstarter for a discussion about the power of art and of one’s person’s ability to have an effect.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Book Review: Banana! by Ed Vere

Book: Banana!
Author: Ed Vere
Illustrator: Ed Vere
Published: 2011
Source: Local Library

One monkey has a banana. One does not. As you can imagine, this creates some friction. The second monkey attempts to obtain said banana by all the usual methods: demands, temper tantrums, even pathetic sobbing. But none of these will work; the first monkey is waiting for one particular word.

I got this book and immediately took it into storytime. It’s not an exaggeration to say the the kids adored it. Probably some of that was my willingness to imitate a monkey throwing a temper tantrum. With its simple yet immediately recognizable storyline, its bright and bold colors, and of course, the aforesaid monkey throwing a temper tantrum, this has a permanent place in my storytime collection.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Stack Buster #3

 First Snow by Bernette Ford, illustrated by Sebastien Braun
On the night of the first snow, a bunny awakens and ventures out into the snow. He encounters chipmunks, owls, and even kids building a snowman. With delicate paintings that evoke the breathless chill of a winter night, Braun brings the wonder of the first snowfall to life. This tender, soothing book will work best as a bedtime story, but storytime goers liked it too. Look, you guys. I grew up in snowy climes and fled to the desert. If I liked this book, anyone will love it.

Cat Secrets by Jef Czekaj
You can only read this book if you’re a cat, because it’s for cats only, and the narrator doesn’t believe you’re really a cat. You’ll have to prove it. Can you meow? Can you purr? Can you nap? This interactive book is a natural for active storytimes, and kids will get a kick out of the cat secrets held over their head.

Square Cat by Elizabeth Schoonmaker
Poor Eula is a square cat living in a round world, and a round world isn’t particularly kind to square cats. She does her best to become round, but it’s not until her round freinds help her realize that being square can be good that she realizes being square isn’t so bad.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Reading Roundup 2011

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 360
Early Readers: 14

Review Copies: 1
Swapped: 2
Library: everything else

Writing: Selected in February Cooking With Henry and Elliebelly by Carolyn Parkhurst, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
"I'd so watch this brother-and-sister cooking show, with pirate hats! The sibling-ness rings true without descending into annoying schlurp, and the fact that it's a boy who wants to play pretend cooking makes my neo-feminist soul sing."
Illustration: Selected in May: Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudi by Rachel Victoria Rodriguez, illustrated by Julie Paschkis
"Just the book for your budding architect. Paschkis takes the lines and shapes that influenced Gaudi's most famous buildings and works them into her illustrations. The minute I closed the book, I had to hit the Internet see if Gaudi's work really was that wild . . . and what do you know, it was! (Side note: Okay, I've totally decided I have an illustrator-crush on Julie Paschkis. I loooooove her work.)"
Overall: Selected in May and April! I Know the River Loves Me/Yo Se Que El Rio Me Ama by Maya Christina Gonzalez
Somehow, I picked this one as an overall standout two months in a row. "Side-by-side English and Spanish versions of the same poem sing the praises of a river that a little girl loves, and the swirling, flowing illustrations bring both river and girl to life."

All the roundups for 2011