Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz –ADVISABLE

Rabinowitz, Alan A Boy and a Jaguar 32 pgs. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2014. $16.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. PICTURE BOOK/BIOGRAPHY
When Alan is a little boy he talks to animals and make a vow to sad jaguar housed at the Bronx zoo that he will be her champion. But Alan stutters and finds communicating with people to be his biggest challenge, something that is necessary if he is going to help save animals and their habitats. He pursues his promise and works through his stuttering to help found a preserve for Jaguars in Belize.
I think this is a wonderful book but that it does require a teacher to guide the students through the content. I love how the stuttering and the ability to talk to animals comes together and how the dreams of a child became a reality for the grownup through hard work and perseverance. This book would great for a unit on conservation or for a speech teacher working with a student who stutters. Students can learn more from the authors non-profit website about big cat conservation.
EL(K-3)  -ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

The Mayflower by Mark Greenwood –ADVISABLE

Greenwood, Mark The Mayflower 32 pgs. Holiday House, 2014. $16.95  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. NON-FICTION
A succinct narrative of the journey of the Mayflower told with large bright painted images. We learn about why the pilgrims set out, a bit about what life was like at sea, their first settlement, and the first Thanksgiving.
This is not a new topic for picture books, but should you need a good one, this one would make a nice addition to your collection. The images are bright and simple with large pages to show off. The text is also very short and simple, making it accessible by younger students. Would make a great addition to a lesson on the origin of the Thanksgiving holiday.
EL (K-3) -ADVISABLE  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Our Solar System (Revised) by Seymour Simon –NOT RECOMMENED

Simon, Seymour  Our Solar System (Revised) 72 pgs. HarperCollins; Updated from 2007 edition, 2014. $17.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. NON FICTION
This book features images of the planets in our solar system as well as information about asteroids, comets, the reclassification of Pluto.
Of course, like others books by this author, this one features stunning photography that is large and center stage. But the information is dry, boring, and presented in large blocks of text. This is not at all appealing to an elementary student. The worst page is the one about the distances from the sun, all the planets are just smashed onto one page without being presented in distance order. I would prefer to add books to my collection with the text presented in a fun and creative way, to help highlight the information and make it more memorable. I would add this book if it was just full of images alone (and captions).
EL(K-3)  -NO Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

The Worlds Best Noses, Ears, and Eyes by Helen Rundgren –ESSENTIAL

Rundgren, Helen and illustrated by Arrhenius, Ingela The Worlds Best Noses, Ears, and Eyes 32 pgs. Holiday House, 2014. $16.95  Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. NON-FICTION

In this book readers will find out the top creature in the world for the very best eyes, ears, and nose. Turns out there is quite a few! Moths have a double nose! Sharks can smell underwater. Crickets ears are under its knees. Fully illustrated with bright, varied, and colorful creatures and harmonious scenery.

Ah, finally a truly great book! This fantastic book is filled to the brim with fun and interesting facts about the senses and has top notch illustrations. I love that the author chose to include some less common creatures like hedgehogs and the star nosed mole. I think students will be drawn to the bright cover and the fun imagery, and find themselves wanting to know more information about tons of different animals. A welcome addition to lessons about animal adaption and the senses.

EL (K-3) -ESSENTIAL  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Night Parade by Lily Roscoe -- OPTIONAL

Roscoe, Lily The Night Parade, illustrated by David Walker. PICTURE BOOK. Orchard Books, 2014. $16.99. Content: G.

What happens every night while moms and dads sleep? Kids rise from their beds and join the Night Parade, a fanciful journey that includes skipping through the streets, making cakes for the moon, and telling magical tales. This is a fun bedtime book, and the illustrations are adorable. In a world filled with bedtime books, however, the truth is that it's difficult to stand out, and while this one is enjoyable it does blend in with the many others in the genre. If one's library or classroom isn't already filled with similar titles, however, this could be a nice addition.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Maple by Lori Nichols -- ESSENTIAL

Nichols, Lori Maple. PICTURE BOOK. Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Young Readers, 2014. $16.99. Content: G.

Maple often finds solace in the tree her parents planted in her honor before she was even born, but sometimes things get lonely with just a tree for a playmate. When her baby sister is born, Maple swears to be a great big sibling -- even if it means sharing her own special maple tree.

Maple is a lovely testament to the bond between sisters. It's sweet enough to bring tears to my eyes each time without being overly cloying. The illustrations are adorable and match the text perfectly. Highly recommended for any kids who are about to have younger siblings -- especially girls who will soon have baby sisters.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Monsters Love School by Mike Austin -- ADVISABLE

Austin, Mike Monsters Love School. PICTURE BOOK. Harper, 2014. $15.99. Content: G.

Summer is over, and it's time to go to school. All the monsters are excited except Blue, who has a lot of questions and worries about this new adventure. But as he goes through his first day, he learns that school is about more than ABC and 123. It's also about having fun and meeting new friends.

While the plot is nothing that hasn't been addressed in pretty much every other first-day-of-school book, Austin's illustrations are eye-catching and entertaining, and the book does have a fun, optimistic feel to it. All in all a nice addition to a first-day-of-school collection.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Frog Song by Brenda Z. Guiberson -- ESSENTIAL

Guiberson, Brenda Z. Frog Song, illustrated by Gennady Spirin. PICTURE BOOK. Henry Holt & Co., 2013. $17.99. Content: G.

Frog Song describes the lives of eleven different kinds of frogs and toads, from their croaks and bellows, to their habitats, to their birthing methods. (The male Darwin's frog, for example, carries its tadpoles in its vocal sacs for seven weeks as they grow.) A note in the back gives more detail about the types profiled in the book, followed by a call to action, a bibliography, and a list of websites for those who wish to research further.

The artwork is gorgeous, the individual songs -- phonetically described on each profile -- are fun to imitate, and the descriptions of the frogs are absolutely fascinating. Honestly, I had no idea how interesting frogs could be until I read Frog Song. This book is fun for browsing, but it would also be a good addition to a science class or an Earth Day celebration. It would also be helpful for research projects.

EL, MS -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Thanksgiving for Emily Ann by Teresa Johnston -- OPTIONAL

Johnston, Teresa Thanksgiving for Emily Ann, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. PICTURE BOOK. Cartwheel Books/Scholastic, 2014. $6.99. Content: G.

Emily Ann is not having a very good Thanksgiving. Her brother is mean, her sister is boring, and she has to share her bedroom with her grandpa. (He snores.) To top it off, everyone's too busy to play with her. Annoyed, Emily Ann decides to teach her family a lesson by hiding the turkey, but her mom catches her and thinks she's helping. Suddenly Emily Ann looks around and realizes that Thanksgiving is a special holiday because it has brought her entire, wonderful family together, and that is something to celebrate.

I love the beginning of the book, as the text flows smoothly and Emily Ann is a sympathetic character. But as the story progresses, the rhythm loses its place several times, and Emily Ann's change of heart feels sudden and unjustified, making the ending feel overly sentimental.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Stop, Thief! by Heather Tekavec -- ADVISABLE

Tekavec, Heather Stop, Thief! Illustrated by Pierre Pratt. PICTURE BOOK. Kids Can Press, 2014. $16.95. Content: G.

Someone is stealing all the farmer's crops, and Max the dog is on the case, but even though he's sure he has the right suspect, it turns out the real thieves are right under his nose.

This book is very entertaining for children as well as adults, and the cute illustrations pair well with the text. If read with a sense of wink-wink-nod-nod fun, kids will likely catch on to the irony and feel very smart for figuring out who the real culprits are -- especially since none of the actual characters in the book have a clue.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Families Around the World by Margriet Ruurs -- ADVISABLE

Ruurs, Margriet Families Around the World, illustrated by Jessica Rae Gordon. Picture Book. Kids Can Press, 2014. $18.95. Content: G.

This book explains that every family is unique, then profiles families from fourteen countries. Each grouping has a different combination of parents, siblings, and other relatives, as well as signature foods, daily activities, and languages. A note at the end contains lesson ideas for teachers and parents, as well as a glossary with a pronunciation guide for "Hello" in each language and descriptions of unusual foods.

While it is unlikely to be picked up by students browsing for an entertaining story, this book would be good for those doing a research project or as a class introduction to diversity appreciation.

EL -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Gumballs by Keith Baker -- ADVISABLE

Baker, Keith Gumballs: A Mr. and Mrs. Green Adventure. Green Light books, 2005. $3.99. Content: G.

When Mr. and Mrs. Green are out one day, they see a huge jar of gumballs in a window, with an invitation to guess how many are inside. Mrs. Green estimates and writes down her number, but Mr. Green uses measurements, multiplication, and a little luck to figure it out. Who will win that jar of gumballs? And what on Earth will the winner do with them all? This colorful, amusing story shows math being applied in a real-life situation, and the results are very entertaining. Would be a good way to tie such concepts as multiplication, estimation, and measuring in with a reading curriculum -- or to introduce reading into a mathematics curriculum.

EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Thanksgiving Mice! by Bethany Roberts -- ADVISABLE

Roberts, Bethany Thanksgiving Mice! Illustrated by Doug Cushman. Green Light Readers, 2001. $3.99. Content: G.

Four adorable mice dress up like Pilgrims and put on a play detailing the Mayflower's arrival on shore and the first Thanksgiving. The rhyming and rhythm are a bit clunky, and the actual history of Thanksgiving is very glossed-over, but it would make a fun supplement to other holiday activities. The illustrations are cute, and the simple text is good for newer readers.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Justin Case: Rules, Tools and Maybe a Bully by Rachel Vail

Vail, Rachel Justin Case: Rules, Tools and Maybe a Bully, 179 pgs. Feiwel and Friends, 2014. $16.99.  


Justin is in 4th grade now, and his 2nd best friend Noah is mean because Justin has other friends.  Justin doesn’t want to be labeled a tattletale, so he endures the bullying. 

This is a delightful read, written in diary form. Justin’s personality and heart really come through.  Book 3 in the series, but stands alone beautifully.  You really need Justin Case in your elementary library.

EL ADVISABLE  Lisa Librarian

Henny by Elizabeth Rose Stanton -- ESSENTIAL

Stanton, Elizabeth Rose Henny. PICTURE BOOK. Simon & Schuster, 2014. $16.99. Content: G.

Through a fluke, Henny the chicken was born with arms. It's tough to be different, to never quite fit in, but it also has its perks. Unlike her brothers and sisters, Henny can point. She can hail a taxi cab. She can even help out around the farm. All in all, being unique might not be so bad.

Henny is an entertaining, affirming story. The understated illustrations are hilarious and complement the text well.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Pinkalicious: Thanksgiving Helper by Victoria Kann -- ADVISABLE

Kann, Victoria Pinkalicious: Thanksgiving Helper. PICTURE BOOK. Harper Festival, 2014. $6.99. Content: G.

It's Thanksgiving Day, and Pinkalicious and her brother Peter are excited to assist in the festivities. While their attempts to help result in the occasional disaster, their actions are well-intentioned, and their parents are appreciative. This is a cute installment in the series. While it would be fun for classroom or library use, it would also make a good gift for kids who are beginning their Thanksgiving holidays, especially if they need a diversion on a long car trip or while waiting for the actual dinner to begin. Includes a themed poster, table place cards, and stickers.

EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Bruno and Titch by Sheena Dempsey -- ADVISABLE

Dempsey, Sheena Bruno and Titch: A Tale of a Boy and His Guinea Pig. PICTURE BOOK. Candlewick Press, 2014. $16.99. Content: G.

Bruno wants his very own guinea pig, and Titch wants a home. It's a match made in the pet store, right? Well, it would be, except Bruno plays a bit too enthusiastically for the nervous Titch. Bruno is a kind pet owner, though, and makes Titch his very own guinea pig fun palace, complete with a jacuzzi, fruit buffet, and private "Poo Hut."

Until this book came along, I didn't realize how rare it is to see pets other than dogs, cats, horses, and the occasional goldfish featured in stories. How nice to find a little variety! Titch's very human feelings help children understand that pets have their own preferences and fears, just like people, and Bruno's sensitivity is sweet and sets a great example. The amusing illustrations make a perfect accompaniment to the text.

EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly! by Lucille Colandro -- OPTIONAL

Colandro, Lucille There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly! Illustrated by Jared Lee. Cartwheel Books, 2014. $6.99. Content: G.

Illustrations accompany the lyrics of "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly." A twist at the end keeps this version from having the usual tragic resolution. This is a cute rendition of the popular folk song, but there are a lot out there already, and this one seems redundant, especially since the "twist" at the end isn't particularly creative. School libraries and classrooms that do not already have something similar may benefit from purchasing a copy, however.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- OPTIONAL.

The Scoop on Ice Cream! by Bonnie Williams -- ADVISABLE

Williams, Bonnie The Scoop on Ice Cream! Illustrated by Scott Burroughs. Simon Spotlight, 2014. $3.99. Content: G.

This advanced early reader tells the history of ice cream, then goes on to describe modern-day takes on the treat, including unusual flavors found around the world. Finally, Williams describes the scientific reactions that make ice cream possible in the first place.

This is a fun, informative take on a topic that will likely appeal to many children. While it would work well in a classroom or library, especially in a set of leveled readers or nonfiction titles, it would also be fun at a summer camp or after-school program -- accompanied, of course, by actual ice cream churning.

EL -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Bitsy Bee Goes to School by David A. Carter -- OPTIONAL

Carter, David A. Bitsy Bee Goes to School.

It's Bitsy Bee's first day of school, and she's very nervous. Luckily she has a friend with her, and everything goes perfectly. This is a cute story, but there is very little tension or uniqueness; in a world filled with first-day-of-school books, this one does not particularly stand out.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tea Party Rules by Ame Dyckman -- ESSENTIAL

Dyckman, Ame Tea Party Rules, illustrated by K. G. Campbell. PICTURE BOOK. Viking Juvenile, 2013. Content: G.

While wandering the forest, Cub finds a little girl's tea party, complete with cookies. Luckily, the girl has ducked out for a moment, but just as Cub reaches for his first treat, the girl returns -- and mistakes him for her own teddy bear. Can Cub keep up the pretense long enough to steal some sweets?

Tea Party Rules is hilarious. The text perfectly captures the nature of little girls, who are often fastidious and playful by turns, and the illustrations are absolutely priceless. The book is entertaining on its own, but it would also be a good discussion starter for how to be a good play date guest or hostess.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Snow Joke by Bruce Degen -- NOT RECOMMENDED

Degen, Bruce Snow Joke. PICTURE BOOK. Holiday House, 2014. $14.95. Content: G.

Red is a bully who finds it hilarious to tease and hurt Bunny and her friends, but when a joke misfires on him, he's the one who's hurt and it's Bunny and her friends who are laughing. They quickly forgive Red when they see how sad he is, however, and all become friends again.

The text is very simple for beginning readers, and the pictures are colorful. However, the message of the book is disconcerting. Why do Bunny and her friends continue to play with Red when he's mean to them every time? Is that really the best way to handle a bully? Forgiveness is great, but repeatedly playing with a tyrant like Red and getting upset when he does something awful becomes ridiculous after a while. And then the resolution, when it happens, is only possible when Bunny and her friends are just as mean to Red as he was to them -- again, not great behavior modeling. It's also hard to believe that Red has learned his lesson and will not bully again, so the sappy, happy ending seems temporary at best.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- NOT RECOMMENDED. Reviewer: Caryn

If Kids Ran the World by Leo and Diane Dillon -- OPTIONAL

Dillon, Leo and Diane If Kids Ran the World. PICTURE BOOK. Blue Sky Books/Scholastic, 2014. $18.99. Content: G.

This book postulates that if kids ran the world, everyone would have enough to eat, and a safe place to live, and all the medicine they needed. People would laugh and play more, and worry a lot less. There would be no bullying. Everyone would have religious freedom. The world, in short, would be perfect, if only kids were in charge.

While I appreciate the concept of this book, it's so extremely idealistic and unbelievable that I find it hard to lose myself in the story, and the wording and wish list seem much more tailored to adults than to young children.

EL (K-3) -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Riff Raff the Mouse Pirate by Susan Schade -- ESSENTIAL

Schade, Susan Riff Raff the Mouse Pirate, illustrated by Anne Kennedy. Harper / I Can Read, 2012. $3.99. Content: G.

Captain Riff Raff and his crew find a map, but one corner is missing. All they know is that the treasure is under a street that starts with PLU. The pirate mice set sail through the water pipes, reading street names as they go, but Pearl Street and Plant Street don't start with PLU. Will they have the tenacity and the reading skills to find the treasure?

What a fun early reader! Fans of adventure stories will enjoy the pirate theme, and the mystery of the treasure adds extra excitement to the tale. I especially love how that the suspense centers around the mice sounding out words and discussing the different vowel sounds -- a very interesting, non-preachy way to show how important reading can be.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Caryn.

Little Lucy Goes to School by Ilene Cooper -- OPTIONAL

Cooper, Ilene Little Lucy Goes to School, illustrated by John Kanzler. Random House, 2014. $3.99. Content: G.

When Bobby forgets to take his lunchbox to school, his mom brings it by. But she's also brought their puppy, Lucy, who escapes so she can run the halls of Bobby's school. As many people remind the excited pup, though, dogs don't belong in school.

Although this is a cute story, and some children may find Lucy's antics humorous, the text feels long enough to become a bit tedious. Also, both the gender roles and artwork seem so old-fashioned that I had to look to see if the book was a reprint from several decades ago. Nope. 2014.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

A Day with Miss Lina's Ballerinas by Grace Maccarone -- ADVISABLE

Maccarone, Grace A Day with Miss Lina's Ballerinas, illustrated by Christine Davenier. Square Fish/Macmillan, 2014. $3.99. Content: G.

Miss Lina's Ballerinas love to dance so much that they do it all day long -- at the studio when the sun comes up, then on their way to school, then during math class and, afterward, as they prepare for bed. This early reader will likely appeal to many little girls who are fascinated with ballet. It is a quick read with lovely, old-fashioned art, and the rhythm works well in all but a few spots. Both the flow of the text and the artwork are reminiscent of the Madeline series.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Nicky Goes to the Doctor by Richard Scarry- ADVISABLE

Scarry, Richard Nicky Goes to the Doctor. PICTURE BOOK. Random House Children's Books, 2014. $5.99. Content: G.  Nicky goes to the doctor for her yearly checkup.  She has her eyes, heart, weight, and  height checked.  The doctor also checks her tummy, her throat, her ears and reflexes.  Last but not least, Nicky needs to get some shots.  "Nobody likes shots but we need them to sometimes help us stay healthy and well." the Doctor says.  At the end of the visit Nicky gets a balloon.  When Nicky reports her visit to her siblings, they all want a turn! Mom says they will have to take turns but will all have a chance to see the doctor for their own checkups.  Richard Scarry uses his unique illustrations to make yearly visits to the doctor less scary.  He reassures readers about concerns by showing what happens during an annual visit and explaining why we need doctor visits.  The illustrations are detailed and bright.  This book could be used in a unit on staying healthy. ADVISABLE. Pre-K. EL (K-3) Reviewer: SL.

Little Ducks Go by Emily Arnold McCully- OPTIONAL

McCully, Emily Arnold Little Ducks Go: I Like to Read Series. PICTURE BOOK, Holiday House, Inc, 2014. $14.95. Content: G. Mama Duck is leading her babies on an adventure.  She finds herself in trouble when the little ducks can't safely walk over the drain covering and accidentally fall in!  Mama Duck tries desperately to get the attention of anyone who will help save her babies.  In this I Like To Read book, students will be interested from the beginning until the end as they read to find out if the baby ducks will be rescued.  The story line is fun and interesting.  The illustrations are detailed and simple. OPTIONAL.  EL (K-3). Reviewer: SL.

Little Chick by Lauren Thompson- ADVISABLE

Thompson, Lauren Little Chick.  Illustrated by John Butler.Board Book. Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2008. $6.99. It is spring in the barnyard and brand new little chicks are born.  Wee Little Chick is the smallest of all the new chicks.  But size has no baring on Wee Little Chick being the tallest, fastest and loudest of all the barnyard animals.  This is a cute book that introduces little ones to various animals on a farm while sending a message that even though  you might be small, you can achieve great things.  The illustrations are detailed and soft.  The story is simple and cute.  This would be a fun book to give to any new mom.  ADVISABLE. Pre-K.  Reviewer: SL.

Baby Penguins LOVE Their Mama! by Melissa Guion- Essential

Guion, Melissa Baby Penguins LOVE Their Mama!  Penguin Young Readers Group, 2014. $16.99. Picture Book. Content: G.

Baby penguins have a lot to learn!  They have swimming lessons, waddling lessons, and even sliding lessons.  All of these lessons exhaust Mama! But she "loved doing all she could for her babies.  And she was proud of them."  What will happen when the penguin babies grow up and get better than Mama at swimming, waddling and sliding? The heartwarming ending will touch all readers.

We enjoyed this book.  The pictures and simple yet adorable!  The story line is sweet and very realistic to mother-child relationships.  This would be the perfect gift for any new mother.  The book could be used in a classroom in a unit about families.

ESSENTIAL.  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  Reviewer: SL

Trains Can Float and other fun facts (Did you know series) by Laura DiSiena and Hannah Eliot -OPTIONAL

DiSiena, Laura and Eliot, Hannah  Trains Can Float and other fun facts (Did you know series) 32 pgs. Little Simon, 2014. $5.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. NON FICTION
This retro style book is all about transportation. Fun facts, definitions, and dates are included in short descriptions about planes, bridges, skateboards, submarines and more.
This is a fun book with lots of facts and information perfect for 2-3 graders. The artwork is very old school and at times is a bit dark and subdued. As cute as all the little critters that populate these pages are, I find that the books about transportation the students really enjoy are the large bright books with giant photographs and diagrams.  
EL(K-3)  -OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Aviary Wonders Inc. by Kate Samworth –NO

Samworth, Kate Aviary Wonders Inc. 32 pgs. Clarion Books, 2014. $17.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. PICTURE BOOK 
Create your own bird from choosing the feathers, the feet, the beak and more. The different sections provide details of why to choose a certain foot style over another…depending on intended use. The types of parts are listed by the actual birds name, but the colors are wildly bright and not true to the real bird.
I will have nightmares forever from this book. Seeing birds without beaks and feet gave me flashbacks to KFC chicken raising insider footage. Then when the birds are assembled, their beaks are just tied on, which also was just odd and creepy. I only briefly glimpsed at the ending pages, but saw set of bird wings being strapped on the tiny arms stubs of a featherless bird. I am in abject horror, I wouldn't even give this to an adult let alone a child.
EL (K-3) -NOT RECOMMENED Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

And then comes Christmas by Tom Brenner -OPTIONAL

Brenner, Tom  And then comes Christmas 32 pgs. Candlewick, 2014. $15.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. PICTURE BOOK
Every classical sign of Christmas is included in this picture book including the changing weather, decorations, playing in the snow, waiting in line to see Santa, and choosing the right Christmas tree. The illustrations are soft and chalky, giving everything a magical glow.
This is a truly sweet book that is warm and wholesome. It will get students excited for Christmas. But there isn't much to it for a school library, I tend to go for books that have a story/plot or a lesson. For example, one sign that wasn't included is that Christmas is for giving to others, and sometimes that can be volunteering for charity. This book could possibly be used for a lesson on the typical components of celebrating Christmas. There are no religious references in this book.

EL(K-3)  -OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing –OPTIONAL

Fearing, Mark The Great Thanksgiving Escape 32 pgs. Candlewick, 2014. $15.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. PICTURE BOOK 
Gavin doesn’t care much for his family Thanksgiving. He is usually stuck with the babies but that’s better than the Zombie teenagers. He and his cousin Rhonda decide to try to escape outside to play, but its harder than it looks. Will they be able to get past the pinchy cuddly Aunts and the guard dogs?
I could be mistaken, but don’t most kids have fun at Thanksgiving family dinners? (younger than teenager anyway). Although this is a fun adventure and I think students will enjoy it, I do hate to introduce the concept that kids should be bored and that the event is like a jail they are trying to escape from.  The illustrations are dark and ominous, kind of gross, but it actually works well for this plot.

EL (K-3) -OPTIONAL  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald - - ESSENTIAL

Fitzgerald, Laura Marx Under the Egg, 243 pgs. Penguin Group, 2014. $16.99. Language: G; Violence: PG; Mature Content: G. 

After witnessing the tragic death of her Grandfather, whose final words were the clue to a mystery, young Theodora Tenpenny finds a old painting that might be the answer to their financial problems and could help her and her mother save their 200-year-old home.  But with only a little over $300 to her name (and a mother with expensive tastes) her time is running out.  

This is a great mystery! It reminds me of The Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  There’s lots of museum visits, and art history; some danger thrown in and even some WWII/Holocaust history.  An excellent read for a middle school library.  A well done debut novel!  

MS - ESSENTIAL Lisa Librarian

Lives of the Explorers: Discoveries, Disasters (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull –ADVISABLE

Krull, Kathleen and Illustrated by Hewitt, Kathryn Lives of the Explorers: Discoveries, Disasters (and What the Neighbors Thought) 96 pgs. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2014. $20.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. NON-FICTION
A collection of 17 short biographies of a wide variety of explorers from Viking Leif Ericson to Astronaut Sally Ride. The author skillfully includes some explorer’s that are lesser known but amazing, as well as many female explorer’s. The illustrations feature the explorer’s with bobble head like features. Includes large maps that are easy to understand, as well as fun components from the explorer’s lives.
This is an incredibly well written book that is easy to understand, interesting, and fun to read. The illustrations are fantastic! The biggest challenge is getting students to check out these kinds of books. I have many of these of a variety, including a few by this author and they have never been checked out. Also the biographies are a bit too short for the classes that are doing research reports. I still really love this book, working on a way to make it sing. Maybe doing an in-library mini biography unit.
ELEMENTARY  -ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author

Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes by Jeanette Winter –OPTIONAL

Winter, Jeanette Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes 40 pgs. Beach Lane Books, 2014. $17.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. PICTURE BOOK  NON-FICTION
Joseph Cornell loved to quietly dream and make shadowboxes in his home in New York. They were like little windows into his memories and ideas. He eventually had an art exhibit where he displayed his artwork at a height just for children.
This felt more like a tribute to the artist, though it is a functional biography. I think students would have trouble connecting to this book on their own. This book requires some illumination from a teacher both on context and vocabulary. Might work for a unit on creating shadow boxes/dream boxes. The illustrations are peaceful and serene. I feel inspired to make a dream box myself now!
EL (K-3) -OPTIONAL  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick - ESSENTIAL

Fitzpatrick, Becca  Black Ice, 400 pgs.  Simon and Schuster, 2014.  $18.99  Content:  Language: PG-13 (30 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

Britt convinces her best friend Korbie to hike the Teton Range for their senior year spring break, but she is disappointed to find out that Korbie’s brother Calvin is chaperoning them.  Calvin broke up with Britt in the fall without any explanation and although Britt is hoping he sees her and changes his mind, she worries that he will ruin her spring break.  As Korbie and Britt travel the winding road to Korbie’s remote cabin, the weather traps them on the hillside.  They leave the safety of their car in the hopes of finding shelter and they come across two older boys in a run-down cabin.  Korbie and Britt soon find themselves in a hostage situation and their only hope is Calvin finding them.  

This is an intense read.  I couldn’t put it down and I loved the suspenseful plot line.  The constant guessing of who Britt could trust made me second guess myself.  The violence is upsetting-a murdered girl, a hanging and a person gets shot in the head-but it isn’t graphic.  The mature content is a make out session.  

MS-OPTIONAL, HS-ESSENTIAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Color My Coral by Heidi Joulios –ADVISABLE

Joulios, Heidi Color My Coral 32 pgs. Martin Pearl Publishing, 2013. $14.99 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G.
Loretta the Crab discovers sea gems around the coral reef where she lives. She is delighted and use’s them to decorate everything. But the coral starts to get sick and loses it color. She enlists the help of an octopus, but the fix is only temporary. When they decide to call the doctor, Loretta finds out that her gems are really garbage, and that it what is hurting the coral polyps. When the sea creatures gather it all back up and throw it on the beach, the coral gets better. The see kids picking up the trash and throwing it away.
The story and its lesson is pretty good. I like that it introduces the concept of preservation in such a creative way. The names are really old fashioned, not ones that todays students will relate to. The artwork is garish though, and so bright and busy that students will have trouble recognizing the garbage. Even when the coral starts to lose its color, there are still so many loud colors, its hard to tell what’s going on. Additionally the title and cover makes it look like a coloring book, and I have enough trouble not getting young students to write in their library books.
El (K-3) -OPTIONAL  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Animal School: What Class are you? By Michelle Lord –OPTIONAL

Lord, Michelle and Illustrated by Garland, Michael Animal School: What Class are you? 32 pgs. Holiday House, 2014. $16.95 Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G Violence: G. PICTURE BOOK
This picture book explores the five classifications of vertebrate’s: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.  The short explanations are in poem form. The illustrations are wood block prints.
This was such an odd book, I feel confused after reading it. The wood blocks are stunning, I would buy some for my home, but they didn’t quite work for a book for young students, they just aren’t clear and vibrant enough. The poems functioned as simple explanations but were at times a bit awkward and confusing. Especially the when the song bird whistles for his date. I think most children would think that meant what is todays date.
EL(K-3)  -OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dinosaur Babies by Lucille Recht Penner -- ADVISABLE

Penner, Lucille Recht Dinosaur Babies, illustrated by Peter Barrett. Step Into Reading/Random House, 1991 (Reprinted 2014). $3.99. Content: G.

This early reader explains what scientists know about the lives of baby dinosaurs. Illustrations include dinosaur names and pronunciation guides. With its high-interest topic, large font, and simple sentences, this book is perfect for young dinosaur lovers, or those who simply want a good introduction to nonfiction.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Little Owl's Day by Divya Srinivasan -- ADVISABLE

Srinivasan, Divya Little Owl's Day. PICTURE BOOK. Viking, 2014. $16.99. Content: G.

In this companion to Little Owl's Night, Owl wakes up early and is amazed by the sight of the forest during the day. There are birds singing, flowers opening to the sun, wolf cubs playing, and even a rainbow stretching across the sky. As it turns out, nature is glorious during the night and day.

Little Owl's Day is a celebration of the natural world and an invitation to observe it closely. The adorable illustrations complement the text well, and the ending has a cozy feel that makes it perfect for pre-bed reading.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Fancy Nancy and the Fall Foliage by Jane O'Connor -- ADVISABLE

O'connor, Jane Fancy Nancy and the Fall Foliage, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser and Carolyn Bracken. PICTURE BOOK. Harper Festival, 2014. $4.99. Content: G.

Autumn has arrived, and Nancy and her family are enjoying the weather as they rake the leaves -- setting aside a few of the prettiest ones for a festive project, of course.

Nancy's enthusiasm is contagious, as usual, making this book a fun way to celebrate the changing seasons. Her vocabulary is particularly fun in this volume, with such words as 'foliage,' 'burgundy,' and 'unique,' and the section where she brainstorms fun activities to do with fallen leaves may inspire a few art projects for creative readers. Also contains a sheet of fall-themed stickers.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Strega Nona Does It Again by Tomie de Paola -- OPTIONAL

dePaola, Tomie Strega Nona Does It Again. PICTURE BOOK. Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Young Readers, 2013. $17.99. Content: G.

Strega Nona does her cousin a favor by letting his stuck-up daughter stay until she gets over the boy she loves. But Angelina is demanding and spoiled and full of herself. Tired of Angelina taking over her household, Strega Nona devises a plan.

While this is a fun tale, it's difficult to believe that Strega Nona and her children would put up with Angelina's behavior as long as they did, and it would have been nice to see Angelina learn something from the incident instead of ending up with everything she ever wanted. Also, at forty pages, this one is longer than the average picture book, and with the multiple panels on each page it takes quite a while to fully digest the story.

EL -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Please Bring Balloons by Lindsay Ward -- ESSENTIAL

Ward, Lindsay Please Bring Balloons. PICTURE BOOK. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013. $16.99. Content: G.

When a young girl visits a carousel, she discovers an intriguing note tucked under the polar bear's saddle: "Please bring balloons." Once she has attached two whole bunches of balloons, the girl and bear float off on a whimsical adventure to the North Pole.

What a wonderful story! The text is delightful -- dreamy and imaginative and intriguing, with a hint of future adventures. The illustrations are gorgeous as well, the kind I would happily frame and hang on a wall if it didn't mean destroying a lovely book.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Caryn

I Wish I Had a Pet by Maggie Rudy -- OPTIONAL

Rudy, Maggie I Wish I Had a Pet. PICTURE BOOK. Beach Lane Books, 2014. $15.99. Content: G.

Using photographs of dioramas filled with handmade creatures and decorations, this book outlines some helpful advice for children who would like to have pets someday. While the text has great tips about owning a pet, I found the illustrations downright creepy. The animals seemed so realistic yet obviously not alive that it was as if they were taxidermied creatures put into different poses. Perhaps those who find the photographs charming and whimsical instead of weird and disturbing will enjoy the book more.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans by David LaRochelle -- ADVISABLE

LaRochelle, David How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans, illustrated by Mark Fearing. PICTURE BOOK. Dial Books for Young Readers. 2013. $16.99. Content: G.

Martha swears that green beans are horrible, vile things, but her parents don't believe her. Not until the night the green beans attack everyone who's ever made someone eat them, carrying off Martha's parents in the process. Now it's up to Martha to save her mom and dad, but it might require a bit of a sacrifice from the bean-averse girl.

This hilarious story is a lot of fun to read aloud, and many children will sympathize with Martha's dislike of green beans -- although some parents may not appreciate the anti-veggie stance. The accompanying illustrations enhance the story well and add to the humor -- especially on the very last page.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Ollie and Claire by Tiffany Strelitz Haber -- ADVISABLE

Haber, Tiffany Strelitz Ollie and Claire, illustrated by Matthew Cordell. PICTURE BOOK. Philomel Books, 2013. $16.99. Content: G.

Ollie and Claire are best friends, but they've fallen into a bit of a routine, and now Claire feels like she needs a change. When she sees an advertisement from someone looking for a travel buddy, Claire jumps at the chance. But who will her anonymous companion be? And how on Earth will she tell Ollie she's leaving?

Ollie and Claire feels like a kid-friendly version of "The PiƱa Colada Song." Careful readers will see hints to the delightful twist in the illustrations, although it may take a second or third read to notice them. The rhythm flows perfectly with no weird choppiness to make the rhymes fit, and the pictures bring the story to life in an amusing way. All in all a fun story that will likely leave many readers smiling.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn