Friday, September 22, 2017

The Enemy

The Enemy
by Sara Holbrook
224 pages; ages 10-14
Calkins Creek, 2017

It's 1954 and twelve-year-old Marjorie is hunkered down behind the walls of a snow fort with her friend, Bernadette. She's got a pile of snowballs to pelt the enemy - Bernadette's brother, Artie. But Artie doesn't want to be the "enemy" - a Nazi. He wants to be Al Capone instead.

"This is war," yells Bernadette. "We're the good guys. You're the bad guy. That makes you a Nazi."

Marjorie is coming of age during the cold war, when there are so many enemies: Nazis, communists, the new girl, Inga, and a strange man lurking around the neighborhood. Marjorie wants to know how to determine who are friends, who are enemies, and how to know the difference. Then there's the question of right and wrong, and whether she'll go to jail for hiding "dangerous books" under her bed. Books that may or may not have been stolen from the library and probably should be  burned for their radical ideas. Books like 1984 and The Grapes of Wrath.

And then there's the demand by Bernadette that she sign an oath of loyalty to her friends. Who demands loyalty oaths? While she writes of a bygone era, Sara could be writing a story about today's issues of immigration, intolerance, religious and racial divide.

Sara Holbrook, grew up in post-war Detroit, a city, she says, that was separated by race and ethnicity. She talks about growing up in that era, and about her family, displaced people, returning soldiers, and more in her author's note - and follows up with a great bibliography for curious readers who want to know more.

 On Monday we'll be hanging out on Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers over at Shannon Messenger's blog. Hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hello Goodbye Dog

Hello Goodbye Dog
by Maria Gianferrari; illus. by Patrice Barton
40 pages; ages 4-8
Roaring Brook Press, 2017

themes: family, inclusion, therapy animals

"Hello, Moose!" said Zara.
There was nothing Moose loved more than hello.

But what Moose doesn't like to hear is "goodbye," because goodbye means Zara is going away. So when Zara goes to school, Moose runs away from home to be with her. Again and again. And each time he is returned, until finally Zara figures a way that Moose will be allowed to stay at school with her.

What I like LOVE about this book: I like the diversity of the characters in the book. Maria doesn't say that Zara uses a wheelchair, but we can see that in the illustrations. Any child looking at the pictures will see himself/herself in the pages. There is such a feeling of inclusiveness in this story.

I also like the repetition of hello and goodbye. And the strong bond of love between Zara and Moose. Yes, he does not belong at school, but it's fun when he shows up. I also like the increasing number of people it takes to capture Moose and send him back home... it reminds me of the folk tale of people pulling a reluctant turnip out of the ground. Concurrently, there's an ever-escalating challenge to
keep Moose at home.

Most of all, I like that Zara comes up with a solution that is suitable for Moose, and promotes her love of reading.

Maria with Griffin and Allison
... So I just had to ask Maria Three Questions:

Sally: What inspired you to tell this story?

Maria: I love dogs, and I truly believe in the power of dog (and animal love) to promote healing and to bring us joy and happiness. Dogs live in the moment, and teach us to do so, too. This story, like all of my picture books so far, are about the human-animal bond, and I wanted to tell yet another story about a girl and her canine BFF.

 Sally: Was the mixed race family your idea, or the illustrator's?

Maria: I had always envisioned Zara to have a mixed racial background. As a character, Zara also evolved through revision to be a wheelchair user, though that isn't part of the story - it's a friendship story. 

Tybee and Brittany
Sally: Do you know any reading dogs?

Maria: Yes, I met many this summer while doing events for Hello Goodbye Dog! At my book launch, at Books of Wonder in New York City, I met great teams from New York Therapy Animals: Griffin and Allison, Wlly and Roz, and April and Beth. In August I was joined by reading dog, Tybee and his handler, Brittany of Heeling House in Sterling, VA for a reading at Scrawl Books in Reston, VA. They'll be helping me celebrate my book at the Fall Festival in Fairfax next month. And I can't leave out Leonburger Brig, a gentle giant, and his dog mom, Lynn from the Toadstool Bookshop in Keene NH, my hometown. I can't wait to meet more reading dogs! 

Beyond the Book:
Moose loves listening to people read. Do you have a pet that listens to you read? Or does your library have a "reading dog"? If so, find a favorite book and read to an animal. What is it about dogs that make them suited to this sort of activity?

Reading aloud to dogs (and other animals) helps children with their reading skills. Here's one article that tells more.

If you don't have a dog to read to, make one out of an old pillow case. Turn one end of the pillow case into the head (you can sew or staple ears on), then stuff and sew it closed. Add a tail, lean against it, and start reading.

You can find Marie Gianferrari's website here, and Patrice Barton's website here. 

Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copy from my personal library.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Confessions from the Principal's Kid

Confessions from the Principal's Kid
by Robin Mellom
272 pages; ages 10-12
HMH, 2017

Every school year starts a bit differently. This one...

"...starts with a Jupiter-size spitball stuck to the cafeteria floor, the one that was flung at the back of Graham Parker's head. He never saw it coming. But I did."

Allie West  is running the buffer across the cafeteria floor while the custodian takes a break. It's a Mastercraft 300, and Allie loves working it. There's only one reason she gets to do it; she's the PK. The Principal's Kid. Her life is different from the other kids: she doesn't get to ride home on the school bus; she has to stay after until it gets dark. And all the kids are afraid of her mom.

The only redeeming thing: the custodian lets her buff the cafeteria floor. That and the Afters - a club of kids whose parents work at the school. They meet in the band room to plan such after school activities as cleaning chalk boards or playing Evesdroppping Bingo".

All Allie wants is to be treated like any other kid - and to get a place on the math team. There's only one problem: the captain of the math team is her once-upon-a-time best friend Chloe who will never speak to her again. Ages ago she ratted Chloe out for something. Now Allie is trying to repair that friendship, if any tatters remain.

What I like about this book: It's fun to read. The characters in Allie's circle of friends seem like the kids you'd find at any school. Allie commits social faux pas and causes pain to the people she loves most. And the hardest lesson she learns is that it's not her mom who's ruining her life. It's her. And there is no easy way to repair damage when trust has been broken. If I gave out stars, this one would garner some of every color.

On Monday we'll be hanging out on Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers over at Shannon Messenger's blog. Hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Bug Girl

Bug Girl
by Benjamin Harper and Sarah Hines Stephens; illustrated by Anoosha Syed
304 pages; ages 8-12
Imprint, 2017

I've been posting reviews of "bug" books over at Archimedes Notebook for the past month: insect field guides, mantids - and more today. So when I learned that there was a superhero (or heroine) calling herself Bug Girl... you know I could not pass up a chance to check her out!

I fell in love with this book from page 0 whereupon was printed a dedication to dorks, geeks, science nerds and other "misfits" in the middle school world.

Then there's the adorably geeky Amanda Price, backpack covered by bug buttons slung across her shoulder, dragonfly lunchbox, and Trina, a Madagascar hissing cockroach. (Full disclosure: I had a Madagascar hissing cockroach for a pet, too.) She has penned such school reports as "Tree Lobsters: Where are they now?" Her classmates are not as enamored of arthropods as is Amanda. In fact, they are appalled/disgusted/offended when she brings her cockroaches to school.

What I like about this book: Of course there are villains, and the adult superheroines are taken captive. Who will save the town? Amanda decides she will, but to do so she needs the help of her ex-best friend. Plus there's the whole going through metamorphosis thing.... but now that she has antennae and special insect superpowers, saving the town shouldn't be too difficult. Except that it is.

I love the Fun Bug Facts scattered through the book, the scientific illustrations of Amanda and her friends (labeled, of course), rules of middle school, directions to make a paper hat, and comic book-style illustrations. I even learned the difference between farfalle and macaroni.

Bug Girl is fun to read, filled with imagination, and may cause readers to want to get to know more about insects. Will there be more? I'm sure of it! The world is filled with villains, and Amanda introduced us to just a few of the 2 million (or more) species of insects in this world.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook today to learn how to survive as a firefly (and more about bugs). And on Monday, we'll be hanging out on Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers over at Shannon Messenger's blog. Hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by publisher.


Friday, August 25, 2017

Cilla Lee-Jenkins Future Author Extraordinaire

Cilla Lee-Jenkins, Future Author Extraordinare

by Susan Tan; illus. by Dana Wulfekotte
256 pages; ages 8-12
Roaring Brook Press, 2017

Cilla is on deadline: she's trying to finish her great American novel before her baby sister is born. Because once there's a baby in the house, people tend to forget about you.

There's just one huge problem: her name. Cilla, full name Priscilla, wants a more writerly name. Something cool, like Supernova Hemingway.

Looking for writerly inspiration, she turns to her family. Cilla observes that babies are bald. She remembers how hard it is to grow hair (she was bald when she was five) and how rude people can be when they ask questions like "what are you" and don't accept answers like "author extraordinaire". She remembers how she loved snails until she tried to share them with her friends and they all said, "yuck!"

When adults ask where she is from, she tries to be polite. At first she'll tell them where she lives. Then, when they say, "no, where are you originally from?" she'll reveal that she's really from her mom's belly. Because she looks different than other people, she gets asked where she's from a lot.

While Cilla is all set to write a memoir, once her sister is born she realizes that the world is bigger than she thought. It's filled with aliens, time travel, and unexpected adventures.One of the things I especially like is Cilla's guide to life and literary terms.

On Monday we'll be hanging out on Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers over at Shannon Messenger's blog. Hop over to see what other people are reading. ARC provided by publisher.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Year of the Garden

When this book showed up I had to pull off my gardening gloves, kick off my wellies, and take a look.

The Year of the Garden
by Andrea Cheng; illus. by Patrice Barton
128 pages; ages 6-9
HMH, 2017

There's everything you'd want to find in a book between these covers: friendship, soccer, a lost rabbit, and a secret garden. Plus, how can you put down a book that starts with a chapter titled "Seeds"?

Anna has always wanted to live on a farm with a big garden. So when her family moves to a new house, she can follow her dream. She can clear the land, like Laura Ingalls Wilder, and plant crops.

Her new friend, Laura, lives on her aunt's farm with gardens and a barn and a pony. She helps Anna clear a garden spot but would rather play soccer. Still, when Anna finds a lost baby bunny, she knows exactly what to do. Call Laura. They haven't been playing together, but surely Laura will help her save this poor, lost bunny.

As spring unfolds, Anna and Laura plant lettuces and deal with typical garden woes. They have to defend their tiny crops from the neighborhood herbivores. But, hey - it's not how many vegetables you grow that counts.

On Monday we'll be joining other bloggers to celebrate books on Marvelous Middle Grade Monday  at Shannon Messenger's blog. Hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Time for Summer Reading




Sally’s Bookshelf is taking a break from book reviews to indulge in summer reading. While Sally's gone ...

  • Check out your library's summer reading program. 
  • Grab some books for the next road trip.  
  • Build a fort (and read in it).
  • Read a good bug book - and then go find some bugs.
  • Write haiku in sidewalk chalk.
  • Learn to identify trees - then tie a hammock between a couple of them and read.


See you in August.

Friday, June 23, 2017

These Books Have Gone to the Dogs!

I love stories about dogs. Even better are books that are written by the dogs themselves - or at least from their point of view. Here are three, recently published by Peachtree Publishers.

Leo, Dog of the Sea
by Alison Hart; illus. by Michael G. Montgomery
165 pages; ages 7-10

Here is the fourth installment in Alison Hart's "Dog Chronicles" series - and another great tale told by a tail-wagging protagonist. Previous adventures feature Murphy, Darling, and Finder.

The year is 1519 and Leo has hopped aboard one of Ferdinand Magellan's ships. Leo's had lots of experience hunting and catching rats on ships, so he thinks this will be one more voyage. What he doesn't know is this ship is headed on a westward journey that circumnavigate the globe.

The journey begins as any good seafaring adventure should: with 60 days of stormy weather, followed by becalmed seas in the equatorial seas. Humans turn against each other, reinforcing Leo's belief that people should not be trusted. And yet... he makes friends.

We see, through a dog's eyes, a journey to Brazil, sailing down the coast to a land of penguins and frozen seas; starving sailors who skin and roast the rats Leo provides; a mutiny - or two; hubris when Magellan involves himself in island politics and meets his untimely demise.

What I like about this book: aside from the excitement of adventure and exploration, is the Back Matter. Yes, Hart includes an author's note about the real history behind the story. "There are no records of a dog on board any of Magellan's ships," she writes. "However, dogs have long been used in Spain to control mice and rats." So there probably were dogs aboard the vessels in Magellan's fleet. She includes a glossary and a diagram of a sixteenth-century ship, further reading, and more.

Dori Hillestad Butler has a delightful new series of chapter books titled "King & Kayla", illustrated by Nancy Meyers. The first two in the series are:
King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats
and
King & Kayla and the Case of the Secret Code
Each is 48 pages, for ages 7-9

How can you not want to read a book that starts out, "Hello! My name is King. I'm a dog. This is Kayla. She is my human."

Kayla is making peanut butter dog treats - King's favorite. But she won't let him have one until they have cooled. She won't even let him lick the bowl!

And then... some treats go missing. King smells an intruder! He tries to tell Kayla, but she doesn't understand him... and accuses him of snitching the cookies! You will want to read it to learn how King proves he's innocent and brings the culprit to justice.

In the Case of the Secret Code, King and Kayla team up to solve the mystery of who is leaving letters around, and what the code means. Moral of the story: if you're delivering secret messages, the dog will sniff you out!

On Monday we'll be hanging out on Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers over at Shannon Messenger's blog. Hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copies provided by publisher.


Friday, June 16, 2017

End of School and Underwater Games



It’s getting close to the end of the school year here. The time when you clean out your cubbie, wash crayon marks off your desk, and say goodbye to your friends and teachers. Maybe promise to meet at the park for some games of follow the leader.

Mrs McBee Leaves Room 3
By Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan; illus. by Grace Zong
32 pages; ages 3-7
Peachtree, 2017

It’s the end of the school year and all the kids are getting ready to leave. So is their teacher, Mrs. McBee. She won’t be back in the fall. Before she leaves for the summer, she gets all the kids involved in cleaning up and releasing the butterflies. The kids don hardhats and get to work – all except William, who sits in the thinking corner.

When the boxes are loaded and gone, no one can find William. Where is he?

This is a delightful story about growing up, changes, and finding ways to remember the good things in your life. And to share those memories with others.
 
Swallow the Leader
By Danna Smith; illus. by Kevin Sherry
32 pages; ages 4-7
Clarion Books, 2016

What happens if you let shark play follow-the-leader? This delightful, wickedly funny counting book starts with one fish, then another. It draws in denizens of the sea in rhyme:
Follow the leader
Play like I play
Pretend you are me.
Flap like a ray.

From one to 10 they collect followers… but then it becomes a game of swallow the leader as bigger fish gulps down the smaller until the biggest one of all – GULP!

But all is not lost – BURP!

Review copies provided by publishers.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Books that Celebrate Friendships

Have you ever had a friend who was very different than you? These two books take us inside such friendships.

theme: friendship, diversity, imagination

Muddle & Mo
by Nikki Slade Robinson
32 pages; ages 4-7
Clarion Books, 2017

"Mo?"
"Yes, Muddle?"
"You're a funny color for a duck!"

Mo and Muddle are best friends - but Muddle is a bit confused about their animal identity. That's because Mo has a "hairy beak" and he quacks funny.

But when they visit a goat farm, Muddle has an epiphany! Mo isn't a duck! Perhaps he, Muddle, is a goat?

What I like about this book: I like the gentle way that Mo helps Muddle sort out his duck identity. This is such a warm - and funny - story of differences, acceptance, and the sort of friendship that transcends all sorts of silliness. The illustrations are sweet, too.

You Are NOT a Cat!
by Sharon G. Flake; illus. by Anna Raff
40 pages; ages 3-7
Boyds Mills, 2016

I am a cat. Meow.

 Duck thinks he's a cat. He wants to be a cat - no matter how many times Cat tells him he's a duck. So duck puts on cat ears and goes meowing about.

What I like about this book: When cat refuses to admit he's a cat, Duck decides he's a parrot. He could be a squirrel. Duck is casting about for his identity. To be honest, he's also irritating Cat with his constant pretending. I also like that the story is written completely in dialog.

Beyond the Book:

Have you ever wanted to be someone - or something - else? Draw a picture or write a story about what happened/

What would you do if you woke up with wings? Or discovered you were a cat/dog/duck/goat... ?

Do you have friends who are very different from you? How do you celebrate your differences? How do you celebrate your friendship?

Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copy provided by publishers.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Rainbow Weaver

Rainbow Weaver
by Linda Elovitz Marshall; illus. by Elisa Chavarri
40 pages; ages 6-9
Children's Book Press, 2016

themes: diversity, art, family

High in the mountains above Lake Atitlan, Ixchel watched her mother weave thread into fabric as beautiful as a rainbow.

When Ixchel asks if she can weave, Mama suggests she help count threads. But Ixchel wants to weave. She wants to help pay for her books and school.

What I like love about this book: Ixchel sets off to find her own weaving materials. She kicks aside the plastic bags that people have discarded on their way home from market, and gathers tall grasses to use on a loom she makes from sticks. When they don't work, she gathers bits of wool and twists it into yarn. Dissatisfied with that, she tries weaving with plastic bags - after all, they are everywhere!


I love that author Linda Marshall traveled to Guatamala to meet weavers and learn how they recycle unwanted plastic into products that they sell in the market place. She wrote about that trip earlier this year here. In an author's note, Linda tells how she was inspired to write this book by a friend who sells the weavers' placemats, coasters, purses, and baskets. And I love that the endpapers resemble Mayan textiles. Oh, and did I say that the book is bilingual? Lo puedes leer en espaƱol.

Beyond the book:

Read how some people are turning plastic bags into mats for homeless people. They cut the bags into strips and crochet the strips into thick mats - it takes more than 500 bags for each mat!

Want to weave a plastic rug or mat of your own? All you need is a loom - here's how to make one out of cardboard. There are links to weaving techniques - all you need to supply are the warp strings and plastic bags.

Or try making a coiled basket or coaster. Here's how.

You can find out more about Linda and her books at her website.

Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copy provided by publishers.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Robots - Robots - Robots!

I love robot books - and here are three that have different takes on the imagineering world of robots.
theme: robots, imagination

And the Robot Went...
by Michelle Robinson; illus. by Sergio Ruzzier
32 pages; ages 4-7
Clarion Books, 2017

 The Nosy Fox looked in the box, and the Robot went ... Boooo.

But when Eager Beaver drops by and pulls the lever, the Robot goes Bang! And when Wicked Witch drops by, the Robot adds another sound.

What I like about this book: the cumulative noise! Each time someone comes by to fiddle with the robot a new noise is added until, at the end, the Robot goes ... (I won't ruin the fun for you!)

The Bot that Scott Built
by Kim Norman; illus. by Agnese Baruzzi
32 pages; ages 3-7
Sterling Books, 2016

This is the boy
the bippity bot,
the rabbit-eared robot,
that Scott built.

It's Science Day, and Scott takes his robot to school.Told in cumulative house-that-jack-built style, this story builds as disaster after disaster happen - starting with the ants that get loose.

What I like about this book: Science Day is fun-filled, action-packed with never a dull moment. Those ants that get loose - don't worry, because someone has brought carnivorous plants. But when the frog gets hopping and the snake slithers loose, Scott knows he needs a hero - so he turns on the robot. I also like the end-papers because they inspire the imagination: what kind of robot could you build using these tools and materials?

The Rise of the Rusty Robo-Cat! (Doodle adventure)
by Mike Lowery
112 pages; ages 8 & up
Workman Publishing, 2017

Calling all junior agents, curious readers, artists, cat-lovers, and robot fans! This doodle-adventure is a joint mission between you (the reader) and the author. Bring a pencil become you'll need to add some doodley illustrations to this not-quite-finished graphic novel. Or is it a sketchbook?

But be advised: once you take ownership of this book you have signed onto a mission: to help Carl (a duck) discover why all the cats in town have gone berserk. They're acting like jerks! And what is it with that robot? Something smells fishy...

What I like about this book: it's a mission! And you have a say in how it looks by drawing your own illustrations. Grab some colored pencils to spice up the cartoons that are already there... and solve the mystery.

Beyond the Books:


Make a list of Robot Sounds. Cling, ding, klunk - how many can you think of? If you need some audio inspiration, click here. For a list of metalic-sounding words, check out this site.

Make a Robot out of cereal boxes and other things from the kitchen recycling bin. For ideas, check out this site.

Draw a cartoon about a robot and an animal - perhaps your pet cat, dog, goldfish, gecko, snake, or hissing cockroach. Do they help old ladies walk across the street? Save the world from disaster? Wreak havok? Here are some ideas for drawing cartoon robots.

Make a Robot Suit: All you need is a large paper grocery bag, a box for a helmet, some buttons, bottle caps, and stuff to glue on, scissors, crayons and markers, duct tape (of course) and maybe some foil. Get ideas for a paper bag vest here, and robot helmet here.

 Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copies provided by publishers.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Ways to Spend your Day

Laundry Day
by Jessixa Bagley
32 pages; ages 3-6
Roaring Brook Press, 2017

theme:family, imagination

"I'm bored," said Tic.
"Me too," said Tac.

Ma Badger suggests they read a book. Build a fort. Go fishing. Then, fatefully... "would you like to help me hang the laundry?" If only she had known what happens when two bored badgers get hold of the clothespins.

What I like about this book: It's fun to read. And the kids do a good job of hanging the laundry. Then they wonder what else needs hanging. What about winter clothes? Blankets? A map? Things get out of hand in a hurry, and when Ma Badger sees what's been going on, she decides to take back control.  Review copy provided by publisher.

Mapping my Day
by Julie Dillemuth; illus. by Laura Wood
40 pages; ages 4-8
Magination Press, 2017

theme: family, problem-solving

My day begins with the sun ... in my face.

Flora loves to draw maps. They help her keep track of her day, not to mention document facts about her live. Such as her room is four steps closer to the bathroom than her brother's. She draws treasure maps, travel routes, house layout, even a map for her dog's obstacle course.

What I like about this book: I like maps - and it's fun to see a kid using maps as a tool for understanding her world.  I like that there's back matter: a note to adults on how maps can help kids figure out their world, and some mapping activities. Review copy from Blue Slip Media.

Beyond the books:

Laundry lines are for more than hanging clothes. Photographers used to hang their photos to dry. Some people hang treats for birds from a line, and others use the laundry lines to support blankets for a fort. What sort of things do you use laundry lines for?

Map your world. Draw a map of your house, or your school, or a neighborhood park, or the route you take when you walk to the post office. What are the important landmarks that you need in your map?

Compare maps. Find some road maps, topographic maps, old maps out of National Geographic magazines, and other kinds of maps. Open up a couple and spread them on the floor, and then compare them. How do they show the landscape?

Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books.



Friday, May 12, 2017

Putting the focus on photographers

Two books about photographers, contemporaries of each other. One captured light and rocks and trees, the other focused her sights on factories, buildings, and people. One grew up in the west, the other in the east.

Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, a life in nature
by Cindy Jenson-Elliott; illus. by Christy Hale
32 pages; ages 5-9
Henry Holt, 2016

theme: nonfiction, biography, art

Ansel was antsy. He never walked - he ran.

He loved being outside - exploring the beach, feeling the wind and salt spray. He didn't fare well trapped in the classroom, but thrived when his father decided to have him learn at home.
When Ansel was 14, he visited Yosemite Valley and fell in love with the light. His parents gave him a camera, and the rest is history. He traveled far and wide taking photos of national parks, and his photos were featured in Life magazine and galleries.

What I like about this book: It is fun to read. Author Cindy Jenson-Elliot delves into her collection of action words to show this young man who couldn't sit still. Run-leap-scramble... off he goes with his camera! I also like the back matter, where she tells more about this iconic photographer. Ansel Adams spent a lot of time studying his subject matter, waiting for the right light to capture it.

Girl with a Camera
by Carolyn Meyer
352 pages; ages 10 - 14
Calkins Creek, 2017

Margaret Bourke-White was born in 1904 - two years after Ansel Adams - in New Jersey. She wasn't popular, and felt unsure of herself, yet knew she would do something great. She spent her youth exploring the outdoors, collecting snakes and bugs, and thought she might become a herpetologist (someone who studies reptiles and amphibians). Then she discovered photography. And the beauty within buildings, from factories to sky scrapers. She knew she wanted to make her living shooting photos.

This fictionalized account of her life draws on Margaret's own writings, as well as archival material and yearbooks. It reads like an adventure, as we read about Margaret's adventures as a photo-journalist for Life magazine: trips to Russia, capturing factories and farms, and a nearly-didn't-make-it trip to the arctic. Author Carolyn Meyer had done a ton of research, and it shows.

Both Ansel Adams and Margaret Bourke-White documented World War II. Ansel took photos of ordinary life in the Manzanar War Relocation Center (Japanese internment camp) in California. Margaret was the first female war correspondent and photographed German forces invading Moscow. At the end of the war she photographed the liberation of the concentration camp at Buchenwald.

Beyond the Books:
Take a camera on a walk with you and take pictures of buildings or trees or rocks or people... whatever interests you. Try taking photos in different light - different times of day - and from different angles.

Explore this gallery of Ansel Adams photos.

Explore this gallery of Margaret Bourke-White photos.

Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. On Monday we'll be hanging out on Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers over at Shannon Messenger's blog. Hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copies provided by publishers.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Carrots, Peas, and Rabbit Stew

As gardening season moves into full swing, just about any book with a vegetable in the title - or a garden critter - catches my attention. Here are two recent titles that focus on themes of friendship, diversity, and kindness. Oh, and vegetables...


Carrot & Pea
by Morag Hood
32 pages; ages 4 - 7
HMH, 2016

This is Lee. He is a pea. 
All of his friends are peas.
Except Colin. 

Lee and his buddies are as alike as... peas in a pod. Colin, though, he's tall. And orange. And definitely not round.

He can't do the same things peas can do, like roll. So how can he join them in their games?

What I like about this book: Colin has his own, excellent traits that make him fun to play with - if you're a pea. I like that the end papers don't match, and bright, spare illustrations. Spend some time with this book and you'll start thinking about ways to involve carrots - or those "different kids" - in your play.

Rabbit Stew
by Wendy Wahman
32 pages; ages 3-7
Boyds Mills Press, 2017

Rusty and Rojo toiled and tilled in their vegetable garden all summer long.

And at long last, the time is ripe for them to make their prizewinning Rabbit Stew!

What I like about this book: I love the illustration of them harvesting green beans, purple kale, and crunchy orange carrots for their "splendid" Rabbit Stew. They harvest a few things that one would not expect in a stew... however, it will be marvelous, they assure readers. Meanwhile, a white rabbit is hiding in the garden. I don't want to spoil the ending, but will say that no rabbits are harmed in the making of this story.

Beyond the Book: What makes you different from all of your friends? Think of the skills you contribute when playing games or creating imaginative scenarios. Maybe you love animals, so when you play "store" you are the pet shop owner...

Have you ever eaten a rainbow? Try finding fruits and vegetables of all different colors for a salad. Maybe red lettuce, yellow tomatoes, orange peppers, green beans, purple carrots?

Rusty and Rojo have a pet rabbit named "Stew". If you have pets, what names have you given them - yes, you can include the stuffed animals inhabiting your room. 

Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copies provided by publishers.