Sunday, November 13, 2011
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
If Pinkney’s Lion and the Mouse was a study in the warm tones of the savannah, this beautiful title is a study in the cool greens and blues of a pond at twilight. While reading the traditional lullaby the reader is also treated to a wordless story of adventure as a chipmunk is lured from his nest by a passing dandelion seed. The chipmunk finds himself sailing through the sky in a fanciful boat as day turns to night in a swirl of blues of every tone and hue. Children will linger over the illustrations as they tell the story of the chipmunk’s journey from his nest, to the sky, across the pond and home again. The illustrations are perfectly paced, alternating between dramatic, full-bleed spreads and intimate, smaller paintings set in a field of white. A classic to return to again and again and again.
Target Age: 2-6
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot
By Margaret McNamara and Mark Fearing
I predict that this variant on the Three Little Pigs will be in constant circulation in our library. The connections to the original tale are cleverly executed and the rhymes are terrific. The illustrator studied NASA photographs of the planets to bring an element of realism to this wonderfully fantastical tale. A sure fire hit and new favorite!
Target Age: 3-8
Saturday, October 1, 2011
By Rand Burkert and Nancy Ekholm Burkert
Even if you thought Jerry Pinkney’s Caldecott Award-winning telling of this Aesop’s fable was the definitive version, you need to make room on your shelf for this title as well. Unlike Pinkney’s wordless version, this story is told through colorful language. Like Pinkney’s version, the illustrations are stunning. In this case, the power is in the softness and the detail. Two breathtaking double-page spreads bring the splendor of the African savannah landscape to life. The book closes with the Lion and the reader reflecting on the wonders small things. A gem.
Target Age: 3-8
Monday, September 26, 2011
By Judy Sierra; illustrated by Marc Brown
When the “midwinter doldrums arrive at the zoo,” the animals cheer themselves up by putting on a musical extravaganza. Written by the winning team that brought us “Wild about Books,” this selection is perfect for reading aloud. The rhyme and rhythm move the action along in a rollicking fashion. The cheerful illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to the text. While the book is well suited to reading to a group, it is especially fun read one-on-one in a situation in which you can take the time to fully appreciate all the animals antics portrayed in the pictures.
Target Age: 3-8
Friday, September 23, 2011
Ken Kimura, illustrated by Yasunari Murakami
999 tadpoles are born to mother and father frog and all is well until the tadpoles grow into frogs and their pond becomes too small for them. The giant family of frogs experiences a series of adventures as they search for a new home. The charm of this book lies in the perky illustrations and the absurd idea of 101 frogs trying to scramble out of the pond and cross the meadow single-file. Children will be thrilled with the ending in which disaster is dramatically averted. A sure-fire pick for repeated readings.
Target Age: 3-8
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Spots Feathers and Curly Tails, written and illustrated by Nancy Tafuri
Nancy Tafuri's books are wonderful read alouds for toddlers. The illustrations are easy to interpret and somehow manage to be bold and soft all at once. In this selection, children are encouraged to guess farm animals based on a close-up view of an identifying feature: a pig's curly tail; a duck's bill. Children love making predictions and having their guesses confirmed on the following page. Soon enough your child will be ready to "read" this one to you.
Target age: 1 - 4
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Pure fun from start to finish, this slim chapter book features a spoiled little girl, an unflappable brontosaurus and a narrator who is as salty as you please. Top that with retro illustrations, a peppy little rhyme that begs to be chanted repeatedly, trademark Lane Smith exploding typeface and three different endings, each more satisfying than the last. Set aside a half hour and grab a glass of water: once you start reading this one aloud, your kids will not let you stop.
Target Age: Grades 1-4
This review originally published in The Kutztown Book Review.
Friday, April 8, 2011
Let's Count Goats by Mem Fox; illustrated by Jan Thomas
Pure silliness. The rhyme and rhythm are perfect. Silly goats, in silly situations, doing silly things, begging to be counted. The words come tripping from your tongue and the bold illustrations are even sillier than the words: one spread features little goat bi-plane pilots, eating their airplanes as they fly them. This makes a charming read aloud that children will want to hear (and look at) again and again and again.
Target age: 2-4.
Sandra Boynton's Moo Baa La La La
Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale; illustrated by Nathan Hale
Preceding Disney's Tangled by two years, this twist on the classic fairy tale is chock-full of girl-power fun. Set in the wild west, Rapunzel's Revenge is an easy to read tale in graphic novel format. Sent to the tower for being just a little too curious, Rapunzel is a girl with a mission. Using her braids as weapons, Rapunzel escapes from the tower and sets out to free her real mother from enslavement in Mother Gothel's dusty mining town. She joins up with a ne'er do well thief named Jack who is toting a magic goose. Along the way to Mother Gothel's villa, the two encounter a number of exciting challenges, and are ultimately aided in their quest by other citizens frustrated by Mother Gothel's hold over the land. The excellent illustrations add to the swashbuckling adventure, as Jack and Rapunzel grow closer with every daring escape. Great fun for romantics and adventure seekers alike!
Target Age: 9-14
Thursday, March 24, 2011
A Salamander's Life, by John Himmelman
Himmelman is a naturalist, and A Salamander's Life shows his love for all the small things that live in the forest. Like Under the Snow this book is a wonderful selection for preschool and kindergarten. The text is clear and simple, and the illustrations are gorgeous. The illustrations pull you in to the tiny world under the leaves in a way that a photograph could not. Though the text is quite simple, this book can be enjoyed by older students for the pictures alone. I was delighted to find this book is part of a series by Himmelman.
Target Age: prek-2
Also by Himmelman
A Dandelion's Life
An Earthworm's Life
A House Spider's Life
A Lady Bug's Life
A Luna Moth's Life
A Pill Bug's Life
A Wood Frog's Life
Monday, March 21, 2011
I don't know why I continue to be amazed that preschoolers love nursery rhymes. They LOVE them. And I know I should be reading more. This series from Child's Play is my current favorite format. Even though the books are board books, the preschool students still love to borrow them. Each book has a single rhyme or song spread over eight pages. I have watched countless preschoolers (and toddlers) page through and sing along. Of course they love it - they feel like they are reading to themselves! Hey Diddle Diddle is my favorite. The babies are dressed as the characters from the rhyme. Row Row Row Your Boat has a nice twist in the lyrics. I have the rest of the series on my "to-buy" list.
Target Age: 0-6 years.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Monday was Einstein's birthday, so it seemed a fitting time to try this book out. I love the idea of a book that introduces Albert Einstein to small kids. The illustrations are very appealing in their simplicity. The explanations of light and gravity are also very simple, clear and informative. The photos show Einstein asking questions and exploring the world. Wonderful. Except, perhaps it is too simple. It would be quite easy for a child to come away from a reading of this book thinking that Einstein invented the lightbulb and discovered gravity. Perhaps it is true that his discoveries about light and energy would be difficult to distill for this age group, but this book might mislead. That aside, this book delighted my young listeners and they were entranced by the closing line: "Maybe someday you could be a scientist too."
Target age: prek
NOTE ADDED APRIL 18: I have recently become aware of some of the misunderstandings this book has generated among the preschoolers, and I have removed it from my library's collection. So sad, because the illustrations are very cute.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
Twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker has lived a drifter's life until the summer her father sends her to live with his friends in Manifest, Kansas. Filled with questions about her father and his connections to the town, Abilene begins an investigation that leads her to layers of secrets from the past. The narratives runs in parallel stories about Manifest in 1918 and in 1936. This is the best kind of historical fiction: filled with details and events that offer a window into the past, but driven by a strong narrative and engaging characters. The reader discovers the truth about Abilene's father along with her, and by the end of the book, I was as reluctant to finish the story as Abilene was to leave her new home.
Target age: 10-13 years
Monday, February 14, 2011
Under the Snow, by Melissa Stewart
This gorgeously illustrated non-fiction selection is the perfect read aloud for this time of year. The book gives us a peek at different animals as they weather the winter: some active, some hibernating and others just slowing down. The text is detailed enough to be interesting, but still not overwhelming for young listeners. The illustrations are detailed and beautiful.
Target age: prek-2nd grade
Dear Rebecca, Winter is Here, by Jean Craighead George
Animals in Winter, by Henrietta Bancroft
Monday, February 7, 2011
We are reading about mice in January and February, and Walsh's little collage mice are some of my favorites. Walsh's collage illustrations are similar to Leo Lionni's, but a bit brighter and bolder. Lionni's books are philosophical and targeted to a slightly older crowd, while Walsh's books are all about the preschool set. As the title suggests, Mouse Count is a counting book. A snake finds some sleeping mice and proceeds to drop them one by one into a jar for safekeeping. I could feel my little listeners shiver when I read the snake's just-creepy-enough delight at finding the mice: "little, warm and tasty." As this is a book for young ones, the mice trick the snake, and handily "uncount themselves" and escape before anyone is harmed. Kids love to count along and make predictions about what will happen next in this pint-size thriller.
Target age: prek
Walsh's other crowd-pleasers include
Mouse Paint and the new (2010) Balancing Act