Apr 30, 2011

Kitten's First Full Moon

Kitten's First Full Moon

Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
Illustrated by Kevin Henkes

     I've read every Henkes book out there.  I love Sheila Rae, the BraveA Weekend with WendellChrysanthemum, ... I could keep going.  But there is just something extra special about Kitten's First Full Moon.  Maybe is the black and white illustrations, or the fact that, unlike his other books, this one has a kitten and not a mouse as a main character.  Whatever the reason, this is a book that I just knew I had to own. The illustrations are gorgeous!
     It is kitten's first full moon and when she sees it she thinks, "there's a little bowl of milk in the sky."  She does everything she can to try to reach the bowl of milk in the sky, but no luck.  She gets stuck up in a tree, alone and scared.  She finds an even bigger bowl of milk when she sees the moon's reflection on a lake.  So she ends up wet and cold.  Thankfully, little kitten's luck changes when she finally gives up and goes home to find a bowl of milk of her own waiting for her in the porch. "Lucky Kitten!"  Sweet, beautiful, perfect.

Apr 29, 2011

Shark vs Train

IShark vs. Train

Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton
Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

     Two boys rush toward a toy chest.  One grabs a shark, the other grabs a train.  Shark vs. Train Who will win?  What follows is a series of scenarios imagined by the two boys pitting the shark against the train.  Who will win in the ocean? on railroad tracks? shooting baskets? or performing in a piano recital?  Eventually, even the shark and train can see this rivalry is getting out of control.  But it's OK, the boys have to leave for lunch and shark and train get to go back to their toy chest.
     Shark vs. Train is definitely entertaining and a boy magnet.  My boy has read it every night this week!  The illustrations are fun and the little dialogue bubbles offer a great insight into the characters and some nudges to the adults.

Apr 28, 2011

The Boss Baby

The Boss Baby

The Boss Baby by Marla Frazee
Illustrated by Marla Frazee

     So you know how when you're pregnant with your first child somebody always gives you a book, usually I Love You Forever or Guess How Much I Love You...Well, I have decided that The Boss Baby should be that book every new parent gets.
    From the moment The Boss Baby arrives, he puts his parents on a schedule "with no time off", takes over the house and has a fit when things are not to his liking.  He gets drinks on demand, he has a spa, and a gym.  He is "entitled to plenty of perks" because he is the boss.  And that's just the way it is!
  This book is the most honest, hilarious book I have ever read about how life changes when you have a baby at home.  HE IS THE BOSS...it's the baby's world and we are just there to meet all his demands.  The text is spot on and the illustrations are a perfect match. My son also loved it because he could relate to the boss as his baby sister coming in and trying to run the show.  This is the book I'll give anybody who's having a baby.

Apr 27, 2011

Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin (Aladdin Picture Books)

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss
Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

    It's never too early to introduce kids to the world of classical music (thanks Mom for giving that world to me!).  Classical music is art and math all at once.  In Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin, classical instruments get introduced one by one.  The trombone with its "mournful moan and silken tone",  the trumpet with its "swinging song", the french horn, the "mellow" cello, the violin, the flute "that sends our soul a-shiver", the clarinet, the oboe, the bassoon, and the harp, complete the chamber.  Once they are all together, the conductor and his orchestra begin: "The STRINGS all soar, the REEDS implore, the BRASSES roar with notes galore. It's music that we all adore. It's what we go to concerts for."
     Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin uses a lot of content vocabulary, introducing the concepts of solo, duo, trio, quartet, quintet, sextet, septet, octet, nonet and chamber.  At the same time, the book reinforces mathematical concepts of addition and counting.  The verses flow so well though, that at no point do you feel like you're being "taught", you're just taken on a wonderful musical exploration.  The illustrations are a beautiful accompaniment to the lyrical language.  This is a great book to give kids a taste of the world of classical music and if they're anything like my own child, they'll be shouting "Encore!"

Apr 26, 2011



Chalk by Bill Thomson
Illustrated by Bill Thomson

     Chalk is wordless picture book.  Three kids are walking together to the playground during a rainy day.  There, hanging from the mouth of a dinosaur spring rider, they find a bag.  Inside the bag there is chalk.  The first girl draws a sun in the pavement, and to their surprise, it comes to life and takes its place in the sky, turning the rainy day into a beautiful sunny one.  The second girl quickly gives it a try and draws butterflies which begin to flutter about.  The boy then decides to make it interesting...and draws a dinosaur.  The T-Rex comes to life and starts chasing the kids around the playground.
     The illustrations by Thomson are impressively realistic.  In fact, the T-Rex might be a bit scary for some kids.  The facial expressions of the kids are spot on.   Wordless picture books like Chalk offer endless opportunities for kids to use their own words to tell the story.  They are also great additions to any classroom, since students can write their own stories to accompany the illustrations.  

Apr 25, 2011

Little Chicken's Big Day

Little Chicken's Big Day

Little Chicken's Big Day by Jerry Davis and Katie David
Illustrated by Katie Davis
Ages 1-4

     Little Chicken lays comfortably in his egg shaped bed.  "Rise 'n' Shine!" says Big Chicken, his mama.  This is the first in a list of commands mama proceeds to give Little Chicken. "I hear you cluckin' Big Chicken," says Little Chicken.  The orders keep coming and we see Little Chicken giving Big Chicken an annoyed looked from his egg shaped car seat.  And mama is in a rush! So much so that she hasn't even had time to tie Little Chicken's red high-tops (coolest shoes ever owned by a chicken!). As she runs, Little Chicken falls behind and get distracted by a butterfly.  Suddenly he finds himself alone, but thankfully he can hear mama singing out for him. "I hear you cluckin', Big Chicken!" says our relieved Little Chicken.
     I loved this book, but more importantly, my four year old LOVED it too. He said "Mami, that's so cute! It was scary because he got lost, but look how happy he got when his mama found him!"  Cute is a good word to describe the book.  The illustrations are adorable!  I really appreciated the change in perspectives to show how big adults look from the point of view of children.  I also liked the image of Little Chicken's red high-tops and Big Chicken's red heels -especially when he finds mama again and we see Little Chicken wrapping his wings around mama's legs.  Finally, the image of Big Chicken and Little Chicken having story time at the end of their hectic day, makes it a great bed time read-aloud.

Apr 24, 2011

What a Tantrum! Vaya Rabieta!

What a Tantrum! / Vaya rabieta! by Mireille d'Allance
Illustrated by Mireille d'Allance
Originally published in 2000 in French as Grosse colere

     Roberto has had a bad day.  He has lost his tennis match, broken his racket and is walking inside his house with tons of mud in his shoes.  When his father asks him to take off his tennis shoes, he kicks them off as hard as he can.  And when he finds out there's spinach for dinner, he's had enough! "Are you kidding?"  His father sends him to his room to calm down.  But upstairs, Roberto's anger builds up, until a red monster comes out of his mouth and starts destroying everything in his room. When the red monster ends up breaking one of his favorite toys, Roberto tries to stop it.  While cleaning up the mess the "monster" had done, Roberto realizes he has calmed down and he's ready to go back downstairs to have dinner with his dad.
     The idea of Roberto's anger spilling out and becoming  monster is very interesting.  I can see the story working as a way to approach and talk about anger with younger kids.  The bilingual edition of What a Tantrum! / Vaya rabieta! flows very well.  I find sometimes that bilingual editions are a bit choppy and awkward, but I felt that both English and Spanish versions of the story seemed "natural".  I'm interested in finding other bilingual editions like this one, where the goal is to tell the story in both languages -not to try to teach vocabulary like most bilingual books I've read.

Apr 23, 2011



Otis by Loren Long
Illustrated by Loren Long

     Otis is a tractor. He's a hard worker, but once work is over he loves to run around the fields, jump over haystacks and play ring-around-the-rosy.  Every night he heads back to a little stall inside the barn where he goes to sleep.  A little calf moves into the barn and finds in Otis's sweet sounds of putt puff puttedy chuff, a lullaby that makes her feel safe and loved.  They become inseparable, day and night.  That is until the farmer buys a brand new tractor and kicks Otis out of the barn.  Feeling abandoned and useless, Otis lets weeds cover his tires and calf can't convince him to play and, even worse, can't get him to purr her to sleep.  But when calf gets stuck in the Mud Pond, nobody can save her but Otis.
     I can't say enough about Otis.  It is simply a beautiful book.  The story is powerful and the illustrations in gauche and pencil are gorgeous.  It's poetic and unforgettable.  I have definitely found a new book to add to my list of favorites.  

Apr 22, 2011

Mary's Penny

Mary's Penny

Mary's Penny by Tanya Landman
Illustrated by Richard Holland

     A long, long time ago, there was a farmer.  He had two son, Hans and Franz, and a daughter, Mary.  Hans was beefy and Franz was brawny.  Mary was neither, but she was smart.  But since this story takes place a long time ago, the father completely ignores Mary because she's a girl and there's no place for girls in a farm.  The father is trying to figure out who to leave the farm to when he dies, Hans or Franz.  So he gives each one of the boys a penny and challenges them to buy something with it that would fill the whole house.
     When her brothers fail at their mission -one tries to fill the house with wheat and the other with feathers- Mary approaches her father for her chance to complete the challenge.  Reluctantly, the father hands her his last penny.
     In Mary's Penny, our heroine proves that it doesn't take brawn to run a farm, but brains.  Her way of filling the farm with what she buys with her penny is wonderful. She fills it with light and knowledge.  This is a beautiful book to show the power of brains over muscle and to defeat stereotypes.  The illustrations are captivating.  I loved the mix of textures, drawings and photos.  Great book to share with boys and girls alike.

Apr 21, 2011

A Visitor for Bear

A Visitor for Bear (Bear and Mouse)

A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker
Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

     "No Visitors Allowed," reads the sign posted on Bear's front door.  He had never had any visitors and was quite sure he liked it that way.  One day, a little mouse knocks at his door and Bear, quite rudely, tells him to go away.  But Mouse is very persistent and keeps coming back again and again, and again! It doesn't matter how hard Bear tries to keep him out of his house, somehow Mouse always finds a way back in.  Until, exhausted, Bear agrees to share tea with him as long as Mouse promises to leave afterwards and never comeback.
     A Visitor for Bear is the classic tale of the curmudgeon that wishes to be left all alone, until finally someone breaks through his thick hide and shows him the error of his ways (by the way, I just read that "bear" is a synonym of curmudgeon).  Mouse is that someone who ends up showing Bear the power of sharing your life with a friend.  At the end, it's Bear who begs Mouse not to go.
    My son really loved this book! He had a lot of fun guessing where Mouse would show up next inside Bear's house.  I really enjoyed it as well and I thought the illustrations were particularly sweet -they reminded me of old Winnie The Pooh books.

Apr 20, 2011

While You Are Sleeping

While You Are Sleeping

While You Are Sleeping by Alexis Deacon
Illustrated by Alexis Deacon

     While You Are Sleeping your stuff animals get to work.  "Do you ever stop to think what we go through night after night, to look after you?"  They check under the bed for monsters, cover you when you are cold, take the covers off when you're too hot, sooth you when you're sick, scare bad dreams away, and even squish the bedbugs flat so they don't bite you.  "We keep you safe no matter what. That's our job, you see." And why do they do it? Because during the day they receive the best pay, they get to be held and loved by you.
     I simply adore this book.  It's so sweet and even funny.  The illustrations by Deacon are magical and dreamlike.  Deacon is to me one of the most incredible illustrators you'll find.  His illustrations are just enchanting...and his text doesn't fall far behind!  You have to see this book! (And his other ones too...Slow Loris, Jitterbug Jam -illustrated by Deacon-...I'll definitely blog about more of his work).

Apr 19, 2011

That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown

That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown

That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown by Cressida Cowell
Illustrated by Neal Layton

     Emily has an old stuffed rabbit called Stanley.  He's her best friend and together they embark on great adventures that Emily imagines.  The problem is that the Queen has become obsessed with Stanley, and she really wants him.  She send all sorts of emissaries -who keep interrupting Emily's adventures- to offer gifts in exchange for Stanley.  But Emily makes it very clear she won't trade him at all!  The story builds up, as well as the ammounts offered in exchanged for Stanley.  The repetitious pattern of the emissaries statements from the Queen to Emily are fun to read aloud and to build up the new item added at the end of each list.
     Emily is a very likable character.  She's creative, resolute, and brave.  The way she resolves the conflict is very sweet.  I also, really enjoyed the illustration which are a very interesting mix textures and mediums.  Let's just say I'm really glad to see there are more Emily Brown books published after this one that I can now go check out.

Apr 18, 2011

Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken

Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken

Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Harry Bliss

     When I was a kid, there was a book I kept going back to every year, up into my early highschool days. It was a French book, I believe, translated into Spanish, about a widower and his loyal pet hen who joined Napoleon and fought against the English. I loved that book! That's why I'm so excited to have found Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken. Louise is an adventurous hen, for whom life in the chicken coop is just not exciting enough.
     Looking for an adrenaline rush, we follow Louise as she travels the seas, survives pirates and a shipwreck, joins the circus, is kidnapped and organizes a hen prison escape. I love Louise unpretentious air; after each marvelous adventure, she heads back to the coop and simply relaxes without bragging about her travels. At the end, she's a storyteller who's able to bring all her fellow hens along on her thrill rides with the power of her words. What a wonderful book!

Apr 17, 2011

Waking Beauty

Waking Beauty

Waking Beauty by Leah Wilcox
Illustrated by Lydia Monks

     We know what we are supposed to do if we find a princess sleeping in a tower, right? Kiss her, of course.   But what would happen if Prince Charming doesn't know. Well, he would do what any normal person would actually do...try to wake her up by screaming, jumping on her bed, splashing water in her face, and even shooting her out of a canyon.
     Waking Beauty is a very funny retelling of Sleeping Beauty.  I really enjoyed seeing Prince Charming as a real person who would try the normal ways of waking the princess up.  And even after finding out he's supposed to kiss her, he hesitates because "One hundred years of morning breath. Wow! That could be the kiss of death!" Hard to disagree with him.  There is also a final twist once the princess wakes up which will make every girl laugh out loud -even the princess-pink-obsessed type of girls.  I read somewhere that fractured fairy tales are going to have a big year. Bring it on!