Mar 30, 2012

The Easter Bunny's Assistant

The Easter Bunny's Assistant by Jan Thomas
Illustrated by Jan Thomas
Published by Harper
Ages 2-5

     The Easter bunny is here to help you make beautiful Easter eggs.  He has enlisted the help of his trusted assistant, the skunk.  Easter bunny starts listing the steps necessary to make the Easter eggs, but there is a serious problem: Skunk is getting excited. Too excited. And do you know what happens when skunks get excited? Well, they do their skunk thing...they stink up the place. Easter bunny tries to get him to control himself but nothing is helping.  How will they get through their lesson on how to make beautiful Easter eggs?
     The Easter Bunny's Assistant is hilarious.  The bright illustrations by Thomas and the funny dialogue makes this a great read aloud for the youngest readers. It can also be used as an example of procedural writing and for sequencing activities.

Mar 29, 2012

Kali's Song

Kali's Song by Jeanette Winter
Illustrated by Jeanette Winter
Published by Schwartz and Wade Books

     Thousands of years ago, during prehistoric times, Kali watched his mother painting animals on a cave wall. She told him that soon he'll be a man and he will have to go out and hunt those animals.  His father gave Kali a bow and arrow and told him to practice. But, while resting after hours of practice Kali idly plucked the string on his bow, he liked the sound it made. "Then, still plucking he put the bow to his lips. As he opened and closed his mouth, new sounds filled the quiet air."  Kali forgot about hunting and fell in love with music. As the day of the big hunt arrived, Kali heads out with his bow and arrows. When he comes across a herd of mammoths, their beauty inspires Kali to play music for them. Soon both animals and hunters are mesmerized by the sounds Kali produces, the magic of his music, something only a shaman, a leader, would be able to produce.
     Kali's Song is a remarkable picture book about the beauty and power and music and art. It's a quiet book whose message speaks volumes. The lyrical quality of its text and the gentle quality of its illustrations are a perfect match.  Gorgeous book to share out loud.

Mar 22, 2012

Cupcake Surprise!

Cupcake Surprise! by Lynn Maslen Kertell
Illustrated by Sue Hendra
Published by Scholastic

     Today is Jack and Ana's dad's birthday and they have decided to surprise him and bake some cupcakes.  They find the cookbook, gather the ingredients and along the way they have a couple of unexpected surprises of their own.
     Cupcake Surprise! is an early reader book, a new addition to the BOB books family.  The book has easy to sound-out words, sight words, and simple sentences. The story is engaging and offers many opportunities to check comprehension skills along the way, as well as sequencing and  predicting activities.  The back of the book has 16 cut out flash cards to practice vocabulary and fluency.  Great addition to the early reader libraries at home and in the K-1 classrooms.

Mar 20, 2012

The Word Collector

The Word Collector by Sonja Wimmer
Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer
Translated by Jon Brokenbrow
Published by Cuento de Luz

     Luna, whose name means "Moon" in Spanish, was a little girl that lived high up in the sky.  She was passionate about words and collected them. She collected "funny words that tickle your palate when you say them, words so beautiful that they make you cry, friendly words that embrace your soul."  But when she notices that less words are reaching her up in the sky, that people are forgetting all the beautiful words, Luna knows is time to act. "She put all of the words she had in a big suitcase, and set off with them on a journey."  Luna embarks on a journey that will help her spread the power of positive words all over the world.
     The Word Collector is a beautiful picture book, an ode to language and words.  Sonja Wimmer plays with fonts and text placement along the story, making us trace the path of the words along the page.  The changes in type and orientation of the text are complemented by whimsical illustrations that take us to a dreamlike world.  Each page asks to be savored, each detail taken into account. I loved the fact that even after the translation of the text from Spanish to English, there were places where words in Spanish could still be spotted (framed picture that reads "las palabras locas", or a paper airplane made from a Spanish newspaper). There is an addendum where the text is written in a more conventional manner to make it easier to read -good idea to go here first, if you're trying to share it as a read aloud.
     The Word Collector will capture any reader, young and old, who loves language and words. With  lyrical text, beautiful language and illustrations, this is a delightful addition to any home or classroom library.

Mar 13, 2012

Here Come the Girl Scouts!

Here Come the Girl Scouts! by Shana Corey
Illustrated by Hadley Hooper
Published by Scholastic Press

     One hundred years ago, on March 12, 1912 Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low invited a group of girls in Savannah, Georgia to the first official Girl Scout meeting.  Daisy, an adventurous woman, spent time in Britain where she learned about the Boy Scouts and their sister group, the Girl Guides.  She knew she needed to bring that concept to America. She wanted to make sure girls had an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, survive in the wilderness, and more than anything, that they had the chance to develop their confidence, become resourceful, and always stay kind.  With time the Girl Scouts grew to become a nationwide organization that still continues to "unite, inspire, and empower girls."
    Here Come the Girl Scouts! it's a wonderful picture book biography.  It's impossible not to fall for Daisy's spirit and passion.  Now, I have to be honest, till I read this book, the only thing I really knew about the Girls Scouts was how much I loved those Thin Mints and Samoas.  After reading Here Come the Girl Scouts! I'm not only a fan of Daisy and her gumption, but I now feel like I have to find a Girl Scout troop so my little girl can be a part of this somehow.  The text by Corey flows effortlessly, with wonderful quotes scattered throughout the book, (my favorite: Whatever you take up, do it with all your might) and an author note  full of interesting anecdotes.  Hooper's illustrations are delightful and playful, a great companion to a non-fiction book that manages to be charming and inspiring.  Wonderful addition to a biography classroom collection.

Mar 9, 2012

I Don't Want to Be a Pea!

I Don't Want to Be a Pea! by Ann Bonwill
Illustrated by Simon Rickerty
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

     -All hippos have birds, and Bella is mine.
     -Correction. All birds have hippos, and Hugo is mine.
     Hugo the hippo and Bella the bird are inseparable friends. They are getting ready to attend the Hippo-Bird Fairy-Tale Fancy Dress Party (or Bird-Hippo party, if you ask Bella) and they have to decide on a costume. Hugo wants to go as a princes and have Bella go as a pea.  "But I don't want to be a pea. It's too green and small," says Bella. She has other plans.  What about her going as a mermaid and Hugo being her rock? (since he is "gray and blobby").  As their disagreement grows, they decide neither one of them wants to go to the party anymore. Will they find a compromise?
     I Don't Want to Be a Pea! is a delightful read aloud, great for the youngest readers and the lower elementary grades. It works great as a pair reading and it leads itself to hilarious act-it-outs.  I dare you to pick a favorite between Hugo and Bella.

Mar 7, 2012

Memoirs of a Goldfish

Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian
Illustrated by Tim Bowers
Published by Scholastic

     The first day, he swam around his fishbowl. The second day, he did the same thing, twice. Third day? same thing. But by day four, the goldfish sees something new inside his fishbowl.  Goldfish finds his new companion (a scuba diver figurine) to be kind of creepy: "He doesn't say anything. He just bubbles." By day 6, a bunch of plants are added. "I guess I'll have to water them. Great." And then it just starts getting crowded inside the fishbowl: first a snail, then a crab, then a pair of guppies and even "an angelfish named Cha-Cha who says she's from Hollywood." Goldfish has no room left to turn around.  Day Eleven: he's a nervous wreck. Day Twelve? He lost it and screamed, "I want my bowl back."  When he gets his wish, will he be able to enjoy his newly found solitude or will he miss his fishbowl companions?
    Memoirs of a Goldfish is told in first person following the format of a diary.  The daily entries by the goldfish are full of voice and personality, and the characters that move one by one into his bowl add to the hilarity of the tale.  With great illustrations and funny situations, Memoirs of a Goldfish is a great read aloud.

Mar 5, 2012

One Cool Friend

One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo
Illustrated by David Small
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers

     "Elliot was a very proper young man." He always wore a stylish black tux, bow-tie and all. His father took him to the aquarium, and while trying to avoid the mobs of kids at the other exhibits, Elliot reaches the penguin room.  And there they were, "in their tidy black feather tuxedos with their proper posture."  A perfect pet for a gentleman like Elliot.  When he asked his father for a penguin, he gave him money to buy what he thought was a stuffed animal penguin.  But Elliot packed a real penguin in his knapsack instead.  Elliot named his perfect new pet Magellan.  Now, a penguin is not easy to keep at home, especially when you're trying to keep it a secret.
     I loved One Cool Friend! Just like Elliot, I found it to be stylish and cool.  The illustrations by David Small are a perfect match with the story and I loved the way the text plays with dialogue bubbles as part of the regular text.  The final twist in the story totally sold it.  Great read aloud!

Mar 2, 2012

Zero the Hero

Zero the Hero by Joan Holub
Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Published by Henry Holt and Company

     "Unlike most numbers, Zero believed himself to be a hero. He just needed a chance to prove it."  Unfortunately, Zero just didn't seem to fit among the other numbers. He needed other numbers to have some value, and by himself he amounted to zero, zilch, nada.  He was confused with the letter "O" and donuts, and whether he was added or subtracted, the answer never changed. He just didn't count.  One day, Zero discovered that he had a special power when it came to multiplication: he made things disappear.  Afraid of him the other numbers ran away and feeling more like a villain than a hero, Zero rolled himself "heading for infinity or oblivion, whichever came first."  But when a group of truly villainous Roman Numerals captured all the other digits, Zero finally has a chance to be the hero he always knew he could be.
     It's been a while since I've found a Math Picture Book that I just HAVE to have in my math classroom library. Zero the Hero is that kind of book.  It's hilariously clever, full of content area connections, and Lichtenheld's illustrations are delightful and filled with a sense of humor that will captivate students and teachers alike. Zero turns out to be a pretty cool and useful hero.