May 1, 2012

Isabella Girl on the Go

Isabella Girl on the Go by Jennifer Fosberry
Illustrated by Mike Litwin
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

     Isabella, the same creative and adventurous girl from My Name is Not Isabella, is back.  This time around Isabella is spending the day in her backyard with her father. She imagines herself as an archaeologist, a queen, an artist, a warrior, and even an astronomer. Along the way, she takes readers on a beautiful journey to some of the most renowned  world monuments and places: the pyramids of Giza, the Eiffel Tower, Chichen Izta, the Great Wall of China, and the Taj Mahal, among others.
     Her father keeps asking her to help around the backyard, but Isabella has bigger plans and an imagination to take her there.  The illustrations by Litwin are wonderful. There are wonderful details to captivate readers in each page, like the buttons that make Isabella's stuff animal eyes and that reappear throughout the illustrations. Or you can try to figure out where did Isabella get her inspirations for each journey (like the  tomato plant that turns into the Eiffel Tower or the wooden fence that becomes the Great Wall). At the back of the book, there is a description of all the places Isabella visited as well as a list of resources to learn more about them.  Great book to share with all the girls in your life!

Apr 30, 2012

John Jensen Feels Different

John Jensen Feels Different by Henrik Hovland
Illustrated by Torill Kove
Translated by Don Bartlett
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

     John Jensen feel different. He feels different while he reads the Oslo Times, while he brushes his teeth and flosses, while he takes the bus to work, even while he sits in his tax office working on cases. He thinks it might be his bow tie. "No one else wears a bow tie." So he tries wearing a regular tie, but he still feels like everybody is starting at him. Maybe it's because John Jensen is an crocodile in a city of humans...

     He lays awake at night (reading Camus' The Stranger) and decides he needs to hide his tail. Maybe that will do the trick. But when he ends up with a bruised tail and needs to go to the hospital, John Jensen discovers that he's not the only one that doesn't quite look like the other Oslo citizens, and that there are many advantages to being a crocodile (like using your tail to stop the ball when you play goalie in soccer.

     John Jensen Feels Different is a Norwegian picture book that embraces its "norwegianess."  It immerses you in Oslo and its culture and captivates you with a character who you can't help falling in love with. I mean, he's a croc that reads Camus and wears bow ties! Delightful read aloud that can open up great conversations in the classroom about embracing your differences and loving yourself. Also, if you need a lesson on how to make a bow tie knot, enjoy the end papers. Priceless.

Apr 2, 2012


Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Published by Roaring Brook Press

     How many kinds of green are there?  In her new book Green, Laura Vaccaro will delight you with all the types of green -including the absence of it- that you can find in nature.  There is forest green,  sea green,  lime green, and fern green. Ok, so you might have expected those. But what about "slow green," or "shaded green," or "wacky green?"  And my absolute favorite: never green (illustrated with a huge bright red stop sign).  Each page is meant to be savored, holding a little secret in the form of small paper cutouts that transform into something new as you flip the pages.  It became a fun prediction game among the early readers I shared the book with -they were all trying to guess what the cut out would become as we explored new greens.
     Green is a gorgeous exploration of a single color, a homage to it.  It plays on the expected and unexpected and asks us to pay attention to nature and its wonders.  Great book to share with the youngest readers (and as a coffee table delight at home).

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.