Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Spring in-Toon Books

It's beginning to feel like spring and in the California deserts, we are seeing the beautiful affects of the drought-busting winter rain (click here for some seriously beautiful "super bloom" images).


At the risk of sounding corny, gardens and deserts aren't the only places blooming, check out Toon Books' spring line up for some spectacular new reads.


Something's Fishy (Easy-To-Read Comics, Level 1) by Kevin McCloskey, 2017
"Kevin McCloskey blends science, art, and comedy to reveal the true story behind the common goldfish (from the publisher)."


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Can learning be fun? Of course! If you're in doubt, check out McCloskey's latest nonfiction title for early readers in Toon Books "Giggle and Learn" series.


"Welcome to Fish School!" A young boy and girl offer instruction to their pet dog, cat, and parrot on the characteristics of fish.


McCloskey's illustrations are large and detailed and combine watercolor outlines with elaborate, detailed scientific illustrations.  Young readers will love the humor and find this uncluttered book easy to read and a perfect stepping stone to more detailed and fuller treatment books on pet fish care.


Word Play by Ivan Brunetti. Easy-to-Read Comics. Level 1. May 2, 2017


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"Go "outside,” “elsewhere,” and down the “rabbit hole” with this hilarious introduction to compound words (from the publisher)."


A teacher asks her students to define compound words. As students offers examples, one girl laughingly imagines what these words would look like. Could  a house fly (housefly)? Or a home get sick (homesick)? Is a hand handy (handyman)? See the panels below for "homework."




Throughout that day, the children engage in compound word play as they go through the school day with their friends and at home with their family.


The illustrations consist of panels for the narrative and full page illustrations for the humorously imagined compound words. The diverse children are flatly rendered and made up of geometric shapes with oversized heads. Bright and muted colors mix well with uncluttered panel, making the story accessible. This is a  clever and humorous way to introduce a rich vocabulary of compound words to young readers. A Teacher's Guide will be available soon.


Fall 2016 titles I forgot to review.


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Benny and Penny in How to Say Goodbye
​TOON Level 2
by Geoffrey Hayes


"Penny finds a dead salamander, but her brother Benny doesn’t want anything to do with it. Is it silly to have a ceremony for Little Red, or could the loss of this tiny animal mean much more to the lovable siblings? With his unique knack for portraying children’s emotional turmoil, Geisel Award-winner Geoffrey Hayes shares this gentle tale of an early encounter with death (from the publisher)."


In this simple and beautifully illustrated story, Geisel Award winner Geoffrey Hayes' beloved characters gently guide children through the process of grief, guilt, and remembrance. A highly recommended story with a unique approach (graphic novel) for helping young children cope with the difficult and painful feeling surround death and loss.


Please visit the publisher's website for an author interview, teaching materials, and more.

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Ape and Armadillo Take Over The World TOON Level 3 by James Sturm


"How much fun would it be to take over the world? Armadillo is trying to come up with a plan for global domination...but with every new idea, being a bad guy seems a little less fun. Young readers will delight in star cartoonist JAMES STURM ‘s tender depiction of how far a true friendship can take you (from the publisher)."


Two friends struggle with what's fair or not in their imaginary games. Ape does not want to be the "bad guy" while Armadillo gets to do the "fun stuff." When Armadillo''s new plan becomes too frightening, Ape disappears. Later,  he explains to Armadillo why he left and why blowing up the world it isn't just a game to him. The two collaborate together to devise a new game,  with roles and goals acceptable to each.


Strum's large, uncluttered, and colorful panels are perfect for new readers.


Bonus Comics, i.e. banners running at the bottom of each page, add more humor and dimension to the characters.


A simple told but powerful story of how friends can negotiate and collaborate so that everyone's feelings are honored.  

And many thanks to Toon Books for allowing me to review their books and keep a copy for my school library.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Make a big splash!

Abigail the Whale by David Cali and Sonia Bougaeva. Owl Kids, 2016. Recommended for ages 5-8.

A young girl hates her swim class. Every time she jumps in the pool she is teased by her peers because her large body makes a large wave.   An understanding coach helps her visualize confidence: " ... we can change how we see ourselves ... and ... "offers a creative visualization technique she can use to feel bolder, more confident, and more accepting of herself" (from the publisher). 

Abigail the Whale - owlkids-us

Bold and vibrant illustrations perfectly compliment a story that can gently help children develop self esteem and understand the harmful effects of teasing and bullying.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read and review the e-galley.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Tune into TOON BOOKS!

Cool off with some hot titles from Toon Books!

I love Toon Books and so do my students! They're kid-friendly in size and designed for emerging as well as older readers. Children find the colorful graphic novel style of the books, illustrated by such notable artists as Kevin McClosky, Liniers, Art Spiegelman, and Frank Viva, highly engaging. Parents, teachers, and librarians find that these books (and accompanying lesson plans and activities on the Toon Books website) not only support reading development, but can be used to develop literary appreciation, character development, and inspire learning. See their outstanding website for a wealth of materials on the authors and illustrators, as well as reviews, videos, and other resources to support the love of reading and learning.


Birdsong: A Story in Pictures by James Sturm. 2016. $12.95. Recommended for ages 3-7.

Wow! Can hardly wait to try this one with my K-2 classes ... as well as with older students. The possibilities for extension activities are endless. An endearing story, breathtakingly illustrated.

From the publisher:

"DISCOVER KAMISHIBAI: THE ART OF JAPANESE PAPER THEATER
An innocent bird meets two cruel kids and changes their world forever-–but exactly how this unfolds is up to you since the story is wordless. It is meant to be narrated by each reader in his or her own way. The spare and elegant images by master cartoonist James Sturm are the visual equivalent of haikus--they leave space for children to inhabit this timeless tale–and make it their own".


The Real Poop on Pigeons by Kevin McClosky. 2016. $12.95. Recommended for ages 3-7.

No, it's not what you think ... but thanks to McCLoskey's humorous touch and brilliant illustrations, I came away with a new appreciation for these gentle creatures.


From the publisher:

​Just who’s cooing outside? Did you know pigeons can fly faster than a car and farther than a small airplane? Or that they have something unusual in common with penguins, flamingos, and even the dodo? With his trademark mix of humor, well-researched facts, and artistry, Kevin McCloskey delivers the straight poop on these humble creatures, which turn out to be...coo, coo, COOL!


Oedipus: Trapped by Destiny (TOON Graphic Mythology) by Yvan Pommaux. 2016. $16.95. Recommended for ages 8+

A succinct yet lyrical narrative accompanies a richly illustrated and age - appropriate version of Oedipus' journey. Fans of Greek mythology will enjoy this (and other titles in this series).


From the publisher:


Oedipus is born to a terrible fate. Can he escape it?

An oracle makes a ghastly prediction: the young prince will kill his father and marry his mother. Horrified, the father decides to murder his infant son before he can grow up to carry out the prophecy–but destiny can’t be avoided so easily. The son is Oedipus who, rescued by a shepherd, unwittingly fulfills the gods’ plans–while doing everything he can to escape his fate. With style, originality, and a wealth of informative details, graphic novelist Yvan Pommaux brings to a new generation the tragic tale which has thrilled and terrified everyone for thousands of years. A must to nourish young readers’ imaginations.


Sea Change by Frank Viva. 2016. $18.95. Recommended for ages 8+

Give this one to fans of Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Pinchon's Tom Gates who are ready for a longer, prose-style narrative accompanied by Viva's creative design.

From the publisher:

One summer can change your whole life. As soon as school lets out, Eliot’s parents send him to the very edge of the world: a fishing village in a remote part of Nova Scotia. And what does the small town of Point Aconi have to offer? Maggots, bullies, and grumpy old men. But along the way, Eliot discovers much more – a hidden library, starry nights, and a mysterious girl named Mary Beth. Critically acclaimed author and artist Frank Viva (Along a Long Road) brings us this warm, funny, and innovatively designed coming-of-age story. See Point Aconi through Eliot’s eyes, as he finds that this place he never wanted to visit is becoming a home he doesn’t want to leave.

Monday, July 4, 2016

A Star-Spangled Read

Happy Fourth of July. Celebrate Independence Day with:


Awesome America 
by the Editors of Time for Kids.
Time Inc. Books/Liberty Street, 2016. Recommended for ages 8-12.

Learning can be fun ... and Awesome America proves it:

"Discover what makes America unique in this comprehensive timeline and photographic overview of American history ...  From America's early history all the way to present day, kids will learn about what it was like to grow up in the 1700's, 1800's, 1900's and today and discover the inventions, innovations, and important social movements great Americans have created over the year (from the publisher)."


Fourteen chapters explore the people, places, and events that shaped America using large, striking visuals and "bite-size" pieces of information. The stunning graphics, which include vivid photographs, period illustrations, sidebars, maps, and charts, make the book highly readable, supporting children's learning. Each chapter has a Find Out section which contains an essential question (chapter 8: how did the struggle for equal rights develop in America?), a Learn section with fun and fascinating facts (chapter 7: Ford's Model T), and a Take a Closer Look at a topic which illustrates that chapter (chapter 5: wild animals that call America hone).

Chapter 14 consists of an especially appealing twelve page timeline of significant American events from the arrival of the Native Americans' ancestors to the election of the first African American president. The timeline includes many iconic and uniquely American entrepreneurial firsts such as:

1860: John Stetson makes his first "Stetson" cowboy hat
1873: Levi Strauss patents his first pair of blue jeans
1928: the invention of a bread slicing machine
1948; MacDonald's sells its first hamburgers 
1998: Google search engine created

Parents and teachers can reinforce the book's learning and build higher level thinking skills for their children with the truly "awesome" curriculum guide.  Extension activities include thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion points for each chapter which meet Common Core Standards. Have children use the guide's printable graphic organizers to explore the book, take part in scavenger hunts, compare and contrast activities, 

The book also includes index, glossary, and a resource list of museums, organizations, books and articles to "Explore More!"

Use this well-organized book and the curriculum guide with children 8-12 years old to examine American history, government, and culture. As 2016 is an election year, Awesome America will help children understand the role of the president and how the government works. Have children figure out if they "have what it takes" to be president by filling out the job application included in the curriculum guide. This book not only provides some great background on the United States, but can provide research or project ideas, and hours of browsing fun.

Friday, June 24, 2016

New books from Animal Planet

The three recently released books are appropriate for ages 4-8 and are packed with highly readable and bite-sized bits of information. Vibrant photographs and graphics contribute to the books' readability, supporting young readers' comprehension. Additionally each book has extension activities as mentioned in the reviews below. All books are well-organized with a table of contents, index, and glossary and will serve well as research starters and providing hours of fun browsing. And shouldn't learning be fun?

Prevent the "summer slide" and celebrate National Zoo and Aquarium Month with the newest titles from Animal Planet.

The three recently released books are appropriate for ages 4-8 and are packed with highly readable and bite-sized bits of information. Vibrant photographs and graphics contribute to the books' readability, supporting young readers' comprehension. Additionally each book has extension activities as mentioned in the reviews below. All books are well-organized with a table of contents, index, and glossary and will serve well as research starters and providing hours of fun browsing. And shouldn't learning be fun?




Did you know that ...

Giraffes only need 30 minutes of sleep every 24 hours?

The horns on a Texas longhorn can be 8.5 feet long?


Both books by Laaren Brown. Time Inc. Books, 2016.

Meerkats live in groups called mobs or gangs?


Animal Planet's newest titles to the engaging Animal Bites series (see my review of earlier titles here) introduce young readers to a number of farm and wild animals in their environments, whether it be on the farm or on the Falkland Islands. Snazzy chapter headings ("All Cooped Up:" life in a chicken coop) are sure to grab youngsters' attention and draw them in.

The books in this series employ a brilliant organizational scheme using color tabs , i.e. a green tab signals to children that a chapter tabbed with this color explains how animals adapt to their environment. This helps children understand the kind of information found in each short chapter and, because of the uniformity throughout the series, is an excellent way to support a young reader’s reading development and comprehension.

All titles in this series include a variety extension activities. Try "Wild Activities" in Wild Animals and have children use their bodies in the same way animals do to communicate:  bowing is "wolfish" for "let's play." A fun and different kind of foot race will have children waddling like geese, leaping and jumping like goats, etc., to the finish line to find out which animal is fastest. For those interested in more fun and learning, check out the Resources page for places to visit and books and websites to read.

I was quite pleased to find out that some of the proceeds from this series go " to support Animal Planet's R.O.A.R. (Reach Out. Act. Respond.) campaign " ...which partners with leading animal organization to make the world a better place for domestic and wild animals."  Partners include
the Jane Goodall Foundation, Equus, the National Wildlife Federation, and more. Visit this page for more information, activities, and how you and your children can help.



What is a biome?

How is the North Pole's animal life different from the South Pole's?

Is a food web different from a food chain?

How and why do animals adapt to their environment?

Animal Planet Animal Atlas answers all of these questions and many more. Through detailed maps, fun infographics, simple charts, and Find It! Fact boxes readers can track their favorite animals across the globe, learning about how animal habitats are affected by climate, food and water availability, migration, and human environmental (from Animal Planet website)."


The difference between Animal Planet Animal Atlas and a world atlas is that this atlas is not defined by the world's countries but by " ...  the major biomes of the world."  Succinct definitions of the major biomes are accompanied by thumbnail shots of the biomes. Information in each chapter includes human-animal connections and the impact of humans on the environment. Special "tour guides" (an animal native to each biome) accompany children on their "world tour" providing tidbits on information about their habitat.

Visit Scribd to download a free curriculum guide to use with this book. I intend to use both the curriculum guide and this atlas when I do my atlas unit with my students.

Thanks to the publisher and
Blue Slip Media for letting me review the books.