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:

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.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A special children's literature event (LA area)

Join the great team from Bridge to Books at the "Tots, Tweens, and Teens Book Fest" on Saturday,  May 14 from 12-6 pm at Pasadena High School. This free event includes over 30 authors and illustrators, panel discussions, and more. Please visit the website for a complete schedule, directions, and to RSVP.

Sponsored by Bridge to Books

Books for budding scientists and curious kids

Get children to read nonfiction is easy with these new titles from Smithsonian. Check out my review of this stellar line-up at Good Reads with Ronna

Thanks to Ronna Mandal for letting me review the books and keep the copies for my eager and delighted students.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!*

Finding engaging nonfiction books for children can sometimes be challenging. Fear not because Sports Illustrated Kids has hit it out of the park with these latest releases ... and just in time for for baseball season! 

Soooo ...  let's play ball!

My First Book of Baseball: A Rookie Book by Beth Bugler and Mark Bechtel. Illustrated by Bill Hinds. Time Inc. Books, 2016. $11.95. For ages 3-6.

Introduce the youngest fans and "wanna be" players to the game with this eye-catching baseball book. Cleverly illustrated with photos of real-life players, children are guided by a humorous cartoon-like youngster through the game from start to finish. Basic facts, such as the object of the game, how points are scored, the roles of the players, and more, are clearly presented. Definitions for terms like "Strike Zone" are woven into the clear and readable narrative. The book's stunning and colorful, two-page spreads make great use of the book's horizontal format and really enhance its accessibility. This is sure to be a "hit" with sports fans young and old. A recommended purchase.

Baseball Then to WOW! The Editors of Sports Illustrated Kids. Time Inc. Books, 2016. $19.95.For ages 6-14.

This fascinating book about the history and evolution of one of America's most popular games is perfectly "pitched" to a wide range of readers and packed with amazing photos, illustrations, timelines, chronologies and tidbits of information. Children will learn about the evolution of the rules, legendary players, the development of the players' uniforms (catcher's mitts were originally fingerless and 1880s players wore ties), and more.

The amazing two-page spreads and succinct writing enable children to take in the information at a glance. Young fans, newcomers, and those who like almanacs and sports records-style books, will spend hours pouring over this amazing book. Reluctant readers are sure to find this engaging and accessible.  Highly recommended!

Thanks to Blue Slip Media  for allowing me to review the books.

*My blog title is taken from that classic American song, Take me out to the Ballgame by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Titzer.

Friday, April 22, 2016

More Books to Celebrate Earth Day

Celebrate Earth Day with Animal Bites, a new nonfiction series for ages 4-8 from Animal Planet and Time Inc. Books.

Can a penguin escape a killer whale? Why doesn’t the Yeti crab need eyes? How does a  reindeer's feet stay warm in the snow? How did the Pompeii worm get it's name?  

Check out the answers to these question (and many more) in Animal Bites, a new nonfiction series for ages 4-8 from Animal Planet and Time Inc. Books. Titles reviewed here are:

Using bite-size pieces of information, striking photographs and illustrations,  children can explore a variety of animals and their environments.  

While differing in coverage, the books share a clever organizational scheme. Each has a multi-colored table of contents, a succinct glossary, and a detailed index. Every chapter uses a color-coded tab matching the color of the chapter title in the table of contents. This coding helps children understand the kind of information found in that chapter and, because of the uniformity throughout the series, is an excellent way to support a young reader’s reading development and comprehension.

Here’s an example:  the "how they live” tab is green and represents information on  " how animals behave and adapt to their environment.” Under this tab in Ocean Animals,  children learn how ocean animals move through water. In Polar Animals, they learn which animals migrate and why. The blue "Big Data"  tab can include brief facts and figures or eye-popping illustrations comparing the sizes of different animals. This kind of organization also helps children understand scientific concepts and see relationships between animals in a shared environment.

The titles include activity and resource pages.

While this series will certainly capture the attention of new and reluctant readers, it’s going to be a hit with all readers and help generate ideas for more in-depth studies.

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

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Blog Tour: Celebrate Earth Day with Pipsie!

Pipsie Nature Detective: The Lunchnapper by Rick DeDonato and illustrated by Tracy Bishop. Two Lions, 2016. Recommended for ages 3-7.

In their second adventure, Pipsie and her friend,  Alfred the turtle, are off on the  " ...BEST school trip ever ..."  The two will partner up on the “Seven Wonders of Nature” scavenger hunt and try to locate and photograph all seven items on the list (an animal home, animal tracks, etc.). Pipsie and Alfred have just set out  when they realize their lunch is missing. Did a classmate take it? Or one of the forest denizens? Nature lover and detective Pipsie couldn’t be happier:

“Looks like we have a nature hunt AND a mystery to solve! … What could be better than that?”

The search for the  items on their scavenger hunt list leads them closer and closer to uncovering the culprit.  Along the way, Pipsie spots clues such as animal tracks showing a something dragging in the tracks. Could this be the missing lunch? When the tracks lead to a family of beavers, Pipsie uses her knowledge of nature and observation skills to eliminate the beavers as suspects:

“Beavers mostly eat trees and plants! And they weren’t dragging our lunch. Those are the marks their big flat tales make when they walk!”

As Pipsie records the facts in her detective’s notebook, Albert inadvertently gives her the clue she needs to catch the thief, but can they win the scavenger hunt?  

This short story can serve as a guide for outdoor activities on a young child's first family hike or school field trip. It can also be used to introduce mystery as a genre, story sequencing, and the value of journaling (detective’s notebook). Most importantly this book is valuable for demonstrating how children can use critical thinking skills such as cause and effect and observation to solve problems. Visit Pipsie’s website (see link below) for some excellent educational activities.

Bishop’s colorful and spirited illustrations create excitement and add to the fun. Have children check out the end pages which include items needed for the field trip (such as a field guide) and photos of some of the nature objects Pipsie and Albert found on the scavenger hunt (a feather, animal tracks, etc.). Backmatter introduces some fun facts about some of the woodland creatures children see in this story.

Check out the free downloadable activity kit here! Visit for more games and coloring, fun facts, more details about Pipsie and her friends, along with info about the author and illustrator. There’s also a link to Alfred Z. Turtle’s blog!

About the Author and Illustrator

Rick DeDonato started writing and drawing storybooks for his two kids, Alexis and Matt, when they were little. They’re grown now, but Rick is still creating stories. He is the author of Pipsie, Nature Detective: The Disappearing Caterpillar, illustrated by Tracy Bishop. When he’s not dreaming up new adventures for Pipsie, he’s an award-winning creative director in advertising. Born in New Jersey, he now lives in Wilmington, Delaware, with Nancy McAleer; their two dogs, Tugger and Nacho; and their turtle, Alfred E. Turtle.

Tracy Bishop won an art contest in kindergarten, and she’s been creating art ever since. A graduate of San Jose State University, she is also the illustrator of Not the Quitting Kind by Sarra J. Roth and Pipsie, Nature Detective: The Disappearing Caterpillar by Rick DeDonato. She lives in San Jose, California, where she is inspired on a daily basis by her son, husband, and a hairy dog named Harry.

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for letting me review the book and participate in the blog tour.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


by Jory John, illustrated by Bob Shea. Penguin BYR, 2015. Recommended for ages 3-7. 

If you stepped inside my library during a recent reading of this book, you would have heard a ferocious sounding monster (a.k.a the librarian) roaring out:


Then you would have heard my kindergartners scream back:

Squealing in delight and quivering with anticipation, my kinders beg me to turn the page.
“You’ve been officially WARNED!” hollers the monster. Then he lunges out and …
and misses. Then he warns us:
“You do NOT want to turn another page, buster.”
… as the story continues, we quickly learn that this monster has something to hide and will use everything at his disposal, including bribery and deceit, to prevent us from finding what’s inside the book ...
This deceptively simple and wonderfully interactive story had my students laughing, shouting, and jumping up in excitement. The oversize words encouraged students to read aloud and interact with the story. Soon they realize that under no circumstances can this monster be trusted – he’ll do anything, even risk a stomach ache, to prevent us from discovering his secret.
Read the full review at Good Reads with Ronna. Thanks to Ronna Mandel for letting me review the book and keep it for my students.