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Monday, December 5, 2016

The Toad, written and illustrated by Elise Gravel. Tundra Books, Random House. 2016. $12.99 ages 6 and up

"The toad eats mostly bugs, worms and spiders. The toad is a pretty lazy hunter: she sits and waits for her PREY to walk by her, and then catches it with her long tongue. 


Sigh. Maybe someday an ice cream cone will walk by ... "

Fans of the informative and eew-inspiring Disgusting Creatures series will have their hands out, waiting in high anticipation for the laughs and learning any addition brings. They will not be disappointed here.

With characteristic cartoon artwork and limited text, the author entertains, while also plying her readers with information about traits, food, talents, development and what causes some to squirm in their presence. There are more than 5,000 species of toads and frogs; some have very weird characteristics, and all are in constant need of having water within close range. The focus in this book is on the common toad.

Here's the moment that is likely to elicit the loudest and most animated EWWW!

"The toad sometimes sheds her skin to
keep it healthy, and that's kind of gross.
It means she gets rid of the old skin,
and then ... SHE EATS IT!"

That's right, she eats her own skin. BLECCH!

You know they are going to love it, don't you?

Fun, factual and a great addition to your collection of nonfiction for young readers.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Buddy and Earl and the great big baby, written by Maureen Fergus and illustrated by Carey Sookocheff. Groundwood. 2016. $16.95 ages 4 and up

"After Earl finished cheering, he turned to Buddy and said, "So! What's a baby?" Buddy was very surprised by the question. "Is a baby something you drive around in?" asked Earl. "No," said Buddy confidently. "Is a baby something you plug into the wall?" asked Earl.
"No," said Buddy, a little less confidently."

Earl has so much to learn about the world he is living in, and Buddy does his level best to make the learning happen. Having never seen a baby before Earl obviously has many questions.

As Buddy tries to help him understand, Earl relishes the fact that he and a baby have much in common.

"Babies are small and
adorable," explained Buddy.
"And I am small and adorable,"
said Earl.
"Babies like to eat things off the floor," said
"I like to eat things off the floor," said Earl."

They are just too funny, and they will have readers and listeners smiling with great pleasure as they get to know them better. Their third adventure is as much fun as the first two. It will surely gain a legion of fans who appreciate the friendship, the fun and the endless curiosity that fuels their conversations.

The baby's arrives for a visit. His rampant destruction of most things in his path has Earl rethinking his position on a baby's assets. It isn't long until that baby finds himself looking out of the bars of a playpen. He does not want to be there. He finally settles down, but does not sleep. While everyone else takes a needed nap, Earl keeps his eye on the bundle of energy. It isn't long before the baby escapes.  Earl enlists Buddy's help to get him back.

As they search, Earl imagines the many dreadful things that may have befallen a helpless baby bent on adventure of his own. Kids will howl when the lost is found and the searchers get a good look at the mayhem he is creating. In the end, there is one important lesson learned ... and Earl is happy to share it with friend Buddy.

As in the first two, Carey Sookocheff uses her winning artwork to show both sides of the story. They clearly match the story's events and every bit of fun.

Oh, it's great to have you back, Buddy and Earl! Can't wait to see you in your next adventure.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Pigloo, written by Anne Marie Pace and illustrated by Lorna Hussey. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan, Raincoast. 2016. $19.50 ages 3 and up

"In the morning, Pigloo puts on his boots and mittens and hat. His mother tells him to take off his hat to eat his eggs. (Hats at the table are the sort of thing mothers of explorers don't like.) "Are you going sledding today?" she asks. "I am going to the North Pole," Pigloo says. "With Paisley."

Pigloo wants to go exploring. Loving the snow, he sets the North Pole as his destination. He even knows what it will look like - a peppermint striped pole and a polar bear are sure to be visible upon arrival. He has everything he needs, except the snow!

His family members are not sure about this exploration. They ask him to exercise caution, and patience. His sister Paisley is not very supportive at all. Once the snow falls, and before setting off, he must have breakfast, dress to suit the weather and voice his plan.

"I am going to the North Pole," Pigloo says. "With Paisley."
"You know Admiral Byrd already found it, right?" Paisley asks.
"And I'm not going."

Pigloo is brave and prepared for his trip. He knows the markers, he knows a shortcut, and he finds a hill. Sledding is his only option if he plans on being home for lunch. Off he goes ... at a fast clip. He slows when he sees the pole, the bear and Paisley. Apparently, she took a 'shorter'cut. It means they arrive just in time for hot chocolate and warm soup.

Disappointed that he saw not one penguin, and learning that they only live at the South Pole, he makes a new plan for the afternoon. What about Paisley?

Warmhearted and sure to please kids wanting to hear seasonal stories starring snow, and seeking winter adventure.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Ming Goes to School, written by Deirdre Sullivan and illustrated by Maja Lofdahl. Sky Pony Press, Thomas Allen & Son. 2016. $25.99 ages 3 and up

"It's where she meets new
friends ...

and introduces the old.

It's where magic fairy
castles are built from
sticks ...

and growing up takes time."

I wish I had been able to share this with you in September when school started for most children. Children entering preschool can begin at other times during the year. So, this might be just what you need as you take or welcome a new child.

The text is perfectly suited to Ming's circumstance. It is her first day. Her father brings her in and goes off to start his day. As the seasons change and the year moves forward, Ming learns alongside her classmates. There is much to do, both inside and outside. And, there is time to wait until you are ready to try something brand new and a bit challenging.

This truly lovely book is a gentle introduction to the many joys and reflective moments that a school year for a young child entails. The soft, quiet watercolor artwork that depicts the classroom, the playground, the children who share the space and the gentle, encouraging teacher adds beauty to the strength of the sweet text.

"It's where all things ...
are worth waiting for."

It's a perfect for any child who will soon leave home to spend their days in new surroundings, and would make a lovely gift to share as they anticipate the experience.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Waiting For Snow, written by Marsha Diane Arnold and illustrated by Renata Liwska. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2016. $20.99 ages 2 and up

"My granny says a snow
dance will bring snow,"
said Vole. "But it has to
be a special dance, danced
with good friends." They
stomped and rocked. They
bopped and boogied. They
whirled and swirled. It
was a special dance!"
grumped Badger."

It's winter. Shouldn't there be snow? Badger is upset that there is none. Hedgehog, ever the optimist, allows that snow is sure to come. It might just take its own time to do it. Waiting is a worthwhile pursuit.

Badger feels as I do when my computer doesn't boot up fast enough to please me. He's tired of waiting! So, he pounds loudly on pots and pans, hoping to attract some attention from the sky. What he does attract very quickly is the attention of all his woodland friends - but, no snow.

Rabbit has a helpful idea. Perhaps they should throw small pebbles that will punch holes in the clouds. You can surely anticipate what happens next. Badger is disconsolate. No matter what Hedgehog suggests as likely to happen, Badger is unconvinced. That leaves it to his other animal friends to offer their own suggestions. Sleeping with his pajamas on backwards sends Badger to bed with high hopes. In the morning, it's snowing! Or is it?

Lovely scenes of the warmth of the indoors and the beauty to be found outside entertain readers with humor and a feeling of hope that Badger's wish will soon come true. There is much to be savored as you share its pages.

Let's leave the final word to the patient and thoughtful Hedgehog:

"Crocuses always bloom in spring, the sun rises every
morning, stars shine every night," said Hedgehog.
"Sometimes they come late and sometimes early,
but they always come, in their time."

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

They All Saw a Cat, written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2016. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"The cat walked through
the world, with its
whiskers, ears and
paws ...

and the fish saw
and the mouse
saw A CAT."

This absolutely unique and gorgeous book is ALL about perception. Each of the featured creatures saw a cat; they did not all see the same thing. It depends on the eye of the beholder, it seems.

The child sees a loving, friendly pet. The dog sees a sneaky, slinky, bony apparition with huge yellow eyes and an oversized bell around its neck. Too noisy for the dog? I wonder. The fox sees lunch, while the cat is focused on the terror of the chase. And so it goes ...

After a number of sightings, the reader is reminded that:

"The cat walked through the world,
with its whiskers, ears and paws ... "

looking just as we suspect everyone sees that cat. But, no! It is not true.

The text is rhythmically repetitive, and certainly easy to read and to follow. Set alongside Brendan Wenzel's attention-grabbing images, we see exactly how perception alters our view. The description for the art that graces the book's pages reads:

"The illustrations in the book were rendered in almost everything imaginable, including colored pencil, oil pastels, acrylic paint, watercolor, charcoal, Magic Marker, good old number 2 pencils, and even an iBook."

How lucky are we that he is so adept with each?

Everyone sees the cat differently. How that cat is perceived affects reaction and feelings toward it. They all did see a cat, we are reminded. The artistic style changes with each new observer. This is a book about science and art, about readers and empathy, and about imagination and wonder. It is a personal and beautiful thing!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter, written by Eugenie Doyle and illustrated by Becca Stadtlander. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2016. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"We shake straw over berry plants to blanket them from winter's frosty bite. Next April and May they'll leaf out green and blossom white. In June they'll give fruit so red and juicy we'll make jam and freeze berries to eat till summer comes again."

Is there ever rest for farmers? After producing crops of 'strawberries, raspberries, vegetables, honey, and hay' over a long growing season, the family is now working hard to put the farm to bed for a long winter's sleep. There is much to do, and everyone lends a helping hand.

As they blanket the strawberries with hay's protective cover, they look toward next year's harvest. The gardens are cleared, the vegetables stored and awaiting winter consumption. The fields are planted and covered to feed the soil. The raspberries are pruned to prevent wind damage, and the brush burned. There is so much to do.

Wood must be cut and stored for winter warmth, and for fueling the fires to boil sap into syrup come spring. The chicken coop is repaired, and then rigged with lighting and heat to ensure eggs for hardy winter breakfasts. There is so much to do.

Beehives are protected from winter winds, and to shelter the bees. The farm stand offers plentiful delights for the upcoming holidays. Farm equipment is stored, warm candles are lit and happy holiday lights are hung, meant to warm the hearts of all who live there. The family says goodnight.

"The farm is ready
for down quilts of snow,
the shh-shh of the wind.
Dad tucks us in.

Good night, farmers,
sleep tight."

The painted images of the farm work being lovingly shared are as calm as the quiet, lovely words.
They leaves readers (and listeners) with a feeling of peace, while also learning much about the farm itself and all that it produces to sustain this family. Take time to have a careful look at the many wonderful details included on every single page. It is worth your while.

An author's note is the perfect ending!