Posted in picture books

Women to Know: Frida Kahlo

The Two Fridas: Memories Written by Frida Kahlo, Illustrated by Gianluca Folì, (March 2021, Schiffer Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9780764361166

Ages 5-8

When most people think of Frida Kahlo, they usually think of adult Frida, with flowers in her hair and thick eyebrows. Maybe they’ll think of her love for animals and her many pets. The Two Fridas, taken from the artist’s own diary, introduces readers to a younger Frida; a child who creates an imaginary friend and a fantasy world. The “other” Frida is a friend that will always listen to Frida’s “secret problems” and will always play and laugh with her. The Two Fridas is a peek into a child’s imaginary world; artwork in shades of grey, black and white has minimal, quiet color to emphasize Frida’s journey into her fantasy world. At the conclusion, we realize that this is Frida’s own recollection, as the art moves into an artist’s workroom, with the Frida people have come to know, seated and working on a self-portrait. The Two Fridas lets children know that it’s okay to have an imaginary place to go, an imaginary friend to spend time with, and to take that joy with you into adulthood. A biographical note on Kahlo talks about the artist’s relationship to her sisters, the ailments that kept Frida home, even bedridden, and the imaginary friend that meant so much to her that she dedicated a painting to her in 1939. Originally published in Spanish in 2019, The Two Fridas provides a new look at an iconic artist.

For more information about Frida Kahlo, visit The Frida Kahlo Foundation and The Blue House, the museum located in Frida’s former residence.  The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has a page dedicated to her. Education.com has a free, downloadable biography worksheet on the artist, and Teachers Pay Teachers has many free activities for all ages, including Llamame Spanish’s Spanish-language biography worksheet, Art with Mrs E’s coloring sheet, Lindsey Carter’s Frida paper doll, and Fun for Spanish Teacher’s presentation.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Ellie’s Dragon and childhood magic

Ellie’s Dragon, by Bob Graham, (Nov. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536211139

Ages 3-7

Little Ellie discovers a tiny dragon atop an egg carton while at the grocery store with her mother, and immediately takes him home and names him Scratch. Ellie’s mother doesn’t see him, nor does her teacher, but all her friends do. As Ellie gets older, her relationship with Dragon begins to change: she’s paying less attention to him, more interested in birthday parties and music, and he begins fading away. A bittersweet story about the magic of childhood and growing up, Ellie’s Dragon is a good reminder to us grownups not to let the spark of magic fade as we grow up, and a reassurance to kids that they are absolutely clued in to moments that adults overlook. Award-winning author and illustrator Bob Graham tells a magical story, accompanied by his dreamy watercolors; Scratch is a tiny green dragon with bits of yellow and pink; his wings gently flap and he gives off a little plume of smoke. Ellie leads him along on a leash, attracting the attention of kids everywhere she goes, and Scratch lovingly indulges them, eating birthday candles and snuggling with them at naptime. You’ll ache when you see Scratch left behind as Ellie grows up and away from him, but don’t worry – our childhood friends don’t fade away; they move on to someone else who needs them. A gentle story for kiddos moving up from toddlerhood to preschoool and Kindergarten. Remind your Kiddos to always look for their dragons and unicorns, and to keep their everyday magic close.

Posted in Uncategorized

Blog Tour and Giveaway: A Tiger Like Me!

A little boy and his tiger alter-ego bound through the day, doing all sorts of tiger things: waking up in his tiger den, eating breakfast ast his feeding spot, springing up at those lazy humans… it’s all in a tiger’s day, after all! At night, the restless tiger can’t find sleep in his sleeping place, so he heads to his parents’ den for cuddles, and thinks about how great it is to be a tiger as he drifts off to sleep.

A Tiger Like Me, by Michael Englel/Illustrated by Joëlle Tourlonias, Translated by Laura Watkinson,
(Sept. 2019, Amazon Crossing), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1542044561
Ages 4-7

This is another title from Amazon Crossing, the translation imprint from Amazon’s publishing group. Originally published in Germany, A Tiger Like Me is a book every kid (and grownup) can enjoy, because it’s a celebration of childhood imagination. The book flap genders the child as male, but the artwork and text don’t make any gender definitive. Narrated by the kid-Tiger, it’s a spot-on glimpse into a child’s imagination as they navigate the world in Tiger Mode. There’s repetition of the phrase, “Because I am a tiger, a tiger!” on each spread, as they go about their day; waking up, they are a “tiger, a wide-awake tiger!”; eating breakfast, “a greedy, gutsy tiger!”; getting caught in a laundry basket full of clothes, “a clumsy, klutzy tiger!”. Mom and Dad are there to provide some comic fun, particularly when the Tiger jumps at Dad, making him spill his coffee and grab for the Tiger, hunter-style. The day ends with a loving family cuddle, making this a great bedtime story for your own little tigers.

The digital artwork is playful, fun, and bright, with an almost hand-sketched look to some details. There are great little nuances throughout the story: look for the Tiger’s toy animal friends laying around the pages, and Dad drinks from a mug with a tiger’s face on it. Tiger eats Tiger Crunch cereal and envisions itself eating at a stone table with cave paintings on it. There’s so much to enjoy here; you won’t want to read it just once. Pages are full-bleed, with atmosphere switching from a family home to a jungle. The endpapers offer a lead-in and drift-out to the story, too: opening endpapers show us the Tiger waking up and ready to begin his day as a poetic introduction about a tiger stirring in his den introduces readers to the story. The closing endpapers show our Tiger, back in his den, as a poetic epilogue to the story takes readers out of the story. This one is an adorable add to bedtime story collections.

Michael Engler studied visual communication in Düsseldorf, Germany, and first worked as a scriptwriter and illustrator. He then spent several years as an art director at advertising agencies. He is currently a freelance author in Düsseldorf, writing children’s books and plays for the theater and radio. He has written more than fifteen children’s books. Learn more about him online at www.michaelengler.com.

 

Joëlle Tourlonias was born in Hanau, Germany, and studied visual communication with an emphasis on illustration and painting at the Bauhaus University Weimar. She is the illustrator of more than thirty children’s books. She continues to draw, paint, and live in Düsseldorf. Learn more about her online at www.joelletourlonias.blogspot.com.

 

Laura Watkinson is an award-winning translator of books for young readers and adults. She is a three-time winner of the Batchelder Award and also won the Vondel Prize for Dutch-English translation. Originally from the United Kingdom, she now lives in Amsterdam. Learn more online at www.laurawatkinson.com.

 

 

 

“Child readers (and certainly adult caregivers) will identify with the book’s central message: Children can experience a wide swath of feelings, everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has complicated ways of interacting with the world. The final quiet pages offer a peaceful conclusion…Wildness is part and parcel of everyday childhood, embraced here with a roar.” —Kirkus Reviews

 

Want a shot at winning your own copy of A Tiger Like Me, courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids? Check out this Rafflecopter giveaway (U.S. addresses only, please!)

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Workin’ the Mama- and Papa-razzi: I Am Famous!

I Am Famous, by Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie/Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, (March 2018, Albert Whitman), $16.99, ISBN: 9780807534403

Recommended for readers 3-7

Kiely, a fabulous little girl, knows how to work her fame in this adorable picture book. She’s a true diva with her own sense of style and drama; her movies all go viral, and she gets tons of mail from adoring fans. Sure, the paparazzi are relentless, chasing her when she’s driving, photographing her while she’s eating, and barging in to catch a picture of her in the bathtub, but what do you expect? She’s famous! She’s got a performance at Grandpa’s birthday party, so she has to look and sound her best, but what happens when the grand finale has drama of its own? Pfft, no worries: the fans are loyal.

I Am Famous is just about every kid’s story; they’re little celebrities, as we see here; our world-weary, fierce, brown-skinned beauty tells us, her devoted readers, about the price of fame. I’ve long referred to myself as the Mamarazzi, and have more than a few pictures of each of my kids at the exact moment they’re sick of me and my camera. This light-hearted look at modern childhood comes with easy comparisons to modern celebrity: the viral movies via family Instagrams; the special treatment being a kid gets from just about anyone they meet (so many lollipops); the nonstop love from the fan club via letters and birthday cards from grandparents. Even when Kiely’s performance hits a snag, she gets the star treatment: unconditional love and adoration.

I Am Famous is fun storytime reading, with short, easily readable sentences and wonderfully expressive artwork that sweeps across the pages. This one’s a very cute add to storytime collections and a fun gift for the diva in your family.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade

You’ll want a Bob of your own!

Bob, by Wendy Mass & Rebecca Stead/Illustrations by Nicholas Gannon, (May 2018, Feiwel & Friends), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250166623

Recommended for readers 7-11

Livy is heading to Australia with her mother and new baby sister, BethAnn, to spend time with her grandmother. The last time she was in Australia was five years ago, so she’s a bit anxious about being back; she’s also anxious because her mother is going away for a few days to spend time with friends once she gets there. Once Livy arrives, she’s even more anxious when she doesn’t really remember much about Australia – and she certainly doesn’t remember Bob, the greenish, kinda zombie-looking thing she finds in the closet once she gets there. Bob remembers Livy, though; he’s been waiting for five years for her to come back. The two re-explore their friendship and try to remember how to get Bob back home in this celebration of friendship, the environment, and the magic of childhood.

When two award-winning authors like Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead collaborate on a book, you just know it’s going to be something amazing, and Bob is. Told in alternating first-person chapters, we get each characters’ point-of-view as the story progresses, which also fills in valuable backstory. Livy is a relatable character, dealing with anxiety: there’s a new baby in the family, she’s got separation anxiety about her mom, and her grandmother and neighbors are living through a five-year drought that’s killing their town and their livelihoods. Bob is sweet and funny, loyal to a fault, and gives his spark to Livy; to give her hope, to rekindle their friendship, to bring back the “old Livy”. I can’t get into too much without giving spoilers, and you don’t want that with this book. So let me just say that Bob is wonderful middle-grade storytelling that embraces imagination and joy. I can’t wait to see an illustrated version (my ARC didn’t have any). (Psst… would also make a good Earth Day reading assignment for next year.)

There’s been a lot of buzz about Bob lately: SLJ and Publisher’s Weekly gave it starred reviews, and you can read author interviews at The Horn Book and Publisher’s Weekly. You can download an excerpt see artwork that will melt your heart, and learn how to start a Bob book club at the Bob and Livy website.

Posted in Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

An overscheduled princess takes a day off: Princess Cora and the Crocodile

Princess Cora and the Crocodile, by Laura Amy Schlitz/Illustrated by Brian Floca, (March 2017, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-4822-0

Recommended for readers 4-8

A king and queen have a baby that they coo and marvel over – until they realize that she’s clearly not ready to run an entire kingdom. From that moment on, Princess Cora’s life is a nonstop schedule of lessons, physical training, and nonstop bathing (seriously, her nanny’s got a bit of a complex). Cora writes to her fairy godmother in desperation, and the response, while not necessarily what Cora expected, is exactly what she needs. A crocodile shows up to take Cora’s place for a day; while Cora takes a day off to enjoy being a kid, the crocodile sets to teaching the king, queen, and nanny a thing or two.

Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz and Caldecott Medalist Brian Floca have joined their considerable forces to create a book that parents need to read (cough, cough, and education administrators, cough, cough) as much as their children do. Princess Cora and the Crocodile is all about the stresses our kids face today: the lack of time to enjoy being a kid, doing kid things. The king and queen are so stressed out about what Cora’s not ready for, they strip the joy not only from Cora’s childhood, but rob themselves of the chance to enjoy watching Cora grow up; of playing on the floor with her as an infant, climbing trees and running around their considerable lands with her, of reveling in the carefree fun that parents should embrace.

When Cora’s fairy godmother sends a crocodile to her family, the croc immediately – if a bit roughly – sets to whipping Cora’s family into shape, with hilarious results. While the croc wreaks havoc at home, Cora spends the day picking strawberries, climbing trees, even stepping in a cow pie, and enjoying every moment of it. Every. Unscheduled. Moment. Brian Floca’s ink, watercoor, and gouache artwork is fun, hilarious, and every bit as free and joyful as the story’s text.

Image courtesy of Brian Floca

Parents, read this one. Please. It’s as much for us as it is for our kids. Schlitz and Floca created this fairy tale to let kids know that it’s okay to be a kid, but the message here is for us adults, because we’re the ones who can make the changes kids need to be happy – to be kids – again.

Princess Cora and the Crocodile received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly.

Illustrator Brian Floca has a fantastic webpage, with lots of online extras, information about school visits, and upcoming events.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Little Blue Chair: the power of sharing, the power of home

Little Blue Chair, by Cary Fagan/Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper, (Jan. 2017, Tundra Books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-77049-755-9

Recommended for readers 3-7

A little boy outgrows his favorite blue chair, so his mother puts it on the curb with a sign reading, “Please take me”. From there, Little Blue Chair follows the chair as it’s passed from hand to hand: it’s used as a replacement seat on a plant stand; a ferris wheel; a bird feeder; a throne, and a chair for elephant rides. It travels to amusement parks, houseboats, and beaches, ultimately coming full-circle as it arrives back where it began. It’s a sweet story about a favorite belonging – it could easily be a toy, as in Kate DiCamillo’s The Mysterious Journey of Edward Tulane – and the power of home, but it’s also a story about the permanence of objects. The chair is never thrown in the trash; it’s used again and again, serving different purposes for different people, all of whom love the chair while they have it. It’s a journey home.

Madeline Kloepper’s ink and pencil illustrations, finished digitally, a soft and gentle, calming to the reader. The palette of opaque greens, reds, dark yellows, and gray-blues gives the story almost dreamlike feel; a child’s imagination realized, from one boy using the chair as a tent, to another using it as a throne, his stuffed toys as subjects. Everything in this world has a story; everything has a value. Read this with your little ones and talk about the stories their toys hold. If you’re in a school, talk about the desks: what stories could they tell?

courtesy of Madeline Kloepper’s website

I’d love to pair this with Mirielle Messier’s The Branch and compare the two stories. They’re both books about reusing and repurposing; one, a child’s chair; the other, a branch from a favorite tree.

Cary Fagan is an award-winning children’s author. See more of Madeline Kloepper’s illustration at her website.

Posted in Fiction

Rebuilding Childhood Libraries: My Quest

As I mourn the Library of Alexandria, so too, I lament the passing of my own childhood library. I’m not talking about Narnia, Middle Earth, Whoville, or The Monster at the End of the Book; no: those books are still very much in print and enjoyed the world over, and they should be. They’re wonderful, and they’re classics for good reason. I still have my childhood copies. No, I’m talking about some of those books that strike you, often out of nowhere, when you say, “What happened to that book? Can I get another copy of that one? I want to read it RIGHT NOW.”

I loved Pyewacket, by Rosemary Weir, when I was a kid. LOVED this book. Slept with it, read it until the binding fell off. I don’t know when my copy of Pyewacket and I parted ways, but about two years ago, I wanted it. Thanks to Amazon, I was able to secure myself a former library copy at 2 in the morning, when the need was too great to withstand (hey, The Strand has to close sometime). Pyewacket and I have been reunited, and it feels so good. And that got me thinking about other books from my childhood library that I want back; join me, as I begin my quest to rebuild my own personal Alexandria.

 

Pyewacket, by Rosemary Weir, 1967, Abelard-Schuman

pyewacket

The cats of Pig Lane are sick of their humans. They want to be free, to form their own cat community, so they make a deal with the local rats and mice to drive the humans out, leaving the neighborhood to them. Pyewacket, the old alley cat, is the leader of the group. He’s a big old tomcat with a torn ear, and a rockstar to the other cats. I love this book.

 

The Lively Adventures of a Burly Woodcutter, a Pint-Sized Inventory, Two Pretty Pastry Cooks, and a Gang of Desperate Criminals,
by Hilde Janzarik, 1966, Harper & Row

lively adventures

This one is another fave, and when I was talking about it with one of my BFFs, she flipped out: she loves this book, too, and hadn’t thought about it in years, until I mentioned it. This is next on my “must acquire” list. The title here pretty much tells you everything you need to know. I remember reading this large hardcover, laughing out loud at the sheer craziness of the story, and loving every minute of it. I can’t wait to get a copy of it again, and introduce it to my 4 year-old. If you love Monty Python, it’s that level of surreal, but for kids.

What’s New, Lincoln?, by Dale Fife, Coward-McCann, 1970

lincoln

This one was my challenge. I remembered it was about a kid from the projects, whose dad is a merchant marine, and he created a neighborhood newspaper that got his neighbors mad at him. I couldn’t remember the title, I vaguely thought the main character’s name was Lincoln, and that’s about it. Lots and lots of keyword searches and Google Book obsessing finally led me to this title – and I discovered that there were FOUR Lincoln books in total! My friend – the one who also loved The Lively Adventures – squealed along with me, because this was one of her faves, too! Who else loved this book? You’ve got to be out there! Did anyone else start their own newspaper because of Lincoln? I wrote one up talking all about my toys’ adventures like they were my neighbors.

The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright (The Melendy Quartet), 1941, Farrar & Rinehart

Saturdays5.jpg

Yes! A book from 1941! It’s still sold in paperback, I think, but this is the cover I remember having and loving (those Dell Yearling covers were so good). Little did I know that this was the first book in the Melendy Quartet – four books about the ISAAC siblings! Four siblings get tired of having nothing to do on Saturdays, because their individual allowances are so tiny, so they form a club – Independent Saturday Afternoon Adventure Club (I.S.A.A.C.). – pool their allowances, and one sibling gets to use the money each Saturday, to go enjoy themselves in New York City. I loved reading about NYC in the ’40s, and being an only child, books about siblings always drew me right in. This series is on the list.

The Dark Forces series, various authors, 1983-1984, Bantam

thegame thedoll

I didn’t have Goosebumps when I was a tween, I had Dark Forces. We had ouija boards, devil dolls, and dark magic, and it was amazing. As far as I can tell, there were 15 books in the series. I remember having a bunch, but I specifically remember The Game and The Doll. Maybe Devil Wind, The Companion, and Magic Show. Doesn’t matter: I will have them all.

So that’s a quick roundup of books so far. Come on, there has to be books from your childhood that you want back! Sound off in the comments, I’ll write them up in a future post!

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Kid Athletes makes sports legends accessible to all!

kid athletesKid Athletes: True Tales of Childhood from Sports Legends, by David Stabler/Illustrated by Doogie Horner, (Nov. 20156, Quirk Books), $13.95, ISBN: 978-1-59474-802-8

Recommended for ages 8-12

The author and illustrator of Kid Presidents are back, this time with 20 true stories from famous athletes’ childhoods. From Babe Ruth to Tiger Woods, there’s a story for everyone here; there’s a great range of sports, spotlights on both male and female athletes, and featuring a multicultural spread of personalities, including Jackie Robinson, Yao Ming, Gabby Douglas, Bruce Lee, and Muhammad Ali. There are some great stories to tell: Babe Ruth grew up in an orphanage after his parents gave him up; soccer player Lionel Messi was teased for being small; Gabby Douglas and Jackie Robinson experienced racism from her own peers. Each profiled athlete provides inspiration for young readers on meeting and conquering challenges in their personal and professional lives. Kids will recognize many of the challenges – racism, poverty, sexism – faced by the athletes and be moved by the humanity behind the legendary personalities.

Doogie Horner’s colorful illustrations throughout the book add to each profile, infusing the biographies with color and personality.

Kid Athletes is a hit, with bite-sized bios on sports figures past and present, that will work for quick reads and quick class assignments. Get this one on your shelves, hopefully right next to your copy of Kid Presidents.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Tween Reads

Frank and His Friend: A Pre-Calvin and Hobbes Cartoon About Friendship

Book Review: Frank and His Friend: Special Collector’s Edition, by Clarence “Otis” Dooley (Curio & Co, 2013)

Recommended for ages 8+

I’m trying something new and fun with this blog, and creating more interesting (I hope!) titles for the reviews. I’ll still note the book title and bibliographic info at the top, as you see above, but I’m hoping that the review titles give you a little more information to draw eyes to the reviews and the great books I write about here.

FF3_Book_Cover_PRESS

This time around, I’ve read a trade paperback of a 1970s-era serial comic strip, Frank and His Friend. The premise will remind readers of Calvin and Hobbes, a favorite of mine: a young boy and his stuffed toy, Frank, go on adventures and experience life through a child’s eyes. While Frank doesn’t speak, as Hobbes does, readers will still get some pretty serious life advice from his pairing with his “friend” as they spend time in nature, playing, embracing chocolate chip cookies and avoiding broccoli.

The black and white artwork is simple and elegant, and gets the point of each short story across. There are a mix of panels and full pages in the book, and adults and kids alike will enjoy Frank and His Friend’s stories, which encourages readers to use their imaginations. One on page, the boy clings tightly to Frank with one hand, a balloon clutched in the other, and says, “Hang on tight. You don’t want to get lost in the ether of space.”

The stories invoke some thoughtful moments. When fighting their advancing enemy who suddenly becomes invisible, the boy looks at Frank and sighs, “Typical Monday.” The boy tries on a pair of eyeglasses, presumably belonging to a parent, and declares that he’d “rather look at the world through my own eyes.”

The book is a good idea to give to kids who are surrounded by the chaos of electronics, school, and extracurricular moments, to introduce them to the quiet, peaceful moments of childhood. And adults will enjoy returning to that peaceful time.

FrankAndHisFriendSCE_Prev1

Frank and His Friend: Special Collector’s Edition

Writer and Artist: Clarence “Otis” Dooley
Price: $19.95
Pages: 128
Pub Date: December 11, 2013
ISBN: 9783950296631
Diamond Order Code: OCT131033