Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: Super Rooster Saves the Day!

Get your cape on, put on the Chicken Dance, and turn up the volume, because here comes SUPER ROOSTER!

Super Rooster Saves the Day, by Maureen Wright/Illustrated by Rob McClurkan,
(Oct. 2020, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1542007788
Ages 4-7

Ralph the Rooster wants to be a superhero. He borrows the farmer’s kerchief to use as a cape. He reads superhero books. He crows flies, makes himself invisible… within reason, of course. The other farm animals are a bit dubious as to Super Rooster’s status as a superhero, but his best friend, Rosie the Pig, is always in his corner! Life on the farm really isn’t terribly exciting, but one day, when the farmer leaves the radio on in the barn, Ralph hears a song that changes his life… the Chicken Dance. With a cheep-cheep-cheep, a flap-flap-flap, a wiggle-wiggle-wiggle, and a clap-clap-clap, he is off and running! The only problem? Where Ralph sees opportunities to be a superhero, the other animals see the ordinary: until the chance to save the day appears. Will Ralph rise to the occasion and save the day?

Super Rooster Saves the Day is such fun! The digital artwork is expressive and cartoony, with picture book and comic book-type panels throughout; there are sound effects and repetition, making this a super read-aloud choice and a great book to give to your superhero fans. The colors are bright and the text is bold and black, popping right off the page. The sound effects and Chicken Dance movements just beg listeners to jump up and dance along.

Absolute fun for a farm or a superhero readaloud – heck, add some of John Himmelman’s “To the Rescue” books (Chickens, Cows, Pigs, Ducks) and have the best of both worlds. And whatever you do, play The Chicken Dance LOUD.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

A new intermediate series arrives in the US: Jasmine Green Rescues

I’ve just finished two books in an intermediate series that’s debuting here this month. Jasmine Green Rescues, originally published in the UK, is a series of books about a young girl named Jasmine. Her dad is a farmer; her mom is a farm vet, and Jasmine and her best friend, Tom, both adore animals.

Jasmine Green Rescues: A Piglet Called Truffle, by Helen Peters/Illustated by Ellie Snowdon, (March 2020, Candlewick Press), $14.99, ISBN: 9781536210255

Ages 7-11

We meet Jasmine when her mom, Nadia, is called to help a farmer with one of his laboring cows. Jasmine tags along and visits a new litter of piglets, noticing that a runt has been overlooked and is in desperate need of special care. She quietly “adopts” the runt, when the farmer decides it’s best to let nature take its course, but Jasmine’s parents discover the piglet, which Jasmine has already named Truffle, and suggest Jasmine clear it with the farmer before allowing her to nurse Truffle back to health. Jasmine and her best friend, Tom, quickly discover that Truffle is pretty smart, which will come in very handy when Jasmine boards Tom’s guinea pigs!

This first book in the Jasmine Green series puts the overall theme of the series into motion. We meet Jasmine and her best friend, Tom, who are working toward creating a veterinary/pet boarding practice. Jasmine’s older sister and younger brother make appearances, as do her parents, to give us more depth and set up further adventures. Having a veterinarian mother and farmer father means readers get some good information about farm animals and pet care, too! There’s a lot packed into this slim volume, but animal lovers will embrace Jasmine and company, especially with Ellie Snowdon’s black and white illustrations adding adorable animals and farm scenes to enjoy. You can enjoy a preview chapter at Candlewick’s webpage.

 

Jasmine Green Rescues: A Duckling Called Button, by Helen Peters/Illustated by Ellie Snowdon, (March 2020, Candlewick Press), $14.99, ISBN: 9781536210255

Ages 7-11

In this second Jasmine Green outing, Jasmine and Tom rescue a group of orphaned duck eggs when an unleashed dog wreaks havoc on Jasmine’s father’s land. The work is hard and heartbreaking, but so rewarding when one duckling survives and bonds with Jasmine. Readers learn how much care goes into taking care of eggs and baby animals here, going through the emotional work with Jasmine throughout the story. Like Truffle the piglet, Button is a pretty extraordinary duckling and befriends other animals on the farm, becoming especially close to a lamb Jasmine’s dad cares for. Can Button help save the day – and the when an emergency happens at the farm?

Like A Piglet Called Truffle, A Duckling Called Button is sweet with emotional moments. Both books take a no-nonsense look at nature, which can be unkind; animals do die in these stories, and Jasmine grieves when they do, showing kids that it’s okay; it’s normal. The books illustrate the incredible amount of dedication, love, and work that go into caring for animals, and Jasmine’s plan to become a veterinarian/animal boarding service is sound and she and Tom show initiative in revisiting their plans and revising them as they go, also showing readers how to put their ideas and dreams into action. Once again, Ellie Snowdon’s artwork enhances the story with black and white illustrations. Sample a chapter at Candlewick’s webpage.

I’m enjoying what I’ve read of this series so far and look forward to seeing what other Jasmine Green adventures the future holds! Give these to your E.B. White fans, your Shelter Pet Squad readers, and fans of Hilary McKay’s Lulu series.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

But what if the sky really *was* falling? DUCK!

Duck!, by Meg McKinlay/Illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom, (Aug. 2019, Candlewick), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536204223

Ages 3-7

It’s a quiet afternoon at the farm when a duck comes running, panicked, yelling, “DUCK!” The horse, cow, pig, and sheep each correct him, reminding him that he is the duck, and they have far lovelier qualities (like a fine pink snout or a fine pair of cloven hooves). The duck remains insistent, until the animals are tired of him and lecture him. At that point, Duck tells them to run… just in time for a house to come crashing down on the group. A newspaper headline strewn about the downed house notes that there are tornadoes in Kansas… and there’s a street sign in the debris that says, “Kansas”.

Duck! is a fun spin on the classic Chicken Little tale, with a cumulative spin added. Each animal that corrects Duck adds his own name and qualities onto the growing list of animals Duck is trying to warn. The artwork is wonderfully subtle here – alert readers will get the idea that something’s up when they see something in the sky, right next to a cloud… is that a house? As the spreads progress, the house gets closer, the sky gets darker, and leaves and household objects start entering the pages. The entire book is a sight gag and a play on words, and I love reading this to the kids. My son likes reading Duck’s parts, and I take the other animals.

The illustrations are done in pencil, acrylic, and digital and are colorful and are full-bleed, taking up each spread with something to see. The sky starts out as a light blue and darkens as the story moves forward; the characters’ faces are comical enough to mimic while telling the story for maximum laughs. Don’t miss this one.

Originally published in Australia in 2018, you can find free, downloadable activities and discussion questions at author Meg McKinlay’s website.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Chickens Are Coming! What do we do?

The Chickens Are Coming!, by Barbara Samuels, (March 2019, Farrar Straus Giroux), $17.99, ISBN: 9780374300975

Ages 4-8

Siblings Winston and Sophie are shopping with their mom one day when they discover an interesting sign: someone called The Chicken Lady is moving and needs to rehome her chickens. Winston, Sophie, and their parents decide to take on the task of becoming urban farmers and adopting them! They get their backyard ready, setting up the coop and telling their friends; they promise fresh eggs to everyone, and Winston even creates a Chicken Dance. Once the chickens arrive, though, the family learns that chickens take work! They don’t want to be pets and they don’t want to lay eggs: not even for bedtime stories; not for relaxing music that the kids play for them; not at all. As Winston and Sophie try desperately to get the chickens to acclimate to their new home and family, they discover that each chicken has its own personality – and that each one is special is in its own way.

The Chickens are Coming! is a cute story about patience and learning. Winston and Sophie learn about raising farm animals in a city environment, which comes with unique challenges, and they learn that chickens aren’t just egg-laying machines for their convenience. Colorful artwork makes this appealing to readers, and each chicken is beautifully illustrated. An author’s note provides information about urban chicken-rearing, and a copy of Sophie’s Chicken Chart shows lets readers compare the different breeds, countries of origin, and egg sizes and colors. Endpapers feature the chickens in their colorful glory.

Pair this one with Caroline Arnold’s Hatching Chicks in Room 6 for more information about raising chicks in a nontraditional environment. This is a good read before a farm or domestic animal zoo visit.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Saving Winslow is another hit for Sharon Creech

Saving Winslow, by Sharon Creech, (Sept. 2018, Harper Collins Children’s Books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-06-257073-4

Ages 7-12

Louie is a gentle 10-year-old boy with a horrible history of caring for animals: worms, lightning bugs, goldfish, and several bigger animals have all perished or escaped under his care, but when his father brings home a baby donkey, orphaned at birth, from Louie’s uncle’s farm – to care for it until, “you know – until it dies”, Louie accepts the mission. He’s going to save this donkey. You see, Louie was a preemie at birth, and his parents weren’t sure he’d make it, either. Love and determination kept Louie going, and he’s sure that it will keep Winslow – the name he gives the donkey – going. And it does. Winslow struggles, but thrives under Louie’s care, to everyone’s surprise. His new neighbor, Nora, a girl grieving the losses of both her premature baby brother and her dog, is amazed, but pessimistic, warning Louie that Winslow is going to die, and not to get too attached. Louie puts everything into saving Winslow, wishing he could speak to his older brother, Gus, who’s serving in the military, about Winslow, but letters from Gus come few and far between these days, and are always signed “remember me”. As Louie saves Winslow, Winslow may save everyone around him.

Full disclosure: this is my first Sharon Creech novel. Now I get it. I get why she’s a force in kidlit, a multiple award winner, and why her books are always on my library kids’ summer reading lists. She masters feeling and emotion through eloquent, brief prose. I was hers from the opening lines in the book, and I was with her until the last phrase closed the story. I told a friend of mine that Saving Winslow broke me apart and put me back together in the way that Charlotte’s Web did when I read it the first time as a child. Sharon Creech invests readers in every single character in this book, from the baby donkey, to the pessimistic neighbor kid, to the crabby next door neighbor, but we are always focused on Louie and his story. Saving Winslow is a story of hope and perseverance, and it’s a story about the need to believe in the positive. Every library needs a copy of this book – let’s get this one on the summer reading lists, please! – and kids with gentle hearts and sad souls alike will find comfort in it. An absolute must-have, must-read.

Saving Winslow has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, and Horn Book. Sharon Creech has a Newbery Medal for Walk Two Moons (1995), and received Newbery Honors for The Wanderer (2001). Her book, Ruby Holler (2002), is a Carnegie Medal winner. Her author website offers information and links to her social media, and downloadable reading guides for most of her books.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

Series fiction gift ideas!

There are some nifty things about series fiction: there are usually a few published throughout a calendar year, and they’re usually reasonably inexpensive, so you can scoop up a few as a nice gift. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed lately.

Anna Hibiscus

Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus!, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Lauren Tobia, (Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-678-6
Go Well, Anna Hibiscus!, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Lauren Tobia, (Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-679-3
Love From Anna Hibiscus!, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Lauren Tobia, (Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-680-9
You’re Amazing, Anna Hibiscus!, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Lauren Tobia, (Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-681-6
Good for readers 6-8

This series is wonderful. While it is a running series, you won’t be lost if you don’t read in numerical order. I came in on books 4-8 and have the first four on request from another library; I was captivated by this slice of life series about a young girl who lives with her paternal, extended family, in Africa. The book celebrates African culture and community, family, and empathy. In Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus, Anna has returned to beautiful Africa after vacationing with her maternal grandmother in Canada. She’s thrilled to be home, gains a new pet, and eases back into daily life. Go Well, Anna Hibiscus! sees Anna and her family returning to her grandparents’ village, where life is slower; there’s no running water or electricity, and kids don’t go to school. Anna learns how to make new friends and learns from them even as she teaches. In Love from Anna Hibiscus!, Anna’s grandfather discovers that an old friend of his has passed away, leaving a young grandson, Sunny Belafonte, on his own. The boy is starving and steals in order to eat; Grandfather and Anna know they must intervene. You’re Amazing, Anna Hibiscus! is the strongest book in this very strong series: Grandfather is becoming more and more tired. Anna is left to work through the grief that that comes with a death in the family. The books paint a beautiful picture of everyday family life and the compassion Anna and her family have for others. Anna and her family are African but for her mother, who is Anglo-Canadian; something that is communicated through illustration. The black and white illustrations throughout show a loving family and scenes of African life: Anna teaching village children to write the alphabet using sticks and the ground; Grandmother weaves a basket; the kids ride an uncomfortably crowded bus to Grandfather’s village. Originally published between 2012-2016 by Walker Books, the series is now available from American publisher Kane Miller. Give this set to kids and broaden their horizons.

 

Animal Planet Adventures

Dolphin Rescue, by Catherine Nichols, (Feb. 2017, Liberty Street), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-61893-169-6
Farm Friends Escape!, by Catherine Nichols, (Feb. 2017, Liberty Street), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-61893-416-1
Puppy Rescue Riddle, by Catherine Nichols, (Sept. 2017, Liberty Street), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-68330-008-3
Zoo Camp Puzzle, by Gail Herman, (Sept. 2017, Liberty Street), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-68330-009-0
Good for readers 6-10

Simultaneously available in hardcover or $5.99 paperback, this Animal Planet fiction series debuted earlier this year and blends fiction and nonfiction. I enjoyed the first two books, Dolphin Rescue and Farm Friends Escape!, earlier this year; I just read the next two, Puppy Rescue Riddle and Zoo Camp Puzzle, and can honestly say I get a kick out of this series. It’s a true series in that each book is its own separate adventure; there’s no crossover with other characters or locations, so every book stands alone and makes it easy to dive in and enjoy whatever appeals to readers. Don’t like farm animals much? No worries, just read another book. There’s a major plot running through each book and a mystery subplot that the characters must work together to solve: with Puppy Rescue Riddle, a group of friends volunteer at an animal shelter and have to find a puppy who’s gotten lost in a house; Zoo Camp Puzzle stars twin siblings, temporarily living with and being homeschooled by their father at a zoo while he works on a book. The twins notice that animals are going into hiding, and work to get to the bottom of the mystery. Zoo Camp Puzzle has fun word searches and puzzles throughout (which will necessitate a “Do Not Write in This Book” label on my library copy). Each book also has a cute flip book feature – flip the pages, and see dolphins swim, ducks waddle, puppies run, and zoo animals shuffle along.  The illustrations are in color, and full-color nonfiction sections throughout each book provide information on veterinarians, how animals react to changes in weather patterns, and more. The set is available in both hardcover and paperback. Great set for young animal fans.

 

Ella and Owen

Ella and Owen: The Cave of AAAAAH! Doom!, by Jaden Kent/Illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk, (March 2017, little bee books), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0368-6
Ella and Owen: Attack of the Stinky Fish Monster!, by Jaden Kent/Illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk, (March 2017, little bee books), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0369-3
Ella and Owen: Attack of the Knights vs. Dragons, by Jaden Kent/Illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk, (May 2017, little bee books), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0372-3

Dragon siblings Ella and Owen are forever bickering. Owen is bookish and likes staying home, reading; Ella is adventurous and always ready to push the envelope. In The Cave of AAAAAH! Doom!, the two search for a cure for Owen’s cold, only to go up against an ogre and evil vegetable wizard. In Attack of the Stinky Fish Monster!, the siblings want to surprise their mom with a cake made of delicious stinky fish, so off they go. They end up turned into newts by a wizard named Ken, bargain with a pixie, and find a stinky fish monster: a very large, very grumpy, stinky fish monster. Knights vs. Dragons goes a little deeper as the dragons find a group of knights who hate dragons because they’ve followed a culture of hating dragons for years: fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers have always hated dragons; that’s just the way it is, right? When the knights encounter a group of trolls who hate knights for the same reason – and are a lot bigger, stronger, and scarier than the knights are – Ella and Owen have a chance to teach the knights a valuable lesson about acceptance. This is a fun series – there are four in print at the moment – that kids who love dragons and silly fantasy will enjoy. There are black and white illustrations throughout, but, sadly, no recipe for stinky fish cake.

Unicorn Princesses

Unicorn Princesses: Sunbeam’s Shine, by Emily Bliss/Illustrated by Sydney Hanson, (Aug. 2017, Bloomsbury USA), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1681193267
Unicorn Princesses: Flash’s Dash, by Emily Bliss/Illustrated by Sydney Hanson, (Aug. 2017, Bloomsbury USA), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1681193304
Unicorn Princesses: Bloom’s Ball, by Emily Bliss/Illustrated by Sydney Hanson, (Dec. 2017, Bloomsbury USA), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1681193342
Unicorn Princesses: Prism’s Paint, by Emily Bliss/Illustrated by Sydney Hanson, (Dec. 2017, Bloomsbury USA), $5.99, ISBN: 978-168119338

This series is a no-brainer for fantasy fans who love their unicorns and My Little Pony books. A human girl named Cressida is convinced that unicorns are real, happens upon the Rainbow Realm where unicorns live, and befriends them, receiving a magical key to re-enter their realm whenever she wants to visit. She helps the unicorns out with each visit. In Sunbeam’s Shine, a wizard’s mistake costs Princess Sunbeam her magic yellow sapphire, which causes her to lose her powers. The key to regaining them is to enlist the help of a human who believes in unicorns! In Flash’s Dash, the big Thunder Dash race is coming up, and Princess Flash lets non-unicorns compete for the first time. Cressida’s invited to take part, but the bumbling wizard (who’s also a lizard) casts a spell that covers the track in sticky goo. Bloom’s Ball has Princess Bloom trusting the wizard-lizard with a spell to deliver her special birthday ball invitation by mail, but an errant word brings on an army of quails who wreck the party, leaving Cressida to help salvage the day. In Prism’s Paint, that wizard – seriously, why is he even allowed to practice magic at this point? – changes Princess Prism’s power from turning objects different colors to removing color altogether. Cressida’s got to help find the rainbow to restore Prism’s power. The series is adorable, wacky, and full of good-hearted dilemmas, with black and white illustrations throughout. Bloom’s Ball and Prism’s Paint are due out on 12/26, making them good Kwanzaa gifts, or hold onto them for Little Christmas in January. There are two more books forthcoming in 2018. Trust me, someone you know loves unicorns. I have one little girl at my library waiting desperately for these next two books to come out. Want to mix it up a little? Consider some My Little Pony books, or anything in the Rainbow Fairies series by Daisy Meadows.

Happy reading and happy holiday shopping!

 

 

 

Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

Animal Planet’s Animal Bites series is great for young readers!

Animal books are KING with younger readers. I gush constantly about the NatGeo books, but I’ve just been made aware of Animal Planet’s Animal Bites series: books spotlighting animals from different habitats, like Farm Animals and Wild Animals, and loaded with bite-sized info (see what I did there?), questions for discussion, and yes, outstanding photos.

wild animalsEach book is organized to guide readers through information about family relationships, animal bodies, ecosystems, play time, conservation, and so much more. Check boxes throughout prompt discussion about whether these animals are friendly or would make good pets (bears, not so much; horses, yes) and discussion questions ask kids to compare themselves with animals: do you like to play games, like a border collie does? We get infographics on featured animals, including geographic location, weight, and height, and to help younger kids form a more solid frame of reference, a comparison to something most of us see every day, from a truck to a computer printer.

I love the emphasis on conservation, particularly in the Wild Animals book. Features on animals that have been saved from the brink of extinction, like the gray wolf, make very real the idea that conservation works when there is awareness.

Each book ends with a quiz, an activity and a craft, and a robust list of resources, a glossary, and an index. Endpapers lead readers in and send them off with a gorgeous photo of an animal.

There are over 200 photos in each book, along with infographics, maps, and informative Quick Bites. Other books in the series include Animal Planet Polar Animals and Animal Planet Ocean Animals.farm animals

Further committing to conservation, a portion of the proceeds benefits Animal Planet’s R.O.A.R. (Reach Out. Act. Respond.) campaign that partners with leading animal organization to make the world a better place for domestic and wild animals.

My 4 year old LOVES these books: trying to get them back so I could refer to them for this review was fun (he’s at school right now). Every page is a new discovery, something waiting for him to find and explore. Sometimes, he plays with his animal toys, showing me his horses when I read the section on horses; he’ll show me a lion when I get to a spotlight on lions. If he asks why his shark is missing, I’ll explain that I have to buy him a copy of Ocean Animals. 😉

Kids love animals. Animal Planet books make it easy for you to bring more animals into their lives, and even more importantly, to discuss humane treatment of animals and the importance of conservation of our planet with them. The books are a nice, sturdy softcover, perfect for tucking into your tote bag when you’re traveling (or sneaking your kid’s copy out so you can read it on the way to work), and it’ll hold up to repeated reads.

Animal Planet: Animal Bites – Wild Animals, by Laaren Brown (Animal Planet, June 2016), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1618934147

Animal Planet: Animal Bites – Farm Animals, by Laaren Brown (Animal Planet, June 2016), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1618934130

Recommended for ages 4-8

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Book Review: Minerva Louise, by Janet Morgan Stoeke (Puffin, 2012 edition)

minerva louiseRecommended for ages 2-5

First published in 1988, Minerva Louise is the story of an inquisitive hen who goes exploring and finds a house with all sorts of interesting things to see. The book speaks to toddlers’ and preschoolers’ natural curiosity about the world around them; they can follow her as she wanders into new situations and sees things from her own unique point of view. In this first Minerva Louise adventure, she explores a farmhouse and sees a perfect nest for her (a fireplace), a comfortable chair (a flowerpot), friendly cows (a sleeping cat), a tractor (a tricycle), and more. She encounters a rubber duck in a bathtub, which she sees as a new friend inviting her to play in a pool, but decides to go play in the yard with her friends instead. The artwork is uncluttered; simple but eye-catching: Ms. Stoeke uses a crayon-like line, drawn onto heavy vellum paper and traced onto watercolor paper, filled in with gouache paints and occasional watercolor washes. She uses large, simple shapes and bold, flat colors inside soft black outlines, against a white background. The plain, black font makes for a good read-aloud book that will keep audiences interested in the pictures.

This would be part of a fun animal read-aloud. For a slightly older audience, I would also suggest an Amelia Bedelia companion story, as Minerva Louise tends to see things with her own unique point of view, similar to Amelia Bedelia. There are many farm animal printables that children can color, and there are many farm animal songs and fingerplays.

The author’s website offers links to more of Ms. Stoeke’s books, her art, and information about school visits. The Minerva Louise series includes A Hat for Minerva Louise; Minerva Louise on Halloween; Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve; A Friend for Minerva Louise; Minerva Louise at the Fair; Minerva Louise and the Red Truck. Minerva Louise won the Dutton Picture Book Contest (1988).