Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Tales from the TBR: The Topsy Turvy Bus by Anita Fitch Pazner & Carolina Farías

The Topsy-Turvy Bus, by Anita Fitch Pazner/Illustrated by Carolina Farías, (March 2022, Kar-Ben Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 9781728419497

Ages 4-8

Environmentalism is so much fun in this uplifting story inspired by a real-life powered by a real-life religious environmental agency whose biodiesel bus runs on “sunlight, veggie oil, and Torah”. Maddie and Jake are two students who are worried about the Earth after learning about all the environmental challenges the planet faces – pollution, overplanting, drilling and mining – but aren’t sure what to do until the Topsy Turvy Bus rolls into town, smelling like donuts thanks to biofuel power! Wren, the Topsy Turvy Bus driver, gets the class and teacher on board, and takes them all over town to introduce ways people are coming together to heal our planet; from worm farmers who help create healthy compost to nourish soil, to collecting discarded oil from food vendors to use as biofuel, the Topsy Turvy Bus has exciting lessons to teach. The upbeat story moves at an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand pace, with the repetitive phrase “Tikkun olam, tikkun olam, tikkun olam / Repair the world, repair the world, repair the world” running throughout. Artwork is bright, colorful, and kid-friendly, and the story is inspiring, spurring readers to action. Back matter includes notes on the actual Topsy-Turvy Bus and the concept of Tikkum olam; a glossary, and instructions for an easy-to-make compost bin. A fun story with an empowering message, The Topsy-Turvy Bus is a good addition to collections and storytimes; display this one with your Earth Day titles.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Runaway Pumpkins is fun Fall reading

Runaway Pumpkins, by Teresa Bateman/Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman, (Aug. 2020, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1580896818

Ages 3-6

A school trip to the pumpkin patch goes awry when all but one of the pumpkins fall through a loose hatch… but the townspeople and the kids are determined to look at the bright side in this sweet Fall story, originally released in 2018. The story, written in rhyming verse, captures the excitement of a class trip, including the bouncing bus and the excited kids. The illustrations capture the crisp Fall feeling, with orange, yellow, and occasionally, green trees and a darkening blue Fall sky. Kids imagine creating all sorts of jack-o-lanterns with their pumpkins in an amusing spread, with all sorts of pumpkin faces and the children dreaming them up. When the escaped pumpkins are discovered, the kids salvage the remaining pumpkin and focus their attention on it, while the townspeople who’ve discovered the broken, banged up pumpkins in their yards decide to show kindness to the children, and surprise them with a veritable pumpkin feast at the harvest fair. Kids look on in hungry astonishment at pumpkin soup, pie, even ice cream and barbecue, earning the cutest line in the book, “Our pumpkins are back, but they came in disguise!” A recipe for caramel frosted pumpkin cookies at the end lets readers and their grownups experience some of the fun.

A fun Fall readaloud for preschoolers and Kindergarteners, have plenty of pumpkin coloring sheets ready. There are some great ones on The Spruce Crafts and First Palette, and Education.com has some really great activities, including a dress-up pumpkin and paper bag Jack-o-Lantern.

Posted in Fiction, Humor, Middle School, Tween Reads

Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic and Get Laughs

desmond-pucket-makes-monster-magic_0Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic, by Mark Tatulli. Andrews McMeel Publishing (2013), $13.99, ISBN: 978-1-4494-3548-6

Recommended for ages 8-12

Desmond Pucket is a middle schooler who loves monster movies and special effects. He’s also a prankster who just can’t resist a good opportunity to use his special effects expertise to scare the daylights out of people, whether it’s his annoying older sister or one of the teachers. He’s been good at covering his tracks, but when he springs a prank on his older sister and her friends at a sleepover, he finds himself in hot water at school – one of his sister’s friends is the daughter of the disciplinary head at his school; he’s been waiting for Desmond to slip up, so he can transfer him to another school! Now Desmond has three chances left before he’s kicked out of school and misses the big field trip to Mountain Full of Monsters at Crab Shell Pier. Can he keep out of trouble for just a little longer?

The book is written in a similar style to Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid; it’s a first-person storyteller and illustrated, presumably by Desmond, with black and white sketches. There are even drawings that look like they’ve been sketched on torn bits of paper, to add to the realism of Desmond, and his friend Ricky’s, notes. The endpapers are green and have the appearance of crumpled paper, with more of Desmond’s drawings and notes to the reader.

I loved this book. It’s fun, light, and Desmond is – like Greg in Diary of a Wimpy Kid – a victim of his own making. He can’t stay out of trouble, but unlike Greg, he knows he’s his own worst enemy. He just can’t resist a good prank opportunity to cause mayhem. He even laments not being able to take credit for his brilliant pranks, because he knows it will get him into trouble. When he decides to pull a prank at  his sister’s sleepover, he has no idea of the trouble he’s getting himself into, and when the fallout hits, he has a major crisis on his hands – how can he stay out of trouble and still be himself?  He ultimately decides that being true to himself and owning who he is is more important than anything, including a long-awaited school trip.

Andrews McMeel has a wealth of Desmond activities and information online, especially since the second book in the series, Desmond Pucket and the Mountain Full of Monsters, will be released this August. You can read a sample chapter online at the Desmond Pucket site, follow him on Facebook, and download teacher and librarian resources on the Andrews McMeel site, including a guide to teaching with graphic resources and English/Language Arts and Science curriculum connections to work with, using the book. There are games and activities for readers both online and at the end of the book itself, where Desmond shares some notes on how to make fake blood, cool monster growl effects, a phantom knocker, a ghost, and a gelatin dessert.

I am looking forward to more Desmond books, as is my 10 year-old son, who read this book in about an hour and a half last night!