Posts tagged ‘Picture Books’

Squirrel Stories

After reading Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins, I found myself turning to picture books as well for some squirrel fun. Here’s some suggestions, both old favorites and some newer publications.
Nuts to You Ehlert

Nuts to You by Lois Ehlert

This story is the epitome of a squirrel behaving badly, digging up the flower bulbs, stealing the birdseed from the bird feeder, and ultimately getting in the house! What do you do to get him out!? Another favorite that I read regularly this time of year is The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri. The colorful, cheery illustrations show the industrious squirrel darting from here to there, focusing on the task at hand of getting ready for winter. This book explains the actions of Ehlert’s squirrel as just looking for more good food to stock away.
 

 

 

 

Those Darn Squirrels

Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

A more recent story about squirrels and their love for food. An old man loves to paint the birds and hangs feeders to encourage the birds to stay. The squirrels see the feeders as a buffet of food, and the man makes several attempts to thwart their thievery. But the squirrels have a plan of their own to gain access to the food, especially after the birds leave. There are several ways of making your own bird feeder out of any recycled plastic container, whether it’s a milk jug, peanut butter jar, or water or pop bottle. Another easy way is coating a pinecone with peanut butter and rolling it in seeds. There are two sequels, including Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door and Those Darn Squirrels Fly South.
Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next DoorThose Darn Squirrels Fly South

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0-545-16070-7

Leaf Trouble by Jonathan Emmett with pictures by Caroline Jayne Church

Instead of causing trouble, one squirrel has troubles of his own. The collages overlaid on ink drawings appear three dimensional, and you could almost reach out and touch the leaves as they cascade around Pip Squirrel. In a rendition of Chicken Little, Pip is distressed that the oak tree he lives in is losing his leaves and enlists another squirrel to help him put them back on the tree. Mama Squirrel comes along and explains what’s going on in simple language, making it clear that Pip has no need to fear. Bring some leaves in from outside and make your own leaf rubbings by placing a sheet of paper over a leaf and rubbing it with the side of a crayon.

Earl the Squirrel

Earl the Squirrel by Don Freeman

The author of Corduroy uses scratchboards to present black and white illustrations accented with a red scarf that Earl receives from a friend. Earl is tasked with finding his own nut, but will the scarf be a help or a hindrance with his search? Earl uses his scarf in several ways, and you can challenge your little one to find different ways to use a scarf.

Merle the High Flying Squirrel

Merle the High Flying Squirrel by William Peet,

For those children with longer attention spans, there’s Merle, a squirrel overwhelmed by the noise and afraid to leave his home. He heads out in search of tall trees and quiet forests instead of the bustling city he currently lives. After reading this story, either take the kids outside for a walk in the woods, make a kite of their own and see how high it can fly or talk about different things you can find in different parts of the world, like mountains, the ocean, deserts, and forests.

The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara

Although not primarily about squirrels, they are featured in a unique setting that’s perfect for rounding out a story time in this book that has received a fair amount of buzz.

Since once I started looking I seemed to find a fair number of squirrel book, I’ll end this post with a brief round-up of some other titles I found. Aw, Nuts! by Rob McClurkan is another brand new book that reminds me of the animation of Fairly Odd Parents portraying the misadventures of Scrat, the saber-tooth squirrel from the Ice Age movies. Just like Scrat, this squirrel is chasing the perfect nut, and nothing will prevent him from reaching his goal. Beatrix Potter didn’t just write about Peter Rabbit, but also Squirrel Nutkin in The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. Melanie Watts has created a whole series around Scaredy Squirrel who is too afraid to leave his tree. Two more recommendations include Delicious by Helen Cooper, showing that even picky eaters can be convinced to try something new, and Never Trust a Squirrel written Patrick Cooper and illustrated by Catherine Walters, with a guinea pig learning from a squirrel that you should probably know how to climb before entering fox territory.
Aw Nuts! Tale of Squirrel Nutkin Scaredy Squirrel

Never Trust a Squirrel

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What am I missing? Leave your squirrely selections in the comments below.

Spooky Reads

With the leaves changing color with the change in the weather, this might be the perfect opportunity to curl up under the covers or snuggle into a sweatshirt and check out some new picture books. I put together this list last year for a local preschool group, and I thought I’d republish it here. Pick up some of these books (both scary and not so scary) to share with your little ones after trick or treating.

Black Dog Title: Black Dog
Author: Levi Pinfold
ISBN: 9780763660970
Pagse: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Templar, c2012
This frightful story book features a dog that continues to grow in size outside a family’s house, until the youngest child confronts the dog and shrinks it down to size with her bravery.

Nighty Night Little Green MonsterTitle: Nighty Night, Little Green Monster
Author: Ed Emberley
ISBN: 9780316210416
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: LB Kids, c2013.
Looking for something a little sweeter? An old favorite getting an update is Ed Emberley’s green monster, now allowing your child to say Nighty Nighty, Little Green Monster when they are being put to bed.

Five Little Monkeys Trick-or-Treat
Title: Five Little Monkeys Trick-or-Treat
Author: Eileen Christelow
ISBN: 9780547858937
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Clarion Books, c2013
Those mischievous monkeys are back again in, switching costumes with friends without telling their baby-sitter. The trick might be on the monkeys though if they miss out on the treat at home because of their monkey business.

Matilda and Hans

 

 

 

Title: Matilda and Hans
Author: Yokococo
ISBN: 9780763664343
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Templar, c2013
Another, newer character who is taking advantage of confusing costumes, Hans is always getting into trouble. When Matilda turns him in, the police uncover a surprise behind that mask.

How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow

 

 

 

Title: How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow?
Author: Wendell Minor
ISBN: 9780399246845
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Nancy Paulsen Books, c2013.
If you are looking for a more seasonally themed story for your older children, Wendell Minor takes a look at giant pumpkins and uses that as a jumping off point to talk about mighty monuments around the nation in this unique way to learn about geography.

2 the Point Tuesday — Lindbergh: The Tale of the Flying Mouse

Each month for my job, I write a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ll be expanding that idea to the blog in a new feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.

LindberghTitle: Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse
Author/Illustrator: Torben Kuhlmann
Foreward by F. Robert van der Linden
Translator: Suzanne Levesque
ISBN: 9780735841673
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: NorthSouth Books Inc., c2014

Since cats guard the ships heading to America, one little mouse has to find another way to escape from the mouse traps. Inspired by bats, the intrepid and aspiring aviator works on several prototypes of machines to aid his journey, but will he be successful? Could he be the motivation for a human’s attempt to come? Take your time pouring over the primarily sepia-toned illustrations. Torben Kuhlmann’s debut tale inspires all of us, and his detailed depictions evoke the size of the project and the mouse’s world. This mouse would make a worthy companion to Despereaux or Ralph S. Mouse.

Short biographies of famous aviators supplement the text.

Robot Go Bot

Every month, each staff member takes the time to review a title that has arrived this month in 100 words or less. I include my contributions in a feature I like to call To the Point Tuesday. Feel free to comment with a link to your own to the point reviews.

Robot Go BotTitle: Robot, Go Bot!
Author: Dana Meachen Rau
Illustrator: Wook Jin Jung
ISBN: 9780375870835
Pages: 32 pages
Publisher/Date: Random House, c2013.

For the earliest of readers, this picture book formatted like an early reader presents an unnamed girl building a robot friend. Things start off well, with the pair happily playing together with bubbles, a ball, a boat, and a book. But then the girl finds other uses for the robot, she orders the robot to “Hoe, Bot!” “Grow, Bot!” and “Mow. Mow. Mow Bot!” Bot understandably gets frustrated and leaves. When the girl finds him, it’s to ask him back and give him his turn on the swing, learning her lesson and providing an example of good manners and friendship.

Caldecott Honorees and Winner 2014

The American Library Association Youth Media Awards were announced in January, and I’m slowly working my way through the winners and honorable mentions. The Randolph Caldecott Medal is awarded for the most distinguished American picture book for children. There was one winner and three honor books named this year.

LocomotiveTitle: Locomotive
Author/Illustrator: Brian Floca
ISBN: 9781416994152
Pages: 64 pages
Publisher/Date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, c2013.

I had actually included this title in a local newsletter article about train books, so I will let my earlier comments about the book stand on its own. For older readers, there is the incredibly detailed Locomotive by Brian Floca. Starting with the cover and continuing inside on more than one occasion the watercolor illustrations appear to burst from the page. The book follows the story of a family traveling by rail across the country from Omaha, Nebraska to Sacramento, California in 1869. You’ll find this title not with the picture books, but with nonfiction due to the detailed narration. Packed with information, Floca uses short sentences that mimic the steam engine, and his generous use of onomatopoeia means the pages are filled with banging, clanging, huffing, puffing, and chugging. The various jobs on board are distinguished from one another, and the mechanics of the train are outlined not only in the text but also in the back jacket where steam power is explained with words and pictures. Pay careful attention to the little details too, as each station and location are identified by name and small details such as the cowboy’s horse running away at the sound of the train might be missed on first glance.

Three Caldecott Honor Books also were named, with two out of the three Caldecott honorees this year being wordless and the third one is nearly wordless. Has it ever happened where all the honorees are wordless?
JourneyTitle: Journey
Author/Illustrator: Aaron Becker
ISBN: 9780763660536
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press,c2013.

Bored children have been escaping into other worlds for years, including Max in Where the Wild Things Are, Harold with his purple crayon, Alice and her looking-glass, and the siblings who visit Narnia through the wardrobe. The same applies to this unnamed young lady in Aaron Becker’s wordless picture book. With her dad on the computer, her mom on the phone, and her big sister on a handheld device, the girl draws a door on her bedroom wall with a red crayon and escapes into another world. The red crayon creations, including a boat, a hot air balloon, and a flying carpet, pop against the primarily blue, green, gray and yellow landscapes. The other part of the pictures that is unique is the purple bird that requires the girl’s help to escape its own cage. It is a story of imagination brought to life, and two kindred spirits finding each other at the end.

Flora and FlamingoTitle: Flora and the Flamingo
Author/Illustrator: Molly Idle
ISBN: 9781452110066
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Chronicle Books LLC, c2013.

Personally, this is not my favorite honoree. On minimalistic white backgrounds bordered by pink flowers, a girl in a yellow bathing cap, pink swimsuit, and dark flippers tries to imitate the actions of a flamingo. Initially perturbed by the unwanted admiring copycat, the flamingo eventually extends a wing and they engage in a ballet that ends in a cannonball and a bow. While the fold out spread works for the double page cannonball spread, there are other pages with lifting flaps that I think instead would have worked better as a page turn. But you can definitely see the author’s background with Dreamworks, which is mentioned in the back jacket biography. The emotions are beautifully portrayed through the body language and slight changes in facial features for both the girl and the flamingo.

Mr. Wuffles!Title: Mr. Wuffles!
Author/Illustrator: David Wiesner
ISBN: 9780618756612
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, c2013.

I talked in my Coretta Scott King post about authors and illustrators whose names have come up for awards again and again and again. David Wiesner is one of those people for the Caldecott. He has won the award three times (Tuesday, The Three Pigs and Flotsam) and this honor now makes three honors (Free Fall and Sector 7). Give someone else a turn already! But I do see the appeal and the reason for the ongoing admiration. This latest title appears to be partially influenced by Wiesner’s own cat, and the observations of the cat’s attitudes and movement show. There is disdain towards a handful of toys until Mr. Wuffles the cat stumbles across a tiny silver spaceship occupied by even smaller green spacemen. We can’t say the work is completely wordless, as the cat’s owner courts the cat with new toys at the beginning and end of the story, spacemen talk in geometric symbols and the ants they encounter communicate with tiny dots. But the thing that really caught my attention was how Weisner conveyed the sense of motion with the cat, especially on the penultimate page where we see multiple tails as it flicks back and forth in anticipation. It’s a technique that is repeated several times in the book, designating motion with the cat’s paws and head. The pictures are vibrant, colorful, oversized, and action packed as the aliens try to repair their broken ship and escape the cat with the help of their new ant friends. And those claws on the cat… Watch out! Give this to any cat owner, as they will be able to relate.

Coretta Scott King Awards 2014

The American Library Association announced their Annual Youth Media Awards earlier this year, and I’ve been slowly but surely catching up on reading all the winners and honorees. The Coretta Scott King Awards are a set of three awards that honor African American authors, illustrators, and new talent of outstanding literature for children and young adults. I’ll be focusing on the Illustrator and New Talent Awards in this post, with the longer author winner and honorees in a separate post once I finish reading them. I have to say though, there were really no surprises in these categories, as the same people are continually recognized for their contributions.

For the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Book Award, the committee chose one winner and one honoree.
Nelson MandelaTitle: Nelson Mandela
Author/Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
ISBN: 978006178374
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, c2013.
Publication Date: January 2, 2013

The honor was given to Kadir Nelson, who authored and illustrated a picture book biography on Nelson Mandela, published at the very beginning of 2013. Nelson Mandela’s passing at the end of 2013 serves as an ironic footnote to the book’s publication and award recognition. Kadir Nelson’s name has cropped up a host of times, and his work has been recognized over an over again.
Won the 2012 Coretta Scott King Author Award Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
2012 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor for Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.
Caldecott Honor for Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine
Caldecott Honor for Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford, for which he also garnered a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award and won an NAACP Image Award;
Won Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange
Won Coretta Scott King Author Award for We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor for We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball

Are you sensing a theme here? Whenever he writes something, he gets recognized by someone! And most people will say rightfully so. In his newest book, readers see Kadir Nelson’s signature style of life-like renderings from the cover (which mimics the design of his biographies on Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr.) all the way to the end. Most striking I think is the first page, where we see a young Nelson playing with the village boys and the sun shines forth from behind the hill with such warmth your eye is immediately drawn to the contrasting shadowed silhouettes. The sparse, poetically formatted text supplements the pictures, that carry the light and dark themes throughout the book.

My one complaint about this and other picture book biographies is that very few specifics are included. Annual biography assignments for school children often have a checklist of facts that need to be contained in the books or require an inclusion of a time line. While this would be a great asset to children studying biographies, especially during February’s Black History Month, readers would be hard pressed to find specifics. Would it have been so hard to add a timeline in the back of the book along side the author’s note, or include specific dates in the text instead of “in early 1990″? Or am I the only person getting frustrated by this oversight?

Knock Knock My Dad's Dream for MeTitle: Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me
Author: Daniel Beaty
Illustrator: Bryan Collier
ISBN: 9780316209175
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. c2013.
Publication Date: December 17, 2013

More recently published Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me won the Illustrator award. Bryan Collier is another illustrator who has been recognized time and time again, with three Caldecott Honors and four Coretta Scott King Awards over the years. Collier’s collages and Beaty’s text follows a young boy as he experiences the loss of his father’s influence. The author doesn’t specify in the story that the father has been incarcerated until you read the end notes, which I appreciate because it lends versatility to the story and could be used for divorce situations in addition to incarceration. The illustrations follow the boy as he grows into an educated man and an involved father in his own right, but at the end you still see the influence his own father had on him, regardless of or maybe because of his absence.

The more symbolic structure of the illustrations lend the impression this is meant for older audiences, and I can see where this might be a recommendation for patrons specifically looking for material of this nature. Most poignant is the subtle nods to the father’s absence, such as the main character wearing his father’s tie as he peruses his dreams, and an elephant statue peeking out of his office background mimicking the child’s bedroom wallpaper. The ending picture seems slightly out of context with the rest of the story, but although overall I think the less abstract images make the most impact when reading, that last picture makes a memorable ending to a tale of perseverance.

When the Beat Was BornTitle: When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop
Author: Laban Carrick Hill
Illustrator: Theodore Taylor III
ISBN: 9781596435407
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership, c2013.

According to the ALA website the John Steptoe New Talent Award was “established to affirm new talent and to offer visibility to excellence in writing and/or illustration which otherwise might be formally unacknowledged within a given year within the structure of the two awards given annually by the Coretta Scott King Task Force.” This award is often overlooked because it’s not awarded every year.

I can understand why this book was recognized by the committee, as it sheds light on the start of Hip Hop, something that most people have never considered. The story focuses on DJ Kool Herc rise from Jamican music lover peering over the fence at party set-ups to hooking up his father’s super-sized speakers to street lamps and christening the break dance style that evolved during his days of being a DJ. While Laban Carrick Hill includes a personalized author’s note and a partial time line of hip hop in the 1970s and 1980s, just like Kadir Nelson’s picture book biography he avoids specific dates and details.

The pictures by Theodore Taylor III are well drawn, with clean lines showing children what the different break dancing moves look like. His work showcases the old technology of speakers bigger than people, boomboxes bigger than babies, and turntables plugged into one another instead of through wireless connections. It’s almost a time capsule for readers, where parents can talk about the music they used to listen to, and I wish it had a compilation CD that featured some of the “Hip Hop” beats that are discussed in the book. I especially enjoyed the scene of community where Herc is playing street parties in the park and we see people of all ages, including one gray haired woman and a small child with a jump rope, listening to the music. As someone who grew up in the suburbs and didn’t have that type of environment, I’m surprised to find myself wanting to seek out that community network.

This post is in honor of Nonfiction Mondays. Check out the blog for other reviews of nonfiction books.

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award 2014

The American Library Association Annual Youth Media Awards were announced this month, and I’ve been trying to read through the winners and honorees. The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award is given to books geared for beginning readers. Ironically, I actually featured two of the honorees for the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award earlier this year. You can find Ball by Mary Sullivan reviewed here along with several other ball themed books that I used for a story time. Another runner-up, A Big Guy Took My Ball! by Mo Willems was also featured earlier on this blog. I don’t think anyone was surprised by its inclusion on the list, as books by Mo Willems has quickly become a staple of picture books and early reader libraries.

BallA Big Guy Took My Ball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other two I had not reviewed yet, and I’m therefore going to review them together.
Penny and Her MarbleTitle: Penny and Her Marble
Author/Illustrator: Kevin Henkes
ISBN: 9780062082046
Pages: 48 pages
Publisher/Date: Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, c2013.
The third honoree, Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes has been getting an astonishing amount of press since it’s publication in February of 2013. The simple story relates Penny’s neighborhood walk with her doll when she spies a marble in Mrs. Goodwin’s yard. Secretly picking it up and taking it home, Penny is filled with guilt that she took something that didn’t belong to her. After suffering from a hurt stomach and bad dreams, Penny hurries to return the marble, only to get caught by Mrs. Goodwin herself. All ends happily, with Mrs. Goodwin presenting the marble to Penny as a gift.

I couldn’t help being struck by Penny’s outfit, a white, long-sleeved, polka-dotted shirt under a skirt with suspenders and a flowered headband, which she must own in every color combination imaginable if you have been following the series. The bright colors make you happy just looking at them, and even the nightmares maintain that color scheme, proving that they are not menacing but kept age-appropriate distressing for an imaginative girl like Penny. The independence she exhibits will certainly make an impact with readers, as she deals with her issues and comes to her own conclusions of right and wrong without even asking for guidance from her caring parents.

Watermelon SeedTitle: The Watermelon Seed
Author/Illustrator: Greg Pizzoli
ISBN: 9781423171010
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Disney Hyperion Books, c2013.
I was surprised by the winner of the award, given to The Watermelon Seed by first time author and illustrator Greg Pizzoli. The striking pink, green, and black colors lend a monochromatic color scheme to the story of a crocodile who swallows a watermelon seed. After fearing for his life, he thankfully burps out the offending seed. Although swearing off his favorite food, we see that promise doesn’t last long. On the last page an engorged stomach hovers over pieces of rind on the floor as the worried faced crocodile might be in trouble all over again.

Perfect for picnics in the upcoming summer months, I think it’s the simplicity of the drawings that catch readers eyes the most. With no background details, we can focus on the crocodile, who fears vines will grow out of his ears, his skin will turn colors, and he’ll eventually end up in a fruit salad. That last possibility hopefully lends assurance to the readers that his fears are unfounded, as people would never end up in a fruit salad. Although I recognize that I’m biased towards pictures that have more detail than these drawings, I can definitely see the appeal of our poor nameless crocodile’s distressed eyes and the bright pink backgrounds that dominate most of the book.

Bravo to the winners and honorees, and look for more upcoming reviews of books recognized by the various committees.

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