Monthly Archives: March 2013



Written and illustrated by Emily Gravett.

ImageThe latest book from master artist and storyteller Emily Gravett does not disappoint. Bursting with color, Again! tells the tale of Cedric, a young dragon who LOVES his bedtime story. When Cedric is ready for bed, his mother reads to him. But every time Cedric’s mother finishes the book, Cedric shouts, “Again!” Over and over Cedric hears the story—with Cedric’s mother subtly changing some words, as mothers tend to do after many repetitions—and over and over he says “Again!” Getting more and more passionate about the story, eventually Cedric gets so worked up that he—well, I won’t spoil it, but suffice it to say that Emily Gravett’s surprise ending will leave readers shouting “Again!” right along with Cedric.


 As entertaining as it is familiar, “Again!” is a perfect bedtime story for parents and children alike. 

Recommended for ages 3 and up.

Reviewed by Allison.

What If You Had Animal Teeth!?


Written by Sandra Markle, Illustrated by Howard McWilliam

If you could have any animal’s front teeth, whose would you choose? After reading this book you may want to give your answer a second thought.

What If You Had Animal Teeth?

This fun, imaginative, and wildly informative book takes you on a  journey where your front teeth have fallen out but instead of normal teeth pushing through, animal teeth grow in instead. This book features a wide range of animals. From beavers, naked mole rats, sharks, and elephants to vampire bats, narwhals, and Bengal tigers, readers will be surprised at every turn of the page. On the right pages of the book you are greeted with an actual photo of the animal displaying their teeth. On the left pages, you will find an outrageously humorous illustration of a child using the teeth of the featured animal. It is almost impossible to suppress a giggle after seeing a child with elephant tusks for teeth! The book ends with a sigh of relief when you learn that “people teeth” will replace the ones you lost.

Although readers will be entertained by the whimsical drawings of children with animal teeth, the book provides great information about why that animal has those teeth. A fun or interesting fact can be found in the fact bubbles that accompany each animal’s page. Markle’s book does not just provide information on animal’s teeth. Readers will also be able to learn more about their own teeth through the facts found at the end of the book.

Reviewed by Alexis Mayhall

America the Beautiful: Together We Stand


america-the-beautiful2Written by Katherine Lee Bates. Various illustrators.

“America the Beautiful: Together We Stand” is not your typical picture book.

On each page of the book, a line of “America the Beautiful” is paired with a quote by United States presidents and artwork from different illustrators on each page. Each illustration has its own style and medium that relates to the quote on the page. These illustrations represent the quote on the  page, some much more literally than others. Between the lyric, quotes, illustrations, and smaller drawings of American landmarks and symbols, each page contains a lot to take in simultaneously. However, all of the elements flow together to create an extremely cohesive–although nontraditional–book.

This book is the perfect educational resource for children. The book provides numerous great opportunities to teach children about American ideals and important individuals in American history. Additionally, the back of the book includes a guide to meaning behind all of the national landmarks and symbols that are represented throughout the book. The best part of the book is that readers will not feel as though they are reading an educational book because of the beauty and the flow of the book.

Reviewed by Emily Cobert

Sophie Peterman Tells the TRUTH



Written by Sarah Weeks, Illustrated by Rober Neubecker

Sophie Peterman wants to tell you the truth about babies.  First they are aliens, then they are pirates, and once they learn to walk…WATCH OUT!  They become monsters.  Sophie made the mistake of telling her parents that she wanted a brother or sister and now she wants to share what she learned with you.  Older siblings will certainly relate to Sophie’s frustrations about not being able to leave things lying around, shouldering blame, and having to put up with the stench of smelly diapers.  Although they might not admit it, however, big brothers or sisters will also identify with Sophie’s most important piece of advice: “…WATCH OUT.  You might actually start to LIKE him.”

Welcoming a new baby into the family is not easy for older siblings, especially if they (like Sophie) are several years older and know what is going on.  This story features bold, colorful, and child-like illustrations along with large text with varied fonts to emphasize important words and phrases. This book is a wonderful gift to older siblings who might be feeling frustrated after the addition of a younger sibling.  Parents, teachers, aunts and uncles can read this story with a young older sibling in their life and discuss how Sophie feels in the beginning, but also about how her feelings change over time.  Weeks does a wonderful job helping children to understand that the way they feel is normal, but the frustration will not last forever.  Sophie’s character does a wonderful job of sharing the ‘truth’ of what it is like to have a younger sibling: the bad, the ugly, and eventually (and most importantly), the good.

Reviewed by Emily Francis

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio


This book will stay with you long after you read it.

Bridging the gap between children’s and young adult fiction, Wonder is an important, new and noteworthy addition to the Neely’s News literary canon.

Wonder is an electrifying page-turner that attests to the power of the human spirit. Told through the perspectives of children and young adults, August Pullman stands out as one of the most heartfelt and strong narrators I can remember in young-adult novels I have read. In the same vein as Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl, Palacio captures the atmosphere of the middle-school microcosm with surprising depth and clarity; the good and the bad as well as the growth of each character are depicted beautifully and most importantly, truthfully. I must admit, facial deformities can be jarring, but as I rooted for Auggie I found myself gaining immense respect and wonder for those who carry that burden. I highly recommend Wonder – 4th grade and up, with parent discretion. Image

Reviewed by Katherine Klockenkemper

It’s a Big World, Little Pig!


51-fiRJZ+xLWritten by Kristi Yamaguchi; Illustrated by Tim Bowers.

“Poppy was a pig who dreamed big.”

This first line in Yamaguchi and Bower’s sequel to “Dream Big, Little Pig” is the perfect introduction for Poppy. The book tells the story of Poppy, a little pig with big dreams who is afraid of exploring the big world on her own. With the support of her family and friends, Poppy sets off to Paris to compete in the World Games. When Poppy first arrives in Paris, she is afraid of the new city and all the unknown athletes around her. During her time at the World Games, Poppy befriends animals of all different nationalities, bravely overcoming her fears and learning about new cultures along the way.

This story is great for ages 4 and up. It encourages children to go outside their comfort levels and take a chance in unknown circumstances. The book also gives its readers a chance to learn about different countries and customs. The story showcases the differences in cultures but most importantly stresses the underlying similarities, in terms that would be relatable to young children.

Children would not only be able to identify with  the character of Poppy and learn from her, but also get a glimpse into cultures they most likely did not already know about

Reviewed by Emily Cobert

Mama, Do You Love Me?


Written by Barbara Joosse  and illustrated by Barbara Lavallee

This loving story tells the tale of an Inuit daughter who tests the limits of her independence and grapples with the idea of how much her mother loves her. The daughter begins by asking how much and how long her mother will love her. Her mother replies by making beautiful comparisons to Arctic animals such as a puffins, ravens, and wales. The daughter then begins to ask what if questions. The mother replies by telling the daughter what emotions she would feel if her daughter were to become a polar bear or throw water on their lamp. In the end the mother’s patience may have been tested but she always reassures her daughter that a parent’s love is unconditionally and forever.

The book brings you into the Arctic world with beautiful illustrations of mukluks, puffins, and ptarmigan eggs. Although readers may not be familiar with the terminology of this book, the annotated glossary at the end of the story provides that extra little bit of information to help readers become familiar with these terms, instead of leaving them guessing. The book may be set in the cold of the Arctic but the loving, lyrical text and the warm illustrations will leave readers with comforting and reassuring feelings. The artwork, animals, clothing, and symbols may be specific to the Arctic world, but the theme of this charming story is universal to readers of all ages.

Reader’s may also enjoy Joosse and Lavallee’s Papa, Do You Love Me?

Reviewed by Alexis Mayhall

Exclamation Mark



Written and illustrated by Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld

“This is a story about an exclamation mark.  And this exclamation mark’s story is really everyone’s story.”

Exclamation Mark is an adorable story of self-discovery, told through the eyes of an exclamation mark who recognizes that he does not fit in with the periods that he knows.  The New York Times best-selling team that co-authored and illustrated Duck! Rabbit! and Wumbers have produced another story that is educational and humorous.  Readers of all ages will smile as the exclamation mark attempts various ways to fit in with his period friends.  Can he coil down the tall line that stands above his head? He doesn’t look so different when he lies on his side!  Despite all of these efforts, he realizes that he is just different and really can’t fit in.  The exclamation mark considers running away until a self-assured question mark approaches him.  The question mark understands his unique purpose: he has the special power to turn a statement into a question.  The two work together to help exclamation mark find his place and purpose.  Once he does…


This is a journey that all readers, regardless of age, can relate to.  Young and pre-readers will benefit from a book that conveys simple conventions of text.  The pages are white dotted line paper and the handwriting-like font is simple and clearly demonstrates use of both upper and lowercase letters.  This book is an excellent choice to help teach pre-readers about conventions of text, children learning to write about punctuation, or a wonderful book for a young reader to read independently.  In addition to the academic purpose of Exclamation Mark, the story encourages discussion about fitting in, standing out, and all of us finding our unique purpose (especially with the help of friends)!

Reviewed by Emily Francis

Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole


ImageAfter taking the cows out to pasture, a young girl returns home to her family’s farm where she sees Confederate soldiers passing on horseback. When the girl enters the barn to feed the chickens, she realizes someone is hiding in the stack of corn stalks. The girl runs back to her house but does not tell her family what she has discovered. Pushing aside her fear and uncertainty, the girl sneaks food to the fugitive. What readers can see that the girl cannot is that different members of her family are doing the same thing. When the Confederate soldiers come looking for a runaway slave, the girl’s family protects the slave and sends the soldiers away. In the end, the runaway is gone but has left a gift behind for the girl in gratitude.

Amazingly, this entire story is told without the use of words. Henry Cole has beautifully and creatively illustrated the story of a courageous young girl with a wordless picture book. Using only charcoal pencils and paper, Cole has created detailed illustrations that transport readers back in time to the Civil War era. Wordlessly, Cole is able to set the time, place, and mood. This “silent” writing reflects the silence the girl and her family must keep to protect an innocent person. Cole’s story is both powerful and poignant and prompts readers to use their imagination.

Reviewed by Elisheva Gralnik

The Little Old Man Who Could Not Read by Irma Simonton Black, illustrated by Seymour Fleishman


Illiteracy is an issue that is prevalent all over the world as well as the corner of the world we live in: the state of Tennessee. Many, many children do not know how to read, and this wonderful story emphasizes the importance of literacy with a non-pedantic sense of humor driven by a charming protagonist. 

Seymour Fleishman’s pencil-drawn illustrations are detailed and sharp. A unique aspect of the book is that every other page alternates from black and white to color. This interesting layout prodded me to keep turning the pages, as the old man comes to life in his Amelia Bedelia– type adventures.

Children who may feel unsure or embarrassed by their reading level will laugh as the old man picks out wax paper instead of spaghetti from the supermarket, and a can of coffee instead of spaghetti sauce. As the man realizes the importance of being able to read, he has a revelation that he should take the initiative to learn. He is a toymaker and children write letters to him, and he realizes that he wants to be able to read the letters.

“Then he learned to read the words for everything in the big store. And then he learned to read the words for everything in the world.”

Black gently yet consciously addresses a very important issue that resonates powerfully through Fleishman’s illustrations. The story expresses to children that yes, even adults may not be able to read, but one can ALWAYS learn. 

I will bring this book to my next hospital visit because it is cute, funny and well-illustrated, and I think it will reverberate with children as well as emphasize the importance of literacy and show that yes- books are fun and so is reading!

Recommended ages: The book should be read aloud to children who are not much younger than 7 or so, because children any younger will not be able to relate as well if they are not learning to read yet. If they are learning, however, this story is great for a read-aloud-together experience! 

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Katherine Klockenkemper