Category Archives: Ages 3 and up

Trendy Tuesday: If You Give A Mouse A Cookie

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It’s hard not to be cliché on Trendy Tuesday, but I couldn’t resist reviewing this classic picture book. If You Give A Mouse A Cookie is the first book of Laura Numeroff’s If You Give… series and was illustrated by Felicia Bond. The storyline (if by chance you’ve never read it or have forgotten over the years) is circular, where the mouse asks his owner for a cookie, then wants a glass of milk to go with it. Then he wants a mirror to check if he has a milk mustache, and the domino effect continues until he decides he wants another cookie.

The illustrations in this book are vibrant and full of color. They are done in colored pencil. There is also a lot of white space, which makes the illustrations smaller on the page and less distracting. Bond uses interesting perspectives in some of her drawings that exaggerate some parts of the story. You can see in this illustration the bright colors of the grass and the boy’s jeans, and then the depth used to show the sidewalk up to the house.
img_0416Some of the written text will end like a cliffhanger. This is a fun characteristic of the book because it leads the reader or listener to the next page in anticipation. It also makes the book a little more unpredictable, because some continuations of text are just small additions that tack a funny ending to the sentence.img_0417

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This book is very fun to read with children and not difficult to follow. It is definitely still a trendy tale, even if it was released over 30 years ago. I would read this story to any age level and there are so many fun classroom or at home activities that can be created from this book. There is even a board game on the back cover of the Special Edition that I looked at! If that’s not the cutest thing ever, I don’t know what is.

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Post by: Jenna Adamczak

Trendy Tuesdays: The Cat from Hunger Mountain

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The Cat from Hunger Mountain by Ed Young is a book about the greedy Lord Cat who has everything he could need. From the fanciest meals to the finest silk and gold clothing, Lord Cat’s life revolves around his possessions. He lives in a village that profits from rice paddies, and when a long drought strikes, everyone must move away. Lord Cat is able to stay with all of his riches up in his pagoda while everyone else flees the famine. “What would life be without all of his possessions?”

Eventually, Lord Cat runs out of food and is forced to leave his lavish home. His journey as a beggar teaches him the lesson that his possessions are not what is most important in life. 

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Ed Young grew up in Shanghai, China, and incorporates Chinese characters and patterns into his collages. He has an original style combining photographs, paper, and other textures to create his scenery and characters. On some pages, the collage is a mere suggestion of the figures and scenery. Although some illustrations are very abstract, the meaning is still clear. 

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Some collages are extremely detailed. Lord Cat’s face is composed of many different types of paper and photographs that work together to create one cohesive image. img_7491

 

The Cat from Hunger Mountain tells a unique legend from another culture. While the story communicates clear morals, it is not didactic. While the writing style is sophisticated, it is not too challenging for younger elementary schoolers. I would also recommend this book to teachers exploring fantasy and legends with their classes. The Cat from Hunger Mountain could be both a captivating teaching tool and a wonderful bedtime story. 

The Cat from Hunger Mountain was published by Penguin Random House in 2016. img_7492

Review by Charlotte Jeanne

Free Fridays: Animal House

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What would your dream home look like if you were a monkey? How about if you were a squirrel? Animal House, written and illustrated by Melissa Bay Mathis, is an imaginative and child-centered picture book that encourages readers to consider the idea of “home” from a variety of new perspectives.

The book begins with a group of children who want to build a tree house. As they begin to brainstorm, they decide to seek help from some animal friends, each of whom have a different opinion on what features would make for a perfect home. The pig’s home, for example, would replace traditional flooring with mud puddles. The finishing touch on the dog’s home would be a vending machine that dispensed bones, shoes, and other chewable goodies.

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Each page in the book is written from a different animal’s perspective, presented through a playful rhyming verse that brings the characters to life. Next to each verse, there is a picture of the speaker, which will help younger children understand the idea of point-of-view.

As fun as this book is to read aloud, however, the highlight of Animal House is the detail in the illustrations. Accompanying every animal’s idea is a full-page spread showing the dream home in all of its glory. The illustrations in this book make read-alouds a truly interactive experience – children will be so engrossed in pointing out the witty details that they won’t want to turn the page!

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After each animal has had a chance to speak, the group gets together and plans a tree house with everyone’s preferences in mind. The book ends with an extra-large pull out illustration of the finished product – a perfect model of how collaboration can ensure that everyone’s needs will be met. Every animal – tall or short, active or lazy – has a place in the tree house.

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Animal House is a fun and crowd-pleasing picture book that children will want to read again and again.

Post by Sami Chiang

Teddy the Dog: Be Your Own Dog

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Teddy the Dog: Be Your Own Dog definitely falls under the category of Marvelous New Picture books. Published earlier this year (2016), it was written by Keri Claiborne Boyle and illustrated by Jonathan Sneider. This picture book follows Teddy on an adventure after he receives an unexpected package.

Teddy seems to have it all. He loves living in Teddyville by the motto “Be Your Own Dog”. This all gets turned upside down when he receives a package from his Aunt Marge containing none other than a cat! It seems as if Teddy and this cat just cannot get along no matter what they do, and it drives him crazy!

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However, in this charming book about friendship and accepting others despite their differences, Teddy and Penelope eventually begin to get along. Sometimes our differences are the most important part of our friendships. A friendship between two people who are exactly the same would be pretty boring! Boyle does an excellent job of portraying the idea that we are not going to get along with everyone that we meet, but all friendships involve some sort of compromise.

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Teddy is able to recognize that although he and Penelope have different interests, it does not mean that they cannot be friends. He changes his motto to “Be your own dog…even if it means being a cat”. This picture book teaches important ideas of love and acceptance through relatable (and very cute!) characters. These are critical life lessons that can be taken with them wherever they go: school, the park, soccer practice, or anywhere else!

Post by: McKenzie Scott

Smooooooooth Jazz

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new-doc-2_3Take a trip back in time with Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph. Using a collection of original poems, writer Roxanne Orgill tells the stories of jazz musicians like Thelonious Monk, Rex Stewart, and Maxine Sullivan who all gathered one day on  126th Street.

This story started with an idea—all the good ones do—and this idea was a spectacular one in its own right. As told in the book’s introduction, Art Kane, in 1958, decided to take a picture. But not just any picture mind you, but rather a picture containing as many American jazz musicians as possible. Not even owning a camera, Art Kane partnered with Esquire magazine to help make this photograph a good one.

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Armed with the Francis Vallejo’s tantalizing artwork, Orgill tosses us lightly onto those sun-bathed sidewalks, surrounded by laughter, chatter, and smiles. We are no longer viewing the book from 2016, because we are standing next to Rex Stewart as he passes a small cornet to a little boy named Leroy. We are standing next to a group of men wondering where Duke Ellington is at the moment. We are comforting a frantic photographer who is attempting, without prevail, to get everyone’s attention.

This is a great book to remind kids that history isn’t dead. Instead history is in the poetry found between the covers of a book, or in Vallejo’s exquisite illustrations, or in the smooth jazz that they might hear in an elevator, or even in a single photograph.

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Post by: Stephanie Thompson

All Hail The Water Princess!

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new doc 1_1Based on a true story comes the picture book The Water Princess by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. Taking place in an African village, Reynolds’ illustrations cause us to feel the sand underneath our bare feet and the approaching sunrise whispering over the horizon. However, it is Verde who turns us into a Princess, or more specifically into Princess Gie Gie, a young girl who despite her wonderful array of powers—which includes taming wild dogs, dancing in the grass and playing hide-and-seek with the wind—cannot bring the murky, and faraway, water any closer to her village.

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And it is this combination of delicate prose and stunning artwork that we begin to feel Princess Gie Gie’s thirst. However, while I, the reader, can easily get up and grab some Dasani from my fridge, Princess Gie Gie and her Maman must wake up before sunrise to go and get water from a well.

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However, even after the journey to get the water ends, the relief is only short-lived as Princess Gie Gie is reminded that she must once again make the trip to the well in the morning. The heartfelt ending reminds me of how fortunate I am to live in a place where not only is most of my water clean but rather easily assessable as well. With the promise of “Someday . . .” Princess Gie Gie reinstates within us a fiery burning dedication to our homes, one so strong that no amount of my crystal clear Dasani will quench.   the water princess_4

Note: This book will be released September 13, 2016. We hope you read and enjoy it!

Post by: Stephanie Thompson

Winner Wednesdays: The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

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If you are looking for a great story to read out loud to children, The Gruffalo is the book for you. The Gruffalo was written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler in 1996, and won the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize in 1999. The Smarties book prize was a prestigious UK award given to the “best work of fiction or poetry by a British author for children in three age categories (up to 11).” The prize was awarded annually by Booktrust from 1985-2007. The Gruffalo won the Gold Award in the youngest category, for children ages 0-5. More information about the Smarties Book Prize can be found here.

The Gruffalo is a comical story about a mouse who outsmarts hungry animals with his quick wits. Donaldson writes in flexibly metered verse that (in my experience) keeps children engaged with its lilting rhythm. Scheffler’s illustrations envelop the reader in the lush, earth-toned woods. Set against a realistic woodland background, Scheffler’s animals have clearly defined lines and are more cartoon-like in style. With the exception of the Gruffalo, all of the critters have endearing underbites. As the titular monster of the book, the Gruffalo will make children laugh rather than scream because his appearance is so silly in its eclectic nature.

 

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As readers, we follow mouse through the woods as his journey is relayed by an unnamed narrator. Immediately, the mouse encounters a hungry fox, and invents the creature of the Gruffalo to escape the fox’s lunch invitation (which he sees as an invitation to be the fox’s lunch). Mouse describes the Gruffalo with characteristics that are particulary scary to a fox, and then subtly states that the Gruffalo’s favorite food is “roasted fox.” The fox runs off, and the process happens again with an owl and a snake. Imagine the mouse’s surprise then when he walks straight into a Gruffalo! The beast has every strange characteristics the mouse has dreamed up: “He has knobbly knees and turned-out toes/ And a poisonous wart at the end of his nose.” To keep the Gruffalo from eating him, mouse has to come up with his smartest plan yet. I won’t spoil the ending, but the story ends well for the mouse.

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I would highly recommend this book for children ages 3-7. The book is perfectly suited for reading aloud, especially if the reader gives the animals different voices. Children I have read the book to have made up games based on the book, and a park ranger I met in England takes children on Gruffalo walks through the woods. Needless to say, children love this book, and I bet you will too.

Rebekah Moredock