Category Archives: New Books/Reviewer’s choice

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

Marvelous New Picture Books: A Perfectly Messed-Up Story

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A Perfectly Messed-Up Story

Written and Illustrated by Patrick McDonnell

Patrick McDonnell is a comic strip illustrator, famous for his series MUTTS. He has also written several other picture books, including the New York Times best-seller The Monsters’ Monster and Me…Jane, which received a Caldecott Honor.

A Perfectly Messed-Up Story is the tale of Louie, who is happy until things start to go wrong in the telling of his story. First, a plop of jelly lands on his page, interrupting his sentence.

Jelly Stain!

The jelly is not the only thing to interrupt his story. It is soon followed by a splat of peanut butter, smudgy finger prints and a splash of orange juice. Louie is not pleased. He feels books deserve respect and should be taken care of.

So Inspirational!

After an incident with some crayon doodles gone awry, Louie becomes so distraught that he gives up all together.

I. GIVE. UP.

As the story continues, Louie realizes that the story can still be read and loved, despite its setbacks. He begins to love his story again, messes and all.

Messes and all.

Overall, we found this book to be humorous and engaging. The illustrations are delightful, and use a variety of mediums to share a quirky story. The moral is sometimes life is messy, but that isn’t a reason to give up; life can still be good, even with messes in it. This is an important message for children, especially those who are stubborn or like things to go their way (as most kids do). We think this would be appropriate for children three and older and would be useful in teaching kids about accepting flaws in life, in themselves and in others.  Parents could absolutely use this book in helping kids through transitions, such as welcoming a new sibling, entering a new school or simply a change of plans.  We definitely recommend this book and hope it brings you as much laughter as it did us!

-Anna McCarthy and Hayley Robinson

Giant Steps to Change the World

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Giant Steps to Change the World by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee is a motivational book that speaks to young readers in an inspiring way.

Cover to cover, this book aims to help young readers find a path and follow their dreams. Spike and Tonya Lee have gathered quotes from over 20 world leaders and filled the book’s flaps with short bursts of inspiration. Subtly referencing the achievements and challenges of world leaders, including: “the poet who wrote of the pain and beauty of neighborhoods forgotten” and “the scientist who had a hard time learning to read, but whose theories became the basis for most of modern science,” this book offers a simple yet meaningful message. Adults and children will love reading this book, guessing who the text is talking about, and following the authors’ message: you are going to face challenges in life. We all do; but, you have to take the steps to overcome those challenges and follow your dreams. What’s your next step going to be? 

– Mary Frances

Bedhead by Margie Palatini illustrated by Jack E. Davis

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You know those mornings when you wake up and no matter how hard you try, you just cannot get your hair to work with you? Well Oliver is having one of those mornings in Bedhead by Margie Palatini.  In a daze, Oliver gives his teeth a “passable brushing,” and then he notices it:

“In a gunk less corner of the soapy silver soap dish… in a fogless smidgen of  his father’s foggy shaving mirror…right there on the hot water faucet, for heaven’s sake… he saw it!”

“It was BIG”

“It was BAD”

“It was…”

“BEDHEAD!”

After noticing this monstrosity, Oliver’s scream “shook,” it “rattled,” and “it rolled all the way down from the stairs and into the kitchen where Froot Loops went flying.”  Oliver’s dad, mom, and sister file up to the bathroom to check on him. They each try to tame his hair, but all of their attempts are futile. Oliver finally discovers a solution: a hat!

When he finally makes it to school, one of his classmates reminds him that it is PICTURE DAY! As the class is arranged for their picture, the cameraman tells Oliver to take off his hat. Oliver reluctantly takes off his hat and to his surprise, his hair is not sticking out every which way!

But, then, as the cameraman counts down for the picture, the BEDHEAD comes back!

The story ends with a copy of Oliver’s class picture, which captures the moment perfectly.

This humorous tale offers an experience in which we all can relate. The rich and descriptive language aligns well with the detailed illustrations.

Love it!!

-Anna Blair Solomon

We Are in a Book!

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Elephant and Piggie are back at it again in this wonderful book written and illustrated by the talented Mo Willems!

Winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor (an honor awarded annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States), this book is fun for children of all ages!

In this book, Gerald the elephant and Piggie notice something strange… Someone is looking at them!

Who could it be?

The reader!

When they discover they are in a book, the characters celebrate and rejoice! But now Elephant and Piggie have a BIG problem! What happens when the book ends?

Make sure to pick up a copy and find out!

Join Elephant and Piggie and turn the pages with them. Delight in how Willems experiments with conventions and has his characters “break the fourth wall.” Enjoy how he plays with text and speech bubbles. This book will truly surprise the reader and make the reader smile! 🙂

– Reviewed by Laura Wilczek

My America Poetry Atlas of the United States

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Lee Bennett Hopkins has selected 50 wonderful poems for My America Poetry Atlas of the United States. The poems are grouped by geographic regions within the United States and portray a beautiful and original representation of our country. Many of the poems have a special ability to take the reader back in time to imagine how life was lived many years ago. The other poems portray present-day depictions of the United States. The hopes and dreams of our nations citizens are expressed in each and every poem.

This book can be incorporated into many education settings. For example, it can be particularly useful to introduce certain geographic regions during a Social Studies lesson while also studying poetry. There are many descriptive words throughout the book and each poem offers its own, unique feeling and mood.

The illustrations are majestic and calming. They depict the United States in a very peaceful and beautiful way. As a special bonus, each region has its own map  and fascinating facts for each state. This is a book that every classroom should have and that every traveler will enjoy!

– Mary Frances Griffith

The Hello, Goodbye Window

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The Hello, Goodbye Window is a MAGICAL Gateway that can be found in the kitchen of Nanna and Poppy’s house!

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From the outside looking in, the window may look like a regular window to most. But through the Hello, Goodbye Window, passersby are welcomed into the home of Nanna and Poppy. One can say hello, wave goodbye, and feel welcomed whether excited or shy. When there’s no one to see, the landscape of nature is as pretty as can be. The Hello, Goodbye Window is the perfect lens through which you can explore nature at any time of the day!

The Hello, Goodbye Window is a fun family read, especially amongst grandchildren and their grandparents. Young readers will certainly enjoy the warm, vibrant, watercolor illustrations. Since the this book is written for young readers, many can read children should find comfort and elation at the chance to read to you! So snuggle close near the kitchen table, grab this text, and experience the fun through your Hello, Goodbye Window!

-Erin