‘Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race’ by Chris Grabenstein Is a Worthy Third Book in the Series

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Can author Chris Grabenstein keep on writing “Mr. Lemoncello” books that will have new plots and  new twists and will keep kids (and adults) entertained? From the looks of “Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race,” it appears to be a certainty.

In this third book in the series, Kyle Keeley is once again determined to win a game sponsored by Mr. Luigi Lemoncello, his idol, the famous game maker and inventor extraordinaire. Lemoncello is to libraries what Willy Wonka was to candy in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

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‘Lemons’ by Melissa Savage: Wonderful and Thoughtful Middle Grade Fiction

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“Lemons” by Melissa Savage covers some tough topics in a lovely story. The main character, Lemonade Liberty Witt, named because her mother wanted her to be able to make lemonade from tough situations, has just had a really tough situation. Her mother died.

Lem, as she is called, and her mother lived in San Francisco and enjoyed life to the fullest. Her father was never a part of the picture, and she didn’t really have other family. At least, that’s what she thought until her mother died and she went to live with her grandfather, who had been estranged from her mother, in small-town Willow Creek.

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‘The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse’ by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

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In “The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse,” Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen create another fantastic fable that will be devoured by children around the world, just as the titular wolf devours the duck and the mouse.

The three characters, two of whom were swallowed by the wolf, must join forces to save all their lives. And ironically, the smaller and seemingly more helpless of the trio are the ones who save the day.

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‘Bruce’s Big Move’: Bruce and His Geese Are Back! And It’s a Giveaway of All the Bruce Books! #BrucesBigMove #FollowBruce

Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy of Bruce’s Big Move to review and is partnering with me for a giveaway!

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Not only is kids’ favorite picture book character back, one lucky Bruce fan will win a 3bruce bookswhole lotta’ Bruce: All three of the fabulous Bruce books, including “Mother Bruce,” “Hotel Bruce,” and “Bruce’s Big Move.”

ENTER TO WIN HERE

After “Mother Bruce” and  “Hotel Bruce” comes “Bruce’s Big Move,” a book starring the curmudgeonly bear Bruce which is every bit as sweet and touching as the first two “Bruce” books.

In this fabulous picture book, Bruce is tired of living a chaotic life with not only his four geese children but the three mischievous mice who make life noisy, messy, and filled with nonstop action. Bruce craves some peace and quiet.

He tries sending the mice away, but nothing works. They are happily oblivious to his best efforts and don’t go anywhere. Finally, Bruce decides that he and the geese must move. They find a beautiful home on the edge of a lovely lake. There is sweet solitude and plenty of quiet contentment.

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‘Snappsy the Alligator and His Best Friend Forever (Probably): A Clever Picture Book About Friendship

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“Snappsy the Alligator and His Best Friend Forever (Probably)” by Julie Falatko and illustrated by Tim Miller is a picture book that is humorous, educational and even, at the end, touching.

Snappsy is kind of a grumpy guy. When his “best friend,” a chicken, wants to have all kinds of fun with him, Snappsy responds that he really just wants a quiet evening alone. Readers, adults and kids alike, will laugh as Snappsy, at the brink of frustration, explains how they are not best friends: Continue reading

Three Must-Have Picture Books for Young Animal Lovers and Others

There are three astonishingly beautiful picture books for children which should be considered for every school library or bookshelf.

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“How to Heal a Broken Wing” by Bob Graham is the fictional account of a pigeon who flies into a skyscraper in the middle of a large city and falls to the sidewalk. People walk past, unseeing and uncaring, but when Will and his mother walk by, Will sees. Will cares. Will breaks away from his mother and goes back to the hurt bird. He gently picks it up and holds it out to his mother.

This touching story of one boy’s compassion for a bird many consider dirty and vermin-like is beautifully told and illustrated. The text is quite spare as are the illustrations. Both parents make identical gestures when they first see the bird — their hands on their heads as if to say, “Really?!” But both wholeheartedly join in the rescue attempt, the mother giving up her scarf to carefully wrap the bird for its trip to their house and the father going out to buy the injured bird a cage to recuperate in. And slowly — the author shows the passage of time through illustrations of the changing moon — the bird heals.

This is a story that will not soon be forgotten, and it might just be the book that changes a child’s life and view of those who are helpless, those whom others don’t notice, those who desperately need help. It’s a story that would certainly facilitate productive conversations about helping others and the value of life.

Quite different from the fictional story of one pigeon is the nonfiction book “Many: TheIMG_3282 Diversity of Life on Earth” by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Emily Sutton. In “Many,” the author presents the incredible diversity, the incredibly enormous numbers and types of plants and animals and even microbes that exist alongside of us on our planet. From two kinds of huge elephants (African and Asian) to more than 600 kinds of oak trees; from over 100,000 kinds of mushrooms to thousands of microbes in one teaspoon of dust, and from deserts to islands, from treetops to the bottom of the ocean, the author states:

“We have learned that every kind of living thing is part of a big, beautiful, complicated pattern.

The last part of the book warns about the danger of continuing to disrupt the beautiful, natural pattern that is life on Earth. “The trouble is, all over the world, human beings are destroying pieces of the pattern…” Examples are chemicals poisoning our air, rivers and oceans and fishing boats emptying the oceans and people cutting forests resulting in the extinction of animals and plants.

This book is perfect for starting a conversation or project about the environment and what we must do to protect it for our children and future generations.

IMG_3281Another nonfiction picture book is “Song of the Wild: A First Book of Animals” also by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Petr Horácek. This picture book is organized by “Big and Small,” “Color and Shapes,” Animal Homes,” “Animal Babies,” and “Animals in Action.”

The largest bird, the African ostrich, is compared to the tiniest, a hummingbird just bigger than a bee. It could fit inside the ostrich’s eye. The information is presented in rhyme, which makes this a lovely book to read aloud.

“The ostrich lives in Africa
in grasslands hot and dry,
the biggest bird in all the world —
in fact, too large to fly.”

There are giraffes and lions and elephants and ants. One sepia and taupe monochromatic page titled “What Am I?” presents information about mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, and more. The next page begins “Colors and Shapes” and has brilliant color illustrations of beetles with the information that there are more than 300,000 kinds of beetles. Camel with their humps, zebras and tigers resplendent with stripes, and a panda grace the pages of this chapter.

This is not a picture book for a quick read. Rather, this is a picture book that youngsters will want to peruse slowly as they absorb all the information. They will learn that even a crocodile is tender when it comes to her babies.

“No one thinks of crocodiles as gentle;
tenderness is something for the doves.
But when baby crocodiles are hatching,
it’s hard to say they don’t get Mother’s love.”

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by Candlewick Press for review purposes.

 

‘The War I Finally Won’ Is the Amazing Sequel to ‘The War that Saved My Life’

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It’s rare when a sequel is just as beautifully written and just as touching (maybe even more so) than the first book. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley accomplished this difficult feat with “The War I Finally Won,” the sequel to “The War that Saved My Life.”

Ada is the main character in both books, and it’s her story, that of a child who has endured unimaginable abuse and cruelty, who has struggled through life with a disability, yet who emerges strong and brave. That story has enthralled readers and made tens of thousands of them weep.

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‘Liberty’ by Kirby Larson: Middle Grade Historical Fiction About a Boy and his Dog

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“Liberty” is the third book by Kirby Larson for middle grade readers about a child and a dog during WWII. In “Liberty,” a boy, a girl, and a dog dominate the story about life in New Orleans during World War II.
Fish, as he is nicknamed, contracted polio when young, and now that he’s in fifth grade, one leg is shorter than the other, causing him to limp. In the water, however, he is as fast as a fish — hence the nickname. His next door neighbor, Olympia, is friendly and helpful although they attend different schools. While Larson doesn’t actually describe Olympia, through clues in the text, the reader will come to realize that she attends a different school because she is black. At one point, Fish doesn’t want to take the trolley because they wouldn’t be able to sit together.

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Three Picture Books That Will Make Children Think

There are several new picture books that are wonderful choices to read with children and which will encourage thoughtful conversations about life, friendship and perseverance.

Kathryn Otoshi’s newest book, “Draw the Line,” continues with her other books’ themes of friendship, reconciliation, and how to deal with anger. In this wordless book, two boys draw lines and bump into each other. The lines magically become rope and the two boys have fun playing together until one accidentally hurts the other. Then things get ugly, but time and a gesture from one boy start the road to healing the rift and playing again. This is a book that could be used in many ways – by psychologists, by social workers, by parents, and by teachers, to talk to children about anger and how to deal with problems. The illustrations are simply drawn in black and white with just two additional colors: yellow and purple. The colors are used to enhance the emotions of the two boys — yellow for happy and dark purple clouds for anger. It’s a striking and important book for libraries and classrooms. (Roaring Brook Press)

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3 Very Different Children’s Picture Books About Being Different

Three new picture books celebrate being different and unique in very different ways and in very different formats. Each book, just like the theme of the books, looks different and unique.

“You’re All Kinds of Wonderful” by Nancy Tillman is a lovely book. From the beautiful rhyming text to the absolutely lovely illustrations, the message is that we are all different, and that’s a wonderful thing. She tells kids that it’s not easy to find what’s right for you. “You’ll try some things on that simply don’t fit. Don’t be discouraged. That’s all part of it.”

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‘Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker’ by Shelley Johannes Is a Creative Book for Early Chapter Book Readers

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“Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker” by Shelley Johannes is a lovely chapter book for young readers who want some pictures with their text. Johannes’ artwork provides plenty of visual cues that are amazingly effective even though they are in black, grey and orange. The “pink” dress looks amazingly pink even though it’s orange!

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