Monthly Archives: October 2015

Moving Forward: A Review of Little Tree by Loren Long

51Fg2ChjzML[1]When I read Little Tree for the first time this past July, (Thanks Penguin for the F&G), I was kind of speechless. Not often does a book leave me that way, but Little Tree did. As many regular readers of this blog know, my 19 year old sister died unexpectedly last December, and over the course of what has now been almost a year, I have made many unexpected connections between books, life, death, relationships, and lessons that you sometimes only get the chance to learn the hard way.
Today, on the book’s release date, I have a hard copy in my hand and I read it over again. A quote I heard that is credited to Robert Frost was brought to mind: “In three words I can summarize everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”
Now, Frost does not say that picking up the pieces and moving forward, or letting go of something, is easy. But the fact that life always goes on is inevitable. It’s what we do with the experiences that matter. There is a big difference between “letting go” and “moving on.” In Little Tree, Loren so perfectly captures what it means to move on with courage and bravery.
We are introduced to a little tree, filled with leaves. As is typical for trees, as the seasons change, the leaves change color, and it is time to drop them. But this unique little tree does not drop his leaves. He clings to them, afraid of what might happen if he drops them.
Season after season, the little tree hangs on tight. As the book progresses, we see the other trees growing, blossoming, and becoming what they were meant to be. But, the little tree doesn’t do any of those things. Instead, he sticks out with his dry, brown leaves in a forest that is meant to flourish.
And one winter, something strikes the little tree as he notices everyone is so much bigger, with branches reaching high in the sky. And the little tree lets go. And in time, he too flourishes and grows to what he was meant to be.
I don’t have to elaborate on what the takeaway from this book is. I believe that everyone, children and adults alike, will bring their own experiences to this book and come away with renewed hope and encouragement that it’s OK to move on and let go.
This is a book for everybody. Children. Teens. Adults. Using acrylic, ink and pencil, Loren creates the perfect illustrations to match the powerful text of Little Tree. Loren takes advantage of the white space at the beginning of the book, and gradually increases the power of the illustrations as we progress through the journey with the little tree.
I don’t know what more I can say about a book like Little Tree, other than, it is one you will certainly want to purchase for all you know and add to your collection of stories that will touch your heart and stay with you for years to come, with the gentle reminder that it’s okay to be courageous and move forward.
View a trailer for the book here.
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The Right Guy For the Job: A Review of A Big Surprise for Little Card by Charise Mericle Harper, illustrated by Anna Raff

I never had one.

Where I came from, you didn’t need one.

A library card, that is. In our cozy little town of 800, you didn’t need a library card to check out books. With an honest face and an “I know where you live (wink)” you could check out several books, and the jolly old librarian always knew you’d get them back. It’s how things worked in the small town.

So when I saw shows on TV where kids needed library cards, I was a bit confused. Eventually, it was explained and made sense. In most places, library cards are the keys to unlocking so many doors of possibilities. And then, oh, how I yearned to have a library card. I always wondered what it was like. Thankfully,  Charise Mericle Harper and Anna Raff have collaborated on a new book, A Big Surprise for Little Card, which captures the pure joy of ownership of a card.

Little Card doesn’t always know he is a library card. He knew he would have a special job, and when the day his special letter came, he was elated to find out he was a birthday card. This seemed perfect for him- he was loud and proud and very jubilant.

And, he played the part of Birthday Card quite well…. until Long Card broke the news that the special letters got mixed up. Little Card was now being sent to the Library.

Not losing heart, Little Card greets the staff at the library with a hearty, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”, and after being scolded, “HAPPY LIBRARY!” Miss Penny introduces Little Card to Alex, and the two instantly click. Children will be roaring with laughter as they see Little Card bounce around on a due date stamp when he first meets Alex.

Little Card and Alex realize together the joys of the library, and books.

Little Card’s personality captures that of the spirit many kids have when leaving the library. A sense of total joy and complete happiness as they grab hold of their new books, ready to embark on new adventures.

This book is another example of an author/illustrator match made perfectly. Anna Raff’s illustrations of Little Card and his adventures truly capture the gleeful spirit of Little Card. There is much to look for throughout the illustrations. I especially enjoyed all of the book titles in the “rainbow of books.”

Any child who does not have a library card will be demanding to go out and get one after they get their hands on this Candlewick spring title from Charise Mericle Harper and Anna Raff!

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Dashing Through the Snow: Review of Niroot Puttapipat’s new Jingle Bells

Dashing through the snow…. in a one horse open sleigh…

If you’ve ever heard Christmas music, I imagine the song came through your head and you started singing along to the popular holiday tune, JINGLE BELLS!

Over the years, there have been many book renditions of this popular carol, but none have ever caught my eye as much as the new version from Candlewick illustrated by Niroot Puttapipat. This isn’t just any edition of Jingle Bells, it’s a “Magical Cut-Paper Edition.”

I was not sure what to expect going in with that description, but I was amazed when I opened the first page. Using only a color palette of white, black, red, and green, we see an illustration first of what probably comes to mind when most people hear Jingle Bells: a one horse open sleigh through the forest. Continuing to use the same colors, with a little bit of gold thrown in, we see the sleighing couple take off, laughing all the way.

Each page turn reveals different cuts in the paper that add to the magic of this song. We see the glow from the church windows, and eventually the couple with the sleigh arrives at the town’s majestic Christmas tree. The couple, whom we only see in shadow the whole story, eventually arrives at home with their tree, and we are left to infer that they are headed in for a joyous Christmas celebration.

And that’s when the surprise comes in. With the last page turn, a beautiful pop up scene emerges, and we get to see the tree, the lighted buildings, and the silhouettes of trees in the background as the town gathers around the tree. Not to be missed is the intricately cut one horse open sleigh.

It can be difficult to do something that has done before, but Niroot Puttapipat makes Jingle Bells an enchanting book to crack open at the holidays.

This book is available for purchase now through Candlewick Press.

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Time to Get Dressed! : A Review of Maggie and Michael Get Dressed by Denise Fleming

It’s something I’ve never wanted to try. Dressing up your pets, that is. I know it’s a lot of fun, but growing up in a houseful of cats, and now having one of my own, I don’t think it would end in success.

Dogs, dogs, on the other hand, are more cooperative. I’ve seen dogs in a wide array of outfits over the years. Custom sized Christmas sweaters, Halloween costumes, fur coats… Dogs seem to enjoy this practice.

Maggie, Michael’s dog, is up for getting dressed in Denise Fleming’s April 2016 title, Maggie and Michael Get Dressed. Using her signature pup painting, a paper-making technique, Fleming once again creates a delightful concept book for young readers. The simple text introduces concepts of names of items of clothing and colors as Michael and Maggie spend their morning getting ready for the day.

Mother calls Michael to get dressed, and immediately he invites Maggie, his pup, to join in. From yellow socks to a purple shirt, Michael has his wardrobe ready. But instead of putting it on himself, he dresses Maggie. Michael and Maggie’s facial expressions over the course of the book indicate pure joy, delight, and hilarity as they make their morning fun.

When Michael’s mother calls, “Are you dressed?” Michael knows it’s time to get down to business and put his own clothes on. He puts on everything where it goes, and heads out. Meanwhile, we infer through the final page turns that Maggie enjoys playing with the clothes Michael didn’t pick while Michael is gone.

Not only does this book offer opportunity to teach little ears about names of articles of clothing and colors, it also subtly teaches about stripes, choices, and concepts of over, and under.

I can hear the giggles that will erupt when Michael realizes he forgot to put on his white underwear.

Pre-order your copy of Denise’s newest title today (on sale 4/12/2016). I am continually amazed by how Fleming is able to weave such colorful, unique concept books for early readers with a story line. Denise’s attention to detail in her pulp painting style is also something to note. 2016 will be a very good year for young readers, as Fleming’s Five Little Ducks will release in the fall of 2016.

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Loud and Proud: A Review of Loud Lula

I lived with Loud Lacy.

A year younger than me, my sister has always been the loud one. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a part of who she is. Very, very loud. Though many labeled me as “the quiet one,” I’m not really quiet; I just seem quiet if you compare me to my sister. My favorite moment of my sister’s loudness was at my graduation ceremony where I received my master’s degree. She was there, and when my name was called, she hollered, “GO DYLAN! WOO HOO! YEA!”

When I heard the book Loud Lula by Katy Duffield, illustrated by Mike Boldt was coming out, I wondered if Lula was anything like Lacy.

After reading it today, I concur: she is.

From the very beginning, Lula is loud. As a baby, she is compared to the sound of a storm, and “that ol’ storm sounded like nothing more than a chicken feather hitting the henhouse floor” when compared to Lula’s wails. As Lula grows up, her loud cries summons kittens from all over the area, knocks librarians off of their chairs, and rocks her schoolhouse off of its foundation when she asks where the bathroom is.

I think we all know a few “Loud Lula”s in our lives.

Lula is warned to use her “inside voice” in school, but she has trouble distinguishing the decibel level of an inside voice compared to an outside voice. So when danger poses a threat on her school, what’s Lula to do?

Use her voice to save the day, of course.

Mike Boldt’s illustrations paired with Katy Duffield’s wondrous way of words kept me roaring with laughter throughout this saga about a girl with a big voice. I’m sure the volume of my laughs could be compared with the volume of Lula’s voice. Mike uses his illustrations to make hilarious facial expressions and was the perfect illustrator choice for this text.

We are who we are. In Lula’s case, it’s OK to be loud and proud, and sometimes, loud voices come in handy. Though others might look down on us for some of our quirks, sometimes they are what prevail in the end and save the day.

On October 27, rush to your nearest bookstore and grab a copy of Loud Lula. Then use your outside voice to tell the world about how great it is!

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Don’t Be Late: A Review of Mother Goose’s Pajama Party by Danna Smith

About 7 or 8 years ago when I took Children’s Literature class in college, our professor was very clear:
Nursery rhymes are falling by the wayside. And it’s too bad, because they are so essential for beginning readers and writers.
She then made sure we were equipped with nursery rhyme knowledge by testing us regularly, seeing if we could fill in the blanks of nursery rhymes she thought were essential.

So, every time I see a new book of Mother Goose rhymes go into print, I think of my children’s literature professor, and I think, “Another one for team nursery rhyme!”

Mother Goose’s Pajama Party by Danna Smith and illustrated by Virginia Allyn is a collection of rhymes that you’ll want to leave at your child’s bedside.

We follow the characters as Mother Goose sends out the invitation:
Star light, star bright,
Come to story time tonight.
Bring your friends
and don’t be late.
Meet at my house-
Half past eight.

Who could pass up a pajama party with Mother Goose? Many nursery rhyme characters we know and love jump at the opportunity, grab their pajamas, and head down the road- from Nimble Jack, to the crooked man; from the cow to the dish and the spoon. Everyone is invited and everyone sets off on their way.

The illustrations by Virginia Allyn add a new dimension to the text. Created digitally on a Mac, they give the story the warm sense you would expect from a Mother Goose book coupled with a bedtime story.

At last, all nursery rhyme friends make it to Mother Goose’s house and settle into bed.

But the book doesn’t end here. In the back, you’ll find the nursery rhyme to accompany every character in the story. So if you are unfamiliar with a character, or a rhyme, you can read it, memorize it, and treasure it. It’s all right there.

Crawl into your pajamas with your little ones and settle into sleep with Mother Goose and her Pajama Party.

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