Monday, March 28, 2011

Non-Fiction Monday: Totally Human

I've been seeing this trend in children's non-fiction lately, with lots of books presenting facts about why we do the things we do as humans. Kids ask questions constantly and it's brilliant to have a book with answers to questions like: Why do you shake when you're scared, why do we get the hiccups, why do we crave junk food, why we're ticklish, etc. 

The answers to the questions are concise and fun, filling in the blanks for kids, yet not coming off as overly educational. We can all learn something from this book, but it's information is presented in a fun way. Always a plus!

The text is interactive and cool collage type photographs are definitely attention-getting. I think it will fit right in with The Big Book of Why and others of this sort. 

Totally Human: Why We Look and Act the Way We Do
Cynthia Pratt Nicolson
40 pages
Kids Can Press
March 2011
Review copy received from publisher

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Picture Book Saturday

Ten Birds by Cybele Young

This is one of the most unique counting books I've come across! Ten birds are attempting to make their way across the river, being as resourceful as possible. The "Brilliant" bird makes stilts, while the "Extraordinary" one builds a hot air balloon of sorts, and so on until there is only one left...the "Needs Improvement bird." Little do those birds know that "Needs Improvement" has the most common sense of them all.

Great vocabulary words and a unique counting format are accompanied by beautiful black and white illustrations.  Definitely a unique book that would make a beautiful gift. 

Ten Birds
Cybele Young
32 pages
Picture Book
Kids Can Press
March 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

The Honeybee Man by Lela Nargi and illustrator Kyrsten Brooker

This book has so much going for it, I don't even know where to start! Fred lives in the city, yet he has three beehives on the roof of his building (point for urban beekeeping), he teaches us about how bees make their homes in hives (point), and what they do when they're out buzzing around (point). Fred also teaches us about what to do with the honey once the bees have made it (point) and all sorts of neat facts about hives and bees in general (point). 

Beautiful illustrations are the icing on the cake! The book could be a great asset to a unit on bees or just as a nice read aloud that has some educational aspects. I'm really impressed with this one!

The Honeybee Man 
Lela Nargi
40 pages
Picture Book
Schwartz and Wade
March 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana review

When the Taliban invades Kabul, Kamela Sediqi's entire family is instantly changed. There is constant fear of breaking one of the rules and the possibility of being accused of working against the Taliban is high for men like Kamela's father. In a matter of months both of her parents are forced to leave Kabul, resulting in Kamela and her sisters to find a way to support themselves and their brothers while a war rages on and women are not even allowed out of the house without a veil and are basically confined to their home. 

Desperate to help her family, Kamela begins sewing in her living room, learning from an older sister. She turns a tiny income into a huge, thriving tailoring business in a very short period of time, all while the Taliban continues to rule directly outside her doors. She and her family earn enough money to support themselves, as well as begin a school to assist other women in helping to support their families throughout Kabul. 

To say this is an inspirational book would be a complete understatement. Journalist Gayle Tzemach Lemmon writes this book about Kamela and her family as if it were a novel and not a true story and, at times, I had to remind myself that this really happened. It's an absolutely fascinating look into a side of Kabul during the Taliban that we, as Americans, don't often get to see, especially having to do with women during that time period!

As much as I loved the story and the inspiration of the entrepreneurship of Kamela, I wasn't totally amazed by the writing. Parts of the story definitely needed a bit more meat and though I often think books are too wordy and long, almost felt this one could have stood to be a little longer! The pace was really fast and I felt like the author was glossing over a lot of the details and only giving us the basics of Kamela's story. 

That being said, I would definitely recommend this to readers, especially fans of inspirational memoirs. 

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and The Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
288 pages
Adult Non-Fiction
March 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Monday, March 21, 2011

Non-Fiction Monday: What to Expect When You're Expecting Larvae

Just from the title you can tell that this book is going to be fairly humorous, both for parents and the kids! A play on the bestselling What to Expect When You're Expecting (for humans of course) this book is a crash course for new insect parents on how to care for their insect babies. 

Each page features a question from a new insect parent, such as "what will my babies look like?" and "what should I do when my children have wings?" The answers are written in a fun and frank way that educates children on simple facts about specific bugs in a totally unique way. 

We learn that ladybug parents and babies eat the same thing--aphids. We also learn that a hornworm caterpillar (the baby of a sphinx moth) can multiply its weight by ten thousand in just sixteen days. Impressive! All different types of cool information, from staying safe and finding a home to meals and growing patterns are presented. 

A glossary is included in the back for extra info. 

I wasn't thrilled with the illustrations, but I loved the book overall. It will definitely get kids to pick it up and once they start browsing the silliness will draw them in. Lots of fun!

What to Expect When You're Expecting Larvae: A Guide for Insect Parents (and Curious Kids)
Bridget Heos
32 pages
Middle Grade
Millbrook Press
March 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Sunday, March 20, 2011

IMM Week 31

Lots of books this week and some I've really been looking forward to!

How to Survive Anything by Rachel Buchholz
The Six Rules of Maybe by Deb Caletti
Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt
Family by Michol Ostow

I've read Wither, which I LOVED (review coming this week) and I read The Six Rules of Maybe when it came out last year and this is the paperback version. Loved that one too :)

Tom Thumb: The Remarkable True Story of a Man in Miniature by George Sullivan
Great Migrations by Elizabeth Carney
Bugs by the Numbers by Sharon Wener and Sarah Forss
Mama, Why? by Karma Wilson

I love me some National Geographic books, so I definitely can't wait to crack those open. Karma Wilson is one of my picture book faves and the Tom Thumb book looks really cool.

A great haul this week!

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Picture Book Saturday

No Sleep for the Sheep! by Karen Beaumont and illustrator Jackie Urbanovic

The sheep on the farm want nothing more than to get some rest, but the animal noises in the barn are keeping them very much awake! The ducks are quacking, the cows mooing, and the pigs oinking, making for a very noisy bedtime. 

Told in a repetitious form with lots of silly illustrations, this one would be great for storytime. The kids will be chanting along with you by the end and would make great assistants in the oinking, quacking, etc. Lots of silliness! Ooh and I love the cover on the front! It's a perfect example of just what you'll find in the pages. 

Get this author and illustrator together and you're bound to get a fun picture book! 

No Sleep for the Sheep!
Karen Beaumont
32 pages
Picture Book
March 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Pick a Pup by Marsha Wilson Chall and illustrator Jed Henry

I have a slight obsession with dog books, I know, but especially those that talk about rescuing and adopting from shelters. This one not only sends a great message to kids about how to find their perfect dog, it's cute and sweet at the same time. 

Sam is very excited to head to the city shelter to pick out a puppy, but isn't quite sure how to find the perfect dog. As he and his Gram walk down the street, Sam gets to experience all the different types of dogs his neighbors own, making him even more confused. But, when he gets to the shelter, one special dog picks SAM out!

It rhymes, the illustrations are adorable, AND it's about dogs. Great for those seeking a new pet for their family or those that just love a good dog story. Like ME!

Pick a Pup
Marsha Wilson Chall
32 pages
Picture Book
McElderry Books
February 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Follow Me by Tricia Tusa

I LOVE Tusa's illustrations and always seek out books that have pictures by her, so I was really excited to see one written and illustrated by her, coming out soon. It's a quiet book, which you all know I love, and it would make a sweet bedtime book. 

A young girl starts out on a swing set and ends up swirling through the different colors of her imagination. Beautiful pink, a blue sky, the green trees...until she finds herself drifting back home. There's a not a lot of meat to the actual story, but rather it's a flowing telling of a girl's wonderful imagination. 

Again, a nice bedtime book and one that adults will really enjoy along with their kids. The illustrations are soft and lovely and the text equally sweet. It's always nice to have one of these quieter books in your nightly pile!

Follow Me
Tricia Tusa
40 pages
Picture Book
April 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bless This Mouse review

I'm a huge fan of Lois Lowry's, no matter which genre she's currently choosing to write for. She always does such a nice job at creating characters and settings that I can visualize in my head and enjoy from start to finish...even when the main characters are mice!

The church mice living in Saint Bartholemew's are used to being under the leadership of the firm, yet kind, Hildegarde. She keeps things running smoothly and tries to make sure that all the mice stay out of sight, in order to prevent another "Great X." She's a little uptight, humorously so, but who wouldn't be with more than 200 church mice under her care?

When several parishioners report mouse sightings, as well as the day of the yearly Blessing of the Animals ceremony quickly approaching, Hildegarde knows that all of the mice are in trouble and drastic measures must be taken to protect their lives. All of the mice must work together to formulate a plan to prevent losing their home or any of their tribe.  

A perfect story to read aloud with your family, you'll find more than a bit of humor mixed in with the sweet and sentimental plot. Moral lessons are seamlessly woven into the story and the illustrations, done by Caldecott Medalist Eric Rohman are a perfect accompaniment to the text. 

There are aspects of Catholicism throughout the story, after all, it does take place in a Catholic Church, but understanding anything about that particular religion is definitely not necessary to understanding the story. It's more of a backdrop, though the mice do speak of confession and say a couple of prayers. I would not hesitate to give this to a non-religious family or one of a different faith and I would not consider it a "religious" story, but rather a cute telling of a group of mice determined to help each other. 

Utterly charming!

Bless This Mouse
Lois Lowry
160 pages
Middle Grade
Houghton Mifflin
March 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Monday, March 14, 2011

Non-Fiction Monday: Human Footprint

The environment and helping to keep it clean and running well is a passion of mine and I love being able to help kids realize the impact they make, while keeping it fun and not "preachy." No one wants to hear that "you should put that in the recycling bin, not the trash can" 150 times a day, but a book like this is great for getting the point across.

Human Footprint introduces the whole idea of what a person's footprint on the Earth actually is, in terms that kids can understand and actually be interested in. The facts are kept short and to the point and have an awesome impact that way. 

Did you know that in your lifetime you'll use approximately 31, 350 gallons of gas. At almost $4 a pop, that fact hurts a bit. 

87, 520 slices of bread, 28,433 showers, and the idea of Americans throwing out 694 plastic bottles a second will really make readers think about what they're doing to the Earth (not to mention their BODY) on a larger scale. Simple ideas for helping to lower our impact are interspersed with the more daunting facts, like fixing leaky faucets, not wasting food, recycling plastic bags, and unplugging electronics. 

National Geographic puts out amazing children's non-fiction, you've seen lots of examples on this blog, and this one is equally impressive. The bold photographs add lots of visual interest, as do the bright colors used in fact boxes. If it looks dull, the kids aren't going to pick it up! 

Human Footprint
Ellen Kirk
32 pages
National Geographic
March 2011
Review copy 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Picture Book Saturday

Just 2 reviews today! Enjoy!

Say Hello to Zorro by Carter Goodrich

I love books about dogs, we all know that, and I especially love books that remind me of MY dogs. The exact situation between Mr. Bud and Zorro happened in my house between Shae and Zoey, so exact that even my husband got a kick out the book and that means a lot! 

Mr. Bud enjoys his life immensely. He has a simple schedule that his humans know to never deviate from and he relishes in his daily naps, walks, and movie time. The single life is good. And then the humans decide that Mr. Bud needs a friend and bring home Zorro, a bossy little dog who likes to pick on Mr. Bud. Eventually, the pair learn that life is better with a friend and they enjoy each other's company, taking walks/naps together and having a ball playing!

If you have a couple of dogs, you should definitely get your hands on this one and if you don't, kids will still giggle at the silliness of Mr. Bud and Zorro. The illustrations are adorable and definitely do justice to the dogs. 

Say Hello to Zorro
Carter Goodrich
48 pages
Picture Book
Simon & Schuster
March 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Cuddle Up, Goodnight by Katie Cleminson

Perfect for bedtime, this one shows the reader what a young child does throughout the entire day, leading up to the process of getting ready for bed all over again. 

We see the child wake up, get dressed and go to school, play, and eat dinner, all before beginning to wind down for bedtime with a bath and books. The child does all this with his animal friends, all illustrated in beautifully soft colors, making it a really nice choice for reading at bedtime. 

Great for a baby shower/new baby gift as well! What new parent doesn't want bedtime books??

Cuddle Up, Goodnight
Katie Cleminson
32 pages
Picture Books
February 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels review

If I knew Ree Drummond in real life, we would be best friends. Or maybe I would be that girl that really wants to be her best friend, but she's just too cool and funny for me. Either way, I feel like I know her, even just from following her blog and now reading this sweet love story she's shared with us. If you're a follower as well, you definitely know what I'm talking about!

I found out about Ree and her love of Marlboro Man through her cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Unfortunately, I haven't even tried any of her recipes, because I'm endlessly attempting to lose a few pounds and each of those deliciously appealing recipes contains a whole lot of butter/salt/fat/yummyness (and I make up my own words, if you didn't notice). After seeing the cookbook, I started following her blogs, though I missed out on the whole online story that eventually led to this book. 

The book is written in the same down-to-earth, lovable way that her blog posts are, therefore making it incredibly readable. I loved feeling that I was witnessing this amazing love affair that really was Ree's life with this man and she really does write as if she's telling you the story over coffee, hilarious mishaps and all. You'll not only see her love story with the man that becomes her husband, but also her transformation from upscale business woman to ranch wife and momma. 

If you're a sucker for a good romance, you'll want to pick this one up for sure, even if you have no clue who Ree Drummond is! Sweet and sappy and all that great romancy stuff, minus the sex (thank you Ree!). 

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels
Ree Drummond
352 pages
Adult Non-Fiction
William Morrow Publishing
February 2011

Monday, March 7, 2011

Non-Fiction Monday: Wild Baby Animals

Who doesn't love adorable baby animals, even if they happen to be some of the most unpredictable (or stinky) once they become adults?!

This new series for beginner readers has a lot going for it, starting with the super cute animals they've placed on the covers. It's non-fiction, but very readable and filled with those amazing photographs that make Bearport one of my favorite publishing companies. 

Each of the four books I've reviewed (there are 8 books in the series) has the same basic format. Large text introduces the reader to simple facts about each animal baby, complete with several bold words that can be found in a glossary in the back. Maps, photos, and short captions take up most of the page space, with one or two sentences of text. 

These books would be fantastic for getting kids interested in non-fiction (lure them in with cute animals!) or for those just start to read on their. Librarians, watch out...another Bearport series you won't be able to keep on your shelves!

Wild Baby Animals series
Ruth Owen
Bearport Publishing
January 2011
Review copies provided by publisher

Sunday, March 6, 2011

IMM Week 30

I had a HUGE mailbox week! Tons of books came and I'm so excited to be able to showcase them for you in the coming weeks. Spring is going to be a great season for everything from picture books to YA.

For review:

What Can(t) Wait by Ashley Hope Perez
Everything I Was by Corinne Demas
Strings Attached by Judy Blundell
Numbers: The Chaos by Rachel Ward
Illusions by Aprilynne Pike
Those That Wake by Jesse Karp
Demonglass: A Hex Hall Novel by Rachel Hawkins

I'm looking forward to several of these, but especially Strings Attached. I loved Blundell's What I Saw and How I Lied and am hoping this one has the same super-detailed feel. Haven't read the first Hex Hall book, but I'm going to try to get it from the library this week, so I can get to Demonglass!

First Garden by Robbin Gourley
Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg
Marty McGuire by Kate Messner
Tugg and Teeny by J. Patrick Lewis

I can't wait to read the new Van Allsburg! I grew up not far from Niagara Falls and am thrilled he's done a book about them!


Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

This is the only book I bought this week. Totally accidental! Went to pick up some requests from a friend at the local used bookstore and saw this one for only $4.00! It looks brand new! The ones I got for her, old mass market paperbacks with lots of marks on them were more than this hardcover. Couldn't resist.

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Picture Book Saturday

Whew! What a morning! The husband and I did a commissary run, which takes up more than half the day. It's awesome to save the money on groceries (around here you wouldn't believe the difference!), but it's more than exhausting. I really do miss living on a base for that reason. 

Today I have three new titles for you, all very cute!

Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party by Melanie Watt

I think this is the 5th Scaredy Squirrel book and it's definitely a great one to read in birthday party anticipation!

Since Scaredy Squirrel is so scared of everything, he decides that planning his own birthday party with himself as the only guest is best, so as not to encounter anything scary along the way. Lots of planning goes into the extravaganza-for-one, until Scaredy has a change of heart and decides to invite a special guest. And what was supposed to be a party for one, turns into a party for many!

Melanie Watt's cartoonish illustrations are perfect for the layout of this story, with lots of lists, checkmarks, arrows, and schedules. Not the best for a big group read aloud, as there is lots of extra "stuff" on the pages, but it would be great for reading to your kids, especially if a birthday party is in the works!

Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party
Melanie Watt
32 pages
Picture Book
Kids Can Press
February 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Three Hens and a Peacock by Lester L. Laminack and illustrator Henry Cole

Ever wonder how much emotional damage a single peacock could do to a farm in the country? Wonder no more, my friends! 

When a peacock shows up one day, the farm animals are instantly sent into a tizzy. Things get even more complicated when the peacock starts attracting lots of visitors to the farm, making the hens feel upstaged! Egg laying is hard work, but those hens are are definitely under-appreciated and are determined to do something about it! 

The illustrations are very silly and nice and bright. Impressive on the covers and the inside covers as well. It's always a treat to see the illustrators go the extra mile to make their book special. 

Definitely a fun read aloud!

Three Hens and a Peacock
Lester L. Laminack
32 pages
Picture Book
Peachtree Publishers
March 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Blue Chameleon by Emily Gravett (I couldn't find a cover image to fit the page!)

Always an impressive picture book creator, Blue Chameleon is a simple book that manages to be funny, beautifully illustrated, AND basic. 

Our main character, a lonely chameleon, really wants to meet some friends. Unfortunately, with each friend he meets (and changes to look just like, as chameleons do), he finds they aren't exactly a match for being the best of friends. Until, of course, he comes across another, colorful, chameleon!

Though fairly simple, readers can start to learn about colors, shapes, and pattern from all the different things the chameleon turns into on his journey to find a friend. The illustrations appear to be done with crayon and are gorgeous! 

Great even for toddlers. 

Blue Chameleon
Emily Gravett
32 pages
Picture Book
Simon and Schuster
March 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Trouble with Chickens review

Parents, booksellers, ALL need to listen up! I have honestly never laughed harder at a book than I did at this one and it needs to get into the hot little hands of all of you and the children in your lives. Absolutely hysterical deadpan humor from the fabulous Doreen Cronin, complete with silly illustrations by the equally talented Kevin Cornell. Hands down the best early chapter book I've ever had the pleasure of coming across. 

J.J. Tully is a retired search-and-rescue dog, happily enjoying the lazy days his retirement when he is bribed (with the promise of a cheeseburger) to take a case by a worried...and crazy... mama chicken. A couple of her chicks are missing and she wants J.J. on the case. 

What follows are mischievous, slightly less-than-smart chickens and a grouchy J.J. Tully, text filled with excellent sarcastic moments, and spit-out-your-coffee moments like these:

"It was a hot, sunny day when I met that crazy chicken. So hot that sometimes I think the whole thing could have been a mirage. But mirages don't have chicken breath, mister." (1)

And that's just on page 1! I kept having to read passages out loud to my husband (not something he enjoys)...couldn't resist!

This would be a great choice for a beginner chapter book or an EXCELLENT choice to read together as a family. Though I'll often recommend sweet and sentimental books for family read alouds, I'm a huge fan of families being silly together and The Trouble with Chickens is a fun jumping off point for a night of silliness! 

Go get your hands on this book and then buy it for all the kids you know!

Check out another quick review over at Hooray for Books! blog.

The Trouble with Chickens: A J.J. Tully Mystery
Doreen Cronin
128 pages
Balzer and Bray
March 2011
Review copy provided by publisher