Nov 30, 2012

Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas

Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written and Illustrated by: Mélanie Watt

Published by: Kids Can Press

Published on: October 1, 2012

Ages:  4+

Provided by the publisher for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Scaredy Squirrel is back and just as neurotic as every. He is determined that both he and you will have a super-safe holiday, safe from such dangers as the Abominable Snowman, runaway toboggans, and  fruitcake. This is the longest Scaredy Squirrel book so far, organized in 8 chapters covering such subjects as Christmas Characters and Pet Peeves.

This is, first and formost, a hilarious tip book. Scareday Orville Squirrel's tips for surviving the holidays include such gems as how to avoid mistletoe mishaps, how to choose ecological and safe decorations, and many others. Also, despite the appropriate colour scheme, a dragon is absolutely, positively, not a good decorating choice for the holidays. Neither is dynamite.

Scaredy is just as cute as ever, even when he has a Mo Willems' Pigeon-like freakout. So are the supporting characters like a mystical unicorn and grumpy dinosaur.  His neuroses are just part of the Scaredy package we have come to know and love. Some of the jokes go well over my kindergarteners' heads, but are amusing for the parent to read aloud. No worries though, plenty of child giggles involved.

What I like about Scaredy Squirrel books is that Watt can tell a story with just lists. This is great for kids' literacy, learning about different uses of language. It's a real craft to have such a distinct voice using just lists!

One of the other reasons I am such a huge fan of Scaredy Squirrel is all the extras on the website. The storytime suggestions are great resources- and we get out the hand sanitizer before we open up one of his books! If you need to occupy your kids during winter break (nah!) print out some of Scaredy's activity sheets.

This is the twenty-seventh book I have reviewed for the Sixth Canadian Book Challenge

Nov 28, 2012

What are you reading Wednesday?

What are you reading this week?

I brought 44 books on Kindle to England and I am only now getting around to reading any of them!

I am reading Iced, the first book in the Dani O'Malley series, which is a spinoff of the Fever series from Karen Marie Moning. It's an urban fantasy book, and I like Dani the character very much, and the action is cool, and I want to go to Dublin very badly. However, I have an issue with the book, the same issue I had with Buffy, The Angel Problem. I am not in favour of immortals slobbering over teen girls. Who would have thought I had a prudish side?

My kids are into Fancy Nancy's Tea for Two right now. My son is still playing with his homemade tea shop (and charging me for my own tea!) and the two of them love to serve each other. It's really sweet -  and so is this book.

 What are you and your family reading this week?

Nov 27, 2012

Binky Takes Charge

Binky Takes Charge (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written and Illustrated by: Ashley Spires

Published by: Kids Can Press

Published on: September 1, 2012

Ages: 7+

Provided by the publisher for review through NetGalley

The last time we saw Lt. Binky his space station had a visitor, a fellow space cat, in Binky Under Pressure. He dealt with that threatening situation with such aplomb, FURST (Felines of the Universe Ready for Space Travel) has given him a new challenge -  training new recruits. But what happens when the kitten cadet is not even a kitten? No worries, Binky can handle it!

My kids love how seemlessly cat life blends into space training. How can you tell if your cat's schedule of eatting, napping, making alien decoys, napping, and eating, is actually that of an undercover FURST (sorry, PURST! Pets of the Universe Ready for Space Travel) agent? 

It's worth mentioning that my son's new favourite phrase is "sure as fuzzbutt." Spires sure has a way with a simile. It's also worth mentioning that this edition of Binky's adventures has a great moral of playing to your strengths, even if that means coopting a soccer ball into an alien-fighting technological device (which horrified my son!).

Binky's adventures are a perfect first comic series, with great visual gags to keep the kids interested even when encountering new vocabulary. Binky Takes Charge is a great addition to this addictive series.

Binky Takes Charge has been nominated for a 2012 Cybils award in the Graphic Novel category.

This is the twenty-sixth book I have reviewed for the Sixth Canadian Book Challenge

Nov 26, 2012

Short Story Monday: Freckles M'grath

It's been so long since I participated in Short Story Monday! I missed it.

This week I read Freckles M'grath, a short story from Susan Glaspell. I know her play Trifles, an early feminist mystery play. She also won a Pulitzer Prize. Nothing to sneeze at!

This story is about the power plays that go one behind the scene in politics and what is okay or not. The title character is a young spunky fellow who does what he can for his cause and although it's not exactly illegal it's also not really moral. Still, we cheer for him because of his passion. What kind of message does this send about what we accept from our legislators though?

Nov 25, 2012

Holiday Giveaway 2012 (International)

I love this time of year, I am a huge fan of Christmas and New Year's and eating lots of food. I want to share my holiday joy with you too!

Here's my second annual holiday giveaway! This year I want to give you a choice between two brand new Canadian Christmas-theme books. Please choose from either Island Santa or Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas.

Enter using the rafflecopter below.  This giveaway will last one week, closing at midnight Japan time (12 hours ahead of EST) on December 2 so I have time to send the book out to you! This giveaway is open internationally!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Nov 20, 2012

Seal Song

Seal Song (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Andrea Spalding

Illustrated by: Pascal Milelli

Published by: Orca Books

Published on: October 1, 2011

Ages: 4+

Tomorrow, October 21, is the gala for the 2012 Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards. I've reviewed all the nominees for the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, as well as the picture book nominee for the Norma Fleck Award for Children's Nonfiction. So I am excited to see who wins!

There is one English picture book nominated for the main TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, Seal Song. Usually these are for meatier books aimed at older audiences, with mainly text.

But Seal Song holds its own among the other books. This book reads like a finely honed oral tradition that has been passed down for hundreds of years, getting better with each re-telling. It is a delicate balance of prose and poetry that really grabs the reader. 

Cold green water/heaving/swelling
Velvet bodies/diving/swimming
A selkie seal/watching/waiting  

Finn helps his fisherman father with his work, but makes time to make friends with the selkie seals around them. When a unique young girl comes to town, Finn makes fast friends with her too. The fishermen know what he doesn't, that she is a seal girl whose songs bring good luck but who cannot touch the salt water without having to go back to the ocean. Finn's friend Sheila makes the sacrifice of her human body to save Finn and his father from an ocean storm.

Milelli's illustrations reflect the sea and refracted light of the sun on every page. Coupled with Spalding's masterful storytelling, this art proves that picture books can be as deep and moving as any other book. Find out tomorrow if the CCBC judges agree.
This is the twenty-fifth book I have reviewed for the Sixth Canadian Book Challenge.  

Nov 19, 2012

Nonfiction Monday November 19, 2012

Welcome to Nonfiction Monday, a weekly roundup of the best nonfiction kidlit book reviews on the web.

Tammy at Apples with Many Seeds has a fantastic book that covers the collective nouns for a number of animals, including "an implausibility of gnus." It's called A Zeal of Zebras.

Jeff at NC Teacher Stuff introduces us to the world of our feathered friends with Sparrow, Eagle, Penguin, and Seagull: What is a Bird? The book uses humor and rhyme to book explore the characteristics that qualify an animal to be a bird. As usual, Jeff also suggests great ways to use the books with kids.

100 Scope Notes features an early reader that details the inside out of castles, called Castle: How It Works. Since the book is from "master explainer" David Macauley, and appeals to a wide range of readers.

One of the most fascinating characters in history is Ben Franklin. Amy at Hope is the Word has a great new picture book biography of this multifaceted man called Electric Ben.

For the math-inclined, Jennifer at the Jean Little Library features a book that introduces money concepts and entrepreneurship, called Lemonade in Winter.

If you are looking for a book that will make kids excited about experiments, look no further than MotherReader, who reviewed Citizen Scientists.

At True Tales & A Cherry on Top, Jeanne features Imogen: The Mother of Modernism and Three Boys. She says "This lovely new picture book biography by Amy Novesky shares the inspiring story of the photographer, Imogen Cunningham, who followed her passion. As Imogen said, "You can't expect things to be smooth and easy and beautiful. You just have to work, find your way out, and do anything you can yourself."

It's Thanksgiving in the US this week, and many families will be gathering. On that theme, Anastasia at Booktalking features a book that shows how scientists discovered shared DNA, Decoding Our DNA: Craig Venter Vs the Human Genome Project.

Iron Guy Carl at Boys Rock, Boys Read is also in the Thanksgiving mood, giving thanks for American football! He introduces 3 different football books for upper elementary kids, including How Football Works and NFC South.

Roberta at Wrapped in Foil takes the Thanksgiving theme a step farther, with 3 books about the holiday, including Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving, Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, and Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message. She even suggests an activity related to each book, for which I am thankful!

Shirley at Simply Science is a nonfiction kidlit legend. She has certainly inspired me, and I have used a number of her suggestions to introduce scientific concepts to my kids. So it is bittersweet to know that her review of a book that does a good job of introducing the concept of infinity to children, Infinity and Me, is her last. I wish her well in her writing career, and hope she stops in to the blog to update us from time to time.

Bookends introduces a magician who inspired Harry Houdini as well as a common core curriculum idea in their post about The Amazing Harry Kellar: Great American Magician by Gail Jarrow.

At Sal's Fiction Addiction, Sally introduces some fascinating people who care for rescue chickens in City Chickens. It's in verse too!

Nonfiction sports books aren't limited to football this week. Amelia at Challenging the Bookworm reviews Brothers at Bat, which tells the true story of 12 (of 16!) brothers who played baseball, and all got inducted to the US National Baseball Hall of Fame!

Here at Perogies & Gyoza I have a review of Lumpito and the Painter from Spain, a simple introduction to Pablo Picasso and a dog he loved.

Don't forget to check out Nonfiction Monday next week, November 26, at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Lumpito and the Painter from Spain

Lumpito and the Painter from Spain (CAN)

Written by: Monica Kulling

Illustrated by: Dean Griffiths

Published by: Pajama Press

Published on: October 15, 2012

Ages: 3+

Provided by the publisher for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Veteran nonfiction author Monica Kulling has teamed up with another veteran, illustrator Dean Griffiths, to create a basic introduction to Pablo Picasso.

Lump is a dog who lives in a big city in Italy with a photographer and another dog, who goes along with the photographer to visit a famous painter in Spain, Pablo Picasso. Lump shows up and gets along with Picasso, his wife, a goat, and another big dog so well that he gains a new name, Lumpito, and never leaves!

This is the kind of book that would be a hit with kids even if there wasn't someone famous in it. The seriously adorable dachshund, Lumpito, was a huge hit with my kids. Using a pet to introduce a historical figure is a great way to draw children in, as also evidenced by Minette's Feast, the introduction to Julia Child using her cat that was released earlier this year.

Picture books biographies about artists are extremely difficult I think. How do you pay tribute to an artist without copying their work or ignoring it? Griffiths does this well, I think, as the scenes outside of the creation of art are in Griffiths' own style, with lots of detail for Italy and Spain. Then the art scenes are excellent tributes to Picasso's work, with even the colours that Lump tramps through, leaving footprints, are the vibrant colours favoured by Picasso.

Using an adorable pet (check out the tail that wraps around to the back cover!) and a cute story, Kulling and Griffiths make the art and life of the 20th century's most famous artist accessible to even the littlest reader (or listener!).

This post is for Nonfiction Monday, hosted this week by me! Please scroll up to check out other fantastic posts on nonfiction kidlit books.

Nov 17, 2012

Presents for Picture Book Lovers

Only 37 days left until Christmas and only 21 until Hanukkah! Have you finished your shopping yet? Do you have someone on your list, young or old, who loves picture books? Someone who loves them so much you are not sure what book to buy them as they probably have them all? In that case how about one of the items on this list. (Hint, hint, husband)

How about piecing together a Franklin puzzle?

Or play a Where The Wild Things Are board game?

Why not cuddle up at night with a beloved children's book character?

Kevin Henkes' Penny

Talking Pigeon

For those adults who want to show off their love of children's literature there are a lot of lovely jewelry options.

From Peter Pan:

From All Things Yummy on Etsy
What would mother think of my becoming a pirate? - Sword and Quote Pendant

From Oliver Jeffers' Lost & Found:

A Penguin ring

From the classics:

Mother Goose Pendant

Why not show off your love of kidlit with these everyday products?

From Hilary Leung, illustrator of The Legend of Ninja Cowboy Bear:

Year of the Snake (2013) t-shirt

 From Naoko Stoop, author and illustrator of Red Knit Cap Girl:

Trio of note cards

From Julia Cairns, illustrator of Mama Panya's Pancakes:

Sleeping Mama cards

Of course what all picture book lovers really covet is art by the illustrators who create the books we enjoy.

From Rosemary Wells, creator of Max and Ruby and Yoko:

Carry Me Over The River print

From Jill Bergman, illustrator:

The Reading Tree linocut

From Lydia Nichols, illustrator of Phil Lately

Greetings from Gowanus print

From Willow Dawson, illustrator of The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Sea:

Robot print

Last but not least, we have Felicia Hoshino, the author and illustrated of my beloved Sora and the Cloud, who offers to draw a portrait of your little loved one.

She also offers website banners, which I covet very very badly. 

Which of these do you want? Do you have any other ideas of gifts for picture book fanatics?

Nov 14, 2012

What are you reading? Wednesday

What are you reading this week?

I brought 44 books on Kindle to England and only read one of them. I was having too much fun. Plus the airplane had so many great movies! I haven't seen many movies lately so I went a little crazy on the 12-hour flights. The best movie I saw was Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, based on the YA book by Seth Graeme-Smith.

Now that I am back I have more time to read and have delved into the Profilers series by Lisa Gardner. I am reading The Killing Hour right now and learning a lot about the FBI and Quantico.

My kids are really enjoying arguing about which animal it is in Duck! Rabbit!

 What are you and your family reading this week?

Nov 12, 2012

Going Up! Elisha Otis's Trip to the Top

Going Up! Elisha Otis's Trip to the Top (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Monica Kulling

Illustrated by: David Parkins

Published by: Tundra Books

Published on: October 9, 2012


Provided by the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

This is the quiet room 
that climbs to the top
You choose the floor,
and that's where I'll stop.

The funny thing about inventions is once they are adopted you can't imagine what you did without them. Certainly the shape of Japanese cities was a lot different before the invention of the elevator - and for that we have to thank Elisha Otis.

This invention didn't just come about by a sudden Eureka! moment, however. Mr. Otis had a long road beforehand. He worked on a farm and as a wagon driver, he owned a mill, and he made bed frames. These varied experiences gave him a breadth of knowledge from which to work when he started inventing, first a rail turner, then a safety brake for a platform that moved machinery. That's what led to the invention of the platform that moved people - the elevator!

Just inventing something cool isn't the end though -  you need to to market it to the people. Would you have been the first person to volunteer to go up in an elevator? I probably wouldn't have! But Otis put himself on display as he used the elevator at the world's fair, and that's what convinced people that it was as safe as it was useful.

Going Up! is only the latest in Tundra Books' Great Idea series, after It's a Snap, All Aboard, and In the Bag! All of these books about inventors of gadgets we can't live without today are fantastic introductions to history and science for kids. Going Up! gives a great introduction to the entrepreneurial spirit and the art of perseverance.

David Parkins' illustrations are detailed and help drop the reader into a previous century. Coupled with Kulling's enthusiastic writing, it's easy to see why this book was nominated for a Cybils Nonfiction Picture Book Award for this year.

This review is part of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today by The Flatt Perspective. I'll be hosting next week so be sure to stop by with a link and check out other great nonfiction kidlit reviews!

Nov 11, 2012

To Stand and Fight Together: Richard Pierpoint and the Coloured Corps of Upper Canada

To Stand and Fight Together: Richard Pierpoint and the Coloured Corps of Upper Canada (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Steve Pitt

Published by: Dundurn Press

Published on: February 8, 2008

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada and most Commonwealth countries. In Japan there is no such holiday remembering those who have served. In fact, most people in this country think of today as "Pocky Day" where you are supposed to eat two sticks of Pocky at 11:11 on November 11. As a cadet Remembrance Day was such a huge part of my year that it is hard for me to think of today as just another day or a day dedicated to a snack. I was lucky to be able to buy a poppy (paper- what is up with that???) in the UK last week, but mostly my observance is limited to a moment of silence and reciting In Flanders Fields to my kids.

I do like to read a book about people who served at this time of year, and this year I chose this book, as it talks about the War of 1812. This year is the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, naturally, so I wanted to do something!

In school basically what we learned about the War of 1812 was that we (as the British) burned down the White House. A little more, but not too in depth. I've done some of my own reading over time as well, but nothing this detailed.

Richard Pierpoint is the possible name of Captain Dick, a United Empire Loyalist who was brought to Canada and freedom after fighting for the British in the US War of Independence. When the War of 1812 broke out he was a senior citizen but helped to create a regiment of black soldiers although command was given to a white neighbour. His story and that of other freed slaves who defended Upper Canada are given long-awaited recognition in this book.

The book itself was a great read, with sidebars of extra information about the slave trade and military so I didn't need to keep Wikipedia open at any point. Steve Pitt is extremely good at giving context for actions on all sides, from the birth of African slavery in Britain to the continuation of the Coloured Corps until the latter half of the 19th century. I am still marveling at what Pitt could piece together with what little information remains from that era about a man with no descendants who didn't get the attention he deserved as a hero while alive.

I love it when books about history make me think about the regular guy, or a viewpoint not normally told. This book tells a story Canadians don't normally hear but should, about a man going up amazing obstacles in the twilight of his life and making a difference.

This is a great read for those who want to remember Canada's military heroes. Other great reads for Remembrance Day I have reviewed include Vimy and As You Were: The Tragedy at Valcartier, and I would recommend both heartily.

This is the twenty-second book I have reviewed for the Sixth Canadian Book Challenge.