Good Crooks: Missing Monkey!

Image Credit: Egmont USA, Mary Amato/Ward Jenkins

Image Credit: Egmont USA, Mary Amato/Ward Jenkins

In Good Crooks: Missing Monkey!, Billy and Jillian Crook just want to do something nice for someone; you know, a good deed. This is no easy task because their parents are crooks and expect the worst from them!!  >_<  Early one morning, Billy is lured to the zoo for Volunteer Day and his sister catches up with him. Unfortunately, mom and dad find them…and steal a monkey! Before they know it, their parents have taught the monkey the art of pick pocketing and he’s a natural, a little too natural and causes all kinds of trouble!

This book is fast paced and hilarious. The humor is so clever and dry. I love the relationship between the twins; it may seem that Jillian is the brains of the pair but don’t count Billy out, he has a few tricks up his sleeve! Jenkins’ art is very cool and compliments the story well. Though they aren’t color illustrations, they add an extra element to the story and might convince reluctant readers to pick up the book!

Good Crooks is a beginning chapter series and beginning chapter books are great transitional books for kids who are becoming more confident in their reading yet aren’t quite ready for longer chapter books. This is the first in a series and I highly recommend it for a family read-aloud and for young readers who love humor and unconventional stories…oh and crazy monkeys. There are even activities in the back of the book! If you get hooked on Good Crooks (trust me, you will), be sure to check out the next two books in the series, Dog Gone! and Sniff a Skunk!

Recommended for: 1st/2nd Grade and up
Great for: Siblings, Friendship, Twins, Humor, Animals, Adventure, Read Aloud
Book Info: Good Crooks: Missing Monkey! by Mary Amato/Illustrated by Ward Jenkins2014 Egmont USA, ISBN: 9781606845097



Image Credit: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press), Jorge Argueta/Duncan Tonatiuh

Image Credit: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press), Jorge Argueta/Duncan Tonatiuh

I couldn’t stay away for long…I’m reviewing another book illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh. Check out my review for his book Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras. This book is written by Jorge Argueta and the topic is something many people will agree is very delicious, SALSA!

Salsa is bilingual (Spanish and English) and takes the reader on a journey through all aspects of salsa. It’s a “Cooking Poem” with rhythm and vivid imagery. Argueta begins the poem with a volcano whose hardened lava becomes the rock that makes molcajetes and tejolote which Nahua, Aztec and Mayan people used to grind, grind, grind delicious things. Cultural tradition continues to this day and the family in the story use these ancient tools to make delicious salsa! Lots of similies and metaphors fill the pages and bring the words and illustrations to life. Like musical instruments, they use their ingredients to make a “salsa orchestra.”  While enjoying the poem, we also learn how to cook salsa!!

As always, Tonatiuh’s signature illustrations draw from his indigenous Mexican heritage: I always enjoy the ears and lips of his people. He hand draws the images and digitally collages in interesting textures for color and design. I love how each illustration is framed top and bottom with a motif that reflects the stage of the recipe process; look at the wise chili peppers with faces like grandmother and grandfather! This beautiful book is a delight and your family or classroom will enjoy learning about delicious Salsa. 🙂

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Cultural Diversity, Food Culture, Poem, History, Mexican Food, Family, Teamwork, Read-Aloud
Book Info: Salsa by Jorge Argueta/Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh, 2015 Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press), ISBN: 9781554984428

The Fox and the Star

Image Credit: Penguin Books, Coralie Bickford-Smith

Image Credit: Penguin Books, Coralie Bickford-Smith

This beautifully illustrated and written fable has the potential to be a new classic. It is gorgeous and the story flows with steady confidence and a quiet voice.

Little fox lives alone and gains strength from the star he sees every night. The star is his friend, guides him through life and is his world. But one night his star disappears and everything changes; the poor fox is lost without his dear star. He burrows deep in his den and is almost overtaken by the creeping darkness but…overcomes it. He ventures out to explore the world again. At one point he rests and wakes to find his world changed again, but will he ever find his star?

Image Credit: Penguin Books, Coralie Bickford-Smith

Image Credit: Penguin Books, Coralie Bickford-Smith

The Fox and the Star’s illustrations are exquisite. As soon as you pick up the book, feel the cloth-bound cover and look at the intricate design, you know that you’re in for a treat. The story and the art are well suited. Coralie Bickford-Smith tells Fox’s story through careful words and detailed screen-printed illustrations. There are only a handful of colors used in the book but they make the images very striking. If you appreciate great storytelling and beautiful illustrations, add this book to your collection.

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Discussion, Emotions, Inner Strength, Fable, Colors
Book Info: The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith, 2015 Penguin Books, ISBN: 9780143108672

Virgil and Owen

Image Credit: Bloomsbury  Children's Books, Paulette Bogan

Image Credit: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, Paulette Bogan

Virgil and Owen is a quirky and funny little book; definitely one of my favorites this year. Virgil the penguin has control issues. He’s very possessive when it comes to friendship and decides to keep a polar bear that he finds (without asking him how he feels about it of course). As Virgil leads the polar bear around, the polar bear has a great time playing with the terns and other animals but Virgil does NOT have fun. Virgil gets angrier and angrier and keeps pulling the bear away from the fun. Virgil reaches his boiling point when the polar bear has had enough! Luckily, Virgil learns his lesson and realizes that real friendship is about kindness.

Bogan’s illustrations are so sweet; the little penguins, terns and seals are adorable. She uses watercolors and pens to create a blustery arctic backdrop. Pay attention to how she draws expressions; they’re pretty hilarious! This story is great for discussing emotions and how to make friends. It’s also excellent for story time and learning animals. Remember…the next time you find a polar bear, be kind to him and you just might make a lasting friend!

Recommended for: Toddlers and up
Great for: Morals, Emotions, Friendship, Animals, Storytime, Humor
Book Info: Virgil and Owen by Paulette Bogan, 2015 Bloomsbury Children’s Books, ISBN: 9781619633728

Dim Sum for Everyone!

Image Credit: Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), Grace Lin

Image Credit: Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), Grace Lin

Dim Sum for Everyone is delightful. I previously reviewed the book Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park…can you guess that I love Asian food? 🙂 Grace Lin writes a beautifully simple story about a family enjoying dim sum. It is based on her family’s experiences going to dim sum restaurants while growing up. If you don’t know what dim sum is, don’t worry, this book explains how it works; “Little dishes on carts” and “Little dishes on tables.” Lin also weaves in Chinese words. We learn that Ma-ma (mother) likes sweet pork buns and Ba-ba (father) likes the shrimp dishes. In this way, children are introduced to new words and are learning without realizing it. At the end of the book, she includes more information about dim sum and yum cha (tea drinking) culture.

I recommend the hardcover version of this book because it showcases the illustrations best but the board book is also good for little hands. Bold, contrasting colors make the illustrations stand out. My favorite page shows the dim sum cart ladies lined up in a row against the bright red carpet of the restaurant. Most pages are illustrated as if the reader is sitting at the table with the family and therefore, the book has a very inviting feeling. Are you ready for dim sum? I know I am. Let’s go eat!

P.S. Be sure to check out the endpapers. They celebrate the various ingredients that make up Chinese cuisine and popular dim sum dishes.

Recommended for: Toddlers and up
Great for: Cultural Diversity, Food Culture, Discussion, Colors, Chinese Language
Book Info: Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin, 2001 Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), ISBN: 9780375810824


Image Credit: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Daniel Miyares

Image Credit: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Daniel Miyares

In Float, a boy sets out for the day, ready to explore with his freshly crafted paper boat. Though it begins to rain, he’s not worried at all and sends his boat sailing through the puddles. He splashes joyfully but before he knows it, rushing water whisks his boat away! Though he’s sad when he finds it limp and unfolded, he realizes that a fresh sheet of paper and a new day bring the possibility of new adventures!

Miyares uses a mostly gray palette that evokes cool, rainy day feelings. I love the page with lines of heavy gray-white rain. The boy is vibrantly dressed in yellow rain gear as he moves joyfully across the page. Miyares’ watercolor illustrations are manipulated digitally and I like how the sharp angles of the paper boat match the angles of the boy’s hat, coat and boots. The wordless aspect of this book is great for storytelling; it’s easy to begin a quiet discussion about how the boy feels during every stage of the story. Float is one of this year’s best wordless picture books with it’s attention to detail and simple yet endearing story of imagination.

P.S. The endpapers of the book add something special; take time to look at them and grab a piece of paper.


Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Storytelling, Storyboarding, Discussion, Imagination
Book Info: Float by Daniel Miyares, 2015 Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9781481415248


Image Credit: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), Doreen Cronin/Scott Menchin

Image Credit: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), Doreen Cronin/Scott Menchin

I have to admit, I wiggled while reading this book. It makes you wiggle. Honest! It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a cute story time book! I think your kids will enjoy this one a lot; especially the toddlers.

Puppy dog has the wiggles all day long from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to bed! He even wiggles while making breakfast…and that’s a little messy. This book encourages children to wiggle along; it gets them up and moving along with the story. Doreen Cronin always knows how to write great rhymes for speaking aloud.

Wiggle also has great art! I love the colorful ink illustrations and the puppy is so cute! The book’s cover is very striking. Menchin includes photographs in the illustrations in a collage style; puppy has a real pancake on his head and a cute little yarn outfit for his trip to visit the polar bears. Children will like this story time book and you’ll probably get a few giggles as well as wiggles! If this book is a hit, check out the accompanying books Bounce and Stretch.

Recommended for: Toddlers and young children
Great for: Storytime, Rhyme, Movement, Colors, Animals, Dogs
Book Info: Wiggle by Doreen Cronin/Illustrated by Scott Menchin, 2005 Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), ISBN: 9780689863752

At the Same Moment, Around the World

Image Credit: Chronicle Books LLC, Clotilde Perrin

Image Credit: Chronicle Books LLC, Clotilde Perrin

Oh this is quite a special little book. Clotilde Perrin’s At the Same Moment, Around the World gracefully tackles the concepts of cultural diversity and global time zones. It’s quite a difficult concept to grasp, at any age, the idea that even though it may be five o’clock in the evening and you’re eating dinner, in another part of the world, someone is eating their breakfast and starting a new day.

Each page introduces a new person going about their day in their respective country. The first page shows Keita in Senegal helping his father count fish at six am. His day starts very early but at the same moment an hour later in Paris, Benedict is eating breakfast and getting ready for school. I love how this book shows global families, relationships and everyday culture. The story ends where it begins; and so does the trip around the globe.

The illustrations are very unique and beautiful; Perrin’s pencil drawings are scratchy and very detailed with warm colors and the human figures have large heads with almond eyes. It’s obvious she put a lot of research into this book because there are little details like Arabic, French and Japanese words woven into the scenery. She also hides clocks, watches and globes within the illustrations. At the back of the book, there’s a large fold out map that reintroduces every character in the book and points to their respective time zone. This is a pretty smart addition to the book, as it further visually teaches the concept of time zones. This is a GREAT book to add to your classroom and use to teach your kids about not only other cultures, but global time as well.

Recommended for: K-1st Grade and up
Great for: Cultural Diversity, Time Zones, Geography, Discussion, Storytelling
Book Info: At the Same Moment, Around the World by Clotilde Perrin, 2014 Chronicle Books LLC, ISBN: 9781452122083

Zombie in Love

Image Credit: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), Kelly DiPucchio/Steve Campbell

Image Credit: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), Kelly DiPucchio/Scott Campbell

Here at Read It Real Good, I make an effort to review diverse books. I don’t discriminate and my definition of diverse is broad. I’m very accepting of the living AND the un-dead. Haha. Zombie in Love is adorable. Mortimer’s just looking for love. He needs a date for the Cupid’s Ball, but for some reason, the ladies aren’t very interested. It could be that he’s a zombie but I think he’s pretty adorable. He gets clever and puts an ad in the local paper for a date (from Tall Dead and Handsome); meet him at the punch bowl he says. Poor guy waits…an entire lifetime it seems, for his girl.

When I need a chuckle, I read this book. I’m not really into zombies at all but there’s just something about this book! Kelly DiPucchio is the queen of clever puns and dry humor. If you haven’t checked out my review for her book Everyone Loves Bacon, please do. She is AMAZING and is in my top author list. Scott Campbell’s watercolor illustrations are delightful. Don’t worry, this book isn’t very scary or creepy; it’s more hilarious than anything. Mortimer has a zombie dog and a few earthworm sidekicks who help him out on his quest for love. I highly recommend this book if you like a good laugh, clever writing and great illustrations. Also, if you fall in love with this one, check out the sequel Zombie in Love 2 + 1!

Recommended for: Ages 7 and up (some slightly creepy moments…zombies)
Great for: Humor, Zombies!!, Friendship, Determination
Book Info: Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio/Illustrated by Scott Campbell, 2011 Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), ISBN: 9781442402706

Billy and Goat at the State Fair

Image Credit: Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), Dan Yaccarino

Image Credit: Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), Dan Yaccarino

An outgoing goat and a timid young boy go on an adventure at a State Fair. Ah, this is a good one. Honestly, I’m a little biased because I really enjoy Dan Yaccarino’s stories and art style. So when I saw this book on the shelves, I made “grabby hands” and made it my staff pick, naturally.

This story is so very sweet. Billy is a very introverted boy but his goat friend is quite the opposite; he’s a little dude who loves adventures! Goat is excited to go to the big State Fair but Billy is afraid…yet he goes to support his friend in the Best Goat Competition. Goat gets a little distracted though, and explores the fair while Billy scrambles to find him. Goat gets Billy out of his comfort zone and before he knows it, they’re both enjoying all the State Fair has to offer. When friends support each other (and give a little nudge of encouragement), great things happen.

Oh let’s talk about the art! Something about Yaccarino’s style sings to me. I’m also a big fan of the Doug Unplugged books and Every Friday (so sweet). I love his use of color, shape and line and the retro feel of his art. I often place him in my mind with Bob Staake and Stephen Savage. I love the little details in his art for the State Fair; a simple white outline for a glass bottle with a black ring, yellow teacup rides with black shadowed figures. It’s about the little things and Yaccarino excels at them. I can’t recommend this story of friendship enough. 🙂

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Friendship, Colors, Discussion, Animals
Book Info: Billy and Goat at the State Fair by Dan Yaccarino, 2015 Alfred A. Knopf (Random House) ISBN: 9780385753258