Mini Myths: Be Patient, Pandora!

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Image Credit: Abrams Appleseed, Joan Holub/Leslie Patricelli

Oh I love clever books. Greek Mythology for babies and toddlers? Okay! Be Patient, Pandora! is my favorite in the Mini Myth Series though Don’t Get Lost, Odysseus just came out…

This series is inspired by classic Greek myths and each book teaches a simple but important lesson. In this one, Pandora just…can’t…stop herself from touching her mom’s big green box. Will her curiosity get the better of her? One little touch can’t hurt right? The words and sentences are very simple and to the point; perfect for toddlers and early readers. Holub uses several great verbs like leaning, sitting and bouncing and skillfully crafts a story with just a few key sentences.

Patricelli’s art work is, as usual, dynamic. She lays the bright acrylics down heavily and really knows how to use color. Little ones will love the illustrations. Pandora is so cute and naughty; she has the best expressions. [Spoiler Alert] I’m so glad that in this version Pandora’s box doesn’t open to reveal all the troubles of the world! What a relief. >_<

 

Recommended for: Babies, Toddlers, Early Readers
Great for: Humor, Lessons, Patience, Love, Family, Mythology, Vocabulary, Read Aloud, Clever
Book Info: Mini Myths: Be Patient, Pandora! by Joan Holub/Illustrated by Leslie Patricelli, 2014 Abrams Appleseed, ISBN: 9781419709517

Ragweed’s Farm Dog Handbook

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Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Anne Vittur Kennedy

This is, hands down, one of the funniest picture books of 2015! Love it. It makes me miss my crazy Ibizan hound Loki and his shenanigans…

In Ragweed’s Farm Dog Handbook, Ragweed is a confident little fellow. He wrote a handbook so that other dogs can follow his lead on how to be the best farm dog ever. Ragweed tells us all the things that are not a farm dog’s job BUT…if a farm dog were to do them, there might be biscuits involved. He really shouldn’t wake the farmer but…if he does he’ll get a biscuit to go away! He knows EXACTLY what he’s doing. The writing of this book is very formulaic and funny and kids will be able to follow along easily. There’ll be lots of laughs and maybe a few “ewwws” too? 😉

Anne Vittur Kennedy’s beautiful acrylic paintings really create the spirit of farm life and Ragweed is so adorable! That little scoundrel with his huge eyes, scraggly hair and long snout is sure to win your heart. He also has great expressions and the animals do too (they know to keep an eye on him!). Hope you enjoy this one as much as I did!

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Humor, Animals, Dogs, Relationships, Farm Life, Love, Read-Aloud
Book Info: Ragweed’s Farm Dog Handbook by Anne Vittur Kennedy, 2015 Candlewick Press, ISBN: 9780763674175

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret

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Image Credit: Disney Hyperion, Bob Shea

I’m sitting in a coffee shop cracking up while reading this book. How’d it take me this long to read it?? I really don’t know. Bob Shea is a special, random guy. So special.

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret captures the adorable hilarity of friendship, expectations, and childhood. You know how sometimes you worry too much about what someone you care about is going to think if you “let them down?” That’s what Sparkles the Pony feels like. The story starts out with Sparkles asking Ballet Cat what she wants to play, to which she replies “You pick, Sparkles.” Haha, but not really.  -_-  Sparkles wants to do something other than play ballet. He suggests doing crafts, playing checkers, making lemonade but Ballet Cat always has a reason why that’s not a good idea…

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Image Credit: Disney Hyperion, Bob Shea

As they twirl and dance and play ballet (like they do EVERY DAY), Ballet Cat can tell that something’s wrong but Sparkles doesn’t want to tell her his secret secret! Maybe they won’t be friends anymore if he does! Little does he know, Ballet Cat has her own secret secret too (psssst it has something to do with friendship!).

Bob Shea’s writing is relaxed and reads like a real conversation between friends. His art is loose, sketchy, bright and fun. He only uses a few colors in the entire book but they pop so well (and there’s GLITTER on the cover!!). He’s also great at drawing expressions! You can clearly see Sparkles’ agony and Ballet Cat’s surprise. I really enjoyed this book and I hope your beginning reader will enjoy it too. It’s also a great read-aloud!

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Friendship, Best Friends, Secrets, Worry, Love, Play, Ballet, Trust, Animals, Humor, Read-Aloud, Beginning Readers, Relationships
Book Info: Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea, 2015 Disney Hyperion, ISBN: 9781484713785

Written and Drawn by Henrietta

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Image Credit: Liniers & TOON Books (RAW Junior, LLC), Liniers

“A box of colored pencils is as close as you can get to owning a piece of the rainbow.”

Written and Drawn by Henrietta is about the unpredictability of storytelling, going with the flow and letting your mind take you on a journey. Henrietta is just as surprised about what happens in her story as readers are! We get to follow her creative process and listen in on her discussions with her cat Fellini as she writes and illustrates an EPIC story.

This funny and clever book actually starts on the front endpaper. Henrietta shares wisdom about the power of books. Next we see her holding a shiny new box of pencils which she’ll use to create the title page of her story about a three headed monster with only two hats. Her protagonist “Emily” seems very stressed about the noises coming from her wardrobe and Henrietta even scares herself! Hahaha. Her story progresses and Huey, Dewey and Louie Bluie (the three headed monster) accompanies Emily into the wardrobe (It was made in Narnia, see…) where adventure awaits. Henrietta knows all the tricks to make an engaging story.

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Image Credit: Liniers & TOON Books (RAW Junior, LLC), Liniers

Liniers’ writing and illustration are excellent. But when you read this book, you won’t think about him because he creates a loveable character who has complete control of the reins of this book. He’s mastered the “Kid Art” style of illustration and the pages are alive with bold strokes, gnarly teeth and wild colors. Henrietta is confident in her skill and it’s fun to see the story develop. TOON BOOKS are special because they’re comic leveled-readers. Many kids are into comics and graphic novels these days and I can’t recommend this TOON Book enough. I have my fingers crossed for another installment of Henrietta’s story. I hope your child will love this book and be inspired to create!

 

P.S. Be sure to read Liniers’ dedication. 🙂 It’s very sweet. AND this book is also available in Spanish!

 

Recommended for: Age 6 and up
Great for: Discussion, Humor, Clever, Friendship, Puns, Relationships, Storytelling, Suspense, Writing a Story, Storyboarding, Inspiration, Creative Thinking
Book Info: Written and Drawn by Henrietta by Liniers, 2015 Liniers & TOON Books (RAW Junior, LLC.), ISBN: 9781935179900

I Like Myself!

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Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Karen Beaumont/David Catrow

 

It’s the beginning of a new year! This is when we start thinking about how to improve ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally.

I Like Myself! happily celebrates identity and self esteem. It has a universal message and glows with positive energy; exactly what kids need to see. The little girl in this book isn’t worried about what you think because she’s focused on how awesome she is. The rhythm of the writing is catchy and comfortable and as she tells her story, we learn that she loves not only the physical aspects of her appearance but also loves her character. Even a lion is a little afraid of her WILD side and she’s cool with that! With her trusty dog by her side, she’s not letting anything bother her and is ready for the world.

“No matter if they stop and stare, no person ever anywhere can make me feel that what they see is all there really is to me.”

Beaumont’s writing reminds me of Seuss and so does Catrow’s style of illustration. He combines bright and vibrant colors with long, windy bodies, dramatic shapes and expressive faces. The fluid energy of the watercolors seems barely bound by pencil and ink; wiggles of color bounce on the page. I can’t say how much I love seeing a little brown girl with a wide smile, bright cheeks and twisty hair on the pages! She’s gorgeous and so is this book because it promotes self-confidence in a wonderful way.

 

Recommended for: All Ages! What a message…
Great for: Confidence, Self-Esteem, Girl Power, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Discussion, Rhyme, Rhythm, Imagination, Inspiration, Read-Aloud
Book Info: I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont/Illustrated by David Catrow, 2004 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN: 9780152020132

Orange Pear Apple Bear

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Image Credit: Little Simon (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), Emily Gravett

This chunky board book is smart and the illustrations are beautiful. On the surface it’s a simple word-picture association book for early vocabulary learning but then…things get funky as Gravett starts to MIX IT UP! Bear has the best expressions. Have you ever seen an Apple Bear? I sure haven’t! But he doesn’t seem to mind too much and keeps on juggling the fruit until…he gets a little hungry!

The watercolor illustrations in Orange Pear Apple Bear are vibrant and sure to attract your baby’s attention. The use of white space draws the eye to the images, making them pop. Blotchy colors and sketchy strokes bring bear and the fruits to life. Bear is a cute and curious guy, and your family will enjoy his antics!

P.S. Once again, clever use of the front and end endpapers! Shouldn’t leave tasty fruit uneaten, right?

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Image Credit: Little Simon (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), Emily Gravett

 

Recommended for: Babies and Toddlers
Great for: Early Learning, Animals, Vocabulary, Word Association, Colors, Shapes, Humor, Foods, Fruit, Rhyme, Read-Aloud
Book Info: Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett, 2011 Little Simon (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), ISBN: 9781442420038

Too Many Tamales

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Image Credit: Paperstar Book (Penguin Young Readers Group), Gary Soto/Ed Martinez

Merry Christmas!

Too Many Tamales is a funny and cute Christmas tale. Maria is finally old enough to help her mother prepare tamales for the family Christmas get-together! She’s excited to help her mom but she’s also tempted by her mom’s shiny ring sitting on the table. She slips it on (just for a minute!) to knead the masa for the delicious tamales but it falls off her finger! Her father helps finish the tamales and Maria runs off to play with her cousins as family members slowly arrive. Maria realizes the ring has slipped off her fingers and she corrals her cousins into helping her eat all twenty-four tamales! Bellies full of too many tamales and no ring in sight, she faces her mother, eyes full of tears but ready to confess the truth.

Ed Martinez’s oil paintings are warm with dark colors and glowing skin to reflect the lighting of a warm home during winter. The big plate of tamales looks tantalizingly delicious and Martinez pays special attention to the characters’ expressions. I love stories that talk about family, culture and food and this one reminds me of my family’s Christmas get-togethers when I was a child, when I’d run off to play with my cousins.

Too Many Tamales has been around since the early 90s so perhaps many families have grown up with this cute story of a Mexican-American family during Christmas. If you read this book, maybe you’ll be inspired to make tamales for Christmas. Mmmm delicious. Just don’t lose your ring in the masa like Maria!

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Humor, Friendship, Family, Cousins, Christmas, We Need Diverse Books, Cultural Diversity, Mexican-American, Food Culture, Mexican Food, Tamales, Lessons, Discussion
Book Info: Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto/Illustrated by Ed Martinez, 1993 Paperstar Book (Penguin Young Readers Group), ISBN: 9780698114128

Katie Fry Private Eye: The Lost Kitten

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Image Credit: Scholastic Inc., Katherine Cox/ Vanessa Brantley Newton

Katie Fry is one smart cookie with a knack for solving mysteries. This Level 2 Beginning reader is a great short story for building confidence in reading. Katie is very modern and relatable and kids will enjoy following her adventures in her neighborhood. Katie Fry Private Eye: The Lost Kitten is the first in a series and in it we meet Katie and her family. She practices her detective skills on her dad and finds his glasses…on top of his head! Katie, being the thoughtful entrepreneur she is, sets up a booth to help people solve mysteries. Before she knows it, she’s on a case to find a missing kitten named Sherlock!

Vanessa Brantley Newton is one of my new favorite illustrators because her digital/mixed media illustrations have so much life to them. She’s great at creating characters with personality and spunk. Katie Fry, with her brown skin, curly natural hair and flower dress reminds me of my little cousin. THAT is the beauty of a diverse book; a child can see a reflection of themselves in the story and might even be inspired to be the best private eye on their street, just like Katie Fry.

If you like this book, there’s a sequel called Katie Fry Private Eye: The Missing Fox! If you enjoy mystery picture books like me, check out my reviews for Shark Detective and Hermelin the Detective Mouse. Happy Sleuthing!

 

Recommended for: Kindergarten-2nd grade
Great for: Humor, Friendship, Animals, Cats, Mystery, Girl Power, African-American, BlackGirlsRock, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Family, Community, Encouraging Reading, Beginning Readers
Book Info: Katie Fry Private Eye: The Lost Kitten by Katherine Cox/Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton, 2015 Scholastic Inc., ISBN: 9780545666725

Remy and Lulu

 

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Image Credit: Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children’s Books), Kevin Hawkes/Hannah E. Harrison

Art has always been an integral part of my life so when I read this book for the first time, I was delighted. It’s very silly and endearing. Hawkes is a great storyteller.

In Remy and Lulu, Lulu meets a painter named Remy and they become friends. Remy is VERY confident in his art and claims to paint the “essence of a person, not their likeness” (his art is a blur) but his patrons are always disappointed and angered by his art! One day during a session, Remy stops to rest and Lulu picks up a brush and takes off painting. At first his patrons are angry but then they spot the tiny, meticulous masterpiece in the corner and are ecstatic! They thank Remy and pay him double and he’s reassured that painting from his heart will lead to great results (and money in his pocket and food in their bellies!)

Remy (and Lulu) becomes very famous but he has bad eyesight, so he never notices Lulu’s paintings UNTIL he has a commission from an optometrist who gifts him with new glasses. Finally his eyes are opened to the truth of their fame and he is angry and bitter and forgets about his good friend. Luckily, Remy comes to realize just how important friendship is when Lulu helps him find himself again.

Kevin Hawkes’ paintings are great; the scenes of the French countryside are beautiful and inviting. His style stands out with its bold color and strokes but so does Hannah E. Harrison’s. Her miniature, highly detailed animal paintings are gorgeous. Harrison’s oil paintings add something special to the book, similar to how Lulu is the best business partner and friend Remy could ask for. Check out her book Bernice Gets Carried Away which is also AWESOME and highlights her detailed style.

Be sure to read this story with your little budding artist and head out to the country side to paint like Remy and Lulu!

P.S. The story actually begins on the endpapers (when you first open the book)! Look at Lulu’s sad expression as the beautiful paintings are taken away. 😦


Recommended for
: All Ages
Great for: Humor, Art, Friendship, Determination, Dogs, Animals, Dreams, France
Book Info: Remy and Lulu written by Kevin Hawkes/Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes and Hannah E. Harrison, 2014 Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children’s Books), ISBN: 9780449810859

Wild

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Image Credit: Flying Eye Books, Emily Hughes

I love this one. 🙂  Her big, expressive eyes draw you in, don’t they? She is unashamedly content and happy with her wildness.

Hughes’ story is about a young girl who grows up in the woods and is embraced and raised by its creatures. Bird teaches her how to talk, Bear teaches her how to eat (by catching salmon with her teeth on the edge of a waterfall!!) and Fox teaches her how to play. But one day strange animals take her away and attempt to raise her “properly.” From her perspective, they speak wrong, eat wrong, everything is WRONG and she is hopelessly unhappy. Will she find the strength within herself to be wild and happy again? This book touches on issues of acceptance, inner-strength, difference and perspective. Just because she’s “wild” does that make her lifestyle wrong? Perhaps “wild” is just a matter of perspective…

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Image Credit: Flying Eye Books, Emily Hughes (click for a closer look)

In addition to a great story, Hughes crafts gorgeous illustrations. The earthy brown, green and blue colors of the woods contrast with the girl’s pink skin and wild green hair. Though they contrast, it’s obvious how much she is a part of her surroundings. Her expressive eyes tell most of the story, as readers can easily read her emotions. Hughes loves to draw fauna and foliage and she’s very good at it; this is also also evident in her newest book The Little Gardener. I hope you’ll enjoy this book with your wild ones! Never let anyone make you forget who you really are!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Perspective, Family, Inner-Strength, Action/Adventure, Animals, Community, Determination, Discussion, Friendship, Humor
Book Info: Wild by Emily Hughes, 2013 Flying Eye Books, ISBN: 9781909263086