Apple Pie 4th of July

ApplePieJuly

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Janet S. Wong/Margaret Chodos-Irvine

I found this book by happy accident while shopping in one of my local indie bookstores. The cover drew me in and the content impressed me too. Can’t you tell from the cover that the little girl has some sass? Ha!

The Fourth of July is a very straight-forward holiday for some and complicated for others so I couldn’t pass up a book that features diverse perspectives. In Apple Pie 4th of July, a girl doesn’t understand why her family’s Chinese restaurant/corner store HAS to be open on the 4th of July; no one wants Chinese food on the holiday and she’s missing the parade! Her immigrant parents simply don’t get it. But maybe her parents know something (fireworks ARE from China by the way…) and maybe her holiday will turn out fun in the end!

There’s a lot packed into this book. Though she thinks she knows exactly what it means to be American and she underestimates her parents’ understanding of American culture, she learns that their Chinese-ness fits perfectly in. She’s growing up and finding her way. I really enjoyed the writing; I like the way Wong breaks up sentences and spreads them across the pages. The illustrations are beautiful; Chodos-Irvine’s linocuts are dynamic, with strong shapes and lines. She’s also excellent at characterization. Wong and Chodos-Irvine know how to use space effectively to tell a great story.

AHH how refreshing; of course I had to find something a little different for my 4th of July post! 😉

Happy Fourth! Now I’m ready for a slice of apple pie…

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Fourth of July, Holidays, Asian American, Chinese American, Diversity, Immigrants, Perspective, Restaurant Life, Discussion, Community, Chinese Food, Lessons, Celebration
Book Info: Apple Pie 4th of July by Janet S. Wong/Illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine, 2006 Voyager Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), ISBN: 9780152057084

Teeny Tiny Toady

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Image Credit: Sterling Children’s Books (Sterling Publishing), Jill Esbaum/Keika Yamaguchi

Can you say “Modern Classic?” The story and art feel old in the best way. This book feels warm and happy, like sitting snuggled on Grandma’s lap as she reads you The Three Little Pigs and a slice of her chicken pot pie sits comfortably in your belly. Yup, Teeny Tiny Toady feels familiar…and EPIC.

The story starts in a super dramatic way; a big bad human picks Mama Toad up and traps her in a bucket! Cute little Teeny Toady rushes to get her seven big, burly, body-building older brothers to help her but they insist they can handle the situation themselves. The Toady Bros struggle to rescue their mother; every one of their attempts fail and of course they’re too busy to listen to their teeny sister’s suggestions! Before they know it, they’re in trouble too and Teeny must find courage & strength to become a Teeny Hero. There’s something to be said for brains over brawn and her Mama believes in her from the very beginning. 😉

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Image Credit: Sterling Children’s Books (Sterling Publishing), Jill Esbaum/Keika Yamaguchi

Esbaum’s rhyming text is delightful and sounds great when read aloud. She’s a very good storyteller; the pacing, drama, humor and characters are perfect. This story teaches an important lesson for little ones; have faith in yourself and even if you’re little, you can do big things! Yamaguchi’s digital illustrations are magical; lush greens, soft colors and warty chubby toad bodies fill the pages. The toads ARE.SO.CUTE. My goodness. I love how she illustrates and characterizes them; their expressions and personalities are great and feel inspired by Disney and/or anime (especially their eyes!).

One of my favorite spreads is when Teeny thinks up her plan; Esbaum’s text floats and curls from left to right alongside the swirls of leaves and color straight to Teeny’s brain! What a great story! You will fall in love with this family. Teeny Tiny Toady deserves a spot near your favorite fairy tales and fables.

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Fables, Lessons, Inner Strength, Creative Thinking, Determination, Rhyme, Family, Relationships, Siblings, Girl Power, Read-Aloud, Animals, Love
Book Info: Teeny Tiny Toady by Jill Esbaum/Illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi, 2016 Sterling Children’s Books (Sterling Publishing), ISBN: 9781454914549

Horrible Bear!

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Image Credit: Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), Ame Dyckman/Zachariah OHora

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to take a deep breath and calm down. Anger and frustration are normal but how we make others feel is important.

“HORRIBLE BEAR!” shouts a spunky, freckled girl after her kite flies into a bear’s den. The bear rolls over in its sleep and accidentally snaps the kite in two. >_<  While the girl angrily stomps down the mountain and back home, Bear wakes up frustrated and annoyed (he’s quite amicable!). Bear comes up with a real HORRIBLE BEAR idea and turns into a roaring-destroying-machine and stomps after her. Thankfully the girl realizes that sometimes a mistake really is just a mistake and she shouldn’t be so quick to judge. “I’m sorry” goes quite a long way!

This is such a well written, paced and illustrated picture book. My favorite line is towards the end of the book. OHora’s acrylic illustrations are, as always, BOLD and full of heart. He has an excellent understanding of color and his characters always have a strong presence. I love the black outline he uses and the end papers are so simple and clever.

Check out Horrible Bear! with your little ones; it’s great for teaching kindness and forgiveness.

P.S. Beware that after enjoying this book you might walk around shouting HORRIBLE BEAR! all the time…

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Friendship, Patience, Respect, Calm Down, Animals, Lessons, Forgiveness
Book Info: Horrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman/Illustrated by Zachariah OHora, 2016 Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), ISBN: 9780316282833

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

Last Stop on Market Street

 

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Image Credit: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin Young Readers Group), Matt de la Peña/Christian Robinson

 

Last Stop on Market Street is one of the best of 2015.

It’s about the relationship between a grandmother and her grandson and what makes it shine is the grandmother’s magic. She’s pure positive energy and has the ability to see beauty in everything. Her wisdom is gentle yet strong enough to open CJ’s young eyes to his world. As they travel through their neighborhood, CJ yearns for what others have but her thoughtful corrections and caring perspective show him just how much he already has. She gives him the gift of positive reflection.

Their bus ride in the rain is full of colorful people. A man plays his guitar and a blind man jokingly says he closes his eyes to better hear the music, and they do as well. CJ especially, begins to SEE; he sees the music and all of its vibrancy. At the last stop on Market Street, he steps off the bus and his lessons continue as he walks with Nana down the street…

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Image Credit: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin Young Readers Group), Matt de la Peña/Christian Robinson

There are so many great things working together in this book. Until I sat down to write this review, I valued the story more, but when I slowed down (like CJ) and took time to appreciate the illustrations, I came to love how well they belong with this story. De la Peña’s poetic, rich and descriptive words combined with Robinson’s vibrant, blocky paint and collage illustrations carry the story to its destination.

I love the diverse people! I love how they speak in colloquial language! Nana sounds like my grandma and that detail is important; some young readers may connect to this book based on that detail alone. The everyday realness of this story shines brightly; Nana and CJ’s story is a reflection of us, our modern world and all of its amazing colors!

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Community, Buses, Movement, Travel, Family, Lessons, Perspective, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Grandmother-Grandson, Community Service, Read-Aloud, Music, Disability, Discussion
Book Info: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña/Illustrated by Christian Robinson, 2015 G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin Young Readers Group), ISBN: 9780399257742

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

If You Plant a Seed

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Image Credit: Balzar + Bray (HarperCollins), Kadir Nelson

 

If You Plant a Seed is gorgeous. Kadir Nelson is a master painter and in this book, he combines his paintings with a memorable story about the importance of sharing and kindness.

In this simple tale, Rabbit and Mouse nurture their seeds, wait patiently and finally have the most beautiful tomato, carrot and cabbage plants. They nibble them and smile at the fruits of their labor. But soon, their bounty attracts curious visitors; the birds take notice of their beautiful vegetables. But Rabbit and Mouse are selfish, and so, chaos happens and a major argument ensues. Slowly they realize that it’s much better to be kind and to share, because when you’re kind, that kindness grows and grows and maybe you’ll get more than you ever imagined.

This book is one of my favorites because the story is so simple yet so powerful. There’s nothing more powerful than a message of love and kindness and this book teaches that message to little ones in a beautiful way. Nelson’s oil paintings are beautifully vibrant and alive. Lush vegetables and realistic animals fill the pages. Your children will love pointing out all the animals! This is a great book to add to your collection.

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Animals, Lessons, Friendship, Gardening, Teamwork, Community, Kindness, Sharing, Springtime
Book Info: If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson, 2015 Balzar + Bray (HarperCollins), ISBN: 9780062298898

Bernice Gets Carried Away

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Image Credit: Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin Group), Hannah E. Harrison

 

In Bernice Gets Carried Away, Bernice gets carried away and gets carried away!

Bernice is in a bad mood and she’s not ashamed about it one bit! Even though she’s at a party, everything is going wrong for her; she doesn’t get a frosting rose on her cake slice, she gets a nasty warm soda and she doesn’t even get to hit the piñata before some big kid bursts it open. It’s just a bad day overall. Suddenly she spots the balloons and decides to make her day better by snatching them before anyone else can but they carry her up up and away! While dangling in the storm clouds, she realizes that it’s better to be nice and her generosity makes her a little lighter.

The illustrations in Bernice Gets Carried Away are gorgeous. Very detailed acrylic paintings accompany the story. From the whiskers on Fox’s face to the tiny details in Bernice’s annoyed expressions, the art is beautiful. Harrison’s use of color is also great; it ranges from gloomy gray hues to a bright, spring pastel palette. The lesson to take away from this book is, it’s okay to be grumpy sometimes (we all have our days) but it’s important to remember to care for others and not get carried away!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Emotions, Discussion, Animals, Humor, Lessons, Party
Book Info: Bernice Gets Carried Away by Hannah E. Harrison, 2015 Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin Group), ISBN: 9780803739161

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