Monday, March 23, 2015

Ling & Ting: Twice as Silly

In their third outing, twins Ling and Ting supply beginning readers with many opportunities to giggle and guffaw. Each of the six stories showcases the zany imaginations of young children at play. In the opening story, Ting attempts to plant cupcakes, and when that plan falls through, she comes up with another silly option--jellybeans. In subsequent stories the girls have fun with red paint, swing into outer space, come up with a wild plan to get apples, read each other's minds, and, in the grand finale, write a silly story that incorporates all their earlier adventures.

Bright and colorful, the illustrations add to the silliness, as when Ling and Ting are shown staging a breakout at the monkey cage an the zoo. I especially liked the design of each story's title page, which employs a key element of the story: The title of "The Garden" is spelled out in plants, "On the Swings" in puffy clouds, and "Apples" in rosy red fruit.

Another winner from the amazing Grace Lin!

Ling & Ting: Twice as Silly
By Grace Lin
Little, Brown   44 pages
Published: November 2014

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Seuss Fans Rejoice!

Even though Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, died more than twenty years ago, new work of his continues to be published. The latest is a recently discovered "lost" manuscript--with illustrations!--titled What Pet Should I Get? The book features the same brother and sister protagonists who appeared in One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, and was apparently written sometime between 1958 and 1962. 
Published by Random House Children’s Books, What Pet Should I Get? will be on bookshelves on July 28th of this year. At least two more books are in the works, all based on materials uncovered in the good doctor's home. Mark your calendars, Seussians!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Cybils Winners announced!

Happy Valentine's Day! Here's a special treat for lovers of children's literature--the announcement of the Cybils winners. Congratulations to them all!

This year I once again had the honor of being a judge, and I'd like to thank my fellow judges for their hard work and dedication. It isn't easy selecting just one book per category when there's such a wealth to choose from.

You can peruse the list of winners here. Now go eat some chocolate!

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Wonderful Year

The talented Nick Bruel has turned his attention from his "Bad Kitty" series (of which I am a huge fan) to compose a picture book on the seasons. If you think that means Bruel has forsaken his wicked imagination for a boring concept book, think again. A Wonderful Year has all of his trademark humor and off-kilter take on life.

Broken into four "chapters," each section focuses on a specific season and features an unnamed girl protagonist. We start in winter, with snow falling. Inside, as the girl hurries to play outside, she's told by her parents to wear her boots and earmuffs. Then the family dog and cat chime in, instructing her to put on her snow pants and scarf. Next she hears from a purple hippo named Louise, a tree, the refrigerator, and even a can of beans. By the time she's completely swaddled in outerwear, it's spring and time to undress. In "Spring Splendor," the girl cavorts outdoors with her frisky (talking) dog and the pair finagle a grouchy cat into playing with them. By summer, it's so hot that the girl is melting--literally. She becomes a puddle of blue liquid that Louise the hippo slurps up  and shoves into the freezer to cool off. Fall finds our heroine relaxing under a tree while reading "a book of stories about a girl and all the wonderful things she does throughout the year."As it starts to get cold again, the tree gives up its last leaf to the girl for her to use as a bookmark and the story come full circle with the girl running off to put on a sweater.

Alternating between full-bleed spreads and comic-book-style panels, A Wonderful Year is an enticing introduction to the seasons, one that beginning readers can dip into again and again in the coming months.

A Wonderful Year
by Nick Bruel
Roaring Brook Press, 40 pages
Published: January 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Happy Birthday, Mr. Dodgson!


Today is the 183rd birthday of Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland.

This year is also the 150th anniversary of that children's classic. To celebrate this momentous occasion, many organizations are putting on special exhibits. Here are a few of the more notable ones you might like to add to your calendar.

February 12 to Spring 2015 (Poughkeepsie, NY)
Vassar College: The Age of Alice: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, and Nonsense in Victorian England.

June 26 to October 11 (New York, NY)
The Morgan Library & Museum: "Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland"

July 4 (Oxford, UK)
Alice's Day at Oxford

September 15 to November 15 (New York, NY)
Grolier Club: "Alice in a World of Wonderlands"

October 9 to October 11 (New York, NY)
Lewis Carroll Society of North America: "Alice in the Popular Culture"

October 14 to March 27 (Philadelphia, PA)
Rosenbach Museum & Library: Alice in Philly-land" and "The Dream of Wonderland: Alice at 150"

For additional exhibitions and performances, check out the events database here.

And in you'll like to read more about Lewis Carroll and his most famous creation, here's a link to my book on the topic: Alice's Wonderland: A Visual Journey through Lewis Carroll's Mad, Mad World.

And to make this day even more special, here is a link to a video podcast of my interview with Mr. Media about my book: What Did Alice Know and When?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Puppy's Big Day

Nick Bruel is back with another book in the Bad Kitty series. This time, though, the story doesn't feature our favorite ferocious feline. It's Puppy's turn to shine in the spotlight.

Kitty is having a bad, bad day and no one in the household knows why. Uncle Murray comes over to save Puppy from Kitty's wrath and the two go off for a walk in the park. If only things were that simple. Uncle Murray runs afoul of the law (no leash, no poop bags, no dog tags) and then, horrors, Puppy and Petunia, a bulldog friend, run off and end up in the pound. There Puppy meets two other strays, Gramps, an elderly lhasa apso, and Hercules, a hyper chihuahua (are there any other kind?). Luckily, Uncle Murray comes to Puppy's rescue and adopts the other dogs. And what was causing Kitty's bad mood? Puppy provides the answer.

As in the previous books, the story is interspersed with info spreads, this one narrated by Bad Kitty herself. Readers will discover why dogs need to be walked, why they sniff butts, and why they lick faces. (I didn't know the answer to the last one.)

All in all Puppy's Big Day provides readers with the series' usual combination of mayhem and mirth. A must-read for all Big Kitty and Puppy fans!

Puppy's Big Day
by Nick Bruel
Neal Porter, 160 pages
Published: January 2015

Friday, December 19, 2014

Three Outstanding Picture Books from 2014


2014 was a stellar year for picture books. Here are three that I particularly like.

Bobby's teacher is a monster. Or so it seems to him. Ms. Kirby won't let him fly paper airplanes in class and she stomps and roars to get her point across. When the pair meet up by accident outside the classroom, in a park where Bobby has gone to forget his teacher troubles, neither is pleased. But after Bobby saves his teacher's favorite hat, he sees another side to Ms. Kirby and the pair end up enjoying their time together. Peter Brown humorously shows Ms. Kirby becoming less and less monstrous as the day progresses. A book that is sure to resonate with the school-age crowd.







Who as a kid hasn't attempted to dig a hole deep into the earth? Most, myself included, give up after a few shovelfuls of dirt. Dirt is heavy! But Sam and Dave are made of stronger stuff. They aim to dig until they "find something spectacular." As they go deeper, they can't see--but readers will--the enormous gem that is often mere inches away. Unfortunately, the boys always choose to dig in another direction and so they never unearth the treasure, although their dog comes close. As they continue their way downward into the bowels of the earth, they at last stop for a rest. The dog, digging on for a buried bone, causes all three--and the bone--to free fall until they land in their own yard. Or is it?





In this wordless picture book, a farmer watches as a circus train zooms along the bleak landscape. To his surprise, a small clown falls from the train. The farmer and clown return to the farmer's spare home, and after the pair wash up, the farmer sees that underneath the child's grinning mask is a very unhappy child. As the farmer does this best to keep the child entertained--juggling eggs for him at one point--the two form a strong bond. One that comes to an end when the clown-child's family returns for him. A touching story about the power of connection, one just right for the holiday season.