Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Too Many Frogs

Got frogs? Nana Quimby does; she has way too many of them. Her troubles start when her basement floods. A plumber soon fixes the leak, but as Nana Quimby bakes a cake, she hears a thump at the cellar door. She opens it and ten frogs hop in. A girl advises her to put them in a goldfish bowl. She does; but then twenty new amphibians appear, then thirty, then forty, and on and on. Each time a neighborhood child offers helpful advice which Nana heeds. But when a million frogs hop into her kitchen, the children have left and Nana Quimby is on her own. How she solves her dilemma makes a satisfying conclusion that comes full circle.

Whimsical illustrations in soothing tones of pastel offset the busyness of the frog frenzy that spill across the pages. The picture book's structured setup and repetitious phrases will help beginning readers decode the text. All in all, a zany, fun read that is sure to give children a case of the giggles.

Too Many Frogs
by Ann and John Hassett
Houghton Mifflin, 32 pages
Published: July 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Quote of the Week

In honor of National Dog Day:

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

~ Groucho Marx

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Walk in London

London has to be my favorite city. Every street you pass, there's just so much to see and do. Salvatore Rubbino, author/illustrator of the acclaimed picture book A Walk in New York, has completed a companion book, this one featuring the city where he resides. A mother and daughter alight from a double-decker bus just in time to hear Big Ben striking eleven. The pair explore the city, starting with a stroll through St. James's Park. They go past Buckingham Palace, visit Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, and St. Paul's Cathedral. They tour the Bank of England and the Tower of London and finally take a ferry on the Thames back to where they started.

A Walk in London is jammed with interesting tidbits. Did you know:

Buckingham Palace has its own post office?
More planes fly over London than any other city in the world?
A whisper on one side of St. Paul's Cathedral's dome can be heard 105 feet away?

Rubbino's lively illustrations are equally impressive, filled as they are with detail upon detail. The spread showcasing St. James's Park focuses on tourists taking photos and feeding the water fowl in the lake, while in the background cricket players are at bat. A foldout of the Thames gives readers a panoramic view of the many buildings along both river banks. There's way too much info to absorb in one sitting, so, like the city itself, this book bears repeated visits.

A Walk in London
by Salvatore Rubbino
Candlewick Press, 40 pages
Published: 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Top Ten (Children's) Books I Loved But Never Reviewed

Here are some children's books I never had an opportunity to mention. Quite a few of them are strange, but then so am I. Go to The Broke and the Bookish for more posts on this subject.


Although I don't condone cruelty to slugs, I find this book hysterical. Told in rhyme, it begins: "Swallow a Slug/By its tail or its snout/Feel it slide down/Feel it climb out." The illustrations by Victoria Chess just add to the fun.


I own--and love--a pug, but bull terriers would be my next choice. Like pugs, they are such clowns. Pia Lindenbaum captures a child's love for her pet. The child narrator firmly believes her pet is the smartest, most energetic watchdog that ever lived. The humorous illustrations suggest the opposite.


I can't imagine a kid not enjoying this irreverent look at how food passes through the digestive system. It's a hoot and yet completely factual (well, the text is). As an added bonus, it's written in both English and Spanish.


Another picture book about a dog. Theodore is Mr. Balbini's dog and, one day, out of the blue, he starts to speak. Things are never quite the same, and Mr. Balbini finds himself yearning for his old, quiet life. The resolution is surprising and yet deeply satisfying.


Molly Bang, an award-winning picture book illustrator, uses the story of "Little Red Riding Hood" to show the power of line, shape, and color to influence our emotions. Fascinating.

The next five are middle-grade chapter books by Eva Ibbotson, who died last year at age 85. How I missed this outstanding children's book author, I'll never know. I've been devouring her books ever since.


A wizard holds a contest to find a wife.


A family of ghosts protect an orphan from greedy relatives after his money.


A young ghost and a boy band together to provide sanctuary for homeless ghosts everywhere.


Dwellers from a magical island travel to London to find their kidnapped prince and restore him to the throne.


A boy and girl help protect a magical island and its creatures from the dangers of the outside world.

So that's my list. What books have slipped through your reviewer's fingers?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

When Will It Be Fall Already?

Those last days of summer, when you've overdosed on corn on the cob and ice cream cones and endless games of tag and the air lies hot and heavy. Suddenly, crisp air and the thought of school doesn't seem as awful as it did back in June. Maybe a tiny bit of you actually looks forward to cracking open a book or two. At least that's how it was for me, back in the day.

I'm starting to get that same feeling of anticipation, and so I'm looking ahead to some of the new books for beginning readers due out this fall. I can't wait!

 Originally published in magazines, these seven stories by Dr. Seuss have been collected in one collection.  Yippee!

A bear has lost his hat. He wants it back. Jon Klassen's deadpan illustration make me itch to get my hands on this one.

Fifty cartoonists came together to create this book, each one transforming a classic nursery rhyme.  Nick Bruel, Gahan Wilson, David Macaulay, Jules Feiffer, the list goes on and on. What a great idea.

What would fall be without a book by Mo Willems? Luckily we won't have to find out. Elephant and Piggie are back and the festivities are about to begin. Hooray!

Next week I'll post some chapter books that are making me drool. What fall books are you looking forward to?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Quote of the Week

"A book is meant not only to be read, but to haunt you, to importune you like a lover or a parent, to stick in your teeth like a piece of gristle."

~ Anatole Broyard

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The One and Only Stuey Lewis

Stuey Lewis is only three days into second grade and he's already had it with school. The reason? He's still "wicked slow at reading" and worries that his classmates will find out. Thanks to his understanding teacher, by the end of second grade Stuey has become a proficient reader and is looking forward with confidence to third grade.

Four linked stories tell the story of Stuey's year in second grade in which he masters reading, devises an ingenious "Halloween Caper" to haul in extra candy, tries out for "bitty league soccer," and discovers that being nice to a fellow classmate, the annoying Lilly, isn't the end of the world.

Stuey's relationships are realistically portrayed. Although his father moved out, the two talk frequently on the phone. His older brother, Anthony, might call his younger brother "Stu-pid"all the time, but he's there to give encouragement at the big soccer game. And Ms. Curtis, the second grade teacher who prefers to be called Ginger, is firmly in Stuey's corner as he navigates the demands of second grade.

Jane Schoenberg's first chapter book is a humorous take on the trials and tribulations of second grade and will appeal to young readers graduating to chapter books. The delightful black-and-white illustrations by Cambria Evans compliment the text, emphasizing its humor. A sequel, Stuey Lewis Against All Odds, is due out in spring of 2012.

The One and Only Stuey Lewis
by Jane Schoenberg
illustrations by Cambria Evans
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 128 pages
Published: July 2011  

Friday, August 5, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Without sufficient money for a meal I have spent the few pence I possessed to obtain from a library one of Scott's novels, and, reading it, forgot hunger and cold, and felt myself rich and happy."

~ Hans Christian Andersen

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Summer Jackson Grown Up

Seven-year-old Summer Jackson is itching to be a grown-up. As she sees it: "Two scoops of ice cream are not enough. Hand puppets are not that funny. And eight o'clock is way too early for bed." So Summer says goodbye to childhood, dons a blazer and high heels, and starts a career as a consultant, charging her classmates for her services. Her parents go along with their daughter's ambitions and, by abdicating their responsibilities, gently get her to see the downside of being the sole grown-up of the family. Doing dishes is no fun!

First-time author Teresa Harris gives us an engaging, modern character in Summer Jackson. Her feisty protagonist clearly knows her own mind, and she's not afraid of going after what she wants. AG Ford's illustrations show us Summer in action, clomping around in her high heels and wearing her sunglasses in the tub. All in all, this is an enjoyable picture book to share with young readers eager to reach their next birthday. It put me in mind of Amy Schwartz's wonderfully sly Bea & Mr. Jones, a picture book in which a kindergarden and her dad switch places with surprising results. Great fun!

Summer Jackson Grown Up
by Teresa E. Harris
illustrations by AG Ford
Katherine Tegen Books, 32 pages
Publication: May 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bone Dog

One of the rules I live by is not to read anything in which a dog dies, and that includes picture books. I made an exception for Bone Dog, by Caldecott medalist Eric Rohmann. Ella, an old dog, tells Gus, the boy who loves her, that she won't be around much longer. "But no matter what happens, I'll always be with you," she promises. How Ella keeps her promise is the charm behind this picture book, perfect for Halloween, or any old day.

 Although the book might be scary for some young readers (a skeleton crew ambushes Gus in a cemetery), on the whole humor dominates, as when the skeletons tell Gus, "You've got guts kid...but not for long." And the ending message, that a dog's loyalty knows no bounds, is ultimately reassuring. Rohmann's signature style of dark outlines underscores the dramatic cemetery setting and is guaranteed to send shivers up readers' spines. Don't wait for Halloween for this one, check it out now.

Bone Dog
by Eric Rohmann
Roaring Brook Press, 32 pages
Published: July, 2011