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review 2017-03-21 23:54
I seriously need to know what the teacups signify
Henry & Leo - Pamela Zagarenski

I tried explaining the Caldecott Honor to a group of pre-k children the other day. (It was pretty funny.) If you're unfamiliar, the Caldecott Medal and the Caldecott Honor are awarded to American illustrators whose work is singled out by the ALA as being "the most distinguished picture book for children". [Note: This does have a bearing on this post.]

 

I had decided to use a different style of picture book for my storytime and I chose to use Henry & Leo by Pamela Zagarenski. Two of the books that Zagarenski illustrated have been awarded the Caldecott Honor (Sleep Like a Tiger and Red Sings From Treetops: A Year in Colors). You might have guessed that because she was both author and illustrator that Henry & Leo is most likely a visually stunning book...and you'd be correct. However, the kids weren't overly impressed with the storyline. :-/ I don't think this was so much the fault of the author but more a mistake on my part for trying this out with a group of pre-k aged children (solo reading for this age would most likely work fine though). It's a bit too introspective for such a large age of young children. The story centers on Henry who has a best friend named Leo...who is a stuffed lion. To Henry, Leo is absolutely 100% alive and he can't understand why his sister and parents fail to see this simple fact. Through a series of adventures, the reader learns just how much Leo and Henry mean to each other. I encouraged the kids to point out the crowns and other little treats that Zagarenski uses in all of her illustrations (without any explanation I might add). This was everyone's favorite thing to do but none of them could tell me much about the story after we'd finished so it wasn't as successful as I would have ultimately liked. Personally, I felt it lacked the heart that I had expected based on the premise and the beautiful artwork. I recommend that you check it out for yourself because I (and the children) might be overly harsh in our judgment. :-) For the record, this doesn't mean that I won't be checking out more of Zagarenski's work just that this one wasn't my all-time favorite. 3/5

Source: readinfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-03-17 18:25
Does lion rhyme with iron?
Frog on a Log? - Jim Field,Kes Gray

This is my favorite picture book of 2017 and that's saying quite a lot. I liked it so much in fact that I bought a copy for myself and a copy for my mom (if you know mom then you know why I did this). It's a hilarious, rhyming story about a frog who thinks that the rule that all frogs sit on logs (told to him by a wiseacre cat) is unfair because logs are uncomfortable. What follows is the cat informing the frog about the rules of where certain animals are allowed to sit. (Look out for the fleas and make sure you ask the little people you're reading with to find them for you.) If you're using this in a storytime, I encourage you to read with panache and infuse the cat with lots of exasperated attitude. It's a fantastically fun experience when you get your audience invested enough to be shocked by the ending (which is hysterical by the way). The illustrations are absolutely adorable (I'm going to be looking for more works by Jim Field I think) and create another layer of playfulness which I appreciated. I highly recommend this book for anyone and everyone (but especially those who work or live with small children). 10/10

 

Note: It seems that in the UK where this was originally published it was titled Oi Frog! which puzzles me mightily. Also, there's a sequel which is out and which I must get my hands on titled Oi Dog! (I don't get why they would change the name here in the US).

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-03-14 15:57
Gives new meaning to "What's in the fridge?"
Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast - Josh Funk,Brendan Kearney

A few weeks ago, I read a book called Dear Dragon which was about a pen pal relationship between a little boy and a dragon but they had no idea they were writing to someone of a different species. The illustrations were on point but it was the storyline that had me looking to see what else the author had written. (His name is Josh Funk by the way.) Turns out he had another book by the snazzy title of Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast (with a sequel called The Case of the Stinky Stench due out on May 2nd). This book has fantastic illustrations by Brendan Kearney which truly bring the fridge food to life. If you're reading aloud to pre-school age children, I highly encourage you to have the kids make predictions and point out their favorite (and least favorite) food items. Otherwise, this book might be a bit of a daunting read-aloud because there are quite a few challenging words (and lots of them) per each page. It follows our two main characters, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, on an epic quest to reach the last drop of syrup remaining in the syrup bottle. Lots of ridiculous rhyming, competitive taunting, and delicious food items abound. 9/10 for frolicking foodie fun.

 

Note: If you do decide to use this as a storytime read-aloud and/or you utilize this in a lesson I recommend you check out Josh's website which has a free downloadable activity kit to complement the book.

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-02-28 16:20
Using mixed media to perfection
Wonderful, Wicked, and Whizzpopping: The Stories, Characters, and Inventions of Roald Dahl - Roald Dahl

I think it's been well-established that Roald Dahl is my favorite author of all time (with Charles Dickens at a close second). If you were in doubt about my love of Dahl's works you can check out this masterpost that I wrote last year with no less than 5 reviews. XD It should come as no surprise that I fangirled pretty hard over Wonderful, Wicked, and Whizzpopping: The stories, characters, and inventions of Roald Dahl by Stela Caldwell with (of course) illustrations by the incomparable Quentin Blake. From the very first page (the front-matter section), it is apparent that this is a special book. There are little snippets which look like yellow, lined notebook paper which denote actual notes that Dahl wrote to himself about the books which made him famous. (He always wrote his books on yellow, lined notebook paper by the way.) Did you know it was nearly James and the Giant Cherry instead of James and the Giant Peach? That somehow doesn't have quite the same ring to it. This entire book is like getting a glimpse behind the scenes PLUS reading condensed versions of some of his more famous children's books. The mixed media used in this book complements the subject matter perfectly. I'd go so far as to say this is a visually stunning book and you'd be silly not to check it out for yourselves...especially if you're a fan of Quentin Blake. You might have guessed already but this is a 10/10 in my books (pun totally intended).

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-02-25 09:07
Cats in Books
Cats in Books: A Celebration of Cat Illustration through the Ages - Rodney Dale

Another library sale find; one I'd never seen before, but really it's a book about cats.  In books.  How bad could it possibly be?

 

It's a gem!  The only reason I didn't rate it a bit higher is because it's a rather too concise overview of cats in literary history.  It's a slim volume; easy to read in one sitting.  Rather than looking at cats as subjects in literature, it sticks to an illustrative perspective: cats in illuminated manuscripts, fables, short stories and, of course, children's literature.  It's fully illustrated itself, of course, with examples for each entry.  A nice edition from the British Library.

 

As I said, a gem of a find; one of those karmic gifts that make library sales even better. 

 

 

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