Monday, December 30, 2019

It's Monday - Don't-Miss Books for the New Year

              Visit Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts to see what they've been reading, along with others who post their favorites. I hope your holidays were what you wished, that you had a great time with family and friends and books! It was busy for me and I didn't get much reading time before the guests arrived, but did finish The Toll before any arrivals!

           You can find my #MustReadin2020 post here

        Yes! I finished it! It took a long time to read this final story full of characters that need examining which Shusterman did with thoughtfulness, to rush into a scene when one's heart beat faster, to slow down when something made sense, but was a new idea created for our own world. Early on I marked, "At last all was well. Until the moment that it wasn't." Then as people in power revealed who they really were, I noted this: "People will get used to the way things are, see that it is for the best, and they'll settle." Finally, I marked the following as important: "A successful lie is not fueled by the liar; it is fueled by the willingness of the listener to believe." Readers take what is personally meaningful from an author's words so I can't know that every reader noticed these, but Shusterman made them meaningful to me, and left me with hope for our world as he left hope for this one he created, too. It's a special ending to this trilogy. 

         Thanks very much to Candlewick Press for the following copies!

         For anyone who has a loving pet called a "dog", this book will show you what you already know, that dogs have thoughts like humans, deep down more than others imagine. Cosmo, the golden retriever tells the story of his family of a mom and a dad, a sister named Emmaline and Max, the boy to whom he became a big brother twelve years ago. Mostly now that he is thirteen, he's concerned about some aches and pains and the evil sheepdog in the neighborhood. Then Max enters them in a canine freestyle dance competition, hoping to mend the tension that has appeared between the parents, the one that has the dad sleeping on the couch. There are moments when one forgets that Cosmo is a dog, except when he slips in his regret that he has no opposable thumbs! His point of view shown by Carlie Sorosiak lets us peek into a dog's mind with both humor and poignancy, like his "Humans play fetch with hard balls on TV, about baseball, and "It's a very good thing that only one of us has body fur. Otherwise, it might be difficult to tell us apart." It is a marvelous dog story that happens to include all the good and bad of humans, too, and from Cosmo's POV!

          Tami Charles tells this story of the 'freedom soup' tradition on New Year's Day in Haiti, shared with her by her husband's Ti Gran. After fighting for twelve years, Haitian freedom happened on January 1st, 1804! Together, young Belle and her Ti Gran dance through the time making freedom soup, a tradition followed by Haitians every January first. Jacqueline Alcรกntara's illustrations fill the pages with the beat of freedom as they prepare the soup. Colorful and filled with joy on every face, it's wonderful to see the family and friends arriving and sharing this special soup together, and the apartment house also full of those celebrating by eating their own 'Freedom Soup'. Charles adds a recipe and a brief history of how the soup came to be in the backmatter.

Up next: Allies by Alan Gratz

Happy New Year!

Those #MustReadin2020 Plans


Thanks to Carrie Gelson of There's A Book for That for hosting a #MustRead group at the beginning of the year for those who continue to create a list of lonely books on shelves or lists that we are excited about when bought or listed, then ignore, or find others that call more loudly.  See the above link to Carrie's blog to find out more!
       You can see last year's list in the links above. I only chose 13 & still did not read them all. There are so many wonderful books out there that superseded these. even Michelle Obama's book, sad to say! (It's back on the list for next year!) But I did read 325 books last year, just not all of these!

Here is the list for 2020 (I own all but the final two, no reason not to have read them!)

Maybe He Just Likes You - Barbara Dee
Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters - Anne Boyd Rioux
With The Fire on High - Elizabeth Acevedo
Words on Fire - Jennifer Nielsen
Hearts Unbroken - Cynthia Leitich Smith
Shout - Laurie Halse Anderson
Crossover, The Playbook - Kwame Alexander
Momentous Events in the Life of A Cactus - Dusti Bowling
Song for A Whale - Lynne Kelly
Internment - Samira Ahmed
Infinite Hope - Ashley Bryan

           (from last year)
Solo and Swing - also Kwame Alexader  
Becoming - Michelle Obama


Saturday, December 21, 2019

A New Bedtime Story for Spring!

         Today, December 21st, the winter solstice arrives in the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day and the longest night of the year, a time to enjoy winter evenings inside, reading special books to loved ones at bedtime.

       I'm happy to share this new book coming next April, one that will be needed in spring with daylight lingering, making it harder and harder for those young ones
                                                                                                   to go

I'm reminded of the poem, "Bed in Summer" by Robert Louis Stevenson. Here's the first verse:

In winter I get up at night 
And dress by yellow candle-light. 
In summer, quite the other way, 
I have to go to bed by day. 

The rest is here!

            This book from Clever Publishing gives a new look at bedtime as Bianca Schulze, in her debut picture book, tells the story of a rascally dragon that just will not go to sleep. It's an interactive book that follows the dragon page by page. Shh! Be very quiet, you might wake it up! Then turn the page, oh no! The breeze blew the door shut with a BANG! Did that rascal wake up again? You'll have to get the book to discover what happens next, and next!

             This is only a preview, but I already can see that Samara Hard's illustrations are going to be wonderfully bright and colorful for young readers.

Pre-order links are here:

Bianca Schulze is the founder and editor of The Children's Books Review - a resource devoted to children's literature and literacy. Bianca is also the bestselling author of 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up, an Amazon "Book of the Month" in 2016. She is a reader, reviewer, mother, and children's book lover. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Bianca now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado. 

Clever Publishing's site can be found here!

             Bianca has shared a fun dot-to-dot for us to print, a reminder about this new book on its way: Don't Wake The Dragon!

             Congratulations, Bianca! I'm looking forward to reading your first picture book!

Monday, December 16, 2019

It's Monday - Final Sharing Till 2020

              Visit Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts to see what they've been reading, along with others who post their favorites. Wherever you are, whatever you celebrate, wishing you all a loving and wonderful holiday! See you next year, a new decade!

            With illustrations by Daniel Miyares and poetic words by Kim Norman, it's a book that no one should miss. Miyares' full-color double-page spreads show the beauty and fun of every season as Norman tells us the why! The children's "waists bulge, bumpy as bullfrogs" during fall pecan picking.  At the end of a snow day in winter, children talk at bedtime: "Remember when the snowman's head fell off?" In spring, visiting Uncle Dean: "Holding our noses, we'll admire a proud pig family." "Come summer, It will be our job to shuck the corn for summer." I'd love to read this to a class, ready to hear about their own memories of the seasons. 

       Who needs words when you have Matthew Cordell's wonderful Illustrations! My granddaughters and I visit our Museum of Nature and Science often and this story reminds me of all that happens, except for that paper airplane that does not keep this boy out of trouble. This family of four walk and look and enjoy, but flying the plane in such a wide-open space makes a distraction that isn't fun, especially when the plane ends in the hands of another child, and the owner snatches it back. Diversity of families plays a part in this wordless picture book where you have to look carefully at expressions, from anger to thoughtfulness to kindness, which creates a very nice story. This is one that really needs to be "seen"!

        You may think it's silly to share a summer book, yet we are nearly at the new year, will be talking of spring, then summer, sooner than you think. This song by Robert Heidbreder praising a summer night will refresh your yearning to open windows and hear those sounds so endearing to us all: from children to cats, from owls to leaves, each one whispers in the night. Qin Leng's art creates the summer's light-hearted feel with softest colors, evening to full dark. 

               Newly out and a marvelous celebration of the season, no matter what and when you celebrate. 
         Poor Thomas (brown fur, unknown animal) has lost his basket of fruits for the annual making of Wintercake. He's looked everywhere. Lucy, his bird friend, helps him look to no avail. He returns home while Lucy continues on, but is caught in a terrible winter storm. is saved by the discovery of a tea room nearby. It is filled with everyone talking about the weather (terrific double-spread, lots of animals, speech bubbles). There is a stranger whom Lucy hears talking about finding a nice basket of dried-up fruits. This is about assumptions, making things right again, and starting new friendships. It's a warm-feeling book that will be about all celebrations.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Poetry Friday - Glad Tidings

             Elizabeth Steinglass hosts today at her blog here, sharing a poem about a favorite word. I imagine you may not be able to guess what it is! Be sure to check it out!

             Whatever you celebrate, or whether you do not, I'm wishing you a lovely time from here to the new year's end, and joy in the solstice welcoming of winter, too. Here's a part of a quote I love from Charles Dickens: 


           Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all man have some. Fill your glasses again, with a merry face and contented heart.

           Happiest of New Year's to you all for 2020, a new decade!
           I have been writing alongside a group each day with the hashtags shown in the picture below, sometimes messing up (like #navember instead of #natember). Here is one that captured my time yesterday with my youngest granddaughter, Imogene! I also seem to have read a lot about trees lately. If you haven't read Richard Powers' The Overstory, please take a look. It's quite an amazing book.

       On a strange note, I have been struggling to fix a blog problem which is preventing me from commenting on certain blogs, including my own. Still trying to find a fix. All else seems okay, just may have to work some from my IPad. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Non-Fiction Picture Books Explain Science & History

Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  Thanks to her hosting and sharing and those who add their posts, you can discover and celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books!  I always learn from these books, am happy that they are more and more available today for children, for everyone!  This week Alyson is sharing some end-of-the-year releases!

         For everyone who wants to know what being Curiosity on Mars is like, Richard Ho tells it with few words, showing what it does ("It observes, Measures, Collects" and on)and what it's like ("The air is thin. The storms are strong." on Mars. His words explode in meaning with Katherine Roy's gorgeous filled-with-the-color-red" illustrations. Included is a four-fold spread showing Curiosity looking out on what looks like a flat park before mountains. "They call me Mars." Ho writes, "I am not like your world."
         At the end, you'll see a double-page showing the rover with all its parts labeled and a graphic list of what those parts do. In the back matter, added information about Curiosity can be found, along with "Curiosity's Friends", those explorers sent before, laying the groundwork for this new and larger rover. There is a brief overview of Mars itself and a bibliography, with the link to NASA.
          One fun thing: the outside covers show a large illustration of the camera used by Curiosity!

         It feels as if this book will entice kids who are interested in space, add to their understanding of what's going on on Mars, perhaps look further to see what NASA is sharing about what Curiosity is telling them!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Monday Reading - Books & People Winners!

              Visit Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts to see what they've been reading, along with others who post their favorites.
                Now for the giveaway! Candlewick Press is gracious enough to offer two of Jon Klassen's Hat Box set of his wonderful hat trilogy. Open to U.S. and Canada. 

                Sometimes during the early part of this giveaway, the Rafflecopter's site went down and some were unable to enter their names. I've taken all the names of those in their list plus others who commented, put them in a basket and drawn two names. I wish it was otherwise, but wanted to be fair to everyone. 
               The winners of those boxed sets of Klassen's Hat Box are:

DRUM ROLL IMAGINED -- MARGARET SIMON & AARON CLEAVELEY  (I will message you on twitter to get your information to send to the publisher.) Congratulations and thanks to everyone who entered!

        Whoever shared this book, thank you! I adored it, so much that I've bought several copies as gifts! Charlie Mackesy tells the tale in a book that is sized like a small chapter book, page by page with brief sketches, a few words. The end cover creates the story in tiny sketches on a musical staff. Yes, it is music to one's ears as first the boy and mole, then the fox and finally, the horse discusses tough things in life, asking questions. For example, the boy asks, "What do you think is the biggest waste of time?" and the mole answers, "Comparing yourself to others." And the boy replies, "I wonder if there's a school of unlearning?" Being kind, listening well, how to treat oneself and others are the threads that tie it together. The whimsey of the simple sketches, mostly black and white, but sometimes gorgeous color and a tiny note from Mackesy works beautifully. The flavor reminds me of The Little Prince, but it feels even more subtle. It's wonderful!

           I shared Playing With Collage by Jeannie Baker here a few weeks ago. It will make a wonderful pairing with this beautiful book by Susan Roth! Remember Parrots Over Puerto Rico and other great books by Roth? This time, she's in the book itself, comparing her own life as a collage artist with the intriguing bower bird, artists, too! In a flurry of "unusual, often unrelated stuff", Susan explains how she and the bower bird are so alike. She's in the book showing herself choosing and then the bower bird choosing just what feels right to him. Each composition created is different. The tools are similar: beak or tweezers! In the brief text, each action by either human or bird is explored. Susan adds back matter that serves as a more thorough explanation of "Facts About Bowerbirds", "How They Work", "How I Work", and "How We Are The Same". Here is a marvelous double-page spread showing both claw and hand choosing something they believe is "just right". 
           It's a book about one of nature's interesting birds, a book about how collage can work if you're Susan, and it's a book that's a visual feast!

              Well, since I've loved Sydney Smith's previous illustrations, like Sidewalk Flowers by JonArvo Lawson, The White Cat and the Monk by Jo Ellen Bogart, and my favorite, Town Is By The Sea by Joanne Schwartz, I have a new one to love, Small in the City, written and illustrated by him. Midst the business of the city, on a bus then the crowded streets, light then dark, a young child is on the way--somewhere. At first, I thought they might be homeless, but they are dressed too well. The cover itself opens the story. Here is that child, "small" on a bus, going? In his nearly wordless picture book, Smith used the outlining of black, effective here because it feels cold and unpleasant, and that day with the child moving in the city, we know something is wrong! There are features that isolate, like the scene with barking dogs behind a wrought-iron fence or the surreal squares showing the child with a brain full of too many images. When you read it, you will be immersed in the questions, and finally, you will discover exactly who is "small in the city." I know many of you have loved this book and now I do, too!

            Remember The Only Child? Guojing has created another fabulous, and wordless, picture book that will bring tears. A young woman visits a park and discovers a small, evidently homeless, dog and she tries to make friends, but he's too scared. Day by day, luring with a tennis ball, she does play a little. One evening there is a terrible rainstorm and the dog actually has followed the woman home earlier, then sheltering in an old cardboard box. The woman cares a lot and runs out in the storm to look for him. The ending is special, yet I must say that the entire book is special. I've read (looked at) it again and again. This would make a fine pairing with Small in The City.

Finally, I read a poignant novel-in-verse by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Manuel Monroy. Argueta heard of a caravan of fellow citizens from El Salvador, gathering together in a particular Plaza before their morning departure. He says his heart was with them and went to visit with them that day because they were him, thirty-five years ago.
          Written with brief chapter groupings that follow the journey, like "Us", "Waking Dreams", and "Tijuana". There is grief in the leaving, excitement and exhaustion showed in the poems told in the first person by Misael, a young boy walking with his family. They walk, ride buses, sometimes trains, always dreaming of that future in the US, often wishing their homeland had not forced this terrible choice of leaving. "Sometimes all you hear are footsteps/of people walking–,/ tran tran tran tran–,/ as if we were marching,/or as if we were/horses." The trip is about 2500 miles. When they arrive at the wall, "It feels like we're in the middle/of a bunch of poisonous snakes./There are lots of people/shouting chants/against us." 
          Illustrations mirror the cover, stark and rough, black and white sketches of people walking, carrying bags and children, sleeping, waiting, often waiting, then Misael himself at the end, his village behind him, dreaming of going back to El Salvador.

Still Reading: Shusterman - The Toll. I am so busy and this is a deep, intense book. Hoping to get it done before Christmas! I have some others I'd like to read, too! 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Poetry Friday - All About The Certainty

             Visiting Tanita S. Davis at {fiction, instead of lies} for Poetry Friday today. She's offering a new link to poetry prompts staring soon! Thanks, Tanita!

             I want to send a thank you to Michelle Heindenrich Barnes at her blog, Today's Little Ditty, to those who gave time to select the poems in her new anthology,  best of Today's Little Ditty 2017-2018, her daughter who created the beautiful cover, and Renee La Tulippe for added help. Of course thank you to the poets! I have loved every poem, many I remember reading during those months, others not quite staying, but now I have them to discover and love, too. The community is a special one, supporting each other Friday after Friday while taking time to read each person's poetry that is shared. People who have a community in these ways are fortunate indeed. 
             Another thing I'm doing now is writing and connecting with various poetry hashtags. I think I was a bit mixed up about who was doing what, but have managed to connect with a few other writers and I look for their writing every day on social media. Those hashtags are #natember #haikuforhope #haikuforkindness #haikuforjustice. During these first days of December, I've written five so far, will write again, as many as I can before family arrives for Christmas. It's nice to know that this community will be there, showing me their thought-filled words all through the month. 
              "There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about." – Margaret J. Wheatley

          One of the poems I wrote this week connects to our community, too. I feel as if I could show my friend the community of Poetry Friday as well as the moon. (You'll understand my meaning when you read it.) 

a friend cried
over the uncertainty –
I showed her the moon

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

NF Picture Books Share Stories of Courage

Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  Thanks to her hosting and sharing and those who add their posts, you can discover and celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books!  I always learn from these books, am happy that they are more and more available today for children, for everyone!  

         This week Alyson is sharing the beginning of her 'best of the year' books. Be sure to check them out!
           These two books are narratives based on the history of two brave people.

            Patricia Polacco tells another special story about Wallace Hartley, the man who played on with his fellow musicians as the Titanic sank.  Jonathan Harker Weeks complains he doesn't want to practice the piano, he wants to play stickball with his friends. His grandfather responds with who he really was as a child, a 9-year-old stowaway on the Titanic. Part of his earlier life was as a poor, eventually orphan boy, in the slums of Ireland. He ended up hiding from thieves in a mail sack, found himself a stowaway. He was taken in by the friendly Hartley—who loved the boy's playing the violin so much that he arranged an onboard audition before John Jacob Astor that later led to a life in music. It seemed like a dream until the loud noise and eventual realization that this ship that wasn't supposed to sink, was going down.  Saying goodbye to his kind mentor, the boy watched the playing “Nearer, My God, to Thee” for those doomed to stay behind. The illustrations in Polacco's signature style focus on the people but add to the story with the beautiful setting backgrounds. It's another story that focuses on a story many may not know of this brave man. There is a real photo of him and added information at the back. One extra note that is also in the story concerns his violin and special case, given to him by his fiance. It also is pictured. After the recovery of his body, it was recovered as well and is now at the Titanic Museum in Lancashire. It's a special story.

           When Lilly Ann Granderson was four, she worked in the master's house, and the children there played school with her, giving her an old blue-black speller (see that cover) and thus she learned to read. In Kentucky, Janet Halfmann tells, it was not illegal for slaves to learn, but not encouraged. She studied, tracing the letters in the dirt and hiding that book to keep it safe. Eventually, she could read the Bible. She realized the power reading gave her and began teaching in the woods, in secret. 
           Sadly, Lilly's master died and she was auctioned off and sold to someone in Mississippi. There it was illegal to know or learn how to read and Lilly was put in the cotton fields, nearly collapsing from the work. Finally, her master noticed and put her in the kitchen. She missed the teaching, discovered an abandoned cabin where she started again, risking much to do it. 
            In the inspiring story brought to life by Halfmann's words and London Ladd's beautiful full-color paintings, it is special to read of this courageous woman who knew the importance of knowledge, found through reading. She lived through the Civil War and opened another school, continued teaching all her life. 
             There is an Afterword, sharing more and the amazing legacy carried on by her descendants, although some information, the author states, cannot be found. There are references and a picture of the Union School in Natchez, Mississippi where Lilly taught for many years after the Civil War.

Monday, December 2, 2019

It's Monday - Book Gift Ideas PLUS A Double Giveaway!

              Visit Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts to see what they've been reading, along with others who post their favorites.
            Thanks to Candlewick for the following books. The giveaway is at the end and I'm sharing the others as terrific gift possibilities. I hope you find some ideas for special gifts this season!

         Meet Hillary, a multi-colored sheep whose wool supplied Santa with the makings for a sweater. He says it's just getting too cold on that all-night ride. Readers first get a taste of the "companion sheep" in Hillary's flock. There are the sweet ones, like Marian who loves hugs or Liz, "who loved reading. Anytime, anywhere." Then there is Brian, the sour one, always making remarks that aren't good, maybe especially to Hillary who loves lists and Christmas! Each one is uniquely characterized, including a startling friend. The sheep's owner, Farmer Jimmy,  seems caring and always happy to be with his sheep. He eats jelly beans by the pocketful, loves tractors and the sheep. A real adventure happens to Hillary, and along the way Ryan Tubridy sneaks in some outrageous "sheepy" puns, adds a few pages of riddles at the end for more fun. For example, one chapter title is "Are Ewe Ready for This?" and another is "Fare Thee Wool". It's a chapter book for beginners who will have fun with it. Chris Judge adds to the humor with a few illustrations once in a while.

           I'm not sure our lakes and ponds are thick enough, but we've just had a big snow and people are out sledding and cross-country skiing this week. Here in this book, Sarah Sullivan poetically describes a marvelous day out on the pond, learning, warming up in the snack-bar hut, back out again. It's an all-day happy adventure shown by illustrator Madeline Valentine with diverse people of all ages in a beautiful winter setting. They're doing a very favorite thing - ice skating. "Good friends gliding in a row./Holding on and letting go." Then, "Couples waltz./Children Race./Happy people./Happy place." Of course, the day ends with bath to warm up the toes, and a surprise ending, that beautifully illustrated nighttime pond, now inhabited by "others". Such a nice book that will both introduce the fun of skating or the good memories of past times.
        Take any young child along Alphabet Street and they will love visiting all the shops, like Alphie's Bakery and Super Toys, or discovering what's inside King's Laundromat and that store with the interesting name, Yackety Zach's! (It's a Beauty Shop.) To see inside all one needs to do is to "lift the flap". That's where the Alphabet hides. A is for Alphie's Bakery, but inside, "B is for Bear, who is baking some bread." It's a color-filled fun journey Inzela P. Arrhenius creates in the illustrations as many kinds of animals take this ABC trip written by Jonathan Emmett. 
Here's a peek inside 'Alphabet Street'!

         I suspect readers only need to see the cover of Matt Tavares' new story of a favorite Christmas character to want to read it. A young reindeer named Dasher lived and worked with his family for J.P. Finnegan's Traveling Circus and Menagerie and he loved the story his mother told of her early life where it was always cold and snowy. There you only had to look up to see the North Star. Where they were was warm and that star seemed so far away. With night scenes that seem to jingle with magic (like that cover), readers learn just how Dasher met Santa and ended up helping deliver toys one Christmas with Santa's horse, Silverbell. You'll need to find the book to discover what's next, but it holds my favorite line, spoken by Dasher: "You're not going to believe this part." This will become a Christmas favorite, I'm sure!