SHH! WE HAVE A PLAN: A Recommendation for Nursery and Preschool Kids

October 15, 2016

shhShh!:  We Have a Plan by Chris Laughton

To my mind (Ruth here), this is the perfect picture book to share with little ones.  It has all the elements to make it great:  a winsome story; clear, bright illustrations with lots of clues and inferences; and plenty of wry humor to entice both the audience and the reader.  The story is set at night, as you can tell from the delicious deep blues and purples, and four stark figures march along, with the littlest one at the end of the line.  The bigger characters all hold nets in their hands, and stop when a bright pink bird comes into view. “Hello, Birdie,” greets the little guy.  “Shh!  We have plan,” the others tell him. pointing to their nets and a bird cage. They tiptoe toward the bird–with absolutely hysterical expressions on their faces–and the bird easily evades them as they grab for it.  This is repeated in different situations–paddling, climbing–but it is the little one who makes friends with the bird and its whole flock.  A surprising twist–and a circular ending.  I can vouch for this book’s appeal.  I just gave a copy to my littlest nephew Boden (3 years old), who delighted in the reading, and picked it right up to pore over the book alone afterward.  We have a copy on our coffee table, and readers of all ages have picked it up and enjoyed it as well.  Highly recommended!

British Children’s Literature for Young Children: Two Treats to Share

October 7, 2016

We always enjoy books from abroad as well as the wealth of children’s literature from the United States.  It’s particularly fun to share the British stories, and hear little ones talking about their rucksacks–or asking for a special teatime.  So we recommend a brand new book from the UK about Roger, as well as the Lauren Child series that features Charlie and Lola.  (It’s also fun for our family that our youngest cousins are names Roger and Charlie and we love to share books that celebrate the names of our loved ones!)


rogerRoger is Reading a Book by Koen Van Biesen

Looking for a new picture book that celebrates the joy of reading?  We recommend this brand new British picture book (written by a Belgian author) that is not only engaging and entertaining, but downright hilarious. Roger, an adult book lover, just wants some peace and quiet so he can relax and enjoy his book. But the girl in the apartment next door has very loud hobbies, like playing basketball and beating on her drums.  The solution?  Give her a book of her own!  I love Roger, with his bookish glasses, bow tie, and vest.  For all her noisiness, Emily is also a delightful character.  And when you mix in Roger’s dog, a charming basset hound. . .wait, no spoilers here.  Enjoy with  friend!


charlieBut Excuse Me That is My Book (Charlie and Lola) by Lauren Child

All children have their favorite book at the library that they think of as theirs. Every parent is familiar with the process of renewing a book until you can’t anymore and the result is hysteria when you have to return “their” book. So the whole family can relate to Lola, who LOVES one particular book at the library and doesn’t know what to do when it’s not there. Her brother Charlie tries to help her find a new book, but it seems like nothing can possibly be as good as Beatles, Bugs and Butterflies. Or can it?

A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE and other New Sherlock Spin-Offs for Tweens and Teens

October 1, 2016

femaleSherlock Holmes remains a popular literary character–and one who has made a place in the world of children’s literature as well.  Not only retellings, but also spin-offs that appeal to a range of ages and readers.  This last year has seen the publication of  several books-in-a-series that create a world for  tween and teen (and older!) Sherlock Holmes aficionados to enjoy.  Here’s a sampling:


a-studyA Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavalliaro

In this Sherlockian world, descendants of John Watson and Sherlock Holmes have kept up their relationship over decades. (There’s a hint that the Moriarty family is also involved. . .stay tuned.) The 21st century version depicts the boarding school world of teens Charlotte Holmes and John Watson who meet and become friends solving a murder mystery of a fellow student. Definitely a YA novel recommended for high school at least as this witty and sometimes dark retelling features a Charlotte Holmes with the same tendencies as her famous great-great-great-etc. Grandfather, including indulging in drugs (though they are shown to be dangerous and unhealthy).  It’s a very clever mystery, well-written to show the depth of the characters and their deepening relationship. Be looking for the second in the series early in 2017!


shelbyThe Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg

Here is another version of the 21st century Holmes and Watson, and once again it is a female Sherlock character.  Shelby Holmes is already known in the neighborhood as a master sleuth, though she is a small nine-year-old and her neighborhood is Harlem in New York City.  When she meets John Watson, he has just arrived with his single Mom, and having a hard time adjusting to his parents’ recent divorce.  He is soon drawn into Shelby’s sleuthing, though she is two years younger than he is, and a girl to boot.  He and Shelby tackle a dog-knapping mystery with cleverness, determination, and quite a bit if courage.  The story is well told and the characters are complex and engaging.  I’m looking forward to this duo’s future adventures!


night-breakNight Break:  The Young Sherlock Holmes #8

For all of us who love imagining how Sherlock Holmes might have evolved to become the  sleuth extraordinaire of the literary world, the latest Young Sherlock is the perfect read.  As you may recall from our earlier post, we highly recommend for YA readers The Young Sherlock Holmes series . In this important retelling, Sherlock’s mother has died, and even brother Mycroft is at a loss how to proceed.  But when a man vanishes from the home that the brothers are visiting, they must solve the case–and this draws them into yet another mystery, one set in Egypt.  Adventure and suspense abound.  We continue to recommend this series!


Poetry for the Whole Family: SAIL AWAY by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Ashley Bryan

September 26, 2016

LangstonThis fall, what about an  intriguing, beautiful, and eloquent coffee table book that the whole family can immerse themselves in?

You can’t beat the team of Langston Hughes and Ashley Bryan. . .

Sail-awaySail Away by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Ashley Bryan

Langston Hughes, a favorite poet not just to me and my teacher friends, but to  young and older children as well as high schoolers I’ve met and taught.  This collection is special not only for the delicious verses, but the theme of the sea.  Illustrator Ashley Bryan, award-winning artist and illustrator himself, shares a passion for the ocean. (He lives in Islesford, one of the Cranberry Isles off the coast of Maine–and is still going strong at the age of 92!)  The beautiful odes to the sea are rich in imagery and lyrical language.  And the illustrations are bright and captivating abstract collage.  A book that can serve ashleyas a wonderful conversation starter–as well as one to savor and contemplate alone.


GROOVY JOE: ICE CREAM AND DINOSAURS by Eric Litwin, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

September 16, 2016

groovy-joeGroovy Joe:  Ice Cream and Dinosaurs by Eric Litwin, illustrated by Tom Lichtenhold

A new author and illustrator collaboration team is a newsworthy event!  Eric Litwin is the author of Pete the Cat:  I Love My New White Shoes and 3 more Pete the Cat tales.  Tom Lichtenheld illustrated (among others) Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site and Duck, Rabbit! They’ve collaborated on a new series that stars Groovy Joe and includes the free songs that helped make Pete the Cat such a favorite with the youngest readers.

Groovy Joe is a playful and mischievous dog whose rhyming story of his adventures with three dinosaurs will have pre-schoolers giggling and moving to the beat of his “Groovy Dance.” The repeating refrain is just right for drawing them in to a read-aloud that they’ll be able to retell through the pictures by themselves or with friends. (Nice message on sharing, too, as Joe allows his ice-cream loving dino friends to dig into his ice cream–until the tub is empty, that is.)

The illustrations are big and bold, lively and fun.

Be sure and visit the book’s website to hear the songs and the read aloud version (in both English and Spanish!)


New Mystery Series: One for You and One for Me

September 9, 2016

DetectiveUsually, our “One for You and One for Me” posts feature a piece of children’s literature and an adult book, so the big and little people of the family can be reading something similar. This summer, we noticed that there are two great new series for those of us who love solving mysteries, but one is for middle graders, and the other is for the younger set.  As always, there is crossover in ages, and the interest in both series is high, so. . .the game is afoot!

For Middle Schoolers:

Murder-is-Bad-MannersMurder is Bad Manners (A Wells and Wong Mystery) by Robin Stevens

Daisy Wells, a young student at Deepdean School for Girls, fancies herself a “modern-day” (though it is set in the 1930’s) Sherlock Holmes.  Hazel, Daisy’s best friend also loves a good mystery, so is perfect as her friend’s Watson. They decide to form their own detective agency.  The only problem?  No mysteries to solve. Until they discover a murder no one else knows about!  In the course of their investigation, Hazel–a bit of an outsider, recently relocated from Hong Kong, and Daisy–a very confident blonde Brit–become close friends despite tensions along the way. It reminds me of Agatha Christie in its classic detective writing, maybe even a little bit of a satire.  At the same time, there is plenty of humor and clever plot devices.  And if it does strike your fancy, you can dig right into the second in the series,  Poison is Not Polite.

For Early Elementary Readers:

The-First-CaseDetective Gordon: The First Case by Ulf Nillson, illustrated by Gitte Spee

Detective Gordon’s favorite thing is to sip tea and eat cakes.  Solving mysteries: not so much.  But as the only policeman in the forest, he agrees to tackle the case of the squirrel’s missing stockpile of nuts.   Detective Gordon is a delightful character, a chubby toad who is both clever and kind.  He soon deputizes a hungry young mouse who has been stealing food.  Buffy, as he names her, is an invaluable help and together they find the criminals.  The text is enhanced by lovely pastel drawings.  I’ve heard it describes as “Wind in the Willows” meets “Columbo” meets “Crime and Punishment.”  Intrigued?  Introduce it to your young readers! And then, give them book number 2, A Complicated Case.

Children’s Books About the Middle East: Update

September 3, 2016

There are many many more books about the  Middle East for children and adolescents, with more published each year.  Unfortunately, they are not often highlighted in the media, and it requires investigation to find out about them.  We’ve posted lists of titles from this part of world in the past.  If you missed them, this is a great time to check them out:

Middle East YA Recommendations

Middle East Books for Tweens and Teens

Picture Books:  Understanding the Middle East

Recently, some new titles have emerged that we can recommend for your information–and for your reading pleasure:

TurtleThe Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye

Just out in May (2016), this is a novel you”ll want on your bookshelf.  Poet and novelist Naomi Shihab Nye writes with sensitivity and lyrical prose in this novel for tween and teen readers about a young boy, Aref Al-Amri.  In his move from Muscat, Oman to  Ann Arbor, Michigan, he must prepare for a whole new life, one that will not include his school, his friends, or his beloved Grandfather, Sidi. In protest, he refuses to pack his suitcase.  Rather than force him to pack, his mother calls on Sidi for help.  Sidi takes Aref for an overnight camping trip, fishing on the Indian Ocean and memorably, to visit a nesting ground for many kinds of turtles.  The story has warmth and humor, and is also a very touching story about the bond between grandfather and grandson.  This book is a wonderful antidote to viewing immigrants with suspicion and fear and serves window into another country and culture.


Arabian-NightsThe Arabian Nights by Wafa’ Tarnowska Carole Henaff

It’s difficult to find good translations of the stories of the Arabian Nights.  This one is a keeper, written by Lebanese author Wafa’ Tarnowska Carole Henaff. The edition is notable for combining favorites such as ‘Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp’ with less familiar tales such as ‘The Diamond Anklet’ and ‘The Speaking Bird and the Singing Tree.’ Beautiful illustrations make this a collection worth owning, and poring over with elementary and middle school children as a wonderful read-aloud. A fitting introduction to this classic Syrian literature, written in the 14th century.