National Hat Day, January 15th

January 10, 2015

~posted by Ruth

HatJanuary is a perfect month to celebrate hats.  Here in Portland, it’s chilly enough to choose a warm one, like the special ones Aunt Lisa crocheted for Molly and Jacob that they have been wearing daily during their visit.  But if you live in a warmer climate, you can still enjoy National Hat Day this January 15th.  Try a sunhat, a bonnet, a beret–or a Lego hat!  The only limit is your imagination.  If you’re looking for books to spark ideas (and who isn’t!?), here are a few brand new picture books honoring the sweet world of hats.

Mystery-HatThe Mystery Hat by Rune Brandt Bennicke, illustrated by Jakob Hjort Jensen

Whose red hat is that sitting in the middle of the puddle?  Crow Pig, and Beaver ponder this question as they come across this fine hat as they are out for a stroll through the woods. Together they imagine who might have lost the hat, and in what circumstances.  Maybe Bear lost it when he fell into a giant hole. What if a crazed snowman snatched up Turtle to make into a savory soup?  This funny and charming story is illustrated fantastically.  If this author/illustrator Danish duo is new to you, you’ll be glad to make their acquaintance.


HoorayHooray for Hat by Brian Won

Who better to celebrate a fabulous hat with than your friends?  Especially if you and your pals are having a rather grumpy day, a hat is a terrific solution to cheer everyone up!  Elephant starts the parade when he finds a surprise hat on his front door–and marches off to brighten all his friends’ day.  Elephant has a day that begins with “Go away!  I’m Grumpy!” and ends with “Hooray for Hats!”  A real mood brightener that shows how contagious happiness can be.


BrimsebyBrimsby’s Hats by Andrew Prahin

Friendship, creativity, and of course, hats. . .What better themes for National Hat Day?  Brimsby is a cheerful hatmaker, that is until his best friend seeks adventure at sea.  He finds new friends in the nest of  busy little birds, creating special hand-crafted hats for each individual nest.  Truly a charming book about the nature of  loss of friendship when a loved one moves away–and the pleasures of making new friends while remembering old ones.


A love of picture books that focus on hats is not new to us.  Check out some of our earlier posts!

This is Not My Hat  by Jon Klassen (and its partner book by the same author:  I Want My Hat Back )


Magritte’s Marvelous Hat by D. B. Johnson

For Your Growing Alphabet Bookshelf: ONCE UPON AN ALPHABET

January 3, 2015

OnceOnce Upon an Alphabet:  Short Stories for All the Letters by Oliver Jeffers

Silly, wacky, and delightful, Jeffers’ latest masterpiece will invite readers to create their own short stories for each letter of the alphabet (or at least their favorites).  And what unique stories they are!  Hard to pick a favorite, but I’m fond of the Astronaut who is afraid of heights, or the decidedly scientific short story:  “Mary is made of matter….she got sucked through a microscope and became the size of a molecule.” I also appreciate the puzzled parsnip, and of course Victor the Vanquished.  All the stories are humorously illustrated with Jeffers special wit and wisdom.  We predict it’s destined to be a classic. . .and for the whole family.

We hope this has whet your appetite for other delicious alphabet books.  We have some terrific recommendations for you:

Alphabet Books for Nursery and Pre-school


More Young People Who Make a Difference: Malala and Iqbal

December 27, 2014

It’s important for kids to see other children and teens their own ages who are making a difference in the world.  Two books this year leapt out at us as wonderful additions to your social justice children’s literature bookshelves:

IqbalMalala, a Brave Girl  From Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy From Pakistan:  Two Stories of Bravery

by Jeanette Winter

Jeanette Winter is a favorite of ours for her fantastic picture books like The Librarian of Basra and Nasreen’s Secret School.   This time, she shares two separate true stories of courage in the lives of young activists from Pakistan:  Malala and Iqbal.  In her usual style of spare but compelling text, Winter shares two devastating stories, but in an age appropriate manner.  Malala Yousafzai is well-known as a contemporary hero and advocate for girls’ rights to an education.  When she was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012, the world came to know of her bravery and strong dedication.  Iqbal Masih is less well-known, and his story is even more heart-breaking.  Twenty years ago, his story rocked the world when he was shot and killed at the age of twelve for his anti-child labor work.  This is an inspiring book of two important champions of human rights.


MalalI Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition) 

by Malala Youisafzai and Patricia McCormick

Older teen readers can choose to read the adult version of Malala’s inspiring story, but for early adolescents (and even some early readers as a readaloud), we recommend this thoughtful Young Readers Edition. Malala’s voice comes through of her life and convictions, and the photographs are the perfect complement. We learn not only of her struggles, but her early life as a child in Pakistan.  Now Malala is an international symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner.  Highly recommended!

And for more recommendations:

In the past, we have done a flight on People Who Make A Difference  providing recommendations for the whole family.  And we followed up with a special focus on Children Who Changed the World .

ENZO RACES IN THE RAIN! by Garth Stein: A Review

December 20, 2014

enzoEnzo Races in the Rain! by Garth Stein, illustrated by R.W.Alley

Enzo is back, and this time in a picture book for kids.  We first met this charming dog in the compelling adult novel The Art of Racing in the Rain We couldn’t help but include it in our flight on Dogs.  Now Enzo as a pup returns to delight a younger audience with his exuberance, intelligence, fun-loving nature, and loyalty to his human family, Zoe and Denny.  It’s almost a pre-quel to the adventures and life of Enzo the adult dog that we meet in the novel, and a fitting way to share this truly lovable character.  A dear friend of mine, Jackie, introduced me to this author, so I was delighted to share the picture book with her so she in turn could share it with her second graders.  She reports they loved it on all levels, included the rich illustrations.  Not just for kids, though.  A treat for dog-lovers of all ages.

Winter is Coming

December 13, 2014

Books-winter~posted by Ruth

The Winter Solstice is approaching, and with it a celebration of coming light.  It’s one of my favorite holidays of the year, with its ancient roots in the seasonal transition.  Here in Portland, we can feel the transition from late fall to early winter.  And of course we hear from friends and family on the East Coast that they are already deep into winter weather, with snow and blizzards already.  Wherever you are, it’s wonderful to bring books along to celebrate the seasons–and the longest night of the year.  We are fortunate to have lots of great new books to share with the picture book lovers in our lives (read:  Everyone!)

So here is a trio of books to bring light and coziness to your winter reading pleasure.  I suggest a mug of cocoa on the side!

Winter-is-comingWinter is Coming by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim La Marche

Through the eyes of a young girl, readers see and experience the changes in nature.  From her treehouse perch, she listens and watches and describes how the chipmunks, the doe, the rabbits prepare for the winter.  Time slows down as we sit by her side and see the details of the animals adjusting to changes:  “The mother bear snuffles for food among the flaming leaves.  The cub snuffles too. . .but no luck.  Winter is coming.”   I love that the narator brings along her tools–binoculars, pencils and her trusty sketchpad.  The illustrations are rich with detail and simply gorgeous, using a combination of acrylic and colored pencil.  Definitely a book to return to over and over.


Winter-walkWinter Walk by Virginia Brimhall Snow

As a Grandma, I identify with the family in this sweet tale by Virginia Snow, author of another one of our favorite seasonal  books:  Fall Walk, which we reviewed last autumn. Once again, Virginia and her grandchildren tromp through the woods (and sometimes slide or carefully step through snow), learning about the natural world as they explore the wonders of winter in the woods. From glimpses of brilliant cardinals, to wonderings about why some trees lose their leaves and others are green all year, their winter fun is informative and entertaining.  At the end, we even learn how to build a pinecone bird feeder.


OutsideOutside by Deidre Gill

Brand new and a delightful addition to your winter –and ode to imagination–picture book collection.  Within its pages, a young boy creates whole worlds of adventure in a winter wonderland. His imaginary snow friend, a castle, and even a dragon takes flight across the wintery pages.  Though the text is brief, it has a lyrical poetic quality that works well to complement the really inspiring pictures.  Expect to have young readers demanding you reread Outside.


THE PRINCESS IN BLACK by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale: A Review

December 7, 2014

Princess-in-BlackThe Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

You might think Princess Magnolia is a typical princess of fairytale fame as the book opens with her having a dainty snack of scones and hot chocolate with the Duchess Wigtower.  But we soon learn how adventurous our young heroine is, not to mention clever and self-reliant.  Her everyday role as princess is actually her secret identity for when she becomes. . .the Princess in Black, fighter of blue monsters,  making solid and graceful ninja moves against an full array of pretty wacky creatures.  About time to find a young and feisty girl super-hero.  Why wait for the grown-up versions?

One review I read said that this is a great Zorro character for little girls.  I agree.  It’s a terrific read-aloud for the younger crowd, and a perfect early reader/chapter book for 2nd-grade and beyond.  More illustrations than the typical chapter book, which is another appealing quality.   Not just for girls, either; this one is loved by the boys I’ve shared it with as well.

If this has whet your appetite for books  about Precocious Princesses, check out our post from a few years ago.

YA Series Updates!

November 29, 2014

Hot-ReadsThere have been so many wonderful new picture books this fall, that we’ve been enthusiastically reviewing them.  But don’t think we have forgotten the older readers.  Like most of our adolescent friends, we are suckers for YA series, and there are some great additions this fall.  Rick Riordan never gets old, and we devoured his latest (and last in the Heroes of Olympus Series).  And Sarah Maas brings new adventures, characters, and revelations to her Throne of Glass series. And there are new series on the horizon.  Just in time for the holidays.  So without further ado, here are our latest updates:

 HeroesThe Heroes of Olympus, Book Five:  The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

Despite the hard work of the heroes, both Roman and Greek, Earth Mother Gaea and her giants continue to rise.  According to the prophecies, Gaea will rise when she sacrifices two demi-gods at the Feast of Spes in Athens.  And if Gaea rises, it means the end of the world as we know it! The action in this novel focuses on Jason, Piper, and Leo.  Lots of adventure, excitement, humorous dialogue, and twisting plots.  Nico and Reyna are the long-term characters who change the most and come to accept themselves for who they are.  In many a ways, a satisfying conclusion to the series, and a good read.  And yet. . .we were disappointed not to hear more from Percy and Anabelle.  They were enduring characters and deserved a bit more time devoted to their stories.  It felt to us that Riordan has already moved on to his new Norse series.  But don’t get us wrong, we are still devoted Riordan fans and look forward to the Norse adventures.


Heirof-FireHeir of Fire (Throne of Glass) by Sarah Maas

Calaena has survived and endured so much in her short life–and in this next installment in her journey, her trials continue.  She travels to a far corner of the realm with new dangers, revelations about her past, fascinating new friends–and frightening enemies.  Romance continues, as well as a fast-paced plot, and lots of twists and turns.  The new characters are ingenious, with depth and complexity whether they are heroes or villains.  Rowan is my favorite addition–a tough character that we come to understand more deeply as the novel progresses.  The magic in this fantasy world is riveting and believable, though quite scary at times.  We can’t wait for the next installment!


DorothyDorothy Must Die  by Danielle Page

Ready for a dark and magical re-imaging of the Oz series?  Amy Gumm is our new heroine.  Like the famous Dorothy, she hails from Kansas and is whisked away to the magical Land of Oz.  But wait!  It’s not the Judy Garland world, but a land where the beloved characters we thought we knew are very very different–in fact, quite dark and twisted.  Dorothy is actually a maniacal despot in this Oz, destroying the land with her crew of evil henchmen including the Scarecrow, Lion, and even Glinda.  Roles are reversed as Amy joins a revolutionary group with the wicked witches (not so wicked after all, it turns out) that is training her to assassinate the evil Dorothy.  A modern twist to a classic story.  The writing is good, the action fast-paced, and the plot twists surprising. Time to dig into this new series so you’ll be ready for the second installment this coming spring (The Wicked Will Rise).


Coming in January! The latest in The Lunar Chronicles:

Fairest:  The Lunar Chronicles:  Levana’s Story by Marissa Meyer



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 276 other followers