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 artists 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.

Book Scavenger: Great Readaloud for Tweens

August 26, 2016

BookBook Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

A unique new series (2 books)  with shades of the Blue Balliett art mysteries, a touch of Willie Wonka, and of course, Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Games.  Add that it is an intriguing book-based literary puzzler, and we’re hooked. The star of the series is twelve-year-old Emily, on the road with her family.  She becomes an eager participant in an online gaming community where participants hide books in public places and reveal the locations through encoded clues.  The creator, Garrison Griswald, has just announced his latest game, when he is (gasp!) kidnapped.  Since Emily is conveniently in San Francisco, Griswald’s home base, at the time of the kidnapping, it falls to her and her new friend James to figure out the clues and literary allusions to solve the mystery.  Though tweens and early adolescents can read it themselves, it’s still a terrific family readaloud.

August 26th is National Dog Day!

August 20, 2016

DogAugust 26th is National Dog Day!  Read all about it at the National Dog Day site. 

Here’s a brief description: “National Dog Day celebrates all dogs, mixed breed and pure. Our mission is to help galvanize the public to recognize the number of dogs that need to be rescued each year and acknowledges family dogs and dogs that work selflessly each day to save lives, keep us safe and bring comfort.”

As dog lovers ourselves, we have dedicated posts to our furry friends in the past.  In case you missed them, you might check out:

October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month

Dog Days:  A Book Flight

For some more fun with the toddlers and early readers in your life, we also present two new terrific picture books with enchanting dog characters.  Enjoy!

HudsonHudson in Provence by Jackie Clark Mancuso

Paris in August is as hot as well, Portland or LA in August.  So our friend Hudson, that adorable pup, is able to escape to the south of France–Provence, to be exact.  As a city dog, he is eager to be helpful, but he doesn’t seem suited to country work:  he fails to sniff out truffles, and isn’t able to herd sheep.  He even has difficulty pedaling a bike when he gets into the Tour de France!  But he remains a lovable and engaging hero. A charming story about a sweet ex-Pat dog.



MaxMax the Flying Sausage Dog: A Tail from London by Arthur Robins

A Magical, laugh-out loud book, fun for those being read to–and readers–alike. It’s a tough choice for Tom, when he can only choose one dog from the pound to bring home as a pet.  But he chooses well in Max, who turns out to have some let’s just say special talents that Tom must keep from his family.  Sweet illustrations that seem very British (think Quentin Blake).  In fact, a great book to invoke your British accent as you read.  Quirky and lovable characters, not to mention heart-warming moments. A wonderful celebration of dogs and their human families.


New Books for Toddlers That Parents Enjoy Reading

August 13, 2016

Read-aloudSummer evenings are perfect for readalouds, with children of all ages.  Looking for recommendations for the youngest set?  Look no further!  These are fun for readers (adults and older siblings) and listeners alike.

poor-little-guyPoor Little Guy by Elanna Allen

I always love the books where the pictures take center stage and the few words reinforce the story.  Think Mo Willems and Jon Klassen.  And now, Elanna Allen. In this tale, the “poor little guy” is a small (but stylish in his hip glasses!) fish who is captured by a larger octopus.  The little yellow fish then becomes “Catch of the Day” to that octopus who playfully bats him around. Spoiler alert:  The little guy is a puffer fish who leaves the octopus with painful spines in his mouth.  Perfect for toddler rereadings, looking at the expressions of the various characters.


Inter-ChiockenInterrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

I love this book!  And not just because I love all things chicken, or because we are chicken-sitting for our neighbor’s 3 adorable chicks. It’s a playful and funny story about a familiar bedtime ritual: story time.  In a kind of story-within-a story, Little Red Chicken can’t help herself from interrupting and “warning” the characters in the tales her Papa is reading. She is so involved in the stories that she can’t help but let Hansel and Gretel know about the impending danger in the Gingerbread House, or Chicken Little that “it’s only an acorn.”  I also love the invented spellings and drawings when Little Red Chicken creates her own story.  Another delightful book to share.


Finding-WildFinding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Abigail Halpin

What does wildness mean?  And where can you find it?  “Sometimes wild is so tiny, you have to squint to see it,” the narrator tell us.  “And then there are times you can’t possibly miss it.”  The illustrations magically meld with the words to create vivid sensuous images and emotions, as readers are invited to smell the tangy salty sea air, smell the desert air, and taste the minty herbs.  It teems with the energy of the wild and of life itself and the adventure of exploring.