Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spike; Ugliest Dog in the Universe

Spike is one ugly dog!--and he's got the award to prove it (Ugliest Dog in the Universe, that is).  But Spike's life turns bad the next day when his owner abandons him.  Joe, the boy next door, takes Spike home with him; but Joe's mom doesn't want to keep Spike either.  Poor Spike -- looks like he's headed for the dog pound.  That is, until he rescues Evangeline, the beautiful award-winning white cat from a kidnapping (catnapping might be more like it). Now Spike is the local hero and has a real home with Joe and his mom.  Minnesota author and illustrator Debra Frasier has found a new way to tell a story; this time using old worn blue jeans to create collage pictures of Spike and Joe.  Evangeline--well she's too beautiful for blue jeans--she's made from a lace wedding gown.  You really have to see the illustrations to believe them; and don't miss this positive story about friends and pet ownership.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Dog is a Dog

We all know what a dog is, right?  Well,---not so fast---things are different in this lively picture book.  A dog is a dog----unless it's a cat!, or maybe a ______, or maybe a ______.  I won't give all the animals away--you have to read it for yourself.  This is a first book by Minnesota author and illustrator Stephen Shaskan; and the lively colorful story will have young children chuckling as they read.  It is great fun!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Chasing Shadows

Holly and Corey, teenage twins and children of a Chicago police officer, are friends with Savitri (she is also Corey's girlfriend).  One of their common interests is freerunning; and after one their sessions, Holly and Corey are victims of a random shooting.  Corey is killed and Holly is in the hospital in a coma.  When Holly awakens, Savitri realizes that her friend has changed dramatically. Holly refuses to accept her brother's death, and falls into a downward spiral as she obsesses over finding Corey's killer.  The story is told in alternating viewpoints from Savitri and Holly, with prose sections alternating with graphic novel elements.  Written by Swati Avasthi, this book was selected for the Best Fiction for Young Adults list in 2014, and is a finalist for the 2014 Minnesota Book Award. It's a challenging story that should appeal to urban youth.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Arlo's Artrageous Adventure

Arlo is visiting an art museum with his grandmother (he'd probably much prefer to be playing baseball).  As grandmother reminds him how to behave, and look at the art seriously, Arlo's imagination allows him to see the art in a much different way.  Written and illustrated by David LaRochelle, the pages of this book have 50 flaps that transform the works of art into something quite different (and sometimes their neighbors too).  This book will probably be most appreciated by children who have some exposure to art; but the humor can be enjoyed by all.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Henry and the Valentine Surprise

It's February 13, and Henry and his first grade classmates notice that their teacher, Mr. McCarthy, has a big Valentine box on his desk.  "Does he have a girlfriend?" everyone wonders.  All day they watch for evidence that it might be true.  The next day, at the classes' Valentine party, Mr. McCarthy has a surprise for everyone.  The stories of Henry and friends are written and illustrated by Nancy Carlson.  Share this one with your favorite kid soon!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What The Heart Knows; Chants, Charms and Blessings

Minnesota poet Joyce Sidman and artist Pamela Zagarenski have collaborated once again (they are also known for Red Sings from Treetops, a Caldecott honor book in 2010) on a collection of short poems that are arranged in four sections 1) chants and charms [to bolster courage and guard against evil], 2) spells and invocations [to cause something to happen], 3) laments and remembrances [to remember, regret, and grieve], and 4) praise songs and blessings [to celebrate, thank, or express love]. The poems touch on universal themes that teens and adults can relate to, and the illustrations are a poetic match for the words.  I heard recently that this is becoming a popular gift book among adults, although the target audience is probably teens. Readers of any age will appreciate the beauty of this book.

This is also a good place to note that Joyce Sidman is the winner of the 2013 Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, given by the National Council of Teachers of English.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Morning Sam Went to Mars; A Book About Paying Attention

Eight year old Sam is a smart boy, but he is easily distracted; and his parents and teacher often have to remind him to "Focus, Sam!". Eventually his father takes him to a counselor who helps him with strategies so he can stay on track better.  It's hard at first, but eventually Sam and others see his improvement, which allows Sam the chance (once in a while) to let his imagination run free.  Nancy Carlson is the author and illustrator of this resource book for children (and their parents) who have trouble paying attention.