two speckled eggs

Standard

This is a perfect time to remind everyone that my birthday is quickly approaching (December 1), and that I would never not invite someone to my party (I like presents too much, plus that other cow would never let me hear the end of it). I need to nudge someone to order my favorite cupcakes from Chicago. They have a weird delivery schedule and last year Thanksgiving fell late, and well, no cupcakes for moi.

From the title, you might think “Two Speckled Eggs” by Jennifer K. Mann is about birds, but it’s not. It’s about Ginger, and her birthday, and how she wants to have a party to celebrate (I like this book already!). She wants to invite all of the girls in her class — except for Lyla Brown. You see, Lyla Brown is weird (or maybe I should say, Weird). But Ginger’s mom tells her its all or none. And so Ginger invites Lyla, and Lyla comes to the party. She arrives early — of course. But then something happens that you might not expect. And that’s the story of “Two Speckled Eggs” by Jennifer K. Mann.

We were wanting to read Jennifer K. Mann’s new book, which caught our eye, but the LA County Library does not have it yet (we have a hold on it), so we checked this one out instead. The illustrations are beautiful. I really like the style and the color palette. The drawings tell even more than the words in this book.

“Two Speckled Eggs” is a wonderful book about how friendship finds us. It can be sneaky to be sure. I’d recommend getting a copy of this book for your best unexpected friend. Perhaps for her next birthday.

yard sale

Standard

Books about moving hold a special place in our hearts, as we have moved many times. In fact, Molly and I have lived in Austin, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Emeryville, California; and even Berlin, Germany (we currently reside in Los Angeles). We know that moving is hard, even when it is for a good reason. We think books like “Yard Sale” are important because it helps people who have not had the experience gather valuable information. 

“Yard Sale” is a bittersweet tale about a family that needs to move from a house to an apartment because of money problems. To prepare for the move, they hold a yard sale to get rid of the things that they cannot take with them. We see young Callie’s thoughts and feelings throughout this stressful process.

Moving is hard, and Eve Bunting is not afraid to tell the entire story. There is no sugar coating things in an Eve Bunting book. Life has its bad moments, and children are not exempt from them.

There are great scenes in “Yard Sale” between both Callie and her friends (who live next door), trying to come up with solutions on how Callie can stay. The parents are not perfect, but they try to make the transition go smoothly. Even the people who come to the yard sale play a part in this story about what ultimately matters most in life, and what home really is.

“Yard Sale” is a perfect read for any child going through a similar situation, or especially a friend or classmate who is facing a move. This is the type of book that helps kids see that they are not alone, as well as offers a glimpse into someone else’s life, so as to foster understanding and compassion.

The book is brilliantly illustrated by Lauren Castillo. You might recognize one of the characters from one of her other books. [Here's a hint: it won a major award.] In this scene, the woman innocently asks if Callie is also for sale. You’ll have to read the book to see how that comment goes over. But I can tell you I might have been holding back tears, as I am often mistaken for being just a little stuffed cow.

it’s only stanley

Standard

This book got a bit confusing when we read it aloud because we have a friend named Stanley (he’s a bear) and we also live with a poodle named Gigi, who is smitten with a dino. Stanley usually joins us for story time; Gigi tends to sleep through it (unless she hears words like “poodle” or  “bacon” (although she says she is a vegetarian)).

We found out about “It’s Only Stanley” by Jon Agee from the Next Reads newsletter that LA County Library sends out monthly on picture books. [You can sign up for it here -- you don't need a library card.] In each edition there are two sections. The first features several new books that were recently added to the collection, while the second talks about books around a certain theme. The theme tends to have something to do with the time of year. At any rate, in the newsletter that mentioned “It’s Only Stanley”, it was the only one of the new books we hadn’t yet read. In fact, most of the books we had checked out from the library, and were in a neat pile next to our pillow. Since we had enjoyed all the other books, we figured we needed to put a hold on “It’s Only Stanley” pronto. And I am glad we did, because it did not disappoint. (We have since acquired a signed copy for our collection.)

This is a great read aloud book that takes place in the middle of the night. The Wimbletons have called it a day, when they start to hear strange noises about the house. Mr. Wimbleton gets up to inquire only to return to report that the noise is the result of Stanley, the family dog. This pattern continues throughout the night, as one by the one, the Wimbleton children come to their parent’s room to ask about the odd noise that woke them up. Whatever could that dog be up to? You know that I don’t give away endings, but let’s just say this is really a love story — one that I bet you won’t see coming.

We love books that are downright silly and outrageous like this. The artwork adds to the story, in that it literally tells Stanley’s side of the tale (no pun intended). Although the colors are simple, the details are aplenty. “It’s Only Stanley” is definitely one that you will want to read over and over again to see what you might have missed the first time around.

 

ballet cat and the secret secret

Standard

What exactly is wrong with doing what you want all of the time. Aren’t we taught to follow our passions? Isn’t practice practice practice the only way to Carnegie Hall?

Ballet Cat cracks us up. This is a great read aloud by the dazzling Bob Shea. This is the first (of I hope many) for the series. In this drama, Ballet Cat’s bestie, Sparkle Pony has a secret. It’s a secret secret, so don’t look to me to spill the beans.

This is a great book about friendship, and one where you might see yourself in either of these characters. {If you see yourself as both, you may wish to seek professional help.} Really though, you should buy a copy for anyone you love more than ice cream.

From one of my favorite pages: “Is the secret that you are not so great at ballet? That is not a very secret secret, Sparkles.” Ballet Cat must have skipped the lesson on poise.

I love how the pages are different colors. It adds to the mood. If the friend you love more than ice cream is like Ballet Cat, you might need to get her two copies, as she might rip up the first.

ralph tells a story

Standard

Writer’s block is never fun, and “Ralph Tells a Story” captures it perfectly. We will have to remember Ralph’s tips on how to beat it. We especially like number four — eat chocolate! Yum!! We checked this out from the library after hearing great things about “Dory Fantasmagory” which had not been released yet. Look for our review of it soon.

In “Ralph Tells a Story” by Abby Hanlon, Ralph cannot seem to find a story to share in his creative writing class. So he asks his friend, Daisy for help, only to learn that she has written several stories about Ralph. How frustrating! Poor Ralph!

Ralph tries everything he can think of to get out of writing. He asks for the bathroom pass and even offers to go help the lunch ladies. Exasperated (and with no where else to run), Ralph hides under his desk. And that is when an idea for a story comes to him at last.

The illustrations in this book are a lot of fun. We love the style. According to the author’s bio, Abby Hanlon taught herself to draw. We are impressed.

Oh, and before we forget, here are Ralph’s fantastic writing tips:

  1. Get comfortable.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  3. You can always write about what you had for breakfast.
  4. Eat chocolate.

We plan to use them to get through this month of writing.

minnie and moo: hooves of fire

Standard

Minnie and Moo: Hooves of Fire

Happy Halloween! Zero and I have been reading lots of great books (most checked out from the library thanks to our stellar use of the hold system), but not writing down our reviews. We plan to remedy that pronto! There are just too many wonderful reads out there not to share. This is a great autumn read as it is set in the fall on the farm. Also, for some reason Minnie and Moo are dressed in togas for the duration of the story, so it reminds us a little of Halloween costumes. Next year we need to plan better and dress as characters from our favorite stories.

We were so excited when we saw the latest from Denys Cazet on the shelf on our recent trip to Hicklebee’s. We were not even aware he had a new book, let alone that it was a new Minnie and Moo! It is actually a beautifully-illustrated hardbound chapter book with almost 200 pages. Most of the other books in this series are shorter, early reader books. And while we enjoyed this book, I do think the shorter format works better. Maybe it is because the action flows better in the shorter editions.  This is still a must read though, especially if you have enjoyed the previous Minnie and Moo books.

In “Minnie and Moo: Hooves of Fire” we learn that the two cows have decided to host a talent show called The First Annual Hoot, Holler and Moo Talent Festival on the farm, while Mr and Mrs Farmer are on vacation. The goal is to earn money to pay towards a replacement tractor. [It has been a while since we read the other books in the series, but there is a vague recollection of a tractor being destroyed - we will have to look it up next time we are at the library.] Elvis the rooster, who spouted a series of his own, is back in this book along with a cast of other animals from chickens to hippos (or was it a rhino?). And of course there are foxes, hyenas and coyotes — you can just smell the trouble brewing. Of course, as the animals are on stage singing, reciting poetry and performing magic tricks, the cash box goes missing! I’d tell you who, but Zero is giving me a look that says I should not spoil the fun.

This book really is a lot of fun. Between the different and contrasting personalities of the two cows and Elvis trying constantly to get back on stage, this book will make you laugh out loud. And of course, there are cream puffs! It makes a great bedtime story, but do not expect to read it all in one night.

The book has lots of lively illustrations that add to the story. This is another reason you should not expect to read it in one sitting – you will want to spend time enjoying the pictures in this book. It is amazing how Denys Cazet gets the animals to do the things they do.

On a final note, I am still really perplexed about the togas that Minnie and Moo were wearing. They were the judges of the talent show. They were never set to perform. It was strange. Oh, and I think they author might have been making fun of the top hit pop song, “All of Me” by John Legend, but I am not sure of that either.

 

froodle

Standard

Froodle

Wow! It has been a long time since we last posted. We have been busy reading! We figured out the hold systems at the local libraries (well sort of — there are still a few kinks to work out, but … we are now checking out books from three libraries!) and the books just keep coming our way. We have read many great books, so look forward to many reviews from us, including our first YA. Oh, and Happy Halloween! This is actually a great Halloween read, and not just because it has a big black crow as a character.

Froodle, as you may have guessed is not a real word. It is made up, and some may even call it a nonsense word. They do not really mean anything. They are just silly. There are many nonsense words in “Froodle” by Antoinette Portis. Many of them are a lot of fun to say and figure out how to pronounce, and so make this a great read aloud book.

But the reason I suggest this book as a good read for Halloween (in addition to Crow, of course) is the theme of the book. “Froodle” is about showing your true self, much in the way Halloween lets people dress up and show a part of themselves that they may hide the rest of the year. In “Froodle” we meet Little Brown Bird, who is tired of just saying “peep” all day long. It just doesn’t feel right to her, so she decides to try something different. Of course, the other birds are not so sure (at least at first), if this is a good idea. Crow is definitely not on board with such changes to the schedule. I will let you read it to see how it ends. Do you think it will catch on?

The illustrations are also by Antionette Portis. These are much different from “Not a Box” and “Not a Stick” as they use a lot more color. They are also more detailed. I think my favorite illustration is when Crow looks down at Little Brown Bird. The perspective is great!

I would recommend this book for anyone feeling out of place or like they need to show their true colors. It is also great if you just want to read some very silly words and maybe even try to figure out what they might mean.

Mr Peabody’s Apples

Standard

You have probably heard of Madonna. She is a very famous singer and songwriter. About 10 years ago she wrote several books for children. Initially she was going to write five books, but it looks like she turned her first book into a series that has at least 12 books. This one, her second book, Mr. Peabody’s Apples, turns a proverb into a picture book. We checked this book out from the library because the apples reminded us of fall. You may also recognize the illustrator, Loren Long. He went on to write the Otis series, which we love.

Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna reminds us that words can have serious consequences. Mr. Peabody is a history teacher and also the coach of his hometown’s baseball team. His Saturday mornings have a regular routine and rhythm during baseball season. After the game is over, Mr. Peabody cleans things up and then swings by the local fruit stand to grab an apple on his way home.

One day, one of the players notices Mr. Peabody grabbing an apple, and jumps to (wrong) conclusions. What is worse is that he tells others about what he believes is going on, and before you know it, everyone in town has heard the news. The result is that only one player shows up to the next baseball game.

When Mr. Peabody learns what has happened, he shows the boy the truth. And then he teaches him a very important lesson is a rather clever way.

The illustrations by Loren Long are wonderful. They truly capture life in a small town in America. There is also much emotion expressed in these pages.

We will definitely be on the look out for more of Madonna’s books at the library. We were pleasantly surprised.

big bad bunny

Standard

Happy November! My birthday is now one month away (and someone better order my cupcakes from Chicago already). November is NaBloPoMo, which essentially means we will be posting a lot in this month, which is good, because we are behind in our reviews. We checked this book out on a late night trip to the library. We had no idea it wasn’t really about bunnies, but mice! Eek!!

In Big Bad Bunny by Franny Billingsley, we are introduced to the main character, who turns out is not a bunny at all, but a mouse with an unfortunate name. Her name is Baby Boo-Boo. And honestly, if that were my name, I would change it posthaste!

[We actually have family friends who named their eldest daughter Baby. She is now retirement age, and everyone still calls her Baby. It seems to be accepted in the culture, but to me it just seems weird. But I digress. Back to the book.]

Instead of just going down to the court house and filing some paperwork and submitting a fee, Baby Boo-Boo takes on the personae of Big Bad Bunny AND runs away from home. As you might imagine, this leads to nothing but trouble.

As Mama Mouse is lovingly tucking in each of her little ones, Big Bad Bunny is out stomping in the forest, showing off her sharp claws and pointy yellow teeth.  It was all going so well until Mama Mouse realizes Baby Boo-Boo is not in bed, and Big Bad Bunny realizes she is lost. I wonder what will happen next?

Really though this is a great read aloud book. Probably not recommended at bed time though, as the part of Big Bad Bunny can get pretty rambunctious at times. The illustrations by G. Brian Karas are a lot of fun too.

Honestly though, if you are stuck with a moniker you do not feel is befitting of your greatness, it really isn’t that hard to change your name. Do not pretend to be a crazy bunny. Just contact a lawyer and be done with it.

new york times picks 10 best illustrated books of 2013

Standard

The New York Times Book Review has announced its 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2013. The honorees are:

My Brother’s Book by Maurice Sendak (HarperCollins/di Capua)
Ballad by Blexbolex, trans. from the French by Claudia Z. Bedrick (Enchanted Lion)
Jemmy Button by Jennifer Uman and Valerio Vidali (Candlewick/Templar)
The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illus. by Jon Klassen (Little, Brown)
Holland by Charlotte Dematons (Lemniscaat)
Journey by Aaron Becker (Candlewick)
Fog Island by Tomi Ungerer (Phaidon)
Jane, The Fox and Me by Fanny Britt, trans. from the French by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou, illus. by Isabelle Arsenault (Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press)
Locomotive by Brian Floca (S&S/Atheneum/Jackson)
Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson (HarperCollins/Tegen)

We have only read two on this list, Journey and The Dark. Also we are now at 150 books read.