Thursday, August 31, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 The Little Red Wolf

A retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood story with a little wolf as the protagonist and humans as the dangerous. This little wolf is off to take a rabbit to his granny, who has no teeth left and cannot hunt for herself. But despite warnings from his mother about sticking to the path, he follows a beetle, a mouse, and a cloud of pollen and winds up off the beaten track. And he also forgets to be cautious of humans, which leads to a very dangerous situation for our poor cub.

The wolf is shown in a vibrant red cape and looks very sweet and innocent. But the young girl has wide eyes and beautiful hair and also seems very charming. This is definitely a case of "appearances can be deceiving." Although the appearances, or illustrations, in this book are gorgeous. At times fanciful colors fill the page with woodland mushrooms, trees, and creatures. In other scenes the tones are more muted and create a grimmer mood.

Highly recommended for those who enjoy retellings of traditional tales, stories with unexpected role reversals, or beautiful illustrations in any genre. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 In a Dark Land


Izzy finally gets her wish to return to Faerie, but things just aren't the way she imagined. Her sister, Hen, isn't with her. The beastly Unglers are still on the loose and hunting for Changelings like Izzy and her friends. The others live in the castle that once belonged to Queen Morvanna, but Peter (aka the Pied Piper), doesn't want them running about town. If the queen is truly dead and defeated, what is it that he fears? It turns out that there is a real threat, and it may be one that even Good Peter cannot help them overcome. 

Full of magical creatures, spells, enchanted abilities, and even fireworks and a hot air balloon, this adventure has as much going on as anyone could wish. Trying to decipher prophetic rhymes and also search for answers about Izzy's birth parents, the friends journey out of the city of Ahvalon and toward the Demon's Dome. If their luck holds, they can find what the villain is searching for and keep both Earth and Faerie safe.

Besides all the wonders of Faerie and the various creatures, there are also themes of belonging, identity, the consequences of past mistakes, and the dangers of letting bitterness taint your view of the world. Izzy isn't the only one trying to figure out who she is and where she belongs; her friends do their own coming of age as they face this danger together.

Perfect for fantasy readers who enjoy humor mixed in with the action and peril of facing off against evil foes. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 Cast No Shadow


So, combine one boy born without a shadow, one lonely girl who happens to be a ghost, and what do you get? A love story? Yeah, that's part of it. It's not surprising that they would be attracted; they are both outsiders of a sort and they share similar stories of a mother dying young and unexpectedly, a father finding a new companion after his grief, and how difficult it can be to let someone else into a family. But Greg also has his friend Layla, her new boyfriend Jake (that Greg can't stand), and the antics of Jake's father - who became mayor of their town after Greg's mother died. There is a lot of anger and frustration building up inside this boy, and when it breaks loose, the town is in for a wild ride. Can Greg, Eleanor (the ghost), Layla, Jake (the new boyfriend), and the town's soothsayer really figure out a way to put everything right?

Tapalansky and Espinosa have created an amusing story that also manages to touch on grief, change, growing up, and letting go. Not that the story is a downer, far from it. What story containing the world's biggest hairball, the world's biggest collection of souvenir spoons, and a psychic singalong be a downer? Great for readers who like some spookiness and action mixed in with their star-crossed lovers.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review purposes.

Summer Reading 2017 Top Dogs: Canines that Made History


Top Dogs is packed with information for dog lovers and history buffs. Want to know which dog received the most medals during WWI? It's in there. How about the story of the dog that traveled with Lewis and Clark as they searched for the Pacific? Got it covered. In fact, there are eight chapters full of historical facts, images, and sidebars of additional canine information. In the back matter there are a timeline, a list of places to visit, the author's main sources, and suggestions for further reading. Whether you want to learn more about Balto and the dogsled relay to take medicine across Alaska, or about search and rescue dogs at work on 9/11 - this is the book for you!

Chapter list:
Seaman the Newfoundland
Lion Dogs
Combat Canine
Togo and Balto
A Real Buddy
Military Guard Dogs
Sniffer Dog Saves the Day
Search and Rescue Dogs

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 The List


I've seen several reviews saying that this is a good book to recommend to readers who enjoyed The Giver. They were right. In this vision of the world after "the Melting," only the words on the approved List are allowed to be spoken. The wordsmith and his apprentice curate the other words, carefully filing them away after his trips out into the wilderness to look for remnants of print. Just as Jonas learns from the Giver as memories are shared, Letta learns from Benjamin as he teaches her his craft. Their stories are also similar in the way the younger characters become more frustrated and disillusioned with their society as they come to see its flaws. And, of course, there is the inevitable clash with authority when their sense of what is right impels them to act.

For teachers looking for a book with themes to explore, The List has many to choose from. Ecology and man's impact on the environment, justice, the corruption of power, language and the power of words, humanity, responsibility, coming of age...There really is something for almost everyone.

If you enjoy stories full of complex relationships, characters determined to do the right thing even at personal risk, and books that make you really think about what it means to be human - then you need a copy of The List

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Giveaway: Win a Set of Anne Toole's Books



Win the set of 5 Anne Toole book shown here. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Professor Astro Cat's Solar System: Q&A with His Human Crew

A quick interview with the creators of Professor Astro Cat, I mean, er...his human crew members!


Let me just go fangirl on you for a moment and say that, as usual, the book is wonderful in both text and illustrations.

I noticed that you mention comets, but not meteors or exoplanets. What was your process in deciding what to include?

BEN: Thanks! Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System acts a stepping stone to
Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers Of Space. As it is for a younger audience, we have stripped things back to keep it simpler and cleaner which means that we could not include everything we wanted.

DOM: Yes, what to include and not include in our books is always tough to decide. We tend to arrange the information as a hierarchy, start at the bottom and go as far up as we can. In this way we try and make sure everything is as understandable as possible.

Obviously the ship with the large clear dome makes it easy for the Prof and his pals to see the wonders of the solar system. Were there any particular inspirations for the design of the ship and space suits?

BEN: I loved watching Hannah Barbara cartoons as a child so the Jetsons are certainly an influence. The space ship, although very good for touring the solar system, is certainly a nod to them.

Professor Astro Cat and Astro Mouse’s space suits are very much inspired by space suits in the 50s and 60s that were too impractical for use. I found them very funny so used them as a starting point when creating them. As I designed Felicity’s space suit much later, her design is more slim line and much easier to manoeuvre in.

Many schools have been focusing on the solar eclipse (August 21, 2017), and discussing eye safety during viewing. Did you have that in mind when you were working on the pages about the sun, or was it a precaution you would have included anyway?

DOM: I’m really excited about the eclipse, I’m going down to Oregon state to see it and have got my eclipse glasses all ready! I think we would have included this anyway as it is important to make sure we don’t damage our eyes.

Including details about space probes like Messenger and Mariner, or the Hubble Telescope give readers ideas for further investigation. Where do you go to research topics like that?

DOM: The NASA website is a really great source of information so I go there to make sure I’m getting my facts right.

You use labels, bold print, and a glossary to help readers process the information. Teachers love nonfiction text features like those, but have you considered making a teaching guide to go with the Astro Cat titles?

BEN: Not yet but hopefully as we make more books this could become a possibility. We want Professor Astro Cat to be as useful to children, teachers, librarians and parents as possible.

Professor Astro Cat says that finding ice on Mercury is “Pretty cool, huh?” And while standing on Venus, the explorers have an umbrella that is being dissolved by the acid rain. Do you feel that humor helps make a topic interesting and easier to learn? (I do; I’m just blatantly fishing for agreement here.)

BEN: Haha, yes, definitely. That is the fun part of illustrating the book with imaginary characters because we can stretch and play with what is and isn't possible as long as it doesn't interfere with the message or information we are trying to convey.

Did either of you dream of being an astronaut when you were a child? If so, where would you have wanted to explore?

BEN: I don't think I did. I always wanted to draw for a living but I’m sure Dominic would go in a heartbeat.

DOM: Going up into space would be absolutely amazing. Especially when you hear the astronauts from the Apollo missions talk about walking around on the surface of the Moon. Imagine that. Standing on a completely different body in space!! I think I would want to go to whatever planet out there harbours abundant life. That would be mind blowing.

Thank you so much for your time! I love your books and they are incredibly popular with my students. We will be eagerly awaiting whatever topic you decide to tackle next.

BEN: Thank you!
DOM: Thanks!

For readers who haven't discovered Professor Astro Cat yet - he appears in other titles, including Professor Astro Cat's Frontiers of Space and Professor Astro Cat's Atomic Adventure. Stay tuned for more educational adventures from the smartest cat in the universe!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver Awareness Tour 2017


a Rafflecopter giveaway
Enter to win a Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver themed prize pack!
One (1) winner receives:
  • A copy of Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver, by Lorri Horn
  • A Dewey Fairchild themed gift pack. Includes items such as cookies, gum, notebooks, pens/pencils, Tootsie Rolls, Monopoly game etc.
Giveaway rules:
  • Enter between 12:00 AM Mountain Time on August 1, 2017 and 11:59 PM on August 31, 2017.
  • Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older.
  • Winners will be selected at random on or about September 3, 2017.
  • Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

Prizes provided by Amberjack Publishing.

Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver

Written by Lorri Horn
Illustrated by Agnieszka Grochalska

Publisher’s Synopsis: Dewey Fairchild isn’t just good with parents, he’s great with them. He’s so good at handling parents that he’s built a thriving business out of it. He even has a secretary, Clara―a great alibi and an even better baker. Dewey settles the most troublesome of cases, from an overprotective mom who won’t let her child go to class on her own, to a dad who can’t stop picking his nose any chance he gets!
Dewey has no problem handling other people’s parents, but when he overhears his parents talking one day, he faces a challenge he never expected. Dewey can solve any problem parents may cause, but what will he do when the parents who are causing problems are his own?

Ages 9-12 | Publisher: Amberjack Publishing | August 8, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1944995164

Available Here:

About the Author: Lorri Horn is an educator and an author. She has a degree in English, a teaching credential, has been Nationally Board Certified, and has taught pubic school for over 14 years. She loves cheese (and wants it to be its own food group, which made working on a vegan book a challenge), humor, baking, books, and spending time with her family. Lorri’s background as a career schoolteacher and instructional leader make her especially sympathetic to the needs and perspectives of children, and this sensitivity features in her work as an author. Lorri blogs on her website, Her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, Phi Delta Kappan, The College Board and Mayim’s Vegan Table. Lorri lives in California with her husband, son, and their dog, Wolfie. 
About the Illustrator: Agnieszka Grochalska is an illustrator living and working in Warsaw, Poland. As a child she wanted to be an astronaut or a jet pilot. Eventually she changed her mind and dedicated her keen eye and steady hand to drawing precise and detailed compositions reminiscent of classical storybook illustrations.
She received a MFA in Graphic Arts in 2014, exploring traditional painting, printmaking, and sculpting along the way. Currently she works predominantly in digital medium, striving to make it look as natural as her works drawn traditionally. Her illustrative works were featured in group exhibitions both in Poland and abroad.
Agnieszka enjoys travel and cultural exchange with people from around the world, referencing those experiences in her works alongside the Slavic folklore of her homeland. When she isn’t drawing or traveling, you can find her exploring the worlds of fiction in books and story-driven games.
Agnieszka’s works can be viewed in her online portfolio at



The Children's Book Review
Teacher Dance
Word Spelunking
To Read, or Not To Read
Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
icefairy's Treasure Chest
Tales of A Wanna-Be SuperHero Mom
LitPick Student Book Reviews
The Fairview Review

Imagine a cross between Encyclopedia Brown and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. That's right, a young boy with detective abilities who also happens to be good at "curing" problem parents. Dewey handles issues ranging from germaphobic mothers to fathers that belch (and worse) in public. With the help of his secretary Clara and her dog Wolfgang von Fluff Bucket, young Mr. Fairchild finds cures for overprotective mothers, fathers who won't stop playing pranks, and other dilemmas brought to him by kids from all over town. Sometimes he even enlists the assistance of his friends in gathering information or find the right approach for clients to break their parents of all these bad habits. As he puts it, "Desperate mothers called for desperate measures."

Each situation is handled successfully and readers will be amused by the solutions to the problems. Scenes like the joker dad sucking his thumb in shock over being pranked himself will have readers laughing out loud. But what will really win everyone over is the fact that Dewey has a parent problem of his own and doesn't know how to solve it. It proves that no one is perfect and that we can all use some help from our friends. Seraphina and Colin's attempts at undercover work in the dental office of Dewey's father are hilarious and show how far true friends will go to help each other.

This book is appealing on many levels. There are the funny parent problems and the even funnier things Dewey has the kids do to break those parental habits. Readers who like secret hideouts or clubhouses will love Dewey's office and the way clients enter and exit. For those who enjoy spies and detectives, there are the stakeouts, message drops, and using Wolfie to smuggle tape recorders. And there is plenty of word play and puns. Looking over the file of the burping father, Dewey finds that he also picks his nose in public, and "had to admit, having a public nose picker for a father pretty much nosed ahead of other people's problems." He tells his secretary, "Get it, Clara!? I'm picking her case first!" Go ahead and groan, but it is funny.

Perfect for middle grade readers who enjoy humorous stories involving parents, friends, and lots of cookies.

I am participating in this blog tour in partnership with The Children’s Book Review and Amberjack Publishing.

Summer Reading 2017 Gorillas in Our Midst


No, not "Gorillas in the Mist," there are actually Gorillas in Our Midst! Well, that's what the narrator of this book tells us. This small, bespectacled boy reminds us that "You should always carry a banana with you." Actually, I've never heard that piece of advice before, but he explains why it is so important - "Because you never know when there might be a gorilla around." Not that you will see them, because they are "masters of disguise." They also work as ninjas, astronauts, or other jobs where they can wear a mask. Famous gorillas you have probably heard of include Gorilliam Shakespeare and Apebraham Lincoln. 

If you were not aware that gorillas are roaming freely through neighborhoods, you should probably read this book and get some pointers on what to look for. There are signs that can help you out, if you pay attention. And...try not to confuse gorillas and orangutans. Okay?

The premise of the story is funny to begin with, and the illustrations will make everyone smile, if they don't just break down and chuckle out loud. Scenes of gorillas in scuba gear or teaching humans sign language may cause enough merriment to make your cheeks sore from all the grinning.

Summer Reading 2017 Skydiver: Saving the Fastest Bird in the World


Aside from penguins, birds of prey are the most popular in our library collection. The books on eagles, owls, and hawks are always in demand, so I'm glad to have another to put on the shelf. But I am also happy that it is a piece of narrative nonfiction, and the story it tells of the peregrine falcon and efforts to prevent its extinction is fascinating. Author/illustrator Celia Godkin describes the problems caused by the insecticide DDT, how it made the "eggshells so thin that they broke easily." Many falcons could not successfully hatch any young to carry on their species. She also describes how conservationists and volunteers collected eggs and raised them in sanctuaries to help preserve the peregrines.

The illustrations show the details of coloring on the falcon's wings, the fluffy softness of the new chicks, and the crowds of protesters who worked to get DDT banned. The pictures also capture the streamlined shape of the peregrine as it dives, and in a beautiful spread, the aerial courtship dance is framed against the blue sky. The cover illustration does an amazing job of capturing the sense of speed with an almost time-lapse image of a diving peregrine. An author's note gives additional information about the peregrine falcon and DDT, as well suggesting some websites for further research.

Summer Reading 2017 Lailah's Lunchbox


Okay, so I love any story where the librarian helps out and gives good advice. And that is just what happens when Lailah has a hard time explaining to her teacher and classmates about Ramadan. She is excited to be old enough to fast during the holiday, but also worried that everyone at school won't understand. Mrs. Carman, the librarian, has the perfect solution. "You know what I always do when I can't get my thoughts out or when I get shy about talking? asked Mrs. Carman. "I write my thoughts down." And that is just what Lailah does, writing a note to the teacher and also composing a poem about Ramadan.

I was fortunate enough to meet author Reem Faruqi at ALA Midwinter this year. She wrote the story of Lailah based on her own childhood experience of moving from Abu Dabhi to Peachtree City, Georgia and facing the challenge of explaining Ramadan to her new friends. Stories that celebrate cultural diversity and also show others being respectful of those beliefs are a wonderful find. The way the teacher and librarian both support Lailah and help her to feel comfortable is a good example for readers.

Summer Reading 2017 Rodzilla


Illustrated in a style that reminds me of the "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" movie, Rodzilla tells the harrowing tale of a city under attack. The intrepid reporter for Channel 15 keeps Megalopolis up to date on the latest movements of Rodzilla as he rampages through the city. "He's the mightiest creature to ever roam the streets." And the destruction and mayhem caused by stink-rays, slime missiles, and hurled attacks leave citizens able to only "gaze in horror at his toothless grin."

Dan Santat's watercolors capture the desperate faces of those caught by the stink-ray, the gooey green biohazard of the slime missile, and the earth shaking as Rodzilla belly flops in the center of town - sending vehicle flying through the air and buildings toppling. Rob Sanders perfectly reproduces the terse and over the top dramatic style of live news coverage in the text of this epic encounter. And readers will be delighted with the twist in the story line (nope, not telling).

Perfect for readers who enjoy gross humor, monsters that aren't too scary, and surprise endings.

Summer Reading 2017 Crazy About Cats


Owen Davey creates beautiful books. Anyone who has seen Mad About Monkeys or Smart About Sharks knows what I mean. As I've said before, the illustrations are crisp and clean without being cold or mechanical and have very retro vibe to them. The table of contents is located within the deep shadows among rain forest plants. There is a large 2-page spread showing the relative size of each species that is awesome in its ability to convey the wide range of possibilities from the largest tiger to the rusty-spotted cat. And another spread showing the various patterns that help to camouflage the cats in their habitats is incredibly detailed, right down to distinguishing the difference between the rosettes on a jaguar from those of a leopard.  

A wide selection of cats of different sizes and abilities are included. Commonly known species like the cheetah and lion are seen, along with those of lesser notoriety such as pampas cats or Asiatic golden cats. And the section on cat mythology even mentions the Maneki-Neko beckoning cat figurines.

The facts are presented in 2-page sections ranging from marking territory to awards for loudest roar, longest jump, and longest tail. Several different types of charts and diagrams are used to present facts such as the modern species of wild cats, or the adaptations that give the Asiatic golden cat its "real life super powers.' There are catchy headings for each section. Young readers may not catch the word play ("Paws for Thought"  or "Kitten Caboodle" ) but adults who will be reading along with many of those youngsters will appreciate the humor.

This is an excellent addition to any library collection, especially those serving an elementary or middle school audience. While the text is not overly technical, it also does not talk down to young readers. The author seems to understand that those who are fascinated with a subject will usually have the patience to work out what the text says so that they may satisfy their curiosity.

I received a copy from the publisher for review purposes.

Summer Reading 2017 Super Women: Six Scientists Who Changed the World


I am very impressed by all six of the women included in this book. I had heard of Eugenie Clark and Katherine Johnson, but the others were to me. Each of these women had to work around the system that would have kept them from their chosen careers due to their gender, and sometimes their race, too. If you are someone who gets frustrated by stories of inequity and prejudice, then you may need to do some deep breathing while you read Super Women. Eugenie Clark was held for questioning by the FBI due to her Japanese ancestry and lost her place on a research trip to the Philippines because of it. Katherine Johnson and other African American computers had to eat in a segregated dining room at NACA. Gertrude Elion's applications to graduate school were turned down because she was a woman. Marie Tharp wasn't even allowed on ocean research vessels because she was female. Margaret  Burbidge had to pretend to be her husband's research assistant to get access to Mount Wilson Observatory (although she wasn't allowed to use the restroom while she was there). And Florence Hawley Ellis had to fight against the belief that archaeology was men's work and too hot and dirty for women.

It's hard to imagine how they managed to keep their composure and accomplish all they did despite all the obstacles that were placed in their paths. Author Laurie Lawlor details the route that each woman took to make their incredible contribution to science - in drug research, zoology, research mathematics, astronomy, archaeology, and cartography. Quotes from the women, archival photos, and other background information bring their careers and personalities to life for readers. Back matter includes a glossary, source notes, index, and photo credits. A welcome addition to biographies of famous scientists.

I received a review copy from the publisher.

Summer Reading 2017 If You Were Me and Lived in Cuba


The "If You Were Me and Lived in... " series introduces young readers to countries around the world through the eyes of children. The book on Cuba includes descriptions of everyday events like going to the market with your family or using Cuban Convertible Pesos to pay for your shopping.   Throughout the book readers learn the Cuban words (in Spanish) for family members and household objects, there are examples of popular foods, and suggestions for favorite boys' and girl's names.  In the back is a glossary/pronunciation guide for words such as bocadillo, escuela, and muy caliente. Readers may be impressed with the photo of the Castillo del Morro or the beautiful beach at Cayo Coco. Descriptions of the carnival at Santiago de Cuba and the Fiesta del Fuego may have you wishing to join the fun.

Along with the everyday details of home, school, and pastimes, there are other facts about the country and its history, including the vital role Havana played as a harbor for the Spanish explorers in the New World. Books such as this are great as a first introduction for elementary school students to the various cultures around the world. Teachers and librarians will find it handy to have the entire set on their shelves. 

I received a copy from the author for review purposes.

Summer Reading 2017 The Fleatastics


Anyone who has ever wanted to be recognized for their own special talent will certainly identify with Serafleana. From the time she was just a tiny egg, she has always been a jumper. She dreams of her own act in the Fleatastics Circus, but her family wants her to be part of an acrobatic pyramid instead. On the night of their first performance, disaster strikes! A child in the audience asks for a "Treat" and that word wakes the sleeping dog they are performing on. At last Serafleana can use her talent in a way that everyone approves of - to distract the dog while performers and audience all scurry to safety.

Young readers may not have heard of a flea circus, but adults who are reading along will certainly be amused at the idea of a big top pitched on a sleeping dog. The illustrations show performers balancing on top of rolling balls, twirling hoops on all six legs, or swinging on the trapeze. And mixed in with the action there are tiny speech bubbles that help make each flea unique. One wants to tell jokes all the time. Another has allergies and believes she needs to relocate to a hypoallergenic dog. Still another quotes random facts. Yet they all manage to work together to form the pyramid, even if Serafleana's brothers do have to hold onto her to keep her in position. When she finally gets to jump, what a jump it is!

Great for one-on-one laptime or bedtime reading, so the tiny speech bubbles can be explored and discussed. It could work as a read-aloud, but it would take plenty of extra time to read all the little extra bits and point out who was saying what.

I received a review copy from the publisher.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 The Secret Life of Red Fox


Narrative nonfiction can be an excellent way to introduce young readers to topics of interest. Laurence Pringle is a well recognized name in the genre, and this latest book does not disappoint. He describes a year in the life of a female red fox, beginning in the snows of winter and ending with the departure of her young ones in late autumn, as they go to find territories of their own. The illustrations throughout the book support details in the text like the cleaning out of old animal burrows to make a den, or the way a fox wraps its tail around itself for warmth. One of my favorite pictures is the spread showing the fox leaping and plunging headfirst into the snow to catch a meadow mouse that she hears nibbling grass.

Back matter includes a glossary, list of books for further reading, and two more pages of information about the red fox. A great addition to any elementary school library collection, or a perfect gift for a young reader interested in wild life.

I received a review copy from the publisher.

Summer Reading 2017 Percy, Dog of Destiny


This small book packs a lot inside, just like it's protagonist, Percy. He may be a small dog (he looks like a Jack Russell to me, but I may projecting from my own experience), but he has tons of confidence and energy. With his special ball, his "little porkie pie," Percy heads to the dog park to meet up with his friends - "Make way world." Once he, Molly, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, and Fluffy all arrive, the fun begins. They streak along the fence, except for Fluffy who rolls on his back. "Oh, Fluffy." When they sniff derrieres, Fluffy sniffs flowers. "Oh, Fluffy." You get the idea; Fluffy is a big lovable lug who doesn't seem quite bright. But when a taunting squirrel endangers the special ball, it is Fluffy who saves the day. "Oh, Fluffy!"

The spare text that accompanies most of the action gives way to longer phrases when Percy is really showing off his personality. When the squirrel taunts him, he gathers the others to teach it a lesson because, "Are we dogs, or are we doughnuts?" And when his ball goes sailing though the air away from him, he waxes positively eloquent: "Precious! Cupcake! Little porkie pie! Sweet poopsie muffin, come to papa!"

The illustrations work seamlessly with the text (as good picture books should), to tell the story. The actions of Percy, Molly, and Oatmeal Raisin Cookie in contrast to those of Fluffy will have readers laughing out loud and chiming in on the refrain of "Oh, Fluffy." Many young readers will also get the giggles over the dogs sniffing at each other or when it is time to "pee on the tree." (Let's face it, just reading the word pee out loud will cause a major outburst of laughter.) And Percy's gyrations as he tried to snatch his ball out of the air are my major reason for claiming he is a Jack Russell.

Together, the author and illustrator have created a character with plenty of personality and star power. Readers will be clamoring to hear more adventures starring Percy, Dog of Destiny!

I received a review copy from the publisher.

Summer Reading 2017 Keep a Pocket in Your Poem


In his introduction, J. Patrick Lewis tells us that, "Sometimes, when I read a wonderful poem, I want to write a parody of it. For me, this is the best way to pay tribute to someone else's work." So he has taken a baker's dozen of his favorite poems and written his own partner verses. The poems are displayed on opposing pages with the acrylic illustrations showing what they have in common, or where they differ. The title poem is obviously his tribute to "Keep a Poem in Your Pocket" by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers. Other poets get a cheekier treatment, such as his "Stopping by the Fridge on a Hungry Evening" parody of the Robert Frost classic. Hughes, Prelutsky, Dickinson, Tennyson, Housman, Sandburg, Stevenson, Issa, McCord, and Fyleman are the other poets honored to be included in this collection.

Poetry readers will enjoy the book for its own merits, but I can imagine teachers using it to encourage students to pen their own rhymes during a poetry unit. Sometimes it is easier to imitate than to face a blank page and come up with something entirely your own, from rhyme scheme to subject. It would also make a good title to have on hand when talking about comparison and contrast, with its built-in pairs of texts ready to go.

I received a review copy from the publisher.

Summer Reading 2017 Cy Makes a Friend


Have you ever had trouble making a friend? Well, your problems were nothing compared to Cy's. He is a builder and inventor, great with tools and creating things - but you can't make a friend on a workbench. "Making a friend means venturing out." And while Cy is confident in his tool skills, this big hairy Cyclops isn't too sure of his social skills. He practices conversation, eye contact, and looking friendly, and even builds a chariot for two to share with a friend. When he goes into town to buy wheels for the chariot, he tries out the eye contact "perhaps a little too much" and tries to look confident "possibly not enough." But he heads home with the wheels and then returns with the chariot to try and find a friend. This time his efforts pay off!

The text is brief, but clear, and makes this a book that encourages readers to look to the illustrations for more detail. When it says that "Cy was born to build." we can see his workshop with the neatly organized workbench and blueprints hanging on the wall. In the scene where "he practices polite conversation", we gaze at Cy pouring tea and speaking to the robotic centaur he has assembled out of a footstool. The illustrations themselves are colorful and filled with creatures from mythology, everything from a centaur to the Teumessian Fox. And the variety of things that Cy can make (minus friends, of course), is amazing.

For young readers who are nervous about making friends, perhaps starting school for the first time, this would be a great book to share with them and then talk about how they could follow some of Cy's tips.

I received a review copy from the publisher.

Summer Reading 2017 A Squiggly Story


A perfect book for young children who are beginning to be readers and writers. The narrator explains that his sister reads and writes "big words and little words. Page after page. Word after word." And sometimes he pretends that he can do the same with "Swirl after swirl. Squiggle after squiggle." His sister gives him some great advice. She tells him to write about what he knows and that, "It's your story. You're the BOSS." His story is a mix of letters and pictures, what we could call "driting" (drawing and writing). When he shares his story in class the next day, all the other students think it is wonderful and offer ideas about what could happen next. The way his sister, the class, and his teacher respond to the story helps to build his confidence.

This would be a wonderful book to use for a mini-lesson on journaling and writing. The advice about writing what you know and using pictures when you don't know the words is exactly what early elementary students need. There is also other advice from the narrator's sister - a story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. That is something most of us take for granted, but young writers need to be reminded of. Although the drawings he includes in his story are not very detailed, they are enough to help him remember the narrative of the story as he reads it to the class. That is another point that could ease the worries of fledgling writers - they don't have to be incredible artists to use this technique.

I would recommend this for primary grade classrooms and parents of children in that age range. I received a review copy from the publisher.