“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Listen, Listen • Lap board book

Listen, Listen
Phillis Gershator • illustrated by Alison Jay
November 2008 • Barefoot Books • Board Book
"Listen, listen...what’s that sound?”
Story: Take a seat, lay this big board book across your lap, and explore a bounty of telltale sights and sounds that mark the seasons. From summer’s sizzling sun to winter’s crackling snow, prepare for senses to be teased by Phillis Gershator’s lively rhyming words and Alison’s Jays lavish illustrations. Locate the ‘can you see’ pages at the back of the book and search for the animals, insects, flowers, and trees that are the harbingers of each season.

★ "Jay’s stylized pictures, with the texture of ancient frescos, are a window into a world in which the buzz of an insect and the whoosh of the wind lend surprising emotion. Illustrations filled with snowmen, anthropomorphized animals, and people running through a leaf-swept field will make children long to discover what is just over a hill or around the next bend. Capturing a summer idyll reading in a hammock with the same care as a warm evening by the fireplace, Jay invests each image with both joy and melancholy. This jewel of a book will draw children back again and again"—Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

"In this ode to the seasons, the sights and sounds of a picturesque country village are artfully evoked. Under the summer sun, 'Leaves rustle, hammocks sway. Splish, splash, children play.' In autumn, 'Pumpkins ripen, quick, quick. Apples, corn—pick, pick.' During winter, 'Crunch, crunch, boots clomp. Grown-ups shovel, children romp./Skaters spin, skiers glide. Zip, zoom, slip, slide.' When spring arrives, 'Pop, pop, bulbs sprout. Leaves grow, flowers shout.' Jay's crackled-varnish paintings have a nostalgic, folk-art quality. The rhyming, onomatopoeic text wraps around the busy scenes, and the words and art together provide a smooth transition between the seasons: 'summer's gone' is illustrated with a swarm of insects buzzing off the page. An appended 'can you see' game encourages close examination of the changing landscapes. Children will be inspired to 'listen, listen' in their own environments."—School Library Journal
Story behind the story: Listen, Listen marks the launch of the lap board book format for Barefoot Books. Meant for young children who are just learning the love of reading with their parent or teacher, the thicker pages of this edition allow small hands to grasp and turn them.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below for reviews to date from your colleagues.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Red Shoes • Picture Book

The Red Shoes
by Eleri Glass illustrated by Ashley Spires
2008 • Simply Read Books • Picture Book
"The red shoes are happy apples waiting to be picked.'The red ones Mom.'"
Story: A little girl needs new shoes. There are hundreds of pairs of shoes in the shoe store, but they're all the same dull brown or grey — all except one pair. They’re red. Bright red. Fire engine red! And they’re exactly what the little girl wants. But how can she convince her mother and the skeptical sales clerk? Simple, lyrical text and charming watercolor illustrations combine to create a picture book that shows how bright, colorful things can lift one’s spirits. Set in the 1960s, this book also shows young readers the fashions of the era.
Story behind the story: Haven't red ruby slippers always been alluring? What child (or adult) hasn't wanted that special something that was "just out of reach"? The Red Shoes presents a story we can all relate to as evidenced by this early praise:

"This text would be a perfect accompaniment to a writing invitation for children. The descriptive language of the text conjures up images that allow the reader to imagine the tiny ruby gems as something more than just ordinary shoes. They may wonder what kinds of adventures the little girl will go on with her new shoes. Or they may name the character and create their own story about the girl with the red shoes. Children may also have a connection with the character as they think of something that they desire." -- CM Magazine.

"Spare text and 1960s fashions lend a subtle sophistication of bygone days when shopping trips required white gloves and dresses. Any child who's ever begged for the least sensible shoes in the store (and later worn them to bed) will definitely relate." -- Publishers Weekly

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please check back and click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Hunger Games • YA fiction

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

October 2008 • Scholastic • YA fiction • Ages 12 and up
Each year in the ruins of North America, 24 teenagers are forced to enter the Hunger Games. Only the winner survives. Every moment is televised.
Story: Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone watching you? Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Story behind the story: When I received this book I was warned: be sure to have time to read it in one sitting. Who hasn't heard that before, but believe me, make the time to do just that. Stephenie Meyer, the author of the Twilight series, took it to a dinner party so she could keep reading it under the table!

"It's hard to choose one element that inspired The Hunger Games," says Suzanne Collins, New York Times bestselling author of the Underland Chronicles for middle grade readers. "Probably the first seeds were planted when, as an eight-year-old with a mythology obsession, I read the story of Theseus...and even as a third grader I could appreciate the ruthlessness of this message. 'Mess with us and we'll do something worse than kill you. We'll kill your children.'....But it wasn't until the much more recent experience of channel surfing between reality TV programming and actual war coverage that the story for this series came to me."

Since it's publication in October, it's landed on the NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestseller lists, been named a PUBLISHERS WEEKLY'S Best Book of the Year and a NEW YORK TIMES Notable Children's Book, is #1 ON CHILDREN'S INDIE NEXT LIST, and has received starred reviews from many journals/publications.

You may have heard the buzz about it, but have you read it? Here's the first chapter and, also, a discussion guide which includes discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and connections to classic literature (The Grapes of Wrath, Nineteen Eighty-Four, among others) that are part of high school students' curriculum.

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Big Bell and The Little Bell • Picture book with audio CD

The Big Bell and The Little Bell
by Martin Kalmanoff • illustrated by Alastair Graham
November 2008 • Boxer Books (US sales/distribution via Sterling Publishing) • Picture book with audio CD
Read and sing along with the classic song!
Story: The classic 1950s song ‘The Big Bell and the Little Bell’ is brought to life in pictures, words and music and tells the tale of a King who has to decide which bell—large or small, loud or soft—he wants to ring out on his wedding day. The big bell makes a mighty “bong!” while the little bell just makes a tiny “bing!” In this beautifully illustrated picture book, kids will discover that big isn't always better -- sometimes the little one wins the day! Complete with audio CD for a full visual and auditory experience.
Story behind the story: Martin Kalmanoff wrote many hit songs, some performed by Dean Martin and Elvis Presley, and his “The Big Bell and the Little Bell”— became a family favorite when it was first released in 1954. Boxer Books created the CD to include both Julius La Rosa singing the original 1950s track, and a spectacular new recording by the London Crouch End Festival Chorus.

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The World That Loved Books • Picture Book

The World That Loved Books
written and illustrated by Stephen Parlato
November • Simply Read Books • Picture Book
"There once was a world where everyone loved books, even the animals. Everyone loved to read so much that when they read their books, they became what they read."
Story: Imagine a world where everyone loves books, and where people become what they read. And then... when the book is done, they become themselves again, only smarter. This is the world Stephen Parlato creates in The World That Loved Books, a world where even the animals love to read. Illustrated with gorgeous, intricately detailed collages, this dazzling picture book conveys a sense of joy and wonder about the natural world. It’s also a powerful fable about reading books and how they change the reader in marvelous and unexpected ways.
Story behind the story: Interviewed by Oprah Winfrey for his unique teaching methods with specially gifted inner city high school students (he works as a counselor with mentally challenged young adults in Baltimore), Stephen Parlato describes his work as “visual puns” with a “double identity of forms”. Images constructed of bits and pieces of the familiar are meticulously rearranged into strange, exotic and marvelous new creatures. Language arts and art teachers will have much to talk about.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please check back and click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Waggit's Tale; Waggit Again • Middle grade fiction (illustrated)

Waggit's Tale and Waggit Again
By Peter Howe • Illustrated by Omar Rayyan
Waggit's Tale, July 2008 • Waggit Again, May 2009 •
HarperCollins Children’s Books • Middle grade fiction (illustrated)
A young dog lost--an unexpected family found
Story: When a small pup is abandoned by his owner in the city park, he meets a team of mutts who name him Waggit, for his powerful wagging tail. Waggit soon learns the lingo of his new friends and the dangers and hardships of life in the wild. But Waggit is sharp, and he becomes the best hunter and tracker in his group. Still, he remembers and longs for the comforts of home.
Story behind the story: Peter Howe got the idea for Waggit when he and his wife were living near Central Park. They were walking in the park when they found a puppy, about six-months old, who’d been badly abused. They took him home, planning to take him to a shelter after the weekend. He was so bouncy, they named him Roo, after the character in Winnie-the-Pooh. That weekend stretched into 14 years, and Roo lived a full and happy life with them. Peter often saw dogs, clearly wild, running around the woods in Central Park. They gave him the idea for the pack that Waggit meets and joins.

After Roo died, Peter and his wife adopted another rescued dog, who loves to come with him on school visits. If you’d like to have Peter visit your school or library, please contact
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below for reviews from your colleagues.