Review: They All Saw a Cat/ Max’s Review

They All Saw a Cat

Written and Illustrated by: Brendan Wenzel

Chronicle Books, 2016, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 4-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Perspective, curiosity, looking at the world differently

How We Discovered This Book: This is an ALA Award winner of the Caldecott Award in 2017. Congratulations! Whenever I need some new quality books to read, I check out the ALA Award winners. There is a high probability that I will like the books they select.

Summary: A cat explores the world and encounters a child, other animals, and bugs. The author/illustrator then shows us what each of them see when they see the cat. He uses mixed medium to show a different view of the cat each time. While it’s very enjoyable for a child visually and audibly (spare, lovely prose), adults will be interested in the underlying thoughts, perspectives, and assumptions that go into each view.

What the Kids Liked About This Book: Both of my kids enjoyed the contrasts in images, words, and ideas. It caused some interesting discussion between them after reading.

Resources:

 

Grab a group of friends or family and make your own paintings or drawings of what you see around you (preferably outdoors after a walk/hike!). Hang up your pictures gallery style, and compare and contrast what you each saw.

Talk about how animals might see us. Watch this video on How Animals See the World.

Here are some activities and coloring pages from the publisher. Enjoy!

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Max is back with his review of They All Saw a Cat. Max would love to hear your suggestions on picture books he should review. Please share your suggestions in the comments!

Email subscribers: Please click over to this post on the website to see Max’s complete video.

Max Looks Ahead to 2017

Happy New Year! Max stopped by to give us a preview into some picture books being published in 2017. Enjoy!

Email subscribers: Please click over to this post on the website to see Max’s complete video.

 

Review: Last Stop on Market Street

Last Stop on Market StreetLast Stop on Market Street

Written by Matt De La Peña

Illustrated by: Christian Robinson

JP Putnam Sons for Young Readers; 2015, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 5-9

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Urban Living, Perspective, Gratitude

How We Discovered This BookLast Stop on Market Street won the 2016 Newbery Medal, and was a Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book. With all the talk about this book, we had to check it out.

Summary: Young CJ and his Nana take the bus from church across their city. CJ has many questions, and his Nana provides him with insightful and creative answers. Their conversation continues until they reach their final destination, which provides even more context for their blessings.

What I Liked: I haven’t read many books like this – focused truly on urban living and seeing the beauty in everything around you. The author captures CJ and his Nana’s personalities clearly through carefully chosen dialogue and specific speech patterns. I can almost hear their voices.

What Did My Kids Think? They liked the story, and the author manages to make CJ endearing rather than whiny. My children have never lived in a city, so it was interesting for them to imagine someone else’s life where they don’t own a car and they interact with a wide cross-section of people.

Resources:

 

Take a field trip into your nearest city. Make it a point (or even a scavenger hunt) to find all the things that are different from where you live. Now look for the things that are the same.

The Classroom Bookshelf site has activities related to this book for kids of varying age groups, focused on imagery, special people in your life, beauty, and sharing stories.

Identify ways that you can interact more deeply with your community. Join a book group, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or even just strike up a conversation with someone at the park.

Review: Lizard from the Park/ Max’s Review

Lizard from the Park Lizard from the Park

Written and Illustrated by: Mark Pett

Simon and Shuster Books for Young Readers, 2015, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 3-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Imagination, Friendship

How We Discovered This Book: This is another great find from the new books bin at our library. My daughter was immediately interested based on the cover art.

Summary: Leonard takes a shortcut through the park and finds a dinosaur egg. It hatches, and together they go to many places across the city. But then the dinosaur gets too big for Leonard’s apartment.

What I Liked: The illustrations are rendered in charcoal and then colored on the computer. They are simple but expressive, which gives the look a Calvin and Hobbes-type vibe. The story is fanciful, but not ridiculous – the right words along with regular expressions on the boy’s face make you believe it could really be happening. By the end you believe it has all happened. Or has it?

What Did My Kids Think? They liked going along with Leonard’s imagination, and that the story takes an unexpected turn at the end. They liked the cute illustrations, and the fact that the dinosaur stays cute even as he gets bigger and bigger. Both enjoyed reading this book over and over.

Resources:

Make a paper dinosaur and take him/her places. Take pictures to chronicle your adventures.

Do you go the same way to school, the park, or other favorite place? Try a different route next time, and see what you might discover.

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Hello from Max! Max enjoyed this book too – see what he has to say.

Email subscribers: Please click over to this post on the website to see Max’s complete video.

Review: Trombone Shorty

Trombone Shorty
Trombone Shorty

Written by Troy Andrews

Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Harry N. Abrams Books for Young Readers; 2015, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 5-9

Genre: Non-Fiction

Theme: Having a dream, Persistence, Overcoming obstacles

How We Discovered This Book: I requested several books from our library from this year’s ALA Awards list. This is a Caldecott Honor Book and the winner of the Coretta Scott King Award.

Summary: A young boy growing up in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans doesn’t have money to buy an instrument, but he loved music. He and his friends made instruments out of whatever they could find. One day, he found an old trombone, and taught himself to play. He became known as “Trombone Shorty” because the trombone was twice his size. He played throughout his neighborhood, with his own kid band, and one day was pulled from the crowd at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival to play with Bo Diddley.

What I Liked: I’m on record as not being a big fan of non-fiction books, but this kind of interesting storytelling and visual imagery is winning me over. This is a true story, written by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews himself. It is inspirational, demonstrates the hard work he put into his craft, and all of the influences on him including his town and his mother. The illustrations are creative – a combination of paintings and photographs. The illustrator uses an interesting method of overlaying faded sections to draw attention to the main focus of each panel – usually Trombone Shorty.

What Did My Kids Think? They enjoyed his story, and wanted me to read all the way through the author’s notes. We even went on YouTube to hear some of his music (see below).

Resources:

 

Make your own instruments at home!

Watch Trombone Shorty in action with his band, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.

Learn more about the Trombone Shorty Foundation, and its work to promote music to the next generation, especially those in New Orleans.

Review: Chalk and Cheese

Chalk and Cheese CoverChalk and Cheese

Written and Illustrated by Tim Warnes

Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing; 2008, Hardcover

Target Audience: 3-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Friendship, Respecting Differences

How We Discovered This Book: My daughter found this book in our library’s new books bin. It was published a few years ago, but we’re glad to discover it now!

Summary: In researching the odd name of this book (I could understand the name Cheese for a mouse, but I was stumped with why a dog was named Chalk), I learned that “Chalk and Cheese” is based on an obscure British saying – as in, “They are completely different. As different as chalk and cheese.” This book takes the concept and tells a story about a British country mouse and an American dog. They are friends and pen pals, and one day Cheese comes to New York City to visit Chalk. They each look at the world differently, so we get to see two different perspectives on what they see and experience.

What I Liked: I enjoyed the illustrations and the narrative – spare text with simple illustrations. There are visual jokes and gems to find throughout. The message of embracing each other’s difference was nicely delivered without being heavy-handed.

What Did My Kids Think? Most kids like animals in their books, and my kids are no exception. They followed right along with Chalk and Cheese’s New York City adventure. They enjoyed when Cheese didn’t understand something – just like kids sometimes – and Chalk patiently explained it to him (or even better – showed him).

Resources:

 

Brainstorm things that are very different (story characters in other books, inanimate objects, family members), and give them an adventure. What would they do? Where would they go?

Illustrate your own adventure story set in the place you live. Are there secret places for hiding? Are there things a visitor to your town MUST see? No worries if you don’t consider yourself a strong illustrator – stick figures will do. Adding some color and an interesting perspective make all the difference.

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Max is back from Spring Break with his review of Chalk and Cheese. Check out his video to see what he thought!

Email subscribers: Please click over to this post on the website to see Max’s complete video.

Review: Earmuffs for Everyone!

Earmuffs for Everyone CoverEarmuffs for Everyone!

Written and Illustrated by Meghan McCarthy

Simon & Schuster Books of Young Readers; 2015, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 5-9

Genre: Non-Fiction

Theme: Creativity, Inventions

How We Discovered This Book: My daughter picked up this book from the new books bin at our library. Our librarians save the day yet again!

Summary: A young man in Maine in the late 1800s named Chester Greenwood wanted a better solution for warming his ears during the cold winter. He improved on the idea of basic ear covers and patented his idea when he was 19. His version is what we recognize as earmuffs today. The author adds into the story information about patents and some other famous inventions in order to help children understand what Chester really accomplished.

What I Liked: In general, I’m not a big fan of non-fiction books. However, I do have a big appreciation for non-fiction books that incorporate more traditional storytelling techniques to make the concepts more interesting. In this case, my kids finished the book with a basic understanding of patents and how valuable improvements can be in the invention process. (Does anyone really remember those people who first invented the light bulb? And no, it wasn’t Thomas Edison!)

What Did My Kids Think? My kids found it a whimsical story, especially how Chester’s hometown still celebrates him with a parade every year. Their father holds 7 patents in the medical device field, so this really hit home for them. They had a lot of follow up questions afterwards. After all, that’s what a non-fiction book should do, right?

Resources:

 

Interested in more information on the creation of the book? Check out the author’s introduction and backstory here.

The US Patent and Trademark Office has a special website set up with games for kids, to help them understand the patent and trademark processes.

The Kids Discover website outlines a classroom project for kids to create something and then prepare to patent it.

Review: Finding Winnie

Finding WinnieFinding Winnie

Written by Lindsay Mattick

Illustrated by: Sophie Blackall

Little, Brown, and Company; 2015, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 5-9

Genre: Non-Fiction

Theme: Storytelling, Families, Friendship

How We Discovered This Book: Finding Winnie recently won the Caldecott Award, and I was thrilled to see it in the new book bin at our library.

Summary: The great-granddaughter of Captain Harry Colebourn (Lindsay Mattick) wrote this story about how her great grandfather adopted a bear during his deployment to World War I. He named the sweet bear Winnipeg (Winnie) after his home town. After Harry gave her to the London Zoo when he was shipped off to France, Winnie became friends with a young Christopher Robin Milne and became the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh.

What I Liked: The story is framed as Lindsay (the author) tells her son a bedtime story. He asks for a true story, and she tells him the story of Harry and Winnie while interweaving interesting details that put you right into the story. The last several pages of the book are actual photos of Harry, his regiment, Winnie, and Christopher Robin. The photographs add another level to the story, and remind the reader of the reality of the story.

What Did My Kids Think? In the first week we had this book in our home, my kids requested it for bedtime reading every night. We were amazed at all the things that had to happen for Winnie the Pooh to be named – Harry happened to meet and buy Winnie, his regiment allowed Winnie to be adopted as their mascot, the London Zoo took Winnie in, and Christopher Robin became friends with her (after he was allowed to play in her enclosure!). My son still wonders where the “Pooh” part came from, but I guess that’s another story for another time.

Resources:

The DIY Homeschooler has printables, activities, and more history about the origins of Winnie the Pooh and his friends.

Choose a favorite stuffed animal or doll from the classroom or your child’s bedroom, and develop some creative stories about where their name might have come from.

Getting Ready for Spring with Some Favorite Picture Books

This week in the Northeast US, we have had multiple days of above average temperatures, including one day in the high 70’s. We were able to get outside, play, complete some yard work, and generally enjoy pretending that Spring was already here. Even after a relatively mild winter here, we are ready for the flowers to begin blooming, the grass to peek up, and to wear much thinner coats.

So in preparation for actual Spring (in just 10 days!), today I am sharing some of our favorite books inspired by and about Spring. These books feature gardens, the sun, the outdoors, rain showers, rainbows, and Spring sports.

Grandpa GreenGrandpa Green- Lane Smith

A sweet tale of a man’s life told through the eyes of his great grandson throughout his lush and creative topiary garden. Check out our author profile of Lane Smith.

 

My GardenMy Garden – Kevin Henkes

A girl grows all kinds of unusual things in her garden.

 

 

 

Gossie

Gossie (and the other books in the Gossie series) – Oliver Dunrea

A totally adorable gosling has adventures (and sloshes around in his rain boots) with the other animals in his barnyard.

 

 

The Very Hungry CaterpillarThe Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle

This classic reminds us each Spring of the miracle of metamorphosis.

 

Hooray for Spring!Hurray for Spring! – Patricia Hubbell

A fun rhyming book about Spring.

 

 

 

Where Butterflies GrowWhere Butterflies Grow – Joanne Ryder

This beautifully illustrated book gives you a bugs-eye view into a garden where butterflies grow. Interested in more books about nature? Check out our previous blog post with other nature favorites.

 

Joy in MudvilleJoy in Mudville – Bob Raczyka

We learn what might have happened after the Mighty Casey struck out, and a unique girl named Joy is put in to pitch and save the day. We reviewed this book previously.

 

Some other Spring books we are looking forward to reading: Maple Syrup Season by Ann Purmell; Mud by Mary Lyn Ray and Lauren Stringer; and Listen to the Rain by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault, and James Endicott.

What other Spring books are your favorites? Please share in the comments.

Review: The Book With No Pictures/ Max’s Review

The Book With No PicturesThe Book With No Pictures

Written by: B. J. Novak

Dial Books, 2014, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 4-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Reading out loud, humor, silliness

How We Discovered This Book: My daughter’s teacher read this book to her class, and she hasn’t stopped talking about it since.

Summary: From the beginning: “You might think a book with no pictures seems boring and serious. Except… here’s how books work.” The book continues with the reader having to read all kinds of silly things aloud.

What I Liked: It’s a creative approach, and the silliness makes it fun to read multiple times. And the children will want you to read it again. And again.

What Did My Daughter Think? This books makes my daughter laugh EVERY time. I think each time we read it she laughs harder, anticipating what is coming next. She’s even made up a tune to go with the words.

Resources:

Make your own book with no pictures. What are the funniest words you can think of to read aloud? (Thanks for ArtsyMomma for the idea)

Look for other books that are especially fun to read aloud. Try We Are in a Book by Mo Willems or  Press Here by Hervé Tullet.

Watch author B.J. Novak read the book aloud to a group of kids.

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Max is back with his review of The Book with No Pictures. Max would love to hear your suggestions on picture books he should review. Please share your suggestions in the comments!

Email subscribers: Please click over to this post on the website to see Max’s complete video.