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.

Author Profile: Lane Smith

Today, we are taking a deeper dive into the world of author and illustrator, Lane Smith. He has won the Caldecott Award for Grandpa Green and The Stinky Cheese Man. Several of his books have won the New York Times Best Illustrated Book Award.

You may know Mr. Lane from his frequent collaboration with Jon Scieszka. I am also proud to say he lives in my lovely state of Connecticut.

His picture book illustrations have a distinct style, ranging from cute to creepy to inspired. His illustrations are often rich, and reward the careful reader with creative details. Each time my kids and I re-read his illustrated books, we discover new details. He seems to be able to really capture the essence of the text he is illustrating, whether it be for Jon Scieszka’s twisted humor or Bob Shea’s purity of story. He also brings a combination of beautiful illustrations and simple text to the books he both authors and illustrates.

Our favorite Lane Smith books are:
Grandpa GreenScience VerseThe Stinky Cheese ManSquids Will Be SquidsThe True Story of the Three Little Pigs

Our family reads Mr. Smith’s books over and over, and we each have a favorite. My son loves the humor of Science Verse, and how it creatively describes science concepts. My daughter enjoys The Stinky Cheese Man (it cracks both my kids up every time), and I am drawn to the sweetness of Grandpa Green.

Some other books from this author that I have not yet read: The Big Elephant in the Room, Math Verse, Princess Hyacinth, and John, Paul, George, and Ben. We’ll be adding them to our library queue soon!

What is your favorite Lane Smith book? 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.

Review: Sophie’s Squash/ Max’s Review

Sophie's Squash cover Sophie’s Squash

Written by: Pat Zietlow Miller

Illustrated by: Anne Wilsdorf

Schwartz and Wade Books, 2013, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 3-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Friendship, Hope, Creative Thinking

How We Discovered This Book: We found this one in the new books bin at our library. The cover and illustrations pulled me right in. It has received 4 starred reviews, an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor, and a Charlotte Zolotow Honor.

Summary: Sophie finds a lovely squash at the farmer’s market, and draws a face on it. She names it Bernice, and it becomes her best friend until her family and friends becomes concerned that Bernice is…. well… rotting. When Sophie finally does what’s best for Bernice, she is rewarded for her dedication.

What I Liked: How Sophie adopts a squash and makes it into a friend is totally something my daughter would do. I love Sophie’s spirit, and how she has her own mind about things.

What Did My Kids Think? They liked the dialogue, and how Sophie handled the questions from her friends and family. Aidan’s favorite part was when Sophie’s mom suggested that Bernice would be tasty with marshmallows, and Sophie responded, “Don’t listen Bernice!” Sophie also says that the blotches that Bernice gets are really freckles.

Resources:

Random House has a few activities, including how to host a Sophie’s Squash story time, and how to make your own fall friend!

Make your own friend from a fruit or vegetable. Get creative- all you need is a Sharpie and your favorite friend.

Penny Klosterman reviewed this book back in 2013 on her blog– check out her review and her activity ideas.

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Max has his own thoughts about Sophie’s Squash, and what makes the best fall friend. Check out his review below, and the rest of his reviews at Puppets Love Children’s Books.

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

Review: The New Small Person/ Max’s Review

The New Small Person coverThe New Small Person

Written and Illustrated by: The New Small Person

Candlewick Press, 2015, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 3-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Families, Siblings

How We Discovered This Book: We found this one in the new books bin at our library.

Summary: Elmore’s life is perfect- he puts his toys where he wants, and he’s in sole control of his jelly beans. Then his new brother comes along. And he is no fun at all. Maybe.

What I Liked: Besides the totally charming illustrations (similar to Ms. Child’s Charlie and Lola characters), this is an interesting take on the changes that first borns have to deal with when a new sibling is born.

What Did My Kids Think? They love Charlie and Lola, so they liked this book right from the cover. Aidan said he didn’t feel this way when his sister came along, but he was very eager to play with her.

Resources:

Check out Creative with Kids for playtime activities for babies and older siblings.

Interested in checking out Charlie and Lola? They have a website with activities and more information about the books. They even have a TV show on PBS.

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Hello from Max! Max really liked 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.