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.

Review: Are You Ready to Play Outside?/ Max’s Review

Cover- Are you Ready to Play Outside?Are You Ready to Play Outside?

Written and Illustrated by: Mo Willems

Hyperion Books for Children, 2008, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 3-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Friendship, Creative Problem Solving

How We Discovered This Book: I went looking for a summer themed book, and this is one of our old favorites. It is also a Theodore Geisel Award winner.

Summary: Piggie and Gerald can’t wait to play outside, but it begins to rain. Gerald helps Piggie have fun in the rain, but then it stops. What will they do now?

What I Liked: The Elephant and Piggie books are charming, simple, and funny. This book is no exception. With just simple illustrations and text, so much is expressed. My kids and I just noticed (after many years of reading these books) that the setting is just some nondescript place outside. We had never noticed!

What Did My Kids Think? My kids vie for who gets to read each of the voices. The text leaves so much room for expression. The books are short reads, so there is plenty of time to go back to the beginning and read it again!

Resources:

Brainstorm with your kids/students a list of things you can do inside and outside. And then flip the list and talk about what would happen if you had to do an outside activity inside (and vice versa). What creative solutions could you come up with to make each activity work?

There are many possible Elephant and Piggie companion activities: Try these or these. Mo Willem’s Pigeon even has an Elephant and Piggie party kit!

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And heeeeere’s Max! He’s back with his own review of Are You Ready to Play Outside? Max has taken a break from hanging out at the pool to give us his review this week.

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

Review: Hermelin the Detective Mouse/ Max’s Review

Hermelin cover

Max is back! See what Max thinks of this month’s book.

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

Hermelin the Detective Mouse

Written and Illustrated by: Mini Grey

Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 3-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Mystery, Finding what you’re good at

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

Summary: Hermelin is a mouse living in a little girl’s attic on Offley Street. Things go missing, and Hermelin decides to play detective and find their things. As he solves the mysteries, he leaves notes for the owners to tell them where to find their belongings. What would people think if they knew that Hermelin was a mouse?

What I Liked: Hermelin is cute, and the author/illustrator gives him a lot of personality. The illustrations are so rich, you can linger on each page just looking for all of the hidden details. I love that he names himself after a brand of cheese, rather than something like Bob or Squeaky.

What Did My Kids Think? My kids loved trying to solve the mysteries, and felt very smart when they figured them out. As soon as we were done reading, they immediately wanted to go back and read it again.

Resources:

Type secret notes for a friend or family member. Hermelin uses a typewriter, but a computer and printer will do. You could find something they’ve been missing, or do an act of kindness.

Imagine you are a mouse. Get down on the floor and discover what you might find if you are at Hermelin’s level.

Review: Ninja Red Riding Hood/ Max’s Review

Ninja Red Riding Hood Cover
Ninja Red Riding Hood

Written by: Corey Rosen Schwartz

Illustrated by: Dan Santat

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2014, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 3-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Independence, Creative Problem Solving

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

Summary: Red is on her way to Grandma’s house as you would expect, but how would the story be different if Red and the Wolf had taken ninja lessons? (And Grandma had taken tai chi).

What I Liked: This is a fun twist on a traditional fairytale. Each time you think you know what to expect the author throws you something unexpected.

What Did My Kids Think? I have a son who thinks ninjas are cool, and a daughter currently taking karate lessons. What’s not to love?

Resources:

There is a Pinterest Board with all kinds of ideas for companion activities, including stick puppets, worksheets, story mapping, story element activities, and even a template for writing a letter to the wolf. My favorite is a blank wanted poster where you can add in a picture of the wolf and all his “crimes.”

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Last month we introduced you to Max, a new contributor to our blog. He has his own YouTube Channel called Puppets Love Children’s Books. We’ve asked him to stop by every so often to give us his own unique perspective on picture books. Check out what Max has to say about Ninja Red Riding Hood.

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

Review: Not Your Typical Dragon/ Introducing Max!

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 12.07.16 PMNot Your Typical Dragon

Written by: Dan Bar-el

Illustrated by: Tim Bowers

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2013, Imagination Library Paperback Edition

Target Audience: Ages 3-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Differences, Uniqueness, Humor

How We Discovered This Book: This book was an Imagination Library selection. The Imagination Library is such a wonderful program, and I am sad that just this month my daughter received her last book from the program (it ends at age 5).

Summary: A small dragon names Crispin turns 7, and is expected to breathe fire. But things work a little differently for Crispin – he breathes other things like beach balls and marshmallows. His parents are aghast, but Crispin eventually finds his way with the help of a friendly knight. Crispin’s unique talents come in handy when a problem threatens his family home.

What I Liked: Both the text and illustrations are so whimsical, and you are rewarded with something new to notice each time you read it. The author has provided some good thoughts about embracing your differences, but he does it with subtlety and humor.

What Did My Kids Think? My kids loved the illustrations – especially when Crispin breathes funny things. They couldn’t wait to turn the page to see what Crispin did next. They were very happy for him at the end of the story. This book is on frequent rotation at my house.

Resources:

ReadWriteThink has some companion activities for young children, working with each of the items Crispin breathes.

Activity Village has dragon-themed crafts, activities, and printables… even a video for making a dragon’s head from origami. I’ll have to try the dragon made from egg cartons.

Haven’t seen the movie How to Train Your Dragon or its sequel? Now might be the time!

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Today we’d like to introduce you to a new contributor to the blog. His name is Max, and he has his own YouTube Channel called Puppets Love Children’s Books. We’ve asked him to stop by every so often to give us his own unique perspective on picture books. Max loves reading children’s books, watching movies, and hanging out with his friends. His favorite books make him laugh, or surprise him.

Gather up your kids, grandkids, or the young at heart, and see what Max has to say!

Review: Silver Packages – An Appalachian Christmas Story

Silver Packages Cover
Silver Packages – An Appalachian Christmas Story

Written by: Cynthia Rylant

Illustrated by: Chris Soentpiet

Scholastic Books, 1987, Softcover

Target Audience: Ages 3-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Caring, Dreams, Self-Determination

How We Discovered This Book: Since Christmas is nearly upon us, I felt compelled to look through our favorite Christmas books. Some of the books are sweet, some are spiritual, and some have a powerful message. This book is sweet and has an important message slipped in.

Summary:

A rich man has an accident in the Appalachian hills, and after he is nursed back to health by the residents, he feels compelled to repay the debt. Every December 23rd, he rides a train into the town and tosses a silver package to each of the children. A boy named Frankie wishes for different toys each year, but he doesn’t get what he wishes for. He gets a nice toy along with something more important – something he needs. The story comes full circle when Frankie is grown and decides to return to the town to repay his own debt.

What I Liked:

The book has a straightforward plot, with expressive and rich illustrations. Ms. Rylant manages to get across the key details without being too overt – how poor these children and families are, how to be grateful for what we are given, and how to share our blessings with others.

What Did My Kids Think?

My kids found the train and the silver packages to be magical, and couldn’t wait to find out what Frankie got the next year. The Polar Express is another one of our favorites – my, the fun things that trains can bring.

Resources:

Brainstorm with your kids or students on what they would wish for if a train came through their town.

Find a service project to do with your kids or students. It’s not too late- there are needy people across the world at all times of the year. I find it’s most impactful if it serves a group they can identify with – other kids, people in their own town, etc.

 

Some other Christmas favorites:

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore: There are tons of versions of this classic story, but we have a version illustrated by Bruce Whatley that is full of texture and unexpected depth.

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner, illustrated by Mark Buehner: What do your snowmen do at night while you are sleeping?

Jingle Bells by Kathleen N. Daly, illustrated by J.P. Miller: This is a favorite of mine from my childhood, originally published as a Little Golden Book in 1964 (for the record, I have the 7th printing from 1976). It has Richard Scarry-esque illustrations, and there is no way to read the book without singing.

The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg, illustrated by James Bernardin: Check out the review we posted in early 2013.

What are your favorite Christmas books? Please share in the comments!

Review: Joy in Mudville

Joy in Mudville by Bob RaczkaJoy in Mudville

Written by: Bob Raczka

Illustrated by: Glin Dibley

Carolrhoda Books, 2014, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 3-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Gender, Perseverance, Being Unique

How We Discovered This Book: When my writing partner Joanna was here for a visit, she entered my children in a drawing at our independent bookstore. My daughter Elizabeth won an autographed copy of this book.

Summary:

It begins where the famous poem “Casey at the Bat” ends (it’s in the back for reference if you need to refresh your memory). A girl pitcher is brought in to restore the team’s reputation, and she has some unorthodox methods for saving the day.

What I Liked:

I like this book because a girl is the hero in a traditional boy’s sport. She comes to the rescue, but with her own way of doing things.

What Did My Kids Think?

Both my kids love this book, and it is on frequent rotation for reading before bed. It’s about a girl and baseball, which keeps them both interested.

Resources:

Read “Casey at the Bat” aloud – for the first time, or once again!

Check out the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum in Cooperstown. If you’re nearby, plan a visit.

Read the amazing recent story of Mo’Ne Davis, the female Little League pitcher who was the first girl to throw a shut-out game in Little League World Series history. She is also the first Little Leaguer on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Review: Found

Found by Salina YoonFound

Written and Illustrated by: Salina Yoon

Walker Books, 2014, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 3-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Responsibility, friendship

How We Discovered This Book: This was in the new books bin at our library, and I immediately loved the illustrations. My son thinks it was created in oil pastels.

Summary:

This is a book of few words, with a simple but important premise. What do you do when you find an adorable stuffed bunny in the forest?

What I Liked:

This book is so sweet. You think you know how this book will turn out, but it takes a little twist at the end. The illustrations perfectly express the sweetness of the story.

What Did My Kids Think?

A bulletin board of lost notices plays prominently in middle of the story. It is full of tongue-in-cheek references, as well as jokes from other stories and fairy tales. I thought some might be over my kids’ heads, but they got most of them, and giggled like crazy. There is something to be said for books that don’t talk down to kids.

Resources:

Have your kids/students make their own lost sign for something they have lost – the more creative the better!

Brainstorm with your kids or students on what would be the best thing to find. And then what would they do with it? Play? Share it? Give it to someone else?

Review: Chloe and the Lion

Chloe and the Lion CoverChloe and the Lion

Written by: Mac Barnett

Illustrated By: Adam Rex

Disney-Hyperion, 2012, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 3-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Creativity, Friendship

How We Discovered This Book: Aidan chose this book from our new book bin at the library. The cover peaked his interest, since the author and illustrator appear on it in claymation form. He wondered, “what would be in this book?”

Summary:

The author and illustrator attempt to tell a story about Chloe and how she meets a lion, but they have a falling out. The author fires the illustrator, and tries to replace him with others, but no one knows how to draw the lion (or save the story) quite like the illustrator. Chloe herself has to intervene to get the pair back together.

What I Liked:

This is a unique book that really smashes the fourth wall. The author and illustrator talk directly to the reader from the beginning and throughout. The main character has to get involved to drive the story to its conclusion. Interestingly, the main “story” within the story is somewhat incidental.

What Did My Kids Think?

Aidan liked how the author kept doing things that just made the situation worse. Not only were the author’s actions funny, but the dialogue was sharp and witty at a child’s level. The illustrations change along with the action, which just adds to the humor. Elizabeth thought it was funniest when the author tried to illustrate the book himself, and failed miserably.

Resources:

Check out the book trailer on YouTube – it gives you a flavor of the dynamics between the author and illustrator.

Now make your own book trailer: Take a favorite book, write down what you like most about it and a short summary, and get to filming! Use of humor, props, or reenactments get you extra bonus points.

Get out some clay or play dough and make soft versions of yourself – or even better, versions of your friends and family!