Friday, May 14, 2021

Once Upon a Unicorn's Horn, written by Beatrice Blue, reviewed by Judy Hauser

Summary: This is a book about imagination. When a girl named June explores the "magic" forest around her home for wands, etc., she comes across magic horses, who look suspiciously like rabbits, learning to fly. One little horse would not fly and looked very sad. June tried to get the little horse to fly and they had a lot of fun trying. June is a very resourceful and imaginative child. She used her most powerful magic wand to help the horse fly to no avail. June's parents could sense something was wrong so they talked to her and helped her with suggestions. The family in the story is a close-knit family and the parents are very loving and caring. June decides to give the sad horse an ice cream cone but trips and the cone lands on the sad horse's head. The horse loved the new horn. This book is not only about imagination but also about family and how magic horses became unicorns! 

Straight Talk for Librarians:
This is an excellent book for a discussion on imagination. June and her loving parents work together to solve the sad horse problem. June is a great character who is resourceful, caring and a problem solver.

Fix That Clock, written by Kurt Cyrus, reviewed by Judy Hauser

Summary: The rhyming text and onomatopoeia will create a great read-aloud experience for children. The central point of the book is that a huge clock in a tower must be repaired. It is falling apart so three workers head up the ramp to fix the clock. Even before the workers begin to repair the broken steps leading up to the clock we learn that rats, bats and pigeons have used the broken clock parts as nesting and resting places. Even more critters appear as the clock is being repaired, "Creak-crack-crash! Ripping out the trash. Mice are hiding in the siding..." Children will learn some basics about birds and mammals, tools and what it takes to repair a large object. The illustrations, also by the author, are colorful and bright and are great for moving the story along. This will be a popular book for reading aloud to young children. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: This is a good book for discussions with young children on building, sounds, working together and how something can impact something else.

Also, check out the Mohr librarian reading Fix That Clock

The Farm That Mac Built, written by Tammi Sauer, reviewed by Judy Hauser

Summary: This fun book combines Old MacDonald Had a Farm with The House that Jack Built. And the result is a wild journey through an "off Broadway play" with a scarecrow as the guide. We meet pigs and cows along with the oinks and moos but then monkeys appear in the story. And then kangaroos appear. As the story moves from farm animals and sounds it then takes another curve to elephants and then to chickens and sheep. The zany antics of the animals and the fast-paced movement between farmyard happenings to non-farmyard happenings is fun. Children will want to repeat the baas, moos, clucks and oinks. This is a big, colorful, fun book with great illustrations by Jackie Urbanovic. It would make a great read-aloud book. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: This is a fun twist on some fairytales. Children will enjoy the animal sounds and that makes it a good book for audience participation.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Wherever After: Sugar and Spice, written by Sarah Mlynowski, reviewed by Terry Wahrman

Summary: Twisted fairytale Hansel and Gretel leads us to a healthy eating witch whose only meat is children. Her house is built from candy to attract children. In this tale, Jonah and Abby run into a brother and sister who look exactly like them. Hansel & Gretel have heard a lot about Abby & Jonah’s land from them and decide to take the portal to their home unbeknownst to Abby & Jonah. In Abby & Jonah’s world they have food to eat, nice parents, and friends at school. Abby & Jonah have to fend off a witch, who is trying to eat them, and find a way to get back to their time. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: Younger students, who are into fairytales, will love this fractured tale. In this story, Abby and Jonah pull together more so and set aside their sibling rivalry perhaps due to the fact that they have to survive and return home. Working together to achieve their goals and learning to give to others are the predominant messages in the story. They live in Hansel and Gretel’s world where there is little to no food and people do whatever it takes to survive. Gretel points out that she does not own a pillow or a blanket and sleeps on a haystack covered with an old dress. Abby and Jonah come to realize that they are spoiled brats and send Hansel and Gretel off with a basket of items for their home.

Goodnight, Veggies, written by Diana Murray and Zachariah OHora, reviewed by Judy Hauser

This fun book will be enjoyed by young listeners for the fun, vibrant illustrations of vegetables and the clever text. As the sun sets the veggies get ready to rest, "Turnips tucked in tightly. Potatoes closing eyes. Tuckered-out tomatoes humming lullabies." Young children will have questions about some of the veggies and they will learn about a variety of items and some of their characteristics. They will be able to follow a worm (complete with hat, socks and shoes) through the vegetable patch and observe the various goings-on. This is a very cute story with very cute illustrations. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: Some explanations regarding various vegetables can be discussed. Young children may not be aware of all of the veggies in the story

Tiny Little Rocket, written by Richard Collingridge, reviewed by Judy Hauser

Summary: This book is a blast of color and imagery that will draw young children into the story. The text sparkles with descriptions of the tiny little rocket as it soars through space. Lines such as "And there you'll find the golden sun, our ever burning candle" will provoke discussions about planets and how some planets are essential to those of us earthlings. And the descriptions of the inner workings of the tiny little rocket are crisp and fun - "You see a purple lever that blares out PULL ME NOW! The booster rockets all go WHOOSH! You quietly whisper, WOW! The little rocket zooms again." One can imagine young children repeating the exclamations out loud to participate in the magic of the rocket. This book, complete with inviting text and beautiful illustrations, will be a favorite among young children. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: It's all good. The text and illustrations are great. The descriptions and sounds will be inviting to the young children listening as this book is read out loud.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Squirrel's Family Tree, written by Beth Ferry, reviewed by Judy Hauser

Summary: This is a very good book about nature and squirrels in nature in particular. Squirrels are more than cute critters in cartoon-like situations. The author writes, in rhyming text, about how squirrels gather seeds and nuts for winter, how they eat, how they prepare for winter (since they do not hibernate) and how the acorn seeds they bury or cache sometimes become oak trees. The book is very interesting and the author explains in a very nice, obviously simplified manner, how these animals that we all see in yards and parks live day-to-day. The symbiotic relationship between squirrels and the food that they eat and cache will be interesting to young children. The illustrations by A.N. Kang are lovely and complete the rhyming text so well! 

Straight Talk for Librarians: This is a great book for very young children about an animal they see often. They will learn about the feeding, living and sleeping activities of squirrels and the illustrations will be very helpful in understanding these activities. This is a very good lesson on nature.

Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor, written by Ally Carter, reviewed by Katy Golden

Summary: When April is brought to the Winterborne house - her twelfth group home in ten years - she isn't sure what to think. The other orphans are welcoming and brilliant, the woman in charge is kind and understanding, but April isn't an ordinary orphan - her mother is coming back for her, and left her a mysterious key with the Winterborne crest. The house itself is shrouded in its own share of mystery: Gabriel, the sole remaining Winterborne heir, vanished ten years ago and reappears to save April's life, although he is desperate to keep himself hidden. To help Gabriel and protect the Winterborne legacy, April and her newfound friends have to work together through ingenious inventions, fake accents, and evil family members. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: April's adventures continue at a breakneck pace throughout the novel, creating a thrilling mystery for middle grade readers. The characters create their own intrigue and add humor to the story: April is a plucky, independent heroine, and her new friends bring their own brand of humor, from Sadie's constantly failing inventions to Colin's accents and impersonations. A blend of mystery and thriller, advanced middle grade readers will eat this novel up. The cliffhanger ending will leave readers begging for the sequel.

Twilight Chant, written by Holly Thompson, reviewed by Judy Hauser

Summary: This is a beautiful book about animals that are active during twilight which, as the author explains, is the time of low or "half" light after sunset and before sunrise. The illustrations by Jen Betton depict deer coming out to graze, birds swooping, rabbits and foxes running and jumping and many other animals in their natural habitats. A family is by a lake packing up their picnic and heading home amid all that is happening in nature. The family walks up to their house as the animals around them also live their lives, possibly ending their day or, perhaps, beginning their day. This is a low-key yet beautiful book in how it demonstrates nature and juxtaposes some daily occurrences of animals with those of people. In this book, all living things are living in harmony. At the end of the book there is a one-page explanation of twilight and nocturnal, diurnal and crepuscular animals. This is helpful and is a good, short explanation for young children. 

Straight Talk for Librarians:
A nice introduction to when some animals are active during a day. The short explanation at the end of the book explains some terms that may be difficult for some young children to understand but, then again, may still be helpful.

Sea Creatures Swim, written by Steve Jenkins, reviewed by Katy Golden

Summary: This lift-the-flap board book shows the movements of sea creatures both familiar and unfamiliar. Each flap introduces a sea creature and a verb describing the way it moves - a sea urchin "creeps", tuna "dash", and a squid "squirts'" - and can then be lifted to reveal a small caption with more information about that creature's movements. Accompanied by Jenkins' characteristically vibrant artwork and including some lesser-known sea creatures (Portuguese man-of-war and leafy seadragon, for example) along with the more popular ocean animals, "Sea Creatures Swim" is a quick peek into non-fiction for very young readers. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: Jenkins' colorful illustrations may fool some young readers into thinking this book will be fiction, and could serve as an introduction to the idea of non-fiction for younger students. While too brief to be much of a source of information, the pictures and introduction of lesser-known animals will whet the curiosity of young scientists. This board book could also be used to explore the use of descriptive verbs; the ten sea creatures all are described as moving with a different verb, showing a wide array of terms. Although this book certainly wouldn't be helpful for a research project, it is an interesting and quick peek into non-fiction in the board book format.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled, written by Lynne Rae Perkins, reviewed by Bethany Bratney

Summary: Frank and Lucky Get Schooled is a sweet book that combines the love between a boy and his dog with elementary explanations of a number of cross-discipline ideas that Frank and Lucky learn together out in the world. They learn about Botany and Entomology when Lucky runs through woods and brush and his fur becomes entangled with various natural objects. They learn about Fractions and Percentages throughout the night as they determine which part of the bed is Frank’s and which part is Lucky’s. (It changes throughout the night.) They practice Reading together because Lucky is the best listener, and can even listen when Frank isn’t reading aloud. They learn about Geography and World Languages when they are out exploring and meeting new people. Lucky excels at Making Introductions and Hospitality. But the most important thing that Frank and Lucky learn is that they like learning best when they can do it together. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: Frank and Lucky is an adorable book about the special relationship that can form between a child and a pet. It’s lovely in its message of love and acceptance, and also in the fun and natural way that it introduces basic school concepts as components of Frank and Lucky’s play time together. They are paired as partners finding understanding by exploring the world around them, which is a beautiful way to promote a love of learning in children. The bright watercolor and ink illustrations are vibrant and capture the full-color spirit of Frank and Lucky’s exploratory studies. Frequent thought and dialogue bubbles are included throughout the book to capture the character’s thoughts and attitudes about their activities, giving readers an even more detailed understanding of the multi-layered and powerful nature of Frank and Lucky’s relationship. These small asides also provide a great deal of humor, which only adds further enjoyment to the story. Animal books are always popular with young children, as are stories that incorporate the fun of learning. Frank and Lucky Ge

Snail and Worm Again, written by Tina Kugler, reviewed by Bethany Bratney

Summary: Snail & Worm Again brings back two beloved characters, and allows children to observe them through three new stories as they interact with the world around them. In the firststory, a leaf falls onto Snail’s back while he is sleeping and he believes he has grown wings. In the second tale, Snail finds a penny and mistakes it for a mirror. He thinks he is gazing at his own handsome face until Worm points out that Snail does not possess the attractive hair and ears that he so admires. In the final and most heart-warming story, Snail is feeling sad because his shell is plain and boring, but Worm helps him to see that his shell embodies many characteristics that he admires in others, while also being unique to Snail. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: Just as with Snail and Worm, Tina Kugler has written a set of simple, humorous stories about two best friends. Similar to the first volume, the text is accessible to a new reader and the stories are funny enough to engage them, but a younger child is equally likely to be entertained by Snail and Worm as a read-aloud. The illustrations, a bright and colorful combination of acrylic and collage, are paramount to the stories, as Snail and Worm’s adventures often include some aspects of physical humor that will delight young readers. In addition, it is the inclusion of that physical humor that presents the frequent misunderstandings of the beloved invertebrates, allowing for even very small children to be in on the jokes and feel like experts. Like its predecessor, Snail and Worm Again is likely to become a fast favorite among young children and new readers alike. Add it to any collection in which Snail and Worm is popular, or in which the early reader library needs to be updated.

Sarah Bernhardt: The Divine and Dazzling Life of the World's First Superstar, written by Catherine Reef, reviewed by Stephanie Wilson

Summary: Sarah Bernhardt was a woman ahead of her time. A star of the stage and silent films, she became a world-wide phenomenon. She traveled extensively including trips to the United States, Canada and South America. She lived an outrageous, unconventional life as a proud single mother at a time when women lived carefully constrained lives. Her son Maurice was her near constant companion. Bernhardt’s relationship with own mother was complicated. As a child, Bernhardt was prone to fits of extreme emotion to the point of making herself physically ill. As an adult, Bernhardt was fired from her first job as an actress at the Comedie-Francaise over a spat with a fellow actress. She was hired at the Gymnase, a job she fled to go to Spain. Her career took off once she returned to Paris. The Comedie-Francaise offered to rehire her but Bernhardt refused their offer. She felt her style of acting was not compatible with their more traditional approach. Bernhardt’s melodramatic roles and her ability to portray genuine emotion won her legions of fans. She was the world's first superstar. Unraveling the truth about Bernhardt's life is difficult. She frequently lied, exaggerated or told tall tales. Bernhardt knew it was part of her appeal. She mastered the art of self-promotion before it became an integral part of an actor's life. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: Sarah Bernhardt is not a name many students will recognize. However, her unconventional life will resonate with modern students. The discussion of Paris’s demimonde is utterly fascinating. Students with an interest in the performing arts, especially theatre will be drawn into the story of Bernhardt’s battle to find her place in the theatre world. Catherine Reef does an excellent job of bringing Bernhardt’s story to life. Sarah Bernhardt: The Divine and Dazzling Life of the World’s First Superstar is loaded with photographs, period drawings and theatre memorabilia. Reef also includes the political and social context to events that occurred during Bernhardt’s life including the Franco-Prussian War and World War I.