Thursday, January 22, 2015

Our Bag Full of Books {3rd Edition}

Every week, we come home from the library with a bag full of books.  Some books are new, some books are old, and some are books that we have checked out repeatedly.  Every week, a few stick out for various reasons.  I share them in hopes that you'll find some new ones to enjoy with your family.  :)

The Perfect Nest

Written by Catherine Friend
Illustrated by John Manders

Published in 2007
Jack is a cat who is hungry for an omelet.  He devises a plan to build a comfortable and perfect nest that will attract a chicken.  After the chicken lays the egg, he will be able to make his omelet.  The first part of his plan works!  Not only does a chicken come along and lay an egg, but a duck and a goose each do, as well!   The only problem is that none of them want to leave the nest, and fight for the right to sit in it.  By the time Jack finally gets them to leave the nest so he can make his omelet, the eggs hatch and he is left with a baby chick, a baby duck, and a baby goose who all think he is their mama.  No matter where he hides, they are sure to find him.  It is a good thing he has built a perfect nest to curl up with them in.

This has become one of our favorites.  Clever story told with delightful illustrations.  Fun to read aloud with the French and Spanish accents of the chicken and the duck.  

Perfect for: Preschool/Early Elementary
My Rating: 5/5

When the Cows Got Loose

Written by Carol Weis
Illustrated by Ard Hoyt

Published in 2006

Ida Mae's family is not your ordinary family, and they do not have an ordinary bunch of cows.  When all 26 cows get loose, it is Ida Mae's job to round them up.  She hops onto her zebra and heads out to find them.  Some are found juggling cabbages, while others are found synchronized swimming.  Six were found up in a car in a tree and some are caught tightrope walking on a clothesline.  The adventure continues until all 26 are back home.

This book is full of imagination and laughs.  Each illustration contains wild antics of either Ida Mae's family (whose house is a fun house) or her talented bovines.  Ida Mae's life is one big circus.  

Perfect for: Preschool/Early Elementary
My Rating: 4.5/5

Three Bears in a Boat

Written and Illustrated by David Soman

Published in 2014

Three little bears break their mother's beautiful seashell while she is out, and are on a quest to find one to replace it.  They get in their sailboat, and after seeking the advice of other sailors, sail until they find an island to search.  They look underwater, in a cave, and on a mountain, but cannot find one.  Discouraged, they climb back in the boat, and end up in the middle of a storm. They finally pull up on their own shore, and find a beautiful blue seashell.  Mama Bear lovingly welcomes them home.

The storyline of this picture book isn't my favorite, and it didn't really grab the attention of my kids, but the illustrations are amazing.  It is worth checking it out from the library just to see the illustrations.  I wouldn't be surprised if this one won a Caldecott.

Perfect for: Early Elementary
My Rating:4/5

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tumtum & Nutmeg

Tumtum & Nutmeg

Written by Emily Bearn
Illustrated by Nick Price
Published in 2008

Mice in children's books have always fascinated me.  For some reason, they become beloved characters that we root for.  In reality, I would never be able to share my living space with them, and shiver at the thought of them.  I am extremely grateful for the fact that I have never seen one in my house, and I hope I never do.  One of my friends (whose reading taste I trust completely) recommended Tumtum & Nutmeg, and we have come to adore these two little mice.  Isn't it a strange thought to love mice?  

Tumtum and Nutmeg live in a snug little house named Nutmouse Hall (complete with 36 rooms!), which is located in the broom cupboard of Rose Cottage.  Rose Cottage is owned by Mr. Mildew and his two children named Arthur and Lucy.  Mr. Mildew is a widower, and an inventor.  Unfortunately for the children, the house has not been kept up on, and Mr. Mildew is always busy working on his inventions.  Rose Cottage is a mess!

Tumtum is a very generous and calm kind of mouse who likes to eat and read.  Nutmeg is a little more tense, but very kind and thoughtful.  She assumes a motherly role towards Arthur and Lucy, and wants to do everything she can to take care of them and improve their living quarters.  The two mice sneak into the attic where the children sleep in order to make improvements, and clean up the place.  All is going well until Aunt Ivy enters the picture.  Aunt Ivy is enemy to all mice, and does everything that she can to get rid of them.

Interestingly enough, everything that Aunt Ivy does to remove mice from Rose Cottage is exactly what I would do.  Her actions seem so much worse, however, when she is trying to harm two mice as sweet and caring as Tumtum and Nutmeg.  You can't help but dislike her, especially when she poisons Tumtum!

The Nutmegs friend, General Marchmouse, is summoned to save Tumtum and rid the house of Aunt Ivy.  Will he succeed?  You'll have to read it to find out!

Adventure always seem to be just around the corner with Tumtum and Nutmeg, and especially General Marchmouse.  Emily Bearn has written a total of nine books depicting their adventures, and every one that we have read is delightful, charming, and fast-paced.  One chapter was never enough for a sitting!  Illustrations by Nick Price are frequent and add to the delight.

Perfect for:
Read-aloud: Preschool/Early Elementary
Independent Reading: Middle/Late Elementary

Happy reading!


Monday, January 12, 2015

Our Bag Full of Books {2nd Edition}

Every week, we come home from the library with a bag full of books.  Some books are new, some books are old, and some are books that we have checked out repeatedly.  Every week, a few stick out for various reasons.  I share them in hopes that you'll find some new ones to enjoy with your family.  :)

The Very Cranky Bear

Written and Illustrated by Nick Bland
Published in 2008

Four animal friends (Moose, Lion, Sheep, and Zebra) find a cave to hide from the cold and play a card game.  Unfortunately, they discover that the cave is occupied by an incredibly cranky bear!  In an effort to cheer him up, Moose, Lion, and Zebra decorate the sleeping bear with the physical characteristics that make them happy (antlers, stripes, and a mane).  Needless to say, bear is even crankier when he wakes up and discovers his new garb.  Bear tells sheep that he just wants a place to get some sleep.  Sheep very kindly sheers off all of her wool to make a pillow for the bear.  As he peacefully sleeps, the rest of the animals are able to continue with their play.

The first time I read this story, I laughed out loud at the illustrations.  There is an image of bear storming out of the cave with a grass mane, mud stripes, and branch antlers that I love.  Adorable and lovable characters with an incredibly sweet solution.

Perfect for: Preschool/Early Elementary
My rating: 5/5

Mix it Up

by Herve Tullet
Published in 2014

Mix it Up is created by the same author as Press Here.  In both books, Herve Tullet masterfully creates an interactive experience with young readers that has them not only participating in the story, but giggling and laughing while doing so.  In this book, readers explore primary colors and secondary colors.  Readers smoosh pages together, rub colors together, and tilt the book to get colors to mix.  When they turn the page, the colors have mixed.  He also explores what happens when white and black are mixed in with colors.

We love both Press Here and Mix it Up.  Both have gotten giggles and requests for additional readings.  They work best as a read aloud for an individual or for a couple of children.  

Perfect for:  Toddlers/Preschool
My rating: 5/5

Activity:  After reading the story, it is absolutely imperative to pull out red, yellow, and blue paint to have a color mixing experiment!

Happy reading!


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Meet the Author: {Q&A with Chris Van Dusen!}

I've long been a fan of the illustrations of Mercy Watson, and last year we discovered all of the other books written and/or illustrated by Chris Van Dusen.  He has since become a favorite around our house not only for his engaging illustrations, but also for his delightful rhyming and storylines.  He was kind enough to answer a couple of questions for me.  Following his responses, I've highlighted some of his work that I highly recommend!

Which book(s) or character(s) have been your favorite to work on?

I have a special connection with Mr. Magee because he started the whole thing (I still hide Magee and Dee in one of the pictures in all my books). But I really enjoyed creating the Mercy Watson gang for Kate DiCamillo especially Eugenia Lincoln and I also had fun with Mr. Paine, the villain from The Circus Ship. They are two of my favorites. I guess I'm drawn to the dark characters!

What book are you currently reading?

I read mostly in bed before I go to sleep, but I listen to books on tape (or CDs) during the day while I work in my studio. It's a great way to pass the time. I just finished listening to Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and now I'm listening to The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. Both are excellent!

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

I love mint chocolate chip and coffee chocolate chip, and there's a place we go to in Florida that has a killer lime/chocolate soft serve swirl that's amazing. But a really good vanilla is really tough to beat. Sometimes a simple dish of plain old vanilla tastes the best.

If I Built a Car

Published in 2005

Jack is a young boy who has thought long and hard about how he would build a car.  It wouldn't be just any ordinary car.  Oh, no.  It would be complete with a swimming pool, a snack bar, and a robot.  It also has the abilities to float, submerge under water and fly.  Written in perfect poetry, this makes a fun read aloud.  My husband has said that this is his favorite story to read to the kids.  According to him, the book captures exactly how a young boy thinks.  I love the engineering and creativity portrayed throughout the book.

Perfect for: Preschool/Early Elementary/Late Elementary

If I Built a House

Published in 2012

Jack has put his designing skills to use again, and this time he has designed the house of his dreams (and my dreams!).  My favorite room that he imagines is the kitchen that cooks and cleans up after itself.  :)  What kid wouldn't want a flying room, giant slide, ball pit room, or room filled with water and sea life?  Like If I Built a Car, it puts thinking and creativity to use.  

Perfect for: Preschool/Early Elementary/Late Elementary

King Hugo's Huge Ego

Published in 2011

King Hugo is a very haughty king, and likes to boast.  In fact, he gives a speech every Friday morning to the kingdom telling everyone how wonderful he is.  When he is rude to a sorceress, she casts a spell on him that causes his head to swell everytime he says something boastful.  His bragging continues, and his head grows to an enormous size!  Once again, he has an encounter with the sorceress, and once again he is quite rude!  She tells him of the spell, and provides him with a very humbling experience.  Humor and magic are used to teach a very important lesson!

Perfect for: Preschool/Early Elementary/Late Elementary

The Circus Ship

Published in 2009
A circus ship full of circus animals crashes, and all of the animals swim to an island.  The people of the island are wary of the animals until one of them performs a heroic act and the town sees them as kind.  All is well until the unkind circus owner comes to collect the animals.  The town cleverly disguises all fifteen animals to hide them from the angry owner.  

My little family has the time of their lives locating all of the animals in their disguises. 

Perfect for: Preschool/Early Elementary

Head on over to his website to check out the rest of his books and a little more about him. 

Happy reading!


Monday, January 5, 2015

Our Bag Full of Books {1st Edition}

Every week, we come home with a bag full of books from the library, and every week a few of those stick out.  I've decided to highlight a few picture books every week that I think are worth mentioning for various reasons.  Some of the books that I feature will be new releases, and others will be classics.  In each case, I will give an honest review and rating.  Hopefully you'll find some new ones for your family to enjoy!

Written by Bob Shea
Illustrated by Lane Smith
Released on October 7, 2014

The Toad brothers are wreaking havoc on the town of Drywater Gulch.  Not only do they kiss your cows and insult your chili, but they also steal your gold and rob the town bank!  That is, until Kid Sheriff rolls into town.  Kid Sheriff is a tortoise-riding dinosaur expert who can't stay up past 8:00.  He wisely blames all of the town mischief on a variety of dinosaurs, which drives the Toad brothers bonkers!  They want all of the credit for their hard work, and they aren't going to see the jail occupied by dinosaurs!

The storyline is great.  There is a lot of humor that made it fun to read as an adult.  Illustrations and text are fitting of the Western theme.  The text intentionally has spelling and grammatical errors to fit the setting of the book, which I didn't mind.  There were a couple of words that I had to replace for my little ones that I felt could have been left out.  Other than that, it was an enjoyable read for all.  

Perfect for: 5 years and older
My rating: 4.5/5

Hermelin the Detective Mouse

Written and Illustrated by Mini Grey
Released on August 5, 2014

Hermelin is a sweet little mouse who lives on Offley Street.  Hermelin discovers a typewriter in the attic, and he uses it to write messages.  It seems like everyone on Offley Street loses personal items and pets, and Hermelin always comes to the rescue.  He finds the lost item, and leaves a little typewritten note telling the owner where to find the item.  He even helps save Baby McMumbo!  Everyone is so grateful for Hermelin (not knowing who or what he is), and decide to throw him a party.  When he shows up, he gets quite the surprise when his arrival is greeted with screams and chaos.  Poor Hermelin discovers he is a pest, and is ready to pack up and leave Offley Street until a visitor arrives in the attic, and takes him home.

Hermelin is such a sweet and heroic little mouse, and I found the story to be quite charming.  My little ones asked to hear the story over and over again.  

Perfect for: Preschool/Early Elementary
My rating: 5/5

The Gruffalo

Written by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler
Published in 1999

A little mouse is walking through the woods, and keeps encountering hungry predators.  In order to escape them, he tells them that he is meeting a creature named a "gruffalo" that has orange eyes, a wart on his nose, a black tongue, and terrible teeth!  After hearing of such a frightful creature, they all evacuate, and mouse continues on his way until he encounters a gruffalo that matches his description, even though he had thought he had made the creature up when he was describing the gruffalo to the other animals.  Mouse is very clever, and is able to convince the gruffalo that he, the mouse, is the scariest animal in the wood!

This story is clever, well-written, and fun to read aloud.  Illustrations are classic.  We have checked it out multiple times from the library, and are ordering a copy of our own.  It never gets old!

Perfect for: Preschool/Early Elementary
My rating: 5/5

I Spy With My Little Eye

Written and Illustrated by Edward Gibbs
Published in 2011

On each page, an eye of an animal is featured, along with a color of the animal and a clue as to what the animal may be.  When you turn the page, you are able to see a full illustration of the animal.  It makes for a delightful (and colorful!) guessing game!  It is a short and simple book that has entertained us multiple times.

Perfect for: Toddlers/Preschool/Early Elementary
My rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading!