Monday, April 23, 2012

By Jane O'Conner  Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

Fancy Nancy is a delightful story of a little girl who loves dressing up and being fancy in other ways too.  

Nancy uses fancy words in place of more plain or ordinary words for many things, this helps build vocabulary of the readers.  This book is absolutely enchanting.  (Enchanting is a fancy word for cute and fun)

Nancy learns that though being fancy is a lot of fun, her family is actually a lot more important to her.

This is the first book in a series of several picture books as well as some more in an easy reader format.   

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Napping House

By Audrey Wood, Illustrated by Don Wood

One of my very favorite picture book authors, Audrey Wood, is at her best when teamed up with illustrator husband Don. This is one of their classics.

The predictable text helps even young children get involved with the story and participate along with the reader.

I love the illustrations! "In the napping house where everyone is sleeping" on a quiet rainy day the subtle cool tones of blues set the perfect peaceful mood. It almost lulls you to sleep too.

I also love how the illustration foreshadow the predictive, building, style of the written story. Soon there is a whole stack of sleeping people and animals as the rain continues outside. The serene expressions on their faces and relaxed body positions say it all. Who doesn't just adore curling up in a cozy bed and taking a nap on a peacefully rainy day.

Then along comes a flea that starts a chain reaction which changes the whole direction of the story. As each character wakes up the lighting in the room changes and by the time the granny is bumped by the child resulting in the breaking of the cozy bed. The rich vibrant yellows and looks of surprise that becomes ecstatic joy on their faces as they realize the sun is brightly shining brings delight to the reader as well!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Headless Cupid

By Zilpha Keatley Snyder

The Headless Cupid was one of my very favorite books as an elementary school student.  The four Stanley children: responsible David, chatter-box Janie, stubborn Tesser, and her twin quiet Blair have learned to live without a mother since their own mother died a few years ago.  Now their dad has married Molly who has an almost-teenage daughter named Amanda.

At first David and his siblings are excited to get a new sister, but Amanda is not at all what they expected.  She is crabby and claims to be studying witchcraft (or the "occult").

The cupid in the title is a wooden carved decoration that is part of the staircase in the old home where the family lives. The head was cut off decades and has been missing ever since. 

In this story the witchcraft is not real like it is in the Harry Potter series.  It is handled in a way that is exciting, but not too scary.  I tend to stay away from stories that feel too creepy or promote things that are not uplifting. This is a great book that I don't have to worry about any of these issues when I read it. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


by John Rocco

When the lights go out do you complain and get mad? The the lights go out in this big city the people in the neighborhood make the best of a difficult situation and come together to still enjoy the evening. What a great example of people who know how to Be Proactive and choose to enjoy a situation hat may not be ideal.

I love the colors and textures of this book. It is a graphic novel (aka "comic book") layout which is sure to appeal to a lot of kid and grown-ups alike. It is not a surprise that this was one of the Caldecott Honor books this year.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Me . . . Jane

by Patrick McDonnell

I love the mix of realistic images and the more whimsical cartoon type pictures in this book. The recognition from the Caldecott committee is well deserved. I actually prefer it to the winning book.

Me... Jane is the story of a young girl named Jane. Jane loves the outdoors and spends a lot of her time outside exploring the world around her, especially the animals.

Jane also reads a lot of fiction and non-fiction about the world she longs to explore. One of her favorite subjects is Africa.

Jane dreams of going to Africa and studying the land and the animals. To find out if she will accomplish her dreams read Me... Jane.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Grandpa Green

by Lane Smith

Another great picture book from Lane Smith.

This one tells the story of a gardener and his life through the eyes of his great-grandson as the boy explores the garden and the amazing topiary plant sculptures created by the great-grandfather.

The rich pictures in many shades of green along with hints of other colors really give the feeling of being in an amazing garden. The pictures are heartwarming and beautiful and help tell the story.

Because the garden helps tell the story of the life of the the great-grandfather this book, while not exactly historical, gives the opportunity to discuss some historical events with children as they explore the book with you.


Monday, March 5, 2012

A Ball for Daisy

By Chris Raschka

Winner of the 2012 Caldecott Medal for the year's most "distinguished" artwork.

A Ball for Daisy is a cute wordless picture book.

The thing I love about wordless books is that the story becomes more a part of the "reader's" imagination. You can tell yourself the story a bit differently during different times of experiencing the book.

A great way to share a wordless picture book with children (or on your own) is to ask a lot of questions.

For example:
  • What is Daisy's favorite thing to do?
  • What is Daisy doing now?
  • How do you think Daisy feels when she plays with her ball?
  • Why does Daisy move over during her nap?
  • What is the girl holding?
  • Why does she have that object?
  • What will Daisy do next?
and so forth.

I remind children to tell the story in their own head and just think about the answers to the questions while we are looking through the book. When I'm finished I'll allow the children to take turns telling their version of the story. Of course I share the books with 20 or more children at a time. If you are reading with only one or two children you could tell it as you go page by page.

Now back to more specifics of A Ball for Daisy. I enjoyed the book. Daisy was cute and even though the paintings are pretty simple Chris Raschka managed to convey some variety of emotions. It was not my personal preference for the most distinguished art work in a children's book from last year, but it is a cute little book that will appeal to younger "readers"


Monday, February 27, 2012

I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew

By Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss is a master of great stories with fun catchy words and meaningful messages. I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew is no exception.

This is not as well known as many other titles by one of the most successful children's authors of all time, but it is definitely one of my favorites.

Learn how to Be Proactive and face your troubles in Dr. Seuss' typical whimsical style.


Breaking Stalin's Nose

By Eugene Yelchin

Newbery Honor 2012

Breaking Stalin's Nose is an inside look at the Communist regime under Jospef Stalin. The book does not specify the year, but Stalin was in power between 1924 and his death in 1953. This is a wonderful example of historical fiction.

Stalin's tactics of instilling mistrust, suspicion and fear among the people while demanding total loyalty to him is all pointed out in this book.

The illustrations, also by the author are stunning in black & white and add a great feel to the book.


Friday, February 24, 2012

inside Out & Back Again

by Thanhha Lai

This is a very sweet and tender story of a young girl from war torn Viet Nam. Ha and her family are able to escape from their country just before the military moves in and takes over.

When the family arrives in Alabama Ha feels very out of place and lost in her new country. She wonders if their customs can still be followed and if she can make new friends when she speaks a different language and looks so different from her classmates.

Told in beautiful free verse poetry this is a quick and touching read. Besides how can you not just love this cover


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dead End in Norvelt

by Jack Gantos

Dead End in Norvelt is the winner of the 2012 Newbery Medal.

I must say that I went into this book with some hesitation. I have not been overly impressed with some of the recent Newbery picks and did not like the last book I read by this author. Having said that, I was pleasantly surprised by this offering.

Told by a character named Jack Gantos, we get to spend his summer with him while he is grounded in his small quirky town called Norvelt. Jack's world is filled with many eccentric neighbors from an old lady who cooks her hands and loves writing obituaries, to an old man who travels around on a gigantic tricycle to a girl who lives in the mortuary.

Told with warmth and a healthy respect for history with a lot of humor thrown in I enjoyed this story and can see what the Newbery committee was thinking.

*** 1/2

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Prince Who Wrote a Letter

by Ann Love

Prince Paul writes a letter on his very first day of school! His parents are very pleased, but the situation soon gets out of hand as more and more people think they know what was in the letter and spread rumors about what Prince Paul wrote without ever checking what exactly was written. Could this first letter ever written by a prince start a war?

A great book to read and discuss the importance of Habit 5 "Seek First to Understand, then to Be Understood"


Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Black Book of Colors

by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria

I apologize that the book cover is so hard to see, especially on this background.

What an amazing concept! This book is brilliant and beautiful!

The entire book is black (white words) and describes colors using senses other than sight. Each page repeats the printed lettering in braille. There are also raised "pictures" of the objects associated with the color. The concept is a bit difficult to describe and must be experienced to be fully appreciated.

The Black Book of Colors helps us focus on Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to Be Understood. We gain a bit of understanding of how some people experience the world, and also see a way to help them understand our view of part of the world.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Wrinkle in Time

By Madeleine L'Engle

A wonderful classic tale! Winner of the 1963 Newbery Medal this story has enchanted readers for years. It has been one of my personal favorites for years. I was introduced to it as a read-aloud in perhaps the fifth grade.

This book captivates me from the first sentence "It was a dark and stormy night" to the final pages. A mixture of science fiction, fantasy and human relationships the story unfold as Meg goes on an adventurous search for her mysteriously missing father.

With character who are flawed, but doing they best they know how I find that this book really connects with me and I am sure many others. We get to see Meg grow as a person and as a sister, daughter and friend throughout the course of the story. While her physical journey is very much a part of the fantasy aspects of the story, her personal journey rings very true.

Highly recommended. This is also a great family read-aloud.


When You Reach Me

By Rebecca Stead

When this first won the Newbery Medal I read it as soon as I could get my hands on it. I was less than hugely impressed. This year Provo City Library in connection with Provo School District decided to pair this with its "companion" book A Wrinkle in Time for the ProvoREADS selection. ProvoREADS choses a different book each year, all citizens of the city are encouraged to read the book during that school year. As part of ProvoREADS I decided to reread the book. Still less than impressed.

The main character, Miranda, tells her own story. Miranda loves the book "A Wrinkle in Time" and has read her copy so often that it is beginning to fall apart. She and some of the other characters refer to this classic a few times, and I guess I can sort of see the tie-in to the plots, but I hardly consider it a "companion" book, in my opinion it barely pays homage.

I did like Miranda as a character and her spunk and interaction with other characters around her. We do get to see her growth and changes throughout the story. One minor character that I found especially memorable was the school secretary "Wheelie"

When You Reach Me is set in the 70's and some of the pop-culture references likely will not really connect with the children of today. There are some clever ideas that are more apparent the second time you read the book. But for my money you'd be better off skipping this and reading Madeleine L'Engle' classic instead.

I have talked to others who enjoyed the book much more than I did. I encourage you to read it yourself and form your own opinion. Please comment and let other know what YOU thought of When You Reach Me.