Saturday, June 21, 2014

Size Doesn't Matter When It Comes to Friendship

In Pig and Small, written and illustrated by Alex Latimer, we find that size doesn't matter when it comes to being a friend.

Pig and Small
by Alex Latimer
When Pig wakes up one morning, he discovers his nose has started to squeak. Everywhere he went and everything he did he heard the squeak coming from his nose. Since Pig is so smart, he decided to look up Squeaky Nose Syndrome, not on the Internet but in a BOOK! [Way to go Pig!!!] There were all kids of Squeaky Syndromes: Squeaky Esophagus Syndrome, Squeaky Mouth Syndrome, even Squeaky Pants Syndrome, but no Squeaky Nose Syndrome. Finally Pig decided to take a closer look at his snout. It was then he discovered the cause of his squeak...a tiny bug who was "waving and squeaking like crazy!"

The unlikely duo try to build a friendly relationship by riding bikes or playing chess. They quickly find these activities to be too difficult because of their size. Pig reads about a movie and realizes it is something the two friends can do together. After the movie they discover a number of places and things they can enjoy together, for instance an art gallery, the theater, and even a relaxing trip to the beach. A fun twist at the end emphasizes one of my favorite quotes from the book, "They forgot that one of them was big and the other was small best friends don't care about silly things like that."

For those familiar with some of Latimer's other picture books (The Boy Who Cried Ninja, Penguin's Hidden Talent, and Lion vs. Rabbit), you will not be disappointed. Each of his books not only has wonderfully detailed illustrations created with pencil drawings which are then digitized and finished with color and texture, but they also convey a life lesson for young children. Pig and Bug find their friendship is worth putting time and effort into their relationship. Discovering what you have in common and like to do together can be a challenge, especially when there is such a large size difference, however true friendship is worth the struggle in the end.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Peachtree Publishers has provided a complimentary electronic copy of this book for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company and is solely my opinion.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Are You Ready for ... a Bedtime Story

Goodnight Football
by Michael Dahl and Christina Forshay

I LOVE football! No matter if it is the middle of summer. There are only 81 days until the first kick off of the season between the Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos. Now, I have to admit I am excited once football seasons starts, but I am planning to enjoy my summer before the start of football. How am I going to do that you may ask? By reading...about football. No, not everything I read this summer will be about football, but it is a great way to enjoy the sport before the season starts.

For a young football fan, this is a wonderful bedtime story that combines the excitement of the first game of the season with an ending reminiscent of the classic bedtime story for which the title is derived, Goodnight Moon. This is not your run of the mill knock-off like we have seen so many of in recent years. The rhyming text and very colorful illustrations have been well thought out and planned for young fans. 

This book is the second book in the Sports Illustrated Kids series of bedtime stories. Goodnight Baseball was release in September 2013 and this book will be released in August of 2014. Michael Dahl is no stranger to children's books. He has written a number of books for the Hello Genius series which include Duck Goes Potty, Little Elephant Listens, and Mouse Says Sorry.  In fact he has written a number of wonderful non-fiction books for Capstone including, On the Launch PadPull, Lift, Lower, and Toasty Toes: Counting by Tens.

For all young sports fans, I believe this will be a wonderful addition to the family library as well as a favorite book to check out from the local library. The illustrations are very colorful (Even if the burnt orange of the University of Texas is used for the "Grizzly" team colors in the book. I personally think Texas Christian University purple would have been a much better choice!). The end pages show the yard lines of the football field and begin and end the book very nicely. One of my favorite bedtime stories of 2014.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Sports Illustrated Kids has provided a complimentary electronic copy of this book for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company and is solely my opinion.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bug on a Bike by Chris Monroe

Bug on a Bike
by Chris Monroe

Chris Monroe brings together whimsical watercolor and ink illustrations and rhyming text to create a delightful read aloud. Bug gathers all of his friends to follow along on a bike ride. Bug is not telling anyone where they are going, but because his friends trust him, they follow. Up hills and down valleys, through the forest they ride. Not knowing at all where the destination of their guide. Along the way a variety of unusual "friends" are collected including an "athletic pickle" and a "shiny, round nickel". At last the friends arrive at their destination ~ Bug's Birthday Party. After making their way on such a long journey the animals quickly dive into the food and fun.

This is would be a great addition to a children's library collection. It combines children's love of birthday parties and fun characters with rhyming text and fun illustrations. Combine this book with other birthday books in order to create a celebratory story time to celebrate everyone's birthday.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Lerner Publishing Group has provided a complimentary electronic copy of this book for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or the publishing company and is solely my opinion.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Barnyard Animals - Out Loud

Honk, Honk! Baa, Baa!
by Petr Horacek
Honk, Honk! Baa, Baa! is a fun book for babies who will want to hear it read over and over again. They will feel invited to participate in the sound each animal makes as the pages progress. With the turn of the final page you will see how the cutaway pages throughout are used to create a Holstein cow on the final two page spread. Each page has bright, colorful drawings of the farm animals (donkey, sheep, pig, dog, cat, goose, and cow). The board book edition I have for reviewing purposes says, "lift the flaps" at the top of front cover where the cover pictured above states "flip-flap fun". I am a bit confused by the lift the flaps statement because there are no flaps to lift in the version I have, unless they are referring to the cutaway pages (which ultimately create the Holstein).

final two page spread - notice how the previous pages
create the body of the cow

To continue on the cow theme....

I am Cow, Hear Me Moo!
by Jill Esbaum & Gus Gordon
Nadine, the cow, is not afraid of anything (or so she says). When Nadine tells her friends, Starla and Annette, she is not afraid of the deep dark woods, they are not convinced. Nadine gathers all of her braver and leads the group in the woods where they discover the wonders found there, including eggs, blackberries, pinecones, paw prints, nests, and even a cave. While Nadine explores, her friends decide to make their way home, even though it is dark. Although Nadine gets scared while trying to find her way home, the friends are reunited when Nadine takes a flying leap while trying to flee the "something [that] tickled her rump!" Readers who are very observant will themselves be "tickled" when they see what tickles and scares Nadine. Nadine ends up being considered a hero (even though she was scared, "nobody knew it"). Her friends start a business selling tickets for sunset tours of the woods lead by the "Brave Nadine".

Jill Esbaum's text provides a nice range of vocabulary words not usually found in children's books. Some of these words includ the following: curdled, gulped, prickled, jiff, hollered, glancing, bellowed, cranny, and many others. I'm sure young readers will question the meaning of these words, which is great! I would be willing to bet after hearing this story, children will begin using some of these words in their daily communication.

Gordon's illustrations are great throughout the book. I loved going through trying to figure out how each spread was created. The illustrations were created using watercolors, pencils, crayons, and collage. The materials used in the collage pieces include old ledger pages, photographs, wallpaper, textured paper, and newspaper.

Find a Cow Now!
by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
Even though this title has "cow" in the title, it is actually more about a restless dog. Dog begins to drive Bird crazy because of his need to move, chase, and round up everything in the house. Bird tells Dog, "You're supposed to herd cows. Not chiars, not rugs. You need a cow." Thus begins Dog's adventure. When he makes his way into the country he meets farm animals he mistakes for a cow, including a chicken, a pig, and a donkey. Does Dog find what he is searching for in the country? Does he make his way back home? Like all of their previous collaborations, the Stevens sisters are a dynamic duo in the children's picture book departement and never fail to satisfy their readers.

From cows to pigs....

Big Pigs
by Leslie Helakoski
Instead of three little kittens who have lost their mittens, we have three little pigs who are trying to prove they are Big Pigs! Sweet Pea, Nibbles, and Clean Bean challenge each other to see who is a big pig by trying to squeeze into the garden, eat a row of vegetables, and sink into the mud first. Each of the pigs is able to accomplish one of the tasks first, making each a big pig, but how does Mama Pig feel when she confronts her piglets by asking, "Are you the pigs who sneaked into the garden, ate all the food, and dragged half the mudhole into the yard?" Listeners and readers of all ages will enjoy this great story. A great alternative (or addition) to the classic Three Little Pigs story. Large illustrations make this a wonderful read aloud for a large group.

Pigs on the Family Farm
by Chana Stiefel

Pigs on the Family Farm is a wonderful (non-fiction book for young children. The text provides a great deal of information in vocabulary easy enough for young readers to understand. The color photographs are large and have boxed text with additional information about the family's daily routine of taking care of their pigs. The "Words to Know" (glossary) is at the beginning of the book, which is perfect placement for introducing words that will be encountered while reading. These words are printed in bold when later used in the text. One two page spread shows five different breeds of pigs (Berkshire, Duroc, KuneKune, Tamworth, and Yorkshire). A minimal life cycle of a pig is also included at the end of the book. It is mentioned this family raises their pigs for meat and the different times of meat that come from pigs, however it does not go into further detail about how the meat is acquired ~ which I appreciate. This is one of four books currently in the series Animals on the Family Farm published by Enslow. The other titles in the series include the following titles: Chickens on teh Family Farm,  Goats on the Family Farm, and Sheep on the Family Farm.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Boxed In by Bird Box

Close your eyes and think about putting on a blindfold and maneuvering your way through life, especially when you are outside. This is what has become the norm for the people who remain in Josh Malerman's debut novel Bird Box.
Bird Box
by Josh Malerman

I have to say I was intrigued when a friend posted a comment about this book on Goodreads (and subsequently Facebook). Evidently high school students are flocking (pardon the pun) to this book. My guess is because it is darker than other books they have read in this same genre - Dystopia. When I was in high school I loved reading horror novels. I started reading Stephen King when I was a freshman. I would never say Josh Malerman, with his first novel, is the new Stephen King, but to young people this might just fit the bill for them. Me, not so much.

According to the Reader's Bill of Rights, I have "The right to not finish" any book I pick up to read. Well, let it be known I am no quitter (well sometimes I am, simply because I can't stand the direction in which a book is going)! However, I did finish the book. It took me A LOT longer than most books to read because I just couldn't get into the story as much as I desperately wanted. 

The Readers Bill of Rights

To start with, the book is NOT considered a YA (young adult) book. It is an adult book. An adult book written, I believe, based on the popularity of current YA books which have recently been made into movies, for instance the Hunger Games trilogy, the Divergent series, and even The Testing series which was acquired by Paramount Pictures a year ago, but has not been made into a movie as of yet. Ruth Graham's article from The Slate Book Review says "Adults should be embarrassed to read young adult books." Since I am a fence rider, I can see both sides to this argument. When an author writes a book, I believe they have a target audience in mind. Is the book solely for that target audience? No. Should it be? Of course not! Will others want to read the book? Hopefully. Isn't that the point of writing? To have your work be read? I ride the fence here because as Graham says, "There's a special reward in that feeling of stretching yourself beyond the YA mark, akin to the excitement of graduating out of the kiddie pool and the rest of the padded trappings of childhood: It's the thrill of growing up." Yes, I agree with this statement. There is a completely new realization when, as an adult you begin to read all written works in a very different manner than you did as a teen, or young adult. I can see that in myself as a fortysomething. My book choices have changed somewhat over the years. Yes, I still love the mysteries and thrillers, but I have also grown to love biographies, historical fiction, and fantasy. My spectrum has broaden a great deal in my time as a reader. Do I think adults should be embarrassed to read YA novels? HELL NO! My goal as a reader and an advocate of reading is to pair a person with the right book for them. If that book is a YA book, then hand them that book to read. If that book is a picture book ~ give it to them! Reading is reading, no matter what the material may be, or what it may be labeled. Okay, I will now step down from my soapbox and get on with my review of Bird Box. Thank you for my time to rant a little.

Like I said before, I did finish the book. Did I enjoy it? Yes and no (I warned you, I am a fence rider!!).
I was intrigued by the concept of the book. When mysterious "creatures" appear around the world, those who see them turn violent toward others and themselves. Thus the words below the title, "Don't open your eyes". Malorie, the main character sets out with her two young children on an intense river adventure which is even more horrifying when you remember they are blindfolded. With an increased sense of hearing because of the intense training Malorie has put the children through in four years time, the children must help her navigate blindly through the river and all it holds between the only home they have ever known and the safety and security Malorie hopes to find at the end of the twenty mile journey. Mingling the past and present, Malerman provides Malorie's background story (what happened to her family, how she arrived at the home she has lived in for five years, and how she knows to travel on the river to safety) and the incredible
journey she and her children must make in order to get to a safer location.

As I write this review I am beginning to see how this book could capture the imagination of young adults. The fear of the unknown. The darkness, the horror of knowing something is there, but if you open your eyes to see it you will not survive. Horror is what you make of it. What you read into it and how you wrap yourself in the belief that it is real. Fully accepting the circumstances and putting yourself in the place of the character(s). We feel empathy for characters in books filled with sadness and sorrow. We feel the joy of characters who are empowered. We feel the suspense, tension, and angst Malorie must feel as as she sets forth on a journey which may only take her and her children to their untimely deaths. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer Reading Challenge

Well my summer has started! Actually, last Friday was my first full day of summer vacation. I didn't write a post then because, well to be honest I was doing my favorite thing...Reading! When I finished my book Saturday evening and posted it to Facebook a friend commented asking me to provide a little information about the book in order to decide if it was worth scribbling in on her "To Read..." list. I guess she didn't know that I review all of the books I read. So, keep watching and you will find out about all of the great books I will be reading this summer.

Reading Bingo Challenge 2014
from Random House

Reading Bingo Challenge: YA Edition 2014
from Random House

One of the cool things I discovered this weekend while reading online ~ it is still reading, no matter what the material may be: Facebook, BuzzFeed, etc. ~ is a Reading Bingo Challenge from Random House. Evidently they have had one last year and I didn't know about it. I have printed off the "Original Reading Bingo" AND the "Reading Bingo Card: YA Edition" (Yes, I read YA ~ You got a problem with that?!? I didn't think so!!). I'm not going to say I will be able to complete both this summer since there are a total of 48 slots and to be fair I would have to enter one book per box. I don't want to cheat and enter a title in multiple boxes! Not to mention the fact this is the 2014 (or 2013 if you choose) challenge and not just for the summer. I guess I could go back and record the books I have already read this year into the boxes in which they would fit, but again I believe that would be cheating. I will play by the rules. Now, you don't HAVE to get a Blackout, but if I'm going to play, I'm going to WIN! So, if you are in for a fun challenge, let's see how many squares we can complete by the end of the summer. Who's in?

Reading Bingo Challenge 2013
from Random House