Friday, June 21, 2019

Midwest Book Review -- Praise for GRACIE JANE

I was delighted to receive the following review for my latest picture book.



"Gracie Jane" is the first title of a cowgirl series that is full of action, humor, charm, and character. Written in exciting action prose with a hint of rhyme, and fully color illustrated, "Gracie Jane" tells the tale of a cowgirl who rescues a little lost pup from a flooded river and takes the orphan, named Fifi La Rue, home to the ranch. Now the question was, what could Fifi La Rue do that would be helpful and useful on the ranch? Kids will love the amazing tricks and troubles that just sprout around Fifi La Rue on the ranch. One scrape after another, Gracie Jane's refrain is, " Fifi La Rue, what did you do?" The overwhelming good humor of Gracie Jane is exemplary in view of the many escapades of Fifi la Rue. For a larger than life portrait of an honest Western cowgirl, read the series of adventures that begins with "Gracie Jane."




Friday, May 24, 2019

Picture Book Friday


Koala Is Not A Bear by Kristin L. Gray with illustrations by Rachel McAlister explores the nature of family as Koala tries to find her place in a camp full of animals. 



Grizzly is happy to welcome Koala to the bear cabin, but Kangaroo insists Koala is not a bear. As the story unfolds, Koala and Kangaroo take turns offering evidence to support their opposing viewpoints. Koala can climb trees agrees Grizzly, but so can lemurs, Kangaroo is quick to point out. New clues are disclosed with each turn of a page. Does Koala hibernate? No! Does he have a pouch like Kangaroo? Yes!

The humorous text encourages critical thinking in young readers as they assess the clues and gradually narrow down the options until the answer is revealed. Cartoon-style illustrations enhance the reader-friendly narrative.

Recommended for home and school libraries.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Nonfiction Monday


The Renaissance Explorers with History Projects for Kids, by Alicia Z. Klepeis is part of the Renaissance For Kids Series from Nomad Press. Klepeis structures her work around chapter biographies of Niccolo de Conti, Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama, Pero da Covilha, and Ferdinand Magellan in her focus on the lives of early European explorers.



An introduction, Exploration During the Renaissance, asks the question, “Why leave the comfort of home and family to strike out to new lands where danger might lurk?” Of course, there is the familiar answer, “Europeans were searching for a sea route to India and Asia.” But there were a number of other factors that influenced the timing of this exploration. Improvements in the technology of navigation, shipbuilding, and map making created better opportunities for success. European monarchs sponsored expeditions to expand empires, gain wealth, monopolize trade, and impose Christianity on indigenous people.

Each biographical chapter utilizes primary sources and a timeline to trace the life of an explorer and identify their contributions to the growing body of knowledge about exotic places and their people, culture, plants, and animals. Conti, a Venice merchant, self-funded his twenty-five-year-long expedition to Persia, India, Sumatra, and Borneo. He returned with information about the inhabitants as well as spices, animals, and geography. Dias was sent by King John II of Portugal to find a trade route to India. Dias was the first to sail around the Southern tip of Africa into the Indian Ocean before being forced to return home by his crew. Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese navigator, built on the experience of Dias and became the first to sail from Europe to India. Covilha traveled to India and Ethiopia as an emissary of King John II of Portugal, successfully establishing a relation between Portugal and Ethiopia. Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world changed navigation forever by improving maps and establishing new trading routes.
  
As with the other volumes in the series, readers are challenged to ask questions and use critical thinking skills in response to a series of hands-on projects that are offered at the end of each chapter. Maps, photographs and illustrations highlight the subjects and provide historical context. Multiple text boxes offer additional facts, quotes, and insights on a variety of topics from the famous Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta to the use of an astrolabe for navigation. Calls to action are strategically placed throughout: Wonder Why? poses additional questions for consideration.  Connect contains QR codes for audio and video files. Words of Wonder directs readers to a multi-page glossary at the end of the book. Resources provides a list of books, videos, and museums for further exploration.

The book is well organized and the content expands on familiar facts and introduces readers to details that are often overlooked such as the cruelty that often accompanied the explorers in their encounters with people of other cultures or religions. The text and illustrations are richly detailed. The conversational tone and age-appropriate vocabulary is appealing.
Recommended for home and school libraries.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Picture Book Friday


Holy Squawkamole! By Susan Wood with illustrations by Laura Gonzalez is a lively twist on the traditional tale, The Little Red Hen.



In this rollicking Southwestern-themed story, the Little Red Hen hankers after some guacamole and tries to enlist the help of Coati, Armadillo, Snake, and Iguana to gather the ingredients from her garden and then mash and mix them in her cocina. True to the original plot, everyone has an excuse to avoid the work, but each is quick to offer to share in the treat. So, the Little Red Hen, la gallinita roja, gathers avocados, plucks tomatoes, digs onions, and snips cilantro all by herself. She mashes and mixes all by herself. Then … she adds a secret ingredient and invites all the lazy animals to share in the dish.

The lively text utilizes Spanish terms that are cleverly integrated into the narrative. Gonzalez’s vibrant illustrations are detailed and warmly appealing.

Wood enriches the content with two author notes: The History of Guacamole traces this delectable dish back to ahuacamolli (avocado sauce) first made by the Aztecs of Mexico in the 1300s. And there is also, La Gallinita Roja’s Guacamole Recipe with some helpful hints.

A glossary provides definitions for the Spanish terms.

Recommended for young readers or as a read aloud.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Picture Book Friday


When Grandma Gives You A Lemon Tree, the debut picture book by Jamie L.B. Deenihan with illustrations by Lorraine Rocha, is a light-hearted twist on the familiar phrase, “When life gives you lemons…”



In this instance, Deenihan imagines what would happen when a gadget-obsessed child, whose birthday wish list is laden with electronics, receives a lemon tree from Grandma instead. What’s the point of a lemon tree? It doesn’t do anything and it requires looking after. Told in the second person, the narrator begins by reminding the astounded child to mind her manners – No faces! No tears! And definitely, no tossing Grandma’s gift! Just smile and say thank you.

Once past her disappointment, the narrator gently guides the girl through the steps of caring for the young tree, sharing a wealth of valuable gardening information with the reader along the way. With the passage of time, the tree matures and so does the young gardener who discovers that there is something even more fun than growing, naming, and decorating her tree.  She can pick lemons, and with grandma’s help, make lemonade (the recipe is included) to sell on the sidewalk. Cash in hand, she heads to the store where we discover her passion has changed. She returns home, not with the once longed for technology, but with an abundance of plants to share with her urban neighbors!

Deenihan does more than celebrate the joys of a garden in this humorous tale. She subtly reminds us of the benefit to be found in patiently working toward a long-term goal, the joy of being outside in nature rather than cloistered with electronics, and the importance of community.

Rocha’s diverse cartoon-style characters are a perfect fit for the urban environment of the story. The illustrations are colorful and richly detailed, encouraging readers to take a second and third look.

A charming story that I happily recommend for home and school libraries!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Nonfriction Monday


The Renaissance Inventors with History Projects for Kids, by Alicia Z. Klepeis is part of the Renaissance For Kids Series from Nomad Press. Klepeis structures her work around chapter biographies of Johannes Gutenberg, Leon Battista Alberti, Leonardo da Vinci, Gerardus Mercator, and Galileo Galilei to introduce readers to the lives of some of the most prolific inventors of their time.



An introduction, Invention During the Renaissance, examines factors such as economic growth, expansion of trade, movement of people from farms to cities, and the increased number of educated individuals brought about by the availability of books that combined to create opportunities for invention.

Each biographical chapter utilizes primary sources and a timeline to trace the life of an inventor with careful attention paid to the obstacles met and overcome in their quest for discovery. Readers not only explore some of the more familiar inventions, but are also provided with additional information about lesser known successes.
Before Gutenberg could make his idea for a printing press a reality, he had to create a metal that could be used to form the letters, formulate an ink that wouldn’t run or smudge, and determine the precise pressure needed to transfer letters onto paper. Prior to becoming famous for his printing press, he first invented a new technology for polishing gemstones.

Alberti’s interest in science and technology, combined with his association with artists resulted in his first book, On Painting, which demonstrated how to create three-dimensional images using the concept of perspective. His fascination with architecture and engineering resulted in a second book, On The Art of Building, which led to his work in designing some Italy’s famous churches. Alberti’s curiosity took him in many directions. In 1450 he designed the first machine for measuring wind speed. In 1467, he invented the cipher wheel for encoding messages.

Leonardo da Vinci is a name that is synonymous with the Renaissance because he is so well known as an artist, scientist, and inventor. He also worked as a military engineer and architect. He studied botany, geology, aerodynamics, mathematics, and human anatomy. The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, two of da Vinci’s most famous paintings are known all over the world, but he is equally famous for in experiments with parachutes, helicopters and airplanes.

Mercator taught mathematics, geography, and cosmography and was skilled in the use of Italic script. These interests served him well when he began working to make maps, globes and scientific instruments. In 1569, Mercator produced a new map and atlas that enabled explorers to more successfully navigate their way around the world.

Galileo’s contributions to the science of astronomy included confirming the earlier work of Copernicus, improving the telescope, and discovering the moons of Jupiter. He also designed a pendulum clock. His mathematical skills added to our understanding of mechanics and the laws of motion.

As with the other volumes in the series, readers are challenged to ask questions and use critical thinking skills in response to a series of hands-on projects that are offered at the end of each chapter. Photographs highlight the subjects and provide historical context. Multiple text boxes offer additional facts, quotes, and insights on a variety of topics from Renaissance women to the Chinese invention of the toothbrush. Calls to action are strategically placed throughout: Wonder Why? poses additional questions for consideration.  Connect contains QR codes for audio and video files. Words of Wonder directs readers to a multi-page glossary at the end of the book. Resources provides a list of books, videos, and museums for further exploration.

The book is well organized and the content expands on familiar facts and introduces readers to details that are often overlooked. It is not only educational, but is also a pleasure to read. The text and illustrations are richly detailed. The conversational tone and age-appropriate vocabulary is appealing.
Recommended for STEM home and school libraries.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Picture Book Friday


The Hug by Eoin McLaughlin, with illustrations by Polly Dunbar, is a perfectly charming picture book formatted to create a pair of stories that mirror each other and meet in the middle.



Hedgehog is sad and needs a hug, but he’s simply too prickly and his forest friends invent imaginative excuses to delay. Fox is in a hurry to go knock over a garbage bin – Squirrel must count his three acorns … again – Magpie needs to sing a very, very long song. McLaughlin balances Hedgehog’s need with the other animals’ genuine concern about being poked as they endeavor to evade their friend’s request. Eventually, wise Owl encourages tearful Hedgehog to remember that although he’s “a little bit tricky to hug … there’s someone for everyone.”

The next turn of the page proves Owl correct. For there is Tortoise, perfectly armored against all those prickles. The two rush into each other’s arms, “As happy as two someones can be.” Readers then discover the book can be flipped and read from the back with the Tortoise on a similar quest, but his hard shell is equally unappealing for Badger, Rabbit, and Frog when they are asked for a hug.

Dunbar’s delicate watercolors leave plenty of clean space on the cream-colored pages to enable the well-drawn characters to shine. The magical moment, when Hedgehog and Tortoise hug, culminates in soft, swirling lines and dancing stars that surround the pair as their dream is realized.

McLaughlin’s thoughtful use of simple words and sentence structure creates a text that is accessible for young readers and the story would also be a delightful read-aloud selection.
Recommended for home and school libraries. 

The Gingerbread Cowboy Book Trailer