Friday, March 29, 2019

Picture Book Friday

Growing Season by author and illustrator Maryann Cocca-Leffler is a charming story of friendship and expectations for children 4-8.

El and Jo are best friends. They are also the shortest kids in class, and they bond over the many ways they are alike. But come spring, Jo starts to grow and suddenly, they aren’t so alike after all.

Cocca-Lefffler makes clever use of the notion that Spring is a time of change by selecting plants as stand-ins for El and Jo. When summer break arrives, each student gets to choose a flower to take home and plant. Jo is quick to take a blooming Zinnia. Little El has a difficult time reaching the shelf and by the time she does, there’s only a very small, very plain Aster left that doesn’t have a single blossom. Jo is leaving on vacation, so she gifts her friend with the Zinnia and El devotes herself to caring for the two very different flowers. She plants them side-by-side, waters them, and talks to them. Despite all her care, the Aster doesn’t seem likely to ever catch up with the beautiful Zinnia.  Jo’s return is celebrated with a visit to the garden, where El discovers that her Aster has finally blossomed and so has, she!

The bright watercolor illustrations are a perfect compliment for the lively text. An author’s note on the last page, PLANT LIFE CYCLES, highlights fun facts and offers information about how annual, perennial, and biennial flowers grow.

This is a wonderful book to add to your spring collection purely for the delight of reading. It’s also an ideal choice for introducing the topic of plants or encouraging a discussion of change.

Recommended for home, school, and library collections.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Nonfiction Monday

ANIMAL NOSES by nature photographer Mary Holland introduces young readers to variations and adaptations of noses in this new addition to her award-winning Animal Anatomy series.

Eye-catching closeups are underscored by age appropriate text that offers insights into the many ways animals use their noses for survival. Although written with children in mind, adults will learn new facts as well. Polar bears can smell seals through 3 feet of ice. Deer lick their noses to keep them wet because scents stick to wet noses better than to dry ones. A Beaver has valves in its nose that close to keep water out when the beaver is under water. Fascinating!

The book identifies an audience of ages 5-9. Young readers will enjoy the strong visual impact of the images and benefit from reading with an adult or older sibling. Experienced readers will find the text engaging and will discover more information in the final section titled For Creative Minds where additional discussions review the many specific ways in which animals utilize their noses. A “Sense of Smell” page explains how the sense of smell works. “Fun Facts” provides an assortment of details:  many fish have a well-developed sense of smell, people can detect a trillion distinct scents. “Match the Nose” challenges readers to identify photos of animal noses.  “Animals With a Very Good Sense of Smell” provides examples of mammals, fish, insects, and birds

The publisher, Arbordale, has aligned this book to NGSS, Core, and state standards. An extensive teaching activities guide is available on

An excellent STEM resource. Recommended for home, school, and library.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Picture Book Friday

A Little Chicken by Tammi Sauer with illustrations by Dan Taylor is a light-hearted story for young readers. Chicken is afraid of a great many things: bears, butterflies, wolves, spiders, even garden gnomes. 

But when she accidentally sends a soon-to-hatch egg rolling out of the nest, she must confront her fears as she sets off in hot pursuit. It’s one failed attempt after another, before she finally recovers the egg just in time to welcome her new baby sister into the world and become a hero in the process.

Sauer’s prose is playful and rhythmic; the humorous tone is engaging. The brief text allows the colorful illustrations to contribute to the storytelling experience and makes for a fun read aloud for children and adults.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Nonfiction Monday

Dear Komodo Dragon by Nancy Kelly Allen with illustrations by Laurie Allen Klein takes a unique approach to introducing young readers to the life of the Komodo Dragon by shaping the text as letters exchanged between pen pals.  

A young girl, who aspires to be a dragon hunter, sets out to learn all she can about her Komodo Dragon correspondent. In the process, a wealth of facts are revealed about the largest lizard on the planet. These remarkable carnivores are endangered and, by the end of the book, the young scribe has decided to become an advocate for the Komodo instead of a hunter.

The end of the book contains a CREATIVE MINDS section that provides additional information. Dragons by the Numbers highlights facts such as: Komodo dragons can go 1 month without eating and can live 30 years. Conservation discusses the efforts of scientists, in Indonesia and zoos around the world, to protect these rare creatures. Physical and Behavioral Adaptations defines both terms and provides examples of each. It also challenges readers to identify which traits are physical and which are behavioral.

Recommended as a fun and informative read to include in STEM home and school libraries.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Picture Book Friday

My Bed Is an Air Balloon by Julia Copus with illustrations by Alison Jay is an imaginative bedtime story told in rhyme.

Both words and pictures carry readers through a fanciful world where a cozy bed transforms from hot-air balloon to sailing boat as it carries a pair of young dreamers from one fantastical encounter to another. 

The gentle rhythm and soft-edged images create a dreamy landscape of “velvet-nosed floogs” and “whifflepigs” that can be read from both front and back in this mirrored story that features two front covers. A boy begins the journey floating “above treetops where fluttertufts are sleeping” and drifting over “ponds strung with starlight that glitter like glass.” When he reaches the book’s center high among the clouds, he meets a girl in a colorful double page spread. At the next page turn, her encounters spread across the remaining pages in reverse.

A charming tale for bedtime reading with children 3-6.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Nonfiction Monday

CHEETAH DREAMS by Linda Stanek with illustrations by Shennen Bersani introduces young readers to the remarkable life and habitat of cheetahs through the use of a smart, innovative text that combines lyrical storytelling with factual sidebars. 

Beautifully illustrated double-page spreads pull the two distinct styles together with visually stunning detail.

Cheetahs are one of the most endangered cats in Africa due to loss of habitat and competition from both wild predators and humans. CHEETAH DREAMS imagines a world in which cheetahs survive because readers become better informed about the challenges these remarkable cats face and come to appreciate their unique qualities.

The text does an excellent job of providing information about the way in which cheetahs live and the many adaptations that distinguish cheetahs from the other big cats. Cleat-like feet, tear-marked faces together with exceptionally large hearts and lungs enable cheetahs to hunt prey at speeds unequaled by predators such as lions or leopards.

The book concludes with a section titled FOR CREATIVE MINDS which provides teaching materials. Cheetah’s and the Big Cat Cousins is a compare and contrast activity. Cheetah Conservation offers maps and text for a more in-depth look at the issue of cheetah survival. Cheetah Adaptations combines text and pictures to build on earlier information. A final section, Purr or Roar, examines how and why cats are unable to do both.

Recommended as an excellent STEM resource for both home and school libraries.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Picture Book Friday

STAY, BENSON by Thereza Rowe is a light-hearted romp as readers follow a dog named Benson on a day of adventure.

When Flick leaves for school, she tells Benson to “stay and watch the house. No chasing.” But Benson escapes out the back door and the chase is on. Pursuit of a cat in the garden leads to a squirrel in a tree, a ball on the playground, and ultimately to snatching a snack from a picnic in the park…and all just in time to slip back into the house one step ahead of Flick, who remains unaware of Benson’s behavior. 

Young readers will enjoy knowing they are part of the secret trick that Benson plays on Flick.  The book further enhances reader fun with bold images, strong primary colors, and cleverly designed cut-outs that pull readers from one page to the next as they follow Benson’s escapade.

The Gingerbread Cowboy Book Trailer