Picture Book

Book Review: Al Pha’s Bet by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

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alphabetAl Pha’s Bet 

Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal 
Illustrated by Delphine Durand 
Published May 12, 2011 by Putnam Juvenile
Genre/Topics: Alphabet, Humor
Ages: 4+, 32 pages 

 

How exactly did the twenty-six letters form the alphabet that we know today? Well, it occurred long ago when a king announced that he wanted someone to arrange the twenty-six letters. A man named Al Pha made a personal bet with himself that he would indeed make the perfect arrangement for the letters. It started with A for his name then gradually everything seemed to naturally fall into place as he organized the letters. When his friend Jay came to visit HI J was formed. Near the middle Al became discouraged, but he told himself NO that he needed to finish. Finally, Al Pha presented his arrangement to the king who then sang the letters. Well of course the king asked Al if ‘this time won’t you sing with me?’ The king loved Al Pha’s letter arrangement and decided it would be known as Al Pha’s Bet.

I absolutely loved Al Pha’s Bet! The writing was fun and humorous with brilliant pictures to match the writing. The alphabet slowly forms on the pages as you read. After reading Al Pha’s Bet you’ll almost agree with how the letter arrangement formed. I’m sure children and even adults will laugh while reading this book.

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Book Review: The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

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curious gardenThe Curious Garden 

Written and Illustrated by Peter Brown 
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on April 1, 2009 
Genre/Topics: Environment, City Life, Gardening 
Ages:6+, 40 pages 
 

Liam is a curious young boy who lives in crowded city with no gardens, which makes it quite boring and unappealing. One day while exploring his city, Liam stumbles upon old train tracks that actually have a few dying plants. Liam decides that these plants need a gardener, so he begins his task to care for the plants and watches them grow and flourish. The garden itself is curious and grows across the tracks and soon throughout the city. With time there are more gardeners and the gardens grow upon buildings and many small spaces throughout the city. It no longer is a boring and gray city.

I really enjoyed The Curious Garden. Many individuals live in industrial environments and assume that they can have no gardens and landscapes. However, gardens truly can grow upon building rooftops and nooks if we let the plants grow. There is an author’s note and he states that he was curious what would happen if an entire city decided to cooperate with nature and how would the city change. I especially like The Curious Garden, because there are a few full color pages with no words to really ‘experience’ how the city has changed from all city life to small gardens throughout. This book could be used in the classroom during a discussion about the environment, gardening, preservation, and how plants can grow within cities. I suggest this book for older ages, because there are more words on each page and to discuss the overall topic. Although, all ages can enjoy this colorful garden book.

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144While searching through photos I stumbled upon a potential garden similar to The Curious Garden in my own city of Tacoma, Washington. You can just barely see the train tracks running through the grass and wild flowers. I’m not sure how long this train track hasn’t been in use. It’s amazing what nature truly can do when we leave it alone. 

 

Book Review: Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett

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extra yarnExtra Yarn 
Written by Mac Barnett
Illustrated by Jon Klassen 
Published Balzer + Bray on January 17, 2012 
Genre/Topics: Magical Realism, Sharing, Humorous
Ages: 4+, 40 pages 
Awards: 2013 Caldecott Honor and the 2012 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award

 

Perhaps, I enjoyed Extra Yarn because I love to knit and crochet. Annabelle and her dog discover a small box filled with yarn of every color. Her entire town is either white due to snow or gray from the chimneys. Well, you can just imagine what Annabelle decides do to with all this colorful yarn. She knits a simple sweater for herself and dog, however there’s still extra yarn. Annabelle knits sweaters and hats for everyone in town, but there’s still extra yarn. Soon the town is no longer in shades of white and gray, but cheerful colors created with all the extra yarn. The words are simple with a few sentences on each page.

As a knitter and crocheter I agree, there’s always something you can make with a little extra yarn left over. Perhaps I should share some of my yarn creations.

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Book Review: The Wind Blew by Pat Hutchins

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wind blewThe Wind Blew

Written & Illustrated by Pat Hutchins
Published by Macmillan Publishing Company in 1974
Genre/Topics: Humorous, Rhymes 
Ages 3+, 32 pages

We’ve all experienced a really windy day when we need to hold our hat tight and hope nothing gets blown away. Well, everything seems to blow away in the book The Wind Blew. It begins with an umbrella being turned inside out. (Living in a ‘rainy’ city, it always makes me laugh when I see people attempt to hold an umbrella on a rainy and windy day.) Soon the wind blew hard enough that it swept up a balloon, hat, scarf, judge’s wig, and much more. The words are simple and somewhat rhyme. It plucked a hanky from a nose and up and up and up it rose. The book is fun, because you can guess what may get blown away next. Here’s a small clue: the object is something on the previous page but you’re not exactly sure what it is. I read this book in a classroom and the students thought it was funny. I’d also like to highlight that this book was written in 1974, which proves that great books can be discovered anytime. 

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Book Review: It’s Spring!

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springIt’s Spring!

Written by Linda Glaser,
Illustrated by Susan Swan
Published January 1, 2002 by Millbrook Press 
Genre/Topics: Seasons, Nature, Realistic
Ages: 4+, 32 pages 

 

It’s Spring! is a colorful and educational book about how the season changes to Spring. The book follows one boy as he experiences different things during Spring.  It begins how winter coats are no longer needed, the ice melts and then there are puddles to jump in. The different senses are in the book as he feels  the soft buds on his cheek, hears birds cheep, and smells daffodils. Spring is now the season to plant and he starts a garden. He notices that the sun shines longer and the days are warmer. The illustrations are very unique, because it’s made with three-dimensional cut paper then layered to give depth and photographed with lights to give shadows. The pictures almost appear as though the flower is popping out of the page. The back of the book provides Spring nature activities. 

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Happy 1st Day of Spring!

 

Wordless Picture Book: Zoom

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zoom

Zoom

Written & Illustrated by Istvan Banyai 
Published  by Puffin on March 1, 1995
Ages: 5+
64 pages 

 

Zoom was my first wordless picture book experience that got me excited to read more. Each page in the book ‘zooms’ out into a bigger picture. You really don’t know what’s going to be the next zoom. I provided the first three pages that hopefully catch your interest and you’ll want to know the last zoom. I stated that the book is ages 5 and up, but really any age can enjoy these bright colors. It’s a great wordless book to use for teaching predictions, since you really need to guess what the next ‘zoom’ will be. Don’t worry, the first three pictures don’t destroy the wonder of this wordless picture book.

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Book Review: Leaf Man

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Leaf Man Leaf Man

Written & Illustrated by Lois Ehlert
Published by Harcourt Children’s Books on September 1, 2005 
Genre/Topics: Season, Environment, Science 
Ages: 3+, 40 pages 
ALA Notable Children’s Book  

 

 

Leaf Man is a colorful book that describes a leaf’s journey. The leaves begin joined together as a ‘man’, but then the wind blows it in all directions. Instead of stating leaves blowing, the book states it as though it was a leaf man travelling. The wind blew the leaf man over vegetable gardens, over meadows, flowing along a river, and flying over mountains with birds. Each page the leaves formed into the descriptions, such as leaves attached to become fish-like when it traveled along the river. Throughout the book it states ‘a Leaf Man’s got to go where the wind blows’. The pages are die cut that together create a landscape. The author collected actual leaves then made the illustrations to closely resemble the leaves. On the back, there are pictures of each leaf and its name. I really enjoyed Leaf Man.

 

This photo shows the die cuts on the top of each page. Think of each landscape element as a different page.

 

 

 

Book Review: Fletcher and the Falling Leaves

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Fletcher and the Falling Leaves 

Written by Julia Rawlinson 
Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke 
Published by Greenwillow Books on August 29, 2006 
Genre/Topics: Seasons
Ages: 4+, 32 pages 

 

It is no longer summer in the forest as the green colors are slowly turning brown.Fletcher is worried about his favorite tree that now appears brown and dry.  Fletcher tells his mother that he thinks his tree is sick, but she says that the tree is fine and that’s it’s now autumn. However, the tree doesn’t appear better at all as more leaves fall. He attempts to attach a leaf to the tree, but the wind carries it away. Soon the tree is completely bare and Fletcher notices that other forest animals use the leaves to provide warmth or build a nest. He takes the last leaf home and protects it. When Fletcher returns to his favorite tree he discovers that the once bare tree contains icicles. Fletcher is happy when he sees the beautiful tree.

 

9/11 Book: September 12th Everything Would Be All Right

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Children's Books & More

September 12th: We Knew Everything Would Be All Right

by Materson Elementary Students in Kennett, Missouri

Ages 5-7, 32 pages

The horrible acts on September 11, 2001, created questions about what and how to explain the events to young children. September 12th: We Knew Everything Would Be All Right is different because first grade students themselves wrote the book. It is a simple book that discusses that ordinary things still occur, such as homework, story time, and 2+2=4. The message is of hope that even after bad things occur that each day is a new beginning. It briefly discuss what occurred, so it’s not very graphic.

 

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9/11 Book: Heroic Fireboat

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Children's Books & More

Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman

Ages 6 -9, 48 pages

This is the inspiring true story of the John J. Harvey-a retired New York City fireboat reinstated on September 11, 2001. Originally launched in 1931, the Harvey was the most powerful fireboat of her time. After the September 11 attacks, with fire hydrants at Ground Zero inoperable and the Hudson River’s water supply critical to fighting the blaze, the fire department called on the Harvey for help.

The book provides brief history of events during Harvey’s prime in the 1930s. The pictures are beautiful and provide a unique story during a tragic event. It briefly explains what occurred without going into too much detail. The focus is upon the community’s involvement that creates a discussion about everyone’s role and the importance of coming together.

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Back to School Book: Butterflies in My Stomach

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Butterflies in My Stomach and Other School Hazards 

Written & Illustrated by Serge Bloch 
Published  by Sterling on August 5, 2008
Genre/Topics: First Day of School, Humorous, Idioms
Ages: 4+, 32 pages 

The first day of school brings many emotions from excitement to nerves. This is a book to hopefully ease those butterflies in your stomach before you begin school. We’ve all heard unique speech expressions that don’t need an explanation, such as ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’, ‘cat caught your tongue’, ‘the early bird gets the worm’, ‘tickled pink’, ‘apple of my eye’, and many more. However, as children these expressions can be very confusing especially on the first day of school when you’re already nervous.

A child begins his first day of school and feels awful from the start when he wakes on ‘the wrong side of the bed’ and almost missed the bus which would cause him to be ‘in a real pickle’. The teacher tried to ease his worries stating that he was ‘all ears’ when he was ready to talk then read a funny book which had students ‘laughing their head off’. He visits the school librarian and learns that you can ‘get lost in a book’. He hopes to play outside at recess, yet everybody must come inside because ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’, but the boy is sad because he doesn’t see his dog from the sky. The story concludes with the boy arriving at home and greeting his dog, which made him feel as ‘happy as a puppy with two tails’.

I really enjoyed this book. There are a total of thirty-five idioms throughout the book. You can play a game to find all the idioms and then see who can explain them. It’s amazing how idioms make each language unique. The illustrations are great, because most of the book is simple black and white but the highlighted idiom is in color. I highly suggest this book for the first day of school or whenever you want a good laugh.

 

Book Review: Chopsticks

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Chopsticks

Chopsticks
Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrated by Scott Magoon
Published by Hyperion Books on January 24th 2012
Genre/Topics: Humorous, Friendship, Be Yourself 
Ages: 4-8, 40 pages 
 
Chopsticks were best friends who were always together and did everything together. Nobody could remember a time when they weren’t together. However, something tragic occurred when they attempted new skills together. Chopstick was whisked away for help. and luckily it was a clean break, so Chopstick would soon be better. Chopstick stayed next to Chopstick each day until somebody mentioned that it was time to move on and try new things without Chopstick. Soon Chopstick learned new talents without his friend. Finally, Chopstick was better and together they learned that being apart actually made them stronger yet they still remained great friends. 
 
I really enjoyed Chopsticks and it made me laugh as I read it. It’s a wonderful book to teach young children that it’s okay to work together, but also be apart. There are no pronouns (he/she) in the book, so the name Chopstick is used for both.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Book Review: Yoon and the Jade Bracelet

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Yoon and the Jade Bracelet 

Written by Helen Recorvits
Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
Published August 5th 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Genre/Topics: Realistic Fiction, Cultural, Korean, Bullying, Friendship
Ages: 6-9, 32 pages 

More than anything Yoon wants to fit in at school and make friends, so what she desires for her birthday is a jump rope. Yoon believes that the children will let her play jump rope with them and she’ll finally have some friends. When it is her birthday, Yoon’s mother gives her a Korean story book about a little girl who tricked a tiger. The special present Yoon receives is a jade bracelet that was her grandmother’s. Symbols inside the jade bracelet mean Shining Wisdom. Neither present is a jump rope, but Yoon pretends to be happy. At school a girl notices her jade bracelet and tells Yoon how beautiful it is. If she lets Yoon wear it the girl promises to be her friend and she can jump rope. Yoon knows deep down that she shouldn’t give such a special item, but she finally lets the girl borrow it for one day. However, the girl doesn’t give it back and Yoon’s mother believes she lost it. Yoon begs to have her jade bracelet back and tells the teacher it is hers. The teacher asks Yoon how she can prove it is hers. Yoon whispers that inside it is written Shinning Wisdom, but the other girl can’t tell what it says. Yoon gets her jade bracelet back and is the tiger who tricked the girl.

I really enjoyed Yoon and the Jade Bracelet, since you may not see this type of bullying often in books. It shows the cultural importance between her mother. Yoon is the same character from My Name is Yoon.

Book Review: Eva and Little Kitty on the Titanic

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Eva and Little Kitty on the Titanic 

Written and Illustrated by Sidsel Carnahan 
Published April 23, 2012 (Presently, only available in digital format.)
Genre/Topics: Realistic Fiction, Titanic, Biography
Ages: 6-8
Pages: (I read this book on a pdf document which was 25 pages.)  
 

This is the partial true story of a Titanic survivor, Eva Hart. Eva is only seven years old when she boards the grand ship, Titanic, with her mother and father from England. Her father is very excited about their journey to America on the Titanic whereas her mother is unsure and believes something bad may happen. Eva asks if she can bring her Kitty on the ship, but is told no. However, this doesn’t stop Eva from hiding Kitty and secretly bringing the cat with her. Eva meets two young boys and she shows Little Kitty. She’s puzzled what to do about Little Kitty at night, because her mother is so worried she stays awake at night. The Captain notices Eva and asks if he can help. He states that Little Kitty can sleep in his cabin at night. One night, Eva is suddenly woken up and told to quickly dress. Her father takes Eva  to the top deck. They are told that the Titanic hit an iceberg and everyone must get into lifeboats. Eva remembers Little Kitty and hurries to the Captain’s cabin. At first, only women and children enter the lifeboats so she leaves her father behind. Eva snuggles with Little Kitty and keeps close to her mother until they are rescued.

I thought Eva and Little Kitty on the Titanic was a delightful book while also being educational. I believe this is a good introduction to the Titanic tragedy for younger ages. The story is sweet and simple as you learn about a young girl exploring the ship. I also thought it was interesting that there were different opinions within the family: the father was excited and proud to be on the Titanic, yet the mother believed nothing could be unsinkable and had negative thoughts. Although the illustrations were nice and wholesome, I wasn’t personally fond of them. The style almost appeared out-dated. However, I still enjoyed the lovely story to introduce the Titanic.

Eva Hart was one of the last remaining Titanic survivors who died at age 91. Eva Hart was very outspoken about the Titanic sinking. She  once stated: “If a ship is torpedoed, that’s war. If it strikes a rock in a storm, that’s nature. But just to die because there weren’t enough lifeboats, that’s ridiculous.”

Eva with her parents