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Kit Feeny: On the Move
By Michael Townsend
Alfred A. Knopf (Random House)
ISBN: 9780375956140
$14.94
Grades 2-4
In Stores

*Recommended*

Joining the steadily-growing ranks of graphic novels for the 2nd-4th grade set, Kit Feeny: On the Move is a goofy winner.

Kit Feeny is a cheeseball-art-creating, ninja-fishing … well, it’s hard to tell exactly what kind of animal he is. Anyway, he partakes in his hobbies with his best friend Arnold. When Kit learns his family is moving, he’s (obviously) not pleased. Sneaking Arnold along in a moving box fails, so our hero sets about finding a replacement. Kit soon realizes it will be tough to find the exact replica he’s looking for. Hopeless, he is reduced eating beans out of a can and living the life of a “lonesome hobo” in his backyard. Eventually, the realization hits – an Arnold copy is impossible to find, but a new friend isn’t.

The tone is off beat, but surprisingly honest. Young readers will relate to Kit’s feelings about moving to a new town and leaving friends behind.

The sunny cartoon illustrations are in contrast to the oddness of the storyline. The black, white, and orange color palate (along with the small size) immediately identifies it as part of the Babymouse/Lunch Lady crowd. Not bad company.

Kit Feeny: On the Move will make a nice addition to your reluctant reader collection. Really, this quote from Kit says it best:

“It was weird and pointless. Of course I liked it!”

Review copy from school library.

Also reviewed by Unshelved, Kiss the Book, Riddle Reads, Book Trends.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

Potty Animals: What to Know When You’ve Gotta Go!
By Hope Vestergaard
Illustrated by Valeria Petrone
Sterling
ISBN: 9781402759963
$14.95
Grades PreK-2
In Stores March 2, 2010

*Recommended*

The landscape of books about etiquette is pretty desolate. For every solid contribution, like the recent Wiggens Learns His Manners at the Four Seasons Restaurant there are what seems like a thousand uninspired rule rundowns. So when a good one comes along, it’s all the more important to hold onto. I don’t know if I can be much clearer than this: Potty Animals should be PreK-2nd grade required reading. And I don’t say this based solely on the information contained within, but because of the entertaining, interactive, and successful way it’s delivered.

Through spry rhyming text, we are introduced to the students of Sycamore Elementary. This varied collection of animals act out every conceivable bathroom issue that youngsters face, as the narrator describes each situation. Readers are encouraged to tell the animals what they should do, and each two page spread ends with a line (such as “Wilbur, always wash with soap!”) to be read together. The last page contains a list of these “read together” phrases.

It seems odd, but I think readers will be transfixed. There’s something about seeing a kid make the wrong choice that makes other younsters take notice. The fact that these choices pertain to a subject that is a bit taboo only increases the interest.

The field of digital illustration continues to surprise. Here the artwork comes across as created with a brush and paint, not the colorform-esque images often associated with the computer-aided medium. The results are pretty eye-catching.

It’s a pleasant surprise to read an etiquette book for young readers that exceeds expectations, and that’s what this one did. You know a lower elementary teacher? How about the parent of a child in that age group? You’ll be making a good move by picking this one up for them. Don’t hesitate to add it to your library collection.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

Two of a Kind
By Jacqui Robbins
Illustrated by Matt Phelan
Atheneum (Simon & Schuster)
ISBN: 9781416924371
$16.99
Grades K-2
In Stores

*Recommended*

It happens every year. Good books come and go without getting their due. But if there is a reassuring thought, it is this: honest books are always needed. And honest is exactly what Two of a Kind is. From the perspective of, and speaking directly to kids experiencing an all-too-common friendship problem, Jacqui Robbins (The New Girl) sets an impressively authentic tone. Don’t let this one fly under your radar.

Kayla and Melanie are best friends. They also look down on everyone else. When Anna becomes accepted into their group, Anna’s friend Julisa is left behind. The more Anna gets to know her new friends, the less happy she becomes. Is it too late for Anna to save her friendship with Julisa?

The softly-hued watercolor illustrations look wonderful. Matt Phelan’s (The Storm in the Barn) attention to detail brings to vivid life all the subtle expressions and body language that make this story stand out.

It’s easy for a book like this to come across as an adult author telling kids what to do. Not here. Two of a Kind sets itself apart as a truthful take on a situation that kids will relate to. Be sure to add it to your collection.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

This book is nominated for a 2009 Cybils Award.

Also reviewed by TheHappyNappyBookseller.

Read and interview of author Jacqui Robbins by Little Willow.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

The Circus Ship
By Chris Van Dusen
Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763630904
$16.99
Grades K-2
In Stores

*Best New Books*

You know how it goes – great story, weak illustrations. Or maybe it’s amazing artwork, slight story. This either/or inconsistency is the downfall of many a picture book. Not this time. Delightful from start to finish, The Circus Ship is fully-realized and well executed. Likely to be a go-to read aloud choice and a circulation champion.

The story is loosely based on real events that occurred in 1836, with rhyming verse that pulls the reader in from the beginning. On the way to Boston, a circus ship carrying exotic animals sinks. The circus owner, worried only about himself, jumps into a lifeboat and lets the animals fend for themselves. The assortment of fauna eventually find land – a small island off the coast of Maine. After winning over the locals, the animals begin to feel at home. It isn’t long, however, before the hot-headed circus owner reappears in the island, intent on bringing the animals back to the big top. With the help of the island residents, the animals send the blustery circus owner packing.

Bright and impressively detailed, Van Dusen’s (If I Built a Car) gouache illustrations raise this book to the next level. In the author’s note, Van Dusen explains that he “focused more on light source and texture in the artwork … This makes the book more complex and richer overall”. I agree – the richness of this artwork stands out as the best of his career thus far – and some of the best children’s book illustration of the year.

It works, and it works well. The Circus Ship is cohesive storytelling through and through. Be sure to add this to your collection.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

This book is nominated for a 2009 Cybils Award.

Also reviewed by Provo City Children’s Book Review.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

Guess Again!
By Mac Barnett
Illustrated by Adam Rex
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781416955665
$16.99
Grades K-2
In Stores

*Best New Books*

Review copy provided by the publisher.

This book is nominated for a 2009 Cybils award.

See how the cover for Guess Again! was designed on Adam Rex’s blog.

Also reviewed by Kids Lit, A Year of Reading, Pink Me, Muddy Puddle Musings.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

Dinosaur Woods
By George McClements
Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster)
ISBN: 9781416986263
$16.99
Grades K-2
In Stores

*Recommended*

You know what kids like? Thinking big. The bigger the idea, the better. Bob Shea & Lane Smith’s 2008 (and appropriately titled) Big Plans is a great example of this concept successfully making its way into children’s lit. Add Dinosaur Woods into this category as well. A group of animals try to save their little patch of forest the only way they know how – by coming up with a wild, grand, prehistoric idea.

As is so often the setup, developers are moving in. In four days the Plas-Tic Tree Company will be clearing forest to build a new factory. Seven residents of said forest are, understandably, troubled. Rojo the fox comes up with a plan to create a huge, fearsome, lifelike Tyrannosaurus Rex puppet to scare everyone off. The friends work hard on the project and it pays off – the developers are thoroughly spooked. But when the pseudo-dino breaks and the jig is up, will our heroes need to find a new home?

The illustrations, rendered in mixed media collage, are nothing short of astounding. McClements works wonders here with paper and paint, crafting expressive characters full of life.

Solid story, amazing visuals, and a “think big” theme that kids will enjoy. A nice package.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

This book is nominated for a 2009 Cybils award.

Also reviewed by Raising Readers and Writers, Kids Book Blog.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

Under the Snow
By Melissa Stewart
Illustrated by Constance R. Bergum
Peachtree Publishers
ISBN: 9781561454938
$16.95
Grades 1-4
In Stores

*Recommended*

It’s a question that crosses everyone’s mind at some point – where do animals go in the winter? Sure, we know that mammals like bears and squirrels hibernate and some birds fly south, but what about everyone else? Butterflies? Fish? Snakes? Under the Snow answers these questions for young readers.

The story is simple, yet informative at every turn. The narrator begins by describing the coming of winter, and the changes the season brings. The focus quickly turns to the animal world.

You spend your days sledding and skating and having snowball fights. But under the snow lies a hidden world.

Using cutaways and zoom-ins, the watercolor illustrations show a variety of animals in their winter homes. Ladybugs cluster in a gap in the stone wall. A bumblebee queen hides inside a rotted log. A turtle buries itself in the mud at the bottom of a pond. Each turn of the page shows a new animal adapting to the winter months.

Not a shelf-appeal stunner, but sporting a usefulness that can’t be denied. Under the Snow should be a part of your nonfiction collection.

Review copy borrowed from school library.

Check out the Nonfiction Monday roundup at The BookNosher.

Also reviewed by Kiss the Book, Kiwi Magazine.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

Otto Grows Down
By Michael Sussman
Illustrated by Scott Magoon
Sterling Children’s Books
ISBN: 9781402747038
$14.95
Grades K-2
In Stores

*Recommended*

A Review in Reverse

Engaging and entertaining, Otto Grows Down is hard to deny.

The artwork doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is a worthy match for a story that does the same. Similar to the recent The Very Hungry Dinosaur, Scott Magoon’s (Rabbit & Squirrel: A Tale of War & Peas) illustrations exude a deceptively simple, childlike quality.

Plot-driven and genuinely funny (there is a bathroom scene that had me absolutely disgusted, yet laughing out loud just the same), youngsters will be drawn in from page one. This title’s usefulness in a read-aloud setting is clear.

Will Otto be able to set things straight before he ceases to exist? But it doesn’t work. His birthday wish is for things to go back to normal. When his 5th birthday arrives, Otto has had enough. But time keeps going backward. Immediately, time and events start moving in reverse – un-blowing out the candles, walking backwards – and it isn’t long before Anna is out of the picture. Amazingly, he gets his way. Upstaged at his own b-day bash, Otto blows out his candles wishing that little sis were never born. One week before Otto’s 6th birthday, his little sister Anna steals his thunder by being born. The story begins with an easily relatable set-up.

A solidly above average release that is sure to be a read-aloud success. Funny, clever, and sporting a subtle moral that doesn’t thwack young readers on the head. Otto Grows Down takes this theme, adds a bit of time-in-reverse craziness, and comes out a winner. Excitement, anticipation, and the ever-so-familiar resentment are a few of the mixed feelings that spring from such an event. Plenty of kids have a hard time adjusting to a new sibling.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Also reviewed by Literate Lives, Books Upon a Wee One’s Shelf.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

oscarcov

Oscar and the Bird: A Book About Electricity
By Geoff Waring
Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763640323
$14.99
Grades K-2
In Stores

*Recommended*

nonfictionmonday

So how’s your electricity section doing? Oh, pretty well you say? Anything in there for the K-2 set? You’ll get back to me? Look, let me save you some embarrassment and just suggest something that might help.

Oscar and the Bird: A Book About Electricity capably joins the other titles in the Start with Science nonfiction series. The basic vocabulary and storybook format make this book accessible for younger readers. A complex concept in a package that kids will be able to understand, this title is ripe for classroom connections.

Gray and white cat Oscar is a curious feline. When he comes across a tractor with its windshield wipers on, Oscar can’t help but wonder how the wipers are able to move. A brown bird flies down just in time to supply the answer: electricity. The two talk about the tractor battery that makes it all possible. Oscar’s questions soon lead to more big-picture concepts, like how circuits work and where electricity comes from.

What’s old is new again. The crisp, outline-free illustrations have a retro look that clearly illustrate the concepts covered. Soft blues, greens, reds, and yellows cover each two page spread.

oscarinside

A clear, concise little title that serves its purpose well. Good to have on hand.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Check out the Nonfiction Monday roundup at Tales From the Rushmore Kid.

Also reviewed by Moss Green Children’s Books.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

superhungrycov

The Super Hungry Dinosaur
By Martin Waddell
Illustrated by Leonie Lord
Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin)
ISBN: 9780803734463
$16.99
Grades PreK-1
In Stores

*Recommended*

There’s something about the taming of wild beasts that has staying power in children’s lit – you’ve heard of Where the Wild Things Are, right? I can understand why – it’s a role reversal. Rules are so often imposed on youngsters, it only makes sense that they would enjoy a story where the kid gets to call the shots, besting the monster. And such is the case with The Super Hungry Dinosaur. But don’t let my (possible over-) analysis cloud the picture – this book is charming as all get out, and kids will approve – especially in a read-aloud setting.

Hal and his dog, Billy, are minding their business in the back yard, when they are surprised by an unexpected guest. The titular Super Hungry Dinosaur breaks down the fence and is looking for food. The dino first tells Hal that he will be lunch, but the curly-haired boy is sharp and explains why that is not a fair choice. Rebuffed, the dinosaur suggests other family members (each suggestion denied by Hal) until the line is crossed: the dino wants to eat Billy. Hal takes a stand, taming the beast and feeding him, sending the green dinosaur contentedly on his way.

The artwork, created by Leonie Lord, sets a jovial mood. Crayonlike in texture and childlike in form, Lord creates sunny pages that are a delight to lay eyes on. The two-page spread is nicely utilized, showing the full size of the dinosaur. Spreads are also occasionally split into thirds horizontally, providing three narrow strips to continue the story. This is Lord’s first children’s book, and I look forward to more in the future.

Appealing in story and artwork, The Super Hungry Dinosaur will do pretty well for itself in collections far and wide.

Review copy provided by the publisher

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

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