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


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
ISBN: 9781402759963
Grades PreK-2
In Stores March 2, 2010


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
Grades K-2
In Stores


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.

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


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
Grades 1-4
In Stores


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
Grades K-2
In Stores


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.


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



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.


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.


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


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.


Children’s Book of Art
DK Publishing
ISBN: 9780756655112
Grades 4-7
In Stores



Really, kids are in prime position to be turned on to the wide world of art. If they don’t already draw for fun, classroom crafts, “draw a picture” assignments, and weekly art class ensure that elementary-aged youngsters are getting creative on a daily basis. Children’s Book of Art proves to be a well-organized, able introduction to the noteworthy names, styles, and works that form the basics of artistic knowledge. A solid overview of a topic that kids are ready to dig into.

Split into three general sections (Early Art, Modern Art, and Sculpture), the book covers a wide swath of territory. Beginning with the who, how, and why of early cave paintings up to Damien Hirst’s installation art, each time period and style of art is given its due. The book consists of “gallery” pages (showing the use of different artistic elements), “artist profiles” (detailing the life and work or individuals), “how did they do that” sections (which provide instructions for working with different media), and “art style” spreads (covering significant art movements). The range is impressive.

Easy on the eyes, as an art book should be. Large images of well-known (and some more obscure) artwork pop up everywhere. Page layouts often teach, showing readers how different styles of art are created. Artist biographies run down the side of pages, time line style, hitting important events and highlighting influences.


Useful for fact-finding students looking for artist info as well as those simply interested in learning more, Children’s Book of Art effectively (and entertainingly) serves both audiences.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Check out the Nonfiction Monday roundup at Books Together Blog.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.


Imogene’s Last Stand
By Candace Fleming
Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
Schwartz & Wade Books (Random House)
ISBN: 9780375836077
Grades K-3
In Stores


Four score and seven zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

As much as this amateur Abe Lincoln impersonator hates to say it, history often has the unfortunate reputation of being boring. Unfairly pigeonholed, I say! While there are plenty of picture books featuring historical settings, there aren’t many that deal with the importance of preserving the past. Allow Imogene’s Last Stand to help fill the void. Credit is due to Candace Fleming (The Lincolns) and illustrator Nancy Carpenter (17 Things I’m Not Allowed to do Anymore), who have created a story about the importance of history that is a delight to read.

Ever since she was very young, Imogene Tripp has been an historical enthusiast. When she sees an opportunity to revive the long ignored Liddleville Historical Society, Imogene seizes it with enthusiasm. After putting her all into cleaning and organizing the old house, she discovers that it is to be torn down, by order of the mayor, to make way for a shoelace factory. Imogene tries to save the Society, but her attempts fail until she makes a discovery that changes minds and just might put Liddleville on the historical map.

Sharp and resourceful, Imogene is the quintessential spunky protagonist. She infuses history into everything she does, often quoting the words of famous Americans. Extra credit points are earned as an explanation of each quote is provided on the book’s endpapers.

It’s difficult to deny the “after-school special” vibe going on. When a feisty youngster fights back against an unsavory developer, the comparison is an easy one to make. However, through humor and appealing characters, the story doesn’t give an ounce of tiresome familiarity.

Carpenter uses pen, ink and digital media to create images that wonderfully match the text. Liberal use of two-page spreads make this book well suited for read-aloud settings. The soft, inviting tones and a drawing style that blurs the line between detailed and doodled will subtly engage young readers.

In the words of 100 Scope Notes,

“An entertaining and undeniably charming read, Imogene’s Last Stand has my endorsement!”

Review copy borrowed.

Also reviewed by Bri Meets Books.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

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