Archive for the ‘ages 4-8’ Category

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Press Here

February 19, 2012

Title: Press Here
Author: Hervè Tullet
Illustrator: Hervè Tullet
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 9780811879545
Publisher: Chronicle (2011)
List Price: Hardcover, $15.99

I have a little bone to pick with the world. And that little bone is that we have become quite an impatient bunch of individuals. Spoiled by our iPhones, iPads, iEverything, we want what we want when we want it. And we want it right now. Delayed gratification is just not an option. And, to be honest, we’re not even that great at simply sitting still anymore.

Thus, it isn’t too surprising that “plain old” picture books are being tossed aside for interactive ebooks; in which, letters glow, pictures move, and characters come to life. But the question must be raised: Is the child even reading anymore at that point?

So for those naysayers out there, who claim that printed books are not nearly as entertaining or interactive as their technological brethren, I present Press Here.

Hervè Tullet’s imaginative and engaging picture book is practically flying off bookshelves everywhere (we can barely keep in it stock at my bookstore because it is in such high demand). Tullet greet’s his eager readers with a single yellow dot in a sea of white, and one word, “Ready?”

Seriously, what child wouldn’t be?

After turning the page you see the same yellow dot, and a simple request, “Press here and turn the page.” When you turn the page you see that the single yellow dot has turned into two yellow dots, and you’re asked to press the same dot again. So you do as you’re told, and you turn the page to find that there are now three yellow dots. Tullet congratulates you on your work so far, and urges you on,  “Perfect. Rub the dot on the left… gently.” You rub the dot on the left, turn the page, and see that the yellow dot on the left is now red.

On and on, Tullet has his readers pressing here, tapping there, shaking the book up and down, tilting it too and fro, blowing on the the pages to move the dots this way and that, and clapping to make the dots grow.

Kids (especially those aged four to six) LOVE this book, because they feel like they are in charge of something magical! Little do they know that they are actually learning how to follow directions, and absorbing important information like knowing right from left.

Tullet’s dots are colorful and imperfect, which gives the reader the feeling that each page has been freshly finger-painted just for them. And to make the book even more kid-friendly, it is published with a hard cardboard cover, which provides the sturdy casing needed to meet the demands of all that pressing, poking, and shaking.

Now, a lot of adults don’t understand this book. You want proof? How about the fact a number of big name publishers actually rejected Tullet’s ingenious proposal. Thankfully, the fabulous, and über creative, Chronicle Books, located in San Francisco, saw Press Here for what it was– a silly, but brilliant, text that children could not only learn from, but actually interact with.

Press Here is an automatic favorite with little ones everywhere!

So, TAKE THAT, ebooks!

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Dear Hug Time, Will You Be My Valentine?

February 14, 2012

Title: Hug Time
Author: Patrick McDonnell
Illustrator: Patrick McDonnell
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 978-0316114943
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co. (2007)
List Price: Hardcover, $14.99 / Board Book, $6.99

I know that a lot of people are not too fond of Valentine’s Day. They argue that it is some sort of corporate conspiracy– an evil marketing ploy invented to make us spend money. But don’t you fret, because I am not one of those people. And if you are one of those people… well… you should maybe still read this because it just might melt that cynical little heart of yours…

Homemade Valentine, next to a photo of my actual Valentine. (Please, don't sue me, Maurice Sendak...)

I love February 14th because it combines most* of my favorite things:

  • Chocolate
  • Flowers
  • Snail Mail
  • Super Cute Children’s Books!

The new board book format!

Patrick McDonnell’s Hug Time is the perfect book to read to your little loves this Valentine’s Day. This oh-s0-adorable rhyming picture book, which is also now available as a board book, follows a little kitten named Jules (as seen in McDonnell’s MUTTS comic strip), on his trek around the globe. What is driving this furry feline’s adventure? Why, only his desire to give the whole world a hug, of course!

“There was no one this kitten wanted to miss, so he made (and checked twice) a Hug To-Do List. He hugged his best friends, Mooch, Noodles, and Earl, a butterfly, buttercups, a little gray squirrel. He hugged all the birds he could find in the park. So many to hug before it got dark! Jules jumped on a boat and set out to sail and soon he spotted a big blue tail… attached to a huggable BIG blue whale**”

McDonnell’s writing is simple and sweet. His soft rhymes have a natural flow to them, which make the book perfect for reading out loud (just ask my friends… they’ve all sat patiently to hear it from me at least once). And the story’s soothing message of peace and love is ideal for a cozy bedtime setting. McDonnell introduces his readers to the most lovable, and empathetic, little kitten. And Jules’ genuine care for this world is not only heartwarming, it is also inspiring.

“The boat docked in Africa and Jules kissed the ground– the earth so precious, so fragile, so round. He hugged an elephant and a chimpanzee… a giraffe, a hippo, and a baobab tree. Exploring the rain forest by foot and canoe, Jules discovered a species brand-new. Kneeling, he whispered, ‘We welcome you.'”

Of course, McDonnell’s illustrations are what really make this story a smash. With so few words, each page of colorful drawings is what really carries the reader along Jules’ journey. McDonnell’s strokes may seem simple, but they create so much life. Each of the animals that Jules encounters seems to be more animated than the last. Please pay particular attention to each animal’s facial expression, like the lion’s below. Every animal’s demeanor is different, and yet they are all adorable. With just a few lines, McDonnell can create an exceedingly life-like expression of calm, delight, surprise, or indifference (as with the giraffe, who seems entirely unfazed by the little kitten clutching his nose in a hug). Each animal is beautifully depicted, and each page presents something lovely for little eyes to devour. Honestly, if I could have any of these pages framed for my wall at home, I would do so immediately.

So this Valentine’s Day, instead of those gross conversation hearts, treat the little ones that you care about to Hug Time!

I’m sending love to you all! Thank you for reading!

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Notes:

* If Valentine’s Day somehow included whales and Jane Austen, I would probably die of happiness…

** Ah ha! This Valentine’s Day DOES include a whale! Wait ’til you see the illustration of Jules trying to hug a giant blue whale… le sigh…

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Like Patrick McDonnell? Check out what I have to say about one of his other books, Me… Jane.
 
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One Cool Friend

February 3, 2012

Title: One Cool Friend
Author: Toni Buzzeo
Illustrator: David Small
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 9780803734135
Publisher: Dial (2011)
List Price: Hardcover, $16.99

So… I know it is only February, but I think I may have found my favorite book of the year. Is that even possible?

If One Cool Friend, by Toni Buzzeo (Penelope Popper, Book Doctor) and David Small (Imogene’s Antlers, So You Want to Be President?) is any indication of the quality of picture books that will be published in 2012, then we are in for quite a treat. Clever, silly, and surprising, young readers will love this tale of unlikely friendships and hilarious misunderstandings.

Buzzeo writes that “Elliot was a very proper young man,” which all readers can see from his quiet disposition, elevated language, and a black & white wardrobe (complete with bow-tie) that would make Edgar Allen Poe proud. While visiting the aquarium with his father one day, unruffled Elliot becomes quite taken by the Magellanic Penguins.

“In their tidy black feather tuxedos with their proper posture, they reminded Elliot of himself.”

Elliot identifies with the little dapper dudes so much that he decides to take one home with him… only after first asking his father for permission, of course.

Unfortunately, Elliot’s turtle-obsessed father, distracted by his latest copy National Geographic Magazine misunderstands Elliot’s request, and believes that the boy would simply like to take home a plush penguin from the gift shop. Hilarity ensues, as the young boy turns his room in to an Antarctic wonderland for his new friend, Magellan, and Elliot and his father continue to misinterpret one another. Can Elliot and Magellan successfully evade detection? Readers will be laughing out loud when all comes to light at the end of the story.

I fell in love with David Small’s art at a very young age, when Imogene’s Antlers was my bed-time book of choice (I could, and probably should, write a whole separate post about that one, because it such a personal favorite, so stay tuned). However, his illustrations for One Cool Friend are just as charming. His celebrated mixed-media artwork is full of creative details, interesting snippets of newspapers & maps, and fabulous pops of color. He has also drawn speech and thought bubbles around Elliot & his father’s dialogue, as well as their inside thoughts, which adds a creative, and slightly comic-strip, feel to the text. Readers will find themselves looking back through each page, searching for the small details that hint at the book’s silly conclusion.

One Cool Friend is an absolute joy to read! It is imaginative, hilarious, and adorable. I also find it rather amusing that it is a book about a penguin, and it is published by Dial, which is an imprint of Penguin… is that only funny to me?

Either way, I’m serious folks… this one is a winner…

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Stuck

January 14, 2012

Title: Stuck
Author: Oliver Jeffers
Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 9780399257377
Publisher: Philomel (2011)
List Price: Hardcover, $16.99

 

Oliver Jeffers (The Incredible Book-Eating Boy, The Great Paper Caper, Up and Down) has done it again. The author/illustrator’s latest picture book, Stuck, is just as quirky and hilarious as his other works.

Jeffers is known for his ridiculously silly plot lines, unique writing, and illustrative style. In Stuck, Jeffers’ protagonist, Floyd, finds himself facing a very ordinary problem: his kite has merely gotten stuck in a tree. But the fun begins when Floyd tries to remedy this problem in a very extraordinary way. Floyd attempts to free his kite by throwing whatever he can find up in the tree as well, including his shoes, a cat, the neighbor’s ladder, the milk-man (“who surely had somewhere else to be”), an orangutan, a lighthouse, and “a curious whale” who was simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The talented author/illustrator from Northern Ireland takes a simple everyday experience and escalates the situation until it reaches absolute absurdity. Jeffers uses a mix of mediums to depict his outrageous scenes and his own scrawling and imperfect cursive handwriting for the text itself, which greatly adds to the book’s childish and playful tone.

The ending is a bit elusive; however, this may prompt an interesting discussion with children about how they think Floyd got his kite back. Overall, Stuck is a masterpiece of imagination and whimsy that is sure to entertain and elicit fits of belly laughs from young readers.

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Holiday Gift Guide: Season’s Readings!

December 14, 2011

Sometimes, I get the sneaky feeling that the majority of book-buyers out there think How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Polar Express are the only two Holiday titles in existence…

Don’t get me wrong, I love How the Grinch Stole Christmas, I actually had it memorized for a few years when I was little because I would listen to the book-on-tape every night before bed. And, well, I think the jury is still out on Polar Express… maybe my parents ingrained “stranger danger” into me too well or something… seriously though, does no one else think it’s weird that the little boy just hops on board a random train that pulls into his yard?

My point is, there are so many fantastic Christmas and Holiday themed picture books out there! Here are just a few of my favorites:

Olivia Helps with Christmas (Hardcover, $18.99): Who doesn’t love Olivia? As equal parts Ramona Quimby, Eloise, and Curious George, dear old Olivia is a wee bit sassy, pretty darn stubborn, remarkably creative and, unfortunately, incessantly “helpful” in all of the wrong ways. Ian Falconer’s witty text and mixed-medium illustrations are entertaining for parents and children alike. And the fold-out page in the middle that display’s Olivia’s method of decorating the dinner table will have you laughing out loud.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas (Hardcover, $16.95 / Board Book, $7.99): You may recall my minor obsession with bears (see prior post on Very Hairy Bear). Well, Karma Wilson has a whole picture book series about an adorable bear and all of his woodland-creature friends. Though Wilson’s simple rhyming narratives are well written, and perfect for reading out loud to little ones, it is Jane Chapman’s illustrations that make this series really stand out. Bear Stays Up for Christmas is just as sweet as the rest of the books in the series, but I think this is my favorite because it really highlights the importance of friendship, and spending time with one another, during the holidays. I’m warning you though… it is dangerously adorable…

Santa Claus: The World’s Number One Toy Expert (Hardcover, $16.00 / Paperback, $6.99): While often overlooked, Marla Frazee’s silly Santa book is my latest (and greatest) discovery. Though it was published in 2005, I just got my hands on a copy and I don’t ever want to let it go. Readers will love this original, and entertaining, look at all of the hard work Santa puts in before Christmas, as he tries to find the perfect gift for each boy and girl. Frazee’s illustrations are vibrant, playful, and wonderfully detailed! Whether it is the mini file folders where Santa keep all of his post-it notes, the ever-growing mass of cocoa mugs that litter each page, or the back-brace and walkie-talkie that Saint Nick dons in his warehouse, adults and kids will love to look for all of Frazee’s fun details in this hilarious holiday find. *This book is also available as a “Send -A-Story,” a cute little paperback storybook that you can throw a stamp on and mail directly to a friend!

Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas (Hardcover, $17.99): If you are looking to get glamorous, and expand your vocabulary this Christmas, check out Fancy Nancy. A crowd favorite among little girls right now, Nancy loves everything to be fancy, including the way she speaks. Nancy teaches her readers elevated language on the sly, “I love Christmas so much. It is important to find a tree with a wonderful aroma (That’s a fancy word for smell). I think bigger is always better, but my dad says we must compromise. That means we end up with the tree my mom wants.” Author Jane O’Conner presents readers with a great story about how to make any Christmas splendiferous, even when things go wrong. And Robin Preiss Glasser’s intricate and elegant illustrations will have little ones oo-ing and awe-ing for hours.

Christmas Cookies: Bite Sized Holiday Lessons (Hardcover, $12.99): Follow up Fancy Nancy with another sneaky way to introduce new vocabulary. Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s holiday follow-up to her earlier book Cookies: Bite Sized Life Lessons, teaches little ones the meaning of words like “celebrate,” “tradition,” and “appreciative” through baking. “Tradition means each year at the same time we make the same cookies and wear our special matching aprons.” Jane Dyer’s illustrations of cherubic children and anthropomorphic animals are as sweet as Rosenthal’s words. And the recipe to make your own sugar cookies, located in the back of the book, is also wonderful touch.

Llama Llama Holiday Drama (Hardcover, $17.99): If you are looking for something slightly sillier, pick up Anna Dewdney’s latest book in her Llama Llama series. Though a bit repetitive, this is a great rhyming book for early readers to practice on this holiday. Kids love Llama Llama, and can relate to his total and complete impatience for Christmas to arrive. But in the end, a cuddle from Mama Llama reminds him that “Gifts are nice, but there’s another: The true gift is, we have each other.”

So this holiday season, give that old Grinch a rest and reach for something new! And don’t forget to support your local independent booksellers if you can!

From my bookshelves to yours, Season’s Readings!

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Me… Jane

May 12, 2011

Title: Me… Jane
Author: Patrick McDonnell
Illustrator: Patrick McDonnell
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 9780316045469
Publisher: Little Brown (2011)
List Price: Hardcover, $15.99

Buy on Amazon

So… I’m pretty much famous. Why? Well, it is not for my amazing cupcake-baking abilities. Not yet at least. I’m one step closer to fame because I got to write a review for the San Diego Union Tribune (Page F4, Sunday May 22nd)! I reviewed Me…Jane, Patrick McDonnell’s latest picture book about Jane Goodall. Below is the review I wrote for the Union Tribune. It was hard to write a review for a newspaper; because, as I quickly learned, it could only be 150 words or so. Go ahead and look at my previous reviews on this blog, I can guarantee that NONE of them are anywhere near 150 words. I can’t help it. I’m loquacious. And when I love a book, I like to yammer on and on about it. So to make up for the short review, I have a slew of pictures from the book itself. McDonnell’s illustrations are just too lovely not to show off. Enjoy!


“Me…Jane is a charming introduction to the inspiring life of Jane Goodall. This shy little biography, written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell (the creator of the comic strip MUTTS), is disguised as a simple and sweet bedtime story, perfect for young readers aged four to eight. McDonnell effortlessly portrays the childhood of a girl named Jane, and the adventures she encounters with her favorite stuffed toy, a chimpanzee by the name of Jubilee. This picture book tenderly depicts Jane’s early appreciation for, and unrelenting curiosity regarding, nature, animals, and Africa. McDonnell’s illustrations are just as heartwarming as his words. Each page presents a combination of his classic cartoon sketches, as well as various ornamental engravings that help evoke Jane’s passion for detailed scientific observations of the natural world. McDonnell also includes a number of Jane Goodall’s own original drawings from her youth. Simple, but deeply inspiring, Me…Jane is a true delight!

Want to check out another McDonnell book that I adore? Take a peek at  Hug Time!

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Miss Rumphius

April 9, 2011

Title: Miss Rumphius
Author: Barbara Cooney
Illustrator: Barbara Cooney
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 9780140505399
Publisher: Puffin (1985)
List Price: Paperback, $7.99

Buy on Amazon

In the spirit of spring, I just had to tell you all about Miss Rumphius!

This lovely picture book, written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney, is one of my favorite springtime stories from when I was little. Although it was published a good 25 years ago, people still come into my bookstore looking for it. Probably because it is amazing. Or maybe because it is a story about growing up, traveling the globe, and making the world a more beautiful place. Or perhaps, they seek it out because it is a story about lupines, blue and purple and rose-colored lupines, but I will get to that later.

Cooney writes about a little girl who lives in a city by the sea. This little girl is named Alice, and she works with her grandfather (an artist, who every now and then lets her paint the skies into his pictures). Alice loves to hear her grandfather’s stories of faraway places, and she always tells him, “When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea.” But her grandfather responds by saying that she must do a third thing, she must do something to make the world more beautiful.

Alice grows up, and Cooney writes about her adventures to tropical isles, through jungles and deserts, and to tall mountains where the snow never melts.

But as Alice gets older, she realizes it is time for her to find her place by the sea:

From the porch of her new house Miss Rumphius watched the sun come up; she watched it cross the heavens and sparkle on the water; and she saw it set in glory in the evening. She started a little garden among the rocks that surrounded her house, and she planted flower seeds in the stony ground. Miss Rumphius was almost perfectly happy. “But there is still one more thing I have to do,” she said. “I have to do something to make the world more beautiful.” But what? “The world already is pretty nice,” she thought, looking out over the ocean.

The following spring, Miss Rumphius is surprised to find that the blue and purple and rose-colored lupines that she had planted popped up not only in her garden but over the hill from her house as well. “‘I don’t believe my eyes!’ she said as she knelt in delight. ‘It was the wind that brought the seeds from my garden here! And the birds must have helped!’ Then Miss Rumphius had a wonderful idea!”

She decided to scatter lupine seeds all over her town that summer. With her pockets heavy with seeds, she wandered over fields and pastures, along highways and down country lanes sowing lupines.

When spring arrived there were blue, purple, and rose-colored lupines everywhere! Miss Rumphius, or The Lupine Lady as she came to be known as, had finally done the third, and most difficult thing! She made the world more beautiful!

Barbara Cooney’s story is interesting, unique, and inspiring, and her illustrations are gorgeous! If you are looking for a great springtime picture book, or really just a fabulous tale for anytime of the year, be sure to pick up Miss Rumphius!

[This is my favorite illustration from the whole book, if I could have it framed I would. I just had to include it here!]

Like Cooney’s paintings as much as I do? Check out her illustrations for Alice Mclerran’s Roxaboxen, another great picture book about adventure, childhood imaginations, and growing up.