Friday, June 25, 2010

SPHDZ, by Jon Scieszka - BE ALL YOU CAN BE! (ages 8 - 12)

Did you ever play the game when you were kids of seeing who could identify the company from a TV ad the quickest? Could you tell what ad it was, just from the first few notes of the jingle? Do kids still play this?

I'm not sure how many kids watch TV commercials - do they just fast forward through them, or are they still watching them? Regardless, kids are bombarded by advertising wherever they turn - whether it's on the Internet, billboards, or cereal boxes. Jon Scieszka's newest series, Spaceheadz, takes this and turns it on its head. Three aliens land on Earth and all they know about us comes from TV, the Internet and radio.
SPHDZ Book #1 (Spaceheadz)
by Jon Scieszka with Francesco Sedita
illustrated by Shane Prigmore
NY: Simon & Schuster, 2010
ages 8 – 12
available on Amazon and your local bookstore
Scieszka's newest series is an irreverent take on kids and advertising. Michael K. has just started fifth grade at a new school. On top of that, he's sitting next to some truly strange kids. In fact, they don't seem to be kids at all. They are aliens – real aliens who have invaded our planet in the form of school children and a hamster. Their mission is to convince 3,400,001 kids to BE SPHDZ. But these kids (aliens) talk like walking advertisements – all they know about Earth they learned from watching TV, listening to the radio, or surfing the Internet. For a sense of the book, here's an excerpt from the first chapter:
"Michael K. decided he would goof right back . . . then move his seat as far away from them as possible.

'I get it,' said Michael K. 'You are Spaceheadz from another planet. On a mission to Earth. Here to take over the world. Take me to your leader. Bzzt, bzzzt.'

'See! I told you, Jennifer!' said Bob. 'Michael K. can do anything! He is like a rock. MMM, MMM GOOD.'

Jennifer burped up the eraser from Michael K.’s only pencil. She spit it out.


'Eeek eek,' said the class hamster.

Room 501-B went silent except for the sound of Mrs. Halley writing on the chalkboard.

The thought occurred to Michael K. that Bob and Jennifer were not joking."
(c) JRS Worldwide LLC, 2010
Ad jingles are sprinkled throughout, from "Just Do It" to "The Quicker Picker Upper" to "Reach Out and Touch Someone." I thought those pop culture jokes were very funny, but I'm not sure kids will get them.

While this series isn’t for everyone, some kids – especially reluctant readers or readers who like figuring out a puzzle – will enjoy the short chapters, references to pop culture, fake websites, and crazy situations that Michael K. finds himself in. Other reviews have commented that it was confusing, but I followed the plot without problems. The chase scenes and goofy situations that Michael’s new “friends” get into are funny, but the ending did not have the zip and zaz that the middle of the book did. I felt that the ending fizzled a little bit, and I didn't feel the book really explained why Michael K. decided to help his new friends.

This book can make a fun launching pad for talking about media literacy, the power of advertising and the danger of believing everything you see and hear. The websites mentioned in the book are all real, albeit fake websites. My favorite is AAA: The Anti-Alien Agency. It's a very funny spoof of a government agency. But it would be great to ask the question - how do we know this is a spoof? How do you know what websites to trust as providing real information?

I know as a kid I would have had great fun with this book. Each chapter title is also written in code - hopefully future books in the series will use this code in the plot. The illustrations are funny and enhance the plot.

This book trailer gives a quick sense of the book:

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this page, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cool facts and interesting information - great National Geographic Kids books (ages 6 - 12)

Kids love looking through the National Geographic Kids Magazine. It's easy to browse through, full of interesting information to read, and packed with eye-catching photos. Two great choices for summer reading are Weird But True! and National Geographic Kids Almanac 2011. These are perfect for summer reading - you dip into them over and over again, finding all sorts of interesting information. Wierd But True is great for early elementary kids, and the almanac is perfect for kids who want to soak in more information.
Weird But True!
300 Outrageous Facts

DC: National Geographic Children's Books, 2010
ages 5 - 9
available on Amazon or your local book store
Based on the Weird But True page in the National Geographic Kids Magazine, this book has been a hit with my kids. They love browsing through it, finding all sorts of trivia and tidbits. It's a great book for breaking up those cries of "I'm sooooo bored!" Did you know:
- Some honeybees quack.
- The most overdue library book was 288 years late.
- A bat can eat 3,000 insects in one night.
- A woman hand-delivered a pizza from London, England to Melbourne, Australia - a distance of about 10,350 miles.
- There are about a billion bacteria in your mouth right now.
Kids like the bright layout of this book, and the quick and quirky facts. It's not a book that gives you any depth or information behind the facts. But it does stir curiosity and conversations.

National Geographic Kids Almanac 2011
DC: National Geographic Children's Books, 2010
ages 9 - 12
available on Amazon and your local book store
My kids and their friends have spent hours looking at this almanac. They each have their favorite sections, whether it's about animals, distant lands and cultures, outer space or inventions from the future. This almanac is packed full of information. The text is written at a 5th grade level, and so is a little dense for many kids who are drawn to it. But it's full of interesting information. For example, I learned:
- There are 37 species of wild cats, and scientists divide them into eight groups based on their DNA.
- Domestic cats are related to the Sand Cat, which lives in the dry deserts of northern Africa and the Middle East.
- Dogs and cats each have special abilities, and pet owners have trained them to do amazing things - including playing the piano, walking tightropes, and even perhaps predicting earthquakes.
- Prehistoric marine reptiles swam the seas millions of years before dinosaurs roamed the land.
- Scientists are studying the structure of leaves to see how rain and dirt roll off them, in hopes of being able to design buildings which repel dirt and water.
- The sun is a star that is about 4.6 billion years old, and about a million planet Earths could fit inside of it - it's diameter is 870,000 miles across.
Kids are drawn to this almanac, dipping and diving into the information. I like the fact that it's more substantive than a Ripley's Believe It or Not. This is a perfect book to bring along on a summer vacation - you can glance through it, or dig in deeper. Find out what your child is interested in and have a conversation as you go along. You might find yourself pulled into it as well!

Browse through them to see what they're like. You can either enlarge these, or click on the page turn to glance at them online:

The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links here, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Billy & Milly: Short & Silly - great fun for beginning readers (ages 3 - 7)

Do you have a child just beginning to read? Or a preschooler who wants their books short and silly? Billy & Milly: Short & Silly is a funny, lively book that's sure to bring giggles. It uses just a few words on each page to create great laughs.

Billy & Milly: Short & Silly
written by Eve B. Feldman
pictures by Tuesday Mourning
NY: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2009
ages 3 - 7
available on Amazon or at your local library
Using just 3 or 4 rhyming words, this picture book sets up situations that will have kids thinking and laughing out loud. Can you think what picture goes with this?
"Stoops /
Hoops, Scoops /
(turn the page)
Two friends are sitting on their front stoops, one starts playing basketball while the other eats an ice cream. Turn the page, and the basketball lands - you guessed it, right on the ice cream cone. Kids can often predict what is going to happen on the next page, not to mention come up with the fourth rhyming word. The pictures tell the story, the words are easy to read, and the payoff is great.

There are 13 very short stories in this book - each with a quick punchline. These stories are also great for helping kids develop their language skills in a playful, fun way. Try getting them to explain what is happening in each picture. Or you can play with rhyming words, thinking up your own rhyming word combination.

Enjoy, and have fun coming up with your own rhyming combinations. This is connected to the game "Hink Pink" where you come up with a rhyming pair, and then think up clues for friends to guess. It might go like this: "What type of resting place is best to enjoy at sunset?" "A red bed."

The review copy came from our local library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links here, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Meanwhile, by Jason Shiga: a fascinating comic book like no other I've seen (ages 10 and up)

Funny books can come in all shapes and sizes, to fit all types of humor. A comic book that is like no other I've seen is Meanwhile, by Oakland cartoonist Jason Shiga. If you like puzzles, choose-your-own adventures, and linear thinking that twists and turns in different directions, this is a book you'll love looking at over and over again. It is certainly funny, in its own way - a bit dark, a bit twisted, but one that many kids and adults find fascinating.
Meanwhile: Pick Any Path
3,856 Story Possibilities

by Jason Shiga
NY: Amulet Books, 2010
ages 10 and up
available on Amazon or at your local library
You walk into an ice cream store, and what do you have to do? Make a choice. What flavor will it be today? We all have to make hundreds of choices every day. Jason Shiga wonders how we can explore those choices in the comics we read. He's fascinated by interactive comics, where the choices you make change the course of the story.

So Jimmy walks into an ice cream store, and you the reader have to decide: will it be chocolate or vanilla? The choice you make will affect the course of the story. Choose vanilla, and Jimmy has a quiet day, going home. But choose chocolate and it's a whole different story. Each time you, the reader, makes a choice, you follow tubes between the panels in the story. These tubes will lead you to the edge of the page, to tabs on different pages. Turn to that page and follow the tubes to follow Jimmy's story.

Jimmy past an industrial plant along his way home, and he walks into use the bathroom. He meets an inventor (friendly or mad scientist?) who has developed three objects: a time machine, the SQUID which transfers memories, and the Killitron that can either kill everyone in the world not inside of it or make delicious ice cream. And yes, Jimmy gets to choose which machine to play with. Each choice takes him along different paths, often looping back, covering the same ground again.

At a recent book talk at the wonderful independent bookstore A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland, CA, Shiga talked about the paths in the book resembling garden paths. Instead of thinking of the choices like a decision tree, he envisions the choices as wandering around an intricate garden path. Sometimes you'll find yourself in the same part of the garden, on a slightly different path. Sometimes you'll even be on the same section of garden path again. It's a fascinating vision. One that allows him to structure an intricate system of choices, a bit like a maze or labyrinth but with many distinct stories instead of one defined solution.

Now, I have to be utterly honest. I have only read a small fraction of this book - there are over 3,000 different stories! But every time I show this story to kids who love comics, love twisting logic, they disappear with the book for days. As one kid said, "This book really makes you think." I think it's fascinating the way that Shiga thinks about how choices affect our lives. Small choices lead to all sorts of twists and turns, just the way that our everyday choices lead to consequences we can't predict or necessarily understand.

To get a glimpse of the book, head over to Amulet's website to look at some sample pages. Or watch the video below with an interview of Shiga at the Alternative Press Expo. There are excellent reviews of Meanwhile at 100 Scope Notes, Fuse #8, and Comic Book Resources.

Jason Shiga @ APE 2009 from Doctor Popular on Vimeo.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Abrams Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Help Me, Mr. Mutt! laughs for dog lovers abound (ages 6 - 10)

Does your dog look woefully at you when you fill its bowl with a paltry serving of dry kibble? Or maybe your dog brings its ball or stick to you, asking, "Can we play now? Can we play now?" Help Me, Mr. Mutt! is a hilarious book for all dog lovers - and cat lovers, too. Mr. Mutt, a doggie Dear Abby, answers letters of all sorts of dogs in despair about what to do with their people.

Help Me, Mr. Mutt!
Expert Answers for Dogs with People Problems

by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
illustrated by Janet Stevens
NY: Harcourt, 2008
ages 6 - 10
available on Amazon or at your local library
Dogs from all walks of life write Mr. Mutt, Canine Counselor extraordinaire, about their people problems. Overdressed in Oklahoma despairs about the ridiculous costumes his people dress him in for the holidays. Sleepless in South Dakota complains that he's a biiiiiig dog who needs a biiiiiig bed, but his people keep relegating him to a little doggie bed. Don't they understand that he needs a large, comfy bed like they have?

Mr. Mutt's replies are witty and laugh-inducing as well. His advice is solidly from the dog's perspective. He advises dogs how to get more food, more respect, more treats. To Famished in Florida a rotund dachshund whose people have put him on a diet, Mr. Mutt advises looking for food in all sorts of places, like countertops, the trash, or under the high chair, and finishing off with a cool drink of water (from the toilet, of course). Every letter ends with a postscript about the cat in Mr. Mutt's house, complaining that "Cats are spoiled rotten. It's never fair." And then the Queen, the cat in Mr. Mutt's house, includes a letter from her perspective - putting the dogs in place: "Watch it, Muttface. Cats are not spoiled rotten. Especially me. I am royalty. I am The Queen. P.S. The Queen would never drink from a toilet."

This hilarious picture book will have you giggling and laughing aloud (adults and kids, dog lovers and cat lovers). It's great for noticing perspective, or talking about what the dog's point of view is versus the cat's. Follow it up by reading Bad Kitty Takes a Bath, another book sure to bring laughs.

For a great look at Help Me, Mr. Mutt! take a look at it on Google Books:

The review book came from our public library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this page, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Balloon for Isabel, by Deborah Underwood (ages 4 - 7)

Do your children ever feel doomed by impossible rules? Or are they the sort who will do anything to come up with a creative solution? Isabel is a determined optimist. A Balloon for Isabel brought a smile to my face and brightened my day. This is perfect for a birthday or end-of-year treat, either for a sunny optimist or a little kid who needs some encouragement. It will bring sweet laughter, reminding us all that a little creative thinking will solve the prickliest of problems.
A Balloon for Isabel
by Deborah Underwood
illustrations by Laura Rankin
NY: Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2010
ages 4 - 8
available on Amazon and at your local library
Isabel's school has a special celebration at the end of the year. Every child receives a special balloon on graduation day – everyone, except the porcupines. Isabel's teacher tells her that the porcupine's quills would pop their balloon, scaring the children. Instead, they’ll get a a lovely graduation bookmark.

In Isabel's eyes, that's "No fair." Isabel is angry and disappointed, but she’s also determined to figure out a way to get a balloon on graduation day. Isabel and her friend Walter, a fellow porcupine, try all sorts of solutions so their quills won't pop the balloons: wearing giant boxes, strapping pillows onto each other, and wrapping themselves in packing bubbles. Isabel finds the perfect solution when she sees a bowl of gumdrops. They're perfect to top her quills and make them pop-proof! Isabel is happy as can be, as is her teacher.

Deborah Underwood's writing flows naturally and smoothly, as she leads us through Isabel's plans to solve her problems. Laura Rankin’s illustrations are a joy. They are bright and expressive. She makes the most of the children's emotions, ranging from frustration and disappointment to determination and excitement.

Take a look at this sweet, funny book at HarperCollins' website:

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small percentage will go toward Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework

You know the old story about how the dog ate a little kid's homework? Well, here's a funny spin on this - except the little kid is a little alien from space, and his homework is to bring in a class pet from a new planet. Second and third graders who are starting to read fluently, but still need action and pictures to bring stories alive will love the new graphic novel from TOON Books: Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework. It's funny, quick moving, and works in quick facts about animals into the story in an effective blend of fiction and nonfiction.
Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework
by Nadja Spiegelman
illustrated by Trade LoefflerNY: TOON Books, 2010
ages 7 - 9
available on Amazon or at your local library

Zig, a young alien child with one eye, is out flying in his spaceship with his best friend Wikki, a walking computer. When Zig's teacher calls telling him that his homework is late, Zig lands the spaceship on the nearest planet, Earth, in search of a class pet. Each time they meet an animal on Earth, Wikki's computer flashes with interesting information. “FLY tasting: flies taste with the hair on their feet, so they can tell when they land if food is good.” But then the fly is eaten by a frog! In the spread below, you'll see how the nonfiction information is worked into the story.
In this debut, Spiegelman captures a great sense of timing and flow for young readers. They'll love the gross facts she includes, and will want to keep reading to find out what animal Zig takes home for show and tell. Along the way, Zig and Wikki learn about how the food chain operates, as each animal is eaten by a larger predator. As always, Zig and Wikki wind up in trouble. Zig accidentally zaps Wikki with the shrinking ray and now he's a mini-computer!

Our take-away gross fact: "FLY spitting: Flies use spit to turn their food into liquid, then they suck it up again." Eeew! Now, that's a great sentence with huge pay-off for a kid to read!

TOON has a fantastic site for kids: TOON Reader. You and your kids can read the entire Zig and Wikki at home, in English, French, Spanish, Russian or Chinese! The site will either read the book aloud, or let you click on each speech bubble to listen as you read at your own pace. They currently have eleven different books available - the full books, not just excerpts. It's really a wonderful site.

Zig and Wikki are in TOON's level 3, aimed at 2nd and 3rd graders. It works great for reluctant readers at an older level, since Zig and Wikki don't have an age. It also could work for younger readers who are comfortable reading whole sentences. The sentences are short, and the vocabulary reasonable simple except in the science information sections.

We're hoping that Zig and Wikki return for more adventures in outer space!

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this page, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The King of Comedy in children's literature: Jon Scieszka! (ages 3 - 10)

If you and your kids love funny books, head straight for the library and grab a handful of Jon Scieszka's books. Scieszka (rhymes with "Fresca") is truly the King of Comedy for children's books. Whether it's in the little preschool trucks that just bubble over with enthusiasm about crashing into anything and everything in Smash! Crash!, or it's the brothers crossing swords as they pee together in the toilet in his autobiography Knucklehead. He knows how to make boys laugh, girls laugh, parents laugh, and teachers laugh.

Jon Scieszka is driven by the mission of getting kids to enjoy reading. He wants kids, especially ones who've been turned off by assigned books, to find something they like, whether it's funny or scary, crazy or adventurous. He visits schools tirelessly, as these pictures from the Skokie Public Library show. Don't you just love this little guy's laugh as he listened to Scieszka read aloud?

Parents and kids will want to check out the site Guys Read. As Scieszka writes, "Boys often have to read books they don't really like. They don't get to choose what they want to read. And what they do like to read, people often tell them is not really reading." We can help by letting boys choose what they want to read, and by offering them a wide range of books, magazines and comics. Scieszka started this site as a way to inspire boys to share about the books they like, and a place that's especially geared for books that will turn boys onto reading.

Here's a quick sampling of some of my favorite books by Jon Scieszka.

For young kids:

Trucktown series - Jon wrote this series especially for little kids who love to smash into each other. Just picture a preschool playground, where the kids are driving trucks and laughing and laughing as they careen into each other.
Truckery Rhymes
by Jon Scieszka
illustrated by: David Shannon, Loren Long and David Gordon
NY: Simon and Schuster, 2009
ages 2 - 5
available on Amazon or at your local library
Scieszka teamed up with amazing illustrators Shannon, Long and Gordon to create the look and feel for this series. Here, Scieszka created nursery rhymes with a silly, trucking bent.
Dizzy Izzy
Ready-to-Roll, level 1
by Jon Scieszka
illustrated by: David Shannon, Loren Long and David Gordon
NY: Simon and Schuster, 2010
ages 3 - 6
available on Amazon
This is the newest in the early reader series for Trucktown: Ready to Roll. This series is aimed at preschoolers and kindergartners just learning to read. Each page has one sentence on it, with simple vocabulary. The pictures are vibrant and engaging. The stories are simple and yet funny - a winning combination.

Picture books for older readers:

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales
by Jon Scieszka
illustrated by Lane Smith
NY: Viking, 1992
Caldecott Honor Book
ages 6 - 10
available on Amazon and at your local public library
Do you have a kid (or grown-up!) who loves irreverent jokes, who always wants to bend the rules and make folks laugh when they shouldn't? This is the book for you. Jack (of the Beanstalk fame) tells ten fractured fairy tales that will be common to elementary students - from the Princess and the Pea, to the Gingerbread Man. The stories are short, occasionally gross, and always go for a joke. The Really Ugly Duckling just grows up to be a Really Ugly Duck. The prince falls in love and wants his true princess to pass his mother's test, so he puts a bowling ball under her stack of 100 mattresses. And the gingerbread man is really a stinky cheese man that no one wants to chase or have around. This is a great collection for older reluctant readers - kids need to know the fairy tales in order to get the jokes.
The true story of the 3 little pigs
by A. Wolf
as told to Jon Scieszka
illustrated by Lane Smith
NY: Viking, 1989
ages 6 - 10
available on Amazon
Scieszka's bestselling book tells the familiar story of the three little pigs from the wolf's point of view, as Mr. A. Wolf protests that he had no bad intentions that night but just a bad cold. As he went to his neighbor's house to borrow some sugar, he sneezed a terrible sneeze and ended up blowing the pig's house down. It was all the newspaper's fault, exaggerating the circumstances out of control! Older kids will find this hilarious, as the wolf protests he was framed.

Chapter books for reluctant readers:
Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka
by Jon Scieszka
NY: Viking, 2008
ages 7 - 10
available on Amazon or at your local library
In Knucklehead, Scieszka writes about his own childhood - what it was like to grow up as one of six boys in Flint, Michigan in the 1950s and 1960s. Each short chapter tells a different family story. These stories are hilarious - about all the trouble six boys will get into. I loved one teacher's comments after reading a few chapters aloud to her class: "When I read a few chapters aloud to my students, they were literally in hysterics. There were shouts of, “I’ve done that!” and “My mom would flip out if she knew I did this stuff, too!”. It especially seemed to connect with boys but I had quite a few girls ask to get on the waiting list, too." (see The Reading Zone for her full review).

SPHDZ Book #1!
(part of the Spaceheadz series)
by Jon Scieszka
illustrated by Shane Prigmore
with Francesco Sedita
NY: Simon and Schuster, 2010 (June 22nd)
available on Amazon
Scieszka's newest series is Spaceheadz, an irreverent take on kids and advertising. I've just started reading this, but think some kids will love the short chapters, references to ads, and crazy situations that Michael K. finds himself in. Michael K. has just started fifth grade at a new school. On top of that, he's sitting next to some truly strange kids. In fact, they don't seem to be kids at all. They are aliens. Real aliens who have invaded our planet in the form of school children and a hamster. Their mission is to convince 3,400,001 kids to BE SPHDZ. But all that these aliens know about Earth they learned from watching TV, listening to the radio, or surfing the Internet. So they talk like walking advertisements, and believe everything they read and see. I'm looking forward to sharing this with some kids, and getting their reactions.

Jon Scieszka has unstoppable energy, knows how to get kids to laugh, and is right on about how to inspire kids, parents and teachers. In my mind, he is truly the King of Comedy for children's books.

The photos are from the Skokie Public Library's Flikr stream, and are shared under the Creative Commons license.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links, a small portion will go toward Great Kid Books at no cost to you. Thank you for your support.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Shampoodle - laughs for early readers (ages 6 - 8)

Soap, bubbles and cute dogs - it's a recipe for instant fun. In Shampoodle, a easy reader designed for kids who are still reading with help, you'll find great rhythm and rhyme, fun humor and silly illustrations.
Step into Reading, Level 2by Joan Holub
illustrated by Tim Bowers
NY: Random House, 2009
ages 6 - 8
available on Amazon and at your local library
It's picture day for all the neighborhood kids and their dogs. But first, these dogs need some sprucing up. So they’re off to Shampoodle, the local pet salon, to get washed and groomed. These silly dogs just cannot sit still. And when some pesky cats creep in, things go from messy to mayhem.
Holub writes in fun, bouncy rhyming text. This helps readers guess at words they may not be familiar with. Here's a sample:
Barking. Bouncing.
Dogs trot in.
Sniffing. Snuffling.
Let's begin!
Pushing buttons.
Zooming up.
Spinning. Twirling.
Dizzy pup.

Scrubbing. Bubbling.
No! Don't shake!
Dogs won't listen.Big mistake.

(c) Joan Holub, 2009
By the end, the dogs are all ready for their pictures. One has spiked hair, another a mohawk, and another purple hair. Tim Bower's illustrations are a perfect for easy readers. His doggies will have you laughing, as you can see from the goofy poodle on the cover. They are bright and colorful, drawing in young kids and helping them understand the story. But they don't overpower or distract new readers from the words. Don't you just love how the pet groomer's personalities match the doggies they're working on?
Shampoodle is perfect for kids who love the dog stories in the Biscuit series, but want something a little sillier and with more complex words. It's aimed at children reading with help, who can recognize familiar words on sight and sound out new words with a little help. Another great, silly dog story for early readers is the Max Spaniel series by David Catrow. Dinosaur Hunt was a favorite from last year, and Funny Lunch has just come out.

Shampoodle was a finalist in the 2009 Cybils awards, and is included in the 2010 Best Children's Books of the Year, announced by the Bank Street College Children's Book Commitee.

For other great poetry and poems, check out Poetry Friday hosted today by Kelly Metzger at The Cazzy Files ( Stop by and see a bundle of great stuff!

The review copy came from the publisher as part of the Cybils awards (I served on the juding panel). Please note that if you make a purchase on Amazon using the links here, a small portion will go toward Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tell me more! finding out about kids' books

If you're reading this, I know you are passionate about finding great books for your kids. Each child has their own taste in books, their own sense of style, their own view of what hooks them into the world of reading. I'd love to share a few amazing resources to explore, if you're searching out book recommendations.
A Fuse #8 Production, by Elizabeth Bird @ School Library Journal

Elizabeth (Betsy) Bird is a Senior Children's Librarian at the New York Public Library's Children Center at 42nd Street. She's been blogging since 2006, and now writes the blog Fuse #8 for the School Library Journal. Betsy reviews new children's literature, has regular previews from publishers, and regular updates on what's happening in the world of children's literature publishing. She writes with style and humor, and is truly a blogger extraordinaire. SLJ has recently changed servers and blogging software, so be sure to note the new address for Fuse #8:

To find out more about Betsy and the reader survey she did of the Top 100 Children's Novels, check out this interview from April 2010 for the Scholastic Channel.

Betsy saves all her past reviews on the Children's Book Review Wiki. There's a wealth of information there to explore.

ReadKiddoRead - by James Patterson

James Patterson, best-selling author of mysteries for adults such as The 9th Judgment, the latest in the Women's Murder Club, and the Maximum Ride fantasy mysteries for teens, has created a fantastic website for for parents, librarians, and teachers, and other children's book-loving souls: The site is "dedicated to making kids readers for life;" Patterson and his team do this by bringing together a great selection of page-turners for a range of ages, from young toddlers all the way through advanced tweens and teens. Patterson's mission is to get kids hooked on books they can't put down, so they can develop an interest in reading that will lead them to other books that will launch them as lifetime readers.

I have been particularly impressed with the layout, site design and content of ReadKiddoRead. It's set up for great browsing, first by age level (with implicit reading levels), and then by either interest and genre. That intuitively fits the way parents and kids want to find books: I have a eight year old third grader, who loves fantasy. You'll find a selection of 30 books in this category, a mix of classics and new releases. Each book has a review that describes what's great about this book - the reviews are short enough to read quickly, but well developed enough to give you a real sense of what the book's about. And then there's a list of "If you love this book, then try" suggestions.

Do you have a resource that's great for finding out about books for your kids? Tell me more! Share the goodies with us.