Thursday, April 29, 2010

Poetry Friday: Mother Poems, by Hope Anita Smith (ages 10 and up)

Welcome to all who celebrate Poetry Friday in the Kidlitosphere! See below for a range of original poems, shared poems and reviews of poetry books for children. If you'd like to leave a link, please leave a comment and I'll update as the day progresses.

Today, I'd like to share Mother Poems, by Hope Anita Smith. This is a moving collection of poems from the heart. Hope wrote these poems as a tribute to her mother, and the pain and shock she felt when she lost her mother when she was twelve.
Mother Poems
words and pictures by Hope Anita Smith
NY: Henry Holt, 2009
ages 10 and up
available on Amazon and at your local library

Smith's poems form a loose narrative, starting with the invincible love she felt for her mother, her "superhero" as a young girl. Details of daily life convey the daughter's love with tenderness and sincerity that is palpable. Images of snuggling close, or braiding hair stay with me in my mind. But soon the story takes a sharp turn and suddenly, out of nowhere, the young girl's mother dies. The narrator struggles with the full range of emotions in the aftermath of her mother's death: numbness, anger, betrayal, jealousy. As Betsy Bird wrote in her review at Fuse #8, "The sheer hunger of wanting your mother roars through this book." To me, the poem "Q and A" was particularly moving. Here is an excerpt (read the full poem here):
from "Q and A"
by Hope Anita Smith

Mothers give us our stories,
at least the beginning.
My mother left before she got a chance to
give me mine,
and I forgot to ask.
God should have made me smarter.
I am remembering less and less about my mother
and wanting to know more and more about me.

(c) Hope Anita Smith, 2009
The pictures throughout are torn picture collages that convey the emotions of the young girl perfectly. I love the way that the facial details are vague - it allows readers to imagine themselves in the young girl's shoes. They complement the poems wonderfully.

Would you like to read a few of the poems? Head over to NPR, to listen to Hope read a few aloud. Her voice is resonate and full of emotion. You can also read an interview with Hope on The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Please share your links below. I will update as the day progresses. If you make a purchase on Amazon using one of the links here, a small portion of the proceeds will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

TeachingBooks is in with an audio clip of Karen Hesse performing a poem from her Newbery-winning book, Out of the Dust.

Laura, at Teach Poetry K-12, shares a Beatrix Potter poem.

At Wild Rose Reader, Elaine has an extensive post about apostrophe/poems of address. It includes some of my original poems--as well as links to other poems of address and a book recommendation.

Over at Gotta Book, Greg continues with his fab feature "30 Poets / 30 Days". Today he has a new poem from Walter Dean Myers: Walking. Since last Poetry Friday, he's had new poems by Georgia Heard, George Ella Lyon, Jacqueline Woodson, Graham Denton, Francisco X. Alarcón, and Liz Garton Scanlon, too. Greg hopes folks come by and check 'em out!

Susan shares two poems with us today. As the final in her series of poems about the father she never knew: Family Stories. And a surprise that came about as a result of writing these poems this month: How Poetry, Google, and Craigslist Helped me Find the Family I Never Knew I Had

Today Tabatha Yeatts is sharing "When I Was" by Mario Milosevic.

At A Year of Reading, Mary Lee posted the 30th poem in her National Poetry Month poem-a-day personal writing challenge. It's a poem about what it's been like to write a poem-a-day. It's a fantastic collection - please take the time to look through them all.

At a wrung sponge, Andromeda has the last in her National Poetry Month series of haiku/haiga up. Today she's thinking about dandelions & empty seed heads. What a great month it's been!

This week Allison shares an original poem at Wistful Wanderings, looking at motherhood from a different perspective. It brought a smile to my face. "I want to run away"

Today, Sylvia Vardell is wrapping up her celebration of Poetry Month at Poetry for Children with a new, original poem by Jack Prelutsky, concluding her game of Poetry Tag. It's been so much fun!

At the Poem Farm, Amy has her last poem of NaPoWriMo, "Worm's Wish" and also a spotlight on a first grade class's Poet-Tree. She's sad to see this month end!

Sally is up for PaperTigers' contribution to Poetry Friday with a different kind of from-the-heart poetry - JonArno Lawson's Think Again. She also shares the Poetry Postcard she received as part of Ms Mac's project at the Check It Out blog - Duke Ellington by 4th Grader Kolbee.

Over at The Drift Record Julie has a poem from a strange and obscure little book first published in 1907 called How To Tell the Birds from the Flowers. The poet (and illustrator) is Robert Williams Wood - wonder who he was?

This week on the Stenhouse Blog they have an "accidental" poem about what kids wonder. The poem comes from Georgia Heard's recent book, A Place for Wonder.

Today at My World/Mi Mundo, Stella reviews the new poetry book: Poetry Speaks Who I Am. A fantastic new poetry book!

Speaking of that wonderful book, take a look at this: Irene Latham shares news of her final giveaway for National Poetry Month: Poetry Speaks Who I Am.

At Read, Write, Believe, Sara is in today with the poem she carried in her pocket yesterday: Marie Ponsot's One is One.

Over at Author Amok, Laura Shovan wraps up her 50-state-tour, and Florida is up today. Poet Laureate Edmund Skellings creates amazing 3-D poetry projects. "Incantation".

Ruth shares a poem "Morning".

Kurious Kitty looks at Hey You! Poems to Skyscrapers, Mosquitoes, and Other Fun Things. And at Kurious K's Kwotes there's a quote by Paul Janeczko.

Over at Random Noodling, Diane has egg poems.

Laura Salas in today with her final Poem of the Day, this one by her.

Jama Rattigan is wrapping up her Poetry Potluck with a poem by Joyce Sidman, and a giveaway for Red Sings from Treetops. She has also posted a complete list of Potluck Poets with links to their poems and recipes: a mouth-wateringly delicious month!

At Homeschooling on the Run, Meagan shares three poems by Denise Levertov:

Jeannine Atkins wrote about Laura Shovan's (Author Amok!) new chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt, and Stone.

At The HappyNappyBookseller, the delightful Doret shares her thoughts on Shakespeare Makes the Playoff by Ron Koertge.

Charles Ghigna. shares a post from the PETA website celebrating this last day of National Poetry Month. PETA: Celebrating National Poetry Month

Dori has posted a poem called "Self Portrait" written by a student a few years ago.

Andy is sharing a twist on a few old Stevenson standards by Franklin Pierce Adams over at The Write Sisters.

At Brimful Curiosities, you'll find a a post on read aloud poetry, as part of the Savvy Verse & Wit National Poetry Month Blog Tour and Poetry Friday. Please stop on by and share your favorite poetry related books to share with young children. And in celebration of Arbor Day, they have crafted a "POET-TREE".

Head over to The Miss Rumphius Effect, where Tricia is sharing Longfellow's poem A Psalm of Life for the last day of National Poetry Month. This week's Poetry Stretch is all about Eggs.

Please take the time to linger with the Poetry Makers series at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Today, Tricia writes about and interviews the remarkable X.J. Kennedy. For a final roundup in praise of poets and with links to all her Poetry Maker posts, see here.

At Blue Rose Girls, Elaine has a Favorite Poem Project video of a fifth grader named Katherine Mechling reciting Theodore Roethke's poem "The Sloth."

Little Willow posted Spring Song at Bildungsroman today.

Today at TeachingAuthors, Joann Early Macken shares an original shape poem in honor of Arbor Day and a lesson plan for writing shape poems. Thanks, Carmella!

Karen Edmisten shares "People Who Eat in Coffee Shops", by Edward Field.

At Biblio File, Jennie shares a review of Diamond Willow, by Helen Frost. "When Willow makes a mistake with her dogsled team, the family's favorite dog is seriously injured. In her guilt, Willow is determined to make things right, which leads to adventure and long-held family secrets, but without being as melodramatic as it sounds. "

Janet Squires at All About the Books is offering up Stanza, a picture book in rhyme --written by Jill Esbaum and illustrated by Jack E. Davis.

Thanks to everyone for sharing this poetry filled Friday. Enjoy your weekend!

Beautiful Ballerina, by Marilyn Nelson (ages 3 - 12)

My daughters love ballet - the idea of it, the images of it. When they were little, we read book after book about ballerinas, ranging from Angelina Ballerina to Ballet School. So I was thrilled to see the cover of Marilyn Nelson and Susan Kuklin's new book, Beautiful Ballerina. The pictures capture the grace, strength and allure of young ballet dancers, and the book draws flocks of little girls to it. But open it up, and it is so much more.

Beautiful Ballerina
by Marilyn Nelson
photographs by Susan Kuklin
NY: Scholastic Press, 2009
ages 3-12
available on Amazon and at your public library
"Beautiful ballerina, / you are the dance." This heartfelt picture book celebrates the strength, spirit and grace of four young African American girls who are learning to dance with the Dance Theater of Harlem. Kuklin's photographs capture them in a variety of poses, some reflective, others full of movement. The girls range in age from preschool through high school, and so the photographs will allow girls of all ages to relate and dream.

Marilyn Nelson's poetry is inspiring as she describes the dancers. "You are poised,/ graceful,/ flexible,/ elegant./ Your beauty invites/ bravissimos." She speaks directly to young African American dancers: "The Ancestors have/ produced a swan./ You wear the slaves' genes/ with nobility." The rhythm and grace of the text will make a wonderful read aloud for young children, even though some of the words may go over their head. Older dancers will love the celebration of their passion. I love sharing these lines with my daughters:
"Your physical grace and
must be matched by
strength of will.
and imagination give you your skill."
(c) Marilyn Nelson
Marilyn Nelson has been recognized by many awards: she is a Newberry Honor Winner, three-time National Book Award finalist, two-time Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner, and the former Poet Laureate of the State of Connecticut. You can read an interview and profile with Marilyn on the Brown Bookshelf blog. Marilyn shares another ballet poem on this year's Poetry Tag on Sylvia Vardell's blog Poetry for Children.

Read more about the making of this book on Susan Kuklin's website.

Below, I've shared my favorite ballet books. The review copy came from my local library. If you purchase a book on Amazon using the links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Granny Gomez and Jigsaw, by Deborah Underwood (ages 3-6)

Children have a special relationship with animals – they can understand how an animal can be a good friend. I used to tell my secrets to my cat - who else would listen so attentively and never tell another person my deepest thoughts? Here is a warm tale that celebrates friendship with a pet.
Granny Gomez and Jigsaw
by Deborah Underwood
illustrated by Scott Magoon
NY: Disney Hyperion, 2010
ages 3 - 6
available on Amazon or at your local library
Granny Gomez feels lonely at times, and wonders about getting a pet. Her young friend William decides that’s the perfect solution, and brings her a piglet. Although a pig is not what she had in mind, Granny Gomez and this little pig grow to become good friends. They eat watermelon together, do jigsaw puzzles together (thus his name Jigsaw), and watch cooking shows together.

But as their friendship grows, so does Jigsaw – bigger and bigger and bigger. Soon, Granny can hardly lift him up and down the stairs for their daily walks. This granny is no push-over; she has a can-do-attitude and decides to build Jigsaw his own barn, complete with TV and kitchen. When Jigsaw is set to spend his first night in the barn, the two realize how lonely they will be without each other.

I love Granny's spirit and initiative. Underwood and Magoon manage to make her both sweet and totally capable. She swings a hammer, wears a toolbelt and plays the drums. She's the type of grandmother who would bake you cookies and make you a tree fort.

San Francisco author Deborah Underwood’s warm tale of friendship has both cozy charm and witty details that bring children back to it again and again.

Deborah Underwood has two other picture books that have just come out this spring. The Quiet Book is on the New York Times Best Seller list - fantastic news! The review copy of Granny Gomez and Jigsaw was kindly sent by the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this page, a small percentage will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Wonder Book, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (ages 4 - 9)

One of the joys of working with children's books is finding a book that brings me right back to the joy of being a child. I adore poetry that makes me smile from ear to ear. I grew up loving Shel Silverstein, and I can still recall the dangers of picking your nose if you're Captain Hook. And I adore, absolutely adore Amy Krouse Rosenthal's newest book, The Wonder Book. It is full of pure, radiant, youthful joy - with a healthy dash of silliness thrown in for good measure.
The Wonder Book
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
drawings by Paul Schmid
NY: Harper, 2010
ages 4 - 9
available on Amazon and at your local library
The Wonder Book is a collection of poems, puns and wonderings. Some are silly, like "Clarification - What you can't run with" (a lollipop in your mouth, a truck full of scissors, twin porcupines). Others are clever, including a great collection of palindromes (words or phrases that read the same forward and backward). Others are just things we wonder about, like:
  • Who hid something under the Tooth Fairy's pillow when she was a little girl?
  • Did Miss Mary Mack Mack have friends who liked other colors?
  • How do Moms always know when you're about to sneak a cookie?
My 3rd grader and I loved reading this from front all the way through to the back, but with my kindergartner we popped around reading a few poems here and there. It reminds me very much of Shel Silverstein, from the line drawings that emphasize the humor of the poems, to the word play and puns that kids (and their parents!) love. Here are a few of their favorites:
It Could Be Verse
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Eeny Meeny and Miney Moe
Caught a tiger with their tow
The tiger hollered; they wouldn't let go
No more Eeny Meeny or Miney Mo

Mary had a little lamp
Little lamp
Little lamp
Mary had a little lamp
Whose light was white and glowed

In the sea
Don't look under
While I pee

(c) Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a wonderfully creative author, who imbues her work with warmth and wit. Bruce Handy wrote in The New York Times, "Her books radiate fun the way tulips radiate spring: they are elegant and spirit-lifting." We loved last year's Duck! Rabbit! And one of my favorite little kid gifts is her collection of board books: Little Pea, Little Oink and Little Hoot. If you'd like inspiration for your own sense of creativity and community, you really should check out the project The Beckoning of Lovely - truly inspirational. For more on The Wonder Book, here's Amy talking about it:

You definitely should check out this review of The Wonder Book:
Bookie Wookie (a dad and 3 kids): "Dad: So the poem is funny by itself. And even the picture is funny by itself. But what happens when you put the two together?
Gracie: It explodes into little nuggets of laughing goodness.
Dad: So what did the illustrator bring to the book?
Gracie: Hilariousness.
Isaac: I don't think it would have been as good without the words, and I don't think it would have been as good without the pictures."

And Jules, at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, has a great interview with the illustrator Paul Schmid. I love how Paul says, "I have a deep regard for kids; I think they are more tuned in to their happiness than adults. They’re optimistic, inventive, resourceful, and determined. All qualities I wish I had more of." Head over to this interview to see more of the great artwork. I can't wait to see Paul's upcoming books.

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

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett (ages 8 - 10)

Did you grow up on the Hardy Boys? Do you love sharing mysteries and adventures with your kids? Look no further, but go right out and snag a copy of The Brixton Brothers: The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity. Mac Barnett's new series is full of chases, excitement and mysteries that only Steve Brixton, the intrepid kid-detective, can solve. This was great as an audiobook, and will hook families with its wit and adventure.

The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity
by Mac Barnett
with illustrations by Adam Rex
NY: Simon & Schuster, 2009
audiobook by Listening Library, 2010
ages 8 - 10
available on Amazon and your local library
Twelve-year-old Steve Brixton loves mysteries, but his favorite book of all time is The Bailey Brothers' Detective Handbook. You see, Steve would like to be a detective when he grows up, and the Bailey Brothers are his ultimate role model. One Friday, Steve's teacher assigns a research report (due Monday! how unfair!) and gives Steve the unthinkable topic: early American needlework. Depressed at his bad luck, Steve goes to his local library to check out a book for his project. But just as he's checking out his library's only book on historical quilts and ninjas descend upon him from the skylights. Steve is terrified and perplexed.

As the ninjas are combing the library for him, Steve does what any good detective would do: escapes. But he lands right in the hands of the Librarian Secret Agents. Suddenly everyone (including his mom's cop boyfriend) is treating Steve like a criminal. If he can't find out who's behind the missing quilt, he'll be tried for treason! Throughout the novel, when Steve gets into a jam, he'd think what would Brixton Brothers do?

The audio production fits the dry wit of Barnett's writing perfectly. Arte Johnson's voice helps create the 1950s throw-back vibe, reminding me of voice-overs from kid detective TV programs or documentaries. This would make good family listening, pulling in kids in 2nd through 4th grade. Listen to an excerpt here:

Barnett's writing is witty, funny and engaging. There is some great action as well, which will go over well with kids who want to get a vision in their heads of what's happening. I especially loved the chase scene in the library, depicted on the cover.

For other great reviews, see:
TheHappyNappyBookseller: "I loved this book. ...The cover tells a reader everything they need to know about this book. There's action and danger - the men dropping into the library. There's a mystery to be solved - the magnifying glass and the fingerprint."
The Book Aunt: "Barnett manages to make this story, not only smart, but funny, and without trying too hard. The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity is tongue-in-cheek all the way. I should note that Barnett doesn't simply satirize the Hardy Boys by setting Steve Brixton up against grim reality; he stylizes the characters around Steve, having them act a little like the players in a Hardy Boys mystery—just enough to be funny."
Pink Me: "Joined now by this first book in what I hope will be a long long long (think Hardy Boys, Barnett - hope you're not doing anything for the next ten or twelve years) series of detective novels starring preteen everyman Steve Brixton and his honorary brother and actual best friend, Dana. WITTY. This book. Wit to the Tee."

The audiobook review copy was kindly sent by the publisher. If you make a purchase on Amazon through the links on this site, a small percentage will go to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Latino lullabies and nursery rhymes for young children (ages 1 - 5)

Young children love the rhythmic, repetitive sounds of nursery rhymes and lullabies. I love sharing with young children rhymes from around the world - talking about how every culture passes on poetry from generation to generation. These two bilingual collections are wonderful for sharing with young children.

Arrorró, Mi Niño
Latino Lullabies and Gentle Games

selected and illustrated by Lulu Delacre
NY: Lee and Low Books, 2004
ages 1 - 3
available on Amazon or at your local library
CD of lullabies available from CD Baby
Lulu Delacre writes, "I still remember the first time I held my older daughter in my arms to lull her to sleep. As I held her, a soothing song surfaced from deep within my memory, as if it had been waiting to be called upon by the soft cries of my baby. I later found out that this song was the same lullaby my mothyer had sung to me as a child in Puerto Rico." Arrorró, Mi Niño is full of a mother's love for her young child. Delacre share 15 lullabies and finger games from the Latino culture. Some are soothing songs to lull your child to sleep, others are silly tickling games or rhythmic clapping songs. The original Spanish versions are paired with English translations. The English versions do not always rhyme, but are fun to read playfully. The finger games are geared for very young children, perfect for babies and toddlers. Here is the first verse from the title lullaby:

Arrorró, Mi Niño
Arrorró, mi niño,
arrorró, mi sol,
arrorró, pedazo
de mi corazon.

Este nino lindo
se quiere dormir
y el picaro sueno
no quiere venir.

Hush-a-Bye, My Child
Hush-a-bye, my child,
hush-a-bye, my sun,
hush-a-bye, tiny piece
of my very own.

This beloved child
years to fall asleep
but the naughty sandman
has yet to bring sweet dreams.
(c) Lulu Delacre
The artwork in Arrorró, Mi Niño is beautiful. Delacre shows Latinos in all parts of American life: storytime in the library, shopping at a market, visiting a museum, working in fields. The oil paintings are warm and the figures realistic.

Muu, Moo!
Rimas de animales
Animal Nursery Rhymes

selected by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy
English versions by Rosalma Zubizarreta
illustrated by Vivi Escriva
NY: Rayo, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2010
ages 2 - 5
available on Amazon or your local library
Muu, Moo! is a fun collection of traditional animal rhymes from Spain, Latin America and the United States, shared in both Spanish and English. It is suited for a slightly older audience than Arrorró, Mi Niño - preschoolers and kindergartners will enjoy this the most.

Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, authors of Pio Peep!, have collected traditional rhymes they remember from their own childhoods, and ones that children with whom they have worked - from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Central America - have loved the most. They have also included five of their own original poems. Alongside each Spanish poem are English versions, adaptations which keep the spirit, rhythm and musicality of the Spanish instead of being literal translations.

Children will have fun with the many animal sounds and silly stories. I particularly had fun with the donkey whose head was hurting, so the doctor told him to put on a black tie, then a white tie, then a black hat. As spring is trying to spread on this windy April day, I'd like to share one of Alma Flor Ada's original poems from this collection:
by Alma Flor Ada

En el prado el caracol
saca los cuernos al sol.
Como premio, el girasol
le da un beso al caracol.

La abejita presurosa
saluda a la flor preciosa.
Que promesa, la primera
manana de primavera!

by Alma Flor Ada

A tiny snail is winding along,
Stretching his feelers toward the sun.
When she sees the snail in bliss,
A sunflower leans over to give him a kiss.

A busy bee joins in the play,
Buzzing over to say, "Good day!"
Oh, what delights a day can bring
On this very first morning of Spring!

(c) Alma Flor Ada
The review copy of Muu, Moo! was kindly sent by the publisher. The copy of Arrorro, Mi Nino came from my public library. If you make a purchase using these Amazon links, a small portion will go toward Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tan to Tamarind: poems about the color brown (ages 4-8)

At its best, poetry can help give voice and language to things we sense and experience. Young children notice different skin colors, and yet they can struggle to explain those different colors, to name them. Tan to Tamarind is a beautiful book that celebrates the beauty of brown, and helps give voice to the different shades of skin children see all around them.

Tan to Tamarind: poems about the color brown
by Malathi Michelle Iyengar
Illustrated by Jamel Akib
NY: Children's Book Press, 2009.
ages 4 - 8
available on Amazon and at your local library
Malathi Michelle Iyengar celebrates the richness of many shades of brown: "masala tea brown", "ocher brown," "adobe brown," and many more, drawing upon wonderful sensory details for each hue. Fifteen simple poems conjure up the smells, sights, tastes and textures of many different cultures and settings. "Inkly, crinkly sepia brown," "wistful, muted," is shown as a child looks at old family photos with her great-aunt. "Ocher brown. Vivid orange-brown" radiates from an Indian wedding, as "ocher flowers, umber stems, swirls and curls of bright orange-brown."

Jamel Akib's illustrations will draw children in, with their warm colors and scenes of children from many cultures in many shades of brown. You can see a few of the poems and illustrations in the Google Book Preview below.

In the author's final note, she recalls being taunted by her own brown skin color with she was growing up. As she says in an interview with Amy Bowllan on School Library Journal's feature Writers Against Racism,
Growing up in North Carolina, I was constantly bombarded with messages telling me that my brown skin made me dirty, ugly, and un-American. These messages came from other children, from adults, from commercial media such as television, and yes, even from children’s literature. I distinctly remember sitting in the bathtub and trying to bleach the brown out of my skin using water and a creamy bar of Lowila soap.
In thinking about my own journey, I remember certain works of literature that played a huge role in transforming the way I saw myself. But most of the books that changed my life were written for much older children or for adults, meaning that I didn’t read them until I was twelve or thirteen years old. The books available to me as a very young child tended to reinforce my negative view of myself as a brown-skinned person. I wanted to write a literary work for very young children that would captivate their sensibilities and engage their imaginations with images evoking the amazing beauty of the color brown.

This is a beautiful book, a lovely tribute to the color brown. It will spark conversations and bring a smile to your face. Best of all, it will help name some of the rich diversity of colors we see all around us.

The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links here, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Daniel Boom (aka LOUD BOY) - Graphic novels with action and humor (ages 6 - 9)

Do your kids love graphic novels? Superheroes? Action and battles? But do you want something with the feel of Saturday morning cartoons instead of high-tech gun battles? Daniel Boom AKA Loud Boy might be the series for you.
Grow Up!
Daniel Boom (aka LOUD BOY) #4

by David Steinberg
illustrated by Brian Smith
NY: Grosset & Dunlap, 2010
ages 6 - 9
available on Amazon and at your public library
Daniel Boom has a really LOUD voice. But the real truth is that he is a superhero. Daniel becomes LOUD BOY. At school and home, Daniel's loud voice only gets him in trouble. But as a superhero, it's Daniel's loud voice that saves the day! He makes a group of friends at school, each of whom have a "special talent". His friends become Chatterbox, Destructo-Kid, Tantrum Girl, and Fidget and find special missions to save the world from evil.

As the kids go to KR Enterprises for "take your child to work day", they discover a sinister plot to rid the world of boisterous children. One by one, the children start changing. Tantrum Girl has a granny bag and beehive hairdo. Fidget can't stop complaining about his aches and pains. And hold the phone—is that Chatterbox over there sitting in a big rocking chair and knitting? What will our superheroes do?

Kids will love the action and adventure in this series. But I loved the way the story resonated with me. How many of us wish that the thing we struggle with (loud voice, tantrums, messy desks!), could become the true superpower that we use to battle evil in the world. Throughout the book, Steinberg weaves in real emotions, real situations from school. So even though this story is over the top, in the best way, it hits home.

Kids who enjoyed Lunch Lady (reviewed here) will eat up this series. Both are full real kids saving the day with their superhero powers, evil adults scheming to control unsuspecting kids, and lots of action and humor. I particularly liked this review of Game On! (book 3 in the series):
Using a formula familiar to anyone who has ever watched a Saturday morning cartoon, Game On! offers up no real surprises. But the formula works, especially for second, third, and fourth graders who will appreciate the homegrown powers of the heroes and the silly sight gags of the battling adults.
(c) GraphicNovelReporter
I just have to mention that the art and design elements are also fantastic. While there's lots of action and color bursting off the pages, the pages are not cluttered and the dialog was easy to read.

David Steinberg is a "mild mannered animation executive by day who becomes a whacky tale-tangler by night." Read more about David and his books at website. He knows how to keep kids reading, laughing and coming back for more - that makes him a rock star, in my eyes!

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

The whole Daniel Boom (aka LOUD BOY) series is:
1. Sound Off!
2. Mac Attack!
3. Game On!
4. Grow Up!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Where in the Wild? eye-tricking photography and ear-tickling poetry (ages 4 - 9)

Kids love puzzling over books, especially finding a hidden picture. Where in the Wild uses kids' fascination with hidden objects to entice them into learning about animals, combining stunning photography of camouflaged animals, poetry with hints about the animal you're looking for, and factual information about each animal. Each time I show these books in the library, kids clamor for them.
Where in the Wild? Camouflaged animals concealed and revealed
by David M. Schwartz and Yael Schy
photography by Dwight Kuhn
CA: Tricycle, 2007
ages 4-9
available on Amazon and at your public library

Where else in the wild? More camouflaged creatures concealed--and revealed
by David M. Schwartz and Yael Schy
photography by Dwight Kuhn
CA: Tricycle, 2007
ages 4-9
available on Amazon and at your public library
David Schwartz loves to find unusual, whimsical ways to make math and science come alive for kids. In these two books, he combines science, nature and eye-tricking photography to hook kids into noticing hidden details in nature. Kids will stare at the photographs, trying to pick out the small animals hidden in the backgrounds, and then they will test you to see if you can find them. Each photograph is paired with a short poem that offers hints describing the animal. When you open the spread, you see a washed-out version of the same picture with the hiding animal highlighted, plus factual information about each animal.

Can you guess this animal?
One Great Bound
I'm fast and strong,
my feet are long,
and when I'm on my way
in one great bound
I leave the ground
then land ten feet away!

When cold winds blog
I match the snow -
my fur's a soft white gown.
But then I molt
and change my coat.
By summer I've turned brown!

- copyright, David Schwartz and Yael Schy
Where Else in the Wild?
As you can imagine, kids love looking at the pictures and listening to the poems. What a great combination!

Where in the Wild
won the 2008 Science Books and Films Prize for Excellence in Science Books in the Children’s Science Picture Book category. This prize is sponsored by Subaru and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

I especially liked reading David Schwartz's blog entry about researching animals for his upcoming book What in the Wild? Secrets of Nature Concealed . . . and Revealed (projected release date: August 2010 from Tricycle). He writes about questions that don't have clear answers, that scientists don't necessarily know the answers to. Check it out: The Truth, But Which Truth? It's a fascinating look into the research process, and at scientific discovery about animal behavior.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Horrid Henry's Joke Book: great for laughs and fun with friends (ages 5-8)

What did the librarian tell the children in her class?
Books are food for thought, but don't eat in the library!

Now, while I may not be a master joke teller, I can promise you that Horrid Henry most certainly is. From Mummy's Curse Jokes to Gross-out Jokes to Jokes Much Too Rude to Tell Mom, Horrid Henry will get your kids laughing and reading jokes to all their friends.
Horrid Henry's Joke Book
by Francesca Simon
illustrated by Tony Ross
IL: Sourcebook Jabberwocky, 2010
ages 5 - 8
available on Amazon
Horrid Henry books are full of fun, and kids new to reading chapter books will get a kick out of his new joke book. This British import has sold over 15 million books world-wide, and has become a crowd pleaser in the US. As Betsy Bird wrote at Fuse#8, "There's the vicarious thrill of reading about a kid who's bad, knows it, and still goes through with behavior not always on the up and up." Here, in Horrid Henry's Joke Book, Henry gets us to laugh at silly, gross and laugh-out-loud jokes.
Why was the Egyptian boy upset?
His daddy was a mummy.

What do you call a ghostly teddy bear?
Winnie the OOOOOHhhhhhhh.

Do zombies eat popcorn with their fingers?
No, they eat the fingers separately ...

Waiter! Waiter! There's a fly in my soup?
I'm sorry, sir, the dog must have missed it.
1st and 2nd graders love reading joke books. They can dip into them, share them with friends, and get immediate satisfaction from their newly acquired reading skills. Sometimes, joke books can be the perfect thing to switch on the light and wake kids up to the joy of reading. Kids who know the Horrid Henry characters will get the most out of this joke book, since several of the chapters feature characters from the stories. But as the jokes above show, there is plenty of fun in these jokes whether or not you know the characters.

Check out my review of other books in the Horrid Henry series here. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher. If you make a purchase on Amazon using the links on this site, a small percentage will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Nest, Nook and Cranny, poems by Susan Blackaby (ages 8 - 12)

As a child, I loved spending time noticing things when I was outdoors. Poetry can help us do just that - observe the world around us, in small and intimate details. Susan Blackaby's new collection of poems, Nest, Nook and Cranny, is perfect for reading with your children and talking about what they notice, both in the poems and in nature all around them.
Nest, Nook & Cranny
poems by Susan Blackaby
illustrated by Jamie Hogan
MA: Charlesbridge, 2010
ages 8 - 12
available on Amazon and at your public library
Blackaby's descriptive poems, paired with realistic charcoal pencil drawings, almost remind me of a naturalist's journal. She has arranged them in sections by habitat - desert, grassland, shoreline, wetland, woodland - so that you feel as if you're spending time in that area. Here's a sample of how the poem and the illustration are so well matched:

Poetry can do more than help us notice the world around us: it can help us notice the words on a page. Susan Blackaby talks about the craft of her poems in the end of the book. While children may not be drawn to this discussion, I found it fascinating to think about how each poem was crafted. Parents and teachers can read this, mull it over, and sprinkle in their observations as they read these poems with children.

My favorite poem is "Shallow pools in rocky ledges", perhaps because I have always been fascinated by tide pools.
Shallow pools in rocky ledges,
Etched by sand and scored by sea,
Are beachfront homes for stranded creatures:
Starfish, snails, anemones,
Twice each day the sea seeps in
When the changing tide runs high.
Battered by the salty spray,
Sodden lodgers cling and sway,
Waterlogged before the drought,
Parching when the tide goes out.

- by Susan Blackaby
Blackaby's descriptive language brings alive this poem, reminding me of the tide pools I've explored with my children. But I never noticed how she crafted the structure of the poem to reflect life in the tide pool, until I read her explanation in her section "Writing Poetry":
For creatures in a tidepool, living conditions - either all wet or mostly dry - follow certain rules, but the transition period from one extreme to the other is marked by instability and chance. This poem follows a similar pattern. It begins at low tide with one rhyme scheme (ab cb), gets interrupted midway through when the tide comes in (an unrhymed couplet to suggest disorder), and ends at high tide with a different rhyme scheme (dd ee).
- Susan Blackaby
If you are looking to share poems about nature, or help children notice more details in the way poems are crafted, this is an excellent collection. During April, my goal is to review 10 poetry books for children as part of National Poetry Month. To find other great resources, check out Poetry Friday, hosted this week by Paper Tigers.

The review copy was kindly sent by the author. The sections quoted are reprinted with the permission of Charlesbridge copyright © 2010. If you make a purchase on Amazon using the links on this site, a small percentage will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Here's a Little Poem: a collection of poems for the very young (ages 1 - 5)

Do you have little children with short attention spans? I love sharing poems and short nursery rhymes with them. Jane Yolen's collection, Here's a Little Poem, is perfectly suited for our littlest ones: young toddlers and preschoolers.
Here's a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry
collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters
illustrated by Polly Dunbar
MA: Candlewick Press, 2007
ages 1 - 5
available on Amazon or at your local library
The poems in this collection are perfect for a young audience. Each poem is only a few lines long; the expressive illustrations are full of joy and a love of life. I love how these poems reflect a young child’s world. The sixty poems are organized into the following categories: Me, Myself, and I; Who Lives in My House?; I Go Outside; and Time for Bed. Above all, this is a very child-centered collection, one that you will treasure sharing with young children.

You can see how the illustrations bring the poems to life in this spread:
Here's a Little Poem gathers poems from various parts of the English-speaking world, including Great Britain, the Caribbean, Australia, and the U. S. Regional spellings and usage have been retained in order to preserve the integrity of the originals. The works of many of America’s finest children’s poets can be found in the pages of this book: Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Aileen Fisher, Nikki Grimes, Mary Ann Hoberman, Langston Hughes, J. Patrick Lewis, Myra Cohn Livingston, David McCord, Eve Merriam, Lilian Moore, and Marilyn Singer.

One of my favorite poems from the collection is "Mum Is Having a Baby" by Colin McNaughton:
Mum is having a baby!
I'm shocked! I'm all at sea!
What's she want another one for:
The poems in this collection are a joy to read aloud. You'll treasure this book for years, and your child will be drawn in by the rhythm, rhyme and joyful illustrations.

For another wonderful reviews, see Kelly Fineman's Writing and Ruminating and Elaine Magliaro's The Wild Rose Reader. For interviews with Jane Yolen, a prolific and creative author, see Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast and The Miss Rumphius Effect.

The review copy came from my local library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links here, a small percentage will go to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Does poetry speak to your teen?

Does poetry speak to your teen? I find that some teens are drawn automatically to poetry, and others shy away from it. Those who like poetry may enjoy the shorter lines, the personal nature, the rhythm and rhyme, the metaphors and similes. But others find that poems don't tell enough of the story, make you work too hard to "figure it out". Teens have moved beyond the funny poems of Shel Silverstein, but want something that speaks to their experiences more than the classics. If you're looking for poetry that speaks to your teen, check out this new collection: Poetry Speaks Who I Am.
Poetry Speaks Who I Am with CD
Poems of Discovery, Inspiration, Independence, and Everything Else in Your Amazing Future
by Elise Paschen, Dominique Raccah
IL: Sourcebooks, 2010
ages 12 - 15
available on Amazon and at your local library
Poetry Speaks Who I Am makes young teens and tweens think about their lives today. It's a collection of 108 poems that has been carefully selected to mirror the hopes and fears of kids and teens today. It mixes contemporary and classic poets from a range of ethnic backgrounds. All of the poems help kids think about their lives, who they are and who they might be. As Elise Paschen writes in the introduction,
This is not a poetry anthology for adults, for children, for classroom study, or for required memorization and recitation. It’s made just for you. ... Youth inspires poets. So when we asked poets to send poems either that were important to them at your age or that they’d written about being your age, we received hundreds of submissions. Many writers try to capture those moments you may be thinking about now as you step into a new world.
I loved how this collection was organized. It's perfect for dipping into, and swimming a bit. While the poems are thoughtful and encourage reflection, the collection does not seem heavy-handed. "Vampire's Serenade" by Dana Gioia is on one page, followed by "Alone" by Edgar Allan Poe on the next. You'll find poems from a boy's perspective, poems that speak to girls, and poems that speak to all of us. Many poems are short, many tell stories from the poet's childhood, some are more abstract.

Best of all, this collection has gotten a positive thumbs up from my neighbor. Each student in his 8th grade class had to read aloud a poem, and he had no idea what to choose. This collection was perfect for him, and made the assignment work. This is a great collection for middle school families. Try just leaving it lying around and see if your young teen browses through it.

The collection includes a CD of many of the poems read aloud. I did not find the CD spoke to me as much as the written poems. I think, in part, I liked skipping through the poems until I landed on one that resonated. I also like reading poems a couple of times over, letting them sink in. I typically listen to CDs in the car, and it was harder to let the poems sink in.

Poetry Speaks Who I Am has received several other great reviews: Fuse#8, The Happy Nappy Bookseller, and Welcome to My Tweendom.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Sourcebooks. If you purchase something on Amazon using one of the links here, a small percentages goes to Great Kid Books. This will be used to buy other books to review. Thank you for your support. Today's Poetry Friday will be hosted by Kate Coombs at the Book Aunt. Check out the many resources for poetry around the Kidlitosphere!