Little Pencil Finds His Forever Friends: A Rhyming Pencil Grip Picture Book by Christine Calabrese. Illustrated by Maria Victoria Flores. Book review.

I always feel a bit of trepidation when I get a rhyming book to review. It is so difficult to write well and too many people attempt it who have  otherwise never written in rhyme since grade school. Happily, Calabrese succeeds with this charming little story.

The pencil is sad because everyone else seems to have a job. The photographed hands of a small child use a ruler, clay, scissors, blocks and more while the pencil sobs feeling left out.

Variations on this refrain are repeated throughout the book:

Poor little pencil

Sobbed, “Boo-hoo hoo.

Poor little pencil

Had nothing to do!”

The author varies the verb sobbed exposing children to some interesting synonyms.

At the end, the child picks up the pencil and begins to write. We learn the correct way to hold a pencil if you are a right-handed person or a lefty.

The illustrations are an engaging combination of photographed hands and illustrated tools all with expressive faces. The colors are bright and engaging. The book is a large 8 x 10 so all children can clearly see the proper way to hold the pencil.

As a former teacher, I know how difficult it is to change a child’s awkward grip on a pencil once it has become habit. As soon as your child can hold a crayon, marker, or pencil, be sure their grip is correct. Not only does it help with letter formation but it is less fatiguing. This book is a great way to introduce the proper method with less conflict.

Buy link

 

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The Panchatantra Retold – Kakolukiyuum by Sonal Panse

This is a rare and fascinating collection of interweaving folk tales from ancient India. While they remind me of Aesop‘s fables, they are more complicated, with less obvious meanings, and interconnected in a intricate yet logical manner. This set of stories is written for adults.
The legend goes that a king asked a wise man to change his useless three sons into practical, competent young man. The wise man promised that in six months the boys would be transformed by his wisdom stories.
I have never read a story within story within a story circling back going forward and circling back again in the elaborate way this series does. It is an admirable feat of storytelling.
Much discussion could ensue from each little story especially with regard to psychological warfare and strategy. Basically the story is about owls continuing to attack and kill crows. How the crows decide to protect themselves is devised through discussion by exchanging short fables. There is much insight into the human psyche represented by these animals.
There is a wonderful pen and ink illustration for each story. This is a highly unusual book well worth a look.

My Favorite Fifteen Fiction Picture Books I Reviewed in 2017

I’ve read so many wonderful picture books this year that it was impossible for me to shorten the list of favorites any further than fifteen. Click on the title to go to the review.

THIS WEEK

Monday – Favorite adult book

Tuesday – Five Favorite Young Adult Books

Wednesday – Five Favorite Middle Grade Books

Thursday – Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books

Friday – Fifteen Favorite Fiction Picture Books

My Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books I Reviewed in 2017

Some of these are not strictly nonfiction but I felt they were informative enough to include in this list. They are in no particular order. Click on the titles to read the reviews.

Coming to Canada: Building a Life in a New Land by Susan Hughes.

This is a nonfiction history book is organized into easy-to-read sections. Is quite up to date and inclusive. It begins with the arrival of the aboriginal peoples. It follows through with the Acadians and the Great Expulsion, an example of how prejudice and politics can destroy the lives of ordinary people. Throughout the book, it honestly shows the cruelties and failures done while building our country.

 

A is for Anaconda: A Rainforest Alphabet by Anthony D. Fredericks. Illustrated by Laura Regan.

This is not an alphabet book for preschool or kindergarten children. In fact, calling it an alphabet book could be misleading. It is, in fact, an extensive resource book for information about rainforests.

 

Why I Love Canada. Illustrated by Daniel Howarth.

I really liked this book until I researched it because of a small notation on the cover. Now I love it. Each of the sentences was written by a child in Alberta. (That explains the buffalo.) The illustrator then took the sentences and created the book. This is the kind of think I loved doing when I was a primary teacher. Children have a wonderful way of noticing the beautiful.

 

Eating Green by Molly Aloian.

Although this picture book is written for children, it is a reminder for people of all ages of the impact of our choices.

 

Herds of Birds Oh How Absurd! by S.J. Bushue and Deb McQueen.

Readers learn that deer, dinosaurs, elephants, hippos, horses, kangaroos, llamas, moose, pigs, reindeer, seals, walruses, yaks, and zebras all travel in herds. But porcupines, flamingos, hamsters, alligators, butterflies, lions, toads, ferrets, geese, nightingales, dolphins, penguins, hummingbirds, and monkeys are identified by a different collective noun.

 

Seasons of Joy: Every Day is For Outdoor Play written and illustrated by Claudia Marie Lenart.

The book explores the four seasons, three pages dedicated to each one. The story is written in poetic prose and although there are occasional rhymes, it does not try to be a rhyming book. On each page, children participate in imaginative, child driven, outdoor activities.

 

Can You Say Peace? By Karen Katz.

Each double-page spread has the name of the child and the country she lives in on the left with a full-page bright illustration. A close-up of the child’s face on the is right with the words on how to say peace in their language with a pronunciation guide.

 

THIS WEEK

Monday – Favorite adult book

Tuesday – Five Favorite Young Adult Books

Wednesday – Five Favorite Middle Grade Books

Thursday – Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books

Friday – Fifteen Favorite Fiction Picture Books

 

My Favorite Five Middle Grade Books I Reviewed in 2017

Click on the titles to read the reviews.

Erasable and Digby of the Dinosaurs

by Linda Yiannakis

Erasable: The protagonist, nine-year-old Ellie, discovers something in her grandmother’s attic that promises to solve all her problems. But like the genie who grants three wishes, one never knows where magic will lead. Ellie has little understanding of the karmic results of her decisions. What begins as little improvements cascades into major life changes, not all positive.

Digby: A little boy inadvertently finds himself in a secluded world where some species of dinosaurs still exist and have evolved to a higher level. But it is so much more than that.

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library by Linda Bailey. Illustrated by Victoria Jamieson.

The reader can’t help but love the little hero, Eddie, a tiny bug who braves the huge halls of the school, dodging a spider, a mouse, and lots of squishers (humans who stomp on bugs), in order to find his missing aunt.

 

Tangled Lines by Bonnie J. Doerr.

The reader is given an insight into the daily struggle of fishermen, the risks taken by Cuban immigrants to reach the United States of America, exploitation of the natural world, the senseless slaughter of wild creatures, and the courageous and giving nature of volunteers trying to protect endangered wildlife and the environment.

 

Something Stinks by Gail Hedrick.

Emily is determined to find out why fish are showing up dead on the river banks by her aunt and uncle’s home. Her small town is suffering from job loss, so Emily’s investigations are less than popular. She decides to focus on an exposé for the school newspaper. Whatever industry she points the finger at may mean disaster for the company and, subsequently, the workers.

 

 

Halito Gianna by Becky Villareal.

Gianna could easily become one of your children’s favourite book characters. This is a determined, bighearted, independent, and opinionated girl. She is resourceful and clever.

 

THIS WEEK

Monday – Favorite adult book

Tuesday – Five Favorite Young Adult Books

Wednesday – Five Favorite Middle Grade Books

Thursday – Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books

Friday – Fifteen Favorite Fiction Picture Books

My Favorite Five Young Adult Books I’ve Read in 2017

These are my favorite five young adult books I reviewed this year. They are listed in no particular order. Click on the title to go to the review.

Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth.

Both the major characters are engaging, complex, and selfless. I read this book in one night as I could not put it down. I loved both Justine and Perry. Both have big hearts, protective natures, a sense of humor, and courage.

 

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner.

Zentner understands survivor’s guilt at the deepest level. This is a story about the tragic deaths of three teenagers and the impact it has on the fourth friend and their families.

 

Trell by Dick Lehr.

This young adult book is told from the viewpoint of a 13-year-old girl named Van Trell Taylor whose father, Romero, is in prison. She was a baby when he was convicted of the murder of a 13-year-old girl in a gang/drug related crime where someone else was the target. Trell’s mother, Shey, is confident that, even though her husband was a drug dealer and petty criminal, he was not capable of murdering anyone. Trell enlists the aid of a new lawyer and burned out journalist to find the truth about her father.

 

Optimists Die First – Life Ahead: Proceed with Caution by Susin Nielsen.

17-year-old Petula De Wilde is plagued with guilt over her accidental contribution to her baby sister’s death. In addition, she has become obsessed with the idea that anything less than constant vigilance can result in tragedy, leaving her parents with no children at all. As a result, she will not shake hands, walk anywhere near construction sites, get in elevators, or do anything that remotely endangers her safety.

 

Avians by Timothy Gwyn.

Timothy Gwyn has built a fascinating and completely believable world in his first 416 page young adult science-fiction novel. His expertise with flying gives authenticity to the events without overwhelming the reader with technical jargon. Girls whose lives are miserable may be able to escape by joining the avians, an aeronautical group of young women fiercely loyal to each other and in love with flying glider planes used for commercial delivery and rescue missions.

THIS WEEK

Monday – Favorite adult book

Tuesday – Five Favorite Young Adult Books

Wednesday – Five Favorite Middle Grade Books

Thursday – Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books

Friday – Fifteen Favorite Fiction Picture Books

My Favorite Adult Book I Read in 2017

I didn’t read many adult books this year so I’ve chosen only one to list as my favorite. Click on the title to go to the review.

Making Manna by Eric Lotke.

Unforgettable, riveting, total emotional engagement, inspiring, and brilliantly written. By far the best adult book I’ve read in years.

 

THIS WEEK

Monday – Favorite adult book

Tuesday – Five Favorite Young Adult Books

Wednesday – Five Favorite Middle Grade Books

Thursday – Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books

Friday – Fifteen Favorite Fiction Picture Books

 

Dust flowers by Lisa Gammon Olson. Illustrated by Kyle Olson. Book review. Tales from American Herstory Series.

This lovely and engaging picture book tells the story of the dust bowl era in the United States through the eyes of a little girl. Her grandmother tells her stories of the beauty of the land before the drought. The little girl has no memory of it and barely remembers her mother ever wearing a smile.

One day the girl finds a little green shoot and secretly waters it until it until it blooms into a gorgeous vine of morning glories. When her mother sees it, she smiles and dances with joy with her daughter. Although another dust storm is rising, they also hear the sound of thunder foretelling the coming end of the drought.

The pictures are soft, expressive watercolour hinting at dust without being overly oppressive. The story is told with tact, beauty, hope, and charm. I did, however find the occasional fully capitalize the word distracting and did not understand its purpose. This wonderful book would be a great addition to any classroom shelf or child’s personal book collection.

Buy link http://a.co/4ldRov2

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Little Miss History Travels to La Brea Tar Pits and Museum by Barbara Ann Mojica. Book Review.

Barbara Ann Mojica has written a children’s picture book that will be of interest to students and adults interested in either history or science. Once again Little Miss History takes us on a tour of an interesting American site. This time we explore La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. I had no idea that this prehistoric fossil excavation site was right in the middle of Los Angeles,  California.

Mojica explains the history of the tar pits and the key players involved and its discovery and transition into a museum. Once again clever illustrations are combined with real photographs of the site.

A clear, understandable explanation of how the tar pits form and their impact upon the earth will interest budding geologists. Photographs of the amazing prehistoric animals are sure to intrigue young readers.

The Little Miss History series stimulates travellers to examine well known and less well known historica sites across America. Mojica’s books, including this one, would be a wonderful addition to any school library or classroom. The books are suited for ages seven and up.

Purchase link http://a.co/eMmyovQ

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Road to Ever After by Moira Young. Book Review.

This highly unusual book is told from the point of view of a 13-year-old orphaned street boy named Davey David. Lizzie, an elderly woman dubbed as a witch and a child who has the fascinating talent of drawing angels in the dirt go on an incredible journey together. Lizzie, to say the least, has unconventional expectations of a young man who seems destined to fill her last request.

During their flight across the country, they encounter an hard collection of situations and people. My favourite was their mad-cap release of doomed turkeys on their way for slaughter. This little scene echos a major theme of breaking free and going beyond death.

The writing style and the themes of regret, guilt, and death, however, will interest YA and adults equally. The book can be read at many levels.The story is poignant, sad, mysterious, and funny.

The two protagonists are at opposite ends of the age scale. Readers will connect differently and the takeaways will be as varied as their own personal experiences. The tone of this book is somewhat like the Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Midnight Circus but it also has the feel of a buddy road trip. It’s sure to be enjoyed by readers who like books that make them think, feel, and laugh.

Buy link http://a.co/jcVjfpj

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages