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Book Review: Books for Babies (and one for the big kids)!! Bedtime Classics: “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” by Lewis Carroll & Carly Gledhill and “The Nutcracker,” by E.T.A. Hoffmann & Carly Gledhill; Hello, World!: “Pets” & “Arctic Animals,” by Jill McDonald; plus “Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species,” adapted by Sabina Radeva

October 16th, 2019

This life...

(“Good morning, sunshine!” Photo by Rawley)

The fall books are arriving, and that makes life just a little sweeter, especially when the books are finally starting to reflect the actual country that we live in.

The majority of preschoolers in the United States today are non-white, aka “from a minority background.” This statistic has been accurate for several years now. (Since at least 2015, according to the people who pull the numbers together.) When the minority becomes the majority? That means, my friends, yes, America is a melting pot, which we already knew, and we love that.

Yet only 23 percent of children’s books published last year reflect this diversity.

Along comes Bedtime Classics, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” based on the Lewis Carroll story, and illustrated by the talented Carly Gledhill. Gledhill, an artist from the United Kingdom, did a lovely job with the Alice tale, and littles will be happy to meet the Cheshire Cat and the rest of Carroll’s crew in this sweet little board book.

Gledhill also illustrated a cool version (just in time for the holidays) of “The Nutcracker,” by E.T.A. Hoffmann. Both new releases are published by Penguin/Random House, 2019, cost $7.99 apiece, and are the first two in a new series, which will include “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “The Wizard of Oz” and other titles.

The Hello, World! series also has new books out. “Pets” and “Arctic Animals,” Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2019, $7.99 each, offer innovative ways to introduce the little ones to non-fiction info about animals, to identify colors and shapes, and voila! learn how to read, too.

The books are fun. We have a cute little rabbit, for example, with “long, floppy ears, whiskers, and a nose they can twitch,” a prompt to practice twitching your nose like a bunny, and some fun facts. (“Rabbits eat hay, fruits, and vegetables.”) Both books have the same style, and it’s just a fun way to work on a lot of educational stuff without being bossy about it. Lol.

Now, one for the big kids. Sabina Radeva, another artist from the U.K., has adapted and illustrated Charles Darwin’s classic, “On the Origin of Species” (Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House, 2019, ages 4 and up, 64 pages, $18.99 and worth every penny). This extraordinary adaptation gives us lots of science facts, distilled for the younger crowd, along with biographical information on Darwin.

“Wacky Mommy,” you might ask, “Is this really a book my niece/nephew is going to want? Shouldn’t I buy them another Captain Underpants book, instead?” Well. You should buy them Captain Underpants, because that series is great. But you should also buy this one, too. Kids dig non-fiction, biographies, autobiographies, and all sorts of unexpected stuff.

Happy reading! Bon appetit!

Wacky Mommy at Large

Thursday, Thursday, Picture Books! — “Five Minutes (That’s a lot of time) (No, it’s not) (Yes, it is),” by Liz Garton, Audrey Vernick & Olivier Tallec; “16 Words: William Carlos Williams & ‘The Red Wheelbarrow,’”; and “My Tiny Pet,” by Jessie Hartland

October 3rd, 2019

So many photos ❤️

(“White Chickens/Black/and Red” photo by Nancy Row Rawley)

I love this picture book’s title, y’all. “Five Minutes (That’s a lot of time) (No, it’s not) (Yes, it is),” written by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Olivier Tallec (G.P. Putnam’s Sons BFYR, 2019, ages 3-7, $16.99).

This cheerful, goofy picture book takes just about five minutes to read, but you’ll probably end up need 20-25 minutes, total, because the kids will want you to read it four or five times. Five minutes is forever — or it’s not enough, depending on how a person looks at it. Visiting the puppies, bunnies and birds at the pet store? Five minutes is not enough. Just a little more sleep? Please, please more than five minutes. Waiting in line, anywhere? Five minutes takes an eternity. Clever story, sweet illustrations.

Visit the crew — Liz Garton on Twitter @LGartonScanlong, Audrey Vernick and Olivier Tallec.

I have many favorite poems, but this one is in the top five:

“so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white chickens.”

– William Carlos Williams

What is it about this poem? English majors and their professors, writers and poets, fans of chickens… we all worship it, analyze it, interpret it in different ways. It’s cool to see the poem dissected — and illustrated — in a new picture book, “16 Words: William Carlos Williams & ‘The Red Wheelbarrow,’” (Schwartz & Wade Books, by Lisa Rogers, illustrated by Chuck Groenink, 2019, ages 4-8, 40 pages, $17.99).

I love when this poem is used as a writing prompt; it frees us. It is simple, beautiful, deep, and everything a poem needs to be. Williams was a family doctor in Rutherford, New Jersey. Thaddeus Marshall, a neighbor, was one of his patients. His garden, his wheelbarrow, and the sale of his vegetables inspired Williams, who wrote in his spare time. Who knew? (English majors. Their profs. Writers and poets. #bigsmile)

The illustrations and the words wrap around the poem to give us a nice biography of Mr. Williams, and a beautiful tribute to Mr. Marshall. Enjoy.

For more about the author and illustrator, check Lisa Rogers and Chuck Groenink.

Next up, one just for you, science geeks and art lovers: Jessie Hartland’s “My Tiny Pet,” (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019, ages 4-8, $17.99). They can survive radiation, the vacuum of space, or live at the bottom of the ocean. They can hibernate for centuries. Their biggest predator, though? You’ll never believe it. Snails.

What is this mysterious creature we’re talking about? Tardigrades! (Aka, “water bears.”) And now someone, believe it or not, has written and illustrated a beautiful, sweet, educational picture book about them. Hartland’s work (gouache) has been compared to Maira Kalman’s (one of the best artists, ever, in the history of the universe, people!) and yes. It does remind me of Kalman’s work.

A little girl and her family are downsizing and moving to the forest, and their pets are all rehomed. But she would really, pretty please, like one small pet? So much love for this book.

Check out more of Hartland’s work here.

Wednesday = Picture Books! Let’s Review “Snack Attack,” by Terry Border; and “Max & Ruby and Twin Trouble,” by One Ms. Rosemary Wells

October 2nd, 2019

So many photos ❤️

(“Puppy/Monkey,” by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

OK, this first one is crazy, which means the kids are going to love it. Terry Border’s “Snack Attack!” (Philomel Books/Penguin Random House, 2019, picture book for the littles — and maybe the bigs? — unpaged, $17.99). We have the three best besties in the world — Cookie, Pretzel and Cheese Doodle. Do we care about them? Even though they’re not actually real? Yes, yes we do. So when we see the note from mom, and realize that Big Kid is heading home, with “big teeth and slobbery tongues,” yes, we get a little worried.

The photos and montages are funny. Check this one out.

It’s the 40th anniversary for Rosemary Wells’ beloved sibling bunnies, you know them, you love them, Max and Ruby!!! I really do adore these two, and not just because my kids (and their granny) adored them. Oh, they are too flippin’ cute and funny. What’s happening in the new book, “Max & Ruby and Twin Trouble,” (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2019, ages 4-8, and also my age, $17.99) with its candy colors and its wild style? Max and Ruby are getting twin babies at their house, that’s what!

Happy reading, y’all.

WM

Tuesday Book Review — What’s on My Nightstand: “The Penderwicks at Last,” by Jeanne Birdsall; “The Curse of the Werepenguin,” by Allan Woodrow; “The Beautiful,” by Renee Ahdieh; and “Rules for Vanishing,” by Kate Alice Marshall

October 1st, 2019

So many photos ❤️

(“Gleneden Beach, Oregon, USA — photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Hello cats and kittens,

I have a nice little round-up for you this week.

“The Penderwicks at Last,” by Jeanne Birdsall (Yearling/Random House Children’s Books, 2019, 294 pages, $7.99) is the final book in this series about six adventuresome siblings. (The other five books are “The Penderwicks,” “The Penderwicks on Gardam St.,” “The Penderwicks at Point Mouette”and “The Penderwicks in Spring.” It’s an old-fashioned kind of series, in the tradition of “The Boxcar Children” and “The Moffatts.” My students, when I taught, enjoyed the Penderwicks. It has that certain something that appeals to modern readers. The Penderwicks will be missed. Follow Jeanne Birdsall on Twitter @jeannebirdsall

“The Beautiful,” by Renee Ahdieh (Putnam, 2019, young adult, 425 pages, $18.99). New Orleans + intrigue + creatures of the night. Enjoy this scary tale. Follow the author at @rahdieh

“Rules for Vanishing,” by Kate Alice Marshall @kmarshallarts (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2019, young adults, 402 pages, $18.99). Marshall’s debut book, a young adult read, was “I Am Still Alive,”. It caught readers’ attention. “Rules for Vanishing,” her latest, is being released just in time for Halloween. Sara Donoghue’s sister Becca left a year ago, in search of Lucy Gallows, and no one has seen her since. Lucy, a ghost, has her own road, her own story, and her own plan. Sara and her friends from Briar Glen need to find Becca, and this isn’t an adventure that any of them really want to go on.

But it’s Becca.

“EXHIBIT A
Text message received by all Briar Glen High School students on Monday, April 17, 2017

DO YOU KNOW WHERE LUCY WENT?

SHE WENT TO PLAY THE GAME.

YOU CAN PLAY, TOO.

FIND A PARTNER.

FIND A KEY.

FIND THE ROAD.

YOU HAVE TWO DAYS.”

OK, now my heart is racing.

It’s a gripping book, and the format is intriguing, with the story, clues and interviews interspersed with cell phone calls and texts.

And now, for something fun: “The Curse of the Werepenguin,” by Allan Woodrow, illustrated by Scott Brown (Viking, ages 4th grade and up, 334 pages, $17.99). Funny, funny boys put this book together. First page:

“Prologue: The St. Aves Zoo

Fourteen penguins glared at me with haunting yellow eyes. They seemed disturbed, disdainful, disgruntled, discombobulated, and disagreeably disquieting. They squawked — loud, roaring barks — beaks frowning.

A chill rose up my back.

I sneezed.”

OK, good. Let’s go! Great story, captivating and humorous, and the drawings are perfect.

Happy autumn, happy reading.

WM