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What’s New on My Nightstand — Monday Book Review: “Fall is For School,” by Robert Neubecker; “Poppy Louise is Not Afraid of Anything,” by Jenna McCarthy, illustrated by Molly Idle; “When God Made You,” by Matthew Paul Turner, illustrated by David Catrow

March 20th, 2017

“What didn’t you do to bury me / But you forgot that I was a seed.” — Dinos Christianopoulos, poet (b. 20 Mar 1931)

This one won’t be out until end of June, but I received galleys in the mail for review, woot! (I donate the galleys to teacher friends, who use the art for bulletin boards. This works out nicely.) “Fall is For School,” written and illustrated by Robert Neubecker (Disney-Hyperion Books; June, 2017; ages 3-5; 32 pages; $17.99). This is the sequel to Neubecker’s “Winter is for Snow.” Another one to look for: “Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing,” written by Kay Haring, and illustrated by Neubecker.

Fall is time for school, and most kids (and parents :) ) look forward to it. But what do you do, sister, when your brother hates school and says he’d rather stay home? This is a sweet “New York kids” book, with loads of color. The red-headed siblings are a likable pair — the sister, already dressed in her school clothes; the brother, refusing to change out of flip-flops and shorts. How can she coax him?

“Fall is here! Come on with me! It’s time to go to school!”

He’s having none of it. But they will meet their teachers, who will help them learn about Romans, the pyramids and… (this being New York and all)… dinosaurs! (Thank you, American Museum of Natural History.) Great book. Fun story, the art is whimsical and inviting, and will give parents and teachers a good way to segue into a discussion.

Visit the artist online at neubecker.com.

“Poppy Louise is NOT Afraid of Anything,” by Jenna McCarthy, illustrated by Molly Idle (Random House Books for Young Readers; April, 2017; ages 3-7; $16.99) When students tell me their favorite colors (and ask me what mine are), I immediately say, purpleandgreen. Purple and green have been my favorite colors since I was a kid. Flowers, gardens, landscapes, clothes, jelly beans… Now comes “Poppy Louise,” with a purple-and-green theme, so you know it’s good.

She really, really, even though she should be, sometimes, is not scared of anything, much to the consternation of her friends and her big sister Petunia.

“How do we get up on your roof?” she asks her friend Finn.
“We don’t,” Finn tells her.

I love storytimes when the kids cut in, Ms. Nancy, that is not a good idea, is it? No, it’s not. Finn is right to work on his rocketship and leave the roof alone, lol.

“People call Poppy the brave sister and Petunia the careful sister. Petunia prefers to think of herself as wise.”

Is there anything Poppy is afraid of? Read on and we’ll find out.

Jenna McCarthy also wrote the Maggie Malone series. Molly Idle is a Caldecott Honor winner for “Flora and the Flamingo.”

“When God Made You,” by Matthew Paul Turner, illustrated by David Catrow (WaterBrook & Multnomah, 2017, juvenile fiction, 48 pages, $11.99) Yay, more purple and green! A little girl, searching for her place in the world, is told:

“God pictured your nose and all ten of your toes. The sound of your voice? God had it composed. The lines on your hands, your hair, every strand, God knew every detail like it was all planned.”

God is there, throughout the book. He’s a hipster, wearing a beret and a scruffy white T-shirt, Capris, white tights and red ballerina slippers. Perfecto.

Mr. Turner’s website is at MatthewPaulTurner.com; David Catrow’s is here. (He has illustrated a ton of great stuff, including the Molly Lou Melon books.)

Happy Monday, everyone, happy spring! And happy reading.

xo

wm

What’s New on My Nightstand, Wednesday Edition: “The Teacher’s Pet,” by Anica Mrose Rissi, illustrated by Zachariah OHora; “I Love My Grandma,” by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Emma Dodd; “Goodnight, Numbers,” by Danica McKellar, illustrated by Alicia Padron

March 15th, 2017

This one isn’t coming out until June 20, but keep it in mind: “The Teacher’s Pet,” by Anica Mrose Rissi, illustrated by Zachariah OHora (Disney-Hyperion Books, ages 3-5, 40 pages, $17.99).

Mr. Stricter and his students are breeding tadpoles. Once they’re grown, they can keep just one for a classroom pet, he tells them. But… pets and classrooms have a way of getting interesting. Bruno, their pet, (“Isn’t he adorable?” Mr. Stricter asks) smashes, crashes, farts, has allergies and maybe isn’t the best classroom pet. And he doesn’t really look like a tadpole at all. What?!?

How can the students break it to Mr. Stricter?

Funny story, one that will be great for a classroom or library read-aloud, of course, but will be a good one, too, for parents and kids of all ages. (Not limited to ages 3-5.) The ’60s-style art is whimsical and pretty. An engaging picture book.

Speaking of pretty art… “I Love My Grandma,” written by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Emma Dodd (Disney-Hyperion Books, 2016, ages 3-5, 32 pages, $17.99) is another lovely picture book. It’s a rhyming book, with great, big vivid pictures in soft colors. “I go ’round to her house to play/And sometimes we just chat all day.” (Love.) A sweet tribute to the special relationship to grandmas and their grands.

Alicia Padron illustrated Danica McKellar’s latest math/picture book, “Goodnight Numbers” (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017, ages 2-5, 32 pages, $16.99). (Winnie Cooper from the television show, “The Wonder Years,” yes, that’s who wrote this :) She acted, and then she went off to graduate summa cum laude in mathematics from UCLA, go, go, go, Winnie!) Absolutely charming picture book, which will comfort the littles as they unwind for the night, while teaching them basic math concepts.

The art is precious, Padron did a beautiful job. The “frames” within each page are an extra nudge with the math. (The number 7 page, for example, “Goodnight, seven days. Goodnight,whole week. Goodnight, seven teeth so clean they squeak,” for the words, but you also get a cat toy with seven baubles attached, a picture on the wall with seven strawberries, seven buttons on mother’s skirt, and so on. Clever. That kind of repetition enforces the counting, the memorization, and the comprehension of math.

All for now! Enjoy your day, wherever you are.

– WM

What’s New On My Nightstand? Saturday Edition: “Dormouse Dreams,” by Karma Wilson & Renata Liwska; “Bob, Not Bob!” written by Liz Garton Scanlon & Audrey Vernick, with pictures by Matthew Cordell; and “When You’re Feeling Sick,” by Coy Bowles, illustrated by Andy Elkerton

January 14th, 2017

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

– “The Summer Day,” by Mary Oliver

More books, readers. Enjoy!

* “Dormouse Dreams” (Disney/Hyperion Books, written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Renata Liwska, 2017, ages 3-5, 40 pages, $16.99) is a good one for a snowy day like today. A wee dormouse, snug in his nest, dreams and snores through winter and into spring. (Notes from the publisher say that Wilson got the idea after watching a video of a little snoring dormouse.) It’s a rhyming book, my friends.

“While the white snow glows in the bright moonbeams, in his dry leaf bed, little dormouse dreams.”

Awww… I love it. The art is beautiful (a fox, cross-country skiing; the dormouse, with his cute little feet and his stuffed bunny; a crow with his own plane) and the story is engaging. Nice.

“Bob, Not Bob!” (Disney/Hyperion Books, Valentine’s Day, 2017, written by Audrey Vernick & Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Matthew Cordell, ages 3-5, 40 pages, $17.99). The first thing you should know about this book: It is to be read as though you have the worst cold ever. Or, “I have a code! In by doze!” as we said when I was growing up.

This book is hilarious. Really wish I still taught library, because this would be so good for a read-aloud, any time of year, but especially during cold and flu season when half the class is out.

“But when Little Louie got sick, he felt littler than usual. Like maybe his mom should check on him kind of often. (Every three minutes or so.”)

He yells out, Mom! But it sounds like, Bob! And here comes Louie’s beast of a dog, “…running. And slobbering.”

Such a great concept for a story, and the illustrations are funny and sweet. Get well soon, Louie!

Good companion book: “When You’re Feeling Sick” (Random House Children’s Books, 2017, by Coy Bowles, illustrated by Andy Elkerton, ages 3-7, $12.99). This one was written by Bowles, who is the guitarist and organist for the Zac Brown Band. The back story is awfully sweet — his mom was in the hospital, and the family spent a lot of time there. He wanted to share the love and hope his mom, family and friends have experienced during hospital stays. Like I said, awesome and sweet. (The story is included at the back of the book.) The illustrations are vivid and cartoony. “Feel better” songs can be found at coybowles.com

That’s it, babies!

xo

wm

Wednesday Book Review — What’s on My Nightstand: Meditation, Contemplation, Coloring! and Yummy, Yummy Baby Books

January 11th, 2017

“the drum”

daddy says the world
is a drum tight
and hard
and i told him
i’m gonna beat out
my own rhythm”

– nikki giovanni

Well, well, well. There’s about a foot and a half of snow out there, and I’m pretty happy to be inside knitting, hanging with the kids and the pup, and checking out this HUGE stack of review copies. So here we go…

* Meditation: 2017 Engagement Calendar — I love this planner that I ordered online last month. Pretty art, pretty photography and poems, lots of space to write, and pockets for my miscellaneous stuff. “Each small task of everyday life is a part of the total harmony of the universe.” — Saint Therese of Lisieux

* You know what’s supposed to calm you down? Getting divorced. It makes it all better. Hardy-har-har. Seriously, though, folks. Coloring is the new answer for everything, and I have been indulging, and it is pretty great. My friends tell me it is as effective as meditation. My picks: “Zanimals Colouring Book” from Paperchase (can’t find a link, I’ve had this one for awhile and it might be out of print); one from my cousin!!! Thanks, babe. “Because of Bethlehem Christmas Coloring Book,” by Max Lucado, with illustrations by Lizzie Preston & Claire McElfatrick, so pretty, so much fun to explore and color; “Creative Haven: Midnight Garden Coloring Book,” so many hearts, so many flowers, all on black backgrounds, gorgeous; “Color the Pacific Northwest” (Zoe Keller, Timber Press) is a lot of fun, and a lot of work (I think I may switch to little kid coloring books — these grown-up ones require big commitment); and last but not least… “Color Your World 2017 Meditative Coloring Calendar.” For cat lovers. Purr. OK, one more: “Color Your Own Dutch Masters.”

“DK Baby Touch and Feel Puppies” (DK Publishing, 2017, board book series, 14 pages, $5.99) and “DK Really Feely Farm” (DK Publishing, 2017, board book series, 12 pages, $6.99) The tactile books are just so cool for the littles. Puppies! Kiddos can pet the soft fur, stroke the nice ears, chew on the puffy cover. Or how about a trip to the farm? Press the piggy’s snout, tickle the sheep’s wool, check out the duckling’s soft tummy. Awww… Two paws up and a couple of quacks for these books.

All for now, babies. Have a great weekend when we get there.

– wm

Saturday Book Review: “A Greyhound, A Groundhog,” by Emily Jenkins & Chris Appelhans; “Wisteria Jane: Bingo Did It!” by Amber Harris & Ard Hoyt; “I Am the Mountain Mouse,” by Gianna Marino

December 17th, 2016

“A Greyhound, A Groundhog,” written by Emily Jenkins & illustrated by Chris Appelhans (Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House Children’s Books, 2017, $17.99, ages 3-7). I was able to get an advance copy of this title, which will be released in a couple of weeks. It’s really a toss-up, isn’t it, as to who is cuter, a greyhound or a groundhog? We get both in this children’s book from Jenkins (the “Toy” series, which includes “Toy Dance Party” and “Toys Go Out”) and Appelhans (who worked on two of my favorite films, “Coraline” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox”). Jenkins gives a shout-out to author Ruth Krauss, who inspired the book. (For more of Appelhan’s work, take a look here; Jenkins’ site is here.) (PS — now I remember why I like Appelhans’ work! He illustrated that cool book, “Sparky the Sloth.”)

The illustrations are soft and pretty, and the story is sweet. The book — words and pictures, both — has a good rhythm. We have two unlikely friends, playing hard.

“A groundhog, a greyhound, a round little greyhound. A greyhound, a groundhog, a brown little groundhog.”

They’re having fun, and the kids will, too, reading it. (The page with the butterflies is my favorite.) It’s always nice to have a book about groundhogs when Feb. 2nd rolls around… I remember when I was teaching, there were never enough titles.

“Wisteria Jane: Bingo Did It!” written by Amber Harris & illustrated by Ard Hoyt (Red Leaf Lane, 2016, $16.95, ages 3 and up). Wisteria Jane Hummell has a best friend, Bingo, and that doggy gets her into a lot of trouble. There was the tea party, and all the broken cups… “Bingo did it, Momma,” I said. “He was drinking his tea like a good dog, and then he knocked everything over like a bad dog.”

Then there is Mama’s torn-up flower bed, and a bubble bath gone wrong. But does Wisteria Jane have a hand in the chaos, perhaps? This is a charming “lesson” book that isn’t preaching at all while it teaches kids about personal responsibility.

The illustrations remind me of Louis Darling, Jr.’s work on the Beverly Cleary books. Bingo reminds me of Ribsy, a bit. They’re funny and warm, and will make little readers feel like they’re in the middle of the action. You can find the author’s website at AmberBHarris.com; the illustrator’s website is ArdHoytBooks.com. Both live in Bentonville, Arkansas.

“I Am the Mountain Mouse,” written & illustrated by Gianna Marino (Penguin Random House/Penguin Young Readers/Viking, 2016, $16.99, ages 3-5). Hilarious collection of short stories about a little mouse with a big ol’ ego. The graphic novel-style layout of two panels per page is fun, and the stories clip along. (The author’s website is GiannaMarino.com)

Mountain Mouse is hungry, that is his food! Only, buddy? There’s just one thing. That’s a camel, not a mountain. He’s not scared of camels, or cats, or heights, and he doesn’t really like to heed his friends’ advice, so you know things are going to be lively.

I love books where kids can yell, Oh, no… Don’t do it! Lol. This is a great one for that.

Enjoy your holidays!

wm

All-New Sunday Book Review — Grown-up Books: “Seventeenth Century Poetry: The Schools of Donne and Jonson”; “Phenomenal,” by Leigh Ann Henion; and “When Parents Part: How Mothers & Fathers Can Help Their Children Deal with Separation & Divorce,” by Penelope Leach

December 11th, 2016

through the fog

“Through the Fog”
Photo by Steve Rawley

* Seventeenth Century Poetry: The Schools of Donne and Jonson, edited by Hugh Kenner. This book will always, always, forever have a place on my bookshelf. One of my favorite classes at Portland State University, when I attended, with the late, brilliant John “Jack” Cooper.

* “Phenomenal: A Hesitant Adventurer’s Search for Wonder in the Natural World,” by Leigh Ann Henion (Penguin Press, 2015, $26.95, 276 pages). Henion got a lot of grief for this book because of course she did, she’s a woman. Moms aren’t allowed to freak out, go on vision quests, leave their wee babies (children, teens, adult children) alone for a week or more at a time. Screw that, eh? Just sayin’.

It’s a cool book, well-written, funny, rich with detail, images and stories. As someone who doesn’t travel a lot, I always do appreciate the chance to be an armchair traveler. Henion was moved by visiting the site where monarch butterflies gather, in Central Mexico. Later, she had a son, then had, as many of us do, a challenging time. I loved this section, in particular:

“One night, when Matt finds me wailing in unison with our son, he tells me I should take a break because my emotions aren’t good for Archer. Only then do I understand I’ve entered a phase of my life when people seldom consider what might be good for me. Even I somehow don’t feel it’s acceptable for me to think about my own needs — physical or otherwise.

“Not long after Matt chastises me for crying, I tell him it’s time for Archer to go to his own room. I want him to feel safe and secure, but I have given so much of myself I feel hollow. An actual shell of my former being. And if I have no enthusiasm, no wonder, no want for life inside of me, how am I going to nourish my child?”

Worth asking, isn’t it?

She checks out the bioluminescence in Puerto Rico, the Great Migration in Tanzania, a total solar eclipse in Australia, the Northern Lights in Sweden, and a bunch of other cool events and places. I got a big smile from this book.

“When Parents Part: How Mothers & Fathers Can Help Their Children Deal with Separation & Divorce,” by Penelope Leach (Vintage Books, 2016, $16.00, 272 pages). Did you know that fifty percent of marriages actually don’t end in divorce? People are staying married. About two-thirds of us, currently. Hmmm. You like apples? How you like them apples? So I have a better idea. Stay married. Tough it out. Forgive each other. Love on each other. Show your kids how grown-ups navigate through fire, and come out the other side, stronger and better.

OK, unless there’s violence or sexual abuse or any of that crap going on. Then dump their ass.

That’s all for now!

xo and happy, happy holidays.

wm

What’s New on My Nightstand… Friday Book Review: “How to Celebrate Everything,” “Peep and Egg: I’m Not Trick-or-Treating” & “Magic Tree House: Incredible Fact Book”

December 9th, 2016

dawn

“Dawn”
Photo by Steve Rawley

“How to Celebrate Everything,” subtitled “Recipes and Rituals for Birthdays, Holidays, Family Dinners, and Every Day In Between,” by Jenny Rosenstrach, Ballantine Books, 2016, $30, 336 pages. Rosenstrach is the writer who created the blog and book “Dinner: A Love Story.” She has a nice touch, but nothing is so fussy or perfect that it’s intimidating.

How does a Potato Gratin with Gruyere sound on a cold winter’s day? With a nice Cranberry Relish on the side? And for a “New Year’s Eve Fancy-Pants Feast,” perhaps Lobsters with Champagne Butter? OK, now I’m hungry :)

“Peep and Egg: I’m Not Trick-or-Treating,” by Laura Gehl, with pictures by Joyce Wan, Macmillan/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016, $16.99, ages 2-6. Egg says trick-or-treating is too scary; Peep promises it will be fun. Peep coaxes, they head out, and our story begins. Sweet story of friendship and adventure.

“Magic Tree House: Incredible Fact Book” By Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Bryce, Random House, 2016, $16.99, 133 pages. The perfect gift for the little kids and big kids in your life. Do you know what dementor wasps are? Did you know that elephants can smell water from three miles away? Would you like to learn more about cockroaches? No? Well… how about comets, then? Tons of fun facts and tidbits, and the art and photography are great.

All for now!

wm

New on My Nightstand, Tuesday Edition: “My Favorite Pets: by Gus W. for Ms. Smolinski’s Class,” “Drop-Dead Easy Knits,” “Roar! Roar! Baby Dinosaur” & “

November 29th, 2016

“When spiderwebs unite, they can tie up a lion.” — Ethiopian proverb

Oh-ho-ho, awesome books, just in time for the holidays…

“My Favorite Pets: by Gus W. for Ms. Smolinski’s Class” (Random House Children’s Books, written by Jeanne Birdsall (“The Penderwicks”), illustrated by Harry Bliss (“Diary of a Spider”), 2016, $16.99, 40 pages.) “Seventeen sheep are still sheep, not sheeps,” says Gus in his report for Ms. Smolinski. A girl sheep? “A ewe. If you say, ‘Hey, Ewe,’ she won’t answer.”

Hilarious book, and Bliss’s illustrations have so much movement to them. The characters really come alive. The story is super cute, too. Aimed at ages 5-8, but the big kids will have fun with this one, as well.

“Drop-Dead Easy Knits” (Clarkson Potter, Gale Zucker, Mary Lou Egan & Kirsten Kapur, 2016, $16.99, 144 pages.) Well, have you seen my knitting? I can do scarves and baby snuggies and that is it, folks. Nonetheless, even though I know I will never make any of the cool projects the authors came up with, this is a great book and I’m enjoying looking at the pictures! So there you have it.

“Roar! Roar! Baby Dinosaur” (DK Books, 2016, by Peter Minister & Dawn Sirett, $14.99, 12 pages) Perfect for the toddlers. Lots of flaps, lots of info boxes, and it’s light activated, so you can hear the saltasaurus babies chirping and squealing, and the leaellynasaura babies crunch-crunching pine needles.

All for now :)

wm

Grown-up Books on My Nightstand, Wednesday Edition: “Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love & Writing,” “The Magnolia Story,” “Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon” & “Gone to Soldiers”

November 16th, 2016

New releases, even! And one classic, from 1987, by my hero, Marge Piercy.

“Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love & Writing” (Atria Books, 2016, 402 pages, $27.) Great memoir. I’ve liked Jennifer Weiner’s books since her first release came out. She’s fun, and funny, and I appreciate that she sticks up for female writers.

“The Magnolia Story” (By Chip and Joanna Gaines, with Mark Dagostino, W Publishing Group, 2016, $26.99, 184 pages.) Well, these two are awesome, plus adorable, plus of course their kids are sweet. Their HGTV show, “Fixer Upper,” is streaming on Netflix, excellent choice for binge watching. I keep a notebook handy when I watch it to write down design ideas. This is “their story.” Business, love, children, keeping as many of their fellow community members employed in Waco, Texas, as they can. It’s a fun read. Their personalities, quirks, dreams and motivation shine through, just like on their show. They’re real. You can tell they adore each other, and drive each other a little cuckoo sometimes, but they love each other, anyway. That’s what it’s all about, right? Now if I could just get them over here to help me work on my house…

For reals, I was especially moved by the bigger message of the book — don’t just survive, thrive.

“If you can’t find happiness in the ugliness, you’re not going to find it in the beauty, either.” — Joanna Gaines. She also said something else that really got through to me, too: You survive, you might get by day to day. But something big comes along, you’re going to drown. So you don’t just decorate the house; you take care of the home, and yourselves, and your community. Pretty cool memoir and I was glad to learn more about these two and their world.

(PS — back page says that Joanna’s design book is coming soon…)

“Gone to Soldiers” (Fawcett, 1987, 703 pages.) I’ve re-read this book, I have no idea, six or eight times? Ten stories, all woven together, set during World War II. Just a fantastic book. Piercy is a poet, novelist, essay writer, memoir writer. She has an impressive body of work, and I’ve read a lot of her stuff over the years. This is my favorite, hands down. (Here’s the New York Times review.)

“Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon” My friend’s husband, Peter Ames Carlin, wrote this book. I just started it, it’s a great read. Simon’s back story is pretty incredible.

All for now!

wm

Tuesday Book Review: “The Mermaid’s Purse” and “Clangers: Looking for a Lullaby”

November 1st, 2016

Patricia Polacco, I love you so dearly. I love you like an auntie, a friend, a sweet neighbor. And one of my favorite children’s authors ever. Even though we’ve never met, I know you. Thanks for that! This newest book, “The Mermaid’s Purse,” is going on my list of top five Polacco favorites (others are “Thank You, Mr. Falker,” “Chicken Sunday,” “My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother” and “Mr. Lincoln’s Way.” For reals, everything she’s written and illustrated is great. How cool — and unusual — is that?)

“The Mermaid’s Purse” (Viking, 2016, $16.99, ages 3-5, according to press release, but I’d like to change that to “all ages”) is, as many of Polacco’s stories are, based on a story from her family. This is her grandmother’s story, about her love of books, her community, and the love of her life. Just so cool. Keep it in mind when shopping for holiday gifts this year.

“Clangers” is a sweet and funny little book based on the U.K. television show. The copy I received for review includes a CD. (“Clangers” was written by Janet Lawler and audio book is read by the one and only William Shatner, Grosset & Dunlap, 2016, $18.99, ages 3-5.) Stop-motion is cool because it’s not only fun to watch, visually, but it transfers well to the page. The book is bright, colorful, and includes froglets, bed caves and an Iron Chicken. What more could a kid want?

ps I made this Potato Leek Soup for dinner a couple weeks ago. Perfecto. And this? Callaloo? Looks super yummy.

– wm

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