Book Review - Zoe Gets Ready

Author/Illustrator: Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine (May 1, 2012)
Audience: Ages 4 to 7
Source: Personal Copy
Fiction * Dress-Up * Imagination

Description from GoodReads:
A story where getting dressed inspires big dreams!

Each day is full of possibilities, and Zoe wants to be ready for everything this one might bring. But that makes getting dressed really, really hard! If it's a twirling day, she'll need to wear the purple skirt. But if it's a cartwheeling day, she'll want the polka-dot tights. Or it might be a hiding day, perfect for the flower crown that will help her blend into the garden . . . or a flying day, which demands butterfly wings! As the clothes pile up and Mama tells her it's time to go, there's only one way Zoe can be sure she's prepared for all the adventures ahead -- a solution that will have parents laughing in recognition and kids nodding in satisfaction. ZOE GETS READY is perfect for all those little girls who wouldn't have things any other way.

My thoughts on the book:
This past Sunday I attended an event hosted by SCIBA (Southern California Independent Booksellers Association) and Mrs. Nelson's Book.  I love the events that they do but I specifically went so that I could actually meet Bethanie Deeney Murguia.  I fell in love with her first book, Buglette, the Messy Sleeper and with each book she releases I am becoming a huge fan.  It is also wonderful when you meet the author and she is just as fantastic as her books.

This title page is great.  It reminds me of both of my nieces as they try to decide what to wear.  More of it ends up on the floor than on them as clothes to wear.

Zoe gets to chose what to wear on the weekends.  How will she ever decide?

Murguia takes the reader through several dilemmas as Zoe tries to figure out what she is in the mood for.  Each two page spread provides readers with a sense of Zoe's creativity and wonder with life.

Obviously, Murguia gets this dilemma on a personal level.  Here is Zoe as she struggles to decide and that other little character with the pants on her head is her younger sister.  I swear I have seen this same image when I have spent the weekend with my nieces.

Throughout the story, the readers experience Zoe's mother's personal frustration as she waits on Zoe.  First the "don't take all day" type response, to the "I hope you aren't making a mess" to "Zoeeeeee! Now!"

Success at last - Zoe finally decides (well sort of) what to wear!

Can't forget the wings!!!!

Murguia's text and illustrations perfectly capture this very familiar experience in the lives of parents and young children.  Zoe Gets Ready will make the perfect gift for a special little girl in your life.  I know that my niece is currently enjoying her signed copy of Zoe Gets Ready. Thanks Bethanie!

Borrow Zoe Gets Ready from your school or public library.  Or check with your local independent bookstore. 

Watch the official book trailer:

For more information on Bethanie Deeney Murguia: website | blog | twitter | facebook

Book Review: No Bears

Author: Meg McKinlay
Illustrator: Leila Rudge
Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (March 27, 2012)
Audience: Ages 4 and up
Source: Personal Copy
Fiction * Fairy Tale * Writing

Description from Publisher's Page:
Ella wants to tell you a story - a story with absolutely no bears. You don't need bears for a book. You need pretty things like fairies and princesses and castles and maybe funny things and exciting things. In Ella's kind of story, there are no bears in the village or the castle or the deep dark forest or faraway lands. But there might be . . . a monster! Riffing on well-known fairy-tale themes, this fun, offbeat story is perfectly matched by playful illustrations with a running visual joke that will keep even bear lovers smiling. 

Ella is in charge of this book, and she will tell you something right now. There are NO BEARS in it. Not even one.

My thoughts on this book:
I read a lot of picture books.  It is easy to forget books when you are reading that many.  And then, there are some that just keep coming to mind.  No Bears was that book for me.  I read it and really liked it.  Then I wanted to go back and read it again and again.  Of course, at that point the bookstore didn't have it and it was on back order with the publisher. Finally, I was able to lay my hands on my own copy of the book and have probably read it another 7 or 8 times. Enjoying it each and every time I read it.

Bear Book Recycling Bin - love it!
Part of what I love about No Bears is that with every reading, I come away with some new thoughts and ideas about the story.  No Bears is a brilliant concept that is very well executed.  The text stands as strong as the illustrations to provide readers with truly a wonderful book.

Ella wants to write a story and she knows that the story should start with things like "Once upon a time.." and end with things like "Happily ever after" and "The End".  On the one hand, as a teacher, I can use this story as a read aloud for younger students but on the other hand, I can utilize the story as a way to discuss metafiction and writing with older students.  Ella's interjections into the story throughout the book provide a level of narration for students that allow them to consider the various aspects to be considered in writing a story.    

In the illustration below, Ella lists all of the things that her story should have. Rudge takes McKinlay's words to a new level though by also incorporating various references to other fairy tales with her images.  Rudge does this successfully throughout the whole book.  Of course, as Ella talks about all the things her book should have and what it shouldn't have - bears - Bear is lurking on the sidelines watching the story unfold.

Just as in any good story, there has to be trouble...unfolding on the page is a deep, dark forest -

because you must have a deep, dark forest in your story and not to forget - you must also have a MONSTER.  However, I love that our bear friend is silently helping out in the background.

 Bear is helping out so much that when the princess (as represented by Ella) is in trouble he is there with the fairy godmother's magic wand to help save the day.   Even though Ella credits the fairy godmother and "her fantastical magic powers" for the rescue the reader knows better.

In the end, Ella is proud of her "bear free" book and Bear is left to explain to all of the other characters in the book how he indeed saved the day. 

In addition, to all of the wonderful aspects already talked about, the illustrations provide a fun challenge for students to see if they can identify all of the references to fairy tales that are embedded onto the pages of the story. 

McKinlay and Rudge certainly have a hit on their hands with No Bears. This is definitely one book that I would recommend for storytime, classroom instruction or just as a fun gift for a favorite young person in your life.

Find the author & illustrator on the internet:
Meg McKinlay: Website | Blog
Leila Rudge: Website | Blog

Credit & Disclaimer: All illustrations in this post are ©Leilarudge - The illustrations were so fabulous I had to share.     

Book Review: How Many Jelly Beans?

Author: Andrea Menotti
Illustrator: Yancy Labatt
Publisher: Chronicle Books (February 29, 2012)
Source: Book for Review
Audience: Elementary
Nonfiction * Math * Picture Book

Description from Chronicle Books:
How many jelly beans are enough? How many are too many? Aiden and Emma can’t decide. Is 10 enough? How about 1,000? That’s a lot of jelly beans. But eaten over a whole year, it’s only two or three a day. This giant picture book offers kids a fun and easy way to understand large numbers. Starting with 10, each page shows more and more colorful candies, leading up to a giant fold-out surprise—ONE MILLION JELLY BEANS! With bright illustrations and an irresistible extra-large format, How Many Jelly Beans? makes learning about big numbers absolutely scrumptious! 

When this book arrived from the publisher, it was in a huge box.  I assumed it contained several books until I opened it up and realized that this book was larger than the typical picture book and required a larger than normal box.  The brightly colored jelly beans and black & white illustrations drew me in immediately.  I had to read this one.  Since receiving it, I have read it several times and enjoyed it every single time.  I even read this one aloud to a group of teacher/librarians recently who also loved it.  We couldn't stop plotting about ways to use this book with children.

The story kicks off with Emma being asked "how many jelly beans would you like?" She starts off with a conservative 10.  The corresponding illustration shows 10 realistically sized jelly beans in all colors.  Emma's younger brother, Aiden, though isn't as hesitant and asks for 20 jelly beans.  Quickly the number goes up 25, 50, 75, 500, 1000.  The two children eventually try to figure out how many jelly beans per day you would need to eat to consume 1000 in a year.  Even Murphy the dog finds a way to get into the action.  As the number of jelly beans goes up, the size of the jelly beans goes down.  The book ends with a surprise pull-out to represent 1,000,000 jelly beans.

This is a fabulous book.  It has it all - great concept, engaging illustrations, and well executed.  The size of the book may be a challenge on a shelf and the pull out at the end may be a bit difficult for younger children to re-fold (think how hard it is to refold a map properly).  However, this book needs to be used with children.  I can see a child reading it and calling others over to "check this out".  I can also see teachers using it with groups of children to discuss number sense.

Andrea Menotti and Chronicle Books have a winner on their hands.  I am so excited about this book that I am giving away the copy I received (it is in perfect condition - I was careful in looking at it).  And I plan on picking up several copies for the school library and for a personal copy at my local indie bookstore.

Rules for the Giveaway:
1. Though comments are very much appreciated, please do not enter any personal information in the comments section (including your email, website, etc.).  If you do enter personal information, you comment will not be posted.

2.  You must complete the Entry Form to officially enter the contest.

3.  The Contest runs from 12:00 a.m. Pacific Time on March 15, 2012 to 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on March 22, 2012.

4.  You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.

5.  If you are selected as a winner, I will notify you by e-mail.  If you do not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.

6.  US residents ONLY for this contest.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday (6)

As part of the Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge 2012 (Twitter: #nfpb2012), my goal is to read and review as many of the new non-fiction picture books that are released this year.  Wednesdays will be my primary day to post the reviews.

What Color is My World: The Lost History of African American Inventors
Authors: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Raymond Obstfeld
Illustrators: A.G. Ford, Ben Boos
Publisher: Candlewick Press (January 3, 2012)
Audience: Grades 3 to 7
Source: Borrowed Copy

Description from GoodReads:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, basketball legend and the NBA's alltime leading scorer, champions a lineup
of little-known African-American inventors in this lively, kid-friendly book.

Did you know that James West invented the microphone in your cell phone? That Fred Jones invented the refrigerated truck that makes supermarkets possible? Or that Dr. Percy Julian synthesized cortisone from soy, easing untold people's pain? These are just some of the black inventors and innovators scoring big points in this dynamic look at several unsung heroes who shared a desire to improve people's lives. Offering profiles with fast facts on flaps and framed by a funny contemporary story featuring two feisty twins, here is a nod to the minds behind the gamma electric cell and the ice-cream scoop, improvements to traffic lights, open-heart surgery, and more - inventors whose ingenuity and perseverance against great odds made our world safer, better, and brighter.

An interview with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar


My thoughts on the book:
Some books make you wonder about the conversation that might have taken place between publisher, editor, author, illustrator.  If I was a more talented writer, I would recreate this hypothetical conversation for the entertainment of readers.  However, I will spare you that digression and jump into my thoughts on the book.

When I look at a book, especially a nonfiction picture book, I have a hard time stepping out of my educator mindset.  Yes, I want to enjoy a book simply because it is an enjoyable book.  However, with nonfiction, I am also trying to consider how to use it with children.  Basketball great - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has stepped into the role of celebrity debut author with his new children's book What Color is My World: The Lost History of African American Inventors.  His comment in the video above indicating his desire to show children a piece of African American History beyond Slavery and Civil Rights is most admirable.   I want children to know about the rich history and culture of African Americans too.  For that we are in agreement.  We are also seeing eye to eye on the wonderful facts provide on the various men and women inventors which are included in this book. 

Where we diverge, the format of the book and the voice of the story.  The format is a large-size picture book with flaps which in my mind is typically for younger audiences.  The text written for the facts about inventors is written for student in grades 4 and up.  The story portion of the book has an excessive amount of text (again for an older audience) but a voice that almost seems appropriate for younger readers.   

It is true that I haven't had a chance to look at this book with children, and so my opinion might change.  And though, I think there are wonderful facts and parts to this book, I would discover a way to share this book so children will get the most from it.

Click here to check out Candlewick's Book Trailer for What Color is My World?

It's that time of the week...add your nonfiction reviews to the Mr. Linky below.  

Book Review - Dodsworth in Rome

Author/Illustrator: Tim Egan

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Audience:  1st to 3rd Graders (and the adults who read with them)
Source:  Check them out at your local library or your favorite Indie Bookstore
Fiction * Travel * Early Chapter Books * Friendship * Humor

Description of Dodsworth in Rome from GoodReads:
With trips to New York, Paris, and London under their belts, it’s now time for Dodsworth and the duck to visit Rome! From throwing coins into the Trevi Fountain to winning a pizza-dough-throwing contest to looking up at the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Dodsworth and his misbehaving duck take a tour of their oldest city yet. With Tim Egan’s snappy words and playful illustrations, it will surely be a spaghetti-twirling sight to see. 

My thoughts on the Series:
Would declaring my love be too strong a reaction over an early chapter book series?  Hmmm...maybe, but I will risk it.  I will confess that I started this series with the most current book, Dodsworth in Rome.  It turns out that it is helpful (though not necessary) to read them in order.  As soon as I finished Dodsworth in Rome, I started recommending the book.  I read parts of it aloud to my office manager.  I handed it to one of my students and had her read it.  Then I gave it to my niece and told her mom to read it to her.  I even went into my local indie bookstore, pulled the series off the shelf and plunked it down in front of one of the staff in the Children's Department and told her she needed to read it.  Hey, I hand sold a few copies that day in the bookstore.  Yes, I am in love with Dodsworth and his buddy the duck.  

Maybe you think this is absolutely silly, but you need to understand that there are few early chapter books that are actually enjoyable to read.  Sure there is Frog & Toad, and Mouse & Mole, but there are many that are way less memorable.  So, when I find a new series that I really enjoy, I get a little giddy over it.  

Dodsworth's adventure begins in New York (Book 1) where thanks to a crazy duck, he gets to visit all kinds of fun places in the Big Apple.  Just as he thinks he is about to return duck to his owner, then their real adventures seem to just be starting.  In Book 2, Dodsworth finds himself in Paris accompanied by his crazy friend, duck, who had great difficulty staying out of trouble.  After some humorous times in Paris, Book 3 finds the friends in London, where more hilarity ensues including a case of mistaken identity.  Though I loved the first three books, I think Book 4's adventures in Rome is still my favorite.  Silly word plays, crazy antics, and visits to famous places will have developing readers eager to read more.  Additionally, these books would make for great read alouds in 1st and 2nd grade.  

I don't know where Dodsworth and duck will end up next but I can't wait to read about it.  

Check out a couple of animated short videos by creator Tim Egan:


Check out this great blog post from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast as he interviews Tim Egan. 

For more information about author/illustrator, Tim Egan, check out his website: