Book Review & Virtual Blog Tour: Glasswings: A Butterfly's Story

Author/Illustrator: Elisa Kleven
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (April 11, 2013)
Source: Copy for Review
Audience: Prekindergarten to First Grade
KeywordsFiction * Butterflies * Flowers * City/Town life

Description from GoodReads:
Claire, a glasswing butterfly whose transparent wings reflect her lush home, finds herself lost in the city after being separated from her family. She doesn’t know how they will ever see her, but she finds new city friends, a pigeon, an ant, and a ladybug, who search for the flowers Claire needs to live. They come upon a tiny urban garden, and as Claire drinks from the flowers’ nectar, she pollinates more flowers. Soon the garden—and Claire's clear wings—fill with color, allowing her family to recognize her at last. Together they create an oasis for all to enjoy.  Facts about glasswing butterflies and pollination complete this beautiful and educational picture book. Kleven’s latest offering is as colorful and delicate as a butterfly’s wings—a treasure that can be cherished for years.

My thoughts on this book: 
When I first saw this book several months ago, I thought it was just beautiful.  Here was a story about a glasswing butterfly named Claire that was charming, and also provided me with information about a type of butterfly that I hadn't heard about before.  In addition, Elisa Kleven's illustrations provided just the right feel for the story.  

Recently, I took a second look at the book, and re-read the note at the beginning of the story.  The note stated that Glasswing butterflies are found in Central and South America, and are called Espejitos, or "Little Mirrors".  This time as I read through the book, I picked up all of the subtle ways that the illustrations provide readers with a sense of being in a Central American countryside at the beginning of the book and in a Latin American city as Claire is swept away from her family and to the city.  In her new location, everything is different and new.  Claire misses her family and makes new friends.  
Slowly, as Claire moves around a small city garden, flowers bloom, and other life help to spread seeds and pollinate even more flowers.  The illustrations provide readers with a sense of the magic bursting around Claire and her friends, and a beautiful conclusion to the story. 

Though this may be a fictional story, it would pair beautifully with a unit on flowers and plant growth which is part of kindergarten curriculum.  Look for a copy of this book at your local independent bookstore or community library.  

Click on this link for to purchase a copy of the book.  And stop by on Thursday, for an interview with author/illustrator, Elisa Kleven's as the virtual blog tour continues.     

About the author:
Children’s book author and illustrator Elisa Kleven has touched the lives of thousands of kids and their parents over the past two dec ades with stunning storytelling accompanied by gorgeous drawings in her more than 30 published books . Kleven grew up in Los Angeles and has lived in the San Francisco Bay area since moving there to study at the University of California, Berkeley. Kleven’s latest book “ Glasswings: A Butterfly’s Story ” released Spring 2013 from Dial Press, and her forthcoming tit le this September, “Cozy Light, Cozy Night, ” is one of four featured titles of the debut children’s press Creston Books.

Elisa Kleven's website:

Link to the virtual blog tour dates and information:

The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever

Author: Brenda A. Ferber
Illustrator: Tedd Arnold
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Children (December 6, 2012)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8
Source: Copy for Review
Valentine's Day * Friendship * Fiction

Description from GoodReads:
Even boys will fall in love with this valentine!

Leon has a crush. A let-her-cut-in-line-at-the-water-fountain kind of crush. And he's got the perfect valentine. But this valentine has no intention of getting caught up in any romantic conspiracy. "Love is yucky, kid! Valentine's Day is all about CANDY!" the card yells at Leon, before leaping out the window and running away, leaving Leon to chase it across town, collecting interested kids along the way.

Here is a hilarious take on the holiday that boys love to hate, the most complex holiday of them all. Saying "I love you" has never been so yucky or so sweet

Thoughts on this book:
If you are looking for some humor on Valentine's Day, Ferber's book The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever will provide you with a chuckle and leave you with a sweet feeling.  Leon has a crush on Zoey Maloney and proceeds to create a Valentine for her.  With a nod to the Gingerbread Man, what happens next mixes humor and excitement as the neighborhood boys, and girls and teens run after Leon in an attempt to capture the Valentine who seems to be opposed to being a valentine.  I love when Leon and the Valentine finally meet up with Zoey Maloney.  Maybe there is more than one match about to happen in the end.

Tedd Arnold's illustrations are the perfect partner for the text and adds just the right amount of fun and sass to the story.  I don't often add too many new books to my Valentine's collection because most do not add anything new to the vast number of books out there.  However, this one definitely has a place in a classroom or school library.

For additional resources, check out Brenda Ferber's website for an activity kit for the book.

Book Review: Dangerously Ever After

Author: Dashka Slater
Illustrator: Valeria Docampo
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (September 13, 2012)
Source: Copy for Review
Audience: Ages 4 to 7 years
Fiction * Princesses * Gardens

Description from GoodReads:
Not all princesses are made of sugar and spice--some are made of funnier, fiercer stuff.

Princess Amanita laughs in the face of danger. Brakeless bicycles, pet scorpions, spiky plants--that's her thing. So when quiet Prince Florian gives her roses, Amanita is unimpressed . . . until she sees their glorious thorns! Now she must have rose seeds of her own. But when huge, honking noses grow instead, what is a princess with a taste for danger to do?

For readers seeking a princess with pluck comes an independent heroine who tackles obstacles with a bouquet of sniffling noses. At once lovely and delightfully absurd, here's a story to show how elastic ideas of beauty and princesses can be.

My thoughts on this book:
Since my schedule is busy and I often have a stack of books to read, I have found myself being more selective of books I accept for review.  When Dashka Slater contacted me about reviewing Dangerously Ever After, I didn't hesitate to accept.  I had read this book when it came out and liked it.  During my first read, I remember liking the whole twist on the princess and prince and happily ever after concept.  Additionally, it made me laugh.  

Of course, I wondered about how it would stand up to a second more closer read.  I am happy to report that I still enjoyed this one.  It still made me chuckle in places, and even though I knew what was coming, I still loved the twist at the end.   

Slater has created a story that simply works on many levels which I suspect was not as easy as it would seem.  I can imagine that there would be a temptation to take the parody of princess fairy tales to an extreme.  However, I never felt this as I read through the story.  Instead I was struck by her choice of words and the injection of just the right amount of humor.  

I love this line when Prince Florian meets Princess Amanita:
"His name was Florian and he was out looking for a dragon to slay, or a knight to challenge -- or at least someone his own age to talk to."
Or this great exchange when Florian returns with roses and an apology:
"But what do they do?"

Prince Florian was puzzled. "Do?"

"Are their leaves as sharp as razors?" Amanita prompted.  "Do they stink worse than a giant's armpit? Do they climb up the roof and pull off the shingles?"

"They...uh...smell nice." Prince Florian answered at last.  "And they're...pretty."

"Oh," said the princess, and rolled her eyes.
Even if I didn't have the illustrations while reading this section, the text provides the visuals needed to imagine exactly how the exchange happened between the two characters.  

There is a strength in a picture book when the text can convey significant meaning even without the illustrations.  However, when outstanding text is then paired up with an illustrator who gets the the underlying meaning and emotions of the words, there is a move from good to great.  Slater's text finds its perfect mate in Docampo's illustrations.  Docampo's brightly colored whimsical illustrations are just as quirky and odd as Slater's imagination.  From the start, readers are met with Amanita's scorpion-tail hair style and metal hoop skirt worn over her skirts.  The facial expressions of all the characters also convey an added dimension of emotion.

Whether you are a fan of princesses and happy ever after endings or prefer your princess stories with a tad-bit more edge, Dangerously Ever After should be a good match for both audiences. 

Look for Dangerously Ever After at your local bookstore or public library.  When possible, please support independent booksellers.   

Check out this interview with Dashka Slater over on Carter Higgin's Design of the Picture Book Blog. 

For More Information about Dashka Slater: website | facebook | twitter | blog 

For More Information about Valeria Docampo: website | blog

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday (14)

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.

Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose: Growing Up on Mount Rushmore
Author: Tina Nichols Coury
Illustrator:  Sally Wern Comport
Publisher:  Dial Books (May 10, 2012)
Number of Pages: 40
Source: Copy for Review
Audience: ages 7 to 10
Biographical * Nonfiction

Description from Goodreads:
Growing up in the shadow of Mount Rushmore

Lincoln Borglum was a young boy when his father, the great sculptor Gutzon Borglum, suggested to a group of South Dakota businessmen that he should carve the faces of four presidents into a side of a mountain as an attraction for tourists. But Mount Rushmore would never be finished by Gutzon. It would be his son who would complete the fourteen-year task and present America with one of its most iconic symbols.

My thoughts on this book:
Some things seem to just be a part of life.  Often times, I don't stop to think about who built the Golden Gate Bridge, or who was the person who created the Statue of Liberty or in this case, who carved four presidential faces into a mountain side.  In Tina Nichols Coury's book Hanging off Jefferson's Nose: Growing Up on Mount Rushmore, readers discover how this amazing monument came into being. 

Though the book begins by talking about the sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who designed the monument, the book is really a nod to Borglum's son Lincoln.  As a famous sculptor, and according to Coury, the only mountain carver in the world (at that time), Borglum's wife and children followed him wherever there was work.  Young Borglum didn't see himself as inheriting his father's talent, but he did elect to learn many skills at the side of his father.  Most importantly, Lincoln Borglum worked to learn every job that went into creating the monument on the South Dakota mountain face.  This willingness to try and learn all the jobs impressed the crew.  When Lincoln's father passed away in March 1941, before the job was completed, it was the vote of confidence from his family and crew that swayed the Mount Rushmore Commission to place Lincoln in charge of finishing the job.

Even after reading all about how this incredible monument came into being, I am still in awe of the hard work and dedication of the men who created Mount Rushmore.  I marvel at the challenges that they faced and yet they didn't back down or give up.  I wonder at times if children understand what a challenge it really was to complete a project like this.  I can only hope that by exposing them to stories such as this one that they will consider what project would be their personal "Mount Rushmore" and how they might go about accomplishing that task.

Sally Wern Comport's illustrations nicely compliment Coury's text and Hanging off Jefferson's Nose would be a nice addition to a biographical nonfiction section of a classroom or school library.  

Check out the following book trailers:

Official Book Trailer

Official Book Trailer with Theme Song:


For more information about author Tina Nichols Coury, check out her  Website

If you are participating in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge, don't forget to link up your reviews.


Book Review - Nasty Bugs

Author/Editor: Lee Bennett Hopkins
Illustrator:  Will Terry
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (March 15, 2012)
Source:  Personal Copy
Audience: Ages 7 and up
Poetry * Insects

Description of book from publisher website:
A collection of creepy, crawly poems by some of today's most beloved children's poets This tribute to the delightful nastiness of bugs features sixteen poems by accomplished children's poets, including Marilyn Singer, J. Patrick Lewis, and Rebecca Andrew Loescher. From "Ode to a Dead Mosquito" to "Termite Tune," this brightly illustrated, kid-friendly collection riffs on the details of the world's most infamous insects. Fun facts about the featured creatures round out this sure bet for poetry fans and bug enthusiasts alike. 

My thoughts on this book:
A poetry book with a decided ick factor!  Where was this book my first year of teaching when I had to do a unit on insects?  This collection of sixteen poems featuring the work of sixteen poets including Bennett Hopkins spotlights everything from stink bugs to mosquitoes to lice and bedbugs.  The last few pages of the book has a reference section that lists each of the bugs and some general information on them.

When I began to read this book, I initially expected all of the poems to be by Bennett Hopkins.  Instead, I quickly discovered that each poem was written by a different poet. (Yes, I did not look at the table of contents before I started reading it.) As soon as I realized that the poems were from various poets, I was on the look out to see who had contributed and which bug they would be writing about.  Imagine my delight to discover some of my favorite poets such as Marilyn Singer (Disagreeable Fleas) and Kristine O'Connell George (Bedbug Has a Bite to Eat).

The poems in this anthology are great.  However, I must give kudos to Will Terry for some truly fabulous illustrations.  I just may be taping shut the two page spread with giant size lice crawling through hair which creeped me out and made me want to scratch my head.  To be fair to Terry, the bright cartoonish drawings add a certain fun to each of the poems and certainly ties them all together.

This is one book of poems that can be taken off the shelves for more than one purpose.  Teachers and librarians can use it as part of a collection of books to celebrate National Poetry Month.  The poems found within the covers of the collection can be used to mentor young poets and inspire them to create their own poems about their favorite buggy bug.  Additionally, the book can be used to accompany a science unit on insects.  With the need to focus on writing across the content areas, books such as Nasty Bugs are particularly helpful.

I can't wait to share this one with teachers and students when we return from spring break.  If you have used it with students already, please share how you used the book in the comment section.      

If this review hasn't convinced you to check out the book, click here to read an interview done by Two Writing Teachers with Lee Bennett Hopkins specifically about this book.