Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Teacher Dances on the Desk

Eugene Gagliano
Illustrations by Tatjana Mai-Wyss

This entertaining book of poetry is targeted at elementary children, as it should be. The prose is quick, sometimes repetitive, and humorous. Most of the poetry is written from a non-gender point of view, allowing any student to easily identify with the humor. Topics included are the first day of school, wanting to see the nurse, stinky sneakers, a boa constrictor, bubble-gum, and more fun subjects. Each poem should appeal to the kindergarten through second grade ages, and would be a great bedtime read. The title poem, My Teacher Dances on the Desk, is the final poem and reinforces the fun and affection an elementary student hopes for. The illustrations are black ink and cartoonish, that should appeal to small children. This poetry book would be a good inclusion in kindergarten classes.

BIBLIO: 2009, Sleeping Bear Press, Ages 5 to 9, $6.95
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Poetry Book
ISBN: 978-1-58536-446-6
REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 4/09

Mrs. McGee’s Coconut

Allia Zobel Nolan
Illustrations by Peter Cottrill

Mrs. McGee likes to do things her own way. After purchasing the big, brown, hairy coconut, she is offered help to open it, but no, she knows she can do it herself. That is when the adventure for Mrs. McGee and her coconut begins. The rhyming text and full-page color illustrations set the scene for every next event. This is not a book to be read quietly, the action phrases, and the bolded words invite inspiring reading. Small children will enjoy the quick, comical adventures of Mrs. McGee and her uncooperative coconut. In the end though, the coconut does not win, and Mrs. McGee may begin a new adventure. This would be an excellent addition to kindergarten through first, and possibly second grade classes. It should be read with great expression.

BIBLIO: 2009, Tiger Tales, Ages 4 to 8, $6.95
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Rhyming Picture Book
ISBN: 978-1-58925-414-5
REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 4/09

Uncle Phil’s Diner

Helena Clare Pittman
Illustrations by Helena Clare Pittman

“Think warm, Ruthie,” Pappa tells her on their journey to Uncle Phil’s Diner, braving the bitter cold of an early morning snow. Their journey to Uncle Phil‘s Diner serves as a backdrop to a series of snapshots from Ruthie’s memories.

Ruthie begins by remembering the hot summer day she spent helping her Aunt Ida preserve blueberries. “Think warm, Ruthie.” Again Pappa reminds her. Ruthie and her Pappa play games along the way to keep themselves warm.

Just thinking of the pancake breakfast that awaits them, Ruthie and her Pappa continue on their cold morning journey. At one point Pappa speaks of the cold, and Ruthie has the opportunity to remind him to “Just think warm.”

Ruthie and her Pappa finally reach Uncle Phil’s Diner and are rewarded with the delicious sights and smells of Uncle Phil’s cooking. The word imagery is rich, from ‘blue morning shadows’, ‘to white mountains line the sidewalk.‘ Pittman has included a copy of Uncle Phil’s Blueberry Pancakes recipe, just in case the reader can’t resist.

The books is laid out like a photo album, complete with corner-keepers for the illustrations. The story is easy to read, and the illustrations are beautifully drawn.

BIBLIO: 1998, Lerner Publications, Ages 7 to 10, $14.95
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 1575050838

REVIEWED FOR: Christian Library Journal, Winter 2000, Print Version


Reprinted from Christian Library Journal, with permission

The Lost Lamb

Melody Carlson
Illustrated by Steve Bjorkman

The shepherd looks out over his flock, and notices the setting of the sun. He leads his flock home, while constantly encouraging his flock to not tarry. There are one hundred sheep, and he knows all of their names, “from lamb to ewe.” The names given to the lambs are whimsical, and yet familiar with the children of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

As he finishes counting he realizes that one of his lambs is missing. Making sure the other ninety-nine are safely tucked in at the farm, the shepherd leaves to search for the missing lamb. Great distances he travels in search of his lost lamb, calling out the lamb’s name. finally, the lamb is found, and the shepherd rejoices. He comforts the lamb, and carries him home. The shepherd admits to being tired from his search, but reassures the lamb of his joy in finding the lost one. Once back at the farm, the shepherd involves all the sheep in a celebration of the lost sheep that was found.

The Lost Lamb is a charming and delightful book by Melody Carlson, and reads like a worship song. Your heart will sing, your spirit will soar, and your faith will be refreshed. The music of the words mixed with the frivolity of the watercolor illustrations will be appreciated and enjoyed by all ages. The durability of the library binding adds to the book’s appeal.

BIBLIO: 1999, Crossway Books, Ages 7 to 10, $10.99
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 1581340729
REVIEWED FOR: Christian Library Journal, Winter 2000, Print Version

Streets of Gold

Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by Dan Andreasen

Twelve year old Mary Antin, along with her family, traveled from Russia hoping to being a better life in the United States. The year was 1894, and the Antins were Russian Jews who had escaped the hardships of religious persecution.

As a young child, Mary wrote a long letter to relative left behind in Russia, and shared details of their new life - the success, the struggles, the joys and the tears. Years later, Mary enlarged on that first long letter to write a book of her experience as a young Russian girl, living under the hardships imposed upon Jews in Russia, to a young immigrant building a life in Boston.

Her book, The Promised Land, serves as the basis for author Rosemary Wells’ book, Streets of Gold. Ms. Wells has taken Mary’s story and adapted it into a shorter version for today’s young readers. Streets of Gold is presented in an episode format, so each page represents snippets from Mary’s young life.

At the same time, words from Mary’s original book are included on each page so readers have the opportunity to read Ms. Wells’ adaptation while also reading Mary’s prose.

The illustrations, by Dan Andreasen, are warm and engaging and provide a pictorial journal of Mary’s life. Streets of Gold is a must read for anyone who wants to understand religious persecution and immigration through a child’s eyes.

BIBLIO: 1998, Scholastic, Ages 7 to 10, $16.95
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 0590374877
REVIEWED FOR: Christian Library Journal, Fall 2000, Print Version