Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer hiatus

As you, dear reader, may have noticed, I have not recently posted to this blog. Have no fear!

The Bibliofamily has recently moved from Central New York to North Central Florida. While still living in boxes (and having just received our new Internet connection), your humble reviewer is unable to create any new posts. I anticipate that this will be remedied around the end of next week. 

Until then, happy reading!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Moonshot: The Flight Of Apollo 11

Moonshot: The Flight Of Apollo 11
by Brian Floca

Forty five years ago today, Columbia orbited the moon, while after a precarious descent the Eagle landed on the lunar surface. With the words "Houston. Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." we truly became a spacefaring civilization.

The world eagerly watched as mission commander Neil Armstrong and LEM pilot Buzz Aldrin took those first tentative steps onto humanity's first other world.

Meanwhile aboard the command module Columbia, CM pilot Michael Collins was the loneliest man who had ever been. He framed the whole of humanity within the lens of his camera and flew alone, above the moon.

Brian Floca's Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 is a gorgeous, moving, and eloquent homage to those brave men who, ignoring their own comfort and safety, joined the ranks of our greatest explorers - Columbus, Magellan, and Gagarin - and broadened the horizons of our species. Once again, Brian Floca has delivered a masterpiece of technical detail and accuracy. His elaborate and beautifully rendered watercolors capture both the details of the equipment and the real emotions of the astronauts (during the countdown sequence, we see Michael Collins look anxiously to his side). Floca's elegant prose captures
the excitement of the Apollo XI mission. This book  kept me on the edge of my seat and gave me goosebumps.

I can think of no better way to share my awe for the majesty of human space flight with my son than by reading him Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11.

Moonshot: The Flight Of Apollo 11
by Brian Floca

Friday, July 18, 2014

I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean

I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean

by Kevin Sherry

The giant squid is big. Very big.

She's very proud of how big she is. She even thinks that she's the biggest thing in the ocean - bigger than shrimp, clams, and crabs. Even bigger than jellyfish, turtles, and octopodes.

But she's forgotten that everything has to eat and that even giant squid have predators. Along comes a sperm whale and gobbles her up. Now worries though, optimist that she is, the squid realizes that she's the biggest thing in the whale!

Kevin Sherry's delightfully playful I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean is a delightful read. The pictures are cute and they're even anatomically correct (no eyes on these clams). Packed with humor, this is a fantastic board book for your toddler (or your favorite marine biologist) to explore beautiful art and relative sizes.

I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean
by Kevin Sherry

Thursday, July 3, 2014

You Are Stardust

You Are Stardust
by Elin Kelsey, illustrated by Soyeon Kim

Every atom in your body heavier than hydrogen was forged in the heart of a dying star. When you cast your eyes upwards to the sky, you see the refineries of the building blocks of life. We humans, we earthlings, are a part of nature and a continuous part of the vast universe that we inhabit. We are the way that that incomprehensibly large universe reflects upon itself.

I first encountered the poetic beauty of these ideas when I read Carl Sagan in college. As a parent, I've tried to explain these big ideas to my son. I'm pleased that Elin Kelsey and Soyeon Kim have given me a tool to help explain these concepts to my son in their magnificent You Are Stardust.

Elin Kelsey's elegant yet simple prose ("The water swirling in your glass once filled the puddles where dinosaurs drank.") is well matched with Soyeon Kim's beautiful and elaborately constructed collages. You Are Stardust is aesthetically and intellectually rewarding - it is a joy to read and is sure to inspire deep questions from the little one in your life.

You Are Stardust
by Elin Kelsey, illustrated by Soyeon Kim

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Zita the Spacegirl

Zita the Spacegirl

by Ben Hatke

Zita is an unremarkable girl, playing with her friend Joseph in the fields around her house, until the path of adventure confronts her. She and Joseph discover a small box at the bottom of a fresh crater that opens a portal to another world. When Joseph is pulled through by some tentacled thing, Zita discovers the hero within and chases after.

On a strange new world, full of myriad bizarre aliens (giant snails! creatures with lots of eyes and lots of limbs! hairy things, clutching their handbags!), Zita feels small and lost, until she befriends a giant alien named Strong Strong. Through her grit, deep compassion, and ability to inspire others to greatness, she brings together robots, aliens, and other people to help her save Joseph. In the end, she saves Joseph, discovers the selfless hero at her core, and (like Dorothy in Oz) helps her friends reveal their own better selves.

Author and illustrator Ben Hatke has put together a delightfully heartwarming book. His exquisitely detailed drawings and delightful tale of adventure and heroism are sure to inspire the little person in your life (and you too!).  Hatke deftly weaves a story of self-discovery and empowerment for young people, that is also rewarding for young adult and adult readers alike.

As an added bonus, this is a great read out loud book. By their posture, word choice, and the typography in the speech bubbles, each character has a unique voice - they clearly tell you how they should sound.

With his gorgeous art, quick story telling, and inspiring story, this is an excellent introduction to the genre of comics/graphic novels. I highly recommend Zita the Spacegirl!

Zita the Spacegirl
by Ben Hatke

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Teeth, Tails, and Tentacles

Teeth, Tails, & Tentacles - An Animal Counting Book

by Christopher Wormell

1 rhinoceros horn, 2 camel humps, 3 chameleon colors, 4 giraffe legs, 5 starfish arms, 6 frog eyes, 7 black spots on a ladybug... Christopher Wormell's gorgeously detailed Teeth, Tails, & Tentacles - An Animal Counting Book helps the reader count from one through twenty - each page featuring a different animal part (including 16 catfish whiskers and 19 crocodile teeth).

Each image is a gorgeously rendered wood print with a pleasing mix of Warhol's pop art style and incredible attention to detail. Teeth, Tails, & Tentacles concludes with a brief discussion of the natural history of each of the animals in the book.

This is an excellent book to help a young person learn their numbers, appreciate excellent art, and develop an interest in the animals that fill the natural world.

Teeth, Tails, & Tentacles - An Animal Counting Book, by Christopher Wormell

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Steam Train, Dream Train

Steam Train, Dream Train

by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

A steam train races across the prairie at night. Stopping at Night Falls station, the all-animal crew quickly loads each car with toys, paints, racecars, and frozen sweets. Once loaded, the animals tuck themselves into their beds and go to sleep.

There are many books that depict a train driving through the night, only to finish up with a parting image of a child, reposed in sleep, while the train graces the floor of their bedroom. Steam Train, Dream Train is my absolute favorite of them.

In Steam Train, Dream Train, Sherri Duskey Rinker's beautifully flowing rhymes are complemented by Tom Lichtenheld's richly lustrous pastel drawings. I adore the highly realistic, beautifully shaded pastel work, highlighted by the deep texture of the paper the Tom Lichtenheld was working with. Not only are these drawings jaunty and playful (my son adores the camel loading a boxcar), they're truly fine art. As a final benefit, for those of us who don't know a hopper from a reefer, the name of each train car is rendered in subtly bold text.

Steam Train, Dream Train
by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Friday, June 6, 2014

Chu's Day

Chu's Day
by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Adam Rex

Chu is a young panda with a fantastic aviator's cap and goggles who lives in a world surrounded by a wide variety of other anthropomorphic animals. He goes about his day visiting the library with his mum and having lunch in a diner with his papa, always on the verge of sneezing. That evening at the circus when his mighty sneeze finally comes, it ravages his town, leaving chaos and mayhem in its wake.

We all know Neil Gaiman from his multiple genre titles, graphic novels, and YA books. He's also a fantastic children's author, telling a simple yet imaginative story in Chu's DayGaiman's text is leavened by hilariously realistic, absurdist images of whale short order cooks, porcine clowns, and leonine lion tamers. My son has had this book for over a year and he still falls out of my lap laughing, every time we read it.

Chu's Day, by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Adam Rex

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas

by Lynne Cox, illustrated by Brian Floca

Long distance, open water swimmer Lynne Cox visited New Zealand in 1983. While walking along the Avon river in Christchurch, a boy named Michael and his sister Maggie asked her if she was looking for Elizabeth. Lynne spent the rest of the day talking with them about the famous elephant seal (sea elephant as the kiwis call them) that lived in the river and had been named in honor of the Queen of England

It turns out that having a 2,000 pound mammal residing in your city can be a bit of a challenge to public safety, especially when they like to lie in the middle of nice warm roads. The New Zealand wildlife managers decided to relocate her to a nearby elephant seal colony.

To everyone's amazement, she returned to the banks of the Avon again and again. The people of Christchurch became so attached to Elizabeth that the city decided that it was better to adjust the behavior of people to Elizabeth's presence than to try to make her change her behavior.

Lynne Cox' new book Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas tells the lovely story of Elizabeth and Michael's ongoing friendship (sadly, Maggie is left out of the story). Each time Elizabeth is taken away, Michael longs to see her again and every time she returns, they are delighted to be reunited. Brian Floca's lovingly realistic illustrations bring the story to life. My son particularly delighted in the image of Elizabeth tossing huge clumps of mud onto her back.

On the final page of Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas, there is a brief discussion of the natural history of elephant seals, describing their eating habits, life cycle, habitat, etc. This sweet story is a definite keeper for anyone interested in fostering a love of the natural world and encouraging people to find a way to live in harmony with the world around us.

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas, by Lynne Cox, illustrated by Brian Floca

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Little Dump Truck

The Little Dump Truck

by Margery Cuyler, illustrated by Bob Kolar

Does your little one obsess over trucks and construction equipment? Have I got a book for you!

Margery Cuyler's The Little Dump Truck recounts a day in the life of a dump truck and her driver, Hard Hat Pete. They drive through the city, visit a construction site (visiting bulldozers, excavators, forklifts, and lots of other trucks) and then dump their load, all with a good pace and a nice rhyming scheme. Bob Kolar's vibrant illustrations blend nicely with the text. From the sullen garbage truck to the blissful microbus, all of the vehicles (particularly the very determined looking limousine) have very expressive faces and unique personalities.

This is a fun book for the newborn through 4 year old crowd. I highly recommend this book for the aspiring construction worker in your life!

The Little Dump Truck, by Margery Cuyler, illustrated by Bob Kolar

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Rosie Revere, Engineer

by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

Rosie Revere, with her hair tucked into a red polka dot kerchief, has a secret. In her spare time, she's constantly on the look out for discarded trash that she can use in her latest invention. She builds delightful things like snake repelling hats and helium pants (my personal favorite), but she mistakes delighted laughter for contempt.

When her great-great-aunt Rose (also in a polka dot kerchief) comes to visit, Rosie is inspired by their common love machines and adventures (hint: great-great-Aunt Rose used to be a riveter, during the war). With the following Seussian words from great-great-Aunt Rose, Rosie learns that every apparent failure is just an opportunity to learn something new and try a different approach.

Life might have its failures, but this was not it.
The only true failure can come if you quit.
By the end of Rosie Revere, Engineer, Rosie's entire class has become a community of makers, working and learning together, building great gizmos, gadgets, and doohickeys.

Andrea Beaty's lyrical poetry is reminiscent of Dr. Seuss and is an absolute delight to read. David Roberts fantastically expressive illustrations make this a very visually pleasing book, with plenty of laughs. Enjoy!

Rosie Revere, Engineer, by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

Monday, June 2, 2014

If You Hopped Like A Frog

If You Hopped Like A Frog

by David M. Schwartz, illustrated by James Warhola

Your child is probably always asking what, why, and how. Want to wow your kid with amazing animal facts?

David M. Schwartz was just that kind of inquisitive kid - and it turns out that he grew up to be an inquisitive adult and a children's author. In his excellent If You Hopped Like A Frog, hilariously illustrated by Mad Magazine alum (and nephew of Andy Warhol) James Warhola, you will find out just how tiny your brain would be, if it were scaled to the relative size of a brachiosaurus, just how much you could shove in your mouth if you ate like a snake, and just how high you could jump if you had the legs of a flea.

This book is sure to fill your child with absurd anecdotes and a healthy sense of wonder at the world. I highly recommend it.

If You Hopped Like A Frog, by David M. Schwartz, illustrated by James Warhola

Friday, May 30, 2014

I Love Planes!

I Love Planes!

by Philemon Sturges, illustrated by Shari Halpern

Philemon Sturges' I love Planes! chronicles the passion that a little boy has for all things aviation - gliders, planes, helicopters, balloons, blimps, even space shuttles. Complemented with bright illustrations by Shari Halpern, the story unfolds, letting us know the reason the boy has for loving planes - his Mom is an astronaut, hard at work in a space station. At the end of the story, the boy and his mother are reunited, and she (in a star speckled dress) spins him around the playground, much to his delight.

I Love Planes! by Philemon Sturges, illustrated by Shari Halpern

Friday, May 23, 2014

Mr. Wuffles!

Mr. Wuffles!

by David Wiesner

Our brave adventurers have made landfall on a strange new planet. As they prepare to leave their ship, they are attacked by a ferocious beast - a house cat called Mr. Wuffles.

When Mr. Wuffles tires of his new plaything, discarding the smoking ship among his other toys, the crew discovers that they can't repair their broken ship. They must go out and search for help to repair their damaged drive.

They make their way through Mr. Wuffles' house, finding shelter behind the radiator. There they discover and befriend a society of ants and ladybirds. The insects have chronicled their past battles with Mr. Wuffles in elaborate cave paintings, commemorating their fallen comrades.

After sharing some food, their insect hosts help the aliens make repairs to their damaged ship. Through teamwork, the aliens and insects perform a daring escape. The aliens get away and the insects return to their cave to commemorate their victory with their new extraterrestrial friends.

In this almost wordless picture book, David Wiesner deftly tells a compelling story about inter-species cooperation and friendship. The rich coloring and clever details make this a rewarding book to 'read' with your child. The story changes a bit every time and you can encourage creative story telling by encouraging your young collaborator to help tell the story.

Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Paper Bag Princess

The Paper Bag Princess

by Robert N. Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko

Princess Elizabeth is a princess. She lives in a castle, wears fancy clothes, pines for her prince - all the typical princess stuff. When a dragon comes along, burns down the castle, and makes off with her prince, leaving a swath of destruction in its wake, she puts on the only un-burned thing around (a large paper bag) and sets off to rescue her prince.

When she finally tracks the dragon to its lair, she vanquishes it through a mix of quick thinking and flattery. However, her prince proves to be an entitled dope, only interested in well-groomed princesses, not competent ones.

Michael Martchenko's comically emotive cartoon illustrations nicely complement Robert N. Munsch's whimsical, feminist take on the traditional princes and dragons fantasy story. It is a refreshing change to all of the pretty, sparkly mainstream princess fare (not that there's anything wrong with pretty or sparkly - it's just nice to have variety).

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

by Peter Brown

Mr. Tiger lives a prim, proper life in a prim, proper city, surrounded by other prim, proper animals, in a prim, proper Victorian city. Nothing is surprising. Nothing is exciting. In short, it's boring.

One day, Mr. Tiger gets a wild idea. When he starts going around on all fours, he gets strange looks. When he starts running about, roaring, and leaping from rooftop to rooftop, the other animals are quite disturbed. When he starts going about in just his strips, it's too much and he is sent off to live in the wilderness.

The wilderness proves to be everything he dreamed of - full of running, roaring, hunting, and stalking. But, it's lonely. It isn't home. There's no community.

When Mr. Tiger decides to accept the rules of society and returns to the city, he discovers that quite a few things have changed - some animals are going around on all fours, some have loosened their ties, and some (gasp!) have even taken off their coats and top hats.

With gorgeous, vibrant illustrations (just look for the oranges!), Peter Brown's lovely book shows the importance of treading the fine line between following the rules and making your own way. This book is highly recommended for wild things of all ages.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

Five Trucks

Five Trucks

by Brian Floca

With an incredible eye for detail and gorgeous watercolors, author and illustrator Brian Floca really delivers with Five Trucks. From push out-tractors to baggage conveyors, this book reveals a lot of the hidden infrastructure of the airport. In addition to showing and naming five different trucks, this book has a nice framing story of a little boy taking a trip with his Papa and does an excellent job of showing diversity among the airport workers.

As an added bonus, there are subtle rewards in the illustrations - an implied romance between the push-out tractor operator and the mechanic, a smashed and battered up-side-down box carefully labeled 'fragile', etc.

Five Trucks by Brian Floca

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How To Train a Train

How To Train a Train

by Jason Carter Eaton, illustrated by John Rocco

This manual for the proper care and feeding of your pet train is an indispensable resource. From types of trains, their natural habitat, proper nutrition, hygiene, naming, house training, to properly socializing, this book has all the information a young engineer needs to keep their train happy and healthy. There's also lots of good information that could help with your pet airplane, pet truck, or pet submarine.

Jason Carter Eaton's wickedly clever book adapts all of the conventions of pet manuals to the realities of train ownership. John Rocco's hilarious illustrations are works of fine art in themselves. This book is sure to delight and enchant the train obsessed young person in your life.

How To Train a Train by Jason Carter Eaton, illustrated by John Rocco

Rah, Rah, Radishes!

Rah, Rah, Radishes! A Vegetable Chant

by April Pulley Sayre

Want to punch up a visit to the farmers' market or garden? This is a great book to help get your little one excited about discovering the joys of vegetables. With bright, intense colors and vibrant prose, this homage to healthy eating is a multi-sensory pleasure. Most times that we read it, Yuri nearly falls out of my lap with glee.

"Note: No vegetables were harmed or mistreated in the making of this book. Most, however, were later eaten."

Rah, Rah, Radishes! by April Pulley Sayre

Boy + Bot

Boy + Bot

by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino

One day, a boy and a robot meet in a forest, while each is exploring. They immediately become friends and start playing.

When the robot is accidentally switched off, the boy becomes deeply concerned and tries everything he can think of to save his sick friend. When nothing works, the boy tucks the robot into bed and hopes for the best.

Late that night, the robot turns back on. Startled to find the boy asleep,  everything he can think of to save his malfunctioning friend. He's just about to replace the boy's battery (!!!) when the boy wakes up.

In the end, all is sorted out and the boy's parents and robot's inventor allows them to play together. The boy even learns to talk like a robot.

Ame Dyckman's light prose is well paired with Dan Yaccarino's bright and cheerful illustrations. This is an excellent book for any aspiring roboticist. Affirmative!

Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino