105 Ways to Give a Book

Boardbook Bonanza

Since I haven't been reviewing much, I don't get much to review. That's totally fine and in fact preferred as I don't want to waste anyone's review copies and I can get much of what I want at the library where I work. But occasionally a package comes my way, as with a little collection of 2014 boardbooks from Chronicle. Now I don't actively look for boardbooks or tend to review them, so let's call this a set of "reactions." Because it sounds less formal.

by Andrew Zuckerman

CreatureI received both Numbers and Colors from the set, which also includes Sounds and Baby Animals. I am familiar with Andrew Zuckerman's photography of animals, and I love the idea of bringing his work into young hands. My nagging complaint about the set is that I wanted the pictures bigger. Partly because the books are small, meaning the pictures get smaller still. But also because I don't think babies are as invested in the concept that Zuckerman's work highlights the animals with plenty of white space. They just want to see the green frog. But you know these kids are going to get books of colors and numbers anyway, so it's a great idea to enhance the experience for both child and parent reader with some artistry. That you'll get.

You Are My Baby
by Lorena Siminovich

You Are My BabyI received both the Ocean and Garden from the set, which also includes Safari and Farm. Boardbooks are pretty basic, so when someone comes up with any new idea, it's worth a mention. These books have a smaller book embedded within, so that you can turn the pages of the little book - which focuses on the baby - separately from the larger book. While obviously related, you could read each "book" alone. (Big book: "You sing a happy song in our leafy tree." Little book: You are my baby, little hatchling.") The illustrations are cute, bright and friendly. I wonder how the book will hold up physically, but I also think it would be fun to share with a little reader.

Going to the Farmers' Market
by Stefan Page

Going to the Farmers' MarketI shouldn't fault the concept - at least it's something different - but it got a little eyeroll out of me. I certainly can't fault the illustrations, which are cool in a retro, Charley Harper way. (Now you can roll your eyes.) But the text misses the mark. Overall it covers from market to meal, but not as cohesively as it could have. Parts of it go for the "to market, to market" rhythm, but not all. Parts of it detail the foods, but not all. Maybe it seems picky, but I want a boardbook to have internal consistency, whether it's with story, rhythm, or learning concept. But hey, if you need a gift book for the hipster parents in your circle, this is perfect.

Daddy Wrong Legs
by Nina Laden

Daddy Wrong LegsThis is one of the books where you can turn the bottom pages separately to mix up the tops and legs of the creatures. I'm sure that lots of parents and kids love this idea. It. Freaks. Me. Out. I'll admit that I have a low creep-out threshold, but this is the kind of book that would have given me bad dreams. ("Daddy has spider legs!") But look, I like this author (see below) and her illustration style. So for those who like the concept of funny animals and people with the wrong legs, here's your book.

by Nina Laden

Peek-a-Zoo!I consider myself an explorer of the new and different, but it was the most traditional boardbook of the bunch that won me over. Very simple in concept, with the words "Peek a" on one page facing a page with a hole through which you can guess at the animal behind. Thus the black and orange stripes turn to a tiger, where now "Peek a" is viewed through the hole and added the word "MEW!" So simple, but a nice twist on traditional Peek-a-boo. The whole thing ends with a mirrored page for "Peek a YOU, TOO!" The fun illustrations have a woodblock-print look to them, and feature lots of bright colors from a secondary pallate of purple, orange, turquoise and pink. Also a nice size for little hands. This is one I'll recommend to my library system, especially for mother/baby program kits.

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Poetry Friday: Forest Has a Song

So excited to share the winning poetry book for the Cybils Awards!

Forest Has a Song
by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, illustrated by Robbin Gourley

Clarion Books, 2013
(review copy received)
Forest Has a SongPoems document the seasons in the woods with sensory reflections on everything from the spongy feel of a dead branch to the sound of a proposal in a tree frog's song to the taste of a wintergreen plant. The beautiful watercolor illustrations capture the gentle feel of the forest and the poetry itself. Simply a lovely book to enjoy and share. So with the sharing in mind, here is one small sample poem. And yes, I am showing my weariness of winter in selecting one about spring.
April Waking
Ferny frondy fiddlehead
unfurl curls from dirty beds.
Stretching stems they sweetly sing
greenest greetings sent to Spring.
-Amy Ludwig Vanderwater

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Karen Edmisten.

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Personal Update

Ahhhhhhhhhhh! That is the sound of me relaxing for the first time in... I want to say... years?

Maybe it just feels that way, and certainly everything in my life hasn't reached a positive plateau. However, two big things are squared away. My senior was basically accepted into an excellent, affordable college, and while she hasn't decided on William & Mary, it's a relief to know that it's there as an extremely attractive option. She also just got the part of Cleopatra - the role she's been wanting and working towards, in a way since she starting acting. She's put a lot of time into this theater department and has truly earned this part with both performance skills and hard work.

Also the kid - who is really a teen - is settling into high school quite nicely. She's finding her own place in theater and chorus with parts and solos, both well-deserved. She's really shined in Unplugged with an original song and a beautiful cover, and that venue has given her incentive to keep working on her guitar. We watch American Idol together with an analytical approach to what she should do when she auditions.

And they get good grades, have friends, enjoy each other, and still hang out with me.

I've hit the parenting jackpot, and I'm so proud and happy.

So, time to breathe and figure out what is next.

Cybils Awards!

Today in the KidLit community we celebrate Love... of books with the announcement of the Cybils Awards! Some wonderful titles across the board, but I'll give a special shout-out to my committee of Picture Books. From an incredible list of finalists, the judges selected a book that I would have personally chosen myself to win. The perfect Cybils selection:

Mr. Tiger Goes WildMr. Tiger Goes Wild
Peter Brown

Little, Brown and Co., 2013
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild opens to muted tones of a proper Victorian society of well-mannered animals, living in houses and walking on two legs. Surrounded by an abundance of subdued suits, ties, dresses and tea, the daily hum-drum pushes Mr. Tiger outside the city limits to a place where he can ROAR! But first he undergoes the drama and surprising silliness of life on four legs, a swim in the water fountain and *gasp* a view of his magnificent, naked self. Confident artistic elements start on the decorative endpapers, capitalize on the freedom of double page illustrations, built intensity with the color palette, and combine seamlessly with the lean text of most carefully selected words. With great comedic timing and a light-handed touch on message, Peter Brown has written a clever, compelling invitation to self-discovery.

Congratulations to all the Cybils winners!

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