Lion and Mouse by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng

Published by Groundwood Books

Image result for lion mouse jairo amazon

Image result for lion mouse jairo amazon

Summary:  Aesop’s famous fable is retold with a few modern twists and some attitude.  A “very lovely” lion who is “like a sun” lives in a forest with a mouse who is “a busybody and a glutton”.  One day the mouse goes into the lion’s cave; the lion almost eats him, but changes his mind. When the lion is caught in a trap the next day, it’s the mouse who frees him. But this story continues as the two continue to trade favors.  At first it’s with a feeling of obligation, but soon they are simply being kind to one another. In fact, they end up getting along so well that they live together for the rest of their lives. 32 pages; ages 4-7.

Pros:  You can never have too many versions of a classic folktale, and kids will get a chuckle out of the illustrations and tongue-in-cheek text.

Cons:  It doesn’t quite measure up to Jerry Pinkney’s version, in my opinion.

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Red Light, Green Lion by Candace Ryan, illustrated by Jennifer Yerkes

Published by Kids Can Press

Image result for red light green lion amazon

Image result for red light green lion yerkesImage result for red light green lion yerkes

Summary:  “Some days are not like most days,” reads the first page, accompanied by a picture of a traffic light.  “Red light, green li-”. If you’re expecting “-ght” on the next page, you’ll be surprised to find “-on”, along with a picture of a green lion.  After that, it’s green lightning. There’s also a green lilac, a green lifeboat, some green livestock, and green library books. The message is that you can’t know what the day will bring, and it’s best to accept whatever comes along.  “Some days don’t make much sense at the beginning. But they always make sense in the end.” And, finally, the traffic light turns green. 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A deceptively simple book that would make a fun read-aloud for kids to guess what “li-” word is coming up next, and then to discuss the message of the story.

Cons:  It would make a more fun guessing game to have a clue on the preceding page.

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Sandy Feet! Whose Feet?: Footprints at the Shore by Susan Wood, illustrated by Steliyana Doneva

Published by Sleeping Bear Press

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Summary:  As two children play on the beach, they see the tracks left in the sand by a variety of animals, beginning with their dog.  There are also prints left by a sandpiper, crab, seagull, pelican, crab, and sea turtle. At the end of the day, their own tired feet take them back home again.  The last two pages of the story show all the prints in the sand, and the two pages after that give additional information about the animals. 32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Read this before going to the beach to make kids more aware of the animals around them.  The illustrations do a nice job of portraying the various creatures, as well as their tracks to help kids identify them.

Cons:  It would have been helpful to show pictures of tracks next to the thumbnail photos of the different animals on the last two pages.

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I Am Hermes!: Mischief-Making Messenger of the Gods by Mordicai Gerstein

Published by Holiday House

Image result for i am hermes mordicai gerstein

Image result for i am hermes mordicai gerstein

Summary:  As he did with I Am Pan!, Mordicai Gerstein has collected myths featuring Pan’s father, Hermes.  Starting as a precocious baby who “wants it all!”, Hermes grows up in a single day from a round orange toddler to a lean orange messenger whose winged feet help him deliver communications to the gods.  After Zeus and the other gods and goddesses decide to retire, Hermes experiments with smoke signals, messenger pigeons, the pony express, and the U.S. mail before finding the perfect medium for communicating: the Internet!  Includes an author’s note that describes Hermes as the “most likable and happiest” of the Greek gods and tells how Gerstein came to create this book. 72 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  A fun and gentle introduction to mythology that introduces many of the Greek gods and goddesses, but focuses on their wackiness without taking anything too seriously.  Kids will enjoy the graphic novel format and colorful illustrations.

Cons:  Some readers may fail to see the humor in a round orange baby wanting everything he can see who winds up being king of the Internet.

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Fearsome Giant, Fearless Child: A Worldwide Jack and the Beanstalk Story by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Published by Henry Holt and Co.

Image result for fearsome giant fearless child

Image result for fearsome giant fearless child

Summary:  As they did with Cinderella in Glass Slipper, Golden Sandal and creation stories in First Light, First Life, Paul Fleischman and Julie Paschkis have created a story that weaves together elements from Jack and the Beanstalk type stories all around the world.  These are all tales in which a child–often the smallest or youngest in a family–uses courage and cleverness to outwit a villain like a giant or witch.  Each illustration identifies the country from which that particular element of the story originates. A map on the endpapers shows all the countries. Whether the hero grows to full size, becomes king, or gains the respect of his family, the story always has a happy ending.  40 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  This book would be a perfect ending to a study of Jack and the Beanstalk tales; it’s not meant to be read as another re-telling, but rather as a way to appreciate both the variety and similarities of all these stories.  The folk art-style illustrations give it an international flavor.

Cons:  I’ve always felt that “Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman” was an awkward rhyme.  Why not “Fee-fi-fo-fan” or “Fee-fi-fo-fun”?

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Trees by Verlie Hutchens, illustrated by Jing Jing Tson

Published by Beach Lane Books

Image result for trees verlie

Image result for trees verlie jing

Summary:  Fourteen different trees are profiled, each one getting a brief free-verse poem and a two-page illustration.  Some of the taller trees’ pages require turning the book 45 degrees, as the tree stretches from roots on the left-hand side to the treetop on the right.  The trees are personified, often being assigned a gender, and sometimes compared to a human (a sycamore is a “fashion queen” and the white pine, an “unruly uncle”).  Other trees include maple, aspen, oak, palm, pussy willow, apple, redbud, dogwood, spruce, willow, birch, and sequoia. 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Just enough information is given in the brief poems and illustrations to help kids start to identify some of the trees in their neighborhoods.  The short, easy-to-understand verses and familiar subject matter would make this a good introduction to poetry.

Cons:  There were no additional resources to help readers learn more about trees.

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A Wolf Called Wander by Rosanne Parry, illustrated by Mónica Armiño

Published by Greenwillow Books

Image result for wolf called wander amazon

Summary:  Swift may not be the biggest member of his pack, but he is the fastest, and determined to some day beat out his larger brother Sharp.  When another pack of wolves attacks, though, Swift finds himself alone.  He travels through miles of wilderness,  searching for members of his pack, or any wolves that will be his companions.  Along the way, he encounters with a variety of animals, including humans, and barely survives some narrow escapes. He finally meets a female wolf, and after renaming himself Wander, they work together to create a new pack of their own.  Includes several pages of information and photos of the real wolf that was the inspiration for the book; additional facts about wolves; a map of Swift/Wander’s journey; and a list of resources for more information. 256 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  An exciting nature story that will be especially appreciated by animal lovers.  Lots of adventure and plenty of illustrations make this a good choice for reluctant readers.  

Cons:  The illustrations added a lot to the text, and Mónica Armiño’s name doesn’t appear on the cover, nor is there any information about her on the back flap.

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