Frog Meets Dog (Frog and Dog book 1) by Janee Trasler

Published by Scholastic (Released May 5)

Frog Meets Dog: An Acorn Book by Janee Trasler

Summary:  Dog wants to be friends with three frogs, but he can’t hop or leap like they can.  When a poorly-aimed leap results in a collision between Dog’s head and a bee’s nest, the frogs send him on his way.  But when a bear appears, Dog does a repeat with the bees and saves the day.  The frogs learn to appreciate Dog for who he is, and the four become friends.  48 pages; ages 3-6.

Pros:  This is another entry into the Scholastic Acorn imprint for emergent readers.  This series is quite a bit simpler than others I’ve seen, probably a Fountas and Pinnell level C or D versus the G/H levels of other series.  The silly (in a good way) cartoon-style illustrations tell a lot of the story, which will appeal to readers at this level.

Cons:  This book seems to be only available in paperback or the $20+ library bound format, which is ridiculous for a simple book like this.  Follett has a version for $10.91, but that’s more geared to the library market.

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When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger with Susan Katz, illustrated by David Kanletakeron Fadden

Published by Lee and Low Books (Released May 5) When the Shadbush Blooms (9781582461922): Messinger ...

Native American Heritage Month Kid Lit Review of “When the ...

Summary:  Two girls from a Lenni Lenape tribe, Traditional Sister and Contemporary Sister describe their lives with their families through the course of one year.  Each illustration has the name of a moon, with the Lenape name on the left and the English name on the right.  The Traditional Sister and her family are portrayed on the left of each illustration and the Contemporary family on the right, showing them as they move through the seasons, growing and harvesting crops.  The last few pages give additional information on the history of the Lenni Lenape people, who lived in what is now the Mid-Atlantic states, as well as some of the cultural features portrayed in the book.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This beautifully illustrated book portrays the Lenni Lenape culture as vibrant and living, tying the past to the present.  Readers will be able to connect with many of the activities the Contemporary Sister describes, while learning more about the Lenape history and culture.

Cons:  The format of the two families being portrayed side by side may be a little confusing to younger kids.

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Fox & Rabbit Make Believe (Fox and Rabbit, book 2) by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Gergely Dudás

Published by Amulet Books (Released September 15) Fox & Rabbit Make Believe (Fox & Rabbit Book #2 ...

COVER REVEAL and Interview: Fox & Rabbit by Beth Ferry | Mile High ...Summary:  Fox and Rabbit enjoy each other’s company and make some new friends in this five-story graphic novel.  They take a trip to the ice cream store, enter a bubble-blowing contest (with disastrous results for Fox’s fur), make an imaginative new friend, get lost in a corn maze, and carve jack-o-lanterns with all their friends.  One story leads into the next, giving the whole book some continuity.  Their friends, a sparrow who loves to eat and a turtle who usually misses out on most of the action, make cameo appearances in each story.  Book 1 was released last week (April 21) and the graphic above showing a sample page is from book 1.  96 pages; grades 1-4.

Pros:  These gently humorous stories will undoubtedly be a big hit with young graphic novel fans.  The full-color illustrations and animal characters are appealing, and kids will connect to the everyday events and friendships in the stories.

Cons:  Due to the strange state of the world, I was only able to get an advanced reader copy of book 2, so I’m not able to review book 1, which would generally make a lot more sense.

Fox & Rabbit: Ferry, Beth, Dudás, Gergely: 9781419740770: Amazon ...

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The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street by Lauren Oliver

Published by HarperCollins

The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street: Lauren Oliver ...

Summary:  Cordelia leads a happy, if somewhat sheltered life, with her father in a reimagined Victorian/Edwardian Boston, capturing and caring for monsters.  Her mother was also involved in this work until she disappeared in the jungles of Brazil.  When Cordelia wakes up one morning to find her father and most of the monsters gone, she finds herself on an unlikely journey to try to rescue them.  Assisted by an orphan named Gregory, whom she befriends after saving his zuppy (zombie puppy), and her ex-best friend Elizabeth, she travels to New York, Nova Scotia, and Worcester, attempting to track down her father and the monsters.  Along the way, she encounters cruel prejudice against monsters and some humans, and at last learns the fates of both of her parents.  She and her father are reunited, but realize that monsters are not meant to be kept in cages (or houses) and ultimately decide to let them go their own ways.  384 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  There’s plenty of adventure for Cordelia and her friends, as well as some interesting monsters, a couple of heartwarming friendship stories, and a timely message about valuing all forms of life.

Cons:  Try as I might, I never found this book as engaging as I was hoping (it got three starred reviews), and the message was repeated just a bit too often.

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The Rabbits’ Rebellion by Ariel Dorfman, illustrations by Chris Riddell

Published by Triangle Square

The Rabbits' Rebellion: Ariel Dorfman, Chris Riddell ...

The Rabbits' Rebellion: Ariel Dorfman, Chris Riddell ...

Summary:  “When the wolves conquered the land of rabbits, the first thing the leader of the pack did was to proclaim himself king.  The second was to announce that the rabbits ceased to exist.”  Rabbits have been removed from all parts of the new world, but the old monkey’s daughter still believes they exist.  When the old monkey is summoned to the palace to take pictures of the wolf king, he is dismayed when rabbit ears and noses start appearing on his photos.  He and the fox who serves as the king’s counsellor try to remove the offending rabbits, but they still keep coming, eventually showing up in the photos chewing on the king’s throne.  When the monkey is finally forced to take a photo on which his career and even his life depend, he captures on film the moment the entire throne collapses.  He brings the photo home to his daughter, and the story ends with the  family gazing out on a field full of rabbits.  64 pages; grades 2 and up.

Pros:  The story and illustrations are wickedly funny, and can be read on many different levels.  This is the only children’s story written by Latin American novelist Ariel Dorfman, and can be enjoyed by adults as well as kids.

Cons:  Some of the more political implications may be lost on a younger audience.

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What About Worms? (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading) by Ryan T. Higgins

Published by Hyperion Books for Children (Released May 19)

What About Worms!? (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!) (Elephant ...

Summary:  Tiger is big, brave, and not afraid of anything…except worms.  He loves flowers, except that there may be worms hiding in the dirt!  He loves apples, except that worms sometimes live in them!  He loves reading books, but what if the book turns out to be about worms?! Tiger’s fear gets the better of him, and he throws the flowerpot, apple, and book on the ground.  Just then, who should come along but a bunch of worms?  After enjoying the dirt and the apple, they see the book, and discover that it’s about tigers!  The worms are scared of tigers, but as they start reading, they learn that tigers and big and brave.  They decide that they love worms, and want to give this tiger a big hug…if they can get him to stop screaming and running away long enough.  64 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Another fun entry in the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series.  Kids are sure to get a big laugh out of the tiger and worms, and there’s also a subtle message about reading and learning helping you to overcome your fears.  

Cons:  Is it just me, or does the tiger bear a more-than-passing resemblance to the stuffed Hobbes (not the “real” one) from Calvin and Hobbes?

What About Worms!? (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!) (Elephant ...  to make a hobbes tiger stuffed toy for my daughter in 2020 | Best ...

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Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem by Jude Isabella, illustrated by Kim Smith

Published by Kids Can Press

Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem ...

Bringing Back the Wolves in 2020

Summary:  In 1995, nearly 70 years after they had disappeared due to hunting, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park.  The results provide a fascinating study on how changing the top of the food chain affects all kinds of species in an ecosystem.  The first and most obvious change was that elk, which had multiplied without a natural predator, were now being hunted for the first time in years.  As their numbers went down, the trees they had eaten were allowed to grow.  Bigger trees meant that beavers were able to return to the park in greater numbers.  Coyotes got bumped down from the top of the food chain to the middle, lowering their numbers and allowing more smaller animals to thrive…which in turn attracted more birds of prey.  The book also briefly touches on other factors such as drought and fire that also affected the ecosystem.  Today there are more than 500 wolves in Yellowstone, balance has been restored, and scientists have had the opportunity to study the effects of reintroducing an apex predator.  Includes a glossary, additional resources, and an index.  40 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  I was planning to read this book in small chunks (I’m reading some books on my phone these days), but the story was so fascinating that I finished it in one sitting.  The text is engagingly written and the illustrations add to the information, not only with pictures of the various animals but diagrams showing how they are connected to each other.

Cons:  Several sidebars were labeled “It’s Elemental”, which I think referred to other elements besides the wolves that affected the ecosystem, but it wasn’t 100% clear.

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Wild & Chance by Allen Zadoff

Published by Disney Hyperion

Thanks to Disney Hyperion for providing me with a copy of this book to review

Wild & Chance: Allen Zadoff: 9781368053198: Books

Summary:  She has no memory of her life before waking up on a sinking yacht.  Soon she meets a boy named Chance who names her Wild and vows to look after her, even though he’s in foster care and living in a group home.  It soon becomes obvious that Wild is an extraordinary dog.  She and Chance learn to communicate via electronics, and their conversations are picked up by Junebug, a girl hacker with a mysterious past…but some skills Chance and Wild need to survive.  As the three race from one place to the next, constantly pursued by the military organization bent on destroying Wild, they start to piece together the dog’s past and what it might mean for all of their futures.  In the end, Wild is on her own once again, but with hints that there may be more to come in her story.  256 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  A dog narrator, non-stop action, and many, many narrow escapes…what’s not to like?  Kids will find themselves caught up in this exciting story from chapter one, and will keep the pages turning all the way to the end, which will no doubt have them hoping for book 2.

Cons:  There are some pretty dark secrets in Wild’s past, and (spoiler alert) she has been bred to kill.  I generally enjoy quite a bit of humor with a dog narrator, but no such luck here.

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Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery by Meeg Pincus, illustrated by Yas Imamura

Published by Sleeping Bear Press

Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery: Meeg Pincus ...

19 | March | 2020 |

Summary:  In 1976, Canadian scientist Fred Urquhart published an article in National Geographic describing the migration of the monarch butterflies–answering a question that had puzzled scientists for decades.  But Dr. Urquhart didn’t solve this mystery by himself.  Citizen scientists all over the United States and Mexico helped by tagging butterflies and discovering the places where they spent the winter in Mexico.  Today, another mystery about the monarchs needs solving: how to keep these butterflies from dying out.  Pesticides have destroyed much of the milkwood they need to survive.  Readers are encouraged to become part of the solution to this problem, just as ordinary people did for Dr. Urquhart’s research.  Includes additional information and ideas for how to help monarchs.  40 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  This engagingly written science book shows readers how ordinary people can make real contributions to scientific research and help solve global problems.  The back matter gives concrete ways that kids can make a difference.

Cons:  No list of resources for additional research.

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Salma the Syrian Chef by Danny Ramadan, illustrated by Anna Bron

Published by Annick Press

Salma the Syrian Chef: Ramadan, Danny, Bron, Anna: 9781773213750 ...

Summary:  Salma and her mother are living in Vancouver’s Welcome Center waiting for Papa to join them from Syria.  When her mother returns from her long days of job hunting and English classes, Salma notices she no longer laughs.  Salma tries making her mom funny pictures and telling jokes, but all she gets is a sad smile, “full of love but empty of joy”.  Finally Salma has an idea–she’ll make foul shami, one of her mother’s favorite Syrian dishes. She gets plenty of help from others living at the Welcome Center, but things don’t turn out the way Salma’s hoping.  There’s no sumac in the spice rack, and she accidentally breaks the bottle of olive oil. But even with its imperfections, the foul shami works its magic, and Mama laughs! Not only that, but Salma’s new friends save the day, and she begins to find beauty and joy in her new home.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This child’s-eye view of what it’s like to move to a new country acknowledges the difficulties while maintaining hope and optimism.  The colorful illustrations perfectly accentuate the story, bringing the people from so many different places to life.

Cons:  There was no recipe for the foul shami that was so central to the story.

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