Bark in the Park: Poems for Dog Lovers by Avery Corman, illustrated by Hyewon Yum

Published by Orchard Books

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Summary:  A girl and her father walk through the city, meeting dogs of many different breeds, such as the Afghan hound: “Although he’s noble and aloof/He’s still a dog, so he still says ‘Woof!’” and the basset hound: “For things she can smell/She’s a comer and goer/She’s much like a Beagle/But longer and lower.”  38 dog breeds are covered in all, with each one getting a two- or four-line rhyme. The book concludes, “So here’s to dogs both big and little/And the others in the middle/And here’s to all the mixed breeds, too/Being friends with a dog is a dream come true.” 48 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  Dog lovers are almost sure to find at least one of their favorites in these pages.  The poems are short and sweet (written by the author of Kramer vs. Kramer and Oh, God!, oddly enough), and the unstintingly adorable illustrations make a perfect pairing.

Cons:  Some lines had an extra syllable or two that made them a little less than flowing.

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The Day the Universe Exploded My Head by Allan Wolf, illustrated by Anna Raff

Published by Candlewick

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Summary:  These poems cover many aspects of astronomy and space travel, including the sun, moon, planets, meteors, black holes, eclipses, stars, rockets, astronauts, and Sputnik. The final piece, “The Day the Universe Exploded My Head” tells readers, “You can learn many facts about space from a book/But nothing’s as real as a firsthand look.”  This poem, like several of the others, is written for multiple voices, with different parts shown in different colors. Includes notes on the poems that give more information about each topic; a glossary of selected space terms; and internet resources.  56 pages; grades 2-6.

Pros:  It’s a fabulous collection of funny and informative poems that will teach kids a lot about space and astronomy.  I particularly liked the poems for multiple verses; they would be fun to do as a classroom performance.

Cons:  It would have been nice to see more information about the different forms of poetry, like the sonnet (or sunnet) that appears on page 1.

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No More Poems! A Book In Verse That Just Gets Worse by Rhett Miller, illustrated by Dan Santat

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  Rhett Miller, who apparently is a famous enough singer and songwriter to be in Wikipedia, has created a collection of 23 poems on such kid-friendly topics as dogs, homework, baseball, and how to use karate to flush a toilet in a public restroom.  Each poem is accompanied by a Dan Santat illustration; some include the poem as part of the picture, such as “My Device” which is written like a series of texts. Includes an author’s note at the beginning explaining his use of punctuation (or lack of).  48 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  Fans of Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein will love this colorful collection that includes just enough bathroom humor (“3:00 AM Pee”) and gross themes (“Hairs”, “Stinky-Mouth You”) to keep any elementary kid happy.  The poetry perfectly captures kids’ voices (“My dad is a rock star/And I’m just like whatever” begins the jaded kid narrator of “Rock Star Dad”), and the illustrations provide the perfect complementary comic touches.

Cons:  “Brotherly Love” gets a little dark for the younger elementary crowd.

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A Day with Judy Freeman

I spent today in Bristol, Connecticut at Judy Freeman’s What’s New in Children’s Literature workshop.  Judy was kind enough to invite me as her guest, and I enjoyed hearing what books she recommended and getting some programming ideas to promote them.  Sponsored by the Bureau of Education and Research (BER), it’s always a worthwhile workshop if you get the opportunity to go.

Judy and I have read a lot of the same books this year, but I did hear of a few that I missed and wished I had included on this blog.  Here’s a quick run-down if you want to try to get your hands on them.

The United States v. Jackie Robinson by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

Published by Balzer + Bray

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Jackie Robinson’s baseball career is a familiar story, but this looks at his early life, growing up with a mother who refused to back down when their white neighbors tried to force the family to move.  The story also covers Jackie’s college and military career, showing how his early years shaped his later life playing baseball and working for civil rights.  32 pages; grades 3-6.


Mae’s First Day of School by Kate Berube

Published by Abrams

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Mae would rather sit up in a tree all day than face the uncertainties of the first day of school.  Soon she’s joined by another girl named Rosie, who shares Mae’s concerns about the unknown.  Finally, a third person joins them: Ms. Pearl, the new teacher who has her own insecurities.  The three finally decide to face their fears, climb down from the tree, and walk into school together.  32 pages; ages 4-8.


Stegothesaurus by Bridget Heos, illustrated by T. L. McBeth

Published by Henry Holt

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Two of the brothers are stegosauruses, but the third is a stegothesaurus.  Stegosauruses say hi; but it’s “Hello! Greetings! Salutations!” from the stegothesaurus.  A big mountain is “gargantuan, gigantic, Goliath”, and a hot day is “blazing, blistering, broiling”.  When the stegothesaurus meets an allothesaurus, the words really start to fly.  A fun introduction to word choice and thesauruses.  32 pages; grades K-3.


Worlds Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from The Metropolitan Museum by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Published by Abrams

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Seventeen children’s poets, plus Hopkins, created works inspired by paintings at The Metropolitan Museum in New York City.  A beautiful and accessible introduction to poetry and art.  48 pages; grades 3-7.


Dear Substitute by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Chris Raschka

Published by Disney-Hyperion

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A girl is surprised to find a substitute in her class, and writes disgruntled letters about the changes in the routine.  As the day goes on, though, she begins to appreciate the fun-loving sub, and by dismissal time, she realizes the day has turned out just fine.  32 pages; grades K-3.



Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon written by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez

Published by Peachtree Publishers

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Summary:  Starting with President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 commitment to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade, and ending with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s historic 1969 walk on the moon, this free-verse history covers the history of the Apollo space missions.  The heartbreak of Kennedy’s assassination and the fatal Apollo 1 fire set the stage for the enormous determination that was required to design and build the vehicles that could safely transport astronauts to the moon and back. Each Apollo mission is described, followed by two pages that show photos and give profiles of the astronauts on each one.  The large, pastel portraits realistically render the people, places, and technology that were all part of the Apollo program. Includes author’s and illustrator’s notes, additional information about Team Apollo and bringing Apollo 11 home (with photos), and a list of books and websites with additional information. 144 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  A fascinating look at an exciting and important chapter in the history of space exploration.  The free verse format makes for a fairly quick and easy read, but there is still plenty of information packed into the text and back matter.  The beautiful oversized illustrations bring immediacy to the story.

Cons:  As a big fan of the movie Apollo 13, I was disappointed that the narrative ended with Apollo 11.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Ski Soldier: A World War II Biography by Louise Borden

Published by Calkins Creek

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Summary:  Growing up in Sharon, Massachusetts, Pete Siebert taught himself to ski on an old pair of wooden skis he found in his parents’ barn.  As he got older, his parents took him and his sister to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where he became a proficient racer and vowed to one day open his own ski resort.  After graduating high school, he enlisted in the army, the 10th Mountain Division of soldiers on skis. After training in the Colorado Rockies, the division was shipped overseas to Italy, where they took part in a daring nighttime attack on Germans in the Apennines Mountains.  Pete was wounded so severely doctors weren’t sure he would walk again, but he was determined to ski. He persevered and recovered enough to make the 1950 U.S. men’s ski team. And in 1962, his boyhood dream came true when he opened the Vail Ski Resort in Colorado. Includes additional information about Pete Seibert and the 10th Mountain Division, as well as a list of sources.  176 pages; grades 4-8.

Pros:  Told in verse, with plenty of photos, this story will appeal to skiers and World War II buffs.  It’s a quick read, but the story is engaging, and readers will learn a lot about Pete and an unusual chapter in military history.

Cons:  The cover makes the book look kind of old.

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Have You Heard About Lady Bird? Poems About Our First Ladies by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Published by Disney-Hyperion

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Summary:  As she did for the Presidents in Rutherford B., Who Was He?, Marilyn Singer has written a poem for every First Lady from Martha Washington (“‘Lady Presidentess,’ dear wife of our first leader,/did not bemoan, she set the tone,/for all who would succeed her”) to Melania Trump (“She learned languages, changed her name,/married into fortune, embraced new fame”).  Each is accompanied by a picture of the First Lady in some scene from her term. Includes a page on “Being the First Lady”, several pages of thumbnail portraits and brief profiles of each woman, and a list of sources for additional information. 56 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  These easily accessible poems are a fun way to introduce kids to the wide variety of women who have served as First Lady, and the way the job has changed over time.

Cons:  Some of the poems about the less well-known First Ladies may be a little confusing to kids without any background knowledge.

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