Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Brian Floca

Published by Candlewick

Summary:  Princess Cora’s parents are determined to train her right, which to their way of thinking includes three baths a day, endless studying of dull books, and a lot of skipping rope in the basement.  Cora tries to do what they ask of her, but what she really wants to do is play.  Certain that a dog would help her cause, she writes a letter to her fairy godmother requesting a pet.  The next morning, a box arrives with a large crocodile inside.  Sympathetic to Cora’s cause, the crocodile offers to pose as her for the day, while the princess takes off for some outdoor play.  The predictable chaos ensues, and when Princess Cora returns, her nanny is stuck in the bathtub, her mother is locked in a tower, and her father has been tied up with the jump rope.  Cora sets things to rights, but that night she tells her parents how she really feels, and her life begins to change for the better.  80 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  A perfect skewering of 21st century overachieving parents.  Some readers may be wishing for their own crocodile.  The illustrations are perfect.

Cons:  Will the message be lost on the intended audience?

Martin’s Dream Day by Kitty Kelley, photographs by Stanley Tretick

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

 

Summary:  Written to highlight photos by Look photographer and JFK favorite Stanley Tretick, this book focuses on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  King is showed on the first page, nervous as he prepares to address 250,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial.  From there, the text and photos go back to explain King’s role in Civil Rights movement.  He is shown with John F. Kennedy, along with quotes from Kennedy urging Congress to pass his civil rights bill.  When Congress did nothing, King began to organize the March on Washington.  Photos are shown of individuals and crowds at the march, culminating with quotes from Martin Luther King’s speech.  On the last page, the reader learns of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Includes an author’s note and three websites with additional information.  40 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  A good introduction Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most important speech and the history behind it.  Seeing the author was Kitty Kelley–yes, that Kitty Kelley–I kept looking for gossipy passages about some King or Kennedy scandal, but don’t worry, you can safely read this to your first-grader.  The many photos bring an immediacy to the story and provide faces of real people instead of just the huge crowds.

Cons:  There could have been a lot more additional resources given.

What Will Grow? By Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Susie Ghahremani

Published by Bloomsbury USA Children’s

Summary:  A dozen seeds are introduced with rhyming couplets and illustrations (“Shiny, brown.  Bumpy crown.  What will grow?  Oak tree.”)  Most of the seeds have the rhyme on the left-hand page with the plant shown on the right, but four have pages the fold out, up, or down to reveal the plant.  The final couplet is, “Dark, deep, fast asleep.  What will grow?” showing hibernating animals under the snow, followed by, “My garden!” over two pages of a colorful collection of plants blooming under a rainbow.  All 12 seeds are shown at the end, along with the time to sow them, steps for planting, and when it will grow.  The final two pages show four stages from seed to plant.  40 pages; ages 3-6.

Pros:  This follow-up to What Will Hatch? is a perfect springtime introduction to gardening for young readers.

Cons:  This seems like it could be a fun, interactive guessing game, except that eight of the plants are shown on the same page as the question.

I’m Back!

Happy new year!  I’ve enjoyed having the month of January off, but am ready to get back to work!  I’ve started reading 2017 books, and will start reviewing them tomorrow morning.

Thank you for all your messages!  I got many emails and comments, and it was gratifying to hear how many people out there are using the reviews on this blog to choose books for kids, whether it’s for a library, classroom, or family.

As many suggested, I may slow down the pace, possibly taking a day or two off each week, and going on an occasional vacation.

What did I read in January?  I finished up some 2016 books, like Slacker by Gordon Korman, I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings, and Life in Motion by Misty Copeland.  I was planning on posting reviews of these, but I spilled water on my laptop, and am pretty sure the reviews I wrote are gone.  I recommend all three, although read I Am Jazz first if you’re planning to put it in a school library.

While I was gone, ALA announced all its award winners.  What did you think?  I was pretty happy overall, although I was disappointed The Wild Robot and Some Writer! didn’t get any recognition.

Well, onto 2017!  I do enjoy hearing from you, so feel free to comment or email me (jkdhamilton@gmail.com) any time.

 

 

January Hiatus

I’ve been posting daily book reviews since February 20, 2015, and I’m ready for a break.  I love doing this blog, but as you can imagine, it’s time-consuming to read and review a book every day.  For the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about shutting down, but I’m not ready to call it quits for good.

I’ve decided to take the month of January off.  It’s a good time, since I’ve read and reviewed most of the 2016 books I want to, and it will be a few weeks until I can start getting my hands on 2017 books.  I’ll use the time off to decide whether or not I’ll continue reviewing in 2017, and get back to you no later than February 1.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear feedback about the blog, so please feel free to leave a comment or email me at jkdhamilton@gmail.com.  Thank you so much for reading my reviews, and I will be back in a few weeks!

5 Favorite Poetry Books

I’m neither an expert in nor a huge fan of poetry, but there was a pretty good selection in 2016.  Here were five that I really liked:

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams brought to life by Ashley Bryan.  Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Ashley Bryan really did bring these men and women to life, using historical documents as a springboard for his imagination to create lives for each of these eleven through art and poetry.

Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, and Michiko Tsuboi, illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri.  Published by Chin Music Press.

A beautifully illustrated retelling of the brilliant, tragic life of Japanese poet Misuzu Kaneko, complete with translations of many of her deceptively simple poems.

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxanne Orgill, illustrated by Francis Vallejo.  Published by Candlewick.

The history of Art Kane’s 1958 photograph of 57 jazz musicians against the backdrop of a Harlem brownstone, told with poems in the voices of the subjects and the bystanders watching them.

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary School by Laura Shodd.  Published by Wendy Lamb Books.

Eighteen fifth graders share their hopes, dreams, and fears, as they prepare for the closing of their school in June; they use a variety of prompts and poetic forms that are explained at the end of the book.

Echo, Echo: Reverso Poems about Greek Myths by Marilyn Singer illustrated by Josee Masie.  Published by Dial Books for Young Readers.

Second verse same as the first…only backwards to completely change the meaning.  Super cool poems in two voices for Percy Jackson fans.

Six Nonfiction Favorites

I couldn’t get it down to five; six was hard enough.  Nonfiction is my favorite.  I don’t think any of the books on this list will win awards, but they were the ones I found most interesting.

The Airport Book by Lisa Brown.  Published by Roaring Brook Press.

A boy explains each step of an airplane trip, from packing up at home to driving from the airport to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  The pictures are as busy as LaGuardia at Thanksgiving.

Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts by Susan Cain with Gregory Mone and Erica Moroz.  Published by Dial Books for Young Readers.

The most practically helpful book I read this year.  Wish I had had it middle school.  Unfortunately, despite my enthusiastic recommendations, I haven’t been able to get any actual teens to check it out of the library.  They’re probably too embarrassed.

Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land by John Coy, with photographs by Wing Young Huie.  Published by Carolrhoda Books.

Looking at present-day immigrants, this book puts sympathetic human faces on a group that is all too often used as pawns in political debates.

In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives by Kenneth C. Davis.  Published by Henry Holt.

American history and the Founding Fathers in a whole new light.  I couldn’t put it down.

Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Animal Infographics by Steve Jenkins.  Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Come on…you didn’t think the president of Steve Jenkins’ fan club was going to leave him off her list of favorites, did you?

Rising Above: How 11 Athletes Overcame Challenges to Become Stars by Gregory Zuckerman, with Elijah and Gabriel Zuckerman.  Published by Philomel Books.

I don’t think this book has gotten to rest on a library shelf since I bought it for my school last spring.  Even I, a non sports fan, found it extremely inspiring.