Dancing Feet! by Lindsey Craig, illustrated by Marc Brown, is another adorable book for your storytimes. Beginning with the cheerful: "Tippity! Tippity! Little black feet! Who is dancing that tippity beat?", Craig introduces us to a merry gang of dancing creatures. Kids will enjoy being able to guess the identity of each dancer, based on a rhyming clue and a flash of each animal, before the page is turned for the big reveal. They will also love imitating each beast's movements, from stomping to creeping.
The colorful art gives us joyful animals and finally, children, loving the beat. Brown worked with hand-painted papers in a collage technique, and the basic shapes he put together add up to irresistible characters. I especially love the broadly beaming ladybugs!
I will eagerly present this at one of my fall Family Storytimes.
My colleague Carol brought me Ballroom Bonanza: A Hidden Pictures ABC Book by Nina Rycroft and Stephen Harris to show me the glorious belly dancing cover elephants. She knows that I privately attempt Middle Eastern dance and the like. Reading the book, I found an entertaining, rhyming alphabet tale filled with more splashily dressed, celebrating animals. Diverse creatures such as vampire bats, rhinos, quails and the imaginary ugwumps dance like mad, showing off disco, ballet, line dancing,and samba styles. Many more boogie down or glide around. Once the alphabet exhibition is complete, readers are invited to reexamine the pictures to find the 26 hidden instruments that the sneaky monkeys stole from the band between mambas. Nina Rycroft created the super lively watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil illustrations. Kids will get a kick out seeing camels in Carmen Miranda style fruit headdresses, Austin Powers inspired goats, and more. This will be a fun read for one on one or a small group, allowing extra time to share the pictures!
I can't give you an objective review for 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy, collaborating with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, but I can give you a glowing one. Naiyomah had come from Kenya to New York City to study to be a doctor, and was there on the day of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. This is a true story about his Maasai people's response to America's pain and their desire to help us heal. Gorgeous illustrations in pastel, colored pencil and airbrush by Thomas Gonzalez make this a beautiful story in presentation as well as theme. The vivid primary colors of the Maasai villagers' clothing contrast with the earthy backgrounds, and the people's faces glow with emotion. This is a fine, hopeful tale to share with kids!
When I start up Family Storytime again in the fall, I'll be sure to work in Boom Bah! by Phil Cummings and Nina Rycroft. A little mouse taps a cup with a spoon, making a "ting!" The cat joins in with a "tong!" Soon house and farm animals are making full out music in a band. The bouncy, rhyming text is accompanied by watercolor and conte' pictures of the expressive creatures. Kids will enjoy making friendly noise along with your storytime reading.
In the lovely Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring The Earth To Life, Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm explain photosynthesis, and while the scientific facts are thoroughly covered, this is far from a dry, old school textbook treatment. The poetic viewpoint and lush illustrations convey the wonder of science and the natural world. The reader is directly addressed by the sun who makes this story about you, asking you to feel your heartbeat and warmth and know that it is the sun's light inside you. The interconnectedness of all living things is stressed as the sun's gift of energy circles from plants to humans and round again. Gorgeous illustrations using deep blue contrasting with tiny yellow dots to suggest sparkling sunlight and showing fertile vegetation, multicultural people and a wide variety of animal life jump off the page. Children will enjoy identifying all of the familiar creatures. More facts about photosynthesis follow the main story. Highly recommended.
Wiggle and Waggle by Caroline Arnold, illus. by Mary Peterson is an easy reader about two worm friends and the work that they do in their garden. My favorite part is their digging song: "We wiggle and waggle, squiggle and squirm. Digging in dirt is the life of a worm. We dig and we sing all day long, Our wiggly, waggly, gardening song."
The story is followed by information on how worms help plants grow and other worm facts. Color illustrations throughout.
The Big Fat Cow That Goes Kapow is by Andy Griffiths, author of The Day My Butt Went Psycho, and his early reader books have been described by School Library Journal like so: "Imagine the outcome if Dr. Seuss, Dav Pilkey, and Lane Smith were locked in a room until they came up with a book for beginning or reluctant readers." For me, this title will be an acquired taste, but that will hardly matter to kids who giggle over his tales of a rock-and-role mole, Ruth and her super-loud hooter horn and yes, an exploding cow or two.
For eight years, First Officer Julian Rodriguez of the Federation has been working undercover as a human boy on planet Earth. He has received deplorable treatment at the hands of his Maternal and Paternal Units, endured State Assessment Tests at his education center and suffered attacks by alien mercenaries Mamie and Doris. His only support comes from the canine Lieutenant Ripley. But the worst trauma comes when the Evilomami demands that Julian...gasp...take out the trash. What can a brave and charming galaxy-wide hero do?
Creative kids should be able to relate to Julian's daily tribulations and grand sacrifices. Everyone should get a chuckle from seeing the life of an eight year old through the eyes of a spaceman as imagined by the child. The pictures by author Alexander Stadler are lively and expressive, often done in cartoon panels which suit the zippy story. Stadler has also written and illustrated the Beverly Billingsly picture books.
The beautiful watercolor paintings in Bird, Butterfly, Eel, by James Prosek, immediately grab your attention. Lush spreads show the environment and habits of each individual. You are in butterfly's colorful meadow, eel's green-filled pond and bird's barn rafters, trailed by a little black cat. Once hooked, you will learn parallel migration stories of the title creatures, who live on the same farm. When autumn comes, each knows just where to go, even if their journeys are hundreds or thousands of miles. More detailed facts about Monarch Butterflies, Barn Swallows and American Eels follow the story.
Author and illustrator James Prosek sounds like a fascinating man. Apparently, by the time he was twenty, he had traveled through forty nine states painting all the North American trout species and subspecies (Trout: An Illustrated History) and also "...won a Peabody Award in 2003 for his documentary about traveling through England in the footsteps of Izaak Walton, the seventeenth-century author of The Compleat Angler" (Bird, Butterfly, Eel jacket copy). It's not that I am interested in fish specifically, but I admire anyone who follows their passion like this, and has the talent to get others to love their obsession too. Prosek's website is http://www.troutsite.com/.
In Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, second grader and middle child Alvin is afraid of many things, but at the top of his list is going on a camping trip with his dad and little sister. Luckily, he's found his dad's credit card, so he can shop for some protective camping supplies. He also has a powerful Batman ring. Plus, his talented Uncle Dennis (is he really a secret agent?) knows many survival skill tips, including how to start a fire with dryer lint or make a dangle trap to catch prey. So, with his feisty sister Anibelly, his well-meaning father and his new friend Beufeuillet the fourth, Alvin braves the great outdoors. Will he meet aliens? Starve to death? Maybe have a good time?
Just what I need, more things to be afraid of. But the animals in Steve Jenkin's Never Smile at a Monkey: And 17 Other Important Things to Remember are presented with such style that it's worth the sacrifice. ;)
Grandly illustrated with collages of cut and torn paper, each animal and their dangerous ways are described on one and two page spreads. You will learn why you need to be cautious of beasts like a hippo, a spitting cobra and an African buffalo, as well as more unassuming creatures such as a platypus, a Tang fish and ... a caterpillar? More detail about the animals, as well as further reading suggestions, are found at the end of the book.
On a personal note, the picture of the cassowary's head completely freaked me out. This ostrich-like bird has an armored head. It looks positively prehistoric, and as someone who had childhood nightmares of pterodactyls, this guy is frightening enough even without without its kicking talent.
In the unusual picture book, A Giraffe Goes to Paris by Mary Tavener Holmes and John Harris, illustrated by Jon Cannell, we learn the true story of Belle, a nineteenth century famous traveling giraffe. Belle, born in 1824, was an elegant gift from the pasha of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, to the king of France, Charles X. Belle's story is told by her loving caretaker, Atir. He answers our pressing questions: how does a giraffe, never before seen in France, get there from Egypt in 1826? What does she eat on her journey? What company does a single giraffe keep? Belle fascinated the people, who couldn't figure out what she was, and started a giraffe merchandising craze! I think that this is just a dear book, beautifully illustrated in watercolor and ink, with actual historical artifacts and art from Belle's heyday. A French pronunciation guide is included.