Waking Brain Cells
Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping by Melanie Watt
Scaredy Squirrel is back! This time he wants to stay far away from camping outside, much happier to watch a TV show ABOUT camping. Unfortunately though, he needs to plug his TV in for it to work. So he has to find an electrical outlet which means heading outside and into the campground. As always, Scaredy plans his trip carefully. He lists what he is scared of, packs important survival supplies, picks out a wilderness outfit to keep himself safe from things like nasty odors and bugs, and has a map of his mission timed to the minute. But things do not go as planned, showing Scaredy that sometimes it’s not about the plan itself but the journey on which it takes you.
Watt has a wonderful comedic timing that she displays in all of her Scaredy Squirrel and Chester books. It is all about those moments of hesitation that make the humor all the more funny. Scaredy is a great character with his obsessive planning and worrying. Many children will see themselves in Scaredy and also be able to see the humor as well. As always, the illustrations are clear, clean and add to the fun.
Another great book in a strong series, this one is perfectly timed for spring and summer camp outs. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books Tagged: camping, courage, planning, squirrels, worrying
It’s Monday, Mrs. Jolly Bones! by Warren Hanson, illustrated by Tricia Tusa
Mrs. Jolly Bones has specific tasks that she does each day of the week, but you will be surprised at how she works! Monday is laundry day. She starts normally enough with sorting the clothes, washing them, drying them, ironing them. But then she flings them out the window and decorates the street! On Tuesday it is gardening day and that one ends in a similar way. Wednesday is cleaning day and my she works hard. It all looks so normal until you find out where Mrs. Jolly Bones takes her bath. The week continues on in this silly fashion with shopping on Thursday, baking day on Friday, friends over on Saturday, and resting on Sunday. They are all done in surprising and striking fashion.
Hanson has written a rhyming story that has just enough of a lilt and a rhythm to add to the silliness of the entire book. This is a wild frolic of a book that needs that gentle sway and not more. The humor is entirely over the top, much to my great joy. Hanson takes jokes all the way, ending up with surprises and humor that will have children howling. It is the type of book that simply must be shared.
Tusa’s illustrations have her signature style to them, resulting in a book where the humor is spot on and the pictures have a cheery, bright quality all their own. They are done in subdued colors with primarily white backgrounds, making the action pop.
A kindred spirit to Amelia Bedelia, this humor doesn’t rely on wordplay so Mrs. Jolly Bones makes a great early friend for silly kids. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books Tagged: chores, housekeeping, humor
Perfectly Percy by Paul Schmid
Percy is a porcupine and one of his favorite things of all are balloons! But it’s hard when you are a prickly porcupine, balloons don’t last long at all. So Percy decides to figure out how he can solve the problem with balloons. He thinks and thinks, but no good ideas come to him. He tries hanging upside down, riding his tricycle, but nothing. It’s not until he’s having breakfast that suddenly he has an amazing, incredible idea!
Schmid’s story is quite simple, focused on one little porcupine’s problem with balloons and how he solves it. I appreciate a picture book that gives so many pages over to coming up with a solution and just thinking and thinking. It makes for a thoughtful and quiet book. Best of all, Percy comes up with the solution all on his own with no adult help.
The illustrations here have a wonderful feel to them. Done in simple lines with pastel backgrounds, Percy shines. Throughout the book has a cheery feel, one never doubts that Percy will find a solution to his problem. Once that solution is found, the cheer turns to sheer joy and delight. That is one merry porcupine.
Thoughtful and empowering, this book stays jolly as well. Percy would be a perfect addition to story times. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Harper Collins.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books Tagged: balloons, porcupines, problem solving
Windblown by Édouard Manceau
Scraps of paper blow across the page, first one then several appear. But what are they and whose are they? First the chicken insists they are his since he found them. Then the fish says that he cut them from the paper. Then the bird, the snail and the frog explain that they are theirs as well. Each animal fits them to their body to demonstrate why they belong to them. Then the wind itself speaks about blowing the pieces around and offers them to the reader, “What will you do?”
Superbly simple and entirely engaging, readers will be playing along with the book before they even open the pages. Manceau has cleverly selected shapes that fit together in many different ways. He demonstrates this over and over again, then turns it all over to the reader to continue.
This is also a book that would make a great art project for little ones. Share the book, then give each child the pieces shown in the story to make their own picture. An ideal way to end a creative story time. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books Tagged: art, creativity, shapes, wind
I’m usually really bad at remembering anniversaries, so I am probably unduly proud to have managed to recognize this milestone. This, my friends, is my 5000th post on this blog. To take a look back, I searched around on The Wayback Machine and found my very first post on August 5, 2003. Yeah, that’s not the date I’d been celebrating as my anniversary. Told you I was bad at this sort of thing.
Strangely, I have memories of reading that Jerry Seinfeld book to that class. It was a blast.
At that time, I was posting via Greymatter, one of the earlier blog platforms.
I moved to a hosted WordPress blog, hosted and maintained by my library system at the time in 2005. It looked something like this. Throughout these early years, my focus was more on news and resources than book reviews though in 2005, I was starting to review books each week:
If you can believe it, they were even shorter than the ones I post now. Yet I know they took much longer for me to write. After posting 5000 posts, you get a system and rhythm down!
In 2010, I changed the name of my blog to Waking Brain Cells, since I was moving away from my hosting library system and into a new job and library. In my new job, I am still welcome to work on my blog, and I donate the books from publishers that I receive to my library. It’s a small way for me to thank them for the support they offer.
So thank you everyone, for those of you who have been reading for awhile to those who have just joined in. This blog has been a way for me to connect in so many ways. It is a way for me to connect to my love of books for children and teens, a way for me to contribute to the public libraries I am so passionate about, a way for me to work on my writing (yes, I cringed to put up those earlier posts), and a way for me to connect with all of you: readers, librarians, teachers, publishers and authors. This blog has brought me so much more than I ever anticipated when I started it almost a decade ago.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Filed under: Uncategorized
The winners for the 2012 Nebula Awards have been announced by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. One of the awards given is the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. The 2012 winner is:
Fair Coin by E.C. Myers
Other nominees for the award were:
Above by Leah Bobet
Above World by Jenn Reese
Black Heart by Holly Black
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
Every Day by David Levithan
Iron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
Filed under: Awards
What Will Hatch? by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Susie Ghahremani
This simple little book builds tension through the use of a guessing game and the wonder of waiting for an egg to hatch. On one page, the habitat and a little description of the eggs are given, with the question of “What will hatch?” Take a guess, turn the page and find out the answer. There are lots of surprises along the way. The clever use of die cuts in the pages that peek through in egg-shaped holes adds to the fun.
Eight different animals are shown here with basic information. Nicely, there is more information at the end on each of the animals as well as information on chicken egg development. Ward’s text is particularly simple, just a few phrases with a skip of repetition. It is the illustrations here that really make the book. Done in gouache on wood, the images have a lovely texture to them that combines beautifully with the swirling nature of the art. The texture also reinforces the natural subject matter in a subtle way.
A great pick for toddlers, this book will keep them guessing as the pages turn. Expect to have to share it again and again. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Picture Books Tagged: animals, eggs, nature
The shortlist for the Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award has been announced. The award is jointly funded by Frances Lincoln and Seven Stories – National Centre for Children’s Books. The award recognizes the best of diversity in children’s books, specifically books for 8-12 year olds that contribute to social and cultural tolerance.
Here are the books on the shortlist:
One of a Kind by Jude (Najoud) Ensaff
Samosa Girl by Swapna Haddow
You’re Not Proper by Tariq Mehmood
Filed under: Awards
The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
Lucy Beck-Moreau was considered one of the top concert pianists. Now at age 16, she has abruptly left the concert circuit and doesn’t play the piano at all. Instead she is attending school just like any other teenager, doing homework, and listening to her younger brother Gus practice his piano pieces. When Gus’ aging piano teacher dies, she is replaced by Will, a young teacher who was once himself a child pianist and recommends plenty of time away from the piano for Gus, including once forbidden video games and TV. As Will balances out Gus’ life, Lucy is drawn to him. Will is older and sophisticated and interested in Lucy herself as both a pianist and a person. This is the story of Lucy’s triumph over grief and loss and her struggle to play music on her own terms and for her own reasons.
Zarr has beautifully captured a family of wealth and talent without lingering overlong on those details. It is Lucy who is the center of the novel, which is told in third person but specifically from Lucy’s view. This gives the book a necessary distance so that readers can view Lucy from a small space and recognize the mistakes that she is making and repeating. Lucy is a wonder of a flawed protagonist, filled with talent yet drawn into destructive situations of her own making, one feels an affinity to her and yet pushed away as well.
It is this strength of the central character that lifts this novel above others covering similar subjects. The writing here is strong and clear, and the story flows with a natural feel that allows Lucy to veer dangerously close to disasters that make the reading that much more exciting. Along the way, a dysfunctional family is on display, showing readers how Lucy came to be the way that she is, and also showing hope for what is possible.
A true mix of hope, music and tenacity, this book is beautifully composed and harmonious with lingering crescendos. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from library copy.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Teen Tagged: families, music, pianists, self esteem
Send a Question or Comment to Appleton Public Library.