The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc

The Lion and the BirdAs lion is working in his garden on autumn day he notices a little injured bird and decides to help the little creature. For the duration of autumn and all through winter, the lion cares for the bird. He tends to the bird’s injury and shares his home, food and even his hat throughout the cold winter months. As spring returns, so does the birds flock. The lion sadly, but stoically, bids his new friend farewell and spends the rest of the spring, summer and early autumn quietly tending to his home and garden alone. The autumn winds bring colder weather and the faintest hope that perhaps the bird will return to spend time with the lion and, much to the lion’s delight, the bird does return to his friend.

This gentle story of friendship and kindness is impeccably composed by author and illustrator Marianne Dubuc. Minimal text provides for numerous opportunities to engage little ones with questions about emotions, seasons, and predictions of what is to come. Dubuc’s soft, endearing illustrations not only compliment the text, but also further the story seamlessly. Additionally, the clever use of blank pages quietly denotes the passage of time and accentuates the spot on pacing of the story. One particularly outstanding instance of storytelling occurs when the lion is hoping for a return visit from his feathered friend. An initially crestfallen lion is followed by two blank pages. Then a single music note then appears to fly into the page, signifying the bird’s homecoming, and is followed by a wordless two page spread illustrating the reunion. It is pure happiness!

This charming and gentle book would be a lovely bedtime story to share with young children ages two and up.

Posted by: Staci

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Get Real! A Non-Fiction Video Book Review

This month, Kelly shares Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth, a fascinating, picture book-length history of both Puerto Rico, and the parrots that live there.

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The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanne Rocklin

The Five Lives of Our Cat ZookYou probably have deduced from the title that this book has a pet with questionable health and are ready to move on to the next review because you don’t like sad stories about animals…but please don’t! This is a certainly a story that features a very sick cat, but also manages to be a feel good story, a slice of Oakland, CA urban life, a sweeping fairy tale, a love story, and realistic tale about a 10-year-old girl navigating her world.

Oona Armstrong is that 10 year-old girl and her life is a complicated one. Her father passed away after a long battle with cancer, her 5 year-old brother Freddy just recently started talking and eating again after the loss of their father, and her cat, Zook (short for Zucchini) is very old and very sick, and her mother has a new boyfriend named Dylan, but Oona refers to him only has “The Villian.”

Oona copes by telling whoppers; so many whoppers that she has a color coding system for all of the different types of whoppers she tells. The best whoppers are the stories she creates for Freddy. Fairy tales that are crafted from memories their father told her that help explain the world to a 5 year-old, including the four lives prior to the one that their cat Zook is currently living.

Oona’s whoppers get her into some trouble, but they also make her and Freddy’s life much more bearable and the beauty of this book is watching how those whoppers eventually help her family move on from very tough times. We have to experience some sorrow to find joy and this book is a perfect example of that.

Posted by: Kelly

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A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say: Finding the Words to Fit Any Situation By Patti Kelley Criswell

A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say: Finding the Words to Fit Any SituationKnowing what to say in any given situation can be tough. You may be in a difficult situation and need to speak with care so as to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. You may be dealing with a bully and you need to stand up for yourself. You may need to respectfully negotiate a compromise with a friend or parent. And sometimes you hurt someone and need to apologize. A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say covers all types of situations and offers real-life examples of healthy ways to express what you mean effectively and with respect for yourself and others. This is a great book for girls to explore on their own or with their parents or friends. It would make a great starting point for discussion or a guide to role playing between daughters and their parents, so as to practice handling different situations. The information in this book is well organized and the design is colorful and appealing. It is part of the American Girl series, which many girls may already be familiar with. The book was made for girls, but it is sound advice for boys as well!

A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say was first recommended to me by the organization A Mighty Girl – check out their website or follow them on Facebook for great book, toy, and movie recommendations for girls, as well as interesting information about women throughout history.

Posted by: Parry

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The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

The Invisible BoyEveryone knows a child or has been the child that doesn’t get noticed in school for one reason or another. This book perfectly illustrates the world of a child who feels invisible. The teacher is so busy dealing with the boy with the “volume control” or the girl who complains and whines too much that she too doesn’t really notice Brian. He doesn’t get chosen for teams at recess and doesn’t get invited to parties, and sadly the other kids don’t stop to notice that their actions may be hurtful to Brian. No one seems to notice all the good things about Brian – that he is a wonderful artist – that he has a great imagination – that he can write exciting stories . . . Then one morning a new boy arrives in class, and Brian shows him a little kindness when the kids tease the new boy about the strange food he is eating for lunch. When the new boy Justin finds Brian’s note telling him that he thought his lunch looked good, Justin thanks him, and the two become fast friends. AND once Justin takes a chance on Brian, other friends follow, and pretty soon Brian doesn’t feel so invisible. Thanks to Miss Judy for pointing out this beautiful story to me. It is a must read!

Posted by: Mary

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A Pet for Fly Guy by Ted Arnold

A Pet for Fly GuyWith the summer reading club in full swing, I have books about pets and animals on my mind. The latest Fly Guy book was the perfect summer find. We have always enjoyed the other easy readers from this series in our house. And now, Fly Guy is making his picture book debut. In this latest story, Fly Guy is disappointed to discover that almost everyone has a pet except him. His owner and best buddy, Buzz, take him to the pet store to find a suitable pet. Unfortunately, none of the animals are quite right. Especially the frog that tries to eat him! It turns out that his buddy Buzz makes the perfect pet. Buzz accepts the offer to be his pet as long as Fly Guy doesn’t feed him. This is a cute story with a fun ending, and even has a nice introduction to the basics of pet care thrown in.

Posted by: Liz

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Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not ReadingCharlie Joe Jackson is in middle school and he has never read an entire book cover to cover. In fact he does everything he can to avoid reading. Luckily, Charlie Joe’s friend Timmy has been a huge help to his non-reading habits. For the past two years, Charlie Joe buys Timmy an ice cream sandwich and in exchange Timmy explains what happens in the books they are required to read for school. This agreement is perfect for Charlie Joe, until Timmy decides he is no longer happy with their arrangement. To make matters worse, he has a huge position paper due at the end of the school year that involves a lot of research. A lot of research means reading a lot of books. Charlie Joe comes up with a creative scheme to keep his perfect record of non-reading. However, he knows this scheme could get him into a big trouble while also pushing away the girl he has had a crush on since kindergarten.

Tommy Greenwald has written a humorous story about a child who simply does not enjoy reading. I am someone who loves to read so this title immediately caught my attention. Charlie Joe is a likeable character who will appeal to many children. Throughout the book Greenwald includes twenty-five of Charlie Joe’s non-reading tips, though at times Charlie Joe doesn’t follow his own instructions. Comical illustrations are woven throughout the book to further enhance the story’s appeal. This book would be a great choice for any middle school child who is a reluctant reader. If you enjoy this book, you can read more about Charlie Joe’s antics in Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit and Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Summer Vacation.

Posted by: Katie

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