Archive for November, 2013

Thanksgiving at the Tappletons’ by Eileen Spinelli

Thanksgiving at the Tappletons'Some days it seems that everything just goes wrong. That is exactly what happened one Thanksgiving for the Tappleton family. Like many families, the Tappletons look forward to a special turkey dinner with all the trimmings that they enjoy sharing with other relatives.

Unfortunately, the meal preparation doesn’t go as planned. First thing in the morning the turkey slides out the back door and plops into the pond – so no turkey! Next, the bakery runs out of pies – so no dessert! The salad vegetables have all been taken and fed to the classroom rabbits and a blender mishap ends with the mashed potatoes splattered all over the kitchen. So no trimmings! Dinner is a disaster with a capital D!

What will the Tappletons serve their hungry relatives? It could it be they discover that Thanksgiving is a whole lot more than just the traditional foods we eat.

This humorous, yet heartwarming, book is sure to be a family favorite year after year.

Posted by: Wendy

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The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the SpotAre you looking for a rollicking adventure? If you are, the of COURSE you’re looking for a book about pirates. And wouldn’t it be better if the book were full of fun characters, subtle humor, and almost Lewis Caroll-esque absurdism? If you agree with me, this is the book you want.

Hilary has only ever wanted one thing: to be a pirate. But when she sends in her application to The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, not only do they reject her because she’s a girl, but they recommend her for Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies! The horror! Hilary won’t stand for that, and, with her trusty gargoyle at her side, she sets off to make her name working for a “freelance” pirate, who is looking for a treasure that he, rather frustratingly, won’t describe.

But what’s this? Hilary’s governess is after her? And what’s that? Her father, the Admiral of the royal navy, is hunting her down? And worst of all, even Miss Pimm is acting bizarre? Hilary has her work cut out for her in this delightful, semi-epistolary novel, where letters between ship and shore are faithfully delivered, gargoyles want hats, and magic can be located in table spoons.

Even better than the satisfying conclusion is the revelation that this is just the first book in a series. Avast, me hearties! Is that a second book on the horizon?

Posted by: Sarah

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Bye-Bye Baby Brother! by Sheena Dempsey

Bye-Bye Baby Brother!This is one of my older son’s favorite books right now. When we went to read it the other day, he said “Oh, I love that one!” It is good book to share with children with new siblings in the house. Unfortunately, they can relate to parents being busy with the new little one. In this story, Ruby finds ways to stay amused while mom is busy with the baby. Eventually, she gets tired of waiting and starts dreaming up ways to make her little brother disappear. Either by selling him at a yard sale or hiding him in the cabbages at the grocery store, she is determined to find a new home for him. Eventually, mom has time to play with Ruby and her new brother. Then Ruby decides that he is not so bad to have around after all. The sweet illustrations make the story even more enjoyable.

Posted by: Liz

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Xander’s Panda Party by Linda Sue Park

Xander's Panda PartyAs the holidays approach, young children are swept up by their parent’s party planning. Xander’s Panda Party is a perfect story to share about how important it is to be inclusive when creating guest lists and planning get togethers.

Xander begins by planning a Panda Party, but realizes he is the only panda at the Zoo and so he expands his guest list to include all bears including Black Bear, Brown Bear, Polar Bears and Koala Bears. But, when Xander delivers the invitation to Koala, Koala points out that he is not a bear, he is a marsupial. After some hard thinking and bamboo chewing, Xander decides to invite all mammals to the party. However, Rhinoceros says he will not attend without his bird. Xander eventually decides to invite everyone at the Zoo and a wonderful time is had by all.

In addition to containing wonderful lessons about inclusiveness, this story also is a thoughtful introduction to animal taxonomic classification with wonderful end notes about classifications and pandas. The author, Linda Sue Park, clearly researched carefully when creating this book. Park has a number of picture books, poems and novels for children, including the Newbery Award winner A Single Shard. Her meticulous research and impeccable prose have been carried to her newest offering. Xander’s Panda Party is told in delightful rhymes that will keep preschoolers hanging on every word. The illustrations are soft ink and watercolor and create adorable animals that children will love to look at. There are almost too many good reasons to read this picture book! Please do not miss it!

Posted by: Kelly

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Pi-Rat! by Maxine Lee

Pi-RatRight on the cover next to a skull and crossbones, this book asks “Who’s the most rascally rat to sail the seas?”  Of course the answer is none but Pi-Rat. 

Once you open the book you’ll know why.  Maxine Lee has created a graphic tour de force that should hook any 4 -6 year old boy worth his salt.  Bright colors, bold shapes and “fearsome” dialog—“There are no rules on my mighty ship—we do whatever we like!” speak volumes to little guys—and girls– who are testing the limits of hard fought independence from toddlerhood.

Starting right on the cover there’s a cutout that makes it look as though a larger than life Pi-Rat menacing a sword is crawling through a porthole and into the readers lap.  And what a Pi-Rat he is; half swash-buckling and half endearingly goofy as he explains to his “crew” and the reader that he’s not afraid of anything.  Crocodiles, sharks, even—gasp–the dark are just trivial nuisances to this gang of ruffians.

There’s only one thing that can cause these buccaneers to quake in their boots.  It’s big and bold and bossy.

If you can’t guess what powerful being it might be that can put real terror into the soul of Pi-Rat and his mutinous mob, sail right over to the picture book shelves and prepare to walk the plank to merriment.

Posted by: Eileen

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Lulu and the Duck in the Park by Hilary McKay

Lulu and the Duck in the ParkLulu is famous in her neighborhood for her love of animals. She cherishes her classroom’s weekly visit to the park, where she always says hello to a particular brown duck with one white wing. One spring day, after two unleashed dogs have wreaked havoc near the duck pond, Lulu notices one egg rolling across the grass. Lulu decides to take the egg with her back to class, where she can keep it safe. How will Lulu keep the egg safe? How will she keep it hidden? What if it starts to hatch in school?

This will make a great choice for readers who are new to chapter books – the pacing is brisk, the chapters are short, and there are many illustrations scattered throughout the book. Animal lovers will especially love this book, as they will relate to Lulu – an impulsive, bighearted, spirited lover and caretaker of animals. Readers will also come to know Lulu’s best friend and cousin, Mellie, and Mrs. Holiday, the strict teacher who (inexplicably!) does not like animals, but surprises Lulu and Mellie with her kindness. Look for Lulu’s other adventures in Lulu and the Dog by the Sea and Lulu and the Cat in the Bag.

Posted by: Parry

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Better to Wish (audiobook) by Ann M. Martin

Better to WishAs we kick off the holiday season, it feels like a good time for stories about families. Ann M. Martin’s new Family Tree series fits that bill nicely. Ultimately, this will be a four book series spanning four generations of one family. Book one, Better to Wish, opens the series with the story of Abigail (Abby) Nichols in Depression Era Maine. Each subsequent book will follow the lives of the oldest daughter of the main character from the previous book.

When we are first introduced to young Abby she is only eight years old and her family is struggling to make ends meet. Better to Wish follows the Nichols family as Abby’s family and her father’s business grow over the course of 14 years. Abby’s father (Pop) is not an easy man to live with. He is hot-tempered, overbearing, and intolerant. In contrast, however, Abby’s mother is extremely sensitive and caring, but she also struggles with bouts of depression. Over the years Abby experiences the highs and lows of growing up including the simple wonder of going to the carnival as a child, building and losing friendships, the arrival of new siblings, courtship, and the struggle for independence.

While the story alone is quite engaging, listening to the audio is a truly wonderful experience. Narrator Annalie Gernert does a fabulous job delineating characters. Not only does she clearly differentiate the voices of each character, but she also manages to create slight variations in the intonations of the younger characters to indicate that they are growing up. Gernert’s well-paced narration is rich with emotion and brings the story to life.

Better to Wish is both heartwarming and heartbreaking and would make for a wonderful book discussion for a parent and child book club for children in grades four and up, or just for families to share together. If you are taking a road trip this holiday season, consider bringing the audio of this book along to keep your family company on your way to Grandma’s house.

Posted by: Staci

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Ol’ Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein

Ol' Mama SquirrelIf you don’t know already, you will soon know not to mess with Ol’ Mama Squirrel. She is VERY protective and a little territorial, and she will do anything and scold anyone if they try to mess with her babies. She even scolds airplanes and kites and the man pruning the tree. She is the fiercest mother around when it comes to protecting her babies; and after taking care of the problem, she simply replies “And that takes care of that”. Well this almost always works . . .until a big grizzly bear climbs up her tree and Ol’ Mama Squirrel tells him what’s what and then pelts him with nuts, and he just laughs!

Momentarily, Mama has a twinge of fear, but then she gathers up her babies and calls out “Not on MY watch, buster!”. This bear has left Ol’ Mama no other choice but to call in reinforcements – she sounds the alarm in the park, at the tops of the trees, under the tracks. Then, just as the grizzly bear is sticking his nose into Grandpappy Squirrel’s nest hole, hundreds more mama squirrels come after the bear scolding and chasing and throwing old nuts. That is finally enough to send him running. All the townspeople are so grateful that they even put up a plaque in Ol’ Mama Squirrel’s honor. This is a wonderful read aloud and would be fun for kids 4 and up! The illustrations are just right too! Very fun!

Posted by: Mary

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