Elizabeth, Queen of the Seasby Lynne Cox (Author), Brian Floca (Illustrator)
Seal in town!
In the town of Christchurch, all the way in New Zealand, there was once an elephant seal. This seal loved to swim in the warm waters of the Avon River. She loved to swim in the rivers sweet, shallow waters. Which was quite unusual for a typical elephant seal!
And every now and then, this seal loved to haul her huge slippery body out of the water and drag herself out to the cool grassy banks. There she would stretch herself out and lady down for a nice nap. If she got too hot, she would dig up some wet dirt and toss them on her back.
Now to the folks in town, this gentle creature was big, regal, strong and powerful. Just like the Queen of England. And that’s how she got the name “Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas”.
One day, Elizabeth dragged herself too far onto the road. Little did she realize that the screeching of the brakes would send her flying off into the water pretty soon!
The people of Christchurch decided to send Elizabeth to a safer place.. one where she would belong with other elephant seals. So one day, when Elizabeth was in the river, a group of volunteers approached her in a motor boat. They looped a rope around her body and towed her far away, into the dark cold ocean. At last they reached a sandy beach where other elephant seals lived. There the crew set her free.
At first Elizabeth saw hundreds of seals around. They bellowed and roared, squished and belched. Finally, Elizabeth decided that maybe this was not quite the right place for her. Next day, the people of Christchurch found the friendly, familiar elephant seal back at her favorite spot on the Avon river.
This is a warm tale of a friendship between humans and animals. When we opened the book, we were completely enchanted by Floca’s warm watercolor drawings of the elephant seal. Cox’s writing is straight from the heart. Being a long distance swimmer, she narrates the story of Elizabeth’s long distance swim and what hardship she would have faced in getting back to the warm waters of the Avon river.
Finally, this is a true story. And here she is.. the real Elizabeth, Queen of the seas!
Stone Giantby Jane Sutcliffe (Author), John Shelley (Illustrator)
Michelangelo’s David and how he came to be!
The enormous block of marble or “giant” stood three times taller than the people of the city of Florence. It had been there for the last 40 years! It was worn out and weathered now. But it wasn’t always like that.
In the beginning, the “giant” was part of the big city plan. The people of Florence had wanted it to be the statue of David. They found that the city of Florence was like David in so many ways. Like David, the small city of Florence had fought against bigger, more powerful kingdoms to become a small proud republic.
But things didn’t really turn out as planned!
Now, Michelangelo knew about the giant. His friends from Florence wrote to him and urged him to do something about it. So Michelangelo came. Immediately, he got to work. He started to measure and inspect. He looked at the weathered and beaten piece of stone that everyone saw. But Michelangelo saw something else. He saw David – “his” David.
“Stone Giant” is a well written, beautifully illustrated book about how “David” came to be. As the story goes, Michelangelo worked over 3 years and chiseled the 18 foot statue until it was finished. Sutcliffe paints a fascinating historical narrative, easy to understand and follow for the youngest of readers.
John Shelley’s well detailed, pen-and-ink, watercolor illustrations add to the Renaissance flavor. And yes, the statue is depicted in its full nudity Sketches of Michelangelo sculpting the various pieces, the people watching in anticipation and the final statue reveal are sure to grab readers attention.
This is a wonderful picture book as an introduction to architecture and culture to every age group. A great book to add to your home library or school library.
Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books
Frank!by Connah Brecon (Author, Illustrator)
Late for school… Again!
Frank, a helpful bear, is ALWAYS late for school!
But this is really not his fault!! This happy young bear starts off for school on time. On the way, however, he finds a “reason” to stop. He tries to explain to his teacher his many “reasons”.. but somehow they always come out as excuses!
On the first day, Frank reached just as everyone was leaving from school! On the second day, he arrived soon after lunch. After all, he was helping the kitten stuck in a tree. On the third day, he reached right before lunch. He couldn’t turn down a challenge to a dance-off ! Frank really is trying to get to school on time, but can he manage to get there before the school bell rings?
“Frank!” is a delightful picture book from the Australian Author / Illustrator Connah Brecon. This funny narrative of a lovable bear who is chronically late to school is immediately relatable to kids and parents both! The various excuses or reasons the bear narrates are funny and charming. The tale ends with a surprise which leads you to believe that maybe there is truth in all those unusual stories!
Connah’s quirky artwork draws you in. The bright colorful artwork with dialogue talk bubbles are reminiscent of Mo Willems’ work.
Overall a nice fun read!
Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books
FTC DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of “Frank!” from the publishers for an honest opinion. I have NOT received any compensation for this review. All reviews and opinions are entirely my own!
From Mud Huts to Skyscrapersby Christine Paxmann (Author), Anne Ibelings (Illustrator)
Architecture for Children
Journey into the history of architecture. In “Mud Huts to Skyscrapers”, Author Christine Paxmann and Illustrator Anne Ibelings, give you an historical perspective on the evolution of architecture over time.
This gorgeous and enormous picture book opens with an introduction from author Christine Paxmann. Christine shares that there are buildings that every child is familiar with. Then there are structures that began as a style and became iconic in history. Other structures are more a reflection of the people who built them. No matter how you see them, these amazing structures and buildings are not just of historical significance but also a peek into culture.
What follows is a chronological introduction to architecture, from Egyptian pyramids to environment friendly Eco-architectural structures. A two full-page color spread opens with the first man made huts built around 400,000 years ago. Each double page spread focuses on a single building or structure. Detailed beautiful drawings of the buildings adorn the pages. A short narrative answers questions such us how long ago was it built and where is it on the map? Who built it and why? What purpose did these structures fulfill? Were these typical to a country or did others adopt these architectural capabilities?
At the bottom of each page are bullet points that cover interesting architectural facts of the structure. Here’s an example:
We fell in love with this book! “From Mud Huts to Skyscrapers” covers many iconic buildings such as the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal and the Sydney Opera House. In terms of styles, the book covers Baroque, Gothis, Art Deco and Bauhaus. Towards the end, the book introduces how architects are looking at futuristic designs and eco-architectures such as flood houses and vertical gardens. The end pages captures the entire architectural history with a brief summary on a timeline. A glossary explains words commonly used in understanding architecture.
This book is a keeper. A book to keep in your home library for kids of all ages and adults too!
Eye to Eye: How Animals See the Worldby Steve Jenkins (Author, Illustrator)
From Caldecott award winning Author-Illustrator, Steve Jenkins, comes this non-fiction picture book “Eye to Eye”. Steve Jenkins showcases some amazing animals with extraordinary eyes. Who knew the many amazing ways that different creatures actually “see” things!
This book is a quick primer on the evolution of eyes! In “Eye to Eye”, the author dives into the many unusual, surprising ways that animals visualize the world around them. This picture book opens with a quick introduction on how vision is critical to creatures no matter what habitat they adapt to. He mentions how animals differ in their vision from just telling dark from light to a sophisticated vision of seeing colors and depth (like humans).
The earliest eyes, according to the author, were the simplest cluster of light sensitive cells called as an eyespot. These didn’t form images but could detect light. A “Pinhole” eye is a small opening which can form detail images but don’t admit much light. So the images are not very clear. “Compound” eyes (think dragon-fly) are composed of hundreds of little eyes which capture lots of detail. And finally there are the camera eyes that employ a lens to focus light on the retina and allow to capture detail as well as depth!
Other than introducing the four types of eyes, Steve Jenkins talks about the biggest eye, moving eyes, extra eyes, independent eyes, 360 degree eyes, rainbow vision eyes and many more surprising and fascinating eyes! From jumping stick insects to buzzards, Jenkins highlights 24 amazing and diverse creatures with diverse ways to see.
Double page spreads with realistic cut-out colorful pictures surround small snippets of information. What we really liked are the brief notes in each page, just the right amount of information which does not get overwhelming but keeps it interesting at the same time.
At the end, the author includes an infographic about the evolution of eye, from a single eye spot to a complex sophisticated camera eye. This part was a great read for a scientific dive into the subject. A glossary of animal facts gives us a quick look at all the 24 animals/creatures covered in the book.
A masterfully done non-fiction picture book, “Eye to Eye”! DO NOT MISS!
Erandi’s Braidsby Antonio Hernandez Madrigal (Author), Tomie dePaola (Illustrator)
A Mexican Folktale!
In the hills of Mexico, in the village of Patzcuaro, lives a little girl called Erandi. Erandi is excited. Tomorrow is her birthday! Erandi dreams of a lovely yellow dress that she saw at Senora Andrea’s shop. She wants to wear it for the village fiesta. Mama is going to take her there tomorrow.
But she knows not to expect too much. Mama needs money for a new fishing net. Would Mama have enough to buy the new net and buy the dress? Erandi is not so sure.
A loudspeaker blares “Hair! Hair! We pay the best prices for your hair.” Erandi is curious and asks her Mama, “What is that about Mama?” Mama explains that the local barber pays good money for their hair. She tells Erandi that people come from the city to buy their hair. “Why do people want to buy our hair” asks Erandi. “They say it’s the longest and most beautiful hair. They use it to make wigs, eyelashes and fancy embroidery” Mama explains. The announcement gives Mama an idea..
Next day Mama takes Erandi to Senora Andrea’s shop. Right away Erandi spots the beautiful doll at the shop. Mama asks Erandi what she wants for her birthday. Erandi is in a fix. She really wants the doll but she knows she can’t have both the doll and her dress. So she points to the yellow dress instead.
As soon as they leave the shop, Mama announces to Erandi “Now we are going to the barber shop”. Erandi is surprised. She is crest-fallen thinking about the barber’s scissors on her hair. Will here Mama really sell her beautiful long braids?
This is a touching tale of love and sacrifice. The concept of selflessness is not new. However, Madrigal captures this wonderfully in this folktale from Mexico. In his author’s notes, Madrigal explains, that around 19950’s, the Tarascan women used to sell hair routinely for money. Tomie dePaola’s signature art brings life to this story. The earthy hues of browns and blues captures the culture of the superbly.
A strong story of values of love and sacrifice.
Togoby Robert J. Blake (Author, Illustrator)
A True Story!
Sled dogs are a group of dogs that are bred specifically for the purpose of pulling dog-sleds. In harsh arctic areas, the sled dogs are trained to pull sleds carrying invaluable supplies such as food, mail and medication. The sled dogs also enabled initial exploration when snow-mobiles were not yet invented.
Togo was a sled dog. His owner, Seppala, was looking for a pup who could lead his team of dogs in a sled-racing. Seppala never once believed that Togo, who was too independent, small and wild, would end up working and pulling harder than any other dogs and leading his dog team to victory! Race after race, Togo and his team snapped up the prizes. Seppala soon came to be known as the fastest man in North America.
One icy morning, a man came racing to Seppala’s door. “Diptheria” he announced. The deadly contagion was spreading fast and could wipe out the population of Nome. The antitoxin was available in Anchorage. A train from Anchorage would drop off the antitoxin at Nenana. And a dog team was standing by to bring the antitoxin from Nenana to Nulato. Could Seppala and his dog team travel the critical 300 miles to Nulato to fetch the serum?
Normally it took 30 days to make a run from Nenana to Nome. But Nome had less than 2 weeks before the disease took a nasty turn. Seppala got busy. He chose each dog carefully. He needed the fastest, the most trail-smart and obedient dogs. With Togo in the lead, the team left Nome.
“Togo” is the amazing story of a dog that lead his team 350 miles through severe ice storms, with temperatures often 40 below zero and with little time to rest. Blake mentions “He gave so much of himself that he was never able to race again.”
Author Robert Blake travelled to many of the villages that was part of Togo’s journey. In Alaska, Blake spend time researching both the nature of the dog as well his owner Seppala. In this picture book, Blake has captured the essence of the struggle that the team went through on this serum run. Beautiful double-spread impressionist style paintings capture the brutal weather and the hardship of this run. Urgency and desperation of the events are painted vividly as the text re-tells a story that could have been forgotten.
Under Author’s Note at the end of the tale, Blake describes how another dog Balto actually got the credit for the serum run. The dog-team led by Balto ran the last 53 miles to actually deliver the serum. Balto was celebrated and called a Hero. However, it was Togo who actually made that last leg even possible.
A strong story of a brave dog, Togo is a great read for children of all ages.
Gazpacho for Nachoby Tracey Kyle (Author), Carolina Farias (Illustrator)
A Spanish and English rhyme!
Cleverly written, this funny rhyming tale is about a little “muchacho” called Nacho who more than anything LOVED his soup called gazpacho. He has gazpacho for breakfast and gazpacho for lunch and gazpacho for dinner and for all his snacks! He loves his gazpacho so much that he wouldn’t think of any other foods! All he would ask was “Is there any gazpacho left, please?”
Like all moms, Nacho’s mami is tired and fed up of making gazpacho for Nacho. She dishes out some tasty foods, but all Nacho ever asks for is a bowl of gazpacho!
Now mami has an idea. One day she takes Nacho with her to the market. Nacho is excited because he can pick all his favorite vegetables to make his favorite meal. He is finally going to learn to cook his own gazpacho! But nacho discovers that there is more to his vegetables than just being used in a gazpacho!!
This is a wonderful way to introduce Spanish reading in your children’s vocabulary. The clever rhymes uses a broad range of interesting food words to rhyme with. For example,
Onions, potatoes, cebollas y papas;
Bamboo and spinach: bamboo, espinacas!
Carolina Farias does a fantastic job of adding humor and interest in this picture book with lively and colorful art work. The market scene with the over-sized vegetables is a visual treat. At the back of the book, is a helpful glossary with meaning of all the Spanish words used in the picture book. There is also a handy recipe “Yummy-in-the-tummy Gazpacho” for anyone curious about how its made!
Read this one for the fun Spanish English rhyme. Read it to a picky eater or one who needs to understand healthy food eating habits. Or just read it as a nice bed time rhyming story.