Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks. ~ Dr. Seuss







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Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World

Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World
by Steve Jenkins (Author, Illustrator)

“Eye Catching!!”

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!

Eye to Eye how many eyes

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.

Eye to Eye two way plus one

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! 

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books


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Erandi’s Braids

Erandi’s Braids
by 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.

Erandis Braids Mama

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.

Erandis Braids Yello Dress

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?

Erandis Braids Barber shop

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.

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books

 


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Togo

Togo
by 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?

Togo Bad News

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.”

Togo eyes and ears

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.

Togo handing over

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.

Find it here:  Library, Amazon, Better World Books


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Gazpacho for Nacho

Gazpacho for Nacho
by 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?”

Gazpacho for Nacho gazpacho only

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!!

Gazpacho for Nacho cooking

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. Smile

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books


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Flight School

Flight School
by Lita Judge (Author, Illustrator)

Reaching for the skies!

Little Penguin arrives at Flight School on a red motorboat. Immediately he declares “I was hatched to fly!” The teachers and students at the school for birds stare at him incredulously. “But you are a penguin”, exclaims the teacher. “Undeniably”, Little Penguin says, “I have the soul of an eagle!”

Flight School eager penguin

Teacher and Flamingo are skeptical. But they allow Little Penguin to join the classes at the Flight School and lessons begin right away!

Flight School disappointed

The students are eager and practice for weeks. Finally it is time for the little birds to “take off”! Will Little Penguin manage to launch himself into the sky? Will his body allow him to soar into the skies?

Flight school lets try again

“Flight School” is an adorable addition to the “Penguins can’t fly” theme of books. As you can tell, the lesson to learn for little ones is to never give up or more importantly try something different! Although, this theme has been done many times before, I still enjoyed reading this version of the cheery, never die attitude of the Little Penguin. One has to love the expressions of joy, disappointment and excitement of the red-goggled Little Penguin. I also like that the author kept this one light-hearted and fun without the usual heavy loading of morals or lessons.

Overall, a cute book, enjoyed reading it as light reading and bright colorful illustrations!

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books


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Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert

Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert
by Cindy Neuschwander (Author), Wayne Geehan (Illustrator)

A Mathematical Adventure

The town’s Annual Harvest Faire is around the corner and the royal cooks have fallen ill! Lady Di and Sir Cumference need to find someone post haste to bake the Faire’s dessert. So the two decide to host and judge a sweet contest for the faire.

Luckily they find two eager bakers in town who love to bake up a storm! Pia of Chartres and Bart Graf decide to bake their best treats for the two judges. Pia decides to bake her best quince pie and Bart bakes some yummy cream cookies. In fact, they both do such a great job, Lady Di and Sir Cumference can not decide which one to choose!

So they decide to have another contest! One where the two will cook their top 4 treats as samples and invite the townsfolk to vote for the best.

That evening the two cooks are busy in their kitchens. Soon the delicious aromas attract the townsfolk in front of their shops. People gather to taste the treats and the two bakers try to keep a count of which treats get the most vote. But soon enough there were too many votes to keep track of! Both Pia and Bart are disappointed and decide to extend the contest for one more day!

For the next day’s contest, Pia comes up with a clever way to keep track of her votes.

Sir Cumference and the off the chart dessert Pias idea

And so does Bart.

Sir Cumference and the off the cart deserts Barts technique

But alas there were some mishaps in their best laid plans! Both Pia and Bart find that their scores dusted and flicked away and are back to where they started! 

So the next day the bakers host another contest and come up with a great way to count votes! Pia and Bart present their final votes to Lady Di and Sir Cumference. Who got the most votes? Read this book to find out more! 

Sir Cumference and the off the chart dessert Pias Pie

Sir Cumference and the off the chart dessert Bart's final graph

This is a great math adventure to introduce the graphing concept. The word play used in this book is delightful. But what’s most attractive about this book is the subject matter of desserts, which makes this book an interesting read.

This book was our first one in the series of Sir Cumference books. We loved the idea of reading math books hidden in a story. Looking forward to the rest!

Sir Cumference and the off the cart deserts Series

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books


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Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine

Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine
by Gloria Whelan (Author), Nancy Carpenter (Illustrator)

A Seussian, Victorian,  Whimsical tale

When the summer sun shines bright and hot, everyone longs for a nice cool dip in the sea. So does Queen Victoria!  It’s a hot summer’s day. Queen Victoria is gazing out to sea and the sea looks oh so very cool! Secretly Queen Victoria wishes that she could get rid of her itchy petticoats and tight corsets and go for a nice dip in the deep blue sea.

Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine Wishes

However, her lady-in-waiting almost faints thinking of the prospect of “The Queen” in a bathing suit!! How improper! What a disgrace! How could she possibly get to the water from the beach without showing “more” of herself??

Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine Maid

The queen sighed a sigh. “I’ll give up the notion.

I’ll never be allowed to enter the ocean.

For how can I swim if I wear all my clothes,

My petticoats and dresses, my shoes and my hose?

But luckily, Prince Albert has a solution. He decides to come to her rescue and solve her little problem. So he employs his genius and intellect and devices a plan! A plan to build his beloved queen, a Bathing Machine! 

At first, his experiments don’t work. But soon enough Prince Albert has a perfect plan! Immediately, Albert gets busy. His demands get everyone running around for things. Wood from a tree, stones to be hauled, wheels to be made and oh yes, a mason! Finally Albert’s “Bathing Machine” was ready for his beloved Queen Victoria!

In this charming and silly “almost true-to-life” story, Whelan tells an amusing tale of the royals and their little dilemma. In this freestyle rhyme, Whelan’s story celebrates the affectionate couple and their love for each other. Nancy Carpenter’s pen and water color art adds to the humor and charm of the tale. Clearly our favorite part was the illustration which shows the joyful Queen Victoria shedding her layers of clothes and taking a dive into the ocean!

The Author’s note section gives us a quick history lesson and a nice photograph of the “real” Queen Victoria’s bathing machine which is today on display at the Isle of Wright, England.

English Heritage Prepare Queen Victoria's Private Beach At Osborne House To Open To The Public

Whimsical and creative, a wonderful piece of historical fiction at its best!

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books


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Goodnight Songs

Goodnight Songs
by Margaret Wise Brown (Author), Various Award Winning Illustrators

 Lost and found!

Editor Amy Gary was on a mission to find the lost or unpublished manuscripts of Margaret Wise Brown’s works. So when she visited Ms Brown’s sister a while back, she was delighted to find a treasure of work left in a trunk. What Ms. Gary discovered was a collection of poems and songs that Ms Brown was working on in her last few days. A collection of these are now printed and published as “Goodnight Songs”. Thankfully the book comes with a CD of songs to enjoy and not just at bedtime!

This delightful collection of songs and poems for children come beautifully illustrated by 12 award winning artists.  Jonathan Bean’s black and white ink drawings, softly colored in hues of soft greens and winter whites and grays are perfect for the song “The Mouse’s Prayer” . Philippine Children’s National Book award winner Isabel Roxas illustrates the song “Sleep like a Rabbit”. Her impression of the poem will make you lie down right away and spread out for a quite night’s sleep.

Goodnight Songs Jonathan Bean

Goodnight Songs Sleep like Rabbit

And who can forget the soft sweet illustrations from Renta Liwska’s The Quiet Book and The Loud Book? Renta’s little bear floating on a cloud art makes me seek out my own little cloud on which to rest and float away in dreamland Smile

Goodnight Songs Noon Balloon

The soft gentle rhythm and poem/songs in these book are gentle and sweet to listen to. When asked, Ms Brown sister said that Ms Brown really wanted to write songs for kids. She noticed how children made up songs just about anytime and anywhere. Ms Brown wanted to capture that spirit in her songs just as she did in her stories.

An excerpt:

The Noon Balloon:

The Noon Balloon
Wlil be leaving soon
For the sun or the moon.
And wherever it goes,
It will get there too soon.
 
Aboard was a bear
And a crazy baboon
In the Noon Balloon.
And a monkey, a troll,
And a tiny little mole
One a trip to the moon.

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books


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