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.
Flight Schoolby 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!”
Teacher and Flamingo are skeptical. But they allow Little Penguin to join the classes at the Flight School and lessons begin right away!
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” 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!
Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessertby 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.
And so does Bart.
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!
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!
Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machineby 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.
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??
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.
Whimsical and creative, a wonderful piece of historical fiction at its best!
Goodnight Songsby 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.
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
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.
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.
What The Witch Leftby Ruth Chew (Author, Illsutrator)
“A Matter-Of-Fact Magic Book”
What would you do if you found “magical” things in the bottom drawer of your dresser?
Louise and Katie find the bottom drawer locked. Katie explains that Aunt Martha had to leave some of her things in the drawer before she had to go away. Curiosity gets the best of the girls and they seek out the key. What they find inside will take them on an adventure!
At first, the things they find (a pair of gloves, a bathrobe, a pair of boots, a mirror and an old dented metal box ) seem quite ordinary. The two girls have no idea that each of these objects have a magical quality about it.
Katie tries on the gloves first. They fit perfectly! Not only that, it feels as if she isn’t wearing the gloves at all. Before she gets a chance to take them off, her piano teacher arrives and she has to sit down for her lessons. Then it happens! As she starts to play, she finds her fingers easily flying over the keyboard. Her music is not just better, it’s impressive. Even the piano teacher is very surprised. After the session, she takes them off and puts them away. She then tries to play the piano. What do you know? Her musical abilities are back to where they were before! Louise wants to try them next. So she puts them on and takes her chalk to draw on the sidewalk. Lo Behold! Her drawings are indeed marvelous!
One by one, the girls figure out the magical qualities of the rest of the items. You have to read the book to find out what happens next
I first “discovered” Ruth Chew’s book and series at Randomly Reading. Alex’s review convinced me this would be a great chapter book to either read aloud or read on your own for 6+ year old’s. And I was not disappointed!
Ruth Chew’s books are super simple to read. The language is natural and conversations are fun. This magical adventure is not scary at all. The situations in her stories are every day events. This mix of every day happenings with a bit of magic makes it fun to read. We found ourselves wanting to turn to the next chapter and then the next and the next..
Now we can’t wait to get the next one to read. Fortunately, there is a series of fantasy chapter books by Ruth Chew. Hope you get to give this one a read!
The Magic Nesting Dollby Jacqueline K. Ogburn (Author), Laurel Long (Illustrator)
A Magical Matryoshka
One day Katya’s grandmother takes out a little Matryoshka, a magic nesting doll, and gives it to Katya. She warns Katya to only “open” the doll when she is in trouble. The dolls can be opened only three times and after that the “magic will be gone!”
Katya’s grandmother passes away and Katya sets out into the world on her known. She arrives at a city where “it’s always winter and it never thaws, the night is without a moon and a dark without dawn”. Also, the handsome young price Tsarvitch who has been turned to living ice! Katya is so intrigued by the Ice Prince that she decides to go take a look at him at his palace.
Katya decides to climb a tree to take a peek. She gets a glimpse of the frozen prince and her heart fills with pity. But the evil Grand Vizier catches her and asks the guards to put her in the dungeon. Poor Katya is trapped in the dark tiny cell and longs to get out. She remembers the Matryoshka dolls and decides to open one of her magic nesting dolls. As soon as the top half of the doll come out, a sleepy bear steps out.
The magical bear asks Katya what her wish was. Katya says “I swore to break this spell, and I would like to get out of this dungeon”. The bear immediately asks Katya to jump on his back and he tears out of the cell and dungeon. The bear then gives a great roar and immediately the cold wind changes and warm winds blow and thaw out the trees. The bear then takes Katya to see the Trasvitch.
The bear takes Katya to the Tsarvitch’s room and disappears, but the spell has not broken. The prince is still in deep slumber although he is less icy than before. When Katya sees his handsome face, her heart fills up with emotion that is more than pity. But once again the evil Grand Vizier catches Katya and this time puts her in a deep ravine. Katya then finds herself opening the second Matroshka doll.
Will Katya finally break the spell? Will the magical Matryoshka dolls work their way into putting an end to town’s spell? Will there be a happy ending for Katya and her prince?
This charming Russian fairy/folk tale will keep you wanting to read more. The story telling is easy to read and read aloud. But it is beautiful art in this book that makes it an amazing book to read. You will find illustrations that art detailed and and rich in purple, blue and red hues. Full page oil paintings of the inside of palace, the beautiful countryside and the incredible detail work on each page makes this book very special.
A wonderful folk tale with brilliant art work!