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Skullbania is Not a City in New Jersey

Fangbone! Third-grade BarbarianFangbone! Third-grade Barbarian: The Egg of MiseryEastwood Elementary has a new third grade student, a young warrior who hails from the faraway land of Skullbania. Clad in raggedy homemade boots, a cape, horned helmet and what the other students interpret as “fur underwear,” Fangbone tumbles though a portal into a garbage dump on the hillside overlooking the school. He’s been entrusted with protecting the big toe of Drool, which will keep evil from his land. But strange new challenges (like the concept of toilets) lie ahead for Fangbone! Third-Grade Barbarian, the engaging hero of Michael Rex’s silly new graphic novel series for elementary school readers.

 

The first book introduces Fangbone as he attempts to assimilate into class 3G. Soon he’s made a new best friend, Bill, while gathering the whole class as his army of minions. His clueless principal thinks it’s all an exercise in appreciating other cultures. Soon Fangbone leads the losing 3G Extreme Attack Unicorns through a victory in the beanball games, and his classmates come through for him when evil strikes from his homeland. Rendered in simple comic book style line drawings, Fangbone! holds special appeal for young boys who appreciate an abundance of goofy, mildly gross humor and plenty of battle action.  

 

The adventures continue in Fangbone! Third-Grade Barbarian: The Egg of Misery, as a strange oversized egg appears, sent from Skullbania by the warrior’s clan. The class works hard to hatch this bizarre, spotted egg, believing it contains a baby dragon. Meanwhile, they must all work together to present their assigned animal, the dodo, for the third grade’s Extinction Pageant. Craziness and danger ensue, as Fangbone wields his sword against Skullbanian evil and the trials of a group project.

 

Known for his popular parodies of classic children’s picture books such as Goodnight Goon and Furious George Goes Bananas, Michael Rex has found a new niche in graphic novels. Young fans of Dav Pilkey’s Ricky Ricotta and Captain Underpants series will quickly devour these adventures. Look for a third Fangbone! title, The Birthday Party of Dread, to debut in August.

Paula G.

 
 

The Pigeon is BACK!

The Pigeon is BACK!

posted by:
May 9, 2012 - 1:11am

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?Mo Willems delivers his first Pigeon book in four years with The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?, and it’s worth the wait.  When the Duckling asks politely for a cookie and gets one, the Pigeon is SHOCKED! True to form, Pigeon falls into a major tantrum and lists all of the things that have been unfairly denied him: driving the bus, hot-dog parties, a walrus, one more story, and even his own iceberg. The Pigeon's rant is quickly terminated when the Duckling generously offers him the treat.  (In a funny twist, by book’s end, the Duckling’s motives will be revealed to be less than pure.)  As Pigeon moves from apoplectic to apologetic, he is almost speechless.   

 

Simple text within balloons and animated illustrations highlight the story and mark Willems’ popular brand of storytelling. This is a fun read-aloud and an excellent way to introduce topics of manners and politeness. While the Pigeon may not get the point, young readers and listeners will. This is a fabulous and funny addition to the Pigeon stories. The legion of Pigeon fans will be delighted and new fans will be looking to catch up on all of the Pigeon’s previous antics. Be sure to have plenty of cookies on hand for this treat!

 

Willems maintains an active online presence, and www.pigeonpresents.com is a treasure trove for kids and grown-ups with games, teacher’s guides, and event planning ideas.  Also available for ipad and iphone is Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App. It allows children and adults to participate even more in the Pigeon’s stories, and includes an interactive Mad Lib and a Draw with Mo feature. And the Pigeon tweets!  Become a follower on Twitter @The_Pigeon.

Maureen

 
 

The Wild Rumpus Falls Silent

Where the Wild Things AreLittle Bear AudioBumble-ArdyMaurice Sendak, beloved children’s book author and illustrator, died Tuesday as the result of complications from a recent stroke. A prolific creator of picture books that have become part of the American psyche, Sendak is perhaps most widely remembered for his groundbreaking classic, Where the Wild Things Are, which delved into the imagination of young Max, escaping from punishment in his room to a land populated by monsters who welcome chaos. Sendak was awarded the Caldecott medal in 1964 for this groundbreaking book.

 

His career began as an illustrator of others' work, most notably the Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik. Sendak’s carefully detailed, expressive animal characters are an integral part of the success of those titles, beginning with the original Little Bear in 1957. Still popular with children today, Sendak’s illustrations were brought to life as an animated series.

 

Sendak’s most recent picture book, Bumble-Ardy, was the first both written and illustrated by him since 1981. Bumble-Ardy began life as an original "Sesame Street" animated segment, also by Sendak, centering around a nine year-old pig who had never been given a birthday party. According to the storyteller of the book, “Bumble-Ardy had no party when he turned one (his immediate family frowned on fun).” He decides to make up for this grievous neglect by throwing his own raucous event (which quickly gets out of hand) at his aunt’s house while she’s away. Like most of Sendak’s work, this acknowledges a dark side to childhood.

 

Visit a Baltimore County Public Library branch to explore more of this beloved author’s body of work.

Paula G.

 
 

The Darkest Dark

A Black Hole is Not a HoleMost people consider the science of the sun, moon, planets, stars and the surrounding universe interesting, but often overwhelming. A Black Hole Is NOT a Hole, written especially for middle graders, turns out to be an excellent introduction to deep space concepts for people of all ages.

 

Big scientific concepts such as matter, mind-boggling distance (light-years!), and perhaps the biggest of them all, gravity, are given ample, clear explanations. The existence of black holes has been difficult to prove since their discovery, and what could become too much astrophysics is distilled as simply as possible. That Einstein never fully accepted the concept of black holes in his lifetime shows how far science has come in recent decades. Artist depictions and telescopic images fill the book with pictures that do their best to make the unimaginable come to life. Facts are engaging and well-explained. For example, the outer limit of a black hole is called the Event Horizon; from this point, no matter can escape the pull within. And our own galaxy has black holes, the largest of which makes up the center of the Milky Way, found in the constellation Sagittarius!

 

An extremely useful glossary and websites to further explore round out this brilliant informational book that will open the eyes of readers who will learn how a black hole is not quite a hole, or at least not a hole in the way that we on Earth know them. And as the author often states, science is a moving target, and each day researchers are learning more about the darkest dark of our universe.

Todd

 
 

Into the Woods...

Into the Woods...

posted by:
May 2, 2012 - 1:02am

Baby Bear Sees BlueMy Bear GrizA House in the Woods

Take a break from technology with three charming stories full of simple, yet wonderful elements, where kids are encouraged to experience nature and explore their imaginations.

 

In Baby Bear Sees Blue, a curious bear cub and his mother spend the day from morning to night, exploring nature and its many colors. The rustic, brightly colored images have a vintage feel and beautiful details. Similar to woodcuts, the illustrations are made from images carved on linoleum blocks, then black ink applied to print outlines of scenes. The outlines are then hand-colored with watercolor. The simple, yet lyrical, language leads the reader through Baby Bear’s world as he experiences the warmth of the yellow sun, the tickle of an orange butterfly, the delicious smell of red strawberries, and the boom of gray thunder, ending in a beautiful, colorful surprise. This book is a nice way to learn about colors and nature together.

 

Remember your imaginary friend?  Billy loves bears, especially his enormous friend, My Bear Griz. Griz is, of course, short for grizzly bear, and the two explore the simple joys of childhood – playing hide and seek, looking at stars, sharing secrets, and more. The story develops slowly through homey, unaffected line drawings using biro (the commonly used British term for pen) and watercolor. Short, simple, wording and white space allows imagination to blossom and fill in the pages with new adventures and ideas.

 

Soft, muted earth colors and gentle illustrations of pencil, pastel, and wash, draw the reader into A House in the Woods, a whimsical story of two little pigs who each build a special home in the forest.  While the pigs are out for a walk, Moose and Bear move in. Unfortunately, they are a bit too large and the houses are a bit too small, so the little pigs’ creations are accidentally destroyed. Back to square one, these four unique friends decide to build a new, much bigger home together. They hire a ready team of Beaver Builders, who cheerfully request to be paid in peanut butter sandwiches. Readers can share the process of building the animals’ new forest home and learn about teamwork and the fun of having different kinds of friends.

 

 

Andrea

 
 

After the Ship Went Down

After the Ship Went Down

posted by:
April 24, 2012 - 11:20am

Ghosts of the TitanicThis year, April 15th meant more than the usual tax deadline; this year the date marked the centennial anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. In commemoration, scores of authors have already risen to the challenge of supplying children with new stories surrounding that fateful journey. Among so many new titles from which to choose, the selection process can present a challenge, particularly for parents or teachers whose intent may be not only to entertain but to educate young readers. To this end, Canadian author Julie Lawson’s Ghosts of the Titanic is a well-suited choice. Told through a dual perspective narrative, the book follows the converging chronicles of two seemingly disparate characters, separated by a century and connected by a mysterious inheritance.

 

Kevin Messenger: Class clown, history buff…about to embark on the mystery of a lifetime

Kevin is a precocious boy; talented and likable, but easily distracted and outspoken at home and at school. A frequent source of frustration for his parents and teachers alike, he is also a Titanic fanatic and can’t resist a good mystery. So when his father suddenly announces that the family has inherited an oceanfront property on the other side of the country – from a man they’ve never met – Kevin is only too eager to unravel the mystery of their enigmatic benefactor, Angus Seaton.

 

Angus Seaton: Ordinary sailor, witness to Titanic's aftermath…haunted madman?

Angus at 17 is barely more than a boy himself when he is assigned to Titanic victim recovery. Sailing out of Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1912, the crew of the MacKay-Bennett is tasked with the recovery and identification of the hundreds whose lives were lost. What he encounters there in those long days of retrieval will haunt him for the rest of his life, in more ways than one.

 

An engaging mystery, peppered with elements of the supernatural, Ghosts of the Titanic is an absorbing read. Yet despite the fictional nature of the narrative, Lawson manages to integrate an impressive amount of historical detail about recovery methodology and the lives touched in the days and weeks following the calamity.

Meghan

 
 

Rosemary Wells and the further adventures of Yoko

Yoko Learns to ReadMax, Ruby, Timothy, and of course Yoko, are just some of the best loved characters from acclaimed author/illustrator Rosemary Wells, who has created more than 50 books for children. You can also enjoy her animated characters on PBS Kids.    

       

Her newest title, Yoko Learns to Read, is another adventure for little Yoko, an adorable striped gray kitten. Yoko and her Japanese-born mama are acclimating to a new culture, learning new ways, foods, and language.     

 

Yoko’s mama prepares school lunches of sushi and reads wonderful books with Yoko in Japanese. But Yoko wants to keep up with her classmates and learn to read more books in English to earn more “book leaves” to add to the classroom tree.  Mama wants to help Yoko, but Japanese letters and words are very different from English.

At the suggestion of her teacher, Yoko and her mama put on their best kimonos and make a trip to the library. With a new library card in hand, Yoko checks out more books, learning new words and the key to reading, and in the process helps teach her mama to read a new language too.

 

Relatable, universal situations, multicultural experiences, adorable animal characters, bright colors, and beautiful origami paper prints are the hallmarks of these oil pastel and collage design illustrations, which include examples of Japanese calligraphy and the difference between the Eastern style of reading from right to left and the Western style of reading from left to right.

 

Visit www.rosemarywells.com to learn more about Yoko and her friends.

Andrea

 
 

A Rainbow Connection of Picture Books

Blue ChickenPete the Cat I Love my White Shoeslitte blue and little yellowRemember learning your colors?  Madly scribbling with crayons, dabbing with a paintbrush, or smearing finger paints, while discovering new color combinations through happy accidents?  That was one of the many things we learned as kids. Check out these three books and experience the fun of colors, with a dash of playful wisdom, all over again!

 

An enthusiastic chicken makes a splash in this new title, Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman.  The story comes alive from the pages of an almost-finished illustration of a barnyard scene.  Seen from the perspective of the artist’s desk, Chicken decides to help, but instead accidentally knocks over a jar of blue paint. Mayhem ensues, as the “sincerely sorry” once-white Chicken turns yellow ducklings green and the barnyard blue. Simple text and lively images draw the reader through the story, as Chicken tries to fix her messy mistake. Will Chicken ever find a solution and clean up the barnyard?

 

A favorite at story time, Pete the Cat – I love My White Shoes, may just become another color classic. Author Eric Litwin (aka Mr. Eric) and illustrator James Dean create a silly, easy to follow day-in-the-life of Pete, who happens to be one cool blue cat, sporting white high top shoes. And Pete really loves his white shoes.  Using repetition and crazy, cartoonish illustrations, readers follow Pete as his white shoes change color each time he encounters a new situation. Does Pete cry? No way! He keeps walking along and singing his own special song, while thinking his cool-cat thoughts. Kids love Pete’s adventures and mellow way of rolling with it. Want to sing along with Pete? Readers can download Pete the Cat’s shoe song for free at www.harpercollinschildren.com/petethecat.

 

Hard to believe, but Leo Lionni’s colorful, classic story, little blue and little yellow, has been delighting generations of kids for 53 years!  Lionni created this renowned  tale in 1959 while keeping his young grandchildren, Pippo and Ann, occupied on a train trip from Greenwich, CT to New York City. Tearing up little pieces of colored paper, he told an incredibly imaginative, insightful story of two friends. The illustrations may seem nothing more than ragged blobs of color on a white page, but combined with the sweet, simple story they each take on a character of their own. As blue and yellow happily hug one day, they suddenly become one - and green!  After an eventful day of play, they go home to find their families don’t recognize them.  Understanding blossoms and everyone, adults and kids, learn something new.

 

From new to classic, these titles are great ways for kids to make the rainbow connection of color, optimism, perseverance, flexibility, and fun!

Andrea

 
 

Speechless

Speechless

posted by:
April 18, 2012 - 11:39am

ChalkYou Can't Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum Bow-Wow Bugs a BugA fun way to “read” with your emergent reader is to check out a wordless picture book. Take turns telling the story in your own words. Encourage your young reader to add sound effects and dialogue. Try Chalk by Bill Thomson. Three kids go to the park on a rainy day and find a bag of magic chalk. Everything they draw comes to life! How will they cope when a mischievous boy draws a dinosaur?  Wonderfully expressive artwork drawn in big, bold color will make it easy for you and your young reader to “write” the story.

 

You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman is full of action. The story is drawn in pen and ink style with touches of color. A security guard is entrusted to watch a balloon for a young patron. See what happens when the balloon gets loose and he has to chase it around New York. The story takes many twists and turns as the action outside the museum seems to match the artwork inside. Try this one out with your kindergartener (or older child).

 

In Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug, Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash illustrate a story of a dog that follows a bug around the neighborhood. Using bright, simple illustrations, the authors draw a surprising weird, charming and funny story. The bizarre adventure lends itself to some surreal storytelling which is probably more suited to 1st grade or older. Give it a try with any of your kids and see what develops.

 

If you have a good time with these, be sure to ask your librarian for more titles or search the catalog for keyword “wordless”.

Diane

 
 

What Goes in, Must Come Out

Zig and Wikki in The Cow

What young reader can resist a book that answers the question: can cow poop help two friends patch up their friendship?

 

In Zig and Wikki in The Cow, by Nadja Spiegelman and Trade Loeffler, Zig (an alien) and Wikki (his computer friend) are going about their day when Zig notices his pet fly looks sick. An already jealous Wikki is happy to take the fly back to Earth where they promptly lose their spaceship. Hilarious adventures through a farm’s ecosystem ensue. Will Zig and Wikki find their spaceship? Will their friendship be saved? Will the fly be okay? Interspersed with scientific facts about an ecosystem, the story is a fun read (and just a little bit gross). Zig and Wikki in The Cow is a great book to read with your beginning reader. The pictures are charming, the story is funny and (after a few “ewwws”) your reader will be proud of the science lessons learned. If you enjoy this one, be sure to check out their first adventure Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diane