Thursday, November 6, 2014


I first listened to “Josephine” on audiobook and then took a gander at the illustrations.  The text as read to me was fabulous but the illustrations truly knocked my socks off.  I think Josephine would like that.  Throughout her early years and out on the road making her own way, Jospehine seems so resilient.  And yet, as she aged and her popularity declined, it seems she was unable to manage what money she had.  Or maybe she was surrounded by people who never advised her to stop spending as if there was no tomorrow.  Regardless of those types of details, the life of Josephine Baker is fascinating.  From her diamond collared leopard to her days spent as a spy during World War II to her brood of 12 children adopted from around the world, Josephine never had a dull moment.  

Author: Patricia Hruby Powell
Illustrator: Christian Robinson
ISBN: 978-1-4521-0314-3
Published 2014 by Chronicle Books

I borrowed this copy from my public library to review.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Water Can Be

I’m not a big follower of astrological signs and horoscopes, but I do know from reading Teen Magazine growing up that mine is a “water” sign and I have always felt calmed by water.  Being immersed and floating weightlessly, feeling running water on my hands, or dipping my feet into a pool are all appealing to me.  Likewise, I love pretty much every poem I’ve ever read by Laura Purdie Salas and this series including “A Leaf Can Be” and I’m hoping many more to come.  So, as you might expect…I’m a big fan of “Water Can Be.”  

On a technical front, the inclusion of a further explanation of each descriptive passage helps to extend this book beyond our youngest readers.  A glossary and suggestions for further reading helps students to learn more independently or teachers to craft a unit of study with other texts as well.  

Violaeta Dabija’s illustrations complement the text beautifully.  The color scheme and soft lines are soothing.  I think my personal favorite is that of an otter hugging a fish (presumably one he is about to ingest) by moonlight.  And, I know a high school classmate of mine who carves fantastic ice sculptures will appreciate the final illustrated spread showing what I assume might be an ice carving competition.

Water can take on so many lovely forms, and this book expresses that so well.  Enjoy “Water Can Be.”  Perhaps with a tall glass of water.

Water Can Be
Author: Laura Purdie Salas
Illustrator: Violeta Dabija
ISBN: 978-1-4677-05912
Published 2014 by Millbrook Press

I borrowed this copy from my public library to review.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Viva Frida

Viva Frida.  So.  Some people may have difficulty with Viva Frida classified as nonfiction.  I don’t.  Though, admittedly, I am not all that stringent with such labels.  Does this make more sense in the “picture book” section.  Maybe.  But Frida was a real person.  And everything stated in the sparse text is true.  So there’s that.

Now that that’s out of the way.

I like the way the visuals flow through Frida’s boisterous life and into a dreamlike state.  Much like the wounded deer she often painted with her own head, Frida was a beautiful creature who was wounded early in life by polio.  But without being restricted to a hospital bed, would she have discovered her passion for painting?  Much of this backmatter was gleaned from Yuyi Morales’ afterword “My Frida.”  Looking closely at the illustration on the photographed puppet in this section, we see Frida painting her own heart, not on her sleeve.  But close.  So true.


Viva Frida
Author: Yuyi Morales
ISBN: 978-1-59643-603-9
Published 2014 by Roaring Brook Press

I borrowed this copy from my public library to review.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Home for Mr. Emerson

The amazing team of Kerley and Fotheringham have done it again with “A Home For Mr. Emerson.”  Together, they brought us “What to Do About Alice”, “The Extraordinary Mark Twain”, and “Those Rebels, John and Tom.”  I love the endpapers with various of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quotes, including the simple but powerful “Scatter Joy.”  

Following Emerson on his journey, explaining that he moved around often as a young boy and longed for a place to call home.  I love that “he wondered: Could he build a life around these things he loved?”  The answer, of course, yes.  

And Kerley and Fotheringham built a book that focuses in on Emerson’s home, both the building, and the town and community.  The final return home reminds me of the reality television show “Extreme Home Makeover.”  I imagine Ty Pennington obnoxiously yelling, “MOVE THAT BUS!” as Ralph Waldo Emerson and his daughter, Ellen, returned home from their trip abroad.  I particularly enjoyed the Author’s Note as that fleshed out more details of Emerson’s personal life.  And, to conclude: “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
A Home for Mr. Emerson
Author: Barbara Kerley
Illustrator: Edwin Fotheringham
ISBN: 978-0-545-35088-4
Published2014  by Scholastic Press

I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Grandfather Gandhi

Evan Turk’s illustrations in this, his first published, book are awesome.  His palette is perfect to transport the reader to Sevagram, Mohandas Gandhi’s ashram, in India.  And as we walk the dusty road along with Arun, co-author and main character, we can imagine his struggle.  To share his grandfather, such a huge figure to so many people who revered him, but also, to Arun, Grandfather.  And to conduct his own behavior in a way he felt lived up to his family name.  Quite a load for young shoulders to carry to be sure.  And when he lashed out in anger, the lesson that followed proved to be a lifelong one.  A simile, comparing anger to electricity.  Like lightning, it can strike and destroy, or can be transformed to “shed light like a lamp.”  Arun recollects the elder Gandhi’s words: “…anger can illuminate.  It can turn darkness into light.”

Much like R.J. Palacio’s book, Wonder, inspired many to “Choose Kind” and pledge to do so, so too have Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus.  Check out There you will find the “Live Your Life as Light” Pledge for students to take as well as many other awesome resources for readers, teachers, and parents.  Bethany Hegedus created a “Readers Theater”, and educator’s guide, a hands on spinning wheel activity, a book trailer, and a “meet the creators” video.  I can easily see this as a “One School, One Book” program selection in future years.  It is a story that can inspire people at any age to “Live your Life as Light.”


Grandfather Gandhi
Author: Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus
Illustrator: Evan Turk
ISBN: 978-1-4424-2365-7

Published 2014 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Boy and A Jaguar

With testimonials from the illustrious Sy Montgomery and Temple Grandin, Alan Rabinowitz’s “A Boy and A Jaguar” delivers a story unlike any other I have read before.  In the opening of the story, young Alan explains his own experience in school as a stutterer.  My heart breaks for him.  I know him.  (Not Alan, but children who have difficulty for any number of reasons expressing themselves).  But animals, he can talk to animals.  Without stuttering or struggling.  And he promises that he will speak for them if he gets the opportunity.  

As an adult, Dr. Rabinowitz works to preserve land for wildlife, and jaguars in Belize specifically.  There is a beautiful spread with illustrations from Catia Chien that literally takes my breath away.  It reads: “In this animals eyes are strength and power and sureness of purpose.  We are both whole.  We are both at home.”

In the About the Author section, we learn more about Dr. Rabinowitz and his work with Panthera, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting wildcats.  He is also an advocate for stutterers and states that “he feels lucky to have been given the gift of stuttering and believes that had he not stuttered, he would not be on the path of his passion…”  I love that.

Check out A Boy and a Jaguar and be inspired to take the time to be quiet and observe and find your own passion and pursue it wholeheartedly.


A Boy and A Jaguar
Author: Alan Rabinowitz
Illustrator: Catia Chien
ISBN: 978-0-547-87507-1
Published 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

I borrowed this copy from my public library to review.