Archive for September 29, 2017

La La La: A Story of Hope

Written by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Jaime Kim

In her usual subtle and gentle style, the author tells a heartwarming and fundamental story of longing and companionship. There is very little text, so most of the story is told through the vivid illustrations.

When a young girl begins singing to the world, she gets no response. “La,” she sings to the air, to the leaves, to a lake, and to plants. She even tries to climb a ladder to the moon. She wears herself out singing, and still she gets nothing. She eventually falls asleep. When she wakes up, someone else is singing “La! La! La!” It’s the magical face in the moon, shining and singing away.

  • This can be viewed as a simple story of the girl finding a new friend, but so many other themes enter with each reading. As a read aloud or for independent reading, this is a wonderful book to add to any collection.
  • La La LaTitle: La La La: A Story of Hope
  • Author: Kate DiCamillo
  • Illustrated: Jaime Kim
  • Published: Candlewick Press, October 3, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 72 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Fiction, Loneliness, Frienship
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-5833-5

Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dreams of Don Quixote

Written by Margarita Engle
Illustrated by Raúl Colón

Although most people know about Don Quixote, few know much about the author behind the icon. In this fictionalized account of Miguel Cervantes’ early life, the reader learns that Miguel had a very tough life indeed. Escape into his fantasies about Don Quixote was often the only happiness in his world.

In simple language easily accessible to early grades, the author tells of Miguel’s father who lost most of his earnings to gambling and ended up in debtors’ prison for a time. So the family moved around a lot. Miguel found refuge in the stories his teachers read from books so precious only the teachers were allowed to touch them. Miguel witnessed burning of some of the books considered subversive due to use of imagination. The plague hit Europe, causing more suffering for the Cervantes family. Eventually, Miguel learned enough about writing that one of his teachers asks to publish some of his poems.

Fantastic pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations accompany every page of the manuscript. Realistic and authentic, they are certainly as enjoyable as the text.

In the Notes, the reader learns of Miguel’s later life. Nothing got easier. He was taken as a slave, was freed, and spent time in prison himself.

  • Miguels Brave KnightTitle: Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dreams of Don Quixote
  • Author: Margarita Engle
  • Illustrator: Raúl Colón
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, October 1, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Biography
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-856-1
  • Extras: Author’s Note, Illustrator’s Note, Historical Note, Biographical Note, Don Quixote: A Cultural Icon

Can an Aardvark Bark?

Written by Melissa Stewart
Illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Getting to know wild animals is easier if you know how they are like you and the domesticated animals you are familiar with. In the area of sounds we make, the author first explores which animals make the noise known as a grunt, because aardvarks do not bark. Who would have thought this included aardvarks, river otters, Hamadryas baboons, white-tailed deer, and oyster toadfish? Animals that do bark include New Zealand fur seals, common barking geckos, capybaras, barking tree frogs, and woodchucks. Animals that squeal include European hedgehogs, Atlantic spotted dolphins, Abert’s towhees, margays, and you. Other sounds explored are whines, growls, bellows, and laughs.

The main text is written in simple language that can be read independently. The sidebars are also very simple, straightforward, and relatable. Kids will learn a ton and enjoy doing it.

The fun and lively illustrations bring the animals right into the reader’s world. Many of the animals discussed are unfamiliar, so the accuracy of the illustrations is important.

Recommended for classroom and home.

  • Can an Aardvark BarkTitle: Can an Aardvark Bark?
  • Author: Melissa Stewart
  • Illustrator: Steve Jenkins
  • Published: Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Nature, Animals
  • ISBN: 978-1-4814-5852-8
  • Extras: Selected Sources, For Further Reading

Claude on the Big Screen

Written and Illustrated by Alex T. Smith

Another installment in the “Claude” series sees Claude and Sir Bobblysock participating in the film industry. In a way, this story is custom made for Claude, a dog, and his sockly friend. It’s silly and imaginative and defines suspension of disbelief.

Claude attempts to keep all manner of paraphernalia in his beret, including a clothesline full of costumes. This becomes important, as the line itself keeps snaking its way out of the hat. When Claude notices a giant gorilla in a dressing gown drinking a cup of tea, he and Sir Bobbly sock feel compelled to investigate. They find a film company shooting a movie. They immediately immerse themselves in all things cinema, helping with wigs, makeup, costumes, sound, and lighting. Claude’s clothesline causes a disaster that sends the lead actors to hospital, so Claude and Sir Bobblysock also try acting.

Much of the humor is very subtle, but kids will no doubt look for the signs on the buildings (e.g., Miss Reed’s Read-A-Lot Bookshop: We like big books and we cannot lie) and names such as Waggy Avenue. Of course, some of the jokes are beyond young kids (Gloria Swoon), but they will still get that there is humor there.

There is a lot here to encourage kids to keep reading. Also, a lot of fun.

  • Claude on the Big ScreenTitle: Claude on the Big Screen
  • Author/Illustrator: Alex T. Smith
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, October 1, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 96 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 4
  • Genre: Humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-68263-009-9