Dog Driven by Terry Lynn Johnson

Dog Driven

Terry Lynn Johnson, Author

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fiction, Dec. 3, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 10 and up

Themes: Dogsledding, Sled dogs, Visual disabilities, Wilderness, Survival

Synopsis:

Ever since her vision started deteriorating, fourteen-year-old McKenna Barney has felt out of place in the world. Out of place at home and at school and even on the trail with her dogs.

Now, to help her younger sister with her own ongoing battle with an eye disease — Stargardt — McKenna finds herself at the head of her team of eight sled dogs in a race she’s not sure she can even see, let alone win. For three days of shifting lake ice, sudden owl attacks, bitterly cold nights, and frequent show squalls, McKenna faces both the Canadian wilderness and her own terrifying vision loss.

But she hides the truth from everyone, including her toughest rival, Guy, despite their budding alliance during the race. Will McKenna risk her survival as well as that of her dog team to keep her secret?

Why I like this book:

Dog Driven is a thrilling new survival novel by Terry Lynn Johnson, who once owned and raced 18 huskies.  She knows firsthand how breathtaking, peaceful, and unforgiving the wilderness can be. Reading a novel based on Johnson’s knowledge and experience, makes for great realistic fiction and a very vivid setting. Her original plot is fast-paced with high-stakes adventure, danger, courage and hope. The tension is palpable.

McKenna and Guy are the primary characters in the first Great Superior Mail Run sled dog race across Canada. McKenna is passionate about dog sledding because she’s been running dogs since she was very young. She’s a skilled musher who is enthusiastic about her sport and has a deep connection with her dogs, especially Mustard, her lead — they take care of each other. McKenna is running the race to help raise awareness for Stargardt disease. Guy is a good balance in the story and offers a bit of comic relief with his pranks. His trusted lead dog, Zesty, is blind, but they work together. Guy’s running the race to save his sled dogs from being sold by his dad. Together McKenna and Guy look out for each other during the race, until the finish line approaches.

But McKenna has a secret — her vision is rapidly blurring and she fears Stargardt disease. The stakes are high now that she realizes her vision puts her in danger and her dogs at risk on unfamiliar trails under severe weather conditions. They could die. But McKenna sees how her helicopter parents hover over her sister not allowing her to do anything for herself. Their behavior fuels McKenna’s determination to prove to herself and to her parents, that vision loss doesn’t limit her abilities. This is an excellent discussion question to pose to readers. Is Mckenna being selfish/reckless in taking a huge risk that could affect her, her sled dogs and other racers? What would readers do?

During the race, the mushers each carry a mailbag full of letters that they’ve been responsible for getting stamped along the race route. Readers will learn more about the great mail couriers from 1865 to the early 1900s along the White River Trail, an historical mail route between Pukaskwa Depot and White River. Throughout the book, Johnson includes letters from William Desjardins to his family, which give a real sense of a bygone era and a peek into history.  A great deal of research went into Johnson’s creating the race route and story.

Terry Lynn Johnson is the author of Ice Dogs, Sled Dog School, Falcoln Wild and the Survivor Diaries series. She lives at the edge of a lake in Ontario, Canada. For many years she was the owner and operator of a dogsledding business with 18 huskies. She taught dogsledding near Thunder Bay, Ontario. She also worked as a conservation officer with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Reources and Forestry for 17 years. Her lifelong passion for adventure and wilderness continues to inspire her books. Visit her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

The Brave Princess and Me by Kathy Kacer

The Brave Princess and Me

Kathy Kacer, Author

Juliana Kolesova, Illustrator

Magination Press, Historical Fiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 8 and up

Themes: Princess Alice of Greece, Deaf, WW II, Jewish Girl, Nazis, Compassion, Bravery

Opening: There once was a princess who lived in Greece. Her full name was Victoria Alice Elizabeth Julia Marie, but she was called Princess Alice. When she was young her family discovered that she was deaf.

Book Synopsis:

In 1943, the Second World War is raging, and the Nazi’s have taken control of most of Europe — including Athens, where Princess Alice of Greece lives. Princess Alice is kind and accepting of different types of people. Something the Nazis are not. Born deaf, she knows what it is like to be discriminated against.

With the arrival of the Nazis, all the Jews living in Greece are in danger, including young Tilde Cohen and her mother. On the run, they must find a safe place to hide. When they arrive unannounced, on Princess Alice’s doorstep and beg her to hide them, the princess’s kindness is put to the test. Will she risk her own life to save theirs?

Why I like this book:

I love true stories about women who were heroes during the war, without even realizing it. They did what they knew was morally right in their hearts with little thought of the consequences. Princess Alice’s story is engaging and will encourage readers to wonder if they had the courage to risk their lives to save someone. The illustrations are stunning and perfectly match the mood of the story.

Princess Alice’s story is narrated by Tilde Cohen. The narration is quite wordy, but it fits the period of the story beautifully. Readers will want to know the details. Tilde and her mother are given a two-room apartment with a small kitchen. Every afternoon Princess Alice has tea with them and they talk about happy times in Greece before the Nazis invade. Through Tilde we learn that the princess can read lips in three different languages, but keeps it a secret. Everyday the princess leaves to help feed the poor and visit the sick.  When the stakes get high and two Nazi soldiers pound on the door and ask the princess if she’s hiding Jews, Princess Alice uses her deafness to trick the soldiers and make them think she’s not smart and can’t understand them.

Make sure you read the fascinating backmatter about Princess Alice’s life at the end of the book. She was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, the mother of Prince Phillip (husband of Queen Elizabeth), grandmother to Prince Charles, and great grandmother of Princes William and Harry. The author includes photographs of Princess Alice — with additional surprises. There is also information about Tilde Cohen’s family.

Resources: Encourage children to interview their parents and grandparents and ask them about family history. Write or record the information. I remember my grandmother and great aunt writing me letters about growing up in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but I lost the letters. I know information, but it is the stories about their every day lives I wish I knew. Good family project.

Kathy Kacer is the author of numerous books that tell true stories of the Holocaust for young readers of all ages, including The Secret of Gabi’s Dress, The Magician of Auschwitz, and To Look a Nazi in the Eye. A former psychologist, Kathy has travelled the globe speaking to children and adults about the importance of keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

Just Lucky by Melanie Florence

Just Lucky

Melanie Florence, Author

Second Story Press, Sep. 17, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 13 -18

Themes: Multigenerational family, Alzheimer’s, Indigenous children, Drug abuse, Foster families, Bullying

Book Synopsis:

When Lucky Robinson was a baby, her mother was arrested for drug abuse and she was raised by her loving Cree grandparents for the next 15 years. She barely knows her mother, who she’s not sure she’d be able to pick out in a police line-up. Home life is happy, she attends a good school and her best friend, Ryan, lives next door.

Grandma may like to shout out the answers to Jeopardy, but sometimes she forgets things…like turning off the stove, wandering out the door, and stepping infront of a car. But her grandpa takes such good care of them, that Lucky doesn’t realize how bad her grandma’s memory is until he suddenly dies unexpectedly.

Lucky takes over the responsibility of caring for her grandmother and tries not to leave her alone. But when her grandmother accidentally sets the kitchen on fire, Lucky can’t hide what is happening any longer. Grandma is hospitalized and the authorities intervene and place Lucky into the foster care system — temporarily, she hopes. Lucky quickly learns that some foster families are okay. Some really, really aren’t.

Why I like this book:

Melanie Florence has written a sensitive and timely story about a 15-year-old girl living with a grandmother with Alzheimer’s. Some readers will identify with Lucky’s sadness because they will understand what it is like to have a grandparent, parent or relative suffering memory loss.  Lucky’s situation is particularly interesting becuase she has to become the caregiver and lives in secrecy so that she can keep her family together. She has no one else.

The characters are diverse and memorable. Lucky is a caring, compassionate and resilient narrator. As she is placed in a variety of foster homes and new schools, readers will observe the emotional toll it takes on her. She becomes somewhat detached and eventually doesn’t unpack her backpack because she knows that she’ll be moved again.  But she is also clever and resourceful as she finds ways to fit in. Her friendship with Ryan, offers some comic relief. They love comic books and he’s always there to support her.

For teens in foster care, Lucky’s story offers a snapshot of reality. Lucky is placed in three different foster homes. She has to deal with a foster parent who tries to climb into her bed. Lucky is indigenous and experiences racism. When she is repeatedly bullied by a popular girl in a new school, Lucky is fed up and strikes the girl. She is forced to leave a foster home she likes and is moved again to another foster home and school. But her story also offers a good dose of hope. This book stands out and is worth reading!

Melanie Florence is a writer of Cree and Scottish heritage based in Toronto. She was close to her grandfather as a child, a relationship that sparked her interest in writing about Indigenous themes and characters. She is the author of Missing Nimama, which won the 2016 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award and is a Forest of Reading Golden Oak Finalist. Her other books include Righting Canada’s Wrongs: Residential Schools and the teen novels He Who Dreams, The Missing, One Night, and Rez Runaway. For more information, visit Florence’s website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

Finding a Dove for Gramps by Lisa J. Amstutz

Finding a Dove for Gramps

Lisa J. Amstutz, Author

Maria Luisa DiGravio, Illustrator

Albert Whitman & Company, Fiction, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 5-7

Themes: Animals, Birds, Counting, Nature, Community

Opening: “Mom and I slip silently out the door. Today we’re going to count birds. It’s just the two of us this year, since Gramps flew south for the winter. “Just like the swallows!” he said.

Synopsis:

This year I want to find a dove.

Jay looks forward to participating in the bird count each winter with his mom and Gramps. It’s fun to spot different birds like a nuthatch, a black-capped chickadee, and even a golden-crowned kinglet! This year Jay wants to spot his Gramp’s favorite bird — a dove. But with so many different birds in the nature preserve, will Jay have a chance to locate one before the count is over?

Why I like this book:

This is  heartwarming tale is about a boy and his mother enjoying their time together outdoors counting birds. The boy grabs his clipboard and binoculars as they quietly step into nature, careful not to scare the birds. The story also involves community.

The illustrations are rendered in soft shades of blue and white, so that children can easily spot a wide variety of birds around them.

This book is a timely book to introduce children to bird counting and conservation. The annul Christmas Bird Count is inspired by a national citizen science project in which everyone can participate. Many hold special Christmas bird counts for kids. And there is a Backyard Bird Count and many other counts throughout the years. Great book for classrooms.

Resources: This is the perfect time of the year to join the Great Backyard Bird Count in February or one of the many other citizen science projects that take place through out the year. Visit the Audubon website for a list of count cirles near you. This year marks a 120-year celebration of counting.  And visit the Sonoma Birding website and the eBird website to do you own bird count any day of the year and track your counts. There also is a bird count check list at the end of the book.

Lisa J. Amstutz is the author of more than eighty books for children. She loves finding new birds to add to her yearly list. Lisa and her family live on a small farm in rural Ohio with Daisy the dog, two ornery goats, and a flock of chickens.  Visit Lisa at her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by publisher.

Allies by Alan Gratz

Allies

Alan Gratz, Author

Scholastic Press, Historical Fiction, Oct. 15, 2019

Suitable for ages: 9-12

Pages: 336

Themes:  Allies, Nazi Germany, WW II, D-Day, Omaha Beach, France, Liberation

Book Jacket Synopsis:

The fate of the world is in their hands.

June 6, 1944: The Nazis are terrorizing Europe, on their evil quest to conquer the world. The only way to stop them? The biggest, most top-secret operation ever, with the Allied nations coming together to storm German-occupied France.

Welcome to D-Day.

Dee, a young U.S. soldier, is on a boat racing toward the French coast. And Dee — along with his brothers-in-arms — is terrified. He feels the weight of World War II on his shoulders.

But Dee is not alone. Behind enemy lines in France, a girl named Samira works as a spy, trying to sabotage the German army. Meanwhile, paratrooper James leaps from his plane to join a daring midnight raid. And in the thick of battle, Henry, a medic, searches for lives to save.

In a breathtaking race against time, they all must fight to complete their high-stakes missions. But with betrayals and deadly risks at every turn, can the Allies do what it takes to win?

Why I like this book:

A brilliant new novel by Alan Gratz that shows the horrific faces of WW II. It’s gripping, suspenseful and chilling.  Packed with danger, adventure and a cast of really memorable characters that make this novel unforgettable. Readers will find themselves deeply engrossed in this fast-paced and powerfully penned novel.

The characters represent many nationalities and are realistically portrayed. Narrator Dee Carpenter is a U.S. soldier headed toward Omah Beach in a Higgins boat. His real name Dietrich Zimmermann, a German immigrant who fled Nazi Germany with his parents when he was five. He’s advised to change his name in case he’s captured by the Nazis. He hides it from his best buddy, Sid Jacobstein, who is Jewish and anxious to shoot some “krauts.” My favorite moment, is when Dee realizes that he may have been the enemy he’s shooting at if he hadn’t fled Germany, and that the enemy is also a human being.

I shouldn’t be surprised, but racism, and anti-Semitism ran high among the U.S. forces because there were many foreign nationals and immigrants fighting for the same cause. Even Sid faces anti-Semitism from other soldiers in his unit. Henry Allen is a black battlefield medic, who is called “boy” and “coon,” by Lieutenant Hoyte, until Henry saves his life and finally sees him as a human being. Eleven-year-old Samira Zidane’s mother is part of the French Resistance. Samira, an Algerian refugee, bravely takes over her mother’s mission when she is captured by the Nazis. Samira cleverly makes it past German soldiers to tell the Resistance fighters that the Allies have begun invasion of France. James McKay is a Canadian paratrooper and Sam, who is allowed to  be a Cree in the Army and have respect from his unit.  But in Canada he isn’t allowed to vote and keep his tribal status.

It will be obvious to readers that the war changed all of those involved. Yet all the allies were united in one mission, to push back the Nazis and free Europe from Hitler’s tyranny and free the Jews suffering in concentration camps.

Gratz has provided a wealth of information for readers starting with a map of the invaded area at the beginning of the book. Gratz’s “Author’s Note” at the end provides deatils about the invasion, the number of soldiers involved from each country, the losses, operational names for all the Allies participating and their missions.  The code name for D-Day was Operation Overlord.

Favorite Quote:

“And the worst part was that Germany hadn’t suddenly “become” racist and evil. The rot had been there, under the surface, the whole time. Hitler’s hate-filled speeches had allowed the seeds of German bigotry to grow like weeds until they choked out anything else that might have flowered there. Dee and his family had just been living in their own little bubble and hadn’t noticed it.”  Page 17

Alan Gratz is the New York Times bestselling author of several award-winning and acclaimed books for young readers, including, Grenade, Refugee, Pojekt 1065, Prisoner B-3087, and Code of Honor. Visit Gratz at his website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Book reviewed from library copy.

Freedom Soup by Tami Charles

Freedom Soup

Tami Charles, Author

Jacqueline Alcántara, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Dec. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Haitians, New Years Day, Family Recipe, Traditions, History, Freedom

Opening: “Today is New Years Day. This year, I get  to help make Freedom Soup. Ti Gran says I’ve got a heart made for cooking, and its time I learn how.”

Book Synopsis:

Every year, Haitians all over the world ring in the New Year by eating Freedom Soup, a tration dating back to the Haitian Revolution. The year, Ti Gran is teaching Belle how to make the soup. Just as she was taught when she was a little girl. Together, the dance and clap as they prepare the holiday feast.

“Know why they call it Freedom Soup?” Ti Gran asks. She then tells Belle about the history of the soup, the history of Belle’s family, and the history of Haiti, where Belle’s family is from and the passing down of traditions from one generation to the next.

Why I like this book:

Tami Charles’ lively holiday Haitian tale is a celebration of family, culture, traditions, and community. Just look at that gorgeous cover! Dance your way across this joyful story with Ti Gran, whose feet tap-tap to the kompa beat as she shows her granddaughter how to mash herbs, peel the cooked pumpkin, chop the vegetables and brown the meat for their special soup.

Reader’s will learn about a Haiti, a faraway country where Ti Gran was born. Her descemdents were slaves working in sugarcane and coffee fields until they fought and won their freedom from the French in 1803.

Make sure you read the “Author’s Note” at the end.  Tami Charles’ shares her family’s story with readers and more detailed history about abolishment of slavery in Haiti and Haitian Independence Day.

Jacqueline Alcántara’s bold and colorful illustrations make this vibrant story sing from Ti Gran’s soup kitchen to the revolutionary scenes. They also capture the spirit of the Haitian community. The beautiful collaboration between the author and illustrator, makes Freedom Soup a perfect multiculture choice for holiday collections.

Personal Note:  I was thrilled to review this beautiful and upbeat Haitian story. Haiti is special to our family because our daughter went on two medical mission trips to Haiti and introduced us to this beautiful country that is filled with so much soul. We sponsored Haitian children for years so they could attend school. It is also a poor country that has suffered many natural disasters in recent years.

Resources: Make the recipe for Freedom Soup, which is printed at the end of the book along with an Author’s note. Make sure you read the “Author’s Note” at the end.  Charles’ shares her family’s story with readers and more detailed history about abolishment of slavery in Haiti and Haitian Independence Day.

Tami Charles is the author of numerous books for children, including her fiction debut, Like Vanessa. During an appearance on Good Morning America, she featured a Thanksgiving version of Freedom Soup, which she first learned to make from her husband’s ti gran. Tami Charles lives in New Jersey.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

Birdie by Eileen Spinelli

Birdie

Eileen Spinelli, Author

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Novel in Verse,  Apr 9, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 9-14

Pages: 208

Themes: Family life, Grief, Friendship, Dating, Multigenerational families, Birding, Verse

Opening: I pick the hairs / from my brush. / I put them in / my pocket. / I will drop them / on the grass / on my way to / Mrs. Bloom’s. / I do this / every Saturday.

Book Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Roberta “Birdie” Briggs loves birds. They bring her comfort when she thinks about her dad, a firefighter who was killed in the line of duty. The past few years without her dad haven’t been  easy. At least Birdie still has Mom and Maymee, and her friends Nina and Martin.

But then Maymee gets a boyfriend, Nina and Martin start dating, and Birdie’s mom starts seeing a police officer. And suddenly not even her beloved birds can lift Birdie’s spirits. Her world is changing, and Birdie wishes things would go back to how they were before. But maybe change, painful as it is, can be beautiful too.

With compelling verse and a light-hearted touch, Eileen Spinelli captures the poignancy of adolescence and shows what can happen when you let people in.

Why I like this book:

Eileen Spinelli’s Birdie is a tenderly-crafted coming-of-age story filled with love and hope. Birdie is coping with the loss of her father and a move to a small town to live with her grandmother. Much of her conflict is emotional and dealt with internally. It also involves a lot of change.

Birdie’s voice is strong and perceptive, and it works well as a novel in verse. Spinelli’s realistic verse is deceptively simple, but expresses the disappointment, anger and fear that Birdie experiences as she worries about losing her friends, her mother’s love and her father’s traditions. I particularly felt an intimacy with Birdie, that I may not have felt if the story was told in prose. Spinelli assigns a title to each poem, which feels like a guide for readers since the novel was free from chapters.

I also love multigenerational stories. Maymee is a hoot. Widowed, Maymee finds love again, which shocks Birdie at first, but it gives her a chance to see how time heals and how people can love again.

Birdie is a quick read and a perfect way to introduce readers to poetry. Birdie would be a nice addition to any school library.

Eileen Spinelli made her debut in 1991 with Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, which won a Christopher Award. Since then she has written more than forty children’s books, including Thankful, When No One Is Watching, and Jonah’s Whale. She lives in Pennsylvania with Jerry Spinelli, her husband and fellow children’s author. Visit Spinelli at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Little Robin’s Christmas by Jan Fearnley

Little Robin’s Christmas

Jan Fearnley, Author and Illustrator

Nosy Crow, Fiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 2-5

Themes: Bird, Animals, Caring, Giving, Friendship, Christmas, Santa

Opening: “Once upon a time, there was a little brown bird. His name was Little Robin, and this is his story.”

Synopsis:

It’s the week before Christmas, and each day Little Robin leaves his nest and gives away one of his seven vests to someone who is cold and needs it — a frog, a porcupine, a hedgehog, a mole, a squirrel, a rabbit, and an otter baby. Finally, on Christmas Eve, he gives away his last vest to a shivering mouse. Now it’s snowing and Little Robin is cold and alone.

Luckily, a certain magical man dressed in red knows about Little Robin’s selflessness and has the perfect present to keep him warm.

What I like about this book:

Jan Fearnley simply communicates the true meaning of Christmas in her charming  holiday tale about Little Bird, a compassionate and generous bird who gives away his warm vests to help his friends stay warm. Little Bird feels happy inside as he spreads holiday cheer. The joy of giving is a heartfelt message to share with children.

Little Bird’s journey is perfect for young children, as they will have fun guessing what will happen next. The text is lyrical, flows nicely and has a repetitive feel to it, especially with the seven-day countdown. But, the ending is a surprise.

Fearnley’s colorful and wintry mixed media illustrations are expressive and lively. They help build the tension of what is to come.

Resources: This is the perfect opportunity to show kids how good it feels to give to others less fortunate. Help your children pick out toys they no longer play with and clothing that is too small, and donate to a local toy/clothing drive. Let them pick out nonperishable food items at the grocery store to give to a local food bank.

Jan Fearnley is the award-winning author-illustrator of many books, including Milo Armadillo, and the illustrator of Never Too Little to Love. She lives in the French countryside with  her husband, two donkeys, five rescued goats, two Limousin hens, five cats — and any other stray that appears at the kitchen door.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper

The Shortest Day of the Year

Susan Cooper, Author

Carson Ellis, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Poetry, Oct. 22, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4 and up

Themes: Winter Solstice, Shortest Day, Seasonal Light, Legends, Holiday, Celebrations

Opening: “So the shortest day came, / and the year died…”

Publisher Synopsis:

As the sun set on the shortest day of the year, early people would gather to prepare for the long night ahead. They built fires and lit candles. They played music, bringing their own light to the darkness, while wondering if the sun would ever rise again.

Written for a theatrical production that has become a ritual in itself, Susan Cooper’s poem “The Shortest Day” captures the magic behind the returning of the light, the yearning for traditions that connect us with generations that have gone before — and the hope for peace that we carry into the future.

Richly illustrated by Carson Ellis with a universality that spans the centuries, this beautiful book evokes the joy and community found in the ongoing mystery of life when we celebrate light, thankfulness, and festivity at a time of rebirth. Welcome Yule!

In this seasonal treasure, Newbery Medalist Susan Cooper’s beloved poem heralds the winter solstice, illuminated by Caldecott Honoree Carson Ellis’s strikingly resonant illustrations.
Why I like this book:
This breathtaking and contemplative book begins in silence with Ellis’s gorgeous gouache illustrations imagining how early humans began preparing for the longer nights. There is a pause. On page 5, Cooper’s poem begins, “So the shortest day came…” and draws readers into the seasonal cycles of light and the continuity of life, culminating in the joy of the Yule.
Cooper’s poetic book is for everyone (young and old) and is a non-Christian view of the joyful arrival of the winter solstice worldwide. People of all cultures will  celebrate with song, dance, lights, decorations, and feasts with families and friends. And they will hold a hope for peace in their hearts.
Resource:  Make sure you read the author’s information about the deeper meaning of winter solstice at the end of the story.
The Winter Solstice is Saturday, December 21. You may be interested in participating in the the Global Silent Minute for peace and unity. The time on the East Coast of the US is 4 p.m., 1 p.m. on the West Coast. You can got to the Unity of Silence website to learn more. You don’t need to join anything to participate.
Susan Cooper wrote The Shortest Day for John Langstaff’s Christmas Revels, where it is performed annually accross the country. She is the author of the classic fantasy sequence The Dark Is Rising (which includes the Newbery Medal winner The Grey King) and many other books for children and adults.
Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.
*Review copy provided by the publisher.

The Gifts of the Animals: A Christmas Tale by Carole Gerber

The Gifts of the Animals: A Christmas Tale

Carole Gerber, Author

Yumi Shimokawara, Illustrator

Familius, Fiction, Oct. 1, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 3-8

Themes: Christmas tale, Animals, Nativity, Rhyming, Religious, Holiday

Opening: “The gentle beasts of sky and earth / prepare their stable for Christ’s birth.”

Book Synopsis:

The Gifts of the Animals shares the miraculous offerings the humble animals in the manger gave to the baby Jesus.

The birds on the roof of the lowly shed / prepare a pillow for His head, / with feathers pulled from downy breats; / mice carry them to where He’ll rest.

Celebrating the Savior’s birth, this beautiful reimagining of the nativity story is a must-have addition to any family’s Christmas library and Christmas Eve traditions.

Why I like this book:

Carole Gerber’s The Gifts of the Animals is a beautiful and elegant tale! She creatively imagines how the animals lovingly prepare for the birth of baby Jesus. The ox fills the manger with straw. The sheep share bits of wool. The birds pull downy feathers from their breasts and the tiny mice carefully arrange the offerings in the bed, as they all wait with anticipation for the baby’s birth.

Gerber’s fluid and poetic narrative is both soothing and joyous as the angels announce the arrival to the shepherds. Her rhyming story is condensed from The Book of Luke.  Yumi Shimokawara’s stunning watercolors are realistic, warm, joyful and celebratory. The gorgeous book cover is exquisite and heavenly. Children will delight in pouring over all of the details of this quiet and contemplative Christmas book. It is a perfect gift book that will surely become a family favorite.

Resource: Make sure you read the postscript of the story from the Book of Luke, Chapter 2, at the end of the story. Ask children what special gift that they might leave in the manger (a song, a poem etc.)  Hand them paints, markers and crayons and encourage children them to draw their own scene and their unique offering.

Carole Gerber has written sixteen picture books, three chapter books, and more than one hundred elementary science and reading texts for major publishers. Her most recent picture book, A Band of Babies, was named a 2017 Best Book for Children by Amazon editors. She holds a BS in English education and an MA in journalism from Ohio State, and  has taught middle school and high school English as well as college newswriting and factual writing at OSU. Learn more about Carole at her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.