The Case of the Bad Apples by Robin Newman

The Case of the Bad Apples (A Wilcox and Griswold Mystery)

Robin Newman, Author

Deborah Zemke, Illustrator

Creston Books, Fiction, Sep. 1, 2020

Suitable for ages: 5-11

Themes: Animals, Pigs, Farm, Mystery, Detectives, Crime, Bad apples

Opening: “Boys and girls, this case is about some bad apples on Ed’s farm.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Detective Wilcox and Captain Griswold are on the case again, trying to discover who poisoned the apples Porcini pigged out on. Was it Sweet Pea, the piglet next door; Herman the Rat; or Hot Dog the nosy pooch? Who had motive, means, and no alibi? Follow the clues and figure out who was behind Porcini’s terrible tummy ache.

Why I like this book:

Robin Newman has penned a spirited and comical third chapter book in The Wilcox and Griswold Mystery series. Wilcox and Griswold (Missing Food Investigators or MFI’s) are called daily to solve a food problem on Ed’s Farm. This time a troublemaker has left a gift basket of poisoned Granny Smith apples for Porcini to hog down. And he’s hog sick.

No one hits the sweet spot with food- and animal-based wordplay like Newman. PIG-DIC-U-LOUS! She’s a master and her food-related crimes are hilarious! She had me chuckling from page one with “Porcini  pigged out” on apples.  Rushing to the scene, the MFI’s get caught in heavy rush hour traffic. “There are road hogs, squealing, oinking, and grunting, but they finally let us pass. Typical road hogs. Typical indeed.”

Everyone is suspect on Ed’s Farm for the attempted “hamslaughter.” Sweet Pea, the piglet; Herman, the rat; Fowler, the owl; and Hot Dog, the nosy pooch, who Porcini claims regularly steals his food. Will Dr. Alberta Einswine, from Whole Hog Emergency Care, be able to help the detectives get to the rotten core of this mystery?

Don’t miss the fun details on every page: Porcini looking pretty green with his tummy ache, hoof prints left on the remaining apples, and other gathered evidence. And make sure you check out the endpapers for the detective details, case report, and evidence folder. Dr. Einswine’s report is not to be missed! And there is a recipe for Apple Pockets that kids can make at home, with supervision.

Deborah Zemke‘s colorful and expressive illustrations fill each page and contribute to the silliness of this perfect mystery about “who done it.” Another exceptional collaboration between the author and illustrator. Here’s hopping for more Wilcox and Griswold cases to solve.

Resources: Check out Robin Newman’s website. She has a wonder Teacher’s Guide to use with student that covers this puzzling mystery about who wanted to make pork chops out of Porcini. Wanna be detectives will delight in going through all of the steps of solving a crime.

Robin Newman was raised in New York City (a/k/a the Big Apple) and Paris where she was a practicing attorney and legal editor, but she now prefers to write about witches, mice, pigs, and peacocks. She lives
in New York with her husband, son, two English Cocker Spaniels, and one French Bulldog. Visit her at her website.

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

*Review copy provided by the author in exchange for a review.

Egg or Eyeball? by Cece Bell

Egg of Eyeball?

Cece Bell, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Mar. 8 2020

Pages: 72

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes:  Animals, Humor, Cartoons

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Oh! Oh, oh, oh! Look what Brain found. Chick and Spot say it is an egg. Brain says it is an eyeball. Is it an egg or an eyeball? The inimitable Cece Bell is back with a second hilarious primer on good manners gone awry and arguments run amok. Perfectly pitched to kids just learning to read and loaded with verbal and visual comedy, this offbeat graphic story by a master of the genre builds to an exhilaratingly absurd surprise ending.

Why I like this book:

Silly…Silly…Silly!  Just what children will adore most about this book.  Brain is once again in a tug-a-war with Chick and Spot, over an eyeball he found. The entertaining banter and rising tension will keep kids giggling until the surprise ending.

There are four chapters in this graphic story. Kids will enjoy the hilarious cartoon-like appearance and easily make out the repetitive words and sentences in each bubble — a great way to help children sound out and remember new words. The book is an early chapter book and will help them transition to more challenging books.

Verdict: Egg or Eyeball? is a rollicking summer read!

Cece Bell is the author-illustrator of the Geisel Honor Books Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot! and Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover, as well as the Newbery Honor Book El Deafo. She is also the creator of the Sock Monkey picture books and Chuck and Woodchuck. Cece Bell learned to read with Dick and Jane, and now she hopes children will learn to read with Chick and Brain. She lives in Virginia with her family.

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 publisher in exchange for a review.

Fergus and Zeke and the Field Day Challenge by Kate Messner

Fergus and Zeke and the Field Day Challenge

Kate Messner, Author

Heather Ross, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Apr. 14, 2020

Pages: 51

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Classroom pets, Mice, School, Field Day, Competition

Opening: Fergus and Zeke always had fun in Miss Maxwell’s room. They did everything the children did.

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Fergus and Zeke love being the class pets in Miss Maxwell’s classroom. From science experiments to art projects, they do everything the students do. But on Field Day, none of the events are the right size for the small mice — the limbo is too easy, the high jump is too hard, and kickball is absolutely terrifying! So Fergus and Zeke create their own Field Day Challenge, with mouse-size tug-of-war, acorn throwing, and Hula-Hooping.

After all the fun and exercise, it’s time to go back to the classroom — but Fergus and Zeke are locked out! Will they be able to use their new skills to get inside in time for ice pops?

Why I like this book:

Best friends, Fergus and Zeke, are back for another adventure that is packed with humor and a lot mouse power. This is Kate Messner’s third book in her fun-loving Fergus and Zeke chapter book series for children who are learning to read on their own.

Kids will enjoy the suspense of these miniature-sized atheletes who can’t wait for Field Day. And despite their size, they are determined to compete with their classmates and find a creative way to to keep up with the class races. They may not be able to scramble beneath the teacher’s big parachute, so they create their own by using a recycled plastic grocery bag.

There are four chapters in the book with happy, expressive and colorful illustrations on each page — good for a lot of giggles. Make sure you check out the first two books, Fergus and Zeke and Fergus and Zeke at the Science Fair.

Kate Messner is passionately curious and writes books for kids who wonder, too. A former teacher, she has written more than thirty picture books, chapter books, and novels for young readers. She lives on Lake Champlain with her family.

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 in an exchange for a review.

Don’t Feed the Bear by Kathleen Doherty

Don’t Feed the Bear

Kathleen Doherty, Author

Chip Wass, Illustrator

Sterling Children’s Books, Fiction, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 3 and up

Themes: Bear, Park, Ranger, Feeding, Battle, Sharing, Friendship

Opening: “Bear loved when campers left him grub. Mac and cheese…carrot cake…meatball stew!”

Synopsis:

Bear had a perfectly great life…until Park Ranger put up a sign that read DON’T FEED THE BEAR.

Well, Bear isn’t about to let Park Ranger get away with claiming all the picnickers’ goodies for herself. Crafty Bear puts up a sign of his own and the battle for yummy grub is on! Each worthy (and hungry) competitor tries to persuade parkgoers to their side. At stake: delicious chow, like juicy burgers and cookies. Who will win this war of words?

Why I like this book:

Kathleen Doherty has penned a delightful and humorous story about a bear and a park ranger battling over the food left behind by parkgoers. Her text is simple and snappy and encourages children to read on their own. Doherty uses clever word play and words that are fun to read aloud to kids — SMACKITY! SMACK! WHOMP! and STOMPITY, STOMP, GRRRRRR!

The book theme can be translated into many real life situations like sibling squabbles over food, territory and possessions. Kids will learn about compromising and reconciliation. Somewhere the bear and ranger must meet. Perhaps they can become a team and work together.

Couple Doherty’s lively story with Chip Wass’s rip-roaring and cheerful cartoon-like illustrations, and kids will beg to read this story repeatedly at bedtime. Make sure you give kids enough time to study each page — it’s worth it! Who knows what they may add to the story. With summer fast approaching, this is a perfect read!

Resources: Time to pull out the paper, markers and crayons. Ask children who are the rooting for: Bear or Park Ranger. Let them choose a  favorite scene or encounter in the story and draw their own version. If they are focused on the many signs that Bear and Park Ranger post, ask them what they may want to add.

Kathleen Doherty is a reading specialist who has taught elementary school for over thirty years. She loves writing humorous stories and read aloud to kids — that is,  when she’s not having a scrumptious picnic and chowing down on s’mores.

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.

Welcome to Your World by Smriti Prasadam-Halls

Welcome to Your World

Smriti Prasadam-Halls, Author

Jaime Kim, Illustrator

Candlewick Press,  Fiction, Mar. 10, 2020

Suitable for ages: 2-5

Themes: Babies, Animal babies, Mothers, Nature, Natural Habitats

Opening: Welcome, little baby, / round your mam curled. / Welcome, little baby. / Welcome to your world.

Synopsis:

With lyrical language and stunning illustrations, Welcome to Your World takes readers from ice-capped mountains to the depths of the sea. Tender scenes between animals and their babies encourage families to join in the loving bond that connects them to one another and to the wonders of our planet.

This beautiful book is ideal for sharing with new babies, new parents, and children just venturing out in the world, as best-selling author Smriti Prasadam-Halls and acclaimed illustrator Jaime Kim provide both a celebration of nature and a gentle reminder to protect it.

Why I like this book:

A stunning celebration of mothers (human and animal) introducing their babies to their bright new world. Mothers develop playful relationships as they bond with their new offspring — a cheetah, giraffe, fawn, whale, turtle, eagle, polar bear, and elephant. “Listen to the creatures of the air and land and sea, living whole and happily, living wild and free.”

The rhymic and repititive text will appeal to children senses. “Look up to the sky…look into the ocean…hear the gentle whisper of fields…taste the juicy berries…feel the raindrops…” Such lovely imagery. Children will love pouring over Jaime Kim’s breathtaking double-page illustrations and looking at the detail of different animal habitats. There is also a gentle reminder that we need to protect nature.

This inspiring book is a perfect Mother’s Day book as well a lovely gift book for new parents.

Resources: This is a book that older siblings will also enjoy. Read it together as a family. Encourage children to draw a picture of their family or a favorite animal pairing.

Smriti Prasadam-Halls is an award-winning, internationally best-selling children’s author whose books have been published in more than thirty languages. Her titles include the Publishers Weekly #1 bestseller I Love You Night and Day, illustrated by Alison Brown. Smriti Prasadam-Halls previously worked at the BBC and in children’s publishing and television as a writer and editor for twelve years. She lives in London with her husband and three sons.

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 in exchange for a review.

Sleep: How Nature Gets It’s Rest by Kate Prendergast

Earth Day – Apr. 22, 2020

Sleep: How Nature Gets It’s Rest

Kate Prendergast, Author & Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Nonfiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Animals, Sleep, Habitats, Nature

Opening: Cats and dogs sleep curled up…when they aren’t playing.

Book Synopsis:

Giraffes sleep standing up. Sloths sleep upside down. Meerkats sleep in a heap.

From giraffes and sloths to horses and cows, every animal must find a way to get some rest. Discover the sleeping habits of animals around the world in this beautifully illustrated book that will spark wonder and fascination in the natural world for young readers.

Why I like this book:

Children will explore the sleep habits of their favorite animals in their natural habitats, making this a perfect bedtime picture book especially for Earth Day.

The narrative is simple and an easy book for young children who are learning to read books to themselves. This book is a concept book that introduces children to animals they may not be familiar with. It also has interesting and fun facts for children, like “Fish swim when they sleep and never shut their eyes.” Older children will enjoy the more detailed information about each species in the backmatter of the book: “Sloths snooze for about fifteen hours a day, high up in tropical treetops. They don’t move very much, but they do come down from their trees once a week to go to the bathroom!”

You only need to look at the gorgeous cover to see how beautiful and realistic Kate Prendergast’s animal portraits are. The warm and cozy watercolors are richly detailed. Readers will want to reach out and pet the tiger. Lovely presentation of text and artwork.

Resources:  Visit a zoo, farm, or take a walk in the woods. Observe how the animals sleep and point out their behaviors, their differences and similarities. Take pictures or draw pictures of your favorite animals sleeping.

Kate Prendergast is the author-illustrator of Dog on a Digger. After working for years in the transportation industry and raising her children, she decided to get an MA in children’s book illustration at Cambridge School of Art. She lives in London.

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 free by the publisher in exchange for a review.

Snow Leopard: Ghost of the Mountains by Justin Anderson

World Wildlfe Day, Mar. 3, 2020

Snow Leopard: Ghost of the Mountains

Justin Anderson, Author

Patrick Benson, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Non-fiction, Oct. 8, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Snow Leopards, Himalayan Mountains, Endangered, Conservation

Opening: “The people who live among the Himalayan mountains tell stories of a mysterious aniaml they call the gray ghost. They say that if you see one, you’ll be so happy and excited, you’ll feel as if your soul is flying.” 

Book Synopsis:

Join a zoologist in the Himalayan mountains as he searches for the elusive snow leopard. With her pale gold and silver-gray coat painted with black rosettes, the snow leopard blends into the boulders so well that it’s no wonder she’s called the gray ghost of the mountians. But the lucky few who spot her will be rewarded with a sight they won’t soon forget.

Look! A line of paw prints in the snow. This might be your lucky day! Follow the tracks to discover the secret world of a rar and utterly majestic creature.

Why I like this book:

Readers will feel like they are with author, Justin Anderson, on a grand adventure to find the elusive snow leopard, hidden high in the rugged Himalayas. The author’s descriptive narrative is mesmarizing as readers scour the pages in search of the snow leopard. Readers will also learn about the leopard’s habitat, motherhood and teaching a cub survival instincts, territorial behavior, and diet of sheep, ibex, marmots, goats and yaks.

This non-fiction picture book is packed with additional factual information set in small print at the bottom of each spread. It provides nature lovers with valuable insight into snow leopard habits. For example: “Snow leopards have the longest tail of any cat. Not only is it an amazing scarf, but it also helps them keep their balance when they’re jumping between rocks or chasing prey.Snow Leopard will appeal to elementary school  children who are interested in details about animals and nature.

Patrick Benson’s stunning watercolors capture the strength of this majestic creature and the starkness of its surroundings. His illustrations blend beautifully with Anderson’s story with double-page spreads that give the cat a larger than life appeal. Readers will grasp how challenging and exciting it is to spot a snow leopard in this wild terrain.

Resources: After a new snow, take a walk in nature and search for animal prints in the snow. Try to identify the prints. You may not find a snow leopard, but you will have fun identifying deer, rabbit and other animal foot prints.

Read the information about the vulnerable snow leopard at the back of the book. To find out more about saving snow leopards in Ladakh, look up the following organizations: The Snow Leopar Conservancy – India Trust and The Youth Association fo Conservation and Development in Hemis National Park.

Justin Anderson is a zoologist and filmmaker with a passion for animals and wild places. He spend months in Ladakh in northern India leading a BBC crew filming snow leopards for Planet Earth II. During that time his favorite adventures were riding a yak and hearing leopards singing in the moonlight. He says, “The first time I saw a snow leopard, I was so excited I danced a little jig of joy!” Anderson lives in England.

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.

*Reviewed from a copy provided by the publisher.

Bear’s Book by Claire Freedman

Bear’s Book

Claire Freedman, Author

Alison Friend, Illustrator

Templar Books, Fiction, May 14, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Bear, Animals, Reading, Writing, Helping, Friendship

Opening: Once upon a time, there was a bear whose favorite thing to do was read.

Book Synopsis:

Bear loves to read. Unfortunately, he has read his big book of stories so many times that it’s falling apart. One day, all the pages blow away in a gust of wind.

Bear decides to create his own story. But when he sits dow to write, he can’t think of a single idea.

Will bear’s animal friends be able to help him think of ideas for his book?

What I like about this book:

Claire Freedman has penned a tender story about friends helping friends. Bear goes for a walk through the forest to help his writer’s block. He hopes that  a back-scratch, a swim, and climbing a tree might be just what he needs. But he runs into some endearing friends who need his help — a mouse who needs help with a dance, a rabbit in a boat who needs a tow, and a little owl stuck on a tree limb. He still can’t think of a story until he recalls his day.

Bear does write and illustrate a book. It appears as a fold-out towards the end of the book. Children will be able to read his book and learn about how a story has a beginning, middle and end. The ending is sweet.

Alison Friend’s happy illustrations are warm, cozy and show how friends help each other. The cover is beautiful and appealing.

Resources: This is an excellent story to read out loud to at home or in a classroom. Use Bear’s book to talk about the structure of a book. Write a group book in the classroom and ask students to draw the illustrations.

Claire Freedman is the author of more than 100 books for young readers. She is best known for her award-winning Underpants series, She lives in Essex, England.

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.

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 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.