Children's Book Reviews

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Summer Sizzling Reads!

I get excited about the seasonal changes. What I like about summer is more time in the garden. This morning I was planting out my pumpkin and pea seedlings and watering them, plus the tomatoes. A cheeky magpie buzzed over my head and settled himself to watch me for a bit while the bumblebees buzzed away in the comfrey plant! See The Best Nest below for how magpies build their nests. That's what I love about Sylvan Dell books, I learn something new every time I read one. When a bundle comes in the mail for me to review, it's like Christmas.
This morning I went on the local radio station to review three more children's books. Highly recommended for teens of all ages (wink) is the award winning Alexie Sherman's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. A mystery, adventure set in South Africa, for 8- 12 year olds is The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John. A fun picture book is The Great Fuzzy Frenzy by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel. When a tennis ball falls down a prarie dog hole, well, you can imagine the fun, chaos, and frenzy it creates!
I have some more books coming up soon. In the meantime Happy First Day of Summer, and happy summer reading!


Down under, in Australia, there is a creature who doesn’t know who he is or where he belongs. His friends, Bushtail Possum, Wallaby, Blue-Tongued Skink, and Kookaburra kindly try to help him, but he just keeps falling “KERSPLAT!” Old Bandicoot says he’s a Platypus, but where does he belong? Young readers will enjoy following Kersplatypus’ adventures as he searches the Australian landscape for his identity.

Author Susan K. Mitchell has brought some of the animals and the geography of Australia alive for children in a most delightful way. The illustrations by Sherry Rogers highlight the story, plus give an extra depth and richness, so that you feel as if your are right there with the animals. The story is not only fun to read, but also informative. The activities in the back give children and classrooms added fun in animal recognition and geography. This book is highly recommended for children ages 3-7.

‘Twas the Day Before Zoo Day

What happens to animals in the zoo when there are no people there to observe them? This engrossing book by author Catherine Ipcizade takes us behind the scenes at the zoo the day before people arrive. The text is in humorous and informative verse depicting varying animals’ behavior and habits. You meet monkeys, rhinos, llamas, lions, alligators, and elephants, to name a few.

Ben Hodson’s illustrations are a delight as he adds extra touches and more fun. Watch each zookeeper’s shoulders for their pets and the pets’ antics! The creative pages at the end of the book add even more information, questions to answer, and a matching activity. Wouldn’t it be fun for a classroom to playact the different jobs people can have at a zoo? Likewise, children at home will enjoy mimicking the animals or just curling up reading the book either by themselves or with mom and dad. A must have for a home or classroom library for ages 3 – 7.

The Best Nest

Maggie Magpie is an excellent nest builder, so all the other birds want to learn from her in order to protect their own eggs better. However, do they learn, and if so how much? Not only does the young child learn how each of the eleven birds build their nests, but they also become budding bird watchers as each bird and its habitat are illustrated in loving detail by illustrator Sherry Neidigh.

It is obvious that author Doris L. Mueller has put great thought into the building of her story, and young readers will eagerly follow along with Maggie as she takes time to teach her sometimes-impatient bird pupils. You can imitate the dove’s sounds, and perhaps your teacher or parents can help you find recordings of the other bird songs as part of a classroom or home activity. Other information, facts, and a “Match the Nest Activity” are included. This is a fun and engaging book for ages 3 – 8.

Animals Are Sleeping

This quiet, lovely book by author Suzanne Slade is all the richer for its simple style and prose. The reader immediately relaxes with the first words, “Shhh…shhh…” Each page or double-page spread has a different animal showing how it sleeps. It also becomes a guessing game as the animals are not named in the text, yet there are sorting cards in the back to copy and match to each animal, naming them in turn.

The illustrations by artist Gary R. Phillips have soft muted nighttime colors with a sculptural effect creating just the right tone for the sleeping animals. It makes you wish you could pick up each animal to cuddle. Because of the simplified text, this book would make an excellent early reader, so that reading and writing time can be based on this book as part of a larger unit on animal behavior. This exquisite book is highly recommended for ages 2 – 7.


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