Monday, September 26, 2016

Book of the Week:
A Hungry Lion or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals

A Hungry Lion or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals

by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Published by Atheneum, 2016
36 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4814-4889-5
Ages 4-8

“Once upon a time there was a hungry lion, a penguin, a turtle, a little calico kitten, a brown mouse, a bunny with floppy ears, and a bunny with un-floppy ears….” The list goes on. But with each turn of the page, some of the animals disappear, until finally the narrator notes, “Umm…I guess Once upon a time there was just a HUNGRY LION and a dwindling assortment of other animals.” Just when children will think they’ve got it all figured out—that lion, whistling innocently, is clearly eating the others—Surprise! Here they all are, at a party. For the lion. With cake (“enormous, lovely four-tiered cake with buttercream frosting”). Whew! But then…who turned off the lights? Oh! There’s never a dull moment in this picture book, with its alternating cascade of language and sparely stated moments, its perfect pacing, and its constant unsettling of readers’ and listeners’ understanding and expectations. Child-like illustrations offset the sophisticated text, adding to the overall effect of being deliciously undermined at every turn. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, September 19, 2016

Book of the Week: The Hole Story of the Doughnut

The Hole Story of the Doughnut

by Pat Miller
Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-544-31961-5
Ages 6-10

Prior to 1847, little round cakes fried in lard were a dietary staple for sailors aboard ships. They were easy to prepare and easy to eat. But Hanson Gregory, a 16-year-old cook’s assistant aboard a schooner, listened to his fellow sailor’s complaints about the cakes, which they called “sinkers” because the centers were so heavy with grease, and he came up with a way to improve them: He took the top of a pepper shaker and cut the centers out of the cakes before he fried them. They were such a hit that Hanson shared the idea with his mother when he got back home, and she began to cook up dozens of “holey cakes” to sell on the docks to the sailors, and pretty soon, all the ships’ cooks began to adopt the practice, thereby spreading doughnuts far and wide. Gregory later became a ship’s captain, and tall tales began to develop about how he came to invent the doughnut, some of which are included in this book. A great deal of primary and secondary research went into recounting the doughnut’s—or, more accurately, the doughnut hole’s--entertaining history. Each whimsical watercolor illustration is framed within a circle, echoing the importance of the doughnut hole. (KTH) ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, September 12, 2016

Book of the Week:
A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids

A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids

by Shelley Tougas
Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2016
272 pages
ISBN: 978-1-62672-403-7
Ages 9-12

“There’s no Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids. How is that possible?” Mary’s invitation to be in her older cousin’s wedding launches a laugh-out-loud story genuine in its depth and warmth. Mary’s family is about to move to North Dakota to join her dad, who’s been there for a job since their small-town family hardware store failed. Middle school-aged Mary and her younger brother, Luke, are staying with their grandmother and bride-to-be Edie’s family in St. Paul for the summer while their mom, exhausted from holding things together at home alone, joins their dad to find a place they all can live. Mary’s been charged with keeping her mom’s big secret: The past year has been so economically and emotionally challenging that Luke hasn’t had his First Communion. It makes for some artful dodging on Sundays. Mary also wants to help unassertive Edie, who struggles with social anxiety, have the wedding she wants. And she keeps thinking about Brent, the boy she punched just before the end of the school year. He’s a bully. She hates him. What’s harder to acknowledge is that she was cruel to him, too. Through it all, including a hint of romance with Nick, the boy next door, Mary offers earnest and amusing prayers to various saints for help dealing with immediate predicaments and long-terms worries. Her Catholic family and other characters are drawn with realism and affection in an entertaining, insightful novel about family, friends, enemies, faith, and compassion. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Book of the Week:
One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree

One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree

by Daniel Bernstrom
Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel
Published by Katherine Tegen Books / HarperCollins, 2016
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0062354853
Ages 3-7

The premise is not unfamiliar: a dangerous creature, in this case a snake, eats a series of unsuspecting victims, here beginning with a boy, only to be outsmarted and meet its comeuppance. But everything about the telling is fresh and full of delight in this begs-to-be-read-aloud rhythmic, rollicking tale. “‘I’ll bet,” said the boy, in the belly dark and deep, ‘that you’re still very hungry, and there’s more you can eat.’” Indeed, there is more, and each time the boy repeats this refrain the snake is encouraged to gobble up something else: a bird, a cat, a sloth, an ape, a “rare kind of bear,” and a hive full of bees. Then the bulging-bellied snake takes one more bite: a small piece of fruit with a “teeny-tiny” fly. “Gurgle-gurgle came a blurble, from that belly deep and full.” It’s one bite too many and out they all come, ending with the brown-skinned boy and his “whirly-twirly toy.” Vibrant action words, playful descriptors, internal rhyme and alliteration all energize a story that take place “in the eucalyptus, eucalyptus tree.” Colorful, digitally rendered illustrations add to the whimsy. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center