December 22, 2014

A Christmas Poem

Amazing Peace
by Maya Angelou

In troubled times, communities must come together in a harmony of spirit. This message of peace is delivered in the resonant voice of Maya Angelou, reminding us all of the true meaning of Christmas.

December 19, 2014

It's almost Christmas!

'Twas the Day Before Christmas
by Brenda Seabrooke
illustrated by Delana Bettoli

On Christmas Eve 1822, Clement Clarke Moore penned what would become a beloved holiday classic. This book relates the inspiration behind the poem. It's supposedly based on research, but since the author includes no notes about that research, I'm unsure about the story's accuracy. The story itself is fairly well told, if a bit long, and the pictures are colourful, but bland. 

 'Twas the Night B'Fore Christmas
retold and illustrated by Melodye Rosales

The Night Before Christmas has been illustrated in a wide variety of ways, from plasticene (Barbara Reid), collage (Rachel Isadora), and pop-up (Robert Sabuda). But for a truly original take, why not try Rosales' African-American version? She retells the poem using the language of the south, turning it into a lively, expressive chant that begs to be performed out loud. Her paintings are equally energetic and joyful. 

Highly recommended.

December 17, 2014

Happy Hanukkah

Menorah Under the Sea
by Esther Susan Heller

David Ginsburg, a marine biologist, is spending the summer in Antarctica, where the sun never sets. It is also the first night of Hanukkah and he wonders how he will celebrate the occasion. While diving under the frigid ice, he gets an amazing idea.

An unusual Hanukkah book that is sure to fascinate. It's also a good introduction to sea urchins!

December 15, 2014

African Twelve Days of Christmas

There are so many versions of the Twelve Days of Christmas that it's nearly impossible to choose. I like ones that are very funny: A Porcupine in a Pine Tree, spectacular: The 12 Days of Christmas: A Pop-up Celebration, or unique to a place or region: Bluenose Twelve Days of Christmas.  So I was happy to find these two books, which celebrate the people and customs of Africa.

The 12 Days of Christmas
by Rachel Isadora

The lively, colourful collage illustrations make this book a joy.

A Stork in a Baobab Tree: An African 12 Days of Christmas 
by Catherine House and Polly Alakija

The unique verse is supplemented by descriptions of African customs, artwork, food, and clothing.

December 12, 2014

Adorable baby porcupine

Baby Porcupine
by Aubrey Lang & Wayne Lynch

A baby porcupine is called a porcupette. Young readers will delight in watching the porcupette grow up. The many cute pictures and easy-to-read text are presented in a small volume that little hands can easily grasp.

A good addition to any child's library.

December 10, 2014

A porcupine's life

by Sandra Markle

Porcupines are actually pretty cute as the pictures in this book will attest. Just don't get too close to one. It can defend itself very well! Readers will learn a bit about porcupine anatomy, the food it eats, and how it raises its young.

A very good book.

December 8, 2014

Prickly porcupines

Do You Know Porcupines?
by Alain M. Bergeron, Michel Quintin & Sampar

Brief facts about porcupines are enlivened by Sampar's comical illustrations and witty quips. The graphic novel format should ensure that kids will want to read it again and again. With a short glossary and index.

December 5, 2014

Sloth facts

by Sara Swan Miller

Nice simple book about sloths that reveal facts you may not know about them. For example, they have no front teeth and two-toed sloths do not have a tail. 

The large photographs are very appealing.

December 3, 2014

Baby sloth

Baby Sloth
by Aubrey Lang & Wayne Lynch

Using simple words, Lang describes a baby sloth's development as it learns to fend for itself in a Central American forest. The story is accompanied by many photographs of the sloth and its mother hanging in the trees. Some of the photos are a bit on the small size, and they lack variability, but the book is a fine introduction to a very sleepy animal.

December 1, 2014

Cutest animal ever!

A Little Book of Sloth
by Lucy Cooke

If you are not a sloth lover, you will be after reading this adorable book. Every page is filled with so much huggy cuteness that you'll just melt. Perfect.

November 28, 2014

How to be a spy

The Real Spy's Guide to Becoming a Spy
by Peter Earnest

Former CIA operative Earnest debunks the myths about working as a spy and reveals the truth (or as much as he's allowed). He provides a brief background about the history of spying and talks about the training involved and the types of work agents do. Readers will also get a crash course on planting bugs, spotting or evading surveillance, and working undercover. The book is a surprisingly quick read even though the terms and acronyms can get a bit repetitive, and there are not enough behind-the-scenes stories. Still, it offers a good overview of how what it's like to be a real spy.


November 26, 2014

American spies

The Dark Game: True Spy Stories
by Paul B. Janeczko

It's too bad that books like these aren't included in school curriculums. Their stories are far more interesting than some of the dry textbooks that students are forced to wade through. In The Dark Game, readers are introduced to some notorious American and international spies, whose exploits abound with excitement and intrigue. There's George Washington who organized the first spy ring in the United States, Virginia Hall who evaded the Nazis despite having a wooden leg, and Juan Pujol aka Garbo, who became an amazing double agent. There's also a fascinating story about the sabotage of U.S. munitions factories during World War I. Janeczko also talks about the evolution of spy communication, from complex codes to high tech satellites.

Highly recommended for middle grade and high school readers.

November 24, 2014

Spy girls

In Disguise! Undercover with Real Women Spies
by Ryan Ann Hunter

Throughout history, women have worked as spies. They were good at it. Young women organized spy rings, carried secret messages, became double agents, and trained resistance fighters. Short two to four page biographies are interspersed with even shorter ones about individual spies, along with fun spycraft activities like how to make codes and invisible ink, hone covert observation skills, or create disguises.

For adventurous girls everywhere.