Welcome, Readers!

The contest Save the Picture Book has ended. Telling people about funny, informative, beautiful, or generally awesome picture books continues. I also share middle grade books, book apps, and educational apps that my kids and I like.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I Like Dinosaurs, but...Dinotrux are Even Better

Do you ever wonder what happens at the zoo before it opens? Well, for starters a fox lets all the animals out of their cages/aquariums. You can see what happens next in Lori Degman's fun counting book, 1 Zany Zoo, ill. by Colin Jack (Simon & Schuster, 2010.)

I was reading this to my two younger boys when my older son looked up from his Michael Connelly mystery (hopefully this taste for grownup books is a phase) and said, "Is that Dr. Seuss?" No, but Degman--and some other contemporary authors--use Seuss's rhyme scheme, which is always fun. Probably also very hard to do.

Another fun fact about this book: it won the 2008 Cheerios Spoonful of Stories Contest. The contest is open to unpublished authors, and part of the prize is having your book published by Simon & Schuster. Lori's book was distributed in 2.2 million boxes of cereal. For more information about the contest, see www.spoonfulsofstoriescontest.com.

Lori seems like just the kind of person who would win a major contest sponsored by a beloved cereal. Meaning, she seems like a neat person. I think neat people have neat things happen to them. More likely, they make neat things happen through talent and hard work. You can read about Lori, who also speaks sign language and teaches hearing impaired students, at www.loridegman.com.

I thought the art was reminiscent of cartoons my kids watch, so I looked up Colin Jack. In fact, he has done art work for several shows on Cartoon Network. This is probably a well known fact and I shouldn't be so proud of my detective work. Still, I must share that tidbit with my kids later today.

Dinotrux by Chris Gall is a big hit in our house. The premise is that trucks have evolved. In prehistoric times, they were like dinosaurs--big, mean, and messy. Now, they're helpful! The big news is that Dinotrux was just optioned by Dreamworks Animation. You can read about it at www.chrisgall.com. (I realize that this is less of a review and more of a news flash, but it's nice to shake things up sometimes.) Speaking of shaking things:

Chicken Butt's Back, by Erica S. Perl, ill. by Henry Cole (Abrams, 2011) is the sequel to Chicken Butt. A boy in the grocery store can't help but turn anything followed by "but" into something "butt." Chicken butt, cat butt, bear butt, etc. I love a good play on words, but...Get it? Now we have a Play on Words Butt. What I like best about the book is the look under there joke. Under where? Underwear. That never ceases to be funny.

Now, growing up, "butt" was considered a bad word in my house. We had to say "bottom." I think that's a mostly old-fashioned rule, though. I allow my own children to say "butt" within the confines of our home. They'll probably let their children yell it in public. That's the way things seem to go. Anyway, kids will get a kick out of a book that speaks their language. You can never go wrong with chicken butt--or dinosaur butt--humor!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

May: Save the Girl Power! (and the Picture Book)

I'm really excited about May's theme: Save the Girl Power! (and the Picture Book.) Originally, it was to be Save the Pink Princesses! (and the Tomboy Princesses,) but I realized that it left out books in which the girls are neither. Books like The Little Piano Girl, in which the girl is a brilliant musician, Summer Birds, in which the girl is a scientist in the Middle Ages, and Stand Straight, Ella Kate, in which the girl is a real-life giant.

I figured that Girl Power more accurately summed up what these books are all about: the power of being yourself, whether that's princess-y, rough and tumbly, or anything else.

Also, with more and more teachers participating in Save Everything! (and the Picture Book,) I think they'll have an easier time convincing the boys in their classes to read about girl power, as opposed to pink princesses. I mean, everybody loves girl power. (Well, almost everybody.)

To be sure, there are some princess and fairy books on this list, too. As I recall from history, princesses are pretty powerful. And fairies, well, they pretty much rule the forest.

Here is the printable flyer, with all the instructions. Good luck, and thank you for Saving the Girl Power! (and the Picture Book.)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Three April Reviews

I'm going to post a few quick April reviews, as the kid reviewers have already done an excellent job on these. I can't compete. (I don't even have crayons.)

First up: Animal House, by Candace Ryan, ill. by Nathan Hale (Walker, 2010)

Have you ever thought, "What if my couch was a cowch? What if my walls were whales? What if my hamper was a hamster?" I haven't, either. But, thankfully, Candace Ryan has. And now, kids who read her imaginative and funny book will, too.

Missing his homework, Jeremy claims that his "vulchair" ate it. His teacher, Mrs. Nuddles, says that she'll pay Jeremy a home visit. If she doesn't like what she sees, he won't be able to go on the field trip. Meaning, his story had better be true. It is, but she may wish it wasn't. Some of the animals that make up Jeremy's home, such as the refrigergator, are scary!

This book works for all ages, as the word play is both sophisticated and concrete. (Wow. That sentence even made me roll my eyes. I really need some crayons.) For teachers, this would be a great book to introduce word play. I give it an Ape Lus.

Another picture book by Ryan, Ribbit Rabbit, came out this Spring.

Shiver Me Letters: a Pirate ABC, by June Sobel, ill. by Henry Cole, (Sandpiper, 2009.)

You might think "R" is the only letter a pirate needs. ("Rrrr, matey!") Not quite! According to their captain, these pirates need more letters to make them tough. They set sail to find the rest of the alphabet. They find them all, except Z, until...well you'll see. This rhyming book is a fun way to learn the alphabet, and I love the idea of "R" being the pirates' starting point. The kid reviewers liked that, too!

B is for Bulldozer: a Construction Alphabet is another fun alphabet book by June Sobel.

Rhyming Dust Bunnies, by Jan Thomas, (Beach Lane, 2009.) (Drawing by St. Agnes student Elizabeth.)

Three dust bunnies, Ed, Ned, and Ted, rhyme with each other all the time, but Bob doesn't. What is his deal?

In the kid reviews, a question on the worksheet was: "What is funny about this book?" A common answer among the older kids was, "Bob is just so random." I think that's a good answer to a tough question.

What makes something funny? Sometimes, you just can't tell. Have you ever asked, "Why is everything that person says funny?" Then other times, you think something should be funny, but it isn't. In Rhyming Dust Bunnies, everything is funny, but what is funniest for me is that, first, Bob is named Bob, which is a funny name for a dust bunny. Second, the other dust bunnies keep calling him Bob: "No, Bob, that doesn't rhyme." Calling someone Bob over and over makes them sound so grown up. So dust bunnies are having an adult conversation about rhyming. Which is hilarious.

No spoilers, here. You'll have to see for yourself what Bob's problem is. The sequel is Here Comes the Big, Mean Dust Bunny, which is also very funny.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Save the Lapfing Children in Pfeffernut County!: More April Kid Book Reviews

Announcing--our first out of town school book reviews! These are from Sunflower Elementary in Paola, Kan., which is about an hour from Kansas City, and happens to be where my grandma and grandpa grew up (in apartments down the hall from each other--a sweet story for another day. For now, a Fact of the Day: The sunflower is both the Kansas state flower and nickname--"the Sunflower State.")

Jamie McDaniel's fifth grade class reviewed a variety of funny picture books. From their reviews, I learned about a cool new series! The Pfeffernut County books, published by Capstone, are about, well, Pfeffernut County. It's a place on the prairie. (Perhaps in Minnesota, where Capstone is based. Or perhaps in Kansas, another beautiful prairie state.)

In Pfeffernut County, people dream big! I love books that tell stories about people in a small community and think this is a great idea for a kids' series.

Here are a couple reviews--by Noah and Drew--for Henry Shortbull Swallows the Sun, by Jill Kalz, ill. by Sahin Erkocak (Capstone, 2008.)

And two for Farmer Cap, also by Kalz and Erkocak, reviewed by Sabrina and Lydia.

And now for a book not in the series, How to Lose All Your Friends, by Nancy Carlson, (Puffin, 1997.) This was reviewed by Carrie.

The Sunflower fifth graders did a great job, and as runners up in the Save the Laughing Children! (and the Picture Book) contest, they will receive two picture books, plus something funny (but useful.) Well done, kids!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Review: Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten?

Parents might ask, as a new school year approaches: "Is my child ready for kindergarten?" Meanwhile, their children might be asking, "Is my buffalo ready for kindergarten?" This hilarious book by Audrey Vernick, ill. by Daniel Jenneweln, (Balzer + Bray, 2010) reassures kids (and their buffalos) that kindergarten is a benign--and fun--place.

And it's part of our benign and fun contest: Save the Laughing Children! (and the Picture Book,) the contest that lets kids be the book reviewers. If you scroll down, you'll see a cute review of this book by a St. Peter's 4th grade student.

I read this to my 5-year-old, who observed the pictures with a knowing smile. (Oh, he's well-aware of what goes on in kindergarten. He is, in fact, a kindergartener.) At the beginning of the book, I asked him if he thought the buffalo was ready for kindergarten. He said that based on his size, he should be in high school by now.

But as the story unfolded, it was clear that kindergarten was the right place for the buffalo. I was surprised that this was Daniel Jennewein's first children's book. He knocked the buffalo illustrations out of the park. Just look at the buffalo's eyes on the cover. Do they not say "brand new kindergartener"? He's so excited, so optimistic, yet he also might turn around and sprint home at any moment.

What I love most about this book is the kindergarten catch phrases that Vernick sprinkles in. When the buffalo is unable to use scissors, yet shows the children that he's on an old nickel, the narrator observes: "Everyone's special in his or her own way." This is both funny and reassuring, which, to me, is the best kind of humor. (Being funny while being nice has a higher degree of difficulty. 6.7, I think.)

This book achieved a major award in our house. The "Can I read it to you now?" Award. This is where a child--who is not yet reading or is just starting to read--asks to read the book back to the adult. I think this a great achievement for a picture book because it shows that the pictures are so integrated into the story that, by looking at them, the child can retell the story. It also shows that the child loves the story so much that he wants to be the one telling it.

Coming this summer, is the sequel! Teach Your Buffalo to Play the Drums! And speaking of knocking things out of the park, Vernick also has a nonfiction book out this year, She Loved Baseball: the Effa Manley Story, which will be one of our June Save America's Favorite Pastime! books.

Fun fact: to pluralize buffalo, add an "es," "s," or nothing. (As in "deer" is the plural of "deer.") Also, one who pluralizes things is "a pluralizer."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Save the Laughing Children! (and the Rhyming Dust Bunnies)

School Librarian Erin Flint is also a first place winner of Save the Laughing Children! (and the Picture Book.) She'll receive four picture books and a couple funny things for her library at St. Agnes School in Roeland Park, Kan.

I especially loved the student reviews of Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas. This is a great book to have students draw because the characters are so colorful and fun.

Here are a couple wonderfully drawn reviews by second graders Elizabeth and Tom:

And two by Morgan and Cole:

All so cute!

Now we have Arthur's April Fool by Marc Brown, reviewed by Salah and Aleah:

And finally a few reviews of Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie books by Betty, and Paige:

Great job St. Agnes students! And thank you, Mrs. Flint, for Saving the Laughing Children! (and the Picture Book.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Save the Laughing Children! Kid Reviews Part One

Before we get started talking about the great participation in April's Save the Laughing Children!, I have a semi-related question for you. If you saw the following sign near your bank, what would you think it meant:

Giant Children's Sale

If you were horrified, even for a moment, because you thought giant children were for sale (as if they hadn't the rights and dignity of regular size children) then you are probably a children's book writer.

Here it is only April 8, and I've had 5 teachers already turn in kid reviews to Save the Laughing Children! (and the Picture Book.) I'm going to give each school or class their own day to be featured on the blog. Later this month, I'll post my reviews on the books I have.

Remember that you can also follow along on Facebook @Author Bridget Heos. Finally, happy late April Fool's Day!

Without further ado, here are reviews sent in by 4th Grade teacher Molly Wholey, from St. Peter's in Kansas City, one of the first schools to participate this month! They did a phenomenal job--putting lots of time, effort, and thought into this. They wrote out reviews and also did a drawing.

Students read 5 books from the list, which was fun to see. I'd like to send the authors their reviews because I'm only able to post one from each, and they are all so cute!

First up, Animal House by Candace Ryan, ill. by Nathan Hale, Walker and Company, 2010, reviewed by Isabel, 10. She says, "What I liked about it was that all the objects in his house were animals...I think that it would take a lot of time to think that up."

Second, Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten?, by Audrey Vernick, ill. by Daniel Jennewein, Balzer + Bray, 2010, reviewed by Grace, 10. She loved the book and suggested an additional scene where the buffalo did ballet or tangoed with a zebra. Perhaps it will happen in the soon-to-be released sequel, Teach Your Buffalo to Play the Drums, which comes out this summer!

Next, Pet Shop Follies, by Mary Ann Fraser, Boyds Mills Press, 2010, reviewed by Spencer, who said, "This book made me feel like I just wanted to go crazy. Then have a talent show." Hey, I think that's how American Idol got started!

Next, Shiver Me Letters by June Sobel, ill. by Henry Cole, Harcourt, 2006, reviewed by Jackson, who says, "I think it was funny how they said 'R' a lot. I also liked the part when he said, 'Walk the plank.'"

Finally, Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, by Melanie Watt, Kids Can Press, 2007, was reviewed by Audrey. She says, "This book made me feel that I'm lucky to have the friends I have because I wouldn't want a goldfish or dog as my only friend."

Thank you, Miss Wholey's class. You did an amazing job! For your prize, you will receive four picture books and some funny stuff. Wait--you think bacon band-aids are funny, right? Obviously a rhetorical question. Who doesn't think bacon band-aids are funny?

March Kid Reviews

I've been a little behind in my posts. My book launched April 1, so it's been busy. For instance, I had to sign a copy to this fly and his 10,000 children, Alex, Ailis, Alia...

The March Save the Bookworm! reviews are in.

Margarete, 4, participated at the Plaza Library, by reading Bugs, Bugs, Bugs, by Bob Barner and Jennifer West. As you can see, Margarete really liked this book, and thinks that her friend Tiger, who has red hair, would too. Not many books make you feel silly on the top of your tongue! That's better than a starred review.

Here is her picture review. I assumed it was a beetle, but she explained that it was actually a turtle that ate all the bugs. Why don't more reviewers include fake spoilers? Makes things more interesting.

We also have a return of Thomas and Daniel, the Utah brothers with mad coloring skills. They reviewed Interrupting Chicken, by David Ezra Stein. Here is Thomas's review, which has a nice cubist twist:

And Daniel's, which got the thing on the rooster's head (not sure what that's called,) just right!

The kids did a great job. Margarete, the first to turn in a review, gets a copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting Larvae: a Guide for Insect Parents (and Curious Children,) by me, ill. by Stephane Jorisch, and, if it's okay with her mother, a pet silkworm. Thomas and Daniel also get a copy of my book, and a toy pet caterpillar.

Congrats, kids!