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Sunday, January 14, 2018

‘Big Bear, Small Mouse’ Teaches Kids Comparisons

Big Bear, Small Mouse
Written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman
Margaret K. McElderry Books, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2016

              “Big Bear, Small Mouse,” the latest in Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman’s Bear series, is a warm, cheerful simple story of animal friends gathering in Bear’s lair to stay warm and enjoy time together.

              Told in an easy pattern, the story teaches children comparison words, such as big and small, slow and fast, and low and high.

              ‘Mouse hops onto Bear
              He is careful not to fall.
              Bear is big, big BIG!
              Mouse is small, small, small!

It is a cumulative narrative, beginning with bear and mouse, and growing as new pairs of animals join the group. Each pair is described using a pair of opposite adjectives.  

‘Bear and Mouse both wave
to their friends as they go past.  
Badger moseys slowly,
but Hare runs very fast!

Rhyme is used effectively in an A-B, C-B pattern with four-line, three-foot stanzas.

Each time a new pair of animals joins the group, they are added to the list. So, it begins,

Small Mouse
big Bear.’

The list grows.

Slow Badger, fast Hare.
Small Mouse, big Bear!’

And grows.

High Owl, low Wren.
Slow Badger, fast Hare.
Small Mouse, big Bear!’

Until finally, it is six lines long, with a rhyming pattern of A-A, B-B, C-C. 

‘All together, gathered there,
Cold night, warm lair.
Quiet woods, loud friends.
High Owl, low Wren.
Slow Badger, fast Hare.
Small Mouse, BIG BEAR!’

The growing list builds momentum, until the story ends with Bear smiling and clapping, surrounded by his friends in his lair that is decorated with strings of daisies.

The colorful, expressive pictures of the animals complement the story, and tell a few new details of their own. Mouse tickles Bear with a feather, Badger wears a necklace of daisies, a bird gives Badger another daisy, and Badger shares his necklace with Mole.

One small criticism is the overuse of exclamation marks, a lazy man’s way of expressing emotion. This story could have let the words and pictures do that without resorting to them.   

About the Author 

Karma Wilson is the bestselling author of several picture books for Simon @ Schuster, including the Bear series and “Where Is Home Little Pig? Karma lives in Montana.

About the Illustrator

Jane Chapman is a illustrator of over one hundred books for children, including “Dilly Duckling,” by Claire Freedman and “I Love My Mama” by Peter Kavanagh, as well as Karma Wilson’s “Bear Snores On,” “Bear Wants More,” “Bear Stays Up for Christmas,” and “Mortimer’s Christmas Manger.” She lives with her family in Dorset, England. Visit Jane at  

Monday, November 6, 2017

Seuss-like Dinosaur Tale Entertains while Teaching

Welcome to Day #1 of the “Sticks ‘n’ Stones” Blog Tour

To celebrate the release of “Sticks ‘n’ Stones ‘n’ Dinosaur Bones,” written by Ted Enik and illustrated by G.F. Newland, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content about this humorous tall tale and giving away chances to win a copy of “Sticks ‘n’ Stones ‘n’ Dinosaur Bones.” 

Sticks ‘n’ Stones ‘n’ Dinosaur Bones: Being a Whimsical ‘Take’ on a (pre)Historical Event
Written by Ted Enik and illustrated by G.F. Newland
Schiffer Publishing, Philadelphia, and Pixel Mouse House, New York, September 2017

“I’ll tell you a story – and some of It’s true – that explores and explains what the Bone Hunters do.” So begins this story about a feud between two paleontologists during America’s Gilded Age in the 1870s and ‘80s.

The story is told in a rollicking rhyme with lots of humor, and is reminiscent of Dr. Seuss in its writing style and sense of fun. It is about the frenzied competition to find dinosaur bones that grew between Edward Drinker Cope of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and O. Charles Marsh of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University, New Haven, CT.
“Each paleontologist used less-than-ethical methods to outdo the other – lying, stealing, blackmail, even destroying fossils,” writes Enik in a prologue. “Both obsessed and vengeful men attacked each other in professional journals as well as in newspapers targeted at the general public, in an all-out attempt to ruin his rival’s credibility and have his funding withdrawn.”

Enik is a master of rhyme and rhythm. A Goodreads reviewer said she found herself nearly singing when she read the book aloud to her daughter.

The story begins:

“Wrinkled professors from northeastern colleges/ saw there was room to expand certain knowledges.”
“Edward D. Cope was the man that School “A” / felt was perfectly suited for digging away!
“O. Charles Marsh represented School “B.” / Who could think of no Bone Hunter better than he!”
“If any bone promised a glimmer of glory, / a scout set about telegraphing the story
To big city newspapers – holding their deadlines -- /and poised to report it in EXTRA LARGE headlines.”

Before long, both paleontologists decide to stoop to less ethical means of winning the most accolades.

“To heck with science,” Marsh hissed to his shovel, / Outshining my rival’s the goal, far above all.
“It’s much more important to outdo my foe, / and if fibbing comes into it, who’s going to know?”

Both men spread rumors that they found something far greater than any bones so far discovered. Each gathers crowds and crows about their amazing discoveries.

“Behold!” bellowed Cope/ like a one-person chorus. / An animal never on Earth seen before!!!!
“My NeverTopThisOne-Ginormous-asaurus!”

His opponent Marsh tries to one-up him:

“Exclaiming, ‘Good People, look here! Feast your eyes! / What I’m holding before you – though tiny in size—
“Is by far-and-away, of the hundreds I’ve found, / quite the topmost dead treasure I took from the ground!”

Despite the scientists’ raving superlatives, their audiences see through their insincere claims.

“Like that! The Bone Hunters were fired, and broke. / Where once they were famous they now were a joke.
“And why not/ They were phonies/ and Bone Buccaneers
“Who swindled their sponsors and spoiled their careers.”

Regardless of their childish competition, these two scientists each discovered the bones of many dinosaurs and the two of them were responsible for the flowering of the science of paleontology, Enik writes.

Marsh discovered and named the Allosaurus, the Apatosaurus (originally named Bronotosaurus), the Diplodocus, the Stegosaurus, and the Triceratops. Cope discovered and named the Camarasaurus, the Coelophysis, and the Dimetrodon. He named the Elasmosaurus, which was discovered by another paleontologist, Dr. Theophilus Turner.

G.F. Newland’s illustrations are charming, stylistic, and colorful, and keep the story moving at a gingerly pace. Their old-fashioned look suits the historical subject.

This is the second time “Sticks ‘n’ Stones ‘n’ Dinosaur Bones” is being published, now by Schiffer Publishing, Philadelphia, with Pixel Mouse House, New York, and available in hardcover.  It was originally published in 2013 by Pixel Mouse House and was selected as a Finalist for American Book Fest’s 2014 Best Children’s Nonfiction and a Finalist for American Book Fest’s 2014 International Book Award for Best Children’s Nonfiction.  It is an Unhinged History Book, the first in a Seuss-inspired series about history and science that Ted is writing and Newland is illustrating for children.

About the Author

Ted Enik has worked as an illustrator for most of the well-known New York publishing houses, applying his versatility to both original art as well as classic and current children’s book characters, including the Magic School Bus, the Eloise books, and the popular “Fancy Nancy I Can Read” series. This is the first picture book Ted has authored. It was first published in 2013 by Pixel Mouse House, New York, and honored as a Finalist in the American Book Fest’s 2014 Best Children’s Nonfiction and a Finalist in American Book Fest’s 2014 International Book Award for Best Children’s Nonfiction. Learn more about his books at and his illustration at

About the Illustrator

G.F. Newland is a part-time illustrator and the systems administrator at the School of Visual Arts, New York, NY. His doodles have found their way onto buttons, bags, posters, and T-shirts, and have been published by Scholastic, Hachette, and Pixel Mouse House. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and a pet fish named Enki. Visit his website at

Schedule of Blog Tour

November 8: Books My Kids Read
November 10: Kid Lit 411
November 11: Shelf Employed
November 12: Frog on a Blog

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Friday, October 20, 2017

‘The Night Gardener’ Spins Gorgeous, Magical Tale

The Night Gardener
Written and illustrated by The Fan Brothers
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016

“The Night Gardener” is a gorgeously illustrated picture book that tells a magical tale of the transformative power of art and the kindness of an old man.

The story begins as the orphan William traces an owl into the dirt and a strange old man walks by carrying a ladder, a bag of tools, and a rolled-up rug over his shoulder.

During the blue-tinged night, the old man clips away at a tree in front of the dreary Grimloch Orphanage.

William wakes up and looks out his window to see a commotion on the street. He quickly dresses, runs downstairs, and races outside. As if by magic, the tree has been shaped into a wise old owl like the one he drew in the dirt. William spends the entire day staring at it in wonder.

As the days go by, every morning brings a new animal shape in a tree: a cat, a rabbit, a parrot, an elephant, and finally a dragon. William is very excited, and more and more people are coming out to see the artistry.

The pictures begin in black and white, but as the town’s excitement grows, more dabs of color appear in man’s blue suspenders, a boy’s red tricycle, and a man’s yellow tuba.

Finally, many townspeople gather and enjoy a day outdoors next to two trees that make a dragon.
As William begins to head home, he spots the night gardener. He turns to William and invites him to help him transform Grimloch Park.

They work together deep into the night until William falls asleep under a tree. In the morning, William awakens to the sound of happy families walking by and a gift of garden sheers from the night gardener.

The whole town comes out to admire the night gardener and William’s work. Every tree is a different animal: a giraffe, a dinosaur, a rhinoceros, a whale, and a bear. 

As the seasons change and time goes by, the trees lose their animal shapes. The night gardener never returns, but the townspeople are forever changed. Now instead of a dreary black and white, the town is full of color and life.

And William becomes an artist with his sheers. On the last page, he is cutting a squirrel from a shrub.

“The Night Gardener” won the 2016 Dily Evans Founder’s Award, which is given by the Society of Illustrators, New York, to the most promising new talent in children’s book illustration.
About the Author and Illustrator

Terry Fan received his formal art training at Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, Canada. His work is a blend of traditional and contemporary techniques, using ink or graphite mixed with digital. He spends his days (and nights) creating magical paintings, portraits, and prints. The Night Gardener is his first book. Born in Illinois, he now lives in Toronto. Visit him online at Krop, Society 6, and Facebook.

Eric Fan is an artist and writer who lives in Toronto, Canada. Born in Hawaii and raised in Toronto, he attended the Ontario College of Art and Design, where he studied illustration, sculpture, and film. He has a passion for vintage bikes, clockwork contraptions, and impossible dreams. “The Night Gardener is his first children’s book. See more of his work at his Society 6 shop and on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

New Book Celebrates How Our Children Teach Us to See

Through Your Eyes: My Child’s Gift to Me
Written by Ainsley Earhardt and illustrated by Ji-Hyuk Kim
Aladdin, An Imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, October 17, 2017

“Through Your Eyes: My Child’s Gift to Me” is a sweet book told in rhyme about how a little girl teaches her mother to see, hear, and feel the everyday beauty and miracles in the world.

The mother and daughter spend the afternoon at Central Park, get caught in a brief rainstorm, watch the clouds in the sky, and then walk home as the sun sets.

Ji-Hyuk Kim’s soft, pretty illustrations complement the gentle story.

“Squealing with joy/When you spotted a dog/Eyes smiling with wonder/At the croak of a frog.
“You smelled every tulip/Gentle beauty so real/Who would have thought/You could teach me to feel.”

“You danced in the puddles/When the rain pattered down/First we waltzed, then we sang/What a heavenly sound.”

“You counted the clouds/My heart pressed to your ear/Who would have known/You could teach me to hear?”

“To slow down, take small steps/Make each moment last/The world is a blur/If you’re spinning too fast.”

Earhardt will donate a portion of her proceeds from “Through Your Eyes” to Folds of Honor, an organization that provides scholarships and assistance to the spouses and children of fallen soldiers in service to the United States.  
About the Author

Ainsley Earhardt is the cohost of Fox & Friends. This is her second picture book. Her first, “Take Heart, My Child,” 2016, cowritten with Kathryn Cristaldi and illustrated by Jaime Kim, was a New York Times bestseller. Ainsley lives in Manhattan with her husband and daughter, Hayden.

About the Illustrator

Ji-Hyuk Kim is a freelance illustrator who has clients in the United States, Europe, and Asia. He is known for his literary illustrations, which embrace the atmosphere and light. He has worked on numerous books and media both in print and online, including children’s book covers, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, and album covers. He lives with his family in Korea. This is his first picture book. Visit him at

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

French Illustrator Puts Eerie Spin on Traditional Tale

The Pied Piper of Hamelin
Adapted by Marine Tasso, illustrated by Thomas Baas. and translated from French by Noelia Hobeika
Little Gestalten, Berlin, 2016

“The Pied Piper of Hamelin” is a beautifully illustrated, deliciously eerie version of the traditional cautionary tale popularized by the Brothers Grimm.

French illustrator Thomas Baas uses bright reds and dark blues to create a sinister mood as a small German town is suddenly invaded by rats on Christmas Eve.

The story is set in 1283 though the characters are curiously clothed in 20th century fashions. The townspeople enjoy a carefree life of lavish parties, but they regard their children as bothersome.

A rat sneaks in through the town gates, followed by a second rat, and a third rat. After a few minutes, there are a few hundred rats, and after a few hours, a few thousand. It isn’t long before the town is overrun by rats.

Panicked townspeople go to the mayor, who orders the most powerful poison be used in mousetraps. But, alas, the rats are so clever and hearty they avoid the mousetraps and feast on the poison as if it were candy.

Desperately, the mayor announces he will give a thousand gold coins to anyone who can rid the town of its rats.

A stranger comes to town and says he knows how to free the town from its infestation. The mayor promises him the reward if he succeeds.

The Pied Piper plays a small pipe in the town square. The rats stop to listen. Then suddenly the square is full of entranced rats.

The rats follow as the stranger continues to play his pipe, walking toward the town gates. The Pied Piper stops on a bridge, but the rats keep moving and throw themselves into the river to drown.

The townspeople celebrate as the Pied Piper goes to the mayor to claim his reward. The mayor says all he will give him is one hundred gold coins. The Pied Piper tells him he will regret that decision.

The adults return to their lavish ways, and the mayor congratulates himself for tricking the stranger.

But one day, the Pied Piper returns playing his pipe. All the children of Hamelin come and follow him. Their parents try to hold them back, but to no avail. The children skip across the bridge, over the river, and disappear into the mountains, never to be seen again.

Ever since that day, the wind from the mountains brings the echo of happy children laughing.

The story is about fairness and the importance of keeping promises. This version of the traditional tale is less bleak than other accounts where the children are drowned or imprisoned in a cave.

Nevertheless, it would be disturbing for very young children. It is probably best for grammar school youngsters.

About the Illustrator

Thomas Baas is a French illustrator of many children’s books. He attended the School of Applied Arts in Strasbourg, France.  He describes his style as old school and in the tradition of Alsatian illustrators. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Two Goofy Board Books Will Amuse Young Children

When Your Lion Needs a Bath
Written by Susanna Leonard Hill and illustrated by Daniel Wiseman
Little Simon, 2017

When Your Elephant Has the Sniffles
Written by Susanna Leonard Hill and illustrated by Daniel Wiseman
Little Simon, 2017

Susanna Leonard Hill has published two silly board books about how to solve your unusual pets’ problems. Young children will enjoy the goofy stories and colorful cartoon pictures by Daniel Wiseman.

The stories are a little reminiscent of Laura Numeroff’s “If You Give ...” series, “If You Give a Moose a Muffin,” “If You Give a Pig a Pancake,” “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” etc. One silly suggestion leads to something else, which leads to another thing. Like Numeroff’s stories, Hills are told in second person, addressing the reader as “you.”

“When Your Lion Needs a Bath” begins with the problem that your pet lion is smelly and needs a bath. It is difficult because the lion is afraid of water like all cats, so you need to be sneaky. As the narrator tells you what to do, a boy main character prepares the bath and tries one thing after another to get the lion into the bathtub. Finally, he succeeds, but he leaves the door open. The lion runs out and gets muddy again, splashing him too. “Looks like your lion needs another bath ... and so do you.”

“When Your Elephant Has the Sniffles” starts with the problem that your pet elephant has the sniffles. The narrator says, “You must take good care of him.” The girl main character does one thing after another as the narrator says what you must do to take good care of your lion being careful to prevent a sneeze. Finally, she sings him a song but she isn’t careful about the props she uses, wearing a feathered boa. “Because after all your hard work, his nose might begin to itch ... and twitch ... and ah ... AH ... AAAHHHH ... CHOOOOOOOOOO!

“Oh dear.

"When your elephant has the sniffles, you just might end up with them too!”

About the Author

Susanna Leonard Hill is the award-winning author of nearly a dozen books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis (A Booklist Children’s Pick and Amelia Bloomer Project choice); No Sword Fighting in the House (a Junior Library Guild selection); Can’t Sleep Without Sheep (a Children’s Book of the Month); and Not Yet, Rose (a Gold Mom’s Choice Award winner). She lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs. She loves chocolate, animals, and being outdoors. 

About the Illustrator

Daniel Wiseman likes to draw. A lot. He likes it so much, he’s made a career out of it. Usually he draws animals wearing clothes, or kids enjoying a good dance party. However, when prodded, he’s been known to draw pretty much anything else. Daniel lives in St. Louis, Mo., with his wife and son. When he isn’t drawing, he can usually be found perfecting his biscuit recipe, hiking up a mountain in some faraway location, singing loudly in his car, riding his bike, or napping.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

‘Cowboy Car’ Teaches Kids to Follow Their Dreams

Cowboy Car
Written by Jeanie Franz Ransom and illustrated by Ovi Nedelcu
Two Lions, New York, 2017

“Cowboy Car” is a “Little Engine that Could” sort of story with a funny twist. Little Car dreams of being a cowboy, but everyone tells him, “Cars Can’t Be Cowboys.”

When Little Car gets bigger, he packs his trunk and goes out West. He finds a cowboy hat just his size on the roof of a cowboy shop. Then he finds a ranch and meets a cowboy named Dusty.

At first, Dusty echoes the words Little Car has always heard, “Cars can’t be cowboys,” but then he says it is a shame because they could use an extra hand. Little Car begs, “Let me prove I can do it.” Dusty agrees to give him a try.

In the next few days, Little Car shows how fast he can go, how he can haul things, and use his headlights to help round up li’l doggies in the dark.

But at the rodeo, he is told he cannot participate unless he can ride a horse. Dusty invites him to stay and watch him ride Double Trouble, the biggest, meanest bull.

After Dusty falls off Double Trouble and is about to be gored by the bull, Little Car races onto the field his tires squealing, horn honking, and radio blasting. He drives around and around, and makes the bull collapse from dizziness. He saves dusty and becomes a hero.

A reporter asks Little Car if he is a cowboy at Circle R Ranch, and Dusty says, “He sure is. In fact, he’s my pardner!” Dusty grins from ear to ear.
This is a cute book for children, teaching them to follow their dreams. Nedulcu’s colorful illustrations are energetic and expressive, complementing the story. 
About the Author

Jeanie Franz Ransom has written eight other picture books including “Big Red and the Little Bitty Wolf, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin, and “There’s a Cat in Our Class,” illustrated by Bryan Langdo. She has three grown sons, and divides her time between homes in O’Fallon, Mo., and Northport, Mich. Learn more about her at

About the Illustrator

Ovi Nedelcu is a character designer for animation as well as an author and illustrator. He’s worked on many animated films for such studios as Laika, Disney, DreamWorks, and Sony. In 2015, he wrote and illustrated his first picture book, “Just Like Daddy,” which School Library Journal called delightful. He lives in Portland, Ore., with his wife, children, and an assortment of animals. Learn more about him at