Tuesday, January 26, 2016

NELLIE BELLE by Mem Fox. Illustrated by Mike Austin.  New York: Beach Lane Books, 2015, 32p.  ISBN 978-1416990055 hc. $17.99.    PreS-Gr.1    E PIC
Mem Fox works her magic with simple rhyme and repetition to create a read-aloud adventure that appeals to a single reader or whole classroom of listeners.  The audience will want to join in the story by repeating "Is it fun in the yard /sea/ park, Nellie Belle, Nellie Belle?" Nellie Belle makes a day of it by playing in the yard, walking down the street to the beach, taking a swim, and ending up in the park where the woods are dark and unfamiliar.  The catchy rhythm of the story comes to a halt when Nellie Belle is NOT having fun in the forest, but uses good sense to return to the safety of home.  Digitally textured to look like sponge painting, Austin's large illustrations send out a blast of color from each page.  This book is a "must-read" for preschoolers.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

SPECS FOR REX by Yasmeen Ismail. Illustrated by author. Bloomsbury Children's Books: New York, 2015. First published in Great Britain by Bloomsbury Publishing Pic in 2014. 32p. ISBN 978-1-61963-7108 $16.99   Gr. K-2   E PIC
If you wore glasses in grade school, this story will bring back memories, good and bad, of the first days after receiving those "specs."  Every normal routine is turned upside down because the glasses get in the way and the look of your face is forever changed.  Rex tried to hide his glasses under his hair on the way to school, in his sandwich during lunch, and under a layer of paint in art class.  When Rex accidentally found a missing item for the teacher, she attributed it to the power of his glasses, causing other students to compliment him also.  This put a positive spin on the "specs" and Rex's attitude toward them.  The watercolor illustrations are basic and creative and quite effective insupporting the story, making this book a great read-aloud for classrooms and any facility that houses children who wear glasses.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

MOSQUITOLAND by David Arnold. New York: Viking Books for Young Readers, 2015.  352p.  ISBN 978-0451470775 hc. $17.99     Gr. 9-12    YA FIC

Mary Iris Malone, who uses the pseudonym MIM, has just been displaced from her home in Ohio to the mosquito infested state of Mississippi with her father and brand new stepmother, prompting her to run away and hop a bus back to Cleveland to tie up loose ends with her mother who now resides in a rehabilitation facility.  Lucky for her, she sits next to a grandmotherly woman, who ignores Mim's teenaged flippancy and penchant for being impulsive, allowing a chance to share their quests with each other - their reasons for being on the bus.  Mim is also unlucky enough to meet up with "pancho man" and deals with the moral dilemma of doing the right thing by reporting his activity, which would also blow her anonymity and reveal her as a runaway.  On the next phase of the journey, Mim tries hitchhiking and meets her next two traveling buddies, the handsome Beck and the charming, childlike Walt who bring humor and goodness into the adventure.    Throughout the story, Mim reflects back in time to analyze her mother's mental illness and her father's over-reaction to any hint of odd behavior she displays.  Will a family history of mental illness affect her also or can she hope to live normally and unmedicated? This coming-of-age novel truly depicts the growth of the main character who learns a little bit about herself from each of the quirky characters she meets along the way.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

SAIL AWAY by Langston Hughes. Illustrated by Ashley Bryan. New York: Atheneum Books, 2015. 40p. ISBN  hc. $17.99   Gr. 1-4   Juv.

The words of Langston Hughes have spanned the years since the 1920's when this famous Harlem poet claimed his place in the cultural renaissance of African American writers and artists. The poetry and how it affects the emotions of modern day readers demonstrates its relevance over time.   Readers will appreciate how these poems flow from one to the next.  The Poem, "April Rain Song" made an impression on me, presenting a sensory experience of spring rain.  Bryan's illustrations of cut paper collage are very bright and beautiful.  Bryan's tribute to his mother's scissors is heart warming.  She used the scissors in her sewing and embroidery projects and he, in turn, used them in cutting the colored paper for the collages in this book.  The picture book format invites young readers into a world of poetry that they can enjoy into adulthood.
Mary Koshorek, Librarian Assistant, Spies Public Library