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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Category Archives: picture books

“Everyone forgets their manners sometimes.”

Lisa Tharpe and Ali Bahrampour’s P is for Please: A Bestiary of Manners features twenty six lessons on etiquette, with the help of a large menagerie.   Starting from A, with “A is for asking permission,” each page offers a reminder starting with a letter of the alphabet, and a silly alliteration of the importance of manners.

What follows is a  zany breakdown of all the things one should always do, whether it’s using table manners or saying “excuse me.”

“Excuse me!”  whispers Xavier Xolo when he accidentally bumps into an extra large xenopus.”

Ali Bahrampour’s illustrations are simple but effective. The gentle nature of the animals depicted reminded me of Richard Scarry’s early work from his Golden Book titles. A wide range of species, from the common to the exotic, are shown here.  P is for Please is great for kids, because they’re learning lessons on politeness, while being entertained and the illustrations add to the whimsy of the text.

The cover design features a raised illustration.  Such tactile touches are rare these days in picture books, so this was a pleasant surprise.

Copy for review provided by the author.  To purchase your own copy, visit!

Title:  P is for Please
Author:  Lisa Tharpe (Illus. by Ali Bahrampour)
Date:  November 2009
Publisher: Blueberry Ink Press
Pages: 32

princesshyacinthPrincess Hyacinth isn’t your normal princess. She floats. And that’s not a metaphor for her delicate manner of walking lady-like, she literally floats in the air. The only solution is for the king and queen to weigh her down with a heavy crown and jewels. But she wants to fly, and a new friendship will help do so.

A collaboration of two big names in the children’s literature world, Princess Hyacinth is a visual delight. Lane Smith’s illustrations are usually bright and loud, all over the page.  Here they’re  watercolors, more restrained and delicate. The story’s words are art themselves, when Princess Hyacinth floats up, so do they.   The visual play with words continues as the princess careens across the sky.

The ending is great. I love when a children’s book steps outside of the realm of neatly tying up things, it sparks imagination in children and in this dreamy fairy tale, it’s perfect.

Title:  Princess Hyacinth (The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated)
Author:  Florence Parry Heide (Illus. by Lane Smith)
Date: September 2009
Publisher: Schwartz and Wade (Random House)
Pages: 48
Format:  Hardback

Halloween.inddIt’s almost Halloween, and one of my favorite things about working at a bookstore is seeing all the new Halloween titles come in! There’s always quite a few, and so once I learned about The 13 Days of Halloween, I accepted the invitation to the blog tour.

Carol Greene’s 13 Days of Halloween is a picture book written in verse about a persistent (and peculiarly green-skinned) suitor and his object of affection. It’s a parody of the classic “12 Days of Christmas” song but these gifts are much, much more macabre. Also more fun.

The first day brings not a partridge, but a vulture in a dead tree. The second, two hissing cats. The third, three fat toads. All throughout the strange courting, the female ignores her would-be suitor, until the thirteenth day when she gives him a present. The ending of 13 Days of Halloween takes you by surprise. Judging by this, the title could easily become a crowd favorite, with scary voices, and a dramatic flourish at the clever ending. I think kids will ask for this story over and over, because of its catchy verse and ghoulish content.

The illustrations by Tim Raglin (The Wolf Who Cried Boy) add the perfect element of creepiness to the story: things are definitely not living in his haunted world, but they’re not too terrifying for a toddler either. Flipping through the book, the little touches Raglin makes stand out  – the skeleton of a pink poodle, with little tufts of fur still remaining, or the angry toads dressed in bonnets a few pages later, and sipping magic potion. My favorite: the spider who weaves a web next to the opening words, and as the story progresses, she winds her way up and down the pages. It’s little touches such as this and the fun sing-song rhyming that make 13 Days of Halloween a treat.

Thanks go to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for sending me a copy for review and for the blog tour invitation.

Title: The 13 Days of Halloween
Author:  Carol Greene (Illus. by Tim Raglin)
Date: September 2009
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Pages: 32
Format:  Hardback

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Imogene Tripp loves history so much that her first words as a baby were “Four score and seven years ago.” She helps restore the Liddleville Historical Society, but to her disappointment, nobody visits.  Then she learns the Mayor has ordered the building torn down and plans to put a shoelace factory in its place.  Taking to the streets, Imogene launches a one woman campaign, blanketing the town with flyers and crying ala Paul Revere “the bulldozers are coming!” but nobody listens.  “The shoelace factory will put Liddleville on the map,” they say in reply. But Imogene is determined to win the fight – her last stand.

I was utterly charmed by this book.  Candace Fleming’s Imogene is plucky and adorable. Illustrator Nancy Carpenter depicts a girl who runs around town astride a stick horse as she quotes Paul Revere, and in flight goggles when she educates children during show and tell about notable heroines.  Imogene’s habit of quoting great men of history fits perfectly in this story, especially her reference to Martin Luther King’s utterance “We are made by history,” as she cleans the Historical Society.

The book’s ending is a little predictable to adults, but children will likely like it.  Imogene’s Last Stand is a great introduction to history for little ones with a sweet but determined girl.

Title: Imogene’s Last Stand
Author: Candace Fleming (Illus. by Nancy Carpenter)
Date: October 2009
Publisher:  Schwartz and Wade (Random House)
Pages: 40
Format: Hardback

Other Reviews

Muddy Puddle Musings
Not Just for Kids

As a child, I was nuts for dolphins.  I originally went to college for a degree in Psychology so I’d be able to become an animal behaviorist, and study dolphins. I even memorized the scientific names of various whales and dolphins.
Today I’ve got a review of a great new children’s nature book about a little dolphin with an incredible spirit, and the generous people who helped her recover from a terrible injury.
From the authors of Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship,  and Knut: How One Little Polar Bear Captivated the World comes Winter’s Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again.
Winter the bottle-nose dolphin was entangled in a crab trap off the east coast of Florida, and was thankfully rescued by a concerned fisherman.

Her tail had become severely injured by the net, and needed medical attention soon.  Volunteers at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium were able to get the baby dolphin to eat, and gradually she grew healthier, but her tail eventually fell off.
The clever dolphin learned how to swim her tail’s stump by moving her body side-to-side, similar to that of a fish.  The staff at the aquarium was impressed by her ingenuity and determination.  They eventually introduced her to another rescued dolphin.  Soon, Winter began attracting media attention, including The Today Show and local radio programs.  An animal lover, Kevin Carroll, heard about Winter on the radio and wanted to help.  He created prostheses for humans, and thought he might be able to do the same for Winter. He and others developed a special prosthesis for Winter, one that would work in the water, and function like a real tail.   Kevin Caroll’s design and formation of a special gel to ease any of Winter’s discomfort helps others, such as Iraq war veterans who have lost limbs.  Winter’s courage and unwavering spirit helps inspire others who face challenges.
Winter’s Tail is a great story for kids and adults.  It’s an extraordinary tale of survival, and Winter will definitely touch your heart. The story flows well, and the enclosed photographs chronicle Winter’s journey from her discovery to her life today. It’s a really informative title with a lot of information conveyed in a pleasing format,  with such a good amount of text and pictures, the reader is immediately drawn into Winter’s story. I especially enjoyed the pictures of Winter’s birthday party, Winter with her trainers, and the crowds that she draws.
The back pages include information about her new home, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium,  dolphins, how dolphins are “trained,” and Kevin Carroll.
Would you like to get your own copy of Winter’s Tail?  Scholastic has an opportunity for you to win a Winter’s Tail prize pack.
The winner will receive the following: 
* Dolphin Plush
* Dolphin Key Chain
* Winter’s Tail video game for Nintendo DS
* Copy of Winter’s Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again Book 
Retail value: $81.99 

One commenter will win.
Per the sponsor’s rules, The Winter’s Tail contest is open to U.S. addresses only.  International readers may enter, provided they can have a friend in the US receive the package for them.

Sweepstakes begins September 28, 2009 and will run for 3 weeks, closing October 12, 2009 at 12:00 AM (Central).  Winner will be chosen using

Leave your email address in the comments.  Additional entries:

+ 1 for Tweeting  this contest/review (please include your @twitter name)

My thanks to Scholastic and Big Honcho Media for inviting me to participate in this promotion.

There’s a wealth of material on Winter for teachers and parents who’d like to use the book in a curriculum.
View the book trailer:

Additional links:
There will be a live webcast about Winter on October 7, 1:00-1:45 ET at Scholastic
Copy for review provided by the publisher.
Title: Winter’s Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned How to Swim Again
Author: Julianna Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and Craig Hatkoff
Date: October 1, 2009
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 40

Format: Hardback

The stick has always been more than “just” a stick. It appreciates music, and art, and admires beauty.  It does math equations.  But it lacks the voice to share its love and feelings with the rest of the forest, and therefore they see him as just a stick. Until one day, it figures out it had a way to speak all along.
From author and artist John Lechner comes a charming tale of finding one’s true voice.  I love this book. The illustrations are so soft, dreamy, and calming.  The text on each page is minimal, and draws you in, it’s perfect to be read aloud. The stick transitions from inanimate object to hero by page one and you’ll be rooting for him all the way, especially after he experiences a minor setback.
I wanted to use this in my storytime, but I’ve not had a chance yet. I know the children will love it, as will probably my stepmother’s class.  I can see it being used to begin a creative writing curriculum or even a discussion about self esteem.  Kids could take away the message that everybody, no matter how small, has a voice and it is indelible, no matter who tries to silence it.
Watch the trailer below and visit, to see more of the author’s work, including his other books, Froggy Fable, Sticky Burr, and several charming short films and games. 

Copy for review provided by the publisher.

Title: The Clever Stick

Author: John Lechner
Date: August 2009
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 40
Format: Hardback

On this day, 8 years ago, the attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon occured.  In New York on September 11, 2001 was a Maasai tribe member, Kemeli Naiyomah, a student.  On a visit home to Kenya, he tells his tribe of the terrible things he saw.

The tribe is moved by his account of 9/11, and they are spurred to do something. Kimeli possesses one cow, Enkarus. The elders want to do something more. Cows are sacred to the tribe. As the book puts it, “To the Maasai, the cow is life.” Thirteen more cows are offered to America, and a ceremony is held.

This is 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy, in collaboration with Wilson Kemeli Naiyomah.

This is a must-read book for anyone. Not just for this day, but for any day. The sparse text and gorgeous dark and richly-colored illustrations of Thomas Gonzalez amplify the message. It’s more than a tale of September 11, far more. It’s a stunning portrait of humanity, and how we are all connected.   It’s a story that must be told. Schoolchildren in America will be told for years of September 11, and how many lives were lost, but I think they also need to know that one day, thousands of miles away in Kenya, the continuation of life was celebrated with a most precious gift.

There are so many parts I love to this book. I especially like how the picture book doesn’t depict the fallen towers, but focuses on imagery of the Maasai.  The writing struck me most of all.  The brevity of it, so much accomplished in few words must be highlighted:

“There is a terrible stillness in the air as the tale unfolds. 
With growing disbelief, men, women, and children listen.
Buildings so tall they can touch the sky
Fires so hot they can melt iron?

Smoke and dust so thick they can block out the sun?”

– 14 Cows for America

The end of the book features a note from Kimeli, and also shows the flag commemorating the 14 Cows that will hang in the September 11 Memorial and Museum. 

Title: 14 Cows for America

Author: Carmen Agra Deedy with Wilson Kemeli Naiyomah (Illus. by Thomas Gonzalez)
Date: August 2009
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
Pages: 36
Format: Hardback