Tag Archives: animals

No Matter What, “Wolf Won’t Bite!”

Wolf Won’t Bite! written and illustrated by Emily Gravett

In a seeming role reversal from the original fairy tale, three little pigs capture a big, toothy wolf and put him on display in their very own circus where, no matter what they do, “wolf won’t bite!”

Sure of their safety despite their antics, the three little pigs (dressed in a strongman leotard, ringmaster suit, and frilly tutu) continue to up the ante in their circus acts, rejoicing in the knowledge that they are safe no matter what. Kids will delight in going from one page to the next as the pigs lift Wolf in the air, make him jump through hoops, and even shoot him from a cannon. While the pigs twirl in excitement, safe and sound, wolf looks confused at his predicament, and kids will laugh at the ridiculous pictures and, in a twist from the original story, perhaps even feel sorry for the poor wolf as he’s dressed up and put on display. In the end, predictably, wolf is tested to his limit and the three little pigs… Well, let’s just say things don’t go according to plan! Continue reading No Matter What, “Wolf Won’t Bite!”

A Beautiful & Authentic Midwestern Picture Book

It’s Milking Time by Phyllis Alsdurf, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should tell you something: I fell in love with It’s Milking Time before I opened it.

Based on author Phyllis Alsdurf’s own childhood on a Midwestern dairy farm, this book has a lyrical story, a description of the daily chores a daughter shares with her father each evening as they milk and take care of their cows. Each two-page spread is a beautiful illustration that supports Alsdurf’s simple, straightforward narrative, a step-by-step introduction to evening tasks on a small family dairy farm. The story goes beyond that, though, sharing not only chores but the loving relationship between a father and daughter as well as the relationship between humans and animals.

So you won’t think I’m overly infatuated with this book (and maybe I am), I’ll let you in on a secret: I showed this book to an authentic dairy farm girl, and she loved it too. My soon-to-be Mother in Law grew up on her father’s Wisconsin dairy farm, and she gave It’s Milking Time her official seal of approval and accuracy. Continue reading A Beautiful & Authentic Midwestern Picture Book

A Home for Every Creature on Earth

Even an Octopus Needs a Home by Irene Kelly

In this charming picture book, Irene Kelly offers diverse coverage of the habitats of animals and insects world-wide. How do bees build the honeycombs they live in? What does a parakeet nest look like? How many paper wasps can live in one hive? Where does a polar bear raise its cubs? Kelly’s colorful and detailed picture book will answer these questions and more. Describing the homes and their rationale for everything from termites and badgers to coral reefs and chimpanzees, Kelly covers a lot of ground.

Even an Octopus Needs a Home is loosely organized into house types to offer clear transitions between very different animals. (Categories include tree houses, towers, lodges, burrows, floating homes, mobile homes, and bubbles.) At times the paragraphs themselves aren’t visually linear, which might confuse some kids, but the integration of the text in the illustrations—including some close-up pictures with labels—will help to keep the books’ subject matter interesting for most. The illustrations are a mix of ink and watercolor, and best of all, they’re accurate depictions of the animals she describes. Continue reading A Home for Every Creature on Earth

A Creative and Refreshing Picture Book

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett; illustrations by Jon Klassen

Annabelle lives “where everywhere you looked was either the white of snow or the black of soot from chimneys,” so when she finds a small, ordinary-looking box filled with bright, rainbow-hued yarn, she knits herself a sweater. The funny thing is that there’s still yarn left, so she knits a sweater for her dog… and still has extra yarn. Annabelle then knits a sweater for a jealous bully, a classroom full of students and teachers, and all the animals. When she has knitted sweaters (and a single hat) for everyone in town, she still has yarn left, so she gets creative: she knits sweaters for the houses and trees too.

Word of her beautiful, colorful creations starts to travel, and people flock to admire the now vivid landscape where she lives. One of them, a wealthy and arrogant archduke, offers to buy Annabelle’s magical box, and when she rejects him, he steals it and sails away, only to find that this endless box of yarn is now suddenly empty. With the help of the ocean waves (and a bit of imagination), the box finds its way back to Annabelle where she happily continues her work in her now bright and appreciative town. Continue reading A Creative and Refreshing Picture Book

Where Do Baby Kangaroos Come From?

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Joeys: A Guide for Marsupial Parents (and Curious Kids) by Bridget Heos; illustrated by Stephane Jorisch

(Reviewed via digital ARC.)

Congratulations, marsupial parents-to-be! You’re about to meet your tiny bundles of joy. They’re called joeys.”

And so begins the miracle of life… for kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, and koalas. In this fun, tongue-in-cheek introduction to the birth and life cycles of marsupials, kids will learn what a marsupial is and the different ways one can be born and cared for. Whether you’re an expectant Red Kangaroo or an Antechinus with a newborn, you can expect to care for your joey–your baby–and provide it milk and protection during its infant months. Some marsupials have pockets–some have pockets that seal against water or dirt when burrowing, and some have pockets that are upside down or that open in the middle–while others merely tighten their stomach muscles to hold their young. Some marsupials will have as many as twenty babies while others will have one at a time. Did you know that a kangaroo can temporarily stop the growth of an unborn baby inside if the current joey isn’t big enough to leave the pouch? (I sure didn’t!) Continue reading Where Do Baby Kangaroos Come From?

High Fantasy with a Fallen Princess

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

I expected to like The Goose Girl. Instead, I loved it.

In this beautiful retelling of the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale, Hale takes a classic and makes it her own, weaving in countless details of two unknown kingdoms and the characters–both good and bad–who fill them.

Growing up, Ani has always known that she is not the Crown Princess her mother wishes her to be: she is not good at speaking with others and is not diplomatic or charming like her mother, who has the ability of “people-speaking”. Instead she feels more at home by the pond where her nursemary once taught her the language of the swans and the bluejays overhead; even her horse, Falada, shares her thoughts and feelings. Still, Ani does her best to grow into the queen she is destined to be, and with the help of her graceful maid-in-waiting, Selia, she struggles forth.

At the burial of her suddenly deceased father, though, her mother announces that another sibling will be crowned; feeling betrayed and bitter, Ani learns she has been betrothed to a prince in the kingdom across the mountains, Bayern, as a peace-offering to prevent war. On the months’ long journey through the forests and mountains, half of her riders revolt and Selia abandons her, claiming that she–who, like the queen, has the skill of charming speech, “people speaking”–deserves to be princess instead and will be a maid-in-waiting no more. Ani runs for her life, chased by the murderers who know she could ruin their plot, and finds herself alone and with Continue reading High Fantasy with a Fallen Princess

Alien Invasion and Morphing into Animals!

The Invasion by K. A. Applegate (Animorphs series)

What would you do if you knew your world was under threat? Would you fight? Or would you run?

Thirteen-year-old Jake is just hanging out with firends one night when an alien spacecraft crash lands in the construction site behind the mall. Shocked, he and his classmates Cassie, Marco, Rachel, and Tobias, witness an injured Andalite–an alien like a blue centaur with no mouth, stalks for eyes, a scorpion tale, and telepathic speech–as he makes his last stand against Visser 3, a leader in the alien invasion of Earth.

Before the Andalite dies, he warns Jake and his friends: aliens are here. Andalites and other species across the galaxies have been fighting to keep Earth free, but the evil Yeerks–slug-like aliens that slurp into a creature’s brain and take over control–have already taken many humans, people from everyday life across the world. Kids they might be, but the Andalite warns them to fight, learn, and survive, and he bestows a gift upon them: the ability to morph into any animal they touch. Besides their anonymity, it is the only chance for Jake, Cassie, Marco, Rachel, and Tobias if they choose to fight the ongoing invasion.

Mind you, this all happens in the first few chapters. As the kids explore their new ability–morphing into horses, tigers, elephants, family pets, hawks–and learn that friends and even family members may be imprisoned in their own bodies by the Yeerk invasion, they agree that they have to fight. They are the last chance Earth has. Continue reading Alien Invasion and Morphing into Animals!

Quills (and porcupines) are great!

Kazaak! (A Tell-Me-More Storybook) written and illustrated by Sean Cassidy

Spike’s porcupine quills have finally grown in, but as he grooms himself they seem too painful to be worthwhile. According to his friend Rupert, though, “Quills are the best!” Because of quills they can blend in with plants, spear juicy fruit, and—best of all—“kazaak!” enemies (hit them with their tails) as a means of protection! After using up his quills to show Spike how great they are, a bear comes along looking for lunch and it is up to Spike to save the day with his own spiky coat.

Kazaak! is a cute story, and though the plot is a bit thin, it is educational. Cassidy’s bright, detailed illustrations stand out against white backgrounds on every page, and the porcupine acrobatics are fun. (The artwork was my favorite part by far, but younger kids will also enjoy yelling out the new “kazaak” sound that is frequently used in the story.) Continue reading Quills (and porcupines) are great!

A Sweet Celebration of Life

Desser the Best Ever Cat by Maggie Smith

In these gentle story a little girl tells the story of her family cat Desser, the “best ever cat.” He starts as a kitten before she is born and grows with her, experiencing her first steps, her first real bed, her first day at school. One day, when Desser is older and has slowed down a lot, he gets sick and passes away. The girl cries and, with her family, buries him under a tree. Her mother tells her that Desser will always be with her because he will always be in her heart. As time passes, the family adopts another kitten, Ginger, who is also pretty great. The little girl tells Ginger all about Desser, sharing the story of his life just as she has done for us as readers, and the happy, healthy cycle begins again.

Smith’s narration is clear and her illustrations altogether fun, but the best part by far is her visual portrayal of Desser. Cat lovers everywhere will appreciate the bright, evocative pictures of Desser as he sprawls across the backs of chairs, hides in a box, and flattens his ears uncertainly when our narrator is brought home as a baby. I read this book with Ruby, and at every page I stopped to show her a new picture, saying, “My cat does that too!” Smith gets it, and she shares that understanding of the pet-owner relationship well. Continue reading A Sweet Celebration of Life

Ancient Greece from a Porcine Perspective

The Pig Scrolls by Paul Shipton

*Great for fans of Percy Jackson and mythology!*

Here’s the thing: Gryllus is a pig. Literally. You see, he was a crew mate for Odysseus on the way back from the Trojan war, and when they hit Circe’s island… well, you know the story. The thing is, when all the other guys got returned to human form, Gryllus thought, Gee, snuffling around for food all day? Sleeping? Not working? Now this is the life for me!

Until, that is, the day he was captured by some snot-nosed guys who decided to make some money off of a talking pig. Along comes some hilarious pig-hosted dinner theater, a pimply teenage Homer, and an assistant prophetess from Apollo’s temple, Sibyl, who claims that Gryllus is destined to save the world (including those pesky gods and goddesses). Off he goes–kicking and screaming and proclaiming he really isn’t that interested in hero duties–on a riotous journey through ancient times with a great cast of characters, some familiar and some a little more unique.

Through Gryllus’ narration–cheeky, self-important, and more than a little exaggerated–Shipton keeps the laughter and action going along the whole adventure. Awesome, snarky lines will have kids and adults alike rolling on the floor, such as “puzzlement crossed the big lad’s face, like a cloud across the moon on a night when the moon is looking especially puzzled” and “[he] wasn’t the brightest–clearly several Spartans short of the full three hundred.” Continue reading Ancient Greece from a Porcine Perspective