It's dark and cozy in her den when Fox first wakes, but a quick look outside tells her that it's still sunny midday, not a good time for a red fox to be out and about.
But when she wakes again, the sun is setting, and her hunger hurries her out for some foxy foraging.
It is not so easy to see in the dark, but when the moon peeks out from behind a cloud, she sees something that might be a meal--a mouse.
But the mouse is too fast for Fox.
She noses a cast-off pizza box by a trash can, but there's only a scent of food there. She trots on, only to be spooked by her reflection in a mirror in a shop window. She dodges the headlights of a speeding car which beeps at her.
That was close!
Fox follows the dark shadows into a alley, where her nose notices something tantalizingly tasty.
It's someone's barbecue pit, with the fire hot and glowing, and a plate of warm and juicy grilled chicken legs, left all alone on a table. And there, dropped on the ground, is a whole one--just right for a red fox's supper--as she follows the path in the moonlight back for a delicious dinner in her den.
Conservationist author Martin Jenkins' Fox Explores the Night: A First Science Storybook (Science Storybooks) (Candlewick Press, 2018) offers a bit of nocturnal urban wildlife adventure and a little treatise on light, from several sources, in this new American edition in the Science Storybook series. Now that foxes have taken up habitation close to humans in towns and suburbs, sharp-eyed young readers will be on the lookout for these shy mammals after reading this book.
Since Roxie's daring adventure foiled the bank robbers with the help of her town's notorious Hooligans, Roxie has hoped for a truce with that scruffy, ragtag gang of misfits.
But she can't seem to escape the Hooligans even when her Uncle Dangerfoot takes her and her bespectacled friend Norman along to his beach house, hoping to work on his hush-hush invention with his friend Lord Thistlebottom far from prying eyes and the press.
It was almost five hours later, and evening when they reached a large old house that sat back a bit from the ocean. Roxie and Norman were very stiff.
Uncle Dangerfoot reached for the latch on the trailer and opened the door. "What in thunder...?" he bellowed.
Roxie stared as Helvetia Hagus, Simon Surly, Freddy Filch, and Smoky Jo came tumbling out.
It seems as if Roxie cannot escape the Hooligans. Uncle Dangerfoot inexplicably accepts their story that their parents will not come to fetch them, and although the housekeeper Mrs. Tumbledry is a fine cook, the other tenant, the Widow Bittersweet, veiled and gowned in heavy brown mourning garb, is scary weird. Rosie and Norman resolve to make the best of the uninvited guests, and Uncle Dangerfoot and Lord Thistlebottom seem totally absorbed in their secret invention... until the larcenous Helvetia, always on the lookout for a source of lucre, manages to swipe it.
The kids discover that the covert invention is a rocket-powered jet pack, and Helvetia seizes the opportunity to try it out. Apparently the device is not quite ready for prime time, but Helvetia survives soaring followed by a dive into the sand, the cat is out of the bag, Uncle Dangerfoot is forced to explain his secret project. He and Thistlebottom hide their secret device in the Widow's baby's crib, where the petite Smoky Joe has elected to sleep, and, swathed in a blanket, she winds up being mistaken for the jet pack and kidnapped by the nefarious villain, Alfred Applejack.
Dot was a little chicken--who, in fact, let's say it, was a little chicken.
Sure, it's feasible to be scared of, you know, bears, or wolves, but scared stiff of...
Lawn gnomes? Butterflies?
Then one day, while adding extra security to the coop, Dot nudged a little egg that started rolling down the hill.
Dot gives chase. In fact, she's scrambling. Cluck!
The egg rolls right into the scariest place of all for Dot.
The deep, dark woods!
Braving a startled wolf and and bemused bear, Dot faces down her greatest fear--
Three very questionable lawn ornaments.
After all, that egg is family.
And when that egg comes to rest with a big CRACK, out pops a new baby sister for Dot, in Tammi Sauer's new chicken and egg story, A Little Chicken (Sterling, 2019). Facing fears is hard, but although Dot still shudders at the stony gaze of lawn gnomes, with a sister to look after, she's brave. Illustrator Dan Taylor draws up some comical chickens in this latest by Tammi Sauer, mistress of silly critter stories.
Everybody's a critic! Carlos the Coatimundi and Ignatz the Capybara, nee Porcupine (until the illustrator got tired of drawing all those quills) are complaining, stuck in a book with no plot, setting, or theme. Marooned on a rock in a barren landscape, the two wannabe heroes long for a storyline in which they bravely battle dragons, aliens, or monsters, bad hombres on horseback in the Badlands or atrocious octopi from a deep-sea diving capsule. What are they supposed to be doing here anyway, lost on these big, white, empty pages, without even a premise?
"I've never seen a book about a coatimundi and a... wait, what are you again?"
"I'm a capybara, the world's largest rodent. He likes drawing lesser-known animals."
Carlos and Ignatz bemoan their lack of an exciting setting, only to find in a page turn that their creator has stuck them into a silly little red car in a page from Go, Dog, Go!
They seek refuge in the Children's Room of a library, longing to be the memorable main characters in books by other famous authors-illustrators of books like Make Way for Coatis, Coatimundi in Undies, by Dr. Moose, Capybara Underpants by Dav Pilchard, Capybara Vs. Bedtime by Bob Cat,Carlos and Ignatz Are Stuck in a Plothole, by Mac Barnowl and Jon Kinkajou, or Ignatz and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day, by Jaguar Viorst.
""He hardly writes a story. He just relies on characters like us to come up with the dialogue," Carlos kvetches.
And in true Timothy Young form, Ignatz and Carlos remain marooned in the desert of storyland with no denouement in sight, until--
-- in the oldest plot device ever--DEUS, er,DINO EX MACHINA----they suddenly become dinner for a big, green T. Rex which, with both characters, still lamenting a lack of foreshadowing from inside its stomach, galumphs off into the sunset.
"Well, I didn't see that coming," says Carlos."
It looks like a setup for Untitled, Too, (The Sequel) in Timothy Young's latest titular spoof of the popular metafiction trope, the story within a story. Young, who professes to be a disciple of Marx Brothers movies, Monty Python, Mad Magazine, and Steve Martin, is in great form in his just-published picture book, Untitled (Schiffer Press, 2019). Author-illustrator of Looney Toon-ish-style parodies such as The Angry Little Puffin,I Hate Picture Books! and If You Give the Puffin a Muffin, Young also provides a double-page spread of library shelves with dozens of take-off titles from classic children's books that will keep young readers giggling as they peruse his parodied titles and authors longer than it might otherwise take to read the whole story. This one is a real tour de force of kiddy-lit lampooning for savvy readers to discover along the way to literacy in the elements of fiction.
Where do you read? When do you read? Why do you read?
HOORAY! I know how to read on my own! But sometimes I don't want to do it alone.
You can read on trains; you can read on planes! You can read on the swings; you can read when it rains.
Sometimes it's boring to read just one way. It gets so monotonous day after day!
What do you do when there's nothing to do? What to do when there's everything to do?
The lively little readers in Leri Degman's latest, Just Read! (Sterling Children's Book, 2019) read anything, anywhere, with whomever they are with. They read sheet music in a music store, they read secret codes. They read rhyming signs beside the highway, and they read about exotic animals on the subway. They read in the park as they slide down the slide; they read when the family goes out for a ride. Author Leri Degman's jaunty rhymes portray kids reading and what they imagine as they read, and artist Victoria Tentler-Krylev's vivid, bustling illustrations of kids reading everywhere and anywhere show the endless ways to do it. Just do it! Just read!
As the only pet and cosseted cat, the Princess has it made. Her doting owners prepare delectable dishes for her dinner, and if breakfast is a bit late, a mere touch of a velvet paw has them up and dishing food out straightaway.
And they took care of more... delicate matters!
All she has to do to keep her owners happy is a bit of purring and lap-sitting and a little cutesy cat play. It's a great gig!
But then... her owners surprise her with ... Darryl the disgusting dog.
He was horrible.
Darryl chews up socks and throws them back up, along with... revolting stomach contents. He drinks from toilets. He destroys almost anything he can get in his little fangs. Princess Puffybottom is sure his departure must be imminent. And finally one of her owners takes him away. Hurray! Darryl has been summarily banished from her kingdom.But then he returns, wearing a truly stupid, totally un-chic cone around his neck. Definitely not de rigueur attire! And to make matters worse, her people seem more devoted to Darryl than ever.
She tried sabotage.
Puffybottom plants shoes where she knows Darryl will demolish them. She even, ugh, provides evidence of an, er, accident on the carpet. But her owners seem undeterred as far as Darryl's failings go.
But then Princess Puffybottom notices that Darryl is falling under her spell. He is attentive and empathetic. He is clever at getting into the garbage for some exotic snacks. And, yes, the dumb dog clearly adores her.
Maybe having a admiring doggy around isn't so bad.
It's the eternal war between dogs and cats, in Susin Nielsen's brand-new Princess Puffybottom . . . and Darryl (Tundra Books, 2019), a cat's-eye view of being co-pets, full of critter psychology and with a surprise ending for young readers to enjoy. Nielsen's narrative tone and well-planned page turns make for some snickers, and artist Olivia Chin Mueller comes up with just the right amount of cat scheming and charm which illuminate the text. Kirkus seconds the wish pet-loving kids will feel in their starred review: "Nielsen's tale and Mueller's digitally created pooch and puss pair perfectly. . . . Princess and Darryl need a sequel."
A little boy's red cap flies off his head as he shoots off the end of a clearly slippery sliding board. What a ride!
But in the background, a solitary small girl in big green boots sits alone on one end of the seesaw.
It takes TWO to teeter-totter, so the boy jumps on!
Just then a girl with a jump rope hops into the scene. Can they make it a THREEsome?
The seesaw is forgotten as the two kids each take an end of the rope and the little girl jumps in--just as a boy with a ball walks up.
HOW TO FOUR?
Play FOURsquare, of course, as they toss the ball around the little court painted on the pavement.
But the play group grows to include a boy pushing his toy bulldozer dump truck around in the sand box, and all FIVE get busy building a mountain in the middle for the trucks to move.
And when a sudden shower threatens, all FIVE run for the shelter, where a single girl makes SIX as she joins them in a circle game while they wait out the rain. Soon it stops, and when they spot a boy outside stomping through the puddles, they all race out to splash along with him, where the SEVEN splashers see a girl swinging from a tree branch, and they become a group of EIGHT playing hide-and-seek among the trees. And when a boy with a magnifying glass appears, all NINE get to peer through his glass at the turtles in the pond. And when one spies a boy alone on a bench, they're a team of TEN.
There's always room for ONE more, in author-illustrator David Soman's latest, How To Two (Dial Books, 2019), which, cleverly disguised as a counting book, is also a delightful dissertation on how each new child in free play helps the group morph into different games. And the number fun is not over, as in two double-page spreads, parents and grandparents converge to take each one back home, where the little boy in the red cap and his mom become a cozy TWO at story time.
Soman's artwork, celebrated for his part in the popular Ladybug Girl series, shines here as he creates a diverse, but charmingly individualized group of children doing what they do best--play--devising a series of pick-up games in their small park that goes up to ten and down again. Soman works his illustrative magic as each new prospective playmate appears, foreshadowing just what is going to happen next, making this new easy-to-read picture book the kind kids will come back to over and over again, long after they've mastered counting. "No two ways about it--this one is a delight." raves Kirkus Reviews.
Monday is "All about Explorers Day" at school and I'm reporting on the amazing explorer Ernest Shackleton!
Our little student is psyched. His tri-fold project board is completed, with an icebound sailing ship and its seamen frozen into styrofoam ice, framed by his neatly printed report and carefully mounted, cut-out photographs of the principals of the voyage. And he knows everything about the heroic English explorer of the South Pole's ocean. He can't wait for Monday!
But irony of ironies, Monday dawns with a blizzard. Our boy is marooned on their rocky coastline with his own crew--his parents, his dog, the ship's cat, and his pesky little brother, hereinafter called The Scalawag.
The Scalawag wastes no time. While the boy forms a shore party to explore the coast in his improvised dogsled, spotting a fur seal (his furry-coated neighbor with his snow blower), the Scalawag is up to no good, making off with the ship's hardtack rations (Mom's cookies). And our young explorer's favorite tankard and quill pen also go missing. But before they can be tracked down, all hands are to called to duty clearing the ice from their own deck.
Captain's Log. Day 3: The Endurance was crushed by ice in the Weddell Sea and twenty-eight men were stranded on ice floes. Although we have not yet reached such dangerous circumstances, our provisions are low. The hardtack is dwindling. I fear we may never resume our voyage.
And rations are growing short. Our boy is certain that The Scalawag is hoarding the hardtack. A raid must be made on the Scalawag's quarters, wherein the remnants of hardtack are mostly returned to the ship's stores. But...
Mutiny! The crew has turned against me! I am confined to quarters! My only joy is that The Scalawag is also contained.
Luckily, this crew's blizzard doesn't require clinging to floating ice floes, setting out in sail-rigged lifeboats, and slogging across 800 miles of icy ocean before reaching a whaling station, as Shackleton's did. In fact, on Day 5 of the ship's log, our boy, nicely turned out in his naval uniform, and The Scalawag, definitely well-fed, pile into the family car, Explorer project and all, and head back to school, where the project receives a warm welcome, in Erin Dionne's Captain's Log: Snowbound (Charlesbridge, 2019). Author Dionne offers up an Author's Note which logs her own time marooned on snow days, and she also includes the complete written report on Shackleton's voyage and a glossary of salty nautical terms, while artist Jeffrey Ebbeler's humorous illustrations of the family ship's log record some memorably marooned snow days.
When the time comes (as it will for most schoolkids) when they must prepare a report on a famous historical personage, this one will be a great read-aloud to kick off the project, and young elementary grade students will love the family's snow-day sight gags which illustrator Ebbeler includes in his comic artwork. Adds Kirkus in their starred review, "When a young adventurer is snowed in, his predicament begins to parallel that of the icebound Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton," and both author and illustrator "enrich a story that takes its pretend play very seriously."
Stillwater, the stolid, gentle Zen panda is back in an elegantly illustrated little gift book by the Caldecott-winning author-illustrator Jon J. Muth.
Stillwater shows his small friends the best way to go with inspired aphorisms, one for every month and each season, as he offers damp children a big red umbrella and a chance to return as many beached starfish to the sea as possible, even if it is impossible to toss them all back.
How can you continue climbing and observe stillness at the same time? Sit calmly and think. If we become what we think--we can create our own world, and out world can be changed.
Caldecott artist Jon J. Muth's pithy guide to behavior, Zen Happiness (Scholastic Press, 2018), offers children calming pearls of wisdom, personal proverbs to live by, and lovely pastel illustrations in this latest book about finding peace and joy. Says School Library Journal, "A book that encourages mindfulness, love and self-awareness."
All Queen Mervyn has ever wanted is about to come to pass in the birth of this long-awaited child. Only one wise woman is allowed to attend the Queen, an unsightly crone named Hilde.--part wise woman, part midwife, and some say part fairy.
The time is at hand. Outside the chamber, King Warrick hears a lusty cry. "At last," cries the king. "An heir!"
But within the chamber, Hilde trembles, feeling a surging sympathy for the infant even as her heart sinks. She places the baby in Queen Mervyn's arms. The Queen draws back the blanket and gasps. The infant has a protruding brow, a sagging eyelid, and coarse, asymmetrical features. But something happens. The ugly little face breaks into a smile. The queen is charmed. "Ahh, the sweet little thing!"she says.
But almost immediately a second daughter is born, this one with an unearthly beauty even as a newborn, and to please the King, the Queen and Hilde decide to name her Rose and to present the beautiful child as the rightful heir. Hilde names the real firstborn Briar and agrees to raise her as an orphaned child of neighboring nobles. At their christening the Fairy Queen grants Rose lifelong beauty and charm, and by Hilde's intervention, Briar is given strength and intelligence. And then the jealous Gray Fairy intervenes with a curse on Rose, that on her sixteenth birthday the prick of a spindle will cause her to sleep for a hundred years, only to be wakened by the kiss of a true love.
The two secret sisters spend all their time together as they grow and delight in slipping away from the castle to play in the forest near the village, where they befriend the struggling Mother Mudge and her son Jack. The village peasants never seem to have enough to eat because of the Giant Tax, levied by the King to buy off the Evil Giant whose raids become ever more greedy. Despite the fearful giant, however, the three children become loyal friends and swear an oath that together, as the "Giant Killers," they will someday save the kingdom.
But sweet-natured Rose, accustomed to being loved by all, is easily misled by the "mean girls" of the court, Lady Arabella and her minions, who play cruel pranks on Briar, excluding her from their fun, and Briar finds herself turning more and more to Mother Mudge and Jack for companionship, where she resolves to save the half-starved villagers from the King's oppressive Giant Tax. And then she overhears the King telling the Queen that to save their secret fortune and their kingdom he must compel Rose to marry the old and cruel King Udolf. And when Briar tells Rose about the marriage being arranged for her, Rose chooses the prick of the spindle for herself rather than face the fate her father requires of her. And Briar realizes that she alone has the love and loyalty to save her sister.
In Katherine Coville's forthcoming Briar and Rose and Jack (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Clarion, 2019), the tales of Sleeping Beauty and Jack and the Beanstalk come together in a fantasy novel set within a folkloric medieval framework which affirms the power of courage, friendship, and love to overcome the magic of evil. As in her earlier fractured fairy story, The Cottage in the Woods, which mixes a classic Jane Austen story with the classic Goldilocks setting, in her new novel for savvy middle readers Coville introduces into the old tale of "spell-binding" and true love a modern sense of personal and social responsibility in the face of corruption, greed, and evil.