The Day I Became a Bird by Ingrid Chabbert

The Day I Became a Bird by Ingrid Chabbert
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Genre: Childrens, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

The day he starts school, a young boy falls in love for the very first time. Sylvia sits in front of him at school, and he’s so in love with her, she’s all he can see. But sadly, Sylvia doesn’t see him. In fact, it seems the only thing Sylvia has eyes for is birds. There are birds on her pants and dresses. She wears bird barrettes in her hair. She draws birds on her notebooks and folders. And when she speaks, her voice sounds like birdsong. So in a bold attempt to get Sylvia’s attention, the boy decides to go to school dressed up as a bird. He endures the stares and giggles of his classmates, and a great deal of discomfort, but the boy doesn’t care. Because when it comes to love, sometimes you have no choice but to follow your heart and spread your wings.

In this sweetly funny picture book, Ingrid Chabbert perfectly captures the emotional essence of a child’s first love. The boy’s voice as narrator is realistic and endearing as he engagingly and honestly shares the wonder of his experience. With imagination and gentle humor, Guridi uses spare lines in mostly black and white drawings to tenderly express the poignant heart of the story. This book offers a terrific exploration of young children’s self-discovery and self-expression, as well as the early development of social skills. It makes a wonderful read-aloud to launch a classroom discussion about relationships and feelings.

There’s nothing like feeling a crush for the first time.

I was pleased with how well I got to know the main character even though the narrator never revealed his name. This is a difficult thing to accomplish, especially in a children’s picture book where there often isn’t a ton of room for character development in general. Ms. Chabbert used the time she had wisely, though, and I felt like I knew the main character’s personality really well by the end of his experiment.

The ending was a disappointment. The plot spent so much time building up to what would happen when Sylvia noticed his costume that I was expecting it would keep that energy going through the last scene. When I read the final page, I was surprised by how abruptly it had ended and how little closure I felt about what I’d just read. If not for this issue, I would have chosen a higher rating as I loved the beginning and middle of it.

One of the things that first attracted me to this tale was how the main character was going to go through an ordinary school day while wearing such a bulky costume. There were all sorts of practical questions I had about how a kid would do everything from spend his time at recess to react to bad weather while wearing a bird costume. I liked the fact that the narrator spent so much time showing how this all worked once the boy was at school and didn’t have his parents or other relatives around to help him.

The Day I Became a Bird was a heartwarming look at a child’s first crush.

My New Mom & Me by Renata Galindo


My New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo
Publisher: Schwartz and Wade
Genre: Childrens, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (34 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

A heartwarming “tail” about adoption, diversity, and acceptance that’s perfect for young readers!

Told from the point of view of a puppy who is adopted by a cat, this gentle and reassuring tale is perfect for very young readers and listeners.

When the puppy comes to live with his new mom, he is nervous. After all, his mom has stripes and he doesn’t. But his mom says she likes that they look different, and soon the puppy likes it, too. (And who cares what anyone else thinks!)

The puppy’s new mom does all the things other parents do. She plays with him, takes care of him, and sometimes even makes him mad! But that’s okay, because when he’s feeling sad, she knows just what to say.

Adoption is complicated sometimes, but talking about it always helps.

One of the things I liked the most about this book was that the main character was old enough to understand what was happening when he was moved to a new home. Most adoption stories talk about infants, not older children who can have conversations about all of the changes in their lives and feel complex emotions about their new parent or parents.

I would have like to see more development of the plot. There were a few fascinating references to other animals staring unkindly at this unconventional family and to the puppy wishing his fur was the same color as his mom’s fur. Both of these issues would be great topics for exploring what it means to be a family and why some children aren’t the same race as their foster or adoptive parents, so I was surprised by the fact that the author didn’t spend more time showing how these things affected the puppy and how he learned to adjust to his new home.

The cat was such a nurturing parent to her son. She always reassured the puppy when he had questions about the differences between them or when he needed to know that her love for him was unconditional. Honestly, I couldn’t think of a better parent for this shy little puppy. She did a wonderful job of helping him to adjust to his new family and react appropriately to anyone who didn’t understand how a dog could call a cat his mother.

I’d recommend My New Mom & Me to anyone who is part of a family that stands out in a crowd for any reason.

A Hippy-Hoppy Toad by Peggy Archer


A Hippy-Hoppy Toad by Peggy Archer
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Genre: Childrens, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

From the illustrator of the award-winning Sophie’s Squash comes a rollicking read-aloud featuring a very tiny toad who gets displaced as animals–and humans–brush past him on the road.

In the middle of a puddle
in the middle of a road
on a teeter-totter twig
sat a teeny-tiny toad.
Snap! went the twig!
Up went the toad!
And he landed on a tree
by the side of the road.

It’s hard to be a tiny toad minding your own business on a twig. First a bird pecks at him. . . . Then a bee buzzes. . . . Then a dog barks . . . and so on. And each time the toad is surprised by a buzz or a woof (or the toe of a sneaker!), he hops to a new location farther down the road. With fun sounds, clever rhymes, and an irresistible rhythm, this is the perfect story for sharing one-on-one or in a group.

Anything can happen to tiny toads who climb onto sticks that can’t support their weight.

All of the plants and animals in this ecosystem lived in perfect harmony. Until the toad began accidentally flying through the air, their patch of land was a peaceful and quiet place for everyone to live. The fact that the toad honestly never meant to disrupt any of the things his neighbors were doing only made me more curious to see what kind of mischief he might find himself in next.

I wish that this tale had explained why the twig in the opening scene snapped. That action set all of the frog’s future adventures into motion, so it was surprising to me to see it happen without any explanation as to why it occurred. If it had included an explanation, I would have given it a much higher rating. Everything else about it was catchy and worth reading over and over again.

The rhymes were seriously adorable. I especially liked the section that talked about the tiny toad tumbling to a flower in the park by the road. The imagery in that line made me giggle with joy, and I liked the way the author rhymed common words together like that while still finding a creative way to fit everything into her tale. It was even more fun to read out loud than it was to read silently to myself.

A Hippy-Hoppy Toad should be read by anyone who likes stories that are full of friendly rhymes.

Spare Dog Parts by Alison Hughes


Spare Dog Parts by Alison Hughes
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Genre: Childrens, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

A stumpy tail, mismatched paws, a long, drooly snout and the biggest dog heart that ever beat. In a celebration of what makes a pet unique, a little girl imagines how an odd assortment of parts combined to make the perfect dog.

With spare, inviting text from Alison Hughes and charmingly offbeat illustrations by award-winning illustrator Ashley Spires, this gorgeous picture book is sure to be an instant classic.

Mixed-breed dogs need love, too!

Some of the best scenes were the ones that showed how the main character’s dog reacted to her when she was feeling many different kinds of emotions. Her pet obviously cared about her quite a bit. His emotions often matched hers no matter if she was happy or sad. That special relationship between a kid and their dog is like nothing else on Earth, and it was described well in this tale.

The main character’s descriptions of her dog in beginning of this book were a little too negative for my tastes. I especially didn’t like the way she talked about his “odd, tubby, stubby body” when she was first introducing him to the audience. There was also a scene later on when she said some unflattering things about his intelligence. Not every dog is going to be a traditionally cute and clever pet, but I never would have described any of my childhood dogs so harshly.

With that being said, the tone of the plot changed quite a bit as it progressed. Once the main character started talking about her dog’s sparkling personality, I perked up. She clearly loved him quite a bit, and it showed. They were best friends who spent as much time as possible together. Seeing her focus on all of the positive aspects of her pet later on was refreshing.

Spare Dog Parts should be read by anyone who has a dog who turned out to be perfect for them.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires


The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Genre: Childrens, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

A little girl and her canine assistant set out to make the most magnificent thing. But after much hard work, the end result is not what the girl had in mind. Frustrated, she quits. Her assistant suggests a long walk, and as they walk, it slowly becomes clear what the girl needs to do to succeed. A charming story that will give kids the most magnificent thing: perspective!

Everyone feels the urge to give up sometimes. Keep reading to find out why they shouldn’t give into that desire.

The main character of this story was such a persistent and inventive kid. I loved seeing her tinker with her invention as she tried to figure out what worked well on it and what could still use some improvement. One of the coolest parts of her journey was that she didn’t figure it all out immediately. It took what was often a frustrating amount of time for her to test all of her ideas, and yet she refused to give up no matter how many times she failed. This was such a great example for kids and adults alike.

This is a minor criticism of a story I otherwise enjoyed a lot, but I found myself wishing that the main character’s name would have been shared at some point. It felt odd to get to know so much about her without ever knowing what I should call her. Even knowing a nickname for her would have been enough to give this tale a five star rating.

The relationship between the main character and her dog was so sweet. No matter was else was going on in her life, the main character always had time and energy for her dog. They shared a close connection, and I could tell how much they cared about each other by how they acted when they were together.

I’d heartily recommend The Most Magnificent Thing to inventors and amateur engineers of all ages.

March YA Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ What Time Is It There? by Christine Potter


What Time Is It There? by Christine Potter
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (167 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Orchid

BoM LASR YA copy

Just over a year ago, Bean and Zak headed for colleges two thousand miles apart, promising to write, but to see other people … until Bean fell for the wrong guy and Zak fell off the planet. Now, Bean’s got two weeks’ worth of Zak’s year-old letters that she still can’t bear to open—and a broken heart. Her new best friend, a guy named Amp, wants her to read the letters and be done with it, but he may have his own reasons for that. When Sam shows up at Bean’s school unexpectedly and Bean tumbles into the 19th century from the cellar of a ruined church, things start making a bizarre kind of sense. That is, if she can just fit all the pieces together again…

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

Pup and Bear by Kate Banks


Pup and Bear by Kate Banks
Publisher: Schwartz and Wade
Genre: Childrens, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

You are not my mother, said the wolf pup.
I am not your mother, said the polar bear, but I can cuddle you and keep you safe.

Here is a picture book that celebrates differences and promotes kindness , sure to resonate with the many fans of the beloved classic, Mama Do You Love Me? During the ice melt that follows an Arctic winter, a wolf cub finds himself spinning out to sea on a sheet of ice. He awakes lost and alone to an unfamiliar smell: a polar bear. And while the polar bear is not the wolf’s mother, she takes him on her back to her den, where she feeds him, keeps him warm, and does everything a mother would do. Time passes, the cub grows into a wolf, and soon it’s time for him to venture out into the wide world alone. Years later, the now grown wolf comes upon a tiny lost polar bear cub–and the cycle begins again. With poetic prose this beautiful picture book about the love and kindness of a stranger is sure to touch a deep chord, particularly with parents and children who have found each other in unexpected ways.

This is the best children’s book about growing up with a non-biological parent that I’ve ever read.

First of all, the polar bear loved her son with all of her heart. She treated him with kindness no matter what was going on in their lives or how he was behaving. When he told her that she wasn’t his mother, she agreed with him and honored his feelings on the matter. At the same time, she also gave him all of the attention that a wolf pup needs to grow up big and strong.

I deeply appreciated the versatility of the plot. The narrator did explain where the wolf pup came from, but it was a situation that doesn’t really have any parallels to how human children end up living with people who didn’t give birth to them. New families that are formed through adoption, fostering, step-parenting, guardianship, and many other non-traditional avenues can easily interpret this tale to suit their unique circumstances no matter how they ended up together.

The polar bear’s deep respect for the wolf pup’s biological family was yet another reason why I adored this story. She acknowledged their presence over and over again as her child grew up. His origins were always part of their lives in some way. He always knew that he was a wolf and that his adoptive mother was not.

By far the best scene was the final one. I can’t say much about it without giving away spoilers, but it was the perfect ending to the wolf pup’s unique upbringing. It made me desperately wish for a sequel even though all of the most important loose ends had already been tied up. If Ms. Banks ever writes that sequel, I will be the first person in line to read it!

Pup and Bear was a joy to read. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Ollie’s Easter Eggs by Olivier Dunrea


Ollie’s Easter Eggs by Olivier Dunrea
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre: Childrens, Holiday, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Gossie, Gertie, BooBoo, and Peedie are all dyeing Easter eggs. Ollie wants Easter eggs too and he has a plan on how he’ll get them! Humor and vibrant ink-and-watercolor illustrations fill Olivier Dunrea’s holiday follow-up to Merry Christmas, Ollie. Dunrea again gets the preschooler emotions exactly right, capturing a range of holiday-inspired feelings, from Ollie’s wiggly impatience to be included to the pure joy of the older goslings discovering that Ollie has arranged the best Easter egg hunt of all.

 

What happens when someone breaks all of the rules of an Easter egg hunt?

Ollie made me giggle and shake my head. Not only was he determined to rewrite the rules of Easter egg hunts, he changed the way that game is played without letting anyone know what was happening in advance. His silly approach to this tradition made me want to keep reading until I’d found out what was going to happen once everyone figured out he was the one behind all of the unexpected things that were going on in the plot.

The ending wasn’t satisfying because of how quickly it was all wrapped up. Ollie had gotten into so much mischief earlier on in the storyline that I was looking forward to finding out how his friends would react once they realized something strange was happening. I was disappointed by how little time was spent on this part of the plot when compared to how much foreshadowing there was about it in the beginning.

Finding a good spot to hide eggs is very important during one of these hunts. It shouldn’t be too easy or too hard for other players to find. I liked seeing where Gossie, Gertie, BooBoo, and Peedie originally hid the eggs they’d dyed. They thought of some good places to stash eggs before the festivities began. If not for Ollie’s decision to break the rules, their hiding spots would have remained safe until the game officially began.

Ollie’s Easter Eggs should be read by anyone who has started counting down the days until Easter arrives.

Sophie Washington: Queen of the Bee by Tonya Duncan Ellis

Sophie Washington: Queen of the Bee by Tonya Duncan Ellis
Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Length: Short Story (90 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Sign up for the spelling bee? No way!

If there’s one thing 10-year-old Texan Sophie Washington is good at, it’s spelling. She’s earned straight 100s on all her spelling tests to prove it. Her parents want her to compete in the Xavier Academy spelling bee, but Sophie wishes they would buzz off.

Her life in the Houston suburbs is full of adventures, and she doesn’t want to slow down the action. Where else can you chase wild hogs out of your yard, ride a bucking sheep, or spy an eight-foot-long alligator during a bike ride through the neighborhood? Studying spelling words seems as fun as getting stung by a hornet, in comparison.

That’s until her irritating classmate, Nathan Jones, challenges her. There’s no way she can let Mr. Know-It-All win. Studying is hard when you have a pesky younger brother and a busy social calendar. Can Sophie ignore the distractions and become Queen of the Bee?

This is a wonderful little book that really captures the character and interactions not only between schoolmates, but also with siblings. I have a younger sister and can remember the love-hate relationship we had as we were growing up.

I especially liked the message about working hard to achieve your dreams. This is, I think, a message that all children need to hear. They also need to see that in life, not everyone wins. There was a winner and there were losers…that’s life and a good lesson.

Sophie is a well-developed character and the other characters, although not as developed as Sophie, are fully drawn and not just stock characters. The setting of Texas also serves as an extra character, and the author does a wonderful job introducing us to the area and making this reader feel like she was actually there.

Strongly recommended for ages 8 and up.

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February YA Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Secrets From Myself by Christine Hart

Secrets from Myself by Christine Hart
Publisher: Dancing Cat Books
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal, Mystery
Length: Full Length (180 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

BoM LASR YA copy

Twelve-year-old Katelyn has always heard voices and had visions. She’s long suspected she was hearing from past lives. But when she runs away from home and hides out with an old friend in Vancouver, things become more real. She even finds herself writing the words of someone else in a diary – the words of someone whose fate was deeply impacted by the Komagata Maru incident.

As Katelyn learns more about the Komagata Maru and the person communicating with her, she realizes that she has a task to fulfill that will correct a wrong from the past.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!