If You Played Hide-and-Seek With a Chameleon

Written Bill Wise
Illustrated by Rebecca Evans

Fun and witty, this adorable book highlights some facts about animals that set them apart from humans. Set up like a carnival with a game for each animal, it shows how the animal would always win the chosen game. The author chooses a pie eting contest for the hippopotamus, hide-and-seek for a chameleon, basketball for a giraffe, a long jump for a kangaroo, weight-lifting for an elephant, wrestling for an anaconda, a 100-meter dash for a cheetah, Twister for an octopus, tag for a porcupine, a staring contest for a shark, and a blind potato race for a bat. Then there’s a snail, which wins at laying a slime trail.

Wonderfully amusing illustrations complete the joy while kids learn. Each spread includes the blue-ribboned prior winner of the games and foreshadowing of the next animal contestant. Five kids compete with the animals and obviously have fun doing it.

The Explore More pages have lots of ideas for further learning. For teachers and parents, the lessons available are divided into science, technology, engineering, and math.

  • If You PlayedTitle: If You Played Hide-and-Seek With a Chameleon
  • Author: Bill Wise
  • Illustrator: Rebecca Evans
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 4
  • Genre: Animals, Nature
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-651-3
  • Extras: Explore More for Kids, Explore More for Teachers and Parents

Let Me Sleep, Sheep!

Written by Meg McKinley
Illustrated by Leila Rudge

Bedtime stories may be everywhere, but this absurd yet adorable addition is worthy of the title and worth the time. In preparation for slumber, Amos begins counting sheep. He barely gets past “Two” before the sheep he’s counting materialize in his bedroom. The sheep don’t see a fence to jump over. So Felix, aka sheep number one, gives Amos a hard time about staying until he has a fence. And the fence needs to be the perfect height with the perfect landing. And the sheep need a glass of water before proceeding. Of course, Amos falls asleep on the floor while several more sheep show up and lounge on the furniture.

The illustrations include wonderful details about a kid’s bedroom – stuffed animals, musical instruments, vehicles of all sorts, clothing, and furniture.

The story hilariously begs the question of whether the sheep are real or whether they only exist in that mysterious world between wake and sleep. Families will have tons of fun reading their own Amos into slumberland.

  • Let Me Sleep SheepTitle: Let Me Sleep, Sheep!
  • Author: Meg McKinley
  • Illustrator: Leila Rudge
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Picture book, Humor, Bedtime
  • ISBN: 978-1-5362-0547-3

Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist

Written by Mike Allegra
Illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel

This wonderful new book has more layers than the onions growing in the nearby garden. For that reason alone, it would make a great addition to any library. But it’s also a lot of fun to read.

As a field mouse, Scampers faces daily dangers, like predators and finding enough to eat. Seeing a large owl in the garden, he devises experiments to determine just how much of a threat the owl really is. First, he notices the owl doesn’t move. He tries testing the owl’s hearing by shouting and playing loud music. He tries testing the owl’s sensitivity by throwing rocks at it. He tries testing the owl’s eyesight by waving a fake mouse above the weeds. He tries insulting the owl.

The scientific method is at the forefront of the story. The careful way Scampers confronts the owl without getting eaten is nothing short of brilliant. Scampers has to devise a catapult to throw the rocks and a fake mouse to avoid putting himself in danger.

Gorgeous illustrations demonstrate what Scampers is doing and tell a story very well by themselves. The Explore More sections are filled with information about owls and field mice and suggest many ways to learn more.  

  • TScampersitle: Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist
  • Author: Mike Allegra
  • Illustrator: Elizabeth Zechel
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 2
  • Genre: Nature, Problem solving
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-643-8
  • Extras: Explore More for Kids, Explore More for Teachers and Parents

Dear Ballerina

Written and Illustrated by Monica Wellington

Young people often dream of being the artists they see on stage. Reaching out to those artists is the obvious way to enter the artist’s world. Inspired by letters written by her own daughter several years ago, the author shows how writing fan letters can keep a dream alive and often spark a career. The little letter writer in the story becomes skilled and strong and begins her journey toward stardom.

The reader also learns about dance itself, about many aspects of the ballet world, and about working hard for a dream.  Fun illustrations accompany each page and bring ballet into the reader’s world. After a first read for help with the jargon, young dancers will want to enjoy the story again and again, independently. Even future audience members will enjoy the human connection made here.  

  • Dear BallerinaTitle: Dear Ballerina
  • Author/Illustrator: Monica Wellington
  • Publisher: Holiday House, March 19, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 1
  • Genre: Dancing, Music, Legacy
  • ISBN: 978-0-8234-3932-4

Hansel & Gretel

Written and Illustrated by Bethan Woollvin

Hansel, Gretel, Witch, gingerbread … You know the story, right? Maybe not. This isn’t your grandmother’s fairy tale.

The author takes this opportunity to describe a world in which Willow is a good witch who only wants to protect her home and keep her magic safe and practical. The kids, however, want to wreak havoc, which they do very well. Their breadcrumbs bring a flock of birds, endangering the gingerbread house. Of course, Hansel and Gretel start chewing on the gingerbread anyway, plus anything else they can take sink their teeth into. “But Willow did not get angry, because Willow was a good witch.” Willow takes an awful lot of abuse before she decides to take revenge.

The wonderful details in the illustrations add to the fun. Ghosts and skulls and spell books, oh my.

Kids will probably not get all the humor in this delightful gem, but they will understand that it’s very funny. As a follow up to Little Red, it’s especially wonderful.

  • Hansel and GretelTitle: Hansel and Gretel
  • Author/Illustrator: Bethan Woollvin
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, October 1, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to2
  • Genre: Picture Book, Humor, Fractured Fairy Tale
  • ISBN: 978-1-68263-073-0

Am I Yours?

Written and Illustrated by Alex Latimer

Someone once said you know you’re an adult when people stop asking what’s your favorite dinosaur. Maybe they didn’t know about this adorable new book. Even the end papers exude dinosaur-ness, showing and naming twenty-eight different dinosaur shapes.

When an egg rolls away from its nest, it asks various dinosaurs if it belongs to them. To help the egg along, each dinosaur asks if the infant inside has one distinguishing feature of the adult dino. Of course, several dinosaurs decide the egg is not theirs, but they end up helping the egg back to its home. The clever rhyme works well, as do the entertaining illustrations.

“Excuse me, please,
but am I yours?
I’m sure I am
a dinosaur’s!”

In this heartwarming story of family and community, readers will learn about the dinosaurs, about solving puzzles, and about helping those around us. It’s a great read, whether independently or as a nighttime read aloud.

  • Am I YoursTitle: Am I Yours?
  • Author/Illustrator: Alex Latimer
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Dinosaurs, Family
  • ISBN: 978-1-68263-044-0

Little Whale

Written and Illustrated by Jo Weaver

Gray whales migrate possibly the longest distance of any mammal – approximately 12,500 miles between the Arctic and Antarctic. This cute tale of a newborn calf and his mother follows them on that very long trek. Like a small child, the little whale keeps asking if they are home yet. Along the way, they encounter beautiful underseas forests, artfully illustrated. They also come across coral reefs, large open expanses, large ocean liners, huge schools of fish, and a group of orcas. The mother must protect the little one and encourage him to keep going. When they finally join the other whales, they greet each other with song.

With the illustrations helping to tell the story, this book is great for independent reading. It’s also helpful for an introduction to sea mammals in a science unit. But, with the quiet tones and the somber colors, the best use is probably as a read aloud at bedtime. In any case, it lets the reader know what hard work, perseverance and abiding love can do for whales, or even for humans.

  • Little WhaleTitle: Little Whale
  • Author/Illustrator: Jo Weaver
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, October 1, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to2
  • Genre: Picture Book, Nature, Migration, Animals
  • ISBN: 978-1-68263-049-5

Over on a Desert: Somewhere in the World

Written by Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Jill Dubin

Another in the nature series, this is another great view of one of the world’s environments. Beautifully illustrated and combined with counting and geography, the facts about each creature’s behavior are a delight to learn. The singular idea that deserts are not as barren as many believe is enough to make this book worthwhile. The author takes a few liberties with animal facts for the sake of rhyme, making the Fact or Fiction? section necessary. The “hidden” animals are additions to the illustrations/landscape presented partly to add to the fun. The author highlights numerous activities in her note at the end to suggest further study. The illustrator and designer both have great stories to relate about their adventures while conducting research for this project. The last section shows how the text can be set to music.

This is a wonderful addition to study of climates and animal diversity.

  • Over on a DesertTitle: Over on a Desert: Somewhere in the World
  • Author: Marianne Berkes
  • Illustrator: Jill Dubin
  • Published: Dawn Publications, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to2
  • Genre: Picture Book, Nature, Counting, Animals
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-630-8
  • Extras: Fact or Fiction?, Desert Facts, Who Are the “Hidden” Desert Animals?, About the Animals in the Story, From the Author, From the Illustrator, From the Book Designer, Over on a Desert

Welcome to Country: A Traditional Aboriginal Ceremony

Written by Aunty Joy Murphy
Illustrated by Lisa Kennedy

The push toward diversity in children’s literature has the happy result of enlightening everyone about cultures they probably only have a fleeting familiarity with. This fascinating picture book, written and illustrated by indigenous Australians, is one that has that effect.

Murphy is an elder in her community and is wonderfully conversant in their ceremonies. She holds numerous government positions related to her status in the community. She is called Aunty out of respect. This particular ceremony is the one that welcomes visitors. She uses native language interspersed with English so that the reader can understand what’s going on and still get the flavor. The ceremony is slowly revealed as many basics are explained to the visitor.

Bunjil the eagle is our creator spirit.
Bunjil created man, woman, and child from the land.

Later,

Welcome to the traditional lands
of the Wurundjeri people.

Kennedy uses traditional motifs to produce unbelievably beautiful images to draw the reader into the indigenous world.  

Highly recommended for all.

  • Welcome to CountryTitle: Welcome to Country: A Traditional Aboriginal Ceremony
  • Author: Aunty Joy Murphy
  • Illustrator: Lisa Kennedy
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 4
  • Genre: Picture Book, Aboriginal Australia Culture
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-9499-9

Kalinka and Grakkle

Written and Illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Who knew birds and monsters could be friends? Apparently, Kalinka knew. She does her best to help neighbor Grakkle clean his house, though it’s pretty clear he doesn’t want her help. He just wants to relax and soak his feet in pickle juice. She flits around, tidying as she goes, until Grakkle accidentally knocks her into the pickle juice. He obviously feels bad and does his best to revive her and clean her up. They can always enjoy a nap together.

Adorable action-packed illustrations accompany this unusual yet familiar story of the ultimate odd couple. Grakkle is especially expressive. The house is obviously a mess, but what’s a moster to do? Relaxing is important too.

Best as a read aloud, this cute book has a lot to say about getting along with those who are just a bit different. Often, we can find common ground without too much effort. It’s easy to imagine a group of first graders enjoying Kalinka’s misguided efforts and responding “Grakk! Grakk! Grakk!”

  • KalinkaTitle: Kalinka and Grakkle
  • Author/Illustrator: Julie Paschkis
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Fiction, Friendship, Compromise
  • ISBN: 978-1-68263=030-3
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