Growing up sweet: Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine

rosie sprout

Naturally, my thoughts have shifted in a very Kindergarten direction since I found out that’s what I’ll be teaching next year. My list of Ideas / Things to Figure Out is getting longer by the minute, not to mention my list of picture books I love and want to “do cool things with” next year.

Pretty close to the top of that list is this lovely little treasure: Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine, by Allison Wortche. It is darling. It makes me smile and feel warm and fuzzy, and as a teacher, I can say that it’s a pretty fair representation of life in a typical classroom.

In Rosie’s class, it’s all about Violet. Violet is the fastest, the loudest, the fanciest, the Best. Everything Violet does seems to turn out perfectly, and Violet is not shy about soaking up the limelight. Sweet little Rosie is tired of hearing about it. So when Ms. Willis announces that they will each be growing their own plants in little pots, all of the kids (Rosie included) get ready to see VIolet be the best in the world at gardening. When the first pea sprouts appear, it would seem that Violet’s is off to a speedy start. But when Violet gets the chicken pox, Rosie has to make a choice. Will she sit by and let Violet’s plant wither, or will she do what’s hard but what is kind?

This one could’ve easily turned into a story that was unbelievably sweet and simplistic. I think Rosie’s reaction to Violet is really true to life. Violet drives her crazy, and Rosie quietly stews about it. When she sees Violet’s plant is growing faster than everyone else’s, Rosie dumps soil on top of it. Also, there’s a cute twist at the end that every teacher – and grown up - will smile about, because it’s not a happily ever after ending, it’s a true one. The only thing I wish was different is the fact that the teacher doesn’t really seem to do much in the way of guiding VIolet to become a little more tolerable and sensitive. The teacher comes off as quite passive in the situation. However, since the story is from Rosie’s perspective, perhaps it’s realistic that she wouldn’t necessarily observe her teacher’s response to Violet.

Patrice Barton’s illustrations are just wonderful. They are full of soft tones and have an expressive messiness to them that I just love. Each picture is packed with energy and emotion, just like a classroom full of kids this age really is.  

I am already thinking about how this book could have a place in a unit on plants, and growing things – not to mention growing good kids!

Maybe we could grow wheatgrass eggheads:

eggheads

(Here’s a post that shows you how - just add googly eyes and you’re done!)

I know this for sure. I plan to pack my class full of adorable, so Rosie Sprout should fit right in.

Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine is published by Knopf.

The Elf breaks her silence with a dramatic update…

It’s been quiet here on the Shelf for a while – too long. I get pretty antsy when I’m not keeping this little place current.

So here’s the story.

Man, am I:

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Why? It’s a long story. There have been changes brewing in my job over the past month, changes I hadn’t seen coming and probably wouldn’t have thought could lead to things I really wanted. Let’s just say that I haven’t felt so stressed for a long while. On Friday this week everything was finally resolved, and I confess that first, I was a little bit:

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But that passed quickly, and now I finally feel:

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Here’s the scoop. Next year, I won’t be a teacher librarian anymore, but I will sure be needing a lot of brilliant books close at hand, particularly this one… Continue reading

A Canine Charmer: The Metro Dogs of Moscow by Rachelle Delaney

moscowdogsI’ve been reading a whole lotta dog books lately, mostly about how to train a terrier who is smart enough to open his crate from the inside using only his lips. We are all learning in our house (admittedly, some of us faster than others). So when Rachelle Delaney’s new middle grade novel, The Metro Dogs of Moscow, snuck to the top of my TBR pile, I was powerless to resist. A mystery… starring a dog… a terrier type dog? Of course I jumped at it (a little bit like a certain naughty hound I wrangle on a daily basis).

This quick read is chipper and charming, just right for young readers who are beginning to get their feet wet with longer chapter books. Here’s the premise. JR (short for Jack Russell) travels the world with his person, George, who works as a diplomat. Sounds exciting, right? JR doesn’t see it that way. Now that they’ve landed in Moscow, JR is beginning to get tired of the roving life. He wants to stay in one place, and more than anything, he wants to go off leash for a while and really have a chance to live a little. Then one night, all it takes is an open window and just like that, JR runs off into the city, leaving his drab days in the dust. He meets The Coolest Dogs Ever, aka the Metro Dogs of Moscow. These amazing, street-smart strays show JR the sites and they also fill him in on a mystery that is affecting their crew: strays are disappearing all over the city. JR doesn’t turn back, and soon enough, he is wrapped up in an adventure he will never forget.

It’s hard to resist a book with such a motley collection of canine stars. Before you can say Kroshka Kartoshka (delish stuffed hot potatoes), JR will skip his way straight into your heart, circle around a couple of times, and lie down there to stay for a while. The opening bit, when JR experiences some inner turmoil over having done A Very Bad Thing, completely cracked me up. Any dog owner knows how it goes. Dog does A Very Bad Thing. Dog feels Really Awful. You are Very Mad at Dog. Then, before you know it, somehow, said Bad Dog is curled up with you on the couch and you are holding his rawhide chew for him so that he can enjoy more fully. How? Why? Now that is a doggy mystery.

Joking aside, Delaney must be a dog person. Her dog characters are not just cute, they are nicely differentiated and memorable. The Russian setting comes to life as the hounds tear all over the city, racing to solve the mystery before more of their friends disappear. There’s a classic feel to this story. I don’t know if it’s the shape of the story that makes it seem like a timeless adventure for children, the warm atmosphere, or the lightness Delaney imbues throughout. Whatever the magic, it really works. You could put this in the hands of just about any young reader and chances are, they’d gobble it up. It is the kind of book I would have adored when I was nine or so. I will be finding many nine year olds to read it very soon.

FYI, JR made me think of two Jack Russell’s on film. Cosmo, from the most wonderful movie, Beginners, and Uggie from The Artist. Check out their cuteness:

Also, here’s a lovely interview with Rachelle by Vikki, over at Pipdreaming.

The Metro Dogs of Moscow is published by Puffin, an imprint of Penguin Canada.

A big shout out for “!” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

exclamation

In late March, most people can use a little more ! in their lives. I know I sure do. So when I spotted Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s sunny new picture book, I had hope that a smiley happy boost was headed my way.

I was not wrong. It’d be near impossible to read Exclamation Mark and not be charmed and cheered.

Here’s the trailer:

You know when you read a book, and you can just tell the creators had a blast making it? That’s this book. In fact, I’d say that I get this feeling when I read all of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s books. This is a woman I’d like to spend the day with. I imagine we’d do something fun and probably kooky and we’d be laughing nonstop. Our conversations would be full of clever puns and silly stuff and we’d feel smart and giddy and just plain delighted to be alive.

Not to mention, I love me a book that I could imagine using with wee folk right on up to Grade 8. (Cuz you know those Grade 8s aren’t all pros with their punctuation. Shocker). Exclamation Mark has a message that little guys can relate to, but the concept and execution are so clever that older kids will laugh on every page.

So Amy, if by small chance you ever read this tiny shout out for Exclamation Mark, I’d like to say thanks for making stories as witty as they are wise.

Exclamation Mark is published by Scholastic.

Light as a feather: Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice

destinySometimes the second you lay eyes a book, you cannot wait to read it. That’s how I felt when I first saw Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s new middle grade novel, Destiny, Rewritten. Everything about that cover (by Erwin Madrid) speaks to my inner 11-year-old, and I’ll bet it will speak to a whole lot of actual 11-year-olds too. I mean, what’s not to love, from the point of view of a starry-eyed, fashionably cute, bookstore-loving, cat obsessed girl? Even the title font is pretty much spot on, promising a little whimsy and romance and some artsy flair. Add the soft, magic-is-about-to-happen lighting from above, and I’m sold. Bam. Done. My only complaint, post-read, is that the cute kitty does not feature in the story, which seems misleading, since he features so prominently on the front. (And clearly he has a story. I mean, look at that face!)

So it was with a heart full of expectation that I began to read about the life and adventures of eleven-year-old Emily Elizabeth Davis, who is destined to become a poet, just like Emily Dickinson, because that is who she was named after. Emily’s mother, herself a poet, and a rather flaky, destiny-loving lady, named her daughter after ED in the hopes that her daughter would grow up to be a remarkable poet as well. Too bad Emily has no talent for poetry, or any interest in it really. She would rather read romance novels, and imagine her future as a famous writer in the tradition of Danielle Steel, to whom she writes frequent letters. She hasn’t told her mom about all this… yet. Things get complicated when Emily finds out that her mother, who has kept the identity of Emily’s dad secret, reveals that she wrote his name into the special volume of Emily Dickinson’s poetry that Emily has treasured for as long as she can remember. But before Emily can find this life-changing information, the book is lost. So begins her search to find the book, find out the truth about her father, and hopefully, discover her true destiny along the way.

There’s a lot to love in this gentle story. Fitzmaurice creates a wonderfully realistic relationship between Emily and her best friend Wavey. I particularly appreciated the dialogue between the two of them. I like the way it bounces back and forth, with each one of the kids adding on to what the other one says, finishing up the other’s thoughts in that way that real friends sometimes do. You really believe in their friendship. The setting, Berkeley, California, comes across as quirky and warm. Emily writes to her author-hero, Danielle Steel, and the letters are delightful little funny and heartwarming treats scattered throughout the narrative. In fact, heartwarming is pretty much the perfect word for this whole book. I also like it when an author is successful in bringing together different narrative threads in a way that doesn’t feel contrived, but rather captures how life can surprise us with circumstances that might be destiny, or perhaps only strange coincidences.

Just two complaints. First, sometimes Emily’s language did not ring true for an eleven-year-old. It came off as too adult in places. I’ve listened to many an eleven-year-old, and there were moments when Emily’s way of speaking / thinking seemed far too adult to be convincing. This was occasionally distracting. Also, while I get that Emily’s mom was meant to be flaky, she came off a little one-dimensional and hard to believe a lot of the time. I found her unsympathetic overall, almost like she was toying with her daughter’s emotions by being such a slave to the notion of everything being destined. I found it hard to think that a mother would treat her daughter’s desire to know her father with such a lack of seriousness and respect, almost as if it was a kind of game.

Destiny, Rewritten is an Indiebound Kid’s Pick for Spring, and I can see why. Pick it up and you’ll be delighted you did.

Destiny, Rewritten is published by Katherine Tegen Books.

I can’t wait to read these!

gryffI promise I won’t be starting off every post with a puppy picture, but c’mon, how could I deny you such an adorable face? He’s a little charmer, that’s for sure. Moving on to All Things Booky.

It’s my March Break from school next week, and I plan to read, read, read (when I’m not training a certain someone to Sit, Down, and Come). There are so many books coming out now or in the next couple of months that I cannot wait to read and I’ve started keeping a list so I don’t forget any of them. What’s on your TBR list?

Here’s a collection of links to reviews of upcoming or brand new titles that you might want to remember too:

According to Reading Rants, Dark Triumph: His Fair Assassins by Robin LaFevers is “way more bloody and fast paced than the first but just as deliciously juicy.” I devoured book one, so this one is probably at the top of my list. Coming in April.

According to Vikki, The Darkness Dwellers by Kirsten Miller should hopefully get the Kiki Strike series onto more people’s radar. I support that. The first two books were such fun. More kids should be reading them. Vikki imagines a movie version would be “like Kick-Ass meets The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants only set in NEW YORK!” Yes please!

A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy adored The Madness Underneath: Shades of London, Book Two by Maureen Johnson: “I loved, loved, loved The Madness Underneath. The Name of the Star is like the TV Pilot that gets the gang together and sets up a premise and The Madness Underneath is the episode where it all comes together and sparks fly.” I’m pretty sure that this one will be at the top of my vacation reading list.

Confessions of a Bibliovore thinks that Robin Benway’s latest, Also Known As, is pretty delightful. She promises, “if you’re jonesing for more Gallagher Girls, this should help with that. Breezy, funny, and sweet, this confection of a novel is just right to put a smile on your face.” Sounds like a treat.

I absolutely cannot wait to pick up Lisa Graff’s new Middle Grade title, A Tangle of Knots. Those who know me well know that a book with recipes is sure to get my attention. Welcome to My Tweendom was crazy about it for lots of reasons. Here are a few: “a bake-off, recipes, attempted adoption, archeological crime, a mysterious wordless stranger, a wayward ferret and an in-and-out narrator dressed in a gray suit, and you have A Tangle of Knots.” Sounds a little Polly Horvath-ish in terms of quirkiness.

So those are a few books I’m hankering after at the moment. Reviews to come soon, pinky swear! It’s hard being a new mama :)

Happy Friday!

The Diviners was SO good, I only put it down for…

…this guy:

gryff

 

And only because he is so good at looking at me with such a cute blend of sweetness and judgment.

divinersIf Libba Bray’s latest can rival my adorable puppy for my attention, you have to know that it is seriously good. I have not read something so gripping and intricately plotted for quite a while. I can honestly say that every single page held my attention, and there were many places when I stopped to reread just to enjoy Bray’s turn of phrase. I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment in the trilogy.

Set in the 1920s in New York City, The Diviners follows Ohio native, Evie, who could not be happier to be sent away to the city after an embarrassing incident in her small town. She has dreamed of the freedom and excitement of New York for as long as she can remember. She goes to stay with her Uncle Will, the curator of a museum of supernatural objects, which is fitting because Evie has an unusual gift. She is able to read people’s past experiences whenever she holds an object that belongs to them. Soon after her arrival, a series of murders rock the city, and it becomes clear that a serial killer is at large. Evie, her Uncle, and his assistant, are drawn into the investigation and it isn’t long before they realize that a terrible force of evil is only beginning its dark work.

An amazingly rich cast of characters is a big part of what makes this book so captivating. There’s Memphis, a young man who has lost the ability he once had to heal people through touch, and his brother Isaiah, who can see the future. There’s Theta, one of Ziegfeld’s chorus girls, who guards her own secrets, Sam, a pickpocket searching for his mother, and Uncle Will’s assistant, Jericho, is not what he seems. I connected to all of their stories. Bray weaves everything together so masterfully that you get just enough of each person’s story to fulfill you but still leave you curious and eager for more in the next book.

The city and the incredibly freaky old mansion where Naughty John, the serial killer, makes his lair, come off as characters in themselves, they are so richly evoked. I love a book with a strong sense of place, where you can really sink into the time and the feeling of the setting. The Diviners has this in spades.

I expect you’ll also be charmed at the way that Bray manages to get some lightness into a very dark and at times, deeply unsettling story. The dialogue is snappy, and Evie, our heroine, is so plucky and peppy that you will “pos-i-tute-ly” love her.

So unless you’ve got an 11-week-old puppy to pull you away from this book, I don’t imagine you’ll be able to do much other than keep on reading once you start The Diviners. One more thing. Don’t read it when you’re home alone. That would be a Very Bad Idea.

The Diviners is published by Little, Brown.