Monday, December 31, 2012

Big Kid Pick: Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs: As Retold by Mo Willems

I know it's hard to believe, really hard, but I picked this picture book up and read it without realizing who the author was. Seriously. I knew Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs was my Big Kid's Pick by the last page and then continued laughing when I turned back to the cover and discovered the brilliance, again, was Mo. (How did I not recognize the illustrations? I don't know.)

You have to love three dinosaurs visiting from Norway, who go Someplace Else and don't wait for an unsuspecting kid to come by, a "poorly supervised" Goldilocks. She eats three bowls of chocolate pudding, finds three chairs which are too tall, and finally discovers she's in a dinosaur home.

There are echoes of James Marshall throughout this gem. I absolutely loved this work. Don't miss it! It's one of my favorites of 2012. Thanks, Mo!

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
by Mo Willems
Balzer + Bray, HarperCollins

Everything Goes, Stop! Go!: Brian Biggs

I'm a new fan of Brian Biggs! These sturdy board books feature cars and fun people demonstrating opposites and counting. Everything Goes, Stop! Go! and 1 2 3 Beep Beep Beep! both have an underlying humor just waiting for the giggle.

My favorite illustration in Stop! Go! is "Loud Quiet." How perfect to use the ice cream man's truck to illustrate loud while a mother pushes a stroller for quiet? 123 Beep Beep Beep! features a similar ice cream truck on the "6 Food trucks" spread.

Biggs is current, fun, and bright. You and your totz will love his work!

Everything Goes, Stop! Go! A Book of Opposites
Everything Goes, 1 2 3 Beep Beep Beep! A Counting Book
by Brian Biggs
Balzer + Bray, HarperCollins

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Goose Needs A Hug by Tad Hills

 Goose Needs A Hug opens with Tad Hills’ familiar Goose character announcing to his friends:

I’m feeling sad.
I think I need –

Without waiting for Goose to explain what he needs, his friends jump in with suggestions that they hope will cheer him up. Normally, a game of hide and seek or splashing in puddles might be just the ticket to make Goose feel better. But in the end, Goose becomes a little frustrated, insisting:


Finally his friends listen. And once they understand, they give him just what he needs--a hug. And that's something we can all use now and then. The idea that totz should be comfortable asking for a hug when they need one is a lovely one to reinforce, and I hope totz will grow up knowing that they can always ask dear friends for a hug even when they're grown up!

With pages of 6x6.5 inch sturdy-cardboard and simple, colorful pages with a population of sympathetic childlike characters who fill much of each page, this board book will stand up to many re-readings and occasional unsanctioned tastings by totz.

Goose Needs A Hug
Author-illustrator: Tad Hills
Schwartz & Wade, 2013

Friday, December 21, 2012

Poetry Friday: Polar Bear Night

Joan and I don't usually post a second time in support of a work, but this one I love so much. I'm sharing a phrase from Polar Bear Night for Poetry Friday. Enjoy it with your totz!

The little cub leaves her warm,
soft mother, so deep asleep.
She sets out for the snow and sky and
sea and ice, and the moon follows.

Beautiful! May your day and night be filled with poetry.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Polar Bear Night: Lauren Thompson

Polar Bear Night

Don't you love when the perfect picture book is released in a board book format, and it reads so well? The awarded Polar Bear Night is that book!

Lauren Thompson's text is elegant and poetic while Stephen Savage's lino cuts are brilliantly refined. The textures brought to the story enrich the tale.

When "the night is keen and cold," a baby polar bear is called out of the den, away from the sleeping mother. While the walrus, seals, and whales sleep, as well, the baby and moon watch the stars begin to fall, lighting up the world.

This could be my favorite board book of the year. Text and imagery will light up your heart. Thank you, Cartwheel. Bravo!

Polar Bear Night
by Lauren Thompson
illustrated by Stephen Savage
Scholastic, Cartwheel Books, 1/1/13

Sunday, December 9, 2012

BOB and 6 more Christmas Stories: Sandra Boynton

This is a true board book with small, sturdy pages. What makes its form different from a typical board book is that the seven stories (BOB plus 6 more) are made easy to find by tabs on the right.

I’m a Sandra Boynton fan, and this book does not disappoint. It begins with:


I have a tiny reindeer.
He says his name is Bob.
He likes to enterain me.
He says it is his job.

(To the very end of this two-page tale, the narrator still believes Bob is real, despite his sister’s nay-saying.)

The seventh story is actually a song. Christmas Lullaby comes with accompanying 1-page sheet music, in case you want to play it with your tot. This one is soft and sweet. The third and final stanza:

Good night, my little present,
and always peace to you.
I’ve nothing more to ask for—
You are my wish come true,
Oh, you are my wish come true.

A fun and lovely book sure to please parents and totz!

Author-illustrator: Sandra Boynton

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

readertotz co-founder celebrates new Goddess Girls book!

Goddess Girls #9: Pandora the Curious releases today!
This is the first in the series to release in both paperback and hardcover in the US. 
My awesome co-author Suzanne Williams and I put a modern spin on the Greek myth of Pandora's Box in this story, which is set at Mount Olympus Academy, where gods and goddesses hone their mythical skills.

by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
ages 8-12

Is Pandora about to open up a box of trouble?
One of the few mortals at Mount Olympus Academy, Pandora is famous for her mega quizzical nature--not that she thinks there's anything wrong with curiosity of course!

Her curiosity kicks into high gear when a godboy named Epimetheus brings a mysterious box to school. Pandora can't help but take a peek inside this new box when it unexpectedly lands in her lap. What could be the harm in that, right? Little does she know that opening the box will open up far more trouble than she ever expected!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Countasaurus: Megan E. Bryant

Don't you love a passion for a subject, combined with spot on text, and perfectly appropriate cheerful illustration? This describes the Chronicle dinosaur series by Megan E. Bryant, illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell. The works include: Countasaurus, Shapeasaurus, Colorasaurus, and Alphasaurus.

I have to say my favorite is Countasaurus. There's a simplicity as the reader counts to ten, ending in the surprise of 50 Tyrannosaurus Rex's teeth. Colorasaurus is evocative with open wide spreads to showcase color: "The cool, blue water ripples as Triceratops takes a drink." Shapeasaurus is sophisticated with its introduction of crescents, cones, and diamonds. The most complicated is, of course, Alphasaurus with each letter presenting a dinosaur in the midst of a sentence full of alliteration. This particular text will keep your totz' attention to an older age.

Powell's illustrations are a delight. She manages to portray the dinosaurs with cheerful smiles. There's no room for fear in the collection. Joan and I let out a dinosaur roar for this grouping!

by Megan E. Bryant
illustrations by Luciana Navarro Powell
Chronicle Books

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Fa La La: Leslie Patricelli

Fa La La is adorable! And it's wonderful to see a Christmas book featuring Leslie Patricelli's exuberant baby character. This is the Christmas timeline from a tot'z perspective, with spot-on humor:

We put on the lights. 
(Mom and Dad setting up the tree with lights)

Look at me! I'm a Christmas tree!
(Baby nearby, self-adorned with a popcorn-string boa and a few ornaments)

Fa La La is a true board book with sturdy pages and a 7x7" format. I like that the last spread is full of small illustrations of Christmas items with labels (reindeer, stocking, present, etc.). As a tot, I remember poring over this kind of spread with relish. The art is beautiful and the style is perfectly suited for totz.

Fa La La
Author-Illustrator: Leslie Patricelli
Candlewick, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

Goodnight Moon, Cloth Book: Margaret Wise Brown

So what do you think? The cloth version seems a perfect, soft touch for your totz. I was excited to see this new edition from HarperCollins. But, they've reduced the classic to three spreads, and I wonder if there's a retouch to Clement Hurd's illustration of the fishing rabbit picture above the bookcase. For clarity, if I'm right? With the reduction of pages, the cadence of the original is sacrificed, yet, the rhythm can be found in what is included:

In the great green room
There was a telephone
And a red balloon
And a picture of-
The cow jumping over the moon

Goodnight room
Goodnight moon
Goodnight light
And the red balloon
Goodnight bears
Goodnight chairs

Goodnight noises everywhere

It's almost what you might whisper to your tot as she clutches her blue plush pillow book to sleep. I believe it has grown on me. Look for it, and let us know your take.

Goodnight Moon, Cloth Book
by Margaret Wise Brown
illustrations by Clement Hurd
HarperCollins Publishers

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November Pick for the Older Silblilng: Dog Loves Drawing

From Louise Yates' previous book, we all know that Dog Loves Books! In this picture book follow-up, Dog receives the gift of a book from his Aunt Dora. It's pages are empty. A sketchbook!  Dog knows just what to do with it:

He pulled out his pens, laid out his brushes, 
sharpened his pencils, 
took a deep breath and drew a

Dog meets newly-drawn friends, goes on an adventure, and makes a narrow escape. This book has broad appeal, especially for totz and their siblings who love drawing. It can serve as a unique vehicle for parents and teachers to engage children in a discussion of art materials and styles as well. 

I really enjoyed this wonderful book! 

Starred Review, School Library Journal

Dog Loves Drawing
Author-illustratog: Louise Yates
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Trucks: Debbie Powell

Construction for totz! This "shiny touch" book is a super-sturdy 7x7" board book with tactile embossing and shiny stuff covering some areas.

Crash, bang
goes the dump truck.

Whirr, whirr
goes the cement mixer.

What are they building? Turn to the last page to find out. Sure to be a favorite among totz!

Author-illustrator: Debbie Powell
Candlewick, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

More, More, More: Show Me a Story!

Leonard S. Marcus says, "Our favorite picture books speak to us at the start of life and continue to speak to us for the rest of our lives." So true!

I encourage parents of totz to sit down with a cup of coffee and Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter, and listen in as Leonard interviews 21 of the world's greatest illustrators. From Sendak to Wells, McCloskey to Steig, you'll feel as if you are at the table listening in to an expert discuss his passion with the passionate illustrator, himself or herself.

Gems are uncovered with each page turn. Behind the scenes anecdotes flesh out your favorite picture books. It's amazing how many illustrators give a nod to Charles Schultz. How many admire and look to each other for inspiration. Surprises include Mo Willems:

"I'd rather be a craftsman than an artist. An artist waits for an audience to understand his or her work. But a craftsman tries to understand the audience."

While other notes confirm your thoughts, such as Vera B. Williams' clear aim:

"The thing I'm most interested in doing as an illustrator is to make emotion visible."

Thanks to Candlewick Press and Leonard S. Marcus for sharing this treasure with lovers of picture books. The content, moments in time, words exchanged, thoughts shared is invaluable.

Show Me a Story!
Why Picture Books Matter
Conversations with 21 of the World's Most Celebrated Illustrators
compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus
Candlewick Press, 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin: Tad Hills

Duck and Goose, the irrepressible team, spot Thistle carrying a pumpkin. The search is on for their own great gourd.

The journey takes the two to a log, a leaf pile, and up an apple tree. They look under water and on a stump. The reader almost expects flaps to appear on the spreads of this traditional search.

It's Thistle who tips Duck and Goose off, finally, that they might look in the pumpkin patch. Your totz will have fun staying one step ahead of the inquisitive, naive duo. Celebrate the season with Duck and Goose and a pumpkin from your local patch!

Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin
by Tad Hills
Schwartz & Wade

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October Big Kid Pick: Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books

There are times when we want to stop and say, "Thank you! Thank you, publishing house for collecting and reprinting our memories!" This is one of those moments. Many thanks go to Random House, Golden Books for collecting the  Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books. It's like walking back through childhood where we can also find broad image influences on current illustrators' work.

Mary Blair was the conceptual artist for several Walt Disney films: Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland. Her touch is found around both Disney World and Disneyland. And of course her dolls dance through "It's a Small World" ride.

A background for Samurai Jack, painted by Scott Wills.

Her flat, modern style with unusual color choices and open white spaces will appeal to the older sibling of your totz today. So find this treasure and enjoy Baby's House, I Can Fly, The Golden Book of Little Verses, The Up and Down Book, and selections from The New Golden Song Book. Relish this collection with Joan and me!

Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books
Random House Books, A Golden Book
August, 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Where's Ellie?: Salina Yoon

What tot doesn't love hide and seek? In this 7x7" sturdy board book, totz will go seeking Ellie the elephant, who is hiding somewhere among the pages. The die cut at the right side of the book allows Ellie's trunk to be seen, leading totz onward past colorful objects. They won't find Ellie at first, but will be rewarded with each turn of a page by finding something familiar, yet unexpected. In each scene, there's a bit of Ellie peeking out, but it isn't until the last page that totz finally find her. What fun!

Another innovative book by the talented Salina Yoon. Another Yoon favorite of mine is Find My Feet, also published by Robin Corey Books.

Where's Ellie?
Author-illustrator: Salina Yoon
Robin Corey Books, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

Count, Dagmar! 123: J.otto Seibold

Dagmar is ready to throw a party, and he's counting his way through the event. Of course you only need one castle, but how about two bats, five silly monsters, and eight pumpkins? Each piece of the upcoming party hides behind a colorful flap, raising anticipation.

Totz will enjoy this holiday board book concluding with...ten billion pieces of candy. There's a number to explore, especially with candy!

Count, Dagmar! 123
by J.otto Seibold
Chronicle Books, 2011

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mine!: Shutta Crum

Three words can say a lot in this 7x7" sturdy board book: "Mine" (often used); and "Oh!" and "Woof" (each a single use.)

Two siblings--a very young tot and an older tot (pictured on cover)--star along with a puppy co-star. In the first few pages, the older tot claims everything in sight with the word "Mine!" This situation is very true to life and totz will get it and enjoy the realism.

Baby-tot walks for the first time in wobbly baby-steps across a spread. Where's he headed? For his sibling, whom he claims with the single word: "Mine!"

A really sweet book that totz will enjoy.

Author: Shutta Crum
Illustrator: Patrice Barton
Knopf/Random House, 2011

Monday, October 8, 2012

Star Wars 123

Always count on me to recommend a Star Wars spin off. I can't resist! I mean, how fun is it to count with your totz as you introduce them to Yoda, Han, and Ewoks? Star Wars 123 from Scholastic is a large board book with great visual impact. The reader counts to ten, but extra spreads follow. Don't you want to see 25 different aliens, 50 droids, and the startling image of 100 stormtroopers? It all starts with 1 Jedi Master.

Each and every character is shiny against a matte background, while the cover title is foil. Every number is drawn with a texture from the spread. 8 is white and hairy: "These are the galaxy's eight scariest creatures!"

I want to see the companion Star Wars ABC. I can only imagine...

Star Wars 123
Lucas Books
Scholastic, July 2012

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Duck and Goose Find A Pumpkin: Tad Hills

Duck and Goose Find A Pumpkin is an oversized board book (9 1/2 x 10 1/2") just right for the hands of totz, who are sure to enjoy Duck and Goose's new autumn adventure.The characters are as charming as ever and the art is a feast for the eyes.

When they see that friend, Thistle, has a pumpkin, Goose wants one too. They go in search:

Is our pumpkin in the log, Goose?

Is our pumpkin in the leaf pile, Duck?

Hmm. Where would one find a pumpkin? Take a look at this enjoyable book to find out!

Author-illustrator: Tad Hills
Title: Duck and Goose Find A Pumpkin
Publisher: Schwartz and Wade Books, 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

Poetry Friday: Eenie, Meenie, Miney Mo

Just visited the zoo, and the tiger was awake! Isn't he glorious? However, I did not catch him by the toe...

photo by Lorie Ann Grover


Eenie, meeny, miney, mo
Catch a tiger by the toe,
If he hollers, let him go
Eenie, meenie, miney, mo.

Monday, September 24, 2012

One Spotted Giraffe: Petr Horacek

It's a season of pop-ups, it seems! One that stands out from the crowd is One Spotted Giraffe, A Counting Pop-up Book. Petr Horacek's illustrations of animals against simple backgrounds pop, engineering aside! Additionally, however, on each spread the illustrated animal is used to form a pop-up number under a flap. You'll love the panda making the number 8.

I particularly enjoy Petr's rough, free lines running throughout the illustrations. There's a palpable energy in the collages. Because he hasn't disguised his technique, your totz will be mesmerized by rich line, color, and shape as they count to 10 with a group of fun animals. It all starts with one spotted giraffe...

One Spotted Giraffe
by Petr Horacek
concept and paper engineering by Claire Vincent
Candlewick Press, 2012

Friday, September 21, 2012

Poetry Friday: A Board Book

photo by Melissa Walker

A Board Book

From my pen to your
chubby hands, a glow, a smile,
a long-distance hug. 

Lorie Ann Grover, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

September Pick for the Older Sibling: Ready for Pumpkins

As a mythology fan, I enjoyed the lead character's name in this picture book: Hercules! Herky for short. Hercules is a guinea pig in a first grade classroom. When he sees the children plant seeds and watch them grow into plants, he longs to do the same.

During summer vacation, he does just that with the help of his friend, rabbit. They prepare the soil, plant the seeds, watch and wait and wait and wait (a good lesson in patience). Even though the pumpkins aren't ready, Herky must return to school in the fall.

When October rolls around, the teacher's dad comes in with one of the pumpkins's Herky grew!

A feel-good story about pumpkin-growing, friendship, and patience rewarded.

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

Ready for Pumpkins
Author-illustrator: Kate Duke
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012 

More, More, More: Clifford Collection

Let's hear it for the dog! He's 50 years old, and you can see him in all his glory in Norman Bridwell's Clifford Collection! I grew up loving Clifford. How about you? Thanks to Scholastic, you can now enjoy the first six stories together in one volume.

I had a blast revisiting these works by Norman Bridwell. What a joy to return to the original images. In these first stories, even more so in book one, Clifford had a sketchier line and more white spaces in his red coat. Reading through the collection made me feel as if I had found my long lost friend.

Only now do I realize that as a child I spent much time worrying about Clifford: his bad habits; how to feed him; and that new neighbor, Martha, who tried to best Clifford with her own pooch. These were my concerns, I can tell you! I went on to include both the names Emily and Elizabeth in my daughters' names without realizing the nod to Norman.

The collection features a fantastic intro by Norman, followed by the history of Clifford, and a photo of the real Emily Elizabeth. Then it's off into the six stories. What a keepsake! Happy Birthday, Clifford!

Norman Bridwell's Clifford Collection
by Norman Bridwell
Scholastic Inc.

Monday, September 17, 2012

My Little Toolbox: Nathan Reed

Another tool book to celebrate Labor Day month with your totz!

This one is a sturdy board book, complete with handle and Velcro closure. And four touch-and-feel tools your totz can press out and enjoy during play: a wrench, screwdriver, saw, and hammer.

This is my toolbox and I'm going to mend some things.
I've got lots of screws to twist and turn. 
I'm going to use my big screwdriver.

Very cute and interactive!

My Little Toolbox
Author-illustrator: Nathan Reed
Campbell Books/Macmillan, 2004
Ages 3 and up

Thursday, September 13, 2012

More, More, More: The Templeton Twins Have an Idea

Ah, how about a fantastic new duo for the older siblings of your totz? The Templeton Twins Have an Idea will keep them laughing, guessing, and reading, let alone talking back to author Ellis Weiner. Think A Series of Unfortunate Events, and you'll be on the right track.

Jeremy Holmes copious illustrations embellish the imaginative text.

The large-headed, thin-bodied protagonists, along with their Ridiculous Dog, have quite the adventure as they protect their father. The snarky narrator though is most endearing of all. He will string you right along, even if he's reluctant to do so. Be ready for a Prologue which begins: The End. Get the picture?

The Templeton Twins Have an Idea
by Ellis Weiner
illustrated by Jeremy Holmes
Chronicle Books, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

More, More, More: Pure Vegan

When I saw this coming from Chronicle Books, I knew I had to check it out. I've been a pescatarian for awhile, so not a vegan, but this collection is accessible, brilliant, and beautiful. As the tag for Pure Vegan says, here are  "70 Recipes for Beautiful Meals and Clean Living." Author Joseph Shuldiner, a non-vegan, delivers. There's no political positioning or religious slant, but rather, wonderful recipes you are encouraged to adapt or change to your own taste.

I love how the work is divided into sections: Morning, Afternoon, Evening, Late Night, and Very Late Night. Each portion is printed on a different muted color. The photography by Emily Brooke Sandor and Joseph Shuldiner is artistry itself. The texture of the paper and cover feels wonderful in your hands.

The encouragement to present food beautifully and use pure, fresh ingredients is easy to act upon. I recently cooked the cover dish, Tomato and Three Bean Salad, for an elegant party. It was hard to decide which dish to share, but I can say, this one was very well received. I can't wait to try more, like Garbanzo Bean and Tomato Soup, Pistachio Olive Oil Cake, and Hazelnut Halvah!

Give your totz beautiful, delicious, and healthy vegan food. Pure Vegan will lead the way so easily.

Pure Vegan
by Joseph Shuldiner
photographs by Emily Brooke Sandor and Joseph Shuldiner
Chronicle Books

Playbook Farm: Corina Fletcher

I'm continually impressed by Nosy Crow. Check out Playbook Farm. It's actually a pop-up book and giant board which folds into book shape to store in a box. Animals which stand along with vehicles will delight your totz for hours because, "Everyone is happy, all day, on the busy farm."

On the back of each spread is a nonfiction question to spur discussion.

"What do cows do?
Cows give us milk to drink."

Corina Fletcher's thoughtful text accompanies Britta Teckentrup's endearing illustration, full of textures. The palette in particular just feels perfect. So unpack the box, read the book, be surprised by the delightful and original popups, and answer the questions. Then unfold the mat, unpack the vehicles and characters, and play. Way to go, Nosy Crow!

Playbook Farm
by Corina Fletcher
illustrations by Britta Teckentrup
Nosy Crow, Candlewick Press

Monday, September 3, 2012

Kid Builder: Salina Yoon

Tools seem a perfect way to help totz celebrate Labor Day!

This boxed set from prolific and talented Salina Yoon comes with a toolbelt and four handy dandy tools: screwdriver, hammer, wrench, and pliers. Each tool is a sturdy board book, about five inches tall, which gives the basics about the tool.

The wrench text reads:

Wrenches turn! / Turn that nut. /
Turn right to make it tight. / Turn left to make it loose. /
Now the bike is good as new!

A wonderful blend of book and toy. And at $9.99, this seems like a real deal!

Kid Builder
Author-illustrator: Salina Yoon
Scholastic, 2010
Ages 3 and up

Friday, August 31, 2012

Pumpkin Countdown: readertotz co-founder Joan Holub celebrates a fall release!

Count down from twenty to one on this field trip to the pumpkin patch in my new picture book, Pumpkin Countdown. I’ll give away one autographed copy September 20 (or thereabouts.)
To enter: 
Please mention my book on your blog or on Twitter or on Facebook. Something like: Count down from 20 to 1 with Joan Holub’s new picture book, Pumpkin Countdown!
(Be sure to leave a way I can contact you if you win, here in the readertotz comments.)

"Children and teachers alike will enjoy the interactive nature of this story. A cross-curricular choice, it conveys simple information on the growth cycle of pumpkins, a bit about bees, and age-appropriate word problems, making it a great choice for math class or a read-aloud."
School Library Journal

"It's a lively portrait of pumpkin-picking season, whose educational value is boosted by assorted facts about pumpkins that appear on the endpapers."
Publishers Weekly

"Charming, multicultural round-faced characters and lots of detail encourage readers to go back through the book scouring pages for the 16 things the kids guessed they might see. . . .not many books start countdowns from 20. . ."
Kirkus Reviews

Also available: Apple Countdown

~ Joan Holub