Archive for ‘Animals’

June 29, 2012

Cows to the Rescue

Title: Cows to the Rescue

Author & Illustrator: John Himmelman

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, 2011
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 3-5
Themes: Farm Animals, Helping Out, Humor, Family

Opening Lines:

It was the day of the county fair! At seven o’clock, Farmer Greenstalk could not start the car.

Cows to the rescue!

Synopsis (from MacMillan website):

It’s the day of the county fair!

Three-legged races, a “Smartest Pig” contest, the Ferris wheel—what could be more fun? But the Greenstalks’ car won’t start, so they’ll need some help getting there. . . .

Cows to the Rescue is the fabulous new book in John Himmelman’s hilarious barnyard saga. It follows Chickens to the Rescue and Pigs to the Rescue, bringing back the fun with brand new mishaps and brand moo—er, new—problem-solvers.


A visit to the local farm or petting zoo, or better yet your County Fair!

Why I Like this Book:

This book is hilarious. The text drives the story for the illustrations to shine. Farmer Greenstalk and the animals are beset with problems to solve during the day, not a problem as Cows to the Rescue! Whenever I read the refrain I wanted to shout it out like I was  super-hero. The illustrations are colorful and simple, and the cows have a lot of personality. One of my favorites is the cows on the ferris wheel, where you have the calm one, the biting nails one, the I must cover my eyes one, and the oh look how small everything looks down there one. I wonder if Mr. Himmelman has names for each of the cows, that is how well he has portrayed them. Grab this book and a child for storytime.

If you like this book do check out the predecessors in this series, Chickens to the Rescue and Pigs to the Rescue. I especially love Pigs to the Rescue, as the pigs never get it quite right and the Greenstalks in the end are hoping that the pigs don’t come to the rescue.

Picture Book Details:

As an aspiring PB writer, I often analyze a book for its text and illustrations to learn from it. Here are some of the details I liked from this book:

– Repetitive Structure of the text. There are 6 stanzas of three lines each.

  • First line: Time of day, Problem
  • Second line: “Cows to the rescue!”
  • Third line: Expression of thanks

– Illustrations show how the problem is solved by the cows in the most humorous, quirky, silly way. The animal characters have a unique personalities.

– Underlying theme — Family.
I only realized this as I was typing the text out for my own analysis, it is subtle but lovely.  The cows were helping out their farm family which consisted of the Greenstalks and the other animals. This is apparent as it is Emily was “scared” of going on the Ferris wheel, or the pigs who needed tutoring, or Jeffrey who needed a partner for the three-legged race.

June 22, 2012

Around the World on Eighty Legs

Title: Around the World on Eighty Legs

Author: Amy Gibson
Illustrator: Daniel Salmieri

Publisher: Scholastic, 2011
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 6-10
Themes: Animal Diversity, Poetry

Synopsis (from Scholastic website):

A fun, fresh animal journey! Amy Gibson and Daniel Salmieri take readers on an  exciting animal adventure around the globe. As readers explore habitats ranging from the Arctic to the Savanna, they will learn fun and humorous information about the animals who live there.


Activities to go along with the book from the author – Math, Writing, Science, even PE/Movement!

National Geographic Kids has exposes on animals from around the world. See videos, hear what they sound like, downloadable fact sheets, and more.

Why I Like This Book:

Take a trip around the world and learn about these quirky, unique animals in this 56-page book of rhyming poems. Animals covered from the well-known, such as giraffe, lion, to the unheard of, such as the hoatzin, skua, and mouse deer. The sixty-one animal poems are organized by continents. Each poem introduces the animal to the reader in a light-hearted, humorous way revealing only one or two traits. The illustrations are done in watercolor, gouache, and colored-pencil, making these animals just ‘pop’ on the page. Each animal is drawn accurately but also with a sense of personality complementing the text perfectly. Take a look at the Anaconda.

(Click here to see more excerpts at Amy Gibson’s website)

The end pages contain an alphabetical listing of all the animals and provide additional information. This is a great “intro” book to animal diversity which will have kids clamoring for more information. A great book to use in the classroom or at storytime.

May 17, 2012

Too Shy for Show and Tell

Title: Too Shy for Show and Tell

Author: Beth Bracken
Illustrator: Jennifer Bell

Publisher: Picture Window Books, 2012
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 3-6
Themes: Shyness, School


“Sam was a quiet boy. Nobody knew much about him.

Sam loved trucks, but nobody knew that.”

Synopsis (from Capstone website):

Sam is a quiet little boy who hates show-and-tell. Just thinking about it makes his stomach hurt. Sam must find a way to conquer his fear of show-and-tell.


Show and tell of course.

Games for shy kids for getting kids to interact in a non-competitive environment.

Shykids is a website that discusses shyness in kids/teens and resources on how to help.

Why I Like This Book:

Perfect book for young children. The basic plot surrounds Sam’s fear of public speaking, however there is a deeper underlying theme about opening up to people around you and friendship. In the opening scene, a sad Sam is keeping to himself not saying hi to anyone as he walks to school. Nobody knows anything about Sam or what he likes. In contrast the end scene, shows a happy Sam waving good-bye to his friends as he heads home.

The author effectively uses short, simple sentences to emotionally connect to Sam. The reader will immediately be able to feel Sam’s fears and concerns, and will cheer for Sam in the end. The illustrations are visually appealing with a soft sketch-like feel and the animals have a roundness to them. Both qualities bring a warm endearing quality to the cast of characters.

This book is part of Capstone’s Little Boost series, that look to tackle early life lessons in a funny relatable manner. Check out the other books.

This review is part of Susana Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Picture Book Details:

As an aspiring PB writer, I often analyze a book for its text and illustrations to learn from it. Here are some of the details I liked from this book:
– The opening and closing scenes of Sam going to school/home being sad/happy. Nice parallels.
– Mention of the truck, cake, and dogs in the beginning, that later tie into the ending.
– Repetitive use of the line “Everyone clapped when he was done.” after each kid did his show-and-tell. This helps build up Sam’s confidence for show-and-tell and gives the young reader confidence that everything is going to be okay.
– Otto saying “weaf” instead of “leaf.” Realistic speech, young kids (like my 4year old) often have a hard time with L’s and R’s. Also it shows Sam that is okay to do be imperfect.

May 15, 2012

Snow Games

Title: Snow Games

Author: Joanna Marple
Illustrator: Maja Sereda
Publisher: uTales, May 2012
Book Type: Ebook Fiction
Ages: 2-5
Themes: Animals, Winter Activities, Rhyming
Opening Lines:
“On a crisp, frosty mid-winter’s day,
the woodland youngsters ran out to play.

The first game that popped into squirrel’s head
was to slide down a hill on a homemade sled.
Bear charged forth and crashed down the slope,
on a sled from boughs tied together with rope.”

Synopsis (from uTales website):

The woodland winter games are underway. But, faced with Bear’s strength, Squirrel’s speed and Owl’s self confidence, what is a wee mouse to do?

Why I Like This Book:

A wonderful tale of four cuddly animals having fun in the winter. Each animal the Bear, Squirrel, and Owl have their own special talents, while itty-bitty mouse wonders how he can possibly compete or even win an event. As with any well-crafted story, the author does a superb job with the ending, showing little readers everywhere that you can be small and still do something big.

The rhyming text and soft hued, hand-drawn like illustrations lend a warmth of friendship to the winter games story. Some of my favorites are the sleds being made made out of items from the woods and the child-like animal expressions. So sit down with a cup of hot cocoa, cuddle up with your kids, and enjoy this simple, lovely tale which may even bring back a bit of nostalgia.

About uTales:

uTales is an eBook platform providing a library of great books for young readers. Books can be read on a computer, iPhone, or iPad. I think is a great compliment to hardcover picture books. Often times I would like to read my kids books while we are out an about. I am not about to lug the picture books (which are from the library, and I am afraid of losing) but I do have my iPhone. Currently uTales is offering a $4.99 monthly subscription plan, so I recommend you go check it out. Most eBooks on the site do offer a sample reading (~first 8 pages), you can also sign-up for a free 15-day trial with full access.

Want to learn more about uTales, come back tomorrow and join us for a wonderful interview with author Joanna Marple and learn about her experience in creating Snow Games, her first book.

Update: Link to interview with Joanna Marple.

May 4, 2012

Oh No, George!

Title: Oh No, George!

Author & Illustrator: Chris Haughton
Check out the interview at Playing By the Book.

Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2012
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 2-5
Themes: Self-Control, Behavior, Decision Making


“George sees something in the kitchen. It’s a cake! I said I’d be good, George thinks, but I LOVE cake.

What will George do?”

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

George is a dog with all the best intentions. And his owner, Harry, has all the best hopes that George will be a well-behaved dog when he leaves him alone for the day. But when George spies a delicious cake sitting on the kitchen table, his resolve starts to waver. You see, George loves cake. . . Uh-oh. What to do now? It’s so hard to be a good dog when there are cats to chase and flowers to dig up! What ever will Harry say when he gets back? Chris Haughton’s fetchingly funny story and vibrant, retro illustrations are sure to lure dog lovers of all ages – and anyone who has ever met a temptation too good to resist.


Read the book aloud, and have the kids say the repetitive lines. Have the kids predict what George will do. Use the book to jump-start a discussion on everyday decisions that kids have to make and how to handle temptation.


  • Story Kit from Candlewick containing discussion questions and some printables (Sorry coupon, drawing prompt)
  • Writing prompts and coloring worksheets.

Why I Like This Book:

This book at first appears to be a simple story of a dog being left at home, but it is so much more than that as the reader gets pulled into George’s emotions of excitement, deliberation, naughtiness, and remorse. A great way to teach kids about temptation but also forgiveness. Harry forgives George when he makes a mess at home, which I thought was very sweet; a lesson I need to be reminded of from time to time.

There are three temptations in the book a cake, cat, and flowers which each appear twice in the book. In the first half of the book when a temptation is shown the reader is asked “What will George do?” followed by a full-page illustration of George making a bad choice and the words “Oh no, George!” He then feels remorse for making a mess and upsetting Harry, this is the turning point as you see George’s character grow. Once again George is presented with the same three temptations but this time he makes good choices. My favorite is the ending of George next to a trashcan, leaving the decision up to the reader of what George will do next.

This is also a wonderful, Read Together book. There is a lot of repetition and predictability in the book. The short, simple repetitive sentences my 4-year old “reads”, while I do read the rest. I also blend in the good choice/bad choice teaching method that is used in my daughter’s preschool classroom. My daughter will give me a thumbs up or down for each of George’s decisions. The  illustrations are simple with clean lines and bold colors, they are eye-catching. Take a look at the trailer below.

This review is part of Susana Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.


NOTE ADDED 10/16/12: This book was nominated by Eliza for the 2012 Cybils Awards in the Fiction Picture Book category. I am a second-round judge in this category, but this review reflects my opinions only, not those of any other panelist, or the panel as a whole. Thanks!



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