Welcome to Books to Hoot About! the children's book review blog from InfoSoup librarians and users!

2011 Reviews by Library: Waupaca

Author: Tom Angleberger

Dwight is an oddball. He does lots of weird things, but he does one cool thing. He makes origami. One day he makes an origami Yoda and before long all the kids at school are asking Origami Yoda to predit their future. Could this paper puppet really have magical powers? Terrific "Guy Read" book. Good one for reluctant readers.

Who's Robbing Who?

Author: Kate Thompson

This short chapter book, set in 18th century England, begs to be read aloud.  Through the whole book the reader is not quite sure who is leading the mischief in the story.  When a mysterious gentleman rides into town and leaves the reins to his beautiful horse to a street lad for safe keeping, with the promise of a gold coin upon his return, the scheming starts.  When the King's soldiers use the lad as bait to catch the famous highwayman, Dick Turpin, the boy is befuddled.  His desperate state causes him to think twice about what to do.  Does he help the highwayman escape?  How does he escape himself?  This action-packed short novel will keep even reluctant readers attention although there is some tricky vocabulary.

Sweet and Funny

Author: Jennifer Holm

This book has the best nicknames I've ever heard. Turtle is sent to live with her aunt's family in Key West, FL in the 1930s because the woman her mom works for doesn't like kids. Meet the Diaper Gang and get ready to laugh. Part adventure story, part treasure map... this book will steal your heart from page one!

Title: Touch Blue
Author: Cynthia Lord

Tess's family, in a desperate effort to keep their island school, is one of the families to take in a foster child. Aaron isn't sure about the secluded island lifestyle, especially since he has to give up his jazz band to live there. Lobster fishing is something really foreign to him, too. Good story of the meaning of family and whether all the superstitious little ways we all bring about good luck really work.

Meet Feisty Abilene

Author: Clare Vanderpool

"The Rattler is watching."  This Newbery award winning book is historical fiction/mystery with just enough humor to delight any reader.  The plot can get involved, with all the great characters you meet in Manifest, Kansas.  Set in depression 1936, with flashbacks to 1918, Abilene is desperate to find clues to her father and the intriguing box of keepsakes she finds hidden.  Sent to Manifest to live with her father's friend, Pastor Shady while her father works on the railroad, Abilene connects with Miss Sadie, a storyteller and "diviner" who slowly leads her through the story of Ned and Jinx.  Plenty of historical references to the KKK, the flu epidemic, immigration, and tough times following the Great Depression abound.  Suspenseful ending that was most satisfying.  Good child book for adults, too.

Title: Scumble
Author: Ingrid Law

This companion book to Ingrid law's Savvy take us to another branch of the O'Connell family tree (great reference graphic in front of the book to help keep everyone straight).  Ledger discovers on his 13th birthday that his "savvy" is a difficult one to control.... mechanical things are magically disintegrated at the slightest show of Ledge's emotions.  Staying at his Uncle Autry's ranch in Sundance, Wyoming, for the summer might give him time to "scumble", or learn to handle, his savvy.  All looks promising until he meets Sarah Jane Cabot, a amatuer reporter, who is threatening to reveal his family's secrets.  How does Ledge learn to control his emotions and his savvy, and how does Uncle Autry plan to keep the family ranch?  Readers will love the members of this wacky family and their savvies.

Author: Tracy Trivas

Sixth grader, Griffin Penshine, is tricked into accepting a box of Indian Head pennies from a mysterious old woman.  A note inside explains that each coin represents a wish stolen from a fountain more than 70 years ago.  This makes Griffin a "Wish Stealer" and in order to change her own fate, she must return the pennies to the original owners or to someone who has a similar desire. The book features short chapters making it a quick read.  Readers will soon discover they play an important role as "Wish Giver" too.  Mother-Daughter Book Club Selection, March 2011. Ages 9-12

Author: Rita Williams-Garcia

Most recently I finished Rita Williams-Garcia's multi-award winning book, One Crazy Summer, set in 1968 in Oakland, CA amid the Black Panther community. I had no idea, nor did I ever stop to consider, that Black Panthers might have been parents. Nor did I ever hear about their community building practices of providing meals, immunizations, and child care. I remember only what we white, mid-westerners saw on TV news..... fist-waving militants.

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Author: Brian James

Book #1 in the Pirate School series, this book was highly recommended to me by John, a second-grader.  He was so adamant that I read this book, he even talked to me about it two weeks in a row at church!  Written for the beginning chapter book reader the plot offers just enough humor, adventure and pirate talk (aarrgghh!).  I was a little taken back with pirate students named Aaron, Vicky and Gary, but in the end, the kids save the day and their pirate teachers!

Author: Chris Barton

Two boys approach a toy box, reach in and grab.  Out comes a shark and a train..... who will rule?  The story is told mostly through Tom Lichtenheld's (Duck, Rabbit) terrific illustrations.  Very humorous.... I especially like the scene where they  are competing on giving rides at the carnival.... Sign at shark pool: "You Must Be This Crazy To Go On This Ride".... hilarious. 


Author: George Ancona

If you love Dancing with the Stars, you'll appreciate learning of the long history of the flamenco.... song, music, dance and culture.  Ancona's vivid photography depicts the cultural importance of family in learning the flamenco.  Only wish it came with a CD with sample music.

Author: Jim Arnosky

Arnosky is synonymous with beautiful wildlife watercolor and factual picture books.  He's done it again in Slow Down for Manatees.  These huge sea mammals move slowly in the warm waters off Florida's coast.  Their biggest predator is a fast moving boat.  Hit by sharp propellers, manatees can be severly injured or killed.  Arnosky tells the story of a pregnant manatee's rescue after such an accident and her subsequent birthing of her calf in captivity.  Reading his books always makes me feel like being there.

Title: Mirror
Author: Jeannie Baker

The wonderful collage art of Jeannie Baker tells the parallel story of family life in two very different cultures.  One is a family in Sydney, Australia (Baker's own home town) while the other is a family in Morocco, North Africa.  In the afterward, Baker describes how she got the idea for the book by traveling to Morocco and being met with "much friendliness and generosity from strangers" until she realized all the similarities between the two cultures.  Interesting to children too is the beauty of the Moroccan written language.  Definitely a book you want to spend a lot of time studying.

Author: Jeanne Birdsall

Birdsall has a way with family dynamics, both in her chapter books (Penderwicks) and this picture book. Flora has had it with little brother, Crispin, and takes him outdoors wishing the wind would blow him away. But, when it does, she turns into the great protector. Great read aloud.

Author: Joanna Cole

It's great to see picture book authors use their format to get factual information to very young readers.  Magic School Bus author, Joanna Cole, has been doing this for a long time.  Her newest book about global warming gives kids a brief and concise view of just what the problem with too much carbon dioxide production on our planet is all about.  I like that she also offers very simple and practical solutions that each and every one of us can adopt to make a difference for our future.  The book can be a read aloud and the older picture book reader can study the sidebars and speech bubbles to explore deeper into the issue.

Pokie Pie

Author: Dori Chaconas

The sixth installment in this popular easy-to-read series features best friends Cork and Fuzz babysitting a little porcupine. But one of them is doing all the work. . . . When Cork needs help, Fuzz is too busy to lend a hand. Then Fuzz gets into some trouble of his own, and it’s Cork—and the baby porcupine—to the rescue.  Good early chapter book for beginning readers.

Author: Jan Greenberg

Imagine working across many miles, states, even the ocean to create an American classic.  Martha Graham had the idea for the story and dance, Aaron Copeland gets her script and has his own ideas about what the music should be like, and finally Isamu Noguchi is called to create visual art as a setting on the stage.  Together they create Appalachian Spring, and American ballet that was first performed at the LIbrary of Congress in October of 1944.  Once again.... wish a CD/DVD was included to enhance the experience of this book.  But I know where I can get it..... the library!

Author: Becky Birtha

Set in the Great Depression, this hopeful family uses mathematical strategies to enter a contest to win a sewing machine.  I plan to share this book with my teacher friends.  It would be a great resource when teaching estimation.  Makes me also want to have a guess the number of _____ at the library!

Realistic Farm Life

Title: Farm
Author: Elisha Cooper

Along with a great glossary (at the front of the book), this picture book with beautiful watercolor illustrations, depicts a modern day farm family.  With correct terminology, readers will discover the many seasons of farming, learn about machinery, animals, crops, work and fun that goes into being a part of a family farm.  I especially like the 21st century references to cell phones.

Funny Twins

Author: Grace Lin

While the sisters, Ling and Ting, may look alike, they are NOT the same!  Starting with a situation in the barber's chair, the beginning reader can laugh along with the antics of these girls who at every chapter express their individuality.  Look for more from Grace Lin for early chapter book readers.

Author: Michael McGowan

This refreshing and quiet story of an African-American family and their tradition of making Sunday for the Lord, is a most welcome book.  The illustrations make you want to see just how the illustrators, Steve Johnson and Lou Francher, created them with transparent figures and Bible/hymnal pages.  Not too preachy and true to the child's point of view trying to understand why they have to dress up for church, this book is really about respect for oneself, one's family customs, and one's faith.  Loved it, and think you will too.

Title: Crunch
Author: Leslie Connor

Imagine a world where fuel was unavailable.  No mail, empty grocery stores, highways full of bike riders and hikers .... The Mariss family children are keeping the home fires burning while their parents are stranded far away from home.  This means the three older kids keep house, do daily chores, watch their younger siblings and..... keep the bike repair business going.  A cast of characters builds a community around them, some friendly, some not so much.  They work well together for a while, but when parts are running low and there seems to be some thievery, tensions get high.  Satisfying read with much to think about.  How comfortable would we be if the fuel pumps ran dry?

Author: Atinuke

"Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa"
Four delightful stories about curious Anna and the pains and joys of living in a close family with many cousins, aunties, uncles, and grandparents. This book abounds with love. It oozes between the lines of text. Mixes traditional African ways with contemporary urban life. Loved, loved, loved it!

Glad to find out there are more in the series!

Funny and Colorful

Author: Lois Ehlert

Studying Ehlert's art makes me think I'd like to try creating works using her technique. Loved the short poems, many quite humorous, that accompanied each animal illustration.

Cone Wearing Dog

Author: Lori Ries

This is a new plot in kids books that was quite refreshing. The idea of a child telling his beloved pet not to worry about being at the veterinarian's office for surgery overnight. Beginning readers who own pets will connect instantly.

No "Dead Dog" Ending

Author: Randi Barrow

After WWII there were almost no dogs left in Russia.  The government knew they had the responsibility and resources to breed a "super dog" and used the military to do just that.  In this work of fiction, a family rescues a beautiful German Shepherd from its dying owner and has to keep it safe and hidden from menacing dog thieves.  Not knowing who to trust, the whole family schemes to keep Zasha (and her puppies) from harm's way. Quick read, especially for dog lovers, with a satisfying ending.  Historical notes at the end are fascinating.  I was intrigued to do research on the dog breed the Russian army created, the Black Russian Terrier.

Vagabond in the Air

Author: Candace Fleming

Fleming's biography of Earhart's life and disappearance is refreshing in that it not only describes the aviatrix as a pioneer, but also as a sloppy pilot with a promoter husband that kept her name and photo in the headlines. The research needed to create this book is extraordinary. Amelia was a woman who willingly took great risks with no regrets.

Author: Debra Frasier

I'm always looking for books to share with kids about the experience of going to the county fair.  This simple alphabet book is a great introduction for the very young child.  The colorful letters combined to create fair art somehow captures the excitement of the fair.

Author: Phoebe Stone

Readers of this book will keep their fingers crossed for Felicity, the 11-year-old who is brought to America to stay safe from the war in Europe during WWII.  Meeting a family she never knew, unique characters with their own secret lives, Felicity hangs on to the hope that she will hear from her parents any day now.  Mysterious coded letters do arrive from Portugal for her uncle and with the help of Derek, a boy recovering from polio, they begin to do a little sleuthing of their own.  The book keeps you riveted right up to the end, when family secrets unfold.  Grades 4+

Underground Farmers

Author: Vivian French

This is a book you'll want to study.  There is so much hidden information in the illustrations.  Explanations are at "kid level" and yet very informative.  Cutting a worm in two does not make two worms as is commonly thought.  Explains how worms move, what they eat, and my favorite (Yes, I'll try this with my granddaughter).... how to trick a worm!  Could read like a picture book, too.

Author: Jeanette Winter

Jeanette Winter has done it again, told a terrific story with simple text and beautiful illustrations.  Meet Luis and his wife, Diana.  They have lots of books.  Luis decides to share them by taking them to remote villages, via burro, so others can borrow and enjoy his books.  Based on a true story, this picture book will be a great addition to story time during the summer reading theme: One World, Many Stories.

Soft Talking Kid

Author: Lana Button

Something in this book makes me think that the author was a shy little girl, or she knows a soft spoken child very well.  Lana Button tells the story of Willow who goes unheard of most of the day.  Her dad knows she has a voice that is stuck inside.  When she creates a tool that helps her speak up, the world seems so much friendlier.  This is a book you want to suggest to parents of kids who are soft spoken or shy. I also like the way the text is small when Willow's voice is quiet.

Author: Ruthie Knapp

This is a clever way to tell a story of an art theft....from the point of view of the painting itself.  I think kids will find this book appealing while learning a little about art history.  Imagine from adorning the walls of palaces to being stored under a stove in an apartment.  We learn about the woman, Mona Lisa, and the painter, Leonardo da Vinci.  I love art history and this is a good introduction.

Plant a Tree!

Author: Kathryn Galbraith

Did you know that Nebraska treats Arbor Day as a state holiday.  Schools are closed, state offices are closed.....people plant trees.  Imagine the prairie in the 1800s, where settlers are missing the shady picnic spots they left behind back east.  This book tells of a campaign to plant trees on the city square.  People collected money in all forms, many nickels and dimes were from children.  The father and daughter in this story plant a tree in memory of the wife/mother. We have many nonfiction books on Arbor Day, and this is a good picture book addition to that collection.

Author: Laurel Croza

The author's note says this book was inspired by the author's childhood of moving nine times, following her father who was working on projects across Canada.  The illustrations are a little different, but the voice of the main character rings true to the anxiety she feels about moving from the wilds of Canada into Toronto.  The string of trailers with families of dam workers, and the culture they know (groceries being delivered, wildlife sightings, school in a trailer) are all comfort memories. Would be a good book to recommend to a family planning to relocate.

Title: Bones
Author: Steve Jenkins

Explore the workings of bones in both humans and animals, Steve Jenkins style.  Pay attention to the scale notes, sometimes actual size, half size or double + size.  I guess I never thought of whales as having hands.... guess you're never to old to learn a new fact.  I particularly like the fold out spread where the reader is challenged to identify  human bones and place them in the right order for a skeleton.

Author: Erica Silverman

It's springtime on the farm and there are plenty of babies to go around!  This gently amusing story of responsible Kate and her rambunctious horse, Cocoa, told in 5 short chapters, will delight beginning readers and their families.  I particularly like the watercolor illustrations that make me chuckle.

Author: Steve Jenkins

Symbiosis.  This is great book to learn about nature's fascinating partnerships.  Some I knew about, but many I did not.  Did you know that the coyote and the badger work as a team to catch food?  That a crocodile actually allows a bird to climb in its mouth.... sort of like a toothbrush, of the natural kind!  Read more.... check out this book!

Author: Lita Judge

I've never been much of a dinosaur fanatic, but this book peeked my interest.  How did mommy dinosaurs care for their eggs, nests and eventually babies?  Terrific illustrations that show direct similarities in physical traits and behaviors with current day birds, reptiles and even mammals brought dinosaurs into my world with greater understanding and appreciation.  Author notes are very interesting as well: At 15-years-old she wrote to a paleontologist and spent the next 3 summers on dinosaur digs.... how cool is that?

Author: Leslie Kimmelman

I love the Little Red Hen story and all its adaptations, so it was no surprise that this Jewish version would tickle my fancy.  Readers are also gifted with a recipe and challenge to make their own matzah in 18 minutes!  The greatest wisdom of all is kindness. - Jewish Proverb


Author: Tom Lichtenheld

This book about self-confidence is a fun read.  Lichtenheld continues his story through fanciful illustrations and speech bubbles, like in Shark! Train! (also a 5 star in my estimation).  A little art history thrown in too. Bridget loses her beret and thinks her artistic ability blew away with it.  Funniest page is when she tries to substitute other hats for the beret.  At the end of the book, Lichtenheld uses Bridget to offer the reader tips on developing their own talents.

Author: R. A. Spratt

I started reading this book aloud to the students (Grades 3-5) who came to after school program.  When I suggested we quit reading mid-book and read something else there was this loud cry, "Noooooo!  We love Nanny Piggins!  She's funny!  Keep reading!"  Indeed, Nanny Piggins is hilarious.  Adults get the humor at one level and the kids at another.  I would highly suggest this as a classroom read aloud, or for that chapter a night before bedtime reading.  Direct from the circus where she was shot from a cannon, Nanny Piggins arrives to fill the "Help Wanted: Nanny" job posting at the Green home.  The three Green children have never seen the likes of a nanny quite like her before.

Author: Andrea Cheng

This beginning chapter book is a window to the world of a Chinese-American family with two school-aged daughters and a toddler son.  The author's note in the back of the book explains that the idea of sending small children to live with relatives in another country for a year is quite common.  DiDi is sent to live with his loving grandparents and extended family in China, while mom starts a new job and the girls go to school. Asian cultures feature more of a community approach to raising children.  While Sharon and Mary miss their little brother, they are excited to have him back home again despite the pains of getting used to his temper tantrums.  This book offers a good glimpse into another family's culture.

Title: Grounded
Author: Kate Klise

This is a light-hearted mystery told from 12-year-old Daralynn Oakland's point of view.  The story is set in small town Missouri and in the opening chapter we find that Daralynn's father, brother and sister were killed in a plane crash.  She was spared because she was grounded for going fishing without permission.  The quirky characters in this small town are absolutely delightful.  The underlying theme of dealing with death and the grief that follows is absolutely candid.  And for mystery lovers there's that too!

Author: Bob Graham

Times have changed and tooth fairies have cell phones now. Tooth fairies April and her sister, Esme, are about to make their first ever visit. Mom and Dad are concerned about this new streak of independence. Love the fly by grandma's bedroom to see her teeth in the glass by the bed. Bob Graham's illustrations are just as cute.

Baby Porcupette

Author: Joyce Sidman

No wonder this book was a Newbery honor..... It's the best of many worlds.  Poems about night in the forest, great woodcut illustrations, and sidebars filled with tidbits of science to impress every reader.  My favorite is "I Am a Baby Porcupette"..... delightful!  Thinking about using it next summer when our reading program is about the night.

Guys Read Poetry

Author: Bob Raczka

When trying to introduce poetry, especially to boys, one needs special tools, and this book is the "Swiss Army Knife" of poetry for boys.  Boys love to play outdoors, and these short haiku poems are all about just that (fishing, throwing stones, damming up a river, making your bike sound like a motorcycle, etc.).  Certainly will feature this book at our next Guys Read event.

A Feminist Folktale

Author: Tanya Landman

I remember the "golden olden days" when girls had fewer opportunities than boys.  This folktale of a farmer concerned about who will run the farm when he is "dead and gone" is a delightful read aloud.  It reminds me of the old Muppet version telling of the three little pigs when Miss Piggy steals the show with all the brains!  And what's not to laugh about the boys named Hans and Franz? 

Master of Disguise

Author: Anna Alter

Desmond is really good at playing "How Not to Be Seen."  This is also a talent of very shy children and this book will give hope to kids who are good at self-erasing around people, or at school.  The illustrations are fun in an "I Spy" kind of way, too.  It's only when a new student lures him out of the shadows that Desmond realizes that interacting with the other kids isn't so bad after all.

Author: Susan Gal

Susan Gal knows how to get you to think and read like a dog.  This is a perfect book for any dog lover, dog owner, or dog wannabe.  It had me sniffing and panting and wanting to go to the dog park!  I love the way the dog's eyes are illustrated, you can really get a sense of the dog's enthusiasm.  Beyond the dog, it is really a story of community in that the dog's viewpoint (and eye level) is just that of a child too.  We can see the playground, the shoppes, the park, etc. all places kids (and dogs) love to be.  Read this one at a dog themed storytime!

Author: Dean Hacohen

Who doesn't love being tucked in?!  I bought this book for my granddaughter because I loved it so much!  From the tactile cover, to the half page "blankets" the young child will delight in tucking in a variety of animals.  Then at the end: "Does anyone else need to be tucked in?"  It has everything a book for babies and toddlers love, rhythmic text, repetition, and simple, colorful illustrations.  I highly recommend this book for gift giving at baby showers or 1st birthday parties.

My Kind of Garden

Title: My Garden
Author: Kevin Henkes

No weeding!  Only chocolate rabbits! A jelly bean bush!  This really is a dream-come-true!  Henkes is the master of simple text and beautiful illustrations.  Just like Kitten's First Full Moon, My Garden will be a huge hit in story time.  It is a terrific way to show kids how using their imaginations can be so much fun.

Right Back At You!

Author: Phil Bildner

You may know the aviation genius of the Wright Brothers, Earhart, and Lindbergh, but you probably don't recognize the names of Banning and Allen so well.  It's the Great Depression and these two African-Americans are about to embark on a transcontinental flight in a rickety old airplaine with no money for food or fuel along the way.  When people help them get the items they need Banning and Allen let them sign their name on the wings of the plane.  Read this aloud and let the kids echo, "Hallelujah right back at you!"  Don't let this piece of history disappear.

Author: Jane Yolen

After reading these short and charming poems, I want to send my granddaughter a poem everyday from this book.  Various poets come together to share their poetry for the very young.  My favorite is Bedtime Chant for the Tooth Fairy (p. 67), which starts:

Oak, ash, weeping willow, Lay your tooth beneath the pillow....

This treasury would be a nightstand favorite with any child, and adult.

Title: Smile
Author: Raina Telgemeier

True story - graphic novel - funny and yet heartbreaking ...

Smile is all of these.  Many kids have braces in middle school and I think they would enjoy this book as a way to know that indeed a lot of kids are going through something similar to what they are experiencing.  Raina's story is truthful.  Especially when she demonstrates the cruelty of her "friends" and the emotions she deals with in facing multiple dental procedures, those first crushes on boys, and the coming-of-age awkwardness of finding your self-esteem in who you want to be.

Title: Mudshark
Author: Gary Paulsen

Mudshark is a quick way to pass the time and enjoy a laugh or two.  This is not Hatchet Gary Paulsen...no adventure/survival story here.  If Gary Paulsen's Lawn Boy series strikes your funny bone, Mudshark will too.  Lyle Williams, aka Mudshark, has his triplet sisters to thank for his lightning speed and incredible observation skills.  These skills come in hand when mysteriously all the erasers disappear from his school.  Paulsen introduces a cast of quirky characters, animal and human.  Each chapter opens with an announcement from the Principal that grows more and more dire...in a funny way.  I'm booktalking it to third graders in a few weeks, but I think reluctant middle school readers will enjoy this book, too.

Author: Jennifer Jacobson

I was hooked from page one.  This book is fast paced and spellbinding.  Jack and his mom are on a camping vacation at Acadia National Park in Maine, but when Jack wakes up in the morning his mother is gone.  She's had her ups and downs before and Jack is worried that if anyone finds out she abandoned him that he'll be separated from her.  Jack describes his mom's periods of spinning leading us to understand that his mom is really not irresponsible, but the victim of a mental illness.  Jack needs to use all the resources his 11-year-old mind can muster up to get himself back home to Boston, without food, phone or money.

Great chapter headings with amazing little-known facts, quotes and even jokes about elephants.  Jack hopes that his fascination with elephants, particularly one in Maine, will help reunite him with his mom.