Ellie is the heartwarming tale of a little elephant, Ellie, who wants to help her friends find a way to save their home. Ellie’s story shows that even someone who may be small and unsure of how she might fit in can make a huge impact.Ellie

Ellie and her friends—Gerard the gorilla, Lucy the giraffe, and some monkeys (who remain unnamed in the book)—live in a zoo. Ellie begins on a bright winter day when zookeeper Walt announces that the zoo is closing.

After the announcement, Ellie and her friends gather to come up with a plan to save the zoo. They decide to “spruce it up.” So they begin cleaning the zoo. But everywhere Ellie tries to help, she is either too little, or the work has already been done.

With a sad look on her face, Ellie searches for Walt so she can ask him to give her a job to do. She finds him painting a building, but before she can ask to be put to work, Walt is called away.

Ellie picks up the paintbrush Walt was holding and decides to give painting a try. Sure enough, she’s a natural—she paints a beautiful sunflower on the side of the building before Walt returns!

When Walt sees her creation, he runs to get more colors for her. Soon, people come from far and wide to see what she can do.

Now, I admit, I’m a bit of a sucker for rainbows—put a rainbow in a book and I’m apt to fall in love with it. Sure enough, as soon as I saw Ellie running alongside a wall painting a rainbow, with a big smile on her face, I was hooked. I didn’t even need to see whether the zoo was saved in the end (I won’t spoil the ending for you—you’ll just have to read it for yourself)!

Ellie was written and illustrated by Mike Wu, who is an animator for Pixar. At Pixar, Mr. Wu worked on The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up, and Toy Story 3, among other movies.

Mr. Wu created the illustrations in Ellie using paper, watercolors, pencil, and gouache. His use of space on the page is particularly effective. The book begins with some full-color* spreads. A few pages later, sad Ellie is alone on the page, surrounded by grey and white.

*I’ve put an asterisk next to “full-color” because the pictures at the beginning of the book look like they are full-color—there’s green grass, a little blue for some water, the yellow and brown giraffe, and so on—until Ellie begins to add color in her painting. Then, all of a sudden, there are pinks and purples and reds. And the sky is blue, instead of white as in the beginning of the book. The contrast between the beginning and end of the book makes clear that the early illustrations are not as full-color as they first appear. Compare the paintings of the entrance of the zoo on the two inside covers for a great example of the change in colors.

I read a lovely quote attributed to Mr. Wu about his book in a post called “Fall in Love with ‘Ellie’: A Picture Book by Mike Wu” on International Examiner, which you can read here.

IE: What do you want your readers to take away from the book?

Wu: That everyone has a talent or is good at something. Some find theirs sooner than others but if we work hard and are patient, we can find the one thing we were meant to do and be happy.

Mr. Wu’s website is www.theartofmikewu.com. On his site, you can even buy a signed print of Ellie painting that beautiful rainbow!

Have you read any great books lately?


Alex jumped at the chance to read Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier when he received it over the Christmas holidays. When his dad (half-jokingly) pointed out that he was on a restriction from comic books, Alex gleefully informed him that Ghosts is a graphic novel and not included in the comic book restriction. Alex then settled in to enjoy the book.ghostsAfter he finished, Alex quickly passed Ghosts along for me to read, and asked if we could find him everything else Ms. Telgemeier has written. I think he’s made it through all of her books already—he just doesn’t want to put them down!

In the opening pages of Ghosts, we meet Catrina (Cat) and her family. We learn that Cat’s younger sister, Maya, has cystic fibrosis, and that the family is moving to a new town that is supposed to be better for Maya’s health. Like every good preteen, Cat is miserable with the family’s decision, dislikes the new town, and spends much of the first few days with a frown (or similar unhappy expression) on her face.

Cat’s antipathy toward the new town (Bahia de la Luna) continues to grow as she begins to meet people and feels like everyone in town talks about ghosts as though they are real. In fact, all of the town’s residents celebrate Dia de los Muertos by having a big party “with the ghosts.”

Cat and Maya go on a “Ghost Tour” led by their neighbor’s son and discover the town’s secret—there really are ghosts in Bahia de la Luna. The Ghost Tour ends abruptly when a medical emergency hits.

Cat must then face her worries over Maya’s deteriorating health while adjusting to life in Bahia de la Luna on her own. As she makes friends and builds friendships in her new hometown, she also learns more about her own Mexican heritage, so that she begins to get excited about Dia de los Muertos as the day approaches. She needs one final push to help her decide whether to join the celebrations.

Ms. Telgemeier’s illustrations are phenomenal—showing Cat with a range of emotions on her face that could rival any preteen, and including tiny details in the background of panels that you only see the second or third time you look at the page. My favorite illustrations are her overhead shots and distance views. There are just a few of them scattered throughout the novel, but in each one, Ms. Telgemeier gives us so much to look at, and the difference in perspective from the typical close-up panels makes a lasting impression.

Ms. Telgemeier has a great website at goraina.com. She includes regular blog posts, information about her books (along with a number of reading guides), and a great FAQ page for fans.

Ms. Telgemeier has written a number of graphic novels and short stories. The most well-known of these are probably the #1 New York Times bestsellers Smile and Sisters, both graphic novels based on her childhood.

Have you read any great books lately?

Four Feet, Two Sandals

Four Feet, Two Sandals tells the tale of a friendship that blossomed out of a shared desire for a pair of shoes.Four FeetLina and Feroza live in Peshawar, in a refugee camp in Pakistan. When relief workers deliver used clothes to the camp, Lina and Feroza each grab one sandal. They meet a few days later when Feroza tries to give Lina her sandal. Lina insists that they share the sandals instead. And from this simple suggestion, they quickly grow to become close friends, companions, and confidantes.

It’s not common to find picture books set in places such as refugee camps, and co-authors Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, and illustrator Doug Chayka, have done a fantastic job. This is a world that will be entirely foreign to many readers, and there are numerous details included to help readers understand it a little more.

For example, Lina’s first description of Feroza includes the following:

Her feet were cracked and swollen, as Lina’s had been when she first arrived in camp.

The next page explains why Lina’s feet had been cracked and swollen when she arrived:

Her old shoes had been ruined on the many miles of walking from Afghanistan to Peshawar, the refugee camp in Pakistan.

Other small points—incidental to the story, but certainly not “small” to those who are living them—that young readers will note as different from their own lives include: that Lina must wash clothes in the nearby stream, that the people in the camp must get water by waiting in line, and that only boys can go to school because the school doesn’t have enough room for everyone.

Doug Chayka’s illustrations are perfect enhancements to the story. An observant reader will notice the brown, sandy, dusty landscape—no trees, no water other than the stream used for washing, no grass. Lina and Feroza wear a shalwar-kameez and head-covering. Men wear the traditional perahan tunban and turban, while women wear a chadur or a burqa.

Once the girls find the sandals, the sandals appear in nearly every picture. And yet, they seem somehow out of place, as though bright yellow sandals with bright blue flowers on top shouldn’t be in a refugee camp. Perhaps that is what Mr. Chayka is trying to convey with his pictures: that sandals like these—just like young girls with so much hope, like Lina and Feroza—don’t belong in a refugee camp. Children deserve so much more.

There are no sandals in the last picture of Lina as she waves goodbye from her seat on the bus taking her away from the refugee camp and off to her new home in America. Mr. Chayka has split the picture in half, with a wonderful reflection of those Lina is leaving behind shown in the bus window beside her. Feroza isn’t in that group. Perhaps that is because Feroza may be coming along soon after and is not merely being left behind.

Karen Lynn Williams has written a number of books for children. She can be found online at www.karenlynnwilliams.com. Her website includes teacher guides for all of her books as well as a link to her blog.

When Khadra Mohammed wrote Four Feet, Two Sandals with Ms. Williams, Ms. Mohammed was the executive director of the Pittsburgh Refugee Center. She drew on her work with refugees in the United States for the story.

Have you read any great books lately?

Puppy Pirates

I have a confession to make—I love chapter books. There is nothing like finding a well-written, engaging chapter book (or, even better, a new series!) to read with an emerging reader. Puppy Pirates by Erin Soderberg is one of those fantastic new chapter book series that I am excited to have found.Puppy PiratesSome people may be wondering why I have this fascination with chapter books. It’s because they are the gateway books to a life of reading. Sure—I’ll admit that it is amazing when a child first notices that the letters on a page form a word, and I loved when my kids read pages from Go, Dog. Go! to me.

But it was another thing entirely when I went into Alex’s bedroom one night to read him a chapter of a book that we had been reading, and he turned to me and said, “oh, I read that part already.” Not only that, but he was able to tell me what had happened in the chapter. He had moved into a world where he could not only read the words on a page, but they made sense to him as part of a larger story. Before we knew it, he was tearing through the chapter book series we had been reading.  And he really hasn’t looked back.

The gateway books.

The Puppy Pirates series will undoubtedly become that entrance into the world of reading for many a child.

The first book of the series, Stowaway, introduces us to a puppy named Wally. Wally has left the farm where he was living because he is looking for a life of adventure and excitement, and, more than anything, a place to call home. He runs into some pirates and decides that he wants to be a pirate too. So he sneaks aboard a pirate ship.

On the ship, he meets a boy named Henry, who has snuck on board with the same idea. When Wally and Henry get caught by the puppy pirates, Wally must face four tests to prove that he belongs on the ship.

As Wally completes each of the tests, he makes friends with members of the puppy pirate crew. At the end of the day, following an attack by the kitten pirates, Wally is welcomed as a member of the crew and discovers he has found a home on the pirate ship.

There are currently six books in the Puppy Pirates series, and two more are expected to be published this year.

Ms. Soderberg is also the author of The Quirks chapter book series, many books for tweens, teens and adults (under the name Erin Downing), and some “fun books” under the pseudonyms Kate Howard and Nessi Monstrata. Ms. Soderberg’s website is www.erinsoderberg.com (she has another website for her Erin Downing books). Ms. Soderberg’s website has information about her books and also has some fun stuff like a pirate’s code and a maze.

The Puppy Pirates also have their own Facebook page! You can find them at https://www.facebook.com/PuppyPiratesBooks. Check out the adorable pictures of the real-life inspiration for Wally and other great photos while you are there!

Have you read any great books lately?

Preaching to the Chickens

The story of young John Lewis, one of the original Freedom Riders and long-time civil rights leader, seems an appropriate topic for MLK Day. Preaching to the Chickens is a beautiful story about the boy who would grow up to become the youngest member of the “Big Six” (black leaders who led the March on Washington in 1963), and who stood at the front of the line when troopers attacked unarmed demonstrators in Selma, Alabama in 1965. “Young” John Lewis is now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, serving Georgia’s 5th Congressional District.

But Preaching to the Chickens doesn’t talk about John Lewis’ work as a civil rights leader. It is the story of “little John Lewis” and his life on the farm in southern Alabama.Preaching to the Chickens

There was “plenty of work on a farm.” Everyone had work to do, and John was put in charge of the chickens—about sixty in all.

After feeding them and cleaning their nests each day, “John would say to them ‘Enjoy this day that God has given us.’ The chickens, looking straight at him, seemed to understand.”

Church was, of course, an important part of life for John and his family. They attended every Sunday. John loved church, and found peace as the worshippers clapped and sang.

Like the ministers he heard in church, John wanted to preach, so he gathered his chickens in the yard.

John stretched his arms above his flock and let the words pour forth. The chickens nodded and dipped their beaks as if they agreed. They swayed to the rhythm of his voice.

John’s brothers and sisters couldn’t tell one bird from another. John knew every one, and he had a line of verse for each of them.

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” he’d say when they fought over their morning meal.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” he would tell a hen who didn’t want to share, “for they shall be satisfied.”

John’s brothers and sisters eventually began calling him Preacher. “He didn’t mind. He knew that someday he’d speak before thousands. He hoped that his words would stir people’s souls and move them to action.”

Preaching to the Chickens was written by Jabari Asim. Mr. Asim has taken the story of a great civil rights icon of this century and has told just enough that a child can relate to young John and his chickens. The young reader may learn that they can pursue their dreams and grow up to do anything. The story is a fascinating look at the early days of John Lewis.

Mr. Asim’s fabulous prose is paired with E.B. Lewis’ stunning watercolor paintings. You can see the love on John’s face as he talks to his chickens, the delight shining on his face as he sings at church, and the morning light rising as he preaches to his chickens.

Preaching to the Chickens is a book to be read, to be cherished, and to be discussed with your children. It is a perfect opening to a discussion of the civil rights movement—or it can simply be a sweet story of a young boy growing up on a farm and preaching to his chickens.

Have you read any great books lately?

Little Free Libraries

I think I’m going to have to get the boys make me one of these when they are playing in the woodworking shop. What a fantastic way to share some great books!

Marcia Strykowski

little-library-public-domainHave you run into any Little Free Libraries in your travels? I love these little boxes of delight scattered across the country and I hope to unveil one of my own someday. In 2009, Todd Bol built a tiny one-room schoolhouse for his mother, a teacher and avid reader. He attached it to the top of a post in his front yard in Wisconsin. Then he filled the little building with books and added a sign saying: Free Books. His little schoolhouse received a very positive response with requests for more. Inspired by this and those who came before them in support of free libraries and ‘take a book, leave a book’ collections, Todd and colleague Rick Brooks soon saw the full potential of this worthy enterprise. From this humble beginning there are now over 40,000 Little Free Libraries across the globe.little-free-lib-1Note the boogie boards used in this little…

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Garvey’s Choice

This must be the week of music—although music’s impact on the main character’s life in Garvey’s Choice is shown to us in a very different way than we saw in Passing the Music Down. In Garvey’s Choice, we see how music can empower people and help them when they are struggling.Garvey's ChoiceNikki Grimes tells the story of Garvey, a young boy who is trying to connect with the father who wants Garvey to be the athlete he has no interest in being. Garvey’s interests are books (particularly science fiction), astronomy, and music. And food. He eats to comfort himself after he has disappointed his father and also simply because he likes what he is eating.

Which leads to Garvey’s other challenge: he is very overweight, and that leads to him being bullied at school. At first, he arrives at school “armed with earphones” so he can’t hear the name-calling, but the principal soon tells him that earphones are not allowed at school. So he is forced to listen to all of the painful taunting as he walks through the halls between his classes.

At home, his sister calls him names too:

My tongue does a dance / when Mom’s spicy lasagna / is passed round to me. / “Leave us some, little piggy,” / says Angela with a grin.

Not every cut bleeds, / so maybe Sis doesn’t know / how deep the wound goes. / A second heaping serving’s / not enough to heal my hurt.

In between big bites, / I hum to the jazz playing / on the radio, / the melody soothing me, / wherever words left splinters.

Not long after the school year starts, Garvey’s best (only) friend Joe encourages him to join chorus. Garvey is reluctant—afraid of what his dad and other kids will say. But when the school switches Joe to a different lunch period and Garvey is left all alone, he decides to give chorus a shot.

In chorus, Garvey makes a new friend who helps him to accept himself for who he is. Garvey learns to speak up for himself, letting his sister know how being bullied about his weight makes him feel:

Sis falls through the door, / juggles backpack and groceries. / “Hey there, Chocolate Chunk. / “How ’bout giving me a hand?” / Call me that one more time and …

The terrible sound / of teeth grinding fills my ears. / Tears aren’t far behind. / I bite my lip and whisper, / “My name is Garvey. Got it?”

Angela withers. / “I’m sorry, Garvey,” she says. / “I was just teasing.” / “Yeah? So why am I bleeding?” / Pow! Maybe she gets it now.

Not only does he learn to stand up for himself, Garvey finds his own voice and pride in his abilities. Just as importantly, music finally gives him a way to connect with his father.

Ms. Grimes wrote Garvey’s Choice entirely in the ancient Japanese poetry form of tanka. Tanka means “short poem” in Japanese. Each tanka is five lines long; however, the line-by-line syllable count can vary (and some American poets do not follow syllable counts at all).  Ms. Grimes followed a strict syllabic count of five-seven-five-seven-seven for the five lines in each tanka. She wrote between one and three of these five-line tankas for each poem. The tanka poem structure was a very effective way to tell Garvey’s story.

Ms. Grimes has a website and blog at www.nikkigrimes.com. According to the biography on her website, she prefers the title Poet over Storyteller. She has written many novels and books of poetry for children and young adults.

Have you read any great books lately?

Passing the Music Down

As a musical family, we often gravitate toward books that have some musical aspect to them. Passing the Music Down by Sarah Sullivan is a wonderful story about Appalachian fiddling. The illustrations by Barry Root are the perfect pairing to the lyrical text of this book.

Passing the Music Down

Passing the Music Down is a picture book inspired by a true story of the lives of two musicians—Melvin Wine from Tennessee and Jake Krack from Indiana—who performed fiddle music together. They were best friends even though they met when Melvin was 86 and Jake was 9 years old.

In the story, a boy’s family travels “clear from Indiana” to “the old, old mountains slumbering east of Tennessee” just to hear an old fiddler play. After the fiddler “saws out a lick,” he asks the boy to play for him. The old man then shares a tip with the boy for improving his playing.

Like a katydid in spring, / the boy’s heart dances. / “Will you teach me all your tunes?” / he asks with a gulp. / “Will you show me how they go? / I want to play like you.”

The fiddler wipes his brow, / Takes a long, slow look. / “You ought to bring that boy to see me,” / he tells the young man’s folks. / “Pay a visit to the farm, / and we’ll play some old-time tunes.”

Passing the music down.

The boy begins traveling to visit the old man. They work on the farm together and play music together. Eventually the boy’s family moves from Indiana to live close to the old man.

On cold December nights / they fiddle by the fire. / Snow settles deep against the fence, and / the boy settles deep inside the music.

The story does not use any names for its characters, but merely refers to Melvin as “the fiddler” or the “old man” and to Jake as the “boy.” Notably, at the end of the book, after years of Melvin “passing the music down,” Jake becomes “the fiddler” on the last page. This echoes their real-life story, in which, according to the Author’s Note, Jake won first place in an old-time fiddlers’ contest at the same place in West Virginia that he had met Melvin 11 years earlier.

Passing the Music Down is not just a story about two musicians who shared a friendship that crossed generations, it is a story about the fiddle music passed down by oral tradition in the mountains of Appalachia. It is a beautiful story about how this music has been able to exist and continue for so many years by simply being passed on from one musician to the next.

For readers who want more information about either the characters in Passing the Music Down or about Appalachian music, Ms. Sullivan has provided many “extras.” There is an Author’s Note that summarizes details from both Melvin’s and Jake’s musical lives. There is a brief description of the “Tunes” mentioned in the book. And there is a page of resources, which includes books and articles, a discography, videos, and websites to visit for more information.

Ms. Sullivan’s own website is www.sarahsullivanbooks.com.

Have you read any great books lately?

Tales from the Arabian Nights

Children of all ages will love Donna Jo Napoli’s Tales from the Arabian Nights: Stories of Adventure, Magic, Love, and Betrayal, published last year by National Geographic. The title truly says it all. It has everything necessary to keep any reader entertained.

Tales from the Arabian Nights

Tales from the Arabian Nights is a collection of stories excerpted from the classic One Thousand and One Nights. Since I have never read One Thousand and One Nights, I was just as enthralled as my kids were as we read this book.

The book opens with two tales that introduce us to Shah Rayar, Scheherazade, and Dinarzad, the three characters whose story is woven throughout the entire book.

In the first tale, Shah Rayar learned that his wife was unfaithful to him. As a result, he condemned his wife to death. Shah Rayar decided that all wives betray their husbands, but he believed he needed a wife. So Shah Rayar made “a terrible vow: From thence forward, Shah Rayar would marry daily, and the next morning he would have his bride slain.”

The second tale introduces the reader to the two daughters of the vizier: Scheherazade and Dinarzad. Scheherazade saw the suffering in the kingdom and the grief of all of the parents, and her heart broke. One day, she said to the vizier: “Father, I will marry Shah Rayar and I will save the people or die trying.” The vizier tried unsuccessfully to change Scheherazade’s mind.

And so, Scheherazade married Shah Rayar. Before she left home, she told Dinarzad that she would send for her that night, and that Dinarzad must find the right moment to ask her to tell a tale.

This is how One Thousand and One Nights began. . .

On the first night (Night 1), Scheherazade’s loyal sister Dinarzad (who was sleeping under the marital bed) woke at midnight and asked Scheherazade to tell one of her wonderful tales “to while away the time” until daybreak. The king decided to “indulge his bride in the last hours of her life,” and Scheherazade began “The Tale of the Merchant & the Jinni.” (The book uses the Arabic words jinni, jinniya, and jinn—before reading this, I was only familiar with the English spelling of genie.)

Cleverly, Scheherazade managed to time the climax of the tale right as dawn began to enter the bedroom window. She stopped telling the story. Dinarzad remarked that she had told a marvelous tale, and Scheherazade responded: “It’s nothing compared with what I shall tell tomorrow, if the king spares me one more night.” Shah Rayar wanted to know what happened to the characters in the tale, so he told Scheherazade: “Yes, you can continue another night.”

Each night, Scheherazade continued from the prior stopping point and timed the tale so that dawn was breaking just as the tale reached another exciting place. Sometimes she would quickly conclude one story and then begin an entirely new one in the same night, again ending in the middle of the story at dawn. In this way, she convinced Shah Rayar each morning to allow her to live one more day.

The stories in this collection include some that I was familiar with (in very broad strokes only, not most of the details). Tales from the Arabian Nights includes “Ali Baba & the Forty Thieves.” We eagerly read about Sinbad the Sailor and the stories of his seven voyages. And Aladdin makes an appearance and finds his magic lamp in this collection.

There are also tales that I had not heard of before reading this book. We loved the tale of “Qamar Al-Zaman.” We couldn’t wait to read the end of the story of “The Ebony Horse.” The troubles of “Maaruf the Cobbler” had us on the edge of our seats.

Ms. Napoli has created an excellent introduction into the world of Scheherazade and One Thousand and One Nights. I highly recommend it.

I began this post by saying that children “of all ages” would love the book. This is true; however, I will caution parents that there are some scary moments in the book (e.g., giant birds attacking and sinking a boat; giants eating people) and mature concepts (e.g., references to a “wife’s escapades with another man”; attempts by men or jinn to kill others). So it may not be appropriate for the youngest readers. Ms. Napoli lists it among her Middle Grade books on her website, and I agree with this characterization.

Ms. Napoli is a professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College. She has also written Treasury of Egyptian Mythology, Treasury of Greek Mythology, Treasury of Norse Mythology, along with many other books ranging from picture books to young adult novels. Her website is www.donnajonapoli.com.

Christina Balit’s illustrations in Tales from the Arabian Nights are exquisite. They are rich in color and design. They include 70 paintings in watercolor, gouache, and gold ink. Even on the pages that don’t include a full illustration, there are designs in the corners and along the sides of the pages, keeping the vibrant colors ever-present. Ms. Balit has illustrated a number of children’s books using mixed media. Her website is www.christinabalit.com—I encourage everyone to go online and check out her other work. It is all just as phenomenal as what you find in Tales from the Arabian Nights.

Have you read any great books lately?

The Toys’ Night Before Christmas

It’s a bit late for a Christmas book, but while we were at Grandma’s over the holidays, Alex insisted that The Toys’ Night Before Christmas needed to be on our blog. After reading it, I had to agree. It’s a lovely story about giving to others.

The Toys' Night Before Christmas

The Toys’ Night Before Christmas is an embossed book beautifully illustrated by Susanna Ronchi. It was written by Dugald Steer and designed by Janie Louise Hunt (this information was hidden on the last page with the copyright information, though—only illustrator Susanna Ronchi is credited on the cover).

I opened the book expecting some version of the traditional ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas story—either a toy version of the traditional story or a story that followed the rhyming structure. I found neither.

Instead, I found a very sweet story about Rosie’s toys on the night before Christmas. That night, once Rosie and all of the other people in the house fell asleep, the toys tiptoed downstairs and gathered in the living room.

Jack from Rosie’s Jack-in-the Box declared that it was not fair that Santa brought presents to everyone except the toys. The toys (led by Teddy) responded that they didn’t need presents because they were toys. Jack could not change their minds.

I thought Jack was going to create trouble at this point (the classic story about a character causing problems, then Santa coming and through some challenge the character learns the error of his ways). Again, I was wrong.

It turns out that Jack “had a special plan.” He decided to make a Santa costume for himself, a Santa sack, and to find presents to give to each of the toys. The rest of the book describes the many lengths to which Jack goes to make Christmas wonderful for all of his friends.

Of course, Santa appears at the end to do what he does best, and he doesn’t disappoint!

The illustrations in the book are gorgeous, with lots of bright colors. You will see new little details each time you look at the pictures.

The embossing brings out some of the details of the illustrations. It also makes it exciting to touch. This is great for increasing the attention span of children who are just entering the wonderful world of reading, or those who have more interest in tactile sensations than in listening to stories. I remember when my kids were very young, I kept their attention on books by moving their hands along the pages of books like this that had a fascinating feel. The embossing is great in this book because of its variety in feel—there are dots, stars, stripes, wavy lines, and many other shapes, both big and small.

I’m glad Alex pushed me to read this book so we could include it here.

Susanna Ronchi has illustrated a number of children’s books. Her website is www.susannaronchi.com.

If Dugald Steer’s name sounds familiar, it may be because of his work on the New York Times acclaimed “Ologies Collection” (Dragonology, Egyptology, Wizardology, Pirateology, and so on). He can be found online at www.dugaldsteer.com. A good place to look for a list of books Mr. Steer has written is www.goodreads.com.

Have you read any great books lately?