Book review #282: Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads #bookaday

Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob Shea and Lane Smithby Bob Shea; illustrated by Lane Smith
Picture book
Interest level: K-3
Reading level: 2.4
4 out of 5 stars


This was a tough picture book to rate. This is a humorous story that features an ingenious kid sheriff. I found the main part of the story, that dealt with the problem of the outlaw Toad Brothers, to be slightly confusing. I couldn’t really see where the storyline was going, and some references, such as “cumin-scented town” would probably go right over the heads of young readers (or anyone who isn’t familiar with the ingredients in chili). However, the story’s resolution and final pages are pure genius and really upped my overall appreciation of the book.

Because of the deceiving plot, and some references and language that might not be understandable to kids, I would recommend this book for a read-aloud. Plus, it’s a western and the dialogue lends itself to really bad Texan accents!! How fun!

The illustrations by Lane Smith are perfect. They have a real old-time western feel to them that enhances the story. You can read more about Lane Smith and how he approached illustrating this book by visiting Watch. Connect. Read. : The Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads Trifecta.

Bob Shea also made a visit to the Nerdy Book Club and provides some wonderful advice on how to tell if a picture book is any good. He is an absolutely hilarious individual! Stop what you are doing right now, and burn all your books. (or how to tell if a picture book is good simply by reading it) by Bob Shea.

Book review #281: Maple #bookaday

Maple by Lori Nicholsby Lori Nichols
Picture book
Interest level: K-3
Reading level: 2.2
5 out of 5 stars

This is a really sweet book about a girl who loves nature. Her parents plant a maple tree when she is born, and name her after the tree. This young Maple looking through the leavesgirl loves spending time outside with her tree, and develops such a compassionate nature under its calming leaves. The illustrations, especially of Maple laying on the ground gazing up through the leaves, are just beautiful.

A second book, Maple and Willow Together, has just been released.  Here is the book trailer:

Book review #280: The Book with No Pictures #bookaday

The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novakby B.J. Novak
Picture book?????
Interest level: K-3
Reading level: 1.6
4 out of 5 stars

WARNING TO ADULTS: Do NOT attempt to read this book alone! Serious stuff will happen to you if you do, like…you might not really get the wonderful appeal of a picture book with NO pictures. Yep, zilch, zero, nada, not a one! The key ingredient needed to make this book come to life is a child. Or better yet, a group of children.

You might recognize the name B.J. Novak, he was a writer and actor on The Office. He was interested in writing a book for children and had an amazing realization one day wheCast photo of The Officen reading to a friend’s two-year-old child — you MUST read every word written. He told the audience at the American Library Association conference, “The adult is supposed to be in charge, but also, a reader has to read every word in a book. I thought, what if I could design a book that introduced kids to the power of the written word by showing them how to abuse that power? A book that a kid could hand to an adult, knowing it was going to force the adult to say silly things?”

This book will absolutely delight young listeners and it guarantees giggles and guffaws galore! You can read this book with great drama or in a totally serious tone, and either one will be hysterical, because who can not laugh at a robot monkey voice or when someone says, “Boo Boo Butt?!”

B.J. Novak’s keynote address to the American Library Association

He discusses what inspired the idea and his very unique writing process.

B.J. Novak reading parts of the book to children

Book review #279: Sam & Dave Dig a Hole #bookaday

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassenby Mac Barnett; illustrated by Jon Klassen
Picture book
Interest level: K-3
Reading level: 1.5 (but every age will love this story!)
5 of 5 stars


This is by far my favorite picture book for 2014…Caldecott Committee are you listening??!! Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen teamed up previously on EXTRA YARN, which won a Caldecott Honor. These two really are picture book geniuses, who come up with original and challenging stories. The seemingly boring title humorously hides a story that will leave you gasping at the end and searching for someone to talk to about, “What does it all mean?!”

Klassen uses a limited sepia-toned color palette to perfectly illustrate a story about two boys and a dog digging a hole. What he can do with the character’s eyes though is amazing! This story can really be as deep as the hole the boys are digging. It can spark conversations about not giving up, that feeling of just missing out on something big, and overall it will spark imaginations and create many “I wonder” moments.

Take time to really examine the illustrations and ponder the text. You have found a gem when you read this book!

Book trailer

Book review #278: Waiting is Not Easy! #bookaday

Waiting is Not Easy! by Mo Willlemsby Mo Willems
Beginning reader
Interest level: K-3
Reading level: 0.7
5 out of 5 stars


Yet another awesome book from Mo Willems. Everybody has a hard time having to wait for something that they want, and Piggie tortures poor Gerald by telling him he has a surprise coming. I love the pages where Gerald’s “groans” overwhelm Piggie! Kids will laugh out loud to this story, while at the same time really understanding what Gerald is feeling. The ending is awesome, and don’t forget to look for Pigeon!

Book review #274: Lemonade in Winter: a book about two kids counting money #bookaday

Lemonade in Winter by Emily Jenkins by Emily Jenkins; illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Picture book
Young Hoosier Book Award 2014-2015 nominee
Interest level: K-3
Reading level: 2.2
4 out of 5 stars


This is a wonderful book! It contains many different features that make it a very well-rounded read for kids in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade. First, it is a interesting story about a brother and sister who decide to set up a lemonade stand in the middle of winter. Not an easy task, but I love how they can’t be discouraged.

This story also can teach kids about small business. The siblings have to come up with the money to buy their supplies, then they learn about marketing, promotion, sales, and net versus gross income. This could pair very well with some economics lessons.

And finally, it really provides some wonderful examples about counting money, specifically quarters. The repetition and methodology can really help students who struggle in this area. I especially love the final page that gives information about the different types of American currency. The descriptions really make differentiating coins more understandable. For example, pennies are described as “simple to pick out from other coins because they’re copper.” Nickels are “confusing” because they look like quarters but you can tell them because they have smooth edges. “Dimes are the cutest. They’re tiny!”

This is an exceptionally solid book that can be used for many different purposes.

Book review #273: George Washington’s Birthday: a mostly true tale #bookaday

by Margaret McGeorge Washington's Birthday by Margaret McNamaraNamara; illustrated by Barry Blitt
Picture book
Young Hoosier Book Award 2014-2015 nominee
Interest level: K-3
Independent reading level: 2.3
3 out of 5 stars


This book is an interesting combination of a fictional story about George Washington on his 7th birthday, and facts about the man and his life. McNamara has combined factual information with myths from George Washington’s life and presented them all in the course of this one day. For example, she shows what kind of student he was, as well as including the cherry tree chopping myth. The illustrations fit the story well in their style, but aren’t compelling to young readers.

As an adult reader, I understood that she was combining a wide variety of George Washington stories, from different times in his life, into one story. I think this might be confusing and uninteresting to young readers. There is a note from “George” at the end of the book which explains how everything is tied together and its significance. I did learn many new and interesting facts about the President!

Overall, I don’t think this book will have a very high interest level with its intended audience.