Review: By Mouse & Frog


By Mouse & Frog
by Deborah Freedman
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers (April 14, 2015)
Age 3-5

My Rating: 4 Stars

Review:
What happens when two friends or two siblings are complete opposites? How do they relate? When one is quiet and careful and the other is rambunctious and unfettered, it’s not always easy for them to get along, but sometimes opposites come together to create a real friendship.

One morning, Mouse wakes up and starts writing a story. As Mouse begins, Frog bounces onto the scene, wanting to help. Frog wildly adds kings and dragons and melting ice cream to Mouse’s story, which had barely begun. When it all turns to chaos, it is just too much for Mouse. Mouse explodes and shouts at Frog. Frog is hurt, but they manage a truce. Mouse begins the story again. This time Mouse finally gets to the part where Frog is part of the story, but that’s not enough for Frog. Frog aches to add elements to the story. Mouse obliges, but makes suggestions to keep things a little more down-to-earth. Together they create a colorful, magical story they are both happy with.

By Mouse & Frog explores themes like cooperation and mutual respect in a way that is natural. The dialogue between Frog and Mouse sounds a lot like how real children talk when they’re playing together, yet in a structured story. Anyone with multiple children will see their most wild, free-spirited child in Frog and their most subdued, restrained child in Mouse. The text is subtly humorous, and the illustrations are soft and endearing. Mouse and Frog are the kind of relatable, charming characters that would be good in a series (think Frog and Toad for younger kids), but unless the author has plans for this, we’ll just have to be content with this delightful story about two friends learning to play nicely with each other in order to create a masterpiece.

FTC Required Disclosure: This blog features Amazon Associate links, including linked images. Purchases made through these affiliate links will result in a my receiving a small commission. This applies to all products purchased at Amazon through the link, regardless of whether or not I’ve mentioned the product on this blog.

Review: Ellie


Ellie
by Mike Wu
Published by Disney-Hyperion (May 12, 2015)
Ages 3-5

My Rating: 4 Stars

Review:
Ellie is a simple story about an impending zoo closure, the zoo animals working to spruce up the place in an attempt to save their home and a young elephant who doesn’t know how she can help. By happenstance, while she is wandering around feeling sad and not knowing what to do, Ellie discovers her true talent – painting. The news spreads that she is an amazing artist, and ultimately it is her talent that saves the zoo.

While the story may be simple, the illustrations and the gentle nature of the baby elephant make it an enjoyable addition to the personal library. This is Mike Wu’s debut picture book, but he’s no novice. He’s a talented illustrator who has worked on several notable Disney and Pixar films. The visual storytelling in Ellie is top-notch.

If you’re like me and you’re always looking for a little meaning in the stories you read, I’d say Ellie offers this: Finding your calling/talent/purpose can be a bit of a meandering journey, but if you’re willing to try new things (like Ellie), you just might find something you’re really good at. That’s not a bad lesson for a little artist.

FTC Required Disclosure: This blog features Amazon Associate links, including linked images. Purchases made through these affiliate links will result in a my receiving a small commission. This applies to all products purchased at Amazon through the link, regardless of whether or not I’ve mentioned the product on this blog.

Review: Louise Loves Art


Louise Loves Art
by Kelly Light
Published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (September 9, 2014)
Ages 4-8

My Rating: 4 Stars

Review:
I happened upon this great interview with Kelly Light on KidLit TV the other day. She discusses her love of cartoons and talks about her debut picture book, Louise Loves Art.

Louise is a serious artist working on creating her masterpiece for her big show. Art is not only Louise’s passion, Art is also the name of her little brother. As Louise says, “To be a great artist, you have to notice everything.” But, is she paying attention Art? Let’s just say her focus on finding a place for her masterpiece blinds her to what’s about to happen. One might expect the world to explode when she realizes what he’s done, but this little artist has a heart of gold. She loves Art.

The play on words in the title is a terrific hook. The cat is comical throughout, especially when posing for the masterpiece and when calling our attention to what Art is up to. And, the limited color palette helps focus the story on the characters and action, especially Art’s idolization of his big sister.

Louise Loves Art is a sweet story about forgiveness, siblings and creativity.

If you watch the interview at KidLit TV, Kelly introduces us to a new character in the next book, Louise and Andie: The Art of Friendship (scheduled for release June 14, 2016). Andie is a new neighbor. She’s another artist, but so very different from Louise. I can’t wait to read about their friendship!

FTC Required Disclosure: This blog features Amazon Associate links, including linked images. Purchases made through these affiliate links will result in a my receiving a small commission. This applies to all products purchased at Amazon through the link, regardless of whether or not I’ve mentioned the product on this blog.

Building a Joyful Life: A Beautiful Legacy

GrassRoots 2014
Wassa Pan Afrika Dance Ensemble at the 2014 Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival

Life is not all about books. I know this is hard for some of us to grapple with, but it’s true. At the very least, we need to eat, sleep and stay in touch with others. And then there’s all the stuff we’d rather not do – the stuff that feels like drudgery – but needs to be done.

There is a rhythm of life that involves the pleasant and the unpleasant, the necessary and the frivolous, the yin and yang. Life is both chaotic and beautifully ordered. We may not get to choose some of the things that happen to us, but we do get to choose the tone of our song. And, we can choose to give our energy and time to activities and thoughts that bring us happiness. I believe that this is, in part, how we build a joyful life.

My version of a joyful life is filled with books, obviously, but it is also filled with music. That’s why I’m taking a break from reading for the next four days to enjoy the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance with my sister and her family. There will be music and dancing at four different stages. It isn’t for everyone. Not everyone likes music or the type of music played here (Roots, Bluegrass, African, Zydeco, Reggae, Latin and more), and some think four days of this is torture, but that’s not me. I love music! The GrassRoots Festival has become my annual pilgrimage – my yearly reminder that there’s more to life than working to make a living. You’ve got to enjoy the living. As an added bonus, the GrassRoots Festival donates its profits to local education and health programs, including its own initiative called Roots in the Schools, so I know my vacation money is doing some good in the world.

All by itself the GrassRoots Festival is a great time, but one of the most fulfilling parts of my annual trek to Trumansburg is watching my young nephew revel in the music and dancing. He’s the kind of kid who can’t stop himself from dancing when he hears a great song. It’s enough to warm the coldest of hearts.

Without delving too deeply into the nature vs. nurture argument (I believe most things this is applied to are a mixture of both), I will say that I have a deep appreciation for how my sister and her husband expose their son to a wide array of culture. How do they do this? They take the time to enjoy their own lives. By appreciating the world around them, they immediately teach him how to do the same. I think that is one of the greatest gifts they give to their son. It’s a beautiful legacy.

How are you passing on your love of life to your children?

When you’re not reading, what do you enjoy doing?

Leave a comment below, and let me know how you’re building your joyful life.


Here are some of my favorite pics from past years of the GrassRoots Festival.

GrassRoots Festival 2013 Happiness Parade
GrassRoots Festival 2013 -Happiness Parade
GrassRoots Festival 2013 - Happiness Parade
GrassRoots Festival 2013 – Happiness Parade
Prayer Flags - GrassRoots Festival
GrassRoots Festival 2014 – Prayer Flags
Wassa Pan Afrika Dance Ensemble - GrassRoots 2014
Wassa Pan Afrika Dance Ensemble – GrassRoots 2014
GrassRoots Happiness Parade 1014
GrassRoots Festival 2014- Happiness Parade

Review: The Moon is Going to Addy’s House


The Moon is Going to Addy’s House
by Ida Pearle
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group (July 7, 2015)
Ages 3-5

My Rating: 5 Stars

Review:
I have my sister to thank for leading me to The Moon is Going to Addy’s House by Ida Pearle. She e-mailed me about it a couple of weeks ago before the official release date of the book. The cover art and an investigation of Ida Pearle’s website were enough to convince me to pre-order a copy. I’m glad I did.

Addy and her family travel from a friend’s home in the city to their home in the country. Along the way, Addy and her sister wonder at and play hide-and-seek with the moon, which is always there, even when it’s hiding behind the landscape. As the sisters prepare to go to bed after the drive home, Addy concludes that the moon is her constant companion – it watches over her, always.

The Moon is Going to Addy’s House is visually striking. There are very few words to this story; only those that are needed. In fact, I had to read it several times before the words sunk in. The images really take over. Ida Pearle’s colorful cut-paper collage illustrations gorgeously tell the tale. With color, texture, sweeping spreads and ideally placed details, Ida Pearle has created a story that moves you from dusk to night and into a dreamy, comforted state of mind – perfect for a bedtime read.

On her website, Ida Pearle notes that the story is also a metaphor for parental love. There are subtle hints of this throughout the book, but it is very clear from the visual at the end of the story. Personally, I love a story with multiple meanings. Don’t you? A metaphor adds depth, especially when it touches a core emotion.

The emotional depth of The Moon is Going to Addy’s House, along with its stunning artwork, gives it a good chance of becoming a modern classic.

Have you read The Moon is Going to Addy’s House? Let me know what you think of the story in the comments section below.

FTC Required Disclosure: This blog features Amazon Associate links, including linked images. Purchases made through these affiliate links will result in a my receiving a small commission. This applies to all products purchased at Amazon through the link, regardless of whether or not I’ve mentioned the product on this blog. All reviews are my own opinion. I am not paid in any other form to write reviews.