Let’s Go for a Drive by Mo Willems

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Willems, Mo. Let’s Go for a Drive.  Hyperion Books for Children, 2012.  $8.99, 57 pages.

Link to Author’s Website: http://www.mowillems.com/

Links to Interviews with Author:

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation: Piggie and Elephant make plans to go for a drive.

Summary:

Piggie and Gerald the elephant decide to go for a drive.  Gerald emphasizes the need for a plan.  Included in his plan are all of the things that the two friends will  need for a drive.  This includes a map, umbrella, sunglasses, and bags to keep all of the stuff they need for their drive.  Once they are packed, Gerald realizes that they still need one more thing for their drive…a car!  Since neither has a car, and before Gerald can panic too much more, Piggie suggests they play pirates instead.  And play pirates they do.

Evaluation:

Characteristic of Mo Willems’ work, Let’s Go for a Drive features two familiar friends, Gerald the elephant and Piggie, a problem to solve, and lots of silliness.   The catchy rhythm and silly repetition of words and sounds makes this a good book for early readers. The liberal use of exclamation points amps up the energy of this book.  Willems’ signature illustrations add to the silliness of Gerald and Piggie.  Their emotions are clearly expressed in their facial expressions and body language.  Gerald’s close to hysterics is apparent in the illustrations toward the end.  Their antics are entertaining, as is their final solution to the problem of no car, making this quite an enjoyable read.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity: 4
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre: fiction, easy reader

Appeal Factors: humor, illustrations, friends, animals, use of imagination

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • New Socks by Bob Shea
  • Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas
  • My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

Booktalking Ideas:

  • The need for a plan
  • All of the things they need to drive

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Why do they need so many things for their drive?
  • What would you need for a drive?
  • How have they incorporated the items they needed for a drive into playing pirates?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this title because I wanted to read one of Mo Willems’ books.  My son and I had listened to a different Elephant and Piggie story at a library story time, and I liked the two friends’ energy.

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Harley by Star Livingstone

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Livingstone, Star. Harley. SeaStar Books, 2001. $4.95, 64 pages.

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation: Harley the llama is not cut out to be a pack llama, but has a calling to be a guard of sheep instead!

Summary:

Harley can’t cut it as a pack llama.  He doesn’t like the halter, the pack, or following other llamas.  So when a shepherd is looking for something to protect her sheep from the coyotes that prowl outside of the fence, Harley is the perfect fit.  The first time Harley meets the sheep, he charges them, they all scatter, the ram charges him, and none of the animals are very happy.  But by the next morning, Harley has taken his place as the guard.  He does his job through the seasons, befriending the ornery ram, being outnumbered by the pestering lambs, scaring the coyotes from their hunt, and being shorn for the spring fair.  His llama fleece even wins a prize.  Harley has found his calling and his place in the world.

Evaluation:

Based on a true story, the story of Harley the guard llama is a charming one.  The animals in the story are not anthropomorphized, they do not talk, but their personalities come out in Livingstone’s clever style.  The language is simple and the sentences short.  Harley’s thoughts and motivations are straightforward and clear.  The description of the animals’ actions also show their personality.  The ornery ram sneaks up behind the shepherd to butt her, the ewes and lambs stay away from the ram.  Livingstone includes details and facts about guard llamas that make the story seem more believable, if a little wonderous.  The particular habits of llamas and the way that Harley interacts with the other animals make him seem more realistic.  That he enjoys being sprayed with the hose, playing with the ornery ram, and leading the sheep in a single file line make him endearing. Paired with Molly Bang’s illustrations, this short story is an enjoyable read.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity: 3
  • Quality:3

Genre and Subgenre: realistic fiction

Appeal Factors: animals, humor, easy reader

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Llama Drama by Rose Impey
  • Carolina’s Gift: A Story of Peru by Katacha Diaz
  • The Littlest Llama by Jane Buxton

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Boston Globe – Horn Book Award honor
  • Notable Children’s book

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Harley getting a shower
  • Harley and the ram playing
  • The lambs jumping on Harley

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Why is a llama a good guard animal?
  • What other unusual guard animals are there?
  • How does Livingstone convey the thoughts and feelings of Harley without making him seem fictionalized?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this book because it was about a llama.  I’d never heard of guard llamas, and the idea sounded intriguing.  Harley was also portrayed as a rebellious llama, which also sounded quite funny.

 

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh

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Tonatiuh, Duncan.  Pancho Rabbbit and the Coyote.  Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013.  $16.95,

Link to Author’s Website: http://www.duncantonatiuh.wordpress.com

Links to Interviews with Author:

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation:

When Papa Rabbit does not come home from his travels up north, Pancho decides to go looking for him himself.

Summary:

Life on the rancho is not providing enough for the rabbit family, so Papa Rabbit, Senor Ram and Senor Rooster head north to search for more opportunities.  The rabbit family prepares a welcome home fiesta complete with papel picado, mole, tortillas, and aquamiel.  However, Papa Rabbit does not arrive home when he is supposed to.  Pancho, his eldest son, decides to go looking for Papa.  He is “helped” by Coyote, who takes him on a perilous journey on a fast moving train, through a swirling river, a dark, narrow tunnel, a dizzying desert.  Each leg of this journey takes something from Pancho.  Finally, it is his life in danger when he runs out of things to give to Coyote and Coyote then threatens to eat him.  Fortunately, Pancho is saved by his father, Senor Ram and Senor Rooster, who had been delayed and waylaid by crows.  They return to the rancho, and although there is no guarantee of money or a future, the family vows to stay together.

Evaluation:

This portrayal of the migrant story is sadly true.  Tonatiuh’s portrayal of this migrant family’s experience, even though they are rabbits, serves to show children reasons for migration and the challenges in migration.  The fictionalized characters do not soften the often harsh realities that migrants must face.  From the Coyote, that ironically is the name of that is used by immigrant smugglers, to the crows who steal from Papa Rabbit and his friends, to the perilous journey Pancho Rabbit makes to find his father, these are all realistic obstacles and struggles that migrants face crossing the border, especially from Mexico to the United States.  Tonatiuh’s use of Spanish words makes the story seem even more true.  It is helpful that he includes a glossary at the end of the story, as well as a discussion of the issue of immigration, especially undocumented and illegal immigration.  The references and resources also provide readers with additional places to find out more information about immigration.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity:1 – Would sit on shelves unread; 2 – May see the light of day as an assigned reading; 3 – Interesting to readers, may need marketing; 4 – Very appealing read, ; 5 – Need multiple copies, because it would always be checked out!
  • Quality: 1 – How was this book ever published?; 2 – Poor literary quality; 3 – Average literary quality, nothing stands out as exceptional; 4 – Overall high quality literary quality, with certain areas of exceptional literary quality; 5 – Well-crafted of the highest literary quality
  • Popularity: 3
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre:  realistic fiction

Appeal Factors:  migrant story, animal characters, Mexico

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • My Shoes and I by Rene Colato Lainez
  • A Day’s Work by Eve Bunting

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • 2014 Pura Belpre Honor Book
  • 2014 Notable Children’s Books

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Reason for Papa Rabbit to go north
  • Pancho’s decision to follow Papa Rabbit
  • Coyote turning on Pancho

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Do you think Papa Rabbit should return north without his family?  Is it safe for his family to go with him?
  • What can the animals from the rancho do about Coyote and others like him?
  • Do you know of anyone who has had a similar story to the rabbit family?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this picture book because it was an illustrated and fictionalized version of the immigrant story that is very familiar here in Southern California.  I was interested in seeing how the story would be depicted if told as a fiction story about a rabbit family.

Parrots over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore

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Roth, Susan & Trumbore, Cindy.  Parrots over Puerto Rico.  Lee & Low, 2013.  $19.95, 48 pages.

Link to Author’s Website:

Links to Interviews with Author:

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation:
“Iguaca, igauca,” call the beautiful green and blue parrots of Puerto Rico.  This is their survival story.

Summary:

The story of the blue and green beauties of Puerto Rico starts even before the Tainos arrived and gave the parrots their name after their call.  As the Spaniards, African slaves, Boricuans came to Puerto Rico to make their homes, the parrots continued to thrive.  But then came invasive species like the black rats and honeybees that started to eat the parrots eggs and swarm their nests.  Next, forests were cut down, and the parrots lost their homes.  Finally, in 1968 the US and Puerto Rican governments worked together to establish a conservation effort which included placement in an aviary, a breeding program, and even a training program to teach the parrots how to avoid hawks.  Slowly, the Puerto Rican parrots have been reintroduced into the wild.  An afterword about the parrots and the recovery program as well as importsnt dates and the author’s sources follows the narratuve,

Evaluation:

Susan Roth and Cindy Trumbore’s telling of the Puerto Rican parrot is a familiar endangered species story.  The beauty of their story is in the language they use and the amazing collages that adorn each page.  The narrative has a lyrical style, incorporating the rhythmic iguaca, iguaca of the parrots call.  Iguaga is actually the parrot’s name.  The parrot’s story is compelling because of all the challenges they have faced.  The conservation effort is also compelling because of how far scientists have gone to bring back these beautiful creatures (imagine training the parrots using protective leather jackets!).  The physical formatting of the book also sets it apart from others, in the calendar style orientation of each page, so that one hold the book on its side to see the full spread of the pages.  This orientation is especially effective with the fabric and paper collages of parrots soaring, or scientists climbing trees, or  the waterfall flowing.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity:1 – Would sit on shelves unread; 2 – May see the light of day as an assigned reading; 3 – Interesting to readers, may need marketing; 4 – Very appealing read, ; 5 – Need multiple copies, because it would always be checked out!
  • Quality: 1 – How was this book ever published?; 2 – Poor literary quality; 3 – Average literary quality, nothing stands out as exceptional; 4 – Overall high quality literary quality, with certain areas of exceptional literary quality; 5 – Well-crafted of the highest literary quality
  • Popularity: 3
  • Quality: 4

Genre and Subgenre:  nonfiction, didactic

Appeal Factors:  fabric and paper collages, page formatting, endangered animals, Puerto Rico, conservation efforts

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Alex the Parrot by Stephanie Spinner
  • Mama Built a Little Nest by Steve Jenkins
  • Parrots by Ruth Bjorklund

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • 2014 Robert F. Siebert Informational Book Medal
  • 2014 Notable Children’s Book

Booktalking Ideas:

  • History of nation and parrot population
  • Invasive species and deforestation
  • Conservation efforts with the training

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Why do people want to save the Puerto Rican parrot?
  • How can you help raise awareness  about the parrots’ plight?
  • What is the most amazing part of the parrots’ story?

Why I Chose This:

This title was appealing to me because of the gorgeous pictures that accompanied each page.  The fabric and paper collages were absolutely stunning!  The detail and the fun and playful positioning of the parrots were captivating.  I also enjoyed the different formatting of the book.

Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins

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Jenkins, Martin.  Can We Save the Tiger? Candlewick Press, 2011.  $16.99, 56 pages.

Link to Author’s Website:  http://www.lovereading4kids.co.uk/author/3057/Martin-Jenkins.html

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation:  What we can do to prevent the mighty tiger from going the way of the dodo, the great auk, and the marsupial wolf.

Summary:

Starting with an explanation of what it is to be extinct, Martin Jenkin’s tells the story of what it means to be endangered and how it can lead to extinction.  He uses specific animals to illustrate different points, such as how the tiger is endangered because of the threat they may pose to humans or that they require more land that is rapidly shrinking.  He uses the partula snail to describe the problems with introducing invasive species, the vulture to explain the effect that human decisions and choices have on their surrounding eco-systems, and the success and challenges of protecting endangered species such as the American bison and the kakapos.  Interspersed throughout the narrative are pictures of the endangered animals accompanied by facts and statistics about them.  He challenges readers that although the task may seem daunting, it is a worthy cause to fight for these amazing creatures before it is too late.

Evaluation:

This nonfiction piece is an enlightening text on the plight of endangered animals.  Written in narrative, Jenkins explains different reasons why animals become endangered and anchors each reason to an endangered animal.  He uses “we” to include himself and the reader as the agents of change, as those called to action to do something for the endangered animals.  His treatment of the subject is not to vilify human actions, but instead to educate about how every human action has a consequence on the animal world that shares the same space.  The language used is accessible for readers, as terms are explained, and Jenkins keeps a more conversational tone than didactic.  He also uses different sized fonts to emphasize his points. The illustrations vary between strategically placed simple black and white pencil drawings and more elaborate oil paintings of the animals.  The endangered species are highlighted because of the fact that the illustrations are only of animals, not their habitats  or other scenes.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity:1 – Would sit on shelves unread; 2 – May see the light of day as an assigned reading; 3 – Interesting to readers, may need marketing; 4 – Very appealing read, ; 5 – Need multiple copies, because it would always be checked out!
  • Quality: 1 – How was this book ever published?; 2 – Poor literary quality; 3 – Average literary quality, nothing stands out as exceptional; 4 – Overall high quality literary quality, with certain areas of exceptional literary quality; 5 – Well-crafted of the highest literary quality
  • Popularity: 3
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre: nonfiction, didactic

Appeal Factors:  endangered animals, illustrations, narrative style

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Let’s Save the Animals by Frances Barry
  • Almost Gone by Steve Jenkins
  • Saving Birds: Heroes around the World by Pete Salmansohn

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • 2012 Notable Children’s Books
  • 2011 Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, Nonfiction

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Extinct animals
  • How the vulture has been poisoned
  • Comeback story of the American bison

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • What are ways that you can raise awareness about endangered animals?
  • What things can you do to help save endangered animals?
  • Pick an organization from the list of resources at the end to contact.  What information could you ask for?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this book because it was a nonfiction picture book. I enjoyed the way it gave facts about endangered animals in a narrative format.  The pictures were also beautiful and the simple facts about the animals were as striking as the illustrations themselves.