Thursday, June 26, 2014

Build, Dogs, Build: A Tall Tail by James Horvath

Build, Dogs, Build: A Tall Tail by James Horvath

Rating: 4 stars

As I stated in my last post, it's not good when I read a book the day it's due.  But it is a great sign when I read a book to one of my kids before we even check it out at the library.  That is a sign that I'll be reading the book at least twice a day for the next week straight. And that means I've got a book that really appeals to kids.  Hooray!

With Build, Dogs, Build in the house, I know what I'll be reading when I ask Kiefer to go choose a book.  He is crazy about construction right now, so the very fact that one of the dogs on the cover is holding a wrench makes him go ga-ga (even though, at three, he's really past saying "ga-ga"). Horvath wrote a story and created illustrations with kids like Kiefer in mind: the story is cute and about building a tall structure, it rhymes in a pleasing sort of way, the illustrations are bright and colorful and inviting, and he's got silly stuff mixed in with true facts.

It's like he's Duke the foreman, one of the characters in his book, double-checking the plan on How to Create a Successful Children's Book!

The beams go up fast, / building room upon room.
As the pumper pumps / liquid cement through its boom.
My kids were swept into the book in the first few pages, when they chose which dog they wanted to be, and on each subsequent page they found "themselves" and tried to figure out what they were doing.  Meanwhile, I read stanzas like:
Here's the tall building,
all crumbled and cracked.
We'll knock it down quickly
with a couple of whacks. 
The crane is in place.
The angle's correct.
Get the ball swinging now.
Wreck, dogs, wreck!
We loved it, and later today we'll check out the book Horvath wrote before Build, Dogs, Build, its prequel: Dig, Dogs, Dig: A Construction Tail.  You now know what I'll be reading twice a day for the next few weeks!

Wait a second…this just in!...there's another due out at the beginning of fall 2014?!  Work, Dogs, Work: A Highway Tail?!  Kiefer is now counting down the days for it to be published...

Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Everything by Maira Kalman

Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Everything by Maira Kalman

Rating: 2 stars

It's never a good sign when you wait until the day a book is due to read it.

For a bunch of small reasons, this new book about a President I respect a whole lot sure didn't work for me.  I know why it didn't get much attention from Lorelei (who, besides me, is the main reader of this type of nonfiction picture book in our house): there is no story. I know that she read it, but there is no tale or rise and fall and resolution pattern that is what is usually needed to grab a child's interest.

I know this next reason I didn't like it is a random quibble, but the font is also a very strange choice: it's a mix between Times New Roman and a casual, handwritten-like font that includes a whole lot of cursive.  In schools around us, cursive is taught in third grade.  But this is a book allegedly aimed for 5 to 8 year olds.  Hmm.

Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Everything is, basically, a long list of the things in which Thomas Jefferson was interested.  Though Kalman never uses this term, it is an explanation of how he was a renaissance man.  He read on many subjects, spoke half a dozen languages, cared for his farm, designed his own house, practiced the violin three hours a day, wound the clock in his kitchen daily.

Monticello, which means "Little Mountain" in Italian
Kalman also boldly includes how Jefferson, who wrote how horrid slavery was, also owned slaves.  She even--this surprised me very much--talks about how, after his beloved wife died, he allegedly "had children with the beautiful Sally Hemings," one of his slaves.

Kalman includes her own parenthetical musings every few sentences.  After she paraphrases one of Thomas Jefferson's long-winded quotations as "Don't be lazy," she includes "(It is boring to be lazy.)" After she reports that Thomas Jefferson's favorite vegetable was peas, she includes "Peas are really wonderful and fun to count." After explaining how Thomas Jefferson had fierce tribal shields on his walls that could give you nightmares she writes "(Ugh. Nightmares. Why do we have them?)"

I'm baffled by this book.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hippos Can't Swim and Other Fun Facts by Laura Lyn DiSiena and Hannah Eliot

Hippos Can't Swim and Other Fun Facts by Laura Lyn DiSiena and Hannah Eliot, illustrated by Pete Oswald

Rating: 4 stars

Please pack this book with you the next time you're going to the zoo!  It screams for all families to do so.  Give a book what it wants, please!

Authors DiSiena and Eliot dug through the zillions of animal facts out there and produced some really fun ones, then placed them together in such a way that a story-less book has a nice rhythm to it.  Lorelei  (now 7) laps up this sort of silly, nonfiction stuff on a normal basis but now, in her first week of Nature Science Camp, is even happier to get her hands on anything science-related. But the book held Kiefer's (now 3) attention easily--the facts might not have stuck as I read this to him over lunch, but the pictures made him laugh and ask questions, like "Why that turtle wearing socks?" Curiosity has got to start somewhere…!

Here are some fun tidbits we learned:
Kangaroos have pouches too, but kangaroos are marsupials. This means that their pouches are used to carry their babies. As you probably know, kangaroos hop everywhere.  They use their strong back legs to hop, and their muscular tails for balance. If you bounce on a pogo stick, you can hop like a kangaroo, too! 
Herons catch fish by standing still for long periods of time and waiting for the fish to swim by. That may sound boring to you, but herons do it to survive!
This is a great book that grabbed the attention of all three of my kids, despite their different ages and interests, which makes it successful and great in this mom's opinion!

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

Rating: 4 stars

This week Lorelei and Ben are at camp.  A camp that requires a bus.  A bus that will need to be ridden every day, starting in the fall.  As a rising second grader, Lorelei has been riding this bus for two years.  She's a book-wielding, bus-riding pro.  Ben, as a rising kindergartener, is a newbie. A rookie. And Ben was nervous for his first bus ride on this first day of camp.  As he matures, the hump he needs to get over before he's comfortable and confident decreases in size, but…it's still there.

On Monday morning he came down in his pajama bottoms, a bare chest, and a very wobbly chin.

"I'm scared, Mommy," he confessed, his eyes full of tears.  I gave him a hug, told him it was normal to feel scared on the first day of anything.  I had opened the door to the deck, letting in the sounds of a spring morning fill the space in which I was sitting and writing.  "Can I go outside?" he asked.  I nodded.

We are lucky to live in the woods, surrounded by tall trees that house loudly chirping birds.  I don't know what Ben did out there with only pajama bottoms and without shoes, but he came back in ten minutes later with a smile on.

We must have some magic trees that sprinkled some of their calming magic down on my nervous Ben.  It makes me smile now, just a few days later, to remember how quick was the transformation, how trees really did help get him to a better mood. I'm grateful that somehow this book now houses this memory inside its pages.

Tap the Magic Tree is a beautiful book, about a subject we love: trees.  I snatched it right up when I saw it in the library, eager to find out more about it. Flipping through it, I saw it was most likely inspired by Press Here, the wildly successful and truly wonderful book that's been on the New York Times best seller list for--get this--144 weeks.  And that made me skeptical of Tap the Magic Tree.

But I needn't have been.  The morning after Ben's nervous bus debut (which was wildly successful!), my trio and I sat outside for breakfast, surrounded by acres of tall, tall trees, and read this book together.    I wasn't sure it would work--Press Here is a lap book for one, really, not a circle-time book for a crowd--but it did work, and really well!

Matheson instructs us to tap the bare brown tree, then tap it thrice, then tap it many times, and as I turned the pages, the bare brown tree has more and more leaves on it.  When the kids "rubbed the tree to make it warm," buds appeared.  Instructions helped us help the tree to mature the buds to blossoms and then apples, then watch the apples fall, the leaves turn autumnal colors, then fall, then make snow…  You get the idea.

It worked, and worked well.  Especially for the three younger book lovers at the table who didn't start out skeptical at all.  We watched together the magical transformation of a single tree through the seasons, including pajama-clad Ben whose own magical transformation happened just the morning before!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Some Bugs by Angela Diterlizzi

Some Bugs by Angela Diterlizzi, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

Rating: 5 stars

This book is one, big, deliciously illustrated invitation for your kid to arm herself with curiosity, go outside, and search for some bugs.  As long as she doesn't get too close to a stinging type of bug, what's not to love about that?!

From first glance, I was in love with this book.  Wenzel's illustrations are bright and fun and he somehow gives the cover and pages a sense of movement with all these bugs. He balances perfectly the fine line between real bugs and cartoon-like character bugs.  Kids have a real sense of what the real bug looks like, but it's still cuter and more approachable than in real life.  His work completely shines here.

Some bugs click. Some bugs sing.
The story really doesn't have the rise and fall and resolution story that we hold up as The Way To Go. There's not much story at all--but that works in this concept book.  This book is simply one about a single subject: bugs (as if that's news at this point). "Some bugs sting. Some bugs bite. Some bugs stink."  The words are sparse--but we found ourselves lingering on each page to make sure our eyes saw all there was to see.

Until you get to the end, that is, and then there's a flurry of words:
Stinging, biting, stinking, fighting,
hopping, gliding, swimming, hiding,
building, making, hunting, taking,
bugs are oh-so-fascinating!
So kneel down close, look very hard,
and find some bugs in your backyard!
The final page is this, a vibrant field guide to all the bugs introduced in the book:

A great book for summer.  Pair it with a big magnifying glass and an hour or two, and you've got yourself a nice way to spend an afternoon!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Superhero Joe by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman

Superhero Joe by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman, illustrated by Ron Barrett

Rating: 5 stars

Sometimes the timing of boy meets book is laughably, wonderfully perfect.

Take yesterday, when Superhero Joe rested on the new book shelf waiting to catch our eye.  Superhero Joe soon found its way to our crowded library book bag.

This meeting happened just four days after the boys and I attended my nephew/their cousin's Superhero Birthday Party. Just three days after they walked in with me to the dry cleaners wearing capes and masks. Just two days after they got their superhero water shooters taken away from them for fighting with them (call me Super Fun Spoiler if you like).

I can't resist a quick word on the party: No one throws a party like my sister.  She throws so much time and love and creativity into each of her four kids' birthday parties…it leaves me inspired and in awe.  Whatever they want, she makes happen.  All homemade crafts, all from-scratch cakes, all house-run activities. For this Superhero Party, kids got issued capes, masks, and a squirt gun upon entrance (oh happy day!).  They chose a superhero name.  They counted down the minutes until they could bust through to the roped-off area to get to the obstacle course my sister and her husband had created in the backyard.

Here's a glimpse of Ben flying through the air--well, running quickly--in his cape and with his mask:

So when we saw Superhero Joe yesterday, we had superheroes on the brain.  We had to grab the book!

Joe is a normal kid who happens to have a wonderfully abnormal imagination. His real-life superpower is a lens through which he sees normal happenings as fantastical events.  Take a spill in the kitchen.  That's what you or I would see.  Not Joe.  He sees "an evil black ooze...threatening to take over the world." His mother needs the "staff of power." (Known to less imaginative Muggles as a mop.)
He was afraid of many things…
Something had to change.

He needs to travel to the "Darkest Depths" (a basement as messy as ours but with fewer lights) to retrieve it.  In order to have the courage required for such a journey, he needs some of his superhero accoutrements.  As he finds these things, he tells the readers how he didn't used to be so brave but now he is because of these key accessories.  Armed with these items, he transforms from just Joe to SUPERHERO JOE!

Even I am thinking of trading in my Kate Spade bag for a Shield of Invincibility!

This is a great, fun story with bright, pop-off-the-page comic book-style illustrations by Ron Barrett.  If you've got a kid who has superhero on the brain (or whose imagination needs a kickstart), definitely grab this book and let it sit around…there's no way any kid could walk by this book and resist the urge to pick it up and read it.

Lastly, there are surprisingly few superhero picture books out there.  This is a wonderful addition to the short list, but my heart still holds out that the best among them is Max by Bob Graham.  For all the superhero books I've reviewed, please click HERE.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Go! Go! Go! Stop! by Charise Mericle Harper

Go! Go! Go! Stop! by Charise Mericle Harper

Rating: 4 stars

Anthropomorphic.  Remember that word from your school days?  That's what you call it when you attribute human qualities to anything that's not a human.  We see this all the time in children's books with animals and trucks and maybe even clouds.

But…the colors within a traffic light?  I'm impressed with Harper's imagination!

In this story "Little Green," the green circle from a traffic light, utters his first word: "Go."  (It's also his only word.)  He whispers it, he states it, he yells it as loud as he can.  And he rolls along to a construction site just as all the vehicles are waking up from their afternoon nap.  Armed with his new word, Little Green charges them with action!

"Tow truck towed terrifically.  Crane carried carefully.  Mixer mixed marvelously. Dump Truck dumped dependably.  And Backhoe waved his long arms in the air."  All is good!

But then…too much GO and not enough of anything else got all the trucks into a mixed-up, over-worked jumble.

Luckily, a stranger rolls into town.  Little Red looks around and shouts the only word he knew: "STOP!" After a little bit of trial and error, Little Green and Little Red manage the construction site by working together and taking turns.  They get some help from Little Yellow, who arrives as soon as the construction site's work--a new bridge--is completed.  Perfect timing for Little Yellow's words: "Slow down!"

(Not "Go Faster!" as I first taught Lorelei years and years ago, just to crack myself up…!)

This is a super cute book for young kids who are just beginning to recognize that words mean something.  And even better for young kids whose older siblings read but…they don't yet.  Like Kiefer!  He can, at three, see these big, bright, red STOPs and big, bright, green GOs and "read" them.  And that makes him feel good, practice a bit, and then get curious for more.

Standing In For Lincoln Green by David Mackintosh

Standing In For Lincoln Green by David Mackintosh

Rating: 4 stars

Oh to figure out how to do what Lincoln Green does in this book: to be two places at once!

Lincoln Green figures out a way to pull his reflection out of the mirror and make him--by "him" I mean his reflection, the second Lincoln Green, his willing impersonator--do all of the things that fall into the category of "things that need to happen RIGHT NOW."  You know, all of those things that you want to do for your child because you'll do it faster, better and without complaining (though that pesky resentment might build a bit more) but they should do for themselves…  Lincoln Green figures out a way to get those things done for him so that he can spend all of his time swimming at the pool, hanging out with his buddies, and swinging on ropes.

So that's just what he does--his stand-in works while he plays.  Not bad!  Life goes along like this for quite some time, until the stand-in/reflection Lincoln Green gets invited by the neighbor boy to build a tree house with him.  Suddenly, he realizes anything involving a tree house is more fun than raking the leaves and mowing the lawn.  He's IN!

So the real Lincoln Green is pulled by his mom from all that fun stuff and approaches the lawn with trepidation.  But the neighborhood boy comes by and, with his help, they make a game of it, get it done quickly, then play afterwards together.

Definitely a creative, fun story (with a mom-approved lesson: chores can be FUN!) that got my kids thinking about what two places they'd like to be at the same time.  As their mom--of three--this wistful thinking is not new to me.  MAN could I accomplish a lot!  My to-do list would be no match for me and ME!  The four of us had a fun conversation after reading this a few days ago at dinner…alas, we haven't found a way to lure our reflections to do anything but reflect.  Yet.

What I really appreciate about writer and illustrator David Mackintosh is that each time we read a book by him (we are big fans of Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School) we get a healthy dose of fun, new vocabulary words.  Born in Belfast, raised in Australia, now residing in the UK, his vocabulary is wonderfully different from mine.  In Standing In For Lincoln Green my kids learned/were introduced to these fun, colorful words and expressions:

  • stand-in
  • sorting out
  • handy
  • shoot the breeze
  • fizzy sarsaparilla (those two words just go together!)
  • fancy (as in "anything he doesn't fancy doing himself is on a list for...")

And what more is reading and writing than stringing together a bunch of fun words into an interesting story?  This is what David Mackintosh has done…again.  We can't wait to read Lucky when it comes out at the end of the summer (2014)!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen

If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen

Rating: 5 stars

We are huge fans of Maine author Chris Van Dusen.  His three Magee books get checked out (literally) a whole lot.  His If I Built A Car book is read whenever one of my three kids spots it around the house.  Could Van Dusen really write another book that is just as wonderful as these four?

Yes.  Yes, he can!  And (much to our delight) yes he DID!  (Did you hear my kids and I just go crazy with applause and cheering?)

The race track room is (not surprisingly) my boys' favorite room.
This time, the boy/narrator plays in his backyard and starts designing a creative structure with the Legos, sticks, Tinkertoys, and Frisbee that are within reach.  He begins to tell his mom that their house is okay, but if he built a house, he'd do it a whole lot differently.

The rooms he thinks up are the stuff of kids' wildest dreams: a tall, tall room with a button that takes away gravity and allows you to fly, a bedroom similar to the Space Needle that has an elevator to get you up and a twisty, turny slide to get you down, a living room that includes built-in trampolines on the floor that guide you to a pit with oodles of soft balls.

Playdate at this kid's house, please!

But all of those rooms come after the kitchen, which interests me very much:
We'll start with the basics, right off the bat
Check out my all-in-one Kitchen-O-Mat!
You don't have to cook and you don't have to clean
It's done by a space-age robotic machine
It makes all the meals and the food is deee-lish!
Then it washes and puts away every last dish.
If I Built a House is, I think, a bigger hit than If I Built A Car for the simple reason that smaller kids can design non-moving, house-like structures more easily than they can create vehicles that must move.  Whenever we read it, the kids' next move is to grab blocks or Legos, Tinkertoys or Play-doh, or simply just paper and pencil and think up the house of their very own.

Once again Chris Van Dusen has created magic with this magically creative book!

Monday, June 16, 2014

If I Built A Car by Chris Van Dusen

If I Built A Car by Chris Van Dusen

Rating: 5 stars

The creativity packed in If I Built A Car by Chris Van Dusen is pretty incredible.  You'll be able to see it when the book is over--something crazy happens when you read it that makes me think there is some magical transference of creativity from the pages into my kids' heads.  I mean, I think that some of Van Dusen's imagination actually gets implanted into their own brains and they just…start thinking up some crazy awesome things.

It's just a simple little story, really: a boy drives along with his father and says if his father's cool, classic ride: "This car is fine, but I'd design something a whole lot cooler!"  And then…he does...
I'll work through the night to create a design--
Constantly analyze, tweak, and refine.
I'll study jet rockets and look at old planes,
Contemplate buses and zeppelins and trains.
To make it as smooth and as sleek as an eel,
I'll borrow ideas from the Wienermobile!
The boy is not joking.  He took all that into account to create one kick-ass car.  (Not that I encourage you to use the word "kick-ass" with your child while reading it, but I assure you the word will bounce into your head because the boy's car is…kick-ass!)

Try and disagree after you read this:
Now that we're cruising, let's head to the lake.
There's no need to panic or slam on the brake.
My car can do something that very few can.
The fenders will float like a catamaran!
We're skimming the waves and we're having a ball!
But wait--hold your horses, 'cause that isn't all.
Boating is fine till we get the urge 
To dive underwater…Then just hit SUBMERGE!
We'll fly over land! We'll fly over seas!
To Alaska, Nebraska, Bermuda, Belize!
What kid doesn't love the sound of that?  Van Dusen not only produces these fabulous rhymes; he also created illustrations that match the excitement in his verse.  The boy's dad's face is priceless in every picture--he is panicked in the illustration on the lake (because they're about to hit Mr. Magee and his dog Dee, who wonderfully pop up in this book), and in shock when the car later becomes a rocket. His expressions are beyond kid-friendly; they are spot-on, hilarious, and wonderful.

I read this to my kids at least a dozen times in the first few days that I got the book--and of course I got it as a birthday present for my nephew, which means we've been extra careful reading the pages but they have, in fact, been turned a whole lot.  Because, simply put: This. Book. Rocks!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

C.R. Mudgeon by Leslie Muir

C.R. Mudgeon by Leslie Muir, illustrated by Julian Hector

Rating: 5 stars

As I venture into the world of children's book writing and illustrating, I learn that there are clear, important aspects in a book. One of those truisms: Make memorable, quirky, strong characters.

Okay, now look at the cover.  Check out that hedgehog.

Clearly, author Leslie Muir and illustrator Julian Hector wildly succeeded at creating a memorable, strong, quirky character!  I mean, that hedgehog has more attitude than my three kids put together!  He so badly wants to avoid smells--despite the glorious day that he's closed his eyes to--that he'd prefer pin his nose shut!  Aren't you curious about why? I sure am.

And so I turned the page and started the story (because I had already fallen in love with the main character).

C.R. Mudgeon is a creature of habit who prefers plain, drab, and bland.  He eats celery root soup (no salt). He drinks dandelion tea (no lemon).  He has dessert (but only on Tuesdays).
C.R. Mudgeon eats the same soup every single night.
He carefully and grumpily lives in this existence, within the well-known path of comfort his zone.

Then he gets a new neighbor: Miss Paprika.  Miss Paprika wears colorful dresses and dangly earrings.  She cooks with every spice she's ever met. She plants bright poppies outside.  She has a mariachi band that practices in her house.

At first, C.R. Mudgeon is overwhelmed by all the spices in the air.  He sneezes when the pepper tickles his throat.  And the loud sounds he keeps hearing give him a headache!  The thumpity-thump of her mariachi band makes a clump of ceiling fall on his head.  He is not amused.

Of course, this is a classic opposites-attract type of story. Paprika spices up C.R. Mudgeon's bland life and C.R. Mudgeon proves to be a good friend to Paprika.  They each have something unique to share, and they bring out what is missing in the other.  Miss Paprika does seem to have the bigger role in spreading fun and joy in C.R. Mudgeon's life, for sure, and when he realizes he can't live without her (or simply doesn't want to), I am reminded again how some people come into your life and add such a surprisingly large presence that it's hard to let them go.  How wonderful that C.R. Mudgeon doesn't have to!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friends by Eric Carle

Friends by Eric Carle

Rating: 3.5 stars

Should children's books (specifically, picture books) end with the two characters getting married?

This is the question that is bouncing around my head.  My star rating is arbitrary.  What's more important: will this book provide an interesting, worthwhile conversation between my children and myself?

I'm getting ahead of myself--it's something I do so very well, it's hard not to do!  But let me explain this new Eric Carle book to you, in case you've not seen it before…

With minimal words and bright, welcoming illustrations on big, oversized pages, Eric Carle introduces a simple friendship between a boy and a girl.  The boy, who also serves as the narrator, has a good friend.  They do everything together!  They play together!  They dance together!  They hold hands, they tell each other secrets.  They are best friends.

Then, suddenly, the girl disappears.  The reader is not told why; for better or for worse, we're left to guess.

"…and they got married."
And the boy-narrator decides: he must find her.  The biggest chunk of the book illustrates his search--he climbs tall mountains, swims through cold rivers, gazes up at the starry night skies actively searching for his long, lost friend.  He walks across a field of flowers and must sense her prescience because the bouquet he gathers up in this pretty field is given…to her.

And then they get married.  (Okay, as you can see from the picture, they are still kids and are wearing dress-up clothes.  But STILL!)

Hmm.  I would have been happier without that final page.  But wait: is this book written not for 4-6 year olds but 40-60 year olds?  Do I want Lorelei and Ben to Kiefer to look at their pals today and say to them, also today, "I'm going to marry you!"  That sort of schoolyard talk is already present, I guess.  Do I want to add to it?  Or should I start the conversation about what sort of mate they should look for?

A friend is a very good start, indeed.  I read a book last year that urged us parents (especially us children of divorce who are now parents) to start talking with their kids early about what sort of person makes a good friend.  And to urge those kids to choose deliberately when they choose a friend.  What I tell my kids is this: Choose a person who makes you laugh, who is kind to you, who genuinely cares for you--not just your physical whereabouts like the boy in Friends but also if you're happy or sad, and what you want to be when you grow up.

Tricky business, this friend-finding and partner-pairing.  I guess starting earlier is better.

But maybe we could wait for the tween years (at least!) to begin talk of the whole wedding day with the poofy white dress?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Superworm by Julia Donaldson

Superworm by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Alex Scheffler

Rating: 5 stars

A few months ago I participated in the Two Writing Teacher's Slice of Life March Challenge; every day I wrote a short or long (yup, mine were on the longer side…) essay about a snapshot within my life.  I do this on a weekly basis, but in March I wrote every day.  Because I was successful in my daily practice, my name was put into a drawing for a bunch of prizes.  And I won this book!  Thanks again to Scholastic for donating so many copies of them.

(Originally I thought I had won 16 books.  For clutter's sake, it was better that 16 of us had won one copy of this book!)

Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler are no newcomers to children's book.  They've given us many, many books, including: The Gruffalo (book for me is pretty good, but the movie version probably still gives poor Kiefer nightmares) and A Gold Star for Zog and my favorite Room on the Broom.  Donaldson is a great author to remember when you're at the library and need a starting place.  She writes really great stuff, and illustrator Scheffler makes those books even more magically funny.

Superworm is no different from the rest of her books.  It is fantastic!  The starting premise is so silly that my kids' interest was piqued as soon as I opened the envelope it arrived in.  A superhero worm?!  We were doubting the concept in just the right way--with smiles on our faces and hands grabbing for the book.  This we had to see!
That is one strong worm!

It turns out that Superworm is a hometown hero; he courageously does the right thing with his body that can transform into lots of different things.  He rescues a baby toad by becoming a lasso when the toad attempts to cross a traffic-y street.  He rescues a bug that's fallen into a well by becoming a fishing line.  Bees are bored, therefore he becomes a jump rope.  People (well, I mean bugs) love him so much they chant:
Superworm is super-strong!
Superworm is super-long!
Watch him wiggle!  See him squirm!
Hip, hip, hooray for SUPERWORM!
Therefore, when the Wizard Lizard kidnaps him and makes him dig up precious treasures, threatening to feed Superworm to his side kick Crow, the town goes crazy.  They want to help this hero who has helped them so many times.  Wonderfully, the insects all come together while the lizard sleeps and they defeat him in a hometown, this-is-what-we-do sort of way.  (I'm thinking of the scene from "The Three Amigos"… "We must sew!"  Anyone…anyone?)  Spider spins a web around him, the bees make him extra sticky, and another bug eats his magical flower leaf, robbing him of his magic.  They fly him to the town dump and leave him there wrestling the rubbish.

When Superworm emerges from underground, the happy town erupts in cheers--their hero is back!

It's worth closing your eyes and imagining a less imaginative book--with a person as a hero, rescuing kids instead of toads and bugs.  Nope.  That's just soooo to-be-expected.  A modest, humble, unassuming worm as a superhero?  Now THAT is funny and cute!  This is another wonderful book from Donaldson and Scheffler!