Saturday, April 28, 2012

Day 2: The Worst-Case Scenario Blog Tour

Backpack? Check. Anti-venom? Check. Jungle knife? Check.
It's time for another venturous trek into the Amazon as Chronicle Books' week-long Worst-Case Scenario Blog Tour continues!
For your sake, I hope you've read the explorer's manual. The Amazon's an incredible place to hike and boat through, but it's no place to be unprepared.
Some creatures here are unlike any you've seen (including a reptile as long as a car) and show up when you least expect it (from above in the canopy and below).
Just be sure to do exactly what you've been told and whatever you do, don't panic -- or the ending of this book will come dangerously too soon.

In this clever third book in The Worst-Case Scenario series, readers hike the world's largest rain forest, and choose paths that either save their lives or stop the adventure in its tracks.

Profile of a Reader: The Worst-Case Scenario Blog Tour

A self-portrait
Gender: Male

Age: 8 years, 3 months and 12 days (to be exact)

Grade: 2nd

Reading style: Prefers to look things up and read about them, rather than read cover-to-cover.

Favorite books: Encyclopedias about animals, insects and dragons, Star Wars dictionaries and match-up books, The War Horse.

Challenges: Struggles with fluency and this has made him reluctant to read chapter books on his own.

Strengths: Loves to be read to. Soaks up facts that he reads, recites them back and inquires beyond what he's read.

Interests: Making up stories and sketching them out on paper. Imagining new species of predators, then drawing diagrams of them. Collecting insects and examining their body parts. Problem solving.

Adventurous side: Camping, watching nature and survival shows on Discovery Channel (including Man vs Wild), and creating imaginary games from natural objects. Collecting dead insects and sticks.

The Adventure: The Worst-Case Scenario Blog Tour

Our son's adventure began at the end of his book -- about 189 pages in.

That's where, he was told, he'd find a manual that could save his life: "The Amazon Expedition File."

The manual had everything he needed: a map, packing list, survival tips, even a few words of Spanish and Portuguese.

(For a reader who doesn't always make it to the last page, going to the end was a great beginning.)

He was told to absorb every tip, including -- gulp -- what he should do if bot fly larva crawled under his skin.

And he did just that.

In fact, he asked me to quiz him on what he'd read so he'd be ready for anything -- and he was, almost. (But more on that later.)

The Worst-Case Scenario Everest

Before there was The Worst-Case Scenario Amazon, there was Everest. View a book trailer below!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Counting Down to Earth Day: Day 2

Outside Your Window
A First Book of Nature
By Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Mark Hearld
Candlewick, 2012
$19.99, ages 3 and up, 108 pages

A world of wonder is unfolding outside -- all through the windows of this enchanting book.

Each spread of this big-format nature book shows what a child might see, looking out of their window into the natural world:

From "a hundred fluffy parachutes" about to take flight off a dandelion to a squirrel scampering from trunk to fence with a fidgety gate and air of alertness.

Zoologist and award-winning author Nicola Davies muses about the natural world in short, playful poems, while artist Mark Hearld plays out what she describes in enchanting collages.

Hearld, who makes his debut in picture books with this gem, impresses with a voluminous display of art and creatively layered details. His collages are organic, absorbing and rich as earth.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Counting Down to Earth Day: Day 3

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
By William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer
Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
Dial, 2012
$16.99, ages 6 and up, 32 pages

It stood like a clumsy giraffe and was cobbled from metal scraps, but to William it was more magical than anything he'd dreamed of.

In this inspiring adaptation, Africa's William Kamkwambi recounts with New York author Bryan Mealer how he rigged a windmill for his village using only a picture as his guide.

The story, which can be read for free online at, is based on Kamkwamba's New York Times best-selling memoir by the same name, also co-authored by Mealer.

Kamkwamba and Mealer condense the story beautifully, while West Africa-born artist Elizabeth Zunon conveys Kamkwamba's irrepressible spirit with fluid cut-outs and luminous, earthy oil paintings.

At age 14, William Kamkwamba pondered the possibilities of what could be. When night came to his drought-ravaged village of Malawi, he closed his eyes to see where his mind would take him.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Counting Down to Earth Day: Day 4

House Held Up By Trees
By Ted Kooser
Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Candlewick, 2012
$16.99, ages 4-10, 32 pages

When a little house is boarded up and forgotten, trees sprout up around it and lift it into the sky, in this stirring picture book about the power of nature to lift us up.

As he did in his moving debut Bag in the Wind, author Ted Kooser addresses a conflict between man and nature, but in such a gentle way that it never feels as if any judgment is being made.

In Bag in the Wind, he follows the journey of a discarded bag that's gotten loose in the wind, while here, he observes a man determined to keep trees from sprouting in his lot so that he can have a perfect lawn.

Kooser, in an author's note, explains that the man is struggling against time; as he fights to keep nature from taking over his yard, what he's really fighting is change. His children are growing up and moving away, and there's nothing he can do to stop it.

But like paintings, books can be interpreted in many ways, and to me, House Held Up By Trees is also a triumphant story of nature reclaiming what was taken from it, then of nature forgiving those who've trespassed on it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Counting Down to Earth Day: Day 5

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda
By Alicia Potter
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
$16.99, ages 5-8, 40 pages

Before anyone had heard of "panda-monium," the excitement that surrounds seeing pandas.

Before many Americans had even imagined that the gamboling, masked panda of legend was real.

There was a tea gown designer who, despite knowing little about animals, set off for China to bring a panda to America: not in a cage but curled up in her arms.

In this charming historical picture book, author Alicia Potter tells the story of Ruth Harkness, a Manhattan widow who set off on a journey no one thought she could make.

Her mission was to find a mythical beast known as a panda and show the world that it really existed.

In doing so, many conservationists say, she made us want to love them and spurred a worldwide effort to stop hunting them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Counting Down to Earth Day: Day 6

The Cloud Spinner
By Michael Catchpool
Illustrated by Alison Jay
$16.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages

A greedy king has every cloud drawn from the sky and spun into clothes, not realizing that without those clouds, the rain won't come.

In this imaginative picture book, author Michael Catchpool raises issues of over farming, while artist Alison Jay charms us with nature's beauty.

When a pompous king learns of a boy's gift of spinning clouds into thread, he orders him to pull enough clouds to weave a fancy wardrobe for him and his family.

The boy, who's never taken more than he needs from the clouds, warns the king that it isn't wise to make so many clothes from clouds.

"Enough is enough and not one stitch more," as his mother has taught him, for without clouds, rivers won't fill, trees will die of thirst and hills will turn brown.

But the king cannot see beyond his immediate pleasure to the damage this could cause and demands that the boy take to his spinning wheel without delay.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Counting Down to Earth Day: Day 7

The Hop
By Sharelle Byars Moranville
Illustrated by Niki Daly
Disney-Hyperion, 2012
$16.99, ages 8 and up, 288 pages

A monster with teeth on its feet is rolling into Toadville-by-Tumbledown and unless a young hopper is brave and bold, the village and every toad in it will buried under a strip mall.

In this enchanting environmental novel, Tad (a toad with second-sight) and Taylor (a girl who loves nature) find themselves on a fairy tale quest to save a meadow from development.

Though Tad doesn't yet know it, Taylor is a kindred spirit. Her grandmother lives at the edge of the meadow he calls Toadville -- near a tumbledown shed -- and Taylor's been heartsick about losing the area.

The monster is poised by the grasslands and a pond nearby -- Taylor's swimming hole since she was little, her "kingdom," as she calls it, -- and though her grandmother is like-minded, she isn't well enough to help Taylor fight the project.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Bug Next Door

Story & art by Beatrice Alemagna
Phaidon, 2012 (Release date: April 15)
$12.95, ages 3 +, 40 pages.

Little Speckled Bug is in a muddle over why he's so fond of the new girl bug next door.

Of course she's cute and that's not hard to like about her.

Those long red antennae drape around her face like silken threads and when she dances, her forelegs do two different ballet positions at once.

(The top ones take first position like petals of a flower bud and the middle ones curve into fifth as if she were hugging the air itself.)

But beyond liking how Bug Next Door looks and moves, what have they between them?

After all, from the day Bug Next Door knocked on his door, the two have had one misstep after another.

Well, except that one time. When she kissed him good-day. Both of their two cheeks streaked pink like an apple blossom.

Now that was nice.

But what about all the stuff that came before that?

In this adorable followup to Bugs in a Blanket and Bugs in the Garden, Beatrice Alemagna returns to the world of her felted bugs to explore the ways of the heart -- how sometimes what makes us different makes us hard to resist.

An Interview with Beatrice Alemagna

Thursday, April 12, 2012

And the winner is...

Taryn of Golden, Colorado, is the winner of Rosie Flo's Coloring Fashion Show! Thank you all for entering -- and stay tuned. Chronicle will soon select one commenter from all of the blogs to win a set of Rosie Flo coloring books and $100 to spend at In addition, two more giveaways are coming this month on Where the Best Books Are!: Three copies of  Trenton Lee Stewart's much anticipated The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict and three copies of artist Salina Yoon's magical picture book Kaleidoscope -- both courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Win Me! Rosie Flo's Pop-Up Runway

Comment on this post by midnight April 11 for a chance to win this charming 3-D kit from Chronicle Books.

Rosie Flo's Coloring Fashion Show by artist Roz Streeten comes with 18 models, a pop-up catwalk and more.

One commenter from my blog is guaranteed to win! I'll randomly draw a winner April 12.

In addition, one commenter from all of the participating blogs will win a set of Rosie Flo coloring books + $100 to spend at

Just be sure to leave an email address so I can contact you!

The fashion show is yet another stunner in the Rosie Flo coloring book series of paper dolls.

I colored in this kit yesterday and what a kick! I felt like I was 10 again.

And just between us moms, this one's going to be hard to part with. Maybe your daughter or niece will share?

Paper models (mostly girls, but a few guys too) come in outfits inspired by trees, flowers, sea life, even a ladybug.

Two favorites: a crossword-puzzle gown (with room for words) and a flaring party dress encircled with birds.

Each model also comes in designer shoes: from shiny stilettos and heart slippers for girls to loafers for boys.

Once you color in the dresses, it's time to draw in the heads, arms and legs -- which really makes the kit your own.

I felt a bit like a stylist, shaping models' hair and makeup to fit the look of the dress I colored.

A 0.35 mm black ink pen was ideal for drawing in features. (Each face must fit into a space less than an inch wide, so a fine tip is handy.) Another tip: practice faces on a scrap paper first.

Faces I sketched for the kit. Yours to use!
Or, if you'd like, print out the faces I've drawn here, then color them in, cut them out and paste them in place.

Since hands are tricky to draw, I recommend curving arms so hands go just behind skirts. It will look like your models are holding out their skirts.

Or, keep hands very simple -- draw them in the shape of delicate mittens, as I did above.

Also included: a 3-D theater and curtain-draped runway, and two pop-up rows of chairs for models to sit in. (Six fashionistas are scored just for sitting.)

On either side of the theater's interior are three rows of audience members. These too are line drawings with spaces for faces, arms and some legs.

If you're nervous about drawing directly on the walls, make your faces on a separate paper, then cut them out and paste them in place.

In addition, there's a little coiffed poodle to punch out, as well as an old-fashioned camera and three invitations to the show.

No scissors or glue are required, but if you'd like to paste on your heads you'll need both. Colored pencils not included.

To show how the kit works, here's a paper model as I colored her (I drew my face on card stock):

And for more on Rosie Flo, visit Chronicle Books here. Best of luck to all of you!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Silly Doggy!

Written & illustrated by Adam Stower
$16.99, ages 3 and up, 40 pages

A little girl sees just what she wants to see in a big, rough-and-tumble stray, in this joyful celebration of positive thinking.

One morning Lily lifts her chin just enough to see out of her bedroom window and spots a giant animal rummaging through her garbage can.

Thinking nothing of the fruit peels and tin cans flying through the air, she decides right there that this guy's everything she ever wanted in a pet: he's got four legs, a tail and a big, wet nose.

"Doggy!" she cries, running out in the yard in her galoshes, flinging her arms up in delight.

Now face-to-face with this barreling fellow, she realizes he's a lot bigger than she thought and when he growls he sounds a bit grouchy.

But no matter because Lily thinks he's lovely. All he needs, she tells herself, is a good looking-after.