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Toca Builders app review

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Toca Builders (Toca Boca, May 2016; iOS and Android) opens with a choice of an empty platform or one of several options where work has already started. That work involves constructing towers (or whatever you want) with colored blocks and painting these structures and/or the space around them. Each grid floats in what appears to […]

Picture Books for International Day of Peace

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Today is the UN’s International Day of Peace, an annual day “devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.” Celebrate — and share a hope for peace for all — by reading these picture books about compassion, community, and interconnectedness with a child in your life. All were […]

Review of Anything but Ordinary Addie: The True Story of Adelaide 
Herrmann, Queen of Magic

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Anything but Ordinary Addie: The True Story of Adelaide 
Herrmann, Queen of Magic by Mara Rockliff; 
illus. by Iacopo Bruno Primary, Intermediate    Candlewick    48 pp. 4/16    978-0-7636-6841-9    $17.99 Rockliff and Bruno (Mesmerized, rev. 1/15) bring the now-all-but-forgotten female magician Adelaide Herrmann back to center stage. Bold and spunky, Addie, in Rockliff’s strikingly vivid depiction, was […]

Melody Jams app review

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Similar in structure to Toca Boca’s Toca Band (but both a little less substantial and a little less…out there), Melody Jams (Melody Jams Inc., April 2016; iOS only) lets you rock out with your own hand-picked backup band. Fill up to five band spots by selecting from twelve monster musicians on instruments such as guitar, […]

Books behaving badly

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Some books sit quietly and do what they’re told. Others seem to have minds of their own. The following picture books feature picture books themselves as the stars of the show. Ben, Bella, and Bella’s dog star in a new book — This Book Is Out of Control! — which is no better behaved than […]

Friends to the animals

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The following chapter books feature kids — and kids at heart — whose animal-loving ways lead to beautiful interspecies friendships. In Frances O’Roark Dowell’s Sam the Man & the Chicken Plan, seven-year-old Sam Graham is too young to have a real job. But when neighbor Mrs. Kerner tries to hire Sam’s too-busy older sister to […]

Five questions for Vera Brosgol

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Vera Brosgol’s 2011 YA debut was Anya’s Ghost (Roaring Brook/First Second, 12–16 years), a graphic novel about a quirky friendship — between a girl and a ghost. Her first picture book, Leave Me Alone! (Roaring Brook, 5–8 years), has a similarly wry and witty tone and highlights a point of view not always seen in […]

Review of Leave Me Alone!

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Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol; illus. by the author Primary    Roaring Brook    40 pp. 9/16    978-1-62672-441-9    $17.99 Graphic novelist Brosgol (Anya’s Ghost, rev. 7/11) makes an impressive picture-book debut with this inventive story about an old woman’s quest to knit in peace. The tale begins with traditional narrative trappings: “Once there was an old […]

Nursery Rhymes with StoryTime app review

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Classic nursery rhymes meet interactive twenty-first-century technology in the Nursery Rhymes with StoryTime app (ustwo, 2011). Beginning with “Jack and Jill,” children can read and/or hear eight nursery rhymes and manipulate the characters and their props, sometimes in humorous ways — for example, swipe that pail of water up the well and a fish pops […]

Review of Giant Squid

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Giant Squid by Candace Fleming; 
illus. by Eric Rohmann Primary    Porter/Roaring Brook    40 pp. 9/16    978-1-59643-599-5    $18.99 A mysterious giant squid lurks in the dark corners of the ocean depths. Page-turn by page-turn, parts of the squid are revealed: first, a few tentacles sweep across the blue/black-hued ocean environment; then, a few more emerge, and […]