February 29, 2012

The Pigeon Has Feelings Too!

The Pigeon Has Feelings Too!
By Mo Willems; illus. by the author
0-4 Preschool Hyperion 10 pp.
0-7868-3650-4 Board $6.99

Children are routinely told to "be happy", to "stop pouting", to "smile more" or, as the Bus Driver in The Pigeon Has Feelings Too! says, to "show everybody your HAPPY face". With his characteristic concision, Mo Willems empowers kids to be true to their actual feelings by having his feisty protagonist model a fantastic refusal that runs the gamut from angry to sad, and which finally ends with the pigeon feeling genuinely "HAAAAAPPPPPPPPYYY!"

As in Willems' other Pigeon books, the illustrations are simple, but not simplistic. His Pigeon packs an emotional punch, drooping with sadness and vibrating with anger, as he communicates all of the complicated, pent up emotions young children often feel but cannot express. The Pigeon occupies solid color backgrounds that support the figures and their speech bubbles, keeping the reader's eyes squarely on what's important - the Pigeon and his feelings. Having effectively communicated the fact that he does not want to show everybody his happy face, the bus driver (the iconic adult stand-in) apologizes to the Pigeon and lets him off the hook, whereupon the Pigeon is so thrilled that he does show everybody his happy face, but only because he is genuinely happy.

In typical Willems style, the Pigeon realizes too late that the joke is on him, but it is a good natured joke, one that young readers will appreciate as much as their parents. Straightforward enough for very young readers to tackle on their own, but fun enough for repeated readings-aloud, the text and story of The Pigeon Has Feelings Too! are most eloquently supported by the Pigeon himself as he communicates his feelings and stands up for his right to express them.

The Knight and the Dragon

The Knight and the Dragon
By Tomie dePaola; illus. by author
2-4 Preschool Primary Putnam 32pp.
978-0399207075 Hardcover $15.95

"Once upon a time, there was a knight in a castle who had never fought a knight. And in a cave no too far away was a dragon who had never fought a knight."

So begins The Knight and the Dragon, a tale of opposition that ends in barbecue, but not in the way you might think. In his knight and dragon, Tomi dePaola (winner of the Caldecott Honor Medal, the Boston-Globe Horn Book Award) gives us a pair of heroes trying to live up to their societally assigned roles - roles that don't necessarily fit. The knight, far from bold and overtly heroic, finds himself in the castle library reading books like "How To Fight Dragons" while in his cave, the dragon reads up on "How To Fight Knights" and "The Art of Tail Swishing." With his characteristic style, dePaola illustrates both knight and dragon as sweetly earnest, (it takes the dragon six wordless panels to work himself up to looking fierce), as they both prepare for a battle neither particularly seems to crave. Finally, they set a time for the battle by sending each other cordial invitations addressed to and from "Sir Knight" and "B. Dragon Esq.", but as might be predicted, the day of the fight finds neither particularly successful. Then the castle librarian rides by in her book cart (I loved the castle librarian), and presents our heroes with a solution in the form of what might be one of the most insightful pieces of reader's advisory ever to appear in print. They then read "The Outdoor Cook Book" and "How To Build A Bar-B-Q" together, whereupon they set aside their enmity and open a hamburger stand.

This nearly wordless picture book relies on its illustrations to tell the tale, prompted along by just enough text to keep the story rolling. It's a formula that words well, particularly as the reader is well aware of what typically happens in stories such as this (knight and dragon battle, knight triumphs), while being just as well aware that this is not a typical knight and dragon. The scarcity of the text allows dePaola's twist on the tale to unfold with gentle humor, illustrating to young readers that you can be successful without conforming to other people's ideas about what you should be - important encouragement for kids just beginning to assert themselves as individuals in the world.

Bear and Kite & Bear and Ball

Bear and Kite
Bear and Ball
By Cliff Wright; illus. by author
0-2 Preschool Chronicle Books 16 pp.
0-8118-4820-5 Board $5.95
0-8118-4819-1 Board $5.95

With Bear and Kite and Bear and Ball (as well as the other two books in the series - Bear and Boat and Bear and Box), artist Cliff Wright, best known for illustrating the Harry Potter series, introduces young readers to the concept of opposites using two bears, an object and a series of related actions that form a simple narrative arc. Both books begin with a lovely watercolor illustration of a bear with the single word, "Bear", beneath it. On the facing page, the titular object is introduced and, with the page turn, the sets of opposites commence in clean rhyming couplets ("Bear and kite; Black and white; Play and fight" and so on). The couplets take the bears through the major actions of the day - flying a kite and playing with a ball - from build-up to denouement (in Kite, the two bears snuggle at the end for "Day and night" while in Ball, the two bears tumble together, "One and all"). The final two pages are given to a reiteration of the action, from beginning to end, with minimized illustrations that emphasize the opposites and introduce sequence.

The couplets in both books are simple and predictable but not trite, inviting verbal children to rhyme along while simultaneously telling the story in language that is spare but inviting. The only reason this review is comparative is because of the composition of the illustrations. In Bear and Kite, the illustrations are wide open, with both bears occupying a space full of blue sky and friendly meadow. The uncluttered environment makes it easy for young eyes to see, and therefore understand, the opposites being presented through the action. In Bear and Ball, the illustrations are more cluttered with a craggy cliff and a twisted tree vying with the bears and the ball for space. It's a small thing, but the relative narrowness of the illustrations make the text slightly less effective, and though the illustrations are beautiful and emotionally eloquent, they lack the efficacy of their counterparts in Kite. For this reason alone, Bear and Kite is the stronger of the pair. For older readers with eyes for detail, the composition of Bear and Ball would be little to no challenge, but for the very young, Bear and Kite bridges the visual gap in a way that makes the concept of opposites clear and welcoming.

February 27, 2012

Big & Little

Big & Little
By Steve Jenkins; illus. by the author
3-6 Preschool Primary
Houghton Mifflin 32 pp.
0-395-72664-6 Hardcover $16.00

With Big & Little, Steve Jenkins, author of Actual Size and the Caldecott Honor winning What Do You Do With A Tail Like This? brings comparative anatomy to the preschool set. Though the prospect may sound intimidating, Jenkins accomplishes this with a light authorial hand and illustrative grace. This is more than just a book of opposites, (though it might function as such for its youngest readers). At its heart, Big & Little is an exploration of evolution through the lens of size selection.

In the prefatory page, Jenkins poses a question: "How can one bird or snake be so big and another bird or snake be so small?" Emphasizing this question is the head of an African rock python watching the delicate illustration of a tiny coral snake twined around the "T" in the paragraph's first word. Jenkins goes on to answer this question in simple terms that nevertheless require the young reader to think about what it takes for a species to compete for resources and survive. Jenkins's cut-paper collages, which are made to scale, work hand in hand with the text to effectively and artistically communicate scientific fact.

As with the snakes in the preface, each pair of creatures Jenkins compares is fundamentally related (Siamese cat and Siberian tiger, hummingbird and ostrich) but so different in size that they seem barely connected beyond their genus. Jenkins takes advantage of the incongruity by presenting a comparative fact about the pair, ("a gorilla can weigh as much as four men, while the pygmy marmoset is smaller than a squirrel"), deepening a child's understanding of just how big or little each animal is. Jenkins's illustrations are detailed yet clean, with the facts dancing in single sentences along the animals' backs and tails, giving them a playful feeling while inviting young readers to engage the text even more fully.

There is a lot going on in Big & Little, not because it is cluttered, but because it is so rich. For the littlest readers, the illustrations tell the story, but for older readers, the final page (in which animal outlines are drawn to a 1 in. = 2.5 ft. scale for easy comparison) and the glossary provide more challenging material to ponder. This is a book that will grow with a child, providing ample opportunities for questions and answers at more than one stage of development, as they themselves grow from little to big.

February 18, 2012

Old Bear and His Cub

Old Bear and His Cub
by Olivier Dunrea; illus. by the author
2-4 Preschool Philomel 32 pp.
978-0399245077 Hardcover $16.99

Old Bear loves his Cub and his Cub loves Old Bear, a fact that forms the foundation for this simple, pleasing story. The story arc is interesting in a modern picture book, particularly one for younger readers. It depicts the need for boundaries and balance at precisely the time when human "cubs" are learning to assert their autonomy. It also sets of refrain, though both words and images, of love being constant, despite skirmishes of will.

The full scope of this message is not made clear at the beginning. The book opens with Old Bear at the table while his Cub dives headfirst into a honey pot. Cub does not want to eat his porridge. Old Bear says he will. When Cub refuses again, Old Bear "stares at him hard," whereupon Cub finally capitulates. This pattern continues as the pair go for a walk and settle into the snow for a nap. Every time Cub refuses to do as he's told, Old Bear "stares at him hard" whereupon his Cub finally gives in. It is only when Old Bear catches a cold and the pattern reverses that the story truly takes off, with Cub staring at Old Bear until he goes to bed and drinks his tea. Cub's assertions succeed when they support his efforts to take care of Old Bear, just as Old Bear's stares worked when they were given in service to his Cub's welfare - a subtle but important message. The fact that Cub is able to push Old Bear into taking care of himself in the same manner that Old Bear pushes him into napping creates an empowering sense of balance without which the book wouldn't work.

The book's primary weakness is the text. Simply put, there is too much. Dunrea's illustrations communicate so effectively that the over-written prose brushes redundancy at times. Old Bear, shaggy and huge with a white mustache and eyebrows to match looks every inch the bear, despite the fact that he looks like he should have caramel hard candies and a pair of half-moon spectacles stashed away in a hidden pocket. Cub is likewise subtly anthropomorphized, with a toddler's impish posture and jaunty scarf. It is wordlessly clear, even in the cover image, that Old Bear and his Cub love each other, and yet the text, though sweet, needlessly clutters the resonance of the illustrations.

This is an intimate read, one not suited so much for large groups as for cozy chairs and crackling fires. It's a lovely way to address the emotional upheaval caused by a toddler's growing independence, and a sweet way to reassure not just the child, but his adult, that both will always be loved.

February 17, 2012

the little red fish

The Little Red Fish
By Taeeun Yoo; illus. by author
3-4 Preschool Dial 32 pp.
978-0-8037-3145-5 Hardcover $15.99

"JeJe's grandfather was a librarian at an old library in the middle of the forest." 

An old library in the middle of the forest.... From the moment one reads those words, one understands that one is entering a subtle, magical place. But even before the story begins, the reader is primed for something special. While covers are, quite famously, nothing to judge a book by, the red cloth binding and illustrated inset on the cover of The Little Red Fish makes a beautiful package, one that is added to by the endpaper and title page illustrations. These show, respectively, in shadowy pen and ink, the shelves of the mysterious library and the image of a grandfather and grandson pedaling through a curving wood toward a solid, square building that looks like nothing so much as an English boarding school. Strapped to the back of their bike, on top of a stack of books, is a small red fish with sweet wide eyes, floating happily in its bowl. It's an image that at first seems reasonable, but that hints gently at the surrealism of the story that's about to unfold. 

The muted red of JeJe's fish stands out from the sepia-toned watercolor background without jarring the eye, as if to imply that the fish belongs in the library in the middle of the forest, which is much larger than it's exterior would imply. While JeJe's grandfather works, JeJe and the fish explore. Soon, JeJe grows tired and falls asleep in a darkened room. When he wakes, it is night. He feels swallowed by darkness (a statement Yoo underscores by illustrating JeJe and his fish sitting in a shadow shaped like a whale). Then, JeJe notices that his fish is gone. As JeJe searches for his fish in the stacks, young readers are invited to look for it too, catching glimpses of a red tail floating in the shadows, until one's eye is caught by a book the same color as the fish. JeJe opens the book, unleashing a flood of red fish in a double page spread. What follows is a nearly wordless chase over 16 pages as JeJe tries to recapture his friend, ultimately succeeding (the fish manages to look bewildered and relieved) just as his grandfather finishes says it's time to go home. 

Yoo's prose is straightforward and clear, providing a spare, well-balanced narrative on which to hang her beautiful, emotive illustrations. The illustrations, while evoking traditional Chinese art, (especially in the etched figures of JeJe, his grandfather, and the red fish), are timeless and oddly universal, inviting children of all cultures to join JeJe on his unexpected adventure. While The Little Red Fish, with its delicate illustrations and quiet story, is best suited to one-on-one sharing, it is a book that preschoolers will enjoy having read to them more than once. With so many images and so much room for the child-reader's imagination, parents aren't likely to mind given the book's aesthetic appeal, an appeal that is a stand-out for children's material. 

February 13, 2012

White on Black

Black on White 
By Tana Hoban; illus. by the author
No Author Website
0-2, Preschool Greenwillow 10 pp.
978-0-688-11918-8 Board $6.99

Tana Hoban's Black on White is something of a rarity - a picture book for the youngest of young eyes that contains no color, no rhymes and no written text. In fact, this slender board book is as spare as a book could be, and yet, it's oddly captivating. The cover art is the reader's only introduction to the book's contents. With no end papers and no title page, one is immediately confronted, upon opening the cover, with a crisp white background and a very large, glossy black bib. The bib is both iconic, (it has a typical U shape with strings tied in a bow), and curiously realistic. This is not a cartoon bib. It has tiny irregularities, a barely noticeable roughness in the lines, that makes one feel like one is looking at a real bib, just as the spoon and fork on the opposite page feel like a real set of baby utensils. The contrast of the relatively matte white background and the glossy black shapes, does much to draw the eye. The forms literally catch and bounce back light.  This design element is both subtle and deliberate. Just as children under the age of one have an easier time seeing objects in high contrast colors like black, white and red, the glossiness of the dark shapes helps them stand out even more for an audience that is naturally near-sighted. Also intriguing are the shapes that Hoban chose. The objects on each page are loosely linked but in no consistent way (the bib and spoon and fork might be obvious, but the elephant and the bucket  demand more creative connection-making), which is why Black on White is a book that will grow with an infant into toddler-hood. For babies, it simply offers a way to see and learn new shapes, but as the baby grows up and becomes verbal, Black on White encourages the child to name objects, trace shapes and form their own theories as to how the objects are related. For a deceptively simple book, Hoban manages to offer the infant-reader a tremendous amount of depth. While I would say that Black on White's appeal will most likely wan as a child leaves toddler-hood, for those critical first two years, it packs a developmental punch.

February 9, 2012

Daddy Hugs

Daddy Hugs
by Karen Katz; illustrated by the author
0-2 Preschool Simon & Schuster 24pp.
978-1-4169-4120-0 Board $7.99

Karen Katz, winner of the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award 2002 for Counting Kisses, attempts to revisit the same territory with Daddy Hugs but with limited success.  Daddy Hugs features the same beautiful, quilt-like illustrations that made Counting Kisses such a pleasure to read. In fact, the illustrations in Daddy Hugs are likewise a joy, with a round happy baby receiving exuberant hugs from her obviously loving daddy. The weakness is in the prose. The narrative is oddly clunky and forced and the counting concept, which, far from being integral to the narrative, feels tacked on, like an afterthought late in production. Daddy Hugs starts off well, with “One I’m so glad you’re my baby hug” and “Two teeny tiny finger hugs” (the illustration for the finger hugs is especially charming, with baby’s broad, rosy face filling most of the panel as she grasps her daddy’s index fingers). But with “Three pat and burp the baby hugs,” the counting conceit begins to fail, and by the time “Eight dancing on Daddy’s feet cha-cha hugs" comes around, what little rhythm Katz initially established is gone. While the sweetness of “Nine don’t be afraid of the dark hugs” is hard to deny, one is left asking the question, why nine hugs for fear of the dark? Why seven hugs for getting into pajamas? The numbers assigned to each type of hug feel arbitrary, perhaps because hugs, unlike kisses, are not easily countable things. It is hard to imagine giving six consecutive “I gotcha now hide-and-seek hugs,” whereas showering a baby with six quick kisses is something any parent can relate to. Katz would have been better served by abandoning the counting conceit and focusing her attention on the love shared by the baby and her daddy as they engage in each activity. Their shared joy bounds off the page, brought to life by Katz’s colorful, energetic illustrations. This is what pre-verbal children will respond to when the book is read to them, not the counting or the numbers that sit tacked on top. For a concept book that captures the warmth of family affection, stick with Counting Kisses. Daddy Hugs, though lovely to look at, fails to make the same success of the counting conceit.

Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore!

Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore!
By David McPhail; illus. by the author
No Author Website
2-4 Preschool, Primary Scholastic 28pp.
0-590-48883-X Paperback $6.99

Imagine that you’re sitting your favorite chair, quietly reading a book. Imagine that you hear “the sound of feeding” (“Munch, Crunch, Slurp, Burp”), and that when you go to investigate, you slip on a banana peel and land on a pile of charmingly dressed pigs. And these pigs are not alone. There are “pigs aplenty, pigs galore” in every part of your house. The human protagonist of David McPhail’s romp of a picture book finds himself in this very situation, and it only gets sillier from there. McPhail’s rhyming text provides the perfect playful, yet solid structure for the ebullient illustrations. The rhyme scheme is simple enough for pre-schoolers to anticipate and follow along, while younger listeners will enjoy the nursery rhyme / school yard quality of McPhail’s poetry (“Pigs from England, Pigs from France, Pigs in just their underpants. The King of Pigs, The Piggy Queen – The biggest pigs I’ve ever seen”). But the real stars are McPhail’s pigs. From the moment the cover is opened, they tumble across the title page and end papers, dressed like cowboys and baseball players and Elizabethan maids. You know the protagonist, who looks like the consummate reasonable adult, is in for a wild ride, but McPhail, an award-winning author/illustrator, manages to make the pigs, with their innocent smiles and expressive ears, look both vulnerable and endearing. The pigs are not malicious. They are exuberant little ids, perfect toddlers in piglet form, so it is no surprise that the narrator allows them to stay on condition that they clean up the mess and get ready for bed. Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore! does not seek to teach an obvious lesson, and it is because of this that it works. This book is pure fun, which makes it stand out in a sea of concept books that teach various skills and morals. Young readers are welcomed to jump into the action and identify with both the human narrator and his piggy visitors as the action goes from silly (“Pigs in tutus, Pigs in kilts”) to ridiculous, to cozy, with narrator and pigs tucked safely into bed. McPhail’s pigs are allowed to enjoy themselves immensely in these pages, and young readers will too. That is the whole point, and it’s a wonderful point, indeed. 

February 8, 2012

Lots of Dots

Lots of Dots
By Craig Frazier; illus. by the author
1-4 Preschool, Primary Chronicle 32 pp.
978-008118-7715-2 Hardcover $15.99

“Some dots are big, some dots are small, some dots float and some dots fall.” So begins Craig Frazier’s exuberant invitation to explore the various forms dots take. The illustrations are clean and uncluttered, with Frazier’s sorbet colored graphic art popping off the white backgrounds and drawing the reader’s eye to orange dots on a tree, ice cream dots on a cone and yellow button dots, to name just a few of the places the eponymous dots pop up. Every element, from the dots themselves to the broadly smiling man who interacts with the dots on each page, is designed to invite readers to notice dots in places where they might not have otherwise. The rhyming text is likewise straightforward and clean, with a predictable, memorable rhythm that will draw younger readers in and provide older readers with an opportunity to fill-in-the-blanks with the help of the colorful spreads.  In this way, Lots of Dots works on multiple levels. For pre-readers and toddlers, it’s a good tool for introducing colors and shapes and object naming. For the pre-school set, it’s an invitation to participate in the rhythm of the text while noticing the dots in their own environments. Lots of Dots is a fun, well-paced, educational read in the tradition of Tana Hoban’s So Many Circles, So Many Squares. An excellent choice for mixed-age storytimes, Lots of Dots will open kids eyes to one of the many shapes that fill the world. 

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale
By Mo Willems; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary. Hyperion 32 pp.
978-0-7868-1870-9 Hardcover $16.99
Fiction Caldecott Honor

Trixie, an exuberant toddler, and her daddy go on an errand, setting the stage for Mo Willems’ tale of how Trixie comes to say her first words. Willems’ narrative style is spare and rhythmic (“Trixie and her daddy went down the block, through the park, past the school and into the Laundromat”), with each new action punctuated by a page turn, allowing the illustrations to draw the reader in and do the emotional heavy lifting. Trixie and her daddy inhabit a sepia-toned, photographic backdrop that both grounds the story in reality (the photos are of a real Brooklyn neighborhood), while allowing the colorful, illustrated people, particularly wide-eyed Trixie and her dad, to pop out from their environment. Trixie is the perfect toddler-figure, roughly two, walking but not quite talking yet, which is where the trouble starts. When Trixie notices that Knuffle Bunny has been left behind, she does her best to tell her daddy (“Aggle flaggle klabble!”). But though her daddy is earnest and well-meaning, he doesn’t understand (“That’s right”, replied her daddy. “We’re going home.”). At this point, Trixie gives up on words and takes action, a turn toddlers will understand. She bawls and goes “boneless” and by the time she and daddy get home, neither of them is happy. Finally, Trixie’s mommy asks where Knuffle Bunny is and the whole family runs back to the Laundromat where daddy triumphantly finds the missing rabbit and becomes the hero, but the climax is yet to come. Reunited with her friend, Trixie hollers “KNUFFLE BUNNY!” her very first word. While marginally a story about loss and reunion, Knuffle Bunny is primarily about learning to communicate, as well as the frustration of being misunderstood, a common experience for the young. Like Trixie, young readers know what happened to Knuffle Bunny - it's made clear in the pictures and endpapers - and like Trixie, they cannot communicate with her daddy and help. In this way, the illustrations perfectly support the concise narrative, with the cartoon drawings simply and artfully depicting worlds of emotion, from frustration to joy, with humor and grace. Parents will recognize themselves in Trixie’s beleaguered daddy, while toddlers, and even older children, will identify with Trixie, a toddler-heroine who has agency, one who knows and understands more than she can possibly articulate. 

The Review Style

Assignment 1
Part 2: The Reviews. See Above.

For the following 5 picture book reviews, I’m going to attempt to use The Horn Book Magazine style. While my expertise can’t hold a candle to their reviewers’, I like the depth and breadth of The Horn Book’s analysis, so that is what I will try to emulate. 

February 7, 2012

Tools of the Trade: Reviews and Resources

Assignment One
Part One: Tools of the Trade

 The Horn Book Magazine
            A bi-monthly journal specifically dedicated to youth literature, from picture books to YA. While the magazine does feature articles, a good portion of every issue is given to book reviews, which are written by a staff of in-house reviewers. The reviews are well-balanced and extremely comprehensive, touching on the text, illustrations and sociological aspects of a book without relying heavily on summary. Organized chronologically by age level and genre, from picture books to fiction and non-fiction for older readers, the books reviewed for the magazine are evaluated prior to being assigned for review, meaning that if a book is reviewed in The Horn Book Magazine, it already meets a certain basic standard. Analysis trumps summary in Horn Book reviews, the contents of which are thorough, incisive and insightfully written. The overall impression is that The Horn Book Magazine is concerned with the books themselves, not with providing publishers with marketing copy.

The School Library Journal
            Like The Horn Book Magazine, The School Library Journal is dedicated specifically to youth literature, from picture books to YA. The reviews are shorter than those in The Horn Book, with slightly less depth of analysis and coverage. Still, after a brief summary / description, most reviews focus on the analysis of the story, illustration and boards, with special attention given to a book’s social contextualization. The reviews tend to be friendly in tone, written not by in-house professional reviewers, but by librarians all over the country. This gives the reviews a practical, real-world focus, which makes them very accessible to other librarians, parents and teachers, if not as uniformly polished and detailed as the reviews in The Horn Book.

The Kirkus Reviews
            The Kirkus Review is both on online and print publication. Unlike The Horn Book Magazine and The School Library Journal, The Kirkus Review evaluates both adult and children’s materials. Though is does not specialize in youth literature, it’s picture book reviews are thorough and well-informed. Reviews are shorter, like The School Library Journal’s, and they do contain a bit more summary on average than reviews in the two publications above. However, the descriptive aspects are balanced by quality analysis of a title’s prose and illustrations. The Kirkus Review also contextualizes titles by theme – for example, “naptime”, “new baby”, “series” etc. While the analysis is not as expertly in-depth as The Horn Book’s it is a good, trustworthy starting place that doesn’t give children’s books short-shrift. In addition, the website provides read-a-like suggestions and links to related reviews, making it a great selection tool, as well as a review source.

PBS Teachers – Recommended Books and Links
            Recommended Books and Links is a PBS website that publishes a new selection of books and websites for teachers and librarians every month. The website includes reviews of the recommended books and sites, which span across grade levels from pre-school to high school, and subjects from reading to science. The website also includes a searchable archive of over 2,500 recommendation and reviews. The names and qualifications of the two reviewers are posted on the site’s homepage, along with the detailed criteria with which books and websites are chosen for review. The site allows for searching by subject area, and it also provides standards-based resources, making it a comprehensive tool for school librarians, as well as children’s librarians concerned with supporting the local curriculum. While the reviews are extremely short and lack detail, the site is a good place to start when looking for new or overlooked titles.

The Teacher Book Wizard by Scholastic
            The Teacher Book Wizard is a tool that allows you to search for books by a number of criteria, including grade level, reading level and genre. The site also provides booktalks, videos, book trailers and discussion guides for its over 50,000 titles. Like The Kirkus Review’s website, The Teacher Book Wizard offers help with read-a-likes. In this case, it uses an engine that generates like titles based on adjustable reading levels. Unlike the websites and journals listed above, The Teacher Book Wizard does not provide reviews. Rather, it offers a brief summary of a title and information on the book’s genre and theme. The least comprehensive of all of the tools listed, The Teacher Book Wizard makes up in breadth for what it lacks in depth, making it a good place to start one’s search for age-appropriate titles.