Forever or a Day by Sarah Jacoby

Moving... fast or slow, noticed or unnoticed, cherished or overlooked.
That is the theme of this lovely book.

Many times when I am trying to get through a stack of books, especially picture books that can be read quickly, I note possible educational value, artistic prowess, plot or character development, blah, blah, blah.... education stuff (my thing). But every once in awhile a picture book will force me to stop and take notice. It will slow time.

Forever or a Day is a beautiful look at how time can be both fast (when we are younger or in a hurry) or slow (when we want to get somewhere or when we are older). It's told in a simple manner, light on words, heavy on meaning. My favorite kind of writing.

This is a Taco by Andrew Cangelose with illustrations by Josh Shipley

My Two Cents: This Is a Taco! is a humorous book in the same vein as Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein. Squirrel protagonist Taco blurs the fourth wall by talking directly to the readers from the book's start. But in order to save himself from being eaten, Taco completely breaks the fourth wall - taking over the writing himself. In doing this, he saves his own life and brings home a subtle "we are the masters of our own destiny" theme. One of my greatest writing pet-peeves is when an author tries to "teach" children a lesson, moral or theme in a didactic manner. This Is a Taco! does an excellent job of mixing humor, fact, and messaging without a trace of condescension. While we learn a few facts about squirrels before Taco takes over the writing, the real treat is Taco's 'take charge' attitude. The illustrations by Josh Shipley are both fun and complementary to Taco's humor-filled antics.

Fox & Chick: The Party and other stories by Sergio Ruzzier

My two cents: At the root of Fox & Chick: The Party and Other Stories lies the story of friendship & acceptance. The main characters couldn't be more different. Fox is calm and rational; Chick is a bit of a wild bird. I don't know if it's the soft watercolors or the unlikely friendship, but I found myself comparing Fox & Chick: The Party and Other Stories to the classic Frog and Toad are Friends Series by Arnold Lobel (a rather large complement, but deserved in my humble opinion).   

Howl Like A Wolf by Kathleen Yale - book review

There are many times when I pick up a book with high expectations, either because of buzz surrounding it or because I already love the author. This can be a good thing (One & Only Ivan - author expectation) or sometimes a let-down (Wonder - overkill buzz). I had yet to read or hear a word about Howl Like A Wolf by Kathleen Yale when I picked it up; I had zero expectations and was in a big hurry to get out the door on vacation. Lucky me, I ended up dragging it along on vacation, imagining all the ways that teachers and/or parents can use the excellent nonfiction treat of  information and dramatic play all rolled into one!

Howl Like A Wolf is a book that will be well-worn, loved and studied by animal-loving children who want to join in the action with their animal kingdom pals.

Kids get a chance to not only read and learn about 15 amazing animals, but to imagine what it feels like to BE that animal. Each animal has unique features to consider and the author adds reflective questions that guide children towards better understanding and connection to each animal's feelings. The comparative traits side bars further assist children in connecting the animal kingdom, as well as making connections to their own world. This base of not only knowledge of, but compassion for, animals, adds a foundation that can be further expanded with scientific knowledge on comparison topics like adaptation. Further, this book offers interdisciplinary opportunities in science, physical education and drama (along with literacy skills, of course!).

Murray the Race Horse (Fables from the Stables Series) by Gavin Puckett

My two cents:
Murray the Race Horse: Fables from the Stables begins a great little series about horses, a topic many kids love. The Fables from the Stables series is aimed at children ready to leave picture books behind and wade into easy chapter books. All of the stories in the series are told in quick rhyme (similar to a limerick pattern) which adds to the humor and interest of the tale. Although I investigated the other titles in the series, I only fully read Murray the Race Horse, which contains many subject-specific vocabulary words as well as a nice blend of age specific vocabulary. I suspect this is probably true of the entire series. The story was fun, quick, and engaging. I think it would be a strong choice for reluctant readers in 3rd or 4th grade also. Definitely a good addition to an underrepresented section of children's literature (early reader chapter books). Recommended for grades 1-3 classrooms and elementary library purchase.