Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Catch Ralfy Rabbit, the Book Burglar!

ralfyWanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar, by Emily MacKenzie, (May 2016, Bloomsbury), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1681192208

Recommended for ages 4-7

Ralfy Rabbit LOVES books: he dreams about them; he makes lists of them; he wants to be surrounded by books ALL THE TIME. He loved books so much that he started sneaking into people’s bedrooms and reading their books while they were sleeping, but even that wasn’t good enough; he upgraded to taking the books home! One little boy named Arthur noticed that his books were starting to go missing, and to add insult to injury, soggy lettuce and half-eaten carrots were left behind. He makes a plan to catch the book burglar, but can Ralfy be rehabilitated?

A fun story with a good subplot about borrowing (and a great shout-out to libraries!), Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar is a great storytime book and a great independent read. Kids can appreciate Ralfy’s single-minded love for books and understand Arthur’s dual frustration at having his books go missing and have no one believe him. Arthur’s confrontation and solution makes for good conflict resolution and problem-solving that works for everyone.

Emily MacKenzie’s artwork is adorable. Ralfy is wide-eyed and innocent, even when he’s up to no good; when he’s caught red-handed, his eyes fill up with tears and readers can’t help but feel bad for the poor book bandit. Arthur is drawn with a kindness that will invite readers to put themselves in his place right away. The pictures are sketched with defined outlines, and the font changes for emphasis: bolds, enlarged fonts, angled text to keep readers’ attention.

I’ve paired this with Helen Docherty’s Snatchabook and Ian Schoenherr’s Read It, Don’t Eat It! for library visit read-alouds; the kids love Ralfy and Arthur, but know that Ralfy’s “not being nice” when he takes books. One Kindergartner even called out, “He should just go to the library!” (Love that kid!) You can have a great discussion about borrowing versus taking things with kids as young as preschool; for younger audiences, use Ralfy’s adventure as a good starting point for talking about sharing and forgiveness.

Originally published in 2015 in the UK, Ralfy’s just arrived on US shores. Give him a welcome space on your shelves! There’s an activity kit available from Bloomsbury UK, and you can see more of Emily MacKenzie’s art and books at her author site.

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Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Blog Tour: Busy Builders, Busy Week! Interview with Jean Reidy!

busy builders_1Busy Builders, Busy Week, by Jean Reidy/Illustrated by Leo Timmers, (June 2016, Bloomsbury), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1619635562

Sunday! Dream day! Study, scribble, scheme day. Map, measure, plan a treasure. Gather up a team day!

The author-illustrator team that brought us All Through My Town – a storytime staple at my library – comes together to bring readers a book about working together! Over the course of a week, animal characters pull together to build a brand new playground in their community. Each day brings new things to do, from planning, to digging, to fixing and planting!

This is such a fun story to read out loud, and has entered regular rotation at home. Kids can practice their days of the week and get lost in the rhyming story, which has the added benefit of showing readers how to group tasks to get things done in the best way. On Sunday, the builders come up with plans for their big job ahead; on Monday, they clear the area. Tuesday is for infrastructure: cement, pipes, boards, fixing fences. On Wednesday, we load everything up and take it on the road. Thursday is for getting the place shaped up: drills, nails, rake and spread. Friday, the plants go in and the final details, like painting and sanding, get the park ready for their big opening on Saturday!

I love Leo Timmers’ bright, bold acrylics here. The bright colors and cartoony animal characters are a perfect accompaniment to Jean Reidy’s bouncy, happy rhyming text. Even the endpapers bring on the fun, with yellow, diamond-shaped construction signs featuring different animals working at different tasks leading readers in and out of the story.

Transportation books have done well at all of my libraries, so this is a no-brainer for my collection. If your readers love books like Good Night, Good Night, Construction Site, by Sherri Duskey Rinker, and Kate and Jim McMullan’s series (I Stink!, I’m Brave!, et al), this is a perfect fit. Busy Builders also lends itself to a days of the week read-aloud, right next to fun books like John Himmelman’s Chickens to the Rescue!,  or Albert Bitterman’s Fortune Cookies.

I was lucky enough to get a few minutes with author Jean Reidy, and we talked about Busy Builders, Busy Week! Read on!

 

MomReadIt (MRI): I love the idea of the characters coming together to create a playground! Did you decide on the idea of building the playground as the best way to talk about the days of the week, or did the story come together separately?

Jean Reidy (JR): A little bit of both, I’d say. When my editors at Bloomsbury asked me to write a days-of-the-week book for their list, I loved the idea. So I brainstormed a variety of approaches that ranged from the mundane to the wildly weird. But that’s the way I like to work, creatively uncensored, putting all the possibilities out there. I’ve always wanted to write a construction trucks book, so when I hit on the notion of a “construction week” the only decision left was, “What can we build in a week that will resonate with a child?” Well, a playground, of course. Even better, a playground designed by illustrator Leo Timmers. And while the premise was fun and uncomplicated, the idea of a community coming together to transform an old, abandoned city lot into something fun and beautiful felt like it added an additional layer of meaning to the essential story. I like that layer. I think it gives readers more to talk about. And Leo did a fabulous job bringing it to life.

MRI: When you were working on the text, did you plot out the different phases of construction to help you group together the tasks the characters undertake each day?

JR: That would have been really smart, eh? But my process was a little looser than that. I tried to keep my free association of the topic going as long as I could before I forced it into any kind of order. I wanted to fully explore all the fun possibilities for structure and language. So, I developed word lists—starting with the days of the week and then all the construction actions, sounds, vehicles and tools I could think of. I played with those lists until I sounded out the bouncy rhythm and rhyme scheme I wanted for my young readers. From there, I made sure that the construction tasks were logically ordered and grouped so that the artwork could then bring sense to the process of building the playground.

MRI: You’ve also written a book called ALL THROUGH MY TOWN that features animals as the main characters. Do you think these two books could take place in the same storytelling universe? Could the kids from All Through My Town come and play at the new playground built in Busy Builders, Busy Week?

JR: Oh my goodness! What a brilliant idea! I love unexpected connections, surprises and meta moments in storytelling. So let’s play that out. ALL THROUGH MY TOWN is loosely modeled after the Chicago suburb in which I grew up—a self-contained town with its own shops, library, gardens, fire department and only thirty miles from Chicago. The Chicago and Northwestern train line—now called the Metra—whistled through multiple times each day, taking commuters to and from the Windy City. BUSY BUILDERS, BUSY WEEK! takes place in an urban area where the characters transform an old empty lot. So yes, let’s have our town characters hop on their train and visit their city friends—all meeting up at that brand new playground. Bloomsbury, how ‘bout it? Readers, toss me a title! Let’s do this!

 

Jean Reidy photoJean Reidy is a two-time winner of the Colorado Book Award. Especially gifted at writing for very young children, Jean is a frequent presenter at national and local literacy, writing, and education conferences and at schools across the country—in person and via Skype. She is a member of the Colorado Council International Reading Association and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and she serves on the board of Reach Out and Read Colorado. Jean writes from her home in Colorado where she lives right across the street from her neighborhood library, which she visits nearly every day. Visit her at www.jeanreidy.com and on Twitter: @JeanReidy.

 

Follow Jean on the BUSY BUILDERS, BUSY WEEK! tour!

Mon, Aug 22 Cracking the Cover
Tues, Aug 23 Literary Hoots
Wed, Aug 24 NC Teacher Stuff
Thurs, Aug 25 Mom Read It
Fri, Aug 26 Unleashing Readers
Sat, Aug 27 Booking Mama
Mon, Aug 29 Bluestocking Thinking
Tues, Aug 30 Jean Little Library
Wed, Aug 31 Geo Librarian
Thurs, Sept 1 Mrs. O Reads Books
Fri, Sept 2 Where Imagination Grows

Click here for a free classroom curriculum guide and storytime kit!

Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to receive a copy of BUSY BUILDERS, BUSY WEEK! (U.S. addresses, please.)

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade

The Imaginary: Peek into the world of imaginary friends

imaginaryThe Imaginary, by A.F. Harrold (March 2015, Bloomsbury USA) $16.99, ISBN: 9780802738110

Recommended for ages 9-13

Ever have an imaginary friend when you were growing up? Do you remember when you grew out of your friend? The Imaginary looks at what happens to imaginary friends when children move on.

Rudger is Amanda’s imaginary friend. He just appeared one day, when she dreamed him up. But when there’s an accident, Rudger finds himself alone – and fading! He has to find Amanda, because his very existence may depend on it – but there’s also a super-creepy man who can see Rudger, and I’m pretty sure it’s not because he’s in the market for a new friend.

The Imaginary is huge fun for middle graders. They’re probably at the age where they remember having an imaginary friend (or… shhh… maybe still have one), so this will spark recognition and sympathy. As Rudger tries to find Amanda, they’ll love seeing other imaginary friends he comes in contact with, and the “big bad” is deliciously creepy, ala Lemony Snicket. It’s a solid story about friendship, loyalty, and growing up, with some chuckle-worthy humor mixed in. Emily Gravett’s illustrations add some beautiful depth to the story and the reader’s imagination.