Saturday, September 11, 2021

Children's Book Review: BOOM! Big, Big Thunder & One Small Dog (ages 3-7)

BOOM! Big, Big Thunder & One Small Dog, by Mary Lyn Ray (Disney Hyperion Books, $16.99,  2013, ages 3-7, 40 pp)

Rosie is a small white nondescript dog who has a boy all her own. Generally she is a very brave little dog - not afraid of tigers or orange cats or the garbage collectors/mail carriers - or even baths!

BUT Rosie is afraid of thunder. She won't eat. "There was no comfort in a biscuit." Her boy tries everything to comfort her but she attempts to get away from the thunder by hiding here, there, everywhere. She even closes her eyes.

Does Rosie ever get over her fears and return to the otherwise brave little pupster she usually is? What do you think will help her? Read her story to find out!

Writing Style and Illustrations

Children's books depend not only on the story (in this case, a lovely story) but also on the illustrations. Artist Steven Salerno puts just enough detail in each page to explain the story and serve as a jumping-off point for little conversations by little people. And author Mary Lyn Ray has written so many wonderful little books for youngsters and even oldsters including Goodnight, Good Dog

and A Lucky Author Has A Dog.

She also wrote Go To Sleep, Little Farm, reviewed here.

Caveat: Your public library probably has a few Mary Lyn Ray books!

Friday, September 10, 2021

Children's Book Review: Go To Sleep, Little Farm

Go To Sleep, Little Farm, by Mary Lyn Ray (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 38 pp, $16.99, ages baby - 3 years) Watch and listen to the book here.

Ah, two books (this review and the following one*) by our favorite author, Mary Lyn Ray

 (Goodnight, Good Dog

and A Lucky Author Has A Dog 

and more that we haven't read - yet).

We picked up Go To Sleep, Little Farm when we saw a sleeping sheep on the cover! We wanted to read it to a small circle of small friends at a large sheep event. . . .

Not only the animals but also the trees go to sleep, the pasture grows still, "quiet spreads and evening comes on - speckled with stars like the spots on a fawn."

Even inanimate objects go to sleep, one by one: "slippers asleep on the rug, . . " and "minutes that sleep inside clocks."

The words that rhyme are so unique and creative, the book simply flows. When you read it again you will hopefully notice something else - the little girl in her red 'jammies' is imitating the animals who go to sleep one by one.  And then our little girl dreams of petting the sleepy beaver, riding the sheep, snuggling with the fawn.

In children's literature so much depends on the illustrations: Christopher Silas Neal paints simple scenes on every page, chockfull of details that your young ones can pick out. 

Nevertheless, words are just as important as the illustrations. In Go To Sleep, however, author Mary Lyn Ray is not quite up to her usual marvelous self with her writing style: on the other hand, the book is uniquely creative which will lend itself to being read again and again.

Caveat: We checked this book out from the Howard County, MD, public library.

* BOOM! Big, Big Thunder & One Small Dog 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Book Review: Stars (children's book, dogs, cats, pj's, everything!)

Stars, by Mary Lyn Ray (Simon and Schuster, 2017, $7.99, 36 pages, ages 1-5) Watch and listen to the book here.

Stars only gets better the more you read it! "Stars are everywhere. Not just in the sky."

What can you do with a star? 

Where can you find a star? 

When can you see a star? 

Who is a star? 

What is a star? 

Why does the sky have stars? 

"A star is how you know it is almost night." And, it makes the night not so dark. And you need it dark to see stars in the night sky.

A star is not a rock: it can make you a sheriff, it can become a wand. Some stars are people. Yellow stars become pumpkins while white ones grow into strawberries or fall from the sky during winter or are blown away from dandelions by the wind. And lots of colored stars shoot up into the sky - on the Fourth of July.

Who is Mary Lyn Ray?

Author Mary Lyn Ray, a southerner transplanted to New England, is the much-beloved children's author of Goodnight, Good Dog

(but she didn't have a dog growing up), and A Lucky Author Has A Dog

and Boom!

and others that we want to read, like Mud.


Although Stars is not our first choice in Mary Lyn Ray books, it is climbing up.

Can you keep a star in your pocket? 

YES! You can even make a star to keep in your pocket.

Caveat: We checked this book out of our county public library, along with other wonderful Mary Lyn Ray books.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Book Review: Think Outside the Box (OT) (blue, yellow and orange cut-out lessons)

Think Outside the Box, by Justine Avery (Suteki Creative, 36 pp, 2020, $9.59, ages 8-12)

Author Justine Avery has created another unique little book but this one needs a little bit of 'splaining for this reviewer. 

First of all, illustrator Liuba Syrotiuk has produced numerous original illustrations that can only be described as paper cut-outs so they look 3D with shadows - lots to see, focus on, and discuss. However, they don't always seem to fit the prose - or if they do, it is not immediately obvious which is what you want in a children's book (not necessarily in a literary work of art, though). Other illustrations are simply very illustrative and flow easily within the overall colors of blue, yellow and orange.

And, secondly, the flow of the book mirrors the title, with little added development. Even adults often prefer stories more than straightforward lectures. This book preached rather than let us discover the obvious lessons through words, stories and pictures - which makes the lessons harder to remember and apply in daily life, growing up. The good advice in Think Outside the Box is generally advice you have heard before, but some pages are spot-on and definitely worthwhile in new ways to remember like the following one:

"Thinking outside the box is like. . . Coloring outside the lines - on purpose! It's like trying to run a race the slowest. Or eating an ice cream cone from the bottom up"

Monday, September 6, 2021

Book Review: The Stalking Seagulls (OT)(boy at the beach, Dyslexic Font)

The Stalking Seagulls, by Michelle Vattula (Maclaren-Cochane Publishing, 2021, 32 pp, $15.99), a dyslexic inclusive book* the size of a piece of paper turned sideways

Two brothers go to the seashore: one is always in the background. Keep your eye on him - something new to discover and smile about as you spot him eating something different on every page as the story gets darker.

The big brother is fighting the Battle of the Seagulls, trying to protect his sandwich from the always-hungry mob. He sets up a bucket blockade, hides the sandwich under his sun hat, and . . .  finally - it's lunchtime! 

But the surprise ending is one you will not soon forget. We did not anticipate it!

Dyslexic Inclusive

The most amazing part of Stalking Seagulls is the font* - I kid you not! It is written in a typeface easier for many dyslexic children to read, with nine special features like heavier bottoms, wider spacing, slightly slanted letters, and bigger openings (like for the letter c) and yet, the modifications are not so evident that non-dyslexics notice. What a service to kids!


Monday, August 23, 2021

Book Review: The Hiding Place (veterans, Vermont, dogs, murder mysteries)

 The Hiding Place: A Mercy Carr Mystery, by Paula Munier (Minotaur Books, 2021, 323 pages, $27.99)

Hot on the heels of A Borrowing of Bones (2018) (reviewed here) and Blind Search (2019) comes another Mercy Carr mystery, The Hiding Place (2021).

The Series

Mercy Carr, a former Army MP (military police) who deployed to Afghanistan, has returned to Vermont, sans fiance, a dog handler, who didn't make it back. Mercy is now confronted with mystery after mystery, along with her loyal sidekick, Elvis, her fiance's MWD (military working dog). Other characters include a lovely veterinarian grandmother with her main squeeze, and Mercy's two attorney parents in Boston who couldn't be more different from Mercy and her grandmother. 

Another Good, Fast, yet Long and Convoluted Read

Be sure to set aside enough time to read this book in a short period of time, since there are a lot of characters to keep track of. Or, take notes.

And thank goodness, this book is about the dogs - again, in this third book of the series. One, a Malinois/Belgian Shepherd, Elvis (similar to a German Shepherd), had been an MWD while the other, a rescue Newfie mix, Susie Bear, was trained in Search and Rescue (SAR) for his person, a fish and Wildlife Department game warden in Vermont and Mercy's main squeeze.     

Violence there is - an explosion. And more. A missing girl from long ago, never to be found - or can Mercy find her? Add a missing grandmother.

And Now, for the Story

Mercy's grandfather was murdered many years ago and now his murderer has escaped from prison down south fixing to travel north to take care of her grandmother, and not in a good way. Mix in Grandfather's partner on his death bed giving Mercy a cryptic message.

Plus another veteran who says Elvis the dog is rightfully his and he has come from Texas to claim him.

How on earth can all this tie together or, as in life, perhaps it can't. Read The Hiding Place to find out. And then read A Borrowing of Bones

and Blind Search

and you will be hooked. After that, Fixing Freddie (2010) will be like a walk in the park!

Friday, August 13, 2021

Come to the 75th Annual Howard County, Maryland, Fair! (Saturday)

 Come to the fair Saturday, the last wonderful day, at West Friendship in Howard County, Maryland (route 32 and 70) just outside Baltimore.

Print out these photos and try to find them at the fair. Eat lots of fun food, ride the rides, see the animals, buy some veggies to take home!

Find the veggie stands at the entrance and, when you leave, stop here again for local produce.

Colorful veggies

A dozen ears of Howard County corn for a five-spot

Next on the tour, check out the rides (these pictures were taken early in the morning before the crowds arrived and the rides were open).

A classic rollercoaster

Ride the rides!

And, the food! Eat early so you will have room for more! We had the ubiquitous corndogs and tried a bacon-wrapped hot dog.

A county fair favorite

A new county fair favorite

And, for desert, a piece of cheesecake on a skewer then dipped in chocolate! 

Cheesecake on a stick, dipped in chocolate
Take a break inside some of the buildings and see if you can find the indoor corn stalks, or ride a bucking bull, or look at prize-winning veggies grown by 4H-ers.

Can corn grow indoor?

Ride a bucking bronco

4-H exhibits

Can you find the walking french fry, or the super XXL Pepsi - and what would you do if life gave you lemons?

Super size your Pepsi

Bonus: Can the kids identify this? (below, middle)

And finally, how about a day at the races? Pig races, that is.

Here they are, rounding the bend, and 

And the race begins!

The race to the food bowl