Friday, March 29, 2013


Puttock, Simon. Little Lost Cowboy. Illus. Caroline Jayne Church. New York: Egmont, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-60684-259-1, $16.99. 

Poor Cowboy Coyote—he's had a very rough day and night. No matter how hard he tries and where he goes, he can't find his mother. He "EEKS!" and "SPLASHES!" and tumbles about—all with no luck. Fortunately, he eventually meets a kindly toad who gives him the best advice ever: "Sit tight and wait, and howl your VERY LOUDEST, [and] I'm sure you will be found." And so, Cowboy Coyote cries: "AROO! I'm lost and I'm lonesome" and lists off the mishaps of the day. This time, though, Cowboy Coyote doesn't go anywhere and waits for his mom to arrive.

Little Lost Cowboy has beautiful illustrations and they make the cumulative structure of the story truly enjoyable. A favorite scene is Cowboy Coyote pulling his bedraggled hat and self out of a cold stream. Poor Cowboy Coyote!

As cute as Cowboy Coyote is, the message of Little Lost Cowboy is that ever so important: "Stay put when you're lost and yell until someone finds you." This is an excellent teaching tool—and an enjoyable read!

Reviewed by Stephanie Ashley

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

WADDLES by David McPhail

McPhail, David. Waddles. New York: Abrams, 2011. ISBN: 9780810984158, $15.95.

"Waddles waddled like a duck.
              But he was not a duck.
                          Waddles was a raccoon. A very round raccoon. And he was always hungry."

So begins the story of Waddles and a very special year with some very special friends. Open the book, turn to the title page, and I guarantee you will fall in love with Waddles—carrying a half-eaten piece of pizza and all. This is certainly not a book about healthful eating habits (though Waddles should be praised for putting food back in the trashcan when he's done with it) but it is a book about friendship and loyalty.

While Waddles is not a duck, his best friend, Emily, is a duck. Emily and Waddles spend  a lovely Spring together. Emily does her best to encourage a better diet, but Waddles "prefer[s] half-eaten sandwiches or cake." Their days together change when Waddles finds Emily sitting on her nest. She explains that she needs to keep her eggs safe and she won't be able to join Waddles on his adventures. Waddles stays with her, but when he realizes that she won't be able to go get food, Waddles offers to sit on the nest.

As Waddles stands post, the themes of loyalty and bravery enter the story. No matter what happens, Waddles won't abandon Emily's eggs. Fortunately, everything works out okay and the ducklings are born. Before Waddles realizes it, though, Summer has come and gone and Fall has arrived. Waddles doesn't like what happens next, but true friendship sometimes means letting go—and, just maybe, saying hello again!

Reviewed by Stephanie Ashley

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

TIME TO PRAY by Maha Addasi

Addasi, Maha. Time to Pray. Illustrated by Ned Gannon. Honesdale, PA: Boyd's Mills Press, 2010. ISBN-13: 978-1590786116. $17.95.

Time to Pray endearingly takes the reader into the personal world of a young Muslim girl and her bond with her grandmother which grows stronger as the girl's sense of spirituality develops. Visiting her grandmother in an undisclosed Middle Eastern country, the girl slowly steps into the world of prayer, one of the five tenets (or pillars) of Islam, and with each step she grows more thoughtful about the meaning behind praying as well as more excited to discover new ways to remember her grandmother. By keeping this in an unnamed country, Addasi allows the reader a chance to feel the threads that weave this spiritual act without any cultural or social influences; it's just a simple story about love and devotion in its many forms and serves as a wonderful introduction to Islam for all readers.

The illustrations, all done in oil, feel as soft and tangible as the sentiments that brew within the story. The rich colors and vibrant expressions are equally nurturing and evocative. The text itself is translated with the English and Arabic side by side. Addasi also includes a an informational page at the end explaining about Islamic prayer and the different times, an added benefit. Overall it's a brief, tranquil look into a different religion but more importantly, into a girl's maturing love and spirituality.

Reviewed by Alya Hameed

Monday, March 25, 2013

A SWIM THROUGH THE SEA by Kristin Joy Pratt

Special Feature: Review by a Middle School Student

Pratt, Kristin Joy. A Swim Through the Sea. Nevada City: Dawn Publications, 1994. ISBN-13: 978-1883220044. Price: $8.95

Open the book, read the first sentence—"If Seamore the seahorse, who lives beneath the sea, one day went exploring, what do you think he'd see?"—and get ready for a colorful ABC journey through the ocean and sea. From admiring "amiable Angelfish in appealing apparel" to discovering "a dozen delightful Dolphins diving up and down" to ogling "an odd-looking Octopus" and examining a "Xiphosuran, exhibiting an excellent example of an exoskeleton," Seamore will lead you through a beautiful undersea world.

This is a lovely book—Pratt's story-line is creative and a delight to read, her water-color illustrations are worthy of framing, and the easily accessible scientific information she shares in prose form provides an excellent first introduction to diverse undersea life. There is something else that sets A Swim Through the Sea apart from other books; Pratt wrote it and another, A Walk in the Rainforest, before graduating from high school. Pratt has gone on to write several other books (Salamander Rain: A Lake & Pond Journal and Saguaro Moon: A Desert Journal) and if they are anything like A Swim in the Sea, I know I will enjoy each word. Environmental awareness is a beautiful thing and this book made me treasure nature all the more.

Reviewed by Stephanie Ashley