Friday, April 26, 2013

ZOE GETS READY by Bethanie Deeney Murguia

Murguia, Bethanie Deeney. Zoe Gets Ready. New York: Arthur A. Levine, 2012. ISBN 978-0-545-34215-5. $16.99.

During the week, young Zoe’s mother chooses Zoe’s outfits based on her schedule—school, soccer, and rainy days. Except for Saturdays. Saturdays, Zoe gets to decide her own wardrobe. The narrative follows Zoe’s imaginative projections, letting her mood decide her outfits and the outfits determine the adventure. A pocket day would allow Zoe to collect all sorts of treasures, like frogs and acorns. A flowing dress would work perfectly for a whirling day. A blend-in day would allow her to camouflage in a tree.

Sprinkled throughout the narrative is Zoe’s unseen but heard mom. She provides guidance and direction to Zoe, prompting her to hurry up and finish getting ready to go out for the day. Finally, Zoe emerges from her room, wearing a piece of clothing from every one of her imagined adventures. On Saturdays, Zoe gets to decide, and she embraces every opportunity for adventure.

In addition to the simple and engaging narrative, Zoe Gets Ready features beautiful and bright watercolor illustrations. The visuals compliment the story perfectly and each page will hold the reader’s interest. Between the inviting illustrations and story of a child’s empowerment, this book will be a popular choice for a young reader.

Kira Hall

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Agee, Jon. The Other Side of Town. New York: Scholastic, 2012. ISBN 978-0-545-16204-3. $17.95.

Jon Agee's whimsical book tells the story of a New York City cab driver who picks up an unusual fare. An odd little man, dressed in a strange green onesie-like suit with a pink tuft on the cap, directs the cab driver to take him to "Schmeeker Street," to which the cabbie responds confusedly, "You mean Bleecker Street?" No, the little man means "Schmeeker" street, which is one of the main roads on The Other Side of Town.

As the cabbie drives the man through the Finkon Tunnel during mush hour, the duo repeats the same game of words. The man says "nog lights," the cabbie says "fog lights?" The man says "Snooklyn Bridge," the cabbie says "Brooklyn Bridge?" And so on and so forth. There is little variation in the way the story is told, and when reading it, the repetitive conceit gets a little old. However, I can imagine that reading it aloud with an enthusiastic child would be a riot.

A caveat, though: that child would need to be familiar with New York City landmarks and lingo. This book, while charming and quirky, might have a limited audience due to how specific it is to New York. For children who live in New York or are particularly familiar with the city, this book would be a very fun way to talk about both real landmarks and nonsense at once.

Jill Coste

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I LIKE OLD CLOTHES by Mary Ann Hoberman

Hoberman, Mary Ann. I Like Old Clothes. Illus. Patrice Barton. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. Text Copyright 1976. ISBN 978-0-375-86951-8. $16.99.

Mary Ann Hoberman originally published I Like Old Clothes more than 30 years ago, but the simple and delightful story is just as relevant today. Told in rhythmic rhyme that just begs to be read aloud, I Like Old Clothes follows a small girl who documents her affinity for hand-me-downs. She loves patched-up, worn old sweaters, shirts with other people's names on them, and "once-for-good clothes, now-for-play clothes."

The little girl rhymes her way through what she loves about old clothes -- the fact that they tell a story. Who wore these before me? the little girl wonders. She daydreams about what games the clothes have won, what parties they've been to. I Like Old Clothes makes a case for appreciating vintage artifacts and letting your imagination tell you the story of where the clothes were and will be.

The illustrations tell just as much of a story as the words. Barton's textural sketches work well with the idea of fabric and clothing, as every illustrated setting has some element of of pattern overlaid on it. Green grass has a hint of a vine pattern, the squares of a floor hint at plaid, the sky is just-this-side of polka-dot or gingham. The little girl's enthusiasm for old clothes comes through in her illustrated expressions and her bouncing movements.

With its drawings rich with texture and its story of how-clothes-are-more-than-clothes, this book would be perfect for a budding fashion designer, fashionista, or any creative child.

Jill Coste

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

THE VELVETEEN RABBIT by Margery Williams

Williams, Margery. The Velveteen Rabbit. Illus. Gennady Spirin. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-7614-5848-7. $17.99.

Margery Williams' classic The Velveteen Rabbit is typeset with lush, ethereal illustrations by Gennady Spirin in this 2011 version. The Velveteen Rabbit, originally published in 1922, tells the story of the plush toy bunny who longs to become Real. New to the nursery, he is shy and sensitive, and he feels inferior to the snobby wind-up toys. The Skin Horse, old and wise and part of the family for two generations, assures the rabbit that it's much easier for beloved stuffed animals to become Real, because they are durable, and becoming Real takes a long time.

The sweet little velveteen rabbit soon becomes the Boy's favorite toy, and over time, the rabbit becomes shabby, worn, well-loved, and, yes, Real. The rabbit's joy is palpable when the Boy exclaims to his mother "He isn't a toy. He's REAL!" But as we learn in life, good things often come to an end. When the Boy is stricken with scarlet fever, the rabbit is discarded with the other germ-laded sheets and toys. Separated from his Boy and crying softly, the rabbit is visited by the Nursery Fairy, who turns him into a real rabbit. But even as a live critter, the rabbit doesn't forget his Boy.

The story's poignant lesson about loss and enduring love is just as powerful as ever in this 2011 edition. Spirin's illustrations evoke the 1922 setting that Williams would have envisioned as she was writing. The little rabbit's face is expressive, and the images of the Boy walking around with Rabbit tucked under his arm or snuggled in bed are wholesome and representative of the affection a child can have for a toy. Additionally, there's an almost air-brushed quality to the illustrations that creates an almost dreamlike atmosphere that perfectly complements this classic, heart-breaking/heart-warming story of magic.

Jill Coste

Monday, April 22, 2013

RIVER SONG by Steve Van Zandt

Van Zandt, Steve. River Song. Illus. Katherine Zecca. Nevada City: Dawn Publications, 2007. ISBN: 978-1-58469-094-8, $9.95.

"Blurp-ah pa-shoosh rumbly pound / A white rapid river makes a wonderful sound..."—so goes the refrain of River Song with the Banana Slugs String Band. See, the book comes along with a CD, and after reading the book through once, and then twice, I thought sticking it in the player was the perfect solution—entertain the little one and get some work done. Not the case. Nope, she wanted me to sing along.

So, "blurp-ah pa-shoosh rumbly pound / A white rapid river makes a wonderful sound" as it travels from high in the mountains on the short days of Winter and down "steep canyon walls that echo with wren's call." Its song continues as it goes through glens, past a Summertime farm, and carries families in their water-tubes along. Finally,  "it rolls and it rolls right past me"...and into the sea. Upon reaching the sea, the water evaporates back up into the sky, and the water cycle begins again.

This is another fine example of the Dawn Publication's books that seek to share nature with children. And, as with the others, it succeeds. Part of what makes River Song so charming, though, is the accompanying CD of the Banana Slug String Band (you might check out additional materials and curricula at This is a great way to introduce the water cycle, draw attention to Earth Day, or just celebrate the wonder of our natural world.

Reviewed by Stephanie Ashley