Tuesday, May 27, 2014


You can turn your kids loose with this book, boys or girls.
SCREAMING AT THE UMP by Audrey Vernick, Clarion Books, 2014

Casey is twelve, wants to be a sports journalist, and lives with his dad and grandfather who run an umpire school, Behind the Plate. Casey probably knows as much--maybe more--about baseball as anyone who hangs out at the ballpark all spring, summer, and fall.  

What about that other season? Casey hears a rumor that his dad might move the school to Florida so they can train umpires all year long. It’s hard to play baseball in the winter in New Jersey. Move? His journalist’s antennae zing to life. His personal life could take a bad bounce just when he think he knows the score.

That’s not the most sensational story Casey pursues, however. He discovers the importance of considering all the angles before he makes a call. 

Characters are honest and stick up for each other when they should. Conflicts are handled with good sense and kid humor. Villains and bullies do not crowd the plate here. Thank goodness, There are lots of those books out there. It’s nice to have an honest to goodness baseball book with real home runs.

This Casey doesn’t strike out.

The author lives in New Jersey, but you can visit her at her website.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Rock-a-Bye, Baby

…in the tree top. That gently  swaying tree you planted when your first child was born can be more than an imaginative cradle for each baby as your family grows.  It could be the first child’s friend, too. (Speaking imaginatively, that is.)

MAPLE by Lori Nichols, Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014

My parents planted trees for special occasions. So do I. The flowering cherry tree in my front yard was planted on one of my birthdays. I won’t tell you when it was planted or how old it is today, but it blooms in time for my birthday every year.

Maple, the sweet-faced little girl in Lori Nichol’s debut picture book, grows along with her special tree. She sings to her tree, dances in rhythm with its graceful branches, and sometimes even pretends SHE is a tree. She believes the tree loves her back. (I think it does, too.) She can be as loud as she wants, and the tree doesn’t mind at all. To a little girl, that’s unconditional love.

Through the seasons of falling leaves, winter cold, and melting snowmen , Maple worries about her tree friend. Then one spring day she spots a seedling sprouting beneath her tree. Maple also becomes a big sister.
It’s hard to make a crying baby happy. As Maple observes, it seems all of them cry sometimes, even the happiest ones.  Maple, who is a really good big sister, works out the answer. Her tree helps. Can you guess the new baby’s name? 

The book jacket announces that Maple is an “enchanting” debut. It’s true. For more about this emerging writer/illustrator visit her on the web.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Hello. My Name is Bernice. I’m a Squash.

Actually, this book is not about a talking squash. But it comes close.

SOPHIE’S SQUASH by Pat Zietlow Miller and Anne Wilsdorf (illustrator), Schwartz & Wade Books, 2013

I can relate to characters who are only children. I was one once. Only children or not, if we spend each day without any short people looking us in the eye while we make up songs and plays, we make up our friends, too. I had an invisible friend. Her name was Lucy.

My parents were understanding.  They accepted Lucy as if she were theirs, too. Mom would set a place at the table for Lucy. Dad would prompt her, gently, “Lucy, put your hand in your lap. Elbows off the table.”  Or, “See what a nice job Joan is doing cutting her cooked carrots? Try to be more like her.” Dad knew how to work with what he had.

Bernice has big round eyes and she is yellow, but not sick. That’s just the way she is. She’s a squash, after all. Oh, but how she is loved by Sophie! Sophie’s parents are not quite as understanding as mine were. But then, Lucy wasn’t going to get mushy and smell bad. Sophie’s mother tries to nip this problem in the bud, squash blossom, if you will. She suggests baking Bernice with marshmallows. Ooh! You can probably guess Sophie’s reaction to that!

Time goes by. Bernice softens. Sophie’s parents call Sophie names like “Sugar Beet and Sweet Pea.” This does not soften Sophie’s will.

The story is based on the author’s young daughter, Sonia, who once loved a squash, too. I don’t know how Sonia’s mother handled this, but Sophie’s mother manages just fine and all ends well. Visit the real life mom/author here.
Sophie is a good squash mom. Illustrator Wilsdorf captures the many tender expressions of a doting mother and the defensive posture of a mother who is convinced her child is the best and brightest of them all.

Plant a spring garden with your young listeners. Plant fruits, vegetables, or ideas. Be careful, though.  What will you do if they befriend the breakfast cantaloupe? 


Hillview School Library