Book review: Mr. Putter & Tabby Hit the Slope, by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard

Rylant, Cynthia. Mr. Putter & Tabby Hit the Slope. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. (Mr. Putter and Tabby series, #25) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. Unpaged. $14.99. ISBN 9780152064273. Ages 5-7. P7Q8

On a slow, snowy day, Mr. Putter remembers the long ago fun of sledding down hills. The adventurous neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry, has sleds in her garage. Mr. Putter, Tabby, Mrs. Teaberry and her dog, Zeke, head out for an adventure, riding sleds down hills in this twenty-fifth book in the series.  Much of the charm of the long-running series comes from the simple watercolor and goache paintings that show the varied emotions of the characters—Mr. Putter’s sadness in being left without a sled, Tabby’s worried terror  as Zeke pilots the two of them down the hill, the contentment on both Mr. Putter’s and Tabby’s faces as they have muffins afterward.

Verdict: Highly recommended for preschool, elementary, and public libraries.

January 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: A Rambler Steals Home, by Carter Higgins

Higgins, Carter. A Rambler Steals Home. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-544-60201-4. 213 pages. Ages 7-12. P8Q9.

Derby Christmas Clark, her brother Triple, and her father Garland are wanderers in the truest form. Their yearly expedition leads from the mountains of Wisconsin where they cut Christmas trees and sell them along the highway, to spring carnivals on their way south, to their summer home in Ridge Creek, Virginia. They travel and live in what they call “the Rambler.” Hitched to the Rambler is a concession stand where they sell apple cider and donuts in the fall, hot chocolate in the winter, carnival cotton candy in the spring, and burgers and sweet potato fries next to a minor-league baseball stadium in Ridge Creek in the summer. This story starts in the summer where we meet Derby and watch her discover her Virginia home while grieving the death of her friend the ballfield caretaker. Derby will grow on you along with her biggest desire to set down roots.

Verdict: This is a sweet story that explores what it means to call home not only a place, but people too.

May 2017 review by Penny McDermott.

Book review: Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel, by Charise Mericle Harper, illustrated by Ashley Spires

Harper, Charise Mericle. Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel. Illustrated by Ashley Spires. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-544-63063-5. 120 pages. Ages 6-10. P6Q7

June loves to play with her dog Sam, particularly because the two are able to communicate unbeknownst to others. When her grandmother sends her a big chalkboard on a wheel,  June is thrilled.  She and Sam are entertained with completing the suggested tasks. It’s even more fun when a new girl moves in next door and ends up in the same class. Mae seems really nice, but classmate April is bound and determined that Mae will be friends with her and not June. The girls have to learn to get along, and eventually become fast friends.

Verdict: This is a very positive, fun story for beginning readers. The illustrations add to comprehending the story. Other nice touches are June’s grumpy teenage sister, the fact that Mae is a character of color, and the adventure of the wonder wheel.

May 2017 review by Penny McDermott.

Book review: When Jackie Saved Grand Central: The True Story of Jacqueline Kennedy’s Fight for an American Icon, by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

Wing, Natasha. When Jackie Saved Grand Central: The True Story of Jacqueline Kennedy’s Fight for an American Icon. Illus. by Alexandra Boiger. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-547-44921-0. Ages 7-10. P8Q8

Almost 50 years ago, developers tried to tear down the famous train station in New York City, just as they had destroyed the city’s Penn Station several years before. The author begins with a brief description of how Jacqueline Kennedy preserved the history of the White House in a massive renovation when she was married to President John F. Kennedy in the early 1960s and then describes how, as a New Yorker, she instigated the preservation and renovation of the famous train station, taking the cause all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although she died in 1998 before its completion, the structure stands as a monument to her tenacious abilities.

Verdict: A few pieces of the book are a bit jarring—for example, the footless stick legs that Boiger uses for Kennedy and the frequent use of cerulean (deep blue) in a children’s book. The title and narration also uses “Kennedy” for her last name although she had married Aristotle Onassis by the time she became involved in the project. Nevertheless, the importance of keeping the nation’s architectural riches rings true.

March 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Beastly Brains: Exploring How Animals Think,Talk, and Feel, by Nancy F. Castaldo

Castaldo, Nancy F. Beastly Brains: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk, and Feel. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. $16.99. 160p. ISBN 978-0-544-63335-3. Ages 12-14. P5Q6

The author of The Story of Seeds examines the perceptions of animals through a series of studies of cognition.

Vertict: Although the title of this book promises an exploration of animals, it concentrates on mammals—specifically primates, dogs, and a bit of discussion about elephants and dolphins. She tosses out a few pages about earthworms, bees, and corvids (specifically magpies and crows) while rehashing older material about the brains of the larger mammals. Sidebars are out of sync with the text which goes from technical to simplistic. Colorful photographs makes flipping through the books better than reading it.

March 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Hole Story of the Doughnut, by Pat Miller, illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch

Miller, Pat. The Hole Story of the Doughnut. Illus. Vincent X. Kirsch. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. unp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0-544-31961-5. Gr. 2+. P7 Q8

miller-hole-storyIn the year 1843, 13-year-old Hanson Gregory set sail as a cabin boy on board the Isaac Achorn. He went on to become the captain of the Ivanhoe in just 7 years. In 1846, at the age 16 he invented the doughy concoction that he called a sinker. Using a pepper can he cut a perfect hole in the center and threw it into a pan of hot oil, where he cooked it. Giving the idea to his mother, she was soon cooking dozens of these and selling them in her shop. What is great about this book are the tall tales the sailors would tell about how the doughnut was invented by their skipper. There is a photograph of Captain Gregory included at the end of the book. The illustrations have a comical feel as they portray the story of the invention of the doughnut. End matter includes an extensive bibliography, author’s note, and timeline. 

Verdict: A great biography for younger children.

November 2016 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: Stowaway in a Sleigh, by C. Roger Mader

Mader, C. Roger. Stowaway in a Sleigh. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. $17.99. ISBN 9780544481749. Unpaged. Ages 4-7. P8Q8

mader-stowaway-in-a-sleighThe curious cat Slipper accidentally stows away in Santa’s sack and goes on an unexpected trip to the North Pole. She explores while there, but wants to go home, and heads out on foot. Fortunately, Mr. Furry Boots (aka Santa) figures out what has happened and retrieves Slipper and gets her back to her own home. The storyline is very simple and sweet and there are only few words on each page, which puts the focus on the lush and beautiful (though a bit dark) pastel illustrations. Verdict: The book will appeal to both cat lovers and readers looking for a touching Christmas story. I think this will become a favorite holiday story for many of our patrons with small children.

January 2017 review by Carol Schramm.