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Mini reviews: Children's books

I visited our local library yesterday to see if I could find books that would satisfy my final alphabet reading challenge requirements: titles beginning with Q and X and an author with X. I wanted to check out children's books as I do for this at the end of each year. There are so many amazing children's books out there and this gives me an excuse to read a few.

Animal Poems of the Iguazú / Animalario del Iguazú by Francisco X. Alarcón and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez  (2014)

31 pages, rating: 5 out of 5

Summarylet's listen to / the green voice / of the rainforest

The animals of the Iguazú speak for themselves, creating a collection of poems that will resonate with readers of all ages.

In the magical rainforest of the Iguazú National Park, butterflies are the multicolored flowers of the air. Great dusky swifts watch over the park, and the untamed spirits of jaguars roam the jungle. Spanning three countries--Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay--the thundering waterfalls and lush green rainforests of the Iguazú have dazzled visitors for centuries, and are now in danger of being lost.

Following the Amerindian oral tradition, award-winning Chicano poet Francisco X. Alarcón lets the animals of the Iguazú speak for themselves in their own soaring, roaring, fluttering voices, and the resulting poems are as urgent as they are beautiful and humorous. Maya Christina Gonzalez's mixed media illustrations bring the colors and textures of the Iguazú rainforest to vibrant life.

Review: I love this book. The illustrations are wonderful and the poems really capture the importance of preserving the environment. I also think it's great that all poems are in both Spanish and English. The poems and illustrations capture the emotions of place.

Xander's Panda Party by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Matt Phelan 

34 pages, rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary: Xander planned a panda party. Yes, a dandy whoop-de-do!
But Xander was the only panda. Just one panda at the zoo.

The zoo’s paucity of pandas doesn’t impede Xander’s party planning for long. He decides to invite all the bears. But Koala protests. She’s not a bear—she's a marsupial! Does that mean she can’t come? Xander rethinks his decision to invite only bears, and “Calling all bears” evolves into “Calling all creatures.” The Newbery Medal author Linda Sue Park introduces animal taxonomy in a wonderfully engaging way, and the celebrated artist Matt Phelan’s charming ink and watercolor paintings are the icing on the cake. A read-aloud whoop-de-do!

Review: I didn't know that Linda Sue Park (author of Long Walk to Water) wrote young children's books and this one is happy, inclusive, and made me smile. And, she's got an interesting After Word which explains why she chose to write a book with a panda at the center, and it also covers the connections between animal species and classification (at a level kids can understand) so there's a great story and some learning. Did you know Koala bears aren't bears?

Quincy the Chameleon Who Couldn't Blend In by Barbara DiLorenzo  

30 pages, rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary: Quincy the chameleon just can't seem to blend in. Will he ever find a way to embrace his uniqueness?

Quincy wants to love chameleon school, but he's not very good at blending in. No matter how hard he tries to stop it from happening, all of this thoughts keep popping up on his skin! In camouflage class, the leaves he's supposed to blend in with remind him of rocket ships, so his skin changes to look like outer space. And when it's Quincy's turn to read his poem out loud, he realizes he has to pee-which the whole class realizes, too, when rolls of toilet paper appear on his skin!

The only thing Quincy loves about school is painting during art class with his favorite teacher, Mrs. Lin. But can painting help him find a way to blend in?

Review: What a great idea to use a chameleon to show little kids that it's ok not to be like everyone else. I love that Quincy's skin changes to fit what he's thinking about (even when he needs to pee, his skin looks like toilet paper!). The author's After Word talks about how animals use camouflage and that scientists now think a chameleon's color may reflect their emotions.

Challenges for which these count:
  • A to Z (title): Q, X
  • Alphabet (author): X 
  • Literary Escapes: Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil
  • Popsugar: Titles with Q and X

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