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November 2011

Book Reviews

For Hungry Minds and Tummies

By Mary Quattlebaum


Welcome to the World
by Valerie Wyatt photographs by Lennette Newell Kids Can, 2011, $14.95

This lyrical letter addressed to “dear baby” recounts the wonders in store for the newly arrived infant. The structure is simple and age appropriate. Each double-page spread focuses on two senses and two concrete examples: “You will hear the wind in the trees and feel cool raindrops,” for example. Little ones will be charmed by the soothing rhythm and soft sounds as well as the accompanying photos of babies and things such as a fluffy rabbit and an orange flower. The vivid colors, expressive baby faces and uncluttered backgrounds enable developing eyes to discern and focus on the figures in the photos. A perfect new-baby gift.

ages 3 – 7

Gobble, Gobble
by Cathryn Falwell Dawn, 2011, $16.95

Youngsters who know turkey only as the Thanksgiving entree will be intrigued by Cathryn Falwell’s informative, rhyming romp with wild turkeys through the seasons. The book opens with an engaging mystery. In her large backyard, Jenny comes across arrow-shaped footprints and brown feathers and hears a “funny gobbling sound.” What can it be? The page turn reveals a flock of turkeys, and subsequent pages show strutting toms in spring, hens and poults in summer and turkeys amid colorful leaves and bare trees in fall and winter, respectively. Youngsters will also enjoy searching for bits of natural material (bark, leaves, feathers) in Falwell’s enticing mixed-media illustrations. Jenny is a wonderful model of a child fully alive to the natural world and respectful of its denizens, which include not only turkeys but deer, chickadees, cardinals and squirrels. Additional wild-turkey facts and directions for creating a cut-paper fowl can be found in the back.

Come and Eat!
by George Ancona Charlesbridge, 2011, $7.95

Award-winning author/photographer George Ancona opens this “dining adventure” by noting that though people eat to live, the act of eating also offers “an opportunity for us to come together to share food and friendship.” So much more than a treatise on healthy eating, this book celebrates the cuisine and eating habits of many cultures. Readers learn about Nigerian fufu, Tibetan dumplings, Polynesian luaus and American birthday cakes, as well as Western knives and forks and Asian chopsticks. The photographs of people munching ears of yellow corn, Mexican tortillas and campfire marshmallows are so warm and inviting that the reader longs to step into the frame for a bite.

Reading to Peanut
by Leda Schubert illustrated by Amanda Haley Holiday House, 2011, $16.95

Lucy’s dog, Peanut, eats words—literally. The little girl wants to learn to read and write, but every time her parents make a sign that says “Dad,” “Mom,” “Beans” or “Nap,” Peanut chews it up. Peanut and young readers are in for a surprise, though, when Lucy decides to cook up something more delectable than signage. Author Leda Schubert builds suspense well with a modicum of words, and the doggy shenanigans are playful and believable. Amanda Haley’s bright gouache-and-acrylic paintings include many giggle-worthy touches, such as Dad’s Birkenstocks (worn with shorts and black socks), and Peanut’s whimsical dog smile. Animal lovers will gobble this one up!

ages 8 - 12

Eat Your Math Homework
by Ann McCallum illustrated by Leeza Hernandez Charlesbridge, 2011, $7.95

Turn math lessons into tasty treats with “recipes for hungry minds” created by local author Ann McCallum. Two funny bunnies whip up snacks, such as “Variable Pizza Pi,” “Fraction Chips,” “Probability Trail Mix” and “Tesselating Two-Color Brownies.” McCallum serves up a mix of kitchen tips and recipes, math history, problems and a glossary. Leeza Hernandez sprinkles the whole with lively mixed-media illustrations. Look for the wordless subtext involving a persnickety pup and the homework in his dog dish. This book offers much food for thought—and tummies. Budding chefs may even wish to contribute some “Fibonacci Snack Sticks” to the family's Thanksgiving feast.

Fabulous! A Portrait of Andy Warhol
by Bonnie Christensen Holt, 2011, $16.99

Author/illustrator Bonnie Christensen moves beyond the usual biographical subjects (U.S. presidents, sports heroes) to spotlight those less well known to kids, but no less deserving. To her acclaimed biographies of journalist Nellie Bly, songwriter Woody Guthrie and jazz musician Django, she adds this dynamic look at Andy Warhol’s life and art. Christensen spices entries on Warhol’s childhood in Pittsburgh and early influences with kid-friendly details: his first-day-at-school punch from a girl, his love of Dick Tracy comics and his numerous cats (all named Sam). Illustrations depict Warhol creating some of his most famous art: Campbell’s Soup Can paintings, Marilyn Monroe images and movies at the Factory (his large studio). Diffident, bewigged, innovative—Warhol springs to life through Christensens’s words and pictures. (See also Making Headlines: Andy Warhol at the National Gallery of Art in this issue)

The Map of Me
by Tami Lewis Brown Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011, $16.99

Momma loves chicken ceramics and magnets so when she disappears, Margie, 12, is sure that she is merely off hunting another collectible. Her self-important daddy is too busy to notice what is going on, so Margie and her know-it-all sister Peep, 9, set out to find Momma. Margie steers the adventure—literally as well as figuratively since she “borrows” Daddy’s yellow Ford for the trip. The ending, poignant and satisfying, leaves confused family members with a better understanding of one another. In her debut novel, Washington author Tami Lewis Brown crafts a memorable first-person narrator whose voice and observations will long linger with readers.

Mary Quattlebaum is a mother and the author, most recently, of the picture books Pirate vs. Pirate (Disney Hyperion) and The Hungry Ghost of Rue Orleans (Random House). You can contact Mary at, which has information about her 18 award-winning children’s books, school presentations, and writing workshops.