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Book Reviews

Summer Fun


Cock-a-doodle-doo, Creak, Pop-pop, Moo

Tots can spend the day with a farm family in this book that opens with the dawn crow of a rooster and closes with the hoot of a night owl. Verse rich with rhyme and onomatopoeia bring alive the splash of the kitchen pump, the grunt of the pigs and the scrape of Mama’s hoe in the garden. Little ones will be especially interested in the chores and leisure activities of the six siblings, who chop wood, feed chickens and play jacks. Author Jim Aylesworth and illustrator Brad Sneed also focus attention on the small herd of dairy cows, whose morning moos, afternoon cud chewing and evening return for milking grounds this tale in the rhythms of farm life.

ages 3 – 7

Surfer Chick

With her board shorts and plucky attitude, Chick is all set to catch the big wave but then: wipe-out! The example of her surfer-dude dad, though, helps Chick to work up her courage for a second and more successful try. Author Kristy Dempsey handles the life lessons of persistence and resilience with a playful touch in this rhyming story, which is sprinkled with surfer words—“righteous,” “turf,” “shred,” “ripping”—that kids will adore. Henry Cole’s bright acrylic paintings of this expressive fowl family add to the fun, with details that pop, including Dad’s Hawaiian shirt and shag-carpeted surf shop called The Roost.

Molly’s Organic Farm

Inspired by a true story, Carol Malnor and Trina Hunner create two lively tales in one book about the endearing feline denizen of an organic garden. In the longer story, youngsters learn, through Molly the cat’s adventures, about the compost heap, buzzing bees and pumpkins (orange like her) that are part of this green community. The authors follow the gardening cycle from spring through winter, and Hunner captures the seasons in colors luscious enough to eat. Small inserts on each double-page spread present a second, very short rhyming story that will appeal to young children. Families will enjoy “growing” their knowledge with the four pages of back matter that focus on aspects of organic gardening—companion planting, animal helpers, buying locally—and feature photos of the real Molly.

ages 8 – 11

About Habitats: Oceans

Spouses Cathryn and John Sill team up to create an informative, spare text and lovely, detailed watercolor book that conveys the majesty of the ocean and the amazing variety of life forms within. Part of the “About Habitats” nonfiction series, the book looks at mammals (sea lion), birds (albatross), reptiles (green sea turtle) and fish (sharks). It also highlights the vastness of the ocean by revealing what creatures can be found where. For example, the clownfish and sea anemone dwell in warm tropical waters and the beluga whale in the cold Arctic Ocean, the flying fish lives near the top of the sunlit water and the sperm whale and giant squid dwell much deeper, below. Especially intriguing is an illustration that shows how sea creatures protect themselves, from swimming in schools (fusilier) to attacking with pincers (blue crab) to using poison (lionfish). An afterword includes yet more information on each creature depicted.

Summer of the Gypsy Moths

Sara Pennypacker, the bestselling author of the delightful Clementine chapter-book series, turns her hand with great success to this middle-grade novel about two homeless girls who find sanctuary with an old woman on Cape Cod. For narrator Stella, her time with her no-nonsense, organized great-aunt is very different from life with her wayward mother. If only Aunt Louise hadn’t also taken in a prickly girl named Angel. Pennypacker beautifully conveys a sense of the girls’ developing friendship as they adjust to their new home and then struggle together to maintain it after a great loss. Humor and heartfelt emotion combine in one unforgettable novel.

ages 12 & up

Just Flirt

Amidst summer’s onslaught of dystopian thrillers and paranormal romances, it’s refreshing as a dip in a cool, blue pool to read this sassy novel.  Chapters alternate between lively Dee and poised Sabrina, who also happens to be the new girlfriend of Dee’s ex, Blaine. And commenting on the whole, and on the teen scene in general, are the blog posts of the mysterious Superflirt, who proffers advice on keeping love light. The novel opens with Superflirt’s nine rules of flirting and ends with a different nine. In between are plot complications involving a cute kart racer named Jake who scorns Dee’s flirtatiousness and Sabrina’s many frenemies. Local author Laura Bowers nails teen lingo and dynamics as she brings her novel to surprising, satisfying close.

Mary Quattlebaum is 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.

Editor’s Note: Congratulations to Mary Quattlebaum, whose book review column received a Gold Award at the recent Parenting Media Association awards competition!