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Listen to the Birds

Introduce children to the works of Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi and other composers with Listen to the Birds: An Introduction to Classical Music. The newly released book with accompanying CD looks into the song and symbolism of birds portrayed in classical compositions. Parents can refer to the book as a lesson plan, learning about the connection between each song on the CD and the bird it alludes to. Press play on the CD to listen to 20 excerpts of recordings, including The Goldfinch, Hens and Roosters, The Dance of the Swans and more. Recommended for kids ages 7 to 9. $17.

Affordable Learning Tablet

VTech, one of the top companies in electronic learning products for children, has launched the InnoTab 3, a new, lower-priced learning-app tablet for children ages 3 to 9. Priced at $70, the tablet allows parents to download age-appropriate games, e-books, videos, music and more from The Learning Lodge, the brand's app store. Popular characters, such as Dora the Explorer and Thomas & Friends, are featured in many of the downloads, making it a fun, educational toy your child won't want to put down. Available for pre-order at

— Jeanette Der Bedrosian

Book Reviews

By Mary Quattlebaum

babies / tots

Away We Go!

This colorful travel companion will delight your tot whether you're journeying this summer by train, plane or automobile. With local author/illustrator Chieu Anh Urban's playful shape-and-seek book, little ones can look for certain shapes-squares, triangles, circles, hearts and diamonds-as they gaze at brightly hued, stylized modes of transportation, including a tractor, bicycle, train, school bus and hot-air balloon. The cutout of a particular shape on each page allows the child to experience the shape both kinesthetically and visually. The seven whimsical blimps on the final double-page spread contain a variety of different shapes, giving kids a chance to bring all their shape-naming skills to bear in a final game of seek and find.

ages 3 - 7

The Eye of the Whale

Author/illustrator Jennifer O'Connell, two-time recipient of the prestigious Christopher Medal, bases her new picture book on a heartwarming true story. Through spare, lyrical prose and stunning illustrations, O'Connell recreates the dramatic rescue in 2005 of a humpback whale entangled in crab-trap lines off the coast of San Francisco. Though frightened and unable to breathe, the 50-foot-long whale remains motionless as a team of scuba divers labors to cut the lines. Finally free, she "whirls round the divers in a fast, wild dance" and then gently nudges each one in what the divers construe as a gesture of thanks. O'Connell includes additional details about this specific incident and whales in general in her author's note, mentioning that the divers themselves describe this nudge as "one of the most fantastic moments of their lives."

ages 8 - 12

P.S. Be Eleven

Delphine, Vonetta and Fern are back in this sequel to One Crazy Summer, which won a Newbery Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award in 2011. It is 1968 and the three sisters have just returned to Brooklyn from Oakland, Calif., where they were visiting their fiercely independent poet mother and a neighborhood center run by the Black Panthers. Now, the girls must re-adjust to their grandmother's strict ways, their father's stylish new girlfriend and their young uncle's fraught return from Vietnam. Readers learn about historical events (the war, the presidential election) through the sharp, wry voice of first-person narrator Delphine, 11, who also relates her worries about an upcoming 6th-grade dance, her annoyance with her show-off friend Lucy and her squeals of joy over that new, hot band the Jackson 5. In this compelling historical novel, Williams-Garcia captures both the late 1960's zeitgeist and the mindset of a girl trying to understand herself and her changing world.