Click, Clack, Moo – Cows That Type

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by Doreen Cronin; illustrated by Betsy Lewin; published (2000) by Simon & Shuster

Click, clack, moo.  Click, clack, moo.  Clickety, clack, moo.

Farmer Brown has a problem.  He has a farm and on that farm there are some cows and those cows – believe it or not – can type !

Dear Farmer Brown, 

The barn is very cold at night.  We’d like some electric blankets. 


The Cows

“Impossible!”  thinks Farmer Brown. 

Stubbornly, he decides “No way!”.  There shall be NO electric blankets and that is THAT.

The cows are miffed.  And the cows respond.

Click, clack, moo.  Click, clack, moo.  Clickety, clack, moo.

“SorryWe’re closed.  No milk today.” 

Besides, The hens are cold too.  They’d like electric blankets.”

Farmer Brown is at his wits end. He can’t run a farm without milk and will  NOT be had by cows on strike!  No electric blankets is his absolute stance and, in retaliation, the hens withhold their eggs.  It has come to a stalemate where neither party will budge and there is an urgent need for arbitration, when in comes Duck, the neutral party, waddling back and forth from farmer to barn with a typed ultimatum from the one side and more typed notes from the other.  When a deal is struck, it’s a dandy deal for the critters and a duck-load of trouble for Farmer Brown!

This is definitely one smart and outrageous plot, cutely illustrated by Betsy Lewin. Other than the use of grown-up words like ‘strike’ and ‘neutral party’ and ‘ultimatum’, the book is an easy read and it’s imaginative and silly and well-paced, with THE most unusual premise.  I thinks some writers have the neatest ideas!

More from Doreen Cronin?   Her website here

Don’t forget the funny, funny Betsy Lewin.

Mr. King’s Things

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MR. KING’S THINGS – view on Amazon

by Geneviève Coté; published (2012) by Kids Can Press

Let’s talk recycling. Another lesson for Mr. King (of Mr. King’s Castle) who likes NEW things.  LOTS of new things.  As soon as anything gets old, he tosses the old thing into the pond.  In goes a teapot, a tuba, a chair.  Splash goes the wheelbarrow, and this and that.  When Mr. King isn’t buying NEW things (or tossing away the old) the pond is a peaceful place for fishing.  But …. Mr. King is almost rocked out of his boat by a  sudden tug…

….Up comes the scariest-looking thing Mr. King has EVER seen!

Though he doesn’t  know it yet, it’s a colossal  jumble of all the things he’s ever thrown away.  A colossal CLUMP!   What a catch!  And a catch for his furry friends, as well.

“Look!” says Skit. “We found a table, a teapot, six chairs, a tuba…”

“…and we saved some nice things for you!” says Skat.

Mr. King is embarrassed.  He eyes his old things in a whole NEW light.  He has ideas to make NEW things out of the old.  And everyone is happy, and so am I.

This is a fresh and cheerful book with a worthwhile message, and a good one to recommend.

Leonardo the Terrible Monster

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by Mo Willems; published (2005) by Hyperion Books for Children

What a surprise!  A monster who’s TERRIBLE at being a monster. This monster can’t scare anyone!

He doesn’t have 1,642 teeth like Tony. He isn’t big like Eleanor. And not the least bit wierd like Hector. What’s a creature to do?

Easy.  Find a scaredy-cat kid and scare the tuna salad out of him! (Mo’s words, not mine.) It takes a bit of research, but the unlucky target is puny, moony and always sour-faced Sam. Is poor unsuspecting Sam the perfect candidate?  Not quite (as Leonardo is about to find out), and the ending is a darling denouement to a monstrous dilemma.

As usual, the illustrations are GREAT. Sam the unsuspecting is a laughable googly-eyed kid; Leonardo’s facial expressions are spot on. And Mo’s personality shines again.

If you love Mo, you’ll like his website:  here.

And Mo’s cute ‘n colorful blog, right here.




Mr. King’s Castle

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MR. KING’S CASTLE – view on Amazon

by Geneviève Coté; published (2013) by Kids Can Press

An environmentally conscious theme about Mr. King who likes BIG things.

Mr. King lives on top of a BIG hill; he wants to build a BIG castle. The bigger the better. Chop! Chop!  Chop!  Mr. King has chopped down the BIG hill on which he lives, block by block. But at his BIG castle window….

“Hmm… there isn’t much of a view,” says Mr. King.

There isn’t much of a hill, either.  It’s gone and his friends aren’t happy!

“What happened to my favourite napping spot?” says Harriet.

“Where are the flowers?” wonders Old Jim Elk.

“What happened to the grass I eat?” asks P.J. 

“…where’s our secret stash of nuts?” cry Skit and Skat.

Everyone is staring at Mr. King looking on from his BIG, BIG window.  Suddenly, he isn’t feeling big at all.  And he’ll have to make a BIG decision, one that saves the day.

Good job, Mr. King!  Good job by author Geneviève Coté, too, bringing home this all important message. No preachiness, just plain sweetness and fun with the utmost simplicity.  Mr. King, all smug smiles and innocence, is adorable.

Amongst her many other wins, Geneviève has won the Governor General’s Award for illustration (Canada’s highest honor).

Click here for Geneviève’s website.

Read an excerpt of Mr. King’s Castle at Kids Can Press (one of my favourite publishers) or here, at Amazon.



Beauty and the Beaks: a turkey’s cautionary tale

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BEAUTY AND THE BEAKS –  View on Amazon

by Mary Jane and Herm Auch; published (2008) by Holiday House

Chock-full of chuckles and wonderful play on words, Beauty and the Beaks is an egg-citing, original adventure. Author Mary Jane wrote the story and did an egg-cellent job sculpting the characters out of clay. Her husband Herm took the pictures and put the book together on the computer.  The end result is a dandy story about a turkey just in for a special feast.

“…. a very eggsclusive event,” he says. “There’s only one bird invited.  ME!”

That’s enough to pique Beauty’s curiosity (Beauty is the owner of the Chic Hen beauty shop) who will sleuth around to find out why.

 “Lance!  You ARE the feast!” cries Beauty.

He is the centerpiece, in fact, and he’s going to be stuffed with chestnuts!  Poor Lance!  Wattle he do?

“My life is about to eggspire!” blubbers Lance.

“Don’t chicken out now,” says Beauty.  “We’ll hide you.”

The farmyard chickens get busy hiding Lance as only Beauty knows how. I have to say the outrageous illustrations are a great part of the book’s appeal. If you’re looking for a fun and funny book, this book is fun and very funny.  I wholeheartedly egg you on to read it; you can egg-spect to have a good time with this one.

A House for Hermit Crab

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by Eric Carle; published (1987) by Scholastic Inc.

A HOUSE FOR HERMIT CRAB is a charming story about the habits of a hermit crab, with a subtheme : the breaking away from the old and venturing out into the new.

When Hermit Crab outgrows his old shell, he has to find a bigger place in which to dwell. His new home is old and very plain. But, bit by bit, anemone and starfish and crusty coral come along to adorn it; snail keep it clean, sea urchin (prickly and fierce) love to protect it and lanternfish light it up.  Hermit is a happy crab.  Until his cozy quarters become too cramped and again, coming full circle, he has to let go of the shell (along with the comfort of the sweet and familiar).

“I couldn’t stay in that little shell forever,” said Hermit Crab as he waved goodbye.

The ocean floor looked wider than he had remembered, but Hermit Crab wasn’t afraid…..”Sponges!” he thought. “Barnacles!  Clown fish!  Sand dollars!  Electric Eels!  Oh, there are so many possibilities!….” 

And that is the important message here:  so many possibilities, about accepting the cycle of change with an open mind.  I learned a lot about hermit crabs too (stuff I didn’t know –  I’d actually never heard of a hermit crab until reading the book) and the illustrations are attractive and easy to follow.

Walter the Baker

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WALTER THE BAKER – View on Amazon

by Eric Carle; reprint edition published (1998)  by Aladdin Books.

A book about one of my favourite topics – breads!

Walter the baker’s delectable rolls are a hit, a favourite of the Duke and Duchess who rule over the Duchy.

“Mmm…!” raves the Duchess.  “Ahhh…!” cries the Duke.

Until the fateful morning when Walter’s can of milk tips over.  Sweet rolls without milk? Impossible!  Walter substitutes water, but  “Ech!” cries the Duchess.

“What is this?” roars the Duke.  “Where is Walter the Baker?  Bring him here at once!”

Yes, the  Duke takes the roll thing a tad too seriously and the error is unforgivable. Walter will have to redeem himself or be banished from the Duchy forever!  The Duke orders Walter to bake a roll  “…through which the rising sun can shine three times…” AND decides the spoiled, irate Duke, made from a single piece of dough – go figure!

Will Walter the Baker meet the challenge?  Is it good-bye Duchy forever?

A ridiculous fuss over a poorly made roll, but I loved this original tale about the fictitious origins of the pretzel.  Carle’s unique style of illustrating is smart and cozy and colorful, and so quaint it adds to the fun.

If you like Eric Carle, you can check out his official website here.

AND… he has a Facebook page!  This way…

AND… a blogspot!

Loula is Leaving for Africa

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by Anne Villeneuve; published (2013) by Kids Can Press

Once in a while a gem comes along, like LOULA IS LEAVING FOR AFRICA, by Anne Villeneuve. Tender and sensitive, touching and tasteful, sparse and balanced, it is, in my opinion, a perfect book.

Loula is leaving for Africa, getting as far away as possible from her three mean, horrible, stinky brothers.

“Just don’t catch a cold,” says her opera singer mom.

“…don’t come home too late,” says her absent-minded dad.

But Africa, as it turns out, isn’t so very far away – it’s in the front lawn, up in a tree.  The most wonderful family chauffeur possible, Gilbert, plays up to Loula’s imagination perfectly.

“But Mademoiselle Loula, first you have to take a ship,”  he says (meaning the family car), “or else you will never get to Africa.” 

“Okay then, I’ll take a ship,” says Loula.

“Good.  Do you have your ticket?”  says he.

“No… but I have my best drawing.  Will that do?”  says Loula.

“It will do just fine,” declares Gilbert.

And it is a long trip.  They’ll have to cross a jungle (park), ignoring the enormous snake in the tree, of course.  They’ll have to make do with simple ostrich egg soufflé and grasshopper sandwich (ice cream) and cross a desert (a sandbox) and take a plane (a seesaw) and ferry across the park pond where they will sip Loula’s make-believe tea from a mini tea set tucked away in her suitcase.  The African sunset is glorious, orange and grand…

“They have the nicest sunsets in Africa,”  murmurs Gilbert.

Gently he coaxes little Loula back home.  Gently, one exquisite line and amusing, tender image after another, I was coaxed into this story too, with a feeling of wonder at this beautiful book.  I cannot imagine anyone being indifferent to it.

The Day the Crayons Quit

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THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT – View on Amazon by Drew Daywalt; illustrated by Oliver Jeffers; published (2013) by Philomel

Oh, my God!  The crayons have QUIT!  And there are notes upon notes about how bummed-out they truly are!      

“It’s me, Red Crayon,” writes the RED Crayon. “All year long I wear myself out coloring FIRE ENGINES, APPLES, STRAWBERRIES and everything else that’s RED.  I even work on Holidays!” 

“… I’m your favourite crayon for grapes, dragons, and wizards’ hats”  complains the PURPLE Crayon, “but it makes me crazy that so much of my gorgeous color goes outside the lines…”

BEIGE is always second place to Mr. BROWN. GREY would love a shot at coloring more than hippos and humpbacked whales. WHITE is feeling empty, BLACK is but a boring outline, YELLOW and ORANGE have argued about who is the true color of the sun and, sigh, sigh, sigh, BLUE is worn from overuse and PINK and PEACH have their own dilemmas.

Little Duncan just wants to color.  How to appease those unhappy crayons?  He will have to find a solution, and he does indeed (albeit a predictable solution), that makes everyone feel cheered up, including the reader.

The notes are delightfully in keeping with each of the  colors’ personalities. Jeffers has done a fabulous job of childish crayon-drawn illustrations that had me smiling to the end.  If you’re looking for something different, THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT is as different as it gets.  In fact, it’s absolutely unique.  But you know, I have a nagging suspicion about my own box of colors and if you’ll excuse me please, there is a little something I have to do….

Big Plans is a big hit with me!

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BIG PLANS – View on Amazon

by Bob Shea; illustrated by Lane Smith;  published (2008) by Hyperion Books for Children

I’m always drawn to bold, unusual books with unusual plots and offbeat illustrations. And BIG PLANS fits the bill to a T.

A BIG book with BIG pictures and EVEN BIGGER action, BIG PLANS is a marvel and a hit with me. Crackling with humour, booming with personality – if you’re buying, it’s one big bang for your buck.

Believe it or not, BIG PLANS is about a little boy without a name. He isn’t feeling very big, sitting time-out, in the classroom, in the corner, facing the wall.  He’s been a bad boy, judging by the writing on the board….

…. What I say does not go.  I am not the boss of the class….It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice…

And now he’s mad and really scheming. Soon, the entire world will know of his big plans.  So big he’ll   “…need Dad’s shiniest tie and fanciest shoes…

So big he will fly a copter, score with the local team, declare himself mayor, and oust the president!  Then he’ll build a rocket and fly to the moon!   “…in the night sky for all to see, it will say….I GOT BIG PLANS!  BIG PLANS, I SAY!”

His imagination takes us far, to high places and low places, as he threatens the sorry, sorry world with his BIG and BIGGER plans.  It is a story that is funny and quirky and brilliant; a book that doesn’t miss a beat.  In my opinion, a perfect book.  Does the world not yet know of BIG PLANS?  It is really THAT good.

Author Shea has a website.

Illustrator Lane Smith has done the book absolute justice in a really big way.  The art is all big and wonderful.  He has a website, check it out.