Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots, by Michael Rex (2020)

Picture Book | 4-8

Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots, by Michael Rex (2020)

I don’t know how I feel about the need for a picture book that helps little ones learn to distinguish fake news. Sigh. Okay, I exaggerate. This timely informational picture book is intended to help youngsters differentiate between what is factual (this robot is red) and what is opinion (green is the best colour for a robot), and how to talk respectfully to people with different opinions. I am grateful that intelligent writers, illustrators, and publishers, are recognizing the desperate need for as much help as possible to turn our world around. I am grateful I am grateful. And that libraries (like the Grand Forks & District Public Library) are choosing these titles for their collections. So – this is actually pretty good. The premise is simple – help readers understand the difference between fact and opinion, get them to distinguish the two in a story, and then learn how to respect others’ opinions.

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Bad Dog, by Mike Boldt (2019)

Picture Book | 3-6

Bad Dog, by Mike Boldt (2019)

Rocky is a bad dog. He won’t come when called, he won’t sit or fetch. He scratches the furniture, is terrified of other dogs, won’t go for a walk, and generally disappoints his eager owner. She was SO excited to get a dog for her birthday! Children will instantly recognize the problem – Rocky is a cat, and will chortle at the young narrator’s struggles to train her “dog,” until finally she figures out a way to resolve the issue. The colourful and simple illustrations highlight the duality between reality and the unnamed protagonist’s desire, and add to the hilarity of the simple text. This is an excellent choice as a read-aloud for storytime or for lapsharing. Canadian Boldt is both author and illustrator, using digitally created images that emotionally develop the characters of both girl and cat to hilarious success. This simple premise is a top notch success – a joy for youngsters who will quickly get the joke. My thanks to the Grand Forks & District Public Library for including this title in its children’s picture book collection.
More discussion and reviews of this book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42176504






Pluto Gets the Call, by Adam Rex, illustrated by Laurie Keller (2019)

Informational Picture Book | 5-8

Pluto Gets the Call, by Adam Rex, illustrated by Laurie Keller (2019)

You have to enjoy the pickle that astronomers have put themselves in, demoting poor Pluto from its planetary status. But imagine how Pluto feels! Rex has devised an interesting scenario in which Pluto gets a phone call advising him of the change in his status. Join him on his journey through the solar system (and from disbelief to acceptance) as he visits all the other planets, a couple of moons and even an asteroid, on his way to talk to the Chief Cheese itself, the Sun. Along the way, youngsters learn all about the solar system, including the make-up of Saturn’s rings, the reason for Jupiter’s red spot, and the sticky issue of Ceres the round asteroid that isn’t a planet either.

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Small Spaces, by Katherine Arden (2018)

Mystery | 8-13

Small Spaces, by Katherine Arden (2018) - Small Spaces series, #1

Ghost stories were my staple as a girl – I read all those anthologies from Alfred Hitchcock, plus Lois Duncan, John Bellairs, Richard Peck, and pretty much anything I could get my hands on. (Until I was 14, when the unforgettable Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot scared me straight.) Modern kids are enjoying stories by Holly Black, Mary Downing Hahn and Neil Gaiman, and I’m delighted to offer Katherine Arden as a terrific new voice in kids’ scary fiction. This is her first novel for children, and it hits all the targets – authentic voice, prickly but sympathetic protagonist witha strong moral compass and two reliable and smart pals, generally unhelpful adults, and a spooky plotline involving a bunch of really creepy scarecrows.

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Harvey Comes Home, by Colleen Nelson (2019)

Contemporary Fiction | 9-13

Harvey Comes Home, by Colleen Nelson with illustrations by Tara Anderson (2019)

Here’s a terrific children’s book that is a tale within a tale, offering multiple perspectives when a beloved little West Highland Terrier escapes his yard and brings an unlikely duo together. Harvey escapes when his dogsitter leaves the gate unlatched. After a couple of adventurous days on his own, the bedraggled Westie is discovered by 11-year-old Austin, who is “volunteering” (the result of an ill-advised caper involving fireworks at school) with his Grandpa at a retirement home. Austin falls hard for Harvey, and is trying to find a way to keep the little scamp, despite his mother’s insistence otherwise. Meanwhile, Harvey’s real owner Maggie is devastated when she finds out her dog is missing, and does everything she can to find him.

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50 Things to See in the Sky, by Sarah Barker, ill. by Maria Nilsson (2019)

Nonfiction | 8 to Adult

50 Things to See in the Sky, by Sarah Barker with illustrations by Maria Nilsson (2019)

Here’s an excellent gift for a new astronomer of any age. I’ve already ordered a print copy for myself. Simple illustrations make it accessible for the youngest readers, and it’s both useful and informative for all new stargazers. Barker opens by recommending you find dark skies at a high altitude if you can, choose a clear night, give time for your eyes to adjust to the dark (so bundle up!), and don’t worry if you don’t have a telescope. In fact, Barker even cautions the reader against buying a bunch of gear to get started – just go outside and look, ideally from an isolated camping spot. She supports this in how the book is organized – sights that are easily found with the naked eye, things that will be easier with a telescope, and “a few things that are trickier still” but can still amaze you thanks to the Internet.

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One Wild Christmas, by Nicholas Oldland (2019)

Picture Book | 3-7

This is the first of two reviews this week to help with your holiday shopping. Canadian Nicholas Oldland has released a delightful addition to his Life In The Wild picture book series (see my review Walk on the Wild Side). Our three pals – a moose, a beaver, and a bear – are ready to celebrate Christmas with decorations, stockings and yummy food when they discover they have forgotten a tree. Out they go in search of the perfect tree, but when they find it, Bear loves it too much to let his friends cut it down. Sharp young readers will figure out the solution before it’s revealed, a lesson in compromise wrapped in environmental ethics.

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