‘Cuckoo!’ offers an unexpected look at understanding

April 22, 2014 No comments

CuckooCUCKOO!” by Fiona Roberton, Putnam, Feb. 27, 2014, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 3-5)

What happens if you’re different than the family you hatch into? That’s the problem a little bird faces when he learns he doesn’t speak the same language as the rest of the birds in his nest. “Cuckoo!” follows this bird’s journey to find someone who can understand him.

“Cuckoo!” is a sweet, simple book. It’s fun to see this little bird try and learn other animals’ languages, and the book’s unexpected ending proves if you look hard enough, you can find someone who understands you perfectly.

If you’ve read Fiona Robertson’s “The Perfect Pet” or “The Perfect Present” then “Cuckoo!” will have a familiar feel. Even some beloved characters make an appearance.

Cuckoo hatches. And all is well. But when his brothers and sisters sing out Too-too-weet! Too-too-weet! Cuckoo instead chirps Cuckoo! and no one can understand him.

When he leaves his nest, Cuckoo still can’t find anyone who speaks his language. He tries to communicate with the other animals—coomooing and buckooing and cabooing along the way—but he doesn’t sound like anyone else out there! Just when he thinks all is lost, Cuckoo finds an unlikely friend who understands him perfectly.*

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*Synopsis provided by Putnam

Editor’s note: The above post differs from Cracking the Cover’s regular review format. Learn more.

© 2014, Cracking the Cover. All rights reserved.

‘Endangered’ will stick with you for all the right reasons

April 21, 2014 No comments

EndangeredENDANGERED,” by Eliot Schrefer, Scholastic, Jan. 7, 2014, Paperback, $9.99 (ages 12 and up)

The more books I read, the harder it becomes to really impress me. I think that’s because there are a lot of good books available, and those good books have set a higher standard. “Endangered,” by Eliot Schrefer, surpasses the good label and jumps right to fantastic.

Initially introduced in Oct. 2012, “Endangered” immediately captured the attention of readers of all levels. The book became a National Book Award finalist. I read it for the first time this winter in paperback form. Schrefer’s story takes place in the Congo and follows Sophie, a girl who tries to save a group of endangered bonobos during a violent coup.

There are a number of things that make “Endangered” stand out:

  • The writing — Schrefer immediately sets the scene, drawing readers in with elegant pacing and a feel of familiarity, even though the story takes place in a world foreign to most of us.
  • The setting — The Congo (the country formerly known as Zaire) is exotic and dangerous. The political unrest in that region is important to acknowledge, especially since it seems to be forgotten in school texts and by the media. It puts things in perspective for readers of all ages and nationalities.
  • The characters — I always start a book expecting, or at least hoping for, strong character development. And with Sophie, there definitely is. What I didn’t expect was such strong development on the part of the bonobos. Not only do you really get to know Otto, an infant bonobo that Sophie saves, but other bonobos as well. You truly get a sense of their community and social structure.

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© 2014, Cracking the Cover. All rights reserved.

Categories: YA review, young adult

Introduce baby to reading and colors with Sassy book

April 15, 2014 No comments

Baby Loves ColorsBABY LOVES COLORS (SASSY),” by Dave Aikins, Grosset & Dunlap, Aug. 29, 2013, $6.99 (ages 6 months and up)

My baby may only be 2 months old, but I still try to read to her every day. Some days she looks at pictures and others she just listens to my voice as I read from something a little more complex.

Either way, it’s become part of our routine. What I love about “Baby Loves Colors” is its simplicity. Each page focuses on a color and items that fall into it. For example, Yellow features lemons, a duck, the sun, cheese and a banana. The bold colors catch my baby’s attention and the illustrations are basic enough for her to focus on. Though it can be hard to tell, the way she stares and tracks the pages with her eyes, leads me to believe she really likes it — or is at least interested. It will be fun to watch her interactions as she grows.

Baby Loves Colors is a simple board book designed for babies 6 months or older about all the colors they can see: red, yellow, orange, green and blue! This $6.99 board book comes with layers of raised UV that will stimulate a baby’s sense of touch.*

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*Synopsis provided by Grosset & Dunlap

Editor’s note: The above post differs from Cracking the Cover’s regular review format. Learn more.

© 2014, Cracking the Cover. All rights reserved.

Categories: ages 0-3, picture books

Quirky ‘Easter Cat’ takes a fun look at holiday’s secular side

April 15, 2014 No comments

Here comes the Easter catHERE COMES THE EASTER CAT,” by Deborah Underwood and Claudia Rueda, Dial, Jan. 28, 2014, $16.99 (ages 3-5)

The Easter holiday has become much like Christmas — a grand mix of religious and secular. “Here Comes the Easter Cat” falls into the secular part of the Easter basket, although there are elements that parents could tie into the religious side of things.

Beyond the religious/secular elements, this quirky book features a sense of humor children will understand and parents will appreciate. Author Deborah Underwood has taken on the text with a conversational tone that gives the tale perfect pacing. And artist Claudia Rueda’s illustrations are sweet, simple and fun.

Easter CatWhy should the Easter Bunny get all the love? That’s what Cat would like to know. So he decides to take over: He dons his sparkly suit, jumps on his Harley, and roars off into the night. But it turns out delivering Easter eggs is hard work. And it doesn’t leave much time for naps (of which Cat has taken five–no, seven). So when a pooped-out Easter Bunny shows up, and with a treat for Cat, what will Cat do? His surprise solution will be stylish, smart, and even — yes —kind.*

*Synopsis provided by Dial

Editor’s note: The above post differs from Cracking the Cover’s regular review format. Learn more.

© 2014, Cracking the Cover. All rights reserved.

Categories: ages 3-5, picture books

Jennifer A. Nielsen’s ‘Shadow Throne’ wraps up exciting trilogy

April 14, 2014 1 comment

Shadow ThroneTHE SHADOW THRONE: Book 3 of The Ascendance Trilogy,” by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Scholastic Press, Feb. 25, 2014, $17.99 (ages 10-14)

“The Shadow Throne” is the final novel in Jennifer A. Nielsen’s fantastic Ascendance Trilogy.

The series centers on Prince Jaraon aka Sage, a teenager who is forced out of hiding (“The False Prince”) to take over as king following the death of his family. Jaron was a wild, mischievous child who never took royal duties seriously. Now king, he has a hard time convincing the people who watched his antics that he is the right person for the job (“The Runaway King” and “The Shadow Throne”).

As “The Shadow Throne” opens, we find Jaron’s kingdom on the brink of war. Jaron has his own ideas on how to bring peace back to the land, but not everyone trusts his instincts. It’s at this point that Jaron must prove he’s not a figurehead but the true king of Carthya.

I’ve loved this series from the first chapter of “The False Prince.” Author Jennifer A. Nielsen set the bar high for her ensuing novels. “The Runaway King” faltered a tiny bit. Jaron remained the star of the show, but supporting characters weren’t as fleshed out as I would have liked.

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