Again! by Emily Gravett

againIt is clear from reading Emily Gravett’s delightful new picture book that bedtime stories and toddler tantrums become slightly more dangerous when you are dealing with a dragon.

Gravett usually works with limited text and unusual animals as characters and this book is no exception. The spunky little dragon only speaks a single word throughout the entire story: “Again!” His parent is a little more verbose, reading (and re-reading) the favorite book identified only by a red dragon on the cover. As the night goes on and the child keeps demanding “Again!” readers will notice that the story in the book changes little by little, until the parent has fallen asleep. This of course, only enrages the small dragon further, which slightly disastrous results for the book (remember that dragons breathe fire, and you can probably guess the outcome).

Gravett’s pencil and watercolor illustrations perfectly complement the sly humor of the text, with the expression on the parent dragon’s face going from indulgent to long-suffering, to flat-out exhausted. Gravett plays cleverly with color, contrasting the red dragon in the bedtime book with the bright green of the parent and child. Of course, as time passes and emotions run high, you can bet that the little dragon will not stay green very long. The hand-lettered text of his cries perfectly reflects the frustration of someone who is NOT tired and wants to hear the story just one more time. Small listeners will sympathize with him, even as they gently touch the results of his rage in the back cover of the book. This is a great choice for a read aloud, bedtime or anytime story.

— Cecilia

Again, by Emily Gravett,  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $17.99

Red Knit Cap Girl by Naoko Stoop

Cozy in her forest home, Red Knit Cap Girl wonders about many things. But nothing fascinates her like the Moon. Wonder as she will, she cannot figure out how to talk to the Moon. So, with her trusty White Bunny in tow, she visits Owl, who knows everything. Owl says the Moon will bend down to listen to Red Knit Cap Girl, but it’s up to her to get Moon’s attention.

Red Knit Cap Girl comes up with a brilliant idea. With the help of her woodland friends, she plans a wonderful celebration that will catch Moon’s eye when the sun goes down. Sure enough, Moon comes out and whispers to Red Knit Cap Girl, just like she hoped!

This is a gentle, sweet story to share with a sleepy little one before bedtime. The text is simple and soothing, and the story itself feels something like a fable, which lends a classic air to the entire book. I especially loved Naoko Stoop’s illustrations–her backgrounds were originally painted on pieces of wood, so the striations from the tree rings are still present through the layers of color, lending to the natural feel of the artwork. There’s a dreamlike quality here as the color palette shifts from the brilliant rust, yellow, and green of sunset to the deeper twilight hues of indigo, teal, and gold. And against these soft, atmospheric hues stands our little heroine, who pops off the page in her bright red ensemble (and, of course, her red knit cap!).

This is yet another book I want to make into wallpaper–it’s that beautiful!

Red Knit Cap Girl by Naoko Stoop; Little, Brown; 15.99; Ages 2-6

Simply Adorable: Itsy-Bitsy Baby Mouse by Michelle Meadows

The cover of this new picture book is eye catching all on its own: an itsy, bitsy baby mouse (as promised) stares up at the giant words of the title. This dash of whimsy is continued throughout the book with bright pastel graphics that mimic the wild race of our rodent protagonist. Hilarious rhyming text is laced seamlessly into the adventure, making this a near perfect read aloud.

Did you hear that? A near perfect read aloud!

Itsy, bitsy baby mouse is lost. He scurries across the vast wasteland of the living room (narrowly escaping the dangerous claws of a monstrous house cat!), desperately searching for his own little door. At the very last moment, when all seems to be lost, two friendly faces appear, ready to calm his frazzled nerves. Mama and Papa Mouse gently soothe their little one and put him to bed.

It’s a simple enough story, and Silver Spring-based author Michelle Meadows (Pilot Pups, Hibernation Station) doesn’t muddle things with over-embellishment. Her rhyming text propels the story forward with charm and humor. Illustrator Matthew Cordell (Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie) develops a similar aesthetic in his artwork, striking just the right balance between silliness and restraint.

I can’t imagine a child (or grownup!) who could resist this delightful little story! Stop by the store today and share it with your little one!

Itsy-Bitsy Baby Mouse by Michelle Meadows, illus. by Matthew Cordell; Simon & Schuster; 15.99; Ages 2-6

New Read-aloud Alert: King Jack and the Dragon

Students and teachers have gone back to school, sweaters are being pulled out of bottom drawers, and the pumpkin latte is back. Yep, it’s fall again! When the weather gets nippier, there’s nothing quite like snuggling up for a cozy storytime right before bed. My newest read-aloud favorite is King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently, with illustrations by the incomparable Helen Oxenbury.

King Jack and his knights build an enormous fort in the backyard and do battle with the fearsome monsters threatening their domain! But as night falls, “giants” come to take Sirs Zack and Caspar to bed, and King Jack is left alone to guard his kingdom. As the shadows grow longer and deeper, our hero feels less and less daring. When his parents come to take him home,  King Jack is more than happy to snuggle up warm and safe in his bed.

The story is simple enough, but Bently uses whimsical rhyme to make his tale come to life. Helen Oxenbury’s much beloved signature style lends a classic feel to this new picture book. The imagination of Where the Wild Things Are is combined with the playful attitude of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt to create an entirely new adventure that will be beloved by generations to come!

King Jack and the Dragon, by Peter Bently, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. Penguin Books, published August 2011.

The Princess and Her Panther by Wendy Orr

The Princess and Her Panther, by Wendy Orr, illus. by Lauren Stringer, Beach Lane Books, Ages 2-6

Two sisters embark on an adventure of make-believe! The elder becomes a princess and the younger a trusty panther. They travel across the scorching desert sands, along a vast blue lake, and into ancient and silent woods. As night falls, the two pitch their tent–and just in time! Outside they hear the fearful sounds of terrifying leaf snakes and frog monsters. With each new sound, readers hear a familiar refrain: “the princess was brave, and the panther tried to be.” Eventually, though, both sisters are brave enough to vanquish the nighttime monsters and drift off to sleep, safe and sound in their own familiar backyard.

Wendy Orr’s tale is simple and lyrical, with a sweetly gentle quality that makes this a perfect bedtime read. Lauren Stringer’s richly saturated and light-infused illustrations cleverly blend the reality of the sisters’ simple backyard with the lush landscape of their imaginations. This is a fantastic read both for those of us who are brave and those of us who try to be!

Create your own world of make believe today! Hooray for books!

–Miss Megan

The Princess and Her Panther, by Wendy Orr, illus. by Lauren Stringer, Beach Lane Books, Ages 2-6

Need more stories to share at bedtime? Give us a call or stop by! Hooray for Books Children’s Bookstore: 1555 King St., Alexandria, VA 22314. (703) 548-4092.

Megan’s Book of the Day 6/5/09

Moon Rabbit, by Natalie Russell, Ages 3-6

Natalie Russell’s sweet tale is coupled beautifully with simple, imaginative sketch illustrations. Russell’s little rabbits are entirely lovable, and her depictions of the hustle and bustle of the city and the tranquil calm of the park are both colorful and engaging. Curl up with your little reader and Moon Rabbit for a storytime all about the joys of home and friendship!

Moon Rabbit, Natalie Russell, Viking Children’s Books, pub. May 2009

Keep reading!

–Miss Megan

Need more book recommendations? Call us at Hooray for Books: 703-548-4092!

Recommended Summer Reads

Summer is here! Check out some of our favorites to share with your children this season…


Goodnight, Goodnight Sleepyhead, by Ruth Krauss, illus. by Jane Dyer

9780694015016It’s time for baby’s bedtime! As a tired little toddler says goodnight to her toys and dolls, readers are invited to say goodnight to everything in the nursery: “Goodnight walls, goodnight floors, goodnight chairs, goodnight bed, goodnight goodnight sleepyhead.” This gentle, soothing rhyme is the perfect bedtime story to read to your child.


 Goodnight, Goodnight Sleepyhead, Ruth Krauss, Jane Dyer, pub. August 2007, HarperFestival

AGES 3-6

Willoughby and the Lion, by Greg Foley

willoughby-the-lion_covWilloughby hates his new house. But suddenly his world becomes much more exciting when he discovers a golden lion in his front yard! The lion offers to grant Willoughby ten wishes, and the little boy couldn’t be more elated. He wishes for a roller coaster, x-ray glasses, and the fastest shoes in the world! He wishes for cookies and candies! He wishes for a hot-air-balloon-submarine with an escape helicopter! But none of these things seem to be quite enough. But before he makes his final wish, he realizes that the thing he has wanted most all along may be right in front of him. Author Greg Foley’s text is simple and accompanied perfectly by beautiful gray-toned illustrations punctuated by dramatic splashes of gold. Children will be delighted by this entrancing tale of friendship and imagination.

Willoughby and the Lion, Greg Foley, pub. Feb. 2009, HarperCollins

AGES 6-8

Danny and the Dinosaur, by Syd Hoff

24599649One day, Danny visits the museum. He loves to look at all the interesting things, but most of all, he absolutely loves the dinosaurs! When he makes friends with a real live dinosaur from the museum, Danny is ready to have the most fun day of his life! Together Danny and his dinosaur pal have adventure after adventure, and when the day is through, they are both happy to return to their respective homes. Beginning readers will be delighted with this classic tale of fun and friendship!


Danny and the Dinosaur, Syd Hoff, pub. Sept. 1992, HarperTrophy

AGES 8-10

Clementine, by Sara Pennypacker, illus. by Marla Frazee

n258189Clementine is full of energy! Whether she’s playing with her best friend, entertaining her brother, or helping her parents, she is always busy! But sometimes Clementine’s helpful spirit gets in the way and causes trouble she couldn’t ever have seen coming. But even when she makes the biggest of well-meant mistakes, Clementine knows that her family and friends will always understand. Sara Pennypacker’s delightfully lovable heroine is a character readers can appreciate, a girl who is always in trouble, but always has the best of intentions! Marla Frazee’s illustrations perfectly reflect the attitude of the story, full of life and movement. This is an excellent book for energetic readers who like their stories fast paced and unique!

Clementine, Sara Pennypacker, Marla Frazee, pub. Feb. 2008, Hyperion Books for Children


Heroes of the Valley, by Jonathan Stroud

heroes of the valleyHalli has always felt like the misfit of his family. Instead of being tall and impressive like his siblings, he is as short as a stump. No one seems to expect anything from him but trouble, and he is usually able to deliver. But when Halli’s practical joking goes a step too far, he must face the consequences of his actions. As Halli works to complete his punishment, he discovers that the peaceful society he has grown up in may not be all he thought it was. Halli must go deeper and deeper into a web of mystery, until secrets he has never before faced demand to be addressed.

Heroes of the Valley, Jonathan Stroud, pub. Jan. 2009, Hyperion Books

Want more recommendations? Stop by or call us! Hooray for Books, 1555 King St., Alexandria, VA 22314. 703-548-4092.

Happy reading!