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Book Reviews   Acorn Sunflowers George Geo & Dig Singing Dig
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Acorn Magic The Missing
Sunflowers
George George and
Diggety
Singing Diggety
 
REVIEWS OF ACORN MAGIC  
   
From Booklist
Camping out with his next door neighbor Mrs. Potter, Simon takes along the "magic" acorn she has given him, which seems to help him spot birds. In the woods, though, Simon gets so busy picking up acorns that he misses seeing the garter snake, the goldfinch, and the bald eagle that Mrs. Potter points out. Disappointed and angry, Simon flings away all the acorns he has stuffed into his pockets. The next morning, he awakens to find that many animals have come to eat his acorns. First met in The Missing Sunflowers (1997), Simon and Mrs. Potter make a likeable pair, dealing with familiar emotions in a quiet, effective way. Like the clear, understated writing, the acrylic paintings portray the characters sympathetically within a larger natural world. A good classroom read-aloud choice.

– Carolyn Phelan, ©1998 Booklist
Acorn Magic
   

From The Horn Book, Inc.
Simon and his grandmotherly neighbor, Mrs. Potter, from The Missing Sunflowers, go camping to bird-watch. Simon, busily intent on collecting acorns, misses all the wildlife until the next morning when he comes face to face with a moose. Intensely colored acrylics blend accuracy with mood, adding further interest to the quiet story of two nature lovers.
Copyright 1998 The Horn Book, Inc

 

From School Library Journal
On one summer afternoon, young Simon travels up a nearby mountain with his next-door neighbor to camp overnight and do some birdwatching. In his eagerness to collect acorns, the boy reacts too slowly to see the birds that Mrs. Potter spots with her binoculars, and he feels even more let down when a thunderstorm arrives at bedtime. However, when he sees a moose standing at the edge of the lake at daybreak, Simon finally knows his own special moment. Later on, at home, he plants a special acorn — a gift from Mrs. Potter — in his garden so he can watch its slow, magical growth into a tree. Simon and Mrs. Potter were originally introduced in The Missing Sunflowers (Greenwillow, 1997). In both stories, the older woman offers the boy small lessons in nature along with some simple but profound insights into life. Heavily applied acrylics in shades of green, orange, and blue create impressionist style paintings that range in size from smaller vignettes to full double-page spreads. This quiet, reassuring story of intergenerational friendship can be used to introduce young children to the beauty and mysteries of nature and as a lead-in to informational books on animal behavior such as those by Jim Arnosky.
– Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH

 
REVIEWS OF THE MISSING SUNFLOWERS TOP
   
From Booklist
Simon is thrilled when he is given three large sunflower plants in exchange for feeding the neighbor's birds while she's away. But one by one, the giant heads disappear, leaving only stems. Stern sets up as a simple whodunnit, with Simon eyeing the mailman's satchel and the basket of a girl's bike, before he discovers the real culprit — a squirrel simply following "the way of nature." Older children will have fun debating the question of ownership: do the sunflowers really belong to Simon? Younger ones will identify with the boy's anger and sorrow over his loss, and prereaders will be drawn to the story's appealing, sun-drenched illustrations. An unusual and intriguing picture book.
– Lauren Peterson
   

From School Library Journal
Simon's neighbor Mrs. Potter gives the boy three sunflower plants as a thank you for feeding the birds while she was away. He plants them and gives them attentive care, but is devastated when one large blossom disappears. The same thing happens to the other two, and since their whereabouts are unknown, Simon begins to suspect everyone, including the postman and a girl riding by on her bicycle. His parents and Mrs. Potter share his sadness and try to help him; finally, the child discovers that a squirrel, not a human, has taken the sunflowers. This realistic story is engaging, and the acrylic illustrations extend its meaning. The mystery of the disappearance can be speculated upon by first-time listeners. Also, a fine discussion possibility exists in Simon's honest, well-portrayed negative emotions, as he states, "I hate that squirrel! How dare it kill my sunflower?" Mrs. Potter gives Simon the wisdom of age, but not in a preachy way, suggesting that the squirrel may have thought it was his flower. In the end, they try again, planting sunflower seeds this time, with a dash of red pepper to keep the squirrel away.
– Carolyn Jenks, First Parish Unitarian Church, Portland, ME

 

From Kirkus Reviews
Stern's first book is part mystery, part natural history, part philosophy. Even though Simon's younger brother, Jack, is scornful, Simon wants a garden of sunflowers. He's delighted when his neighbor, Mrs. Potter, gives him three sunflower plants to thank him for feeding her birds for a few days. Once the sunflowers are planted, Jack, too, sees their leonine, yellow beauty, and he wants one. First one sunflower bloom disappears, then another; Simon keeps one eye on the remaining flower and the other on possible suspects. When, toward the end of the summer, Mrs. Potter lends Simon a bird book and binoculars, the last sunflower disappears. She is there when he solves the mystery and offers wise counsel: ``Sometimes the most precious things are the ones we can't keep.'' That includes the birds whose wild beauty Simon now recognizes and whose names he's beginning to know. There's much to think about here, and Ruff breathes summer's warmth into the mixture with her sunny palette.

 
REVIEWS OF GEORGE TOP
   
Selected for the Kansas State Reading Circle 2000-2001 Recommended Reading List
and as one of the Bank Street Best Books for 2000
From Horn Book
In three easy-to-read chapters, a high-spirited youngster named George energetically tracks down the missing classroom rabbit, learns to bake bread, and buys raffle tickets at the school fair for a chance to win box seats at a baseball game. The fast-moving plot in each chapter will keep the reader's attention, while the colorful, sketchy illustrations show George's lively character as he learns about patience.
Copyright 1999 The Horn Book, Inc.
The Secret Agent
   

From Publishers Weekly
Brief sentences, punchy dialogue, ample art and a plucky young hero make Stern's (The Missing Sunflowers) roundup of three tales a fine fit for youngsters just beginning to read on their own. "Sometimes it is good to wait," cautions George's teacher wisely, though patience does not come easily for the impetuous boy. But he learns. For example, while helping to bake bread as a class project, George discovers that he can't rush the all-important "secret agent" (aka yeast). And at the school fair, the boy regrets his impulsive decision to put all his tickets toward a raffle as he watches his brother and sister use theirs to play various games. Stern slips a valuable message into these tidy capers while maintaining a light touch and capping each story off with a comic twist. Sims's (illustrator of the Kids of the Polk Street School series) energetic, pen-and-ink with watercolor pictures play a strong supporting role in portraying George's high spirits. Most youngsters will recognize at least a sliver of themselves in this feisty character.
Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

 

From School Library Journal
Three short stories about exhuberant irrepressible George. Every school has children and situations similar to those described here, so readers will relate to each episode. In the first, a classroom rabbit escapes from his cage and runs wild until George comes to the rescue. The second chapter is about making bread on project day. The third describes the difficulty he has about deciding how to spend his limited funds at the school fair. When he tries to figure the angles for winning the raffle for two box seats at a baseball game and doesn't succeed, he looks on the bright side, hoping to do better next year. George's character traits are unusually well developed in spite of the spare vocabulary. His positive spirit and good sportsmanship shine through even when things don't go his way. Young readers will be encouraged to follow George's example in their own group activities. Simple, colorful cartoons add to the humor. The stories will satisfy the desire of early readers to reach the "chapter book" status. A good choice for independent reading or as a read-aloud.
Betty Teague, Blythe Academy of Languages, Greensville, SC

 
REVIEWS OF GEORGE AND DIGGETY TOP
   

Selected as one of the Best Children's Books of the Year for 2001
by The Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College of Education

 
George & Diggety From School Library Journal
An easy-reader featuring characters first introduced in George (Orchard, 1999). This book focuses on the family dog. In the first chapter, Diggety hopelessly fails a doggy IQ test. He redeems himself in the second chapter by cleverly riding George's sled down the hill. In the final chapter, George, his siblings, and their parents bake delicious dog biscuits that are devoured before Diggety gets to try them (the recipe is included). These light, breezy stories of a loving family's activities will appeal to early readers and are substantial enough to feel like a "real" book. Sims's colorful full- and half-page pen-and-ink and watercolor artwork details the action. An appealing addition to beginning-reader collections.
– Lisa Smith, Lindenhurst Memorial Library, NY
Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
   

From Booklist
The sequel to George (1999), about a good-hearted kid with a talent for getting into humorous situations, focuses on George's relationship with his amiable goofy dog, Diggety. The book follows George and Diggety through three short, easy to read chapters, loaded with funny dialogue and situational twists. The first chapter, "Dog Test," puts Diggety through his paces as George and his brother and sister grapple with a magazine quiz on how to measure a dog's IQ. The second chapter, "Sledding," has the siblings attempting to make Diggety a sled dog. The last chapter, "Diggety's Birthday," involves a mix-up over dog biscuits and dinner (a recipe for biscuits is included). Blanche Sims' cartoonlike illustrations, often several to a page, capture the movement and the silliness of the goings on. Similar in setup and spirit to the Amelia Bedelia books, the George books are another fun-filled way to move children from picture books to chapter books.
Connie Fletcher

 

From Horn Book Magazine
George, first seen in
George, is the kind of energetic and enthusiastic youngster who manages to bring both aggravation and joy to those he encounters. In this sequel, George and his dog Diggety, a floppy-eared, good-natured canine version of his master, share three adventures in which George gives Diggety a doggy intelligence test, takes the pooch sledding, and bakes dog biscuits for Diggety's birthday. Or that's what he intends to do. Each chapter ends with comic irony. George wears himself out trying to get Diggety to realize his potential; Diggety wears George out bounding up the sledding hill. In the concluding story, the whole family devours the homemade dog biscuits (Stern includes an easy-to-follow recipe for these puppy/people snacks), leaving Diggety treatless — until he devours their hamburger dinner. Like the previous book, the tone is light, the language natural, and the adventures well within the familiar patterns of childhood. Blanche Sims's illustrations depict George as a happy-go-lucky boy reveling in whatever the day brings. In addition, when Stern uses repetitive sequences and sentences, a valuable redundancy important for developing fluency, Sims employs a series of single frames, encouraging youngsters to pick up their reading pace and not labor over each familiar phrase.
– Betty Carter, ©2000 The Horn Book, Inc.

 
REVIEWS OF SINGING DIGGETY TOP
   
From School Library Journal
Featuring three tales with unexpected outcomes, this third installment in the series follows the further adventures of George and his mischievous, endearing, big, messy, mop of a dog. In the first chapter, Diggety makes quite an impression at dog school, showing that he has talent beyond obeying commands. In the other chapters, the boy enters his pet in a costume contest and takes him to school for show-and-tell. Young readers will be amused by George’s efforts to show off his hound's abilities, as well as by Diggety’s antics. Sims
pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations perfectly complement the lighthearted mood. Of particular fun are the images of the neighborhood canines dressed up in different costumes. A good choice for beginning readers.

–Devon Gallagher, ©2001 School Library Journal
Diggety's Costume Party
   
From Horn Book Magazine
The opening sentence of this story — “George took Diggety to dog school”— sounds innocent enough. But readers familiar with the series (George; George and Diggety) know that this indomitable pair will somehow turn obedience training into a lesson in noncompliance. And so they do. As usual, Sims’ delicate black line barely contains the characters’ enthusiasm and reinforces the light tone of the text. Diggety absconds with a sweater and a liver treat belonging to two of his classmates and George forgets his dog whistle that signals Diggety to “come” and “sit.” He decides to make do with the harmonica he brought instead, allowing his behavior-challenged pooch to reveal his enviable talent of howling in time with George’s rendition of “Hot Cross Buns.” The other stories, concerning a doggie costume party and Diggety’s appearance at school as George’s show-and-tell, feature similar resolutions:through mishap and mayhem, this hapless boy and his good-natured dog find the upside to even the most daunting situations.

– Betty Carter, ©2001 The Horn Book, Inc.
Illustrations from Acorn Magic and The Missing Sunflowers Copyright © 1997 & 1998 by Donna Ruff
Illustrations of George Copyright 1999, 2000 and 2001 by Blanche Sims
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