Books by Bruce Degen

NATE LIKES TO SKATE by Bruce Degen
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 1, 2016

"For a genuinely clever story about street skating, stick to the almost wordless classic Skates, by Ezra Jack Keats. For a nonpedantic beginning reader, Degen's offering works well enough. (Picture book/early reader. 4-7)"
Degen attempts the daunting task of writing a satisfying story using just 49 words and avoiding singsong rhymes. Read full book review >
SNOW JOKE by Bruce Degen
by Bruce Degen, illustrated by Bruce Degen
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2014

"A snow book that deserves a warm reception from new readers. (Early reader. 5-7)"
Anti-social high jinks deliver a lesson in kindness and in learning to read. Read full book review >
I SAID, "BED!" by Bruce Degen
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 15, 2014

"A mixed bag of a book. (Early reader. 5-7)"
A book written for new readers seems more like fare for the toddler set. Read full book review >
I GOTTA DRAW by Bruce Degen
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 1, 2012

"Would that every teacher could be this cool; Ms. Frizzle would be proud. (Picture book. 5-9)"
One teacher who is willing to look outside the box for a solution changes the life of a budding young artist. Read full book review >
THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS AND THE CLIMATE CHALLENGE by Joanna Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2010

Flamboyant as ever, the indefatigable Ms. Frizzle shepherds her young charges on a globe-spanning tour that starts in the melting Arctic, ends back in a greener classroom and in between lays out the process and hazards of the greenhouse effect before going into eco-friendly, energy-saving technological and lifestyle changes. As usual, Degen festoons his busy pictures with the Friz's students taking it all in—here donning "microscope goggles" to check out CO2 molecules, riding sunbeams down to Earth, flying over leaky homes and factories, and making comments ("By the time we grow up..." / "... it may be called Glacier-LESS National Park," exclaim two students, while gesturing to an icy 1932 image juxtaposed against a barren one from today). Flutters of one- or two-sentence handwritten sidebars in the form of the students' written reports provide further information. It's a tested formula that's still as effective as ever for cluing in younger readers with a mix of instruction and droll side remarks. The bus isn't even close to running out of gas yet—particularly as it's now a hybrid. (Informational picture book. 6-9) Read full book review >
JAZZMATAZZ! by Stephanie Calmenson
ANIMALS
Released: Feb. 1, 2008

"When the weather gets cold / And a mouse slips in, / A jazzmatazz story / Is sure to begin." After running across a foot, mouse hops on the piano and starts to play jazz. "Doo-dat, diddy-dat, / Diddy-dat, doo! / I plink, plink, plink. / How about you?" He points to dog who plays drums on his dish; Dog points to cat who plays "fiddle" on a carpet beater with a spoon. Cat gets bird to join in; bird gets fish, who gets the baby. Soon the whole family is jamming . . . and then the whole neighborhood. Each person and creature has their own onomatopoeic contribution to the jam that is mirrored in the illustrations. By the close, everyone is surrounded by a rainbow of sound. Calmenson and Degen have created a bright, syncopated jam session sure to please storytime audiences—but not recommended for bedtime reading. (author/illustrator note) (Picture book. 2-6)Read full book review >
MS. FRIZZLE’S ADVENTURES by Joanna Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 1, 2005

Ducking beneath a parade dragon in Chinatown, Ms. Frizzle and three youngsters emerge a thousand years ago and halfway around the world. For her third excursion into the past, she takes advantage of this tailor-made teachable moment to squire her charges from rice fields to the Imperial Palace in Beijing. They hardly pause along the way for looks at silk- and tea-making, Chinese poetry and writing, inventions, the Great Wall (errantly declared to be 30,000 miles long—off by a factor of about 10, depending on what's measured) and even how to hold chopsticks. Impoverished rice farmers are clean and smiling in Degen's brightly colored, crisply drawn illustrations, but there are at least hints that not everyone's a happy camper, and the pictures do add further cultural and historical detail with running panels along the bottom of each spread. Having persuaded the Emperor to lift the taxes on poor farmers, the quartet returns to our time, just in time for a Chinese New Year's dinner—each dish labeled with its symbolic significance. The learning never stops, nor does the pace. (Picture book/nonfiction. 8-10)Read full book review >
MS. FRIZZLE’S ADVENTURES by Joanna Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 2003

Not content with her rollicking science adventures in the Magic School Bus, Ms. Frizzle continues her explorations of history begun in Ancient Egypt. One Saturday she spots her student Arnold going to Craig's Castle Shop, and leads him, the shop owner, and a costume designer into the distant, medieval past. Borders of the bright, word-ballooned pictures fill in the narrative with definitions and descriptions, while knights lay siege, ladies run the castle, and Arnold (camouflaged as a rose bush) gets to smuggle a letter out to Lord Robert. Besides the usual high and low humor and action-packed information, an end page of notes, "Don't believe everything you read!" fills kids in on what's made up and what needs a little more detail. There cannot be too many castle books, and her many fans will be pleased to see Ms. Frizzle explore new, and old worlds. Next stop: Ancient China. (Picture book/nonfiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
SHIRLEY’S WONDERFUL BABY by Valiska Gregory
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

Ms. Mump's canny instincts as a baby-sitter help Shirley appreciate the little bundle of attention-grabber that is her brother. Shirley, a young hippopotamus, is a little jealous of all the interest shown in her baby brother Stanley. Her father goo-goo's over the mite while changing his diapers; her mother just loves the way he wrinkles his nose—"Wonderful," they warble. Shirley thinks Stanley looks like a prune with legs like a turkey. Shirley carries his bag when the family goes shopping: "Wonderful. He rides. I walk." Then Ms. Mump arrives to baby-sit. Since Stanley is sleeping—and since Ms. Mump has seen how the baby's parents lavish attention on him—Shirley gets her undivided consideration. "Wonderful," says Ms. Mump to Shirley's cookies and dance steps. When Stanley wakes, Ms. Mump has Shirley help. She notes how babies are notorious for needing to be changed and feed and burped and entertained. "Revolting," says Ms. Mump in mock horror. As Shirley accomplishes each task, she gains in her protective instincts, and even begins to enjoy Stanley's company. Ms. Mump serving as a foil to bring Shirley and Stanley close is a nice twist (and the smile parked on her puss will let young readers in on the ruse). Equally neat are the illustrations—an eye-stopping application of gouache on hand-cut stencils, plastic and wire mesh, and old industrial patterns, finished off with pen and ink—making this a worthy addition to any picture book collection. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
MS. FRIZZLE’S ADVENTURES by Joanna Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

Extraordinary science teacher Ms. Frizzle is back sans school bus in a nine-by-twelve format tackling a whole new subject area: social studies. Ms. Frizzle is vacationing in Egypt and travels back to ancient times. Cole (The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip, 1997, etc.) continues the characteristic mix of fact and fantasy. Pages are packed with images of people, animals, architecture—and facts, facts, facts. Dress, writing, food, housing, social classes are all simply explained. "Ancient Egyptians wrote on paper made from papyrus, a large water plant. The paper was called papyrus, too." Ms. Frizzle's linear commentary is boxed on a white background, as rich additional material—comments, jokes, and data—are strewn about in cartoon speech balloons, postcards, diary entries, and sidebars. Ms. Frizzle's attire continues to surprise and delight, from her airplane dress covered with images of flight to her Ancient Egypt costume crawling with scarabs. Degen presents a bolder palate of deep greens, brick browns, reds, and blues, using pen and ink, watercolor, color pencil, and gouache for the comical detailed paintings. An Egyptologist who lectures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art vetted Cole's facts. The last page speaks directly to the fantasy elements of the story explaining what really can't happen. Quite a trip. (Picture book. 7-10)Read full book review >
GUESS WHO'S COMING, JESSE BEAR by Nancy White Carlstrom
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 1998

Writing in simple, almost conversational verse and varying the meter to avoid singsong, Carlstrom brings her irrepressible young bear back for a seventh appearance, this one built around the days of the week. Initially dismayed to learn that bossy cousin Sara is coming to visit, Jesse finds being with her—one day in the water, another in the attic dressing up, then playing school, skating, and so on—to be more fun than he expects, as he's now old enough (usually) to give as good as he gets. Predictably, by the end of the week, they're both sorry that the visit is over. As usual, Degen poses smiling, clothed bears in comfortable, uniformly lit rooms, simplifying backgrounds to present an uncluttered appearance and to leave room for occasional dialogue balloons. Although this book is not as edgy and gleeful as Kevin Henkes's A Weekend with Wendell (1986), Carlstrom has developed a winning formula for painlessly introducing young preschoolers to basic skills and information. (Picture book. 7-9) Read full book review >
THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS AND THE ELECTRIC FIELD TRIP by Joanna Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

The indomitable Ms. Frizzle is back for a lesson in electricity in this entertaining entry in the Magic School Bus series. The class begins with books, videos, experiments, and research reports; Ms. Frizzle, wearing a dress of geometric shapes, explains atoms and electrons, and, during an electrical storm, gets the students and her niece, Dottie, into the school bus to find out what's behind a power blackout. At a power plant, they learn how electricity is generated and how it travels. As in the other books in the series, this one doesn't cover everything, but it will stimulate interest; plenty of information is packed into the pages, and repeat readings are mandatory. (Picture book. 7-10) Read full book review >
LET'S COUNT IT OUT, JESSE BEAR by Nancy White Carlstrom
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 1, 1996

Carlstrom and Degen team up for their sixth entry in a beloved series. Cuddly Jesse and his furry family effortlessly explore numbers 1-20 while enjoying simple pleasures that are especially sweet to preschoolers. Carlstrom is at her jaunty best with a series of rhymes for the first ten numbers: In ``Happy Hopping Two Shoes,'' Jesse is ``Jumping high,\Landing loud.\New shoes dancing,\New shoes proud.'' Much more is celebrated, including instant photos of the family of ``We three bears,'' four ``thumping, bumping'' bumper cars, ``five alive'' crabs skittering across the sandy beach, seven stars counted with Daddy, up to ``Ten and Back Again'' is especially appealing, with Jesse's careful enumeration of rocks: ``But nine I'll give to Mommy soon,\And ten\Will be my little moon.'' Addition is the focus of the final spreads ending with the delicious prospect of ``19 and one more are 20,'' as in 20 ice-cream cones. Degen's now-familiar watercolors are as snug as ever. (Picture book. 2-6) Read full book review >
SAILAWAY HOME by Bruce Degen
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 1996

The fantastic adventures of a little pig who ``leaves'' his parents in order to fight pirates, to fly on a butterfly, and to ``Sailaway, sailaway,/Over the foam./Blow with the gale away,/Bail with a pail away,/Hitch to a whale, and then/Sailaway home.'' The rhymes always follow the same short and bouncy pattern; the animals look like toys, and the adventures are always rooted in a domestic setting. Degen's characteristically colorful illustrations look effortless but display real craftsmanship and are quietly inventive. Perfect for toddlers showing their first signs of independence. (Picture book. 3-6) Read full book review >
MOUSE'S BIRTHDAY by Jane Yolen
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 24, 1993

It's Mouse's birthday, and—one by one—his friends (cat, dog, cow, horse, farmer) squeeze into the tiny, well-appointed straw house where Mouse lives in a quiet corner of the barn. Miraculously, they all fit; but when Mouse blows out his single birthday candle, the house flies apart like the one-hoss shay, leaving Mouse and the others in his "new house"—the capacious hayloft, where there's room for everyone. Told in simple, repetitive verse, a funny story that'll be a good choice for very young groups. The humorous, large figures of Mouse's friends dominate Degen's brightly colored illustrations in amusing contrast to the appealing little Mouse. (Picture book. 2-6)Read full book review >
THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS ON THE OCEAN FLOOR by Joanna Cole
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1992

Exuding her usual air of competence, Ms. Frizzle drives the magic school bus to the beach, over the sand, and into the waves to take her wisecracking class on a tour of an intertidal zone, the continental shelf, the deep sea bottom, and a coral reef. Degen's paintings feature plenty of colorful (and unobtrusively labeled) sea life. As always, the pace is breathless, the facts well chosen, the excitement of scientific study neatly evoked, and Ms. Frizzle's wardrobe equal to every extraordinary occasion. At the end, her students assemble a bulletin board chart to summarize their observations and—apparently in response to adult anxieties—Cole closes with a quiz clarifying the difference between fact and fiction in the story. Yes, it's a formula, but a winning one. (Nonfiction. 6-8) Read full book review >
GOBLIN WALK by Tony Johnston
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 5, 1991

Taking treats to his grandmother (``bugs and thorns and peppercorns''), a little goblin has mutually terrifying encounters with a bunny, a mouse, a butterfly, etc. Johnston makes the most of this familiar scenario in an artfully cadenced text with classic repetitions, nicely rounded in a cozy conclusion: ``Greeny'' and her grandson make cookies together. In Degen's deft, broadly rendered illustrations, the goblins are appealing rather than scary. Not important but fun. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
COMMANDER TOAD IN SPACE by Bruce Degen
Released: Aug. 21, 1980

A feeble whimsy presented as a ha-ha space adventure. Commander Toad ("brave and bright, bright and brave") and his froggy crew discover a watery planet, effect a landing on a rubber lily pad, and attract the attention of a Loch-Ness-y monster—whose waves sink their "sky skimmer," cutting off their exit. To distract the monster, brainy Mr. Hop asks him riddles ("What is a monster's favorite ballet?" "SWAMP LAKE!") and ex-warbler Lieutenant Lily (late of "Warts and Peace") inveigles him into singing-along. . . while Commander Toad inflates the lily pad—via "special candles"—until it's a hot-air balloon capable of carrying the trio back to their spaceship. Unbelievable and unfunny. Read full book review >
THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS: OCEANS by Joanna Cole
CHILDREN'S

Ms. Frizzle, the adventurous science teacher who takes her students on memorable field trips, makes the leap to the iPad in an app that feels as crowded and full of activity as the ocean floor. But its impressive amount of educational content (lots of facts, lots of photos, videos and games) and the story's off-hand, casual approach make it a successful intersection of learning and entertainment. Dialogue—even jokey speech bubbles and the boasts of a beach lifeguard—is all spoken out loud when tapped. As the bus turns into a submarine and Ms. Frizzle's eager (yet captive) students hit the water, the sea's inhabitants are presented in a series of projection-screen pages that pull down and offer short videos or photos with information about a species. For instance, "An adult flounder fish has both eyes on one side of its head!" There's also a matching game reminiscent of Tetris, a mini-microscope game and more interactive toys to play with. Unfortunately, it's not always clear how some of the games work or why some animals on a story page can be clicked on for more information but not others. For all its impressive material, it sometimes feels inconsistently designed and frustrating to actually use, especially for younger readers. The Frizz seems a natural for the medium, though, and this is a promising first adventure. (iPad informational app. 4-10)Read full book review >