Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The special bond between grandparent and grandchild: I Dream of Popo

I Dream of Popo, by Livia Blackburne/Illustrated by Julia Kuo, (Jan. 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250249319

Ages 3-7

Inspired by the author’s own story, I Dream of Popo is about the special connection between a young girl and her grandmother, that crosses the distance between Taiwan and America. The girl grows up spending time with her grandmother, rocking on her lap and enjoying food and holidays together, but when she moves to America with her family, Popo – grandma – stays in Taiwan. She sees her over videochat and even visits, and their love endures even as she sees Popo’s hair get gray and she gets sick. A book rich with emotion and connection, this is an incredible #OwnVoices story that will resonate with all families, especially when most of our visits are conducted via device screen. Livia Blackburne creates a yearning feel for Popo and her granddaughter throughout the story; her connection to her own Popo shines through in her prose. Julia Kuo’s artwork is vibrant, deep reds, greens, and golds weaving a warm atmosphere to comfort readers. Back matter includes an author note and an illustrator note, each remembering their relationships with their own grandparents, and a glossary.

I was lucky enough to be at a Macmillan live event with other librarians and the author and illustrator, and they each spoke at length about their inspiration for the prose and artwork for the book. They drew on their relationships with their grandparents, lived on two shores and over phone, in the days before videochat. The book is stunning; Livia Blackburne and Julia Kuo put their hearts into creating a testament to the enduring love between grandparent and grandchild. An instabuy for collections, I Dream of Popo has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Two more Thanksgiving Books, just in time!

I’ve got two more Thanksgiving books for the Littles, just in time for the big day on Thursday!

See, Touch, Feel: Happy Thanksgiving, by Roger Priddy (Aug. 2020, Priddy Books U.S.), $7.95, ISBN: 9781684490738

Ages 0-3

Another adorable Roger Priddy book for the littlest of Littles! See, Touch, Feel Thanksgiving is a rhyming book of gratitude for food, nature, pets, and friends, with tactile pages for little explorers to touch and feel. They can run their fingers across the ridged corn husks and nubby corn, soft and smooth textures of handpainted trees, glittery rain, and a fuzzy dog. Colorful, with photos and childlike artwork sharing space, this is a book that will be a joy to sit down with, put your Kiddo in your lap, and let them know how thankful you are for them. Use the book as inspiration, if you have paints, and let them make their own hand-stamped crafts. A sensory feast for the hands and eyes!

 

If Animals Gave Thanks, by Ann Whitford Paul/Illustrated by David Walker, (Sept. 2020, Farrar Straus & Giroux), $9.99, ISBN: 9780374388737

Ages 3-6

The latest in the If Animals… series, this rhyming story welcomes readers with colorful fall leaves across endpapers. Inside, the author wonders what different animals would give thanks for, if they could: Rabbit would give thanks for being able to hop and for his thick fur; Crow, for the sky and the ability to fly; Turtle, for his hard shell. Meanwhile, the story returns to Bear, who’s gathering ingredients to make all sorts of delicious food for his friends at a harvest table! A kind story of gratitude and friendship, it’s a gently illustrated, softly colored story with colorful sound effects that invite readers to join in with multiple readings, whether it’s a chomp-chomp, chewy-chew, or a shuf-shuffle, or a pickety-pick. Great storytime pick.

Posted in picture books

A new Christmas origin story: The Three Wishes

 

The Three Wishes: A Christmas Story, by Alan Snow, (Nov. 2020. Pavilion), $19.95, ISBN: 978-1843653868

Ages 5-8

Long ago, when people moved about the land, a boy watched over and herded his family’s reindeer. At the annual gathering, he noticed the reindeer heading into a mysterious cave and followed them, discovering a secret inner world where it is eternally summer. The boy wants to return home, but is told that it is not possible. He’s given three wishes and asks for freedom, happiness, and time. During the year, the boy works alongside the residents of the inner world to learn about the earth; he is allowed to visit his family as long as he doesn’t wake them. Time doesn’t move as he visits his sleeping family and leaves small gifts for them so they know he was there. Every year, he returns to his family for his nightly visit, and back to the cave world for the rest of the year, adding nearby families on his visits. The residents of the cave world reward him with special gifts, like a sled and a magic feather for his reindeer, to aid him on his way, and his family leaves a special gift for him on his visit. This is a new take on the Santa Claus story, and I loved the gentle, yet bittersweet, storytelling; take care for younger readers that may be disturbed by the boy being separated from his family, but they should get the idea as the story goes on and more information is revealed. The artwork is muted, darker, and rich. The Three Wishes is a good additional book for your holiday shelves.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The epic tale of Ronan the Librarian

Ronan the Librarian, by Tara Luebbe & Becky Cattie/Illustrated by Victoria Maderna, (Apr. 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250189219

Ages 3-7

To truly enjoy this writeup, please click here to enjoy The Anvil of Crom from the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack, courtesy of Spotify and CimmercianRecords.com.

The mighty Ronan was a barbarian invader, raider, and trader. He led his people and pillaged the best jewelry, precious metals, weapons, you name it. If you wanted to trade for it, Ronan had it. But when one of Ronan’s raids turned up a chest  of books, he was baffled. Barbarians don’t read, right? What was he supposed to do with these things? No one else wanted them either! Until… well, one night he figured reading a sentence won’t hurt. Maybe a paragraph. A page? Every reader worth their salt knows what happens next: a true disregard of bedtime; Ronan becomes a Reader and seeks out books on all of his pillages from then on. And again, like any true book fan… his collection threatens to overwhelm him. After all, no one else wants the books: Barbarians don’t read! So Ronan builds a library, and decides to entice his fellow barbarians into reading. Like any bookworm knows, one of the best parts about loving books is sharing them with friends! This hilarious, wonderful story about barbarians and books is perfect storytime reading (I’ve got one coming up myself): it’s got adventure, barbarians, and books! Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie create a story that book lovers will relate to, and give a wink, nudge, come to the Book Side for those kids who don’t think they’re readers… yet.

Victoria Maderna’s artwork is cartoony fun, with so many little moments to love: the Viking ship toppling over with books (I feel seen); Ronan riding into battle, axe held high in one hand, book wide open in his other hand; Ronan curled up with a cup of tea amidst his towering pile of books (so precarious!), the swirling, dreamlike story of Odin coming to life as it leaps from a book Ronan reads out loud to his fellow barbarians, and – one of my favorite pieces in the whole story – the bulletin board Ronan puts up in his library, with notes like “Keep Out: This Goat” (sharp-eyed viewers will notice the goat snacking on some books, a few spreads earlier), “Closed During Raids”, and a cautionary “Swords Make Terrible Bookmarks”. Clearly, library signage hasn’t seen the need to evolve much.

I’m gushing with love for Ronan the Librarian because it’s just too much fun and it’s all about discovering the joy of books and reading. Insta-buy for your collections if you don’t already have it. Consider it an investment in your class visits for life. Make sure to visit the authors’ website, and find activities, guides, and more information about their books!

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Brita Teckentrup has a new board book series!

You know I love Brita Teckentrup’s books, right? She’s got a new board book series out through Orca, and I was squealing nonstop. These animal stories are all adorable, tell brief stories, making them great books for toddler readers who are ready to listen to stories beyond basic concepts. The books are part of Orca’s All Natural series, published on recycled paper and using eco-friendly inks, so it’s doing a good deed to have these available!

 

Little Owl, by Brita Teckentrup, (Sept. 2020, Orca Book Publishers), $10.95, ISBN: 9781459826922

Ages 0-3

It’s nighttime, and Little Owl is excited to be flying with Mom and Dad tonight! The family swoops through the skies, seeing beetles, hedgehogs, and a bat together, before Little Owl is just too tired to keep going. The family snuggles down for a good day’s sleep, ready to take to the skies again the next night. The prose is simple, with sight words aplenty and brief sentences. The artwork is just lovely, with expressive large-eyed owls and smiling forest animals. Colors are deep, and the night sky shifts from a sunset, to night, to the barest light as morning approaches, really giving readers a sense of time. This story is lovely for a lapsit, with tons of snuggle-worthy moments; use with flannels for extra fun. There are some great owl storytimes available online, including this one from North Mankato Taylor Library and this one from Literary Hoots.

 

 

Little Squirrel, by Brita Teckentrup, (Sept. 2020, Orca Book Publishers), $10.95, ISBN: 9781459826915

Ages 0-3

Little Squirrel lives high up in an old oak tree and loves running and playing with his friends, the birds and the fox! But the nice weather won’t last forever, so Little Squirrel has to collect acorns and nuts to eat before the winter sets in. Once the cold weather arrives, Little Squirrel is safe and sound in the tree with his family, and they wait for the nice weather to return. Adorable art gives us expressive, friendly animal faces that enjoy play, and the message about being responsible and helpful is there, but subtle for toddlers. The seasons change during the course of the story as blue skies give way to cloudy, snowy skies and white snowflakes fall as the snow piles up. A nice store of acorns lets readers know that Little Squirrel will be just fine this winter, and our parting picture is of a happy Squirrel family together in their tree. There’s some factual information here, placed in the story’s context: squirrels living in the tree, saving food for the winter, and cracking open nuts with their teeth. Perfect for little readers Storytime Secrets has a great squirrel storytime available, and Jen in the Library has the cutest squirrel flannel up. The Canton Public Library has good squirrel book suggestions, too!

 

 

 

 

Little Duck, by Brita Teckentrup, (Jan. 2021, Orca Book Publishers), $10.95, ISBN: 9781459826946

Ages 0-3

Little Duck is happily swimming in the pond with her siblings and Mama. She dives, says hello to dragonflies, frogs, fish, and tadpoles, and plays hide and seek with her siblings until everyone starts getting tired. Time for a nap! They curl up to Mama and fall asleep. A sweet story that will work with flannels and begs to be read alongside the song Five Little Ducks, this is another snuggy lapsit story that babies, toddlers, and caregivers will love to read together. Add some sound effects, encourage games like peek-a-book when Duck looks for her siblings or waving when Duck encounters new friends to greet. Canton Public Library has good readalike suggestions, and there are excellent storytime ideas from North Mankato Taylor Library, Abby the Librarian, Sunflower Storytime, and Storytime Katie. Little Duck will be out in January 2021.

 

 

Little Fox, by Brita Teckentrup, (Jan. 2021, Orca Book Publishers). $10.95, ISBN: 9781459826939

Ages 0-3

Little Fox is the most interactive of the All Natural series so far. Little Fox emerges from his den, sleepy but shaking it off in time to spend his evening playing with friends and observing his surroundings. He sees a woodpecker, some deer, and a few other animals, and plays hide and seek with his friend until the birds start singing. Daytime is coming, and it’s time for Little Fox to find Mama and go back to sleep until late in the day again. The book brings up some observational questions for toddlers to discover, like finding Mama and wondering what the woodpecker is looking for. Kids can point or begin verbalizing, and parents can also point out animals, colors, and shapes as they go along. The day moves into evening, back into morning, giving readers a feel for the passage of time. Sunflower Storytime has a very cute fox storytime available, as does Jen in the Library. Pasadena Library has a cute fox storytime with some flannels.

 

Posted in family, Guide

Gift idea: LEGO With Dad (and some LEGO blocks!)

LEGO with Dad: Creatively Awesome Projects for Parents and Kids to Build Together, by Warren Nash, (Oct. 2020, Rocky Nook), $24.95, ISBN: 978-1681985862

Ages 12+

Blogger Warren Nash has taken to blogging and making videos about his LEGO projects with his son, drawing on memories of making cool LEGO stuff with his own dad. LEGO With Dad is a love letter to caregiver and kids bonding time; he notes in his foreword that “LEGO With Dad” carries different meanings for different families. The book is a comprehensive guide to building with the blocks, no kits necessary. Sections on the best bricks to use and best kits to buy are helpful when spending holiday dollars; a section with structural advice, adding unusual bricks for flourish, and working with  moving parts, like gears. Projects go from simple builds to more advanced builds, photographed and detailed step-by-step for easy following. Family Spotlights show off different families and how they share LEGO time together.

Easy to read, easy to follow, and with an emphasis on creating memories, relationships, and LEGOs together, this is a great book for all families. It’s a fun, imaginative gift idea, too: wrap this up with a LEGO set of mixed blocks, like the Classic Creative sets, and you’re all set. Set some time aside every day – goodness knows we’re getting a lot of it, but let’s try to make it less stressful – to build together, talk, and laugh together. And check out Warren Nash’s YouTube channel, too: he’s got some good videos on there, not all of which are about LEGO.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, gaming, Science Fiction, Steampunk, Tween Reads

Here it is… The First Holiday Gift Guide of the Season!

Finally, right? Here is my little contribution to the holiday season’s gift guides: a few of these over the next couple of weeks, as I try to match my Reader’s Advisory skills with my love of gifty books and book-adjacent goodies.

Build a Skyscraper, by Paul Farrell, (Sept. 2020, Pavilion Children’s Books), $19.69, ISBN: 978-1843654742

Ages 3-8

If you haven’t played with Paul Farrell’s Build a Castle, you have been missing out, but no worries: just in time for the holidays, he’s released Build a Skyscraper, the next in his series of graphic-designed cards that let you and your kiddos create the skyscraper of your dreams. The box contains 64 cards with slots cut to let you build and expand your building in any way you like. Add glass, decorative elements and flourishes, and build up or out. It’s all up to your little one! Perfect for stocking stuffers, this is great for hours of play and you can build a new skyscraper each time. An 8-page booklet contains some inspiration and descriptions of skyscraper elements. Get out the minifigs and let them move into a new neighborhood!

Elevator Up card game, (2020), $9.99

Ages 7+

Created by a 17-year-old, Elevator Up is – in the words of creator Harrison Brooks – “kid-created, kid-designed, kid-marketed, kid-shipped, and kid-loved card game”. It’s pretty easy to pick up, fast-paced, and way too much fun to play. The goal is to be the first player to get rid of all your cards as your elevator rides through a building. You can use cards to get your opponents stuck, sent back down to the lobby, or have the doors closed on them. There are a lot of laughs to be had – my Kiddo loves closing the door on his older brothers – and the chance for friendly trash talk is high. Support indie game makers and kid creators, give this one a look. For more information, check out the game website at PlayElevatorUp.com.

 

Lost in the Imagination: A Journey Through Nine Worlds in Nine Nights, by Hiawyn Oram/Illustrated by David Wyatt, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Studio), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536210736

Ages 8-12

This book is just amazing, perfect for the reader always looking for new worlds and new adventures. Taken from the “found” journals of the late theoretical physicist Dawn Gable, the book is an armchair adventure: writing, drawings, research, and keepsakes from Dr. Gable’s nightly journeys into fantastic worlds: Asgard, Camelot, The Lost City of Kôr, and a city of machines, Meganopolis, are only a handful of the worlds explored here. Fantasy artwork brings readers from the fantasy of Camelot, with knights and shields, to the steampunk mechanical world of Meganopolis; dragons fly around Wyvern Alley, with fantastic beasts sketched on journal pages to delight and entice, and the ancient ruins of Atlantis wait for readers in its underwater kingdom, with squid and nautiluses. Perfect for your fantasy fans and anyone who loves the “Ology” series by Dugald Steer. Books like this are a gateway to more reading, so have some Tales of Asgard and Thor on hand, Gulliver’s Travels, or Tales of King Arthur handy.

Keeping this short and sweet, but there is much more to come!
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books to cuddle, snuggle, and hug by

This is a tough time of year we’re going into. We want to hug people that we can’t. We want to see people in person, not through a device screen. We’ll get there. Until then, we have books to share with those we love. Let these snuggly books do the talking when your arms can’t; if you are lucky enough to have snuggly folx within your quarantine circle, then enjoy these books together.

 

You Are a Beautiful Beginning, by Nina Laden/Illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley,
(Aug. 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250311832
Ages 3-6

If little ones ever needed inspiration and to hear about their incredible potential, this is the time. You Are a Beautiful Beginning is all about potential, with encouraging, rhyming phrases that are just what we all need to hear to keep us going: “It is not the number of pages. / It is the story in the book. / It is not how far you traveled. / It is the journey that you took.” Messages also include having self-confidence and not worrying about the outcome, but the progress; being a good person, and being part of a team, and ultimately, becoming who you are supposed to be. Mixed media artwork creates magical spreads with classic fantasy story elements bright colors. You Are a Beautiful Beginning is the encouraging talk so many of us need today, especially our little ones who are facing remote learning, lack of socialization, and feeling overwhelmed by big, often scary feelings. A much-needed pep talk and hug in book form.

 

Because You’re Mine, by Nancy Tillman, (Sept. 2020, Feiwel & Friends),
$18.99, ISBN: 9781250256133
Ages 2-7

Nancy Tillman, award-winning author of On the Night You Were Born, is back with a rhyming story about the love between a parent and child. Because You’re Mine is a parent’s declaration of love from the very beginning: “The moment that you came along / my heart grew mighty, fierce and strong / And everything just fell from view / All that I could see was you”. That fierce devotion never wanes, as Tillman also notes: “The clouds can blow, the wind can call / the snow can come, the rain can fall / but they’ll just have to wait in line”. It speaks to the protective love parents and caregivers have for their littles; children will feel secure and protected hearing their loving grownup read this to them and it’s perfect for bedtime and cuddle time reading. Ms. Tillman’s instantly recognizable artwork, images of children and grownups, frolicking across spreads of woods, fields, and enjoying flora and fauna, brings to mind carefree days and joy.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Books about masking up

Welp, it’s almost the end of the year and we’re still wearing masks. I remember back in April when I ordered masks for my Kiddo and I and thinking, “Geez, they’re backordered 8 weeks? By the time I get them, we won’t need masks anymore.”

So here we are, still masking up – most of us, anyway, but that’s not for me to get into here. It’s hard to explain to littles that they need to keep their masks on, sometimes for an entire school day, depending on where you are. Once again, children’s book authors have our backs. Here are a couple of new ones to help kids work it out.

We Wear Masks, by Marla Lesage, (Nov. 2020, Orca Book Publishers), $19.95, ISBN: 9781459828797

Ages 3-5

This rhyming book takes all the stress out of wearing a mask by showing kids all the people who wear masks for their work or hobbies: ranchers, who wear bandanas around their faces to keep bugs out of their noses and mouths (yuck!); jet pilots, who wear them to breathe; deep sea explorers, actors, and superheroes all wear masks! Transitioning into current events, the verse moves into “everyday heroes” wearing masks, like doctors and nurses, and how wearing a mask can be super helpful: a stinky diaper isn’t so bad when you’re wearing a mask, after all! By encouraging fun, imaginative play, finding a mask that matches one’s style, and emphasizing that we wear masks to show we care for and respect others, this is a lovely little book for younger readers. The artwork is colorful and soft, with a variety of characters wearing a variety of masks in different situations: for example, a duo uses masks with a clear area around the mouth while communicating via sign language; the picture illustrates how different masks are available to accommodate different needs. A cute story that will work nicely in storytimes. Add some fun by handing out mask coloring pages and let kids design their own. There are so many great freebies on Teachers Pay Teachers, like this super-cute mask and social distancing coloring page set, and this super-cute clip art set with animals in masks!

 

 

 

Remember to Smile, by Shannon Q. McDonald, (Aug. 2020, Independently Published), $12, ISBN: 978-0578745497

Ages 4-7

Another cute rhyming book about masks, this is all about finding a mask that fits your style: you can wear a shell mask, like a mermaid, wear a team mask to cheer on your favorite football team, and you can wear masks while hanging roasting s’mores. Just don’t let a dragon wear a mask, unless you want the whole place to burn down! It may not be fun to wear a mask all the time, but remember to smile and have fun. That’s the best thing we can do while we keep the germs away, right? A cute story, illustrated with pastels and loaded with fantasy artwork like mermaids, dragons, and unicorns, this is more about boosting your spirits and looking for the fun in the middle of the chaos. The decorate your own mask crafts I mentioned above will work really well here; encourage kids to find their style!

Remember to Smile supports the COVID-19 Relief Fund for Teachers and Students through the nonprofit organization AdoptAClassroom.org. For more information, head over to RememberToSmile.org.

Posted in Preschool Reads, picture books

Holiday books are coming! Let’s kick off with The Ninth Night of Hanukkah!

I was supposed to have my first holiday post up early this morning, but … 2020, right? But here we are, so let’s get the show on the road. I’m really happy to see more Hanukkah books coming my way this year! This one is sweet, and calls to mind Stone Soup. It’s all about building community this season.

 

The Ninth Night of Hanukkah, by Erica Perl/Illustrated by Shahar Kober, (Sept. 2020, Sterling Publishing), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-4549-4088-3

Ages 3-6

It’s Hanukkah, and Max and Rachel have just moved, with their parents, into a new apartment, so there’s a bit of chaos. The box with all the important Hanukkah stuff – the menorah, Dad’s lucky latke pan, the awesome jelly donut recipe – is missing! Each night, Max and Rachel make do by creating a little bit of Hanukkah, with some help from their new neighbors: Mrs. Mendez has some spare candles, Mr. Patel has chocolate chips, and everyone seems happy to help the new neighbors celebrate. The little fixes just are nice, but it just doesn’t feel like Hanukkah. What to do when the eighth night comes and goes? Well, just add a ninth night and invite everyone over to celebrate! There are nine candles on the menorah, right? A sweet story about community and the holiday, The Ninth Night of Hanukkah shows readers the power of community and infuses a little bit of holiday magic at the end. Back matter includes an author’s note and tips for creating your own “Shamash Night”.

Go to author Erica Perl’s author website for a free, downloadable Event Kit that includes reader’s theatre, decorations, invitations, and more!

Author Erica Perl will be at a Zoom event on December 13th, in celebration of the 2020 Jewish Federation Book Festival! Get your spot now!