Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

So Cool/So Cute… So perfect for kids

NatGeo Kids once again rocks my nonfiction section with a new series for younger readers. So Cool/So Cute is perfect for preschoolers through first graders who love animals, whether they’re cool, like dinosaurs, or cute, like puppies. Filled with facts, amusing side commentary, and color artwork and photos, they’re a great add to displays and small enough to fit inside a backpack or Mom’s bag.

So Cute! Puppies, by National Geographic Kids, (Feb. 2022, National Geographic Kids), $6.99, ISBN: 9781426339066

Ages 3-5

Readers who love puppies will love this adorable collection of puppy facts and photos. They’ll come away with fun facts: did you know that playtime is just as important for puppies as it is for kids? It is! Playtime “teaches young pooches important lessons in how to make friends – and keep them”. They’ll learn a little bit about some of the over 400 dog breeds out and about, and how some puppies look very different at birth, like the Dalmatian, born without spots. Clearly labeled photos introduce kids to different dog breeds, and fun word bubbles give the puppies a say in the dialogue-based text. A perfect Dad joke ends this volume and will give readers a giggle.

Want to pair the book with a fun puppy craft activity? Try Ms. Merry’s Build-a-Puppy craft, or some of these creative and fun crafts from The Spruce Crafts.

 

So Cool! Dinos, by National Geographic Kids, (Feb. 2022, National Geographic Kids), $6.99, ISBN: 9781426339042

Ages 3-5

Puppies are so cute, but dinosaurs? They are SO COOL. This little book is filled with dino facts and colorful artwork, with humorous commentary to keep kids laughing while they learn. An armored Ankylosaurus warns readers, “You wouldn’t want to mess with this”, while a peevish Pterosaur gripes that they wouldn’t “want to be a dinosaur anyway”. Readers will find out ways that scientists learn more about dinosaurs, and yes, there is a mention of dinosaur poop (coprolite), to keep them entertained. There’s information about dinosaur descendants that live in our world today, dino babies, and different-sized dinos. Clearly labeled pictures also offer phonetic pronunciation, making dino researchers out of every reader. The ever-present Dad joke closes this volume.

We Are Teachers has a great article with 20 different dinosaur activities for kids. Offer some as a companion activities or have a Dino Day.

There are more So Cool!/So Cute! books available, including Sharks (So Cool!), Koalas (So Cute!), Leopards (So Cool!), and Pandas (So Cute!).

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction

Really Bird is great for preschool and kindergarten SEL collections

Red Comet Press debuted a new Easy Reader series that is great for preschoolers and kindergarteners and SEL collections. Really Bird is a round, blue bird that lives in a city park and spends time with friends Cat and Pup. Really Bird is REALLY enthusiastic about things: “They call me Really Bird because when I’m happy, or sad, or thirsty, or scared, I’m REALLY happy, or REALLY scared… or REALLY thirsty!” Sound familiar? If you’ve spent any time around young kids, it should! The first two books hit shelves in April; let’s take a peek inside.

I Really Want a Bigger Piece! (A Really Bird Story), by Harriet Ziefert/Illustrated by Travis Foster, (Apr. 2022, Red Comet Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9781636550190

Ages 4-7

Really Bird, Cat, and Pup are having a blueberry pie picnic, but each has different ideas on how big a slice they should get. Pup feels like slices should be in size order; Really Bird is starving, so he wants a really big piece, and Cat is frustrated that his piece is messy and missing crust. Can the friends figure out how to share the pie to make everyone happy? The story is laid out in similar fashion to popular Easy Readers like Elephant and Piggie, the Ballet Cat books by Bob Shea, and Cece Bell’s Chick and Brain books, with the narration taking place as dialogue between the characters. The friends state the problem – how to figure out sharing the blueberry pie – and offer different steps to solve the issue, with pluses and minuses (plus – dog gets the biggest piece; minus – Really Bird gets the smallest!); the characters work together to resolve the problem, and all is well at the end! Discussion questions and an activity help kids reflect on what they’ve read and apply it to their experiences. Cartoony characters with bold colors and outlines make this an eye-catching book that makes for a great read-aloud, read-along, or read together.

 

 

 

I Really Want to Be First! (A Really Bird Story), by Harriet Ziefert/Illustrated by Travis Foster, (Apr. 2022, Red Comet Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9781636550183

Ages 4-7

Really Bird and friends are together again! Really Bird is usually last when the friends walk together, but decides today’s the day he’s going to be first! Now that Really Bird is the leader, he takes his friends on a hike that isn’t really easy if you aren’t a bird! Cat and Pup help one another down from a tree, and Really Bird is so focused on being first, he’s ready to start an argument over it. Thankfully, cooler heads prevail and the day is saved. Really Bird is a recognizable voice for young children who are still working on social skills and taking turns, and the story illustrates equity and equality through taking turns and in going on an adventure that isn’t always fair to everyone – all three can climb the tree, but it’s certainly going to be easier for friends with wings! Discussion questions prompt conversation and insight. The story has the comforting familiarity of starting out in the same way: an introduction to Really Bird, the park where he lives, and the origin of his name, along with an introduction to the book’s topic: “Today I REALLY want to be First!” versus “Today I REALLY want a bigger piece!”

 

 

Red Comet also sent me an adorable Really Bird plush to accompany at me at storytime! According to Red Comet’s website, he should be available now. Take a look at this cutie!

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Two books for dinosaur fans!

I’ve got two fun books for dinosaur fans: one fiction, one non-fiction, both adorable.

I Am Hatzetgopteryx (I Am Preshistoric), by Timothy J. Bradley, (Nov. 2021, Arbordale Publishing), $10.95, ISBN: 9781643518213

Ages 3-7

Look at that brilliant beak! Look at that impressive wingspan! I Am Hatzetgopteryx introduces readers to a pterosaur they may not have heard of – yet. Everyone knows pterodactyls, but Hatzegopteryx is a more recent discovery (2002). I Am Hatzetgopteryx is an early reader that uses repetition and simple, factual sentences to teach readers about this pteranodon. A Hatzegopteryx chick hatches and goes through life, flapping and leaping, dodging and chasing, giving readers a glimpse into the prehistoric world. Artwork is colorful and the Hatzegopteryx’s bright orange and black beak jumps off the page, as does the pteranodon’s often colorful prey.

The For Creative Minds supplement is available on the book detail page at Arbordale’s website, as are quizzes. The book is available in English and Spanish, and is the companion book to I Am Allosaurus, the first book in the I Am Prehistoric series.

There are some good Hatzegopteryx resources available for readers who want to learn more. Check out Earth Archives, and Planet Dinosaur’s wiki page dedicated to the pterosaur.

 

Never Teach a Stegosaur to Do Sums, by Rashmi Sirdeshpande & Diane Ewen, (Jan. 2022, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684643424

Ages 3-7

Imagine what would happen if you could teach a dinosaur to do math? The little girl who almost caused a dinosaur uprising by teaching a T. Rex to read is back with a new dinosaur friend in a companion book to Never Show a T. Rex a Book (2021). Here, she teaches a stegosaurus to do math, leading to delicious baked goods, coding, even building a rocket ship to go to the moon! But wait! What happens when you can do math so well that you accidentally create a possible robot uprising? Never Teach a Stegosaur to Do Sums is a celebration of all things mathematics, with fun illustration details including cameos from our T. Rex friend and his storybook. The cartoon artwork portrays a young girl of color exploring all the things math lets you do, with exciting moments like opening a book and unleashing a whirlwind of numbers, pie charts, and bar graphs; unlocking codes and recipes; engineering bridges, and building rockets and robots. A poster of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson graces the girl’s bedroom wall, and rocket ship curtains frame her window; a dinosaur blanket covers her bed. The light, fun storytelling inspires kids to love math by illustrating its presence in our everyday lives. Pair with its companion book or with another fun dinosaur, like my old friend Dexter T. Rexter, for a fun dinosaur storytime: and don’t forget the Laurie Berkner soundtrack (and book)!

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, picture books

Fen’s Drop of Gray colors her whole world

Fen’s Drop of Gray, by Brian Wray/Illustrated Shiloh Penfield, (Nov. 2021, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764362194

Ages 5-8

A hedgehog named Fen loves to paint with bright colors, but one day, a drop of gray gets into her paints and colors her entire world: her paintings and everything around her lose their color, slowly turning gray and adding to her sadness. It’s not like Fen doesn’t want color in her world: she looks through her mother’s art books and tries to find rainbows in the rain, but the gray persists until her mother gives her new, colorful paints. With the color back in her life, Fen takes back her happiness and knows that when the gray tries to take her colors away again, she’ll be ready. A gentle story about how depression can sneak up on us, Fen’s Drop of Gray is Brian Wray and Shiloh Penfield’s latest intuitive story about managing emotions. Using the metaphor of a drop of gray finding its way into our colorful worlds is a great way of explaining those unexplainable “sads” that can show up unexpected, stripping the color in our lives. Try as she might, Fen can’t find her colors and she doesn’t know how to ask for help. Sometimes, all we need is someone – in Fen’s case, her mom – to reach through the gray. It’s not a cure-all, but knowing that someone is there to listen and help is the important message. It’s also important that Fen knows the gray may try to come back, and creates her own coping mechanisms for when that happens.

An important acknowledgement of childhood depression, Fen’s Drop of Gray is another must-have to put into your social-emotional collections and a good starting point for discussion.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, picture books

Don’t Miss: Little John Crow

Little John Crow, by Ziggy and Orly Marley/Illustrated by Gordon Rowe, (Nov. 2021, Akashic Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781617759802

Ages 5-8

Young vulture Little John Crow happily lives with his parents in Bull Bay, on the edge of Blue Mountains in Jamaica. Initially, he has no idea what his parents do for a living, but discovers – along with his friends – that his parents are vultures. Scavengers. This makes him an outcast among his friends, and a tragedy sends John off on his own, where he meets other vultures who welcome him into their kettle (a group of vultures!). With John and his parents no longer part of the Bay, the ecosystem is disrupted and the remaining animals realize that they were too quick and too harsh to judge their friend. They set out to find him and hope that he’ll be able to restore things to normal.

Vibrant artwork and emotional storytelling come together to create a readable, unputdownable story about prejudice, acceptance, and family – the families we’re born into and found families, with a subplot about disrupting ecosystems. A good addition to collections where animal stories are popular.

Ziggy Marley is a musician, philanthropist, and children’s book author, and the eldest of reggae artist Bob Marley’s children. Visit his website for more about his career. Orly Marley is Ziggy Marley’s wife, is also an entrepreneur and music industry manager. Gordon Rowe is a hip-hop influenced illustrator and designer. You can find his Instagram here.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

See the Dog follows See the Cat for wordplay hilarity

See the Dog: Three Stories About a Cat, by David LaRochelle/Illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $8.99, ISBN: 9781536216295

Ages 4-7

The hilarious follow-up to last year’s Geisel Award-winning See the Cat has Cat taking center stage while Dog is out sick. Cat’s not thrilled with the bossy book, though, and the results are laugh-out-loud funny. In the first story, “See the Dog”, we get the scoop on Cat, who’s filling in for Dog, but isn’t really up for that whole “Dogs dig holes” sort of business. “See the Lake”, story number two, has the book trying to get Cat to jump in a cold lake and swim, and “See the Sheep” is all about how brave Cat will save a sheep… until Cat discovers that there’s a wolf on the way. A surprise cameo caps off this side-splitting story. Gouache artwork makes for warm, cartoony expressions and the back-and-forth dialogue between “Book” and “Cat” makes for a hilarious readaloud.¬†Download the activity kit from Candlewick!

See the Dog has starred reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus.

 

Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books

Niki Nakayama’s blends cultures in her chef story

Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites, by Jamie Michalak & Debbi Michiko Florence/Illustrated by Yuko Jones, (Sept. 2021, Farrar, Straus & Giroux), $18.99, ISBN:¬†9780374313876

Ages 4-8

Niki Nakayama, the master chef behind the California restaurant n/Naka, shares her story in this lovely picture book biography from children’s book authors Jamie Michalak, Debbi Michiko Florence, and illustrator Yuko Jones. Beginning with Ms. Nakayama’s childhood in California, the story gives us 13 “bites”: 13 defining moments in the chef’s life, to parallel her 13 course menus at n/naka. The Japanese-American chef developed a love of global cuisine as a child; her mother blended Japanese and American foods and flavors together to make meals like meatloaf with soy sauce, or teriyaki turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Ms. Nakayama began creating her own recipes as a child, eventually traveling the world to sample cuisines from different cultures. When she returned to the United States, she apprenticed as a sushi chef, ultimately opening her own restaurant, n/naka, where she now creates 13-course tasting “storytelling” menus. Back matter includes a timeline of Niki Nakayama’s life, an explanation of terms used in the story, and the chef’s own childhood wonton pizza recipe. The story flows from moment to moment in the chef’s life, touching on frustrations like having her family dote on her brother, and having her family agree to finance her first restaurant, but agree to give up her dream if it was not successful. Spreads show Nakayama and her family gathering at their own table, and families gathering to eat at n/naka, illustrating the power of community that eating together brings. Spreads show colorful foods from all over the world sprawl across pages, and diners speaking different languages as they enjoy a creative master chef’s food.

You can visit n/naka’s website and see Chef Nakayama’s profile; you can see a promo for her Chef’s Table episode on Netflix below.

 

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Bridge Easy Readers and Intermediate chapter books with Barkus and Charlie & Mouse

Transitioning from Easy Readers to chapter books is even more fun with these colorful chapter book series!

Barkus: The Most Fun, by Patricia MacLachlan/Illustrated by Marc Boutavant, (Sept. 2021, Chronicle Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781452173344

Ages 6-9

Newbery Medalist Patricia Machlachlan’s Barkus series is adorable and perfect for easy readers who are ready to take on some more complex reading. The third book, Barkus: The Most Fun, has Barkus, the family dog, and his family going on a series of outdoor adventures. Composed of four stories, Barkus, Baby the Kitten, and his human family go camping, visit grandmother and grandfather’s farm, visit a parade, and head to their winter cabin. Narrated by the young girl who happens to be Barkus’s favorite human, the stories are brief enough to read one at a time or all at once; sentences are simple and informative, and the colorful illustrations show a happy family doing things together. There are warm and funny moments in each story: Barkus and Baby end up making news in “The Most Fun!” and witness the birth of a calf in “The Crazy Cows of Spring”. The images are warm, comforting, and familiar: a family traveling in their car, a dog and cat curled up together in the back; a grandparent hugging his granddaughter and patting Barkus’s head as he leans into the loving touch; even a mildly put-upon dad, frowning as his daughter, her dog, and cat peek out from a pile of leaves that he was raking.¬†Patricia MacLachlan and Marc Boutavant make magic and memories here.

Visit Scribd and download Barkus activity sheets!

 

Charlie & Mouse: Lost and Found, by Laurel Snyder/Illustrated by Emily Hughes, (Aug. 2021, Chronicle Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781452183404

Ages 6-9

Siblings Charlie and Mouse have new adventures in their fifth outing. Lost & Found has four short stories, taking the sibs on slightly smaller – but no less exciting – adventures, all taking place in the course of one day. In “Somewhere”, the two search high and low for Mouse’s blanket; in “Errands”, they join Mom on the dreaded series of errands – the bank, the post office – but make a BIG discovery! In “Silly”, Charlie and Mouse have a sad goodbye, but in “Boop”, another discovery warms their hearts. Chapters are short, with simple sentences; stories are kid-friendly and oh-so relatable (the very mention of the words “bank”, “grocery store”, or “post office” strikes fear into my 9-year-old’s heart), Illustrations are softly illustrated, with friendly, expressive characters. The body language between the siblings is comforting and playful. The siblings slump on each other in the car during the dreaded errands; Charlie comforts a distraught Mouse, who cannot locate Blanket. Parents show up for a few moments in the stories, but the focal point is the relationship between Charlie and Mouse, as it should be. The first book in the series, Charlie and Mouse, is a 2018 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner.

Get a free Teacher’s Guide to the series, and two activity sheets here.

Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

Jurassic Pets! Dr. Dean Lomax and Mike Love gives us Preshistoric Pets

Prehistoric Pets, by Dr. Dean Lomax/Illustrated by Mike Love, (Sept. 2021, Templar), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217148

Ages 5-9

Cat people all know that our little furballs think of themselves as savage, saber-toothed tigers on the hunt, whether they’re stalking a daydreaming dinosaur or a dust bunny. But did you ever imagine what your guinea pig’s ancestors may have looked like? Paleontologist Dr. Dean Lomax has you covered. Prehistoric Pets looks at the evolution of seven favorite kinds of pets: guinea pigs, parakeets, corn snakes, cats, goldfish, dogs, and horses. Using the fossil record to trace each pet’s lineage, Dr. Lomax goes back through the family trees of each of these popular pets to give us an idea of their prehistoric parentage. That chatty parrot likely descended from the Velociraptor; your corn snake can trace its heritage back to the giant Titanoboa. Each spread folds out into a pop-up gatefold, with the prehistoric beast rising up from the pages. Loaded with facts about both the modern animal and its primeval counterpart, and filled with colorful artwork, this is a home run for your prehistory collections. Display and talk up with one of my favorite read-alouds, Steve Jenkins’s Prehistoric Actual Size. The pop-ups are going to seal the deal for readers on this book – get a couple if your budget permits.

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Indie author/publisher spotlight!

It’s time for another independent author/publisher spotlight!

Ms. Flygirl and Sky Daisy, by Miho Madarame, (Sept. 2020, Independently Published), $7.99, ISBN: 979-8684124501

Ages 6-8

The first in a series, Ms. Flygirl and Sky Daisy is a collection of six short stories about a widow named Ms. Flygirl who takes to the skies in her yellow helicopter, Sky Daisy, where she has all sorts of adventures. She saves a tree, eats a lot of sweets, does a fox’s laundry, and more. Each story begins with a colorful illustration, and the stories are told in short sentences. Kids will get a kick out of the situations Ms. Flygirl finds herself in. A cute first outing.

 

Adventures with Divot & Swish in Costa Rica: The Superpower of Courage, by Beth Brown, PhD/Illustrations by Charlotte Strickland, (Jan. 2021, Divot & Swish Publishing), $17.95, ISBN: 9781735170008

Ages 5-7

This adorable outing is also the first in a proposed new series, starring Divot – a golf ball with a little tuft of grass around their middle – and Swish, a net with a basketball for a head. In this first book, the friends head to Costa Rica for surfing lessons with Sammy the Surfer, who teaches them the mechanics of surfing, and the courage to face their fears of not being perfect on their first outing. The rhyming story teaches readers about overcoming fears and embracing new challenges: “It’s important to know / That you can do it afraid / If you never had tried / On shore, you’d then stayed”. The Costa Rican countryside is host to this story, but really only serves as a backdrop. I’d love to see future Divot and Swish adventures have some fun facts about their locations pop up at the end of the story, giving kids a little more information about their literary friends’ globe-trotting.

Nat Geo Kids has some fun facts about Costa Rica, as does Kids World Travel Guide. Lonely Planet has some fun suggestions for traveling with kids in Costa Rica, which you can use as a jumping-off point for some armchair travel programs. Visit Divot & Swish’s website to sign up for updates!