Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Award-winning and hilarious: See the Cat

See the Cat, by David LaRochelle/Illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Press), $8.99, ISBN: 9781536204278

Ages 4-7

The 2021 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award-winner, See the Cat, hilariously breaks the fourth wall, a la Elephant and Piggie, with three stories starring a dog who really just wants to take a nap. In the first story, an unseen narrator tells a story about a cat who rides a unicorn while wearing a green dress. It’s a study in concepts and colors and Max, a dog, insists on each spread that he is nothing of the sort, leading to a laugh-out-loud conclusion. The second and third stories see Max learn how to manipulate a story that’s not going his way; the first, when an angry snake shows up, and the final story, when the narrator keeps pushing Max to do something he just doesn’t want to do. Adorably funny back-and forth dialogue between the main character and the narrator, like Snappsy the Alligator or This is a Taco!, make this a great read-aloud between two readers; if you’re going it solo during storytime, let your dramatic flag fly and have fun with voices and facial expressions! Gouache illustrations are cheerful, and Max’s cartoony exasperation will have readers giggling wildly. A must-have.

See the Cat has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Booklist.  Publisher Candlewick has free teacher tips (I love this offering) and a fun activity kit that I’ll be using as a grab-and-go book activity this week.

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction

Spotlight on indie and small publishers!

I hope you like these as much as I do. As I’ve worked through my ginormous TBR this year, I’ve gotten to many of the books sent to me by independent and small authors and publishers; the best way to show them off is to give them their own little spotlight. There are some little gems to be found here.

 

Ollie’s Backpack (A Carefree Ollie Book), by Riya Aarini/Illustrated by Virvalle Caravallo, (July 2020, independently published), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1733166140

Ages 5-7

Ollie is a kid who loves to put stuff in his backpack. He knows there’s stuff that’s way too big, like a moose; way too heavy, like a watermelon, or way too cold, like an igloo. The thing is, he starts to collect little things that end up really weighing him down as he goes through his day: a crumpled homework assignment; a broken toy that a bully snatched from him; a granola bar that a classmate refused to share; even a trophy that he won! As Ollie takes a break from carrying all that heavy weight, he realizes that sometimes, you have to get rid of the weight you carry. He sheds the things that made him sad, and displays the trophy, which made him happy. Once he stops hiding everything away, he realizes that he’s not weighed down anymore!

Ollie’s Backpack is a good social-emotional learning story that reminds me of Brian Wray’s and Shiloh Penfield’s excellent Max’s Box. Kids will see themselves both in the packrat stuffing of everything and anything into a backpack, and will understand the meaning of holding onto memories – for better or for worse – and appreciate Ollie’s way of embracing the good and letting go of the bad. The digital artwork is bright and colorful. A nice choice for your SEL collections. Visit author Riya Aarini’s website for more books, including the next Ollie books.

 

Sam the Superhero and His Super Life, by Kathryn F. Pearson & James T Pearson/Illustrated by Lauren Jezierski, (July 2020, independently published), $9.25, ISBN: 979-8640502343

Ages 5-8

A young boy named Sam lives with his grandparents and loves his stuffed dog, Hercules. He’s very sensitive to sound, light, and touch, and he has what his grandfather calls “big feelings”: he feels everything intensely. His grandfather shows Sam photos of himself as a baby and explains that he was he was born very small and needed to stay in the hospital for a few weeks, and was very sensitive, even as a baby; he also tells Sam that he is a superhero, just like the guys in the comics, for overcoming so many obstacles.

The book looks at children born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS): children born substance-exposed and the challenges they overcome from birth. Developed by an 8-year old girl named Sophia, the story is brought to life through straightforward, simple prose and sketched, gently colorful artwork. Sam the Superhero and His Super Life raises NAS awareness and encourages adults and children alike to approach all kids with kindness and understanding. Visit https://2themoonandback.org/ for more info.

 

Chicken Little Investigates, by Lois Wickstrom/Illustrated by Francie Mion, (Aug. 2019, Look Under Rocks), $12, ISBN: 978-0916176365

Ages 5-7

A fun spin on the classic Chicken Little tale, Chicken Little Investigates puts a STEM spin on the story. Chicken Little and Henny Penny are strolling along when an acorn falls on Chicken Little’s head. Chicken Little and Henny Penny do some experimenting with gravity, and decide to go visit the king to find out what he would call their discovery. Along the way, they meet Goosey Loosey, Ducky Lucky, and Turkey Lurkey, all with different ideas on what to call their discovery, when they meet up with sly Foxy Woxy, who has his own ideas. But the gang is too smart for Foxy, and use their new discovery to escape to safety. A cute introduction to physics, with fun sounds like jangles, flops, and plops, this is a cute read-aloud that invites kids to chime in with their own sound effects. I’d use this in a Discovery Club readaloud and invite kids to drop their own pencils, pillows, and pom-pom balls to see what drops fast, what drops slow, and what sounds they make. Lois Wickstrom has been writing some fun STEM/STEAM stories; see more of her books at her website, Look Under Rocks.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction

Two more #Nocturnals easy readers bring laughs and love!

The Nocturnals: The Best Burp, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (Apr. 2020, Fabled Films Press), $12.95, ISBN: 9781944020323

Ages 4-6

Another fun night out with the Nocturnals has Bismark (of course) competing in a burping contest with a new friend, Bink the Bat. As Bismark and Bink bicker (hee hee… alliteration is fun), Dawn emerges to suggest that maybe a burping contest isn’t the way to be their “best selves”. A cute story about recognizing that burps are natural, but sometimes, polite behavior calls for an “excuse me”, The Best Burp also has a cute side joke that involves my poor buddy, Tobin, as the butt (the burp?) of the joke when Bismark and Bink try to blame the other for the burping contest, which leaves them both pointing toward Tobin, who’s standing the in the middle. Adorably fun with a nice lesson about manners, to boot. Kids will love (and cafeteria aides will relate to) the characters and the tempting fun of the burping contest. Parents, educators, and caregivers will appreciate Dawn, ever the voice of reason, stepping in to negotiate more polite behavior.

 

The Nocturnals: The Weeping Wombat, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (Aug. 2020, Fabled Films Press), $5.99, ISBN: 9781944020330

Ages 5-8

Can you believe this is the eighth Nocturnals adventure? This time, we’ve got a sensitive story about Walter, an emotional, highly sensitive wombat who’s made fun of because he has a tendency to cry easily. The Nocturnals friends rally around Walter, letting him know that they all cry sometimes – even Bismark, who gets emotional just thinking about his Grandpa Guffy. Walter feels so much better after Dawn wisely explains that weeping is “just another way to show how we feel”, and that it can even make us feel better. A very sweet story about sensitivity and emotions, The Weeping Wombat is a nice addition to social-emotional learning texts for storytime.

Each book has a Nocturnals Fun Facts section that introduces readers to the Nocturnals. Don’t forget to visit their Nocturnals website, which is updated often and has great resources for homeschooling and nature camp activities. You’ll find Nocturnals character masks, book club questions, sight words games, and Common Core, Science, and Social-Emotional Learning Guides, all free and available for downloading.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Graphic Novels, I Read Stuff/Kiddo

Introducing… The Kiddo!

Hi all! I’ve been radio silent for a while, because I’ve been home enjoying my midwinter break vacation with my kiddos. Imagine my delight (and abject terror) when he announced that he wants to be a YouTuber, and that he wanted his first video to be about books. I went back and forth on this for a while, but here I go… I’d like to introduce you all to my kiddo, Gabe.

It’s his first, and he’s 7, but I think – in my very biased opinion – he’s adorable. I hope you enjoy hearing about kids’ books from an actual kid.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a big ol’ TBR to start writing up!

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Media, picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads, TV Shows

Nick Jr’s Rainbow Rangers come to bookshelves

Since my kids have gotten bigger, I find myself woefully out of the loop on what’s popular on Nick Jr. these days. Apparently, Wallykazam is not a thing anymore? Thank goodness for Paw Patrol, or I’d really feel out of touch. Anyway. I was invited to check out the new line of books from Nick Jr’s newest show, Rainbow Rangers, so I did my research and consulted my 4-year-old niece, who assured me that this was a good show, because they girls are all rainbow colors and there is a unicorn. This, if you don’t realize it, is pretty big praise, so I dove in.

The Rainbow Rangers are “Earth’s first responders”. Basically, they’re the Avengers meets Captain Planet, and wow, I’ve just aged myself in one sentence. They live in Kaleidoscopia, a magical land on the other side of the rainbow, and there are six of them, each representing a different color of the rainbow: Rosie Redd; Mandarin Orange; Anna Banana; Pepper Mintz; Bonnie Blueberry; Indy Allfruit, and Lavender LaViolette all have different superpowers that they use to work together and keep Earth’s natural resources safe. Their leader, Kalia, sends them out on missions, and their pet unicorn, Floof, is there to help out. ImprintReads, from publisher Macmillan, has a Rainbow Rangers book for every reader in their new line of releases.

Rainbow Rangers: Rockin’ Rainbow Colors, by Summer Greene,
(Sept. 2019, Imprint/Macmillan), $9.99, ISBN: 9781250190345
Ages 3-6

This tabbed, oversized board book introduces each Rainbow Ranger, their talent, and also works with color recognition. Each of the Rainbow Rangers is named for a color in the spectrum, after all. It’s chunky, will hold up to multiple reads and exploring little hands, and the artwork is full of bright colors and large-eyed, expressive superheroines. Way too cute, preschoolers and toddlers will love this book.

 

Rainbow Rangers: The Quest for the Confetti Crystal, by Summer Greene/Illustrated by Joshua Heinsz and Maxime Lebrun,
(Sept. 2019, Imprint/Macmillan), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250190338
Ages 3-6

This picture book is great for preschoolers and early elementary school readers, and it’s an original Rainbow Rangers story. The Rainbow Rangers have plans to celebrate Bonnie Blueberry’s 100th mission with a party, and unicorn Floof is put in charge of protecting their Confetti Crystal for the celebration, while the Rangers head off on their mission. Floof tries to contribute to the party planning using the crystal, but the crystal rolls away, and Floof is off on his own mission to retrieve it. The artwork is adorable; the characters from the show are instantly recognizable, and for those of us who aren’t quite familiar with the Rainbow Rangers, it’s a fun fantasy adventure starring a unicorn, magic, and adventure.

 

Rainbow Rangers: Meet the Team, by Summer Greene,
(Sept. 2019, Imprint/Macmillan), $4.99, ISBN: 9781250190314
Ages 3-7

The team’s origin story comes together in Easy Reader format in Meet the Team, which introduces the characters and their powers, using a little more vocabulary than the Rockin’ Rainbow Colors board book. The story also emphasizes the importance of teamwork and respecting one another, even if you don’t always agree. Sentences are longer, with a little more meat to the information; emerging readers will love sitting down with this one and digging right in.

 

Rainbow Rangers: To the Rescue!, by Summer Greene,
(Sept. 2019, Imprint/Macmillan), $4.99, ISBN: 9781250190253
Ages 3-7

To the Rescue! is the 8×8 media tie-in, recreating the first Rainbow Rangers adventure: rescuing a polar bear cub when a melting ice floe separates him from his mother. The girls fly into action, discovering how to work together and addressing climate change on an age-appropriate level: “When temperatures get hotter, ice shelves break apart”. There’s a punch-out, wearable Kaleidocom that kids can wear just like the character Rosie Redd (librarians: keep this one in your desk until you can make copies or hold a giveaway). Fonts are bright and bold, with some words getting rainbow bubble font treatment for extra emphasis.

There’s a little something for everyone here, and kids will gobble this series up. The Rainbow Rangers website also has video clips, profiles on each character, and free, downloadable activity and coloring sheets. Have them on hand!

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Nocturnals Easy Readers are back with The Tasty Treat and The Kooky Kinkajou!

Regular readers know how much I love Tracey Hecht’s The Nocturnals series from Fabled Films Press. There are four great middle grade novels about the three adventuring animal friends, and there have been four easy readers so far, which has been fantastic for my second grader, who loves reading them. There are positive messages in each book, and the Fabled Films friends have really put the time in to create lesson plans and learning games that address kindness and compassion among kids, using the series’ characters to communicate the message. Here’s a look at the two latest books in the Nocturnals series.

The Nocturnals: The Kooky Kinkajou, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (Sept. 2019, Fabled Films Press), $5.99, ISBN: 9781944020248

Ages 4-7

The Nocturnals Brigade meets a Karina, a careening kinkajou, while stargazing one night. Naturally, Bismark is his usual churlish self at first, but Karina leads the group through imaginative play through the forest, enchanting them with her exciting way of seeing things: a weeping willow tree becomes a rainfall; bent tree, a rainbow. Even Bismark can’t stay cranky with Karina’s contagious enthusiasm and creative way of looking at things. Nocturnals fun facts and new words make up the back matter. This makes a good readaloud for preschoolers, indulging and encouraging their imaginations and creative play, and is a Grow & Read Level 3, making it spot-on for newly independent readers.

There are great moments for discussion within the story. Bismark always makes for good “what not to do” moments; Tobin’s sweet innocence makes him the first to commit to Karina’s game, and makes him the perfect character to inspire readers to see shapes in the clouds, make up stories with the stars, and jump over rocks in an imaginary riverbed. Josie Yee’s art really captures the playful spirit of each character, making them soft, approachable, and cuddly for younger readers (especially my son, who made off with my plush Dawn months ago). Another win for my favorite group of nocturnal friends!

The Nocturnals: The Tasty Treat, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (Oct. 2019, Fabled Films Press), $5.99, ISBN: 9781944020309

Ages 4-7

The friends share a tasty treat – a pomelo, a favorite that shows up in many Nocturnals books – in this Level 1 reader. Short, simple sentences make this a good choice for pre-readers and new readers to start with, giving them some new vocabulary words and introducing them to the Nocturnals. The story revolves around Dawn, the fox, as she seeks and finds her friends one evening. Bismark has a pomelo, which he graciously offers to share, and the friends sit down to a pomelo picnic. Nocturnals fun facts reinforce character traits and introduce new words. Josie Yee’s artwork always makes the Nocturnals feel like cozy friends that kids will love spending time with. Bismark’s wide-eyed, exaggerated facial expressions are perfect for his blustering character with a heart of gold; Dawn’s all-knowing fox always has a slight smile, like she knows something most don’t (especially Bismark), and Tobin is the picture of shy but sweet, with eyes that gaze upward and a shy smile on his face.

This is a good introduction to The Nocturnals for new readers, and a great way to illustrate sharing.

The Nocturnals webpage has educator resources and activity kits, with Common Core activities and discussion questions and science activities that meet Next Generation Science standards. Activity Kits include word games, printable masks, and face-painting kits.

 

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

Upside Down Sid teaches inclusivity and empathy

Upside-Down Sid, by Dylan Shearsby, (Sept. 2019, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 9781610678896

Ages 4-7

Upside-Down Sid is upside-down and a right-side world. It’s been that way as long as he can remember, so he mostly keeps to himself and stays home. When some neighbors send a basketball flying through his window, Sid discovers a new group of friends. When he joins them at the amusement park and has them over for dinner, things are a little bit of a mess… but one day, while Sid goes out, his new friends fix up his house and give Sid’s home the makeover he deserves: everything is upside-down to fit Sid’s life!

Upside-Down Sid is a story about kindness, empathy, inclusivity, and accessibility. Sid has to adjust to the world around him, which makes him sad and withdrawn. His new friends help make changes that will make Sid’s world conform to his life, and they go happily along for the ride, finding ways to include Sid in their activities. The brief sentences and cartoon art make this a good choice when talking about kindness and working with other who may need environmental adjustments for accessibility. The egg-shaped characters have expressive eyes and facial expressions, and the art is boldly outlined with bright colors.

Originally published in Australia in 2018, Upside-Down Sid has free, downloadable teachers’ notes and discussion questions that will hopefully spark good discussion and a pay-it-forward feeling among readers.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Hasbro’s Lost Kitties get Easy Readers

So this is a thing I’ve somehow missed out on previously, but Hasbro has these collectible toys, Lost Kitties, that my son – and the kids here at my library – tell me that they LOVE. (Sorry, I’m still recovering from Shopkins.) The Hasbro website has videos, downloadable pictures, and all sorts of unboxing videos, so if you haven’t had these little critters take over your home yet… give ’em time. But I’m here to talk about the books. Because there are books now!

Lost Kitties: #Adorbs, by Maggie Fischer, (May 2019, Studio Fun International), $4.99, ISBN: 9780794444181

Ages 4-7

There are 5 stories in this Easy Reader-format book about the #Adorbs squad, making this a nice independent read for a newly confident reader, or for several quick read-alouds to a little one. Nap-Kin is a kitty who wants to nap, but can’t find a quiet place. Bonbon is a baker, but her friend Tummy Tum keeps eating all her snacks – how can she fill her up? Pixie Purrs is also looking for a comfy spot to nap, but decides to help her stressed out friend, Francis, relax into some yoga instead. Tickles is playing outside and his friends trick him into thinking he’s a butterfly. Memez is practicing for a singing contest when his friends, J. Roly and Pepp, start teaching him some new dance moves. The stories are cute, fluffy, and illustrated in full color with bold, big, colorful fonts and word balloons, showing the kittens in all their #Adorbs-ness.

 

Lost Kitties: #Nomz, by Maggie Fischer, (May 2019, Studio Fun International), $4.99, ISBN: 978-0794444303

Ages 4-7

The #Nomz squad likes to get into trouble, whether it’s Chomp testing hot peppers to spice up her taco hot sauce, or Chunks training for a – gulp – Grand Hairball Hacking Competition. Loafy has a crisis when his toaster breaks, but they’ve all got their squad to help them out. These Early Reader format books are cute media tie-ins, and will give kids a little extra dimension of play – encourage them to draw their own Lost Kitties adventures, and give them some templates to let them create with. The artwork is bold, bright, and fun, and the characters have giant, expressive facial expressions that are worth loads of laughs.

 

 

Hasbro Lost Kitties Collector’s Guide, by Maggie Fischer, (May 2019, Studio Fun International), $8.99, ISBN: 978-0794443863

Ages 6-9

This skews a little older, because it’s a Collector’s Guide with denser information. The Guide includes profiles of over 100 kitties out there to collect; each profile has a brief, descriptive paragraph and stats, including likes, dislikes, favorite snack and toy, hobbies, a motto, and life’s dream. There are lolcat-like memes for each Lost Kitty, a hashtag to note which Squad they belong to, and whether they belong to Series 1 or Series 2 releases. For a mom and librarian who’s surrounded by Pokemon and Pokedexes everywhere I go, this is awfully familiar… This is very cute and will be popular with the kids: especially if there’s ever an animated cartoon to tie in. The books are adorable enough that the act of putting them on my shelves started a mob, so we’ll go from there.

 

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Blog Tour: The Missing Money, by Okeoma Moronu Schreiner

Coming off a successful Kickstarter, Money Monsters: The Missing Money is here to teach kids about handling their money – and to trust that chompy ATM machine.

The Missing Money (Money Monsters), by Okeoma Moronu Schreiner/Illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat,
(July 2019, FinKidLit), $11.95, ISBN: 978-1733806718
Ages 4-7

Kai is a little boy who’s very excited: he has a bunch of money from his Chinese New Year red envelopes, and Dad’s promised to take him to the bank to deposit it! But – holy cow – they don’t even get into the bank when A GIANT ATM MONSTER EATS HIS MONEY! Kai is not happy about this turn of events, and puts together a plan to get his money back. When he lets his parents know, though, they’re not terribly concerned: in fact, they tell him that his money is safe and sound, and that an ATM keeps his money safe until he’s ready to use it again. They even show him a nifty phone app where he can check on his money any time he wants!

The Missing Money is an adorable introduction to money management for younger kids. “Happy Lawyer” Okeoma Moronu Schreiner is a corporate finance attorney and mom, and has a wonderful storytelling voice here. The Missing Money is a realistic, fun, and approachable way to introduce kids to money management: banks, ATMs, and bank apps! A key words section introduces new vocabulary, and conversation starters help families and caregivers start talking about money. Sandhya Prabhat’s hand-painted and digital illustrations are bright, bold, and adorable! Kai is a biracial child of color with an Asian father and brown-skinned mother, and lives in what looks like an urban environment.

A great way to start talking to our little ones about saving those pennies (and dollars). I’m looking forward to seeing other Money Monsters Ms. Schreiner and Ms. Sandhya Prabhat have in store!

 

A little Q&A with author Okeoma Moronu Schreiner…

How did financial literacy for young people become a passion of yours?
Before I was a personal finance junkie, I was an elementary school teacher. I guess you could say that I’ve always had a passion for translating seemingly complex concepts into fun, educational content. 

What advice do you have for parents interested in starting these financial discussions with their children?
Do it early and often. 

Why is it important to start these money talks with your children at a young age?
The earlier you start these conversations the more comfortable you’ll be having them throughout the many seasons of parenthood. Truth is that the conversations will only get tougher and tougher as your children get older so you want to develop the language and comfort before it’s too late. Your children are internalizing “stories” and beliefs about money that may not be true and have the potential of impacting their financial lives forever. If we, as parents, don’t help shape those stories and beliefs, our children will create their own. 

What are some concrete steps parents can take while their children are young to start their children out on the right financial path?
Take the time to involve them in your everyday money decisions. Whether it’s choosing between two products at the grocery store or choosing not to spend on something in order to save for a bigger goal, children will benefit from understanding how money decisions are made in everyday situations. 

Speak to them about in values, not figures. In our house, our kids know that the environment is very important to us so we’ll pay more for a product that is more sustainable and/or eco-friendly. Help your little ones understand your family’s values and how your money supports and reflects those values. 

Teach them contentment. This is a hard lesson that can take a lifetime to learn. In order to get your little one off on the right foot you can lead by example, help your children practice gratitude and teach them the value of giving. 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

More Nocturnals! Who will win The Chestnut Challenge?

The Nocturnals: The Chestnut Challenge, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (April 2019, Fabled Films Press), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-944020-23-1

Ages 5-7

The latest Nocturnals easy reader is a story about playing fair. Sugar glider Bismark just loses a game of chestnut checkers to Tobin the pangolin, when a chinchilla named Chandler shows up and declares himself a chestnut champion, challining poor Tobin to a game. Tobin just likes to play for fun, but Bismark nudges him into play. Chandler causes distractions that get the group to look elsewhere so he can cheat, but Bismark finally catches him and calls him out! After confessing to cheating because he wanted to win, Tobin gently reminds him that practice makes perfect, and Dawn invites him to play with them as a group. The Chestnut Challenge addresses cheating, but it also looks at being sore losers and sore winners: we see Bismark being a sore loser, and Chandler, when cheating, gloats over his moves. Tobin doesn’t want to be in cutthroat competition, he just wants to have fun; it’s a point we should all be making when we read this with our kiddos. Winning can be fun, but cheating to win isn’t really winning. That said, being gracious and offering someone a second chance is winning, all on its own. (And, naturally, with Bismark keeping an eye out.) Back matter includes an introduction to each of the core group of Nocturnals, plus a fun fact about chestnuts.

I’m a dedicated fan of this series. Tracey Hecht has a way of reaching kids by using adorable animals with distinctive personalities to get to the heart of real-life situations kids find themselves coping with, and how to start discussions about those situations. These books are a great go-to for us grown-ups, too. The Nocturnals World website has great, free downloadables, including activity kids, coloring sheets and games, videos, and educational resources.