Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

The Faith of Elijah Cummings pays tribute to a giant

The Faith of Eljah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice, by Carole Boston Weatherford/Illustrated by Laura Freeman, (Jan. 2022, Random House Studio), $17.99, ISBN: 9780593306505

Ages 6-10

Congressman and civil rights advocate Elijah Cummings left an extraordinary legacy when he passed in 2019. Carole Boston Weatherford, whose numerous awards include a Newbery Medal and two NAACP Image Awards, along with NAACP Image Award winning illustrator Laura Freeman, to create a picture book biography that makes this giant of a man accessible to all ages. Beginning with the Congressman’s impoverished childhood and moving through his civil rights journey, focus on inner-city youth, and government work, we also see how Elijah Cummings’s faith and family was his anchor. Photorealistic illustrations are bold and eye-catching, and quotes from Elijah Cummings inspire readers as Carole Boston Weatherford’s narration concentrates on his humanity, choosing moments in his life like being tutored by librarians when his teachers said he would never be able to read or write well; his mother’s preaching, which inspired him to care for others in need, and the civil rights lawyer from his youth that inspired him to defend kids who needed defending. As a “Washington power broker”, he continued living in his Baltimore inner-city neighborhood and hung a campaign sign in his window so others could find him. Back matter includes an excerpt from the statement from the Congressional Black Caucus made upon the Congressman’s passing; a timeline of Elijah Cummings’s life; a bibliography, and the quote sources. Endpapers show Elijah Cummings, in profile, set against the American flag.

An incredible book for an incredible figure, and a must-add to your picture book biographies. The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice has starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly.

Carole Boston Weatherford’s author webpage is a treasure trove of information, with resources and links to media related to her books. See more of Laura Freeman’s illustration work at her website. Find a biography, bibliography, and committee assignments for Elijah Cummings at the House of Representative’s website; visit Congress’s website to learn more about the legislation sponsored or co-sponsored by him, along with his remarks in the Congressional Record.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Welcome to MY World: Weird But True! New York City

Weird But True! New York City, by National Geographic Kids, (Sept. 2021, National Geographic Kids), $8.99, ISBN: 9781426372322

Ages 8-10

Finally! NatGeo Kids has put together a Weird But True! collection of facts and photos of my backyard. Welcome to New York City, all! You know the Weird But True/Weird Facts drill, so let’s get to it. I love all the New York history the editors at NatGeo Kids have put in there, including hilarious poop facts for all (when there were horse and buggies were the main mode of transportation, street cleaners cleaned about 500 tons of manure off the streets every day. Enjoy that). I LOVE all the love for my home borough, Queens! Our Queens Museum is home of the New York Panorama and we’ve got the Unisphere in Corona Flushing Meadow Park! There are a wealth of library facts in here, which makes me happy (but hey… there are more library systems than just NYPL, which, admittedly, does have the original Winnie the Pooh toys and a giant reading room). And you know what else New York has? DINOSAURS. Our American Museum of Natural History is where the first installment of the Night at the Museum movies takes place (which figures into one of the facts in Weird But True NY).

Full of fun facts and gorgeous photos, fully indexed, and just a fun read, Weird But True! New York City is the next book you want to have in your NatGeo Kids collection (and New York librarians: this BEGS for a New York Bingo kind of program, which you can totally do virtually).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pull some cool Queens Public Library facts together to send to the good folks at Nat Geo Kids for their updated edition…

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books

The Great TBR ReadDown, 2020 Edition

I’ve said it before: when it comes to books, my eyes are bigger than my reading capacity. I’m attempting to read down as much as I can before the new year, so please enjoy my TBR as I whittle it down.

21 Cousins, by Diane de Anda/Illustrated by Isabel Muñoz, (Feb .2021, StarBright Books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-59572-915-6

Ages 4-8
Big families are big fun, and this mestizo family – a mix of Mexican people and cultures (Indian, Spanish, French) – is full of cousins! They’re all gathering for a special reason, and Alejandro and Sofia act as our narrators as they introduce us to each of their cousins. The family members are different ages, have different interests, abilities, and appearances that we learn about as we go through each colorful spread. There is some Spanish language infused into the English text, and the book is also available in Spanish. Beginning with the pages of a family photo album and closing with a family picture of all the cousins, it’s a wonderful story about how cultural diversity exists and flourishes within families: the small communities where it all begins.
Bronson Beaver Builds a Robot, by Teko Bernard/Illustrated by Howard Russell, (Apr. 2021, Tabron Publishing), $9.95, ISBN: 978-0986059360
Ages 7-11

Bronson Beaver is a 13-year-old builder, inventor, and video game fan whose family runs Beaver Valley Lodge, a hugely popular vacation resort. While Bronson just wants to spend a weekend playing video games with his best friends, his father has other plans: the big pancake festival is happening, and Bronson has a list of chores to get done for the festival! Like any brainiac inventor, Bronson decides to take the easy way out and invent a robot to do all the chores while he and his best friends can take part in the Zombie Fight video game tournament and win the cash prize that will allow them to build their dream workshop. You know the true course of video games and robots never did run smooth, though, and things go wrong in a big way: and now it’s up to Bronson and his friends to make things right. A smart chapter book about friendship, making good decisions, and with a nice STEM component, plus black and white illustrations throughout, I hope we see more of Bronson and friends in the future. Give this indie published book a shot and invite your kiddos to build robots of their own, with some after-holidays boxes and decorations you have available to repurpose.

Sharks at Your Service, by Mary Cerullo/Photos by Jeffrey Rotman, (July 2021, Tumblehome), $17.99, ISBN: 9781943431632

Ages 7-9

There are two stories at play in this story about sharks and all the jobs they do: the fictional story of a girl named Marina and her dad’s trip to the aquarium, where they see sharks and attend a talk by shark photographer (also the photographer behind the photos in this book) Jeffrey Rotman, and the nonfiction facts and photos of sharks that run parallel to the fictional narrative. Marina’s aquarium visit starts a growing fascination with sharks; on the way home, she sees sharks everywhere! This gets her thinking of all the jobs sharks have, keeping the ocean in balance and clean: sharks like tiger sharks eat just about anything they see, earning the nickname “garbage collectors of the sea”; they weed out weak and sick ocean life, keeping disease from spreading through schools of fish; their superior senses help them maintain their status as alpha predators of the sea. Manga-influenced color illustrations and incredible color photos on every page make this a book shark fans will pick up again and again.

 

Starboy : Inspired by the Life and Lyrics of David Bowie, by Jami Gigot, (May 2021, Henry Holt), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250239433

Ages 4-8

Inspired by artist, singer, actor, and icon David Bowie, Starboy is a breathtaking tribute to every kid who doesn’t feel like they fit in… until they find that they do. David is a boy who lives in a black and white world until he hears “star chatter” that brings color to his world… and then again when he hears music on the radio. Music brings color to his world, and gives him a place where he belongs: and reaches out to color other people’s worlds, too. Jami Gigot’s illustrations bring David Bowie’s magic to life through sparks of color and nods to his personas like the Starman, Major Tom the Astronaut, the chic ’80s music and fashion icon, even Labyrinth’s Goblin King. As David the Starboy comes to life through music, the spark spreads to his schoolmates and people on the street, showing readers the ability that music has to reach inside and speak to us – just like “star chatter”. An author’s note talks about the influence of David Bowie on fashion and music, an there are fun facts and further resources for readers interested in learning more. The cover is a gorgeous tribute to Bowie’s Starman persona from the 1972 Aladdin Sane album cover.

Starboy has a starred review from School Library Journal.

 

I Can Be Kind, by Rainbow Gal, (June 2021Fat Cat Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-989767-00-9

Ages 4-7

A cute pet shop fairy tale, I Can Be Kind is the story of Oscar, a 2-year-old piranha found in the sewer after being flushed by his owner. He ends up at a pet shop in Brooklyn, where he terrorizes the fish in the tank next to him. Being a carnivorous fish, the pet shop owner fed goldfish to Oscar until one day, when Maria – a friendly goldfish who refused to be scared off by Oscar’s posturing – ends up in Oscar’s tank! Oscar can’t eat Maria – she’s his friend, and he’s got a crush on her – and the two end up sharing fish food together, living happily ever after. It’s a sweet story, illustrated in full color, with coloring sheets available with the paperback version and for free at Rainbow Gal’s website.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Another Holiday Gift Guide!

Last minute shoppers, I feel you. I AM you. Last minute 2021 book budget shoppers, I got you, too. Spent your 2021 dollars? No problem; these books are set to keep your readers happy next year, too.

The Secret of the Magic Pearl, by Elisa Sabatinelli/Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno/Translated by Christopher Turner, (Oct. 2021, Red Comet Press), $21.99, ISBN: 9781636550060

Ages 7-11

New kid on the block Red Comet Press has been hitting home runs this year! The Secret of the Magic Pearl is a magical story for kids who love picture books, newly independent readers who are ready to take on denser material, and chapter book readers alike. Hector is a boy living with his family in an Italian coastal town. He wants to be a deep-sea diver like his father, and his family organizes underwater expeditions for tourists. But Amedeo Limonta, a man who “lost his sailor’s soul and betrayed the sea”, forces Hector’s family out of business so that he can continue on his obsession: to find a legendary Pearl and sell it. Hector, determined to save his family and his connection to the sea, has to figure out a way to throw a wrench into Amedeo’s plans.

Originally published in Italian in 2019, this book is gorgeous. The story is about love of family and a passion for the sea. First-person narrator Hector immediately warms readers with his voice, full of fun details and emotion. The artwork is simply beautiful, bringing a sense of movement and wonder. Together, the words and artwork make for a breathtaking fantasy that readers will return to time and again. Red Comet has been great about creating activity kits for their books, too; download one for The Secret of the Magic Pearl here.

The Secret of the Magic Pearl has starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly.

 

Guitars (Made by Hand series), by Patricia Lakin, (Nov. 2021, Aladdin), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481448352

Ages 8-12

The Made by Hand series by Patricia Lakin is a great nonfiction series to have available to your middle graders and middle schoolers. The newest, Guitars, is a great introduction to the art and science of guitar music, including a history of the instrument, the science behind how electric and acoustic guitars work, and a tour through luthier (a maker of string instruments!) Meredith Coloma’s custom guitar-making workshop. Color photos detail the step-by-step process of making both electric and acoustic guitars, and there’s a fun and easy STEM challenge for kids to learn how sound travels over string (we used to call it a tin can telephone). A timeline, list of guitar greats, a glossary and further resources make this a must-have for music collections and for kids with an interest in science or music.

Do I have a program in mind for this? Glad you asked! PBS Kids has a great DIY Guitar activity here, and all the materials are available in the home! The Michigan Children’s Hospital has a similar DIY here, using a tissue box instead of a cereal box. Get the band together and jam at Christmas!

 

My Christmas Wish for You, by Lisa Swerling & Ralph Lazar, (Oct. 2021, Chronicle Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781452184364

Ages 3-7

A sweet poem about Christmas and good wishes to last the whole year long, My Christmas Wish for You is the latest book from Happiness Is… creators and spouses Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar. This poem works for children and adults alike, and is full of goodwill and cheer; reading it, you can’t help but feel warm inside, with couplets like “Friends joined together in goodwill and song, / a welcome to others… the sense you belong”, and “Mugs of hot chocolate for tummies’ delight, / breathing like dragons to warm up the night”. Whimsical illustrations show a variety of people and pets celebrating the Christmas season as hearts and stars abound. It’s a great little gift book, and a wonderful way to bring the chaos of Christmas Day to a close, as we all look hopefully toward a new year.

 

A Donkey Called Mistletoe (Jasmine Green Rescues), by Helen Peters/Illustrated by Ellie Snowdon, (Sept. 2021, Walker Books US), $6.99, ISBN: 9781536222463

Ages 7-10

This is one of my favorite more recent intermediate series. Jasmine Green is an aspiring vet who, with her best friend, Tom, rescue all sorts of animals they discover around Jasmine’s Oak Tree Farm. Luckily for the two friends, Jasmine’s mom is an actual veterinarian and her dad is a farmer, so they can learn from the pros! In this outing, Jasmine and Tom learn that their neighbor is moving to an assisted-care facility and is rehoming his animals, including his donkey, Mistletoe. Jasmine, stricken by the thought of Mistletoe moving far away, impulsively offers to adopt him and keep him at Oak Tree Farm, but her little brother, Manu, proves to be a challenge: Mom isn’t sure Manu will be safe around Mistletoe, and vice versa! But Jasmine is not giving up on Mistletoe, and when a Christmas play needs an extra donkey, she knows exactly what to do. These stories are such feel-good stories, balanced by realistic moments that remind kids that animals need special care by professionals. Previous books have touched on orphaned and abandoned animals and reckless pet ownership, and this story, centered on an elderly man going into assisted care and worrying about finding homes for his animals, reminds kids once again that pets of any kind are a commitment. Black and white illustrations throughout give deeper texture to the narrative, and a quiz on donkeys invites readers to test their knowledge. I will always love this series, and am happy to booktalk them to my animal-loving readers.

 

Posted in Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

At the Height of the Moon: A treasury for bedtime

At the Height of the Moon: A Book of Bedtime Poetry and Art, Edited by Alison Baverstock, Matt Cunningham, & Annette Roeder, (Nov. 2021, Prestel), $24.95, ISBN: 9783791374802

Ages 5+

When you and your littles want something different at bedtime, At the Height of the Moon delivers. Divided into eight areas – Twilight, Dreamland, Moonlight Menagerie, Creepy Crawlies and Things That Go Bump in the Night, Minds Ablaze, and Midnight and Magic – readers can browse artwork, poems, and short fictions to set a nighttime mood, whether it’s a mood for the surreal poetry of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” or a fantastical extract from Alice in Wonderland. Images by Gustav Klimt, Vincent Van Gogh, and Thomas Cole set the mood. It’s a lovely way to introduce classic art, fiction, and poetry to kids and older readers may enjoy discovering magical prose, poetry, and art to lull them to sleep. Art pairs with words to spin images that set the stage for dreaming and sleep. A beautiful gift book or addition to your 800s (literature, plays, poems).

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Bake, Make, and Learn to Cook with David Atherton!

Bake, Make & Learn to Cook, by David Atherton/Illustrated by Rachel Stubbs, (Dec. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536219364

Ages 5+

I am SO excited for this book. David Atherton, 2019 winner of the Great British Baking Show, has a baking book for kids (and I mean that term loosely, as I plan to bake 90% of this book, whether or not my Kiddo wants to help me)! This is the coziest cookbook, with warm illustrations throughout. Each recipe is fully illustrated, step by step, and artwork with people coming together to prep, bake, and enjoy one another’s company together (plus an adorable taco-loving dog) make this an actual family cookbook that kids will love reading. Each recipe includes a list of ingredients, both written out and illustrated and numbered steps guide readers through each bake, also written out and illustrated. The recipe names are squeal-worthy, with Snaky Breadsticks, Happy Curry, and Easy Peasy Pot Pies making me happy just reading their names. Atherton includes recipes for every palate and every time of day; recipes are organized into breakfast (Starting the Day); meals (Lunches and Simple Suppers); snacks (Delicious Treats), and the big one, Cakes and Bakes. There’s an illustrated list of equipment bakers and makers will need to get started, and a glossary of cooking terms and measurements. He includes important tips, like having an adult present to help, and the importance of kitchen safety, and his overall tone is just wonderful. He’s a baker who can talk to children, not just write a cookbook that kids will happen to read.  If you are a Great British Baking Show fan, you’ll clearly hear his voice as you read. There are vegetarian and vegan recipes as well as recipes with meat, and he gets creative and fun with many of them, including Banana Bear Pancakes and Hummus Lions, which kids may want to try and possibly contribute to holiday feasts. This book makes me so happy, and I know it will make you happy, too.

Follow David Atherton on Twitter and Instagram.

Posted in geek, geek culture, Graphic Novels, Guide, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Find gift ideas here!

It’s another roundup: you’ll find a few more ideas here, I hope, if you’re in “just one more person… gift… book” mode, or, if you’re like me, you’re eyeballing your December book budgets and in “I’ve got a little bit more left, I can fit one more book in this cart” mode. Either way, I hope you enjoy.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore/Illustrated by PJ Lynch, (Nov. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781536222852

Ages 3+

The latest release of Clement C. Moore’s classic 1823 Christmas poem, PJ Lynch imagines a sweeping Christmas tale, with watercolor and gouache illustrations rendered in shades of greens and blues to set the sleepy, evening mood. Saint Nick arrives on the scene, bringing warm reds and oranges. Lifelike artwork brings the team of reindeer to life, with texture and movement as they dance across the sky, carrying Santa and his sleigh full of toys. This telling of Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas is set in what looks like pre-Victorian England, in the time the poem was written. The artwork beautifully captures the stillness of Christmas Eve and St. Nicholas’s Christmas magic.

Every Christmas Eve, I read two stories to my own kiddos (yes, one is 22 and one is 18, but they still humor me): Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express and Clement Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas. I’m looking forward to reading PJ Lynch’s version this year.

 

I Wish I Had a Wookiee And Other Poems for Our Galaxy, by Ian Doescher/Illustrated by Tim Budgen, (Sept. 2021, Quirk Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781594749629

Ages 6+

Ian Doescher – Star Wars fans will recognize the name as the scribe of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars saga – is here to delight readers with his Star Wars poems created especially for kids (of all ages). He celebrates fandom with over 100 poems, complete with illustrations by Tim Budgen, whose artwork will appeal immediately to readers familiar with Jeffrey Brown’s Jedi Academy graphic novel series. He covers each of the three trilogies and embraces all the characters – and fans – of the Star Wars Universe, with poems like “Resourceful Sith”, where a child gets hold of supplies to make themselves into Darth Maul; “Snow Day on Hoth”, where kids enjoy a snow day in the greatest of ways: “My sister was a rebel leader, / And I was Luke in my snowspeeder. / The neighbor twins were Empire troops, / Approaching us in AT-AT groups”. He remembers us parents with poems like “Dad’s Luke Skywalker Figurine”, “Mom, the Medic Droid”, and “Old Mr. Jones and His Star Wars Collection”. Illustrations in black, white, and color are on almost every page. Put this right next to your Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky books, and make sure to have some fun Star Wars coloring pages available. For all of us who imagined their rooms as the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit, this book’s for you.

 

 

Jop and Blip Wanna Know #1: Can You Hear a Penguin Fart on Mars?: And Other Excellent Questions, by Jim Benton, (June 2021, HarperAlley), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062972927

Ages 6-10

Jop and Blip are two robots with an insatiable thirst for knowledge. They have the deep questions here in this first volume of Jop and Blip Wanna Know, a new series from graphic novelist Jim Benton. Here, they take the science apart to learn whether or not we could hear a penguin fart on Mars; if one could eat a dragon sandwich, and why we have two of sensory organs like nostrils, eyes, and ears. Panels are vibrant and the back-and-forth dialogue is fun to follow: kids who love the Elephant and Piggie books will jump right in here. The sillier side of science inspires these questions, sure, but the reasoning is solid and there’s so much to learn packed in here, including the origin of the sandwich, what dinosaurs really looked like, and yes – whether or not we can hear a penguin farting on Mars. This first book is organized into three chapters, each exploring a different question, with an activity at the end of each. Like Blip says, “…everything is worth knowing”! Think of this as a Science Comics series for your newly independent readers, and add it to your collections.

Fun learner-led program: If you have access to World Book Online through your library, check out the Webquests in the Educator Tools area. They’re printable activities on different topics that challenge readers to follow step-by-step directions to navigate the database and learn about the topic by watching videos, seeing images, and reading the text (which can also be read out loud via the database). While there are no “farting penguins” Webquests (yet), it’s a fun way to introduce research and navigating databases. This Dinosaurs Webquest is a good place to start.

Jop and Blip Wanna Know: Can You Hear a Penguin Fart on Mars? has a starred review from Kirkus.

Where’s Waldo? Santa Spotlight Search, by Martin Handford, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536220131

Ages 5-9

The holiday season brings a new Waldo adventure. The Spotlight books are fun because they add a little more detective work into the mix; dark plastic “winter scenes” on each spread call for a special Spotlight Searcher to slip in and shed a white background against the searching area. There are 6 scenes (including the one on the opening spread) to search, and every challenge calls for readers to search the crowds for Santa, Waldo and friends, and a changing list of objects, from a hatless Santa Claus to solving a jumble by finding letters on building blocks. Visit a Santa Meet and Santa’s Workshop; go Christmas Shopping; enjoy some Festive Baking; join a Jolly Jamboree, and get ready for Christmas Eve. A great learner-directed book to have in a Waldo Corner in your children’s room, and a great way to keep kids busy during Christmas gatherings.

Brightly has Where’s Waldo? printables available, and Nerd Craft Librarian, whose blog I miss, had a great Where’s Waldo? Scavenger Hunt that you can still be inspired by here.

 

Do You Know? Space and Sky, by Virginie Loubier/Illustrated by Robert Barborini, Audrey Brien, Hélène Convert, Christian Guibbaud, & Cristian Turdera (Oct. 2021, Twirl Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9782408029166

Ages 5-8

I really enjoy this Do You Know? series for intermediate and middle grade readers, and Space and Sky – the latest – is another hit. Organized into four areas – The Sky, The Solar System, Studying the Universe, and Exploring Space – Space and Sky takes a lot of information and makes it readable and organized for younger learners. Space and Sky covers everything from Earth’s water cycle, weather, and seasons to the planets, space exploration, and how we use technology to study the earth. It’s a funnel type of learning, going from the small to the large, and it helps readers understand where we are in relation to our universe. Let’s Review pages at the end of every section provide learning activities, and colored boxes at the bottom of right hand pages direct readers to related topics in the book. Colorful artwork throughout provides fun images of people and nicely detailed maps and infographics. A full index helps readers locate what they’re looking for.

If you have a puzzle area in your children’s room, consider a Space Day and display Space and Sky along with books like Stacy McAnulty’s planets and space series, Nat Geo Kids’s Space Encyclopedia, and a fun puzzle, like the NASA puzzles (if you have the space) or Melissa & Doug’s Solar System puzzle (we use a lot of Melissa & Doug at my library – so sturdy!).

 

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads

Indie author spotlight!

Yes, it’s another Indie Author Spotlight! I’ve got loads of books to talk about, but I’ll start with these very lovely books.

The Very Determined Dragonfly: Odonata’s Adventure, by Midge Newth & Ruth Cruz/Illustrated by Spencer Epps, (July 2019, Indepedently Published), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1079290844

Ages 6-9

Odonata is a baby dragonfly – a nymph – who wants more adventure in her life. Her brother, Darner, wishes she’s just stay put and stay away from danger, but that’s not Odie’s way! Set in a graphic novel format, The Very Determined Dragonfly is part Science Comic, part adventure. Illustrations are bright and cheerful, and the storytelling is upbeat and positive, encouraging readers to take hurdles as they present themselves and always envision going past them. Back matter includes a glossary of scientific terms and fun facts about dragonflies.

National Geographic has a page about dragonflies that you can steer your learners to; SuperColoring has plenty of dragonfly coloring pages to put out, and if your library has access to World Book Online, there is a good entry with related reading available.

 

Let’s Make a Rainbow: A Yoga Story for Kids, by Susan Rose/Illustrated by Timna Green, (Dec. 2020, Susan Rose Yoga), $16.99, ISBN:  978-0578811680

Ages 4-7

I do enjoy a fun yoga story, and this rhyming ode to yoga is just what my toddler yoga storytime needs (when I get to start that up again, that is). It’s a rainy day, and siblings Lily and Lee need something to do: so why not enjoy some yoga? Touching on the mind-body connection and how movement can cheer you up, the book’s rhyme scheme is playful and uplifting: “Yoga makes you happy / when you feel bad, / and can turn the day / sunny instead of sad”. Flowing through a series of poses, the story describes how to create each pose and enjoy the good feelings that flow with each movement. As the story nears its conclusion, kids can enjoy – along with Lily and Lee! – a flowing series, ending with a rainbow. Colorful artwork shows the two characters demonstrating each pose.

Author Susan Rose’s webpage includes free resources for parents and educators, including lesson plans and coloring pages.

 

Stop That Lion, by Lois Wickstrom/Illustrated by Timna Green, (Nov. 2020, Look Under Rocks), $12.99, ISBN: 978-0-916176-64-8

Ages 4-8

STEM storyteller Lois Wickstrom spins a tale about two kingdoms and the young girl who helped solve their differences. Mir and Sher are neighboring kingdoms, but there are some problems: the kingdom of Sher had a lion that liked sneaking into the Kingdom of Mir to eat the farmers’ sheep. Suggestions like building a wall or placing an archer on the wall fail, and more sheep disappear until a young girl named Wynnie asks some thoughtful questions of the king, and comes up with an answer that will work for everyone. It’s a story about common sense and listening that highlights the value of asking questions when problem solving. Illustrations are soft and colorful.

 

The Upside-Down Gardener, by Chrysa Smith/Illustrated by Pat Achilles, (Nov. 2018, The Well-Bred Book), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1730777271

Ages 5-8

Dory Oslo is a kid who can’t wait for the warm weather: she wants her new baseball uniform, and she wants color! Her mom encourages her to discover color a different way, and earn some money for her new uniform, while she’s at it: plant a garden of colorful flowers! The only thing is, Dory’s not a patient kid: she wants these flowers to wake up and grow already! She hilariously sets off an alarm clock, pours coffee, and blows a coach’s whistle by the seeds in her attempt to force them to wake up, but could her actions have wacky consequences? Colorful artwork and light storytelling make The Upside-Down Gardener is an easily read, fun story that Easy Readers and beginning Intermediate readers will enjoy. It celebrates imagination and creativity while embracing a sense of humor.

Visit The Well Bred Book’s webpage for activity sheets. Consider a container gardening program (hey, it’s winter right now) to encourage your kiddos to explore their own gardens!

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

A gift for every learner!

It’s that time of year, expect the gift guides to be coming at you fast and furious. Let’s see what’s making my lists this year.

Mercury: 100 Piece Puzzle (Featuring Photography from the Archives at NASA), (Aug. 2021, Chronicle Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781797210346

Ages 6+

Puzzle fans, astronomy fans, science fans, everyone will love the next planetary puzzle from Chronicle Books. Mercury is the newest 100-piece puzzle using photography from the Archives at NASA, a follow-up to April’s Earth puzzle (which my kid and I still haven’t solved). It’s a beautiful photo of Mercury, and it is huge: 2 1/2 feet in diameter, so clear off a table for Thanksgiving/holiday gatherings and let the family and friends have at it. Puzzle pieces are sturdy, and they’re a good size, inviting little hands to help out, too. It’s a round puzzle, so you can somewhat figure out the outside of Mercury, but don’t forget: it’s a photo, so have fun trying to figure out which crater is goes where (G, my kiddo, and I are still arguing over them).

 

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! An Animal Poem for Each Day of the Year, selected by Fiona Waters/Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup, (Oct. 2021, Nosy Crow), $40.00, ISBN: 9781536217186

Ages 3-8

This is a beautiful collection of animal poems for readers, poetry fans, and animal lovers. There are 366 poems – one for every day, including Leap Year – organized by month. Each month begins with a table of contents that lays out each poem and author by day. The spreads are beautiful and the poems are related on each spread, giving a feeling of cohesion. January 1-3 have poems about polar bears; 4-5 about whales; the action moves through the days, with spreads turning to sheepdogs on guard, wolves, and more. Britta Teckentrup’s artwork is just beautiful, with cold, quiet winter spreads moving into warm, home interiors; crocodiles lurk on one spread, gazelles leap through grass in another. Colorful, not overwhelming, the artwork brings the ideas in each poem to life. Endpapers offer lush, green leaves, inviting us in, and closing their doors behind us. Read a few a time, or savor them day by day.

 

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame/Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith, (Nov. 2021, Templar Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536219999

Ages 7-12

The classic children’s novel gets a gift hardcover release just in time for the holidays! If you’ve never read The Wind in the Willows, you’re missing out. The adventures of Mr. Toad, Mole, Ratty, and Badger have been delighting readers since its publication in 1908. This hardcover gift version has illustrations from Kate Greenway Medal winner Grahame Baker-Smith that give gorgeous life to the story; some are sepia-toned, some rendered in shades of blue, green, or brown, some in rich, warm, earth colors. The cloth cover looks like a copy of the book I found on my own public library’s shelves a lifetime ago; just running my hand over the cover brought back memories of sitting down with it and wandering into Mr. Toad’s magic world. Give this to a younger reader, give it to a grownup who needs to go back in time, even if just for a moment.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

A Dreidel in Time lets readers live the Hanukkah story

A Dreidel in Time: A New Spin on an Old Tale, by Marcia Berneger/Illustrated by Bernice Castro, (Sept. 2019, Kar-Ben Publishing), $8.99, ISBN: 9781541552654

Ages 8-12

This is a Hanukkah short story that puts readers right into the heart of the Hanukkah story. Devorah and Benjamin are siblings who can’t wait to open their Hanukkah presents, but are a little disappointed when they open their grandparents’ gift to both of them: an old dreidel. Their parents and grandparents have a secret, though, and encourage them to give it a spin – and when they do, they discover they’ve been transported to ancient Israel, and are in the middle of the Hanukkah story as is develops! They meet siblings Simon and Shoshana, whose parents have been arrested by the king Antiochus’s soldiers, and key figures from history, including Mattisyahu (also known as Mattathias) and his sons, Judah and Jonathan. The power of the dreidel shifts the two siblings through different moments in the Hanukkah story, from the opening flight from Antiochus to the battle of the Maccabees, destruction of the Temple, and the rejoicing when they discover that the menorah is still burning after eight days. Every spin of the dreidel not only shifts the action, but the mood: when the dreidel lands on “shin”, a “bad spin”, the siblings find themselves in the past. Landing on “nun” may mean that nothing happens, but there’s a shift in time.

Fast-paced with dialogue that educates and engages, A Dreidel in Time is perfect to give your Magic Tree House and I Survived readers. Black and white illustrations by Beatriz Castro run throughout the story.

Visit author Marcia Berneger’s website for more about her books, a Q&A, and some fun activities for kids.