Posted in Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Books About Nature to Brighten Your Spring

It’s time for a roundup! This time, we’ve got nature books to enjoy now that the Spring weather finally looks like it’s going to stick around. Get comfortable by your favorite tree, or sit in the warmth of the sun, and enjoy some of these Spring-y books.

Be Thankful for Trees : A tribute to the many & surprising ways trees relate to our lives, by Harriet Ziefert/Illustrated by Brian Fitzgerald, (March 2022, Red Comet Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781636550206

Ages 4-8

This is a fantastic way to introduce younger readers to all the great ways people and animals depend on trees! A rhyming tale expounds on the seven big things trees provide: food; comfort; music; art; recreation; home, and life. Colorful illustrations shows trees in nature, and how they’re used in day-to-day life, from providing a forest full of animals with food, to a kitchen table seating a family for dinner; from a child playing a piano, to a bird feeding her babies high up on a branch. Each area opens with a repetitive question and answer: “Would life be satisfying/good/possible without trees? It would not!” During a read-aloud, it’s the perfect opportunity for interaction; invite your littles to tell you what they think. The verse reminds also readers that trees are essential to life on earth, and the man-made disasters that threaten them, like deforestation and forest fire; Ziefert encourages readers to “explore a cool forest with its pine-scented breeze” and to “remember forever, BE THANKFUL FOR TREES!”. Playful, cheery color illustrations add to the fun verse, and golden leaves pop from the blue endpapers, really making this a wonderful book for early childhood natural science readalouds.

Author Harriet Ziefert has written hundreds of children’s books. You can see more of illustrator Brian Fitzgerald’s work at his website.

Visit Red Comet’s book detail page for a free, downloadable Teachers Guide. TeachersPayTeachers has a wealth of free learning activities about trees. I really like the idea of adopting a “class tree” and journaling observations over the course of a school year, as Robynn Drerup’s class has. Amanda Whitaker also has a fun tree journal for kids. Our Time to Learn’s Tree Animals Coloring sheet is great to hand out after a readaloud.

Firsts and Lasts: The Changing Seasons, by Leda Schubert/Illustrated by Clover Robin, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536211023

Ages 4-8

Every season comes with its own unique firsts and lasts. Leda Schubert and illustrator Clover Robin beautifully capture these moments in Firsts and Lasts: The Changing Season. Organized by season, the book offers gentle observation designed to provoke memories and warm feelings as we follow family through the year: Spring is the last time they (and we) wear snowsuits and build snow forts, but it’s the first time they see new grass, and wash the car; in the Fall, it’s the last time for things like going to the ice cream stand, but it’s the first time for seeing wooly caterpillars and jumping in leaves. Cut paper illustrations add a playful whimsy and the colors capture the feelings for each season; crisp winter skies and warm autumn leaves; bright spring flowers and lush summer landscapes. It’s a wonderful illustration of the transition nature – and people! – go through from season to season, and offers opportunities for kids to share their observations on seasonal change.

First and Lasts has a starred review from The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

KB3Teach has a fun Seasons Cut and Paste activity on TeachersPayTeachers that nicely extends this book. Teresa Tretbar’s Amazing Literacy has seasonal coloring pages and posters for you to hand out, too.

Olaf Hajek’s Fantastic Fruits, by Olaf Hajek (Illustrations) and Annette Roeder (Text), (Apr. 2022, Prestel Junior), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791375069

Ages 6-9

Olaf Hajek has made beautiful art from vegetables and flowers; now, fruit gets the Hajek treatment in Olaf Hajek’s Fantastic Fruits. Annette Roeder returns to provide fun and interesting profiles on 25 fruits, like the pomegranate, also known as the “apple of discord” that was created, according to Greek myth, by an angry goddess of strife and discord; the banana, whose curve is slowly being bred out of the fruit in order to make for easier stacking; and the fig, whose juice can help against insect bites. Factual information on each fruit’s countries of origin, and other names and varieties of each fruit run across the bottom of each profile, and – as we’ve come to expect from Hajek – colorful, stunning portraits are the star of the show in this oversized volume. A fox and a woman collect orange juice from giant fruits hanging from a tree in one painting; another woman serves cherry cake to a young boy and a bird as cherries hang from a tree and provide a headdress; a porcupine carries a gigantic blackberry and raspberry on its back through a field. Hajek’s playfully surreal artwork is sure to catch eyes and make new fans as they pore through the pages of this gorgeous book. Great for art sections and 634 sections (fruits, naturally!).

Visit Olaf Hajek’s illustrator webpage for more of his work.

 

What’s Cooking in Flowerville? Recipes from Balconies, Rooftops, and Gardens, by Felicita Sala, (Apr. 2022, Prestel Junior), $14.95, ISBN: 9783791375182

Ages 6-10

Flowerville is a bustling, multicultural neighborhood where everyone loves to grow and share food! Beginning in April, the book takes readers through the year, month by month, with Flowerville citizens tending to their plants: in April, Maria chops down her asparagus spears; in July, Ramon tests the floating ability of a cucumber as his parent waters the plants. Each month features a new recipe, made with ingredients shown in the artwork. In July, we get creamy tzatziki sauce; in November, roasted beet dip. Warm and colorful artwork shows families and friends sharing food and friendship, and gardening tips and recipes make this a handy gardening guide for families and classes. Pair with Francine Sala’s What’s Cooking at 10 Garden Street and Cynthia Cliff’s Pie for Breakfast for a worldwide trip for the palate.

Felicita Sala’s webpage has more of her illustration work, and a link to her food illustration is a must-see.

 

Posted in gaming, Intermediate, Middle Grade, programs

Tabletop Tuesdays with Tem-Purr-A

I started up my Tabletop Tuesdays a couple of weeks ago for the first time since the Before Times, and I was so happy with the response, I thought I’d start writing about our gaming group.

I have mostly younger kids in my library community – we don’t have a zoned high school near us, and we’re not open for Saturday or Sunday service, so my high school kids are likely hanging out in neighborhoods where their schools are. This informs my gaming choices, to be sure; the lion’s share of my kids are 0-12, with the 5-8 year-old range being the biggest attendees for our programs. So in addition to the usual suspects: Uno, Monopoly and Monopoly Jr., Candyland, and Connect 4, I introduced Tem-Purr-A, a card game that’s similar to Uno, but with more indigestion.

Tempurra, IelloGames (2011)
Ages 8+ (6+ with modifications)
Play time: 15-20 minutes
Number of players: 3-10

The Plot: It’s an eating contest! All the players are cats, passing dishes back and forth among each other, but every card you pick brings you closer to indigestion. If you get three indigestion counters, it’s all over; go get some Alka-Seltzer and relax.

The art is adorable: various cats, brandishing gloriously overflowing dishes. Separate the Indigestion cards from the other cards, shuffle, deal 5 to each player. Put one of the Indigestion cards in the remaining pile.

Images courtesy of Iello Games

Gameplay happens over several rounds. The first player chooses a dish card from their hand and puts it face-up on the table. The next player can either:

  1. Serve a Dish: play a card with the same value (if a card has a value of 6, the player must play a card from their hand with a value of 6)
  2. Eat a Mouthful: Draw the same number of cards as the value of the played card (if you don’t have a 6 card, draw 6 cards). At this point, if you haven’t drawn an Indigestion card, discard the stack you’ve been playing on, and start a new stack by playing a card from your hand.
  3. If you DO draw an Indigestion card, the round is over: the person who got the Indigestion card gets an Indigestion counter; they add the cards they’ve drawn to their hand, and the deck is reshuffled, adding an additional Indigestion card to the mix. The stakes get higher with every Indigestion card revealed, because you’re adding MORE to the deck!
  4. Play an Action Card: Rather than Serve a Dish or Eat a Mouthful, players can play an action card if they have one in their hand. Action cards let you reverse the action, throwing the game back into the previous player’s lap; pass over yourself and have the next player take an action, OR add one dish to the total of dishes to be eaten. If you have a card with a value of 3 showing, and you play a +1 card, the next player must play a card with a face value of 3 OR draw four cards.
  5. Skip a Dish: If you don’t have a card with a face value of the card in play, but have multiple cards of another value, you can play those and Skip the Dish offered. If that 3-card is face up, and you don’t have a 3, but you have a pair of 6 cards, throw them down! Then, clear the stack and start a new pile with the second 6-card facing up, and the next player must either match with a 6-card of their own, draw 6 cards, play an action card, or skip.

Gameplay ends when someone draws their third Indigestion card.

The kids really enjoyed this game, with some modifications. I made it even simpler for my younger kids by keeping it closer to Uno rules: match the cats by number or play an action. If you can’t match, take the number of cards on the displayed card. If you play a +1, the same rules apply as the game rules. I keep the rounds short, and hope to introduce skipping dishes in the next week or two, once the kids are comfortable with game play and pace.

All in All: Super fun for kids 8+, modified for ages 7-8 made it fun for my library kids. This is one of our favorite games at home, and I have my library kids actively looking for this one on game days now.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade

What does the first cat in space eat? Pizza, of course!

The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza, by Mac Barnett/Illustrated by Shawn Harris, (May 2022, Katherine Tegen Books), $15.99, ISBN: 9780063084087

Ages 7-12

Two award-winning kidlit powerhouses come together for a laugh-out-loud tale about a cat, a toenail-clipping robot, and a group of hungry rats posed to devour the moon. Rats from another galaxy are eating the moon! What is the Earth to do? Dispatch a cybernetically enhanced cat – First Cat – to take care of business. Accompanied by a stowaway robot who believes he’s destined for greater things than clipping toenails, and a ship’s computer who’s furious at being upstaged from a larger part in the story, First Cat lands on the moon, and the adventure begins: frozen wastelands, living forests, churning waters (Sea of Tranqulity? HA!) and dangers at every turn. There are repeating gags that get funnier with every utterance, and readers will giggle themselves silly as First Cat tries, time and again, to have a mouth-watering slice of pizza. Artwork is boldly outlined and colorful, hilariously communicating the madcap storytelling.

Did you know First Cat is Instagram famous? Kids can watch First Cat’s live adventures on Instagram or the First Cat webpage, where they can also sign up for the newsletter! The graphic novel includes sheet music and links to songs from the series. The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza is perfect for summer reading your readers will love.

The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza has a starred review from Publishers Weekly and is on the May/June 2022 Indie Next Kids List.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate

Blue, Barry & Pancakes: Danger on Mount Choco is the epic adventure kids needed

Blue, Barry & Pancakes: Danger on Mount Choco, by Dan & Jason, (Jan. 2022, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250255570

Ages 6-8

The third Blue, Barry and Pancakes adventure is another laugh-out-loud hit. The three friends enter an epic sundae-making contest this time, in the quest to win a trophy for Barry’s trophy room. But the winning ingredient can only be found at Mount Choco… are the friends up to the task? Of course they are! In usual hilarious, frenetically paced style, Blue, Barry and Pancakes set out on an adventure that brings laughter, disagreement, adventure, and ice cream sundaes. It’s not necessary to read the previous books before picking up Danger on Mount Choco, but why wouldn’t you? These books are great.

Don’t forget to download a free activity kit from the first Blue, Barry and Pancakes adventure at Macmillan’s website!

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate

Surviving the Wild: Remy Lai’s new graphic novel series!

I’ve been enjoying Remy Lai’s storytelling ever since I picked up an ARC for Pie in the Sky a few years ago. She creates a great mix of visual and prose storytelling, creates instantly memorable and lovable characters, and successfully weave humor and pathos into her stories to get at the heart of deep issues. She’s got a new graphic novel series, Surviving the Wild, that tells fictional animal stories based on true events, and calls attention to the effects of climate change and habitat encroachment on the animals we share this planet with. Let’s look at the first three stories!

Surviving the Wild: Star the Elephant, by Remy Lai, (Apr. 2022, Henry Holt & Co), $13.99, ISBN: 9781250784995

Ages 6-9

Star is a young elephant living in a herd with his mom and aunt, but the herd needs to find a new home because resources are becoming scarce. During the journey, Star is separated from his family and left to find his own way to safety and, hopefully, his family. Inspired by a 1990 story about bull elephants losing their home, Star’s story has some differences, noted in the back matter, but the heart of the story is the same: deforestation and human interference are causing animals to lose their homes. Star’s fear of humans is not without cause, but there’s some tension as readers worry that Star won’t be able to tell the difference between harmful humans and the humans who wants to keep elephants safe, bringing them to a sanctuary. Star reacts in a very relatable, childlike way to being separated from family and to stranger danger. The colorful artwork and dialogue makes for a very readable animal story; back matter includes deeper insight on the 1990 story that inspired Star’s tale, elephant facts, and ways kids can help keep the Earth livable for everyone.

Surviving the Wild: Rainbow the Koala, by Remy Lai, (Apr. 2022, Henry Holt & Co), $13.99, ISBN: 9781250785442

Ages 6-9

Rainbow is a young koala who’s enjoyed life in his mom’s pouch. When Mom tells him it’s time for him to go off and live on his own, he’s scared! It’s not as friendly out there when you don’t have your mom with you, and poor Rainbow can’t find a good tree of his own or a place where he can get water. It’s hot and the forest is dry, and the creek that he remembers mom taking him for water seems to be dried up. Thirsty, tired, and dispirited, he escapes humans and finds himself in the middle of an exodus: there’s a forest fire coming, and Rainbow is right in the middle of it. Rainbow’s story is inspired by the Australian bush fires of early 2020, which impacted over 60,000 koalas and millions of other animals and insects. Rainbow’s story hits hard; there are painful moments as he surveys the devastation around him and burns his own paws as he tries to find safety and shelter. Rainbow’s fear clearly comes through in his first-person narration, whether it’s through his speaking out loud to his mother as he struggles to survive in the wild, or to calm himself as he sees the forest burning around him. The stark, decimated landscape is heartbreaking in the aftermath of the fire.  Once again, we worry that Rainbow won’t understand that some humans – in this case, the rescuers searching the forest to bring animals back to animal hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. Back matter includes the story behind Rainbow’s tale, koala facts, facts about climate change and ways that kids can take action.

Surviving the Wild: Sunny the Shark, by Remy Lai, (Aug. 2022, Henry Holt & Co), $13.99, ISBN: 9781250785459

Ages 6-9

Sunny is an oceanic whitetip shark on the hunt for some food, but ends up the protector for a group of pilot fish who promise to keep her clean in exchange for food crumbs. Sunny isn’t sure she’s thrilled about having a group of chatty fish swimming around her, but she tries to be good-natured about it. One day, what she thinks is a yummy squid tentacle turns out to be a plastic ring, which wraps itself around one of her fins and impacts her movement. Since she’s a growing shark, that ring is going to get tighter and more uncomfortable as she gets bigger – and it’s already causing a problem for her when trying to eat. She’s got to find a way to break free of the ring, especially before the winter sets in. Will the oceanographers who tagged her be able to help? Inspired by a 2019 news story, back matter talks about the creative adjustments made to the original story while still bringing home the impact of pollution on our oceans and ocean life. Back matter also includes shark facts and ways kids can help keep plastic use down.

Each of these stories is such a strong statement on how humans are failing as stewards of the planet, yet filled with hope and awareness of how we can also be the change that puts things back in balance. Remy Lai creates characters that have much in common with readers, to foster a relationship between kids and the planet, and them empowers them with simple, powerful ways to bring about change. The Surviving the Wild series is a must for your graphic novel collections.

 

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, picture books

Carrimebac: The Town That Walked is great folklore

Carrimebac: The Town That Walked, by David Barclay Moore/Illustrated by John Holyfield, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536213690

Ages 6-10

When old Rootilla Redgums and her young grandson, Julius Jefferson walk into the town of Walkerton, Georgia, everyone is suspicious. Dogs snargggled. Cats hisssked. But Rootilla, who was born almost 100 years before in 1776, and her 9-year-old grandson quickly win the town over with their kindness and Rootilla’s everyday magic: she teaches the townspeople to weave rugs that never wear down, and bake ceramic jugs that never empty. The whites in the area – known here as “the Fearful Folks” – are convinced the Black residents are up to no good, and show up in their bedsheets and wielding their torches, trying to scare everyone. Rootilla isn’t having it, and turns those torches to cornstalks. But time is running short, and Julius puts her last wish into action, renaming the town Carrimebac and literally moving the town away, pulled by his faithful goose, Woody. Carrimebac: The Town That Walked is a delightful tall tale; folklore told in a lively voice and brought to life with gorgeous acrylic illustrations. Set in 1876, the Ku Klux Klan are a menacing presence; readers will cheer to see them upended by the Rootilla and the townspeople, let by Rootilla’s young grandson, Julius. A wonderful addition to your collections. Visit Candlewick’s website for a free educator guide.

David Barclay Moore is a John Steptoe New Talent Award winner for his YA novel, The Stars Beneath Our Feet. Visit his website to learn more about his books and his films. Visit illustrator John Holyfield’s website to see more of his artwork.

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

Celebrate Poetry Month with Imagine!

Imagine! Rhymes of Hope to Shout Together, by Bruno Tognolini/Illustrated by Giulia Orecchia, Translated by Denise Muir, (March 2022, Red Comet Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781636550145

Ages 5-8

One of Italy’s most beloved children’s poets, Bruno Tognolini, brings a collection of “rhymes of hope to shout together” to U.S. shores. Originally published in Italy in 2021, Imagine! can be read as a series of short poems or as one continuous story. The rhythmic verse covers a wide range of imagination and wish, from wishing that one could share a meal with fictional characters to heartbreaking thoughts about war and the hope for peace and compassion, to the desire to draw a parent out of a depression caused by unemployment. The collage artwork instantly evokes Eric Carle’s colorful illustration play, and each brief poems ends in a colorful cry, “Imagine!”, which you can encourage your readers to join in and invoke with each reading. It’s poetry with a desire for social change and a cry for understanding and empathy.

You can stream the song and the instrumental for Imagine! on Red Comet Press’s SoundCloud site. Red Comet’s website also offers a downloadable educator’s and discussion guide to use when working with kids and reading the book.

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

Spotlight on Women’s History: Kip Tiernan and Rosie’s Place

Sanctuary: Kip Tiernan and Rosie’s Place, the Nation’s First Shelter for Women, by Christine McDonnell/Illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536211290

Ages 7-10

Inspired by her grandmother, who fed hungry men from her door during the Great Depression, Kip Tiernan went on to work with and feed the homeless as an adult. She noticed women dressing as men to get on the food lines, and began noticing more and more homeless women on the street; when she worked to bring public notice and aid, however, she was initially told that homelessness was not a “women’s problem”. Determined to make a safe place for women, she pushed until the city of Boston rented her an empty supermarket for $1 a year: Rosen’s Market because Rosie’s Place, opening in 1974; they served hot meals and provided free clothes, beds, and a safe place for women to come together. Sanctuary is Kip Tiernan’s story, told in straighforward prose and accompanied by evocative watercolor and digital illustration set against a white page, giving readers the feel of peeking into moments from Kip Tiernan’s life. The focus is on community, with multicultural women coming together to talk and support one another; there are embraces, hand-holding, and active listening, all there to emphasize the importance of connection and compassion. Display and booktalk with Dangerous Jane, the picture book biography of Jane Addams, founder of Chicago’s Hull House.

Sanctuary: Kip Tiernan and Rosie’s Place, the Nation’s First Shelter for Women, has starred reviews from The Horn Book and Book PageVisit the Rosie’s Place webpage to learn more about the sanctuary. The Harvard Radcliffe Institute houses Kip Tiernan’s papers.

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

Welcome Spring with My Big Book of Outdoors

My Big Book of Outdoors, by Tim Hopgood, (March 2022, Candlewick Studio), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536215335

Ages 7-10

One part poetry book, one part nonfiction resource, one part craft and activity primer, My Big Book of Outdoors is an illustrated guide to the seasons with activities and mixed media illustrations. Each season is organized like a scrapbook of art, poetry, nature facts, and nature-based projects to create, like chocolate nests (made with shredded wheat and chocolate); leaf mobiles, and bird feeders. Thoughtful observations and questions invite readers to consider nature as seasons move from one to the next; to think about different birds they see in each season, or look for types of plants and trees. The artwork is vibrant. Think of it as a scrapbook that celebrates and encourages active participation in each season. It’s beautiful to look at, enjoyable to read, fun to play with. There are tons of ideas for seasonal programs and grab-and-go programs in here, too – an all-around great resource for kids and educators.

My Big Book of Outdoors was originally published in the UK in 2021.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Breaking Through the Clouds celebrates STEM Women!

We often hear the word “meteorologist” and think of those nice weatherfolx on TV, right? How often do we think of meteorology as the actual science of studying the weather, though?

Breaking Through the Clouds: The Sometimes Turbulent Life of Meteorologist Joanne Simpson, by Sandra Nickel/Illustrated by Helena Perez Garcia,
(March 2022, Abrams Books for Young Readers),
$19.99, ISBN: 9781419749568

Ages 6-9

Breaking Through the Clouds is the picture book biography of Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the United States to earn her Ph.D. in meteorology, who went on to research clouds and weather. Touching on what seems to be a difficult childhood, through her work with World War II planes and her education and work with clouds and wind, Breaking Through the Clouds is an inspirational STEM story and a brilliant International Women’s Month profile. Helena Perez Garcia’s gorgeous illustrations blend realism with surrealism to show how Joanne Simpson was discounted by the men around her; the men who told her “no woman ever got a doctorate in meteorology. And no woman ever will”, and the Air Force clout that put her on a plane going through clouds to research them.

 

Factual and straightforward storytelling, using uplifting language like, “As Joanne walked through the university, the halls were filled with jarring comments and bumpy silences. She flew her last flight and sold her boat – because Joanne was stubborn” remind readers to persevere in the face of challenges. Back matter includes a timeline of Joanne Simpson’s life and notes on her weather work. Another must-add to your biography sections and your Women’s History and STEM/STEAM collections.

Joanne Simpson has an entry on NASA’s webpage with a link to a more in-depth article about her career. For more meteorology resources, visit the National Weather Service, Easy Science for Kids, and PBS Kids.

 

Sandra Nickel says that story ideas are everywhere; you just have to reach out and grab them.  She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her first book, Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack, was awarded a Christopher Award and was a Golden Kite Award finalist. Sandra lives in Chexbres, Switzerland, where she blogs about children’s book writers and illustrators at whatwason.com. To learn more, visit https://sandranickel.com/.

Twitter:  @senickel

Facebook: @sandranickelbooks

Instagram: @sandranickelbooks

Check out the trailer and other cool resources here!