Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Luna Loves Dance… You should, too!

Luna Loves Dance, by Joseph Coelho/Illustrated by Fiona Lumbers, (Sept. 2021, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-68464-273-1

Ages 4-7

Luna is a little girl who loves to dance, but loses faith in herself when she stumbles at a dance tryout. Convinced she’s not “really” a dancer, Luna’s family works to show her that it’s the love of dancing that makes you a dancer at heart, not perfection. Facing fears, embracing joy, and knowing that you are good enough are beautifully conveyed. Luna is an adorable little girl of color with a white mom and a dad of color; we meet her grandparents, also people of color, who love to dance the Charleston, Crazy Legs, and Heels and play old jazz records when they dance with Lulu. There is colorful, joyful artwork throughout, including a vibrant Carnival street scene that opens into a gatefold spread. Endpapers show Lulu and a variety of diverse children putting on their dancing shoes and dancing in different styles: a girl in hijab spots roller skates; a white boy in ’70s bell bottoms and a patterned shirt strikes a Travolta-esque disco pose; a boy of color goes on pointe in ballet shoes. Embrace joy and read this one to your little ones.

Originally published in Great Britain earlier this year, this is the third Lulu adventure, all available in the U.S. from Kane Miller. They are also available in Spanish, which means I’ll be loading up another cart for my library kids!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Essential school year knowledge: How to Be Cooler Than Cool

How to Be Cooler Than Cool, by Sean Taylor/Illustrated by Jean Jullien, (July 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536215298

Ages 3-7

A cat finds a pair of sunglasses, dons them, and immediately pronounces herself “cooler than cool”. She really is… until she decides that she’s so cool, she can go down the slide backwards, to look “cooler than cool… WITH EXTRA COOL ON TOP”! When she falls and her glasses get knocked off, Cockatoo and Pig each find the glasses, adapting the same “cooler than cool” stance, until they, too, try stunts that end much like Cat’s. The glasses were supposed to make them cooler than cool; what happened? Chick stops by to teach them the best lesson: having fun and not being worried about looking cooler than cool? That’s the coolest thing of all. A smart, laugh-out-loud funny story about being concerned with appearances, kids will love and see themselves in How to Be Cooler Than Cool. I say this as a mom who’s seen my own kids hold punching contests, sliding sandwich contests (using the slide to slam into the kid before you, piling on and on until someone eventually goes flying), and, for some reason, deciding against wearing a sweatshirt or jacket when it’s chilly out, all in the quest of looking eternally cool. Jean Jullien’s bold ink illustrations capture the spirit of the story, with hilarious posing and the aftermath of “being cool”.

An excellent readaloud choice, make sure to don your own supercool glasses (or not, it may be too dark to read, and that will certainly NOT be cool).

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

I think, therefore I am: a chick ponders her world in Ergo

Ergo, by Alexis Deacon/Illustrated by Viviane Schwarz, (July 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217803

Ages 3-6

There’s something for everyone in this philosophical primer for little ones. Ergo is a chick who wakes up, deciding to explore her world. She wiggles her toes, flaps her wings, gives a tentative peck with her beak, and decides that “I am the world and the world is me”… until she realizes that the world, her world, is far more complex than that.

I had to mention this to my 18-year-old, whose mind was blown by the fact that the author created a kid-friendly story of Plato’s Cave. And that’s exactly what Ergo is! Kids will love the story of a chick discovering its egg, and the existential freakout when she realizes that she isn’t as in control as she previously thought. Viviane Schwarz’s simple ink and watercolor illustrations translate the message, giving life and meaning to Alexis Deacon’s story, with an adorable wide-eyed chick who wants desperately to figure it all out.

Me? I’d give this one as a baby shower gift, too. Adorable, hilarious, perfect. Engage your littles with a post-storytime craft by letting them create thumbprint Ergos of their own.

Posted in picture books

Louder, for the people in the back: When We Say Black Lives Matter

When We Say Black Lives Matter, by Maxine Beneba Clarke, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536222388

Ages 5-9

There’s been a lot of histrionics over the Black Lives Matter movement and meaning. Some folx will counter with the dreaded “all lives matter” response, and some will panic and try to accuse BLM of being terrorists. Certain school districts have gone so far as to attempting banning books that show positive portrayals of people of color. Award-winning writer and slam poet champion Maxine Beneba Clarke takes up the charge with her picture book in verse, When We Say Black Lives Matter; it’s a quiet, inspirational, powerful talk between caregiver and child, explaining the need for understanding and recognition. Loving words, like “little one”, “little love”, and “darling” lead into the many ways we can share the message: calling out Black Lives Matter; singing, screaming, sobbing, even laughing the words, and what they communicate: “When we whisper / Black Lives Matter, / we’re remembering the past. / All the terrible things / that were said and done, / we’re saying they trouble our hearts”. Each verse examines the Black Lives Matter message and what it means, throughout history, to this moment. Watercolor pencil and collage artwork inspires introspection and joy; colorful endpapers show demonstrators holding signs calling for “Love” and “Black Lives Matter”. The book celebrates Black Lives and encourages you to celebrate them, too. An essential book for all library shelves, whether they’re in your library, your classroom, or your home.

When We Say Black Lives Matter has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Armchair Traveling? Take Australian Baby Animals with you!

Australian Baby Animals, by Frané Lessac, (Aug. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536215274

Ages 2-5

Animal lovers are going to flip for this adorable book full of Australian baby animals and their parents. Fun facts run throughout the book, grouping animals together by their baby names (kangaroo, wombat, possum, koala, and Tasmanian devil babies are all called “joeys”‘) and how they interact with their parents. A sea dragon dad carries fry eggs (baby sea dragons!) on their tails until they hatch and drift away; echidna puggles (one of the cutest baby animal names ever) don’t have any spines, and flying fox pups get all the cuddles when  mom wraps her wings around them like a blanket. Bold fonts, fluid text that moves around the artwork, and colorful gouache artwork will delight readers. Spare text is informational and fits in well for an animal storytime.

Pair this with Frané Lessac’s 2018 abcedary, A is for Australian Mammals, for a unit on Australia, and check out this virtual field trip to the Australia Zoo, courtesy of Teach or Travel on TeachersPayTeachers.com.

Posted in Intermediate, picture books

The weight of a moment: Once Upon a Time There Was and Will Be So Much More

Once Upon a Time There Was and Will Be So Much More, by Johanna Schaible, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Studio), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536222135

Ages 5-9

Collage artist Johanna Schaible’s debut picture book weighs time in terms of the universe and our place in it. Beginning with the formation of our world, the first half of the book catalogs time, inviting readers to consider all that has happened; the second half invites readers to consider their place in time, asking them thought-provoking questions about their future. As readers move through time, the pages decrease in size, then increase as they move through the present into the future. The collage artwork is breathtaking, spanning eons of time: volcanoes erupting in the earth’s formation; Pteranodons soaring across a prehistoric sky; a steamship traversing an ocean.  It’s a wonderful book that plays with perspective and thought on large and small moments, with the big stuff: the formation of the planet, the construction of the pyramids, hopes for the future, laid out on larger pages; progressively smaller moments fit into smaller pages. It’s a wonderful visual explanation for small moment writing, and encouraging introspection.

Once Upon a Time There Was and Will Be So Much More has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books

The fascinating is often right in front of you: The Collectors

The Collectors, by Alice Feegan, (May 2021, Kids Can Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781525302046

Ages 4-8

Two friends go on a nature expedition to find the perfect piece to complete their collection, only to discover a most outstanding wonder right outside their window in this STEM-inspired story. Alice and Winslow are two exploring friends who have their treasures on display in a magnificent treehouse, but they need one final piece to complete it. They go on an expedition where they discover amazing things, from a giant crystal to a buried T-Rex skull, but each new discovery is out of reach for one reason or other. When their last discovery – a very cranky bear! – sends them running back to their treehouse, they look over the accomplishments of the day and celebrate what they were able to achieve; an exciting noise outside draws their attention and reveals the most exciting discovery of all, right outside their window. The book has a great message about tenacity, discovery, and friendship. Budding naturalists and researchers will appreciate the collaboration and teamwork the girls exhibit, and the fact that they plan, journal, and catalog their findings. Alice Feagan’s cut paper collage illustrations add depth, encouraging the reader’s attention and capturing the varyious textures of different landscapes, like gritty stalagmites and stalactites to rough trees. The endpapers show off Alice and Winslow’s cabinet of curiosities.

The Collectors is great readaloud for STEM and science classes. Encourage kids to make their own nature journals and observe their own surroundings. Ask kids what they like to collect – my son has a rock collection with interesting-shaped rocks and pebbles that he’s kept for years – and if they have a special place to show them off.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Fearless: Daphne Caruana Galizia’s story

Fearless: The Story of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Defender of Free Speech, by Gattaldo, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536219180

Ages 7-10

Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese journalist who exposed corruption at all levels of government and organized crime, gets her moment in this powerful picture book biography by one of her close friends, award-winning creative director and illustrator Gattaldo. Fearless introduces readers to Caruana Gallizia, whose love of books inspired her to think for herself and the courage to speak out through protest. The story follows her career in journalism, depicting her as a warrior fighting a many-headed hydra of corruption; her headlines proving that the pen is mightier than the sword. Gattaldo uses soft mixed media illustration to create powerful images: Daphne, in colorful clothing, clutching a fountain pen, stands out in a dreamlike sea, illustrating her determination to stand out among those too fearful to speak up. Later, she stands proudly among a group of protestors inspired by her voice and her work. Endpapers feature bay laurels; symbols of strength and victory, and known as “daphne” in ancient Greece. An author’s note includes photos of Caruana Galizia and discusses her assassination, with a touching note about the author’s friendship with her.

Strong words about a strong figure who wouldn’t be silenced, this is a necessity for your biography shelves. You can view Daphne Caruana Galizia’s Running Commentary blog here, where she pulled no punches with her commentary. You can read about her death here, and can follow the latest news on bringing her murderer(s) to justice here.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Let’s get the school year off to a great start!

You want books for back to school? I got books for back to school!

 

My First Ready for School, by Roger Priddy, (May 2021, Priddy Books US), $9.99, ISBN: 9781684491384

Ages 3-5

Priddy Books does it again; I’ve loved their board books and early learning books for babies since my own now-fourth grader (fourth grade!) was born. This preschool activity book is the perfect Welcome to School gift for preschoolers, and a great add to preschool shelves and collections in your classrooms and libraries. It’s all about concepts, early learning, and fun: there are pull tabs and flaps on every single page, all getting the little ones ready to experience a school day. Learn what to put in your school bag, with pull-down flaps that reveal what goes in your pencil case, lunch box, gym bag, and backpack; use the pull tab to discover all the great activities taking place at school, like playtime and storytime; learn about mixing colors, school shapes, patterns, and more! The book is tough, strong enough to stand up to repeated use, with bulky board pages, strong tabs, and secure flaps. Colorful and friendly animal characters will greet little readers and help them sharpen their pattern and shape recognition, counting skills, and sight words. Get a few of these in your collections if possible; they’re a great investment.

 

 

Let’s Be Safe, by Alice Le Henand/Illustrated by Thierry Bedouet (Oct. 2021, Twirl Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9782408028497

Ages 0-3

I am a big fan of Twirl Books’s Pull and Play series. This outing, Let’s Be Safe, teaches readers about safety while doing everyday tasks. Familiar animal friends from previous books in the series are back, like Little Kangaroo, Little Cat, and Little Monkey, and their parents gently guide them through scenarios that could end up with tears – but don’t, thanks to some smart thinking and safe action. Little Crocodile wants to come down the stairs by himself – great! – and Dad lets him, as long as he holds onto the railing. Little Kangaroo wants to stand up to play in the tub, but Mom cautions against it, because slipping and falling really hurts. Isn’t it better to sit and play? Pull tabs illustrate the before-and-after, with the Little Gang modeling safe behaviors as parents lovingly explain and stand by to help. Parents will appreciate the modeling on what to say to newly independent toddlers and preschoolers, and kids will love pulling the tabs and seeing their animal friends be safe. Win-win for all.

 

The New Kid Has Fleas, by Ame Dyckman/Illustrated by Eda Kaban, (June 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250245243

Ages 3-6

Award-winning author Ame Dyckman’s story about welcoming the new kid is a study in kindness and discovery. There’s a new kid at school, and she’s a little… different. Naturally, the rumors fly when the mean girl tries to spread rumors, but our narrator, who ends up paired with the New Kid for a science project, discovers that she and her family are pretty cool, after all! The New Kid – who we discover is named Kiki – is different, with a different family and a different home. She doesn’t wear shoes, she howls, she chases squirrels, and her family seem to be wolves! After spending a day working on a school project, though, our narrator – a young boy – embraces Kiki’s family, tussles with her brothers and sisters, and, in a laugh-out-loud moment, “goes with the flow” when it comes to using the restroom. Turns out, welcoming the new kid is a far more fun way to go than being mean! Digital illustrations capture the fun spirit of the story and show the growing friendship between Kiki and her new friend, and I loved the use of a wolf’s shadow to illustrate the Kiki is more than meets the eye. What a great way to teach kids to extend a friendly hand to new students. Another win from Ame Dyckman!

Visit Ame Dyckman’s author page for more information about her books.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Book Bundle: Books about living in a city

I’ve got two lovely new books taking place in a city, both with different points of view. Let’s wander in.

Mr. Walker Steps Out, by Lisa Graff/Illustrated by Christophe Jacques, (Aug. 2021, Clarion Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781328851031
Ages 4 to 7
Mr. Walker, the hard-working figure that lets pedestrians know when it’s safe to walk, has a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out) as he watches the people go by, day after day. He decides to put up the red hand to keep everyone safe while he jumps out and experiences life for himself – just for a little while! He enjoys himself, having his own little adventure, until he realizes that what he does is really important, and heads back home where he’s needed.
Lisa Graff gives us a sweet story both about street safety and about embracing a little adventure – but remembering that we all have important things to go back to, whether it’s work or school! Christophe Jacques’ adorable digital illustrations give life to the story; we see Mr. Walker in his little light case… but as we get closer, we see his longing expression as people pass him by. He steps out and starts his adventure, growing larger with each new experience, showing readers how taking time to enjoy oneself is fulfilling… but when he realizes that he’s needed back at work, he returns, refreshed from his break. A sweet story about taking pride in what we do, and a great way to introduce street and road safety to kiddos.
My City Speaks, by Darren Lebeuf/Illustrated by Ashley Barron, (Sept. 2021, Kids Can Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781525304149
Ages 3 to 7
A visually impaired young girl explores the city alongside her father. Readers experience the city as she does: its feels, its sights, its scents; the city comes alive in the spare text, letting readers open up their senses to observe all that the city has to offer. The city is a supporting character here; the girl serves as our narrator, but the setting itself comes alive as it rushes through its day, with its “dings and dongs”, its “smelly and sweet” fragrances, its “echoes and trills”. Ashley Barron’s cut-paper illustrations give depth and texture to the story and add interest, possibly encouraging younger readers to create their own landscapes (have pieces of colorful paper handy). This is a great book to use when asking children to describe colors, shapes, and textures of their own homes and surroundings. The story and illustrations in My City were reviewed by a blind sensitivity reader.