Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Melody tells a beautiful, layered story

The Melody, by Oded Burla/Illustrated by Assaf Benharroch/Translated by Ilana Kurshan, (March 2022, Kalaniot Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781735087559

Ages 4-8

First published in Hebrew in 1996, this lovely layered tale spins dual stories: a melody seeking an audience, and the story of the Torah. A melody comes into existence and seeks someone to listen to them. Offering to share its song with the mountains and trees, stones, the river, and animals to listen, Melody is turned down time and again: the trees have their own song they share among themselves; the rocks cannot sing; the animals, all set in their own ways. But Melody discovers a mother and child in a garden together and enters the mother’s heart. The mother begins singing a lullaby to the child, and the song is Melody. An inspirational story about love, the story is also an ancient Jewish fable about God offering the Torah to the peoples of the ancient world. When the Jewish people were the only ones to accept the Torah, the song became theirs; like the mother and child, the song is passed to each generation. Digital artwork comes alive with rich color and texture, and a fluid narrative assures that readers will return to this book often. A lovely addition to collections, particularly where Jewish culture and themes are of interest.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Who are Maziks and what do they do before bedtime?

Bedtime for Maziks, by Yael Levy/Illustrated by Nabila Adani, (Apr. 2022, Kar-Ben Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 9781728424279

Ages 4-8

This adorably rhyming story is part How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?, part Where the Wild Things Are. Mazik is a Yiddish word for a mischief-maker – I know a few of those! – and sometimes, a parent may lovingly refer to their little tornadoes as maziks. Bedtime for Maziks is the story of two little maziks and how they spend their day, right up to bedtime. The two are adorably monstrous, with green and purple skin, tiny fangs and claws, and unruly hair. During the day, they play along with other children, making messes in the playroom and kitchen and causing shenanigans at the local pool. Frazzled grownups nearby complete the chaos in a way that will have little readers giggling along with the maziks as they storm through their day. When it’s bedtime, though, the maziks turn into perfectly sweet little monsters, saying “good night” and getting their nighttime kisses. The playful rhyme and artwork is a celebration of childhood in all its chaos. Hallmarks of Jewish culture run throughout the story, including an copy of Jewish Folktales laying next to one mazik as she reads on the floor, a star of David hanging over one mazik’s bed, and a family sharing a Shabbat dinner (with maziks feeding pets and spilling drinks). An adorable readaloud and a lovely purchase for collections.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Books About Kindness

We’re heading toward the holidays, which means my library system is gearing up for their annual “It’s Time for Kind” campaign, where we encourage our communities to show kindness to one another. This year, it means a LOT. I won’t get on too much of a soapbox here, but I will say that I live in a state where people are arriving scared and alone, and need kindness more than ever. These books have been out for a few months, so consider these when you’re putting together readers advisory lists or book displays, or planning storytimes this season.

All You Need, by Howard Schwartz/Illustrated by Jasu Hu, (Apr. 2022, Neal Porter Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823443291

Ages 3-7

Written as a poem, All You Need is a meditation on what one needs for a fulfilling life, from the basics – sun and rain, food and water – to the higher needs, like “a place where you are welcome” and “words to share your thoughts”. Illustrator Jasu Hu tells the story of a young woman who grows to be an artist, nurtured by the land and the people around her. Inspired by Schwartz’s story, illustrator Jasu Hu’s watercolor illustrations bring a tenderness to the work that fits beautifully with the gentle lyrics and leaves touches of Chinese culture throughout the story, including a swallow, ever-present in the tale, to deliver words of happiness and homecoming. Back matter from Schwartz and Hu each explains their motivation. The main character presents as Asian, with touches of Asian culture and landscape throughout. All You Need is a reminder of how simple and fragile our needs are and is a beautiful opening story for storytimes.

All You Need has a starred review from School Library Journal.

 

 

Luli and the Language of Tea, by Andrea Wang/Illustrated by Hyewon Yum, (May 2022, Neal Porter), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823446148

Ages 3-7

A group of parents file into an ESOL (English as a Second Language) class, while their children head into the free childcare area while their parents are in class. The children play alone, not understanding English, until Luli decides to bring everyone together with one word that they all understand: tea. She sets up a tea party around a table and calls out “Chá!”, the Chinese word for “tea”; the children recognize the word, which sounds similar to the word for tea in their languages: Russian, Hindi, Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Spanish, German, Swahili, and Portuguese. The children sit together and share tea while the caregiver watches, delighted. Showing that language brings us together more than it divides us, Luli and the Language of Tea features a group of children from all over the world coming together in friendship. Each time the word “tea” is spoken it is illustrated in a colorful font with a phonetic spelling in parentheses. Endpapers feature colorful cups of tea from different countries. Colored pencil illustrations add a childlike innocence to this joyful story. Back matter includes an author’s note, a note on the languages spoken in the story, and notes on immigrants living in the U.S. and how they enjoy their tea. Author Andrea Wang’s website includes a bibliography of sources and audio of various children’s literature creators speaking the word for “tea” in their own languages; there’s also a downloadable educator’s guide. An excellent storytime choice.

Luli and the Language of Tea has starred reviews from Booklist and Shelf Awareness.

 

 

La Casita de Esperanza, by Terry Catasús Jennings/Illustrated by Raúl Colón, (June 2022, Neal Porter Books/Holiday House), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823452033

Ages 4-8

This is the Spanish translation of a book I fell in love with when I reviewed it in July. Terry Catasús Jennings writes about a little home that welcomes a family new to the U.S., and how that family turns that little house into a sanctuary where they, and their extended family, can come, be safe, and begin a new life. The Spanish text is lyrical and makes for a beautiful readaloud; Pura Belpré medalist Raúl Colón’s pencil and watercolor artwork frames pivotal moments in the characters’ lives to create powerful moments, from arriving home to a bustling household to people coming together to forge a new life when they’ve been forced to leave the old one behind. I have copies of both the English and Spanish translations on my shelves. One of the best books you’ll read this year.

Visit Terry Catasús Jennings’s webpage to see more of her books and read her own story; the inspiration for La Casita de Esperanza.

 

Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books, Women's History

Dressing Up the Stars: A picture book biography with style

Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head, by Jeanne Walker Harvey/Illustrated by Diana Toledano , (Sept. 2022, Beach Lane Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781534451056

Ages 4-8

Famed costume designer Edith Head may be a new name to many younger readers, but Harvey and Toledano’s story about the little girl who grew up dressing up her pets for tea parties and creating dollhouse furniture from scraps will appeal to readers with a creative bent. The story follows Head from her childhood in a Nevada mining town to her move to Los Angeles, where she lost herself in the magic of movies; from her beginnings as a sketch artist who didn’t know how to draw, to her rise as the definitive Hollywood costume designer, Dressing Up the Stars focuses on Head’s resolute determination to create her own movie magic. Back matter includes an author’s note on Edith Head’s life and career. Mixed media artwork creates a variety of textures, and colorful illustration stands out against the pale backgrounds, much like Edith Head, who famously dressed in grays, whites, and blacks so that “the movie stars could imagine themselves in their roles”. A very good addition to picture book biography collections. If you have maker programming at your library or in your classroom, Dressing Up the Stars is an especially essential purchase for your collection.

Download a free Dressing Up the Stars activity kit from Jeanne Walker Harvey’s website. Encyclopedia Britannica has an entry on Edith Head, and online magazine supplement The Cut has an article featuring 30 of Edith Head’s designs that you may be interested in sharing with readers.

Jeanne Walker Harvey has had many jobs, ranging from working as a roller coaster ride operator to an attorney for high-tech companies to a writer of magazine articles to a teacher of Language Arts and writing workshops at a public middle school. She has also been a longtime docent at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She is the author of several books for young readers, including the picture book biographies Dressing up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head, Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas, Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines and My Hands Sing the BluesRomare Bearden’s Childhood Journey. Jeanne studied literature and psychology at Stanford University. She lives in Northern California. Visit her online at www.jeanneharvey.com.

Twitter: @JeanneWHarvey

Pinterest: @JeanneWalkerHarvey

Check out the many resources here at Jeanne Walker Harvey’s website!

 

Diana Toledano is the illustrator of picture books including One Snowy Day by Diana Murray and the Polly Diamond series by Alice Kuipers. She grew up in Spain and now lives in Sacramento with her husband and their young daughter. Learn more at Diana-Toledano.com.

Instagram: @dianatoledano

Facebook: Diana Toledano

Pinterest: Diana Toledano

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Payden’s Pronoun Party is celebratory!

Payden’s Pronoun Party, by Blue Jaryn/Illustrated by Xochitl Cornejo, (Oct. 2022, Page Street Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781645675587

Ages 4-8

Payden is a child on a quest to find the pronouns that best fit: “I’m not sure I’m a boy… so maybe he is not best for me”. With Mom and Dad’s love and support – and the promise of a party to celebrate Payden’s chosen pronouns. Off Payden goes, speaking to his friends about all the possibilities: he and she, they and ze, em and e… there’s a rainbow of possibilities to discover! Celebrating individuality and choice, Payden’s Pronoun Party is at once gentle and exciting, charged with potential. Endpapers extend the story, bookending Payden’s quest. Digital illustrations show cartoon art people, all delightfully content in their pronouns and in themselves. Colors of the rainbow permeate the artwork in both background and in character; each pronoun choice is bolded in a different color of the rainbow. A joy to read aloud, Payden’s Pronoun Party welcomes choice, empowers LGBTQIA+ youth, and encourages understanding.

Download a free activity kit from Page Street Kids, including a fun pronoun badge worksheet that is perfect for decorating library spaces, classrooms, and people. TeachersPayTeachers has some good gender pronoun posters to have up in your rooms, including these from Everyone Deserves to Learn and this set from The Tie Tuesday Teacher.

 

Posted in Intermediate, picture books

A piece of Candy gets her big shot in Digestion: The Musical

Digestion: The Musical, by Adam Rex//Illustrated by Laura Park, (Oct. 2022, Chronicle Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452183862

Ages 5-8

Publisher Chronicle Books calls it “The Magic School Bus: Inside the Human Body meets Hamilton”, and how can you top that description? Digestion: The Musical is a look at digestion, set as a musical: a small-town piece of candy desires to be something important and a chorus of mini-carrots guide readers through all the action. Cameos from body parts, including an explosive appendix, kidneys, and intestines, and an old piece of swallowed gum add to the hilarity. Kids are going to laugh out loud reading this one (there’s an entire disco number dedicated to Number Two) and guaranteed, they’ll remember all about the digestive process after reading this one. An illustrated glossary defines terms. Endpapers highlight a cast of food characters sitting in the audience and working backstage. Digital illustrations are vibrant, colorful, and cartoony and will win readers over.

If you have felt foods left over from a storytime, get them out and invest in some more felt to create your own digestive system and take your storytime to another level.

Digestion! The Musical has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

 

Need to know what this book would sound like set to music? Ponder no longer:

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles loves all the ways to cuddle!

Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles, by Mike Allegra/Illustrated by Jaimie Whitbread, (Oct. 2022, Page Street Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781645675594

Ages 4-8

The rainforest is alive with squeaks and squawks, grunts, grows, and hisses, until the day a cheerful capybara shows up and introduces cuddles to all the animals. Some animals aren’t so sure about the full-on cuddle: turtle’s worried it will make their shell less tough, and hugs make green iguana uncomfortable, but capybara assures everyone that a cuddle can take whatever form makes you comfortable: it’s just about being together! One animal after another FLOOFS along with the capybara, making the rainforest a friendlier, cuddlier place than ever before. Cheerful storytelling illustrates the power of a hug while reassuring readers who may be uncomfortable with full-on contact that cuddles can take whatever form makes them feel happy, secure, and loved. An author’s note touches on the book’s inspiration (Capybaras really do FLOOF!), and endapapers reveal a lush rainforest setting. Pleasant cartoony animals are cute and will appeal to readers; shades of yellow, green, and brown give the artwork an earthy feel. This will make a good readaloud for preschool and kindergarten classrooms, when kids are still learning their boundaries, and the boundaries that others feel comfortable with.

Visit the Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles book detail page on Page Street Kids’s website to download a free activity kit, complete with capy facts and an activity on consent.

Posted in picture books

Internet Personality Peet Montzingo’s picture book story

Little Imperfections: A Tale of Growing Up Different, by Peet Montzingo & Rockwell Sands, (July 2022, Ginger With a Soul LLC), $19.99, ISBN: 979-8986283616

Ages 4-7

TikTok personality Peet Montzingo tells his story of growing up different in his rhyming picture book autobiography. Peet grew up in a family where he was different: his father, mother, sister, and brother are all little people. Little Imperfections looks at Peet’s life: his family’s health concerns; his fractured relationship with his father, his troubled teen years when he acted out, and his ADHD diagnosis. Montzingo addresses dwarfism, physical and mental health, love, and acceptance. Back matter includes an author’s note and a link to a video adaptation of Little Imperfections. Colorful artwork is eye-catching and vibrant.

Peet Montzingo is a multi-faceted artist with a curious and kind heart, whose talents span creating original content, singing, comedy, and so much more. Through his fascination with the local mysteries of his neighborhood to his deep bond with his mother and family, Peet skyrocketed to internet fame, gaining more than 20 million followers across social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, who find themselves deeply engaged and supportive of his endeavors.

Peet struggled in a traditional school environment as he was diagnosed with ADHD when he was a young child, yet he has harnessed his creative abilities to expand into the world of music, acting, and creating videos on social media platforms. His large following on social media has opened the conversation on being more educated on dwarfism and shown people how to approach life and adversity in a humorous light.

He grew up as the only “normal” sibling in a little people family but has used his personal experiences and open personality to encourage and brighten other people’s lives. Peet often raises awareness for dwarfism with a lighthearted and charming presence, shining a loving light on his mother and siblings, all of whom are little people.

Find him at @peetmontzingo

Rockwell Sands is an author, musician, and entrepreneur. On top of composing the original score for the visual portion of ‘Little Imperfections’ alongside Peet, he has written songs that have received worldwide radio airplay and have been featured in several forms of media, from Netflix original series to car commercials. Rockwell lives in Brooklyn and has been close friends with Peet for over ten years.

Find him at @rockwellsands

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour and Giveaway: IT’S NOT THE THREE LITTLE PIGS! by Josh Funk

I know, two blog tours in one day! Josh Funk’s latest It’s Not… fairy tale is here, and his poor, beleaguered narrator is back, this time trying to tell the classic tale of…

It’s Not the Three Little Pigs, by Josh Funk/Illustrated by Edwardian Taylor,
(Nov. 2022, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542032438

Ages 4-7

The narrator shares duties this time with a fourth pig: Alison, the storyteller of the family. As the three pigs go off into the world, Alison changes up the story, leading to hilarious interactions with the omniscient narrator. There are fun STEAM elements to the story this time out, with each pig’s home showing off blueprints and comments on architectural and engineering elements (and one lament over bathroom placement that will leave readers giggling). There’s a Wolf at the door this time, too – but whether he’s big or bad remains to be seen. Narration broken up with comic dialogue and played for laughs; change up your voice during readalouds or invite a reader or two to join in. A spot-the-character ending will give readers the opportunity to chime in on who they can discover. Bright, playful cartoon artwork grabs readers’ attention, and endpapers show a host of objects from the story set off against a bright blue background.

Readers will love this addition to a fun series that never disappoints. An excellent addition to your fairy tales/fractured fairy tales collections.

 

“Those who love to make up their own stories will be inspired, and readers who march to the beats of their own drums will be delighted. Will leave readers as happy as a pig in mud.” ―Kirkus Reviews

Like the characters in his books, Josh Funk doesn’t like being told how stories should go―so he writes his own. He is the author of a bunch of picture books, including My Pet Feet, illustrated by Billy Yong; the popular Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, illustrated by Brendan Kearney; How to Code a Sandcastle, illustrated by Sara Palacios; and Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience & Fortitude, illustrated by Stevie Lewis. He lives in New England with his wife and children. Learn more about him at www.joshfunkbooks.com and follow him on social media:

Facebook:  Josh Funk Books

Instagram: @joshfunkbooks

Twitter: @joshfunkbooks

 

Edwardian Taylor is the illustrator of multiple children’s books, including Hey, You’re Not Santa!, written by Ethan T. Berlin; Goldibooks and the Wee Bear, written by Troy Wilson; the Toy Academy chapter books, written by Brian Lynch; and the It’s Not a Fairy Tale books, written by Josh Funk, among other titles. He lives in Texas with his partner and their three dogs. Learn more about him at www.edwardiantaylor.com and follow him on TumblrInstagram, and Twitter @edwardiantaylor.

 

Two Lions is offering a giveaway of TWO titles from Josh Funk’s It’s Not a Fairytale series:  It’s Not the Three Little Pigs and It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood  (U.S. and Canada addresses). Check out the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Big Bear, Little Fish, Great Friends

Big Bear and Little Fish, by Sandra Nickel/Illustrated by Il Sung Na, (Sept. 2022, Carolrhoda Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781728417172

Ages 4-8

Bear goes to a carnival hoping to win a giant teddy bear, but wins a goldfish instead. Worried that she is too big to play with, feed, or love the tiny fish, she stays as far away from it as possible, lamenting the fact that she’s saddled with this little fish instead of a big teddy bear. Fish helps Bear discover that the two are not so different after all. With a sweet look at relative size and ability, Big Bear and Little Fish is a story of looking past the surface and snap judgements to get to the heart of a situation. It’s a wise story of friendship and kindness that reads beautifully for a young audience and gives slightly older readers food for thought. Cartoon illustrations endear the animals to readers; cool shades of blue against a bright white background provide depth and texture; warm browns and golds on the animals add a warmth to the narrative. Sentences are brief and to the point, letting newly independent readers enjoy the book on their own or as part of a storytime. A good selection for storytime collections.

A free educator kit on the Lerner Books website offers discussion questions and activities.