Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Interrupting Chicken wants Cookies for Breakfast!

Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast, by David Ezra Stein, (Nov. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536207781

Ages 4-8

The third adorable and laugh-out-loud installment of the Interrupting Chicken series is here and ready for cookies. Little Chicken wakes his Papa up, because it’s time for breakfast and he has the perfect idea: cookies! Papa decides that reading nursery rhymes would be a better way to pass the time, and he and Chicken snuggle together as he begins to read. As the rhymes unfold, Chicken finds a way to get his point across, as he shows up in just about every rhyme, figuring out a way to mention cookies while interacting with such nursery rhyme characters as the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe and Jack Be Nimble. Will Papa finally give in and have cookies for breakfast?

This series perfectly captures the spirit of a preschooler: excited, lovable, and single-minded in focus. Chicken has amusing outlooks on life to share with readers: cookies have Vitamin C – for cookie!; the early bird gets the cookie, and nobody likes a cold breakfast (so you sit on the cookies to warm them up). Kids will see themselves in Chicken, and grownups will get a chuckle as they recognize their little ones. Warm colors invite readers into the comfortable space Chicken and Papa share.

Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast has a starred review from School Library Journal. Download a free activity kit for the Interrupting Chicken series, courtesy of publisher Candlewick Press.

Posted in picture books

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Dancing With Daddy

Inspired by her daughter, Elsie, author Anitra Rowe Schulte created a lovely story about a girl’s night out with Daddy in her first picture book, Dancing With Daddy.

Dancing With Daddy, by Anitra Rowe Schulte/Illustrated by Ziyue Chen,
(Dec. 2021, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542007191

Ages 4-7

Elsie is a little girl who can’t wait for her first father-daughter dance, and really hopes the weather holds out so she doesn’t miss it! She’s got the perfect dress and matching headband, and she and her sisters have practiced dance moves. Elsie sways in her wheelchair, and her sisters twirl her around, until she’s ready! The snow may come, but that won’t stop Elsie, her sisters, and their daddy from dancing the night away!

Inspired by her daughter, who has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome (WHS), Dancing With Daddy combines external narration with internal dialogue, giving us a glimpse into Elsie’s world as she waits for the big dance to arrive. Elsie’s thoughts are italicized and colorful fonts to set them apart from narration. Her sisters are supportive and excited, including her in all their dance-planning activities; they coo and squeal over her dress, and help her with dance moves by twirling her around in her chair. Soft colors and gentle illustration create a comfortable, warm family setting; when Elsie and her Daddy dance together, the world disappears around them, and the spread becomes the two, Elsie in her Daddy’s arms, as he sways and swings with her against a black background with glittering lights around them. Endpapers celebrate this moment, showcasing Dad and Elsie dancing together against a glittering background of navy blue. The story also illustrates how Elsie communicates with her family using a special communication book, with pictures and words she points to in order to give voice to her thoughts. A good book to add to your inclusive lists.

Visit Anitra Rowe Schulte’s author page for more information about her book, her journalism, and her school visits.

★“Refreshingly, Elsie’s disability is seamlessly presented as simply another aspect of family life…As she swings and sways in her father’s arms, her forehead against his, their love is palpable; Chen’s illustrations fairly glow with affection…A heartwarming portrayal of a family embracing disability.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“[Anitra] Rowe Schulte uses accessible, rhythmic language…conveying Elsie’s thoughts in pink- and red-colored text. Light-filled digital illustrations by [Ziyue] Chen make use of differing angles and dynamic shots, emphasizing the love the family has for one another.” Publishers Weekly

“This sweet story is a great addition to any diverse and inclusive library.” ―TODAY

Anitra Rowe Schulte has worked as a journalist for The Kansas City Star and the Sun-Times News Group, as a staff writer for Chicago Public Schools, and as a publicist. She is the mother of three beautiful girls, one of whom has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome and is the inspiration for Elsie in this book. She lives in the Chicago area, and this is her first picture book. Learn more about her at www.anitraroweschulte.com and follow her at @anitraschulte on Twitter.

Ziyue Chen is the Deaf illustrator of a number of children’s books, including Mela and the Elephant by Dow Phumiruk, How Women Won the Vote by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, and Rocket-Bye Baby: A Spaceflight Lullaby by Danna Smith. She lives with her loved ones in Singapore. Find out more at www.ziyuechen.com or follow her @ziyuechen on Instagram.

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Dancing With Daddy. Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! If you’ve won in the last six months, please give other folx a chance and don’t enter this one. U.S. addresses and no P.O. Boxes, please!

 

Posted in picture books

We Are One: How the World Adds Up – Unity Counts!

We Are One: How the World Adds Up, by Susan Hood/Illustrated by Linda Yan, (Nov. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536201147

Ages 3-7

Individually, we may be one – one person, one student, one kid – but together, we are so much more: a nation; a family; a society. That’s the underlying message delivered in rhyming concept story, We Are One: How the World Adds Up. The rhyming story here will attract younger readers, with easy-to-imagine concepts like “one sandwich requires two slices of bread / Two vows make one marriage when friends want to wed”, while informational panels run across the bottom of each page, with more meaty information for older kids: how the sandwich got its name, or Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s 2015 statement that “In forming a marital union, two people become something stronger than they once were”. The book goes from 1 to 10 – a relatively simple concept – and illustrates how those base 10 numbers contribute to greater and greater moments that make up our world. The message at the heart of the book is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that each of those parts are connected to one another. It’s a great book to explain the beginnings of early math concepts, and can be a book you can turn to as readers progress in their education to explain exponents, part/whole relationships, fractions, or more. All of these concepts come back to cooperation, kindness, and unity, making this a positive, upbeat read all around. Colorful digital artwork shows a wealth of illustrations, with an ever-present cast of diverse children and animals bringing the concepts to life. Back matter includes sources and resources, additional reading, and more stats on how the world adds up.

We Are One: How the World Adds Up has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Redlocks and the Three Bears flips fairy tales for fun

Redlocks and the Three Bears, by Claudia Rueda, (Nov. 2021, Chronicle Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452170312

Ages 3-5

Claudia Rueda’s newest story is a sweet, humorous take on Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Bears, and that old trope of the Big Bad Wolf. Mama Bear is just about to get the porridge on the table when a knock sounds at the Bear Family’s door: it’s Little Red Riding Hood, and there’s a bear after her! Baby Bear convinces his parents to give Red some shelter; porridge is eaten, chairs get broken, a bed is too soft… but is the Big Bad Wolf really that bad? Redlocks takes a compassionate look at the maligned image of the Big Bad Wolf, who always finds himself in trouble throughout fairy tales, and offers readers some food for thought on how bad reputations can hurt.

The story offers a fun take on the Goldilocks story, with Little Red Riding Hood taking on some of Goldie’s actions in the story; narrated by Baby Bear, we get an empathetic storyteller who just wants to make others feel better. Colored pencil illustrations are soft and use warm colors with expressive characters and gentle movement moving the action forward. Mama’s porridge recipe is part of the back endpapers, and looks like it was written by Baby Bear himself.

A fun cameo from The Three Little Pigs and a twist ending will have readers chuckling, and the easy-to-read, unfussy storytelling is great for a readaloud. Grab your flannels for Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Bears, and The Three Little Pigs for this one!

Visit Claudia Rueda’s author website for more of her illustration work and information about her workshops.

Posted in picture books

Seasons Readings: The Robin & The Fir Tree

The Robin & The Fir Tree, by Hans Christian Andersen/retold & illustrated by Jason Jameson, (Nov. 2021, Templar), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536220025

Ages 4-8

Jason Jameson retells the classic Hans Christian Andersen story of The Fir Tree, spinning into a bittersweet tale of friendship, loss, and rebirth. A robin befriends a fir tree in a forest, but the fir tree has dreams of being freed from his roots and traveling, discovering a larger purpose in the world. When the tree is chosen to be the centerpiece in a town square’s Christmas festival, he is delighted, but Robin is scared: where will they take her friend? Jason Jameson deepens the friendship aspect of Andersen’s story by making the relationship between Robin and Fir Tree the heart of the story. He adds lyrical beauty to the story with phrases like, “He (the fir tree) yawned, stretched, and shook off his cobweb-lace pajamas”; and describes how the robin and fireflies decorate the tree with golden ribbon from the town fair; he touches on the disposability of the holiday season as he describes the rough treatment the tree receives when the town’s children mob for their gifts, and how callously he’s bound and tossed into a shed for disposal. The story reminds us that a tree is a living thing; a part of nature that houses forest creatures. The Robin & The Fir Tree is exquisitely illustrated with graphite pencil and digital illustration, with deep red, greens, golds, and browns and European-inspired folk art. A lovely retelling.

Posted in picture books

Julia’s House comes to the end of its journey with Julia’s House Goes Home

Julia’s House Goes Home, by Ben Hatke (Oct. 2021, First Second), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250769329

Ages 4-8

The third book in the Julia’s House series will tug at heartstrings. The last time readers saw Julia’s house, in last year’s Julia’s House Moves On,the house had sprouted wings and was flying; Julia’s plans in the literal air. Now, the house lands, but takes a terrible tumble and rolls away, leaving Julia holding only the sign from her door! As she tries to track down the house, she gathers her Lost Creature friends, who’ve all been tossed and tumbled as the house bounced away, but just when she thinks she’s found the house, she makes a distressing discovery. Can she and her friends make things right again? A touching close to the Julia’s House trilogy, Julia’s House Goes Home shows a maturing Julia; a main character who’s gone from always having a plan, to learning that it’s okay to throw your plans out the window and just live in the moment, to having your plans fall apart in front of you – and having your friends be there to catch you when you fall. Readers familiar with Ben Hatke’s books will delight in seeing familiar monster friends and a wink to his 2016 story, Nobody Likes a Goblin. Watercolor artwork gives a moving, wistful, yet comforting feel to the story, and the back endpapers offer a sweet epilogue to sharp-eyed readers. I really loved reading all three books together. It’s a very gentle story that unfolds and invites you in to spend some time with it.

You can follow Ben Hatke’s Instagram for more of his artwork.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: A Christmas Too Big!

Thanksgiving arrives this week, and you know what that brings… the Christmas Blitz! Are you ready? Yes? No? Well, there’s a book for that:

A Christmas Too Big, by Colleen Madden, (Nov. 2021, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542028004

Ages 4-8

A Christmas Too Big arrives with perfect timing. Our narrator, Kerry, is a young girl happily making a fall leaf craft when she realizes it: “The day after Thanksgiving, my family goes TOTALLY BERSERK with CHRISTMAS”. Comics panels reveal the frenetic excitement with which her family embraces Christmas: the holiday songs that start even before Thanksgiving, given full reign the day after; the TV shows on every single channel; the decorations, the commercials, it’s all too much – Christmas is just too big! Going out to clear her head, Kerry lends a helping hand to her Spanish-speaking neighbor, Mrs. Flores, who invites her in for some hot cocoa. The two spend the afternoon quietly making colorful paper flores de Navidad, and enjoying a quiet, handmade holiday afternoon. Kerry helps Mrs. Flores use her Christmas gift from her family, living in Mexico, and decides to introduce some of her happy holiday traditions at home, too.

The story is so perfect for this time of year, which can be stressful and overwhelming for everyone, especially kids who don’t feel like they get a chance to transition from one season or holiday to the next. The story also provides a welcome answer to the mass commercialization of the holiday, offering a quieter, more meaningful alternative to Kerry – and to families who may seek something less slick and shiny. The use of Spanish and English to tell Mrs. Flores’s story adds real meaning to our multicultural world and how kindness stretches across languages. Bilingual endpapers showing different objects we associate with Christmas, like fancy presents (regalos elegantes) and manoplas (mittens) introduce new vocabulary. A flores de Navidad craft at the end is perfect for a post-storytime craft (that I will absolutely be introducing in my library).

Colleen Madden grew up in a crazy Christmas house and, like Kerry, she found a break by spending time with her neighbor who was from another country. She has illustrated many children’s books, including the bestselling What If Everybody? series, written by Ellen Javernick, and the picture-book adaptation of All I Want for Christmas Is You, by Mariah Carey. She recently published Monkey Walk, her debut as both author and illustrator, and is currently working on her first graphic novel. She lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons.

 

“An intergenerational friendship and a busy holiday made meaningful set this title apart.” Kirkus Reviews

“Madden’s bilingual tale strikes both humorous and poignant notes; the visual blend of comic-style panels, playful fonts, speech bubbles in both English and Spanish, and traditional spreads offers readers plenty to celebrate.” Publishers Weekly

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Vroom, Vroom! Books about trucks for Christmas!

Construction Site: Merry and Bright (A Christmas Lift-the-Flap Book), by Sherri Duskey Rinker and AG Ford, (Nov. 2021, Chronicle Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9781797204291

Ages 0-3

The Construction Site gang are getting ready for Christmas in this rhyming lift-the-flap ode to Christmas. It’s Christmas Eve in the big construction yard, and with all the day’s work done, there’s only one more thing for the truck friends to do: decorate for Christmas! Each truck has a special job, and sturdy flaps let little learners help with some of the heavy lifting: help Excavator put a star on the tree, and give Dump Truck an assist with unloading presents. When all the work is done, there’s only one thing left to do: go to sleep and wait for Christmas morning. You know the artwork, you know the rhyme scheme; Sherri Duskey Rinker and AG Ford know what their readers love, and deliver once again. Construction Site: Merry and Bright captures the fun and expectation of getting ready for Christmas, and their message about teamwork shines through. It’s a great holiday read-aloud and a Christmas Eve storytime.

 

20 Big Trucks in the Middle of Christmas, by Mark Lee/Illustrated by Kurt Cyrus, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536212532

Ages 3-7

20 Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street (2013) team Mark Lee and Kurt Cyrus join forces for a rhyming story about the 20 big trucks preparing for Christmas. Starting with a donut truck arriving in a snowy town, the story builds as other trucks arrive for a Christmas celebration: snowplows clear the area so another truck can bring in a giant tree; a truck arrives with a band and a dancing snowman; a flatbed carries Santa’s sleigh. Trucks arrive, all bringing something new for the celebration, and a minor crisis calls for some quick thinking to save the day! A fun counting book, 20 Big Trucks in the Middle of Christmas also features great rhyming for a fun read-aloud and a story about teamwork and how to work with a backup situation. Kids will enjoy the photorealistic trucks and people, letting them put themselves into the story.

Have donut coloring sheets ready for a post-storytime activity along with Christmas tree coloring sheets and truck coloring sheets.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads, Uncategorized

Guess the birdie! Who is Singing?

Who is Singing?, by Janet Halfmann/Illustrated by Chrissy Chabot, (July 2021, Pen It! Publications), $20.99, ISBN: 978-1954868373

Ages 2-6

Take a walk and listen on any given day, and you’ll hear a cacophony of birds: tweets, chirps, screeches, and coos abound; even city kids can hear a dove coo, a pigeon scold, and a blue jay (like the one who likes to argue with the squirrels, right outside my window). Who is Singing? is author Janet Halfmann’s tribute to some colorful, musical birds, all identifiable by their songs. Using each bird’s defining song, repetitive verse, and a noticeable characteristic for each bird, Janet Halfmann introduces readers to the gentle art of bird-watching and bird-listening, giving readers 11 fairly familiar birds to start out with. You’ll recognize pigeons, “begging for treats along a city sidewalk”; “bully loud and bold” blue jays screaming; cheery chick-a-dees, “dressed up for dinner in a black cap and bib”, and more. Ms. Halfmann encourages the birds to “take a bow”, making for a fun readaloud where you can invite your littles to take a bow – or let a bird puppet or flannel take their own bows when you announce them, too.

Chrissy Chabot’s illustrations are bright and lovely, photorealistic birds that will help readers more easily spot and identify them the next time they’re out and about. A lovely little story to read out loud, and works well with a lapsit. Print out some coloring pages and let the kiddos envision their own colorful birds and make some music of their own!

Posted in picture books

The Clothesline Code: A true Civil War spy story!

The Clothesline Code: The Story of Civil War Spies Lucy Ann and Dabney Walker, by Janet Halfmann/lllustrated by Trisha Mason, (Feb. 2021, Brandylane Publishers), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1-951565-58-9

Ages 7-10

Author Janet Halfmann gives us another story about two historic figures that haven’t gotten their full due. The Clothesline Code is about escaped slaves-turned-Union spies, Lucy Ann Walker and her husband, Dabney Walker. At age 52, Dabney was spying for the Union and learned the army’s flag codes, used to communicate across the battlefield. His wife was a laundress in the Union camp, but Dabney approached her with a different idea: how could they adapt the flag codes to help them spy on the Confederate army? The two devised a method using laundry on a clothesline, and Lucy went across lines to blend in with the other washerwomen at a nearby Confederate camp. She went on to create different laundry codes for each Confederate unit, and help keep General Hooker and his troops informed of the enemy’s plans.

Janet Halfmann has a gift for finding little-discussed people in history, primarily enslaved or escaped slaves who contributed to the fight for freedom and education of other Black families. She invests the reader with her storytelling, full of suspense and nail-biting moments: there is a lot on the line here, and Ms. Halfmann makes sure readers understand that. An author’s note at the end includes what little information exists on the Walker family after the War, and some selected references for more research.

Trisha Mason’s colorful artwork throughout brings the Walker family to life for readers. The photorealistic artwork is expressive, with warm closeness between Lucy Ann and Dabney Walker and emotional moments when they are apart.

Solid additions to your picture book biographies and Black History collections. Don’t miss.

Janet Halfmann’s Clothesline Code page on her author website includes links to discussion questions and interviews.