Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Oddbird: Vive la difference!

Oddbird, by Derek Desierto, (May 2021, Feiwel and Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250765314

Ages 3-6

It’s a really hot day in the jungle, but all the birds at the pool wouldn’t dream of going into the water and messing up their feathers! It’s a place to see and be seen, until a little gray bird shows up and dips their toes in the water, attracting everyone’s attention. Those rude birds tease Oddbird for being different and bullying him until they flies away, crying… but they’ve got a plan! Oddbird is a smart story for young readers about fitting in… and standing out. It’s a great readaloud and provides a lot of food for thought, whether you’re approaching from a social-emotional learning perspective or a diversity, equity, and inclusion frame of mind. Oddbird celebrates individuality and acceptance, and it’s a hat tip to perseverance. Oddbird is gendered as male in the flap text and in the story, but if you prefer, can easily be nonbinary during a readaloud; I’d read the story using they/them pronouns, myself; it flows nicely either way. The bright illustrations are cheery and pop right off the white background; readers will love seeing these colorful birds. Have feathers in your craft storage? Make Oddbird grab and go kits by putting some feathers, some gray construction paper (cut into a vaguely Oddbird shape if you’d like), and some googly eyes and link it to a virtual (or in-person) storytime!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

“Everyone makes mistakes”: How to Apologize

How to Apologize, by David LaRochelle/Illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, (May 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209440

Ages 3-7

A gentle and straightforward book about accountability and responsibility, How to Apologize starts off with a reassuring statement: “Everyone makes mistakes”. It’s a strong statement that’s meant to relax readers: it’s okay, no one’s perfect! But the important thing is, once we make a mistake that hurts someone or makes them feel bad, the kind thing to do is apologize. With woodland animals as our guides, David LaRochelle and Mike Wohnoutka lay out the differences between sincere apologies an insincere apologies; whether we like the person or not; apologizing is the right thing to do. And you can do it all sorts of ways! You can write a note, or you can say it in person. You can fix the mistake if it’s possible, but even if you can’t, apologizing will make you – and the person you hurt – feel better. And that’s the most important thing. Gouache artwork is subdued, letting readers readers take in the words and allowing the illustrations to show them how it’s done. Absolutely perfect for preschoolers who are still navigating social-emotional situations (and, let’s be honest, some adults, too).

Candlewick has a Teacher Tips card with some ideas for incorporating this book into the classroom, and coloring sheets that help emphasize some moments when an apology is helpful.

How to Apologize has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Atticus Caticus… what a fun story-cus!

Atticus Caticus, by Sarah Maizes/Illustrated by Kara Kramer, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536208405

Ages 3-7

A fun story that encourages readers to play with language, Atticus Caticus is the story of a young boy following his cat’s antics throughout the day, making up a fun rhyme as Atticus eats, naps, and gets up to all sorts of shenanigans, like scratching up mom’s chair and lying in wait to playfully attack our narrator’s toes. The repetitive “Atticus Caticus” phrase pairs with other fun rhymes, allowing readers to chime in and pantomime catlike movements like stretching, kneading, and scratching. Digital artwork is bright and cheery, with an expressive cartoon character cat and bold, black fonts that make for easy reading. There’s movement throughout the story as Atticus dashes from bed to food bowl, chairs to bathroom, to snuggling next to the boy at night, ready for another day of mischief tomorrow. A perfect read-aloud.

Atticus Caticus has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Best Friend in the Whole World brings friends together

Best Friend in the Whole World, by Sandra Salsbury, (March 2021, Peachtree Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 9781682632505

Ages 4-8

This gentle story is all about connection, friendship, and how your best friend may be waiting just around the corner to meet you. Roland is a rabbit who leads a quiet life of drawing, music, and drinking tea, but it’s a lonely life until he happens upon a pine cone in the woods one day! He names the pine cone Milton, and takes joy in doing all of the things he loves with his new friend: until signs in the forest show up, giving Roland the feeling that his best friend may be someone else’s lost best friend. Reuniting Milton – whose name is Popkin – with their best friend, Lucy, leaves Roland temporarily feeling the loss, but he discovers that there’s always room for new friends, as Lucy and Popkin invite him to join their group! Moving storytelling comes together with soft watercolor artwork to create a touching story.

Great for a storytime, you can also invite readers to make their own pine cone friends: get some craft pine cones, pipe cleaners, and googly eyes from craft bulk wholesalers and make them a grab-and-go craft that readers can come pick up, if you’re not doing in-person programming; hold a virtual storytime where you can walk them through the craft.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

How we learn: The Boy Who Knew Nothing

The Boy Who Knew Nothing, by James Thorp/Illustrated by Angus MacKinnon, (May 2021, Templar), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217131

Ages 3-7

The gorgeously illustrated rhyming story about a boy who seeks answers is all about how we learn: by asking. “On the day he was born, / before he could crawl, / the boy who knew nothing / knew nothing at all” starts readers off with a baby in a hot pink stroller, a blank slate waiting to fill up. He discovers a pink creature in a dress-up box one day, and asks his parents what it is; his father scoffs and says it’s a sleepy giraffe (it is not). Not terribly confident in his father’s response, the boy sets out on his own, traveling his island and asking others for their input. He returns to his home and his school, much wiser for his experiences, and teaches his classmates a valuable rule: “If there’s ever something / you don’t understand, / don’t be too frightened / to put up your hand”. It’s a valuable lesson for children who may be too shy to speak up, and for anyone – adults or children – whose instinct has ever been to chuckle and say, “Everyone knows…”.

Angus MacKinnon’s artwork is outstanding; it’s got a real Peter Max and Heinz Edelmann pop art/psychadelic feel, with bold, black outlines and bright pink and teal ink and digital illustration. Shifting perspectives as the book goes from landscape to portrait will keep readers’ attention. The reveal of the pink animal that starts our friend off on his journey is an incredible 2-page spread that just begs for a dramatic read-aloud. A read-aloud with a strong message, this should be part of your back-to-school storytimes every year.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places

Ever feel like you just need to break out of your rut? Try something new? Especially this last year and a half? Tabitha and Fritz are a cat and an elephant that know exactly what you mean in this hilarious new story, told entirely through e-mails between the two main characters.

Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places, by Katie Frawley/Illustrated by Laurie Stansfield,
(June 2021, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542008549

Ages 4-7

Tabitha is a pampered kitty who longs for the wilder side of life. Fritz is an elephant who dreams of celebrating his birthday with a fabulous voyage to a new place. The two meet via the website Lair-BNB, and agree to swap places. As the often hilarious exchanges reveal, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, as the two discover that while adventure can be fun, there really is no place like home. At first, Fritz loves splashing in the swimming pool with Tabitha’s human, Claudia; Tabitha loves that the great outdoors can be her personal litter box! But as the vacations stretch on, Fritz finds himself in trouble for taking dust baths on Claudia’s family lawn and mistaking a donut sculpture for a tasty snack; Tabitha is not a fan of the dust bath or the lovely waterfall that Fritz enjoys so much. The two quickly agree to return to their own lives, happier for the journey but glad to be home.

Who hasn’t gone away on vacation, only to be desperate to return to your comfy bed and familiar home by the time it’s time to go home? Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places is a sweet, funny story about wanderlust and comfort; about the anticipation of something new, and the desire to get back to what we know and love best, curiosity satisfied.

Kids will love the lively digital illustrations, colorful and with comically expressive characters. They’ll love the e-mail narrative between Tabitha and Fritz, allowing for a fun readaloud where you can switch up voices and put your own spin on their observations while showing off the pictures. The endpapers bookend the story, showing Fritz and Tabitha, both showing their need to get away from it all, on the front endpapers; snapshots from the two, surrounded by their friends (and maybe a guest or two), back home. It’s a great vacation story and a great way to give context to that feeling that adventures are great… but there’s no shame in wanting to go back home when you’re ready!

“A satisfying spin on the trading-places trope.” Kirkus Reviews

“Tabitha and Fritz are pretty much two of a kind, but debut author Frawley livens their epistolary exchanges with wordplay and knowing phrases…She gets a big assist from Stansfield (Poems Out Loud!), whose bright pastel settings, vivid expressions, and large cast of high-spirited supporting characters pull readers through the story.” Publishers Weekly

“A laugh-out-loud story that spells out why the grass is not always greener, with subtle language lessons built in for emerging readers.” School Library Journal

Katie Frawley grew up on a diet of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and Madeline. She went on to earn a bachelor’s in English from the University of Florida and a master’s in literature from Florida Atlantic University. These days, Katie lives in South Florida with her husband, four children, and a handsome mutt named Nantucket. When she’s not reading or writing, Katie can be found building pillow forts, testing recipes with her teensy sous-chefs, or shooing iguanas from her garden. Learn more at www.katiefrawley.wordpress.com.
Twitter: @KatieFrawley1
Instagram: @katiefrawley1

Laurie Stansfield grew up in Oxford, England, but packed her bags and moved west to study illustration at the University of the West of England. She now works as a freelance illustrator. She is the illustrator of Poems Out Loud!, published by Penguin UK, and has more books forthcoming. Laurie lives with her husband in Bristol, United Kingdom. Learn more at www.lauriestansfield.co.uk.
Twitter: @Laurie_S_art
Instagram: @laurie.stansfield

Posted in picture books

She’s The One, The Only… Sparkella! (And she’s got her dad with her, too.)

The One and Only Sparkella (and Her Dad!), by Channing Tatum/Illustrated by Kim Barnes, (Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250750754

Ages 4-8

Sparkella is all ready for her first big day at school: she’s got her glimmering pencil case, shimmering backpack, glittery ribbons, and glistening shoes, all ready to make a sparkly splash! Her dad dons a pink feather boa and escorts her there, sharing dance moves along the way. But when Sparkella gets to school, her classmates don’t seem to “get” her sparkle at all. Sad, leaves school, telling Dad to call her “Ella”, and strips all sparkle from her look. But trying to fit in is killing her inner sparkle, too! Luckily, Dad knows how to get Ella to find her sparkle again, and when Sparkella returns to school, she spreads her glittery charm around and discovers some new friends. Written by actor/director/producer Channing Tatum, for his daughter Everly, The One and Only Sparkella is an adorably fun and sweet book about being true to yourself, embracing what makes you unique, and the wisdom of Girl Dads. Channing Tatum has made headlines for dressing up with his daughter, and her influence is all over this playful story. Parents and caregivers will see the kids they know and love in this story, from the shimmery, glimmery clothes and accessories, to the fabulous take on Ella’s name when she becomes Sparkella, to the struggle to fit in and make friends while trusting their inner voices. Dad is supportive and present, strutting down the street in a feather boa, busting out impromptu dance party moves on the way to school, and deftly figuring out how to get his daughter to open up to him by making it look like she’s the one dispensing advice. Kim Barnes’s playful artwork is loaded with pinks, fuschias, and glittery, bright colors that make every turn of the page a joy. When Ella’s world goes bland for a few spreads, readers will wait with baited breath for the splash to come back. Bright pink endpapers, filled with glittery poop (it’s part of the storyline), feathery school utensils, and fashionable accessories, make this a read that kids will come back to whenever they need a little glitter in their day. Find The One and Only Sparkella Zoom backgrounds and activity kit printables here!

The One and Only Sparkella has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books

Celebrate World Meditation Day with Already a Butterfly

It’s World Meditation Day, and to relax and ease yourself into a meaningful day, I’ve got a gorgeous book to share with you, by Julia Alvarez and Raúl Colón.

Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story, by Julia Alvarez/Illustrated by Raúl Colón,
(June 2021, Henry Holt), $18.99, ISBN: 9781627799324

Ages 5-9

Mari Posa is a young butterfly who has way too much to do and not enough time to do it: she has to gulp down nectar, pollinate a whole field, do her wing exercises, and then she has her future to think about! There’s just no time to enjoy being a butterfly, or take in the beautiful flowers she meets through her day… Luckily, a flower bud named Bud is there to teach Mari the secret with feeling happy “being just who I am”. Raúl Colón’s watercolor, pencil, and crayon artwork is dreamlike, with gorgeous images of nature and person-butterfly hybrids cascading across the pages. Together, Julia Alvarex and Raúl Colón have created an story with purpose, where a child of color is not only the star of the book, but one who experiences joy simply by acknowledging her own existence. Her name, Mari Posa itself, is a lovely nod to Latinx culture; mariposa is a Spanish term for butterfly. Helpful meditation techniques help lead kids and caregivers through the process, from breathing, to visualization, to being aware of one’s surroundings. I love this beautiful story. Perfect for a yoga and/or mindfulness storytime, before bedtime, or celebrating the beautiful beginning to a new day.

An author’s note on author Julia Alvarez’s own experience with meditation and her granddaughters, while volunteering at the Marisposa DR Foundation, describes her inspiration for Already a Butterfly and includes photos of Ms. Alvarez with her Mariposas in training. Colorful endpapers sprout flowers that readers will want to stop and enjoy again and again.

Print out some copies of the author’s Tips for Meditation, and make them available to your families! If there was ever a time to encourage our kids to practice mindfulness and meditation, this is it.

 

Julia Alvarez (@writerjalvarez) is the author of numerous bestselling and award-winning novels including How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of Butterflies, collections of poems, and works of nonfiction as well as picture books. She has won the Pura Belpré Award, the Américas Award, the Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature, and the National Medal of Arts.

Raúl Colón (@raul.colon.7140) has illustrated several highly acclaimed picture books, including Draw!; the New York Times-bestselling Angela and the Baby Jesus by Frank McCourt; Susanna Reich’s José! Born to Dance; and Jill Biden’s Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops. Mr. Colón lived in Puerto Rico as a young boy and now resides in New City, New York, with his family.

Posted in picture books

Dear Librarian: A moving memoir

Dear Librarian, by Lydia M. Sigwarth/Illustrated by Romina Galotta, (June 2021, Farrar, Straus, Giroux), $18.99, ISBN: 9780374313906

Ages 4-8

Librarian Lydia M. Sigwarth’s picture book memoir was inspired by Ira Glass’s public radio show, This American Life. At the age of 5, Lydia’s family moved from Colorado to Iowa. WIthout a home of their own, Lydia, her six siblings, and parents stayed at relatives’ homes, but had no place of their own – until Lydia’s mother took her to the library, where she found a Library Home in the stories, the programs, and in the librarian, who always had time for a hug, to read a book with Lydia, and make her feel safe. Inspired to become a librarian thanks to “her” librarian, Lydia’s experiences illustrate both the library as emotional home for those who may not have anywhere to go; the emotional work of the librarian, and the love so many of us have for what we do. Romina Galotta’s illustrations capture the magic hidden in the ordinary; we see young Lydia walk into the library for the first time, flowers blooming out of shelves and sprouting up from book pages, just waiting for her. The warm atmosphere of the children’s room will bring a smile to any library lover’s face; I ached, missing my library even more, seeing the puppet show theatre and toy bins lining the floor of Lydia’s childhood library. Most of all, I loved the panel where Lydia’s librarian leans forward as Lydia approaches the desk; the two share a smile, connected, as Lydia’s flowers, bloom up from the librarian’s desk, letting readers know that this is part of her magical, safe space. She wanders through the stacks, accompanied by a whale; she and her librarian fight dragons together; she is where she needs to be. Now a librarian, Lydia connects with the children in her room, making paper dolls, sharing books and hugs, and connecting at that desk, robots and flowers present: she is someone else’s safe place now. An afterword from Lydia Sigwarth talks about her experiences in the library and reconnecting with her librarian Deb Stephenson, thanks to This American Life.

I was lucky enough to attend a librarian chat with Lydia Sigworth and her publisher, and it was one of the best experiences! Lydia Sigwarth is amazing, folx; I just wanted to talk books with her forever. She’s upbeat, inspirational, and such a positive force. I’m thrilled that she had a chance to share her story with us. Dear Librarian is a book every library should have handy – and that every librarian should read, because what we do makes an impact (and we need to remember that!).

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Oh no! Chickens on the Loose!

Chickens on the Loose, by Jane Kurtz/Illustrated by John Joseph, (May 2021, West Margin Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781513267241

Ages 4-8

A group of urban chickens take to the streets to cause madness and mayhem in this hilarious rhyming story. They wreak havoc at a thrift shop; stop at a yoga studio, descend upon food trucks, and listen to no one! The rhyming theme gets some breathing room from the repetitive phrase, “‘STOP!’ [from a human in the story] “But the chickens will not stop.” It’s the perfect opportunity to have your readers call out to these menacing chickens – or hand out some printable masks from SuperColoring, and have your own group of chickens cluck and bock-bock their way through the story. Informational back matter includes helpful facts on raising and keeping urban chickens, and the endpapers are grey-blue and white spreads of feathers and chicken tracks. Colorful, cartoony artwork adds to the fun of the story, with a frenetic group of chickens racing through an urban landscape and the town’s citizens in various states of dismay, surprise, even delight. Absolute fun, and I can’t wait to read this at my next storytime, most likely while wearing a chicken mask.

Get classroom resources, a peek inside the book, and a fun video at this page on Jane Kurtz’s website!

 

Jane Kurtz is an award-winning children’s book author, speaker, educator, and she is on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Children’s and YA Literature. She is a co-founder of the nonprofit Ethiopia Reads, an organization that brings books and literacy to the children in Ethiopia, where Jane grew up. She also heads the creative team of Ready Set Go Books, a project of Open Hearts Big Dreams to create fun, colorful, local language books for people in Ethiopia. She is the author of many books for children, including River Friendly River Wild, winner of the SCBWI Golden Kite award for picture book text, and What Do They Do With All That Poo?, a finalist to the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Excellence in Science Books list; it has also been named to several state reading lists, voted on by children. To learn more, visit her website: janekurtz.com.

Instagram: @writerjanie

Twitter: @janekurtz