Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Spend a relaxing read At the Pond

At the Pond, by David Elliott/Illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford, (May 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536205985

Ages 3-7

David Elliott adds to his poetry series with At the Pond, a meditation on a day in the life of all the animals who live in and around the pond. Red-winged blackbirds sing and a family of mallards have a morning swim; dragonflies buzz by and a water snake guards her nest. It’s a lovely glimpse at the natural world, alternating beautiful lyrics and amusing wordplay. One spread illustrating a frog’s lifecycle from tadpole to frog reads, “Polly! / Polly! / Pollywog! / Golly! / Golly! Golly! Frog!”; another, a reflection on a water strider: “…enigmatic / but prolific. / Each day / he writes / his story / in rippling / hieroglyphics”. Amy Schimler-Safford’s mixed media illustrations create spread after spread of alluring images with deep greens, blues, and browns setting the background for brilliant pops of color. A gorgeous book for nature lovers and a great accompaniment to discussions on ecosystems. Back matter includes more information about the flora and fauna that makes an appearance in the book.

Publisher Candlewick has a downloadable teacher’s guide for companion books in the poetry series. Education.com has coloring sheets and activity sheets to extend pond-related learning.

Posted in picture books

Sarah Rising is a child’s-eye view of protest and social activism

Sarah Rising, by Ty Chapman/Illustrated by Deann Wiley, (May 2022, Beaming Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781506478357

Ages 5-8

Sarah is a young girl about to start her day as usual: breakfast, then caring for her pet bugs. But her father tells her they’re going to a protest, because police “had killed another Black person”. While at the protest, Sarah tries to save a butterfly when an officer swipes at it, and ends up separated from her father. The crowd protects Sarah, eventually helping reunite her and her father. The butterfly emerges as a symbol of hope, damaged but resilient – the butterfly, like Sarah, like her community, rises. The relationship between Sarah and her father is a positive one: he is a man teaching his daughter to call out injustice where she sees it and to take action. A strong theme of community runs through the book, illustrating the importance of relying on one another for support and protection. Inspired by the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Sarah Rising is an important book when talking to children about social justice and change.

Back matter includes an author’s note from Ty Chapman on growing up in Minnesota, where George Floyd was murdered, and the problematic history between police and the Black community. There are also tips for children and families on creating change, and a discussion guide for parents and educators.

Posted in picture books

“The miracle is in all of us”: Love in the Library

Love in the Library, by Maggie Tokuda-Hall/Illustrated by Yas Imamura, (Feb. 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536204308

Ages 6-9

Inspired by award-winning author Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s maternal grandparents, Love in the Library is a wrenching and inspirational story of finding love and hope in the darkest times. Tama is a librarian in the Minidoka internment camp during World War II, where she meets George, a patron who shows up every day to check out books and talk to Tama. Life in the camp is brutal, and Tama’s resilience is flagging, but George is always there to smile and support her. Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s language is powerful as she describes life in the camp and Tama’s depression: “The barbed wire fences and guard towers cast long shadows over her path”; “And though each camp was different, they were all the same. Uncomfortable and unjust”; “Tama kept her eyes down and tried not to think about the life she used to have”. Yas Imamura’s gouache and watercolor palette uses dull browns greens, setting the mood for life in Minodoka, but dresses Tama and George in bright colors; Imamura also gives the cramped conditions in the housing bright colors – a pretty pink quilt acts as a wall between rooms – to convey hope and the determination to carry on. When Tama loses herself in her books, she dreams of surreal knights and ships, young lovers and butterflies. An author’s note provides background to Tama’s and George’s story. Endpapers show a wall of barbed wire stretching endlessly across the covers. Love in the Library is a story of finding hope when there feels like there is none left, and joins the growing body of work that breaks the long-held silence about that period of American history.

Love in the Library has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, BookPage, Booklist, and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. Download a teacher’s guide and the author’s note at Candlewick’s book detail page.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

I’ll Go and Come Back stretches love around the world

I’ll Go and Come Back, by Rajani LaRocca/Illustrated by Sara Palacios, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536207170

Ages 3-7

A young girl named Jyoti visits her family in India, where she experiences some culture shock: it’s so different from home! But she and her grandmother, her Sita Pati, spend time together making sand art, going to the market, and playing games. When she leaves, she doesn’t say goodbye; in India, they say “Poitu varen”: “I’ll go and come back”. When Sita Pati visits Jyoti, she experiences a similar culture shock, but Jyoti is there to play, create, and shop with her. Told in a repeat narrative from Indian and American experiences, I’ll Go and Come Back reminds me of Margaret Chiu Greanias’s Amah Faraway, which I also loved. I enjoy the reverse narrative, where each character swaps roles to become the caregiver and guide to a new culture. Rajani LaRocca creates warmth between Jyoti and Sita Pati, brought to life by Sara Palacios’s gouache and acrylic artwork. Sita Pati and Jyoti holds hands and lean toward each other when they’re together, and readers get a peek into Indian culture, with touchstones like food, public spaces, and clothing. Endpapers look like colorful sari prints. I’ll Go and Come Back is a sweet grandparent-grandchild story that celebrates culture and familial relationships.

I’ll Go and Come Back has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Little House of Hope is the story of America

The Little House of Hope, by Terry Catasús Jennings/Illustrated by Raúl Colón, (June 2022, Neal Porter Books/Holiday House), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823447169

Ages 4-8

A family arrives from Cuba and finds a home to call their own as they build their new lives in America. In time, La Casita – the little house – welcomes other family members and later, a family who needs a place to call home; together, they all work toward making the casita and America their new home. Terry Catasús Jennings was inspired by anger to write this story, after a realtor claimed to never rent to “Hispanics because they lived four families to a house and always destroyed the properties where the lived”. She was also inspired by the memories of growing up in her own casita. Here, the Definitely Dominguita author tells the stories of families who come here to be safe. In quietly passionate storytelling, she tells readers about the fears that spurred these people to leave their homes and come to the States, and she tells readers how these families all worked together to turn the house into a warm, loving casita: adults and children coming together to paint and clean, to mow lawns and make artwork, and how the casita inspired them. A father starts their own landscaping business. A mom starts a daycare in the casita. Another mother secures a job as a high school Spanish teacher, and a father becomes an accountant. A daughter uses her passion for collage to welcome new families to the casita, and when they’re ready to move on, sends them off with artwork to display in their home.

Pura Belpré medalist (2006) and Eric Carle Honor (2021) illustrator Raúl Colón pencil and watercolor artwork uses perspective and soft color to create beautiful moments: a family, looking up at la casita; gathered around a table, smiling; confiding in one another; a father, looking through the window and seeing a full home ready to welcome him. The Little House of Hope reminds us all that this is what America should be when we’re at our best.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Smile: “Every smile starts a wonderful journey”

The Smile, by Marie Voigt, (Aug. 2022, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781684644131

Ages 3-6

Marie Voigt explores the power of a smile in this kind story. Easy-to-read, simple sentences build this “pay-it-forward” story, beginning with a baby’s smile. That smile, directed at another child, brings with it a glittery shower that illuminates everything in its path. The child cheers a lonely woman, as the child hands her a chunk of bread to feed the ducks; she goes on to pick up a beloved toy, dropped by a girl in a wheelchair. A smile cheers and inspires each person to do something kind for another; near or far, a smile sends love. A good deed from a local school puts smiles on the faces of others, worldwide, inspiring even larger good deeds. The story asks readers where their smiles will go, inviting children to start their own kindness chains. Endpapers feature glittery smile paths across a purple background. Great for social-emotional collections, great for storytimes.

The Smile was originally published in the UK earlier this year.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Take your baby traveling with Feather Flores’s new picture book series!

Author and editor Feather Flores is breathing new life into a series of city-based books from Chronicle! Great for touristing families and residents alike, these rhyming looks at popular U.S. cities feature families of color enjoying the sights. Let’s take a look at two of them.

Los Angeles, Baby!, by Feather Flores/Illustrated by Asia Ellington, (Aug. 2022, Chronicle Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781797207216

Ages 3-5

A family heads out to explore Los Angeles on a bright, sunny day! Mom and Dad buckle their daughter into the car and head out for adventure, visiting such sights as the Pier, famed restaurant The Grove, and the La Brea Tar Pits. At night, they head to historic Olvera Street and take in a show at the Hollywood Bowl. Lively rhyming text and vibrant digital illustration show diverse people enjoying the daily hustle and bustle of the city while pointing out some popular tourist sites. Endpapers feature different landmarks in bright and darker yellow, like Hollywood stars and shopping bags, film reels and the Hollywood Bowl. Start a travel storytime and have your kiddos make their own stars to create a Walk – or a Wall – of Fame at your library, and bust out the tissue paper and your papel picado templates for an Olvera Street-related craft.

Make a travel display or booktalk this to families looking for travel-related books. Consider displaying with Byron Barton’s Airport, Richard Scarry’s A Day at the Airport, Paul and Peter Reynolds’s Going Places, and Barefoot Books’s Amazing Places.

 

 

Texas, Baby!, by Feather Flores/Illustrated by David DePasquale, (Aug. 2022, Chronicle Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781797207223

Ages 3-5

Yee-haw, cowhands! Join a family as they head out on a tour through the Lone Star State! Rhyming phrases, bold text, and a diverse cast of characters are just the beginning of what makes this such a fun and vibrant book for toddlers and preschoolers. A girl and her dad are the main characters here, stopping off at the Fort Worth Stockyards to take in a rodeo, visiting the Space Center at Houston, enjoying a Tex-Mex lunch, and visiting the Alamo. There’s BBQ, western dancing, and bluebonnets to give readers the full Texas experience. Endpapers show a mix of things to discover, from armadillos and ten gallon hats to space shuttles and cactus. Have paper bags and construction paper on hand for cowboy crafts, cardboard tubes for rocket crafts, and crayons for this Texas Bluebonnet coloring page.

Other Travel, Baby! (my own title; I didn’t see a name for the series yet) books in this series include Chicago, Baby! and Washington, DC, Baby! by Feather Flores. San Francisco, Baby! and New York, Baby!, both illustrated by Ward Jenkins, were released in 2012 and are still available.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A goat learns to share in No Nibbling!

No Nibbling!, by Beth Ferry/Illustrated by A.N. Kang, (March 2022, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250762412

Ages 4-7

Derwood is a goat with a beautiful garden, but he’s always on guard: growing a garden is “risky business”, after all. A sweet – and smart! – bunny named Tabitha appears with a gleam in her eye and a rumble in her tummy. There is so much tasty food growing in the garden! Tabitha loves to chatter away with Derwood, slyly slipping in food-related puns – “Lettuce talk about something else”; Rabbits don’t really carrot one way or another”; “Romaine calm, Mkster Derwood” – and innocently convincing the goat he’s hearing things.  The two slowly cultivate a sweet friendship, and Derwood lets down his guard and shares some of his bounty. An adorable story with delightful wordplay; kids will love the lovable curmudgeon and witty youngster. Anna Kang’s digital illustrations are expressive and softly colorful; endpapers feature some of Derwood’s crops, all sporting nibbles, across a green and white-checked tablecloth. The wordplay is colorful and bold, making this a great readaloud choice where you can emphasize the puns as Tabitha spouts them.

Read and display with some other fun books that play with language. I love Carson Ellis’s Du Iz Tak?, Dear Deer, by Gene Barretta, and David Ezra Stein’s Interrupting Chicken books.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

My Dad is a Grizzly Bear sees grown-ups through kids eyes

My Dad is a Grizzly Bear, by Swapna Haddow/Illustrated by Dapo Adeola, (May 2022, Red Comet Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781636550114

Ages 4-8

A little boy likens his father to a grizzly bear in this funny look at how we see our parents. Cartoony images show a giant grizzly bear chasing the boy and his sister; eating pancakes by the stack, and singing karaoke with the boy’s friends as the story progresses, in the boy’s voice: “He eats all the honey in the house. It drops off his pancakes and sticks to his whiskers. / He never leaves any for me because he is a grizzly bear”. The boy isn’t always put off by his dad, though – he and his sister giggle with glee as he chases them while the boy wields a water hose; as Dad “catches fish in his teeth” the boy is the one catapulting them from his fork. When the family goes camping and mom tells a scary story, Dad’s the one who saves the day with a big, warm bear hug.  Kids will get a laugh as they think of people they know and what animals they could be: does someone hop around like a bunny? Or stretch like a cat? Or roar like a lion? A great book about dads and kids that we need more of: a fun-loving dad who’s there to rescue with a hug. Bright, colorful artwork, repetitive phrases, bold fonts, and a sweet story makes this a good storytime choice. Endpapers are a colorful splash of yellow pineapples on a pink background – just like Dad’s swim trunks on the cover. Download a free activity kit on Red Comet’s My Dad is a Grizzly Bear webpage.

Author Swapna Haddow is a popular, New Zealand-based author whose popular chapter book series include Dave the Pigeon and Ballet Bunnies. Visit her author webpage and join me in hoping more of her books appear on U.S. bookshelves. She’s also got loads of printable and fun activities. Dapo Adeola is a London-based illustrator and received the distinction of illustrator of the year at the 2022 British Book Awards. Follow him on Instagram for more of his artwork.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Bustletown moves from seasons to times of day

All Around Bustletown: Nighttime, by Rotraut Susanne Berner, (Apr. 2022, Prestel), $12.95, ISBN: 9783791374901

Ages 2-5

Bustletown greeted visitors on American shores in 2019, with the debut of four oversized board books, showing the bustling town (get it?) through the four seasons. The latest Bustletown book shows readers what the town – still bustling! – looks like at night. The wordless seek-and-find book offers seven spreads where readers can see a library sleepover and a cross-section of a home’s residents getting ready to call it a night. Townspeople gather in the park to watch fireworks and a mischievous dog steals a woman’s hat. Familiar characters and locations resurface with yet another point of view, teaching concepts in a fun way. Challenges on the back cover ask readers to look for a nocturnal raccoon, sleeping horses, a neighbor sleeping outside, and more. Each spread reveals new details every time: there are so many things to see! Imaginative readers can look through previous Bustletown stories and tell their own stories about what the neighbors have been doing between each book. Create your own challenges for your readers: see what they’ll find.