Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, picture books, Tween Reads

Olaf Hajek gives veggies their due: Veggie Power!

Veggie Power, by Annette Roeder/Illustrated by Olaf Hajek, (Apr. 2021, Prestel Junior), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791374789

Ages 8-12

After profiling nature’s healing flowers in last year’s Flower Power, artist Olaf Hajek turns his illustrative magic to elevating vegetables to high art in Veggie Power. Seventeen vegetables receive the portrait treatment here, with Annette Roeder’s informative discussions on each spread giving readers a background of featured vegetables, with fun and interesting facts (fennel bulbs were stuffed into keyholes during Midsummer, to ward off bad spirits for the year), edible parts of each plant, and varieties of each. Annette Roeder makes reading about vegetables fun – honest! – and Olaj Hajek’s gallery art treatment may actually make kids tempted to try some of these beauties. (Maybe. This is not a guarantee.) A woman sports a majestic fennel bulb crown as a bird flies overhead and a man and woman make a stew or soup in front of her. Animals approach a giant sweet potato plant growing across the ground as a hand rises from the bottom of the book, bowl full of sweet potatoes in hand. A group of individuals sit around a long table, ready to dine on a giant carrot and parsnip. It’s fun, it’s surreal, it’s colorful, it’s a coffee table art book on vegetables. Enjoy.

Source: OlafHajek.com

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Stella’s Stellar Hair is out of this world!

Stella’s Stellar Hair, by Yesenia Moises, (Jan. 2021, Imprint), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250261779

Ages 4-8

Stella is a little girl with a fabulous head of hair! She wakes up on the morning of the Big Star Little Gala, though, and her hair is just not doing what she wants it to – so her mother sends her off across the solar system to get some hair advice from her aunties on all the different planets, and the sun! Every auntie has their own gorgeous style: twists, braids, buns, all beautiful, but not quite what Stella has in mind. Sun-dwelling Auntie Solana has the best advice of all: “there’s really no such thing as hair not acting right – your hair just wants to be a little more fun today. / And that’s okay. / You don’t have to change a thing. / Just be yourself”. A wonderful celebration of loving oneself, Stella’s Stellar Hair is the definition of Black Joy and Black Girl Magic. The story celebrates the different styles of Black hair, using the back matter to describe the type of atmosphere on each planet and how each hairstyle would be best adapted to it.

Can I have a moment to gush about the vibrant colors? The cartoon artwork is adorable, and the deep colors are just a wonder to look at. The blues and purples that run through most of the book are incredible, and then bright yellows come in to add a glow to the pages, and come together to create a reading experience that kids will return to often. I love this book.

Stella’s Stellar Hair has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books

No one can resist New York – even the Mona Lisa!

Mona Lisa in New York, by Yevgenia Nayberg, (March 2021, Prestel Junior), $14.95, ISBN: 9783791374451

Ages 5-8

The iconic Mona Lisa painting makes her way to New York for a museum exhibit, but there’s no way she’s staying inside the whole time! One night, she slips out to explore and meets Tag, a graffiti work from Brooklyn, who takes her on a whirlwind tour of New York: they listen to jazz in Harlem, eat pizza in the Bronx, dance salsa on the High Line, and go swimming at Brighton Beach. But all good things must come to an end, and as the two ride back to the museum on the subway, Mona Lisa knows that she’s got to go home… or does she? This love letter to New York City is a lesson in art appreciation – Tag and Mona Lisa are both art forms – and an introduction to New York, a city with so much to see that even the Mona Lisa wants to be a tourist! The mixed media artwork has the flavor of New York, with something always going on in the details, whether it’s the crush of people staring at their phones and taking no notice of the famous painting come to life on the street, pigeons sitting on Mona Lisa as she tries to figure her way around the city, or the train acrobat plying his trade on the subway. A great choice for an art-related or New York-related storytime. And while you’re at it, tell the kids about 5Pointz, the now-shuttered graffitii warehouse in Queens where artists used to be able to come and create public art. Give kids some art supplies like markers and paper, or buy spray bottles and tempera paints and let them create sprayable paint.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

#SockontheLoose!

We’ve all been there. We open the dryer, we start sorting the socks… and there’s one missing. Where could it have gone? You know you put all the socks in at the same time, right? Well, friends, Conor McGlauflin has the answer for you…

Sock on the Loose, by Conor McGlauflin, (Feb. 2021, Roaring Brook Press),
$18.99, ISBN: 9781250304575
Ages 3-6

Sock on the Loose is about all the adventures our socks are having while they take a break from being stuck in our drawers or on our feet. They’re learning to tie bow ties and hiding out in watermelon caves! Riding moose and dancing the  polka! Watercolor and gouache artwork show colorful socks in a variety of pastimes, and his rhyme is infectiously cheery. Get some socks of your own – you know you have a pile of mismatched ones at home – and wash ’em again, either handing some out for sock storytime or decorating for your own virtual storytime use. TwistyNoodle has printable sock coloring sheets for you to hand out – let your kiddos decorate them, cut them out, and send them on their own adventures! Publisher Roaring Brook Press also has a free, downloadable Sock On The Loose Activity Kit that includes a maze, matching game, and draw your favorite sock activities.

If you wander over to Twitter (@roesolo) or Instagram (@roesolo), you’ll find out what my own sock has been up to – Roaring Brook Press and Conor McGlauflin have been kind enough to send me a sock of my very own to chronicle adventures.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Indie Spotlight: Pickerton’s Jiggle

Pickerton’s Jiggle, by Riya Aarini/Illustrated by Mariana Hnatenko, (Feb. 2021, Independently Published), $17.99, ISBN:  978-1735347332

Ages 3-7

Pickerton is a fastidious little pig who greets each day with a smile. He scrubs up and gets ready for school, only to step in a mud puddle! Poor Pickerton is very upset, but realizes that a little dirt doesn’t change who he is. He’s still the same, lovable Pickerton, and sometimes, things happen. He shakes off the mud, and with it, the bad feelings, and goes about his day, ending on an upbeat note about loving and accepting himself for who he is. The rhyme scheme is fun and upbeat, and the illustrations are colorful and cheery, with an animated cartoony pig that kids will enjoy. Author Riya Aarini’s website has more information about her books, including her Ollie series.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Value of a Kindness: The Smile Shop

The Smile Shop, by Satoshi Kitamura, (Apr. 2021, Peachtree Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 9781682632550

Ages 4-8

A boy has saved his pocket money and explores his local market, enjoying a feast for the senses as he decides how to spend his money. But an accident causes him to lose most of his money, and the boy is distraught. When he spies a shop called the Smile Shop, his heart lifts: surely a smile can’t be terribly expensive, and that’s what he really needs right now! The story of a kindhearted shopkeeper and a little boy, The Smile Shop is a touching story of connection and empathy, and shows readers that there are some things no one can put a price on, like kindness. Satoshi Kitamura’s artwork, created with pen, ink, watercolor, and gouache, creates a softly colorful world where readers can explore with the boy in the story. Spare text allows the illustrations to tell the story through actions and facial expressions, with words filling in the details. A wonderful story that kids will return to again and again.

The Smile Shop has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Would you look good in the The Purple Puffy Coat?

The Purple Puffy Coat, by Maribeth Boelts/Illustrated by Daniel Duncan, (Nov. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536204971

Ages 3-7

Beetle can’t wait to give his best friend, Stick Bug, his birthday present, so he gives it to him early: it’s a purple puffy coat! Beetle loves it – after all, purple is Beetle’s favorite color. Stick Bug isn’t really in love with it, but Beetle is his best friend, so he endures Beetle’s marching him all around town to show off the coat. But when Beetle takes the time to think about it, he realizes that maybe, just maybe, the purple puffy coat wasn’t what Stick Bug wanted. A sweetly humorous and poignant story about empathy and taking others into consideration, kids will see themselves and their friends in the story. Guide them into a discussion, using Candlewick’s downloadable Teacher Tips, about giving gifts and taking the other person into consideration before giving them a gift. Digital illustrations are colorful and cute, and the friendship between Beetle and Stick Bug will make readers think of Frog and Toad, or Bert and Ernie. A fun story to illustrate thoughtfulness that kids will like.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Lala’s Words illustrate the power of kindness

Lala’s Words, by Gracey Zhang, (April 2021, Scholastic Inc), $18.99, ISBN: 9781338648232

Ages 4-8

A little girl named Lala runs from her apartment to tend her own private little garden every day, much to her mother’s exasperation. Lala speaks lovingly, gently to the plants in her care, telling them she loves them, and how lovely they are; she brings them water to get through the hot days and nourish them.  Her mother, frustrated by Lala’s clothes being torn and dirty, or by her bouncing around and being a kid, cooped up in an apartment, snaps at her to “be still and quiet” and to “stop playing with dirt and weeds!”, but Lala knows her friends need her. When Mom orders her to stay home one day, Lala whispers to her friends, hoping her good thoughts and love will reach them… and they do. The power of words is strong in Lala’s Words, as we see Lala’s mother using angry words on one page, and on the opposite, Lala whispering loving, growing, words to her plants. Words can cut, and words can help us grow: in this case, literally, as we see Lala’s wishes come to fruition as her plants grow to seek her out and provide comfort. Lala’s mother, moved by her daughter’s accomplishments, finally gives Lala the loving encouragement she needs. Gracey Zhang uses spare color in this mostly black-and-white brush work: Lala’s yellow dress is a sign of life in the humdrum cityscape, as are the green of her plants. An enchanting book.

Read an interview with Gracey Zhang on Scholastic School Libraries Ambassador, John Schu, on his website, Watch. Connect. Read.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Gorgeous concept books for toddlers and preschoolers!

There are some some amazing concept books in the publishing pipeline that are going to make toddler storytimes even more fun. Grab some colorful scarves, egg shakers, and art supplies because you’re going to want to hold an art storytime with these books as your foundation.

Lili’s Seasons, by Lucie Albon, (Apr. 2021, Schiffer Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764361043

Ages 2-6

Lucie Albon’s “On the Fingertips” series illustrates concepts using finger-and hand-painted artwork that kids are going to love – and that they’ll be able to try on their own. Two mice, Lily and Henri, explore the seasons. Each seasons is set off with a spread of what you’ll discover on the pages – or outside! – for each season. In the fall, you’ll look for autumn leaves, pine cones, and squirrels; in the winter, there will be mittens, wool socks, hot chocolate, and snowflakes. Lili and Henri enjoy the gifts of every season, together, whether having hot chocolate at home in the winter or visiting the beach in the summer. Back matter teaches readers how to “draw with their fingertips”, and provides instruction on necessary supplies, and how to use the paint on your hands and fingers to create clouds and trees through the seasons. The book has a create space for exploration, but if you’re using this in your library, consider having a create space ready for your library kiddos, stocked with paper, art materials, and smocks or old t-shirts. If you’re like me, and still virtual, you can explore doing a virtual art program, and offering some supplies via grab-and-go promotion. Colorful, bright, and absolutely “you can do this!” kid-friendly, this is a fun new series that I’m looking forward to spending time with.

 

Lili’s Colors, by Lucie Albon, (Apr. 2021, Schiffer Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764361036

Ages 2-6

In the companion “On the Fingertips” book to Lili’s Seasons, Lili’s Colors brings Lili and Henri back to talk about color. The two friends enjoy red lollipops, cuddle yellow chicks, sail on blue water, and spend a colorful day together, wandering across brightly colored, finger-painted spreads. Colors are featured in a bigger, bolder font, in their own shades, and the text – dialogue between Henri and Lili – is brief and perfect for young listeners and readers. A finger paint workshop section goes over primary and secondary colors, color mixing, and how to paint your fingers and hands to create the artwork in the book and a self-portrait. A spread showing paintings by children encourages readers with a “you can do it!” attitude! Adorable and cheery, this is an adorable new series for burgeoning artists.

 

Colors de la Runway, by Clarence Ruth, (Feb. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9780764356834

Ages 2-6

How, oh how, did I miss this when it came out the first time? I owe Schiffer big thanks for sending me a copy of Colors de la Runway to rectify my not seeing this earlier. Colors de la Runway is a concept book on color by Clarence Ruth, fashion designer and creative director of Cotte D’Armes. Vibrant colors named in both English and French come off the page as model sketches show off fashions and accessories in 20 spreads: red/rouge dresses, light blue/bleu clair eyeshadow and the peek of a shirt under a jacket, brown/marron frames to a pair of dramatic glasses. Clarence Ruth’s book is inspiration for older readers who love fashion and art, and for littles who want to learn their colors with some pizzaz. Stunning, playful, and absolutely fun: get out a feather boa and giant sunglasses and have yourself a fashion storytime.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Magical, snuggly bedtime stories

Who doesn’t love a good bedtime story? And now, with virtual programming here for good, we can hold virtual pajama storytimes at any time! Here are a few adorable new bedtime stories to read to your littles, whether they’re curled up in your lap at home, or gathered around their devices for your storytime.

It’s So Quiet: A Not-Quite-Going-to-Bed Book, by Sherri Duskey Rinker, (Feb. 2021, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781452145440

Ages 3-7

As the sun goes down and the night drifts in, a little mouse isn’t able to fall asleep quite yet: it’s too quiet! Mom tells the little mouse to let the sounds of nature help them drift off to sleep: a croaking bullfrog, a snoring grandfather and his dog’s tail thumping against the porch; a coyote howling at the moon, all around the little mouse, there is sound – and maybe he would like it a little more quiet after all. Sherri Duskey Rinker creates wonderful bedtime stories that play with sound, rhyme, and repetition – Steam Train, Dream Train and Good Night, Good Night Construction Site are stalwart storytime favorites with my library kids – and It’s Too Quiet continues this fun tradition. Sound effects repeat and get their own exaggerated fonts, calling attention to them and making for flannel and finger puppet storytelling. Digital illustrations are cartoony and expressive, with bold lines. A great bedtime and storytime book that’s sure to pack in the laughs.

It’s So Quiet has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Ella’s Night Lights, by Lucy Fleming, (Nov. 2020, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212693

Ages 3-7

Ella is a little girl with moth wings and antenna, who sleeps in the nook of a tree by day. By night, she flies around, collecting light and bringing it to anyone that needs it, repeating a gentle rhyme: “Here’s some bright light. / Here’s a night light, / a little ray to calm your fright”. Ella wants so much to see the sunrise, but her delicate wings make that impossible, until her animal friends come together with a plan to celebrate her kindness. Ella’s Night Lights is a warm story of kindness and friendship, with soft digital illustrations and quietly colorful spreads bringing life to cold, snowy landscapes. The endpapers are soft yellow, with moths flitting across the pages. Ella’s evening rhyme is a lovely way to send dreamers off to sleep, especially for those who may appreciate a little extra light in the room.

 

Bedtime for Albie, by Sophie Ambrose, (Jan. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536211184

Ages 3-7

It’s time for bed in the savanna, but Albie, a young warthog, still wants to play! He runs off to ask his other animal buddies to play, but everyone’s going through their night time routines. That doesn’t stop Albie, who decides he’ll just play on his own… but it’s not really much fun playing all by himself, so Albie heads back to his mother, who has the best night time routine waiting for him. Kids will relate to this story about not being ready for bed just yet, and the different animals going through bedtime stories and baths is a good way to prompt conversation about our own bedtime routines: brushing teeth, washing up, stories, what else can you think of? The phrase, “skippety trot trit trot”, used when Albie dashes off, repeats often enough that you can invite readers to chime in. Watercolor and pencil illustrations are soft, with earthy colors and friendly animal faces. Endpapers show a grayed-out area of the savanna. A fun story on which to end the day.

 

While You’re Sleeping, by Mick Jackson/Illustrated by John Broadley, (Feb. 2021, Pavilion), $19.95, ISBN: 978-1843654650

Ages 4-8

While you’re tucking your little one into bed, there’s a whole world hustling and bustling outside. While You’re Sleeping is all about the folx who work while the rest of the world sleeps: people who clean public transportation and offices; delivery drivers; mail sorters, bakers, shopkeepers, and more, all work through the night to get the world ready for everyone else that next morning. Even the animal world doesn’t settle in for the night: foxes pass humans on the street as they forage for food, bats and owls hunt for prey. John Broadley’s illustrations remind me of Beth Krommes’s artwork; there’s so much detail to be discovered. Colors grow warmer as the night turns to dawn, with red-orange sunlight streaking through windows and down streets. Read with Karen Hesse’s Night Shift for a storytime about night time jobs.

While You’re Sleeping was originally published in the U.K. in 2020.