Little Box of Emotions: Matching and Memory Cards, by Louison Nielman , illustrated by Marie Paruit, (July 2020, Schiffer Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 9780764358975
Twenty-four cards with colorful and expressive animals and items make for a memory game and teaching tool. A 32-page guide book explains represented emotions and offers some game ideas, from matching colors to memory games. What I appreciated most is the opportunity to use these cards to teach children how to recognize emotions in themselves and others; to use these cards to define what they may not have had the words to describe before. I work in a community of English language learners; for me, having cards like this available to my kids is great: when we reopen, I would use these in storytimes to deep dive into emotions experienced by different characters; I’d leave the box by my desk, so anyone wanting to talk to me without having the words, regardless of language capability, can use these little cards to communicate feelings and thoughts. They’re a good choice to have available for toddlers, who are learning more and more words by the day, and experiencing very big emotions that may scare or frustrate them. It makes for a fun game for parents and children to play together, and the adorable animals are eye-catching and colorful. Consider making some crib notes for yourself, describing these emotions in different languages to help language learners get a firmer foot in their two worlds. For those of us with big infant populations, have some baby sign language books around to enhance language, and make yourself familiar with ASL signs for emotions.
Miss Mingo and the 100th Day of School, by Jamie Harper, (Nov. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536204919
The latest Miss Mingo story celebrates that school milestone, the 100 Days. Miss Mingo’s kindergarten classroom is excited: “One hundred is a big number, so we will celebrate BIG!” Miss Mingo tells her class, and invites the class to share their 100th Day projects, and each of the students show off their projects: 100 shells, a 100-pound baby sibling (it’s a hippo!), 100 teddy bears, even 100 footprints from five different classmates! Loaded with interesting factoids throughout the story, Miss Mingo and the 100th Day of School has great ideas for 100th Day celebrations, many of which will likely take place over Zoom, Google Classroom, or other video chat. My favorite? Making a silly face for 100 seconds! Watercolor and ink illustrations show expressive, happy animal classmates and their exuberant teacher showing off their talented projects. A good book to have ready for 100th Day storytimes.
Ellie’s Dragon, by Bob Graham, (Nov. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536211139
Little Ellie discovers a tiny dragon atop an egg carton while at the grocery store with her mother, and immediately takes him home and names him Scratch. Ellie’s mother doesn’t see him, nor does her teacher, but all her friends do. As Ellie gets older, her relationship with Dragon begins to change: she’s paying less attention to him, more interested in birthday parties and music, and he begins fading away. A bittersweet story about the magic of childhood and growing up, Ellie’s Dragon is a good reminder to us grownups not to let the spark of magic fade as we grow up, and a reassurance to kids that they are absolutely clued in to moments that adults overlook. Award-winning author and illustrator Bob Graham tells a magical story, accompanied by his dreamy watercolors; Scratch is a tiny green dragon with bits of yellow and pink; his wings gently flap and he gives off a little plume of smoke. Ellie leads him along on a leash, attracting the attention of kids everywhere she goes, and Scratch lovingly indulges them, eating birthday candles and snuggling with them at naptime. You’ll ache when you see Scratch left behind as Ellie grows up and away from him, but don’t worry – our childhood friends don’t fade away; they move on to someone else who needs them. A gentle story for kiddos moving up from toddlerhood to preschoool and Kindergarten. Remind your Kiddos to always look for their dragons and unicorns, and to keep their everyday magic close.
Hooray, it’s Garbage Day!, by Eric Ode/Illustrated by Gareth Llewhellin, (Jan. 2020, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781684641147
More truck and vehicle books! More community helpers! This rhyming concept book is all about the excitement of hearing the big garbage truck rumble down the street, lights flashing, hissing and sighing, as it grabs cans and dumps them into its maw to crunch and crash up the trash. Fun sounds in the story make for fun read alouds: let your kiddos stomp and smash, rumble and crash as you read along. Kids can count from 1 to 5 along with garbage truck workers, garbage cans, neighborhood kids waving, and more. When the kids in the book make up their own garbage crew using art supplies, encourage your kiddos (if you’re virtual) to make their own signs and trucks, or (if you’re in person) hand some out! If you’re grab and go, like I am, you can make some make and take craft bags with some pieces of cardboard, this cool recycling printable, and some truck coloring sheets, along with a few crayons. Digital artwork is colorful, bright, and cartoony.
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners, by Joanna Ho/Illustrated by Dung Ho, (Jan. 2021, Harper Children’s), $17.99, ISBN: 9780062915627
This gorgeous book is an ode in verse to loving oneself and the connection to one’s heritage. A little girl notices that some of her friends have blue eyes and long lashes, but she looks different. She has “eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea”, and they look just like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her sister’s. The love and hope and history in these eyes are carried from generation to generation, and they communicate volumes. Not for one moment does our little protagonist worry about not having “sapphire lagoons with lashes like lace trim on ballgowns”, because her eyes “find mountains that rise ahead and look up when others are shut down… lashes like the swords of warriors..” Each page reveals beautiful determination, self-love, and self-worth, and Dung Ho’s digital illustrations are warm, yet powerful, with strength through grace. Touches of Chinese history unfold through the spreads, with references to the Chinese culture and mythology; clothing, and imagery.
This book is breathtaking, and I can’t wait to read this at storytime. Add this to your shelves, your storytimes, and your collections.
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners has starred reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus. It was also one of the top ten picks for the Winter 2020-2021 Kids’ Indie Next Great Reads.
V is for Voting, by Kate Farrell/Illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald, (July 2020, Henry Holt & Co), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250231253
You may be looking at this title and thinking I’m really late on this one, and I am. But I also see this as a book we need to talk about NOW, because it isn’t just about voting. This ABC-edary is an introduction (or a reminder, for some… giving the eyeglasses librarian look now) to civics and what it takes to be a good citizen. V is just one letter in the alphabet, just like voting is just one part of being a good citizen. Farrell has points to make that everyone should understand and take to heart: “A is for active participation. / B is for building a more equal nation.”; “E for engagement. We all need to care. / F for a free press to find facts and share”. Digital illustrations bring vibrant, diverse communities to the pages of the book, showing communities uniting to march for justice, contributing to local communities, and yes, voting. Back matter includes a voting rights timeline and more information about people featured in the book’s illustrations, like Shirley Chisholm, Malcolm X, Takemoto Mink, and Cesar Chavez.
Essential reading. Go to your library and get a copy now, because we all need to read and discuss this book, whether it’s with our kids or among ourselves.
Mr. Brown’s Bad Day, by Lou Peacock/Illustrated by Alison Friend, (Nov. 2020, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536214369
Mr. Brown is a tiger with a Very Important Job; as such, he has a Very Important Briefcase that he carries with him at all times. Mr. Brown’s briefcase goes on a big adventure during a lunch in the park one day, and our poor friend is forced to chase it all over town! What can possibly be so important in the Very Important Briefcase? No matter how big you get, or how Very Important you may be, some things are just non-negotiable. Mr. Brown is a friendly-faced lion, and the colorful mixed media illustrations show his madcap day; he starts off in a pin-striped suit, but ends up bedraggled, shirt sleeves rolled up, tie askew, jacket completely missing. The repeated “fortunately” and “unfortunately” phrases invite kids to predict whether something good or bad is about to happen. A fun adventure and a fun storytime; pair with stories like Peter Brown’s Mr. Tiger Goes Wild and Aliki’s That’s Good, That’s Bad! for similar tiger adventures.
Mr. Brown’s Bad Day has a starred review from Kirkus.
Scooper and Dumper are best friends, trucks who take care of their town in all sorts of weather. One day, a big snowstorm hits the city, and they’re called into action to save the day!
Scooper and Dumper, by Lindsay Ward, (Feb. 2021, Two Lions),
$17.99, ISBN: 978-1542092685
Lindsay Ward’s latest outing is a rhyming story of friendship, bravery, and trucks! Scooper and Dumper are friends taking care of their town, but have to head to the big city to help out when a big snowstorm hits, but Dumper finds himself in trouble when he hits an icy road that’s caused a pileup! When no other trucks can get through to help, it’s up to Scooper to save the day. The story is such a positive study of helping, friendship, and teamwork, that caregivers are going to love it as much as the kiddos will. The digital illustrations are just adorable – Scooper is bright, cheery yellow with a red and white polka dotted bow on her hood; Dumper is a baby blue with a sweet smile. Word balloons break up the story text and give it a graphic novel feel. Think of these two as cousins to Lindsay Ward’s WWII heroine, Rosie: getting the job done with a smile and some good, old-fashioned determination. Perfect for storytime reading, Scooper and Dumper will work with some toy trucks, flannels, and lots of car songs and fingerplays!
It’s been an… eventful start to the New Year, so let’s start things off with a giveaway. One lucky winner will win their own copy of Scooper and Dumper by entering the Rafflecopter giveaway here. U.S. addresses only, please!
Soar, by Hillary Daecher/Illustrated by Angie Hohenadel, (Aug. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7643-5987-3
Ramone is a ruby-throated hummingbird who’s about to leave his nest for the first time. But he’s shy and he’s scared: what if something goes wrong? What if his wings don’t work? Luckily, Mom is there with comforting hugs and words. As he watches the other hummingbirds take to the sky, he screws up his courage and manages to get airborne! A rhyming story of facing one’s fears, Soar is beautifully illustrated with bright, vivid color. The rhyming meter makes for a good read-aloud, and you know what I’m going to say about flannels, right? Colorful birds are PERFECT flannel storytime accompaniment if you’ve got them! Back matter includes hummingbird facts, discussion questions, and a bibliography.
Ramone, a shy, ruby-throated hummingbird, is about to leave the nest for the first time. But his anxiety and fear keep him from taking off as he contemplates all that could go wrong. Full of kind words and encouragement, Ramone’s mother gives him room to work through his emotions, building his confidence and letting him set his own pace. Ramone watches as his friends soar through the sky, realizing all he might miss out on if he doesn’t conquer his fear. Ramone’s adventure showcases the emotions, both positive and negative, children experience as they approach new challenges. Accompanied by strikingly beautiful illustrations, this tale guides readers through Ramone’s emotional journey, showing kids that fear must be overcome in order to grow.
In the Half Room, by Carson Ellis, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536214567
Caldecott Honor Award winner Carson Ellis (Du Iz Tak, 2017) is back with more delightfully surreal storytelling. In the Half Room is a playful rhyming study on halves, with a half room full of half things: a half chair, half shoes, half a rug and half a door. Half a woman sits on a half a chair, reading half a book, when a half-knock sends her on an adventure. Gouache illustrations create a warm atmosphere, with colorful images contrasting with the ivory page background. It’s surreal, it’s fun, it’s great for introducing concepts like halves. You can hand out circles and ask kiddos and caregivers to fold the circle in half, or invite them to decorate the circle and half it, making a yummy cake or cookie to “eat” half of by folding it! Pair with Good Night Moon for storytime; In the Half Room reads like an homage to the classic bedtime story.
In the Half Room has a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Candlewick offers a free, downloadable page of teacher tips for introducing the book to readers.