Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, programs, Storytime, Storytimes

Calm Down Zebra and a fantastic readaloud!

About two years ago, I was lucky enough to read and talk about a sweet book about the ABCs called Not Yet Zebra, by Lou Kuenzler and illustrated by Julia Woolf. It’s about a little girl named Annie, who wants to paint pictures of all her animal friends in alphabetical order, and an impatient Zebra who just wants to get his portrait done NOW.

Flash-forward two years, and Lou and Julia are back with Calm Down, Zebra! It’s a book that talks colors, and managing one’s emotions. Annie and Zebra are back; this time, Annie asks her animal buddies to help her teach her baby brother, Joe, about his colors. Frog offers up the green paint, and Lion gets yellow; Black goes to cat, but wait! Polar Bear has PINK STRIPES? It turns out that Zebra is at it again, running loose with a paintbrush and a wicked sense of humor. Can Annie reign in Zebra – or will Zebra show Annie that it’s okay to let loose and have fun once in a while?

Calm Down, Zebra, by Lou Kuenzler/Illustrated by Julia Woolf, (Apr. 2020, Faber & Faber),
$16.95, ISBN: 978-0-571-35170-1
Ages 2-6

Calm Down Zebra is adorably funny and teaches some lovely lessons beyond colors and the animals who sport them. There’s a sweet message about imagination, and the need to explore the creative urge: maybe even color outside the lines once in a while. Zebra may look like a cheeky menace to Annie, but you’ll quickly see that he, like a toddler or a preschooler, is exploring his natural curiosity. Lou Kuenzler has given us delightful characters in Annie and Zebra, who parents and kids will recognize in themselves instantly (you try herding a group of children when one class clown is the attention draw). Julia Woolf’s illustrations are too much fun; bright and bold colors stand out against pale or stark white pages, and colorful paint splatters will get little fingers itching to pick up brushes and stick their fingers in paint puddles of their own. A spread where a peacock gets to spread his wings is stunning, with silver and gold foil adding to his illustriousness. An elephant’s posterior provides a broad canvas for Zebra and will get plenty of giggles.

An activity kit loaded with Annie’s black and white paintings let kids create their own colorful animal friends. Let loose your inner Zebras and download it!

I was so excited to work with Lou Kuenzler and Julia Woolf’s publicist, Becky Kraemer, to arrange for the author and illustrator to have a book talk, plus readings of both Zebra books, for my library system! I’m pasting it here for you to enjoy, and I’ll be taking the link down in mid-June. Thank you to Faber & Faber, Becky Kraemer and Cursive Communications & Marketing, and most of all, to Lou Kuenzler and Julia Woolf, for a wonderful storytime and Q&A.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Storytimes, Toddler

New Books at Storytime: The Song of Spring and New York Day & Night

I had storytime today, and decided to test drive two brand-new (coming in March) books that I received for review. They went RESOUNDINGLY well!

The Song of Spring, by Hendrik Jonas, (March 2019, Prestel Publishing), $12.95, ISBN: 9783791373799

Ages 3-6

We started off with The Song of Spring, since the weather here in New York has been… interesting. (It was 3 degrees last week; yesterday, 65. Today, 45.) In this adorable story, a little bird watches other birds call to one another with their songs of spring. One little bird can’t remember his song of spring, but he really, really wants to find a friend, so he takes a shot at it, opening his beak and shrieking… WOOF. A friendly dog answers, but the little bird is looking for a bird friend, so he tries again. And again. Various oinks, moos, meows, mehs, and hee-haws later, the little bird has quite a diverse group of friends, but still, no bird, until a hilariously unexpected fart sounds, and a pretty little female bird sitting nearby says she’s looking for a friend, too. The new friends happily celebrate their good fortune in finding one another.

The Song of Spring is adorable and unexpectedly funny, with a well-timed joke that got the kids in my storytime cracking up. I made a big deal of the sound, waving my hand by my backside, and the kids loved that such a giant sound would come from such a teeny, tiny bird. The book is wonderfully interactive, giving kids the chance to call out the different animals and make their different sounds, each of which gets a big, bold, fancy scripted black font for emphasis. The artwork looks like mixed media or collage – you can see book pages and notebook paper in the artwork – and adds some fun interest to the watercolor artwork. The animals pop off the stark white background, and the plain black story font lets the reader do the reading while the artwork and animal sounds take center stage.

The Song of Spring is going in my storytime collection, for sure. I even had a mom ask me for my copy when I was done with storytime! (So it’s also going in my order cart.) Pair this with Bark, George! by Julies Feiffer, and Sandra Boyton’s classic Moo, Baa, La La La! for an out of this world animal sound storytime!

 

New York Day & Night, by Aurélie Pollet/Illustrated by Vincent Bergier, (March 2019, Prestel Publishing), $16.95, ISBN: 9783791373782

Ages 3-7

This one got a great reception, too. A cat named Sandy and a squirrel named Frankie let readers see New York City through their eyes: the cat, by night; the squirrel, by day. Each sees very different things, aided by translucent blue plastic sheets that turn the Empire State Building into a rocket, the Guggenheim Museum into a spaceship, or a construction worker into a flying superhero.

New York Day & Night plays with perspective, and the idea that we see things differently in the light of day. Sandy, a nocturnal cat, sees the fantastic; Frankie, a diurnal squirrel, chastises Sandy, and sheds light – literally and figuratively – on what’s really happening. Or is it? Who’s to tell, in New York, right? The artwork is done in blues, oranges, and black and white, making for stark images that pop right off the page, boldly outlined and with easily recognizable New York icons.

My storytime group LOVED this one; I got cheers and gasps from parents and kids alike as I showed them a monster that turned out to be an elevated train (the community here lives near our own Queens elevated train) and King Kong beating his chest over the jungle that turns out to be Central Park. My favorite came in at the end – but I’ll let you get the book yourself to enjoy that one.

New York Day & Night is absolute fun, and a great way to extend a storytime by talking about colors, shapes, and city life. You can pair this with any books about a city: any of Kate McMullan’s truck books would pair well (I’m Big!, I Stink!); Julia Denos’ Windows; or Dave Eggers’ Her Left Foot are always good to go with.

I also read Have I Ever Told You, which I just wrote about a few days ago. It went over better with the parents than the babies; the artwork kept their attention for a little bit, but these were babies and toddlers; this one will be much better for a preschool and kindergarten storytime. I’ve read Hands Can to my babies and toddlers in the past, and it’s been a hit, so I’ll stick with that for the wee ones.

I also updated my songs for my Mother Goose Storytime (newborns to 18 months) and Toddler Storytime (18 mos-3 or 4 years) sessions. I try to change them up every season, so the families have time to get comfortable with the songs; I’ll insert one or two for different seasons or holidays, and I usually slot in a song in Mandarin and/or Spanish. (Mandarin for my community; Spanish, because I have a couple of Spanish-speaking families that I want to feel part of things, and because it’s fun to sing songs in different languages!)

And that was my storytime today!