Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Like breaks down our differences

Like, by Annie Barrows/Illustrated by Leo Espinosa, (Sept. 2022, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781452163376

Ages 3-5

A young boy breaks down the differences between us in this amusing and giggle-worthy story. “We are people. Also known as humans”, he begins; “This makes us different from most of the things on Earth”. We are not, for instance, shaped like tin cans, but we are a little like swimming pools, because we have water and chemicals and dirt inside us”. The boy goes on to talk about things we are like, things that we have things in common with, but are not like (like an excavator, which can dig big piles of dirt and move them around, but cannot tell jokes or fry an egg), with laugh-out-loud observations that sound like they’ve come straight from a child’s mind. Ivy + Bean author Annie Barrows makes a strong point in the best of ways: “I am more like you than I am like most of the things on Earth. I’m glad. I’d rather be like you than a mushroom”. Like is a great story to start discussions of similarities and differences with young listeners. Pura Belpré Honor illustrator Leo Espinosa gives readers a visually exciting story with bright colors, diverse characters, and a biracial main character. Playful and funny, this will be popular at storytime.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog Take an Evening Stroll is a familiar bedtime story

Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog Take an Evening Stroll, by Britta Teckentrup, (May 2022, Prestel Junior), $14.95, ISBN: 9783791375199

Ages 3-7

Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog are on their way home after an evening stroll, but Little Hedgehog continues to stop along the way to enjoy all the sights, sounds, and scents that evening has to offer. Big Hedgehog pauses their return each time, but it’s getting late: what to do? Every parent and caregiver knows this routine, whether at bedtime – when a little one wants one more drink of water, one more hug, or one other moment to stave off bedtime – or whether it’s “just one more minute” while doing something fun, be it at the playground or at a friend’s home. Britta Teckentrup sweetly captures those “but wait!” moments and creates a story where Big Hedgehog discovers the magic waiting when one lets themselves be led by a child, even if just for a moment. Britta Teckentrup’s artwork imagines warm sunsets and silver moonrises, with dense brown and green forests teeming with colorful flora and fauna. A wonderful story about pausing to enjoy the moment, and great for storytimes.

Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog Take and Evening Stroll was originally published in Germany in 2022. There will be another Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog story coming in May 2023.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Hope is an Arrow introduces children to Khalil Gibran

Hope Is an Arrow : The Story of Lebanese-American Poet Khalil Gibran, by Cory McCarthy/Illustrated by Ekua Holmes, (July 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536200324

Ages 6-9

Many adult readers discovered Khalil Gibran through his work, The Prophet (1923). Hope is an Arrow seeks to expand Gibran’s reach and introduce young readers to the poet through this evocative picture book biography, with his poetry sprinkled throughout his story. Gibran began life in Lebanon, a country experiencing religious conflict; his family left Lebanon and settled in Boston, where they experienced prejudice, leading the young poet to begin expressing himself through art. As he travels between Boston and Lebanon, his desire to unite people, born out of the conflict he experienced in both his home country and his adopted one, led him to find his voice in poetry. Hope is an Arrow reads like poetry, with phrases like “…they sailed the deeper, darker Atlantic Ocean, which murmured like a giant in its sleep” describing the Gibran family’s journey to the United States, and “…his words still fly across the world, in more than forty different languages and through many crashing winds, to bring all who read them straight to the heart of hope”. Ekua Holmes’s collage and acrylic artwork create dynamic spreads. Comprehensive back matter includes source notes, additional information on Khalil Gibran’s life, and a bibliography. A gorgeous biography for collections and an excellent starting point to discuss social and religious conflict.

Hope is an Arrow has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and The Horn Book.

Posted in picture books

The Wild Garden brings a community together

The Wild Garden, by Cynthia Cliff, (May 2022, Prestel Publishing), $16.95, ISBN: 9783791375120

Ages 5-9

Jilly is a young girl who lives with her grandfather and her dog, Blue, in a small village. The community where they live works together to plan and grow their village garden as Jilly, Bleu, and Grandpa  wander the woods outside the village walls, foraging in the wild garden for berries, nuts, and edible greens. When the community considers knocking down a wall to expand their garden, Jilly and Grandpa take action to raise awareness and respect for the wildlife currently living and thriving there. Alternating spreads show the community working together to care for their gardens and Jilly, Grandpa, and Bleu exploring the woods. The narrative and illustrations show both sides of a coin: love of nature and working together. Jilly and her grandfather create a walking path with signs to invite their neighbors to explore the area and develop their own relationships with the land. Once understanding is achieved, they create a “new kind of garden” where the people and the wildlife coexist. Colorful illustrations show diverse townspeople working and playing together; natural areas are vibrant with life. The story moves through the seasons, with a color palette that shifts from verdant greens to warm oranges and yellows. A good story about community and on coexisting with nature.

 

 

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 Intermediate, Non-Fiction

NatGeo Kids adds some Bling to our collections

Bling! 100 Fun Facts About Rocks and Gems, by Emma Carlson Berne, (Jan. 2022, National Geographic Kids), $4.99, ISBN: 9781426338908

Ages 7-9

Bling!, Nat Geo’s Level 3 Reader on rocks and gems is chock-full of fun facts and incredible photos. The 100 Fun Facts series is another one of those NatGeo Kids home runs for my library shelves; the Easy Reader format is familiar to kids, and the layout that pairs photos with quick, easy-to-digest information attracts my library kids to these books. These are great for booktalking trivia, too: Did you know that silver is used in medical bandages to prevent infection? Or that you could buy a jelly bean-sized bar of gold for about $50? Little facts like that while I’m booktalking grab kids’ attention, and NatGeo Kids makes it easy for me to grab those fast facts. Bling! makes the STEM connection with facts about the Egyptian pyramids, erosion and rock formations, and a section on plate tectonics. Phonetic spelling throughout helps readers with new vocabulary words. All 100 facts get a roundup at the end of the book, and there is an index. Display this with NatGeo’s The Book of Bling (2019) and some callout facts for an eye-catching display.

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 Intermediate, Middle Grade

Are you ready for the National Menagerie of Art?

The National Menagerie of Art: Masterpieces by Vincent Van Goat and Lionhardo Da Stinki, by Thaïs Vanderheyden, (May 2022, Prestel Junior), $12.95, ISBN: 9783791375090

Ages 5-10

Art fans, animal fans, and folx who just love a good giggle will love this book of animal portraits based on 30 of the most famous and recognizable paintings in the world. Each painting and artist has an animal take, from Lionhardo Da Stinki’s Mona Piglet (La Gioinkonda) to Bunny Hopper’s Nighthares. Many adults will recognize the paintings that inspired these new works of art right off the bat; back matter includes the original works, artists, and a brief blurb. It’s a delightful introduction to art history, and just plain fun. Illustrator Thaïs Vanderheyden captures the spirit of each classic painting in her artwork, including similar colors and textures to the original, while working expressive animals into the reimagined piece. Birds hop along Mondrian’s bold lines and explore the bright primary colors of the work in “Four Birds, with Black, Red, Blue, and Yellow” by Pete Monkeyman; a panda takes on existential dread in Aardvark Mink’s “Pandamonium”, inspired by Edvard Munch’s The Scream. Absolute fun for art time storytimes. Pair these with Schiffer Publishing’s First Steps in Art board books.