Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Animal Board Books!

Everyone doing the Tails and Tales summer reading program will love these board books – heck, anyone who loves board books will!

Pigs at a Party, by Hans Wilhelm/Illustrated by Erica Salcedo, (June 2021, Chronicle Books), $9.99, ISBN: 9781797203751

Ages 0-3

It’s a party, and you’re invited! A magnetic bow opens to let readers in to this rhyming story of manners and parties as three piggies are invited to their friend, Bunny’s, birthday party! They’re so polite, greeting each of their friends, saying “please” and “thank you”, and playing nicely with the other guests. The third book starring Hans Wilhelm’s Piggies, kids will enjoy seeing this group spend more fun time together, modeling the best behavior. Digital illustrations are bright and cheery, and the magnetic bow closure adds a little bit of fine motor play.

 

Sophie’s Seashell Scramble, by Educational Insights/Illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti, (May 2021, Candlewick Entertainment), $11.99, ISBN: 9781536218480

Ages 0-3

Help Sophie the Otter find the matches to the seashells she’s collecting by lifting the flaps and identifying the patterns! Colorful, cartoon illustrations and bold fonts lead little explorers through the story, and descriptions of each shell help readers identify the lost treasure; Sophie holds the matching shell in each spread, helping new learners link the description to the appearance of an object. Kids can lift three flaps on each page that guide them to the right answer. Turn the wheel at the end, to help Otto the Octopus juggle all the shells together! Based on a board game, this would be a cute idea to pair with the board game for preschoolers as either a gift or, if your budget allows, a library purchase for game time and post-storytime activities. (Educational Insights has several lift-the-flap board books and companion games; something to keep your mind on when you get your annual budgets.)

123 Cats: A Counting Book, by Lesléa Newman/Illustrated by Isabella Kung, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $7.99, ISBN: 9781536209952

Ages 0-3

Learn to count with this rhyming story about adorable kitties! Award-winning children’s author Lesléa Newman weaves an adorable story, counting cats from 1 to 12, where the cats interact with each other as the story progresses: “Cat Number One has nothing to do… / until she makes friends with Cat Number Two”; “Cat Number Two is a sweet as can be… / but not quite as sweet as Cat Number Three”. Colorful numbers are easy to read on each spread, and the cats multiply, letting readers count the felines as they increase. Absolutely adorable, this is a perfect counting story that begs for snuggly plush friends for readers to read along with.

 

ABC Cats: An Alpha-Cat Book, by Lesléa Newman/Illustrated by Isabella Kung, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $7.99, ISBN: 9781536209952

Ages 0-3

Lesléa Newman and Isabella Kung bring the magic of cats to the alphabet with their Alpha-Cat story, ABC Cats. Precious cats sleep, play, and doze, curled around oversized letters of the alphabet as a gentle rhyme, with adjectives describing each cat, run across the bottom of the pages: “Adorable cat with eyes of gold / Baby cat just two weeks old”. Isabella Kung’s ink and digital illustrations are so playful and delightful that they’ll enchant readers of any age. These two cat books are a must add to your collections, especially where you have animal lovers.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle School, Teen, Tween Reads

Tales from the Backlist: Graphic novels you may have missed

You know that TBR that just keeps growing? Well, I’ve got one of those on my computers, too: yes, plural. My work PC, my laptop, my backup laptop… I see exciting looking graphic novels, I download them, and they join the TBR club. When I get a chance to read them, I want to talk about them, because they’re seriously good books, and we all know, it doesn’t matter when the book is published, right? So here, I present some graphic novels you may have missed the first time around: add these to your own TBR.

 

Sarah’s Dream (The Grémillet Sisters, #1), by Giovanni Di Gregorio/Illustrated by Alessandro Barbucci, Translated by L. Benson, Edited by Lisa Morris, (July 2020, Europe Comics), $5.99, ASIN: B08CHH5L3F

Ages 10-14

Three quirky sisters, one big secret: the first volume in The Grémillet Sisters series introduces readers to Sarah, Cassiopeia, and Lucille, three sisters with very different personalities. Lucille, the youngest, is an animal lover who spends most of her with the family cat or caring for strays; Cassiopeia lives with her head in the clouds, with princes and castles, and Sarah, the eldest, has strange dreams of trees and jellyfish. When she asks their mother about her past – a past the girls know almost nothing about – their mother becomes snappish and preoccupied, leading the girls to investigate, and discover a mysterious photo where their mother appears pregnant. But which sister is she pregnant with, and why was the photo hidden away? Originally published in French in 2020, Sarah’s Dream is lushly illustrated, with deep colors and gorgeous lighting throughout. The sisters have defined personalities have a realistic relationship with relatable ups and downs: Sarah, as the eldest, bosses the other two around; they go from being a cohesive “Three Sisters Club” one minute to never wanting to speak to each other again, the next. A good supplemental choice for middle school graphic novel collections. Content warning for pregnancy loss. Currently available as an ebook, it’s a purchase to consider if you have strong electronical graphic novel collections.

 

Jane, by Aline Brosh McKenna/Illustrated by Ramón K. Perez, (Sept. 2017, Archaia), $24.99, ISBN: 9781608869817

Ages 12+

This modern-day update of Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre, spins the story into a thriller about a nanny, her young charge, and the mysterious businessman, Rochester. Jane is an orphaned girl when she ends up on her aunt and uncle’s door; she scrimps and saves until she has enough money to leave the home that never had room her  in Massachusetts and heads to New York City, where she has secured a scholarship at an arts school. To earn some cash and keep the scholarship, she takes a job as a nanny to a young girl named Adele. Adele’s father, Rochester, is a seemingly unapproachable, uninterested father until Jane confronts him about Adele’s withdrawn behavior in school. As Rochester begins coming down from his ivory tower and taking on a more active role as Adele’s father, Jane also sees that he’s a man with secrets – secrets he’s not willing to bend on. But the two fall for one another, and Jane worries that Adele’s life – and Jane’s own life – may be on the line. Part thriller, part romance, award-winning screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna’s take on Jane Eyre uses the source material as a jumping-off point for a new reimagining, with great success. You’ll notice bits of the original Jane Eyre peeking out in the earlier part of the story, along with some moments that will make readers familiar with one of McKenna’s movies, The Devil Wears Prada, smile with recognition. The artwork is moody, enhancing the overall atmosphere of the story and never quite letting the reader – or Jane – relax; it moves from murky, as Jane recalls her childhood memories, to stark and shadowy, as the story moves into a modern noir. I’m really happy about this new take on a classic favorite; into my library shopping cart it goes.

Aline Brosh McKenna is the award-winning screenwriter of The Devil Wears Prada, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. This is her graphic novel debut. Illustrator Ramón K. Pérez is the with Eisner Award-winning illustrator of Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand. The book received the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Nominee for Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17) & Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team (for Ramón K. Perez) (2018).

The Not-So Secret Society: Tale of the Gummy, by Matthew Daley & Arlene Yiadom-Daley/Illustrated by Wook Jin Clark, (Aug. 2017, KaBoom!), $9.99, ISBN: 9781608869978

Ages 8-12

Take five science and candy-loving friends, a dose of STEM/STEAM, and a group of uber-over-achievers to go up against for the all-city science fair, and you’ve got the NS3: the Not-So Secret Society. This group of middle schoolers needs a project that will wow the judges at the science fair, and they come up with one when they create a machine that can bring candy to life! Their test run brings an adorable gummy bear to life, but Gummy has a sweet tooth that won’t quit – and neither will the growth spurts that follow! The NS3 has to track down Gummy, who goes on a sugar-eating rampage, before it’s too late, and they still have to make it to the science fair on time! This is an hilarious story of friendship, science, and candy, starring a group of middle schoolers that readers will love: Madison, the bookish one; Aidan, the inventor; Emma, the licorice-obsessed artist; Dylan, the comedian, and Ava, the tiny wrestling fan with a big temper. Readers who loved Eleanor Davis’s Secret Science Alliance will enjoy this comic. I just want to know why three years have passed without a new adventure! Back matter includes a parent reading guide and learning activities, along with Common Core standards info. Unfortunately, the website for the NS3 doesn’t seem to be up at the moment, but in the meantime, try some safer candy experiments in the spirit of the NS3, with no risk of giant gummy bear attacks. This Pinterest board never disappoints – I’ve made the candy slime with my library kids, and I’ve made the Ziploc bag ice cream with my own kiddo. If you want to go old school, show them a few episodes of the early 2000s cartoon, Codename: Kids Next Door.

 

 

Mouse Guard Alphabet Book, by David Peterson & Serena Malyon, (Sept. 2017, Archaia), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1684150106

Ages 3-6

I can’t believe I’ve never written about Mouse Guard. One of the first graphic novels my now 21-year old son enjoyed, Mouse Guard is the award-winning, fantastic tale of a group of mice and the predators they must always be on guard against. It’s Dungeons & Dragons, Tolkien-esque fantasy for children and a perfect stepping stone to the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. Breathtaking high-fantasy, medieval artwork is the hallmark of the series, and this abcedary showcases beautiful illuminated manuscript artwork for each letter of the alphabet, incorporating elements from the Mouse Guard series, and rhyme in pentameter. If you’re like me and want to introduce your Kiddos to fantasy at an early age, concept books like this are gold. Psst.. there’s a coloring book and a roleplaying game available, too.

The Mouse Guard website also has free, downloadable craft ideas and MP3s of songs featured in the Mouse Guard books.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

V is for Voting… important ALL YEAR LONG

V is for Voting, by Kate Farrell/Illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald, (July 2020, Henry Holt & Co), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250231253

Ages 3-6

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.

Posted in Uncategorized

#HomesCool: New ABCs!

I love concept books that take the idea to the next level. These are two new abcedaries that make the ABCs a heck of a lot more exciting!

Eek! A Noisy Journey from A to Z, by Julie Larios and Julie Paschikis, (Sept. 2020, Peachtree Publishing), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-169-0

Ages 2-5

ACHOO! A mouse picks a flower, sneezes, and the adventure begins! This book of ABCs tells a story from A to Z, all using sound effects to illustrate the letters of the alphabet. There’s a startled Eeek! when the mouse sees a cat, a Fwump when a growling dog playfully knocks the cat off its feet, and a Kabonk when a bicycle-riding raccoon strikes a tortoise’s hard shell. The mouse and its flower are at the heart of the story, witnessing sweet acts of kindness, fun, and excitement, with Mouse ultimately completing its mission and delivering the gift of a flower to a friend. India Ink and gouache artwork in bright colors and patterns stand out out against colorful backgrounds; the sound words are playful and the letters of he alphabet are bold, standing out against the backgrounds, letting readers easily identify them. Bright yellow backgrounds decorate the endpapers, with letters of the alphabet standing out, in orange, across the pages.

What a fun addition to ABC books and concept collections! Publisher Peachtree has an activity kit with coloring sheets and a storytime activities.

Eek! has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Not An Alphabet Book: The Case of the Missing Cake, by Eoin McLaughlin/lllustrated by Marc Boutavant, (Aug. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212679

Ages 3-5

Oh no! As soon as you open the book, Bear is there waiting for you: there’s been a horrible crime and he needs your help! “The world’s most completely delicious, tongue-jinglingly chocolaty cake has been STOLEN” and we have to help find the thief! The ABCs lead readers through the clues and suspects they need to solve the mystery… but that bear looks like he’s hiding something, don’t you think? Readers will love this whodunit, and sharp-eyed observers will notice little details like a rather dark smudge across Bear’s face… and are those crumbs scattered across his table? The digital artwork makes for fun, expressive characters, and Bear is hilariously evasive as our unreliable narrator. The endpapers start off with Bear tracking crumbs, and end with… well ,the story’s conclusion. Absolute fun for storytime, this is an abcedary with a plot and a wicked sense of humor. Pair this with Audrey and Bruce Wood’s Alphabet Mystery for a whodunit storytime!

Not An Alphabet Book: The Case of the Missing Cake has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

February Picture Books: little elephants, fabulous females, and being your own self!

The Smallest Elephant in the World, by Alvin Tresselt/Illustrated by Milton Glaser, (Feb. 2019, Enchanted Lion), $16.95, ISBN: 9781592702619

Ages 4-8

Originally published in 1959, The Smallest Elephant in the World is back in hardcover! A small elephant, no bigger than a housecat, leaves the jungle to get away from the bullies who make fun of him. He ends up in the care of a boy named Arnold, whose mother does NOT want an elephant for a house pet. Arnold tries some creative fudging to convince his mother otherwise, but Mom’s not fooled that easily. Where will the Smallest Elephant find a home?

This adorable story about friendship and finding one’s own place in the world is as relevant and sweet today as it was when it was released 60 years ago. Milton Glaser’s vintage illustration is bold, with bright oranges and greens standing out against the black and white page backgrounds. The elephant’s face is expressive; sweet and friendly, and he’s adorably tiny when shown in scale.

The Smallest Elephant in the World brings a nice touch of our childhoods back to our children’s collections. Gen X kids like me will fondly remember the art and silly-sweet storytelling, and pass that love onto a new generation. Let your kiddos draw their own tiny elephants, and give them things to measure against: a book, a shelf, a ruler, or your foot!

 

A is for Awesome! 23 Iconic Women Who Changed the World, by Eva Chen/Illustrated by Derek Desierto, (Feb. 2019, Feiwel & Friends), $9.99, ISBN: 9781250215994

Ages 2-5

An Instagram star and creator of Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes spotlights outstanding women in this abcedary. Juno Valentine is our guide, introducing readers to some of her favorite “sheroes”. There are standard favorites here: Amelia Earhart, Harriet Tubman, and Malala are all here, side by side with feminist figures like megastar Beyonce, Nobel Prize-winning scientist Dorothy Hodgkin, fashion icon Iris Apfel, and author Ursula K. LeGuin. There’s a mirror here for “X, Y, Z: the Extraordinary You, and the Zillions of brilliant, brave adventures you will have”, which makes for big fun during storytime. Collage artwork is bright and textured, with differing fabrics and hairstyles. The addition of Roman goddess Venus feels a little off, but every other featured female is flesh and blood real, and the grouping has a nice diversity. Each woman has a one-line description; some have quotes attributed to them.

I love a good board book, and this one makes my cut. Add this in time for National Women’s in March, and plan your storytimes now.

Over the Rooftops, Under the Moon, by JonArno Lawson/Illustrated by Nahid Kazemi, (Feb. 2019, Enchanted Lion), $17.95, ISBN: 9781592702626

Ages 4-8

A long-legged white bird doesn’t feel like he fits in with his flock, but feels a connection when making eye contact with a little girl. The bird ponders his existence and explores the human world, not noticing until the snow falls that his flock has migrated without him. He catches up with his flock and they sit together on a rooftop, “alone and together, over the rooftops, and under the moon”.

I’ll be honest, I had to read this one a few times to really get it. It’s very open to interpretation, and while the gist of the story is about a bird who isn’t sure about his relationship to himself and within his community, I’ve seen other picture books handle this in a more linear fashion. and I’m not sure that little ones will get it. Some of the text gets lost in the mixed media collage artwork, which could impede a readaloud. The collage artwork tells the story in surreal, dreamlike fashion, which may be the best way to get the message of this story across: the bird feels alone, connects with humans, explores, and ultimately, finds peace within himself and within his community. It’s a beautiful message to communicate to younger children who are starting to socialize in groups and may feel out of place; it’s also a strong message to older children, who can break down the introspective message here. I’d love to see this as a school-wide readalong in elementary schools that still have them, so kids from K-5 can each take a turn at deciphering its meaning to them as individuals.

It’s an interesting book that may take a few reads to unpack, but worth it for the discussions that can follow.

 

What If? What Makes You Different Makes You Amazing!, by Sandra Magsamen, (Feb. 2019, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $10.99, ISBN: 9781492637103

Ages 0-4

“What if your hair was big and orange and really bright? What if one eye was green and the other eye was blue as night?” The rhyming text takes readers through all sorts of ways we can stand out from the crowd, with adorable illustrations – a purple lamb, a swaying monkey – and extols the virtues of individuality. The text assures readers that being different is special, and good for you: it can give your spirit a lift; it would be dull if everyone were the same. Sandra Magsamen embraces uniqueness, and makes sure her readers do, too, pointing out how being different can help in certain situations. After all, someone quiet can be a big help when putting a bandage on an injured crocodile. Pair this with Todd Parr’s books, especially It’s Okay to Be Different and Be Who You Are, for a feel-good readaloud. The artwork is colorful, never overpowering, with upbeat, yet calming colors and bold outlines.  What If? is a cute picture book for collections where Todd Parr does well.