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!

Posted in Early Reader, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Mexican Folk Art and Concepts meet with Animal Talk!

animal talkAnimal Talk: Mexican Folk Art Animal Sounds in English and Spanish, by Cynthia Weill/Art by Rubi Fuentes and Efrain Broa (March 2016, Cinco Puntos Press), $14.95, ISBN: 9781941026328

Recommended for Infants-5

Animals talk in all sorts of languages! Animal Talk translates animal sounds in Spanish and English, using beautiful folk art to illustrate the concepts. It makes sense that different languages would interpret animal sounds differently, after all – when an English speaker hears a cat meow, a Spanish speaker hears a cat miau. A rooster greets the dawn in the U.S. by hollering, “cock-a-doodle-doo!”, and in Spanish countries, he calls out, “ki-kiri-ki!” It’s a wonderful way to see how sounds are the same, yet different, between two cultures.

I love this series. Doctor Cynthia Weill has written several concept books featuring Mexican folk art, including Opuestos, Colores de la Vida, and ABeCedarios. Animal Talk is her fifth book in this series, and it’s a fantastic addition for a library like mine, in a neighborhood densely populated with Central and South American families, and it’s a great library addition to any library where you have little ones ready for a storytime. The artwork is breathtaking. Mexican folk art is vibrant, lively, and bright – eye-catching to little eyes and minds! Animal sounds make for great storytimes; teaching animal sounds in different languages makes for even more fun. It lends itself to a great interactive experience!

The books themselves are works of art; not even an exaggeration. Craftsman Rubí Fuentes and Efraín Broa from the Mexican state of Oaxaca create these beautiful images, and you’ll want to buy an additional book just to frame the artwork in here.

One thing I desperately need is for these books to come out in board book. They’re beautiful hardcovers, but I’ve got lots of little hands that would get even better use out of them if moms, dads, and librarians didn’t have to worry about torn pages so much.

Put this in your animal storytime, and throw in a round of Old MacDonald Had a Farm while you’re at it – and make the animal sounds in both languages!

Cynthia Weill’s author webpage features a video about the artists who made the wood carvings for her book, Opuestos. Show this video to your older patrons and students to show them the work that goes into these beautiful books. Take a look at more of the gorgeous art from Animal Talk right here!