Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Magical, snuggly bedtime stories

Who doesn’t love a good bedtime story? And now, with virtual programming here for good, we can hold virtual pajama storytimes at any time! Here are a few adorable new bedtime stories to read to your littles, whether they’re curled up in your lap at home, or gathered around their devices for your storytime.

It’s So Quiet: A Not-Quite-Going-to-Bed Book, by Sherri Duskey Rinker, (Feb. 2021, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781452145440

Ages 3-7

As the sun goes down and the night drifts in, a little mouse isn’t able to fall asleep quite yet: it’s too quiet! Mom tells the little mouse to let the sounds of nature help them drift off to sleep: a croaking bullfrog, a snoring grandfather and his dog’s tail thumping against the porch; a coyote howling at the moon, all around the little mouse, there is sound – and maybe he would like it a little more quiet after all. Sherri Duskey Rinker creates wonderful bedtime stories that play with sound, rhyme, and repetition – Steam Train, Dream Train and Good Night, Good Night Construction Site are stalwart storytime favorites with my library kids – and It’s Too Quiet continues this fun tradition. Sound effects repeat and get their own exaggerated fonts, calling attention to them and making for flannel and finger puppet storytelling. Digital illustrations are cartoony and expressive, with bold lines. A great bedtime and storytime book that’s sure to pack in the laughs.

It’s So Quiet has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Ella’s Night Lights, by Lucy Fleming, (Nov. 2020, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212693

Ages 3-7

Ella is a little girl with moth wings and antenna, who sleeps in the nook of a tree by day. By night, she flies around, collecting light and bringing it to anyone that needs it, repeating a gentle rhyme: “Here’s some bright light. / Here’s a night light, / a little ray to calm your fright”. Ella wants so much to see the sunrise, but her delicate wings make that impossible, until her animal friends come together with a plan to celebrate her kindness. Ella’s Night Lights is a warm story of kindness and friendship, with soft digital illustrations and quietly colorful spreads bringing life to cold, snowy landscapes. The endpapers are soft yellow, with moths flitting across the pages. Ella’s evening rhyme is a lovely way to send dreamers off to sleep, especially for those who may appreciate a little extra light in the room.

 

Bedtime for Albie, by Sophie Ambrose, (Jan. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536211184

Ages 3-7

It’s time for bed in the savanna, but Albie, a young warthog, still wants to play! He runs off to ask his other animal buddies to play, but everyone’s going through their night time routines. That doesn’t stop Albie, who decides he’ll just play on his own… but it’s not really much fun playing all by himself, so Albie heads back to his mother, who has the best night time routine waiting for him. Kids will relate to this story about not being ready for bed just yet, and the different animals going through bedtime stories and baths is a good way to prompt conversation about our own bedtime routines: brushing teeth, washing up, stories, what else can you think of? The phrase, “skippety trot trit trot”, used when Albie dashes off, repeats often enough that you can invite readers to chime in. Watercolor and pencil illustrations are soft, with earthy colors and friendly animal faces. Endpapers show a grayed-out area of the savanna. A fun story on which to end the day.

 

While You’re Sleeping, by Mick Jackson/Illustrated by John Broadley, (Feb. 2021, Pavilion), $19.95, ISBN: 978-1843654650

Ages 4-8

While you’re tucking your little one into bed, there’s a whole world hustling and bustling outside. While You’re Sleeping is all about the folx who work while the rest of the world sleeps: people who clean public transportation and offices; delivery drivers; mail sorters, bakers, shopkeepers, and more, all work through the night to get the world ready for everyone else that next morning. Even the animal world doesn’t settle in for the night: foxes pass humans on the street as they forage for food, bats and owls hunt for prey. John Broadley’s illustrations remind me of Beth Krommes’s artwork; there’s so much detail to be discovered. Colors grow warmer as the night turns to dawn, with red-orange sunlight streaking through windows and down streets. Read with Karen Hesse’s Night Shift for a storytime about night time jobs.

While You’re Sleeping was originally published in the U.K. in 2020.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

It’s Soosie, the Horse Who Saved Shabbat!

Soosie: The Horse That Saved Shabbat, by Tami Lehman-Wilzig/Illustrated by Menahem Halbertstadt, (March 2021, Kalaniot Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9780998852775

Ages 4-8

This sweet Shabbat tale is inspired by a true story. Bakers Ezra and Esther have a bakery in Jerusalem, where they make delicious challahs for Shabbat. Their delivery boy, Jacob, and their horse, Soosie, take the challahs around Jerusalem, where everyone awaits their delicious Shabbat delivery. But one Friday, Jacob is too sick to make the challah rounds: what are Esther and Ezra to do? Jacob has the answer: Soosie can deliver the challahs! She knows the route! Worried, but knowing the bread must be delivered so that everyone can enjoy their Sabbath. Can Soosie save the day? A gentle story of friendship, Soosie: The Horse That Saved Shabbat is set in early 20th-century Jerusalem and brings the comfort and warmth of Shabbat to readers. The familial relationships between Ezra, Esther, Jacob and Soosie are so loving; Ezra and Esther care for Jacob as they would a family member, and they worry about Soosie as more than a work animal; they fret over her safe return, and they make sure she has her day of rest, as set forth in the Bible. Sound effects, like the clip-clop of Soosie’s hooves and the clink-clang of the coins in the money box are bright red and in a larger size font, providing some nice repetition for readers. An author’s note adds context to the story and provides more background on the Shabbat celebration. The artwork is expressive and friendly, and illustrations demonstrate the diversity of Jerusalem’s people. A charming story that would be a lovely addition to Shabbat gatherings.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Get ready for your 100 days of school with Miss Mingo

Miss Mingo and the 100th Day of School, by Jamie Harper, (Nov. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536204919

Ages 4-8

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.

Posted in Uncategorized

Another post about Bears…

(It’s a joke, based on one of the book’s titles. Keep reading.)

Who loves bears? We love bears! Teddy bears, polar bears, brown bears brown bears, bears are children’s book gold. I’ve got three books about bears to crow about today, so let’s start with the inspiration for this post’s title.

Another book about bears., by Laura & Philip Bunting, (Jan. 2020, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-68464-084-3

Ages 3-7

I love a story that breaks the fourth wall! Have you ever thought about how many books there are about bears? Did you ever consider that every time a bear stars in a story, that bear may have been in the middle of something “really good – like sleeping, or snoozing, or napping”? Well, the bears have had it and are going on strike! This hilarious book is all about one bear’s fight for justice. The omniscient narrator tries their best to nudge the bear into compliance in a silly series of moments like dressing it up in a tutu or suggesting the bear kiss a frog, but Bear stands firm, even calling up other animals to serve as a proper stand in. Kids will laugh out loud at the deadpan humor, and the ultimate solution that works for everyone is priceless. Originally published in Australia in 2018, Another book about bears is storytime hilarity just waiting to be revealed.

Visit Philip Bunting’s webpage for free, fun downloadables for kids, too!

 

A Polar Bear in the Snow, by Mac Barnett/Illustrated by Shawn Harris, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536203967

Ages 3-6

Gorgeous cut paper and ink artwork presents a polar bear’s meandering through a brilliant white world and a deep blue sea. A polar bear wakes up in the snow and begins walking… but where is he going? What does he want? Award-winning author and illustrator Mac Barnett builds curiosity and excitement as readers follow the bear past seals, through a storm, and as he rebuffs a human in a very polar bearlike fashion, to end up at his destination. Shawn Harris’s illustrations give such texture and motion, layering shades of white upon white and blue upon blue, giving us a feeling of purpose and joy. Simple sentences and facts about polar bears (he clearly eats seals, but he’s not hungry right now; his coat protects him from the snowstorm; he likes to swim) are a wonderful introduction to young readers about the natural science of bears and the Arctic. A final question leaves much open to discussion. There’s so much presented in this book, so beautifully, and respects its youngest readers in its presentation. Teacher Tips are downloadable from Candlewick’s website.

A Polar Bear in the Snow has starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly.

 

Can Bears Ski?, by Raymond Antrobus/Illustrated by Polly Dunbar, (Nov. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212662

Ages 3-7

Little Bear can feel the world around him – all its rumbles and shakes, trembles and wobbles – but hearing his world is a little more difficult. He doesn’t hear things clearly, and thinks he hears everyone asking him, “Do bears ski?” Dad takes him to an audiologist one day, and is fitted for hearing aids that make his world way too LOUD. He resists them at first, hiding them around the house, but with his dad’s love and support, he understands that it’s just something new to get used to – and he also learns that everyone has been asking him not whether or not bears can ski, but “Can you hear me?” A touching story about self-discovery, Can Bears Ski? is essential for bookshelves and can start many conversations with children. Author Raymond Antrobus is a Ted Hughes award-winning deaf poet and teacher who wrote Can Bears Ski because “It’s the book I could see myself reaching for as a child, and I can’t wait to have it exist in the world.” Colorful ink and paint artwork made this a gentle, comforting story about a big topic. The CDC’s Kids Quest webpage has helpful facts for kids on hearing loss.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

What’s That Noise? Could it be a rumbly tumbly?

What’s that Noise?, by Naomi Howarth, (March 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536213522

Ages 3-7

Magnus the Arctic seal wakes up to a strange, rumbling sound one morning. He sets off to figure out what it could be and encounters a group of friends along the way: an Arctic hare and fox, a ringed seal and snow owl, and a polar bear all puzzle over what the sound could be, but Walrus knows. It’s Magnus’s hungry tummy! After a tasty shrimp dinner, the friends all pile up to go to sleep, but another rumbling sound keeps them up. What could it be? What’s that Noise? is an engaging story and introduction to Arctic animals for younger kids; they get a chance to participate in the story during a readaloud if you invite them to figure out/tell the other animals what the rumbling could be, and at the end, let them chime in! It’s also a great chance for you to play with voices and sound effects. If you have flannels or animal puppets, take them out! Soft watercolors bring gentle color to the Arctic landscape, and endpapers show an Arctic sunrise and offer informative notes on the animals in the story.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Independently Published Spotlight: Intermediate and Middle Grade

One thing I did do this year was make progress on my TBR, and concentrated on those indie and small press submissions I’ve received over the last few years. Here are two novels I’ve read and want to share. I’ll be reading and reviewing more, whittling down that TBR, into next year, so if you’ve asked me to review a book of yours and I haven’t gotten to it yet, please be patient!

Gregory and the Grimbockle, by Melanie Schubert/Illustrated by Abigail Kraft, Book Soundtrack by Jared Kraft (Nov. 2017, New Wrinkle Publishing), $14.94, ISBN: 978-0991110933

Ages 8-11

Gregory is a 10-year old with a giant mole beneath his nose. The creepy neighbor lady always tries to rip it off his face, but when she finally manages to snag a bit of it, Gregory discovers a BIG surprise: the mole is a hiding place and portal into our world for a tiny creature called a Grimbockle. The Grimbockle belongs to a group of creatures called Bockles, and they oversee Exoodles, the invisible threads that connect humans to one another. When affections and feelings are loving and strong, the threads are strong, but when those threads fray or break, they can cause heartbreak and strife. Gregory accompanies the Grimbockle on his nightly rounds and finds himself on an adventure as he attempts to reconnect exoodles and relationships. The story is a nice statement on how our feelings affect those around us and how we are connected by our relationships and emotions. The storytelling moves at a decent pace and the characters are cute; black and white illustrations throughout keep the reader’s interest. A good additional middle grader/intermediate book.

 

Whiz Bang and Amelia the Adventure Bear: The Jade Dragon, by Forrest Helvie and Michelle Lodge, (Oct. 2016, Independently Published), $1.99, Kindle ASIN: B01MDP3D3M

Ages 7-10

A quick read, this 31-page adventure is about Whiz Bang, a robot, and his friend Amelia, a bear. They’re martial arts students who have to learn that self-control, discipline, and the ability to show respect are the most important skills to learn in their quest to progress through their belts. Their sensei uses the story of a former student and the school’s mascot, a jade dragon, to communicate his message. There’s one other book in the series and another forthcoming; to get the Whiz Bang and Amelia newsletter and find out more about the books, visit the Whiz Bang and Amelia webpage.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Gift ideas for Little Kiddos

They’re going to get tons of toys, why not be the cool gift-giver that gives books? Here are some recent faves:

My Favorite Color: I Can Only Pick One?, by Aaron Becker, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Studio), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536214741

Ages 0-3

Caldecott Honor-winner Aaron Becker’s board book follow up to 2019’s You Are Light is all about choosing one’s favorite color… wait, can you choose a favorite color? Is it yellow, like the sun? Or blue, like the sea? But then again… there’s green… or pink! Yikes, how can someone have just one favorite color when there’s beautiful colors in all of nature? Aaron Becker takes readers through colors in nature, with die-cuts and small, colorful squares laid out; some translucent and beautiful to look at in the light. It’s an art book and a lovely meditation on nature; at its simplest, it’s a relatable book for any kid who’s been asked a question for which there is no one clear answer. Read and display with Mary Murphy’s What I Like Most, and, of course, You Are Light.

My Favorite Color has starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus. Publisher Candlewick has a free, downloadable teacher’s guide with helpful tips to start a conversation.
This is a Book of Shapes, by Kenneth Kraegel, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Press), $8.99, ISBN: 9781536207019
Ages 0-3
A laugh-out-loud concept book of shapes with curveballs thrown in, This is a Book of Shapes starts off like most concept books: A circle on one page; a statement on the other: This is a circle. The pattern follows for a few pages, and then… “This is an emu pushing a pancake wagon down a hill”. Wait, what? Perfect for those “are you paying attention?” moments, the book alternates shape statements with surreal, wacky divergences that will delight kids and grownups alike. Read as deadpan as you can – you may need to practice a few times to get there, I keep giggling as soon as I turn the page to the emu – for extra loud laughs. You can’t NOT read this for storytime. Make sure to have copies of Candlewick’s activity page handy for afterward.
1, 2, 3 Do the Dinosaur, by Michelle Robinson & Rosalind Bearshaw, (Jan. 2020, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-68464-044-7
Ages 2-5
Follow a little boy named Tom as he teaches all the dinos a new dance: The Dinosaur! Tom is a little boy dressed in dinosaur PJs, surrounded by all sorts of colorful dinosaurs as he leads them – and you! – through chomps, roars, tail swishes, and stomps. But what happens when the big T-Rex shows up? Why, you let him join in the fun, of course! The rhyming text is interactive and is perfect for storytime stomping and swishing. Colorful, friendly dinosaurs will appeal to all dino lovers. No scary ones here.  Think of Ed Emberley’s If You’re a Monster and You Know It, Sandra Boynton’s Barnyard Dance, Kelly Starling Lyons’s One More Dino on the Floor, or Laurie Berkner’s We Are the Dinosaurs. It’s a dino dance party and your readers are invited, so let them color in some dinosaurs and take them along!
Catch that Chicken!, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Angela Brooksbank, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212686
Ages 2-5
The latest outing from Anna Hibiscus author Atinuke and illustrator B is for Baby illustrator Angela Brooksbank is all about ingenuity. Lami is a little girl who’s the best chicken catcher in her village, but when she chases a chicken up a baobab tree and has a fall, her ankle is sprained and she needs a new way to think about catching the fiesty birds. Her Nana encourages her to think differently: “It’s not quick feet that catches chickens – it’s quick thinking”, and with a little thought, Lami has an idea: make the chickens come to her! A simple, smart way to get kids to consider alternatives, Catch That Chicken! has short sentences with lots of repetition; alliterative action words that will be fun in a story time (“Lami leans! Lami lungues! Lami leaps!”), and the colorful mixed media artwork is done in warm colors. Characters have friendly, welcoming faces and body language, and there’s a lot of movement in the pictures. A fun story for storytime and for little ones’ bookshelves.
Arlo the Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep, by Catherine Rayner, (Oct. 2020, Peachtree Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-222-2
Ages 2-6
Arlo is a lion who just can’t get comfortable and fall asleep. The grass is too prickly, his family wriggles too much, he just can’t make it work and he is EXHAUSTED. Luckily, Owl is nearby and teaches Arlo a sweet relaxation exercise that soothes him right to sleep. When Arlo finally has a refreshing night’s sleep, he’s so excited that he wakes Owl to tell her… and proceeds to help Owl soothe herself back to sleep. Together, the two friends teach the trick to Arlo’s family, and everyone is happily dozing in no time. Except for Owl, who’s nocturnal. Kate Greenway Medal winner Catherine Rayner creates a sensitive bedtime story that’s perfect for teaching kids to self-soothe using visualization and deep breathing. Mixed media artwork uses soft colors, with warm landscapes and a cuddly, sleepy lion; the meditative phrase repeats throughout the story, helping little ones listen to their reader lead them into a night of pleasant dreaming. Perfect for bedtime reading, read this one slowly and guide your littles through thoughts and breathing into naptime or bedtime.
Arlo the Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep has a starred review from Kirkus. Publisher Peachtree has an excerpt and Author Q&A available on their website.
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Two more Thanksgiving Books, just in time!

I’ve got two more Thanksgiving books for the Littles, just in time for the big day on Thursday!

See, Touch, Feel: Happy Thanksgiving, by Roger Priddy (Aug. 2020, Priddy Books U.S.), $7.95, ISBN: 9781684490738

Ages 0-3

Another adorable Roger Priddy book for the littlest of Littles! See, Touch, Feel Thanksgiving is a rhyming book of gratitude for food, nature, pets, and friends, with tactile pages for little explorers to touch and feel. They can run their fingers across the ridged corn husks and nubby corn, soft and smooth textures of handpainted trees, glittery rain, and a fuzzy dog. Colorful, with photos and childlike artwork sharing space, this is a book that will be a joy to sit down with, put your Kiddo in your lap, and let them know how thankful you are for them. Use the book as inspiration, if you have paints, and let them make their own hand-stamped crafts. A sensory feast for the hands and eyes!

 

If Animals Gave Thanks, by Ann Whitford Paul/Illustrated by David Walker, (Sept. 2020, Farrar Straus & Giroux), $9.99, ISBN: 9780374388737

Ages 3-6

The latest in the If Animals… series, this rhyming story welcomes readers with colorful fall leaves across endpapers. Inside, the author wonders what different animals would give thanks for, if they could: Rabbit would give thanks for being able to hop and for his thick fur; Crow, for the sky and the ability to fly; Turtle, for his hard shell. Meanwhile, the story returns to Bear, who’s gathering ingredients to make all sorts of delicious food for his friends at a harvest table! A kind story of gratitude and friendship, it’s a gently illustrated, softly colored story with colorful sound effects that invite readers to join in with multiple readings, whether it’s a chomp-chomp, chewy-chew, or a shuf-shuffle, or a pickety-pick. Great storytime pick.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Endangereds: In this A-Team, the “A” stands for “Animals”

The Endangereds, by Philippe Cousteau & Austin Aslan/Illustrated by James Madsen, (Sept. 2020, HarperCollins), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062894168

Ages 10-13

This is a new adventure series that animal adventure fans are going to want to pay attention to. A team of endangered animals from all over the world – an orangutan, a narwhal, and a pangolin – meet at a rehabilitation and research facility called The Ark, and discover they are hyperaware. They can understand humans, and they can understand and communicate with each other. Nukilik, a polar bear, joins the Ark and is solely focused on one thing: going home. But when a mated pair of ferrets leave the Ark to be reintroduced into the wild and go missing, Nukilik joins the team as they launch into action to find their friends and discover an insidious plot to cause pure mayhem. A fun story, colorful characters with strong, standout personalities and solid backstories, and great pacing and dialogue, this is just nonstop action and great reading; there are strong themes of climate change and environmental encroachment that will appeal to younger readers, who will be motivated to think about our impact on the planet and how we can work to make things better for ourselves and the creatures we share this world with.

Philippe Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau and host of Xploration Awesome Planet, and award-winning author Austin Aslan – who also holds a master’s degree in Tropical Conservation Biology, have a great new series on their hands. I’m looking forward to seeing where the Endangereds go next!

Definite must-add for your animal fiction fans. Display and talk up with Tracey Hecht’s Nocturnals novels, The Lost Rainforest books by Eliot Schrefer, and Katherine Applegate’s The Ending series.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Rescue Rabbits!

The Rescue Rabbits, by Eric Seltzer/Illustrated by Roland Garrigue, (Nov. 2020, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-5420-4263-5

Ages 3-6

Kids who love Paw Patrol are going to go nuts for this group of Rescue Rabbits! Ace, Dot, Chip, and Spot rescue all kinds of animals from trouble; crowding into their helicopter and flying off wherever they’re needed, they’ve got all sorts of wild gadgets on hand to get the job done. When they come up against the Rex the Rhino Prince, though, they’ve got their work cut out for them. Rex is a little high-maintenance, and the Rabbits realize that they have to call for a little more help: Rhino’s MOM.

Cartoony, with storytelling narration and word bubbles from the characters to add more humor and context, The Rescue Rabbits is perfect reading for fans of shows like Paw Patrol and Blaze and the Monster Machines. Parents and caregivers will get a chuckle out of the specially branded gadgets the Rabbits use: it’s like a Target toy aisle in here! Rex Rhino is hilariously exhausting as the cossetted prince; kids will get a big laugh out of his desire to be rescued on his own terms and bigger laughs when they see Mom on the way (we all know what that means!) The colorful art and constant action, plus the cool gadgets, make this a fun readaloud for the kiddos. Let’s see if The Rescue Rabbits find themselves on another adventure soon!

 

Eric Seltzer received his BFA from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. He worked as a TV graphics designer and an advertising art director before writing and illustrating children’s books. His book Four Pups and a Worm was an IRA/CBC Children’s Book Choice, and The Long Dog was named a Gryphon Award Honor Book. He recently published the board book Arf! Buzz! Cluck! illustrated by David Creighton-Pester. Eric lives with his family in Michigan.

Roland Garrigue is a prolific children’s book illustrator from Paris who attended art school in Strasbourg, France. His recent books include Cavekid Birthday, written by Cathy Breisacher, and Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters, written by Rachel Kolar. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @rolandgarrigue.

“Readers will see in these pages a gentle spoof of cartoons and blockbusters that include endless product tie-ins, but the story also offers an amusing tribute to competency-themed pretend play.” —Publishers Weekly

One lucky winner will receive a copy of The Rescue Rabbits, courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses). Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway!