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

Tales from the TBR: Otto P. Nudd

Otto P. Nudd, by Emily Butler, (Dec. 2020, Crown Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 9781524717759

Ages 8-12

My latest TBR pick is the animal adventure Otto P. Nudd by Emily Butler. Otto P. Nudd is a raven, a bird for the ages: just ask him; he’ll tell you. He’s simply brilliant, has a wife, Lucille, and an egg on the way, and he spends his mornings with Bartleby Doyle, an old inventor who’s been taking care of Otto since he found him on the forest floor, having fallen from his nest as a baby. He’s friends with Pippa, a girl who’s just lost her father, and Bartleby’s neighbor. It’s all lovely and cozy until one morning, when Bartleby injures himself while testing out one of his experiments before Otto arrived to assist him. Now, Otto is locked out of the workshop, Pippa’s in school, and Otto’s puffed-up ego has alienated him from all of the animals he knows! He’s going to have to reconsider the way he approaches others and ask for help if he’s going to be able to help poor Bartleby. A funny, quirky story about friendship, being kind, and making amends, I loved spending time with Otto and his friends. There’s a tough squirrel named Marla, and a group of dumpster-diving birds that kids will love, especially when they interact with Otto; a side plot explores a developing crush between Pippa and a school friend, and the heart of the story is Otto’s deep love for his human friend and the roots of that relationship. It’s a great choice for a middle grade book group, and there are passages that make for good readalouds. Black and white artwork throughout the book introduces readers to the adorable characters, and a few cut-away chapters provide readers with deeper dives into STEM and friendship, courtesy of Wilma the Mouse and her friend Raúl the Guinea Pig. Hand this to Kate DiCamillo and Katherine Applegate fans; display with classic animal adventures like E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and Trumpet of the Swan.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

You know you want to sing The Poop Song!

The Poop Song, by Eric Litwin/Illutarted by Claudia Boldt, (Apr. 2021, Chronicle Books), $15.99, ISBN: 9781452179506

Ages 2-6

The author who gave us Pete the Cat’s I Love My White Shoes has bestowed a new musical gift upon us: The Poop Song. Perfect for potty trainers and preschoolers who are still getting on a potty schedule, The Poop Song is all about…. well, pooping! The hilarious rhyming song applauds the pooping habits of animals: “Cats poop in their own little box. / Mountain goats poop as they climb over rocks. / Fishes poop as they swim in the sea. / Caterpillars poop at the top of a tree.” After a group of animals, Litwin reinforces that everybody’s pooping, and that big boys and big girls poop in the potty, hearing a “happy sound”: a flush! It’s a fun way to encourage kids to use the potty, with loads of laugh-out-loud moments. Colorful digital illustrations and bold fonts make this as much fun visually as it is to read aloud. Download an MP3 to sing along with the book or make up your own tune! The Poop Song has its own webpage where you can download the MP3 or watch the YouTube video, and download a potty chart to help your little poopers track their new potty habits. Absolute fun.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Earth Day: Loving the Animals!

Earth Day is tomorrow, but I’ve got books and books to talk about! Let’s love the animals we share the planet with, shall we?

Masters of Disguise: Camouflaging Creatures & Magnificent Mimics, by Marc Martin, (March 2021, Candlewick Studio), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536214055

Ages 4-8

Animals love to play hide and seek in the wild: it keeps them safe! Masters of Disguise profiles twelve different animals, from Gaboon Vipers in Africa to the Great Horned Owl in North and South America, to the Panther Chameleon in Madagascar. Gorgeous watercolor, pencil, and digital collage artwork invites readers to look for animals in their habitats, and profiles on each animal spotlights their uniqueness: polar bear paws and colorless coats; African leopard rosettes on their lush coats, the mimic octopus’s list of impersonations. Fun facts and inviting artwork make this a wonderful invitation to learn more about the animals in their habitats; endpapers spotlight a world map with the animals noted across their locations.

Masters of Disguise has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Reptiles Everywhere, by Camilla de la Bedoyere/Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup, (April 2021, Big Picture Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536217070

Ages 6-9

Reptile fans, get ready! Britta Teckentrup – one of my favorite illustrators! – brings her talents to this great primer on reptiles. Zoologist Camilla de la Bedoyere writes a very readable, interactive book for animals fans, inviting readers to pick the dinosaurs out of a reptile lineup; view a reptile timeline; learn about reptiles in different habitats, and watch a group of baby leatherback turtles race for the ocean. Digital artwork is colorful, and fun facts make each page compulsively readable. Readers will be excited to look for more books on new favorite lizards, like the Komodo Dragon or the Gila Monster, when finishing this one.

Orangutan Hats and Other Tools Animals Use, by Richard Haynes/Illustrated by Stephanie Laberis, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536200935
Ages 7-10
Animals: they’re just like us, right? Yes! This light-hearted book is all about the tools animals use: floss like a macaque, apply sunscreen like an elephant, wield a shield like a hermit crab. Organized into six sections, readers can learn what animals do to stay clean, healthy, and safe; how they create tools to hunt and eat, how they seek comfort, and tools to help them have fun! Cartoon illustrations will make readers giggle as they see a capuchin monkey stick a piece of grass up its nose to clean it out, or watch a crow drop a rock on a cat that’s getting too close for comfort. A smart look at animal ingenuity that kids will return to. Endpapers show a forest landscape on a sunny day and a rainy day; back matter includes a glossary, bibliography, and index. Publisher Candlewick offers a Teacher Tip Card to prompt discussion.
Orangutan Hats and Other Tools Animals Use has a starred review from Kirkus.
And, coming soon…
The Elephants Come Home: A True Story of Seven Elephants, Two People, and One Extraordinary Friendship, by Kim Tomsic/Illustrated by Hadley Hooper, (May 2021, Chronicle Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781452127835
Ages 3-5
While it’s not out until May, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this moving story about a man who took a group of frightened, hunted elephants into his home. Conservationist Lawrence Anthony, his wife, Françoise, and their dog, Max, accepted a group of elephant to live at their Thula Thula game preserve in Africa. The elephants were bullied and hunted, and were raging at rangers at their last location. For this group of 7 elephants, Thula Thula was their last chance: if they didn’t go to Thula Thula, they would have been shot. Lawrence accepted the elephants; he and Françoise understood their fear and their anger, and gently, slowly gained their trust. When Lawrence died in 2012, the elephants came from where they’d been living, about 12 hours away, and mourned Lawrence along with Françoise. They return every year. Told simply and with genuine feeling, this beautiful story will pull at your heartstrings; Hadley Hooper’s mixed media artwork has touching moments set against a background of reds and oranges. I can’t say enough about this wonderful book: add this to your storytimes, and talk about empathy, kindness, and being a guardian to our planet and the animals we share it with. Back matter includes an author’s note and list of works cited.
Posted in Toddler Reads

It’s Board Book time!

More board books, you say? I’ve got more board books! Let’s dive right in, there are some gems here!

A Little Snail Book: Hide-and-Seek, by Shasha Lv, (March 2021, Chronicle Books), $10.99, ISBN: 9781452183596

Ages 0-3

A companion to A Little Snail Book: Time to Go Home, Hide-and-Seek is a fun seek and find game for your little ones, starring Bear, who’s the seeker. As Bear wanders through each page, questions pop up that invite your little eagle-eyed Kiddos to see if they can find who’s hiding: “Where is everyone hiding?” “Could someone be here?” One by one, Bear discovers their friends, with a fun sound effect upon discovery: clunks, squeaks, and meows abound, letting you get into the act with your readers. But… where is Little Snail? Bear is stumped, but maybe your little ones can figure it out! Absolute fun, with sturdy pages and cheery two-color artwork.

 

Whose Baby is This?, by Stéphanie Babin/Illustrated by Camille Tisserand, (Feb. 2021, Twirl Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9782408023898

Ages 0-3

Match animal parents and babies! Sliding panels give little fingers something to explore as they slide the baby panel back and forth to reveal the parent panel. Seek and find the grownups on the left-hand panel. Organized into habitats – At the Pond, In the Forest, On the Farm, In the Meadow, On the Mountain, and In the Savanna – kids can find a wide variety of animals and learn the names for both children and adults! Colorful and kid-friendly illustrations, plus fun facts, make this a nice choice for learning about animals. Companion books in the series include Who Eats What?, Who Lives Where?, and Who Does What?

Miki Gets Dressed, by Stéphanie Babin/Illustrated by Julie Mercier, (Feb. 2021, Twirl Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9782408019723

Ages 0-3

It’s time to go outside, and kids can help Miki the Lion get dressed by pulling tabs! Help Miki pull up a pair of green pants; pull down a green sweater, slide on orange shoes, and don a red raincoat. A fun pop-up reveal at the end of the book will delight little ones, and the pull tabs are sturdy enough to hold up to multiple reads. This would be a great concept readaloud, with the emphasis on colors, and can also work for a fun rainy day readaloud, too. Add Hello, Rain! by Kyo Maclear, and Linda Ashman’s Rain! for a fun storytime on a cloudy day. A readloud on getting dressed would be great, too: add Caroline Jayne Church’s Let’s Get Dressed, and What We Wear: Dressing Up Around the World by Maya Ajmera, Cynthia Pon, Elise Hofer Derstine, and the Global Fund For Children.

More to come! Enjoy these in the meantime!

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate

Fox + Chick are sweet and funny buddies

Fox + Chick: The Quiet Boat Ride and Other Stories, by Sergio Ruzzier, (May 2021, Chronicle Books), $7.99, ISBN: 9781797208848

Ages 5-8

Fox and Chick are friends who love each other. Fox loves Chick with all Chick’s little quirks, and Chick loves Fox, who seems a little more down to earth. This latest book is the second book of their adventures, and it’s already out in hardcover. Chronicle was kind enough to send me a softcover copy, which will be out in May. Consisting of three stories – The Quiet Boat Ride, Chocolate Cake, and The Sunrise – this graphic novel is perfect for emerging readers who are ready to stretch from picture books and easy readers, but either not quite ready for chapter books or just starting them. In “The Quiet Boat Ride”, Fox is all set to spend a quiet afternoon rowing his boat when Chick arrives and injects a wild series of scenarios into the day. In “Chocolate Cake”, Chick agonizes over the gift of a chocolate cake and whether or not to eat all of it and risk a sick belly. “The Sunrise” sees Fox trying to get Chick to hurry up and come downstairs so they can see the sunrise. Parents and caregivers will love the stories, too; Chick will remind every single adult reader of the Kiddos in their lives, from trying to get a meandering preschooler to get their shoes on so you can get out of the door on time, to explaining that having access to a box of cookies (or a chocolate cake) doesn’t mean one has to EAT all of the cookies (or cake) in one sitting. Soft colors, fun dialogue, and an overall feeling of friendship makes this an excellent choice to give to kids who’ve loved Elephant and Piggie, Frog and Toad, and who are heading toward Skunk and Badger.

Sergio Ruzzier is a Sendak Fellow who has written and illustrated many critically acclaimed children’s books. The Fox + Chick books have starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, and Fox + Chick: The Party and Other Stories is included on many “Best Of” lists, including NPR Best Books of the Year, New York Times Notable Children’s Book,School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and The Horn Book Magazine Fanfare Best Book of the Year. Visit Sergio Ruzzier’s author website for more information about his books.
Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

The Animal Whisperer: Rescue at Lake Wild

Rescue at Lake Wild, by Terry Lynn Johnson, (Apr. 2021, HMH Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 9780358334859

Ages 8-12

Twelve-year-old Madi wants to be an “animal whisperer” like her wildlife rehabber grandmother was; her town doesn’t have a wildlife rehabber since her grandmother died, and her mother has forbidden her to bring home any more animals. If she does, her upcoming trip to meet Jane Goodall will be canceled. But what is Madi supposed to do when she and her best friends, Aaron and Jack, discover two orphaned beaver kits? She saves the kits and cares for them in secret when the friends discover another murdered beaver in the process. There’s a secret to be uncovered here, and Madi, Jack, and Aaron mean to be the ones to do it: as long as Madi can stay out of trouble with her mom, that is. A fast-paced adventure story about friendship, found families, and wildlife rehab, Rescue at Lake Wild has elements adventure readers will love: action, a mystery to solve, and a determined, smart protagonist with a love for animals and nature. Author Terry Lynn Johnson writes action-adventure nature stories, including 2019’s Dog Driven and The Survivor Diaries, and readers who love the I Survived series will dive right in. She has knowledge to share, and she does it in a way that respects and nudges the reader into wanting more: more storytelling and more learning. Have readers who loved Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot and Celia C. Pérez’s Strange Birds? This is the next book for them.

 

Terry Lynn Johnson writes about the wild with the wisdom and passion of someone who has spent her life working to preserve and protect it – both as a backcountry canoe ranger in Quetico Provincial Park and in her current job as a conservation officer with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. She lives at the edge of a lake in northern Ontario, Canada, where she loves watching all wildlife, including beavers. Visit her online at terrylynnjohnson.com

Twitter: @TerryLynnJ

Instagram: terry_lynn_johnson

Video extra! Terry Lynn Johnson talks about the inspiration behind Rescue at Lake Wild here

Posted in Fantasy, picture books

An adventure with Grandmother… We Became Jaguars

We Became Jaguars, by Dave Eggers/llustrated by Woodrow White, (March 2021, Chronicle Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781452183930

Ages 5-8

Bestselling author Dave Eggers creates a story about a boy, his grandmother, and the wild world. A young boy’s grandmother comes to visit him, with her long, white hair and her spotted black and yellow coat. When his parents leave the two alone, Grandmother suggests the two become jaguars and explore the night! The two roam the night, having adventures, until the boy decides it’s time to head home. Was it all in good fun? Eggers’s dreamlike storytelling has a childlike feel, as he blends the fantastic – “She laughed like great thunder and I laughed like lesser thunder and we jaguared on” – with the adorably kidlike – “I didn’t want to eat raw rabbit so I said I was allergic” – to create a story that will transport readers to rainforests and the Himalayan mountains. Woodrow White’s mixed media illustration opens up an incredible, exotic world. A gatefold panel begins with the boy and his grandmother transforming into jaguars, and opens to place them, fully “jaguared”, in a wild, nighttime world. The grandmother’s jaguar face looks self-assured; the boy’s, tentative, like he’s never quite sure about this whole experience. When the two drink from a lake, their blurred reflections reveal their human faces. Endpapers show the light and dark of their journey, with vines striping the pages, and bursts of color at the edges. A stunning and playful story.

We Became Jaguars has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

What makes somewhere the Best Place in the World?

The Best Place in the World, by Petr Horácek, (Feb. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212853

Ages 3-6

Hare lives in a beautiful meadow, surrounded by his friends, but he wonders if it is the best place in the world. All of his friends say it is, but he’s not convinced. Owl suggests that Hare set out and see the world for himself; Hare discovers green fields, rivers and waterfalls, and a setting sun that looks like a pot of honey. Individually, they may be the best place in the world for some, but something is missing. Hare heads back home, realizing that the best place in the world is the place where your friends are. A gentle story about what makes a place a home, Petr Horácek uses mixed media illustrations to create textured, colorful spreads. Warm yellows, dusky reds, verdant greens, all come together to tell a warm, wonderful story about friendship and togetherness while the meditative text encourages readers to think deeply about what means the most to them in their homes, their communities, their families. A lovely storytime that encourages kids to think and share.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Itty-Bitty-Kitty-Corn will steal your heart

Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn, by Shannon Hale/Illustrated by LeUyen Pham, (March 2021, Abrams Books for Young Readers), $18.99, ISBN: 9781419750915

Ages 4-8

An adorable pink, fluffy kitten is positive she’s a unicorn. She feels like one on the inside, so she must be… a Kitty-Corn! Her friends, a parakeet and a gecko, insist that there’s no way she’s anything other than a cat -she meows in her sleep, after all! – , When a unicorn shows up to change all of that by saying that he, too, feels like a Kitty-Corn, these two new friends see one another for who they really are. Adorably illustrated, with just too-cute, huggable, expressive animals, Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn is a story of identity and seeing others for who they really are. A spread where Kitty tells Unicorn, “I see you” is beautiful; a lovely statement on visibility and existence; of knowing yourself and seeing others – and most importantly, letting others know that you see them.  Cheerful, appealing characters and a lovely story flow make this a great storytime read-aloud. Publisher Abrams has a free activity kit with coloring pages. Consider this book, and Lulu is a Rhinoceros, for Visibility Days storytimes and displays.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Mindi and the Goose No One Else Could See looks at childhood anxiety

Mindi and the Goose No One Else Could See, by Sam McBratney/Illustrated by Linda Ólafsdóttir, (March 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212815

Ages 3-7

A young girl named Mindi is afraid of an invisible goose in her room. Her parents do their best to ease her fears, to no avail. Mindi’s father brings Mindi to visit Austen, a wise farmer who has a wonderful, gentle way to get that goose out of Mindi’s room. Sam McBratney, author of the childhood classic Guess How Much I Love You (1994), created a kind, gentle story about listening to children and understanding childhood fears and anxiety. The author, who passed away last year, had an intuitive way of telling stories that allow children to see themselves, and a wonderful way of showing adults how to put themselves in a child’s place and see the world through their eyes. Linda Ólafsdóttir’s mixed media artwork brings soft colors and gentle artwork to this wonderful story.

Mindi and the Goose No One Else Could See has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.