Posted in picture books

Spring and Summer stories to make you smile

With Spring and Summer come a lighter type of picture book: open spaces, verdant greens, cheery yellows, happy colors and stories about enjoying the outdoors. I’ve got a few picture books here that are perfect for those longer, warmer days.

Free, by Sam Usher, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536217049

Ages 4-7

The boy and his grandfather from Sam Usher’s Seasons With Grandad series are back! In Free, the boy and Grandad care for a sick bird who returns to them every day. Grandad looks up new ways to get the bird to reunite with other birds, but it looks like their new feathered friend needs a bit of help, so they gather their equipment and strike out to find a tree for their new friend. Sam Usher brings his touch of magical realism to this story of a boy, his grandfather, and a little bird that needs their help, elevating it from sweet to simply extraordinary. Ink and watercolor illustrations are expressive and provide a soothing, intimate feel to the storytelling and the relationship between Grandad, Boy, and Bird. Riots of color in strategic moments make for a delightful surprise. I love Sam Usher’s books, so this one is a definite buy for me.

Free has a starred review from Kirkus.

(UK edition image taken from Amazon.com: the US edition notes that one of the birds “was sick”.)

 

Sweet Pea Summer, by Hazel Mitchell, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536210347

Ages 4-8

A girl’s her father brings her to spend the summer with her grandparents when her mother has to go into the hospital. To keep her occupied, her grandfather invites her to help in his garden, asking her to look after his snow peas. She learns to care for them and nurture them, taking great pride in the growing pods, and her grandfather suggests she may even get to enter them in the flower show when the season ends. So what happens that causes the flowers to start dying? Stumped, the girl tries multiple fixes until she discovers the reason. A gently told story of love, nurturing, perseverance and determination, this is a beautifully illustrated story, with colorful spreads of the English countryside and cheery gardens. There are so many details to discover in the sprawling townscape and countryside, from bustling businesses and commuters to the playful garden animals hopping and frolicking around the greenery. A book that encourages readers to endure hard times and embrace the support around them, Sweet Pea Summer is a good warm-weather read. Have some sweet pea coloring pages handy for an accompanying storytime activity. Pair with Zee Grows a Tree for a storytime about the love between nature and kids.

Visit Hazel Mitchell’s author webpage for more information about her books, her artwork, and a host of printable activities about her book, Toby.

 

William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, retold by Georghia Ellinas/Illustrated by Jane Ray, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217735

Ages 4-8

The companion to last year’s William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a dreamlike, picture book interpretation of the famous Shakespeare comedy, great for new audiences. The Fairy Kingdom is up in arms as King Oberon is in a disagreement with his wife, Queen Titania; a group of young nobles arrive in the magical forest from Athens, all in love with the wrong person; and Puck, a mischievous servant of King Oberon’s decides to stir up some trouble just for the fun of it. Retold from Puck’s perspective, this is a very readable, enjoyable breakdown of the hilarious story of mistaken identity, love, and mischievous fairies. Shakespeare’s famous ending, “If we shadows have offended…” closes the story. The artwork is a tapestry of beautiful color, artwork that captures the playful spirit of the play and the otherworldly characters in the story. Moonlight figures heavily in the artwork, a glowing sheen adding illumination and bringing out the details in each character. A great read-aloud idea for older classes (1-3 grades, for instance), consider an Introduction to Shakespeare display for your Children’s Room with books like Anna Claybourne and Tilly’s Where’s Will?, The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review series by Ian Lendler and illustrated by Zack Giallongo, and Mabel and the Queen of Dreams, by Henry, Joshua, & Harrison Herz. Visit ilustrator Jane Ray’s website for free printable coloring pages.

 

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 Middle Grade, Middle School, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Outdoor School is in session!

I’m excited to be a super influencer in Macmillan and Odd Dot’s Outdoor School campaign! Outdoor School is a series of books that’s going to help kids (and us grownups!) “re-wild” our lives, by helping reacquaint us with the outdoors and the world around us. Launching at the end of April, Outdoor School will have three definitive, interactive nature guides: Animal Watching; Rock, Fossil, and Shell Hunting, and Hiking and Camping. There are also two smaller, pocket Essentials Guides on Animal Tracks and Survival Skills; made with durable Tyvek material, these little guides are waterproof and tear-proof. Finally, there are Spot and Sticker books on Animals, Plants, and Birds, each with over 400 illustrated stickers for kids to use as decoration; plus, the book folds out into a checklist poster where kids can keep track of animals they discover along the way.

It’s been a heck of a year, and one thing we have started doing more is embracing the outdoors. I know, during the initial lockdown, we started walking around more because it was somewhere to go, somewhere to be able to see our friends and let my Kiddo run around and have while being able to keep a safe distance. Being able to take this a step further, with these guide books and sticker books, will make the spring and summer even more fun for my Kiddo and for my library kiddos: think of your local green spaces, like public parks. Think of local wildlife – we found raccoon footprints the cement over by a house near Kiddos’s school, which made us laugh, thinking about a raccoon leaving his little mark on wet cement in the middle of an urban borough. These books are beautifully constructed, with colorful pages and artwork, and it fosters a real respect for and love of the outside.

This is just the beginning of the promotion, so keep an eye out for lots more content and challenges until the books publish at the end of April. Watch this space for more.

Posted in picture books

A diamond in the night: The Bird Who Swallowed a Star

The Bird Who Swallowed a Star, by Laurie Cohen/Illustrated by Toni Demuro, (March 2021, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764361074

Ages 5-8

One night, a bird swallows a star, making brighter than a diamond. But because he “glowed like a thousand fires”, none of the other animals want him around them; he makes them vulnerable to predators. Alone and sad, the bird cries glittering tears that sprout into golden flowers, and a wandering traveler discovers him. Enchanted by the bird, the traveler takes him on as a companion. A beautifully illustrated story of how friendship sees into everyone’s inner light, The Bird Who Swallowed a Star is a story of imagination and inner strength. The textured cover glows in the dark and will delight younger readers. The illustrations play beautifully with light and shadow with elegance. The storytelling is repetitive, encouraging readers’ confidence as the story continues. The ending allows for imagination: encourage littles to interpret the wordless final spreads to finish their story. A solid choice for social-emotional collections. Originally published in French in 2015, it’s wonderful to welcome The Bird Who Swallowed a Star to U.S. bookshelves. Visit illustrator Toni DeMuro’s webpage for more of his illustration work.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

I Am a Bird introduces kindred spirits

I Am a Bird, by Hope Lim/Illustrated by Hyewon Yum, (Feb. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536208917

Ages 3-7

Every day, a little girl rides to school on the back of her father’s bike, pretending she is a bird. Arms outstretched, she “caws” to the birds, who sing back to her as people wave. But one woman in a blue coat does not wave or smile, and the girl wonders why; one day, she and her father discover where this mysterious woman, with her mysterious bag, heads off to every day, and she is delighted! I Am a Bird is a gentle story with a sense of freedom and abandon. Spare text allows the pencil and gouache illustrations to breathe and wander; the little girl rides securely at her father’s back, arms thrown out wide and head thrown wide as she greets the day with joy. Endpapers are blue and white, with flocks of birds flying across the spreads. A lovely story for storytimes.

I Am a Bird has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books

So You Want to Be an Owl? Here’s a crash course!

So You Want to Be an Owl?: Everything There is to Know About Owls!, by Jane Porter/Illustrated by Maddie Frost, (Jan. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536215212

Ages 5-9

Picture book nonfiction at its most fun! Professor Olaf Owl is here to show you, new Owl recruit, how to be an owl, as concerned as he is about your lack of feathers, inability to fly, and lack of more than one set off eyelids. Can you cut it as a member of Team Owl? So You Want to Be an Owl? is loaded with facts about owls, with bold, mixed media artwork that readers will love. Organized into nine lessons, readers will learn about an owl’s feathers (not waterproof!), how they camouflage, hunt and eat, and the different sounds they make: it’s not just “Hoot”! Professor Owl is a fun, slightly snarky, guide through the book, adding amusing commentary and despairing over whether a human student could possibly match up to the superior owl. It’s fun, it’s funny, and the artwork is bright and cheery. Absolutely fun, and begging to be matched up with one of my favorite owl crafts from my Harry Potter program; this owl treat bag craft is adorable, too! Pair with some of my favorite owl stories, like This is Owl by Libby Walden and Divya Srinivasan’s Owl books, for a fun owl storytime.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Soar lets readers spread their wings and face fear

Soar, by Hillary Daecher/Illustrated by Angie Hohenadel, (Aug. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7643-5987-3

Ages 4-7

Ramone is a ruby-throated hummingbird who’s about to leave his nest for the first time. But he’s shy and he’s scared: what if something goes wrong? What if his wings don’t work? Luckily, Mom is there with comforting hugs and words. As he watches the other hummingbirds take to the sky, he screws up his courage and manages to get airborne! A rhyming story of facing one’s fears, Soar is beautifully illustrated with bright, vivid color. The rhyming meter makes for a good read-aloud, and you know what I’m going to say about flannels, right? Colorful birds are PERFECT flannel storytime accompaniment if you’ve got them! Back matter includes hummingbird facts, discussion questions, and a bibliography.

 

Ramone, a shy, ruby-throated hummingbird, is about to leave the nest for the first time. But his anxiety and fear keep him from taking off as he contemplates all that could go wrong. Full of kind words and encouragement, Ramone’s mother gives him room to work through his emotions, building his confidence and letting him set his own pace. Ramone watches as his friends soar through the sky, realizing all he might miss out on if he doesn’t conquer his fear. Ramone’s adventure showcases the emotions, both positive and negative, children experience as they approach new challenges. Accompanied by strikingly beautiful illustrations, this tale guides readers through Ramone’s emotional journey, showing kids that fear must be overcome in order to grow.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Lali’s Feather soars

Lali’s Feather, by Farhana Zia/Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman, (Apr. 2020, Peachtree Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-129-4

Ages 4-8

Lali is a little girl enchanted by a feather she finds. She brings the feather to Rooster, Crow, and Peacock to ask if it belongs to them; they scoff. She shows the feather to Hen, Duck, and Blue Jay, who are all fascinated by what she can do with the feather: write in the dirt, fan a fire, sweep dust, make her sister sneeze and tickle Bapu’s toes! The birds are just as fascinated by the feather as Lali is, even chasing it down to return to Lali when it flies away. A gentle story about finding joy in the smallest things, Lali’s Feather, set in an Indian village, is a story that spreads happiness as you read it. Repetition helps readers predict what will happen next, as Lali goes from bird to bird to show off the feather; kids learn creativity and different ways of seeing as Lali shows off the feather’s many uses; there’s empathy in the way the birds all come together to find and return the feather to Lali. Digital pastel illustrations are soothing yet infused with discovery and play. Read an excerpt, download the Educator’s Guide, and read the author Q&A at publisher Peachtree’s website.

For a book-related take and make project, consider adding a feather to your kit and a colorful sheet of paper, inviting kids to think of what they could do with their feathers. I’ve also fallen for this TP roll peacock craft from The Madhouse Mummy (consider using a rolled piece of sturdy cardstock in place of TP these days). This paper feather and scissor practice craft is a fun idea, too; print out the feather templates on sturdy colored paper, and make sure that grownups will supervise the safety scissor practice.

Posted in Toddler Reads

More Board Books!

I’m sorry I’ve been quiet for a few days, but this year has been… a lot. But I’m back and ready to bring you some of the cutest board books in my TBR. I know I gush about board books a lot, but they are just adorable, and they’ve grown so much over the last few years. They look at concepts in new ways and have gone beyond the basic “ABCs/123s” to give real storytelling fun for our youngest learners. Let’s see the ones I’ve got here.

My Big Family, by Jeffrey Turner, (Aug. 2020, Schiffer Publishing), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764360053

Ages 0-3

Meet Doodle, the Science Poodle, as she introduces her big, blended family to readers! Family members include one aardvark, eight llamas, nine elephants, and a bunch more. Bright, colorful digital illustrations and giant numbers let readers count each of the animals in Doodle’s family. A note about the science of arithmetic connects the counting story to STEM learning. A fun way to start kids learning and counting; have goodies around for them to count, like toys, blocks, or toes (yours, theirs, the dog’s). Absolute fun for readalouds and counting songs.

 

Peep!, by Kevin Luthardt, (Aug. 2020, Peachtree Publishers), $6.99, ISBN: 9781682632000

Ages 0-3

A duckling hatches and bonds to a boy he sees. Excitedly “peeping”, the duckling follows its new friend home, and the two share time together playing and enjoying one another’s company. One day, though, the “peep!” turns to a “quack!” and the boy and his family know they have to bring the duckling to be with other ducks. But there’s always a new friend waiting just around the corner. This sweet story of friendship is sparsely worded, letting the pictures tell the story. The colorful artwork is cheery, and kids will love the little duckling – sound effects run throughout, so invite your listeners to crack, peep, and quack along with you! Make sure to sing 5 Little Ducks with this one.

 

Guess Who is Behind the Door: A Counting Book in 4 Languages, by Susan S. Novich, (Oct. 2020, Schiffer Publishing), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764360046

Ages 0-3

This rhyming story about a painting porcupine introduces counting, colors, and language concepts. Pinky Porcupine paints the doors in the town, and finds a different animal friend behind each one. Kids can count from one to 10 in English, Spanish, Chinese, and French, with pronunciations noted on each page. The animals gather together to say goodnight in their different languages at the end and fun animal facts close out this fun, fact-filled board book.  Pictures are colorful and eye-catching and fun, perfect for counting storytimes and introducing readers to new languages.

 

Faster, Please!, by Catherine Leblanc/Illustrated by Laurent Richard, (Sept. 2020, Schiffer Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764360329

Ages 0-5

A board book that opens into a play mat! A dog can go faster on a scooter, but even faster on a bike! The pup picks different vehicles to take the speed up a notch as the sections unfold into a 4 foot-long play mat, just right for zooming little cars on. Illustrations are colorful and bright, and vehicle books are so popular, that kids will gobble this right up. Invite kids to tell you which vehicles are outlined on the cover, and point them out inside the book. A felt board with vehicle cutouts would be a fun accompaniment during storytime, too. Have a couple on hand, this one will circulate hard.

 

Paper Peek: Animals, by Chihiro Takeuchi, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Studio), $14.99, ISBN: 9781536211498

Ages 0-3

A board book, seek and find, and geography lesson all in one, Paper Peek: Animals is a wonder of board book making.  Visit the continents and oceans and discover animals native to each region through the artwork. Die cuts and colorful cut paper artwork make endless fun for exploring fingers and eyes. Discover African lions, giraffes, and zebras; North American brown bears and eagles; koalas, platypuses, and cockatoos from Oceania; seahorses, whales, and sharks from the oceans, and so much more. A map of the world at the end of the book shows the animals on their homelands. I love this book for its gorgeous artwork and for its versatility: you can use it during storytime or one-on-one time.

 

Love Can Come in Many Ways, by Terry Pierce, (Oct. 2020, Chronicle Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9781452172606

Ages 0-3

A perfect cuddle up and snuggle book, this rhyming story of all the ways animals (and people!) show love comes with 10 felt flaps to lift and explore. Giraffes nuzzlilng noses, elephant trunk hugs and embracing swan wings are just a few of the ways animals reveal their affection for one another. This is an adorable lapsit choice – invite parents to snuggle, rub noses, lightly squeeze, and play peekaboo with their littles. A soft color palette makes this a perfectly soothing read for babies and toddlers, maybe a good choice for a final story choice in storytime, to start calming things down. Make sure you keep a copy in your storytime collection; this one will get beaten up in circulation as family after family loves it.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Small and Indie Spotlight!

As I continue catching up to my TBR, I’ve got more independently published books for you to enjoy. Take a look!

Tucker and the Garbage Truck, by Sarah Brown/Illustrated by Oscar Franco, (May 2020, Independently Published), $12.97, ISBN: 979-8648207370

Ages 3-6

Tucker is a little truck who discovers a big garbage truck winding its way through his neighborhood. Tucker approaches the garbage truck and asks him about his job, and the garbage truck invites Tucker along as he makes his stops, explaining why he enjoys his job. He’s too big to be one of those itty bitty trucks or cars, and he likes helping keep the town clean! At the end of the day, Tucker is happy to have made a new friend and has learned about a new job: Garbage Truck!

Digital illustrations are cute, and the text is easy to read. Kids who Disney’s Cars movies and shows, plus vehicle books like Kate and Jim McMullan’s I’m Fast! and I Stink! and Byron Barton’s board books (Train, Trucks, Planes) will enjoy this one.   Author Sarah Brown has a series of Tucker books available on her Amazon author page.

 

Carrie’s Flight (Grandma’s Closet #1), by Lois Wickstrom/Illustrated by Francie Mion, (March 2019, Independently Published), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1090828224

Ages 4-7

A little girl named Carrie discovers some of her grandmother’s boxes in a closet, and pulls them into her room, where she video chats her grandmother to ask what they are. When Grandma invites Carrie to open the boxes, she discovers feathers! And wings! Donning a pair of wings for herself, Carrie soon realizes she can fly like the starlings outside her window, and joins them in flight. She heads to her grandmother’s home for a visit, and when the birds beckon her home, she flies back. A gentle Icarus story for younger readers, this is a sweet story about a girl and her grandmother, with a fantasy spin. The artwork is dreamlike, with soft colors, and the text has emphasized fonts on certain words for added interest. If the text were laid out over and around the images, it would flow better, but the overall story is cute and will appeal to younger readers. A nice bedtime story to share. An author’s note on how starlings arrived in North America and their environmental impact adds an interesting nonfiction touch to the book.

 

How I Made a (Tiny Wacky) Friend (My Crazy Stories), by Daniel Georges, (Aug. 2019, Independently Published), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1088442432

Ages 5-8

This is my first dip into the My Crazy Stories series, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. William is a kid who likes keeping to himself. He likes to spend time by himself, making spooky masks in his room, and enjoys being out and about when there’s no one else around: until “this kid” shows up: a new kid moves into the neighborhood, and William starts seeing him EVERYWHERE. It’s really cramping his style! When his parents invite the kid and his family over for dinner, William is ready to give the kid the scare of his life – but when he puts on one of his scariest masks, the boy is THRILLED. He loves scary stuff, too! The two new friends bond over their shared love of monsters, and Willy and Olly – that’s “this kid’s” name – become fast friends, spending their days at the playground and reading monster stories together. They even bestow secret code names upon each other, because “Good friends always have secret code names”. A spread at the end of the book invites kids to put pictures of themselves and their friends into the book, and give themselves secret code names.

The book is fun, narrated in the first person by William, and is so relatable to kids, especially kids with more introverted tendencies (or children dealing with a new sibling). The artwork is fun, colorful, boldly outlined. I was really happy with this book, and will keep an eye out for the other books in the series. A fun book to help kids break down complex emotions.

Dana Digs In, by Laura Pedersen, (Apr. 2020, Independently Published), $8.75, ISBN: 979-8638193270

Ages 4-7

Dana is a biracial girl who lives in an urban community and does not like the taste of the tomatoes in her salad. It’s not that she doesn’t like tomatoes, she doesn’t like the store-bought tomatoes her parents have bought! Her father explains that tomatoes are often picked before they’re ripe, and ripen on a truck, which gets Dana thinking about waste and pollution. She’s determined to find a better way to get good food, so she researches how and where to start a community garden – and discovers the perfect spot in a future building area that she can use for a few months. After getting the seeds started and learning to compost, she’s ready – and she gets help! The community pitches in and they have a healthy harvest, a portion of which Dana donates to the local food pantry. When it’s time to relocate the garden, Dana discovers that she’s got a couple of options – exciting! Dana Digs In shows how dedication, ingenuity, and research makes all things possible, no matter what age.  The artwork uses word balloons to illustrate dialog and nicely shows the steps involved in figuring out how to set up and run a community garden. Read during a Discovery Time/STEM program and encourage kids to start their own seeds – or do a food scrap program and show kids how to start their own crops from food scraps in their kitchens!