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!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Books from Quarantine: Spring Picture Books

So we’re inside for a large amount of every day, but it’s still Spring outside. I’ve been looking at some beautiful picture books that celebrate the season, and thought I’d bring a little Spring to you.

The Nest That Wren Built, by Randi Sonenshine/Illustrated by Anne Hunter, (March 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201536

Ages 3-7

An ode to nature in the form of that most famous of cumulative poems, The House That Jack Built. Two wrens build a nest and a family that comes to life as the story progresses. Flowing with imagery and details about Carolina wrens, author Randi Sonenshine and illustrate Anne Hunter create a lovely story that gives readers new surprises to behold on every spread: This is the snakeskin warding off harm, / a scaly and thin reptilian charm, / draped on the nest that Wren built”; “This is the tuft of rabbity fur, / plucked from a sharp, persnickety burr, / to warm the nest that Wren built”. Gentle ink and pencil illustrations in natural browns and greens are just breathtaking which each spread’s reveal. A glossary and page with facts about wrens add additional learning.

An excellent choice for storytimes and for STEM/Science classes for preschoolers and kindergartners. Great inspiration for bird-related crafts and activities, like these DIY bird binoculars or this fun sensory activity. The Audobon Society has a page dedicated to the Carolina Wren, and you can read Laura Donnelly’s poem dedicated to Carolina Wrens here.

The Nest That Wren Built has a starred review from Kirkus.
Seeds, by Carme Lemniscates, (March 2020, Candlewick Press), $14.99, ISBN: 9781536208443
Ages 3-7
A narrative on the literal and metaphorical power of seeds. “They embark on amazing adventures”, author Carme Lemniscates begins, with illustrations of seed journeys via dandelion puffs and sunflower seeds; underground to sustain ant colonies, and bursting to life as flowers and food. Seeds bring life to the most unlikely places, as we all know; anyone who’s seen leaves sprout from cracks in concrete can attest to that. We are part of the seed’s life cycle as the sowers and caretakers of seeds, reminding readers that we have a big responsibility to our planet. The narrative takes on a solemn note when Lemniscates notes that “we can plant many different kinds of seeds. A smile is a powerful seed… But there are also seeds that bring anger and misunderstanding. When those seeds grow, they pull us apart. Seeds can only bring what they carry.” Pretty powerful words that need repeating. Often.
Carme Lemniscates’ mixed media illustrations bring a crisp life to the illustrations, with browns and greens from nature sharing the space with brightly colored flowers and characters. A wonderful story about friendship and nature, and how we are bound to nature. Great for preschoolers and kindergarteners.

The Seedling That Didn’t Want to Grow, by Brita Tecktentrup, (March 2020, Prestel), $14.95, ISBN: 978-3-7913-7429-1

I never hide my love for Brita Teckentrup, and The Seedling That Didn’t Want to Grow is another hit for me. A seedling takes its time growing in a forest while all the other seeds sprout up around it. Forest friends Ladybird (I love that word) and Ant wait patiently, and when the seedling begins sprouting, Ant and Ladybird follow it along its path, with other forest creatures joining them along their way. The seedling sprouts into a bush full of blossoms, giving home to forest animals who live in her leaves, filling her with “love and life”, but Fall eventually comes, and the animals tearfully say goodbye. But Spring will come again, and with it, a new batch of seedlings, left by their friend.
An aching, unfussy story of friendship set within the nature cycle, The Seedling That Didn’t Want To Grow is filled with catch-your-breath moments: each friend guarding and guiding the seedling as it grows; the change in perspective to showcase the seedling at full growth, housing butterflies, bees, moths, and more; Little Mouse’s farewell… just gorgeous moments, made even more touching by the deep colors of nature and the collage-like feel of the artwork. This is definitely a book on my storytime shelf.
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour Stop: Bird Hugs by Ged Adamson

Bernard isn’t like other birds, but he doesn’t let that stop him from trying to fly! It takes a sad orangutan to help Bernard realize his true purpose, though…

Bird Hugs, by Ged Adamson, (Feb. 2020, Two Lions),
$17.99, ISBN: 978-1542092715
Ages 3-7

Bird Hugs is such a sweet story! Bernard is a little purple bird with very big wings. They just can’t keep him in the air, no matter what he does. He sadly watches his friends soar into the skies as (adorably silly) attempts fall flat. When he’s at his most dejected, though, he sees a crying orangutan… and gives him a BIG HUG. Who doesn’t love a hug, right? Well, it turns out that this is Bernard’s purpose in life: those big wings let him wrap everyone up in a warm, loving hug, and boy, do the animals need it! Day after day, Bernard hugs his way through a line of animals who need a hug, a sympathetic ear, and a kind soul to be present. What a wonderful message.

Bernard is adorable, and kids are going to love spending time with him. He’s sympathetic and empathetic all at once; he’ll give readers a giggle as his attempts to fly bring him all to close to the ground, and readers will feel for the little guy as he struggles with seeing other friends do things he can’t do, and he feels left behind. The book changes perspectives, moving from horizontal to vertical spreads, adding interest to a readaloud. Ged Adamson’s pencil and watercolor artwork creates sweetly pastel animals and landscapes for readers to wander in, and the endpapers – representations of Bernard’s very, very long wings – are just fun.

Bird Hugs is a sweet story about sharing friendship, empathy, and the importance of just being available.

 

Ged Adamson is a children’s book author and illustrator. His picture books include A Fox Found a Box; Douglas, You Need Glasses!; Shark Dog!; and Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed). He has also worked as a cartoonist, storyboard artist, and composer for film and TV. He lives in London with his partner, Helen, and son, Rex. To learn more, visit his website: https://gedadamson.myportfolio.com/home-page 

Twitter: @ged_adamson 

Instagram: @gedadamson