Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

I Got You a Present is the best gift of all!

I Got You a Present!, by Mike Erskine-Kellie and Susan McLennan/Illustrated by Cale Atkinson, (Apr. 2020, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1525300097

Ages 4-7

It’s your birthday, and your buddy Duck got you a present! Well… kind of. He had the best of intentions; he wanted to get you something you’d really love. But do you know how hard it is to knit socks? Or carry a 10-scoop ice cream cone? Magic kits disappear, and since you don’t know how to drive yet, a race car was out of the question… poor Duck! What can he get his best friend? Maybe… something includes all these wonderful ideas, in one place? A story to remind you of what great friends you are? I Got You a Present! is a gleefully funny story about going into something with the best of intentions, and not quite having things go right. Adults and kids alike can relate as Duck comes up with wackier, funnier ideas to get that showstopper gift… and, of course, there’s a sneak peek at next year’s gift.

Colorful artwork features cheery animal friends and wacky situations that make this a good birthday readaloud choice (substitute other gift-giving events and get creative), and remind listeners that sometimes, just having a great friend to make memories with is the best present. Honest! (Or you could ask readers what they’d like to give their best friends. Let them get as outrageous as possible.)

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Excellent life advice: Eat the Cake!

Eat the Cake, by MH Clark/Illustrated by Jana Glatt, (Feb. 2020, Compendium), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1946873842

Ages 4-7

It’s time to celebrate? Celebrate what, you ask? Who needs a reason? Eat the Cake is all about picking a special day – it can be a birthday, a graduation, a special occasion, or just waking up and deciding this is YOUR day – and celebrating! Great things are coming your way, so relax, enjoy, and eat the cake!

This rhyming, upbeat story is all about embracing positivity; a new mindset; creativity, and being bold and brave. Brightly colored figures parade up, down, and all around the pages, throwing confetti, playing instruments, and celebrating the reader. The bright, happy colors pop off the bright white of the pages, really grabbing the reader’s attention and creative a fun, festive atmosphere. The story is a celebration of the reader/audience, encouraging them to “be so bright that the stars, watching all that you do, / look right down from the sky and start wishing on you”. How fantastic is that to read?

Play some upbeat music, give kids egg shakers, and let them celebrate themselves after reading Eat the Cake at storytime. Don’t limit the fun to the little ones, either: this works nicely with Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! for a graduation reading at any age. Give this to a retiring colleague or family member to remind them to enjoy life and all they have ahead of them, or someone achieving a major milestone, or someone who just needs a pick-me-up. Eat the Cake is just too much fun.

MH Clark is also the author of Tiger Days, a great book about emotions, and Tiny Perfect Things, a lovely book about those small and perfect moments in our day.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Friendship has been around since the beginning: Cavekid Birthday

Cavekid Birthday, by Cathy Breisacher/Illustrated by Roland Garrigue, (March 2019, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580898768

Ages 4-8

Caveboy and Cavegirl are best friends, born on the same day in side by side caves. Caveboy loves rocks, while Cavegirl enjoys working with tools and painting on cave walls. One birthday, each wants to give the other a gift, but what to get? They each visit Caveman’s Collectibles, separately, and find the perfect gifts. Caveboy trades his rock collection to get a box for Cavegirl to put her tools and paintbrushes in; Cavegirl trades her tools and paintbrushes to get a box for Caveboy to store his rock collection. When they exchange gifts, they figure out ways to put their new gifts – and existing talents – to work.

An updated, kids’ version of O’Henry’s The Gift of the Magi, Cavekid Birthday is a story about friendship, and it’s a story about creative thinking. Caveboy and Cavegirl’s friendship means so much to the other that they’re willing to trade their prized possessions away to get each other the perfect gift – and once they have those perfect gifts, they put them to creative use. But as they start to miss their rock and tool collections, they use their creative talents in another way in order to barter and get them back. Cavekid Birthday has a message about resourcefulness that encourages kids to think outside… well, the box.

The cartoon artwork is mostly earth-toned, with tonal greens and browns, and bright yellows and oranges that perk up the landscape. The characters are expressive and cute, and will keep readers interested. The storytelling leaves room for discussion throughout; ask the kids what they predict will happen when each Cavekid goes to the store, and what will happen when they unwrap each other’s gifts. A nice add to storytime collections.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Ellie, Engineer: a little MacGyver, a little Rosie Revere, for intermediate/middle graders

Ellie, Engineer, by Jackson Pearce, (Jan. 2018, Bloomsbury USA), $15.99, ISBN: 9781681195193

Recommended for readers 7-10

Ellie is a 9 year-old engineer: she can take darn near anything apart and make it something even cooler. Most of the time. When she sets out to make an amazing birthday gift for her best friend, Kit, she finds herself in the middle of a friendship mess: the girls normally don’t like the “jerk boys”, but Ellie’s discovered that they’re not so bad after all. So she works with each group in secret, hoping to avoid drama. Oops. Ellie has to get both groups talking to her again, and to each other, to finish Kit’s birthday present on time!

This is such a fun story about a positive female character who wears what she wants and does what she wants: she rocks a tool belt over her skirts and matches outfits with her best friend. She draws up her own blueprints and can make anything, from a water balloon launcher to a security system that will keep annoying little brother’s out of her friend’s room. Her best friend, Kit, is a pageant girl and ballet dancer who works right alongside Ellie, and the boys in the neighborhood enjoy a good tea party as much as they do a soccer game. Get it? They’re kids. They like to play. This whole story is about bringing boys and girls together under common interests, and it does so nicely. Girls will see themselves in Ellie, especially those who find themselves confused about whether or not girls *can* be friends with boys, or wonder if it’s okay to still like pretty dresses if they can rock a screwdriver. There are some laughs: Ellie’s got a few backfires, and a few successes that will make kids laugh, and the heart of the story – cooperation and friendship – is a gratifying message. Black and white illustrations showcase Ellie’s sketches for different projects, and a section at the end provides illustrations and a guide to basic tools for burgeoning builders and engineers. Give this to the kids who have grown out of Andrea Beaty’s Rosie Revere, Engineer; Iggy Peck, Architect; and Ada Twist, Scientist. Display and booktalk with the Girls Who Code and the Lucy’s Lab chapter books. Put out paper and ask kids to come up with their own plans – what do they want to make? Leave straws, pipe cleaners, cardboard, toothpicks, glue, marshmallows – anything the kids can build with – out and let the room have at it.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade

She’s full of glitter, she’s wielding a glue gun… She’s The Amazing Crafty Cat!

crafty-cat_1The Amazing Crafty Cat, by Charise Mericle Harper, (Apr. 2016, First Second), $13.99, ISBN: 9781626724860

Recommended for ages 7-10

Bridie is a little girl who loves, loves, LOVES to craft: so much, that she has an alter ego: the Amazing Crafty Cat! Crafty Cat can craft anything, anytime! Crafty Cat becomes Bridie again so she can go to school; she’s excited because it’s her birthday and she’s got special panda cupcakes for everyone during birthday break – even Anya, the class bully. She just knows these cupcakes will make her the school star… and then, Bridie falls, sending the cupcakes flying. She gets stains on her dress trying to pick up the cupcakes. Grandpa is supposed to come to the rescue, bringing something to hand out snack time, but that’s just a disaster. Things aren’t supposed to go wrong on her birthday! What is Bridie going to do? She’s got hungry classmates! Looks like a job for… THE AMAZING CRAFTY CAT.

The first book in the Fashion Kitty/Just Grace author’s new trilogy is just too much fun. There’s a great message about teaching kids resiliency and how to fall back on Plan B… and Plan C, if necessary. Plus, there are craft ideas and template at the end of the book! You know what I’m going to say… it’s a program in a book! Make Crafty Cat your next book talk/activity; do your scanning and photocopying ahead of time, and let your kids work on the crafts as you talk about things that went wrong for them (and you), and how you all bounced back from them. Such a fun addition to graphic novel and intermediate collections, you’ll never keep them on the shelf.  Now, we just need a Crafty Cat website with some videos…

crafty-cat_2crafty-cat_3crafty-cat_4crafty-cat_5

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Lucy and Company tells three sweet stories of friendship

lucyLucy and Company, by Marianne Dubuc, (Sept. 2016, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771386623

Recommended for ages 2-5

A young girl spends time in a forest with her animal friends, where they share food, celebrate a birthday, and help a bunch of baby chicks in three separate stories by author and illustrator Marianne Dubuc.

Marianne Dubuc’s books are loaded with special little elements for readers with a sharp eye. Here, it’s more an attention to detail rather than little winks here and there. The animals’ tiny playing cards are clear; the map in the beginning of the book matches up with a map detail in The Treasure Hunt. The animal companions are adorable and fun to spend time with, as is their human friend, Lucy. The stories are sweet and beginning readers and parents will love cuddling up together at storytime. Display this one with Little Bear and Winnie the Pooh to attract readers who love animal and human adventures. The shorter stories make this easy to split up for shorter storytimes and mix-and-match themes.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Tween Reads

Salem Hyde’s Back, and she’s making birthdays bigger and… well, interesting.

salem hydeThe Misadventures of Salem Hyde, Book Two: Big Birthday Bash, by Frank Cammuso (2014). Abrams Kids, $14.95, ISBN: 9781419710254

Recommended for ages 8-12

Fledgling witch Salem Hyde is back, along with her talking cat, Whammy (short for Percival J. Whamsford III). Whammy’s still trying to hold onto his remaining five lives as he helps Salem navigate her new magic powers. In Big Birthday Bash, Salem has a friend’s birthday party to attend, but the local Mean Girl is trying to one-up her gift. Will Salem use magic to come out on top? You know she will – the question is, what is going to happen next?

This is my first Salem Hyde book, and I enjoyed it so much that I’m going to go back and get the first one. The art is adorable; it’s cartoony, expressive, and fun. Salem is a kid who happens to be able to use magic; she’s having fun with it. She makes herself big, she shrinks other people down, she just wants to have a good time. Poor Whammy is great as her put-upon companion who ends up getting into his own trouble (wait until you get to the Slurpees) as he accompanies Salem on her travels. It’s a great story for younger readers, and the graphic novel format teaches sequence and pacing.

The book arrives in bookstores on May 20th, and I foresee this on a lot of summer reading lists. It’s a great read for girls and boys alike, although boys may shy away from the hot pink cover.

Frank Cammuso is the creator of the popular Knights of the Lunch Table series, and creates beginner graphic novels with Toon Books. His website provides contact information, author information, links to social media, and a store.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Book Review: Bumble-Ardy, by Maurice Sendak (HarperCollins, 2011)

bumble-ardyRecommended for ages 2-6

Beloved author Maurice Sendak’s Bumble-Ardy is inspired by a short, developed by Mr. Sendak and Jim Henson, for Sesame Street.

Bumble-Ardy is a young pig who has never had a birthday party because his family “frowned on fun”. When he was eight, his parents “got ate” and he went to live with his Aunt Adeline. Finally, for his ninth birthday, Aunt Adeline gives him a “hotsy tottsy cowboy costume” and leaves for work; Bumble decides to throw himself a masquerade birthday party that quickly escalates out of control, just as his aunt returns home from work. Sendak uses watercolors to illustrate his story, and the rapidly escalating party brings to mind the Wild Rumpus from Where The Wild Things Are.

The number nine is a major theme throughout the book: the party takes place at ten past nine; Aunt Adeline kisses Bumble-Ardy nine times over nine, and the number shows up in a great deal of  the artwork, from a birthday candle on Bumble’s cake to the signs partygoers make for the celebration.  Readers and listeners will enjoy the story of a little pig who wanted a birthday party so badly that he threw one for himself; they will also be reassured by the theme of forgiveness; Aunt Adeline can be angry, yet still kiss him  and tell him she loves him.

This would be a fun addition to a birthday-related read-aloud. I would set up the read-aloud like a birthday party, with mini-cupcakes rather than cake, and milk, and decorate the storytime area as I would for a birthday party, with streamers and a sign. I would ask if there were any birthday boys or girls in the room, and have birthday ribbons for any birthday children to wear. Singing the Happy Birthday is a must, and the Perry Public Library has a Happy Birthday theme that includes other birthday-related songs and rhymes. Bumble-Ardy would also be a fun book to use a flannel board with, particularly for the party scenes.