Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Hungry, Howly, Wolfboy!

Wolfboy, by Andy Harkness, (Feb. 2021, Bloomsbury Children’s Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781547604425

Ages 3-6

A fussy, drooly, growly Wolfboy storms through the forest, howling for rabbits. The rabbits scramble around in the background, evading him… but what happens when Wolfboy finally catches up with them? In this adorable, claymation-illustrated story, things aren’t what they seem. Award-winning art director Andy Harkness creates a funny, cumulative tale that will have little readers giggling and howling along with the hungry, hangry Wolfboy. Wolfboy is relatable to anyone – who doesn’t get cranky when they need something to eat? – but toddlers and preschoolers, who can turn from happy to hangry on the turn of a dime, will see themselves in the bright blue figure. Repetitive phrases and cumulative, emphasized words (“Hungry. Huffy. Drooly. Growly. Fussy.”) offer opportunities for readers to chime in. If you have the space, stomp and fuss along! Bold artwork features claymation figures that will delight littles. There’s gorgeous texture and bright color; story text is yellow and pops nicely against the black pages. Sentences are short, easy to read, and perfect for new and emerging readers. Absolute fun for storytime! If you have money for Play-Doh in your budget, consider little grab and go kits so storytime attendees can create their own Wolfboys and rabbits.

Wolfboy is an Indie Next choice and has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Black Lives, Black History

The Big Day, by Terry Lee Caruthers/Illustrated by Robert Casilla, (Oct. 2020, Star Bright Books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-59572-913-2

Ages 5-8

This celebration of suffrage and Black women voters is a fictionalized story of Agnes Sadler, the first Black woman to legally vote in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1919. Agnes, called Big Mama here, wakes her daughter Tansy up and urges her to get moving; today is a “big day”, after all. Tansy and Big Mama dress in their finest, get on the bus, and head to the polls; it’s voting day and women have the vote! A lovely tribute to Black women’s suffrage, Agnes and the other women voters proudly wear sashes; the Black women belong to the “Colored Women’s Political League”, and the white women wear “Votes for Women” sashes. The artwork is colorful, soft, and carries a beautiful, historic feel to it. Endpapers are made up of newspaper articles about women’s suffrage, and back matter provides more information about Agnes Sadler, women’s suffrage and Black women’s role in suffrage, and sources for further reading. A great introduction to Black women’s history, and a good picture book biography on a little-known figure in Black suffrage.

For more information about African American Women and the suffrage movement, visit the Suffragist Memorial, the Black Women’s Suffrage Digital Collection, and National Geographic.

A Voice Named Aretha, by Katheryn Russell-Brown/Illustrated by Laura Freeman, (Jan. 2020, Bloomsbury Kids USA), $17.99, ISBN: 9781681198507

Ages 5-8

All hail the Queen of Soul! This picture book biography on Aretha Franklin starts from her beginnings, singing in her father’s church choir through her singing for President Barack Obama (and bringing him to tears). Covering Aretha’s social justice work, Katheryn Russell-Brown notes that Aretha refused to perform for “whites only” audiences and her work with civil rights groups and philanthropy. Laura Freeman’s artwork brings Aretha Franklin to life with rich colors and passionate renderings; Aretha’s head thrown back as she sings and plays the piano at 12; clasping her hands to her chest as she belts out a song in the choir, and Barack Obama wiping a tear away as he listens to a lushly garbed Franklin sing onstage. Endpapers are a feast of vinyl and gold records on a deep purple background. Back matter provides more information about Aretha Franklin’s life and music and some of her hit songs. A must-have in your picture book biography section, this is an excellent introduction to a music and civil rights icon.

A Voice Named Aretha has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

 

William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad, by Don Tate, $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-56145-935-3

Ages 5-8

Written in free verse, Don Tate’s biography of William Still, abolitionist, member of the Underground Railroad, and archivist of stories that reunited families, is simply incredible. Born to former slaves living in New Jersey, William Still grew up with a desire to learn and a desire for justice. He moved to Philadelphia and worked with the Anti-Slavery Society, where he took on greater roles, ultimately becoming part of the Underground Railroad. When he reunited his long-lost brother with his family, Still began keeping extensive notes on the people he spoke with, leading to more reunions. The verse is concise but packs emotional punches, like this moment where he meets his brother, Peter: “The man was middle-aged. / Stooped back. Furrowed brow. / Threadbare clothes. / His name was Peter. / He was looking for his mother, his family.” Endpapers include excerpts from Still’s observations. Digital illustrations are emotional and expressive. Another must-have picture book biography. Publisher Peachtree has an excerpt, teacher’s guide, and poster on their website.

William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly.

 

 

Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield, by Susan Goldman Rubin/Illustrated by Richie Pope, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763679941

Ages 8-11

This intermediate picture book biography on Crimean War figure Mary Seacole, born in Kingston, Jamaica, begins with her childhood in Kingston, watching her healer mother care for soldiers with herbal remedies and hoping to be like her one day, through her own healing work with soldiers during the Crimean War and cholera patients in Panama. The book deep dives into the racism she encountered as a biracial woman, including a run-in with Florence Nightingale, who scoffed at her remedies and cures and refused her services. Drawn from Mary Seacole’s own writing, this biography is comprehensive for younger readers, with richly colorful and evocative illustrations. Back matter includes sources notes and a bibliography. An important biography for younger readers.

 

Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation, by Michael S. Bandy & Eric Stein/Illustrated by James E. Ransome, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763696504

Ages 6-8

Inspired by author Michael S. Bandy’s memories of taking the train as a child of color during segregation, Northbound tells the story of a boy of color and a white boy becoming friends on a train ride from Alabama to Cincinnati, amid the shifting segregation seating on the train. Young Michael boards the train and goes to the “colored only” section, but when the train leaves Atlanta, the signs come down and he’s free to roam the train. He meets Bobby Ray, a boy his own age and from his own town, and the two become instant friends. Once the train approaches Chattanooga, though, the signs go back up and the new friends are separated. A heart-rending story of separation and segregation, Northbound ends with a spark of hope. The story explains segregation in its most basic terms to children, and encourages discussion about how the story – and our past – parallels with our present. James A. Ransome’s watercolor and collage artwork creates splendid scenery as the train speeds along and the two boys become friends over the course of a train ride; moments of racism, as when the conductor leads Michael out of the “whites only” car when the train approaches Chattanooga, are emotional; the “whites only” harsh white sign stands out like an ugly scar across a lovely painting. An author’s note explains the Interstate Commerce Act and how segregation played into it.

Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

Posted in ALA Midwinter, Conferences & Events, picture books

Bloomsbury Book Buzz and the Free Library of Philadelphia at #ALAMW20

The first day of ALA Midwinter tends to be a little slow, so I was thrilled when my friend invited me to be her +1 at Bloomsbury’s Book Buzz, held at the Free Library of Philadelphia. I was planning on visiting the library during my Midwinter visit, so this was perfect! We got to enjoy the Our Five Senses exhibit, which included some beautiful picture book framed artwork and thought-provoking questions about the senses various art invoked in the kids.

Still one of my favorite storytime books: artwork from Aliki’s My Five Senses (1962).

 

A friendly, giant eyeball welcomes us to the exhibit.

Artwork from Angela Dominguez’s Maria Had a Little Llama (2013).

 

Sketches from Zachariah OHora’s Stop Snoring, Bernard! (2011), which is storytime GOLD.

 

Artwork from Lizi Boyd’s Flashlight (2014).

 

Ezra Jack Keats’s artwork for Ann McGovern’s Zoo, Where Are You? (1964)

 

Finally, it was time to go to the Book Buzz, where there were snacks! There were fun tattoos and swag bags for all, and we got to enjoy author Isaac Fitzgerald’s presentation about his book, How To Be a Pirate, and the four additional books being fêted.

I love this picture so much, but the actual photo it’s based on was underneath, and it is stunning.

The work that went into this book is incredible: look at the Google Image search, and look at how illustrator Laura Freeman used it to create this spread.

I love this series! Connie Schofield-Morrison and Frank Morrison are back with their upbeat young protagonist from I Got Rhythm and I Got the Christmas Spirit. Now, she’s showing readers her school spirit, and the artwork is just PERFECT.

I can’t even do this justice with photos. The artwork is gorgeous, with warm colors and the full run of facial expressions, from “Whoa, this school is big” to “I am not having this”. I love this relentlessly cheerful little girl and wish I could channel her positive energy every day.

A Way With Wild Things has the sweetest story of an introvert named Poppy, who will do anything to not stand out at family gatherings, including dressing like household fabrics… until she spies a gorgeous dragonfly at one backyard party. Sara Palacios’ artwork is just beautiful, and I love spotting Poppy in each spread. Didn’t get a photo of this spread, because I just couldn’t capture the textures in a way that made me happy with the photo.

This book is WAY too much fun. It’s a story about girls being pirates, about tattoos and their meanings, and love. The author and illustator are both tattooed and fantastic, and Isaac Fitzgerald’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. How To Be a Pirate reminds me a bit of 2016’s Tell Me a Tattoo Story, by Alison McGhee and Eliza Wheeler; I love the way each book illustrates the meanings we have behind our tattoos. Adorable, fun, and with gorgeous illustration with a definite tattoo flair.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Got a mystery? Fabio the World’s Great Flamingo Detective is on the case

Fabio: The Case of the Missing Hippo (Fabio the World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective), by Laura James/Illustrated by Emily Fox, (Aug. 2019, Bloomsbury USA) $16.99, ISBN: 9781547602179

Ages 7-10

Originally published in the UK in 2018, Fabio – a pink flamingo who bills himself as the World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective – and his sidekick a giraffe named Gilbert, are a mystery-solving duo whose first mystery involves a lavish hotel, a talent show, and a missing hippo. Fabio and Gilbert drop by the Hotel Royale to get a relaxing glass of pink lemonade, but end up stumbling into a mystery when Julia, a singing hippo, disappears right as she and her band start their jazz set at the hotel’s talent show tryouts. Fabio has a list of suspects, and using some old-fashioned detective work, he intends to save the day.

Fabio’s first adventure is an easy, fun read with humorous moments aplenty. The book is illustrated and 2- and 3-color artwork, with day-glo pink and green pages, and pink and green accents to the grey and white artwork. There are a host of animal characters with larger-than-life personalities, including a cranky vulture hotelier and his idealistic niece, a shifty snake, and a bossy rhino. Hot pink endpapers feature Fabio in a variety of poses. Fabio’s second adventure is publishing in the U.S. next year; this is a cute animal series and a fun change for your mystery buffs that have gone through your Boxcar Children, A to Z Mysteries, Cam Jansen, and more. Display this with Alex T. Smith’s Mr. Penguin series (Book 2 just came out; Book 3 is due next month) for your animal adventure readers.

There’s a free, downloadable activity pack available from the publisher, and author Laura James has loads of fun stuff to download from both Fabio books and her Pug series. Illustrator Emily Fox’s website also has fun downloadables, including Fabio goodies and her Monkey’s Sandwich and Elephant’s Pajamas books.

Posted in History, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Big nonfiction roundup!

I have been curating a pile of nonfiction over the last several weeks, ready to do a back to school post, but all these other great books started coming out, too… so, before this pile crushes me, let’s do this!

North America: A Fold-Out History, by Sarah Albee/Illlustrated by William Exley, (Oct. 2019, What on Earth Books), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1999967925

Ages 8-14

That What on Earth Books fold-out are so much fun! This time, we’ve got a fold-out graphic timeline of Canada, the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands, going from 11,000 BCE to 2017. It’s fully illustrated and offers a wealth of history on early indigenous peoples, including the Olmecs, Maya, Taino, and Aztec. European invasions are covered – first the Vikings; later, Columbus and the conquistadors – and American history covers much of the book’s second half. History is captured with dates and a brief blurb about standout moments, and callout boxes call attention to larger happenings, like the spreading out of humans across the land, and how European conflicts played out in North America. Back matter includes facts; glossary; source notes, and an index.

Not one for circulation – it’ll sustain damage quickly – but it’s a good reference tool and darn fun to have at home. My little guy loves these books.

Source: Bounce Marketing UK

 

Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys, by Mike Unwin/Illustrated by Jenni Desmond, (Aug. 2019, Bloomsbury USA), $18.99, ISBN: 9781547600977

Ages 9-13

Originally published in the UK, Migration profiles 20 different migrating animals, including the humpback whale; emperor penguin; ruby-throated hummingbird; blue wildebeest, and green turtle. Each spread contains acrylic, watercolor, ink, pencil and crayon illustrations of these animals, captured in the progress of their journeys. Some artwork gives an incredible breadth of scale, like the spread dedicated to the Christmas Island red crabs, which form a “river of crabs” as they march to the sea. Others, like the humpback whale, are a more personal journey shared between a mother and her calf. Each spread provides a migration story, which reads like an I Survived novel: crossing rivers; digging through snow for food; flying for miles to reach their destination; marching across an icy landscape. Each spread also offers a quick animal fact. Back matter includes a migration map and notes on making the world safer for migrating animals.

Animals of all shapes and sizes make epic journeys across our planet, through harsh weather, avoiding hungry predators, in their efforts to survive. Travel around the globe with some of the world’s most incredible animals and discover their unique migration stories. A nice addition to your nonfiction collections, especially if your books on migration are spare.

Mike Unwin is a UK Travel Writer of the Year, and Jenni Desmond is a winner of the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book, The Polar Bear. Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

 

National Geographic Kids Student World Atlas (Fifth Edition), (July 2019, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1426334795

Ages 8-12

This latest edition of this handy-dandy student reference has a wealth of facts, figures, and maps at your fingertips. There are over 100 maps, 70 incredible color photos, 50 charts and graphs with the latest data on climate change, the human footprint on our world, and most populous urban areas. Back matter includes an updated flags of the world section; a list of important websites on world resources, religions, languages, and quality of life; a glossary, thematic and place-name indexes, and more. If your budget allows for you to order two of these, do it: I like to keep one on hand at reference and put one into circulation. Along with the NatGeo Kids Almanac, you can’t go wrong with having these available for homework help.

 

1000 Facts About Ancient Egypt, by Nancy Honovich (February 2019, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1426332739

Ages 8-12

The 1000 Facts series from NatGeo Kids is almost as popular as the digest-sized Weird/Gross/Silly Facts books in my library. These are the books that prove that kids LOVE nonfiction! There are fast, bite-sized facts all about Ancient Egypt in this book: facts about the Egyptian gods and goddesses; facts about the Nile River; about making mummies and about the most famous mummy of them all, Tutankhamun; facts about inventions and temples; facts about hieroglyphics. There’s so much here, presented in compulsively readable, memorable chunks and illustrated with photos of artifacts. Back matter includes a glossary, a look at a tomb excavation, a timeline of Ancient Egyptian civilization, an index, and further resources. Have history fans? Is Ancient Egypt on the schools’ report list this year? Get this book on your shelf.

 

Walk This Underground World, by Kate Baker/Illustrated by Sam Brewster, (Oct. 2019, Big Picture Press), $19.95, ISBN: 978-1536208566

Ages 5-8

Lift the Flap fun! Readers can wander through underground worlds, from Montreal’s famous underground city to the ancient, underground tombs of Ancient Egypt. Wander the hidden natural world and see prairie dog dens, ant cities, and naked mole rat burrows. See Australian fortune hunters and Poland’s salt-rock mines; the bustling London Underground and the sleek underground train stations in Tokyo. There are 12 spreads with over 80 flaps to discover, making this a great gift book for the kiddos in your life. Definitely not going to last in circulation, but you could score a few copies for a program on underground ecosystems or travel.

That’s all for now – I have to get this copy of Walk This World back into my son’s room before he notices it’s gone!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Bear and Spider return in Bear Out There

Bear Out There, by Jacob Grant, (June 2019, Bloomsbury Children’s Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-68119-745-6

Ages 3-6

Bear and Spider’s newest adventure – the follow-up to 2018’s Bear’s Scare – sends the two friends on an outdoor hunt for Spider’s kite. Bear is just not an outdoorsy bear. Why bother? Everything he needs is inside! But Spider really wants to fly his new kite, so Bear relents and goes out for a little while. Spider’s kite gets pulled away by the wind, and Bear reluctantly offers to help him find the kite, but he complains the whole time, not noticing the nature all around him; focusing only on what he perceives as noise and weeds. When the rain comes, Bear is even more miserable, until he realizes that he hasn’t been a very supportive friend. He offers to help Spider keep looking, and sure enough, the rain stops and they locate Spider’s kite. The two friends end the day with a sweet compromise: they sit outdoors, having tea, and flying kites together.

As in his earlier story, Bear has a bad habit of not seeing what’s in front of him. His perception is skewed; something the art lets us readers in on as an inside joke. What he sees as “filthy ground, itchy plants, and pesky bugs”, we see as a sedate forest spread; what he sees as “yucky weeds”, we see as flowers that a turtle enjoys smelling; what he calls “noisy twitter” is the hooting of baby owls. Spider is there to be our “can you believe this guy?” foil, descending from his thread, wide-eyed and staring off the page, directly at us. At a rushing waterfall amidst gentle, rolling hills and butterflies, Bear’s exclamation of “such an unpleasant forest” is met with Spider, legs thrown up in the air in frustration. When Bear realizes he’s been selfish, letting his pessimism get in the way of helping his friend, things lighten up – literally; the rain stops falling and the kite is located. It’s all about perception, and friendship is all about compromise.

This one is a sweet follow-up, and reminds me of Arnold Lobel’s classic friends, Frog & Toad. Visit Jacob Grant’s website for more of his artwork and information about his books.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

This Grandparents Day, let your kids read the stories to their grands

Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family, by Elizabeth Zunon,
(May 2019, Bloomsbury USA), $17.99, ISBN:  978-1-68119-640-4
Ages 5-9

A girl and her father bake a cake and reminisce about “Grandpa Cacao” – her father’s father – and his life working on a cacao farm on the African Ivory Coast. Lush images come to life through Elizabeth Zunon’s oil paint, collage and screenprint artwork; there’s gorgeous texture and movement across the landscape, and Grandpa Cacao appears as a pale image, illustrating his existence as a “mythical figure” in the girl’s imagination. Inspired by the author’s own “Grandpa Cacao”, this is a heartwarming link across generations and celebrating the joy of creating together and uniting families. Back matter includes author’s notes and maps on the realities of the cacao trade, the sobering perseverance of child labor, and fair trade. There are notes on the science and history of chocolate, and a cake recipe to try with the kids.

Grandparents Day Idea: Talk to kids about their grandparents’ stories. Where are their grandparents from? Do they have memories of growing up to share? Does the family have any special recipes that have been handed down through generations?

 

Looking for Yesterday, by Alison Jay, (Aug. 2019, Candlewick Press),
$16.99, ISBN: 9781536204216
Ages 4-7

A young boy tries to use science to figure out how to travel back in time, so he can relive the great day he had the day before. When he asks his grandfather for advice, he learns that memories are great, but it’s exciting to look forward to the possibilities of adventure in the here and now. Alison Jay gives her character a wonderfully childlike reasoning process – yesterday was so great, let’s try to get back there and live it again! – and has him go through the motions of working on the science to make it happen; her crackled oil artwork giving a vintage-looking life to the story. As the boy calculates going faster than light speed, we see his mind at work: he’s flying around the world, wearing a cape; using a time machine that looks like a giant unicycle; configuring a garbage can into a rocket. The boy’s grandfather walks him through a photo album as he recounts the past, drawing the boy into his adventures as the two fly on a scrapbook to see mountain tops, whales, and hot air balloons. The grandfather-grandson relationship is warm and loving, communicated with warm colors and body language. A great book to encourage kids to seize the day.

Grandparents Day Idea: Get out the photo albums and show kids your adventures! Show them your childhoods, talk to them about playing with your friends; going to school; exciting and ordinary things you did as a child. See how things are different, and how things are the same.

 

My Grandma and Me, by Mina Javaherbin, (Aug. 2019, Candlewick Press),
$16.99, ISBN: 9780763694944
Ages 4-8

This autobiographical story of a the author as a young girl and her grandmother, living in pre-revolutionary Iran, brought me to tears with it beautiful storytelling. The opening line – “In this big universe full of many moons, I have traveled and seen many wonders, but I have never loved anything or anyone the way I love my grandma” – poetically brings to life that everlasting love between grandparents and their grandchildren. Mira Javaherbin invites us to glimpse into her life as we see her lay across her grandmother during morning prayer; send down baskets to buy bread from the boy on his bicycle, bread piled high in a basket; waiting for her grandmother to break fast during Ramadan, so she can eat with her; hiding under a table strewn with her grandmother’s chadors, as she “helps” her make news ones. Lindsey Yankey’s mixed media illustrations create a cozy, welcoming space for us to spend time reading Mina’s story. Mina’s best friend and her grandmother are Christian; Mina and her grandmother are Muslim. The two girls play together while their grandmothers craft and enjoy each other’s company; each goes to their own house of worship and prays for the other. It’s a quietly strong celebration of two cultures, two faiths, living and playing together. With starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, this loving look at the relationship between grandmother and granddaughter is a perfect gift book and storytime book.

Grandparents Day Idea: Do you have memories of your grandparents that you’d like to share with your kids? Talk to your kids about spending time with your grandparents as a child, or as an adult, if you have stories to tell. Ask them what they like to do when they’re with grandparents. Do they like to play board games together? Do they read together?
Around the Table that Grandad Built, by Melanie Hauser Hill/Illustrated by Jaime Kim, (Sept. 2019, Candlewick),
$16.99, ISBN: 9780763697846
Ages 3-7
A sweet take on the classic cumulative story, The House that Jack Built, this heartwarming story assembles a multicultural family for a celebration centering around a table that Grandad built. Each part of the celebration is warm, inclusive, and participatory: cousins gather sunflowers; Mom’s sewn napkins that go with the dishes; glasses come from Mom and Dad’s wedding, and flatware comes from Dad’s grandma, all coming together to create a global table where the family enjoys squash, tamales, samosas, and other tasty fare, all prepared by members of the family. It’s a celebration of family steeped in tradition, linked across generations. The acrylic, crayon, and digital artwork adds to the handmade feel of the story and is rendered with bright primary colors, making this an upbeat story that will work for any family gathering. (Definitely keep this one on hand for Thanksgiving.)
Grandparents Day idea: Prepare a favorite dish with your grandkids, or create something with them. If you have little ones, try a no-sew project, or consider a craft that brings your generations together – handprints are always a good choice, and you can easily take some inspiration from the choices out there, while making it your own.
Grandpa’s Top Threes, by Wendy Meddour/Illustrated by Daniel Egnéus, (Sept. 2019, Candlewick),
$16.99, ISBN: 9781536211252
Ages 3-6
Henry loves to talk to his Grandpa, but Grandpa hasn’t been talking much these days; preferring instead to silently work on his garden. When Henry nudges Grandpa by indulging in his favorite game – Top Threes – Grandpa finally starts talking, giving thoughtful answers that ultimately rebuild the bridge between them. And then we find out what’s really going on: Grandpa is mourning Granny. In a moment that’s at once touching and heartbreaking, Henry asks Grandpa who his three favorite Grannies are, citing his favorites as his two grandmothers, plus the granny from Red Riding Hood. Grandpa recounts his favorite three memories of Granny as his three favorites, including the Granny that first held Baby Henry. The simple, moving prose is eloquent and full of feeling; full of aching and loss, and yet, instilled with deep affection and love for a grandchild and for a spouse. A beautiful, tender story that you may need a tissue or two for, but one not to be missed. Daniel Egnéus’s watercolor illustrations are digitally assembled, giving a mixed media, textured feel to the layers of the story with each turn of the page. Make this one available to kids who have lost a grandparent, and encourage them to talk about their Top Threes.
Grandparents Day idea: Talk about your Top Three moments; Top Three grandmas and grandpas, or Top Three anything.
Our Favorite Day, by JoowonOh, (Sept. 2019, Candlewick Press),
$16.99, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0357-8
Ages 3-6
Grandpa has a routine he keeps to: a morning cup of tea, some light housework, and a bus ride into town, where he has lunch at his favorite dumpling shop, but Thursday is the best day of the week for Grandpa and his young granddaughter. It’s their day, and Grandpa is making sure it’s a good one! He chooses some crafting materials at a craft shop on his trip to town, gets two orders of dumplings to go, picks some flowers, and is ready to greet his granddaughter with a hug when she bounds out of the car! Together, the two enjoy their lunch, make a kite, and head out to fly it. With a narrative consisting of both omniscient narration and word-balloons, this adorably illustrated story is a wonderful way to celebrate grandparents and grandkids spending time together, and illustrates how important each is to the other. Grandpa has his own routine, but he lives for those Thursdays; he’s ready and waiting for his best buddy to arrive, and she can’t wait to get there. The affection and time they spend together is heartwarming and shows the mutual benefits of a multigenerational relationship. Joonwon On’s watercolor, gouache, and cut paper artwork creates texture and a scrapbook-like environment to envelop the reader. An absolutely adorable, touching story of grandparents and their grandkids.
Grandparents Day Idea: Craft together! Make a fun project together: it can be a kite, like the story shows, but it can be as easy as coloring together. I used to save a bag of fabric scraps from old clothes; when my Nana came to visit, I’d dump the bag on the table, and we’d make clothes for my dolls together. The craft doesn’t matter; the time you spend together does.
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Counting, Colors, and Animals Eating – Concept Fun!

Two fun picture books give kids the giggles while inviting them to count, call out colors, and animals!

One Shoe Two Shoes, by Caryl Hart/Illustrated by Edward Underwood, (July 2019, Bloomsbury USA), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-5476-0094-6

Ages 3-6

A dog and a bunch of curious mice explore all the shoes in their world in this adorable rhyming story. The rhyming pattern reminds me of Dr. Seuss’ classic, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish – “Old shoes/New shoes/On their way to school shoes” – minus the wacky, new words. The pup notices shoes all around, both inside and outside the home, when…. wait! There are two mice, making a home in a pair of shoes! A few more scramble by the dog, and before you can say “shoelace”, there are 10 mice, all making their homes in various sneakers, skates, and boots.

Originally published in the UK in 2018, this is an absolutely fun concept book that would work nicely with felt board accompaniment. The pencil, ink, and digital collage artwork is bold and bright, with primary colors and bold black fonts. The endpapers are loaded with footwear. The rhyming, counting, and colors in this book make it a multitasker for concepts, making this a good add to your concept bookshelves and storytimes. Pair with Hart and Underwood’s companion picture book, Big Box Little Box for more concept fun!

Visit author Caryl Hart’s webpage for info about visits and, for aspiring writers, mentorship! Illustrator Edward Underwood features more of his artwork on his Instagram.

What Does an Anteater Eat?, by Ross Collins, (July 2019, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0591-6

Ages 3-6

Anteater wakes up hungry, but there’s a bit of a problem. What does an anteater eat? He sets off to find out, asking sloths, snakes, bats, and cheetahs he encounters on his exploratory walk, all with different results. The book is one hilarious inside joke – we know what the anteater eats, and it’s a good bet that the ants scurrying across each spread in the story do, too – presented in Q&A format. The anteater asks every new animal he meets what anteaters eat, and the animals’ responses are colored by their experiences: the snake, belly bulging with its latest meal, cautions the anteater to chew its food; the cheetah hungrily eyes the anteater. The anteater’s questions are in bold font; the responses, in italics, signaling the chance in voice to your audience. The adorable, funny ending makes the book a storytime winner for toddlers and preschoolers.

Originally published in the UK in 2018, What Does an Anteater Eat? has the playfulness that make Ross Collins’ books so much fun to read. This one is another great candidate for felt board storytelling or puppet accompaniment. Collins’ artwork is cartoony and entertaining with a playful sense of joy added to each spread. The endpapers are in on the story’s joke, starting with an ant crawling across the front endpapers, and finishing with a pile of banana peels.

This one is a storytime winner. Ross Collins’ author webpage includes info about his books, and provides free, printable posters of his book covers and a few activity sheets.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Buggy Books!

It’s summer, and there are bugs. Why not talk about a couple of great bug books that have hit shelves recently?

Firefly Home, by Jane Clarke/Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup, (June 2019, Nosy Crow), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0587-9

Ages 3-6

This book is ADORABLE. It’s also perfect for a storytime readaloud, as it’s very interactive. Little Florence Firefly is lost, and there are so many bright lights around her will she ever get home? That’s up to you and your readers, because this sweet little story is loaded with reader prompts to help Florence: flapping hands to show Florence how to fly fast, turning pages, making wishes are just a few of the ways readers can help Florence get back to her home. The text is made up of short sentences, with questions on each page, inviting readers to get involved. This is just too much fun to read out loud! Brita Teckentrup’s artwork is always a pleasure to enjoy; here, her digital artwork creates a sweet little firefly with a bright yellow light, with deep nighttime blues and muted colorful flowers and leaves throughout. House, train, and streetlights are bright and bold, matching our little firefly’s light.

This one is a must-buy, must-read. Let your kids make a firefly craft with this template, and use yellow tissue paper for the tail!

 

Moth: An Evolution Story, by Isabel Thomas/Illustrated by Daniel Egnéus, (June 2019, Bloomsbury Children’s Books), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-5476-0020-5

Ages 5-8

This stunning book tells the story of the peppered moth and its evolution, and humanity’s intervention in the process. Originally, peppered moths emerged as light with dark speckling; dark moths were easier to spot against trees and were easy prey. But as humans created factories and machines, spewing pollution into the air, the branches moths sought out became blackened with soot, putting light peppered moths at the mercy of birds, bats, and other predators. But wait! We’ve gotten better! We’ve cleaned up our world, and the trees and surroundings have gotten cleaner again! The moths adapted once again, passing their speckled wings onto new generations. Moth is a powerful story of change and hope for the future, seen through the evolution of a single species directly affected by us.

This is one of the most visually stunning books I’ve read this year. Mixed media illustrations create gorgeous texture, and the moths seem to emerge from the pages in an almost dreamlike fashion. The factories and towers look menacing, silhouetted against grey and black skies; as humanity works to heal the earth, hopeful blue skies break through the gloom. The art and text together create a dramatic, emotionally powerful experience. Originally released in the UK last year, Moth has just hit U.S. shelves and is perfect to supplement a unit on evolution, environmentalism, and conservation.

Posted in Espionage, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Can You Crack the Code? makes codebreakers out of your readers

Can You Crack the Code? A Fascinating History of Ciphers and Cryptography, by Ella Schwartz/Illustrated by Lily Williams, (March 2019, Bloomsbury USA), $21.99, ISBN: 9781681195148

Ages 10-13

Three years ago, I held a great, week-long Spy program at my library for Summer Reading. The kids went berserk for it; I had a blast planning and running it, and books like Can You Crack the Code? make me think it might be time to hold a program like that again. Ella Schwartz has come up with a nice history of codes, code names, and cryptography for middle graders, with loads of pictures, informative sidebars, and activities to keep readers on their toes. Famous moments in cryptography history include the Caesar Cipher, invented by Julius Caesar, the Arnold Cipher, used by the infamous Benedict Arnold, and the Enigma machine, used by the Germans during World War II; the machine that gave them the upper hand until a team of British codebreakers at Bletchley Park finally broke the code (shout-out to computer scientist and codebreaker Alan Turing). Want to know why you have to generate a strong password, obnoxious as it may be? Check out the “Can You Hack the Bank?” activity and you’ll be changing all of your passwords. A final challenge has readers going through the book to solve one last cipher. There’s a comprehensive bibliography and the book is indexed, making this a nice volume to have on your shelves.

Display this with the Book Scavenger series, the Mr. Lemoncello’s Library books, the Secret Coders graphic novels, and – naturally! – the Girls Who Code books, both fiction and nonfiction. Brightly has a good post on fiction with puzzles and codes.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to revisit some of my old Summer Reading plans… I know this year’s theme is A Universe of Stories; maybe I’ll just use some codes to send them into space! Great escape room ideas in here, too. All around fun for your brain-teaser-loving readers.