Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

A gift for every learner!

It’s that time of year, expect the gift guides to be coming at you fast and furious. Let’s see what’s making my lists this year.

Mercury: 100 Piece Puzzle (Featuring Photography from the Archives at NASA), (Aug. 2021, Chronicle Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781797210346

Ages 6+

Puzzle fans, astronomy fans, science fans, everyone will love the next planetary puzzle from Chronicle Books. Mercury is the newest 100-piece puzzle using photography from the Archives at NASA, a follow-up to April’s Earth puzzle (which my kid and I still haven’t solved). It’s a beautiful photo of Mercury, and it is huge: 2 1/2 feet in diameter, so clear off a table for Thanksgiving/holiday gatherings and let the family and friends have at it. Puzzle pieces are sturdy, and they’re a good size, inviting little hands to help out, too. It’s a round puzzle, so you can somewhat figure out the outside of Mercury, but don’t forget: it’s a photo, so have fun trying to figure out which crater is goes where (G, my kiddo, and I are still arguing over them).

 

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! An Animal Poem for Each Day of the Year, selected by Fiona Waters/Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup, (Oct. 2021, Nosy Crow), $40.00, ISBN: 9781536217186

Ages 3-8

This is a beautiful collection of animal poems for readers, poetry fans, and animal lovers. There are 366 poems – one for every day, including Leap Year – organized by month. Each month begins with a table of contents that lays out each poem and author by day. The spreads are beautiful and the poems are related on each spread, giving a feeling of cohesion. January 1-3 have poems about polar bears; 4-5 about whales; the action moves through the days, with spreads turning to sheepdogs on guard, wolves, and more. Britta Teckentrup’s artwork is just beautiful, with cold, quiet winter spreads moving into warm, home interiors; crocodiles lurk on one spread, gazelles leap through grass in another. Colorful, not overwhelming, the artwork brings the ideas in each poem to life. Endpapers offer lush, green leaves, inviting us in, and closing their doors behind us. Read a few a time, or savor them day by day.

 

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame/Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith, (Nov. 2021, Templar Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536219999

Ages 7-12

The classic children’s novel gets a gift hardcover release just in time for the holidays! If you’ve never read The Wind in the Willows, you’re missing out. The adventures of Mr. Toad, Mole, Ratty, and Badger have been delighting readers since its publication in 1908. This hardcover gift version has illustrations from Kate Greenway Medal winner Grahame Baker-Smith that give gorgeous life to the story; some are sepia-toned, some rendered in shades of blue, green, or brown, some in rich, warm, earth colors. The cloth cover looks like a copy of the book I found on my own public library’s shelves a lifetime ago; just running my hand over the cover brought back memories of sitting down with it and wandering into Mr. Toad’s magic world. Give this to a younger reader, give it to a grownup who needs to go back in time, even if just for a moment.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Board Books for Babies: Great gift ideas, super easy to wrap

What’s easier to wrap than a board book, I ask you? They’re basically the perfect little gift: sturdy, easy to wrap, easily slipped into a stocking or into a diaper bag. Enjoy some of these adorable gift ideas!

Circle Under Berry, by Carter Higgins, (Sept. 2021, Chronicle Books), $15.99, ISBN: 9781797205083

Ages 2-4

There’s something new to read and discover every time you open this concept book that’s a little bit Eric Carle, a little bit Orange Triangle Fox. Colorful collage shapes, animals, and objects greet readers on each page, concept words illustrating the ideas of over and under; side by side, and in between. A circle is under a berry, but that berry is also over a square; it’s all about the way you look at things, arrange things, see things. The words have a great rhythm and make for a fun readaloud. Ask readers what they see: what’s over? What’s under? What’s in between? Call out colors and shapes; do you see an animal? A house? Can you discover a pattern? The book celebrates discovery, with vibrant collage artwork on each page, coming alive off of a bright white page.

Visit Carter Higgins’s author webpage for free resources, including Circle Under Berry flashcards.

Circle Under Berry has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

 

 

Mr. Lion’s New Hair!, by Britta Teckentrup, (Aug. 2021, Twirl Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9791036328619

Ages 2-5

Mr. Lion is having a bad hair day! His friend, Mr. Monkey, is ready to lend a hand in this hilariously adorable die-cut board book. Readers can follow the pages to see Mr. Lion try on different hairstyles: from curlers to pigtails, going from blond to a redhead; maybe a tiara will do? The companion to Mr. Lion Dresses Up (2020), little learners will love turning the pages as Mr. Lion sports different styles, trying to find his best look. Keep an eye on Mr. Lion’s tail: some styles go from head to toe for extra giggles. Mr. Monkey is having as much fun with the story as the readers will; Mr. Lion looks a little unsure, but ready to give it his best. Monkey, ever the good friend, lets Mr. Lion know that ultimately, style has nothing to do with what’s on the outside: Mr. Lion, like each reader, is best the way he is.

I love Britta Teckentrup’s artwork and storytelling. This will be seeing a lot of action in my board book area. Whether you’re reading this at a storytime or giving as a gift, consider a fun activity to include: Toddler At Play has a very cute hair cutting activity; Laughing Kids Learn puts a colorful spin on the haircutting exercise, and My Bored Toddler has the quickest, easiest hair cutting activity that requires only a paper plate, a crayon or marker, and a pair of safety scissors.

 

 

Active ABC: Beginning Baby, by Chronicle Books, (Sept. 2021, Chronicle Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9781797203683

Ages 0-3

The Beginning Baby animal friends demonstrate verbs in this interactive abcedary with die-cut letters to help little fingers trace uppercase and lowercase letters. Filled with action words, the book’s characters also model good behavior: “A” for “ask” shows Narwhal asking Llama to play with blocks; “B” for “begin” shows the two building something together. The die cut letters have colorful patterns, setting them off from the bright white page while complementing the animal artwork. A green striped “L” pairs nicely with Narwhal’s striped t-shirt; blue triangles for “M” look like the shapes Llama makes, cutting out paper dolls. The ever-troublesome X isn’t all about the usual X-rays or Xylophones; rather, Fox, meditates on a carpet and eXhales. Toddlers will love the sheer discoveries waiting in the book; threeschoolers will enjoy pointing out what each of the animals are doing; maybe even crafting a story using the new vocabulary words here. Point out colors and shapes with your readers, let them trace letters over and over again: this is an abcedary that works overtime.

 

 

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Book bundle: Back-to-School Strong

I’m back after a brief staycation! How’s everyone doing? I needed to get some time before my little guy goes back to school, and help get my teen settled for his first week of college. I thought I’d start off my grand return with some books about feelings, emotions, and inner strength as our kids head back to school, so let’s see what we’ve got.

Born to Sparkle : A Story About Achieving Your Dreams, by Megan Bomgaars/Illustrated by Pete Olczyk, (Sept. 2021, Flowerpot Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9781486721108

Ages 5-8

Megan Bomgaars, a leading Down syndrome spokesperson, artist, and star of A&E’s reality TV show Born This Way, gave a powerful speech in 2010 called “Don’t Limit Me”, which inspired this book about working hard and finding your sparkle. It is unshakeable in its upbeat tone, filled with inspiring thoughts for readers: “You can sparkle. / There are no limits. / Anything is possible. / Don’t limit yourself”. The important thing here is that Megan Bomgaars follows through and lets readers know that you have to work for it, nothing that “dreams are not like wishes. You can’t just wish upon a star and then wait”, letting readers know that there are no limits but those which we place on ourselves. Colorful illustrations show a cartoony group of jungle animal friends supporting a young lioness who wants to share her sparkle and be a singer. Sparkly endpapers and a glittered texture cover make this an eye-catching, texture-friendly book for young readers, and a great storytime read. Kids starting the new school year could use this wonderful dose of encouragement.

Learn more about Megan Bomgaars by visiting her Instagram page @meganbomgaars.

 

Be Strong, Pat Zietlow Miller/Illustrated by Jen Hill, (Aug. 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN 9781250221117
Ages 3-6
Tanisha, a young girl of color, faces down the rock-climbing wall at school. Her friend Cayla can easily climb it, but Tanisha struggles doesn’t reach the top. This gets her thinking about strength and what her family says about strength. Different members of her family see strength in different ways, from showing up to help neighbors, speaking up to make changes where you see problems, and never giving up. Tanisha mulls this advice over and decides to be strong: she helps other kids at school, whether with classwork or with feeling lonely; she takes up playing an instrument, and keeps practicing. She also understands that being strong also means accepting a helping hand, because “when I’m not strong enough alone, I can be strong with someone else”. A powerful, eloquent statement for kids to hear, Be Strong is the companion book to Pat Zietlow Miller and Jen Hill’s 2018 book, Be Kind and is an essential for preschool and early classrooms.
Teaching children that strength takes so many forms – including knowing when to ask for help! – is an important and necessary lesson in creating strong, kind future adults. Gouache artwork shows a diverse group of people helping one another: a neighborhood comes together to help families who have lost their homes and lobby for safer streets. Illustrations show that doing the right thing isn’t always the easy decision, as we see Tanisha watch friends play outside as she stays indoors during recess, helping friends with math work. Images like this are so important, because we know that sometimes we’re split in what we want to do versus what we know we should do: it’s honest and affirming to see images like this, and know that Tanisha made the truly selfless decision to show up for what she knows is being kind and strong. Great for starting discussions, Be Strong is a great book for getting the school year off to a strong start.
Be Strong has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster, by Manka Kasha, (Sept. 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250618795
Ages 4-7
A Small Knight feels pressured by their parents to be a perfect princess, but that’s not what they see for themselves. They want to go on adventures with their Teddy Bear! Worrying about how to explain this to their parents brings on an Anxiety Monster that follows Small Knight everywhere until the Knight and Teddy realize that they have to save themselves on this one. They set off on a journey and discover that the answer to defeating the Monster lies inside themself.
This is such a good book for kids to see: a nonbinary child lets all children see themselves in Small Knight’s place; the scribbly menacing anxiety monster that only Knight and Teddy can see – and that parents dismiss as imagination or “just part of being a princess” – understands that kids feel unheard or told to just endure some things as “part of childhood”; the understanding that the key to defeating the monster lies with Knight believing in themselves to call out the monster lets kids know that they have all the tools they need to beat their own anxiety monsters, no matter what those forms take. Told as a fairy tale, the watercolor and ink illustrations give us softly colored kings and queens, an adorable knight with a soft blue shirt, helm, and sword, and an anxiety  monster that kids can draw on their own and defeat in any type of class or library exercise. The artwork shows us a young hero on their journey, and it’s a hero that all kids can look up to.
Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster is a Kids’ Indie Next List Pick.
When I See Red, by Britta Teckentrup, (Sept. 2021, Prestel Junior), $14.95, ISBN: 9783791374949
Ages 3-5
A beautiful and moving meditation on anger by Britta Teckentrup, When I See Red takes readers through a young girl’s anger from beginning to end. In verse, we view her anger as a storm, untamed; the artwork dramatically whirling and spinning our heroine in the middle of her own emotional storm. She roars at the sea, her anger giving rise to tornadoes and hurricanes; we understand that anger can be a force for confidence as we see her rage propel her above the waves, allowing her to stand tall. When I See Red is about the cleansing power of unbottling rage, using one’s words, not forcing things down where they can hurt us (or unleash our own anxiety monsters!). Beautiful verses weave the girl’s anger into something powerful, propelling her forward, until, anger spent, her “monsters and dragons have disappeared”. Rage as a journey and a tool for moving forward, this is an excellent book to explain the power of positive self-expression for preschoolers and kindergarteners.
Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Earth Day: Loving the Animals!

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

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

Ages 4-8

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

Masters of Disguise has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

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

Ages 6-9

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

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

Board Books, Board Books, Board Books!

There’s a whole bunch of great board books out, and I love it!

Cat & Mouse, by Britta Teckentrup, (March 2019, Prestel Publishing), $14.95, ISBN: 978-3-7913-7374-4

Ages 0-4

This die-cut, rhyming book is adorable! A cat and mouse play a game of hide and seek, with die-cut squares on each page letting little ones find the mouse, and explore with their fingers as well as their eyes and ears, as they go along. Cat and mouse wreak havoc across each spread, upending furniture and running up and down stairs: will the cat catch the mouse? I read this to my storytime group and wiggled fingers through the squares, let the little ones peek through the holes, and stuck my nose through one or two to mimic a cat sniffing for a mouse, all to tremendous giggles. This is an adorable storytime read, and a great pick for sensory and explorative reading. The artwork is loaded with shapes and colors to identify, making this a book you can really engage your little ones with.

 

Who is Afraid of Little Wolf?, by Yayo Kawamura, (Apr. 2019, Prestel Publishing), $12.95, ISBN: 978-3-7913-7381-2

Ages 0-3

Little Wolf is bored and wants to play, but it seems like no one wants to play with him: the squirrel, rabbit, and fox all tell him their moms won’t let them play with wolves! Just when Little Wolf starts to cry, a little bee invites him to play. Seeing Wolf and Bee play together, the other animals realize that there’s nothing to be afraid of, and join the game. At sunset, Little Wolf and his new group of friends sit in a cuddled group, enjoying one another’s company after a big day of playing hide and seek. A sweet, simple story about overcoming prejudice, Who is Afraid of Little Wolf is a story that has a big message for little eyes and ears. Bold, colorful artwork and friendly animal faces make this instantly appealing to young readers and listeners, and gives a face to the fallout of predetermined ideas.

 

I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0757-6

Ages 2-5

This is one of my favorite picture books of ALL TIME, and now it’s available in board book form! The darkly hysterical tale of a bear, a hare, and a hat is complete here; just in smaller format for littler fingers. The illustrations are beautifully, perfectly recreated here. My 6-year-old asked me if this was a “backpack copy” for him to bring to school, and darned if I didn’t say, “Wow… you may be onto something here”. Start your younger readers off right: give them Jon Klassen board books! (PLEASE say we’ll be getting Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Triangle, Square, and Circle trilogy in board book at some point!)

Do you have crafts after storytime? Use this free, downloadable activity kit to let the kids make their own red hat, recreate their own forest story scene, and more.

 

Wild Bios: Frida Catlo, by Courtney Acampora & Maggie Fischer/Illustrated by Lindsay Dale-Scott, (Jan. 2019, Silver Dolphin Books), $7.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-558-6

Ages 2-5

This is the cutest new board book series! Wild Bios puts an “animalistic twist” onto famous figure biographies by adding cute animals and wink, nudge puns to the biographical text. Here, we’ve got artist Frida Kahlo’s life with a feline spin: Frida Catlo was born in Meowixco City, painted self-pawtraits, and married fellow artist Doggo Rivera. A sweet way to introduce art to your little ones (I think it’s time for me to revisit my Art Storytime) and the puns will keep older siblings and adult caregivers chuckling at storytime. The bright, festive artwork is fun to look at, and Frida’s even got a little unibrow. Make sure to mention that Friday Kahlo loved animals – display and booktalk Monica Brown’s Friday Kahlo and Her Animalitos handy. Let the little ones draw afterward!

 

The Story of Rock, by the Editors of Caterpillar Books/Illustrated by Lindsey Sagar, (May 2019, Silver Dolphin Books), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-509-8

Ages 0-5

Perfect for music storytime, this rhyming look at the history of rock music starts – as it should! – with rock’s roots in blues and features some of the most iconic names in rock history, including Chuck Berry, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Queen, the Ramones, and more. The blues, through the rockabilly ’50s, the psychadelic ’60s, punk, hair metal, grunge, and ska are all here, with sweetly illustrated, friendly faces and instruments. Add this to your music shelf with board books like What is Punk?, Brandon Stousy’s What is Music? and We Are Music, Amazing Me! Music, by Carol Thompson, and Baby Loves to Rock! by Wednesday Kirwan.

 

The Story of Rap, by the Editors of Caterpillar Books/Illustrated by Lindsey Sagar, (May 2019, Silver Dolphin Books), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-508-1

Ages 0-5

A companion to The Story of Rock, The Story of Rap starts off with rap’s beginning at a New York house party in 1973 and explains the genre’s sound: big bass, spoken word rhyme. Learn about rap icons, from Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC, and NWA; the protests, the East vs. West battle, and modern figures, including Jay-Z, and Kendrick Lamar. The emphasis on soul and social justice is here, and like the books says: “Rap is for the people, just like from the start, it’s more than music: it’s a work of heart”. The artwork is identical to The Story of Rock, with soft, cute, friendly faces and urban street wear; there’s some breakdancing, mixing and scratching at the turntables, and female representation (Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott are here, but where’s Queen Latifah?). Add this to your music board books, and keep up your readers’ music education.

 

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Birds and Their Feathers brings art and STEM together

Birds and Their Feathers, by Britta Teckentrup, (March 2018, Prestel), $16.95, ISBN: 9783791373355

Ages 6+

It’s always wonderful when art and science come together to show us the world in all of its natural beauty. Britta Tecktentrup’s Birds and Their Feathers is a stunning example. The book introduces readers to the science of plumology – bird feather science, or plumage science. If this is a new term for you, you’re not alone; this is a branch of ornithology that I wasn’t aware of, either! The book beautifully blends fascinating facts about plumage and birds with breathtaking artwork to give readers a wonderful introduction to this area of the natural world, with spreads dedicated to the structure and development of the feather; types and colors of feathers (they all have their own jobs!) and wings, human usage of the feather, and how humankind was so inspired by the feather, we used it to take flight on our own.

The artwork is quietly breathtaking, using earth tones and collage artwork to create soft, yet dramatic, pictures of birds and their plumage. The endpapers are covered with feather artwork so realistic, you’ll swear you can feel their softness under your fingertips. The writing is never overwhelming; rather, each page has anywhere from a few lines to a handful of paragraphs dedicated to its topic, with facts like: “The inside of a feather needs colours that help protect it and keep it durable. Such colours may include red and yellow, which can prevent bacteria from harming the feather”; “Some birds can make different sounds generated by their feathers”; and “Some fish-eating birds eat their own feathers to line their stomachs, which protects them from sharp fish bones”. This book is perfect for kids and grown-ups alike.

Perfect for a nature study or STEM project, Birds and Their Feathers is a must-add to your nonfiction shelves. Get your readers working with feathers to make their own art, and if you can find a feather or two to show off the parts of a feather up close (wear gloves if you get this from outside!), even better. I’d use this in my Discovery Club in a second. Birds and Their Feathers has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

 

 

Feathers: Not Just for Flying, by Melissa Stewart/Illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen – Science picture book on how different birds use their feathers.

Feather, by Cao Wenxuan/Illustrated by Roger Mello, Translated by Chloe Garcia-Roberts – A fable about a feather trying to find its origin.