Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Hope is an Arrow introduces children to Khalil Gibran

Hope Is an Arrow : The Story of Lebanese-American Poet Khalil Gibran, by Cory McCarthy/Illustrated by Ekua Holmes, (July 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536200324

Ages 6-9

Many adult readers discovered Khalil Gibran through his work, The Prophet (1923). Hope is an Arrow seeks to expand Gibran’s reach and introduce young readers to the poet through this evocative picture book biography, with his poetry sprinkled throughout his story. Gibran began life in Lebanon, a country experiencing religious conflict; his family left Lebanon and settled in Boston, where they experienced prejudice, leading the young poet to begin expressing himself through art. As he travels between Boston and Lebanon, his desire to unite people, born out of the conflict he experienced in both his home country and his adopted one, led him to find his voice in poetry. Hope is an Arrow reads like poetry, with phrases like “…they sailed the deeper, darker Atlantic Ocean, which murmured like a giant in its sleep” describing the Gibran family’s journey to the United States, and “…his words still fly across the world, in more than forty different languages and through many crashing winds, to bring all who read them straight to the heart of hope”. Ekua Holmes’s collage and acrylic artwork create dynamic spreads. Comprehensive back matter includes source notes, additional information on Khalil Gibran’s life, and a bibliography. A gorgeous biography for collections and an excellent starting point to discuss social and religious conflict.

Hope is an Arrow has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and The Horn Book.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Spend a relaxing read At the Pond

At the Pond, by David Elliott/Illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford, (May 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536205985

Ages 3-7

David Elliott adds to his poetry series with At the Pond, a meditation on a day in the life of all the animals who live in and around the pond. Red-winged blackbirds sing and a family of mallards have a morning swim; dragonflies buzz by and a water snake guards her nest. It’s a lovely glimpse at the natural world, alternating beautiful lyrics and amusing wordplay. One spread illustrating a frog’s lifecycle from tadpole to frog reads, “Polly! / Polly! / Pollywog! / Golly! / Golly! Golly! Frog!”; another, a reflection on a water strider: “…enigmatic / but prolific. / Each day / he writes / his story / in rippling / hieroglyphics”. Amy Schimler-Safford’s mixed media illustrations create spread after spread of alluring images with deep greens, blues, and browns setting the background for brilliant pops of color. A gorgeous book for nature lovers and a great accompaniment to discussions on ecosystems. Back matter includes more information about the flora and fauna that makes an appearance in the book.

Publisher Candlewick has a downloadable teacher’s guide for companion books in the poetry series. Education.com has coloring sheets and activity sheets to extend pond-related learning.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

I’ll Go and Come Back stretches love around the world

I’ll Go and Come Back, by Rajani LaRocca/Illustrated by Sara Palacios, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536207170

Ages 3-7

A young girl named Jyoti visits her family in India, where she experiences some culture shock: it’s so different from home! But she and her grandmother, her Sita Pati, spend time together making sand art, going to the market, and playing games. When she leaves, she doesn’t say goodbye; in India, they say “Poitu varen”: “I’ll go and come back”. When Sita Pati visits Jyoti, she experiences a similar culture shock, but Jyoti is there to play, create, and shop with her. Told in a repeat narrative from Indian and American experiences, I’ll Go and Come Back reminds me of Margaret Chiu Greanias’s Amah Faraway, which I also loved. I enjoy the reverse narrative, where each character swaps roles to become the caregiver and guide to a new culture. Rajani LaRocca creates warmth between Jyoti and Sita Pati, brought to life by Sara Palacios’s gouache and acrylic artwork. Sita Pati and Jyoti holds hands and lean toward each other when they’re together, and readers get a peek into Indian culture, with touchstones like food, public spaces, and clothing. Endpapers look like colorful sari prints. I’ll Go and Come Back is a sweet grandparent-grandchild story that celebrates culture and familial relationships.

I’ll Go and Come Back has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Ahoy! Books about Boats

To add some fun to summer reading storytimes, add some stories about boats!

Old Wood Boat, by Nikki McClure, (May 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536216585

Ages 4-8

An old boat gets a new lease on life in this distinctive story by award-winning artist and author Nikki McClure. The Old Wood Boat sits, floating in a drydock, remembering “the wind… islands and a sea of green” as she houses raccoons and blackberries grow across her decks. One day, a family arrives and purchases the boat, and set about making her sea-worthy again. Once the work is done, they set off for new adventures, and the boat keeps her new family safe and comfortable. It’s a lovely story of renewal and potential, with Nikki McClure’s trademark spare prose and striking cut-paper artwork. Back matter includes a glossary of nautical terms introduced in the story. A glorious summer story. Consider pairing with Nikki McClure’s counting book, 1 2 3 Salish Sea. Visit Nikki McClure’s website for more about her books.

 

Lily Leads the Way, by Margi Preus/Illustrated by Matt Myers, (May 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536214031

Ages 4-8

Lily is a small sailboat who is so excited to greet a fleet of visiting tall ships! She races out to the harbor entrance and blows her horn – “Meee-me?” – to ask the bridge to lift and let her through, but bigger ships blast their horns so much louder and their wakes rock and roll poor Lily as they rumble past. When she finally sneaks through and spots the tall ships, she’s thrilled: until she realizes that the bridge will have to lift to let them pass, but these ships are silent! Will good manners and a determined little sailboat save the day? Crisp oil illustrations bring a charming anthropomorphic touch to the realism of this summery story. Illustrated Matt Myers captures the beauty of the water, with shades of blue communicating depth and movement against a summer sky with puffy, light clouds. The ships and land are colorful, set off against the blues, to bring this seafaring story to life. The boats don’t sport cartoony facial expressions, but they are there for those who look: the downcast eyes of a huge vessel as he trundles by Lily; a somber and focused coast guard cutter zips past Lily. Kids will love Lily’s sweet attempts to be seen, and be captivated by the sight of the regal tall ships as they approach the harbor. Lily Leads the Way is a story about determination, and carries a sweet message about being polite. An author’s note offers more information about bridges and boats. A wonderful storytime pick. Make sure to invite the kids to make their own boat horn noises!

Visit Craft Play Learn for fun boat craft ideas for a storytime activity. I love cork boat craft and the craft stick craft.

Margi Preus is the Newbery Honoree author of Heart of a Samurai (2010). Visit her author website for more about her books, and free downloadable resources, including reading guides. Matt Myers is the illustrator of the Infamous Ratsos book series. Find more about his work at his website.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The joy of self-expression: John’s Turn

John’s Turn, by Mac Barnett/Illustrated by Kate Berube, (Feb. 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536203950

Ages 4-8

Every Friday, a school cafeteria turns into a place where kids put on performances for one another: an artistic show and tell. This week, it’s John’s turn, and he’s a little nervous. When it’s time, he changes into his leotard, pants, and ballet slippers, and begins to dance. It’s tense at first, as John’s fellow students watch him, but as John gives himself over to the music and the dance, his confidence builds; his joy is evident. At the end of his dance, his classmates cheer and applaud, and John beams, having shared a special moment with them. Kate Berube’s ink and paint illustrations gracefully capture the tension and anticipation that goes into a performance; those moments where the performer goes through the day with butterflies in their stomach, the worry, the pre-show jitters. He knows kids, and the thinking that ballet dancing is largely thought of as “a girl thing”, and the nervous snickers when the music begins. Mac Barnett’s narration is simple, elegant, to the point, and pausing to let Kate Berube shine during the performance: she beautifully captures the shifting emotions surging through John as he begins his dance; a nervous, almost nauseated feeling on his face at first, moving into a slight smile as he moves through the routine, and the background color shifts from a dull brown to a positively incandescent rose as he loses himself in the emotion of his dance, ending with soft pastels as, cheeks flushed, he takes a bow. It’s a gorgeous story.

John’s Turn has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, The Horn Book, and BookPage.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

End of School Year storytime: This is a School

This is a School, by John Schu/Illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536204582

Ages 4-8

I know, kids are ready to run out the door by now, and you may be thinking, “End of school year storytime? WHAT?” But bear with me, because John Schu’s This is a School is a beautifully crafted look at a community, and how a school is the beating heart of a community. Using brief, definitive sentences, John Schu tells the story: “This is a kid. / This is a kid in a class. / This is a class in a hall. / This is a hall in a school – / WELCOME!” Using repetition, he invites readers to look and listen as he goes through a school day, where children ask and learn, share and help, hope and heal, fail and try; with alternating spreads, we see what happens in the school day, and how it contributes to communities growing, celebrating, transforming. An inclusive group of families and cheerful mixed media artwork present a thriving urban community. What a wonderful way to send learners off into their communities for summer break, and an equally sterling way to welcome them back.

John Schu is a former classroom teacher and school librarian, a former Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs, and a part-time lecturer at Rutgers University. His blog, Mr. Schu Reads, is an excellent resource for anyone who loves kidlit. You can find him on Instagram and Twitter.

Veronica Miller Jamison is an illustrator and textile designer who trained as a fashion designer. She is the illustrator of Suzanne Slade’s A Computer Called Katherine. Find more of her illustration work at her website.

This is a School has a starred review from Booklist.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books about Birds

Birds are a great storytime theme: there are great songs and fingerplays, crafts are plentiful and adorable, and there’s a bird for every season. I’ve got some new(ish) bird books for your storytimes right here; let’s see what’s good.

Odd Birds: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Flock, by Laura Gehl/Illustrated by Gareth Lucas, (June 2022, Abrams Appleseed), $8.99, ISBN: 9781419742231

Ages 2-4

Laura Gehl and Gareth Lucas’s companion board book to Odd Beasts (2021) has gone to the birds! Odd Birds is a rhyming look at eight different birds, all with unusual characteristics: “This seabird has a pouch. / This booby has blue feet. / This shoebill’s beak is huge. / This ostrich likes the heat.” Striking, colorful illustration brings these birds to life, with a new spread for every encounter. Back matter includes photos and descriptions on each of the eight featured birds: the magnificent frigatebird; the blue-footed booby; the ostrich; the shoebill stork; the hoatzin; the oilbird; the California condor, and the burrowing owl. An excellent storytime choice.

 

The Song of the Nightingale, by  Tanya Landman/Illustrated by Laura Carlin, (Apr. 2022, Candlewick Studio), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217681

Ages 6-9

A newly created world thrums with color, but the animals are so drab! The Painter sets to work, imbuing each animal with color and patterns, from the striped zebras and blue whales to the golden scarab beetle. As the day comes to an end and the animals head back to their homes, the Painter discovers a shy bird, preferring the quiet and stillness of the nighttime, has come forward for a splash of color. Will the Painter have enough paint left?

This rich story carries the lyricism and storytelling magic of myth and legend. Tanya Landman uses sporadic rhyme, alliteration, and humor to tell her story and enchant readers. Watercolor, acrylic, and pencil illustrations add a dreamlike quality, letting readers easily imagine an omniscient Painter wielding a paintbrush to bring color to their world. Th titular character’s gift adds a final spark of wonder. Endpapers show black and white and colorful menageries. A gorgeous story that wraps itself around readers.

Show kids a picture of a nightingale at National Geographic. Print out some coloring pages and let kids become Painters! Here are some nightingale pictures, and here are some wild animal coloring pages.

 

Chirp!, by Mary Murphy, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217698

Ages 2-6

Mary Murphy has entered that realm of go-to authors I always have ready for anyone who asks me for book suggestions for early readers: Eric Carle, Lois Ehlert, Donald Crews, and Mary Murphy. With Chirp!, different birds show off their different songs as the night gradually moves toward a bright new day. A little bluebird demands their turn, and the other birds join in, serenading the new day. Bold, easy-to-read fonts and high-contrast illustrations make this an excellent lapsit choice for babies, too!

With colorful, bold illustrations, cheerful rhymes, and lovable characters, kids love looking at her books, and grownups love reading them. An insta-buy for storytime collections.

 

The Legend of the Storm Goose, by Fiona Halliday, (Feb. 2022, Page Street Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781645673484

Ages 5-8

Fiona Halliday creates a legend, inspired by the Scottish coastline of her childhood, about a magical bird that protects those who live and work along the coast. Erin is a little girl living with her dad and her Nana, and loves hearing her father’s stories about the Storm Goose, a great white bird who protects him while he’s at sea. Shortly after he returns to the sea, a terrible storm hits and she discovers an injured bird, tangled in a net. Is it the Storm Goose? And if it is, who’s protecting her Papa?

The Legend of the Storm Goose is a moving story of grief, loss, and recovery. Illustrations add a mythic quality to the overall look and feel of the story, with the Storm Goose wreathed in gold dust; a shimmering aura. A sensitive story about healing oneself by healing another.

Posted in Uncategorized

Missing Mommy: Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle

Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle, by Nina LaCour/Illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536211511

Ages 3-7

A little girl loves her cuddly life with her Mama and her Mommy, but when Mommy has to go away for a week for work, she misses her more than anything. This book just bursts with joy and love, and is spot-on for any child who misses a beloved presence in their lives; something Nina LaCour touches on when the little girl shares her feelings with her class, and her friends weigh in, missing older siblings away at school, parents in another country, and pets that have run away. Nina LaCour embraces the childhood ache of missing a parent and the residual feelings when Mommy returns, and the little girl experiences the mixed emotions upon her return. She’s thrilled to have Mommy back home where she belongs, but confronts resentment at being left in the first place. Kaylani Juanita’s colorful mixed media illustrations show a loving family who lavish affection on one another. Mommy and the little girl are brown-skinned with hair and skin patches that allude to vitiligo. Mama is light-skinned, with lilac hair and tattoos. Inclusive and honest, Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle touches on all the right emotions kids experience when missing someone.

Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle has starred reviews from Booklist, Bookpage, and Publishers Weekly.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Think-Ups: The Ultimate Rainy Day story!

The Think-Ups, by Claire Alexander, (Feb. 2022, Candlewick Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536220124

Ages 3-7

Anna and Kiki are two little girls stuck inside on a rainy day. What should they do? Looks like it’s time to play The Think-Ups! All you have to do is think up something, and it will appear! But as the two disagree over what to play, they think up bunnies, a moose, giggling octopuses, and hungry koalas! As things threaten to get out of hand, the girls start to bicker, but quickly resolve their disagreement to Think Up a way to get things back to being manageable. A fun story with bold, colorful characters and a menagerie of animals to make readers laugh and recognize themselves in Kiki and Anna. The story encourages imagination and teamwork; listening to, and respecting one another. Cartoon-like illustrations are light and fun, and cut pages let them revel different Think Ups as a surprise. A great readaloud choice.

The Think-Ups was originally released in the U.K. in 2021. You can visit Claire Alexander’s website for more about her books and illustration, and to learn more about her picture book courses.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

To let go… just a little bit: Somewhere

Somewhere, by Robie Harris/Illustrated by Armando Mariño, (Feb. 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536207354

Ages 4-6

A young girl and her father go for a walk in the park. She wants to go somewhere she’s never been before, so she kisses her father goodbye and wanders off to explore. She’s aware of every sight and sound, every color and texture, and collects souvenirs to bring back to Daddy, who’s waiting for her… so they can go somewhere else together. Watercolor and ink illustrations envelop the reader in a verdant, colorful setting that goes from park to adventurous landscape that provides a sense of wonder as the girl becomes smaller against the large bushes and trees she encounters, the flora and fauna she interacts with, and the perspective of the artwork. It’s a poetic story about a small moment in time that every parent and caregiver knows is coming: that moment where we have to let go, even just a little bit, to encourage a child’s independence. Here, the girl’s father is close, but never intrusive; he lets his child return to him after having a solo adventure. Once reunited, the two discover another new “somewhere” together. Keep this one in mind for Father’s Day, too; it’s always great to get a father-daughter book. Pair with Mi Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero and Hope Lim’s I Am a Bird. Get a teacher tip card from Candlewick’s website.

Robie Harris a New York Times best-selling author whose books include It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health and It’s NOT the Stork! A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families, and Friends. Visit her website for more about her books and for class visit information. Armando Mariño is an award-winning Cuban artist; you can find more of his artwork at his website.