Posted in picture books

Spring and Summer stories to make you smile

With Spring and Summer come a lighter type of picture book: open spaces, verdant greens, cheery yellows, happy colors and stories about enjoying the outdoors. I’ve got a few picture books here that are perfect for those longer, warmer days.

Free, by Sam Usher, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536217049

Ages 4-7

The boy and his grandfather from Sam Usher’s Seasons With Grandad series are back! In Free, the boy and Grandad care for a sick bird who returns to them every day. Grandad looks up new ways to get the bird to reunite with other birds, but it looks like their new feathered friend needs a bit of help, so they gather their equipment and strike out to find a tree for their new friend. Sam Usher brings his touch of magical realism to this story of a boy, his grandfather, and a little bird that needs their help, elevating it from sweet to simply extraordinary. Ink and watercolor illustrations are expressive and provide a soothing, intimate feel to the storytelling and the relationship between Grandad, Boy, and Bird. Riots of color in strategic moments make for a delightful surprise. I love Sam Usher’s books, so this one is a definite buy for me.

Free has a starred review from Kirkus.

(UK edition image taken from Amazon.com: the US edition notes that one of the birds “was sick”.)

 

Sweet Pea Summer, by Hazel Mitchell, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536210347

Ages 4-8

A girl’s her father brings her to spend the summer with her grandparents when her mother has to go into the hospital. To keep her occupied, her grandfather invites her to help in his garden, asking her to look after his snow peas. She learns to care for them and nurture them, taking great pride in the growing pods, and her grandfather suggests she may even get to enter them in the flower show when the season ends. So what happens that causes the flowers to start dying? Stumped, the girl tries multiple fixes until she discovers the reason. A gently told story of love, nurturing, perseverance and determination, this is a beautifully illustrated story, with colorful spreads of the English countryside and cheery gardens. There are so many details to discover in the sprawling townscape and countryside, from bustling businesses and commuters to the playful garden animals hopping and frolicking around the greenery. A book that encourages readers to endure hard times and embrace the support around them, Sweet Pea Summer is a good warm-weather read. Have some sweet pea coloring pages handy for an accompanying storytime activity. Pair with Zee Grows a Tree for a storytime about the love between nature and kids.

Visit Hazel Mitchell’s author webpage for more information about her books, her artwork, and a host of printable activities about her book, Toby.

 

William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, retold by Georghia Ellinas/Illustrated by Jane Ray, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217735

Ages 4-8

The companion to last year’s William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a dreamlike, picture book interpretation of the famous Shakespeare comedy, great for new audiences. The Fairy Kingdom is up in arms as King Oberon is in a disagreement with his wife, Queen Titania; a group of young nobles arrive in the magical forest from Athens, all in love with the wrong person; and Puck, a mischievous servant of King Oberon’s decides to stir up some trouble just for the fun of it. Retold from Puck’s perspective, this is a very readable, enjoyable breakdown of the hilarious story of mistaken identity, love, and mischievous fairies. Shakespeare’s famous ending, “If we shadows have offended…” closes the story. The artwork is a tapestry of beautiful color, artwork that captures the playful spirit of the play and the otherworldly characters in the story. Moonlight figures heavily in the artwork, a glowing sheen adding illumination and bringing out the details in each character. A great read-aloud idea for older classes (1-3 grades, for instance), consider an Introduction to Shakespeare display for your Children’s Room with books like Anna Claybourne and Tilly’s Where’s Will?, The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review series by Ian Lendler and illustrated by Zack Giallongo, and Mabel and the Queen of Dreams, by Henry, Joshua, & Harrison Herz. Visit ilustrator Jane Ray’s website for free printable coloring pages.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Rock From the Sky is here!

The Rock from the Sky, by Jon Klassen, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536215625

Ages 4-8

Any time Jon Klassen releases a new book is cause for celebration. The Rock from the Sky, his newest, is an hilarious study in dialogue, sight jokes, and a little touch of science fiction. A behatted trio of animals – a turtle, an armadillo, and a snake – touch on that creeping feeling that something’s just not right; feeling like a third wheel, and imagining the future, all with the deadpan humor that makes books like his Hat Trilogy such storytime gold. Klassen’s digital and watercolor artwork sets a sepia-toned stage that works perfectly with the dry humor to create a darkly hilarious story atmosphere. Candlewick has an activity kit, teacher’s guide, and author notes available for free download. You can’t miss with Jon Klassen; The Rock From the Sky is an instabuy for me.

The Rock From the Sky has six starred reviews from School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books, and The Horn Book.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Read a book, hug the Earth, it’s Earth Day!

Some more books to love our Big Blue Dot by…

The House of Grass and Sky, Mary Lyn Ray/Illustrated by E. B. Goodale (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536200973

Ages 4-8

The touching story of a house that wants to be a home will appeal to little ones and their grownups alike. Once, the house “smelled of sunshine and new lumber”, and a family filled its days and nights with love and laughter. Families came and families went, but the house always waited, knowing a new family was on the way. Until there wasn’t. The house quietly waited, and bit by bit, nature claimed the area. Lonely, the house keeps its vigil… and is rewarded when a new family moves in, reclaiming the home, filling it with love, laughter, and family once again. It’s a gentle, moving story of memory, nature, and embracing renewal. The mixed media illustrations make the home as much a character of the story as the people in it. One spread shows the house standing alone, among shadows of memories: someone playing ball, a child with a wagon; someone on a tree swing. Mary Lyn Ray’s prose makes the house become real with sentences like, “The house learned about babies being born and babies growing up. It learned about bedtime stories and birthday parties.” Endpapers display an older wallpaper, giving a nice feel to the story. Just a beautiful, touching book that makes you want to find an old house and fill it with the love you have to give. Think about all the ways you can show your home love: plant some new plants, even if you live in an apartment. Repurpose old t-shirts and make them into throw pillows or quilts. There are so many things you can do!

Peppa Pig and the Earth Day Adventure, by Candlewick Press, (March 2021, Candlewick Press), $12.99, ISBN’: 9781536218985
Ages 2-5
It’s a new Peppa PigI! Today is Earth Day, and Peppa and her family are off to the Botanical Gardens once they finish sorting the recycling and composting. They get into Roger, the electric car, and head off for a fun day of learning how bees and flowers work together, see a Venus flytrap eat a fly, and play in the children’s garden! The kids in my library system love Peppa Pig, and this book will circulate like wildfire. Visit Peppa Pig’s website for Peppa news and activities.
The Forest : A Poster Book to Understand Everything about the World, by Emmanuelle Grundmann/Illustrated by Gal Weizman (March 2021, Schiffer Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9780764360992
Ages 5-8
It’s a poster book! It’s a giant fold-out book! It’s both! Unfold each page to read a new piece of information about the forest, and enjoy a seek and find that continues on each section. The book opens up into a giant poster that spans more than 2 feet! Great for a science club/Discovery Club program, kids will love watching you unfold page by page as you read about ants, frogs, badgers, and more forest friends.
The Sea: A Poster Book to Understand Everything about the World, by Véronique Sarano/Illustrated by Anine Bösenberg & Loris F. Alessandria (March 2021, Schiffer Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9780764361005
Ages 5-8
The companion to The Forest, The Sea is another panoramic poster book. Seek and find fish and urchins and learn about underwater cliffs, and underwater life like plankton, krill, dolphins, and sperm whales. The poster unfolds into a giant underwater scene, seek and finds leading the way with a turn of the page. Great for science programs, and keep at least one copy in your Reference section while you put one in circ – it may get beaten up, despite the sturdy pages. The Panoramic series is a fun way to explore the world!
Posted in picture books

Zonia’s Rain Forest is perfect for Earth Day

It’s Earth Day! Give your Mother Planet a hug!

Zonia’s Rain Forest, by Juana Martinez-Neal, (March 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536208450

Ages 4-8

Zonia is a little girl who lives in the rain forest with “those she loves”. She visits her animal friends, enjoying their company and learning from them; when she heads home, she discovers, in horror, a landscape destroyed: trees chopped down; the land brutalized. She runs to her mother, telling her the forest needs help, and her mother responds that she must answer. Sagely, the little girl acknowledges that we all must answer. There is so much beauty in this book, it’s almost indescribable: Juana Martinez-Neal uses mixed media on handmade banana bark paper to create a textured, stunning rainforest landscape. Zonia, a member of the Peruvian Amazonian Indigenous Asháninka, wears plant-based paint on her face on the cover; inside, her rosy cheeks and little smile give her a playful expression that invites readers to befriend her. Zonia’s mother nurses her baby brother as she sees Zonia off for the day’s adventures. The rainforest colors are vibrant, alive, on the page, and a bright blue butterfly is our guide – is us – following Zonia through her interactions. When she encounters the pillaged rainforest, her horror, her confusion, reaches out and touches readers. When she speaks her final line in the book: “We all must answer”, it’s more than a call to action. It’s an accounting. Powerful, beautiful, and necessary for collections. Endpapers are an orange-on-orange swarm of butterflies flying across the spreads. Back matter includes a word about the Asháninka people in both English and Asháninka, with a link to Juana Martinez-Neal’s webpage, which contains an Asháninka translation to Zonia’s Rain Forest. The book also includes facts about the Amazon, threats to the Amazon, selected sources, and the names of Zonia’s animal friends.

Juana Martinez-Neal is a Caldecott Honor winner. Her author webpage has a wealth of resources about Zonia, including a teacher guide and links to videos and podcasts.

Zonia’s Rain Forest has starred reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist.

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 Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Earth Day essentials!

Earth Day is getting closer, friends! I’ve got more fun to celebrate Earth Day every day!

Earth: 100 Piece Puzzle (Featuring Photography from the Archives at NASA), (April 2021, Chronicle Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781797202723

Ages 6+

This is a slight deviation from books, but how can you go wrong with an Earth-shaped puzzle of the Earth, using a NASA photo? The puzzle is a nice size, at 2 1/2 feet in diameter; pieces are large and sturdy, as is the storage container. It’s a beautiful shot of Earth from space that will delight you as it comes together. This puzzle is a companion to Chronicle’s Moon and Mars puzzles, for anyone interested in building their own universe. A fun, hands-on way to support astronomy and science learners! My Kiddo and I have been trying to put it together for a few weeks now, and it’s coming along; I’ll have to post the finished product.

 

Bruno the Beekeeper: A Honey Primer, by Aneta Frantiska Holasová, (March 2021, Candlewick Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536214611

Ages 7-10

Bruno is a beekeeping bear, having inherited his grandfather’s apiary. Together with his human Grandma, he spends his time caring for the bees and harvesting their honey in this introduction to beekeeping and the life cycle of bees. Organized into seasons, with warm, honey-colored illustrations, readers learn the different types of bees and their functions within the hive; parasites and predators to watch out for, and they watch Bruno as he goes about the business of cleaning and preparing the hives for the next year. Side notes about Grandma’s part in the beekeeping: helping Bruno prepare the hives, making beeswax candles, and delicious gingerbread cookies with the harvested honey! A lovely book about beekeeping and bees for the season, with a gingerbread cookie recipe and an index. Display with Katherine Pryor’s Bea’s Bees, Maribeth Boelts’s Kaia and the Bees, Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann’s award-winning Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera, and Alison Formento’s These Bees Count! for a nice bee-related display.

 

And coming soon…

The Wild World Handbook: How Adventurers, Artists, Scientists – and You – Can Protect Earth’s Habitats, by Andrea Debbink/Illustrated by Asia Orlando, (May 2021, Quirk Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781683692461

Ages 8-12

The first in a new middle grade series, this volume of The Wild World Handbook focuses on habitats. Organized into nine habitats, from mountains to grasslands, the handbook includes biographical profiles on outdoor scientists, artists, and activists; DIY crafts to give kids a hands-on learning experience and understanding of their world, natural wonders to be found in each habitat, and ways kids can take part in being stewards for the planet. Plan an expedition to the Himalayas or visit an underwater world; make a desert or rainforest biome or learn to press flowers and plants. This is another program-in-a-book treasure for us librarians, and a beautiful, full-color guidebook to earth advocacy for kids. Just in time to get the kids out and about for summer, make sure to display with the upcoming Outdoor School series from Macmillan and Odd Dot.

Posted in picture books

Two books about Trees for Earth Day

I’ve got two more books about trees for Earth Day today! Sit in the great outside with these books and take a nice, deep breath for Earth Day.

The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom, by Lita Judge, (March 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250237071

Ages 7-12

Verse comes together with nonfiction writing to tell the story of trees, and how they work together to create ecosystems that provide food and shelter to everything around them. Beautiful watercolor and pencil artwork provides visuals that will enchant readers with visions of ancient trees, baby animals, and wooded sanctuaries. Additional back matter includes more information about different types of trees and the dangers posed to our world’s forests.

Teachers Pay Teachers has a great Adopt a Tree lesson and journal, courtesy of Common Core Kelly; it would be a good activity to introduce to grade schoolers as a STEM/STEAM project.

The Wisdom of Trees has starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal.

 

Zee Grows a Tree, by Elizabeth Rusch/Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, (March 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763697549

Ages 5-8

A baby is born and her mother and father, who run a Christmas tree farm, set aside a Douglas fir seedling that emerges that same day, to be “Zee’s Tree”. Little Zee and her tree grow up together: they both grow bigger and stronger with love and care; when Zee starts preschool, the tree also starts life outside, being planted outside the nursery; Zee makes friends at school, and the tree enjoys company from the local birds. When the tree contracts a heat-related illness, Zee is there to nurse it back to health. Filled with interesting facts about Douglas fir trees, Zee Grows a Tree is a lovely combination of fact and fiction that will draw readers in and maybe encourage them to care for a plant of their own. Mixed media illustrations show peaceful landscapes and two friends growing together. The relationship between Zee and her tree is sweetly depicted. Back matter includes an index and a list for further reading.

Zee Grows a Tree has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Wolf learns a valuable lesson in Sheepish

Sheepish (Wolf Under Cover), by Helen Yoon, (Jan. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536207323

Ages 3-7

Wolf’s got plans: dress like a sheep, infiltrate the flock, eat all the sheep things. As he follows his own rules, though, he discovers something he didn’t expect – becoming a beloved part of the flock! As Wolf spends day in and day out with the sheep, alongside them, playing with them, doing aerobics with them, and reading stories to them, he realizes the sheep aren’t quite so temptingly tasty anymore. He can’t even imagine trying to make a meal out of one of his friends! Separating himself from temptation, he leaves the community only to learn that just maybe, he wasn’t as crafty as he thought he was and that good friends always show up for one another. Mixed media illustrations tell the real story, and readers will chuckle to see the wily wolf surrounded by sheep who clearly know what’s going on, and will enjoy seeing how each side develops a love for the other, as they spend time together. The lighting in these illustrations is just gorgeous; light from behind Wolf and the sheep on a line create orange-tinged shadows that telegraph Wolf’s long ears and fluffy tail; a dejected Wolf heads home as sunset and a single evening star light up the sky. The light sources are part of the story and bring a warmth to the pages that I just adored with every turn of the page. A sweetly funny, heartwarming book that kids will turn to again and again.

Sheepish has starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Stomp and count with One-Osaurus, ,Two-Osaurus!

One-osaurus, Two-osaurus, by Kim Norman/Illustrated by Pierre Collet-Derby, (March 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201796

Ages 3-7

You know when you discover a book that makes you want to jump up and start a storytime? One-osaurus, Two-osaurus falls firmly into that group. A group of dinosaurs are playing in a child’s room when they decide to start a counting game: “One-osaurus, two-osaurus, three-osaurus, four…” It’s a mash-up of hide-and-seek and counting, as the dinos hide behind large, bold numbers; they tuck tails and necks, waiting in anticipation for number 10, which sounds really, really big. What will it be? You have to read and find out! The addictively playful rhyme scheme will make you want to jump and dance as you read. Hand out number coloring sheets (Mr. Printables and First Palette have good ones) and invite your storytime Kiddos to hide behind them as you read along, and make sure to stomp and roar! Digital illustrations are lively, silly, colorful and incredibly fun, with cartoony, bright dinosaurs twisting themselves into hilarious shapes to pose by and hide behind numbers. Bold, black, oversized numbers make it easy to count along, even for the kiddos sitting in the back of the group! Display and read with other great dino books, including 1, 2, 3 Do the Dinosaur by Michelle Robinson & Rosalind Bearshaw, and some get up and dance stories, like Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson’s Spunky Little Monkey and Sandra Boynton’s Barnyard Dance.

One-osaurus, Two-osaurus has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Uncategorized

Tyrone O’Saurus dreams of dancing!

Tyrone O’Saurus Dreams, by James Howe/Illustrated by Randy Cecil, (March 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536210873

Ages 4-8

The companion to James Howe and Randy Cecil’s 2013 Brontorina is here! Tyrone is a T-Rex with big dreams. Dreams of becoming a dancer. But everyone else in his family has dreams for Tyrone, too: a dentist? A lawyer? A professional football player in the Dinosaur Football League? None of these are even close to what Tyrone wants to do with his life, but he doesn’t want to let anyone down, so he tries his hand… er, his small, arms… at football. As much as his brother tries to encourage him, it’s just not working. Luckily for Tyrone,a chance encounter with a dancing dinosaur gives him the courage to admit that his heart (and those tiny arms) are just not in football. His brother is right there with support: a dancer he wants to be, so a dancer he will be! He brings Tyrone to Madame Lucille’s Outdoor Dance Academy for Girls and Boys and Dinosaurs and Cows, where he sees Brontorina – the dino he met earlier – and is welcomed into the dance academy with open arms. James Howe and Randy Cecil inspire readers to defy expectations and chase their dreams. A scene in the gym where Brontorina tells Tyrone that she’s working out to be a better dancer reminds readers that not everything is as easy as it may seem on the outside, and reinforces that hard work and a love of what you do help one succeed. The adorable contrast between the giant dinos and the tiny humans will tickle readers’ funny bones, and dappled artwork gives texture to the pages. It’s been a wonderful return to Madame Lucille’s… I wonder if she’ll be accepting any more students?

Downloadable Teacher Tips at publisher Candlewick’s website give teachers talking points and activity ideas. Author James Howe’s website has a wealth of information for parents, caregivers, and educators, as does illustrator Randy Cecil’s website.