Posted in Uncategorized

There’s a Dodo on the Wedding Cake!

There’s a Dodo on the Wedding Cake, by Wade Bradford/Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536208849

Ages 4-8

Mr. Snore is back in this comical follow-up to 2018’s There’s a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor. He’s back at The Sharemore Hotel, this time to play violin at a wedding taking place at the venue, when he notices a dodo bird sampling the wedding cake! He shoos the dodo off, and appoints himself guardian of the cake, taking on all manner of characters who venture too close: but who’s a guest, and who’s a pest? This is, as Kirkus calls it, “a riotous, rib-tickling comedy of errors” that kids are going to laugh out loud reading or listening to as a readaloud. This begs for a flannel adaptation where you can nominate readers to come up and place a new animal on or near the cake, and make sure to get a nice big pink *splat* for the finale. Acrylic and ink illustrations have a pleasing, vintage feel to them, giving some old-school glamour to the hijinks. More Mr. Snore, please!

Author Wade Bradford has free, downloadable resources, including some great plays for kids, on his author website. Kevin Hawkes is an award-winning illustrator. Visit his website for more of his artwork and information about his books.

Posted in Uncategorized

Celebrate YOU! How to Have a Birthday

How to Have a Birthday, by Mary Lyn Ray/Illustrated by Cindy Derby, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536207415

Ages 4-8

All the expectations of a birthday are wrapped up in this warm, enjoyable tribute to the most special, most personal, of days. How to Have a Birthday is a celebration of the potential of the birthday: “On the morning of your birthday, you can tell already that the day is not like others. / Maybe you wake early, wondering what will happen. / You know something will. / And that’s your first present: you get to wonder”. It’s a celebration of all the ways we mark the day, from songs and gifts, to rituals and traditions to mark the passing of another year; it’s the power of the birthday wish. The story follows three children as they observe and enjoy their days, in their own ways, with the people in their lives, and the mixed media illustrations are created in warm, soothing colors that wrap readers in their cozy world and invite them in to celebrate. A great birthday story for a special storytime, make reading this a part of your own rituals and traditions.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Maybe… is hilarious

Maybe… by Chris Haughton, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536220247

Ages 3-7

A mother monkey warns her three little ones against going to the mango tree. There are tigers lurking! As soon as Mom leaves, you know what happens. The three rationalize, rationalize, rationalize: “Hmm… maybe… maybe we could just look at the mangoes. That’d be OK. Right?” Naturally, looking at the mangoes leads to getting closer… closer… This hilarious story about pushing boundaries will make kids and grownups alike laugh out loud in recognition. The suspense keeps readers turning the pages and makes for a fantastically dramatic readaloud that will make your listeners gasp if you play it along with Haughton’s expert pacing and theatrical pauses. Chris Haughton’s digital artwork is bold and dramatic, with expressive monkeys whose blue and green coloring stand out against the brightly colored backgrounds. Sharp-eyed readers will see the murky outlines of the tigers lurking in the background, just like Mom said. Every single Chris Haughton book is a storytime hit for me; this joins the ranks.

Maybe… has a starred review from The Horn Book. Download a free activity kit at publisher Candlewick’s website.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Spoooooky Books for your Halloween Displays!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Halloween is my FAVORITE holiday. It’s a celebration of fun, all things spooky and weird, and candy.

If you’re going to have a seasonal, Halloween, or spooky book display up, consider some of these fun new books!

Poultrygeist, by Eric Geron/Illustrated by Pete Oswald, (Aug. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536210507

Ages 4-8

This cautionary tale is worth a giggle or three at storytime. When a chicken crosses the road without looking both ways, he reaches THE OTHER SIDE. No, not *that* other side, The Other Side: he’s a ghost chicken now… a POULTRYGEIST. The fun play on words brings us into a story where other ghostly animals try to pressure our poor chicken into scaring others, but Poultry doesn’t want to do that! The peer pressure continues until Poultry asserts himself, proving that even the friendliest ghost can show a little “pluck”. Smart wordplay, a fun story, and a strong messages about peer pressure and standing up for oneself let readers know that it’s okay to say “no” to bullies. The digital artwork is a Halloween delight, with sprawling midnight blue and black landscapes and shimmery, colorful ghostly animals. Spooky eyes dot the landscape, giving a tummy tickle to the littles. A free teacher tip card offers tips on introducing wordplay, homophones, and puns to students.

Poultrygeist has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

 

 

This Book is NOT a Bedtime Story, by Eoin McLaughlin/Illustrated by Robert Starling, (Sept. 2021, Pavilion Children’s), $16.95, ISBN: 9781843655060

Ages 3-6

This rhyming tale turns into a hilarious dialogue between a monster who sees himself and his friends as terribly terrifying monsters, and the woodland animals who have questions. Lots of questions. A red, stripey, fairly adorable monster tells us straight from the start that he’s got teeth, claws, and big roars, but everything else points to the contrary. He claims  that his middle name is “Terror”, but his Scary Monster Society card reveals that his full name is “Fluffy Terry McFluff”. He calls in his “horrible bunch” of monster friends, but their monster stew is a tasty recipe they’re too happy to share, and their spooky hauntings are really quite sweet. As the story progresses, we see that the monsters have their own concerns and fears, and they’re getting just a little bit sleepy. Illustrations are colorful, kid-friendly, with kindly, cute monsters that readers will want to snuggle with, not run from. A monster story for kids who aren’t really crazy about monsters, this fits nicely with Rebecca and Ed Emberley’s Go Away, Big Green Monster and If You’re a Monster and You Know It. The rhyme scheme and fun spreads that break the fourth wall make this a great readaloud candidate. There’s no need to worry about these monsters – if they’re under your bed, they’re fast asleep!
Tiny T. Rex and the Tricks of Treating, by Jonathan Stutzman/Illustrated by Jay Fleck, (Sept. 2021, Chronicle Kids), $7.99, ISBN: 9781452184906
Ages 2-4
Tiny T. Rex is all about Halloween, and he’s ready to share with us what it takes to be a Treat-master! This delightful board book lays out the Six Tricks of Treating, according to Tiny T. Rex and his best friend, Pointy. Kids will love the step-by-step process, from costumes (try them all on!) to staying warm, to trick or treating with friends. Tiny makes sure to remind little Treaters to be kind and gracious, and that candy shared is much better than candy eaten alone. Tiny is cheerful and upbeat; the sentences are simple and to the point, injected with humor and kindness. Illustrations make this book a win – I can’t read Tiny books without squealing as I turn to each spread – with Tiny and friends dressed in adorable costumes. Cute details throughout, like Pointy’s and Tiny’s experimentation with bubble gum, and the costume montage, will have readers heading for this book again and again. A wonderful introduction to Halloween for little ones.
Owl Has a Halloween Party, Illustrated by Jannie Ho, (July 2021, Nosy Crow), $8.99, ISBN: 9781536217346
Ages 0-4
This cute little story about an Owl throwing a Halloween party for his friends is loaded with durable pull-tabs that babies and toddlers will play with for hours! Owl is having a Halloween party, and readers can help him look for his friends. Each page features a pull tab that reveals owl’s friends, hiding in costume. An astronaut monkey and princess frog peek out from behind pumpkins; a pirate lion and flowery bear hide behind treees. Tabs stick out from the book, showing a variety of friendly animals peeking out in all directions. Simple sentences are good for emerging readers and for a little lapsit storytime. Let your little ones play hide and seek with the animal friends, and identify who each could be; point out colors; count bats and pumpkins: there are so many great ways to extend the fun here.
My First Pop-Up Mythological Monsters, by Owen Davey, (Oct. 2021, Candlewick Studio), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217643
Ages 3-7
Owen Davey introduces young readers to the world of mythological monsters in his follow-up to My First Pop-Up Dinosaurs (2019). Taking readers all around the world, My First Pop-Up Monsters encounters 15 faces familiar and new, as each spread reveals bold and colorful creatures rising off the pages, with a brief descriptive note and country of origin. Kids will likely recognize Greece’s Cyclops and the Minotaur, but have they met the Ushi-Oni from Japan, or Sarimanok from the Philippines? Absolute fun, with beautiful illustration and detail; this is a great book for kids and grownups alike.
Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Ducks Overboard! The story behind the story that inspired Eric Carle

Ducks Overboard!: A True Story of Plastic in Our Oceans, by Markus Motum, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217728

Ages 7-10

In 2005, Eric Carle wrote Ten Little Rubber Ducks, a story about a shipping carton that leaked dozens of plastic rubber ducks into the sea, and their adventures after landing in the water. The book is based on a true story that took place in 1992; Ducks Overboard! is about the environmental impact of that accident, and about the pollution crisis facing our oceans. Narrated by one rubber duck, the story is part narrative – the duck’s story – and part nonfiction text. As the duck tells its story, smaller font provides factual information about plastic, its uses, and its the environmental impact. As the ducks bobs in the water, it sees pollution all around it: a plastic bag here; discarded fishing nets there; all creating problems for the animals in the water. Getting caught in a trash whirlpool, the duck spends years tossed around the ocean, until arriving on a beach shore during an environmental cleanup. The mixed media artwork is bright and colorful, and creates strong statements with its imagery: hundreds of dots in the ocean look like the shape of a continent, until one realizes that it’s a depiction of the shipping containers that get lost in the sea every year; a sea turtle swims underwater, dragging a fishing net wrapped around its neck; a spread illustrates the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The message is clear: plastic is choking our oceans. Back matter includes more about the 1992 shipping container that spilled ducks and other plastic toys into the ocean; how trash moves along ocean currents; facts about plastic, and how kids can help protect the waters. Great for storytime, great for STEM and Earth Day stories, great to read before a beach or neighborhood cleanup project.

Science Friday has a Great Pacific Garbage Patch teacher’s guide; Better Lesson and Siemens STEM Day have free downloadable lesson plans and activities.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Essential school year knowledge: How to Be Cooler Than Cool

How to Be Cooler Than Cool, by Sean Taylor/Illustrated by Jean Jullien, (July 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536215298

Ages 3-7

A cat finds a pair of sunglasses, dons them, and immediately pronounces herself “cooler than cool”. She really is… until she decides that she’s so cool, she can go down the slide backwards, to look “cooler than cool… WITH EXTRA COOL ON TOP”! When she falls and her glasses get knocked off, Cockatoo and Pig each find the glasses, adapting the same “cooler than cool” stance, until they, too, try stunts that end much like Cat’s. The glasses were supposed to make them cooler than cool; what happened? Chick stops by to teach them the best lesson: having fun and not being worried about looking cooler than cool? That’s the coolest thing of all. A smart, laugh-out-loud funny story about being concerned with appearances, kids will love and see themselves in How to Be Cooler Than Cool. I say this as a mom who’s seen my own kids hold punching contests, sliding sandwich contests (using the slide to slam into the kid before you, piling on and on until someone eventually goes flying), and, for some reason, deciding against wearing a sweatshirt or jacket when it’s chilly out, all in the quest of looking eternally cool. Jean Jullien’s bold ink illustrations capture the spirit of the story, with hilarious posing and the aftermath of “being cool”.

An excellent readaloud choice, make sure to don your own supercool glasses (or not, it may be too dark to read, and that will certainly NOT be cool).

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

I think, therefore I am: a chick ponders her world in Ergo

Ergo, by Alexis Deacon/Illustrated by Viviane Schwarz, (July 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217803

Ages 3-6

There’s something for everyone in this philosophical primer for little ones. Ergo is a chick who wakes up, deciding to explore her world. She wiggles her toes, flaps her wings, gives a tentative peck with her beak, and decides that “I am the world and the world is me”… until she realizes that the world, her world, is far more complex than that.

I had to mention this to my 18-year-old, whose mind was blown by the fact that the author created a kid-friendly story of Plato’s Cave. And that’s exactly what Ergo is! Kids will love the story of a chick discovering its egg, and the existential freakout when she realizes that she isn’t as in control as she previously thought. Viviane Schwarz’s simple ink and watercolor illustrations translate the message, giving life and meaning to Alexis Deacon’s story, with an adorable wide-eyed chick who wants desperately to figure it all out.

Me? I’d give this one as a baby shower gift, too. Adorable, hilarious, perfect. Engage your littles with a post-storytime craft by letting them create thumbprint Ergos of their own.

Posted in picture books

Louder, for the people in the back: When We Say Black Lives Matter

When We Say Black Lives Matter, by Maxine Beneba Clarke, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536222388

Ages 5-9

There’s been a lot of histrionics over the Black Lives Matter movement and meaning. Some folx will counter with the dreaded “all lives matter” response, and some will panic and try to accuse BLM of being terrorists. Certain school districts have gone so far as to attempting banning books that show positive portrayals of people of color. Award-winning writer and slam poet champion Maxine Beneba Clarke takes up the charge with her picture book in verse, When We Say Black Lives Matter; it’s a quiet, inspirational, powerful talk between caregiver and child, explaining the need for understanding and recognition. Loving words, like “little one”, “little love”, and “darling” lead into the many ways we can share the message: calling out Black Lives Matter; singing, screaming, sobbing, even laughing the words, and what they communicate: “When we whisper / Black Lives Matter, / we’re remembering the past. / All the terrible things / that were said and done, / we’re saying they trouble our hearts”. Each verse examines the Black Lives Matter message and what it means, throughout history, to this moment. Watercolor pencil and collage artwork inspires introspection and joy; colorful endpapers show demonstrators holding signs calling for “Love” and “Black Lives Matter”. The book celebrates Black Lives and encourages you to celebrate them, too. An essential book for all library shelves, whether they’re in your library, your classroom, or your home.

When We Say Black Lives Matter has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Armchair Traveling? Take Australian Baby Animals with you!

Australian Baby Animals, by Frané Lessac, (Aug. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536215274

Ages 2-5

Animal lovers are going to flip for this adorable book full of Australian baby animals and their parents. Fun facts run throughout the book, grouping animals together by their baby names (kangaroo, wombat, possum, koala, and Tasmanian devil babies are all called “joeys”‘) and how they interact with their parents. A sea dragon dad carries fry eggs (baby sea dragons!) on their tails until they hatch and drift away; echidna puggles (one of the cutest baby animal names ever) don’t have any spines, and flying fox pups get all the cuddles when  mom wraps her wings around them like a blanket. Bold fonts, fluid text that moves around the artwork, and colorful gouache artwork will delight readers. Spare text is informational and fits in well for an animal storytime.

Pair this with Frané Lessac’s 2018 abcedary, A is for Australian Mammals, for a unit on Australia, and check out this virtual field trip to the Australia Zoo, courtesy of Teach or Travel on TeachersPayTeachers.com.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Fearless: Daphne Caruana Galizia’s story

Fearless: The Story of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Defender of Free Speech, by Gattaldo, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536219180

Ages 7-10

Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese journalist who exposed corruption at all levels of government and organized crime, gets her moment in this powerful picture book biography by one of her close friends, award-winning creative director and illustrator Gattaldo. Fearless introduces readers to Caruana Gallizia, whose love of books inspired her to think for herself and the courage to speak out through protest. The story follows her career in journalism, depicting her as a warrior fighting a many-headed hydra of corruption; her headlines proving that the pen is mightier than the sword. Gattaldo uses soft mixed media illustration to create powerful images: Daphne, in colorful clothing, clutching a fountain pen, stands out in a dreamlike sea, illustrating her determination to stand out among those too fearful to speak up. Later, she stands proudly among a group of protestors inspired by her voice and her work. Endpapers feature bay laurels; symbols of strength and victory, and known as “daphne” in ancient Greece. An author’s note includes photos of Caruana Galizia and discusses her assassination, with a touching note about the author’s friendship with her.

Strong words about a strong figure who wouldn’t be silenced, this is a necessity for your biography shelves. You can view Daphne Caruana Galizia’s Running Commentary blog here, where she pulled no punches with her commentary. You can read about her death here, and can follow the latest news on bringing her murderer(s) to justice here.