Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Age-Old Question: What is Love?

What is Love?, by Mac Barnett/Illustrated by Carson Ellis, (Dec. 2021, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781452176406

Ages 3-6

A young boy asks his grandmother that question we all hear at some point: “What is love?” Grandmother can’t answer that, so the boy goes out into the world and asks everyone he comes into contact with, receiving hundreds of different answers: it’s a fish; it’s a horse; it’s the night; it’s a blade, it’s any number of things, but one thing we know for sure, there’s no one answer. The boy returns, years later, to his grandmother, and as he cuddles her, he realizes that he has his answer. A gentle story about the subjectivity of love and the journey to learn what defines it, only to discover that it’s in one’s heart all along, What is Love? is uncomplicated and profound all at once; it’s the easiest thing in the world to some, yet to explain or define it can confound others. Playful, colorful gouache artwork and the repetition of the question, “What is love?” and the oft-repeated response, “You do not understand”, makes for moments of introspection as readers consider what each of these things mean to others: the blade to a soldier; applause to an actor. Ask little ones what love feels like to them, and give them some paper and crayons.

Marc Barnett is an award-winning author, including two Caldecott Honor books. Find more about his books at his website, where you can sign up for his newsletter. Carson Ellis is an award-winning illustrator with a Caldecott Honor book to her credit. See more about of her illustration at her website.

What is Love? has starred reviews from BookPage and School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

In the Half Room is playfully surreal

In the Half Room, by Carson Ellis, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536214567

Ages 3-6

Caldecott Honor Award winner Carson Ellis (Du Iz Tak, 2017) is back with more delightfully surreal storytelling. In the Half Room is a playful rhyming study on halves, with a half room full of half things: a half chair, half shoes, half a rug and half a door. Half a woman sits on a half a chair, reading half a book, when a half-knock sends her on an adventure. Gouache illustrations create a warm atmosphere, with colorful images contrasting with the ivory page background. It’s surreal, it’s fun, it’s great for introducing concepts like halves. You can hand out circles and ask kiddos and caregivers to fold the circle in half, or invite them to decorate the circle and half it, making a yummy cake or cookie to “eat” half of by folding it! Pair with Good Night Moon for storytime; In the Half Room reads like an homage to the classic bedtime story.

In the Half Room has a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Candlewick offers a free, downloadable page of teacher tips for introducing the book to readers.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

The weather outside is frightful, but the books are so delightful!

Seriously, though, here in New York, the weather IS frightful, and I’m getting over a 3-week stint with bronchitis. Luckily for me, I’ve got a yummy mug of hot chocolate and a stack of winter books that let me enjoy a nice, snowy evening… vicariously.

The Boy and the Bear, by Tracey Corderoy/Illustrated by Sarah Massini,
(Nov. 2019, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536208146
Ages 2-5

A lonely boy wishes for a best friend to play with. A shy bear wants a friend to play with, and sends a message in a paper boat to the boy. The boy’s joy turns to apprehension when he discovers his new friend is a bear, but together, the two navigate a friendship as they learn to play together. When Bear has to go away when the weather changes, Boy is worried: will his friend ever be back? The Boy and the Bear is a sweet story of friendship through the seasons, with beautiful mixed media illustrations and sparse verse that travels through each spread. Perfect for storytime and cuddle time… and a stuffed animal sleepover.

 

The Shortest Day, by Susan Cooper/Illustrated by Carson Ellis,
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763686987
Ages 4-8

Easily my favorite book in this bunch. A celebration of Yule, of the Solstice, of darkness and light. The Shortest Day brings the reader through history, where early people gathered on the shortest day to drive the dark away, to the present day, where people gather to “carol, feast, give thanks,/ And dearly love their friends,/ and hope for peace”. The book and its beautiful gouache illustrations connect us to one another and generations and civilizations long past, set to Newbery Medal winner Susan Cooper’s poem. Caldecott Honor winner Carson Ellis creates a mood filled with warmth through the darkness, togetherness, and joy; the illustrations vividly communicate the waiting and the the relief the season is well-known for. The Shortest Day has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus, Shelf Awareness, and Book Page. This one is on my Caldecott watch list.

 

A Day for Skating, by Sarah Sullivan/Illustrated by Madeline Valentine,
(Nov. 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763696863
Ages 3-7

What a day to go ice skating! This rhyming story is all about a day in the life of an ice skating pond. Kids and parents lace up and skate across the ice; slipping and falling is all part of the learning process. Warm up with a hot cocoa in the cottage by the pond as hockey players raise a clatter and figure skaters glide by. When the sun goes down and everyone heads home to warm baths and beds, the pond is ready for the next group of skaters: the local wildlife explores. A Day for Skating is a lovely welcome to winter fun, with a note at the very beginning of the book about ice safety, especially if you’re not skating at a rink. Front endpapers start the story by showing a car heading somewhere, presumably the pond; back endpapers show a quiet, empty pond at night, with the marks left by skaters earlier in the day. Watercolor, pencil, and digital illustrations make every spread a welcoming winter scene, with calming blues and winter whites throughout. Add this to your winter storytimes for rhyming fun.

 

Snow Still, by Holy Surplice, (Oct. 2019, Nosy Crow),
$8.99, ISBN: 9781536208344
Ages 0-3

This padded board book is the perfect toddler story for the wonder of winter. A little fawn discovers winter, and romps and plays through the forest, discovering and playing as it goes. Each spread illustrates a different two-word snowy phrase: “Snow white. / Snow slide. / Snow chase. / Snow hide” as the fawn wanders through a winter wonderland with animal friends. The watercolor illustrations are quietly engaging, with a curious little fawn and a winter white forest background. The rhyming text and easy sight words will engage toddlers and early preschoolers. A great lap-read on a cold winter day or night.

 

The Little Snowplow Wishes For Snow, by Lora Koehler/Illustrated by Jake Parker,
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201178
Ages 3-7

This is an adorable seasonal read that works wonderfully for winter storytimes! The second Little Snowplow book sees Little Snowplow go through the seasons, desperately wishing for snow. But when winter arrives… no snow! On his birthday morning, though… there’s snow! Will Little Snowplow get all his plowing done in time for his birthday party? The pencil and digital illustrations are colorful, giving the vehicles sweet faces full of expression. Publisher Candlewick offers a free, downloadable activity kit that includes games, coloring sheets, even birthday invitations. Preschoolers love their vehicle books; add this to your storytime collection and watch them light up.

 

Snow Leopard: Ghost of the Mountains, by Justin Anderson/Illustrated by Patrick Benson,
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536205404
Ages 5-8

Zoologist and filmmaker Justin Anderson weaves a story of a zoologist who travels into the Himalayan mountains in search of the elusive snow leopard. Anderson’s story – inspired by his experiences – is beautifully descriptive, with facts in smaller callouts throughout the book. His respect for and awe of the snow leopard and her habitat shines through in his descriptions, brought to life by Owl Babies illustrator Patrick Benson, whose earth-colored and winter watercolors transport us to a different world. Endpapers with footprints in the snow bring us into and lead us out of the book. Back matter includes an author’s note about snow leopards and the need for conservation and awareness, an index of key leopard terms, and resources for more about saving snow leopards.