Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction

Orca re-releases Chinese New Year in time for the Year of the Ox

Chinese New Year: A Celebration for Everyone, by Jen Sookfong Lee, (Jan. 2021, Orca Book Publishers), $12.95, ISBN: 9781459826434

Ages 9-12

Originally published in hardcover in 2017, Orca’s nonfiction Orca Origins series releases the paperback version of Chinese New Year: A Celebration for Everyone this month, just in time for the Year of the Ox celebrations beginning February 12th. Filled with fast facts, color photos, and quotes from prominent members of the Chinese community, author Jen Sookfong Lee details the history of Chinese New Year from its mythic origins to current-day celebrations, with memories of her own childhood and the childhoods of others adding a personal touch. The emphasis on family, how the holiday evolved from earlier days through upheavals in Chinese history, and how the holiday spread throughout the world give readers an idea of how Chinese New Year achieved such a global scope. Recipes throughout encourage readers – with adult supervision – to try out some New Year treats, and stories about the globalization of the holiday provide an welcome, inclusive invitation for all to enjoy. A glossary and index add to the back matter. A nice addition to holiday collections.

Posted in picture books

Love is Love around the world

Love is Love: The Journey Continues (Book Two), by Fleur Pierets/Illustrated by Fatinha Ramos, (Nov. 2020, Six Foot Press), $18.95, ISBN: 978-1644420263

Ages 5-8

A follow-up to last year’s Love Around the World (Book One), Love is Love: The Journey Continues is the continuing story of Fleur Pierets and her wife, Julian, and their quest to get married in every country around the world that would let them. Julian was diagnosed with cancer after their fourth wedding and died six weeks later; Love is Love is the story of, as Fleur Pierets says, “two women named Fleur and Julian, who are going to get married in every country where they are allowed to do so. In the book, Julian doesn’t die, and we finish our performance of love”.

In straightforward prose, Fleur describes weddings in Denmark, Sweden, Colombia, Austria, and 10 others (The other weddings are covered Love Around the World). Colorful, bright, happy illustrations show the spouses dancing, traveling, and celebrating their love for one another across the globe, with happy attendees showering them with good wishes. Touching and powerful, Love is Love is a beautiful testament to love.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Excellent life advice: Eat the Cake!

Eat the Cake, by MH Clark/Illustrated by Jana Glatt, (Feb. 2020, Compendium), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1946873842

Ages 4-7

It’s time to celebrate? Celebrate what, you ask? Who needs a reason? Eat the Cake is all about picking a special day – it can be a birthday, a graduation, a special occasion, or just waking up and deciding this is YOUR day – and celebrating! Great things are coming your way, so relax, enjoy, and eat the cake!

This rhyming, upbeat story is all about embracing positivity; a new mindset; creativity, and being bold and brave. Brightly colored figures parade up, down, and all around the pages, throwing confetti, playing instruments, and celebrating the reader. The bright, happy colors pop off the bright white of the pages, really grabbing the reader’s attention and creative a fun, festive atmosphere. The story is a celebration of the reader/audience, encouraging them to “be so bright that the stars, watching all that you do, / look right down from the sky and start wishing on you”. How fantastic is that to read?

Play some upbeat music, give kids egg shakers, and let them celebrate themselves after reading Eat the Cake at storytime. Don’t limit the fun to the little ones, either: this works nicely with Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! for a graduation reading at any age. Give this to a retiring colleague or family member to remind them to enjoy life and all they have ahead of them, or someone achieving a major milestone, or someone who just needs a pick-me-up. Eat the Cake is just too much fun.

MH Clark is also the author of Tiger Days, a great book about emotions, and Tiny Perfect Things, a lovely book about those small and perfect moments in our day.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Halloween’s a-comin’!

I loooooove Halloween. I’m one of those wackos that start decorating the first week of October (I’ll be going out to the garage to get my decorations tonight), and I’ve already started stockpiling goodies to stock for my trick-or-treaters at home and the library, plus goodies to hand out to my kiddo’s class. For Halloween storytime, I hand out little trick or treat bags with a mini-coloring book, like this Five Little Pumpkins rhyme from DLTK, some stickers, and a little trinket or two.

Halloween storytimes are the best, because I go nuts. I dress up, we sing great Halloween songs and dance to videos, and I stockpile Halloween stories to read and display. So here are some of the newer books I have on my Halloween storytime pile.

Pick a Pumpkin, by Patricia Toht/Illustrated by Jarvis, (July 2019, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536207644

Ages 3-7

The folks who brought us 2017’s Pick a Pine Tree are back with a Halloween story from the pumpkin patch. This rhyming story brings a family to the pumpkin patch, where they pick the perfect pumpkins; bringing them home, they assemble a pumpkin carving crew, their tools, and create the coolest Jack O’Lanterns you could wish for! The kids don their Halloween costumes for a night on the town while the Jack O’Lanterns guard their homes. Easily readable, with a soothing rhyme cadence, this is perfect storytime reading. The pencil, chalk, and paint artwork uses warm and vibrant Fall colors, and creates fun Jack O’Lantern faces for the kids to love. Don’t miss this one; you’ll come back to it for regular holiday reading. Have Jack O’Lantern coloring sheets ready to hand out post-storytime.

Pick a Pumpkin has a starred review from Booklist.

 

Where’s the Witch?, by Ingela P. Arrrhenius, (July 2019, Nosy Crow), $8.99, ISBN: 9781536207538

Ages 0-3

Christmas authors are getting into the Halloween spirit this year! Ingela P. Arrenhius’ board book, Where’s Santa?, was perfect toddler holiday reading and exploring last year. This year, she introduces kids to Halloween concepts, using her bold, bright, expressive art to send kids searching for Halloween icons: a witch, a skeleton, a spider, and vampire, all hidden behind shaped felt. The final spread asks, “Where are you?” and hides a mirror behind a felt ghost, letting toddlers see themselves for the final reveal. These books are adorable, and little fingers will love exploring and discovering their Halloween friends. Pair this with A Mischief of Monsters for a monstrously good storytime! (I know, that was painful, but it was right there.) Order two if you can, and keep one in your storytime collection: this one will get beaten up in circulation.

Give Me Back My Bones!, by Kim Norman/Illustrated by Bob Kolar, (July 2019, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763688417

Ages 4-8

A rhyming anatomy lesson and hide-and-seek all in one book! A stormy night has wreaked havoc on a poor pirate skeleton, whose bones have been scattered all over the sea floor. The rhyme incorporates proper biological terms for the bones, including mandible, metacarpals, scapula, and femur. The endpapers lay it all out for you, too: the front endpapers feature the scattered skeleton, with all his parts labeled; the back endpapers have our skeletal friend reassembled, with everything labeled so kids can see how they come together. As the rhyme proceeds through the book, encourage kids to look for the old buccaneer’s bones, and for any other pirate gear he may be missing: his hat, sword, earring, peg leg, and more have all been scattered to the seven seas, too! The digital artwork is bright, bold, and fun, showing the skeleton reassemble amid curious marine life, all of whom have taken ownership of the shiny skeletal treasures. The cover of the book doubles as a poster, with our pirate skeleton assembled and labeled. Could be a fun decoration! Kids will love it if you read this in an improvised pirate voice, just make sure you have some water nearby to soothe your throat. That pirate rasp can leave you parched.

Don’t miss this one. Give Me Back My Bones! has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Unicorn Day: All are welcome!

Unicorn Day, by Diana Murray/Illustrated by Luke Flowers, (June 2019, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492667223

Ages 3-7

It’s Unicorn Day! All the unicorns come out to play and show their unicorn pride; they shine up their horns, they fluff up their manes, and they sing the Unicorn Day song as they dance and celebrate. But what happens when a horse tries to fit in with a fake horn on Unicorn Day? Why, the unicorns embrace him and get back to celebrating! Unicorn Day is for everyone!

Sliding down rainbows? Raining cupcakes? A glitter fight? This is the best book ever! Unicorn Day is an adorable tale of fun, celebration, and inclusivity. No mean unicorns here! These unicorns know how to have fun and want everyone around them to feel as happy and loved as they do. The rhyming text has a festive feel, and Luke Flowers’ colorful, vibrant art will get your little readers up and marching. Alligators, octopus, even a yeti parade across the page, all sporting unicorn horns and megawatt smiles. I love the joyful feel of the story, and the positive message about making space for everyone. Author Diana Murray has a free, downloadable activity kit available that has everything you need for your own unicorn party, including tasty recipes, a pin-the-horn on the unicorn game, invitations, and name tags. This Craftiness is Not Optional post also has a cute step-by-step to make your own glittery unicorn horns using scrapbooking paper. Want to make unicorn balloons? Here’s a template from the Minidrops blog; the post is in German, but the pictures are there to guide you.

Slip this into your Pride storytimes, your unicorn storytimes, and your anytime storytimes. It’s feel-good storytelling, and a must-have for your collections!

Seriously, though, check out Diana Murray’s author website. I’ve been a fan for several years now; she’s got goodies attached to most of her book pages, and her books are consistently wonderful. Follow Luke Flowers on Instagram to see more of his adorable artwork, and because he’s a great guy who personalizes books at his signings. (My 7-year-old is still thrilled with his ‘Be T-Rexcellent’ message and drawing on his copy of One More Dino on the Floor.)

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Babymoon celebrates that magical bonding time with a new baby

Babymoon, by Hayley Barrett/Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763688523

Ages 3-7

“We’ll invite the world in soon, but for now – we’re on our babymoon”.

When new parents bring home their little bundle for the first time, there’s usually a line of well-wishers waiting to get in the door and visit, cuddle, and gush over the new arrival(s), but those days are also a big adjustment, too. Sometimes, you just want – need – some more time in that intimate bubble; more time to cuddle, gaze, and enjoy your new family, before letting the outside world in. It’s a time many refer to as The Babymoon, and Hayley Barrett and Juana Martinez-Neal have come together to create a gorgeous book celebrating that magical time.

Told in a gentle rhyme, this story of a mom, dad, and new baby is just gorgeous. It’s a celebration of discovery as a family; of “delighting in each small surprise”; of cuddly naps; of nursing; of lullabies and yawns; of connecting and figuring out one another. I adore award-winning illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal’s artwork – her book, Alma, is a beautiful look at the origin of a child’s name, and here, she uses warmly colored, soft, acrylic, colored pencil, and graphite artwork on handmade textured paper to capture the sheer wonder – and sleepiness, and even confusion – of this exquisite moment in time. Ms. Martinez-Neal creates illustrations that speak to readers; reaching up through the page and drawing them in, heart-first, to the story.

Babymoon is a lovely read-aloud and gift to new siblings, and assures kids (and adults alike) that it’s okay to keep the world outside for just a little bit longer, as they navigate this new little person. It’s a perfect baby shower gift, inviting new parents and parents-to-be to relax and enjoy this new time: everyone else can, and will, wait.

Babymoon has a starred review from Booklist.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Prepare for a fiesta with The Piñata That the Farm Maiden Hung!

The Piñata That the Farm Maiden Hung, by Samantha Vamos/Illustrated by Sebastià Serra, (Jan. 2019, Charlesbridge), $17.99, ISBN: 9781580897969

Ages 4-8

This adorable companion to 2011’s The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred is another bilingual, cumulative story. A girl heads to the market while the farm maiden and her friends pull together a piñata for a surprise celebration! Like Cazuela, The Piñata That the Farm Maiden Hung features Spanish words in bold font, with words identifiable using context clues, and the illustrations are colorful and bright, with friendly, soft character faces and festive touches like papel picado pennants and a bright piñata. Back matter includes the lyrics to “The Piñata Song/La Canción de la Piñata”, instructions on making your own piñata, a glossary, and list of Spanish translations. Charlesbridge offers the piñata instructions available for free download on their website.

This is a cute companion to The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred, and a fun addition to storytime. It begs for a felt board storytelling, so make a trip to the craft store!

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Friendship has been around since the beginning: Cavekid Birthday

Cavekid Birthday, by Cathy Breisacher/Illustrated by Roland Garrigue, (March 2019, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580898768

Ages 4-8

Caveboy and Cavegirl are best friends, born on the same day in side by side caves. Caveboy loves rocks, while Cavegirl enjoys working with tools and painting on cave walls. One birthday, each wants to give the other a gift, but what to get? They each visit Caveman’s Collectibles, separately, and find the perfect gifts. Caveboy trades his rock collection to get a box for Cavegirl to put her tools and paintbrushes in; Cavegirl trades her tools and paintbrushes to get a box for Caveboy to store his rock collection. When they exchange gifts, they figure out ways to put their new gifts – and existing talents – to work.

An updated, kids’ version of O’Henry’s The Gift of the Magi, Cavekid Birthday is a story about friendship, and it’s a story about creative thinking. Caveboy and Cavegirl’s friendship means so much to the other that they’re willing to trade their prized possessions away to get each other the perfect gift – and once they have those perfect gifts, they put them to creative use. But as they start to miss their rock and tool collections, they use their creative talents in another way in order to barter and get them back. Cavekid Birthday has a message about resourcefulness that encourages kids to think outside… well, the box.

The cartoon artwork is mostly earth-toned, with tonal greens and browns, and bright yellows and oranges that perk up the landscape. The characters are expressive and cute, and will keep readers interested. The storytelling leaves room for discussion throughout; ask the kids what they predict will happen when each Cavekid goes to the store, and what will happen when they unwrap each other’s gifts. A nice add to storytime collections.

Posted in picture books

Mid-Autumn Festival Reading: The Shadow in the Moon

The Shadow in the Moon: A Tale of the Mid-Autumn Festival, by Christina Matula/Illustrated by Pearl Law, (July 2018), Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580897464

Recommended for readers 5-9

I know we’re just beginning summer, but there are great, fall-themed books getting ready to hit shelves any second! If you’re like me and need to plan your programs several weeks out, this is big help. The Shadow in the Moon is a book about the Autumn Moon Harvest, which happens from September 22-24 this year. Last year, I held a moon cake and tea party storytime that went so well, I’m hoping to do it again, and this is a new book that I can add to my reading list this year.

A family celebrates the Mid-Autumn Festival together, with delicious mooncakes and other treats to enjoy. Two sisters ask Ah-ma, their grandmother, who the beautiful lady on their mooncake is, prompting Ah-ma to tell them the origin story of the Autumn Festival. She tells them about Hou Yi, the brave archer, his wife, Chang’e, and the thief who tried to steal the magic potion given to Hou Yi by the Immortals. The foods eaten during the Festival are a celebration of the story, with the mooncake taking center stage, in tribute to Chang’e.

The Shadow and the Moon celebrates family and the tradition of storytelling, with beautiful, deep blues and bright colors throughout. The pencil and Photoshop art will capture readers’ eyes, and the ethereal storytelling invites readers to sit back and daydream about the beautiful Lady in the Moon and her brave archer. An author’s note further explains the Mid-Autumn festival and features a poem by one of China’s greatest poets, Li Bai. There’s also a recipe for mooncakes with red bean filling that is making my mouth water. A must-add to your holiday collections.

Posted in Uncategorized

Books for Pride: Julian is a Mermaid

June is coming up quickly (yikes!), so let’s get our Pride collections ready to read and booktalk! I’ll be spotlighting a few new books, and some favorites, this month. Let’s start with a relatively new book: Julian is a Mermaid.

Julián is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love, (Apr. 2018, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763690458

Recommended for readers 4-8

I love this gorgeously illustrated story of a little boy who embraces his inner mermaid. As Julián rides the subway home with his abuela, he spies three women, dressed and gorgeous, and pronounces them mermaids. He daydreams about his own transformation into a mermaid; shedding his tank top and shorts (he keeps his undies on); letting his hair grow wild and free, and develops a fabulous pink and yellow mermaid tail as he heads off to swim with a group of fish. When he and Abuela arrive home, he tells her that he’s a mermaid, too. When she goes to take a bath, Julián transforms himself: he sheds his clothes (keeping those tidy whities on), gives himself a fierce head of hair using Abuela’s fern and some flowers, gets into her makeup, and wraps a curtain tail around himself. Voila! Abuela takes one look at him, hands him a necklace, and takes her fabulous and fierce mermaid to the Mermaid Parade at Coney Island, telling him, “Like you, mijo. Let’s join them.” And they do, following right behind the trio of mermaids the two met earlier on the subway.

What an empowering, fantastic story. I love the New York flavor: the street scenes are pure New York, from the green subway entrances to the faces and body language of every character in this book. A group of girls plays at an open fire hydrant; a seagull hangs out on the street by an older man, sitting out on his chair, with his dog in his lap. The Mermaid Parade is full of fanfare, and the colors pulse off the page. Abuela accepts Julián and takes her grandson to be with his fellow mermaids, but most importantly, Julián accepts himself. The endpapers give us a little more of the story, too: Abuela, Julián, and four older woman enjoy themselves at the public pool; at the end, the same group are all mermaids, enjoying themselves in the sea. Put this on your Pride reading lists, and read this in your storytimes and to your kids often.

Julián is a Mermaid has five starred reviews and is a Junior Library Guild Selection.