Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

No Ordinary Jacket: memories preserved in clothing

No Ordinary Jacket, by Sue-Ellen Pashley/Illustrated by Thea Baker, (Aug. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536209662

Ages 3-7

Amelia’s got a special jacket. It’s no ordinary jacket; it’s “soft, like dandelion fluff… warm, like the afternoon sun… comforting, like a hug from y our favorite teddy bear. And it had four dazzling buttons down the front”. She wears the jacket everywhere, but eventually, she grows out of it. Her sister Lilly inherits the jacket, and she loves it, too. Lilly also grows out of it, but she puts it on her favorite doll, and later, uses the jacket to keep her cat and brand new litter of kittens warm. When Mom rediscovers the old, dirty jacket covered in cat fur, she decides it has to go. But how can you let go of such a wonderful jacket with so many memories? Luckily, Mom comes up with an even better idea that makes everyone happy. A heartwarming story about memories and physical objects, readers will love this comforting story. It’s reassuring to know that favorite objects don’t have to outlive their use and can take on new life as something different; sharing and making new memories as the years pass. The collage artwork is beautiful, giving texture and life to each spread. The tapestry jacket looks comfortable and warm; you can almost feel the soft cuffs and the woven cloth of the jacket.

These days, upcycling is even more popular; I’ve been making sure to suggest crafts using common household products when I’m doing virtual programming. There are great upcycling ideas for kids all over the Web: Red Tricycle has some good ideas here.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads, Teen, Tween Reads

The holidays are coming… What do I do with these kids?

Welcome to this year’s edition of “What the heck do I do with a house full of kids?” Thanksgiving is THIS WEEK, which means Hanukkah and Christmas are right around the corner. We’re going to have homes full of kids while you’re getting the house clean, cooking meals, wrapping gifts, decorating your home. Sure, you could turn on Klaus on Netflix, but why not have some fun things ready to keep the kids entertained while you and the grownups get some face time in? Here are a few fun books chock full of ideas.

Playing with Collage, by Jeannie Baker, (Oct. 2019, Candlewick Studio), $16, ISBN: 9781536205398

Ages 8-12

Who doesn’t love making collages? It’s one of our favorite things to do at the library. Jeannie Baker is a picture book author-illustrator who created this master class on working with collage for kids and adults alike. She provides a look at the tools and textures she uses to create wonderful collage artwork, with plenty of examples. How do you prep leaves for pressing? Did I even know you prep leaves for pressing, rather than just gluing them to a page and calling it a day? How do you use corrugated cardboard and torn tissue paper to create a visually stunning scene that you can feel by just looking at it? Jeannie Baker is here for you with easy-to-read explanations and techniques. She’s got a whole section dedicated to kitchen materials, so keep things aside as you prep for holiday cooking – your kids will find ways to work with them. She even includes a fun guessing game at the end of the book, challenging readers to identify the materials in her final collage. Provide the materials, set aside a creative space (I usually designate my dining room table), and let them go to work with this book as a fun reference guide. There are suggestions for more advanced crafters in here – make sure any kinds of superglue or cutting materials are used with an adult’s guidance.

 

 

Yikes! Santa Claus is in His Underpants!, by Mister Ed,
(Oct. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $6.99, ISBN: 9780764358296
Ages 3-8

How much fun is this? You get to dress up Santa! The inner flap of this softcover paper doll book is Santa, in all his underwear-rocking glory. The rest of the book includes pages of accessories and outfits to dress him in. All of his gear are removable stickers, so you can dress him up, mix and match, and do it all again. Dress him up in bunny pajamas, biker gear, a superhero set of tights, a sheriff, get him ready for his post-Christmas nap with a pair of fuzzy pajamas and reindeer slippers. Get creative, and have fun! At $6.99, you can definitely swing buying a couple of these for stocking stuffers or to let groups of kids have their own Dress Santa contests.

 

Make Your Own Beauty Masks: 38 Simple, All-Natural Recipes for Healthy Skin, Illustrated by Emma Trithart,
(Nov. 2019, Odd Dot), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250208125
Ages 10+

Come ON. This is just too much fun, especially if you have tween and teen girls in the home. Get in some pampering for the holidays with this adorable book from Odd Dot. Everything is natural; straight from your fridge or the produce section to your face. I bet you can find nearly everything in your home right now. The masks have the cutest names, and the book is beautifully illustrated. The contents tell you exactly what you need, and the step-by-step directions help you prep your face and your ingredients for absolute pampering and relaxation while you watch March of the Wooden Soldiers and wait for your turkey to cook. The book comes with ten sheet masks to get you started. Keep an eye out for any prep that requires cutting or blending; you may want to prep the ingredients with your spa participants the night before.

Don’t forget tabletop games – we’re still loving Monsters in the Elevator and Nightmarium, and are looking forward to introducing Throw Throw Burrito, which is, essentially, a combination of tabletop card game and dodgeball, with soft, adorable burritos. Dueling burritos, sneak attack burritos, team-up burrito warfare: it’s all here, and we have laughed ourselves into stomachaches playing it, so what better way to end a day of Thanksgiving eating? 

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Nature reveals its magic in The Magic Garden

The Magic Garden, by Lemniscates, (March 2018, Walter Foster Jr.), $16.95, ISBN: 9781633225138

Recommended for readers 4-7

Just stepping outside on any given day can reveal magic: leaves changing color on the trees; the tiniest caterpillar eggs on a leaf, or a chrysalis opening to release a butterfly into the world. In The Magic Garden, a young girl named Chloe takes her garden for granted, until one day, it decides to get her attention: throughout the season, branches wave, birds weave nests and spiders weave webs, bees dance, and the cycle continues.

How often do we actually stop and notice what’s going on around us? The Magic Garden speaks to the ubiquitous of nature and to how we move within nature without seeing the wonder around us. Award-winning author, illustrator, and designer Lemniscates’ mixed media, collage, and digital artwork come together to bring a textured, colorful world to readers, and popular questions about nature at the end of the book – Why do fireflies glow? Why do bees dance? – make this an enticing read-aloud that works in a science setting as easily as it would in a storytime setting. It invites children to stop and look at the world around them and ask why. This is the perfect story to accompany a nature journal craft I’ve had pinned to my Pinterest boards for over a year now: read the story, let kids make their journals, and have them go out and fill them!

 

 

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Let Wallpaper take you on an adventure!

Wallpaper, by Thao Lam, (Apr. 2018, OwlKids Books), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771472838

Recommended for readers 3-7

A young girl moves into a new neighborhood, but is too shy to greet the neighborhood kids playing outside her window. She notices a little bird peeking at her from an upturned piece of wallpaper, and follows the bird on an exciting journey! She releases a flock of birds, wanders into a flower-filled garden, and escapes from a monster as she discovers world after world.

The collage illustration is breathtaking. This is a wordless book that could be used as easily in a storytime as it can in a creative writing class or an art class. The collage artwork is so colorful, so crisp, and so textured, that it appears to stand apart from the page – my own son tried to tap my tablet, seeing if it would cause a flap to lift, or a bird to fly. Thao Lam creates world after world for her protagonist, and us readers, to explore, marvel at, and thrill to. Her protagonist is a child of color and the children in her neighborhood are a wonderfully diverse group, making Wallpaper an exciting journey for all kids. As a librarian in an urban system, I can put this book out on my desk and have the kids in my children’s room identify with all of the children in this book – now, I’ll have to figure out how to explain a possible rash of torn wallpaper to parents…

Wallpaper is a must-have book for collections. I’m interested in exploring this as a book discussion choice, where my kids tell me what worlds they’d like to find if they were in the same situation. And come on: how much fun will it be to have kids create their own collage art? Have magazines and some weeded picture and easy reader books available to cut up.

Wallpaper has starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus.

 

 

Posted in Preschool Reads

Turtle’s First Winter is great for ALL seasons!

Turtle’s First Winter, by Sara Beth Videtto, (Aug. 2017, Hill House Press, LLC), $18.95, ISBN: 978-0-692-87516-2

Recommended for readers 4-7

I’ve been holding onto this one for too long, and I need to tell more people about this book. I met Sara Beth Videtto at KidLitCon this past November, and snapped this book up ASAP. Just looking at the cover, it looks like it’s a perfect readalike for our Eric Carle fans, right? It is! It’s a sweet story about a turtle and his friend, Bear, who experience the four seasons and all they have to offer. But it’s Turtle’s first go-round, so Bear lets him know what to expect from each one. We learn the duo’s favorite parts of the seasons, like the soft, ticklish green grass in the summer and the crisp fall air; we learn how turtles hibernate, and we are happy when the friends reunite in the spring. It’s a sweet story about the seasons and friendship.

This is a great read for preschoolers to Grade 1; it would fit into a storytime on the seasons as easily as it would hibernation. I’d read this with Denise Fleming’s In the Small, Small Pond as easily as I’d read it with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? for the pre-k to kindergarteners, and with Kate Messner’s Over and Under the Snow, and Nancy Elizabeth Wallace’s Pond Walk for kindergartners to first graders.

But the best part about this book is the art. Sara Beth Videtto creates layered artwork that gives the book such a unique look and feel. She prints up pictures from nature – dirt, grass, bark, leaves – cuts them into strips and shapes, and glues them together; then, she scans them into her computer to type the words onto the pictures (more on that in a second).

This is a Read and Find Storybook, so it’s loaded with things for kids to read and find! If you look at the bear and the turtle, you’ll notice each animal has its name, cleverly included within the artwork. Identifying words for the nature around them crop up here and there, too. The words for Bear, Turtle, and the parts of nature within the story text map to the textured artwork, too! I’ve taken some photos from my copy of the book to show off the artwork a little better.

See the text? Turtle maps to the textured artwork for Turtle; Bear, leaves, grass – it creates a relationship between the reader and the artwork!

Textured artwork, beautiful layers. Have a good nap, Turtle!

Do you see Bear’s name?

How about Turtle’s?

I know I’m gushing, but this is such a great book and my Kindergartner loves it. Which makes sense, since Ms. Videtto is a former K-3 teacher. She is the nicest person, taking the time to talk with me about her book and answer any questions I had, but even better? Once my kiddo read the book with me, HE had questions. A lot of them; all about the artwork. He never asks questions like that! So I took to The Twitter and asked Sara Beth all of his questions, and she got back to me ASAP, with a full explanation (with pictures!) of how she creates her artwork. My little guy was so excited to get a response from an author; she’s helped create a lifelong fan and a lifelong reader. And for that, I’m grateful.

Sara Beth Videtto has a website with extra information and activity sheets to accompany Turtle’s First Winter, along with links to her blog and info about school visits. Most importantly, you can buy a copy of her book straight from the website! She’s got some teasing info about her next two books, which I’m very excited about (there’s an octopus!), and links to Turtle’s fan club page on Facebook. I’m so happy to have met her, and thrilled to talk this book up.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Preschool Reads

We all have our own song – A Song for Papa Crow

song for papa crowA Song for Papa Crow, by Marit Menzin (Schiffer Publishing, 2012). $16.99 ISBN: 978-0764341311

Recommended for ages 4-8

A young crow sings his happy song wherever he goes, but the birds around him – Goldfinches, Flycatchers, and Cardinals, to name a few – can’t bear to hear Little Crow’s caw. Papa Crow tells his son that he always knows where to find him when he follows his song, but Little Crow wants to sing like the other birds. When he sees The Amazing Mockingbird sing, and finds out the bird’s secret, he wants to change his song – but learns that singing your own song is the best song of all.

This is a sweet story about individuality, by collage artist Marit Menzin. She uses mixed media collage to great effect to illustrate her story, making this a gorgeous book to use in a storytime. The textures make the birds and scenery come alive, and her font – a decorative font, black in color – allows for a reader to weave the story to an audience that can sit and listen to the tale. I would read this book to an older group, maybe 4-6, that can sit quietly and enjoy the story.

This book invites a fun workshop for any librarian/parent/educator who has the space – make your own birds with collage materials! The book also includes a list of the birds referenced in the book, with some information on each. For a simpler storytime activity, there are bird printables all over the Internet.

A Song for Papa Crow received a Mom’s Choice Award Gold Honor in 2012. The author’s website offers a look at some more of her beautiful collage work.