Posted in picture books

Trying illustrates the beauty in the entire process

Trying, by Kobi Yamada/Illustrated by Elise Hurst, (Dec. 2020, Compendium), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-970147-28-5

Ages 5-8

Kobi Yamada is a master of the inspirational book for children. Every book carries an important, quiet message for further introspection, and the latest, Trying, may deliver one of the most essential lessons yet. A boy walks into a sculptor’s studio and asks, “How do you do that?” Surrounded by the sculptor’s creations, he tells the boy, “You simply do it”. The dialogue between sculptor and boy turns to a deeper discussion about fear of failure; frustration; the desire to give up, and the beauty of mistakes. The artwork is haunting, composed of gray, black and white sketchwork; shadows add depth and texture. Brief colorful accents draw the eye to moments: a cat observing; blue-gray accents carry the boy across a sea of dreams; greenery decorates the master sculptor’s “failures”. Trying is a story to spark discussion and introspection and is just a breathtaking work. The quiet storytelling speaks to the frustration of wanting and the sadness of self-defeat; so many will understand the boy’s wonder, combined with reticence: “I’d rather just watch. I can’t mess things up if I just watch”. Educators and caregivers will see themselves in the sculptor, who nudges the boy outside of his comfort zone with statements like, “…disappointment hurts. But failure is temporary, and in many ways, necessary. It shows us how something can’t be done, which means we are a little closer to finding out how it can”. Particularly meaningful as we all fight to get used to a new way of living, Trying speaks to every one of us.

I read this to a second grade class during a visit last week and was thrilled at the response. I saw smiles, I saw a few nods, and every student appeared entranced by the author’s work. Another great one from Yamada and illustrator Elise Hurst, Trying has a starred review from Kirkus.

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 Uncategorized

Last minute shopping! Maybe Pig Plush!

Late-breaking! If you’re still looking for a holiday gift (or a January birthday gift? Three Kings Gift?), HOLD EVERYTHING. Or, even better, hold this adorable plush pig!

Remember this cutie? This is the pig featured in Kobe Yamada’s latest book, Maybe. Compendium’s released the sweetest little flying pig plush, complete with aviator hat. They were kind enough to send me one, and it is SO SQUISHY SOFT.



The pig is soft, small, and perfect for cuddling while you read Maybe. My second grader and I have personally test-driven the book and plush together in a shared storytime, and we agree. The aviator cap is removable, and hat and plush are machine washable. This little sweetie will stand up to a lot of love, and will go nicely with a copy of Maybe, Charlotte’s Web, or maybe some Steampunk ABC?

The Flying Pig plush is available at Compendium’s website, or your preferred mass market retailer’s site. Snuggle up with this little one and dream about flying over obstacles into a bright new year!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Maybe shows children their incredible potential

Maybe, by Kobi Yamada/Illustrated by Gabriella Barouch, (Sept. 2019, Compendium), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-946-87375-0

Ages 3-7

A girl and her sidekick, a small pig, take readers on an introspective journey in Maybe. Opening with the question, “Have you ever wondered why you are here?”, Kobi Yamada inspires and encourages listeners to think about what each and every one of us is here to accomplish – to invent something? to you build things?- and embrace everything life has to offer; everything we set out to do, from a place of love and the desire to be a force for good. Speak for those who cannot. Shine a light into dark places. Kobi Yamada’s words will fill readers with a sense of purpose; strengthening them against failure by acknowledging that it isn’t how one falls down, it’s how they rise. Gabrielle Barouch’s artwork explores fantastic, surreal landscapes with a hold in the corporeal world: releasing a birdcage filled with glowing butterflies into the night; watering flowers while standing in them.

Maybe is a lovely book to look at, and a book that’s filled with potential, just waiting to share it with others. Share this with your readers; read this to your class visits; let the kids know that, as Kobi Yamada says, “You already have everything it takes to do big things”.


Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Tiger Days: Let the animals be your guide to feelings!

Tiger Days: A Book of Feelings, by M.H. Clark/Illustrated by Anna Hurley, (March 2019, Compendium), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-946873-41-5

Ages 3-6

Tiger Days helps kids understand their emotions, and how to describe their feelings, by using animals to illustrate them. Ever feel like a rhino? So stubborn, no one can move you or change your mind? How about a silly monkey, all wiggly arms and legs, full of mischief and fun? Each spread is vividly colored, featuring a different animal, and characteristics of that animal that map to different moods. The background color of each page adds to the feel of each feeling; bright greens and yellows for happy rabbits and monkeys, who play across the pages; soft purple for a shy turtle; red for an angry bull. Each drawing is boldly lined and bright, popping off the page; fonts are capitalized to emphasize key words.

Tiger Days also lets kids know that their feelings are normal. No feelings are presented as “good” or “bad”; they just are, and this is how they can make people feel. I’d easily add this to one of my storytimes, including a yoga storytime, where I use animal poses. The kids’ favorite one tends to be the Lion Pose, where they get to open their mouths wide and roar. Linking feelings to mindfulness is a great way to help kids understand their feelings and be present for them, allowing them to describe and name what’s going on and furthering communication. Encourage your storytime kids roar, stamp the ground, or curl into their shells to describe different feelings! This would made a good time to break out some emoji flash cards, too; let the kids color the different faces and match them to animals mentioned in the book.

Tiger Days is a good book to have in your bookshelf, especially when you’re working with kids who are learning not only how to communicate with you, but to put words to things happening within themselves.


Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Beauty in the small places: Tiny, Perfect Things

Tiny, Perfect Things, by M.H. Clark/Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper, (June 20118, Compendium), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-946873-06-4

Recommended for readers 3-8

A grandfather and granddaughter go for a nature walk, where they keep their “eyes open for tiny, perfect things”: the glint of light on a spider’s web; the bright color of an apple against the blue sky. It’s a lovely story of slowing down and taking the time to look at the little treasures around us. The grandparent and grandchild stop to examine these tiny, perfect things, leading us on our own adventure; when they arrive at home later that day, mom and dad are cuddled on the couch. A spread opens up to reveal the neighborhood, inviting readers to find their own tiny, perfect things.

Tiny, Perfect Things offers readers a glimpse at a small moment between a grandparent and grandchild, yet speaks volumes about their relationship. It’s also a moving statement to the power of slow movement – the slowing down of life’s hectic pace – and taking the time to notice the little bits and pieces that so many just ignore or don’t see. It’s a tribute to getting our noses out of our phones and enjoying the warmth of a little hand in ours; smelling the rain in the air; listening to the crunch of sneakers on dirt. The illustration is dreamy and soft, like a wonderful daydream, in warm colors. There’s a quiet, beautiful diversity in the story, from the white grandfather and his biracial grandchild, to the multicultural neighbors, to the father of color and white mom at home. You can follow Madeline Kloepper’s Instagram to see more.

It’s also the perfect opportunity to get out the door with our kiddos and explore! There’s a great post on Book Nerd Mommy about Tiny, Perfect Things and nature walks. Get out there! I love wandering around my neighborhood with my kiddo – we found a complete, empty snail shell and some acorns when we were clearing our yard for spring planting. What things can you find when you look?

Tiny, Perfect Things received a starred review from Kirkus.

This is a great storytime add and a nice book to feature in mindfulness collections. You can easily read this in your Toddler/Preschooler Yoga storytimes during belly breathing. You can pair and display with any of the Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds books, like I Am Yoga and I Am Peace; or Whitney Stewart, Stacy Peterson’s Mindful Me.

Posted in Toddler Reads

Adorable board books: actions, feelings, and opposites

This board book trio from author Ruth Austin and illustrator Kanae Sato is just adorable: Wiggle Jump Tickle looks at action words; Hide Seek Stinky Sweet – one of the best board book titles ever – introduces readers to opposites; and Happy Grumpy Loved is all about feelings. Let’s dive in.

Wiggle Jump Tickle, by Ruth Austin/Illustrated by Kanae Sato, (June 2018, Compendium), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1946873095

Recommended for readers 0-3

A young boy and an egg demonstrate cause and effect using action words in this adorable board book. The boy sees and egg, and reaches for it; grabs the egg, and it wiggles; as the egg hatches, he and his new friend play together, introducing words like play, stomp, dance, and wiggle to new readers. The illustrations are bright and bold, emotive, joyfully playful, and loaded with action and movement. It’s a celebration of discovery and new friendship, perfect for developing readers and listeners.



Hide Seek Stinky Sweet, by Ruth Austin/Illustrated by Kanae Sato, (June 2018, Compendium), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1946873088

Recommended for readers 0-3

A young girl and her black cat introduce children to opposites in this fun little book. At the start of the day, the girl is asleep, until Kitty decides it’s time to give some morning kisses to awaken her. Throughout their day, the girl gives a piece of candy to the cat, who decides to take her slipper; the girl takes out the stinky garbage, while the cat smells the sweet flowers. Where the Wiggle Tickle Jump illustrations are set against a blue background, Hide Seek Stinky Sweet has bold illustrations set against a bright yellow background. The characters are cheerful; two friends enjoying a day together, and the bright, bold words pop off the page and make for easy reading.



Happy Grumpy Loved, by Ruth Austin/Illustrated by Kanae Sato, (June 2018, Compendium), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1946873071

Recommended for readers 0-3

A boy, a girl, and their alligator demonstrate words to describe feelings in Happy Grumpy Loved. The children and alligator frolic their way through a bright red/pink background, introducing kids to words like friendly and shy; embarrassed and worried; pleased and excited. There’s movement, expressive body language, and a slew of great new words to get little ears used to hearing. The words map wonderfully to the illustrations, helping readers learn nonverbal communication, and develop empathy. The friendly girl waves at a dog, a big smile on her face; her friends hang back, heads cast down and the boy hiding behind the alligator, because they are shy. The dog barks, causing the alligator to leap into the air, surprised; he runs away, scared.


These books are absolute fun and loaded with teachable moments. They teach children to put words to feelings, actions, and concepts, and they encourage empathy by allowing children to experience cause and effect from an onlooker’s perspective. In Happy Grumpy Loved, the boy is jealous that the girl and alligator play together without him; he reacts by becoming grumpy, and destroying the structure the two friends built. In the next spread, he continues to throw the blocks, because he is angry; then, when the smoke clears, he is sad. The alligator helps him rebuild the structure, which makes him pleased, and together, the two friends are excited at their new creation.  Each book follows a story path, using the words to introduce readers to new vocabulary, while relying on the illustrations to tell the story.

The books are especially sturdy, too. They’ll hold up under multiple reads, and kids will want to return to these again and again. Put these books on your board book shelves and give them to your toddlers to enjoy. These pair nicely with Todd Parr books like The Feelings Book and Big and Little, and Leslie Patricelli’s board and picture books like Higher, Higher, Yummy Yucky, and Huggy Kissy.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Kids can discover their Superpowers with this fun activity book

Superpowers! A Great Big Collection of Awesome Activities, Quirky Questions, and Wonderful Ways to See Just How Super You Really Are, by M.H. Clark, (Feb. 2018, Compendium), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-943200-75-7

Recommended for readers 7+

It’s no secret that I love my superhero programs. I’ve turned my libraries into Gotham City and put the kids on the hunt for Bat-signals, celebrated birthdays for the Bat and Captain America, and run the kids through a superhero camp over the summer. Compendium sent me a book that will make for some more introspective superhero programming, too.

Super Powers! is a workbook/journal where kids (and us grownups, too) get a chance to be our own superheroes. Led by thoughtful prompts, readers are invited to think about words that describe themselves, think about what they feel happy doing and what they  love, and what makes each reader fantastically, wonderfully, them. They’re invited to connect with the grownups that they can turn to – hey, every Batman has an Alfred, right? – and maybe even the famous people they would like to talk to (and that can totally include Iron Man, in my humble opinion). Finally, the proud moment arrives, and kids can fill out their own Official Announcement of Superpowers, choose their superhero name, fill up a superpower tool kit, and fill out their anti-superpowers – their Kryptonite, if you will – in the form of things they just don’t like. Finish up by creating your own origin story, and Superhero You #1 is ready!

This is a great way to get kids thinking – and creating! – about their strengths and what makes them special. Each spread is bright, with science fiction-like illustrations, and lots of journaling space for kids to create. It makes a great gift. It’s not a book I’d put into circulation – it’s just too tempting to write in, because it’s so cool! – but I plan to use this book in my summer reading programming (hello, Infinity War releases in May) to get the kids writing, drawing, and thinking about themselves as a little group of Avengers or Justice League of their own.

Posted in Preschool Reads

What Do You Do With a Chance? asks a big question

What Do You Do With a Chance?, by Kobi Yamada/Illustrated by Mae Besom, (Feb. 2018, Compendium), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-943-20073-3

Recommended for readers 4-8

The writer/illustrator team behind What Do You Do With an Idea? and What Do You Do With a Problem? returns for a third book asking big questions to little readers. A young boy is offered a chance – a golden, flying opportunity – and pulls back, unsure of whether or not he should take it. He tries to reach for it again, but misses; he finally reaches within himself and finds the inner strength to reach for – and grab! – the chance; he soars on its wings, free.

What a great allegory for young readers (and not so young, to be honest)! The chance presents itself as a literal golden opportunity. The boy’s insecurity holds him back at first; when he tries again, he fails, and lets insecurity get the best of him. It’s only when he realizes that bravery comes from within that he’s able to go for the gold. It’s not about being afraid – it’s about rising above it: “It wasn’t that I was no longer afraid, but now my excitement was bigger than my fear”. He soars to new heights, ready for incredible new things. This is a story to inspire readers to take chances; to let excitement, rather than fear, push you forward. It just takes one chance to change everything.

The illustrations are largely brown and white, with the chance and the boy appearing in glowing color. When he seizes his chance, the scenery and his animal friends appear in color, illustrating a voyage into a new world.

What Do You Do With a Chance creates a thought-provoking and beautifully illustrated trilogy for young thinkers and readers. A must-have for shelves.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

So Many Cuddles: Reading time is cuddle time!

So Many Cuddles, by Ruth Austin/Illustrated by Clare Owen, (June 2017, Compendium), $16.95, ISBN:  978-1-943200-49-8

Good for readers ages 3-6

So Many Cuddles is an adorable look at the many different types of cuddles: rise and shine cuddles, bear-sized cuddles for being extra brave, tickly, giggly, wriggly cuddles – one of my personal favorites – and more, all illustrated by a young girl, her cat, her dog, and her doll. Each spread is a new type of cuddle; one page for text, one for illustration, giving each picture space to breathe and for kids to explore details like the textured rug in the girl’s room, or her sneakers, kicked to the floor when the friends are cuddling on the couch. It’s a great bedtime story – the cuddling winds down with “feeling very tired cuddles/let’s be cozy in bed cuddles” – or a great anytime story. This went over fabulously with my toddler storytime! Parents cuddled their little ones, and I had soft toys out for the kids to cuddle. It’s a soothing, loving story that encourages affection – what’s more perfect than that? The kids also loved the textured cover – I passed it around for everyone to love!

So Many Cuddles is a sweet celebration of cuddling. I love it, the kiddos here at my library love it, and my 5 year-old and I loved reading it while cuddling on the couch. Clare Owen’s soft, sweet art immediately gets readers’ attention, and the different kinds of cuddles helps explain different moods and feelings – something toddlers are still working on verbalizing.