Otters vs. Badgers, by Anya Glazer, (Aug. 2022, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781684644117
Otters and badgers live on either side of a shared river, but they do NOT get along until Francie, a shy otter who loves to bake delicious treats, accidentally ends up in badger territory on a quest to find new ingredients. The resulting kerfuffle can only be resolved with Francie’s delicious baked goods! Glazer spins an amusing tale of sharing and finding common ground that readers will appreciate. Cartoon animals communicate outside of the omniscient narrator through speech bubbles, making for a fun readaloud. Anthropomorphic characters sport scarves and bowties, carry babies in slings, and wear hats. Francie has a wooden spoon tucked behind one ear and rocks a striped apron. Endpapers are striped to match Francie’s apron. The fun resolution shows readers that you don’t have to agree on every single thing to get along. A good book to read as kids head back to the classroom, or enter classrooms for the first time.
Bear Out There, by Jacob Grant, (June 2019, Bloomsbury Children’s Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-68119-745-6
Bear and Spider’s newest adventure – the follow-up to 2018’s Bear’s Scare – sends the two friends on an outdoor hunt for Spider’s kite. Bear is just not an outdoorsy bear. Why bother? Everything he needs is inside! But Spider really wants to fly his new kite, so Bear relents and goes out for a little while. Spider’s kite gets pulled away by the wind, and Bear reluctantly offers to help him find the kite, but he complains the whole time, not noticing the nature all around him; focusing only on what he perceives as noise and weeds. When the rain comes, Bear is even more miserable, until he realizes that he hasn’t been a very supportive friend. He offers to help Spider keep looking, and sure enough, the rain stops and they locate Spider’s kite. The two friends end the day with a sweet compromise: they sit outdoors, having tea, and flying kites together.
As in his earlier story, Bear has a bad habit of not seeing what’s in front of him. His perception is skewed; something the art lets us readers in on as an inside joke. What he sees as “filthy ground, itchy plants, and pesky bugs”, we see as a sedate forest spread; what he sees as “yucky weeds”, we see as flowers that a turtle enjoys smelling; what he calls “noisy twitter” is the hooting of baby owls. Spider is there to be our “can you believe this guy?” foil, descending from his thread, wide-eyed and staring off the page, directly at us. At a rushing waterfall amidst gentle, rolling hills and butterflies, Bear’s exclamation of “such an unpleasant forest” is met with Spider, legs thrown up in the air in frustration. When Bear realizes he’s been selfish, letting his pessimism get in the way of helping his friend, things lighten up – literally; the rain stops falling and the kite is located. It’s all about perception, and friendship is all about compromise.
This one is a sweet follow-up, and reminds me of Arnold Lobel’s classic friends, Frog & Toad. Visit Jacob Grant’s website for more of his artwork and information about his books.
Now? Not Yet!, by Gina Perry, (June 2019, Tundra), $17.99, ISBN: 9781101919521
Peanut and Moe, the two monster friends from Too Much! Not Enough! are back in another story of negotiation. The two buddies are on a camping trip, and Peanut wants to go swimming. Moe has other plans, though; thus begins the back and forth of “Now?” and “Not yet”. Peanut is dying to get in the water, but Moe is methodical: Moe wants to hike; snack; set up camp, all while Peanut bounces up and down, asking the same question, until finally, in a burst of frustration, yells, “NOW! NOW! NOW!” Moe, just as frustrated, yells back, “NOT YET!” The two friends take a break from one another, during which Peanut gets camp set up, and Moe dashes by, ready for a swim. The two finish their day by a campfire, happily enjoying one another’s company over s’mores.
Now? Not Yet! beautifully captures toddler and preschooler (okay, and many, many adults) behavior. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out with my kids, having this same scenario play out. Every parent and caregiver will see themselves and their little ones in this story, and every kid will empathize with Peanut’s desire to do what he wants, only to be made to wait. Frustration? Kids and adults feel it, so the meltdown spread will resonate with your storytime group for sure. I’ve asked the kids in my storytime how many times they’ve felt like Peanut, and gotten loads of hollers and stomps; when I’ve asked parents if they have ever felt like Moe, I’ve gotten knowing nods and smiles. The moral of the story? Patience and compromise pay off.
Gina Perry’s books are popular with my storytime crowd: Smallis still in high demand, and Now? Not Yet! really got through to kids and caregivers alike. The artwork is adorable, bright, and cherry. Peanut is small, peanut-shaped, and has floppy ears; Moe is big, blue, kind of boxy, with a long pink nose. They both have big, expressive eyes. The endpapers look like layouts of the camping excursion, each laid out by one of the duo: the front papers is more orderly, with defined art and a dotted line path to show the duo’s trip; the back papers are a hand-drawn memory of the day, with dotted lines, circling birds, campfires, s’mores, and a big lake with flippers, a beach ball, and a life preserver.
I love Now? Not Yet!, and will be putting this into regular storytime rotation. If you have toddlers and preschoolers are regular storytimes, consider adding this one. There’s a free, downloadable activity kit that includes a fun nature scavenger hunt, coloring sheets, and fun instructions to make your own indoor camping site, which I need to do with my kiddo, stat. Gina Perry’s author page has more free printables, including instructions on how to draw both Moe and Peanut.
Want more Peanut & Moe? Of course you do. Check out this adorable trailer!
Pug & Pig: Trick or Treat, by Sue Lowell Gallion/Illustrated by Joyce Wang, (July 2017, Simon & Schuster), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481449779
Recommended for readers 3-7
They’re back! They’re back! One of my favorite teams in picture books is back! Pug and Pig, the adorable pet duo we met in last year’s Pug Meets Pig, are going trick or treating in their newest story, Pug & Pig: Trick or Treat. That is, if they can agree on a costume: see this cover? Pig is loving life in his costume. It fits nice and snug, the mask is cool, it’s all good. Pug? Just look at Pug. Does that look like a happy Pug? A satisfied with Halloween Pug? Nope. It most certainly does not.
Pug & Pig: Trick or Treat is a story of friendship and compromise. Pug isn’t happy with the Halloween costume, and Pig loves it. But they want to celebrate Halloween together, so what’s a friend to do? Pug takes the situation and spins it to a happy conclusion for everyone, and Pig understands that two friends can have different interests and comfort levels. It’s a great story of negotiation and seeing other points of view for kids, who may not understand why their friends may not love the same things all the time.
Do I need to squeal about Joyce Wan’s art again? Yes, I do. How adorable is this artwork?
Look at the pumpkins: they have Pug’s and Pig’s faces on them! It is physically impossible for me to read a Joyce Wan-illustrated book without squealing the first two or three times. When I read this at my Halloween storytime yesterday, the kids and their caregivers squealed along, too, so I feel completely justified. Parents loved the positive storyline, the fact that it concentrated on the two friends working out their differences together, and the short, simple sentences and repetitive words that make them feel comfortable reading with their kids. One parent asked me if there is a a Pug and Pig book for Christmas too… so, hint, hint, nudge, nudge, Sue Gallion and Joyce Wan.
In the meantime, download this insanely cute activity kit (I’ll be using mine on Monday and Tuesday) and coloring sheets. Tell the Great Pumpkin to leave a copy of Pug & Pig Trick or Treat below your Jack-o-Lantern!
Sue Lowell Gallion is the author of Pug Meets Pig and Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat (Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books). She has two grown-up kids, one grandson, and a black lab mix named Tucker, who all provide writing inspiration. As a printer’s daughter, she has a life-long love of type, paper, and the aroma of ink. She lives in Kansas City, KS. Visit Sue at suegallion.com, follow @SueLGallion on Twitter, and check out her kids’ book recommendations at Goodreads.
Ape and Armadillo Take Over the World, by James Sturm (Sept. 2016, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1-943145-09-6
Recommended for ages 6-8
Ape and Armadillo want to take over the world, but the whole plan seems a lot more fun for Armadillo – the ringleader, naturally – than it will be for Ape. While Armadillo gets to sneak in and get all the work done, Ape is stuck fighting spitting serpents, an army of robots, and escape through sewer tunnels – YUCK! Armadillo needs to learn how to compromise, or he may lose a friend and fellow Agent of Evil.
Kids will love this graphic novel that touches on a situation very familiar to kids: the bossy friend who wants everything done his or her way. Ape decides that he’s not going to be the flunky any more, and Armadillo has to adjust his own point of view and work – together with Ape – on a game that they can both play and enjoy equally. It’s a fun resolution, loaded with armor, magic wands, magical creatures, and butter pecan ice cream. Secondary Ape and Armadillo comics run at the bottom of each page, providing more insight into these characters and leaving me hoping we’ll meet this dynamic duo in more adventures to come.
This is a good book to use when talking about feelings and playing nicely with others; the dialogue and art treats the audience respectfully and examines a potentially frustrating situation with honesty and humor. It’s a TOON Level 3 book, considered a chapter book comic for advanced beginners, so ages 6 and up will dig right in. TOON includes parent resources at the end of each book, including tips on reading comics with your kids, and levels breakdown: Lexile, Guided Reading, and Reading Recovery, and appropriate grades. There’s a Teacher’s Guide in progress, so check the Ape & Armadillo page on the TOON site to get yours when it’s ready.
I love James Sturm’s books. He just knows how to create great stories for kids, and get his messages across in a fun, bold way. He’s also written the Little Knight books with his fellow Adventures in Cartooning compatriots, and he’s written Birdsong: A Story in Pictures for TOON.