Posted in picture books

The fascinating is often right in front of you: The Collectors

The Collectors, by Alice Feegan, (May 2021, Kids Can Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781525302046

Ages 4-8

Two friends go on a nature expedition to find the perfect piece to complete their collection, only to discover a most outstanding wonder right outside their window in this STEM-inspired story. Alice and Winslow are two exploring friends who have their treasures on display in a magnificent treehouse, but they need one final piece to complete it. They go on an expedition where they discover amazing things, from a giant crystal to a buried T-Rex skull, but each new discovery is out of reach for one reason or other. When their last discovery – a very cranky bear! – sends them running back to their treehouse, they look over the accomplishments of the day and celebrate what they were able to achieve; an exciting noise outside draws their attention and reveals the most exciting discovery of all, right outside their window. The book has a great message about tenacity, discovery, and friendship. Budding naturalists and researchers will appreciate the collaboration and teamwork the girls exhibit, and the fact that they plan, journal, and catalog their findings. Alice Feagan’s cut paper collage illustrations add depth, encouraging the reader’s attention and capturing the varyious textures of different landscapes, like gritty stalagmites and stalactites to rough trees. The endpapers show off Alice and Winslow’s cabinet of curiosities.

The Collectors is great readaloud for STEM and science classes. Encourage kids to make their own nature journals and observe their own surroundings. Ask kids what they like to collect – my son has a rock collection with interesting-shaped rocks and pebbles that he’s kept for years – and if they have a special place to show them off.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Adorable animal books for toddlers and preschoolers!

Anita Bijsterbosch has two adorable animal books out this month and next, perfect for toddlers who love to explore their books.

do-you-see-my-tailDo You See My Tail? (March 2017, Clavis Books, $12.95, ISBN: 978-1605373201) introduces readers to seven animals – well, seven animal tails; the rest of the animals are hidden behind local flora. The text drops a hint, and a gatefold reveals the full answer: an animal family! The repetitive question/answer format, and greeting to the animals and their babies, creates a fun discovery experience for little hands. An extra challenge: find the little ladybug hiding on every spread.

Preschoolers will like being able to control finding out more about the animals and learning about animal habitats: beavers play in a nest of tree trunks and branches, rabbits in a hole under the ground. Toddlers will love the excitement of discovery and the very cute artwork.

Whewhen-i-grow-upn I Grow Up (April 2017, Clavis Books, $14.95, ISBN: 978-1605373348) features six young animals who dream about what they’ll be able to do once they grow up: a little lion who can only growl softly now will be a big lion whose roar will be heard by all the animals; a little giraffe whose nose barely touches the leaves in a tree will one day be able to reach everything with his long neck. Die cut pages let readers flip the page to reveal the adult animal in the young animal’s place within the same setting.

As with Do You See My Tail?, When I Grow Up offers toddlers the excitement of discovery, with something new on every page. The pages are sturdy and will hold up to multiple page flips (always a concern in my library). Preschoolers can focus on habitats, food, and other animals sharing the living spaces.

Originally published in 2016 in Belgium and Holland, these are fun new choices to bookshelves and collections.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Surprises await toddlers in See How I Sleep

see-how-i-sleepSee How I Sleep, by Liesbet Slegers, (March 2017, Clavis), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1605373331

Recommended for ages 6 mos-2 yrs

Animals greet readers and surprise them with a hidden friend in this slide-and-see board book full of surprises for little hands. Find a hedgehog curled up next to its friend, a mouse has a visiting friend, and a teddy bear waits for its best friend under the blanket. Toddlers will love the thrill of the unexpected reveal, and the sturdy pages will hold up to multiple uses. This one will enter heavy storytime rotation in my storytimes; the bright, boldly outlined art is adorable and eye-catching and the vivid handwriting font makes for easy reading to groups. A creative add to toddler book collections.

Posted in History, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

A Weird and Wild Beauty tells the story of Yellowstone

yellowstoneA Weird and Wild Beauty: The Story of Yellowstone, the World’s First National Park, by Erin Peabody¬†(Feb. 2016, Sky Pony Press), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-63450-204-7

Recommended for ages 12+

A beautiful book with stunning photo and a powerful ecological and historical message, Erin Peabody’s A Weird and Wild Beauty tells the story of the founding of Yellowstone National Park. She tells us about the hard journey and oftentimes grueling expedition West; about the lives of the men who explored and risked their lives to bring the natural beauty of Yellowstone to the rest of the post-Civil War United States; and provides breathtaking photos and paintings of the natural wonder that is Yellowstone.

More than just a book on the beauty of Yellowstone, readers will discover that there was a fight to keep Yellowstone’s lands untouched: from Jay Cooke, a robber baron who wanted to build a transcontinental railroad that would cut through the lands, to the Native American tribes who wanted their tribal homelands to remain untouched.

A welcome addition to tween and teen nonfiction, A Weird and Wild Beauty is a lovely addition to collections in classrooms, libraries, and homes. I’ll have to booktalk this one to let the kids know it’s on the shelf – nonfiction, especially in the YA area, tends to go unnoticed – but with summer vacation coming, I could pick any picture out of this book and talk about dream destinations. History fans will love the narrative storytelling voice Peabody assumes, and art fans need to know about this book because of the stunning work by the expedition’s photographer, William H. Jackson, and the painter, Thomas Moran. Readers will learn the complex processes behind each photo – there were no negatives in the early days of photography, so photographers (and their poor pack animals) had to carry hundreds of pounds of equipment, including glass plates of different sizes to capture different images – and painting, or woodcut. It’s a beautifully artistic book that art students should not miss.

"Crater of the Giant Geyser", illustration from "The Wonders of the Yellowstone"; NP Langford; May/June 1871 issue of Scribner's Monthly
“Crater of the Giant Geyser”, illustration from “The Wonders of the Yellowstone”;
NP Langford; May/June 1871 issue of Scribner’s Monthly, from Yellowstone’s Photo Collection

The book includes maps, a guide to Yellowstone’s hydrothermal features, complete endnotes, sources, photo credits, and an index. Make sure to consider this beautiful resource for your collections.

Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Uncategorized

Take a trip through the decades with My Hometown

myhometownMy Hometown, by Russell Griesmer/Illus. by Priscilla Wong (Oct. 2015, Capstone), $15.95, ISBN: 9781623701741

Recommended for ages 4-8

“Every town has a story…”

A magical newspaper floats through a town ready to celebrate its 150th anniversary, transporting a young boy through the history of the town. We see the evolution of a small American town; from horses and carriages, to buggies, to big-finned cars, to SUVs and minivans. As we move through the decades, we see history unfold: the townsfolk prepare a scrap metal drive for the war effort and a welcome home party for the troops; get a glimpse at the women’s lib movement, a possible recession, and a comeback. It’s a slice of Main Street, USA Americana in a wordless text that lets the illustrations speak volumes.

The art is amazing. We go from a grainy sepia tone, with a grainy feel like an old photo or newspaper clipping, through to a cleaner black and white to highlight the town’s first few decades. During the World War II years, we get a little grittier, like an old photo that’s seen some use. The boy, an outside observer, is always in full color, reminding us that he, like us, is there to observe and learn. As we move from the 1960s into the 1970s, the color goes to a wonderful tinted color, like an old Kodakchrome photo that will make a lot of parents smile and look for their old photo albums. We see some futuristic cars as the town moves into the 1980s, but it also reminds us that there were some hard times, with empty storefronts and the Town Hall holding a benefit breakfast for a repair fund. The architecture evolves with the decades, as do the businesses along Main Street.

We come back to the present, and the newspaper moves on – what will the next child discover?

This is a great book to prompt discussion, whether it’s with grandparents, parents, or an educator, about history and change. It’s a great opportunity to talk to kids about our childhoods, and compare the differences in our formative years. The wordless text allows kids to tell the story and expand beyond the printed page. Who are some of those people? What are those businesses selling? What happened to the businesses that left, and who took their places? What would you do if you went back in time?

My Hometown will be in stores in October, and will definitely find a place on my library shelves.