Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

I Got You a Present is the best gift of all!

I Got You a Present!, by Mike Erskine-Kellie and Susan McLennan/Illustrated by Cale Atkinson, (Apr. 2020, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1525300097

Ages 4-7

It’s your birthday, and your buddy Duck got you a present! Well… kind of. He had the best of intentions; he wanted to get you something you’d really love. But do you know how hard it is to knit socks? Or carry a 10-scoop ice cream cone? Magic kits disappear, and since you don’t know how to drive yet, a race car was out of the question… poor Duck! What can he get his best friend? Maybe… something includes all these wonderful ideas, in one place? A story to remind you of what great friends you are? I Got You a Present! is a gleefully funny story about going into something with the best of intentions, and not quite having things go right. Adults and kids alike can relate as Duck comes up with wackier, funnier ideas to get that showstopper gift… and, of course, there’s a sneak peek at next year’s gift.

Colorful artwork features cheery animal friends and wacky situations that make this a good birthday readaloud choice (substitute other gift-giving events and get creative), and remind listeners that sometimes, just having a great friend to make memories with is the best present. Honest! (Or you could ask readers what they’d like to give their best friends. Let them get as outrageous as possible.)

Posted in picture books, Toddler Reads

More Books for Babies and Toddlers!

I’ve been getting SUCH good book mail for the littlest readers! Here’s another catch-up round of goodies for the wee ones.

Up Cat Down Cat, by Steve Light, (May 2020, Candlewick Press), $7.99, ISBN: 9781536210316

Ages 0-3

This is the second concept board book from Steve “Have You Seen My…” Light and I love it! Up Cat Down Cat is all about opposites, as illustrated by a black cat, a white cat, and a blue mouse. White Cat sprawls out, playing with the mouse, to illustrate long, while Black Cat, curled in front of a mouse hole, demonstrates short; White Cat sits miserably in a tub, soaking wet, while Black Cat sits on the tub edge, nice and dry. In the most cat-like demonstration of up and down, White Cat knocks a vase off a shelf, as Black Cat observes it crash and break. Steve Light’s collage work is eye-catching and colorful, with the Black and White Cats providing a bold contrast.  Up Cat Down Cat is a fun addition to concept board books for your littlest readers.

 

Mama Baby, by Chris Raschka, (May 2020, Candlewick Press), $14.99, ISBN: 9780763690601

Ages 0-3

Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka creates a book that captures Mama and Baby Playtime! Mama and Baby clap together, make faces together, and play peek-a-boo together. But Mama has to leave for a second, and Baby is confused. Mama? Oh, no! Mama comes back just in time to comfort baby, and all is well. Simple, sweet watercolor artwork focuses exclusively on imaginative play and the relationship between a mother and her child; bright white pages are clean and let the colorful artwork stand out. The perspective shifts between mother and baby, letting little hands turn the book around to explore from different points of view. Mama Baby is sweet, relatable, and perfect for reading and cuddle time.

Mama Baby has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and The Horn Book.

Bathtime with Ducky Duckling, by Lucy Cousins, (Feb. 2020, Candlewick Press), $7.99, ISBN: 9781536209655
Ages 0-3
This is the cutest bathtime book that you can put in the bath with your little ones! Ducky Duckling is so excited about bathtime! Ducky jumps into the water and splashes with friends, with a fun rhyme that will make bathtime an even more fun time! Lucy Cousins’s art is instantly recognizable; it’s bright and fun, bold and cheery, and the book is SO SQUISHY! With three rhyming spreads and illustrations of bathtime fun, this will make for many fun bathtimes. Invest in some soapy crayons and rubber duckies and enjoy!
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

#BooksfromQuarantine: Baby Clown and Follow Me, Flo!

Baby Clown, by Kara LaReau/Illustrated by Matthew Cordell, (Apr. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763697433

Ages 3-7

Parents and littles alike will love this book. Frieda and Boffo are two circus clowns who’ve just had a baby clown! Everyone is thrilled for them, especially the Big Boss, Mr. Dingling, who swears the new baby is going to be a star. There’s one eensy problem, though… Baby Clown cries all the time! Boffo can’t calm him down, Frieda can’t calm him down, and Mr. Dingling is getting frustrated. There’s no crying at the circus! Each member of the circus tries to lend a hand, but neither the trapeze artists, the animals, nor the wire walker are successful. Will Baby Clown calm down in time for his Big Top debut?

This book is SO RELATABLE. Who hasn’t tried to calm a baby who will not be soothed? The baby’s dry, not hungry, not sleepy, just cranky, and amount of juggling, antics, or soothing voices will do a darned thing. The artwork from Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell brings the story to life with his colorful inks and watercolors, giving us a baby who becomes, as Geisel Honor Winner Kara LaReau writes, “a big, wide, loud, mouth” in full meltdown mode. The characters take on frantic, manic expressions as the baby continues to scream; one of my favorite illustrations has poor Mom Frieda curled up in a fetal position next to the screaming baby, as Dad Boffo, kneeling, pleads for peace. Does Baby Clown get it together? Heck, you need to see for yourself, but I promise you: you’ll recognize yourself in this one right away if you’ve ever been around young children. Inspired by Kara LaReau’s own experience with colic, Baby Clown is a must for storytime.

 

Follow Me, Flo!, by Jarvis, (March 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212709

Ages 3-7

Another book that is SO relatable to kids and grownups, Flo is a young duckling who loves to do her own thing, much to her father’s chagrin. When they go visit Aunt Jenna’s new nest, though, Daddy Duck lays it all out for Flo: she MUST follow him or she’ll get lost. He even makes up a song with directions for the trip, but Flo – you guessed it! – decides that she’s bored and decides to take a little side trip of her own. But when she finds herself in big trouble, Daddy’s directions will save the day!

Kids will immediately love Flo, an adorably bright, yellow duckling with some sass. She doesn’t want to follow Daddy’s boring instructions; he doesn’t even sing loud like she does! But, as we parents and caregivers know, when she strays off that path, things may look fun at first, but there’s always a moment when things aren’t quite so fun any more. After a brush with stranger danger, Flo quickly discovers that her dad’s directions are there for a reason, and thankfully, easy enough to remember! The pencil, chalk, and painted artwork is cheery and fun, and both Flo and Dad’s faces are expressive, communicating both the seriousness of Dad’s discussion with Flo, and Flo’s increasing impatience with him as they head out on their trip. Will Flo stick to the straight and narrow? In the short run, sure… but maybe, just maybe, Flo will be back with a new adventure? Follow Me, Flo! is a fun story for readalouds and a no-pressure way to broach the concept of stranger danger.

Follow Me, Flo! has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

March picture book roundup

There are some adorable picture books publishing in March and April! Let’s take a look at some – there are some great storytime reads to be found!

A Fire Truck for Chuck, by Annika Dunklee/Illustrated by Cathon,
(March 2018, OwlKids), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771472852
Recommended for readers 3-6

A little boy named Chuck visits a yard sale with his mom, where he sees it: a fire truck! And it’s only a buck! What luck! Mom buys Chuck the truck, who proceeds to play with it everywhere. Including the mud. Yuck! Chuck is afraid his fire truck is lost forever, but joyfully finds out otherwise. Thanks, Mom! This adorable story of a boy and his truck is perfect for kids who love their vehicle stories – and there are many! You don’t need to be a car and truck fan to love this story, too – toddlers and preschoolers will all empathize and understand the love between a kid and his or her favorite toy. While not exactly a rhyming story, A Fire Truck for Chuck uses the easily rhyming word to weave humor and fun into the story. Cartoony illustrations are bold and bright and will get kids’ attention.

 

I’m a Duck, by Eve Bunting/Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand,
(March 2018, Candlewick Press), $15.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-8032-9
Recommended for readers 3-6
This adorable rhyming tale about overcoming fears is especially great for pre-K 3 and 4-year-olds. A little duck recounts the tale of falling into the lake as an egg; saved by his mother, he’s grown up too scared to go swimming, “…and that is bad. A landlocked duck is very sad”. With some encouragement from family and friends, and a little bit of practice in safe, shallow puddle, little Duck is ready to face his fears – and succeeds! I’m a Duck illustrates the importance of encouragement and positive reinforcement in addition to the power of facing one’s fears (and the emphasis on safety is a relief for caregivers). Mixed media illustrations give a snuggly, cuddly feel to the animals in the story. I love Eve Bunting’s books, and am thrilled to add this one to my shelves.

George is a happy old hound dog who just wants a nap. Farmer Fritz, his human, heads off to a retirement cabana and leaves George in charge: and that means helping the new family navigate life on the farm! Poor George; these folks are hapless, which means George is herding cows, finding lost siblings, and generally saving the day. Not only can he not get his nap in, he can’t get these folks to figure out his name, which goes through several name changes throughout the story. Full-panel artwork alternates with graphic novel-like panels to provide a fun romp. Short, concise sentences and farm animal shenanigans make this a fun read-aloud choice. Ask the kids what they’d like to call George – or how he could finally get his new family to figure out his name! A fun story for animal fans.
Not ‘Til Tomorrow, Phoebe, by Julie Zwillich,
(March 2018, OwlKids), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771471725
Recommended for readers 4-7
The second book in the Phoebe series (the first, Phoebe Sounds It Out, was published in March 2017) introduces kids to the concepts of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and just as importantly, patience. Phoebe’s day is full of “tomorrows”: Mama will make her pancakes tomorrow; she’ll get ice cream after her haircut tomorrow; musicians will visit her class – you guessed it – tomorrow. Frustrated, Phoebe turns to her grandmother, who bakes cookies and teaches Phoebe the best way to turn today into tomorrow: get a good night’s sleep. Kids will understand Phoebe’s frustration, for sure; you can even introduce the story by asking kids, “Who’s tired of hearing about all the good things that will happen TOMORROW?” As with Phoebe Sounds It Out, the illustrations are bold and expressive, with soothing colors to put kids in the mind to listen and learn. There’s a lovely relationship between grandparent and grandchild here. Phoebe is a child of color.
Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Duck & Hippo get lost and found!

Duck and Hippo: Lost and Found, by Jonathan London/Illustrated by Andrew Joyner, (Aug. 2017, Two Lions/Amazon), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1542045629

Recommended for readers 3-7

Duck and Hippo: Lost and Found, the second book in Froggy author Jonathan London’s new buddy series is every bit as sweet as the first one, Duck and Hippo in the Rainstorm. In this latest tale, the friends go on a picnic with their friends Turtle, Elephant, and Pig. Everyone’s brought something to share… except for Hippo, who forgot! Determined to make things right, he sets off into the forest in search of wild berries. As night falls, Duck and friends worry that Hippo’s gotten lost, but what should they do?

There are great themes at work here: friendship, the main plot point that drives the Duck and Hippo adventures; sharing and caring for one another emerge as the story progresses. Kids will appreciate Duck’s decision to search for her friend, and the decision to stay in a group and loudly call for Hippo will provide relief to parents, who likely give the same advice to kids in the event of a separation (I know I do). Repeated phrases provide kids with the chance to jump in and be part of the Hippo search party. I love Andrew Joyner’s cheerful art, and the colorful, emphasized fonts that add to a reading. Andrew Joyner offers free, downloadable activity pages on his website, too – the kids at my library love the coloring sheets, which have been a staple of my summer coloring club.

Jonathan London has written more than one hundred children’s books, including the bestselling Froggy series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. He is the author of the popular Duck and Hippo series, illustrated by Andrew Joyner. Many of his books explore nature, among them Flamingo Sunset, illustrated by Kristina Rodanas, and Little Penguin: The Emperor of Antarctica, illustrated by Julie Olson. He is also author of the Aaron’s Wilderness middle-grade series, illustrated by his son Sean London. Jonathan lives in Graton, California. Learn more online at www.jonathan-london.net.

Andrew Joyner is an illustrator, author, and cartoonist based in South Australia. He has illustrated a number of picture books, and he wrote and illustrated a chapter book series about a warthog named Boris. He is the illustrator of the popular Duck and Hippo series, written by Jonathan London. He has also illustrated for newspapers and magazines, including the Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, and Rolling Stone magazine, among others. Learn more online at www.andrewjoyner.com.au.

Giveaway!

Two Lions is offering a set of the Duck and Hippo books–DUCK AND HIPPO IN THE RAINSTORM and DUCK AND HIPPO LOST AND FOUND–to one lucky winner (U.S. addresses only, please). Just enter this https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.jsecopter.com/rafl/display/bbc165de19/" rel="nofollow" data-raflid="bbc165de19" data-theme="classic" data-template="" id="rcwidget_scf2jfhw">a Rafflecopter giveaway</a> https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js“>Rafflecopter giveaway!

Posted in Animal Fiction

Quackers – A story about fitting in and standing out

quackers_1Quackers, by Liz Wong (Mar. 2016, Knopf Books for Young Readers) $15.99, ISBN: 978-0-553-51155-0

Recommended for ages 3-7

“Quackers is a duck. He knows he is a duck because he lives at the duck pond with all the other ducks.”

Quackers is the story of a cat who’s grown up with ducks. He doesn’t see himself as anything other than a duck, and neither do the ducks around him. But sometimes, Quackers doesn’t feel like he quite fits in. He has trouble making himself understood, he’s not in love with the food, and he really, really hates getting wet! One day, when Quackers meets Mittens, he learns that he’s what others call a cat – he’s not a duck at all! He tries to fully embrace his feline side, but he ends up missing the duck life. And that’s when Quackers learns that bringing all the parts of your different backgrounds together makes for a wonderful feeling. .

Quackers is a great book to have on hand for read-alouds and libraries with multicultural populations. It’s a great book to give to an adoptive family as a welcome home gift for baby, too! Quackers is a duck – no one thinks any differently. Once he learns that he’s a cat, though, he tries to throw himself into being a cat – but when you’ve been raised lovingly by one group, why walk away? This is the heart of the story, and it’s when Quackers realizes that he can be a cat and be a duck, he’s happiest. Kids from different backgrounds will learn that they can embrace more than one culture, whether it’s a culture they’re adopting, like moving to a new city/state/country, or a culture that they’ve been adopted into.

On a different note, Quackers works for all kids who may feel like they don’t fit in, for whatever reason. I’d pair this with Harvey Fierstein’s The Sissy Duckling to reach LGBT kids and kids being raised by LGBT families. Quackers teaches kids (and their caregivers!) to embrace themselves first and foremost – you can’t ask for a better message than that.

The art, created digitally and with watercolor, is adorable and soft, with soothing greens and teals for the water and grass. The text is set off almost like an old photo album, placed in small text boxes with a font that looks almost handwritten. Kids will love reading this book and adults will love reading it to them. Take a look at some of the art, below.

 

quackers_4

You can find more of Liz Wong’s illustrations at her website.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Book Review: Duck Sock Hop, by Jane Kohuth/illus. by Kane Porter (Dial Books for Children, 2012)

ducksockhopRecommended for ages 2-4

Once a week, ducks grab a bunch of socks from the sock box and head over to dance at the sock hop. They dance and wear all sorts of fun socks that they get from the sock box. Naturally, the party gets a little out of control, but it all ends well, and the ducks get ready for the next sock hop.

The illustrations are fun; cartoon-style and outlined in black with textured with hand-printed patterns on both the socks and the ducks are interesting to look at, and younger readers get a little lesson in shapes as the story describes the exciting socks found in the sock box: socks with squares, dots, moons, cars and spoons! The story is told in rhyme and allows for a fun, movement-oriented read-aloud once the sock hop gets underway as the ducks teeter, tumble, twist and trip their way through the dance. The story font is a bold, rounded font that curves around the pictures, creating further interest.

 This would be a great addition to a movement-oriented storytime. Books like Karen Katz’s Shake it Up, Baby! and Helen Oxenbury’s Clap Hands are good additions to this type of storytime. The Perry Public Library has great Move Your Body storytime suggestions, including fun songs like “Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It”. The author’s website also offers Duck Sock Hop activities, including a Duck Sock Hop Kit that allows you to create your own sock hop – attendees could bring a pair of fun socks to donate to the sock box!