Posted in Uncategorized

Missing Mommy: Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle

Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle, by Nina LaCour/Illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536211511

Ages 3-7

A little girl loves her cuddly life with her Mama and her Mommy, but when Mommy has to go away for a week for work, she misses her more than anything. This book just bursts with joy and love, and is spot-on for any child who misses a beloved presence in their lives; something Nina LaCour touches on when the little girl shares her feelings with her class, and her friends weigh in, missing older siblings away at school, parents in another country, and pets that have run away. Nina LaCour embraces the childhood ache of missing a parent and the residual feelings when Mommy returns, and the little girl experiences the mixed emotions upon her return. She’s thrilled to have Mommy back home where she belongs, but confronts resentment at being left in the first place. Kaylani Juanita’s colorful mixed media illustrations show a loving family who lavish affection on one another. Mommy and the little girl are brown-skinned with hair and skin patches that allude to vitiligo. Mama is light-skinned, with lilac hair and tattoos. Inclusive and honest, Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle touches on all the right emotions kids experience when missing someone.

Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle has starred reviews from Booklist, Bookpage, and Publishers Weekly.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

It’s Spring, and Little Red Fox and Hazel Dormouse are awake! The Friendship Surprise

The Friendship Surprise, by Giorgio Volpe & Paolo Proietti, (March 2022, Red Comet Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781636550282

Ages 4-8

Little Red Fox and Hazel the Dormouse, the duo we fell in love with in August 2021’s Before We Sleep, is back in The Friendship Surprise! When we last left Little Red and Hazel, Hazel had just gone to hibernate for the winter, and Fox was going to wait for his best friend to wake up come the spring. In The Friendship Surprise, Little Red is all ready to welcome Hazel back – but he’s worried, because he’s made a new friend over the winter break. Will Hazel like Brock the Badger more than Little Red? Will one be jealous of the other? Little Fox is so worried that he tries to split his time between his two friends, but has a lovely surprise when they all come together to play: after all, Hazel says, “we can all three have fun together!” The Friendship Surprise gently confronts the fear or worry some children may have over adding a new friend to their friendship group, with Little Red running back and forth between Brock and Hazel. When each ultimately discovers where Little Red goes when he leaves abruptly, there’s no arguing or jealousy; just a lovely welcome to a new friend. The three animals play together across Spring forests and grass, showing kids that a duo can easily and happily become a trio, and that friendship is a gift that multiplies, not divides. The warm color palette shows lush green fields, pink poppies, and full trees. A perfect Spring storytime book, with a playful sense of hope, joy, and renewal to share. The Friendship Surprise was originally published in Italy in 2021.

Print out some Before We Sleep coloring sheets from Red Comet’s website to have handy for a post-storytime activity.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate

Maps of My Emotions takes readers on a social-emotional adventure

Maps of My Emotions, by Bimba Landmann, (Nov. 2021, Schiffer Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9780764362217

Ages 5-8

A boy embarks on a journey where he encounters emotions like hope, fear, anger, joy, and love as he travels through landscapes both exciting and perilous. An oversized hardcover in graphic novel format, Maps of My Emotions lay out emotions and landscapes, with destinations like the Island of Desires and Hills of Future; the Sea of Doubt and Great Lake Horror; the Labyrinth of Anxiety, and Awkwardness Seatown. The format follows a layout where panels lead the boy to his next destination, and a spread with the lay of the land for each spot on the journey. Each map looks like a part of the body – The Land of Hope is laid out like an eye; the District of Anger stretches out over a hand; the Shadowlands of Sadness mirror a pulmonary system – and each area has a dominant color that shades the area. Good for discussions on our emotions, where we feel and process them, and what colors kids see as their “fear color” or “joy color”.

There are some good emotions resources on Education.com to use in conjunction with this book; I chose “third grade” as a filter to cover the age group I think would get the most use of Maps of My Emotions at my library. You should look over the offerings and see what would work best with yours.

An additional purchase for collections where you have learners who learn and communicate more visually, Maps of My Emotions would work with a program where you invite your learners to create their own emotion maps.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, picture books

Fen’s Drop of Gray colors her whole world

Fen’s Drop of Gray, by Brian Wray/Illustrated Shiloh Penfield, (Nov. 2021, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764362194

Ages 5-8

A hedgehog named Fen loves to paint with bright colors, but one day, a drop of gray gets into her paints and colors her entire world: her paintings and everything around her lose their color, slowly turning gray and adding to her sadness. It’s not like Fen doesn’t want color in her world: she looks through her mother’s art books and tries to find rainbows in the rain, but the gray persists until her mother gives her new, colorful paints. With the color back in her life, Fen takes back her happiness and knows that when the gray tries to take her colors away again, she’ll be ready. A gentle story about how depression can sneak up on us, Fen’s Drop of Gray is Brian Wray and Shiloh Penfield’s latest intuitive story about managing emotions. Using the metaphor of a drop of gray finding its way into our colorful worlds is a great way of explaining those unexplainable “sads” that can show up unexpected, stripping the color in our lives. Try as she might, Fen can’t find her colors and she doesn’t know how to ask for help. Sometimes, all we need is someone – in Fen’s case, her mom – to reach through the gray. It’s not a cure-all, but knowing that someone is there to listen and help is the important message. It’s also important that Fen knows the gray may try to come back, and creates her own coping mechanisms for when that happens.

An important acknowledgement of childhood depression, Fen’s Drop of Gray is another must-have to put into your social-emotional collections and a good starting point for discussion.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Calm your hurly-burly hullabaloo! Meena’s Mindful Moment

Meena’s Mindful Moment, by Tina Athaide/Illustrated by Åsa Gilland, (Nov. 2021, Page Street Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781645672869

Ages 4-8

Meena is a little girl who is excited to visit her Dada (her grandfather) – and so is her hurly-burly hullabaloo, the imaginary character that takes on the excited, can’t-sit-still feelings that Meena feels. Once she arrives in her Dada’s South Asian village, she runs rampant, cartwheeling and causing a ruckus. Dada’s neighbors aren’t happy, but he quietly sends them away and teaches Meena how to quiet her hullabaloo through mindfulness and meditation: and introduces Meena to his hullabaloo, too! Meena’s Mindful Moment is a sweet intergenerational story about mindfulness; that moment when excitement and new experiences just take over and can get a little out of control, and empowers kids to take back that control while letting kids know that we adults get the hullabaloos, too. Set in Goa, India, characters are shades of brown. The digital illustrations have texture and movement, with vibrant colors and lively fonts to denote action. The hullabaloos take on playful imaginary monster personas; Meena’s is turquoise with black and pink striped arms and legs; Dada’s is white with pink and white striped arms and legs. Endpapers show colorful mango plants, which ties into the story’s opening. A fun story about embracing your hullabaloo, but letting them know when there’s a time to be calm. A nice addition to yoga and mindfulness storytimes.

Author Tina Athaide’s website has links to educator guides for her books, including Meena’s Mindful Moment.

Posted in Uncategorized

Picture book series help kids Dealing with Feelings

I’m in a pandemic state of mind these days. Call it the post-holiday surge, added to the fact that I’ve been quarantining at home because what I thought was just a cold wasn’t exactly just a cold, and throw in a dash of watching the numbers and panic rise again. As kids go in and out of remote learning, and as schools go back and forth on whether to stay open or shift to remote learnintg this year, I know there are a lot of stressful feelings. Poet and children’s author Deborah Fannie Miller has been writing books in a new series, “Dealing with Feelings”, to help kids and families navigate these emotions.

Grappling with the Grumblies, by Deborah Fannie Miller/Illustrated by Diane Jacobs, (Sept. 2013, Frontenac House), $12.95, ISBN:  978-1927823002

Ages 4-7

A girl’s mom wakes her up too early, setting off a grumpy mood – and a Grumblie appears! It’s a spiky little purple monster who says one word: “Grump!” The Grumblie follows the girl around, feeding off of her bad mood and growing larger and larger, pushing the girl out of her own room! Mom recognizes the sign of a Grumblie, and deflects the situation by inviting her daughter to wiggle, dance, and laugh that Grumblie back to size. Kids will recognize how a Grumblie can just show up and take over their whole day, feeding off a bad mood, and it’s important for parents to see how they can recognize a Grumblie at work, and help de-escalate a situation by acknowledging that something’s going on, and helping their kids get their attention away from the bad mood. Illustrations are subdued and colorful, and the Grumblie is a creature kids can easily draw; invite them to create their own Grumblies to help them talk about what they’re feeling.

 

Juggling the Jitters, by Deborah Fannie Miller/Illustrated by Danielle Bazinet, (Sept. 2013, Frontenac House), $10.10, ISBN: 978-1927823026

Ages 4-7

A boy named Jacob goes to bed, excited for a birthday party he’s attending the next day. But just when he tries to sleep, the Jitters creep in: what if his friend doesn’t like her present? Will he make new friends? Will he get a balloon? There’s so much to worry about, and the Jitters multiply and cause a ruckus, jumping on Jacob’s bed and turning the lights on. Papa comes in to find out what’s going on, and realizes what’s going on; he takes Jacob into his arms and consoles him, and teaches him some deep breathing to relax him. Those spiky, mean-spirited Jitters keep trying to get Jacob’s attention, but as he and Papa do a little dance together to shake them away, the Jitters head out the window, where they turn into Glitters: bright yellow stars. Another good story about how nerves and anxiety can disrupt one’s sleep and peace of mind, Juggling the Jitters is also important in illustrating to parents how to react; not with anger, but with comfort and a touch of whimsy. The breathing practices are a great idea for putting kids in a calming headspace, and the dancing is light and playful, putting kids at ease.

If you have additional funding for social-emotional books, these are a good additional purchase.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour and Giveaway! A Home Again by Colleen Rowan Kosinski and Valeria Docampo

A Home Again, by Colleen Rowan Kosinski/Illustrated by Valeria Docampo, (Nov. 2021, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542007207

Ages 4-8

This book will tug at those heartstrings in the most delightful of ways. A home excitedly waits for its new family to arrive, and enjoys the warm, loving presence a growing family brings to its walls. But one day, the family packs up, waves goodbye, and… leaves. Devastated and confused, the home refuses to let anyone else look at it, swelling its doors shut, rattling its shingles, and creaking its stairs. Love always wins, though, and one day, two men manage to break through Home’s protective shell and start a life there. Afraid to love again, Home quietly observes at first; as the two set about making the house a Home once again, it warms to the thought of housing a family again. Told from the Home’s point of view, A Home Again captures the wonderful feeling that make us think of home: the smells, the sounds of a growing family as pitter patters become stomps and clomps; the comfort of having everyone existing in the same space. What we don’t think of, and what A Home Again shows us, is that our homes become part of our family; we breathe life into our homes by living, loving, and being within, infusing every wall, every floorboard, with laughter, tears, love… just everything. I love that this sweet story also illustrates that anyone can be a family.

Warm illustration invites readers into Home’s happiest moments. When left alone, the colors grow cool, even dark, until we see Home’s newest family arrive on the scene. Even empty, we know that Home is considering these two gentlemen; a lone chair is bathed in the warm sunlight coming in through a window, casting a long shadow behind it. One gentleman holds flowers, ostensibly from the area around the Home, seen through a window as the other kneels in the doorway, looking in, as their dog stands with him, surveying their new digs. It’s a spread filled with opportunity and possibility.

I love A Home Again, and you will too. Display with The House of Grass and Sky by Mary Lyn Ray and E. B. Goodale for a similar take on a home that needs a family to bring it to life. This is a great book for social-emotional learning collections, and a great book to read when talking about emotions and feelings, especially for younger learners who are still learning to identify their own feelings and to recognize those feelings in others.

 

The expert use of light and dark creates beautiful, emotional contrasts of warmth and isolation—a wonderful match of both verbal and visual tone…Heartfelt and filled with possible connections for families.” Kirkus Reviews
“Sleekly rendered acrylic and colored pencil art…casts the house’s interior in rich chiaroscuro…in this familiar narrative of being left behind and learning to love again.” Publishers Weekly
 
Colleen Rowan Kosinski is the author-illustrator of Lilla’s Sunflowers and A Promise Stitched in Time. She received her BA from Rutgers University in visual art, is an alumna of Philadelphia’s Moore College of Art, and spent many years as a successful freelance fine artist. Colleen calls New Jersey her home and resides there with her family. Learn more at colleenrowankosinski.com.
Instagram: @colleenkosinski
 
Valeria Docampo has a background in fine arts and has also been a teacher. She is the illustrator of many books for publishers around the world, including La Grande Fabrique de Mots, which has been translated into thirty languages. Originally from Argentina, she now makes her home in France with her family. Learn more at valeriadocampo.com.
 
Facebook: Valeria Docampo
Twitter: DocampoValeria
Instagram: @valeriadocampo
 
One lucky winner will receive a copy of A Home Again courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Between the Lines Blog Tour: New Lindsay Ward!

If you’ve read this blog for a minute, you’ll know that I love Lindsay Ward’s books. From Brobarians to Dexter T. Rexter, and all the books in between, I love her storytelling and her artwork, and I’ve been able to get kids to laugh out loud along with the world’s most neurotic dinosaur, marvel at a tractor who pitched in during World War II, and extend a hand to friends who may be feeling… well, a little gray. So a chance to read her latest book? Count me in, please!

Between the Lines, by Lindsay Ward, (Oct. 2021, Two Lions),
$17.99, ISBN: 9781542026901
Ages 4-8

A young boy remembers when all the colors “were swept from our street”. His community loses their connection to one another and as they do, the vibrancy fades. A storm sweeps away the last “hints of bluebird skies and lemon-Popsicle days”, leaving a divide that feels almost impossible to breach. The adults seem content to move around in this faded haze, but the boy wants color back in his world, and sets out to make changes.

 

Lindsay Ward has beautifully captured how to explain what is going on in our world, on a larger scale, to children. In a world without color, compartmentalized and without diversity, a dull landscape fills the void. Where we had laughter, we have silence. In three words – “Lines were drawn” – we get a mental image of our world today, divided along lines of color, beliefs, opinions. Her artwork communicates the story, with soft color heralding the fade; the storm rains down on the neighborhood, taking with it what little vibrancy remained, and leaving only black and white lines. Bringing color back, we have a rainbow of people and landscapes, happy once more. Can we get there? We have to hope. Lindsay Ward empowers children with her latest story: they have the power to bring color back into their world.

 

Essential to read, essential to discuss.

“A vibrant neighborhood loses its color, literally, as the community becomes fractured.” Kirkus Reviews
“The illustrations…bring the atmosphere and ideas of the story to life. The depictions of both isolation and community in a dense urban neighborhood are poignant, especially after a year when COVID-19 forced people worldwide to forgo, and then to reinvent, community togetherness.” Booklist
Lindsay Ward is the creator of the Dexter T. Rexter series as well as Rosie: Stronger than SteelThis Book Is GrayBrobariansHelping Hospital; the Wheels on the Go series; Rosco vs. the Baby; and The Importance of Being 3. Her book Please Bring Balloons was also made into a play. Lindsay lives with her family in Peninsula, Ohio with her family. Learn more about her online at www.lindsaymward.com.
Twitter: @lindsaymward
Instagram: lindsaymward
Check out a storytime for Between the Lines and other books here on Lindsay Ward’s website!
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Book bundle: Back-to-School Strong

I’m back after a brief staycation! How’s everyone doing? I needed to get some time before my little guy goes back to school, and help get my teen settled for his first week of college. I thought I’d start off my grand return with some books about feelings, emotions, and inner strength as our kids head back to school, so let’s see what we’ve got.

Born to Sparkle : A Story About Achieving Your Dreams, by Megan Bomgaars/Illustrated by Pete Olczyk, (Sept. 2021, Flowerpot Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9781486721108

Ages 5-8

Megan Bomgaars, a leading Down syndrome spokesperson, artist, and star of A&E’s reality TV show Born This Way, gave a powerful speech in 2010 called “Don’t Limit Me”, which inspired this book about working hard and finding your sparkle. It is unshakeable in its upbeat tone, filled with inspiring thoughts for readers: “You can sparkle. / There are no limits. / Anything is possible. / Don’t limit yourself”. The important thing here is that Megan Bomgaars follows through and lets readers know that you have to work for it, nothing that “dreams are not like wishes. You can’t just wish upon a star and then wait”, letting readers know that there are no limits but those which we place on ourselves. Colorful illustrations show a cartoony group of jungle animal friends supporting a young lioness who wants to share her sparkle and be a singer. Sparkly endpapers and a glittered texture cover make this an eye-catching, texture-friendly book for young readers, and a great storytime read. Kids starting the new school year could use this wonderful dose of encouragement.

Learn more about Megan Bomgaars by visiting her Instagram page @meganbomgaars.

 

Be Strong, Pat Zietlow Miller/Illustrated by Jen Hill, (Aug. 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN 9781250221117
Ages 3-6
Tanisha, a young girl of color, faces down the rock-climbing wall at school. Her friend Cayla can easily climb it, but Tanisha struggles doesn’t reach the top. This gets her thinking about strength and what her family says about strength. Different members of her family see strength in different ways, from showing up to help neighbors, speaking up to make changes where you see problems, and never giving up. Tanisha mulls this advice over and decides to be strong: she helps other kids at school, whether with classwork or with feeling lonely; she takes up playing an instrument, and keeps practicing. She also understands that being strong also means accepting a helping hand, because “when I’m not strong enough alone, I can be strong with someone else”. A powerful, eloquent statement for kids to hear, Be Strong is the companion book to Pat Zietlow Miller and Jen Hill’s 2018 book, Be Kind and is an essential for preschool and early classrooms.
Teaching children that strength takes so many forms – including knowing when to ask for help! – is an important and necessary lesson in creating strong, kind future adults. Gouache artwork shows a diverse group of people helping one another: a neighborhood comes together to help families who have lost their homes and lobby for safer streets. Illustrations show that doing the right thing isn’t always the easy decision, as we see Tanisha watch friends play outside as she stays indoors during recess, helping friends with math work. Images like this are so important, because we know that sometimes we’re split in what we want to do versus what we know we should do: it’s honest and affirming to see images like this, and know that Tanisha made the truly selfless decision to show up for what she knows is being kind and strong. Great for starting discussions, Be Strong is a great book for getting the school year off to a strong start.
Be Strong has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster, by Manka Kasha, (Sept. 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250618795
Ages 4-7
A Small Knight feels pressured by their parents to be a perfect princess, but that’s not what they see for themselves. They want to go on adventures with their Teddy Bear! Worrying about how to explain this to their parents brings on an Anxiety Monster that follows Small Knight everywhere until the Knight and Teddy realize that they have to save themselves on this one. They set off on a journey and discover that the answer to defeating the Monster lies inside themself.
This is such a good book for kids to see: a nonbinary child lets all children see themselves in Small Knight’s place; the scribbly menacing anxiety monster that only Knight and Teddy can see – and that parents dismiss as imagination or “just part of being a princess” – understands that kids feel unheard or told to just endure some things as “part of childhood”; the understanding that the key to defeating the monster lies with Knight believing in themselves to call out the monster lets kids know that they have all the tools they need to beat their own anxiety monsters, no matter what those forms take. Told as a fairy tale, the watercolor and ink illustrations give us softly colored kings and queens, an adorable knight with a soft blue shirt, helm, and sword, and an anxiety  monster that kids can draw on their own and defeat in any type of class or library exercise. The artwork shows us a young hero on their journey, and it’s a hero that all kids can look up to.
Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster is a Kids’ Indie Next List Pick.
When I See Red, by Britta Teckentrup, (Sept. 2021, Prestel Junior), $14.95, ISBN: 9783791374949
Ages 3-5
A beautiful and moving meditation on anger by Britta Teckentrup, When I See Red takes readers through a young girl’s anger from beginning to end. In verse, we view her anger as a storm, untamed; the artwork dramatically whirling and spinning our heroine in the middle of her own emotional storm. She roars at the sea, her anger giving rise to tornadoes and hurricanes; we understand that anger can be a force for confidence as we see her rage propel her above the waves, allowing her to stand tall. When I See Red is about the cleansing power of unbottling rage, using one’s words, not forcing things down where they can hurt us (or unleash our own anxiety monsters!). Beautiful verses weave the girl’s anger into something powerful, propelling her forward, until, anger spent, her “monsters and dragons have disappeared”. Rage as a journey and a tool for moving forward, this is an excellent book to explain the power of positive self-expression for preschoolers and kindergarteners.
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour for The Grumpy, Frumpy Croissant

Sometimes, what you need is a sip of milk and 10 deep breaths: that’s the calming message for kids reading The Grumpy, Frumpy Croissant, a lesson in anger management for readers. Croissant and his friends Toast, Scone, and Milk live happily on a kitchen table until the morning that Croissant sees Toast and Scone have reached the breakfast plate first! Croissant is in a terrible mood and takes it out on his friends until Milk steps in and tells everyone to have a sip and calm down. Taking that time to count and get back to thinking clearly, the friends are happy again! Author Mona K. offers some insight into her creative process… read on!

 

The Grumpy Frumpy Croissant, by Mona K/Illustrated by Korey Scott,
(Jan. 2021, Canoe Tree Press), $7.99, ISBN: 9781735930824

Ages 3-7

 

“It was a Sunday afternoon in December 2019. My son and I had a ritual to stop by our favorite coffee shop before his tennis class to grab drinks and our most beloved croissant. My son got chocolate milk and I made my regular order. We both devour our croissants. I love to bake them from time to time, however the recipe does call for a lot of love and patience. As we were getting ready to sit down, I accidentally spilled some coffee over my son’s croissant. A big volcano of anger erupted, and he squeezed the croissant really hard. Poor croissant lost a few pounds instantly. I enjoy meditating and try to share some techniques here and there with my son. I realized he was extremely upset, so I suggested that he leave the croissant alone and take some long deep breaths. He did that a few times and then took a big sip of the milk. He suddenly felt calm. In the meantime, Mr. Croissant seemed to have gained some of his plumpness back. That spur of the moment was Grumpy Frumpy Croissants’ birthday. My son also loves toast and scones with a lot of red jelly. I thought Croissant needed friends and so Toast and Scone were invited to the party along with Milk. I wrote the story that same day and narrated it to my son the next morning. He absolutely fell in love with the characters. In February 2020, I started looking for illustrators for the book. I interviewed and did test runs with at least eight illustrators before selecting Korey Scott. He was able to bring my story to life just as I would if I were an artist. In March, covid-19 knocked us all on our heels. The illustrations took four long months and finally I published the book in November.  I presented the book to my son on his seventh birthday in December 2020. His reaction was priceless, and he was an instant celebrity in school  the next day.”

Filled with colorful, bold illustrations and with extra coloring pages available for download, readers will get a kick out of breakfast time, anytime, with The Grumpy Frumpy Croissant. There’s a croissant recipe at the end: make sure you have an adult to help!

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