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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!

Website and Social Media:
Buy links:
Library Link:
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Grow Love, Share Love: Oscar’s Tower of Flowers

Oscar’s Tower of Flowers, by Lauren Tobia, (May 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217773

Ages 2-6

In this wordless book, a little boy named Oscar stays with his Nana when his mother goes away. He finds joy in planting with his grandmother, who takes him to the store to buy some seeds. Oscar’s green thumb proves to be pretty impressive, and Nana’s home quickly becomes covered in green! Oscar has an idea: share his love with others in Nana’s building! He loads up a red wagon with plants, and shares them with his grandmother’s neighbors throughout the building, spreading the joy he experienced while growing them all. When Mom returns, he happily sits on her lap, sharing some together time with Mom and Nana. Mixed media artwork beautifully tells this story, beginning with the endpapers: an apartment building bustles with people as Nana seems to wave to someone off in the distance; the back endpapers show a happier bunch of neighbors, with all of Oscar’s greenery decorating homes and the building’s roof, which appears to have added an apiary, too! The artwork is gentle, soft, loving.

As a mom of a certain age, I was relieved to see Nana looking so young! But don’t relegate yourself to the woman being Nana. There’s nowhere in the book that says so, and to be honest, until I read other reviews and the blurb text online, I thought the other woman was Mom’s partner. Flap copy says, “When someone Oscar loves has to go away on a trip, he tries to find ways to stay busy. With some grown-up help, a red wagon, and his favorite toy, Oscar plants all kinds of flowers and waits for them to grow”. You want Oscar to have two mommies? Oscar can have two mommies. The heart of the story is Oscar’s kind heart and his joy in cultivating plants to share. Keep a copy of this in your daycare/after school collections for littles who miss their parents when they go to work.

Oscar’s Tower of Flowers has a starred review from Kirkus. Visit Lauren Tobia’s website to see more of her work on Oscar’s Tower of Flowers and her work on one of my favorite chapter book series, Anna Hibiscus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Barbara Throws a Wobbler… watch out!

Barbara Throws a Wobbler, by Nadia Shireen, (April 2021, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-68464-225-0

Ages 3-6

Barbara is not having a good day. First, there was a sock problem. Then, there was a strange pea at lunchtime. Things just keep going wrong for Barbara, and even her friends calling out to her isn’t helping. Barbara is nearing that last straw, which leads to a big… giant… WOBBLER! Wobbler is British slang for “tantrum”, something you’ll easily pick up in context, and it takes on a life of its own in this adorably fun and relatable story. The Wobbler is giant, gelatinous, and red, sitting atop Barbara’s head and eventually engulfing her until she can get a handle on it. Once she talks to her Wobbler and takes a deep breath, the Wobbler becomes more manageable, until it finally shrinks away – but not without letting her know it’ll be back one day! Kids and grownups alike will recognize toddler and preschooler triggers, from the “strange pea” at lunch, to the “hundred bad moods wrapped up in one” feeling that Barbara feels, right before the Wobbler takes over. A Very Useful Guide to Bad Moods at the end offers other moods to recognize, along with symptoms: The Sulk, The Tizzy, and The Seethe are just a few on the path to the Wobbler. Never making fun of Barbara or the frustration that leads to a tantrum, Barbara Throws a Wobbler takes an sensitive approach to identifying what sets a Wobbler off, and how to shrink it back down once it appears.

Originally published in the UK in 2020, Barbara Throws a Wobbler has just arrived on U.S. shores and has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books

Mop Rides the Waves of Life: A mindfulness story for kids

Mop Rides the Waves of Life: A Story of Mindfulness and Surfing, by Jaimal Yogis/Illustrated by Matt Allen (June 2020, Plum Blossom), $16.95, ISBN: 9781946764607

Ages 5-8

A friend of mine passed this book on to me, and I knew I had to write about it, because who couldn’t use a little more mindfulness these days? Mop is a kid with a wild mop of hair. He loves to surf, and he has a bit of a temper and a tendency to act out when he’s angry. His mom takes him to the beach and explains that he has to learn to surf life, too: “Breathing mindfully helps you notice the emotional waves inside”. She explains that he has to learn to surf those waves of fear and anger, because they will pass; when the good feelings come, to enjoy them, and when they start to ebb, keep paddling, because there are always good waves coming. Armed with this new information and linking it to his love of surfing, Mop is able to get through school interactions and enjoy his friends while being present and mindful. It’s a simply stated premise that makes for a good readaloud, and lets readers practice breathing and visualizing waves to surf during the storytime. Illustrations are soft, gently colored beach scenes and classroom scenes, a mixture of peaceful mindfulness with surfing movement. Waves take on the aggressive emotions of fear, anger, and sadness both in the water and atop Mop’s head when he’s learning to control his emotions, and he visualizes those waves turning to love, joy, and gratitude. A good book to add to your mindfulness readalouds and collections.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Lost little Perdu needs a home

Perdu, by Richard Jones, (Apr. 2021, Peachtree Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 9781682632482

Ages 4-8

Perdu is a pup with no home. He’s hungry, cold, and lonely, and wanders the city trying to find something to eat. When he slips into a restaurant, he smells wonderful smells… but gets into terrible trouble. Will anyone find this poor pup and give him a home? Perdu – the French word for “lost” – pulls at the heartstrings in a big way; he’s small, cute, and author/illustrator Richard Jones makes him look so sad, alone with his little red scarf, the only thing he has to call his own, that readers won’t be able to help but want to take him home and cuddle him. The cruel language others yell at him – “Get out! Go away! Shoo!” – increases Perdu’s feelings of isolation, and when, out of desperation, he tries to get food in a restaurant, the public’s increased reaction causes a scared, aggressive reaction that Richard Jones masterfully illustrates with Perdu against a completely red background. Sharp-eyed viewers may notice Richard Jones’s Snow Lion on one page. This is Richard Jones’ debut as an author and illustrator, and he nails it on both counts. His artwork always communicates emotion and depth, and his gift for words creates a heartaching, and then, heartwarming story of a dog searching for a forever home. A good storytime choice.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Every toddler and preschooler will love No! Said Rabbit

No! Said Rabbit, by Marjoke Henrichs, (March 2021, Peachtree Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 9781682632949

Ages 2-6

A young rabbit’s mother tries to get Rabbit to listen to her, but Rabbit wants to do things his way, when he wants to: “Time to get dressed,” said Mom. / “NO!” said Rabbit. / “But that is my faorite top and my pants with the big pockets…” Parents and caregivers will recognize the magnificent art of deflection here: Mom seems to have Rabbit’s favorite things within eyeshot whenever he’s ready to say no to her; he’ll see his juicy orange carrots on the table, then he’ll decide to eat breakfast; see his favorite boots, and decide to go outside. Toddlers and preschoolers will joyfully holler “NO!” along with Rabbit, making for a fun readaloud, and appreciate Rabbit’s struggle for independence alongside their own. Is there anything that can make Rabbit say yes, you wonder? Of course! Cuddles from Mommy always get a yes! But there’s one more “No” to be had, and it’s adorably sweet. Colorful mixed media artwork looks will appeal to kids; the A joyful, humorous look at a toddler’s growing independence, and a good choice for storytimes and bedtimes.