Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Books About Kindness

We’re heading toward the holidays, which means my library system is gearing up for their annual “It’s Time for Kind” campaign, where we encourage our communities to show kindness to one another. This year, it means a LOT. I won’t get on too much of a soapbox here, but I will say that I live in a state where people are arriving scared and alone, and need kindness more than ever. These books have been out for a few months, so consider these when you’re putting together readers advisory lists or book displays, or planning storytimes this season.

All You Need, by Howard Schwartz/Illustrated by Jasu Hu, (Apr. 2022, Neal Porter Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823443291

Ages 3-7

Written as a poem, All You Need is a meditation on what one needs for a fulfilling life, from the basics – sun and rain, food and water – to the higher needs, like “a place where you are welcome” and “words to share your thoughts”. Illustrator Jasu Hu tells the story of a young woman who grows to be an artist, nurtured by the land and the people around her. Inspired by Schwartz’s story, illustrator Jasu Hu’s watercolor illustrations bring a tenderness to the work that fits beautifully with the gentle lyrics and leaves touches of Chinese culture throughout the story, including a swallow, ever-present in the tale, to deliver words of happiness and homecoming. Back matter from Schwartz and Hu each explains their motivation. The main character presents as Asian, with touches of Asian culture and landscape throughout. All You Need is a reminder of how simple and fragile our needs are and is a beautiful opening story for storytimes.

All You Need has a starred review from School Library Journal.

 

 

Luli and the Language of Tea, by Andrea Wang/Illustrated by Hyewon Yum, (May 2022, Neal Porter), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823446148

Ages 3-7

A group of parents file into an ESOL (English as a Second Language) class, while their children head into the free childcare area while their parents are in class. The children play alone, not understanding English, until Luli decides to bring everyone together with one word that they all understand: tea. She sets up a tea party around a table and calls out “Chá!”, the Chinese word for “tea”; the children recognize the word, which sounds similar to the word for tea in their languages: Russian, Hindi, Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Spanish, German, Swahili, and Portuguese. The children sit together and share tea while the caregiver watches, delighted. Showing that language brings us together more than it divides us, Luli and the Language of Tea features a group of children from all over the world coming together in friendship. Each time the word “tea” is spoken it is illustrated in a colorful font with a phonetic spelling in parentheses. Endpapers feature colorful cups of tea from different countries. Colored pencil illustrations add a childlike innocence to this joyful story. Back matter includes an author’s note, a note on the languages spoken in the story, and notes on immigrants living in the U.S. and how they enjoy their tea. Author Andrea Wang’s website includes a bibliography of sources and audio of various children’s literature creators speaking the word for “tea” in their own languages; there’s also a downloadable educator’s guide. An excellent storytime choice.

Luli and the Language of Tea has starred reviews from Booklist and Shelf Awareness.

 

 

La Casita de Esperanza, by Terry Catasús Jennings/Illustrated by Raúl Colón, (June 2022, Neal Porter Books/Holiday House), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823452033

Ages 4-8

This is the Spanish translation of a book I fell in love with when I reviewed it in July. Terry Catasús Jennings writes about a little home that welcomes a family new to the U.S., and how that family turns that little house into a sanctuary where they, and their extended family, can come, be safe, and begin a new life. The Spanish text is lyrical and makes for a beautiful readaloud; Pura Belpré medalist Raúl Colón’s pencil and watercolor artwork frames pivotal moments in the characters’ lives to create powerful moments, from arriving home to a bustling household to people coming together to forge a new life when they’ve been forced to leave the old one behind. I have copies of both the English and Spanish translations on my shelves. One of the best books you’ll read this year.

Visit Terry Catasús Jennings’s webpage to see more of her books and read her own story; the inspiration for La Casita de Esperanza.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: Thursday by Ann Bowill and Kayla Harden

Thursday, by Ann Bowill/Illustrated by Kayla Harden, (June 2022, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542032896

Ages 4-7

Thursday used to be a little girl’s favorite day of the week, until she learns that her parents are getting a divorce on a Thursday. Now, instead of art class, and popsicles with friends, Thursdays mean that everything will change. Her stuffed unicorn steps in to give the girl a much-needed friend and comfortable shoulder, staying with her to support her through the hard feelings and the move, until Thursday becomes “just Thursday again”. The story moves forward with a gentle sensitivity, told in first person by the unicorn, who repays an act of kindness with love and and concern. The unicorn grows into a larger-than-life-sized companion that the little girl can lean on; when she can stand on her own again, the unicorn shrinks back to a toy-sized stuffie, but never leaves her – always around, ready to take her side if she needs it. Kayla Harden’s digital illustrations glow with optimism, letting readers know that things may be difficult right now, but the sun will always come up the next day, and things will eventually get better. The unicorn has its own cheerful radiance, sharing its warmth with the little girl. Add this one to your SEL (social-emotional learning) collections, and maybe consider adding some stuffed friends to your collection for kids who need a friend to lean on.

 

Ann Bonwill grew up in Maryland surrounded by books. Before becoming an author, Ann worked as a clinical social worker, a Montessori teacher, and an autism therapist. She is the author of multiple picture books and nonfiction books for children, including When Mermaids Sleep, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, and I Am Not a Copycat!, illustrated by Simon Rickerty. Ann has lived in many places, from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Frankfurt, Germany. She currently lives in Virginia with her family. Learn more at www.annbonwill.com.

Kayla Harren is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City with a BFA in illustration. She’s an award-winning illustrator of multiple picture books, including A Boy Like You, written by Frank Murphy, and The Boy Who Grew a Forest, written by Sophia Gholz, among other titles. Her work has been featured in the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Communication Arts, and 3×3 Magazine, and she won the Highlights for Children Pewter Plate Award. She lives in Minnesota with her family. Learn more at www.kaylaharren.com.

Facebook: Kayla Harren Illustrator

Instagram: @kaylaharren

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour and Giveaway: I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu

“I am, because you are.”

Ubuntu is more than just a word; it’s a philosophy. It’s an African ideal that speaks to the concept of community as a building block of society; we share a bond as humans that connects us all. Author Refiloe Moahloli and illustrator bring that idea to life in their picture book, I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu.

I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu, by Refiloe Moahloli/Illustrated by Zinelda McDonald,
(Feb. 2021, Amazon Crossing Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542035668
Ages 4-7

Originally published in South Africa in 2020, I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu is filled with inspiring, powerful messages that all come back to an essential element: I am you. I love you, and I love myself. By caring for you, I care for myself; to hurt you is to hurt myself. Refiloe Moahloli tells her story in simple, uncomplicated, evocative verse, repeating this simple and dynamic idea. Zinelda McDonald’s digital illustration shows children of all color interacting with one another; they hug, they ride bikes, they share laughs, warmth, and friendship, illustrating the idea of caring as community. A breathtaking spread shows a tree hosting life above and below ground, and a child hugs it, becoming part of nature’s web: we are connected to each other, and that includes every living thing.

An essential book for readalouds and collections, I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu is a gentle voice encouraging unity in an increasingly divisive time. A gorgeous marriage of verse and illustration that you and your readers will turn to again and again. Read it to babies, read it to children, read it to adults.

I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Amazon Crossing Kids aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives.

★“[Refiloe] Moahloli’s work makes for a stunning picture book for young readers and their grown-ups that focuses on our shared sense of community…. Celebrates our shared humanity and the strength in treating others with love and respect. A recommended first purchase.” School Library Journal (starred review)

“An edifying, unifying picture book that’s much needed in these divisive times.” Kirkus Reviews

 

Refiloe Moahloli is a bestselling South African picture book author. She is passionate about writing stories that bring out the best in the human spirit. She spent the early part of her career in the corporate world, but an eye-opening assignment to Mumbai led her to pursue her dream of becoming a full-time writer. She currently lives and works in Johannesburg. Learn more at refiloemoahloli.com, and follow her on Instagram @RefiloeMoahloli.

Zinelda McDonald is an award-winning South African illustrator who lives in Wellington in the Western Cape of South Africa. She has illustrated numerous children’s books and is also a well-known designer and illustrator of children’s book covers. Awards for her work include the Alba Bouwer Prize and the Exclusive Books IBBY SA Award. Follow her on Instagram @Zinelda.

One lucky winner will receive a copy of I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu, courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids (U.S. and Canada addresses).  If you’ve won a Rafflecopter giveaway in the last six months, please don’t enter again: give someone else a chance! Thanks so much! Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here!
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Setting the tone for a new year: A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes, by Mary Lee Donovan/Illustrated by Lian Cho (Oct. 2021, Greenwillow Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780062877727

Ages 4-8

Welcome! Readers travel to homes all over the world to share food and friendship in A Hundred Thousand Welcomes, being greeted in with a hearty “Welcome!” in 14 different languages. Each welcome includes a phonetic pronunciation to allow for readers to learn and share greetings with one another and spread a message of empathy, unity, and hope for a better world. Families greet one another and invite them to sit at tables together; a note from the artist explains her inspiration: “Food is something that joins us across cultures”. Warm colors and rhythmic verse send a wonderful message to all as people come together to share food, their cultures, and their homes. Reading this book today gives me hope for the holiday season and for a new year. Back matter includes a pronunciation guide, notes form the author and artist, and information about the languages featured in the story. Publisher HarperCollins includes A Hundred Thousand Welcomes discussion prompts and extension activities in a home and community teaching guide.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Redlocks and the Three Bears flips fairy tales for fun

Redlocks and the Three Bears, by Claudia Rueda, (Nov. 2021, Chronicle Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452170312

Ages 3-5

Claudia Rueda’s newest story is a sweet, humorous take on Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Bears, and that old trope of the Big Bad Wolf. Mama Bear is just about to get the porridge on the table when a knock sounds at the Bear Family’s door: it’s Little Red Riding Hood, and there’s a bear after her! Baby Bear convinces his parents to give Red some shelter; porridge is eaten, chairs get broken, a bed is too soft… but is the Big Bad Wolf really that bad? Redlocks takes a compassionate look at the maligned image of the Big Bad Wolf, who always finds himself in trouble throughout fairy tales, and offers readers some food for thought on how bad reputations can hurt.

The story offers a fun take on the Goldilocks story, with Little Red Riding Hood taking on some of Goldie’s actions in the story; narrated by Baby Bear, we get an empathetic storyteller who just wants to make others feel better. Colored pencil illustrations are soft and use warm colors with expressive characters and gentle movement moving the action forward. Mama’s porridge recipe is part of the back endpapers, and looks like it was written by Baby Bear himself.

A fun cameo from The Three Little Pigs and a twist ending will have readers chuckling, and the easy-to-read, unfussy storytelling is great for a readaloud. Grab your flannels for Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Bears, and The Three Little Pigs for this one!

Visit Claudia Rueda’s author website for more of her illustration work and information about her workshops.

Posted in picture books

A Sari for Ammi: Blog Tour and Giveaway!

Amazon Crossing Kids is doing such a wonderful job of bringing global children’s stories to U.S. shelves. I have loved every single book I’ve been lucky enough to read so far and am in love with the newest picture book, A Sari for Ammi by Mamta Nainy and illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat.

A Sari for Ammi, by Mamta Nainy/Illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat,
(Nov. 2021, Amazon Crossing Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542035071
Ages 5-8

A young girl sees her mother weaving beautiful saris, and wants desperately to see her mother wear one of her beautiful creations, so sets to planning with her sister on making money to buy Ammi – mom – a gift: one of her own saris. Set in India’s Kota district, in the town of Kaithoon, sari weaving is a family affair: Abba, or dad, dyes the threads; Amma weaves, and the girl and her sister, Sadaf, help weave. The saris are beautiful, but Ammi, dependent on the income that selling the saris brings, won’t wear any for herself. The two enterprising sisters find ways to earn enough money to buy Ammi their loving gift. Beautifully vibrant, with cartoon illustrations and rich patterns and texture, A Sari for Ammi is a visual feast. The story is wonderful, with bold purple words standing out to introduce readers to new vocabulary, colors, and excited exclamations. The story itself brilliantly depicts the love and desire to do something for their mother, tallying up how much they earn and what those earnings can by each time, as they work their way up from a dupatta (a scarf or shawl) to a sari.

A Sari for Ammi introduces us to a a part of India rich in history and famous for its saris, and illustrates a Muslim-Indian family is a loving, positive light. Back matter includes a word on the saris of Kaithoon and a glossary.

Kirkus Reviews has named A Sari for Ammi as one of their 16 Best Books to Read in November.

 

 

“This delightful picture book shines a spotlight on a rural, underrepresented Indian Muslim community.” Kirkus Reviews

Mamta Nainy is a children’s writer, editor, and translator based in New Delhi, India. She is the author of many children’s books, including A Brush with Indian Art, illustrated by Aniruddha Mukherjee, which won the Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Award in 2019; and Bioscope, illustrated by Shanti Devi, which was named to the IBBY Honor List in 2012. Follow the author on Instagram @mamtanainy.
 
Sandhya Prabhat is an independent animator and illustrator from Chennai, India, who resides in the United States. She has a master’s degree in animation and digital arts from New York University. She has illustrated nearly a dozen picture books, including her recent book I Am Brown, written by Ashok Banker. She animates for TV and movies and creates content for social media websites such as Facebook, Google, and Snapchat. Follow the artist on Instagram @sandhyaprabhat.

 

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of A Sari for Ammi, courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids (U.S. and Canada addresses). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Awake… when creepy crawlies aren’t SO creepy

Awake, by Mags DeRoma, (Oct. 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250753199

Ages 4-8

A little girl gets ready for bed at night. She and her pup are so very sleepy… until she spies a SPIDER in her room! GAH! Stricken with fear, she goes on the offensive, her imagination going wild with thoughts of giant, spider-removing devices and huge spiders coming for retribution. When she finally traps the spider under a glass, she realizes that the spider? It’s rather itsy-bitsy after all. And it looks pretty terrified. Putting herself in the spider’s shoes, she realizes that the spider isn’t here to rain havoc down on her and her dog; it probably just wants to get back home, or make a home in a warm, comfortable spot. Author Mags DeRoma says that Awake is about coming face-to-face with ‘otherness'”; an idea more of our children (and adults, quite frankly) should sit down and take a minute to think about. When something – or someone – appears that isn’t within our usual realm of understanding or experience, we often react with fear and aggression. If we take a moment to put ourselves in someone else’s position, to see the world through another’s eyes, we may – like the little girl in Awake – rethink our initial, knee-jerk reactions. Awake is also about facing one’s fears and growing from the experience. The cut paper artwork gives depth and texture to the story, with fun details and character expressions, and gorgeous cityscapes, including a gatefold that brings home the true size of the little spider compared to the sprawling city outside the girl’s window. Endpapers bring the reader in, with heartwarming messages like “open eyes, open mind, open heart, to be awake”, and instructions on relocating a “surprise guest”.

This is Mags DeRoma’s debut picture book, and I’m excited to see where else she will bring us in the future. Visit her webpage for more artwork and a look at other books she’s illustrated. Add Awake to your social-emotional learning collections, and consider displaying with Jacob Grant’s Bear’s Scare and Bear Out There, and Bethany Barton’s I’m Trying to Love Spiders.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Every Little Kindness makes goodwill contagious

Every Little Kindness, by Marta Bartolj, (Oct. 2021, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781797207926

Ages 5-8

A young woman hangs posters of her missing dog, handing an apple to a street musician as she goes about her day. Her act of kindness inspires others, creating a link between the inhabitants of a town as they inspire each other to do something kind for another. This wordless story speaks volumes about humanity, and how one good act can inspire countless others. They don’t need to be grand gestures, full of extravagance; one simple, thoughtful action is filled with meaning. The pencil, ink, acrylic, and watercolor artwork is rendered largely in shades of gray, with yellows to warm up various moments and reds to signify the passing of one good deed to another: handing a red apple to a musician inspires a man with a red bag to pick up a discarded red soft drink can, motivating a young boy wearing red overalls to buy a red balloon for a little girl who’s lost hers. The lost dog’s posters run throughout the book, reminding readers of the story that began this chain of empathy. A lovely way to explain good deeds, and how kindness links us to one another; it offers an opportunity for children to tell you their own stories. An essential book for your SEL (social-emotional learning) collections.

Every Little Kindness has a starred review from Foreword Reviews.

Posted in Uncategorized

I Wish You Knew… a teacher’s question turns into a movement

I Wish You Knew, by Jackie Azúa Kramer/Illustrated by Magdalena Mora, (May 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250226303

Ages 4-7

In 2016, educator Kyle Schwartz wrote a book called I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything For Our Kids, based on a getting to know you class exercise where she asked her third graders to write something they wanted her to know about them. She received the usual, adorable responses like, “I love my family” and “I love animals”, and she also received deeper feedback that gave her insight into the children in her care: “my mom and dad are divorced”; “I live in a shelter”; “my mom might get diagnosed with cancer this year”. Kids are dealing with a lot; we need to be better at listening.

In the spirit of Ms. Schwartz’s book comes Jackie Azúa Kramer and Magdalena Mora’s  I Wish You Knew. A girl named Estrella’s father was not born here, so he has to leave; she misses him, and helps care for her brother while her mother works long hours. A teacher wants her kids to know that she cares for them. She creates a space for them, in the space where their little school wraps around a 100-year-old tree; a sharing circle, where they can tell her what they wish she knew: one student is hungry. One student’s mother is serving in the military. One student lives in a shelter. And Estrella misses her father. The group shares and finds comfort and support in one another, and Estrella waits to see her father, surrounded by the sunflowers that he helped plant. A touching story, I Wish You Knew is great for welcome back to school reading and to let your kids know that with you, there is a safe space. Mixed media illustrations in soothing pastels show a diverse group of children and a teacher of color among sunflowers and in the warm greens of the area outside school. Estrella and her father are affectionate, leaning toward one another as they sit in a giant sunflower when he tells her he must leave, but that he’ll be back. A beautiful book to engender compassion and empathy.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Let’s get the school year off to a great start!

You want books for back to school? I got books for back to school!

 

My First Ready for School, by Roger Priddy, (May 2021, Priddy Books US), $9.99, ISBN: 9781684491384

Ages 3-5

Priddy Books does it again; I’ve loved their board books and early learning books for babies since my own now-fourth grader (fourth grade!) was born. This preschool activity book is the perfect Welcome to School gift for preschoolers, and a great add to preschool shelves and collections in your classrooms and libraries. It’s all about concepts, early learning, and fun: there are pull tabs and flaps on every single page, all getting the little ones ready to experience a school day. Learn what to put in your school bag, with pull-down flaps that reveal what goes in your pencil case, lunch box, gym bag, and backpack; use the pull tab to discover all the great activities taking place at school, like playtime and storytime; learn about mixing colors, school shapes, patterns, and more! The book is tough, strong enough to stand up to repeated use, with bulky board pages, strong tabs, and secure flaps. Colorful and friendly animal characters will greet little readers and help them sharpen their pattern and shape recognition, counting skills, and sight words. Get a few of these in your collections if possible; they’re a great investment.

 

 

Let’s Be Safe, by Alice Le Henand/Illustrated by Thierry Bedouet (Oct. 2021, Twirl Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9782408028497

Ages 0-3

I am a big fan of Twirl Books’s Pull and Play series. This outing, Let’s Be Safe, teaches readers about safety while doing everyday tasks. Familiar animal friends from previous books in the series are back, like Little Kangaroo, Little Cat, and Little Monkey, and their parents gently guide them through scenarios that could end up with tears – but don’t, thanks to some smart thinking and safe action. Little Crocodile wants to come down the stairs by himself – great! – and Dad lets him, as long as he holds onto the railing. Little Kangaroo wants to stand up to play in the tub, but Mom cautions against it, because slipping and falling really hurts. Isn’t it better to sit and play? Pull tabs illustrate the before-and-after, with the Little Gang modeling safe behaviors as parents lovingly explain and stand by to help. Parents will appreciate the modeling on what to say to newly independent toddlers and preschoolers, and kids will love pulling the tabs and seeing their animal friends be safe. Win-win for all.

 

The New Kid Has Fleas, by Ame Dyckman/Illustrated by Eda Kaban, (June 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250245243

Ages 3-6

Award-winning author Ame Dyckman’s story about welcoming the new kid is a study in kindness and discovery. There’s a new kid at school, and she’s a little… different. Naturally, the rumors fly when the mean girl tries to spread rumors, but our narrator, who ends up paired with the New Kid for a science project, discovers that she and her family are pretty cool, after all! The New Kid – who we discover is named Kiki – is different, with a different family and a different home. She doesn’t wear shoes, she howls, she chases squirrels, and her family seem to be wolves! After spending a day working on a school project, though, our narrator – a young boy – embraces Kiki’s family, tussles with her brothers and sisters, and, in a laugh-out-loud moment, “goes with the flow” when it comes to using the restroom. Turns out, welcoming the new kid is a far more fun way to go than being mean! Digital illustrations capture the fun spirit of the story and show the growing friendship between Kiki and her new friend, and I loved the use of a wolf’s shadow to illustrate the Kiki is more than meets the eye. What a great way to teach kids to extend a friendly hand to new students. Another win from Ame Dyckman!

Visit Ame Dyckman’s author page for more information about her books.