Posted in picture books

Spring and Summer stories to make you smile

With Spring and Summer come a lighter type of picture book: open spaces, verdant greens, cheery yellows, happy colors and stories about enjoying the outdoors. I’ve got a few picture books here that are perfect for those longer, warmer days.

Free, by Sam Usher, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536217049

Ages 4-7

The boy and his grandfather from Sam Usher’s Seasons With Grandad series are back! In Free, the boy and Grandad care for a sick bird who returns to them every day. Grandad looks up new ways to get the bird to reunite with other birds, but it looks like their new feathered friend needs a bit of help, so they gather their equipment and strike out to find a tree for their new friend. Sam Usher brings his touch of magical realism to this story of a boy, his grandfather, and a little bird that needs their help, elevating it from sweet to simply extraordinary. Ink and watercolor illustrations are expressive and provide a soothing, intimate feel to the storytelling and the relationship between Grandad, Boy, and Bird. Riots of color in strategic moments make for a delightful surprise. I love Sam Usher’s books, so this one is a definite buy for me.

Free has a starred review from Kirkus.

(UK edition image taken from Amazon.com: the US edition notes that one of the birds “was sick”.)

 

Sweet Pea Summer, by Hazel Mitchell, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536210347

Ages 4-8

A girl’s her father brings her to spend the summer with her grandparents when her mother has to go into the hospital. To keep her occupied, her grandfather invites her to help in his garden, asking her to look after his snow peas. She learns to care for them and nurture them, taking great pride in the growing pods, and her grandfather suggests she may even get to enter them in the flower show when the season ends. So what happens that causes the flowers to start dying? Stumped, the girl tries multiple fixes until she discovers the reason. A gently told story of love, nurturing, perseverance and determination, this is a beautifully illustrated story, with colorful spreads of the English countryside and cheery gardens. There are so many details to discover in the sprawling townscape and countryside, from bustling businesses and commuters to the playful garden animals hopping and frolicking around the greenery. A book that encourages readers to endure hard times and embrace the support around them, Sweet Pea Summer is a good warm-weather read. Have some sweet pea coloring pages handy for an accompanying storytime activity. Pair with Zee Grows a Tree for a storytime about the love between nature and kids.

Visit Hazel Mitchell’s author webpage for more information about her books, her artwork, and a host of printable activities about her book, Toby.

 

William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, retold by Georghia Ellinas/Illustrated by Jane Ray, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217735

Ages 4-8

The companion to last year’s William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a dreamlike, picture book interpretation of the famous Shakespeare comedy, great for new audiences. The Fairy Kingdom is up in arms as King Oberon is in a disagreement with his wife, Queen Titania; a group of young nobles arrive in the magical forest from Athens, all in love with the wrong person; and Puck, a mischievous servant of King Oberon’s decides to stir up some trouble just for the fun of it. Retold from Puck’s perspective, this is a very readable, enjoyable breakdown of the hilarious story of mistaken identity, love, and mischievous fairies. Shakespeare’s famous ending, “If we shadows have offended…” closes the story. The artwork is a tapestry of beautiful color, artwork that captures the playful spirit of the play and the otherworldly characters in the story. Moonlight figures heavily in the artwork, a glowing sheen adding illumination and bringing out the details in each character. A great read-aloud idea for older classes (1-3 grades, for instance), consider an Introduction to Shakespeare display for your Children’s Room with books like Anna Claybourne and Tilly’s Where’s Will?, The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review series by Ian Lendler and illustrated by Zack Giallongo, and Mabel and the Queen of Dreams, by Henry, Joshua, & Harrison Herz. Visit ilustrator Jane Ray’s website for free printable coloring pages.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Always look for the rainbows.

There Is a Rainbow, by Theresa Trinder/Illustrated by Grant Snider, (Jan. 2021, Chronicle Books), $15.99, ISBN: 9781797211664

Ages 4-6

Written in the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, There is a Rainbow is about coming through the dark times to the other side. Presented in simple statements, it’s a story of opposites; of going through the hard to get to the better; of our connections to one another, and ultimately, about rainbows. There are kids learning on screens; there are Black Lives Matter signs; there are thank-yous to heroes, all reflecting moments we lived through last year. There is also a thread of hope, in the form of the ever-present rainbow, encouraging us to keep going, because, as the book notes, “On the other side of a storm, there is a rainbow. On the other side of today, there is tomorrow.” For those of us who have come through so much, it’s a supportive message that pushes us to keep moving toward that light at the end of the tunnel. For future generations, There Is a Rainbow will stand as a testament to a moment in time where we stood, resilient, together against unbelievable events. An author’s note talks about writing the book during the pandemic. Grant Snider’s colored pencil artwork adds a gentle touch to the text, but shows strength in the details: trees standing in the wind, a chalk rainbow refusing to wash away in the rain, a series of cheery rainbows hanging in the windows, celebrating our first responders. Download a free activity kit and encourage your littles to talk about their feelings from the past year. Pair with Smriti Prrasadam-Halls and David Litchfield’s Rain Before Rainbows for an inspiring storytime.

School Library Journal calls There Is a Rainbow the “perfect pandemic book”. Can’t put it any better than that. There Is a Rainbow has starred reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction

Survival nonfiction: Lost in the Antarctic (and a giveaway!)

Lost in the Antarctic: The Doomed Voyage of the Endurance, by Tod Olson, (Jan. 2019, Scholastic), $7.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-20734-7

The latest entry into Tod Olson’s Lost series takes a deeper look into Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 voyage to the Antarctic aboard the fated ship, the Endurance. Shackleton and a full complement of 28 men and a few dozen sled dogs boarded the ship, ready to attempt the first crossing of the Antarctic continent; nature had different ideas as the ship and crew endured oceans of ice that trapped and eventually crushed the ship, leaving the men to fend for themselves on the ice.

This is not a gentle story. Tod Olson writes of desperate men trapped in horrific conditions, fighting to survive; the story has riveting, gritty moments that will make the brutal world of the Antarctic come alive. Photos and details from primary sources, including Shackleton’s own journal, make the story come alive for readers. Have readers who love Lauren Tarshis’ I Survived series (seriously, who doesn’t)? This is the next step. Want to make fiction readers love nonfiction just as much? This is the series for you and them.

I don’t know how I wasn’t aware of this series before: there are four books so far, and each book comes with incredible resources, including free, downloadable discussion guides and supplemental information – including multimedia resources – on Tod Olson’s author site. You can go directly to the Lost in the Antarctic resources here.

Get this series on your shelves now! You’ll be happy you did, and so will your readers.

Tod Olson is the author of the historical fiction series How to Get Rich and the four books in the Lost series–Lost in the Pacific, 1942; Lost in Outer Space;  Lost in the Amazon; and Lost in the Antarctic. He has written for national magazines on the Columbine school shooting, homeless teens, the murder of Matthew Shepard, and many other stories of interest to children and young adults. Tod holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Vermont with his family, his mountain bike, and his electric reclining chair. To learn more, and to download free teaching resources, visit his website: todolson.com.
 
Praise for previous titles in the Lost series
 
★”A riveting, completely engrossing true survival story.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 
“Engaging… A great choice for collections.” —School Library Journal
 
One lucky winner will receive Lost in the Antarctic, courtesy of Scholastic, Inc. (U.S. addresses). Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance!