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

Soar lets readers spread their wings and face fear

Soar, by Hillary Daecher/Illustrated by Angie Hohenadel, (Aug. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7643-5987-3

Ages 4-7

Ramone is a ruby-throated hummingbird who’s about to leave his nest for the first time. But he’s shy and he’s scared: what if something goes wrong? What if his wings don’t work? Luckily, Mom is there with comforting hugs and words. As he watches the other hummingbirds take to the sky, he screws up his courage and manages to get airborne! A rhyming story of facing one’s fears, Soar is beautifully illustrated with bright, vivid color. The rhyming meter makes for a good read-aloud, and you know what I’m going to say about flannels, right? Colorful birds are PERFECT flannel storytime accompaniment if you’ve got them! Back matter includes hummingbird facts, discussion questions, and a bibliography.

 

Ramone, a shy, ruby-throated hummingbird, is about to leave the nest for the first time. But his anxiety and fear keep him from taking off as he contemplates all that could go wrong. Full of kind words and encouragement, Ramone’s mother gives him room to work through his emotions, building his confidence and letting him set his own pace. Ramone watches as his friends soar through the sky, realizing all he might miss out on if he doesn’t conquer his fear. Ramone’s adventure showcases the emotions, both positive and negative, children experience as they approach new challenges. Accompanied by strikingly beautiful illustrations, this tale guides readers through Ramone’s emotional journey, showing kids that fear must be overcome in order to grow.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

More Halloween books for your spooky read-alouds!

Hide and Seek, by Katie May Green, (July 2019, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763696061

Ages 4-7

Welcome back to Shiverhawk Hall, where the paintings won’t stay put! The companion to 2015’s Seen and Not Heard, Hide and Seek is a standalone rhyming picture book that tells the story of a group of playful paintings who clamber out of their frames for a day of hide and seek fun in the surrounding gardens and woods. Twin sisters turn out to be too good at the game, leading their friends on a chase until the rain sends them running back home to the comfort of their frames. The rhyming scheme is a joy to read and sets a perfectly lovely, eerie setting to the story. The charcoal artwork is colorful but never bold and loud, creating an atmosphere just eerie enough to be Addams Family-creepy, not nightmare-inducing scary. The ghostly sisters have  matching white dresses, long, black hair, and wide-eyed expressions; all the children wear period clothing, with loads of ruffs, ballgowns, buckled shoes, and sailor oufits. Pale pink endpapers give readers a glimpse into the forest, with imprints of leaves, animal tracks, and local fauna. Perfect for a creepy storytime read where you don’t want to terrify your little ones, but give them a delicious case of the willies.

 

The Right One for Roderic, by Violeta Nay, (July 2019, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536205725

Ages 5-7

Roderic is the latest ghost in a long line of Roderics, but he’s also the smallest ghost in his family. He’s really not a fan of the boring white sheets that everyone in his family wears; it makes him feel even smaller than he already is, because hardly anyone notices him to begin with! Roderic starts experimenting with his look, adding hats and scarves to his ensemble, and comes up with a new look that he loves: but his family doesn’t. Roderic heads to the city, hoping to find a more fashionable group of people, but discovers that in a big city, he’s just as invisible as he was at home. He returns home, tweaks his style, and tells his family that he’s happy to be different and will wear what he wants: and his family, encouraged by his fashion sense, decides to take some chances on their own, too! The digital illustrations are adorable, making Roderic a sweet little ghost in the world. The ghosts are cute, not scary; they’re white, sheet-wearing blobs with big, round eyes and smiley faces. Roderic’s fashion experimentation is played for laughs and to broach discussion about individuality, finding what feels comfortable and good for you, and owning it. For Roderic to tell his family how he feels is a major step; it encourages kids to talk about what makes them feel comfortable or uncomfortable, happy or sad. A sweet story with a positive message.

 

Frankie’s Scared of Everything, by Mathew Franklin, (Oct. 2019, Building Block Press), $$19.95, ISBN: 9781944201227

Ages 3-6

Frankie tries to get to sleep at night, but it’s really hard when his mind won’t stop whirling. During the day, he’s got schoolwork, sports, and the neighbor’s dog with an attitude; at night, all the thoughts in his brain come together to send crashing, creaking robots; scraping, scratching dinosaurs; wailing, flailing sea creatures, and fuming, booming molemen after him! He runs to his mom, who calms him down by telling him that imaginations are tricky – they can make the simplest things into pretty scary stuff; by encouraging him to embrace his wild imagination, though, Frankie’s able to go back to those freaky creeps with a new outlook. Artist and author Mathew Franklin creates a wild, day-glo dreamscape, with bold, neon colors popping off a black and sepia background to create Frankie’s scariest nightmares. The sound effects and fonts are big, with easily readable white fonts that stand out against the dark spreads. The monsters aren’t scary so much as BIG: they take up the better part of each two-page spread, and the artwork has an incredible graffiti/tattoo flourish. Text is presented in word balloons and pieces of paper taped to the pages. Endpapers are black, with neon dots splashed across them, looking like a drop-cloth or a universe waiting to reveal itself. It’s a fun book that will work for a Halloween story, a story about facing fears, and a story about embracing your imagination. Publisher Building Block Press has some free printables on their website; not currently Frankie-related, but something to keep an eye on.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Pippa’s Night Parade!

Pippa’s a little girl with a BIG imagination, but sometimes, that wonderfully wild imagination runs a little TOO wild!

Pippa’s Night Parade, by Lisa Robinson/Illustrated by Lucy Fleming,
(Oct. 2019, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542093002
Ages 4-8

Pippa is a spunky little girl who armors up in masks, scarves, and boots, but they’re not match for the villains, monsters, and beasts that spring out of her books at night and menace her. Pirates threaten her, dragons roar at her, and bears growl at her as her bookshelf becomes alive. What’s a reader to do? Pippa has a plan: she invites the monsters to come to a “Scary Night Parade” in her room, where she puts her maker skills to work and creates costumes even a monster would love! The scary party turns into a spectacular fashion show, where the former baddies strut their stuff. Talk about modern problem-solving!

Pippa stars a young girl of color, a dedicated fan of books and reading with a love of dressing up. The cartoony art is rendered in bold, colorful purples, yellows, and pinks. The dramatic shadows of the villains on the rise, the enchanted books flying around her room, with the dragon emerging from a book in golden flame, are all beautifully, fantastically created, giving readers a feel for fantasy entering Pippa’s reality. I love the way Pippa faces her fears and uses her imagination to help her conquer her bedtime monsters. Absolute fun for Halloween, bedtime reading, or dress-up storytime.

Lisa Robinson was born in Kampala, Uganda, to Peace Corps volunteers who later became world-traveling diplomats. When she was a child, her family moved frequently, so books became her best friends. She now works as a psychiatrist and writer. She holds an MFA in creative writing for young people from Lesley University. She is also the author of Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten!, illustrated by Eda Kaban, and has more books forthcoming. She lives in Massachusetts with her family and three cats. Learn more about the author at www.author-lisa-robinson.com, or on Twitter: @elisaitw.

Lucy Fleming, like Pippa, has a wonderfully wild imagination, which she uses to create illustrations for children’s books. She has illustrated more than twenty titles, including River Rose and the Magical Christmas by Kelly Clarkson and For the Beauty of the Earth by Folliott Sandford Pierpoint, which was a Junior Library Guild Selection. She is a graduate of the University of Lincoln in England. She lives and works in a small town in England with a cup of ginger tea in hand and her cat close by. Learn more about the illustrator at www.lucyflemingillustrations.com.

Instagram: @illustratelucy

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Pippa’s Night Parade, courtesy of Two Lions/Amazon (U.S. addresses). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Pack your bags! Dexter Dino’s going on vacation! Plus, a giveaway!

Vacation for Dexter!, by Lindsay Ward, (Apr. 2019, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542043205

Ages 3-7

My favorite dino is back! My favorite dino is back! Dexter T. Rexter and his best friend Jack are back and they’re going on vacation in Lindsay Ward’s newest Dex-venture (see what I did there?), Vacation for Dexter! They’re going to exotic FLOR-I-DA, and Dexter is just thrilled! He’s totally vacation ready, rocking his supercool sunglasses, nifty hat, and his guidebook with all the local hot spots, but there’s one tiny problem: Dexter really, really, really, REALLY doesn’t want to get on a plane. Dinosaurs don’t fly, and he’s got a bunch of reasons why! Dexter and Jack are both going to need readers to encourage them and cheer them on through this flight, because they’re both pretty nervous!

Dexter is just great. He’s such a perfect fit for preschoolers experiencing new things, whether it’s misplacing a grown-up (Don’t Forget Dexter!), worrying about show and tell or speaking in front of a group (It’s Show and Tell, Dexter!) or facing fears head-on (Vacation for Dexter!) He’s nervous, but he admits it, and lets kids know that it’s okay, even normal, to be scared of new things, but it’s also okay to be brave and face those fears. He uses humor, empathy, and the right amount of hugs to get his message across, and there’s always a new song (we’ve got two new ones in this book!) to sing at the end. Lindsay Ward is just so good at storytelling; she gets preschoolers. The printmaking ink, pencil, and cut paper artwork is the same upbeat, bright art we’ve come to know and love: Dexter is bright orange, with red and pink splotches on his spines and body; his body and claws are lined like a piece of notebook paper, and he’s friendly, with a big, toothy smile and big, expressive eyes. Jack, Dexter’s buddy, is a child of color, with dark skin and curly, black hair. Parts of each spread look like a coloring book, colored in, adding to the kid-friendly feel.

Pack Vacation for Dexter, some cookies, and your own kiddo’s best friend for your next trip. And make sure to print a few copies of this picture of Dexter to color in!

 

Win your own FULL SET of Dexter books, including Vacation for Dexter! Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway! (U.S. addresses only, please!)

 

 

Lindsay Ward is the creator of the Dexter T. Rexter series. Although she isn’t afraid of flying, she always looks forward to cookies during her flights. She is also the author and illustrator of Brobarians, Henry Finds His Word, and When Blue Met Egg. Her book Please Bring Balloons was also made into a play.

Most days you can find Lindsay with her family, writing and sketching at her home in Peninsula, Ohio. Learn more about her online at www.LindsayMWard.com or on Twitter: @lindsaymward.

Praise for Vacation for Dexter!

“The illustrations are just as laugh-out-loud funny as ever, with the toy’s expressions stealing every scene…Jack and Dexter have become a beloved duo, and the dino’s behavior-modeling sure goes down easily.” —Kirkus Reviews

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Imagination steers one boy past The Storm

stormThe Storm, by Akiko Miyakoshi (Apr. 2016, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771385596

Recommended for ages 3-7

A young boy is planning on a weekend trip to the beach with his parents, but a storm threatens otherwise. When the storm arrives, the boy tries not to be scared, imagining himself on a ship that’s strong enough to drive the storm away. When he wakes up the next day, will his dream of smooth sailing come true?

This is a perfect rainy day read. The gray charcoal illustrations with bright spots of blue (the boy’s shirt, the rain puddles) communicate the overall mood of the coming storm and the hope that it will pass in time to enjoy a trip to the beach. When the storm arrives in all its fury, the boy finds a safe place for himself: curled up in his bed, covers over his head, so he can’t hear the rain. He waits out the storm by imagining himself on a ship with propellers powerful enough to blow the storm away. He faces his fears by finding a safe place and through visualization.

The book provides a great opportunity to talk to young readers about overcoming fear and using positive imagery to steer them past any storms – negative thoughts or fears – in their own lives.

Read this one with Mercer Mayer’s There’s a Nightmare in My Closet or Lemony Snicket’s The Dark to talk about overcoming fear. Or just curl up on a rainy day with The Storm and a copy of Taro Yashima’s Caldecott Honor book, Umbrella, for a rainy day read.

The Storm has received a starred review from Kirkus. The Storm is writer and illustrator Akiko Miyakoshi’s first picture book, and won the Nissan Children’s Storybook and Picture Book Grand Prix. Her book, The Tea Party in the Woods, was published by Kids Can Press in 2015.