Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Tales from the TBR: Heart Strings, Hedgehogs, and the Moon

Heart String, by Brooke Boynton-Hughes, (Dec. 2022, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781452181653

Ages 3-6

A string connects us all together: parents and children; neighbors and friends, we are all connected to one another and our world through this Heart String. Written as an ode to connection, Boynton-Hughes loving, gentle voice could be a teacher reading to their classroom, a parent to a child, or a friend to another. The repetitive phrase, “My heart is tied to yours” brings home the lovely sentiment that we are all together: “Across the garden, across the street, over the city and through the trees”; sharing emotions like joy and sorrow, no matter how near or far; our hearts are tied to each other as we work, play, learn and live. It’s a comforting thought that dispels anxiety and fear; we are part of a family, a neighborhood, a community, a world. Endpapers show a variety of people from all walks of life interacting and engaging with one another. Pencil and watercolor illustrations are soft, gently colorful, conveying a message of warmth and hope, with a warm, glowing string that goes from one person to the next as they work together in neighborhoods; console one another in times of grief; enjoy tea parties, and celebrate being together. A delightful readaloud for storytime collections.

For a fun post-storytime activity, print out some person templates and get some yarn. Ask families to decorate them and use the yarn to connect them. Who are they connecting to?

 

 

Hedgehog and the Art Show, by Özge Bahar Sunar/Illustrated by Ceyhun Sen, (Oct. 2022, Schiffer Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9780764364617

Ages 4-7

Little Hedgehog is all set to start school, but has an accident the day before. His little fingers need to be bandaged up, but the teacher has announced that there will be a class art show! Little Hedgehog cannot write… with his fingers! He refuses to miss out on his first big art show, and finds ways to create his art using his quills and some leaves! In fact, his creativity inspires his friends to create their own original artwork, making the art show even more exciting. A sweet story of ingenuity and determination that inspires readers to think outside the box, Hedgehog and the Art Show lends itself to a great readaloud, especially for Kindergarten and first graders. Sentences are brief but expand on the basics, adding more details. Sen’s illustrations are textured, with swirling backgrounds and shades of greens, browns, and oranges.

Add this one to your art storytimes, and have plenty of mixed materials to create with for an after-story activity.

 

 

Mending the Moon, by Emma Pearl/Illustrated by Sara Ugolotti, (Nov. 2022, Page Street Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781645675600

Ages 4-8

One night, the moon shines so big and so brightly that it becomes to heavy to hold itself up and tumbles down, shattering as it crashes into our world. A girl named Luna witnesses the fall, and, horrified, wakes her grandfather. Grandfather gravely worries about the Earth without a moon, and the two set about collecting the pieces to mend the moon, aided by a group of forest animals. A gorgeously illustrated story with the fantastic feel of a legend, Mending the Moon will delight readers and get a workout as a storytime favorite. Breathtaking illustration shows a cadre of animals working side-by-side with Luna and Poppy; a purple and blue-tinged white backgrounds bring the moon’s cool beauty to the pages, and vibrantly colored animals and people alike are cartoony and kid-friendly. There is magic in every turn of the page as readers will wait breathlessly to find out whether or not the moon will make it back to the sky. Endpapers show a cool, crisp night with moths fluttering around the moon’s light, and Poppy and Luna’s cabin atop a mountain. Mending the Moon is a lovely starting point to talk about legend, STEM (moon concepts!), and the larger idea of working with nature to keep our world safe.

 

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

DC Original Graphic Novel Rundown

There’s a new batch of DC original graphic novels coming up, and trust and believe these will be on my shelves (and if my Kiddo has anything to say about it, my home shelves are included).

Shazam! Thundercrack, by Yehudi Mercado, (Feb. 2023, DC Comics), $9.99, ISBN: 9781779505026

Ages 8-12

Yehudi Mercado is the perfect author/illustrator to bring this fun Shazam tale to comic book life. Beginning with Billy Batson’s arrival at his new foster family home and bonding with his new foster brother, Freddy, the main plot kicks in pretty quickly: as Billy and Freddy tests the limits of Billy’s power when he’s Shazam, they realize that even when he’s in Billy’s form, he’s got some power moves – and that leads him to join the school football team. The only thing is, Billy isn’t much of a team player. He just doesn’t have that kind of trust in others, so when the chips are down for the team, why should Billy come through? Maybe because a rival school is using biotech experimentation that makes them very, very dangerous? Maybe because Billy’s foster dad drops some wisdom on Billy? Thundercrack is fun, easy reading that captures the light spirit of the 2019 movie (and the upcoming movie, Fury of the Gods). Mercado is at the top of his game when he’s writing everyday family comedy that balances with a pathos that understands each character’s backstory. Having the story take place within the DCU timeline has a nice link for readers who are versed in the cinematic universe; Freddy is a strong Number 1 to Billy and has his own spirited journey in the story, with vlog entries and commentary running through the story. Add this one to your middle grade graphic novel collections – kids aren’t getting nearly enough Shazam! in their comic book diets.

 

Bruce Wayne: Not Super, by Stuart Gibbs/Illustrated by Berat Pekmezci, (March 2023, DC Comics), $12.99, ISBN: 9781779507679

Ages 8-12

Another middle grade luminary takes the reins for this Bruce Wayne-Before-Batman story. Batman: Not Super is all about Bruce Wayne, who attends a super-special school. No, really, all the students have superpowers except for Bruce, who’s only there because his parents paid for the school to be built before they passed away. He’s rubbing shoulders with superhero elite here, but he’s not the most popular kid in school; he hangs out with an 11-year-old named Dick Grayson, whose gymnastic abilities got him into the school. He’s bullied by Clark Kent, who uses his x-ray vision to see through Bruce’s clothes and tell everyone what underwear he’s wearing that day. Things change when bully Jack Napier steals Dick’s ice cream money, though: Bruce has found his mission, and it’s to be a vigilante! Now, to just figure out how to get around his guardian, Alfred, who won’t let Bruce undertake any dangerous missions. Even when Dick overhears Jack telling Bane that they’re going to rob all the lockers while everyone is at the big game. Fast-paced dialogue and swiftly moving action come together with jokes and humor. Pekmezci’s artwork is a feast for superhero-loving eyes as the DC Middle School Universe unfolds in front of them: Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy are canoodling by the lockers; Penguin and Selina Kyle are here; Arthur Curry is more AquaKid than Aquaman, but he’s talking to the fish in the school fish tank, and Wonder Girl Donna Troy is Diana Prince’s younger sister. Sharp-eyed comics fans will catch some deep cuts, like Polka Dot Man, and comics fans of a *cough* certain age will appreciate the Bat Shark Repellent joke that finds its way into most Bat-humor. Bruce Wayne: Not Super is another home run for middle graders. Put this one on your shelves.

 

Teen Titans: Robin, by Kami Garcia/Illustrated by Gabriel Picolo, (March 2023, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781779512246

Ages 13-17

The third in the Teen Titans series from Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo, Teen Titans: Robin is the fourth Teen Titans story that includes Raven, Beast Boy, and Beast Boy Loves Raven. Joined by Damian Wayne and Max Navarro, the group is on the run from Slade Wilson and H.I.V.E.; Dick Grayson leaves Gotham to find his younger brother, Damian. Damian resists getting to know his adopted brother, feeling like his father, Bruce, attempted to replace him, but Grayson just wants to get to know his brother and keep him and his friends safe. With equal emphasis on character growth, developing relationships, and action, this is a great addition to the series. Picolo does so much storytelling through his color changes and shading; he takes each color that readers and viewers familiar with the Titans will recognize and makes them part of the story, leaving Slade Wilson’s story gray and desolate. This one’s for the middle and high schoolers, but upper grade elementary schoolers may be interested, too.

I’ve been such a fan of these YA and middle grade books since they launched a few years ago. By bringing original graphic novels to kids and finding authors and illustrators that are standout names, they’re investing brand new generations of readers into comics and graphic novels.

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 Uncategorized

Who Are You? encourages discussion

Who Are You?, by Smriti Halls/Illustrated by Ali Pye, (Aug. 2022, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684644704

Ages 3-6

A rhyming, inclusive story about families and diversity, Who Are You? is a story framed with questions that invite families to create a family chronicle: “Who’s in your family? / Who’s in your pack? / Who takes good care of you? / Who has your back?”. Asking questions about likes and dislikes, physical characteristics, immediate and extended family, and more, with further thought-provoking questions in each spread, Who Are You? is great for preschool and kindergarten classes and for family project reading. Colorful digital artwork illustrates an inclusive, diverse group of people, assuring that kids will see themselves and their families in this fun story.

Posted in picture books

Internet Personality Peet Montzingo’s picture book story

Little Imperfections: A Tale of Growing Up Different, by Peet Montzingo & Rockwell Sands, (July 2022, Ginger With a Soul LLC), $19.99, ISBN: 979-8986283616

Ages 4-7

TikTok personality Peet Montzingo tells his story of growing up different in his rhyming picture book autobiography. Peet grew up in a family where he was different: his father, mother, sister, and brother are all little people. Little Imperfections looks at Peet’s life: his family’s health concerns; his fractured relationship with his father, his troubled teen years when he acted out, and his ADHD diagnosis. Montzingo addresses dwarfism, physical and mental health, love, and acceptance. Back matter includes an author’s note and a link to a video adaptation of Little Imperfections. Colorful artwork is eye-catching and vibrant.

Peet Montzingo is a multi-faceted artist with a curious and kind heart, whose talents span creating original content, singing, comedy, and so much more. Through his fascination with the local mysteries of his neighborhood to his deep bond with his mother and family, Peet skyrocketed to internet fame, gaining more than 20 million followers across social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, who find themselves deeply engaged and supportive of his endeavors.

Peet struggled in a traditional school environment as he was diagnosed with ADHD when he was a young child, yet he has harnessed his creative abilities to expand into the world of music, acting, and creating videos on social media platforms. His large following on social media has opened the conversation on being more educated on dwarfism and shown people how to approach life and adversity in a humorous light.

He grew up as the only “normal” sibling in a little people family but has used his personal experiences and open personality to encourage and brighten other people’s lives. Peet often raises awareness for dwarfism with a lighthearted and charming presence, shining a loving light on his mother and siblings, all of whom are little people.

Find him at @peetmontzingo

Rockwell Sands is an author, musician, and entrepreneur. On top of composing the original score for the visual portion of ‘Little Imperfections’ alongside Peet, he has written songs that have received worldwide radio airplay and have been featured in several forms of media, from Netflix original series to car commercials. Rockwell lives in Brooklyn and has been close friends with Peet for over ten years.

Find him at @rockwellsands

Posted in Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Belittled Women: A Little Women for a new age

Belittled Women, by Amanda Sellett, (Nov. 2022, Clarion Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780358567356

Ages 14+

Don’t ask Jo Porter how she feels about Little Women: she lives it. No, seriously. Her mother is a bit obsessed; not only did she name her three daughters Jo, Meg, and Bethamy (a mashup of Beth and Amy), and refer to herself as Marmee. Oh, and they play their namesakes in a running show called Little Women Live!, with school visits coming to watch the family act out – and put unique spins on – scenes from the Alcott classic. Jo is sick to death of it all, she’s constantly at odds with Amy, and Meg is just tuned out of everything. When a journalist and her son show up to write article about the Porter family, Jo is intrigued: the journalist asks pointed questions that get her thinking about life beyond home, and Hudson, the journalist’s son, is giving her signals. When Jo strikes out on her own and lands in New York on what she thinks is an invitation to stay with the journalist and learn from her, and pursue a relationship with Hudson, she learns that the grass ain’t always greener. Narrated by Jo, there are hilarious moments – the dialogue between Jo and Amy is particularly biting and witty – and moments that most teens will understand, like being frazzled by family relationships. You don’t need to read Alcott to read and enjoy Belittled Women. A good first purchase for teen collections.

Read Amanda Sellett’s laugh-out-loud Belittled Women FAQ on her author webpage.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Book Blitz & Giveaway: Dear Wild Child

Dear Wild Child, by Wallace J. Nichols & Wallace Grayce Nichols/Illustrated by Drew Beckmeyer, (Aug. 2022, Cameron Kids),
$18.99. ISBN: 9781951836467
Ages 4-8

Inspired by a letter from a father to his daughter about life, family, and the wildfire that took their home, Dear Wild Child is a emotional story that chooses to celebrate the idea of home and its presence inside of all of us. Textured artwork shows beautiful detail: a home filled with books, music, and nature, from seashells to plants; family moments as a child grows up in a home filled with love; a life, filled with memories, moving on. An author’s note discusses climate change and its detrimental impact on our homes and our environment.

“The art echoes the text’s emphasis on beauty rather than loss. . .In the event’s aftermath, the affecting story’s tone remains openhearted, concluding with sentiments that encourage resilience and reflect on the nature of home.”
Publishers Weekly

“It’s a touching sentiment that reminds readers of all ages that our lives are defined not by our material possessions but by the memories we make… Intricate and emotional.”
Kirkus Reviews

In the shade of ancient redwood trees, by a creek, not far from the ocean, a father builds a house for his newborn daughter, where she grows up wild and strong in their coastal canyon home. When a wildfire takes back their beloved house, a father writes his now-grown daughter a letter telling her it’s gone. Inspired by the real letter the author wrote his daughter, this poignant story—written together by father and daughter—joyfully declares that a home is more than just wood and stone; it is made of love and can never be taken away. You carry home with you wherever you go.

 

Wallace Grayce Nichols is a student of sustainable design, problem solver, and water lover. Her father, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, is a marine biologist and the author of the bestselling book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do. Home is the slow coast of California. Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Drew Beckmeyer is a fine artist, illustrator, and elementary school teacher. He lives in Northern California. Website | Instagram

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10 winners will receive a hardcover of Dear Wild Child. US/Can only; no P.O. Boxes, please! Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The new workplace: HELP MOM WORK FROM HOME

Help Mom Work from Home!, by Diana Murray/Illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld (Oct. 2021, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9780316273657

Ages 4-7

With more parents working from home than ever before, Help Mom Work from Home! is a fun, rhyming readaloud that speaks to the work-life balance. A mom is working from home and her little one is right next to her, modeling everything from Mom’s hot beverage of choice to taking notes and important phone calls. Mom looks a little frazzled, though: it must be time for a break! Learning how to relax and take the chaos of home life as it comes, the story then leads into a look at making time for creative play and work – little one stacks cups as Mom packs boxes; they make deliveries together, they even straighten up their workplaces together. Endpapers show Mom’s packed schedule, with a childlike drawing of a solitary kid holding a red balloon scrawled across the calendar loaded with deadlines and meetings; back endpapers show a much happier schedule, filled with playdates, game nights, and library visits, and a drawing of Mom and child together, playing soccer. Is it an easy answer to the work/parent from home question? No, but it’s a helpful addition to the ever-increasing dialogue. A recognizable and relevant story with playful rhyme, Help Mom Work from Home! is a good addition to picture book collections. Visit Diana Murray’s author webpage for free printables including a word search and DIY desk nameplate.

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

A middle grade horror classic gets a graphic novel retelling: Wait Till Helen Comes

Wait Till Helen Comes Graphic Novel, by Mary Downing Hahn/Illustrated by Meredith Laxton, (Sept. 2022, Clarion Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780358536895

Ages 8-12

A classic work of children’s horror gets its day in graphic novel form.  Siblings Molly and Michael have tried time and again to bridge the divide between them and their 7-year-old stepsister, Heather, but Heather only seems to want to make their lives miserable. She lies to get them in trouble, she spurns any overtures from Molly, Michael, and their mother, and wants 100% of her father’s time. When the family relocates to an old church with a graveyard in back and sets up residence, things become even worse: Heather claims to have made a new friend: Helen, the ghost of a girl who died in a fire years ago, and who will make Molly and Michael pay when she comes. Wait Till Helen Comes is a chilling ghost story that receives an equally chilling graphic adaptation, with creepy imagery and a chilling blue and purple palette. Meredith Laxton maintains the spooky atmosphere that Hahn masterfully creates with her words. Characters are realistically human, all presenting as white.

With the current trend of popular novels being adapted into graphic novels, Wait till Helen Comes Home is about to reach even more readers. A great add to graphic novel collections.

Written in 1986, Wait till Helen Comes has won multiple awards and garnered a 2016 film adaptation.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

I’ll Go and Come Back stretches love around the world

I’ll Go and Come Back, by Rajani LaRocca/Illustrated by Sara Palacios, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536207170

Ages 3-7

A young girl named Jyoti visits her family in India, where she experiences some culture shock: it’s so different from home! But she and her grandmother, her Sita Pati, spend time together making sand art, going to the market, and playing games. When she leaves, she doesn’t say goodbye; in India, they say “Poitu varen”: “I’ll go and come back”. When Sita Pati visits Jyoti, she experiences a similar culture shock, but Jyoti is there to play, create, and shop with her. Told in a repeat narrative from Indian and American experiences, I’ll Go and Come Back reminds me of Margaret Chiu Greanias’s Amah Faraway, which I also loved. I enjoy the reverse narrative, where each character swaps roles to become the caregiver and guide to a new culture. Rajani LaRocca creates warmth between Jyoti and Sita Pati, brought to life by Sara Palacios’s gouache and acrylic artwork. Sita Pati and Jyoti holds hands and lean toward each other when they’re together, and readers get a peek into Indian culture, with touchstones like food, public spaces, and clothing. Endpapers look like colorful sari prints. I’ll Go and Come Back is a sweet grandparent-grandchild story that celebrates culture and familial relationships.

I’ll Go and Come Back has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.