Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Age-Old Question: What is Love?

What is Love?, by Mac Barnett/Illustrated by Carson Ellis, (Dec. 2021, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781452176406

Ages 3-6

A young boy asks his grandmother that question we all hear at some point: “What is love?” Grandmother can’t answer that, so the boy goes out into the world and asks everyone he comes into contact with, receiving hundreds of different answers: it’s a fish; it’s a horse; it’s the night; it’s a blade, it’s any number of things, but one thing we know for sure, there’s no one answer. The boy returns, years later, to his grandmother, and as he cuddles her, he realizes that he has his answer. A gentle story about the subjectivity of love and the journey to learn what defines it, only to discover that it’s in one’s heart all along, What is Love? is uncomplicated and profound all at once; it’s the easiest thing in the world to some, yet to explain or define it can confound others. Playful, colorful gouache artwork and the repetition of the question, “What is love?” and the oft-repeated response, “You do not understand”, makes for moments of introspection as readers consider what each of these things mean to others: the blade to a soldier; applause to an actor. Ask little ones what love feels like to them, and give them some paper and crayons.

Marc Barnett is an award-winning author, including two Caldecott Honor books. Find more about his books at his website, where you can sign up for his newsletter. Carson Ellis is an award-winning illustrator with a Caldecott Honor book to her credit. See more about of her illustration at her website.

What is Love? has starred reviews from BookPage and School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Welcome to Lucia’s Casa!

Mi Casa is My Home, by Laurenne Sala/Illustrated by Zara González-Hoang, (Aug. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209433

Ages 3-7

Lucia welcomes readers to her casa, where she lives with her “big, loud, beautiful familia”! Readers walk with Lucia through her home and neighborhood, where she shows readers the puerta (door) where she waits for packages from family in Puerto Rico and Spain; the cocina, la sala, where she builds the best pillow and blanket forts and snuggles up to watch las películas with her family, la cocina, where her Abuelo makes his holiday masterpieces, and more. This warm, welcoming story is like taking a trip through a friend’s home, filled with family, laughter, and activity. Family pictures adorn the walls, shoes and toys are strewn about, and the brightly colored interiors make this an inviting story that readers will enjoy spending time with, and the mix of English and Spanish vocabulary into a gentle Spanglish feels like you’ve just gotten settled on the comfy couch in your family’s sala. The only thing that, for me, was missing was a glossary of terms for readers who may not be as versed in Spanish, so I’ve created a quick reference here. Mi Casa is My Home is a celebration of family, of culture, and of being together. I love it and my bilingual Latinx library kids will cheer for it. An author note provides context.

Mi Casa is My Home has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Kicking into Holiday Mode with Robin, Robin!

Hi all. This is probably the most up-and-down year for me, blog-wise. I’ve tried to keep my ups and downs off my blog and my blogging schedule, but I guess, like just about everyone else, the chaos of the last almost two years (jeez!) has had its way with me. All I can do is thank you all for continuing to read, and promise that I’ll keep working on doing better. That said, let’s get right into the holiday reads with Robin, Robin!

Robin Robin, by Dan Ojari & Mikey Please/Illustrated by Briony May Smith, (Nov. 2021, Red Comet Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781636550091

Ages 4-8

What a feather in Red Comet Press’s cap: an adorable book with a companion Netflix release! Robin is a sweet young bird that’s been raised by mice, and wants so much to be a mouse, she fluffs up her feathers to create fuzzy little ears on top of her head. The Mouse family dreams of delicious crumbs that can be found at the Who-man’s home, but they have to be so quiet and careful, to avoid the Cat that guards their home. On one crumb expedition, Robin meets a Magpie, who tells her that the Who-mans have so much because of the Chrim-Cross Star that they put on top of a spikey tree every year; they wish on that star and get ANYTHING they want. Robin’s wish is to become a mouse, but this heartwarming story is all about families, loving who we are, and – hey, it’s the holidays! – enjoying good food together! Briony May Smith’s artwork is warm, with delightful animals, homey interiors, all set against a holiday backdrop with snow, trees, and homemade Chrim-Cross trimmings. There are such incredible details to discover, like Magpie’s home, with shiny keys, rings, and found objects forming decorative garlands; a wonderful use of shadows to convey Cat’s menace as she sneaks up on an unsuspecting Robin; the proud stance Magpie adopts as he marvels at his own Chrim-Cross Tree. The storytelling comes together with the artwork to create a new Christmas classic. Don’t miss this one.

Twinkl, an online educator/caregiver resource, has free Robin, Robin downloadables, from coloring sheets to math challenge cards. Create a free account to get access. If you get a chance, check out the Netflix trailer below: Aardman Animations, the studio that gave viewers Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, does the animation and it is just adorable.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

A Dreidel in Time lets readers live the Hanukkah story

A Dreidel in Time: A New Spin on an Old Tale, by Marcia Berneger/Illustrated by Bernice Castro, (Sept. 2019, Kar-Ben Publishing), $8.99, ISBN: 9781541552654

Ages 8-12

This is a Hanukkah short story that puts readers right into the heart of the Hanukkah story. Devorah and Benjamin are siblings who can’t wait to open their Hanukkah presents, but are a little disappointed when they open their grandparents’ gift to both of them: an old dreidel. Their parents and grandparents have a secret, though, and encourage them to give it a spin – and when they do, they discover they’ve been transported to ancient Israel, and are in the middle of the Hanukkah story as is develops! They meet siblings Simon and Shoshana, whose parents have been arrested by the king Antiochus’s soldiers, and key figures from history, including Mattisyahu (also known as Mattathias) and his sons, Judah and Jonathan. The power of the dreidel shifts the two siblings through different moments in the Hanukkah story, from the opening flight from Antiochus to the battle of the Maccabees, destruction of the Temple, and the rejoicing when they discover that the menorah is still burning after eight days. Every spin of the dreidel not only shifts the action, but the mood: when the dreidel lands on “shin”, a “bad spin”, the siblings find themselves in the past. Landing on “nun” may mean that nothing happens, but there’s a shift in time.

Fast-paced with dialogue that educates and engages, A Dreidel in Time is perfect to give your Magic Tree House and I Survived readers. Black and white illustrations by Beatriz Castro run throughout the story.

Visit author Marcia Berneger’s website for more about her books, a Q&A, and some fun activities for kids.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Blog Tour: PAWCASSO by Remy Lai!

If you haven’t yet read and enjoyed Remy Lai’s books, you really must. She has a wonderful way of looking at life, whether it’s finding a way through grief by making cakes (Pie in the Sky), or striking out on one’s own to prove their independence (Fly on the Wall). Her newest book, Pawcasso, is about a lonely girl and a neighborhood dog with a shopping basket who quickly garners a fan club.

Pawcasso, by Remy Lai, (May 2021, Henry Holt BFYR),
$21.99, ISBN: 9781250774484
Ages 8-12

Jo is an 11-year-old girl who has trouble connecting with new friends. As she stares out her window, she’s drawn to a neighborhood dog who trots around, shopping basket in his mouth, stopping at stores and picking up groceries. Everyone seems to know the pup, and, intrigued, Jo follows him, to try and figure out where he lives. People from the neighborhood see Jo following “Pawcasso”, as he’s become known, and assume she’s his owner: chaos ensues as Jo just kind of allows everyone to believe Pawcasso is her dog, including the neighborhood dog catcher, who’s on Pawcasso’s trail after receiving complaints about an unleashed dog in the neighborhood. Jo finds herself in an uncomfortable middle as she’s caught in her own lie, and may have to come clean and risk the new friendships she’s formed, in order to keep Pawcasso from going to the pound.

Remy Lai’s artwork is here in full color, and she brings Pawcasso, Jo, and their little neighborhood to life with friendly, colorful panels. The story will appeal to a wide range of readers, from dog- and pet-lovers, to graphic novel and realistic fiction fans, to readers looking for a good story about friendship, family, and fun.

Pawcasso has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness. Visit Remy Lai’s author webpage for more about her books and to sign up for her newsletter!

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 Uncategorized

Another post about Bears…

(It’s a joke, based on one of the book’s titles. Keep reading.)

Who loves bears? We love bears! Teddy bears, polar bears, brown bears brown bears, bears are children’s book gold. I’ve got three books about bears to crow about today, so let’s start with the inspiration for this post’s title.

Another book about bears., by Laura & Philip Bunting, (Jan. 2020, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-68464-084-3

Ages 3-7

I love a story that breaks the fourth wall! Have you ever thought about how many books there are about bears? Did you ever consider that every time a bear stars in a story, that bear may have been in the middle of something “really good – like sleeping, or snoozing, or napping”? Well, the bears have had it and are going on strike! This hilarious book is all about one bear’s fight for justice. The omniscient narrator tries their best to nudge the bear into compliance in a silly series of moments like dressing it up in a tutu or suggesting the bear kiss a frog, but Bear stands firm, even calling up other animals to serve as a proper stand in. Kids will laugh out loud at the deadpan humor, and the ultimate solution that works for everyone is priceless. Originally published in Australia in 2018, Another book about bears is storytime hilarity just waiting to be revealed.

Visit Philip Bunting’s webpage for free, fun downloadables for kids, too!

 

A Polar Bear in the Snow, by Mac Barnett/Illustrated by Shawn Harris, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536203967

Ages 3-6

Gorgeous cut paper and ink artwork presents a polar bear’s meandering through a brilliant white world and a deep blue sea. A polar bear wakes up in the snow and begins walking… but where is he going? What does he want? Award-winning author and illustrator Mac Barnett builds curiosity and excitement as readers follow the bear past seals, through a storm, and as he rebuffs a human in a very polar bearlike fashion, to end up at his destination. Shawn Harris’s illustrations give such texture and motion, layering shades of white upon white and blue upon blue, giving us a feeling of purpose and joy. Simple sentences and facts about polar bears (he clearly eats seals, but he’s not hungry right now; his coat protects him from the snowstorm; he likes to swim) are a wonderful introduction to young readers about the natural science of bears and the Arctic. A final question leaves much open to discussion. There’s so much presented in this book, so beautifully, and respects its youngest readers in its presentation. Teacher Tips are downloadable from Candlewick’s website.

A Polar Bear in the Snow has starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly.

 

Can Bears Ski?, by Raymond Antrobus/Illustrated by Polly Dunbar, (Nov. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212662

Ages 3-7

Little Bear can feel the world around him – all its rumbles and shakes, trembles and wobbles – but hearing his world is a little more difficult. He doesn’t hear things clearly, and thinks he hears everyone asking him, “Do bears ski?” Dad takes him to an audiologist one day, and is fitted for hearing aids that make his world way too LOUD. He resists them at first, hiding them around the house, but with his dad’s love and support, he understands that it’s just something new to get used to – and he also learns that everyone has been asking him not whether or not bears can ski, but “Can you hear me?” A touching story about self-discovery, Can Bears Ski? is essential for bookshelves and can start many conversations with children. Author Raymond Antrobus is a Ted Hughes award-winning deaf poet and teacher who wrote Can Bears Ski because “It’s the book I could see myself reaching for as a child, and I can’t wait to have it exist in the world.” Colorful ink and paint artwork made this a gentle, comforting story about a big topic. The CDC’s Kids Quest webpage has helpful facts for kids on hearing loss.

Posted in Historical Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Zora and Me: The Summoner brings a brilliant trilogy to a close

Zora and Me: The Summoner, by Victoria Bond, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763642990

Ages 10-14

The third book in the outstanding Zora and Me trilogy sees young Zora Neale Hurston and her best friend, Carrie, facing quickly changing times in Eatonville: grief, loss, and racism are closing in on Eatonville and will change Zora’s life forever. A fugitive is hunted down and lynched in Eatonville – America’s first incorporated Black township – and the mob gleefully terrorizes the citizens of Eatonville; a longtime resident’s death and grave desecration sparks fear into the town and Zora and Carrie worry that voodoo and zombies are somehow involved. Zora’s mother, meanwhile, is in failing health and her father decides to run for town mayor; a decision Zora knows will make her egotistical, grandstanding father even more difficult to live with. Carrie, meanwhile, worries about her own future with her beau, Teddy, when he falls mysteriously ill. Paralleling major events in Zora Neale Hurston’s life, Victoria Bond brings this early part of the author to a bittersweet close. The characters are so fully created, so real, that it’s sad to leave them, especially knowing what awaits Zora in the years ahead. Back matter includes a brief biography, a time line of Hurston’s life, and an annotated bibliography. Powerful, loaded with emotion, this is a necessity for your historical fiction shelves. Handsell this to your middle schoolers; you’ll be giving them her work, Their Eyes Were Watching God, for Banned Books Week when they’re in high school. Publisher Candlewick has a chapter excerpt and discussion guide available on their website.

Zora and Me: The Summoner has starred reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books for giving thanks

Thanksgiving is next week, but this is the time of year when, no matter what you celebrate – or don’t – it’s a time to reflect and be thankful. This year has given us a lot to think about, and while we’ve definitely had our share of challenges, we can always find things to be thankful and appreciative for. Here are a couple of books that do just that.

Peppa Pig and the Day of Giving Thanks, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Entertainment), $12.99, ISBN: 9781536216608

Ages 2-6

Peppa is aces in my library. The kids adore her, and my books fly off the shelves, so I doubly miss reading them this book this year. In this latest Peppa story, Peppa, her younger brother George, and mother and father are taking a nature walk on a fall day, and are so happy with the beautiful day that they find themselves thankful for everything they see: the clouds, the sky, the apples in the trees, even the rain that pours down on them, because it leaves them a happy surprise. Never mentioning a holiday, this is lovely reading all year ’round, but especially kind and gentle for this time of year; it reminds us all to be thankful for the little moments around us that often get taken for granted. The digital illustrations are identical to the TV show, so kids will recognize this one right away. The inside cover is a coloring sheet, so librarians, do yourselves a favor and have coloring sheets available at checkout. This pack from Nickelodeon was always popular for me.

 

What I Like Most, by Mary Murphy/Illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang, (April 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209402

Ages 3-6

A young girl talks about all the things she likes most: her window, where she can see the world; new people moving in and moving out; her grandmother’s apricot jam, her favorite shoes. Kids will see themselves and adults will see their kids in the constant idea of “this is my very favorite thing… except for this!”, but read further and see the girl’s wisdom in honoring change: she loves her window, acknowledging that “my window won’t change, but the things outside will”; “when our jar is nearly empty, I only put a tiny bit on my toast to make the jam last”; “one day the shoes will wear out, or my feet will grow too big for them”. She loves in the moment and understands that the moments change; she’s grateful for them all, regardless. And what she loves most in the world will never change: her love for her mother. Mary Murphy creates wonderful worlds when she writes, and this one just shines. Zhu Cheng-Liang’s watercolor and ink artwork is gentle, soft, with shifting permanence from spread to spread. Endpapers show three birds sitting in a tree with pink flowers in the front, and an empty tree, now red and gold, with falling leaves in the back. A beautiful tribute to autumn and celebrating change.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Books for Bedtime… or not.

Anyone else finding that bedtimes are taking on lives of their own? Here are a few books to let us know we’re not alone. Turn bedtime into funtime with these wacky families!

Friday Night Wrestlefest, by JF Fox/Illustrated by Micah Player, (Feb. 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250212405

Ages 4-8

It’s Friday night. Pizza’s been eaten, school’s out for the weekend… it’s time for FRIDAY NIGHT WRESTLEFEST! One family’s Battle To the Bedtime is an inspiration to the rest of us as they adopt their fantastic ring personas – Dangerous Daddooo (“He’s mad. He’s bad. He’s DAD.”), Tag Team Twins, Peanut Brother and Jellyfish, and “special guest star”, Big Bald Baby – and turn their living room into an all-star arena! Will Mom come in for the big save, or will Big Bald Baby clear the ring?

The artwork is a riot of color and movement, with kids and parents sailing through the air, talking smack, and dramatically posing. The family that plays together, stays together, for sure: endpapers feature a lovely wall of family photos in the usual well-mannered poses up front; back endpapers have the family striking victorious poses, hugging one another while celebrating various Wrestlefest wins.

This is a non-stop fun family read for bedtime or anytime. And if you were to construct your own wrestling ring in your living room to take on your family, you’d definitely want to download this activity kit from the publisher, so you could outfit yourself with a cool mask, pick out a great wrestler name, and get that championship belt all shined up.

Everyone’s Awake, by Colin Meloy/Illustrated by Shawn Harris, (March 2020, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4521-7805-9

Ages 4-8

A foreboding house on a hill has a single light shining on a dark, dark, night… wait a minute, this is no scary story! Turn the page, and discover what’s going on in that house on that late, late night: everyone’s awake! This rhyming story stars a family that just can’t sleep, and the young narrator takes us through what everyone’s up to: Dad’s in the kitchen, Grandma’s crafting, Sister’s flossing and putting her hair in braids, but all of a sudden things take a turn for the anarchic when Mom starts tap-dancing to Prince and Dad rolls a motorcycle in the room. Even the ghost of Grandpa shows up for a late night visit!  The manic story lets readers cut loose and embrace the chaos of bedtime gone wild. The ink, charcoal, and pencil artwork has a soft, surreal feel to it, lending a dreamlike, half-awake half asleep feel to the story. There are amazing details to be found in each spread, like Prince’s album covers, and the spines on the family bookshelf. Blues, oranges, and yellows dominate the landscape, taking readers from a drowsy sleep to full-on, sleepless mania and back again.

Author Colin Meloy is the lead singer and songwriter of The Decemberists, and the author of several children’s books, including the New York Times bestselling Wildwood series. Illustrator Shawn Harris is an artist and musician and the illustrator of several award-winning children’s books including Her Right Foot and What Can a Citizen Do?

Will this family ever get to sleep? You don’t expect me to spoil the surprise, do you? Everyone’s Awake is an hilarious bedtime romp.