Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Book bundle: Back-to-School Strong

I’m back after a brief staycation! How’s everyone doing? I needed to get some time before my little guy goes back to school, and help get my teen settled for his first week of college. I thought I’d start off my grand return with some books about feelings, emotions, and inner strength as our kids head back to school, so let’s see what we’ve got.

Born to Sparkle : A Story About Achieving Your Dreams, by Megan Bomgaars/Illustrated by Pete Olczyk, (Sept. 2021, Flowerpot Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9781486721108

Ages 5-8

Megan Bomgaars, a leading Down syndrome spokesperson, artist, and star of A&E’s reality TV show Born This Way, gave a powerful speech in 2010 called “Don’t Limit Me”, which inspired this book about working hard and finding your sparkle. It is unshakeable in its upbeat tone, filled with inspiring thoughts for readers: “You can sparkle. / There are no limits. / Anything is possible. / Don’t limit yourself”. The important thing here is that Megan Bomgaars follows through and lets readers know that you have to work for it, nothing that “dreams are not like wishes. You can’t just wish upon a star and then wait”, letting readers know that there are no limits but those which we place on ourselves. Colorful illustrations show a cartoony group of jungle animal friends supporting a young lioness who wants to share her sparkle and be a singer. Sparkly endpapers and a glittered texture cover make this an eye-catching, texture-friendly book for young readers, and a great storytime read. Kids starting the new school year could use this wonderful dose of encouragement.

Learn more about Megan Bomgaars by visiting her Instagram page @meganbomgaars.

 

Be Strong, Pat Zietlow Miller/Illustrated by Jen Hill, (Aug. 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN 9781250221117
Ages 3-6
Tanisha, a young girl of color, faces down the rock-climbing wall at school. Her friend Cayla can easily climb it, but Tanisha struggles doesn’t reach the top. This gets her thinking about strength and what her family says about strength. Different members of her family see strength in different ways, from showing up to help neighbors, speaking up to make changes where you see problems, and never giving up. Tanisha mulls this advice over and decides to be strong: she helps other kids at school, whether with classwork or with feeling lonely; she takes up playing an instrument, and keeps practicing. She also understands that being strong also means accepting a helping hand, because “when I’m not strong enough alone, I can be strong with someone else”. A powerful, eloquent statement for kids to hear, Be Strong is the companion book to Pat Zietlow Miller and Jen Hill’s 2018 book, Be Kind and is an essential for preschool and early classrooms.
Teaching children that strength takes so many forms – including knowing when to ask for help! – is an important and necessary lesson in creating strong, kind future adults. Gouache artwork shows a diverse group of people helping one another: a neighborhood comes together to help families who have lost their homes and lobby for safer streets. Illustrations show that doing the right thing isn’t always the easy decision, as we see Tanisha watch friends play outside as she stays indoors during recess, helping friends with math work. Images like this are so important, because we know that sometimes we’re split in what we want to do versus what we know we should do: it’s honest and affirming to see images like this, and know that Tanisha made the truly selfless decision to show up for what she knows is being kind and strong. Great for starting discussions, Be Strong is a great book for getting the school year off to a strong start.
Be Strong has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster, by Manka Kasha, (Sept. 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250618795
Ages 4-7
A Small Knight feels pressured by their parents to be a perfect princess, but that’s not what they see for themselves. They want to go on adventures with their Teddy Bear! Worrying about how to explain this to their parents brings on an Anxiety Monster that follows Small Knight everywhere until the Knight and Teddy realize that they have to save themselves on this one. They set off on a journey and discover that the answer to defeating the Monster lies inside themself.
This is such a good book for kids to see: a nonbinary child lets all children see themselves in Small Knight’s place; the scribbly menacing anxiety monster that only Knight and Teddy can see – and that parents dismiss as imagination or “just part of being a princess” – understands that kids feel unheard or told to just endure some things as “part of childhood”; the understanding that the key to defeating the monster lies with Knight believing in themselves to call out the monster lets kids know that they have all the tools they need to beat their own anxiety monsters, no matter what those forms take. Told as a fairy tale, the watercolor and ink illustrations give us softly colored kings and queens, an adorable knight with a soft blue shirt, helm, and sword, and an anxiety  monster that kids can draw on their own and defeat in any type of class or library exercise. The artwork shows us a young hero on their journey, and it’s a hero that all kids can look up to.
Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster is a Kids’ Indie Next List Pick.
When I See Red, by Britta Teckentrup, (Sept. 2021, Prestel Junior), $14.95, ISBN: 9783791374949
Ages 3-5
A beautiful and moving meditation on anger by Britta Teckentrup, When I See Red takes readers through a young girl’s anger from beginning to end. In verse, we view her anger as a storm, untamed; the artwork dramatically whirling and spinning our heroine in the middle of her own emotional storm. She roars at the sea, her anger giving rise to tornadoes and hurricanes; we understand that anger can be a force for confidence as we see her rage propel her above the waves, allowing her to stand tall. When I See Red is about the cleansing power of unbottling rage, using one’s words, not forcing things down where they can hurt us (or unleash our own anxiety monsters!). Beautiful verses weave the girl’s anger into something powerful, propelling her forward, until, anger spent, her “monsters and dragons have disappeared”. Rage as a journey and a tool for moving forward, this is an excellent book to explain the power of positive self-expression for preschoolers and kindergarteners.
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Keep the Dad Love going!

Hi all! I know I was quiet for a few days, and I apologize. I’ve been getting ready for two big graduations, and ended up letting myself get dehydrated, so last night was spent recovering on the couch and drinking a bunch of water. Note to self: Do NOT clean the garage without a few chilled bottles of water on hand; one lukewarm bottle over a few hours doesn’t do a whole lot.

But Father’s Day was yesterday! Did the Dads of all sorts have a great day? I hope you did! I have two adorable books to crow about, and a few more suggestions for dads and grandpas. Enjoy.

Cave Dada: Picky Eater, by Brandon Reese, (April 2021, Chronicle Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452179957

Ages 3-5

The follow-up to Brandon Reese’s Cave Dada (2020) is every bit as adorable and hilarious as the first. Dada and Baba are back, and Baba is hungry for an egg… but Dada isn’t sure he has an egg, which doesn’t sit too well with Baba. Poor Dada wasn’t in the mood to hunt and gather, but Baba is pretty focused on an egg.. and Dada may just discover a new way to make breakfast! From the bouncing baby wakeup to the refusal to eat anything in the pantry and fridge, parents and caregivers will laugh as they see themselves in this story. My favorite part? Right here:

This, friends, was my life story, three times in a row. When Baba doesn’t want spinach because it touched the onion? I felt that in my soul, especially because I have a 9-year-old who STILL gives me a hard time about what I lovingly refer to as “food cooties”. I love the adorable details in this book, like the cave painting door art, and Dada’s creaks and groans when he gets up. The artwork is just so much fun, with facial expressions that are perfectly spot on. Endpapers look like a warm cave interior. The story’s ending gives me hope that there will be a third installment in the Cave Dada series; I think we all need to see Cave Dada: Bathtime, don’t you?

 

 

You Be Daddy, by Karla Clark, (April 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250225399

Ages 2-6

A tired daddy asks his son to take over daddy duties for a little while in this companion to last year’s You Be Mommy. Rhyming verse takes readers through all the things Daddy has done today, from breaking up a food fight, to household duties, to teaching the cat a trick. There’s sweet repetition interspersed with Dad’s day and with Daddy duties he’s handing off to his little one, like building a bedtime fort and lending him a night light and stuffed dinosaur. But when the day is done and it’s time for bed, Daddy is happy to take back Daddy duties and put his little guy to bed. Gentle storytelling and the repetitive phrase, “Daddy’s too tired to be Daddy tonight”, empowers children to take on the fun part of Daddying, while reassuring them that, at bedtime, Daddy’s going to be the one to tuck them in and snuggle them to sleep. The family is Asian, and subtle details like a door decoration, a koi painting, and family portraits infuse the setting with a personal and cultural feel.  The household is warm, welcoming, and will make readers feel right at home. Endpapers show he family cat snuggling and stretching around the house. An adorable celebration of dads.

 

Don’t forget to print out some fun activities from the mother of all Dada books, Jimmy Fallon’s Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada: you can match the baby animal to the sound it makes here and you can count baby ducks and “Dadas” here.

 

 

Papasaurus, by Stephan Lomp is about a fun game of hide and seek between Babysaurus and his father. As Babysaurus searches for his Papa, he asks other young dinos for their help, learning about their dads in the meantime. Available in both picture book and board book!

Channing Tatum’s The One and Only Sparkella (and Her Dad!) is the adorable story of a sparkly little girl and her father, who’s always ready to dress up and sparkle with her! Dad can don a feather boa and break out into dance moves whenever Sparkella needs a little extra glitter in her life. Written by actor/director/producer Channing Tatum for his daughter Everly, The One and Only Sparkella is an adorably fun and sweet book about being true to yourself, embracing what makes you unique, and the wisdom of Girl Dads.

Karen Hesse’s Night Shift shows a warm relationship between a father who works nights and his son, who accompanies him. The pair ride to school on the boy’s father’s motorcycle, and, as Dad works, the two share time together listening to the radio, sharing their meal, and reading together. Dad and son take care of each other in this story: Dad rouses his son and helps him get dressed to leave for work at 4 a.m., and the boy cleans out his father’s lunch box at the day’s end. A lovely story about making the most of any time you have together.

In The Bureau of Misplaced Dads, a boy has to recover his misplaced father at a municipal building where Dads of all shapes, sizes, and quirks, await their kids. Played for laughs, there are strongman dads, dads named Michael, clueless dads, and dancing dads all wait to be claimed, striking silly poses and wearing crazy costumes, all hoping to get their child’s attention.

A boy and his father work together to build a tree fort in Jessica Scott Kerrin’s The Better Tree Fort. After moving into a new home, a boy named Russell and his father decide that the giant maple tree in their yard is the perfect project to work on together. A story about quality versus quantity, Russell and his father share time together as they build the fort and plan their sleepover; a contrast to the luxury treehouse being built down the block.

Elizabeth Zunon’s Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family touches on how our parents’ parents can sometimes be a larger-than-life, almost mythical figure. A girl and her father bake a cake and reminisce about “Grandpa Cacao” – her father’s father – and his life working on a cacao farm on the African Ivory Coast. Grandpa Cacao appears as a pale image, illustrating his existence as part of the girl’s imagination as she fits him into the landscape. Inspired by the author’s own “Grandpa Cacao”, the story links generations and celebrates the joy of creating together and uniting families.

Around the Table That Grandad Built by Melanie Hauser HIll is an adorable, multicultural cumulative story along the lines of The House That Jack Built. A family assembles for a celebration at a table built by Granddad, but everyone has a part in this meal: cousins gather sunflowers; Mom’s sewn napkins go with the dishes and the glasses come from Mom and Dad’s wedding; flatware comes from Dad’s grandma, and the family cooks a huge meal together, with squash, tamales, samosas, and other tasty fare.

In Leonid Gore’s When I Grow Up, a little boy asks his father what he will be when he grows up, and looks at the world around him for ideas. A raindrop tells him he could be “like me” and become the fastest river; a green sprout, the tallest tree; a caterpillar, the most colorful butterfly in the meadow. As the boy paints the images he sees around him, he ultimately makes his own decision: he will be like his dad. Die-cut images transition spreads from one to the next, making this a great touch-and-feel book to explore.

A young crow learns that his own song is beautiful in Marit Menzin’s A Song for Papa Crow. Little Crow loves to sing, but the other birds complain about his caw. Papa Crow reassures him, telling him that always knows where to find him when he follows his song, but it’s The Amazing Mockingbird that convinces Little Crow that singing your own song is the best song of all.

Kathleen T. Pelly’s Happy Papas gives love to dads in both the animal and human world, taking readers through a Happy Papas kind of day: as the sun pops up; as the sun sails high; as the clouds and sun play peek-a-boo; as the shadows gather, and finally, as the moon blooms. Otter dads, meerkat dads, tiger dads, and all sorts of human dads celebrate the day-to-day joys of fatherhood as they play, protect, cook for, and cuddle their little ones.

Grandparents and grandkids enjoy some quality time in JoowonOh’s Our Favorite Day. Grandpa has a routine he keeps to, but Thursday is the best day of the week: it’s Grandpa’s day with his granddaughter! Grandpa chooses some crafting materials at a craft shop on his trip to town, gets two orders of dumplings to go, picks some flowers, and is ready to greet his granddaughter with a hug when she bounds out of the car! Together, the two enjoy their lunch, make a kite, and head out to fly it. Our Favorite Day is all about the mutual benefits of a multigenerational relationship.

Beth Raisner Glass’s Blue Ribbon Dad gives dad an actual prize: a Number 1 Dad ribbon! A young squirrel counts down the hours until dad gets home from work, crafting a project to have ready for him when he gets there. He thinks of everything he does with his father, and all the things his Dad does for him, and presents his father with a blue ribbon when he gets home.

 

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Oddbird: Vive la difference!

Oddbird, by Derek Desierto, (May 2021, Feiwel and Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250765314

Ages 3-6

It’s a really hot day in the jungle, but all the birds at the pool wouldn’t dream of going into the water and messing up their feathers! It’s a place to see and be seen, until a little gray bird shows up and dips their toes in the water, attracting everyone’s attention. Those rude birds tease Oddbird for being different and bullying him until they flies away, crying… but they’ve got a plan! Oddbird is a smart story for young readers about fitting in… and standing out. It’s a great readaloud and provides a lot of food for thought, whether you’re approaching from a social-emotional learning perspective or a diversity, equity, and inclusion frame of mind. Oddbird celebrates individuality and acceptance, and it’s a hat tip to perseverance. Oddbird is gendered as male in the flap text and in the story, but if you prefer, can easily be nonbinary during a readaloud; I’d read the story using they/them pronouns, myself; it flows nicely either way. The bright illustrations are cheery and pop right off the white background; readers will love seeing these colorful birds. Have feathers in your craft storage? Make Oddbird grab and go kits by putting some feathers, some gray construction paper (cut into a vaguely Oddbird shape if you’d like), and some googly eyes and link it to a virtual (or in-person) storytime!

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Uncategorized

Intermediate Book Bundles!

I’ve been bundling again, and Macmillan was kind enough to give me some book bundling ideas from their imprints. This bundle is a mix of intermediate chapter books and graphic novels, and I think this will be a super popular mix.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen, by Debbi Michiko Florence/Illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic, (July 2017, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), $15.99, ISBN: 9780374304102

Ages 6-9

I read the first Jasmine Toguchi book back in 2017 and loved this fresh new face on my chapter book shelves! Since then, there have been three more Jasmine Toguchi books, and I know my library kids enjoy Jasmine as much as I did. In her first book, 8-year-old Jasmine really wants to be part of the mochi-making process when her grandmother flies in from Japan, but she’s not 10 yet, so her family says, “no way”. But Jasmine is set on building up her arm strength to be able to heft that mochi hammer. An author’s note and microwave mochi recipe at the end introduce readers to Japanese culture, and Jasmine is a spunky, smart young heroine that readers can immediately feel close to; she could be a friend at school or from the neighborhood. Black and white illustrations throughout are playful and let us into Jasmine’s world.

Author Debbi Michiko Florence’s website is amazing, from the adorable and colorful mochi at the top of the page, to the printable activities tied to each of her books, to her colorful and blog, always loaded with photos and updates.

 

Doggo and Pupper, by Katherine Applegate/Illustrated Charlie Alder, (March 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $9.99, ISBN: 9781250620972

Ages 6-9

Newbery Medalist Katherine Applegate and illustrator Charlie Alder join together to create an adorable story of two dogs. Doggo is a family dog who has his routines, like taking naps, walking the family’s daughter, and snuggling little family members. He has calming pursuits, like watching TV, even skateboarding, but it’s a pretty routine life, even if he does wistfully remember his younger, wilder days. When the family decides to get a new puppy, Doggo’s world is turned upside down! Pupper wants to talk ALL NIGHT. He is silly and lazy and… he’s a puppy! When Pupper gets sent to charm school, he returns home a different, more sedate Pupper, which gets Doggo thinking… he misses that wacky little Pupper. He quietly takes the pup out for a night of fun, where the two can let their wild sides out with no damage: or charm school. A sweet story of friendship and enjoying childhood, Doggo and Pupper is a story early graphic novel readers will love. Cat, the family cat, is there to add wisdom to the story, and Doggo has sage advice about puppies at the end of the story; good advice for anyone considering a Pupper of their own. Colorful collage and digital artwork are adorable, and the story is organized into easily readable chapters that give kids a place to pause.

Doggo and Pupper has a starred review from Booklist.

 

Blue, Barry & Pancakes, by Dan & Jason, (March 2021, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250255556

Ages 4-8

Childhood best friends Dan and Jason give kids a new graphic novel series about the hilarity of friendship. Blue is a worm, Barry is a frog, and Pancakes is a giant bunny, who live in the same house and get into the wackiest of situations. In this first graphic novel, Barry is just about to finish his tower of waffles when Pancakes insists they hit the beach. When Barry and Pancakes start playing with Blue’s collector beach ball, a giant whale eats it and sends the trio off into a silly adventure that will have every reader giggling uncontrollably (at least, my 8 year old did). The facial expressions, the frenetic pace of the action, and the “what next?” moments all make this the graphic novel kids will be asking for this summer. Reading takes you everywhere? It sure does here, as the trio goes from home, to the beach, to the inside of a whale, a rowboat, a UFO, the inside of a volcano, and more! If you asked one of your library kids to make up an adventure right on the spot, I guarantee you they’d come up with something very close to Blue, Barry and Pancakes. Endpapers show off other items in Blue’s collection, which makes me wonder what we’ll see in future adventures…

This is the first in a planned trilogy – the second one is due out in a matter of DAYS (stay tuned). Visit Dan and Jason’s website to see more about their projects, including Blue, Barry and Pancakes.

 

Stella Diaz Has Something to Say!, by Angela Dominguez, (Jan. 2018, Roaring Brook Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-62672-858-5

Ages 7-9

I read the first Stella Diaz book in 2018 and thoroughly enjoyed spending time with this shy second grader who had to find her voice. Stella Diaz loves fish and learning about the oceans and ocean life; she loves spending time with her mom and brother, and loves spending time with her best friend Jenny. She’s also incredibly shy and can’t find the words she wants to use, so she tends to stay quiet, afraid she’ll speak Spanish instead of English, or pronounce her words wrong. Either way, she’s made fun of by the class Mean Girl, but when her teacher assigns presentations that means Stella will have to speak in front of the class, she works to defeat her fears and find her voice. It’s a wonderful story about friendship, making new friends, and facing challenges. It’s infused with Mexican culture and Spanish language, inspired by the author’s own story of growing up Mexican-American, and features black and white illustrations throughout. There are two additional Stella Diaz books now, with a third coming next year – I’ve got books 2 and 3 on my desk right now, so keep an eye on this space for more.

Visit author Angela Dominguez’s website for more about her books!

 

How are you feeling about the book bundles talking? Too much? Not enough? Less description, more visual? I’d love to hear what you think!

Posted in picture books

She’s The One, The Only… Sparkella! (And she’s got her dad with her, too.)

The One and Only Sparkella (and Her Dad!), by Channing Tatum/Illustrated by Kim Barnes, (Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250750754

Ages 4-8

Sparkella is all ready for her first big day at school: she’s got her glimmering pencil case, shimmering backpack, glittery ribbons, and glistening shoes, all ready to make a sparkly splash! Her dad dons a pink feather boa and escorts her there, sharing dance moves along the way. But when Sparkella gets to school, her classmates don’t seem to “get” her sparkle at all. Sad, leaves school, telling Dad to call her “Ella”, and strips all sparkle from her look. But trying to fit in is killing her inner sparkle, too! Luckily, Dad knows how to get Ella to find her sparkle again, and when Sparkella returns to school, she spreads her glittery charm around and discovers some new friends. Written by actor/director/producer Channing Tatum, for his daughter Everly, The One and Only Sparkella is an adorably fun and sweet book about being true to yourself, embracing what makes you unique, and the wisdom of Girl Dads. Channing Tatum has made headlines for dressing up with his daughter, and her influence is all over this playful story. Parents and caregivers will see the kids they know and love in this story, from the shimmery, glimmery clothes and accessories, to the fabulous take on Ella’s name when she becomes Sparkella, to the struggle to fit in and make friends while trusting their inner voices. Dad is supportive and present, strutting down the street in a feather boa, busting out impromptu dance party moves on the way to school, and deftly figuring out how to get his daughter to open up to him by making it look like she’s the one dispensing advice. Kim Barnes’s playful artwork is loaded with pinks, fuschias, and glittery, bright colors that make every turn of the page a joy. When Ella’s world goes bland for a few spreads, readers will wait with baited breath for the splash to come back. Bright pink endpapers, filled with glittery poop (it’s part of the storyline), feathery school utensils, and fashionable accessories, make this a read that kids will come back to whenever they need a little glitter in their day. Find The One and Only Sparkella Zoom backgrounds and activity kit printables here!

The One and Only Sparkella has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

More Mother’s Day Wishes!

I’ve got more Mother’s Day books for the big day, but first, Everything Is Mama Activity Pages from Jimmy Fallon’s publisher, Macmillan! Enjoy three pages of activities and coloring with the kiddos!

What the Road Said, by Cleo Wade/Illustrated by Lucie de Moyencourt, (March 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250269492

Ages 6-10

If loving advice for living a good life could be summed up in verse, What the Road Said is it. Poet, activist, and one of Marie Claire’s 50 Most Influential Women in America Cleo Wade reminds young and grown readers alike to pay attention to the journey, not the destination. Sometimes, you may think you’re on the wrong path: keep going; “sometimes we go the wrong way on the way to the right way”. You may not always move forward, and you may need help on the way or feel alone. Keep going, the poem urges. Lead with kindness and love, even when met with hate, and just keep going. Illustrator Lucie de Moyencourt’s watercolor and ink artwork begins with an urban landscape, with nature scenes painted on buildings; a child watches them as they walk, and the city streets give way to lush, green pastures, beaches, dark forests, mountains, even outer space, the child following paths up mountains and through the woods; standing triumphant on the top of the world, and meditating on the growth from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Together, Cleo Wade and Lucie de Moyencourt encourage readers to reach for the stars on their journey through life. These comforting, inspiring words and artwork are the perfect story to pass to your little ones and they’re the words we parents need sometimes, because, as Cleo Wade states in her author’s note, “Being a grownup is hard and the Road  reminds me to take it one day at a time”.

 

I Love You, Baby Burrito, by Angela Dominguez, (January 12, 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250231093
Ages 2-5
This book is ADORABLE. A set of new parents greet their new baby – swaddled like a burrito – in this bilingual book of pure joy. Tender images of parents and baby pair with images of a new bird family in a nest outside the family’s window. The parents gaze, hold, and swaddle their little one, marveling at their new bundle, taking such care with every moment. Spanish words are in bright green, and English prose repeats the phrase, helping emphasize terms in both languages. A glossary at the end provides phonetic pronounciation. Mixed media illustrations are soft, gently colored, giving a real feeling of those quiet moments when baby and parents are still getting to know one another. I can’t wait to read this to my library families. An excellent Mother’s Day gift or baby shower gift, too; consider pairing with Hayley Barrett and Juana Martinez-Neal’s Babymoon.
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Grace and Box: Friends Forever

Grace and Box, by Kim Howard/Illustrated by Megan Lötter, (Jan. 2021, Feiwel and Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250262943

Ages 3-6

A little girl’s family gets a refrigerator box, and she gets a new best friend. Grace gets Box, and proceeds to have all sorts of wonderful adventures: Box is a home, a rocket, a tent, even ruins in Rome! There seems to be no end to the fun Grace and Box will have together, but one day… Box looks a little under the weather. He’s a little saggy; one of his walls has a rip. Grace decides that he needs a break, and takes care of him, bandaging him, letting him rest, even feeding him soup, but he’s still droopy. What’s a kid to do? Reinforce Box and play on! Grace and Box is a story about invention, inspiration, and the joy of creation. Bright digital artwork is appealing and expressive. Grace and her dog have loads of crafting material to share with Box, who has a sweet, drawn-on face that always has a smile for Grace. Rather than ditch Box when he gets a little worn down, Grace patches him up and keeps playing with him; a nice divergence from disposable culture. As a mom who’s had a cardboard fort in my living room since Christmas, I can appreciate Grace and Box’s relationship. Rhyming text is easy to read and colorful artwork pops off the bright white pages. Pair with Antoinette Portis’s Not a Box and Not a Stick. 

Visit author Kim Howard’s webpage for free resources, including a discussion guide and drawing activity.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Watch Me is a powerful immigration story

Watch Me: A Story of Immigration and Inspiration, by Doyin Richards/Illustrated by Joe Cepeda (Jan. 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250266514

Ages 3-5

Author and advocacy powerhouse Doyin Richards brings his father’s story to children with Watch Me.  As a child in Sierra Leone, Joe dreamed of going to America. People told him America wouldn’t accept him with his accent and his dark skin. Joe smiled and said, “Watch me”. It was a phrase he repeated often as he arrived in America and experienced racism and people questioned his intelligence. And Joe succeeded. More of a conversation than a one-sided narrative, Doyin Richards asks readers to think about times they were told they were different, or came up against things they couldn’t control. He asks them to think about times they may have seen kids at school be treated differently, or walk by themselves in the hall at school. He encourages readers to put themselves in Joe’s position – in the position of that classmate, eating lunch in the library alone – and to maybe consider a kind word, a smile, a simple act of kindness. As Richards says, “This land is your land. This land is my land. There is enough for everyone”. There’s no place for racism here. There is enough of everything for everyone; all we need to do is share. Beautiful oil and acrylic artwork makes each spread look like a portrait-worthy painting. A perfect readaloud for children.

Watch Me has a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Doyin Richards is a TEDx speaker who has spoken on anti-racism, and his book and blog, Daddy Doin’ Work, became a book that encouraged women to help dads become more engaged, hands-on fathers.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Next Stop: Christmas!

5 More Sleeps ‘Til Christmas, by Jimmy Fallon/Illustrated by Rich Deas, (Oct. 2020, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250266477

Ages 3-7

Jimmy Fallon’s newest picture book outing is an ode to the anticipation that seems to increase exponentially, the closer Christmas morning gets! In this rhyming tale, a boy is counting his “sleeps” until the big day. He knows he’s been good and that Santa will take care of business, but going to sleep every night is SO HARD when Christmas is so close! “5 more sleeps ’til Christmas. / I’m not sure I can wait. / I get good grades, / I fed the dog. / I even cleaned my plate. Gary’s chew toy Peppy / is helping me count sheep. / But it’s not working! We’re still up! / We cannot fall asleep!” Colorful illustrations set against the deep blue night time sky and the dark warmth of the boy’s night time room, combined with the adorable, expressive main character and his faithful pup, Gary, are full of holiday anticipation that kids and adults alike will remember and enjoy revisiting time and again. Absolute holiday fun that will brighten up your shelves.

 

Claris: Holiday Heist (The Chicest Mouse in Paris), by Megan Hess, (Oct. 2020, Hardie Grant), $17.99, ISBN: 9781760504953

Ages 4-8

Fashion illustrator Megan Hess’s series about the Claris, “chicest mouse in Paris” sees her fabumouse main character visiting New York along with her friend, Monsieur the Cat, and the family they live with. The Brat – the family’s spoiled daughter – is throwing tantrums per usual, but the real story is in the title. Claris and Monsieur spy a thieving cat on a shopping trip, and follow the felonious feline to his home and demand his return his booty! Will the cat burglar give up his life of crime and embrace the giving spirit of the holidays?Eloise and Olivia fans will love this chic, smart, determined little heroine as she takes on the streets of New York’s chic shopping district. Author Megan Hess’s fashion illustration expertise makes for gorgeous fashion sketches throughout, with bright, colorful moments that pop against the black and white backgrounds. Rhyming text makes the story a fun readaloud.

 

Dinosaur Christmas!, by Penny Dale, (Sept 2020, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536214499

Ages 2-6

This is the seventh book in Penny Dale’s Dinosaur series! This time out, Santa’s stuck and it’s dinos to the rescue! Trucks, plows, even helicopters arrive on the scene to dig Santa out and get him back on his way. Short sentences, repetition and sight words, and sounds like “crunch, crunch”, “swish, swish”, and “scoop, scoop” make this a fantastic readaloud choice (have a sensory storytime with this book and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt). Flannels and/or toy dinos are always fun to add. Watercolor and ink dinosaurs look realistic and friendly, and colorful endpapers show dinosaurs that appear in the book, with their names clearly spelled out, along with the vehicles they use in the story. Who doesn’t love dinosaurs?

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books to cuddle, snuggle, and hug by

This is a tough time of year we’re going into. We want to hug people that we can’t. We want to see people in person, not through a device screen. We’ll get there. Until then, we have books to share with those we love. Let these snuggly books do the talking when your arms can’t; if you are lucky enough to have snuggly folx within your quarantine circle, then enjoy these books together.

 

You Are a Beautiful Beginning, by Nina Laden/Illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley,
(Aug. 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250311832
Ages 3-6

If little ones ever needed inspiration and to hear about their incredible potential, this is the time. You Are a Beautiful Beginning is all about potential, with encouraging, rhyming phrases that are just what we all need to hear to keep us going: “It is not the number of pages. / It is the story in the book. / It is not how far you traveled. / It is the journey that you took.” Messages also include having self-confidence and not worrying about the outcome, but the progress; being a good person, and being part of a team, and ultimately, becoming who you are supposed to be. Mixed media artwork creates magical spreads with classic fantasy story elements bright colors. You Are a Beautiful Beginning is the encouraging talk so many of us need today, especially our little ones who are facing remote learning, lack of socialization, and feeling overwhelmed by big, often scary feelings. A much-needed pep talk and hug in book form.

 

Because You’re Mine, by Nancy Tillman, (Sept. 2020, Feiwel & Friends),
$18.99, ISBN: 9781250256133
Ages 2-7

Nancy Tillman, award-winning author of On the Night You Were Born, is back with a rhyming story about the love between a parent and child. Because You’re Mine is a parent’s declaration of love from the very beginning: “The moment that you came along / my heart grew mighty, fierce and strong / And everything just fell from view / All that I could see was you”. That fierce devotion never wanes, as Tillman also notes: “The clouds can blow, the wind can call / the snow can come, the rain can fall / but they’ll just have to wait in line”. It speaks to the protective love parents and caregivers have for their littles; children will feel secure and protected hearing their loving grownup read this to them and it’s perfect for bedtime and cuddle time reading. Ms. Tillman’s instantly recognizable artwork, images of children and grownups, frolicking across spreads of woods, fields, and enjoying flora and fauna, brings to mind carefree days and joy.