Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Award-winning and hilarious: See the Cat

See the Cat, by David LaRochelle/Illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Press), $8.99, ISBN: 9781536204278

Ages 4-7

The 2021 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award-winner, See the Cat, hilariously breaks the fourth wall, a la Elephant and Piggie, with three stories starring a dog who really just wants to take a nap. In the first story, an unseen narrator tells a story about a cat who rides a unicorn while wearing a green dress. It’s a study in concepts and colors and Max, a dog, insists on each spread that he is nothing of the sort, leading to a laugh-out-loud conclusion. The second and third stories see Max learn how to manipulate a story that’s not going his way; the first, when an angry snake shows up, and the final story, when the narrator keeps pushing Max to do something he just doesn’t want to do. Adorably funny back-and forth dialogue between the main character and the narrator, like Snappsy the Alligator or This is a Taco!, make this a great read-aloud between two readers; if you’re going it solo during storytime, let your dramatic flag fly and have fun with voices and facial expressions! Gouache illustrations are cheerful, and Max’s cartoony exasperation will have readers giggling wildly. A must-have.

See the Cat has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Booklist.  Publisher Candlewick has free teacher tips (I love this offering) and a fun activity kit that I’ll be using as a grab-and-go book activity this week.

 

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Picture Book Roundup: Bears, Babies, Bats, and more!

In my continuing struggle to get on top of my review list, I present another roundup; this time, with picture books!

Priscilla Pack Rat: Making Room for Friendship, by Claudine Crangle,
(March 2017, Magination Press), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1433823350
Recommended for readers 4-8

Priscilla is a very sweet rat who loves to collect things, but when she’s invited to friends’ birthday parties, she finds that she has a hard time even parting with the gifts she chooses for her friends! When Priscilla’s house finally crashes around her, she realizes that her friends are worth much more than being surrounded by stuff. Magination Press is an imprint of the American Psychological Association; this is a book designed to discuss clutter and hoarding tendencies in kids, and it does so in a mild, easy manner. This can easily be a kids’ story on sharing and giving, no red flags necessary. Adorable felted characters and found objects create a visually interesting story that you can also turn into a little game of I Spy with little ones: there are plenty of things to find! A note to parents and caregivers advises parents on what to do if children have trouble parting with possessions, the differences between hoarding and collecting, and ways to help kids organize their belongings. A nice add to developing empathy collections and for caregivers and educators who need books to address behaviors.

Letters to a Prisoner, by Jacques Goldstyn
(Sept. 2017, OwlKids Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781771472517
Recommended for readers 4+

Letters to a Prisoner is getting rave reviews, with good reason. The wordless picture book, inspired by the letter-writing campaigns of human rights organization Amnesty International, is so impactful, so relevant, and so necessary. A man is arrested during a peaceful protest, injured by a soldier who also pops the man’s daughter’s balloon. The man is thrown in a solitary jail cell, where he befriends a mouse and a bird. When letters arrive, the guard takes joy in burning them in front of the man, but the joke’s on the guard: the smoke from the burning letters serves as a worldwide beacon. Groups of people all over send the man letters; they arrive, en masse, and turn into wings with which the prisoner soars above the helpless, infuriated guard. The watercolor over black ink sketches adds an ethereal feel to this beautiful story of hope and social justice. The book’s wordlessness allows for every reader to come together, transcending language, to take part in this inspirational story. An author’s note tells readers about Amnesty International’s inspiration. Display and booktalk with Luis Amavisca’s No Water, No Bread, and talk with little ones and their parents as you display the book during social justice and empathy themed storytimes. Letters to a Prisoner has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Quill and Quire.

 

I Am Bat, by Morag Hood,
(Oct. 2017, OwlKids Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492660323
Recommended for readers 3-7

One of my favorite picture books this year. Bat is adorable. And he loves cherries. DO NOT TAKE HIS CHERRIES. He is quite serious about this, so you can imagine his distress when his cherries start disappearing! The reader’s clued in, naturally – we see paws and ants sneaking cherries out of the book’s margins while Bat stares at us, demanding to know what’s going on. The animals leave him a pear, which Bat embraces – and the story is ready to begin again. There’s bold, black fonts to make for expressive storytime reading, and Bat and Friends are just too much fun to read and play along with. Absolutely delightful storytime reading; just make sure you read this one before you get it in front of your group: you will squeal with glee the first couple of times you read it. Print out bat masks for the kids to color in as part of your storytime craft.

Shelter, by Céline Claire,
(Oct. 2017, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771389273
Recommended for readers 3-7

A storm’s approaching, and two strangers – brothers – arrive in the forest. They stop at several animal family homes, offering a trade for shelter; they have tea, can anyone offer them some food? A place to ride out the storm? We see each family, safe and with full larders, turn them away. A young fox feels terrible about this, and runs out to give the brothers a lamp, which they use to find shelter. But as fate would have it, the storm is even more trouble than the families expected, and soon, they’re asking the brothers for shelter: which is cheerfully given. This kind, moving story about kindness and succor is perfect for illustrating the power of empathy. Qin Leng’s watercolor and ink illustrations are soft and gentle, a perfect match for Céline Claire’s quiet narration. Shelter offers the perfect opportunity to talk about putting kind thoughts into practice; whether it’s sharing with others or offering friendship to someone who needs it.

The Little Red Wolf, by Amelie Flechais,
(Oct. 2017, Lion Forge),$19.99, ISBN: 9781941302453
Recommended for readers 6-10

A slightly macabre twist on the traditional Little Red Hiding Hood tale, The Little Red Wolf is a story about a little wolf who, on the way to visit an ailing grandma, encounters an awful human girl. The message here is consistent with the original fable: there’s a strong stranger danger warning, but also a reminder that every side has a story, every villain has an origin. The art is beautiful and dark; an additional add for collections where readers may be ready for darker fantasy.

Middle Bear, by Susanna Isern/Illustrated by Manon Gauthier,
(Oct. 2017, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771388429
Recommended for readers 3-7

The middle child gets lots of love in this adorable picture book. Middle Bear is the second of three brothers; not small, but not big; not strong, but not weak; not a lot, not a little… “he was the middle one”. He has a hard time feeling special until the day his parents both fall ill and the three cubs have to get willow tree bark from the mountain top, to help them get well. When big brother is too big, and little brother is too little, it’s up to Middle Brother to save the day: he is, to quote that other story starring three bears, “just right”. The emphasis on bear’s “middleness” will drive home the point that he persevered and succeeded as is, through determination. Manon Gauthier cut paper collage, pencil, and mixed media illustrations add texture and a childlike sense of place in the story. There’s a good lesson about empathy to be learned here, too; the bear’s brothers and parents all support him and let him know that what he may see as being a challenge – being the middle one – is what makes him the perfect bear for the job. Perfect storytelling for middle children who may be feeling the frustration of being too big for some things, not big enough for others.

No Room for Baby!, by Émile Jadoul,
(Oct. 2017, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771388412
Recommended for readers 3-7

Leon’s baby brother, Marcel, has arrived! Leon’s excited, but a little concerned about where the baby’s going to go when he’s not in his crib. He certainly can’t go in Leon’s room. And there’s no room on Mama’s lap for him; there’s only room for Leon. And Daddy’s shoulders are just too high. After Leon thinks on the situation, he discovers the best possible place for his baby brother: in his arms. This is the such a sweet story about becoming an older sibling; it addresses the fears an older sibling may have when a new baby joins the family, and it allows the sibling to work through his fears and come to his own happy decision. At no point do Leon’s parents correct him or force the baby on him; they stand back and let him reason things out for himself. It’s an empowering story with a sweet sense of humor. The simple black pencil, crayon and oils illustration feels childlike and will easily appeal to readers. I’m looking forward to adding this one to my new baby bibliography.

Posted in Fantasy, Preschool Reads

Funk’s Fine Fractured Fairy Tale: It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk!

It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, by Josh Funk/Illustrated by Edwardian Taylor, (Sept. 2017, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1542045650

Recommended for readers 4-10

Happy Book Birthday to It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk! I love fractured fairy tales: they let me get as silly as I want to be (need to be?) in a storytime, which lets the kids know they can be as silly as they want or need to be, too. After all, storytime is supposed to be fun, isn’t it?

The story starts out as usual: the fancy fairy tale font, the “Once upon a time” opening line… but wait. Jack is sleeping! The narrator nudges him, and demands that he put on pants (this is the part where every kid in the room is on board with Jack) and get into the story. That’s when we get the idea that this narrator is a little pushy, and that maybe Jack has different ideas about how this fairy tale is going to go. Poor Jack is badgered into trading his pet cow for beans that make him toot, climb a giant beanstalk, and face off against a giant that he really has no quarrel with. Jack takes the story into his own hands, and brings things to a more satisfying conclusion.

Loaded with fairytale references – keep a sharp eye and ask your readers to point them out as they see them – and fun, cartoony digital art, It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk! is an essential to fractured fairy tale collections. It’s not just for the little readers, either – you can get a heck of a reader’s theatre going on here, thanks to all the side conversations and the power struggle between the Narrator and Jack. Wanna see it in action? Check out Josh Funk’s website, where teachers and librarians stage their own reading. It’s also a nice way to talk to kids about believing everything they read: the Narrator likes to embellish a few areas, but Jack is quick to call out alternative facts where he finds them.

If you haven’t enjoyed Josh Funk’s books yet, you have got to start. I love Pirasaurs – because there are pirate dinosaurs – and Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast make me laugh out loud. He’s got a load of great stuff available on his website, including downloadable coloring books and activity sheets, character cards, and book songs.

Want a shot at winning your own copy of It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk? You know you do. Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance!

 

Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as books – such as the Nerdy Book Club Award-winning DEAR DRAGON and LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST along with IT’S NOT JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, and the upcoming ALBIE NEWTON, HOW TO CODE A SANDCASTLE (in partnership with Girls Who Code), and more.

Josh is a board member of The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA. was the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences, and has written a free 12-Step Guide to Writing Picture Books. Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes manuscripts.

Find out more about Josh at www.joshfunkbooks.com and on Twitter @joshfunkbooks.