A companion to Prestel Publishing’s Great Ports of the World (2018) and Great Streets of the World (2019), Great Rivers of the World is a picture book tour of 18 of the world’s greatest rivers, from the Danube in Germany, to China’s Yangtze River, to the Egyptian Nile. Beautiful full-color spreads combined with informative facts about the rivers, with special attention to conservation efforts: the rain forests of the Congo, for instance, are threatened due to environmental encroachment, mining of natural resources, and hunters. A foldout section on the Nile River discusses the environmental impact the citizens of Egypt face by polluting their river. There are great historical facts that would flesh out geographical and historical reports. A great additional nonfiction resource!
I’m sorry I’ve been quiet for a few days, but this year has been… a lot. But I’m back and ready to bring you some of the cutest board books in my TBR. I know I gush about board books a lot, but they are just adorable, and they’ve grown so much over the last few years. They look at concepts in new ways and have gone beyond the basic “ABCs/123s” to give real storytelling fun for our youngest learners. Let’s see the ones I’ve got here.
Meet Doodle, the Science Poodle, as she introduces her big, blended family to readers! Family members include one aardvark, eight llamas, nine elephants, and a bunch more. Bright, colorful digital illustrations and giant numbers let readers count each of the animals in Doodle’s family. A note about the science of arithmetic connects the counting story to STEM learning. A fun way to start kids learning and counting; have goodies around for them to count, like toys, blocks, or toes (yours, theirs, the dog’s). Absolute fun for readalouds and counting songs.
A duckling hatches and bonds to a boy he sees. Excitedly “peeping”, the duckling follows its new friend home, and the two share time together playing and enjoying one another’s company. One day, though, the “peep!” turns to a “quack!” and the boy and his family know they have to bring the duckling to be with other ducks. But there’s always a new friend waiting just around the corner. This sweet story of friendship is sparsely worded, letting the pictures tell the story. The colorful artwork is cheery, and kids will love the little duckling – sound effects run throughout, so invite your listeners to crack, peep, and quack along with you! Make sure to sing 5 Little Ducks with this one.
This rhyming story about a painting porcupine introduces counting, colors, and language concepts. Pinky Porcupine paints the doors in the town, and finds a different animal friend behind each one. Kids can count from one to 10 in English, Spanish, Chinese, and French, with pronunciations noted on each page. The animals gather together to say goodnight in their different languages at the end and fun animal facts close out this fun, fact-filled board book. Pictures are colorful and eye-catching and fun, perfect for counting storytimes and introducing readers to new languages.
A board book that opens into a play mat! A dog can go faster on a scooter, but even faster on a bike! The pup picks different vehicles to take the speed up a notch as the sections unfold into a 4 foot-long play mat, just right for zooming little cars on. Illustrations are colorful and bright, and vehicle books are so popular, that kids will gobble this right up. Invite kids to tell you which vehicles are outlined on the cover, and point them out inside the book. A felt board with vehicle cutouts would be a fun accompaniment during storytime, too. Have a couple on hand, this one will circulate hard.
A board book, seek and find, and geography lesson all in one, Paper Peek: Animals is a wonder of board book making. Visit the continents and oceans and discover animals native to each region through the artwork. Die cuts and colorful cut paper artwork make endless fun for exploring fingers and eyes. Discover African lions, giraffes, and zebras; North American brown bears and eagles; koalas, platypuses, and cockatoos from Oceania; seahorses, whales, and sharks from the oceans, and so much more. A map of the world at the end of the book shows the animals on their homelands. I love this book for its gorgeous artwork and for its versatility: you can use it during storytime or one-on-one time.
A perfect cuddle up and snuggle book, this rhyming story of all the ways animals (and people!) show love comes with 10 felt flaps to lift and explore. Giraffes nuzzlilng noses, elephant trunk hugs and embracing swan wings are just a few of the ways animals reveal their affection for one another. This is an adorable lapsit choice – invite parents to snuggle, rub noses, lightly squeeze, and play peekaboo with their littles. A soft color palette makes this a perfectly soothing read for babies and toddlers, maybe a good choice for a final story choice in storytime, to start calming things down. Make sure you keep a copy in your storytime collection; this one will get beaten up in circulation as family after family loves it.
School’s… kind of in session? Traveling is still a bit shaky, but we all know that books take us everywhere we want to go, and Sue Lowell Gallion – author of one of my favorite picture book series, Pug & Pig – is our tour guide on a trip around the world. Our World is an oversized board book, perfect for exploring eyes and hands, that opens into a freestanding globe. The youngest learners will enjoy the 3-D design and the descriptive rhyming text, brief and evocative all at once: “Many places to explore, / From mountain peaks to ocean floor. / Look around you, step outside… / Find forests tall, and grasslands wide.” Emerging readers and school-age learners will love the facts and thought-provoking questions that run through the book, inviting readers to think about where they live and how their home environment fits into the world at large. Lisk Feng’s illustrations present gorgeous world landscapes, from icy tundras to lush rain forests, making each turn of the page an exciting new adventure. Look at that cover! If you’re able to zoom in, you’ll see penguins hanging out at the bottom of the base, inhabiting their own little South Pole, as lions, elephants, and zebras race across the African Savanna and trees and mountains dot the American Pacific Northwest and Canadian wilderness. An outstanding beginner’s atlas for our younger readers, with a rhyming story that will invite them to fall in love with nonfiction.
Author Sue Lowell Gallion has great resources available on her author page including activity guides for Our World, with ideas for reading and engaging even our youngest listeners.
It’s that time of year again, where I dig deep to find all sorts of great books to add to your holiday shopping lists. This is the first round, so I’m thinking this post will suggest books and goodies to bring when you celebrate Thanksgiving, or the Fall Harvest, with your families and friends. These books will be fun for the kiddie table – before the food, naturally!
This book is just too much fun. First of all, it’s huge: over 40 inches high by over 17 inches wide, making it almost as big as some of the kids you’ll be seeing this holiday season! My niece giggle-shrieked when I stood the book up next to her, and that was that. She was hooked. It’s a gorgeous, funky concept book, introducing readers to different sights of city life: streetlamps, subways, coffee shops, fountains, zoos, even skateboarders are all here, with retro chic, bright art. The only words are the descriptive words for each picture; the endpapers are loaded with pictures of the smaller details of city life: a cat, a server, a scale, a shrub.
Put this in front of the kids, and let them have at it. My niece and my son loved talking about things they recognized: my niece remembers taking a train to work with her mom, and my son talked up the subway when I took him into the city on our winter break. And they both pretended that I was in the coffee shop and the bookstore, so it’s nice to know they think of me.
City is a gorgeous gift book that can be a coffee table art book for kids, or a prompt for creativity. Its only limit is the imagination.
The Smithsonian Exploration Station sets are fantastic gifts. Bring one or two of these with you, and set the kids up in their own personal science labs while the food cooks.
The Smithsonian sets are contained in a nice, sturdy box that holds a lot of stuff. The Human Body box includes a 56-page fact book, 30 stickers, a plastic model skeleton kids can put together, and 25 fact cards. It’s similar to the Adventures in Science kit Silver Dolphin put out earlier this year, and my son loved them both. Learn what makes your blood pump, your muscles stretch and how your different systems come together to make you walk, run, eat, sleep, and play. Older kids can help younger kids with some basic terms and reading, and the littlest ones can still enjoy putting the stickers on the skeleton body while bigger kids help put the skeleton together.
This set was hands-down my son’s favorite set. A blow-up globe, a world map and stickers of landmarks from all over the world, and cardstock puzzles of the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, and a Mayan Pyramid? Plus, a 56-page fact book that tells readers all about the cool landmarks as they decorate their maps? SOLD. We spent three days working on the map, at which time he told me that he wants to see every single one of these sights. We built the cardstock models, which called for much dexterity – so I called my eldest son in to help, because I tend to become a little exuberant, shall we say, with my papercrafting. My son also loves his inflatable globe, and asks me to point out cool places to him; some from the map, some, the countries that his friends at school hail from, some, names of places he hears about on TV. It’s a great set.
Kids love planets! The Space! Exploration Station includes a 56-page fact book, astronaut and rocket plastic figurines, stickers, and glow in the dark stars to make their own constellations. There are incredible, full-color photographs and text that explains the makeup of our solar system, galaxies, planets, and constellations. Let the kids decorate your dining room to and eat under the stars!
Every single one of these kits is such fun, and urges kids to be curious and explore the world inside them and around them. If you have the budget for it, throw these in your distributor cart and get a few sets for your STEM/STEAM programming, too. The Smithsonian has a good science education channel on YouTube, with kid-friendly videos that make for good viewing.
Waldo’s back with a new trick: this time, the spreads have all gone dark! Luckily, the Spectacular Spotlight Search comes with a cool spotlight viewer to help you find him, and the challenges he sets out for you. There are six puzzles and a magic slider that slides into the scene to “light up” small sections – like a spotlight. Find Waldo and other familiar characters, plus other hidden challenges and games on each spread. My 6-year-old and my 3-year-old niece had a blast with this book, eventually recruiting me for my Waldo-finding skills (narrator: The children were better.)
If you have puzzle and game fans in your family, this is a great gift to bring along. If you’re looking at it for your library, I suggest keeping it in reference; that spotlight will go missing or get beaten up in no time. But it’s good Waldo fun.
I am an unabashed fan of NatGeo for my nonfiction sections. They have books on EVERYTHING, and the kids love it. They also make every single thing they cover amazing, hilarious, or both, which makes my life a lot easier when I have kids trudging into my children’s room, moaning that they have to read more nonfiction. Excuse me, do you see the GIANT WATER FAUCET on the cover of this book? Guess what? Nonfiction. Suddenly, they’re a lot more amenable to what I have to offer.
Let’s start with the backpack essential: The Weird But True Planner ($12.99, ISBN: 978-1426327933). The Weird But True books come in second only to the NatGeo Kids joke books when it comes to demand in my children’s room. It’s got the planner essentials: it’s spiral bound and sturdy, so kids can use it and it will hold up. It’s got paper that won’t tear when you turn a page. You know that paper; it’s usually the one that flies away and has the details of your homework on it. The space is smartly laid out, with NatGeo’s trademark gorgeous photos sharing space with planning and goal pages that help your kids keep it together during the school year. And because it’s NatGeo, it’s got the fun, weird holidays, crazy facts, pages for scribbling areas where you need homework help, little writing prompts, and an overall fun vibe that demands you embrace your weirdness. I have a copy that I desperately want to keep for my own library notes, programs, and scheduling the lives of my weird family; now, the key is making sure the kids don’t take mine off my desk at work OR at home.
Let’s be clear: this is not a library book; it’s a book meant to be written in, used, and yeah, even a little abused. But it IS an essential buy.
Recommended for ages 8-12
AJ and Andrea from the hugely popular My Weird School series are here to stuff your heads full of fun facts! The Fast Facts series is just that: loads of factoids, split into subject areas, narrated by My Weird School characters AJ, the attention-loving goof-off, and Andrea, who’s going to run the country one day.
Fast Facts: Geography covers the definition of geography, and starts out big: like, Planet Earth big, with facts about the earth’s rotation and its “imaginary lines”: its axis, the equator, and the international date line. Next, AJ and Andrea tackle the continents; bodies of water; mountains, deserts, and forests; the fifty United States; and finally, AJ’s favorite topic, natural disasters. Each fact is bulleted by a picture of AJ or Andrea, so you can tell who’s talking to you, and the dialogue is loaded with back and forth bantering between the two characters. There are black and white photos and line drawings throughout the book to add to the reader’s interest.
Recommended for ages 8-12
Next up, we have Fast Facts: Sports, with chapters devoted to the biggies: baseball, football, soccer, basketball, hockey, golf, and auto racing. Other chapters include facts about speed records; other sports, like skating, skiing, bowling, and tennis; the Olympics, and a wrap-up of other weird sports facts. You want to know why umpires have to wear black underwear? The answer’s in here. Like Fast Facts: Geography, Fast Facts: Sports is loaded with photos, statistics and fun facts, and black and white illustrations by My Weird School illustrator Jim Paillot.
The Fast Facts books are fun. The Sports books will be popular with kids who are fans of the series or just sports fans in general; it’s a good companion book for kids who love wacky facts and ephemera. The Geography book is a good companion book that you can booktalk when kids come in with a geography project – it’s a companion book, an additional book, but the My Weird School brand will make sure it gets read, and maybe, just maybe, inspire a reader to explore an interesting topic.
Kids love My Weird School and all its offshoots. These are the second and third books in a nonfiction series (the first, My Weird Writing Tips, was published in 2013). Having some nonfiction feature popular characters hopefully spikes some interest.
Dan Gutman is a prolific children’s author, with My Weird School and The Genius Files being two of his hugely popular book series. He’s got a great author website where you can find out about all of his book, read excerpts, download study guides, watch book trailers, and read about ways that kids can change the world.
Illustrator Jim Paillot has illustrated for School Library Journal, Weekly Reader, Boys Life, and many other children’s books. He has a great website with funny comics for kids, illustrations, samples of his work, and a shop where you can buy prints of his artwork.