Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

#HomesCool for Littles: Board Books with a mission!

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the great board books that are loaded with learning activities for tiny hands to explore. Turning wheels, sliding panels, flaps, these books are filled with fun and imagination. Let’s take a look at a few.

Turn•Seek•Find: Habitats, by Ben Newman, (Feb. 2021, Twirl), $14.99, ISBN: 9782408019693

Ages 3-5

Perfect for preschoolers, this larger board book (11″x9.5″) takes readers on a journey to five different areas – the African Savanna, the Ice Field, the Indian Jungle, the Pacific Island, and the Big City – and talks a little about the kind of habitat each one provides, along with fun seek and find activities at the turn of a wheel. Two wheels on each spread encourages readers to discover different items and colors within the spreads. The artwork is bright and cold, with eye-catching colors and details that kiddos will love exploring. Perfect for cultivating observation skills and fine motor skills, the book is sturdy and will hold up to multiple readings. Find books and facts about each spread to encourage littles to go deeper and learn more. Ask kids what they recognize from the spreads and encourage them to find out more about things that may be new. Never seen a baobab tree before? Look it up on kid-friendly sites like National Geographic and find books like John Archambault’s By the Baobab Tree. There are so many ways to encourage and extend learning with a fun book like this; let it be your jumping-off point and follow your little’s interests.

 

Matching Game Book: Bugs and Other Little Critters, by Stéphanie Babin/Illustrated by Manu Callejón (March 2021, Twirl Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9782408024659
Ages 3-5
Another fun, larger-sized board book with activities to keep little brains busy! Meet the bugs that live in the meadow, at the pond, in the forest, in the ground, and in the dark! Sliding panels allow kids to play a memory game on each spread, and additional suggested activities encourage kids to play seek and find, I Spy, and Hide and Seek. Panels slide easily back and forth; no struggles here. The insects are cute, with big, expressive eyes and are colorful and kid-friendly. Excellent manipulation for fine motor skills, and pair with Eric Carle books like The Very Grouchy Ladybug and The Very Lonely Firefly. Bob Barner’s Bugs, Bugs, Bugs! is a great choice, too. There are so many “Buggie Books”, as my Kiddo used to refer to them, out there  – just ask your favorite librarian! The Spruce Crafts has some adorable and easy bug-related crafts, too: I’m partial to the ladybug hat and firefly suncatcher.
Animal Friends 1 2 3, by Christophe Loupy/Illustrated by Shunsake Satake, (Feb. 2021, Twirl Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9782408024680
Ages 3-5
A lift-the-flap counting book with a fun spin, Animal Friends 1 2 3 has a fun question-and-answer format that encourages readers’ curiosity: “5 little bears are busy picking blueberries. 2 got a wee bit hungry!”  The facing spread has five little smiling bears sitting among minimalist blueberry trees. Easy-to-lift flaps reveal two bears snacking on blueberries. Colored dots run across the bottom of each spread, adding a fun visual component. The story also includes basic addition skills, with a group of 4 mice inviting groups of friends to their party, and increasing their number: “‘Let’s invite our 4 performer friends!’ says the fourth mouse. ‘With them, there will be 9 of us. They can show us magic tricks!'” Flaps will reveal the four friends, while dots across the bottom of the page will account for all nine characters. Good for preschoolers developing their math skills and toddlers who are learning their 123s. There are so many great printables for little counters available. Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds has some fun printables, On Teachers Pay Teachers, Play to Learn Preschool has a fun apple counting printable, and Kamp Kindergarten has an adorable school bus clip and count activity.
Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

#HomesCool for babies, too! Anti-Racism, Climate Change, Oceanography, and Mammals!

Babies need fun books, too! #HomesCool doesn’t just start with school-age kids: let’s take a look at some of the best board books out this summer, ready for you to read to your lap-sitters as we head into Fall.

Anti-Racist Baby, by Ibram X. Kendi/Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky, (June 2020, Kokila), $8.99, ISBN: 9780593110416

Ages 0-4

If you haven’t had the chance to enjoy Anti-Racist Baby yet, please find a copy now! National Book Award Winner Ibram X. Kendi and illustrator Ashley Lukashevsky have created a gorgeous, playful book for readers of all ages that celebrates diversity and offers simple, wonderful ways that we can teach our children, from the  youngest ages, to be actively anti-racist. There are easy concepts to grasp here; it’s our job as parents and caregivers to use the vocabulary to break down large concepts as “see all colors” “and “blame the policies, not the people” to our kids. The illustrations are bold, upbeat, and feature diverse groups of families. The rhyming scheme will keep kids entertained, introducing them to new words – just like STEM board books! – while we show them concepts through our own actions. Consider this for your collections, display and read with books like Feminist Baby, Woke Baby, and A is for Activist.

Anti-Racist Baby has a starred review from School Library Journal.

 

Climate Change for Babies, by Chris Ferrie/Illustrated by Katherina Petrou, (Aug. 2020, Sourcebooks Explore), $9.99, ISBN: 9781492680826

Ages 2-5

Another Chris Ferrie STEM board book! I love his STEM series for babies and toddlers. Here, Chris Ferrie and illustrator Katherina Petrou teach littles about climate change, using the idea of a blanket keeping planets warm: that’s the atmosphere. Different planets have different blankets, but Earth’s blanket is just right, thanks to our trees, animals, and oceans… but not when people start changing the blanket with transportation, pollution, and livestock! When our blanket gets too hot, Earth doesn’t feel well, and makes a lot of things go wrong. What can we do? Lots of things, like plant more trees, cut down on coal, oil, and cars and factories! Simply illustrated with bright colors and pictures of happy and sad planets, vehicles, and landscapes, kids will be entertained while we grownups digest the big picture and talk about keeping our world safe and healthy.

 

ABCs of Oceanography, by Chris Ferrie/Illustrated by Katherina Petrou, (Aug. 2020, Sourcebooks Explore), $9.99, ISBN: 9781492680819

Ages 2-5

It’s a Chris Ferrie Fest! ABCs of Oceanography is the seventh(ish?) book in Ferrie and illustrator Katherina Petrou’s ABCs series. Like other books in the series, this book grows along with your little ones: Colorful pictures illustrate each alphabetical concept, with the letter and word bright and bold, standing out against a stark white background: “A is for Algae”, with an illustration of algae. Next, for young learners, the concept word is used in a descriptive sentence: “Algae are aquatic life that conduct photosynthesis”; using bigger vocabulary words in a scientific context, to introduce preschoolers to the basic words they can expect to learn in kindergarten. Finally, a fuller definition, perfect for children moving up into elementary school, yet still easy enough to grasp, to give them the full breadth of the definition and ownership of the concept. There are familiar words, like Dolphin, Island, and Octopus, and newer words, like Euphotic Zone, Gyre, and Quahog. Pair with Baby Shark and get some flannel ocean figures out!

Sourcebooks has a Baby University page on their publisher website, that features Chris Ferrie’s books organized into series: For Babies, ABCs, and Picture Books.

 

Curious About Mammals, by Cathryn Sill/Illustrated by John Sill, (Aug. 2020, Peachtree Publishing), $6.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-198-0

Ages 0-3

This book is adorable and informative! The second book in Peachtree’s and author-illustrator team Cathryn and John Sill’s Discovering Nature series, Curious About Mammals presents one-sentence facts about mammals, accompanied by elegant, detailed wildlife artwork by wildlife illustrator John Sill. The sentences contain basic facts and plenty of sight words for young learners, with the accompanying artwork showing animals in their daily lives: climbing; swimming; flying; alone, or with a group. Each animal’s common name appears under their picture, in small italic text, letting readers go back and discover their new favorite animals again and again. Some may be familiar, like the Northern Raccoon and Blue Whale; others may be brand new, like the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit and American Badger. A great add to board book collections where you have burgeoning animals fans.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Picture Book Nonfiction in May: Spirit Bears and Teddy Bears

A Voice for the Spirit Bears: How One Boy Inspired Millions to Save a Rare Animal, by Carmen Oliver/Illustrated by Katy Dockrill, (May 2019, Kids Can Press/CitizenKid), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-77138-979-2

Ages 7-10

Simon Jackson doesn’t quite fit in with the other kids as a child; he was bullied over his stutter, and found himself most at home in the woods, exploring, photographing, and learning about wildlife. As a teen, he found himself fascinated by a rare subspecies of black bear called a Spirit Bear and became an advocate and activist for the bears when their habitats were threatened with deforestation. Jackson founded the Spirit Bear Coalition, met Dr. Jane Goodall, and hiked the Great Bear Rainforest, always using his activism to educate others and advocate for the Spirit Bears. A Voice for Spirit Bears tells Jackson’s story, and shows kids that one is never too young to advocate for change. The book is an inspiring call to action for young activists (suggest a letter-writing exercise for a cause they believe in!). I would have liked to see a little more on the indigenous T’simshian people, for whom the Spirit Bear is sacred, but all in all, A Voice for Spirit Bears is a good biography on a young activist, with lovely, muted artwork. There are discussions to be had on overcoming obstacles, environmentalism and conservation, and activism, and would be a good STEM read-aloud. Check out the downloadable educator guide for discussion questions and an activity.

The Spirit Bear Coalition concluded its mission in 2014, after 20 years of advocacy. Their website is still active and offers education and information.

 

Teddy: The Remarkable Tale of a President, a Cartoonist, a Toymaker and a Bear, by James Sage/Illustrated by Lisk Feng, (May 2019, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771387958

Ages 6-10

Teddy brings together the story of the teddy bear in three parts. First, we have the legend: President Theodore Roosevelt refused to kill a “scruffy, no-account cub” while hunting. This story spread, and the Washington Post ran a political cartoon by Clifford Berryman, entitled, “Drawing the Line in Mississippi“, which led to husband-and-wife toymakers Morris and Rose Michtom creating a bear doll to honor “the President’s big warm heart”. They received permission from President Roosevelt to feature “Teddy’s Bears” in their shop, and an iconic toy was born. The book tracks the evolution of the teddy bear from those first bears, stuffed with wood shavings and with sewed on buttons for eyes, through today and notes how the teddy bear endures. It’s a happy, warm story, and the digital illustrations lend a realistic yet warmly colored feel to the tale. An author’s note mentions the differing versions of the Teddy Roosevelt story. It’s a cute book to have in your nonfiction collections, and would make a nice display with the Caldecott Medal-winning Finding Winnie.

For readers interested in learning more about Clifford Berryman’s political cartoons, the National Archives has a wonderful Clifford Berryman collection, which includes a great piece featuring Berryman drawing a bear, while a black bear stands next to him. The Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University has an interesting blog entry on the origin of the teddy bear, and a link to Berryman’s artwork in their digital library.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Explore our natural world with Wilderness: Earth’s Amazing Habitats

Wilderness: Earth’s Amazing Habitats, by Mia Cassany/Illustrated by Marcos Navarro, (Apr. 2019, Prestel Publishing), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791373720

Ages 6-12

There are incredible wildernesses all over the world. Wilderness: Earth’s Amazing Habitats is an introduction to 16 rare plant and animal habitats across the world, from the Amazon Rainforest in South America to the Tropical Rainforest of New Guinea. It’s also a call to action, reminding readers that these wildernesses require protection to keep them safe; Mia Cassany cites deforestation and human intervention as having a disastrous impact on the habitats and the species that live within. So let’s take a look at, as author Mia Cassany says, “the most stunning nature show on earth”!

Beautifully illustrated endpapers bring you into the book with large, colorful tropical leaves – and eyes peeking out of the darkness – drawing you into the wildnerness from the beginning. An opening spread contains an author note on the importance of conservation and preservation, and a world map includes illustrated points where habitat is located. Two-page spreads feature stunning, full-bleed illustrations of every habitats; a brief description gives readers an idea of location and species inhabiting each spot, but it’s the art that’s front-and-center here. Bright, colorful, and lush, we see lowland gorillas peering out of the brush in Kahuzi-Biéga National Park in the Congo; a colorful, day-glo spread starring a panda, wild golden monkeys, and golden pheasants in China’s Qinling Mountains, and a stunning gecko camouflaged against leaves in the tropical rainforest in Madagascar. Back matter provides animal names, locates them on the page (they can be hard to spot!), and a brief, informative paragraph on each.

This is a beautiful coffee table book, and a nice addition to your natural history collections. It’s not a standalone book, but a gorgeous companion book to any unit on habitats and nature studies.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Book Birthday: Who Eats Orange?

Who Eats Orange?, by Dianne White/Illustrated by Robin Page, (Aug. 2018, Simon & Schuster Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781534404083

Ages 3-6

Need a fun, new concept book on your shelves? Who Eats Orange looks at the eating habits of animals from bunnies to bears. Four animals eat one color, and the fifth doesn’t – but eats a different color, which brings us into the next group of animals. There’s quite a bit of information, broken down into simple, easily understandable bites, to be found here: colors, animals and what they eat, and their habitats: “Who eats orange? Bunnies in their hutches do. / Chickens in the henhouse too. / Who else eats orange? Goats. / Pigs. Gorillas too. Gorillas? NO! The repetitive text pattern gets kids ready; they’ll learn quickly who doesn’t eat a chosen color, and join in with a hearty “NO!” when the time comes. The text brings things right back to kids, encouraging them to eat the rainbow, with a colorful spread of fruits and vegetables. The back matter organizes the animals, and their foods, by habitat (farm, Africa, ocean, forest, rainforest, tundra) and provides more information on animals and their culinary tastes.

The digital art is wonderful; reminiscent of one of my favorite realistic animal artists, Steve Jenkins. (Robin Page also dedicates the book to Steve Jenkins, which was pretty great to see.) The vivid artwork stand out against stark white backgrounds, inviting readers to imagine the roughness of a hippo or the bushy fur of a fox and marmot. The faces are gentle, with expressive eyes that will draw storytime fans right in. It’s such an interactive book, with opportunities to get the kids talking about animals, food, and color. There’s an activity kit available for download that comes with animals masks to cut out, a rainbow recipe, and writing activities.

I read Who Eats Orange, along with one of my old favorites, Who Hops?, to my 6-year-old. Who Hops? works in a similar manner, introducing different animals who hop, swim, crawl… and then one animal that obviously cannot! Anyway, we had big laughs, he pronounced Who Eats Orange “so much fun”, and laughed at me when I suggested he start eating the rainbow with me. Hey, I tried.

Who Eats Orange is way too much fun for toddlers and preschoolers! A fun add to concepts and animal collections, and a good gift book for rising preschoolers and kindergarteners.

Posted in Non-Fiction

My Wild Activity Book is BIG fun for kids!

My First Wild Activity Book, by Maxime Lebrun, (Jan. 2018, Silver Dolphin), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626869578

Ages 4+

This activity book on animals and their habitats is packed with things to do and make! Inviting kids on an adventure, the book begins with a challenge: take a journey through seven habitats around the world, and offers kids the chance to write their own profiles and draw a self-portrait. From there, the game is on! Readers can work their way through the seven habitats: rain forests, deserts, oceans, the mountains, forests, the savanna, and the polar ice by enjoying search and find activities across fold-out spreads, mazes, connect-the-dots and matching games, coloring sheets, and spot the difference challenges. There are loads of facts throughout the book, and each habitat offers a “think outside of the book” activity that parents, caregivers, and educators can enjoy with the kiddos! Sticker badges for each habitat add a little passport-y punch to the book, and two pages of animal stickers (seriously, so. many. stickers) lets readers go wild on the spreads, or, if you’ve got a kid like mine, his bed, the walls in his room, and, in one case, my laptop.

My son went through this book in just shy of a day and a half, and that’s only because I begged for mercy to make dinner when he was halfway through. We had a great time working on these activities and coloring the pages together, and our next step is to work on a few of the “outside of the book” activities: should we make a leaf collage first, or liberate some of our renegade socks, to make a snake? Maybe we’ll go for the paper plate aquarium! This one is absolute fun for families, and the projects are great for a STEM or Discovery Club at the library or in school. It’s a fun way to enhance natural science learning.

There’s a free maze and “spot the differences” printable at Silver Dolphin’s website. Enjoy!

Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Take a nature walk On Gull Beach

On Gull Beach, by Jane Yolen/Illustrated by Bob Marstall, (March 2018, Cornell Lab Publishing Group), $16.95, ISBN: 9781943645183

Recommended for readers 4-7

The latest book in Jane Yolen and Bob Marstall’s On Bird Hill & Beyond series takes us to the beach, where a boy wanders along the shore, observing the wildlife as he goes. He sees a starfish get snapped up by a gull, and he follows along as a group of gulls toss the sea star, trying to grab it as the birds pass it from one to the next. As he follows along, readers learn about the shoreline ecosystem; the tidepools, seaglass, and crabs.

All of the On Bird Hill books are standalone stories, each looking at a different ecosystem through the eyes of a child; all come together to form an early reader science and nature series on habitats. On Gull Beach looks at life on a New England beach, with extra information about different gulls, shorebirds, sea stars, and crabs that make an appearance in the book. There’s also a note about supporting our beaches and wildlife that back up discussions about ecology and conservation. This is a beautifully written and illustrated rhyming story about nature that kids will enjoy and that supports early earth science and habitat study. Have kids point out the different birds they see, and the crabs they spot – that’s my son’s favorite part of the book!

Posted in Animal Fiction, Preschool Reads

On Duck Pond, there is chaos… and then peace.

On Duck Pond, by Jane Yolen/Illustrated by Bob Marstall, (Apr. 2017, Cornell Lab Publishing Group), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1-943645-22-0

Recommended for readers 3-7

A boy and his dog walk by a duck pond in the morning, when nature is at peace; when a quack of ducks appear, they splash, they chitter and chatter, and the pond’s inhabitants scramble in the momentary chaos. The boy notes that even his reflection looks different in the disturbed water. When the ducks move on, the pond returns to its peaceful setting, the pond life resumes, and the boy, contemplative, heads home.

This rhyming tale is a sequel to On Bird Hill, but it’s not necessary to have read it to enjoy this quiet nature tale. Award-winning author Jane Yolen gives readers a wonderful rhyming tale of quiet and chaos, coming up with fun, descriptive terms like “a quack of ducks”, and evocative phrases like, “Old Duck Pond, once still and quiet/Now seemed battered by the riot”, and, of the boy’s reflection, “Every part of me was changed/I looked like I’d been re-arranged”. She captures the riot of noise and blunder of movement that disturbs the quiet  morning, and the gradual pace with which nature recovers when the ducks move on, all witnessed by the boy and his dog. We meet some of the pond’s inhabitants – turtles, herons, frogs, and tadpoles – during the course of the story; the realistic illustrations introduce us to even more wildlife. There are lovely, detailed drawing of the pond from various angles, from close-ups of lily pads to sweeping vistas. The ducks’ descent is beautifully rendered, with wings spread, water splashing, beaks open, communicating the movement and noise they bring to the scene. A section on pond habitats and birds, and information about the ducks and other birds and animals featured in the story, adds a nice non-fiction section to the book.

This is a great read-aloud for storytimes – the rhyming text provides a nice cadence for readers to listen to – and for introductions to habitats for younger readers. Kirkus captures the spirit of the narration by referring to it as a “sense of wonder” book.

Pair this with some of Jane Yolen’s  more nature-oriented books, like On Bird Hill or Owl Moon for an author study, or display with books like Denise Fleming’s In the Small, Small Pond and Henry Cole’s I Took a Walk.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Adorable animal books for toddlers and preschoolers!

Anita Bijsterbosch has two adorable animal books out this month and next, perfect for toddlers who love to explore their books.

do-you-see-my-tailDo You See My Tail? (March 2017, Clavis Books, $12.95, ISBN: 978-1605373201) introduces readers to seven animals – well, seven animal tails; the rest of the animals are hidden behind local flora. The text drops a hint, and a gatefold reveals the full answer: an animal family! The repetitive question/answer format, and greeting to the animals and their babies, creates a fun discovery experience for little hands. An extra challenge: find the little ladybug hiding on every spread.

Preschoolers will like being able to control finding out more about the animals and learning about animal habitats: beavers play in a nest of tree trunks and branches, rabbits in a hole under the ground. Toddlers will love the excitement of discovery and the very cute artwork.

Whewhen-i-grow-upn I Grow Up (April 2017, Clavis Books, $14.95, ISBN: 978-1605373348) features six young animals who dream about what they’ll be able to do once they grow up: a little lion who can only growl softly now will be a big lion whose roar will be heard by all the animals; a little giraffe whose nose barely touches the leaves in a tree will one day be able to reach everything with his long neck. Die cut pages let readers flip the page to reveal the adult animal in the young animal’s place within the same setting.

As with Do You See My Tail?, When I Grow Up offers toddlers the excitement of discovery, with something new on every page. The pages are sturdy and will hold up to multiple page flips (always a concern in my library). Preschoolers can focus on habitats, food, and other animals sharing the living spaces.

Originally published in 2016 in Belgium and Holland, these are fun new choices to bookshelves and collections.

Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Wild Animals of the South – beautiful animals, beautiful artwork

wild_1Wild Animals of the South, by Dieter Braun/Translated by Jen Calleja, (March 2017, Nobrow), $35, ISBN: 9781909263970

Recommended for ages 5+

This gorgeous companion to Braun’s Wild Animals of the North (Nobrow, 2016) introduces readers to animals in the Southern hemisphere. Organized by continent: South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Antarctica, readers will enjoy the beautiful, colorful illustrations. The emphasis here is on the illustrations, making this a great starter book for younger children; caregivers can read the short passages on featured animals, which offer fun facts. For example, while most know that a male lion’s mane is his crowning glory, did you know that female lions prefer males with more beautiful and lustrous manes? And that other males will hold back when a male with a more impressive mane appears?

The art is stunning. Braun’s illustrations are geometric, with strong lines and rich colors. There is a wry sense of humor in some – the lion’s lush mane, for instance – while others, like the breaching humpback whale, are breathtaking. A waddle of penguins, under a snowy sky, stand in the stark shadow of glaciers. Braun captures habitats with the same beauty the he sees in the animals themselves.

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The $35 price tag may be a bit steep for some readers, especially those who are looking for more information than artwork (but that’s what libraries are for!), but this book is gorgeous for wildlife lovers and art lovers. For more of Dieter Braun’s illustrations, make sure to visit his website.

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