Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Earth Day Reading: Trillions of Trees!

Trillions of Trees: A Counting and Planting Book, by Kurt Cyrus, (March 2021, Henry Holt), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250229076

Ages 3-6

A young girl makes a call to the local plant pavilion to order a trillium flower, but a hilarious game of telephone leads to the family being put down for an order of a trillion trees! When the first thousand show up, the family bands together to figure out where to put all of them: the yard, the town, the park, everywhere one can imagine, the family’s planting trees of all kinds. When the day is done, the weary family heads home to discover a truck in the driveway… with their next shipment of trees. An environmentally sound counting story with a fun twist, this rhyming tale will have readers giggling and trying to figure out where to put tree upon tree upon tree! It’s a great readalong with books like Kadir Nelson’s If You Plant a Seed. Colorful illustrations show trees of all types, including a giant Sequoia and an apple orchard. Fun family moments show them being overwhelmed by the trees tumbling off the truck, and digging multiple holes across their town. A back page provides fun facts about trees. This list from Brightly includes more books about planting trees, to add to a Hug a Tree display for Earth Day.

Trillions of Trees is a companion to Kurt Cyrus’s 2016 book, Billions of Bricks and has a starred review from School Library Journal.

 

 

Posted in History, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads, Women's History

Celebrate Latinitas!

Latinitas: Celebrating 40 Big Dreamers, by Juliet Menéndez, (Feb. 2021, Henry Holt), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250234629

Ages 8-12

This collection of biographies shines a light on 40 Latinx women from Latin America and the U.S. who have made outstanding contributions across the board: activists and advocates, educators, musicians, scientists, artists, politicians, and so many more. Some names will be familiar: Pura Belpré, Frida Kahlo, and Sonia Sotomayor are all here, as are names that will be new to many readers, like Rosa Peña de González, who built schools for girls in Paraguay; playwright and congresswoman Gumercinda Páez, who helped draft Panama’s new constitution in 1941, with an eye to Afro-Latinx rights and women’s rights; and Wanda Díaz-Merced, a blind astrophysicist who turned data points into rhythm and sound in order to create a “symphony of sounds for the stars, planets, and asteroids”. The women are outstanding, and this collection of stories should be the tip of the iceberg for more research. Hand-painted illustrations have beautiful folk art feel. Endpapers feature additional artwork with flowers representing each of the countries represented in the book. An inspiring collection with comprehensive back matter that includes brief looks at an additional 10 Latin women and full sources.

Latinitas has a starred review from Kirkus. Get a free activity kit and read a Q&A with author-illustrator Juliet Menéndez. Visit Juliet Menéndez’s author website to see more of her gorgeous artwork and more information about her books.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit! is all about the siblings

Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit!, by Loran Scobie, (Feb. 2021, Henry Holt & Co. Books for Young Readers), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250760746

Ages 3-6

Rabbit loves being an only child. There’s so much space, so many carrots, it’s all about Rabbit and for Rabbit… until Rabbit’s parents have some news. A new baby joins the family, and baby wants to be everywhere Rabbit is! As more.. and more… and MORE siblings join the family, Rabbit seeks the advice of Fox, who happily agrees to watch the siblings for while and give Rabbit some space. But wait! FOX has the baby siblings? This sweet, funny story about siblings has an adorable twist ending that readers will love, and moments that everyone with younger siblings will recognize: lack of space, broken possessions, and being followed everywhere, to name a few. Even the title calls to mind the many, many times a sibling can expect a younger sibling to call their name. Inks, watercolor, and pencils come together to create bright, fun illustrations with expressive characters and gentle, colorful nature backdrops. One- and two-sentence spreads make this a great choice for emerging readers, and bold, black text on bright white backgrounds make for easy reading and storytime use. Too much fun for young readers, and a good opportunity to get readers to talk about what makes little brothers and sisters fun.

Posted in picture books

Women to Know: Sarah Gerhardt, Surfer

Sarah and the Big Wave, by Bonnie Tsui/Illustrated by Sophie Diao, (May 2021, Henry Holt & Co), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250239488

Ages 4-8

Sarah Gerhardt, one of the first female big-wave surfers and the first female to surf Mavericks, an infamous big-wave surf break in California, has her moment in this picture book biography. Sarah’s story begins in Hawaii, where she began surfing small waves as a young girl, working her way up to larger waves and finessing her technique. The story touches on the sexism she encountered, and the joy of finding a group of friends to surf with. Working her way from Hawaii to California, Sarah is ready for the next challenge: The Mavericks, also called “Mount Everest meets Niagara Falls”. An inspiring story for young women about meeting challenges, readers will enjoy meeting Sarah Gerhardt. Talk about mindful practices she uses, like breathing and counting, to help readers understand the need to put oneself in a calm frame of mind when up against hurdles in life. Back matter includes a timeline in the history of women and surfing, going back to the 17th century and famed Hawaiian princess Kaneamuna! Illustrations are simply beautiful, with deep blues and greens inviting readers to embrace the ocean, and action shots of Sarah Gerhardt are dynamic.

There are some good resources on Sarah Gerhardt for more discussion. Keep some of these articles handy for anyone interested in learning more: “Sarah Gerhardt on Big-Wave Surfing in a Man’s World” (Outside magazine, 2018);  “Women in the Wild: Sarah Gerhardt” (The Outdoor Project, 2019); “Titans of Mavericks: Sarah Gerhardt” (Titans of Mavericks), and “Sarah Gerhardt: Girl Meets Mavericks (Visit California, 2021).

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

V is for Voting… important ALL YEAR LONG

V is for Voting, by Kate Farrell/Illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald, (July 2020, Henry Holt & Co), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250231253

Ages 3-6

You may be looking at this title and thinking I’m really late on this one, and I am. But I also see this as a book we need to talk about NOW, because it isn’t just about voting. This ABC-edary is an introduction (or a reminder, for some… giving the eyeglasses librarian look now) to civics and what it takes to be a good citizen. V is just one letter in the alphabet, just like voting is just one part of being a good citizen. Farrell has points to make that everyone should understand and take to heart: “A is for active participation. / B is for building a more equal nation.”; “E for engagement. We all need to care. / F for a free press to find facts and share”. Digital illustrations bring vibrant, diverse communities to the pages of the book, showing communities uniting to march for justice, contributing to local communities, and yes, voting. Back matter includes a voting rights timeline and more information about people featured in the book’s illustrations, like Shirley Chisholm, Malcolm X, Takemoto Mink, and Cesar Chavez.

Essential reading. Go to your library and get a copy now, because we all need to read and discuss this book, whether it’s with our kids or among ourselves.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Santa Baby: Ho, Ho, WHOA

Santa Baby, by Jonathan Stutzman/Illustrated by Heather Fox, (Sept. 2020, Henry Holt & Company), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250255617

Ages 4-8

Jonathan Stutzman and Heather Fox make magic together. The Llama books are some of my favorite picture books ever. Don’t Feed the Coos is hilarious. And now, Santa Baby, gives us a laugh-out loud look at a Christmas wish gone terribly, hilariously, wrong. Santa is tired, folks. He’s feeling every bit of his hundreds and hundreds of years old, and he just doesn’t have the Christmas spirit these days.

We can totally get on board with this, right, grownups? If we’re all feeling 2020, imagine what it’s like to be SANTA. No pressure.

So Santa decides, for once, to make a Christmas wish for himself: He wants to be young again. But, like most wishes, you have to really be specific, or the Powers That Be are going to mess with you. Sure enough, Santa progresses back through time, ending up as a baby. Elves freak out, but Santa, at first, is just fine. But when he tries to communicate this to the elves, all he can blabber is baby talk! He’s a baby, he’s eating the Naughty and Nice list, and the elves are stressed. Santa Baby pulls it together enough to brainstorm a grand plan with the elves to save Christmas, but when Santa falls stumbles down a chimney and falls on that diapered behind, he almost loses it: until Christmas magic shows up, in the most magical of moments, to save the night. A story about the true magic of the season – connection and empathy – makes this a readaloud you’ll want to return to again and again. Jonathan Stutzman’s prose is witty and silly, with a gentle final scene that makes the laughs and stumbles all worth it. Heather Fox’s artwork is a joy, from the stinky Santa diaper to Santa’s regression from old guy, to shirtless lumberjack, to disaffected youth. Illuminated letters add that whimsical holiday wink to the story. Last minute shopping? Put this in your basket, and visit the author and illustrator’s website to download free printable goodies.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Snow Friends are great friends!

Snow Friends, by Margery Cuyler/Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, (Oct. 2020, Holt Books for Young Readers), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250171313

Ages 3-7

It’s snowing! The ground is covered in white, wonderful snow and Oscar the dog can’t wait to get outside and play! His boy, Matt, however, isn’t quite awake yet, and Oscar can’t find enough to keep busy in the backyard until Matt is ready, so he decides to go off exploring on his own, and makes a new friend while he’s outside. He and Daisy, another dog, play together, make snow dogs and snow angels together, and romp happily through the snow; once Matt and and Daisy’s girl come looking for them, they become snow friends, too! With brief, easy-to-read sentences to help newly independent readers along and hold the attention of lapsitters, Snow Friends is a great readaloud pick. Will Hillenbrand’s mixed media artwork adds warmth even to the bluish-white winter snow, giving a feel for the crisp cold, infused by the warmth of play. Snow Friends celebrates winter, the spirit of play, and the fun of making new friends.

Margery Cuyler is an award-winning author who’s collaborated with award-winning artist Will Hillenbrand. You can visit Margery Cuyler’s author webpage for more information about her books, honors, and photos. Will Hillenbrand’s website has information about his books, a gallery of artwork, and free downloadable, printable activities.

 

Posted in Middle School, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Riveting nonfiction from two powerhouse authors

 

Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy, by Kenneth C. Davis, (Oct. 2020, Henry Holt), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250205643

Ages 13+

Historian Kenneth C. Davis, best known for his Don’t Know Much About… series, takes a deep, disturbing look at authoritarianism and the fall of democracy by examining the reigns of five of history’s most brutal dictators: Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Mao Zedong, and Saddam Hussein are each profiled in Strongman: a term used for leaders who use control by force of will and character or military methods. Profiles of each dictator, timelines of their lives, and a look at the roots of democracy place readers in history. A chapter on a “New Generation of Monsters” is what I can only hope is a wake-up call to the dangers of extreme nationalism, “othering”, and attacks on our everyday freedoms under the guise of “draining swamps” and “making great again”.

Black and white photographs throughout accompany solid research and Kenneth C. Davis’s powerful writing. Profiles on each dictator’s past helps uncover clues that may have led to the murderous tyrants each figure became, both in childhood and historical context.  Relevant and readable, with back matter that provides a base for further reading and research – bibliographies, notes, and an index – Strongman is essential reading for teens and adults.

 

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team, by Christina Soontornvat, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536209457

Ages 10-14

In June 2018, a group of 12 young soccer players and their assistant coach entered a cave in northern Thailand, looking for an adventure to pass the time after practice. The heavy rains were still weeks away, and Coach Ekkapol Chantawong had been promising to take them out. But the rain has arrived early, and the cave begins to flood as the team and coach are still inside. What began as an after-practice adventure became a 17-day ordeal as the world waited and watched the rescue operation take place, hoping that the group would emerge all right despite having no food or clean water, and existing in total darkness. Award-winning author Christina Soontornvat tells the Wild Boars’ story in All Thirteen. Meticulously research and reading like a taut thriller, Ms. Soontornvat goes through a day-day-by, moment-by-moment retelling of the boys’ ordeal and rescue and includes interviews, color photos, maps, and detailed source notes. Callout sections on the country and on calming techniques like meditation and Buddhism, the faith followed by most of the boys, help readers understand how the boys drew on their inner strength to survive. Source notes, a bibliography, and full index make this a great addition to your nonfiction collections and fantastic reading for any of your readers who loved and possibly aged out of the I Survived books and wants more books about true-life survival.

All Thirteen has starred reviews from Booklist, School Library Journal, Kirkus, BookPage, The Horn Book, and Publishers Weekly. Publisher Candlewick offers a free, downloadable educator’s guide and sample chapter.

Posted in Fantasy, Historical Fiction, History, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Tween and Teen Fiction that keeps readers on the edge of their seats

I’m at that odd moment when my TBR and my HBR (have been read) piles are toppling. Which is a good problem to have, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that I’m constantly catching up to something, be it reading or reviews. Let’s take a look at some YA, including a book that’s being touted for middle grade, but I feel would work much better for older tweens/teens.

 

They Threw Us Away, by Daniel Kraus/Illustrated by Rovina Kai, (Sept. 2020, Henry Holt BYR), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250224408

Ages 12+

I’m going to kick things off with the book I feel is better for older tweens. They Threw Us Away is being billed as “Lord of the Flies meets Toy Story”, and it’s a pretty accurate description. A blue teddy bear wakes up in a garbage dump and frees himself; he notes his name tag, which says his name is Buddy, and he sees other boxes of teddies on the pile and works to free the others before rats, seagulls, or a terrifying machine gets to them. Together, Buddy and the other teddies – Sunny, Sugar, Horace, and Reginald – put their memories together: they were in the Store, waiting for children to take them home and love them. Once they are loved by a child, teddies fall into the Forever Sleep. So what happened? The group sets out to get some answers, but they learn that the world is a scary place; even scarier than the Dump, and that the answers they seek may not be the answers they want to hear.

The first in a planned trilogy, They Threw Us Away is bleak and often brutal. There are graphic depictions of teddy bear death, which, when I say it, may sound like something to laugh off, but reading it is pretty horrific. Younger readers and more sensitive readers may be upset by the unrelenting danger and horror. Black and white illustrations throughout reinforce the story. There are some loose ends that we can expect future books to pick up on. Each Teddy has a distinct personality and struggles with their circumstances accordingly: Buddy is kind and gentle; the peacemaker and ersatz leader; Sugar, whose damaged box meant she suffered some bumps, too, is flighty and quirky; Sunny is a conflicted character with flashes of rage and a desire to keep the group together; Reginald is a serious, sagelike teddy, and Horace is fearful. Give this to your dedicated horror fans, and save it for your higher elementary readers and middle schoolers.

 

The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep: Voices from the Donner Party, by Allan Wolf, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick), $21.99, ISBN: 9780763663247

Ages 13+

This novel in verse is the latest retelling of the Donner Party and their fate in the Sierra Nevadas during the winter of 1846-1847. Poet Allan Wolf gives voice to members of the ill-fated party in his book: James Reed and George Donner, leaders of the doomed caravan; Baptiste Trudeau, a 16-year-old orphan taken under George and Tamzene Donner’s wing; Salvador and Luis, two Miwok Indian guides; Ludwig Keseberg, a haunted man; Patty and Virginia Reed, two of James Reed’s children, and more are all here, telling their stories in haunted verse. Hunger narrates the story, giving readers familiar with Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief a familiar touch. Hunger is dispassionate and yet evokes emotion in the narration. Beginning as the party begins experiencing misfortune, the voices grow more desperate and the verse, more haunting, as the snow falls; the party’s desperation is palpable. Moments dedicated to the snowfall include names of the fallen sprinkled in with the repeated word, “snow”. Comprehensive back matter includes an author’s note, biographies, statistics, a timeline of events, and resources for more reading and research. It’s an incredibly detailed work of historical fiction and nonfiction all at once.

The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep has starred reviews from Booklist and BookPage.

 

This is Not the Jess Show, by Anna Carey, (Nov. 2020, Quirk Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781683691976

Ages 13+

I am DYING to talk about this book, but there’s so much I can’t say because I CAN’T SPOIL IT. So here are the main details: Jess Flynn is a 1990s high school junior wears babydoll dresses and watches Party of Five. She’s developing a crush on her childhood best friend, Tyler. Her sister, Sara, is suffering from a blood disease and has been getting worse. Things are in constant flux for Jess, and things have been getting weird in her home town of Swickley, too: half the population has been hit by a mysterious flu. Her dog goes from lavishing attention on her to growling and hiding from her. She hears strange chanting, and people either stop speaking when she enters a room, or she catches glances that people around her give one another. And what the heck is that black device with an apple on it that fell out of her friend’s backpack? Things are weird in Swickley, and Jess means to get to the bottom of it.

I LOVED this book! The ’90s vibe, the pacing, the overall story, everything is so well crafted and paced. Jess is a smart character who is sensitive enough to her surroundings to know something’s up: this is the constant in a plot that keeps trying to shift her world around. What I can say is that Jess gets a crash course in what people are willing to do for selfish reasons; what she does in response to that fact keeps the story in motion. ’90s pop culture references make this even more fun. Hand this to all your teens, and booktalk Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism, for it’s awesome ’80s references, too. Tell ’em to read them with their parents.

 

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Next stop: Happy County!

This morning, we met the residents of Bustletown, courtesy of Rotraut Susanne Berner and Prestel Publishing. I figured I’d turn today’s posts into a road trip; now, we’re entering Happy County, courtesy of Ethan Long and Henry Holt and Company.

Hello, World!, by Ethan Long, (March 2020, Henry Holt & Company), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-19175-5

Ages 3-5

“Welcome to Happy County, where every day ends on a happy note.” With that, we’ve got another new series of interactive picture books in the spirit of Richard Scarry. In Happy County, readers get some concept work in while enjoying the antics of the townspeople, many of whom we meet on the endpapers: Farmer Del and L’il Beaky, a pig and chick that run throughout the book; naturalists Mr. Grzzles and Ms. Green; Dottie, the Dog Walker, Monkey  Mantle, the ballplayer, and more. Stories bring in concept activities: helping bird watchers identify and spot birds; letter lessons; shapes and colors; and counting dogs with a dog walker are only a few of the fun challenges that come up in Hello, World!’s storytelling. All of the citizens are pencil and digitally illustrated animals, making this an eye-catching book for younger readers.

 

Sun and Moon Together, by Ethan Long, (Aug. 2020, Henry Holt & Company), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-19174-8

Ages 3-5

Welcome back to Happy Town! The endpapers introduce readers to some more residents, and some we’ve already met (Farmer Del is still trying to get L’il Beaky. This time, we’re learning about the Sun and the Moon, with fun lessons about the water cycle, photosynthesis, phases of the moon and the moon’s effect on tides, and solar power. In between there’s a funny rhyming story about Grammy Tammy, a lamb visiting from Miami; a paneled story about Sssonny the snake, who wants to grow some sunflowers; and loads of seek and find challenges.

Ethan Long books are so much fun to read! He’s a Theodor Seuss Geisel award winner and a creator of children’s programming, including the short film, Farm Force; Tasty Time with Zefronk for Disney Jr.; and an online interactive series for PBS Kids, Scribbles & Ink. He also hosts a bunch of activities and coloring sheets on his webpage. Check out the activity kit here, too! The Happy County series is shaping up to be big, learning fun for littles.