Posted in Uncategorized

Celebrate Rosh Hashanah with Uncle Max!

Rosh Hashanah with Uncle Max, by Varda Livney, (Aug. 2021, Kar-Ben Publishing), $7.99, ISBN: 9781728429069

Ages 0-4

The New Year is coming, and Uncle Max is going to spend it with his very excited family! Uncle Max is clearly the life of the party, with his colorful floral shirt and backwards baseball cap. Together, the family watches the sun set, lights the candles and enjoys a meal, and celebrates at the Synagogue. This adorable board book celebrates the Jewish New Year, with colorful illustrations, a cheerful family story, new Hebrew vocabulary words (and puppy translation),  and touchstones of the Jewish holiday, including dipping apples and challah in honey for a sweet new year, and blessing the wine and grape juice. The family largely presents as white, with some brown-skinned members. A joyful story to celebrate a joyful holiday, this is a great choice for holiday collections.

PJ Library has a downloadable reading guide to accompany the book, including a hands-on activity and thought-provoking questions that family can discuss.

For fun and educational Rosh Hashanah activities, see this fun paper mâché shofar on Education.com; you can also find recipes on the site, including a honey cake and noodle kugel. Visit TeachersPayTeachers for coloring sheets, including this one by CreateDecorateEducation and a greeting card from Yom Tov.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Passover, Here I Come! collects fun holiday poems for kids

Passover, Here I Come!, by D.J. Steinberg/Illustrated by Emanuel Wiemans, (Feb. 2022, Grosset & Dunlap), $5.99, ISBN: 9780593224038

Ages 4-6

Clean the house, set the Seder plate, and get the matzoh, because Passover’s coming! Author D.J. Steinberg’s newest “Here I Come!” book collects poems celebrating all things Passover, including a kid-friendly Haggadah: “A Hebrew hero, Moses / told him, ‘Let my people go!’ / But guess what mean old Pharaoh answered / ‘No, no, no!'” There’s a sweet farewell to bread (“It’s been fun, but bye-bye, Bread- / We’re eating matzoh now instead!”) and a hilarious ode to gefilte fish (“There’s no fish in any ocean / that looks anything like that!”). Illustrations are so much fun, with marching slices of bread, a bustling household getting ready for Passover, and coming together to celebrate; characters are diverse. The rhymes are fun to read out loud, so consider adding to your celebrations. Like other Here I Come! books, this one has stickers; great for gifts, not great for circulating copies. Make sure to slice out the stickers and hand them out instead.

See all of D.J. Steinberg’s Here I Come! books here. Visit author D.J. Steinberg’s author page here to find more of his books and learn about author appearances.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Can it be true? Nobody Likes the Easter Bunny?

Say it ain’t so! A chick starts off this book with a giant pronouncement: “Nobody likes the Easter Bunny. He’s eggstremely disappointing”. Does this chick have an ulterior motive? Like, maybe they think chicks are better?

Nobody Likes the Easter Bunny, by Karen Kilpatrick/Illustrated by Germán Blanco,
(March 2022, Genius Cat Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781938447266

Ages 3-7

In this fun and educational Easter story, a chick breaks down why the Easter Bunny isn’t as great as a chick: they only come around once a year; they hide eggs so you can’t find them; they get all the attention! But a group of kids is there to debunk Chick’s protestations, showing the Chick – and readers! – why both Chicks AND Easter Bunnies are pretty excellent. Back matter includes factual information on both chickens and bunnies, including this “Easter Egger” fact about chickens that I never knew! Artwork is vibrant, boldly outlined, and playful. All in all, a playful Easter story with some fun facts about chickens and rabbits. Pair these with the “How to Catch” series by Adam Wallace (which includes How to Catch an Easter Bunny!)

Nobody Likes the Easter Bunny is part of the “Nobody Likes the…” series from Karen Kilpatrick.  You can find Nobody Likes Unicorns at the Genius Cat website, and Nobody Likes Mermaids is coming soon. The Genius Cat website has free downloadable resources, including free books, activities, and lesson plans.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Welcoming the New Year with a blog tour: Playing with Lanterns

Hi, all! I hope you all had a happy and healthy holiday season and are ready for a hopeful New Year. I’ve been sick (not THAT one, just an awful cold) for the last few days, so my triumphant return to blogging has been waylaid a bit, but I’m back, medicated, and rested.

My first post of the New Year is also about a New Year: Lunar New Year! Playing with Lanterns is a new book from Amazon Crossing Kids, translated from Chinese, about a group of children and their special New Year lanterns.


Playing with Lanterns, by Wang Yage/Illustrated by Zhu Chengliang,
Translated by Helen Wang, (Jan. 2022, Amazon Crossing Kids),
$17.99, ISBN: 9781542029841
Ages 4-7

Zhao Di and her friends are so excited to celebrate Lunar New Year! They run, dance, and play together, waving their colorful lanterns each night until the last night – the 15th day of the New Year – when they smash their lanterns! But Zhao Di doesn’t want to smash her lantern just yet. That would mean the New Year celebrations are over, after all; or what if it’s not the right time yet? That would bring bad luck!

Originally published in China, Playing with Lanterns is such a wonderful winter story about childhood and tradition. Back matter includes an author’s note about the tradition of smashing lanterns, and the story reads at times like verse, at times like a folk tale, creating a wonderful atmosphere for readers and making this a great readaloud choice. Colorful artwork decorates the text and sets warm atmosphere in the middle of winter, with colorful lanterns, clothing, warm fires, and cheery homes. For a colorful lantern craft that can easily transition into a grab-and-go, visit First Palette.

 

“A colorful wintry tale ushers in Chinese New Year over two weeks…A charming illustration of childhood memories during the holiday season.” Kirkus Reviews

“Quiet, elegant passages stud the text…Tenderly detailed gouache paintings by Zhu render the children as small, patterned bundles frolicking against expanses of snow…A quiet celebration of a Northwestern Chinese tradition.” Publishers Weekly

Wang Yage was born in Shaanxi, a central and historical province of China, where the custom of playing with lanterns was once a popular Chinese New Year tradition. A doctor of classical Chinese literature, she teaches at the University of Tibet. Playing with Lanterns is her first picture book. First published in China, the book made the prestigious White Ravens international book list.

Zhu Chengliang is an award-winning Chinese illustrator. Born in Shanghai and raised in Suzhou, he studied at the Department of Fine Art, Nanjing University, and has worked as an author, illustrator, editor, and designer. He was nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2016, which is the highest international distinction given to authors and illustrators of children’s books. His books have been named one of the Ten Best Illustrated Books by the New York Times and to the IBBY Honor List.

Helen Wang is a writer and translator from the UK. In 2017 she was given a Special Contributor of the Year honor as part of the Chen Bochui International Children’s Literature Awards for her work in bringing Chinese children’s literature to English-speaking audiences. Wang has translated novels, picture books, and graphic novels, including Cao Wenxuan’s Bronze and Sunflower, which won the Marsh Christian Award for Children’s Literature in Translation.

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Playing with Lanterns, courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids (U.S. and Canada addresses). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Amazon Crossing Kids aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Christmas, Here I Come!

Hi, all! I was down for a few days, between a birthday (I rebooted 50 this year, since turning 50 in 2020 was a bit of a bust), and getting a booster, which kept me in bed for a day. But I’m back, and ready to talk up more books! Let’s get started with a new one in the Here I Come! series:

Christmas, Here I Come!, by D.J. Steinberg/Illustrated by Laurie Stansfield, (Oct. 2021, Grosset & Dunlap), $5.99, ISBN: 9780593094242

Ages 4-7

A collection of 22 short poems celebrating Christmas, Christmas, Here I Come! is the latest in D. J. Steinberg’s Here I Come! series. These fun poems are perfect for readalouds, celebrating everything from holiday standards like snickerdoodles – “Start with one and you’re going to want oodles. / You can keep your bicotti and strudles” – and the infamous fruitcake: “As a paperweight, you can’t beat it. / But pretty, pretty, pretty pleeeeeeeeease-just don’t make me eat it!”. Letters to Santa, Christmas decorating, the special feel to the air when it’s that time of year – everything we relish has a moment in this fun 8×8 book. Laurie Stansfield’s illustrations are colorful, featuring a diverse cast of human characters all celebrating this time of year together. The book comes with stickers, so it’s a great extra gift idea, but if you’re circulating copies, you may want to slice the stickers out so your book doesn’t get wrecked (and hand the stickers out as prizes).

Posted in picture books

Seasons Readings: The Robin & The Fir Tree

The Robin & The Fir Tree, by Hans Christian Andersen/retold & illustrated by Jason Jameson, (Nov. 2021, Templar), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536220025

Ages 4-8

Jason Jameson retells the classic Hans Christian Andersen story of The Fir Tree, spinning into a bittersweet tale of friendship, loss, and rebirth. A robin befriends a fir tree in a forest, but the fir tree has dreams of being freed from his roots and traveling, discovering a larger purpose in the world. When the tree is chosen to be the centerpiece in a town square’s Christmas festival, he is delighted, but Robin is scared: where will they take her friend? Jason Jameson deepens the friendship aspect of Andersen’s story by making the relationship between Robin and Fir Tree the heart of the story. He adds lyrical beauty to the story with phrases like, “He (the fir tree) yawned, stretched, and shook off his cobweb-lace pajamas”; and describes how the robin and fireflies decorate the tree with golden ribbon from the town fair; he touches on the disposability of the holiday season as he describes the rough treatment the tree receives when the town’s children mob for their gifts, and how callously he’s bound and tossed into a shed for disposal. The story reminds us that a tree is a living thing; a part of nature that houses forest creatures. The Robin & The Fir Tree is exquisitely illustrated with graphite pencil and digital illustration, with deep red, greens, golds, and browns and European-inspired folk art. A lovely retelling.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: A Christmas Too Big!

Thanksgiving arrives this week, and you know what that brings… the Christmas Blitz! Are you ready? Yes? No? Well, there’s a book for that:

A Christmas Too Big, by Colleen Madden, (Nov. 2021, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542028004

Ages 4-8

A Christmas Too Big arrives with perfect timing. Our narrator, Kerry, is a young girl happily making a fall leaf craft when she realizes it: “The day after Thanksgiving, my family goes TOTALLY BERSERK with CHRISTMAS”. Comics panels reveal the frenetic excitement with which her family embraces Christmas: the holiday songs that start even before Thanksgiving, given full reign the day after; the TV shows on every single channel; the decorations, the commercials, it’s all too much – Christmas is just too big! Going out to clear her head, Kerry lends a helping hand to her Spanish-speaking neighbor, Mrs. Flores, who invites her in for some hot cocoa. The two spend the afternoon quietly making colorful paper flores de Navidad, and enjoying a quiet, handmade holiday afternoon. Kerry helps Mrs. Flores use her Christmas gift from her family, living in Mexico, and decides to introduce some of her happy holiday traditions at home, too.

The story is so perfect for this time of year, which can be stressful and overwhelming for everyone, especially kids who don’t feel like they get a chance to transition from one season or holiday to the next. The story also provides a welcome answer to the mass commercialization of the holiday, offering a quieter, more meaningful alternative to Kerry – and to families who may seek something less slick and shiny. The use of Spanish and English to tell Mrs. Flores’s story adds real meaning to our multicultural world and how kindness stretches across languages. Bilingual endpapers showing different objects we associate with Christmas, like fancy presents (regalos elegantes) and manoplas (mittens) introduce new vocabulary. A flores de Navidad craft at the end is perfect for a post-storytime craft (that I will absolutely be introducing in my library).

Colleen Madden grew up in a crazy Christmas house and, like Kerry, she found a break by spending time with her neighbor who was from another country. She has illustrated many children’s books, including the bestselling What If Everybody? series, written by Ellen Javernick, and the picture-book adaptation of All I Want for Christmas Is You, by Mariah Carey. She recently published Monkey Walk, her debut as both author and illustrator, and is currently working on her first graphic novel. She lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons.

 

“An intergenerational friendship and a busy holiday made meaningful set this title apart.” Kirkus Reviews

“Madden’s bilingual tale strikes both humorous and poignant notes; the visual blend of comic-style panels, playful fonts, speech bubbles in both English and Spanish, and traditional spreads offers readers plenty to celebrate.” Publishers Weekly

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Vroom, Vroom! Books about trucks for Christmas!

Construction Site: Merry and Bright (A Christmas Lift-the-Flap Book), by Sherri Duskey Rinker and AG Ford, (Nov. 2021, Chronicle Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9781797204291

Ages 0-3

The Construction Site gang are getting ready for Christmas in this rhyming lift-the-flap ode to Christmas. It’s Christmas Eve in the big construction yard, and with all the day’s work done, there’s only one more thing for the truck friends to do: decorate for Christmas! Each truck has a special job, and sturdy flaps let little learners help with some of the heavy lifting: help Excavator put a star on the tree, and give Dump Truck an assist with unloading presents. When all the work is done, there’s only one thing left to do: go to sleep and wait for Christmas morning. You know the artwork, you know the rhyme scheme; Sherri Duskey Rinker and AG Ford know what their readers love, and deliver once again. Construction Site: Merry and Bright captures the fun and expectation of getting ready for Christmas, and their message about teamwork shines through. It’s a great holiday read-aloud and a Christmas Eve storytime.

 

20 Big Trucks in the Middle of Christmas, by Mark Lee/Illustrated by Kurt Cyrus, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536212532

Ages 3-7

20 Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street (2013) team Mark Lee and Kurt Cyrus join forces for a rhyming story about the 20 big trucks preparing for Christmas. Starting with a donut truck arriving in a snowy town, the story builds as other trucks arrive for a Christmas celebration: snowplows clear the area so another truck can bring in a giant tree; a truck arrives with a band and a dancing snowman; a flatbed carries Santa’s sleigh. Trucks arrive, all bringing something new for the celebration, and a minor crisis calls for some quick thinking to save the day! A fun counting book, 20 Big Trucks in the Middle of Christmas also features great rhyming for a fun read-aloud and a story about teamwork and how to work with a backup situation. Kids will enjoy the photorealistic trucks and people, letting them put themselves into the story.

Have donut coloring sheets ready for a post-storytime activity along with Christmas tree coloring sheets and truck coloring sheets.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

A Dreidel in Time lets readers live the Hanukkah story

A Dreidel in Time: A New Spin on an Old Tale, by Marcia Berneger/Illustrated by Bernice Castro, (Sept. 2019, Kar-Ben Publishing), $8.99, ISBN: 9781541552654

Ages 8-12

This is a Hanukkah short story that puts readers right into the heart of the Hanukkah story. Devorah and Benjamin are siblings who can’t wait to open their Hanukkah presents, but are a little disappointed when they open their grandparents’ gift to both of them: an old dreidel. Their parents and grandparents have a secret, though, and encourage them to give it a spin – and when they do, they discover they’ve been transported to ancient Israel, and are in the middle of the Hanukkah story as is develops! They meet siblings Simon and Shoshana, whose parents have been arrested by the king Antiochus’s soldiers, and key figures from history, including Mattisyahu (also known as Mattathias) and his sons, Judah and Jonathan. The power of the dreidel shifts the two siblings through different moments in the Hanukkah story, from the opening flight from Antiochus to the battle of the Maccabees, destruction of the Temple, and the rejoicing when they discover that the menorah is still burning after eight days. Every spin of the dreidel not only shifts the action, but the mood: when the dreidel lands on “shin”, a “bad spin”, the siblings find themselves in the past. Landing on “nun” may mean that nothing happens, but there’s a shift in time.

Fast-paced with dialogue that educates and engages, A Dreidel in Time is perfect to give your Magic Tree House and I Survived readers. Black and white illustrations by Beatriz Castro run throughout the story.

Visit author Marcia Berneger’s website for more about her books, a Q&A, and some fun activities for kids.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Let’s get ready for Hanukkah!

You laugh, sure, but you know, Hanukkah isn’t that far off: it starts on November 28 this year. I’ve got some adorable Hanukkah stories for you here!

The Three Latkes, by Eric A. Kimmel/Illustrated by Feronia Parker-Thomas, (Oct. 2021, Kar-Ben Publishing), $16.99, ISBN: 9781541588912

Ages 3-8

The classic Gingerbread Man story (also an Eric A. Kimmel book!) gets an adorable Hanukkah retelling here as three latkes argue about who is the best latke. Gold Latke is made with golden potatoes and fried in peanut oil; Red Latke is made from red potatoes and fried in vegetable oil, and Yellow Latke is made from yellow potatoes and fried in schmaltz, so he’s got to be the best! No one is budging, so the three latkes ask the cat, Kitty, for her opinion. You can guess what happens, right? Adorable latkes sport little hats (or a headband, in Gold Latke’s case) and accessories, like Yellow Latke’s bow tie and Gold Latke’s gold medal, and have stick figure arms and legs attached to colorful latkes with cheery expressions. The dialogue takes place atop a table set for Hanukkah, with holiday details like a banner running across a fireplace, a menorah, and blue and white table settings. Kitty sports a navy blue bandana with white stars of David on it and is hilariously expressive, with sly smiles, a raised eyebrow, and a hungry tongue licking her chops communicating her intentions to the reader from the very beginning. A recipe for The Very Best Latkes at the end gives readers their choices of potatoes, oils, and toppings – just like the story! – to choose from. An adorable holiday story. Hand out latke coloring pages for readers to bring home and decorate, like this cute one from clker.com and this adorable set of pictures from Hug O’the Day.

Visit Eric Kimmel’s website for more about his books, and to watch recorded videos of him reading some of his books.

 

A Rugrats Chanukah: The Classic Illustrated Storybook, Illustrated by Kim Smith, (Sept. 2021, Quirk Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781683692867

Ages 4-8

Can you believe the Rugrats Chanukah episode aired 25 years ago? In celebration of that first Chanukah episode of a children’s television series, Quirk’s Pop Classics released the book inspired by the special, A Rugrats Chanukah. We start out on the eighth night o Chanukah, and Grandma Minka is reading a story about the holiday to Tommy, Chuckie, Phil and Lil, and Angelica while Grandpa Boris naps. As Grandma reads the story of Chanukah, the babies imagine themselves as characters in the story, but she doesn’t get to finish – they have to head to the synagogue, where Grandpa is acting in a Chanukah play. The babies misunderstand the “meaning of Chanukah” and think that the actor opposite their grandfather is the “meany of Chanukah”, and take to the stage to help save their Grandpa; meanwhile, all Angelica wants to do is watch her holiday specials!

Whether or not readers have seen the Rugrats Chanukah special, they’ll love the story. The story wraps the Chanukah origin around a classic Rugrats episode, with all the imagination, comedic mishaps, and loving family moments. Those of us who already loved Rugrats (thanks especially to my older kids) will love seeing Tommy dressed as a brave Maccabee, and uttering a take on Tommy’s famous “baby’s gotta do” statement, “A Maccababy’s gotta do what a Maccababy’s gotta do!”; endpapers mimic the opening and closing scenes of the story, just like an episode of the show. Add this to your holiday readaloud list.

 

Hello Hanukkah!, by Susan S. Novich, (Oct. 2021 Kar-Ben Publishing), $7.99, ISBN: 9781728403441

Ages 0-3

An adorable board book that illustrates counting and colors, Hello Hanukkah! shows how young Badger celebrates the holiday every day by doing one activity as he lights the candles. He opens a box of Hanukkah candles and lights one red candle; plays with a dreidel and lights two orange candles; all the way up through the eighth night. It’s Badger has a bird friend present to help him out on every spread, and the two celebrate with a banner and full menorah at the end. A very sweet way to introduce holiday vocabulary and concepts to the littlest learners.