Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

It’s Soosie, the Horse Who Saved Shabbat!

Soosie: The Horse That Saved Shabbat, by Tami Lehman-Wilzig/Illustrated by Menahem Halbertstadt, (March 2021, Kalaniot Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9780998852775

Ages 4-8

This sweet Shabbat tale is inspired by a true story. Bakers Ezra and Esther have a bakery in Jerusalem, where they make delicious challahs for Shabbat. Their delivery boy, Jacob, and their horse, Soosie, take the challahs around Jerusalem, where everyone awaits their delicious Shabbat delivery. But one Friday, Jacob is too sick to make the challah rounds: what are Esther and Ezra to do? Jacob has the answer: Soosie can deliver the challahs! She knows the route! Worried, but knowing the bread must be delivered so that everyone can enjoy their Sabbath. Can Soosie save the day? A gentle story of friendship, Soosie: The Horse That Saved Shabbat is set in early 20th-century Jerusalem and brings the comfort and warmth of Shabbat to readers. The familial relationships between Ezra, Esther, Jacob and Soosie are so loving; Ezra and Esther care for Jacob as they would a family member, and they worry about Soosie as more than a work animal; they fret over her safe return, and they make sure she has her day of rest, as set forth in the Bible. Sound effects, like the clip-clop of Soosie’s hooves and the clink-clang of the coins in the money box are bright red and in a larger size font, providing some nice repetition for readers. An author’s note adds context to the story and provides more background on the Shabbat celebration. The artwork is expressive and friendly, and illustrations demonstrate the diversity of Jerusalem’s people. A charming story that would be a lovely addition to Shabbat gatherings.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books

Big Wishes for Little Feat – a horse and human story

Big Wishes for Little Feat, by Cheryl Olsten/Illustrated by Paolo d’Altan, (Oct. 2020, Fleecydale Press), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-7339551-0-2

Ages 7-10

Little Feat is a horse who’s small, and worries he’ll never find a rider to love him. Ella is an American girl who moves in with her aunt, in Belgium, while her parents try to get back on their financial feet. Each feels sad and alone, until Ella’s Aunt Anastasia brings the two together. The story is based on a true story, with a spark of fantasy for inspiration as the horse and the girl look to the stars for courage and hope: Ella, hoping to feel a connection by looking at the same sky her family at home in the States looks at, and sharing a love of constellations with her father; Lafitte (Little Feat is the name Ella gives him), who imagines himself leaping into the sky, a constellation made real. The artwork is just lovely, with deep colors and beautiful renderings of horses, nighttime skies, and the bond between horse and rider. A good choice for animal fans and horse lovers.

Enjoy a preview of the book, and learn about the EQUUS Foundation, a charity supporting America’s horse, at the author’s website.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Meet Randy, the Badly-Drawn (BEAUTIFUL!) Horse!

Randy, the Badly-Drawn Horse, by T.L. McBeth, (Aug. 2020, Henry Holt), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250185907

Ages 3-7

Randy is a beautiful horse. He knows it, because his artist says so. He is a spectacular creature, with a mane that blows in the breeze, long elegant legs, a silky coat, and a smile that lights up the sky. Randy has never seen himself, but who cares? He just knows. After a quick snack, Randy sets out on an adventure that takes him through mountains and forests, but a surprise awaits him when he catches a glimpse of himself in a pool of water.

Randy is just an adorable book, with a look into a child’s imaginative play and a creation that takes on its own life. It’s a kid fantasy made real as Randy, illustrated to look like a child’s drawing, prances through construction paper mountains and popsicle stick and pom-pom forests. Randy’s juvenile creator and the artist’s mother speak in colorful word bubbles, with Randy’s hilariously adorable commentary in the text at the bottom of each page. Materials like paint and condiments have texture that will appeal to sensory readers and adds fun to the story, making it even more real. Endpapers feature an 8-step “How to Draw Horse” guide that readers will recognize from other stories, especially Dog Man.  The back endpapers have a little surprise that will leave readers giggling.

A fun, adorably written and drawn story of self-image and self-esteem, Randy the Badly Drawn Horse is perfect for storytime and anytime. Give your kiddos different media – construction paper, cardboard, popsicle sticks, yarn – and ask them to draw their own story with a character of their own design! Publisher Macmillan has a free, downloadable storytime kit with great activities, too!

 

 

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade

Shhh… there’s a pony on the 12th floor, but you’re not supposed to know.

Pony on the Twelfth Floor, by Polly Faber/Illustrated by Sarah Jennings, (June 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209303

Ages 8-12

Kizzy is a girl who would love to have a pony of her own. She has pony pictures in her room, she thinks of ponies all the time, but she never expects to discover a pony snacking on donuts in her grocery store! She seizes the day and claims the pony as hers, rather than have the store owner call the authorities. Now, after sneaking her new pet – now named Donut – into her 12th-floor apartment, she has to figure out how to keep Donut a secret from the super and figure out how to gently break the news to her mother. Oh, and how to keep the grounds clean, because when Donut has to go… it’s pretty stinky. Her best friend Pawel tries to talk some sense into Kizzy, but it’s hard to be heard over the joyful shrieks of his younger twin sisters, who are firmly in favor of keeping Donut.

Polly Faber has created a sweet story about a girl finding out that getting what one wishes for isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. It’s a light, fun, happy story with a kind characters and a sweet, snacky pony, that animal fiction fans will love. Black and white illustrations throughout up the cute factor. It’s a good book to introduce chapter book readers to longer, slightly denser books. Set in the UK, Kizzy and her family are brown-skinned, Pawel and his family are Polish. Pony on the Twelfth Floor is a good fit for the Imagine Your Story Summer Reading theme this year: imagine what would happen if you discovered your dream pet in the supermarket? In the park, or walking down the street?  This could work for a book group or a series of readalouds, too.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books, Teen, Toddler Reads, Tween Reads

Need a gift? Give a book!

Now that the discount coupons are hitting inboxes, it’s a great time to stock up on books to give for the holidays. Here’s a look at some more books that will delight the readers in your life!

For the Little Ones:

Baby’s First Cloth Book: Christmas, Ilustrated by Lisa Jones & Edward Underwood, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $18, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0275-5

Ages 0-2

It’s Baby Boo’s first Christmas! This 8-page book is soft and squishy, perfect for exploring little hands and mouths. Baby Boo enjoys the snow, builds a snowman with Daddy, goes back inside to warm up by the fire and gaze at the Christmas tree, and at night, Santa drops off presents! The plush book is soft, and the page featuring the snowman is crinkly; perfect for play time and engaging your little one’s senses. The colors are bright, with gentle-faced animals and people. The book comes in its on add Park, Farm, and Zoo to the list.

 

Ten Horse Farm, by Robert Sabuda, (Apr. 2018, Candlewick Press), $29.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-6398-8

Ages 5+

You don’t have to be a kid to love Robert Sabuda; his paper engineering is stunning to see. Ten Horse Farm is a full-color, pop-up counting book where each spread stars a different horse engaging in some kind of activity: racing, resting, jumping, or bucking. Let your kiddos count the horses as you go, and use this book in storytime to bring wonder and surprise to your readers. This fits in nicely with a horse storytime, farm storytime, animal storytime… any time storytime. Inspired by rural America, Robert Sabuda even named his upstate New York art studio Ten Horse Farm. Sabuda books are timeless gifts.

Ten Horse Farm has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

For the Dinosaur fan:

Dragon Post, by Emma Yarlett, (Dec. 2018, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-818-6

Ages 6-10

If you’re a regular reader here, you know I LOVE Emma Yarlett. Her Nibbles the Book Monster books are required reading in my home, and the kids at my library and my son’s Kindergarten class can’t get enough Nibbles. Dragon Post has the same fun spirit as we meet Alexander, a young boy who finds a dragon in his home. He’s excited, naturally, but he’s also a little concerned about fire safety. So he writes a series of letters, as different questions pop up for him. The best part? We get to read the letters!

This is an interactive book, with envelopes (lightly toasted) and letters you can pull up and read for yourself. The story is hilarious as Alexander’s predicament grows, and just when it takes a bittersweet turn, we get the hope of a sequel. The laser-cut correspondence is a fun addition to the story, and the full-color, cartoony artwork will appeal to readers. The scrawled black text reminds me of Oliver Jeffers’ lettering. Absolute fun for the holidays. If you’re buying this for your library, put it an extra copy in your storytime reference to keep one safe. This one will be loved quite a bit.

For the adventure seeker:

Atlas Obscura: Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid, by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco/Illustrated by Joy Ang, (Sept. 2018, Workman), $19.95, ISBN: 978-1-5235-0354-4

Ages 8-12

Here’s one for the kids who love the offbeat, quirky, and awe-inspiring things in life: Atlas Obscura is the kids’ companion to the website and adult guide book and is all about 100 of the most “weird but true” places on earth. Discover the Door to Hell in Turkmenistan (it’s a drilling accident gone terribly wrong), then head to Germany to ride a rollercoaster in the Wunderland Kalkar – an abandoned nuclear power plant. Check out the world’s seed bank in Norway, or visit an underwater museum near the Canary Islands.

Full-color illustrations offer an incredible point of view, and each site includes a locator globe and longitude and latitude (ahem… program in a book). A packing list – in case you’re so motivated – and explorer’s tips, along with alternate travel routes, methods of travel by speed, and height comparisons of attractions from biggest to smallest help with travel planning, and a list of further reading will have your world explorers putting up maps and pins in their rooms. This is just way too much fun. Give this to all the kids you normally hand your National Geographic gifts to, and you’ll be the favorite for another year running.

A World of Cities: From Paris to Tokyo and beyond, a celebration of the world’s most famous cities, by James Brown, (July 2018, Candlewick Studios), $25, ISBN: 9780763698799

Ages 8-12

Visit 30 of the world’s most famous cities with this book as your guide! It’s an oversize book with two- or 3-color tourism poster artwork and facts on each spread. Did you know Dubai has its own archipelago of artificial islands? Or that Albert Einstein’s eyeballs are stored in a safe-deposit box in New York City? There are tons of fun facts here, all assembled to create a stylized art book that takes armchair travelers to the bright lights and big cities of the world.

This is a follow-up to James Brown’s A World of Information, for anyone who’s a fan of infographics style information delivery.

 

For the animal lovers:

Heroes: Incredible True Stories of Courageous Animals, by David Long/Illustrated by Kerry Hyndman, (Nov. 2018, Faber & Faber), $22.95, ISBN: 978-0-5713-4210-5

Ages 9-13

I loved the companion series to this book, the more human-focused Survivors, that came out earlier this year, so I dove into Heroes when the publisher sent me a copy. If you and your kids loved Survivors, you’re going to love Heroes, with 33 stories of courageous animals (and an epilogue about London’s Animals in War Memorial). It’s more than an “I Survived” starring animals; these are stories about how we rely on animals to survive and to thrive. There’s Rip, the terrier who rescued people trapped in the rubble of the London Blitz during World War II: “…somehow having Rip around made things more bearable… if Rip could cope with the war, so they [the people]”; and Mary of Exeter, a messenger pigeon who spent five years carrying messages back and forth between England and France during World War II and who’s buried alongside Rip and Beauty, another WWII hero dog profiled here. Kerry Hyndman’s illustrations are all at once intense and beautiful, and David Long’s tributes are filled with respect for these companions. Read with a box of tissues nearby. Give to your animal fans and your adventure story fans.

 

Fly With  Me: A Celebration of Birds Through Pictures, Poems, and Stories, by Jane Yolen, Heidi EY Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple, (Oct. 2018, NatGeo Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3181-7

Ages 8+

A compendium of all things bird for your bird-readers and watchers, Fly With Me has everything you’d want to know about birds: the physical characteristics, history (dino birds!), state bird profiles, songs, migration, and birding in your own backyard are just a few areas. There’s an emphasis on conservation and activism, and the section on birds in the arts is fantastic for your budding artists. The photos are jaw-dropping, with colors that burst off the page, and gorgeous illustrations. Endpapers are loaded with bird-related quotes, including one of my favorites: “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like  duck, it must be a duck”. Back matter is loaded with additional resources. Pull some of the poems out and use them in your storytimes!

 

For the poetry reader:

Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year, selected by Fiona Waters/Illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon, (Oct. 2018, Nosy Crow), $40, ISBN: 9781536202472

All Ages

There’s a poem for every single day of the year in this book. From January 1st through December 31st, greet each day with a poem and a beautiful illustration. Poets include Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Frost, Ogden Nash, ee cummings, and John Updike, and poems are indexed by poet name, poem title, and first lines. This is a gorgeous gift: the illustrations are absolutely beautiful, with cold winter scenes, green fall forests, and colorful, shell-covered beaches. Start the day off, or end a day, snuggled up with a poem.

This one’s a great gift for grownups, too – librarians and teachers, put this on your wish list and you’ll be thrilled to add new poems and fingerplays to your storytimes. I’m currently trying to think of hand movements to add to Alastair Reid’s “Squishy Words (To Be Said When Wet)” (August 4th).

Sing a Song of Seasons has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

The Poetry of US: More Than 200 poems that celebrate the people, places, and passions of the United States, Edited by J. Patrick Lewis, former US Children’s Poet Laureate, (Sept. 2018, NatGeo Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3185-5

All Ages

This is another incredible poetry volume, all celebrating the United States: it’s a love letter to the country, compiled by former US Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis. Organized by region: New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Midwest, Great Plains, Rocky Mountain West, Pacific Coast, and Territories, over 200 poems celebrate the natural beauty of our lands and our rich cultural and diverse history. “Never Say No” by Laurie Purdie Salas is all about the perfection of a Philly cheesesteak, while Linda Sue Park’s “Asian Market” – showcased here in both English and Korean –  is a tantalizing tribute to the smells and sights of eating at an Asian food market. Reuben Jackson’s haunting “For Trayvon Martin” is side by side with J. Patrick Lewis’ “The Innocent”, a poem for Emmett Till. “Spelling Bee”, an acrostic by Avis Harley, is a nod to the Scripps Spelling Bee, and Allan Wolf’s “Champion Betty” celebrates a competitor at the Westminster Kennell Club Dog Show. There are poems about beaches and forests, Disney and weddings; there are poems in Korean and Spanish, and poems that shine a light on how far we have to go. It’s America, and these voices are why it’s beautiful.

For your reader who loves the classics:

Into the Jungle: Stories for Mowgli, by Katherine Rundell/Illustrated by Kristjana S. Williams, (Oct. 2018, Walker Books), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536205275

Ages 8-12

The flap of Into the Jungle says it best: “To turn the page of The Jungle Book is to long for more tales of Mowgli the man-cub, Baheera the panther, Baloo the bear, and Kaa the python”. Into the Jungle is a companion to the classic Rudyard Kipling book, enriching readers with five more stories about Mowgli and his companions: “Before Mother Wolf Was a Mother, She Was a Fighter”; “Bagheera’s Cage”; “Baloo’s Courage”; “Kaa’s Dance”, and “Mowgli” all bring back fan favorite characters and deliver themes of empathy, kindness, and understanding across species, cultures, and genders. Katherine Rundell has given Kipling’s classic – and, by extension, his fans – new life, and new relevance in a world very different – and sadly, not so different – from 1894.

Illustrations are full-color and created in collage, using Victorian engravings, to give an historical feel with incredible texture. Humans and animals alike share expressive faces and body language, and the lush Indian jungle unfurls itself to readers, beckoning them to join them in the pages. A gorgeous gift book.

I hope that helps with some shopping lists! Happy Holidays, all!
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

It’s all in how you see it… Do You Believe in Unicorns?

Do You Believe in Unicorns?, by Bethanie Deeney Murguia, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $14.99, ISBN: 9780763694685

Ages 3-7

Do You Believe in Unicorns is fun and absolutely magical. It’s a visual wink that starts out with the horse on the cover: a white horse in a top hat. The story that follows is a conversation between the narrator and the reader, who we think must be a unicorn. But that’s crazy, right? It’s just a horse in a hat! Or is it? The narrator comes up with excuses as to why the horse can’t be a unicorn – his hair is a mess; he’s trying to keep dry in the rain – while our cartoony friend, sporting a knowing smile, prances through the book, eventually joined by other unicorns – HORSES! – wearing hats. But wait! The horses left their hats behind! And here’s where the joke is just perfect: the horses appear in front of spires, mountain peaks, and blades of grass. So, are those unicorns, or just expertly placed visual puns? Like the story says: “Maybe you can only see unicorns if you believe in them.”

What a way to bring magic into someone’s day. The cartoony art makes the unicorn/horse instantly kid-friendly, and its knowing smirk lets on that there may be more than meets the eye at play here. The facial expressions are an outright hoot, as our horse side-eyes other hat-wearing horses and admires himself in a mirror. It’s a lovely way to let kids know that there may be magical moments all around them, and a wonderful way to remind adults of the days when we believed in unicorns, too (and may still). And keep your eye on the lizard at the end of the story: he may be more than he appears, too. An absolute must-add to collections and great gift choice.

Do You Believe in Unicorns has starred reviews from Kirkus and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and is a Junior Library Guild selection. I think I’m adding this to my Caldecott longlist.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Fables from the Stables: Murray the Race Horse

Murray the Race Horse, by Gavin Puckett/Illustrated by Tor Freeman, (May 2018, Faber & Faber), $8.95, ISBN: 9780571334681

Recommended for readers 6-10

Murray is a sweet horse with big dreams: he wants to race, he wants a trophy, he wants the adulation of the fans, but there’s a big problem: Murray just can’t run that fast. He’s used as a service horse, and the other sleek, fast racing horses poke fun at him, but Murray gets his chance at greatness when Ned, one of the racing horses, is injured at the big Speed Saddle Cup race and Murray is pulled out of the crowd to compete in his place! Murray’s handed off to a stable boy for shoeing – but the stable boy puts the shoes on the wrong way, leaving Murray to run the race backwards! Is seeing things differently the key to Murray’s success?

Originally released in the UK in 2017, Murray is the first in author Gavin Puckett’s Fables from the Stables series, and is a short story, written in verse, and illustrated in full color. Murray is a sweet horse that kids will root for, and the storyline about seeing things differently, or trying a different strategy to change your luck, will appeal to parents, educators, and caregivers that may need some help explaining the concept. This can easily be a read-aloud or independent reading book. Give this to your horse story fans (get those Horse Diaries books on display) and your humor readers.

Posted in Uncategorized

A cranky flea sets off a chain of events in Leap!

Leap!, by JonArno Lawson/Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon, (Sept. 2017, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771386784

Recommended for readers 3-6

This fun circular, rhyming story starts with a flea, who leaps into a grasshopper’s path; the startled grasshopper leaps onto a bunny. The action continues, involving a dog, bullfrog, horse, and finally, back to the dog and the flea. It’s a fun story that would make for a good storytime read; get the kids up and jumping if you have more active storytimes, or bounce for lapsits. The cadence of the rhyme is fun and energetic, but I expected to see more spreads with the full animal leaping; there were a few where the right-side page showed the back end of a leap and it felt a little cut off, choppy, for me.

I’d add this to a storytime with Kalan ‘s Jump, Frog, Jump! and add some flannels for audience interaction.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

A Horse Named Steve is exceptional!

steveA Horse Named Steve, by Kelly Collier, (April 2017, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771387361

Recommended for readers 4-8

Steve is a horse that’s just fine as he is, but he thinks he can be better. He wants to be exceptional. He finds a beautiful gold horn lying on the ground in the forest, and that’s it: he’s found the pass to being exceptional! He ties the horn on his head and showboats to all of his woodland friends, who are so taken, they find items to tie on their own heads: sticks, rocks, anything they can find. But Steve accidentally loses his horn – oh no! What’s an exceptional horse to do when he loses his exceptional horn?

A Horse Named Steve is hilarious in its side commentary (notes throughout the book explain words like devastated: “that means really, really bummed”, or refer to his moods: “Mr. Mopeypants”) and its execution of an image-obsessed horse, but kids will get it: it’s not what you wear, or how you look. The commentary adds a little wink, wink, nudge, nudge humor to kids, bringing them in on the joke, and the raccoon that isn’t quite as enamored of Steve gives kids an entry point to a discussion: why doesn’t he think Steve’s so great? Do you think Steve is treating his friends with respect? What really makes our friends special?

Kelly Collier’s two-color ink and watercolor art, finished in Photoshop, is adorable and fun. Steve’s physicality plays up his ego for laughs, and there are visual jokes aplenty, especially when his golden horn slips from on top of his head to under his chin. Playing with fonts brings more humor to the page by emphasizing different words and making Steve’s very name a standout with curlicues and bolding.

You can have a lot of storytime fun with this book: make horns with your readers! For older readers, pair this one with Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches for a good discussion on the value we place on appearances.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Soldier Sister, Fly Home is quietly powerful

soldier sister_1Soldier Sister, Fly Home, by Nancy Bo Flood/Illustrated by Shonto Begay, (Aug. 2016, Charlesbridge), $16.95, ISBN: 9781580897020

Recommended for ages 10+

Thirteen year-old Tess is struggling with her identity. As someone who’s part white and part Navajo, she feels too white when she’s on the rez, but she’s called “Pokey-hontas” and “squaw” at the white school she attends in Flagstaff. Her older sister, Gaby, whom she adores, has joined the military in order to get money for college; when she comes home to tell Tess that she’s being deployed – shortly after Tess and her family have attended a memorial service for Lori Piestewa, a member of their community and the first Native American woman to fall in combat – Tess is devastated. Gaby asks Tess to take care of her stallion, Blue, while she’s gone; it’s a challenge, to be sure, as Blue is semi-wild and doesn’t gel with Tess, but over the course of the summer, Tess learns more about herself from Blue than she could have imagined.

Soldier Sister, Fly Home is a quietly tender novel about family, identity, and loss. Lori Piestewa, whose memorial service opens the story, was a real-life soldier who was killed in Iraq and was a member of the Hopi tribe. From Lori’s tale, Ms. Flood spins the story of Tess and Gaby and Native American identity. Their grandfather is a veteran, a World War II Code Talker; they live in a community of proud warriors, descended from warriors. Tess is frustrated as she tries to embrace a cultural identity: but which culture to identify with? Her grandmother is a guiding force here, as is Gaby, who loves and reassures her younger sister, even from a world away. Blue, the stubborn and half-wild horse, teaches Tess patience and helps her recognize her own inner strength throughout the book.

The book includes notes and a glossary on the Navajo language, a note honoring Lori Piestewa and her service, and a reader’s group guide. Writing prompts are available through the publisher’s website, as is a link to a seven-page excerpt.

Soldier Sister, Fly Home has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. It is a beautiful story and an important addition to all bookshelves.

Nancy Bo Flood was a research psychologist and studied brain development at the University of Minnesota and the University of London before writing books for children. Additional books include recognized and award-winning titles, such as Warriors in the Crossfire (Boyds Mills) and Cowboy Up! Ride the Navajo Rodeo (WordSong).