Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade

What does the first cat in space eat? Pizza, of course!

The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza, by Mac Barnett/Illustrated by Shawn Harris, (May 2022, Katherine Tegen Books), $15.99, ISBN: 9780063084087

Ages 7-12

Two award-winning kidlit powerhouses come together for a laugh-out-loud tale about a cat, a toenail-clipping robot, and a group of hungry rats posed to devour the moon. Rats from another galaxy are eating the moon! What is the Earth to do? Dispatch a cybernetically enhanced cat – First Cat – to take care of business. Accompanied by a stowaway robot who believes he’s destined for greater things than clipping toenails, and a ship’s computer who’s furious at being upstaged from a larger part in the story, First Cat lands on the moon, and the adventure begins: frozen wastelands, living forests, churning waters (Sea of Tranqulity? HA!) and dangers at every turn. There are repeating gags that get funnier with every utterance, and readers will giggle themselves silly as First Cat tries, time and again, to have a mouth-watering slice of pizza. Artwork is boldly outlined and colorful, hilariously communicating the madcap storytelling.

Did you know First Cat is Instagram famous? Kids can watch First Cat’s live adventures on Instagram or the First Cat webpage, where they can also sign up for the newsletter! The graphic novel includes sheet music and links to songs from the series. The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza is perfect for summer reading your readers will love.

The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza has a starred review from Publishers Weekly and is on the May/June 2022 Indie Next Kids List.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade

The Great TBR Readdown: Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Perfection

Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Perfection (Cookie Chronicles, Vol. 3), by Matthew Swanson/Illustrated by Robbi Behr, (Dec. 2021, Knopf Books for Young Readers), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593302774

Ages 8-12

Ben Yokoyama is not having a good day. So far, the 9-year-old’s mom has burned his pancakes and his dad ruined his jersey in the laundry. It doesn’t get much better at school until he sees a chance to make a new friend. Darby is a kid who excels in math, and lets Ben in on a little secret: he’s got a super secret alter ego named Darbino. Darby’s quest to become perfect gave birth to Darbino’s identity, and he offers to help Ben attain perfection, too. At first it sounds great, but when you’re working at being perfect, Ben realizes that you have to give up a lot: baseball, for instance. As Ben starts to realize that being perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, he takes readers on a hilarious, very sweet, journey, illustrated in black and white, as if readers are peeking through a journal. This is the third Cookie Chronicle, with two more coming, and it’s a great series to booktalk to your Timmy Failure, Big Nate, Wimpy Kid, and Alvin Ho fans. Ben is biracial and there are nice multicultural nods to his American and Japanese heritage, including a look at the Japanese concept of kintsugi, the art of repairing broken pottery with gold seams, highlighting the mistakes and making them beautiful. Now that we’re in testing season (at least, we are here in NYC), kids will really appreciate the book’s take on the pressure to be perfect. Back matter includes a history of the fortune cookie.

Visit Matthew Benson and Robbi Behr’s webpage for more about their books (including the other Cookie Chronicles), and loads of fun, free printables.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Brave Enough confronts monsters… and humans!

Brave Enough, by Rob Justus, (Feb. 2022, Page Street Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781645673491

Ages 4-8

Little Brother sees monsters everywhere, and would rather stay inside and read about them – hey, forewarned is forearmed! – but Big Sister thinks monsters are just “a bunch of phoney-baloney fantasy make-believe”! She’s determined to teach Little Brother how to be brave enough… until that moment when they discover an honest-to-goodness MONSTER! Luckily for Big Sister, Little Brother has done his reading and knows how to handle monsters (that are just as scared of humans). With some stomping and stamping, and some clapping and snapping, everything is going to be just fine. Lively and bright illustrations pair with upbeat, everyday conversational text to make this a fun readaloud. Illustrations bring the lighter side of the story to light as Big Sister tries to get a rise out of her brother, putting him in a bright yellow cape (to match her flashy yellow boots!) and infuse him with confidence; the book titles also clue readers in to the Monster’s own fear of humans, with titles like “Humans and Loud Noises”, “What’s with Pants?”, and “Bumps in the Day”; mirroring Little Brother’s monster-related reading. The characters have exaggerated facial expressions so there’s no question as to how to read this story: with as much fun as you can muster! The moral of the story: understanding crosses barriers: even between monsters and humans (but maybe not vampires). Pair this one with Ed and Rebecca Emberley’s If You’re a Monster and You Know It for musical fun.

Visit author Rob Justus’s webpage for more of his illustration work.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

He Came With the Couch… but who is he?

He Came With the Couch, by David Slonim, (Sept. 2021, Chronicle Books), $7.99, ISBN: 9781797211886

Ages 3-7

Sophie’s family needs a new couch, but the one they decide on comes with a little someone extra: a blue figure with a yellow, round nose, and spiky brown hair. He doesn’t talk, doesn’t interact, just sits. On the couch. Sophie wants to keep him, her parents aren’t so sure, but he’s not budging. A doctor diagnoses him with “upholsterosis”, but getting him out of the house isn’t helping. The family is resigned to getting used to their new roommate when he saves the day, prompting a trip to get a new chair – and a new friend. Oil-paint-and-pen-on-linen artwork delivers the humor.

Originally published in 2005, He Came With the Couch is cute, has some humorous moments, and is an overall good additional purchase.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Interrupting Chicken wants Cookies for Breakfast!

Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast, by David Ezra Stein, (Nov. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536207781

Ages 4-8

The third adorable and laugh-out-loud installment of the Interrupting Chicken series is here and ready for cookies. Little Chicken wakes his Papa up, because it’s time for breakfast and he has the perfect idea: cookies! Papa decides that reading nursery rhymes would be a better way to pass the time, and he and Chicken snuggle together as he begins to read. As the rhymes unfold, Chicken finds a way to get his point across, as he shows up in just about every rhyme, figuring out a way to mention cookies while interacting with such nursery rhyme characters as the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe and Jack Be Nimble. Will Papa finally give in and have cookies for breakfast?

This series perfectly captures the spirit of a preschooler: excited, lovable, and single-minded in focus. Chicken has amusing outlooks on life to share with readers: cookies have Vitamin C – for cookie!; the early bird gets the cookie, and nobody likes a cold breakfast (so you sit on the cookies to warm them up). Kids will see themselves in Chicken, and grownups will get a chuckle as they recognize their little ones. Warm colors invite readers into the comfortable space Chicken and Papa share.

Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast has a starred review from School Library Journal. Download a free activity kit for the Interrupting Chicken series, courtesy of publisher Candlewick Press.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Board Books for Babies: Great gift ideas, super easy to wrap

What’s easier to wrap than a board book, I ask you? They’re basically the perfect little gift: sturdy, easy to wrap, easily slipped into a stocking or into a diaper bag. Enjoy some of these adorable gift ideas!

Circle Under Berry, by Carter Higgins, (Sept. 2021, Chronicle Books), $15.99, ISBN: 9781797205083

Ages 2-4

There’s something new to read and discover every time you open this concept book that’s a little bit Eric Carle, a little bit Orange Triangle Fox. Colorful collage shapes, animals, and objects greet readers on each page, concept words illustrating the ideas of over and under; side by side, and in between. A circle is under a berry, but that berry is also over a square; it’s all about the way you look at things, arrange things, see things. The words have a great rhythm and make for a fun readaloud. Ask readers what they see: what’s over? What’s under? What’s in between? Call out colors and shapes; do you see an animal? A house? Can you discover a pattern? The book celebrates discovery, with vibrant collage artwork on each page, coming alive off of a bright white page.

Visit Carter Higgins’s author webpage for free resources, including Circle Under Berry flashcards.

Circle Under Berry has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

 

 

Mr. Lion’s New Hair!, by Britta Teckentrup, (Aug. 2021, Twirl Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9791036328619

Ages 2-5

Mr. Lion is having a bad hair day! His friend, Mr. Monkey, is ready to lend a hand in this hilariously adorable die-cut board book. Readers can follow the pages to see Mr. Lion try on different hairstyles: from curlers to pigtails, going from blond to a redhead; maybe a tiara will do? The companion to Mr. Lion Dresses Up (2020), little learners will love turning the pages as Mr. Lion sports different styles, trying to find his best look. Keep an eye on Mr. Lion’s tail: some styles go from head to toe for extra giggles. Mr. Monkey is having as much fun with the story as the readers will; Mr. Lion looks a little unsure, but ready to give it his best. Monkey, ever the good friend, lets Mr. Lion know that ultimately, style has nothing to do with what’s on the outside: Mr. Lion, like each reader, is best the way he is.

I love Britta Teckentrup’s artwork and storytelling. This will be seeing a lot of action in my board book area. Whether you’re reading this at a storytime or giving as a gift, consider a fun activity to include: Toddler At Play has a very cute hair cutting activity; Laughing Kids Learn puts a colorful spin on the haircutting exercise, and My Bored Toddler has the quickest, easiest hair cutting activity that requires only a paper plate, a crayon or marker, and a pair of safety scissors.

 

 

Active ABC: Beginning Baby, by Chronicle Books, (Sept. 2021, Chronicle Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9781797203683

Ages 0-3

The Beginning Baby animal friends demonstrate verbs in this interactive abcedary with die-cut letters to help little fingers trace uppercase and lowercase letters. Filled with action words, the book’s characters also model good behavior: “A” for “ask” shows Narwhal asking Llama to play with blocks; “B” for “begin” shows the two building something together. The die cut letters have colorful patterns, setting them off from the bright white page while complementing the animal artwork. A green striped “L” pairs nicely with Narwhal’s striped t-shirt; blue triangles for “M” look like the shapes Llama makes, cutting out paper dolls. The ever-troublesome X isn’t all about the usual X-rays or Xylophones; rather, Fox, meditates on a carpet and eXhales. Toddlers will love the sheer discoveries waiting in the book; threeschoolers will enjoy pointing out what each of the animals are doing; maybe even crafting a story using the new vocabulary words here. Point out colors and shapes with your readers, let them trace letters over and over again: this is an abcedary that works overtime.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

There’s a Dodo on the Wedding Cake!

There’s a Dodo on the Wedding Cake, by Wade Bradford/Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536208849

Ages 4-8

Mr. Snore is back in this comical follow-up to 2018’s There’s a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor. He’s back at The Sharemore Hotel, this time to play violin at a wedding taking place at the venue, when he notices a dodo bird sampling the wedding cake! He shoos the dodo off, and appoints himself guardian of the cake, taking on all manner of characters who venture too close: but who’s a guest, and who’s a pest? This is, as Kirkus calls it, “a riotous, rib-tickling comedy of errors” that kids are going to laugh out loud reading or listening to as a readaloud. This begs for a flannel adaptation where you can nominate readers to come up and place a new animal on or near the cake, and make sure to get a nice big pink *splat* for the finale. Acrylic and ink illustrations have a pleasing, vintage feel to them, giving some old-school glamour to the hijinks. More Mr. Snore, please!

Author Wade Bradford has free, downloadable resources, including some great plays for kids, on his author website. Kevin Hawkes is an award-winning illustrator. Visit his website for more of his artwork and information about his books.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Maybe… is hilarious

Maybe… by Chris Haughton, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536220247

Ages 3-7

A mother monkey warns her three little ones against going to the mango tree. There are tigers lurking! As soon as Mom leaves, you know what happens. The three rationalize, rationalize, rationalize: “Hmm… maybe… maybe we could just look at the mangoes. That’d be OK. Right?” Naturally, looking at the mangoes leads to getting closer… closer… This hilarious story about pushing boundaries will make kids and grownups alike laugh out loud in recognition. The suspense keeps readers turning the pages and makes for a fantastically dramatic readaloud that will make your listeners gasp if you play it along with Haughton’s expert pacing and theatrical pauses. Chris Haughton’s digital artwork is bold and dramatic, with expressive monkeys whose blue and green coloring stand out against the brightly colored backgrounds. Sharp-eyed readers will see the murky outlines of the tigers lurking in the background, just like Mom said. Every single Chris Haughton book is a storytime hit for me; this joins the ranks.

Maybe… has a starred review from The Horn Book. Download a free activity kit at publisher Candlewick’s website.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Tween Reads

Long Distance: A summer camp like you’ve never experienced!

Long Distance, by Whitney Gardner, (June 2021, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), $14.99, ISBN: 9781534455658

Ages 10-14

Vega is a girl who’s not thrilled with summer vacation this year. Her parents have moved her from Portland, Oregon, to a new life in Seattle, and she’s miserable. She’s left behind her best friend, Halley, and to add insult to injury, her dads are sending her off to Camp Very Best Friend, hoping she’ll make some new friends. When the Camp VBF bus pulls up, Vega’s got a strange feeling about this camp… and it only gets weirder once she and the other campers arrive! Cell phones don’t work, and the counselors are just… different. Together with fellow campers Qwerty (like the keyboard), and twins Gemma and Isaac, Vega decides to get to the bottom of this odd camp in a hilarious story about making friends! Early in the story, Vega Googles how to make friends; each piece of advice she receives heads a different chapter, giving readers a humorous idea of what to expect. The characters are likable, and dialogue and story move at a good pace, and readers are going to love this summer camp story. Artwork is colorful with cartoon-realistic characters, similar to Raina Telgemeier and Shannon Hale’s characters. A good book to hand to introverts – Camp VBF is filled with kids who don’t find it that easy to make friends, until they’re put into the unusual situation that sets the stage for this story. Vega is interested in astronomy, Qwerty relates to computers “better than people”, and Gemma and Isaac are all about rocks and minerals, so there’s a nice little STEM/STEAM thread quietly running through the story. A fun summer story that satisfies wanderlust.

Visit Whitney Gardner’s webpage for coloring pages and more info about her books, including one of my favorites from last year, the 2020 Cybils-nominated Becoming RBG.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Keep the Dad Love going!

Hi all! I know I was quiet for a few days, and I apologize. I’ve been getting ready for two big graduations, and ended up letting myself get dehydrated, so last night was spent recovering on the couch and drinking a bunch of water. Note to self: Do NOT clean the garage without a few chilled bottles of water on hand; one lukewarm bottle over a few hours doesn’t do a whole lot.

But Father’s Day was yesterday! Did the Dads of all sorts have a great day? I hope you did! I have two adorable books to crow about, and a few more suggestions for dads and grandpas. Enjoy.

Cave Dada: Picky Eater, by Brandon Reese, (April 2021, Chronicle Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452179957

Ages 3-5

The follow-up to Brandon Reese’s Cave Dada (2020) is every bit as adorable and hilarious as the first. Dada and Baba are back, and Baba is hungry for an egg… but Dada isn’t sure he has an egg, which doesn’t sit too well with Baba. Poor Dada wasn’t in the mood to hunt and gather, but Baba is pretty focused on an egg.. and Dada may just discover a new way to make breakfast! From the bouncing baby wakeup to the refusal to eat anything in the pantry and fridge, parents and caregivers will laugh as they see themselves in this story. My favorite part? Right here:

This, friends, was my life story, three times in a row. When Baba doesn’t want spinach because it touched the onion? I felt that in my soul, especially because I have a 9-year-old who STILL gives me a hard time about what I lovingly refer to as “food cooties”. I love the adorable details in this book, like the cave painting door art, and Dada’s creaks and groans when he gets up. The artwork is just so much fun, with facial expressions that are perfectly spot on. Endpapers look like a warm cave interior. The story’s ending gives me hope that there will be a third installment in the Cave Dada series; I think we all need to see Cave Dada: Bathtime, don’t you?

 

 

You Be Daddy, by Karla Clark, (April 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250225399

Ages 2-6

A tired daddy asks his son to take over daddy duties for a little while in this companion to last year’s You Be Mommy. Rhyming verse takes readers through all the things Daddy has done today, from breaking up a food fight, to household duties, to teaching the cat a trick. There’s sweet repetition interspersed with Dad’s day and with Daddy duties he’s handing off to his little one, like building a bedtime fort and lending him a night light and stuffed dinosaur. But when the day is done and it’s time for bed, Daddy is happy to take back Daddy duties and put his little guy to bed. Gentle storytelling and the repetitive phrase, “Daddy’s too tired to be Daddy tonight”, empowers children to take on the fun part of Daddying, while reassuring them that, at bedtime, Daddy’s going to be the one to tuck them in and snuggle them to sleep. The family is Asian, and subtle details like a door decoration, a koi painting, and family portraits infuse the setting with a personal and cultural feel.  The household is warm, welcoming, and will make readers feel right at home. Endpapers show he family cat snuggling and stretching around the house. An adorable celebration of dads.

 

Don’t forget to print out some fun activities from the mother of all Dada books, Jimmy Fallon’s Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada: you can match the baby animal to the sound it makes here and you can count baby ducks and “Dadas” here.

 

 

Papasaurus, by Stephan Lomp is about a fun game of hide and seek between Babysaurus and his father. As Babysaurus searches for his Papa, he asks other young dinos for their help, learning about their dads in the meantime. Available in both picture book and board book!

Channing Tatum’s The One and Only Sparkella (and Her Dad!) is the adorable story of a sparkly little girl and her father, who’s always ready to dress up and sparkle with her! Dad can don a feather boa and break out into dance moves whenever Sparkella needs a little extra glitter in her life. Written by actor/director/producer Channing Tatum for his daughter Everly, The One and Only Sparkella is an adorably fun and sweet book about being true to yourself, embracing what makes you unique, and the wisdom of Girl Dads.

Karen Hesse’s Night Shift shows a warm relationship between a father who works nights and his son, who accompanies him. The pair ride to school on the boy’s father’s motorcycle, and, as Dad works, the two share time together listening to the radio, sharing their meal, and reading together. Dad and son take care of each other in this story: Dad rouses his son and helps him get dressed to leave for work at 4 a.m., and the boy cleans out his father’s lunch box at the day’s end. A lovely story about making the most of any time you have together.

In The Bureau of Misplaced Dads, a boy has to recover his misplaced father at a municipal building where Dads of all shapes, sizes, and quirks, await their kids. Played for laughs, there are strongman dads, dads named Michael, clueless dads, and dancing dads all wait to be claimed, striking silly poses and wearing crazy costumes, all hoping to get their child’s attention.

A boy and his father work together to build a tree fort in Jessica Scott Kerrin’s The Better Tree Fort. After moving into a new home, a boy named Russell and his father decide that the giant maple tree in their yard is the perfect project to work on together. A story about quality versus quantity, Russell and his father share time together as they build the fort and plan their sleepover; a contrast to the luxury treehouse being built down the block.

Elizabeth Zunon’s Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family touches on how our parents’ parents can sometimes be a larger-than-life, almost mythical figure. A girl and her father bake a cake and reminisce about “Grandpa Cacao” – her father’s father – and his life working on a cacao farm on the African Ivory Coast. Grandpa Cacao appears as a pale image, illustrating his existence as part of the girl’s imagination as she fits him into the landscape. Inspired by the author’s own “Grandpa Cacao”, the story links generations and celebrates the joy of creating together and uniting families.

Around the Table That Grandad Built by Melanie Hauser HIll is an adorable, multicultural cumulative story along the lines of The House That Jack Built. A family assembles for a celebration at a table built by Granddad, but everyone has a part in this meal: cousins gather sunflowers; Mom’s sewn napkins go with the dishes and the glasses come from Mom and Dad’s wedding; flatware comes from Dad’s grandma, and the family cooks a huge meal together, with squash, tamales, samosas, and other tasty fare.

In Leonid Gore’s When I Grow Up, a little boy asks his father what he will be when he grows up, and looks at the world around him for ideas. A raindrop tells him he could be “like me” and become the fastest river; a green sprout, the tallest tree; a caterpillar, the most colorful butterfly in the meadow. As the boy paints the images he sees around him, he ultimately makes his own decision: he will be like his dad. Die-cut images transition spreads from one to the next, making this a great touch-and-feel book to explore.

A young crow learns that his own song is beautiful in Marit Menzin’s A Song for Papa Crow. Little Crow loves to sing, but the other birds complain about his caw. Papa Crow reassures him, telling him that always knows where to find him when he follows his song, but it’s The Amazing Mockingbird that convinces Little Crow that singing your own song is the best song of all.

Kathleen T. Pelly’s Happy Papas gives love to dads in both the animal and human world, taking readers through a Happy Papas kind of day: as the sun pops up; as the sun sails high; as the clouds and sun play peek-a-boo; as the shadows gather, and finally, as the moon blooms. Otter dads, meerkat dads, tiger dads, and all sorts of human dads celebrate the day-to-day joys of fatherhood as they play, protect, cook for, and cuddle their little ones.

Grandparents and grandkids enjoy some quality time in JoowonOh’s Our Favorite Day. Grandpa has a routine he keeps to, but Thursday is the best day of the week: it’s Grandpa’s day with his granddaughter! Grandpa chooses some crafting materials at a craft shop on his trip to town, gets two orders of dumplings to go, picks some flowers, and is ready to greet his granddaughter with a hug when she bounds out of the car! Together, the two enjoy their lunch, make a kite, and head out to fly it. Our Favorite Day is all about the mutual benefits of a multigenerational relationship.

Beth Raisner Glass’s Blue Ribbon Dad gives dad an actual prize: a Number 1 Dad ribbon! A young squirrel counts down the hours until dad gets home from work, crafting a project to have ready for him when he gets there. He thinks of everything he does with his father, and all the things his Dad does for him, and presents his father with a blue ribbon when he gets home.