Posted in picture books

The Wild Garden brings a community together

The Wild Garden, by Cynthia Cliff, (May 2022, Prestel Publishing), $16.95, ISBN: 9783791375120

Ages 5-9

Jilly is a young girl who lives with her grandfather and her dog, Blue, in a small village. The community where they live works together to plan and grow their village garden as Jilly, Bleu, and Grandpa  wander the woods outside the village walls, foraging in the wild garden for berries, nuts, and edible greens. When the community considers knocking down a wall to expand their garden, Jilly and Grandpa take action to raise awareness and respect for the wildlife currently living and thriving there. Alternating spreads show the community working together to care for their gardens and Jilly, Grandpa, and Bleu exploring the woods. The narrative and illustrations show both sides of a coin: love of nature and working together. Jilly and her grandfather create a walking path with signs to invite their neighbors to explore the area and develop their own relationships with the land. Once understanding is achieved, they create a “new kind of garden” where the people and the wildlife coexist. Colorful illustrations show diverse townspeople working and playing together; natural areas are vibrant with life. The story moves through the seasons, with a color palette that shifts from verdant greens to warm oranges and yellows. A good story about community and on coexisting with nature.

 

 

Posted in picture books

Sarah Rising is a child’s-eye view of protest and social activism

Sarah Rising, by Ty Chapman/Illustrated by Deann Wiley, (May 2022, Beaming Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781506478357

Ages 5-8

Sarah is a young girl about to start her day as usual: breakfast, then caring for her pet bugs. But her father tells her they’re going to a protest, because police “had killed another Black person”. While at the protest, Sarah tries to save a butterfly when an officer swipes at it, and ends up separated from her father. The crowd protects Sarah, eventually helping reunite her and her father. The butterfly emerges as a symbol of hope, damaged but resilient – the butterfly, like Sarah, like her community, rises. The relationship between Sarah and her father is a positive one: he is a man teaching his daughter to call out injustice where she sees it and to take action. A strong theme of community runs through the book, illustrating the importance of relying on one another for support and protection. Inspired by the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Sarah Rising is an important book when talking to children about social justice and change.

Back matter includes an author’s note from Ty Chapman on growing up in Minnesota, where George Floyd was murdered, and the problematic history between police and the Black community. There are also tips for children and families on creating change, and a discussion guide for parents and educators.

Posted in picture books

“The miracle is in all of us”: Love in the Library

Love in the Library, by Maggie Tokuda-Hall/Illustrated by Yas Imamura, (Feb. 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536204308

Ages 6-9

Inspired by award-winning author Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s maternal grandparents, Love in the Library is a wrenching and inspirational story of finding love and hope in the darkest times. Tama is a librarian in the Minidoka internment camp during World War II, where she meets George, a patron who shows up every day to check out books and talk to Tama. Life in the camp is brutal, and Tama’s resilience is flagging, but George is always there to smile and support her. Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s language is powerful as she describes life in the camp and Tama’s depression: “The barbed wire fences and guard towers cast long shadows over her path”; “And though each camp was different, they were all the same. Uncomfortable and unjust”; “Tama kept her eyes down and tried not to think about the life she used to have”. Yas Imamura’s gouache and watercolor palette uses dull browns greens, setting the mood for life in Minodoka, but dresses Tama and George in bright colors; Imamura also gives the cramped conditions in the housing bright colors – a pretty pink quilt acts as a wall between rooms – to convey hope and the determination to carry on. When Tama loses herself in her books, she dreams of surreal knights and ships, young lovers and butterflies. An author’s note provides background to Tama’s and George’s story. Endpapers show a wall of barbed wire stretching endlessly across the covers. Love in the Library is a story of finding hope when there feels like there is none left, and joins the growing body of work that breaks the long-held silence about that period of American history.

Love in the Library has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, BookPage, Booklist, and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. Download a teacher’s guide and the author’s note at Candlewick’s book detail page.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Take your baby traveling with Feather Flores’s new picture book series!

Author and editor Feather Flores is breathing new life into a series of city-based books from Chronicle! Great for touristing families and residents alike, these rhyming looks at popular U.S. cities feature families of color enjoying the sights. Let’s take a look at two of them.

Los Angeles, Baby!, by Feather Flores/Illustrated by Asia Ellington, (Aug. 2022, Chronicle Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781797207216

Ages 3-5

A family heads out to explore Los Angeles on a bright, sunny day! Mom and Dad buckle their daughter into the car and head out for adventure, visiting such sights as the Pier, famed restaurant The Grove, and the La Brea Tar Pits. At night, they head to historic Olvera Street and take in a show at the Hollywood Bowl. Lively rhyming text and vibrant digital illustration show diverse people enjoying the daily hustle and bustle of the city while pointing out some popular tourist sites. Endpapers feature different landmarks in bright and darker yellow, like Hollywood stars and shopping bags, film reels and the Hollywood Bowl. Start a travel storytime and have your kiddos make their own stars to create a Walk – or a Wall – of Fame at your library, and bust out the tissue paper and your papel picado templates for an Olvera Street-related craft.

Make a travel display or booktalk this to families looking for travel-related books. Consider displaying with Byron Barton’s Airport, Richard Scarry’s A Day at the Airport, Paul and Peter Reynolds’s Going Places, and Barefoot Books’s Amazing Places.

 

 

Texas, Baby!, by Feather Flores/Illustrated by David DePasquale, (Aug. 2022, Chronicle Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781797207223

Ages 3-5

Yee-haw, cowhands! Join a family as they head out on a tour through the Lone Star State! Rhyming phrases, bold text, and a diverse cast of characters are just the beginning of what makes this such a fun and vibrant book for toddlers and preschoolers. A girl and her dad are the main characters here, stopping off at the Fort Worth Stockyards to take in a rodeo, visiting the Space Center at Houston, enjoying a Tex-Mex lunch, and visiting the Alamo. There’s BBQ, western dancing, and bluebonnets to give readers the full Texas experience. Endpapers show a mix of things to discover, from armadillos and ten gallon hats to space shuttles and cactus. Have paper bags and construction paper on hand for cowboy crafts, cardboard tubes for rocket crafts, and crayons for this Texas Bluebonnet coloring page.

Other Travel, Baby! (my own title; I didn’t see a name for the series yet) books in this series include Chicago, Baby! and Washington, DC, Baby! by Feather Flores. San Francisco, Baby! and New York, Baby!, both illustrated by Ward Jenkins, were released in 2012 and are still available.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

My Dad is a Grizzly Bear sees grown-ups through kids eyes

My Dad is a Grizzly Bear, by Swapna Haddow/Illustrated by Dapo Adeola, (May 2022, Red Comet Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781636550114

Ages 4-8

A little boy likens his father to a grizzly bear in this funny look at how we see our parents. Cartoony images show a giant grizzly bear chasing the boy and his sister; eating pancakes by the stack, and singing karaoke with the boy’s friends as the story progresses, in the boy’s voice: “He eats all the honey in the house. It drops off his pancakes and sticks to his whiskers. / He never leaves any for me because he is a grizzly bear”. The boy isn’t always put off by his dad, though – he and his sister giggle with glee as he chases them while the boy wields a water hose; as Dad “catches fish in his teeth” the boy is the one catapulting them from his fork. When the family goes camping and mom tells a scary story, Dad’s the one who saves the day with a big, warm bear hug.  Kids will get a laugh as they think of people they know and what animals they could be: does someone hop around like a bunny? Or stretch like a cat? Or roar like a lion? A great book about dads and kids that we need more of: a fun-loving dad who’s there to rescue with a hug. Bright, colorful artwork, repetitive phrases, bold fonts, and a sweet story makes this a good storytime choice. Endpapers are a colorful splash of yellow pineapples on a pink background – just like Dad’s swim trunks on the cover. Download a free activity kit on Red Comet’s My Dad is a Grizzly Bear webpage.

Author Swapna Haddow is a popular, New Zealand-based author whose popular chapter book series include Dave the Pigeon and Ballet Bunnies. Visit her author webpage and join me in hoping more of her books appear on U.S. bookshelves. She’s also got loads of printable and fun activities. Dapo Adeola is a London-based illustrator and received the distinction of illustrator of the year at the 2022 British Book Awards. Follow him on Instagram for more of his artwork.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Ahoy! Books about Boats

To add some fun to summer reading storytimes, add some stories about boats!

Old Wood Boat, by Nikki McClure, (May 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536216585

Ages 4-8

An old boat gets a new lease on life in this distinctive story by award-winning artist and author Nikki McClure. The Old Wood Boat sits, floating in a drydock, remembering “the wind… islands and a sea of green” as she houses raccoons and blackberries grow across her decks. One day, a family arrives and purchases the boat, and set about making her sea-worthy again. Once the work is done, they set off for new adventures, and the boat keeps her new family safe and comfortable. It’s a lovely story of renewal and potential, with Nikki McClure’s trademark spare prose and striking cut-paper artwork. Back matter includes a glossary of nautical terms introduced in the story. A glorious summer story. Consider pairing with Nikki McClure’s counting book, 1 2 3 Salish Sea. Visit Nikki McClure’s website for more about her books.

 

Lily Leads the Way, by Margi Preus/Illustrated by Matt Myers, (May 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536214031

Ages 4-8

Lily is a small sailboat who is so excited to greet a fleet of visiting tall ships! She races out to the harbor entrance and blows her horn – “Meee-me?” – to ask the bridge to lift and let her through, but bigger ships blast their horns so much louder and their wakes rock and roll poor Lily as they rumble past. When she finally sneaks through and spots the tall ships, she’s thrilled: until she realizes that the bridge will have to lift to let them pass, but these ships are silent! Will good manners and a determined little sailboat save the day? Crisp oil illustrations bring a charming anthropomorphic touch to the realism of this summery story. Illustrated Matt Myers captures the beauty of the water, with shades of blue communicating depth and movement against a summer sky with puffy, light clouds. The ships and land are colorful, set off against the blues, to bring this seafaring story to life. The boats don’t sport cartoony facial expressions, but they are there for those who look: the downcast eyes of a huge vessel as he trundles by Lily; a somber and focused coast guard cutter zips past Lily. Kids will love Lily’s sweet attempts to be seen, and be captivated by the sight of the regal tall ships as they approach the harbor. Lily Leads the Way is a story about determination, and carries a sweet message about being polite. An author’s note offers more information about bridges and boats. A wonderful storytime pick. Make sure to invite the kids to make their own boat horn noises!

Visit Craft Play Learn for fun boat craft ideas for a storytime activity. I love cork boat craft and the craft stick craft.

Margi Preus is the Newbery Honoree author of Heart of a Samurai (2010). Visit her author website for more about her books, and free downloadable resources, including reading guides. Matt Myers is the illustrator of the Infamous Ratsos book series. Find more about his work at his website.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Bloom: Let the jellyfish lead you!

Bloom, by Julia Seal, (March 2022, Sunbird Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9781978833586

Ages 4-8

Inspired by true events and climate change, Bloom is the story of climate change and activism from a jellyfish’s point of view. Luna, a young jellyfish, returns from travel and discovers a very different seascape from the one she left: her friends are missing from their reef, and the area is warmer, and there is litter everywhere! Even her friend Hermit’s “new shell” is made of debris! One little jellyfish may not be able to garner a lot of notice, but an entire bloom of jellyfish will sure get notice!

Julia Seal tells the story of a plucky, determined jellyfish while calling attention to the very real problems of pollution and climate change. Her art is cheerful and colorful, wish soft lighting and around her sea life, particularly the jellyfish. The upbeat artwork highlights how marine life can often confuse pollution for part of their environment: the turtle thinks a plastic bag is strangely flavored food; Luna mistakes pollution for fish and fellow jellies. Luna and her jellyfish friend band together to make their statement, even spelling out “Save Our Oceans” off the shore of a beach, where humans can see it. It reinforces strength in numbers and positive activism. (Just make sure to tell kids that if they see jellyfish massing in real life, it’s probably not a great idea to go near them!)

Great for the Oceans of Possibilities Summer Reading theme, and great for discovery/STEM clubs and your climate change collections. Talk to kids about the problems with plastics and our oceans. NatGeo Kids has an excellent webpage that lists numbers and posts photos. Kids can learn more about jellyfish at this NatGeo Kids’ webpage, too. Visit publisher Sunbird Books’s Bloom book detail page and download free activity sheets.

Posted in Uncategorized

Happy Book Birthday to Rosa’s Song by Helena Ku Rhee and Pascal Campion

Rosa’s Song, by Helena Ku Rhee/Illustrated by Pascal Campion, (June 2022, Random House Studio), $17.99, ISBN: 9780593375495

Ages 4-8

Jae, a young boy from South Korea, and his mother move into a new building in a new country. Missing his home and friends, Jae is withdrawn, but his mother urges him to get out and meet other kids in the building; Jae meets Rosa, a friendly young girl whose pet parrot, Pollito, sits on her shoulder and warbles a sweet song. Rosa and Jae become fast friends, and engage in imaginative play that evokes memories of each of their home countries; scaling sofa mountains and exploring lost Incan cities and rainforests. When Rosa and her family suddenly leave one night, she leaves her parrot to console the heartbroken Jae. Shortly after Rosa leaves, Jae meets two new children in the building, and follows Rosa’s example, becoming their friend and guide to their new home and world. Helena Ku Rhee’s childhood inspired the story, which shows the need for connection and highlights the often erratic home lives of immigrant families, who often have to move suddenly, whether because of immigration status, employment, financial stress, or family issues. Pascal Campion’s digital artwork gives vision to Helen Ku Rhee’s voice: Jae stares out a window at a brick wall while standing in a beige room with faded wallpaper; upon meeting Rosa, his world becomes more colorful. Touches of each child’s home country are represented, with Asian brush paintings decorating the walls of Jae’s home, and colorful parrots and lush green trees in the rainforest of Rosa’s memory. When Rosa leaves, Jae’s world goes gray again, and the portrait of Jae in Rosa’s vacated apartment is absolutely devastating. Endpapers show Rosa and Jae at imaginative play, with Pollito flying around them. A touching and lovely book on empathy and friendship.

Rosa’s Song has a starred review from Booklist.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Authenticity is Epic: Kick Push

Kick Push, by Frank Morrison, (Apr. 2022, Bloomsbury USA), $18.99, ISBN: 9781547605927

Ages 3-7

Ivan – better known as Epic – is a skateboard king: “He’s been grinding the streets with moves to big, his friends call him EPIC”. He’s just moved to a new town, and he doesn’t know anyone, and trying out new tricks without anyone to cheer you on is no fun. Epic tries out some other sports, trying to fit in and find his new crew, but it’s just no good. Luckily, his dad is there to give him the best advice: stay true to yourself, and be EPIC. Sure enough, Epic gets back on his skateboard and discovers that the self-confidence that comes from doing what you love and being yourself is the best introduction of all. this is Frank Morrison’s first time out as author-illustrator; you may have seen his work on books like I Got the Rhythm and I Got the School Spirit, both by Connie Schofield-Morrison, or the award-winning Little Melba and her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown. His illustration work and his storytelling pulse with life, giving an urban beat to the story. Epic is a brown-skinned boy with natural hair and flies through the air on his skateboard, soaring past a vibrant urban inner city landscape. He speeds by ice cream trucks and graffiti-adorned buildings; bright orange construction cones mark sidewalks under construction; kids play with super soaker water guns in a park; a hip-hop dance troupe runs through their moves in a studio; a kid gets a high-top fade at the local barber shop. Kick Push embraces authenticity, community, and pride.

Frank Morrison is an award-winning illustrator. He received a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, an NAACP Image Award for Our Children Can Soar, and a Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award for Jazzy Miz Mozetta.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The joy of self-expression: John’s Turn

John’s Turn, by Mac Barnett/Illustrated by Kate Berube, (Feb. 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536203950

Ages 4-8

Every Friday, a school cafeteria turns into a place where kids put on performances for one another: an artistic show and tell. This week, it’s John’s turn, and he’s a little nervous. When it’s time, he changes into his leotard, pants, and ballet slippers, and begins to dance. It’s tense at first, as John’s fellow students watch him, but as John gives himself over to the music and the dance, his confidence builds; his joy is evident. At the end of his dance, his classmates cheer and applaud, and John beams, having shared a special moment with them. Kate Berube’s ink and paint illustrations gracefully capture the tension and anticipation that goes into a performance; those moments where the performer goes through the day with butterflies in their stomach, the worry, the pre-show jitters. He knows kids, and the thinking that ballet dancing is largely thought of as “a girl thing”, and the nervous snickers when the music begins. Mac Barnett’s narration is simple, elegant, to the point, and pausing to let Kate Berube shine during the performance: she beautifully captures the shifting emotions surging through John as he begins his dance; a nervous, almost nauseated feeling on his face at first, moving into a slight smile as he moves through the routine, and the background color shifts from a dull brown to a positively incandescent rose as he loses himself in the emotion of his dance, ending with soft pastels as, cheeks flushed, he takes a bow. It’s a gorgeous story.

John’s Turn has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, The Horn Book, and BookPage.