Posted in picture books

Spring and Summer stories to make you smile

With Spring and Summer come a lighter type of picture book: open spaces, verdant greens, cheery yellows, happy colors and stories about enjoying the outdoors. I’ve got a few picture books here that are perfect for those longer, warmer days.

Free, by Sam Usher, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536217049

Ages 4-7

The boy and his grandfather from Sam Usher’s Seasons With Grandad series are back! In Free, the boy and Grandad care for a sick bird who returns to them every day. Grandad looks up new ways to get the bird to reunite with other birds, but it looks like their new feathered friend needs a bit of help, so they gather their equipment and strike out to find a tree for their new friend. Sam Usher brings his touch of magical realism to this story of a boy, his grandfather, and a little bird that needs their help, elevating it from sweet to simply extraordinary. Ink and watercolor illustrations are expressive and provide a soothing, intimate feel to the storytelling and the relationship between Grandad, Boy, and Bird. Riots of color in strategic moments make for a delightful surprise. I love Sam Usher’s books, so this one is a definite buy for me.

Free has a starred review from Kirkus.

(UK edition image taken from Amazon.com: the US edition notes that one of the birds “was sick”.)

 

Sweet Pea Summer, by Hazel Mitchell, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536210347

Ages 4-8

A girl’s her father brings her to spend the summer with her grandparents when her mother has to go into the hospital. To keep her occupied, her grandfather invites her to help in his garden, asking her to look after his snow peas. She learns to care for them and nurture them, taking great pride in the growing pods, and her grandfather suggests she may even get to enter them in the flower show when the season ends. So what happens that causes the flowers to start dying? Stumped, the girl tries multiple fixes until she discovers the reason. A gently told story of love, nurturing, perseverance and determination, this is a beautifully illustrated story, with colorful spreads of the English countryside and cheery gardens. There are so many details to discover in the sprawling townscape and countryside, from bustling businesses and commuters to the playful garden animals hopping and frolicking around the greenery. A book that encourages readers to endure hard times and embrace the support around them, Sweet Pea Summer is a good warm-weather read. Have some sweet pea coloring pages handy for an accompanying storytime activity. Pair with Zee Grows a Tree for a storytime about the love between nature and kids.

Visit Hazel Mitchell’s author webpage for more information about her books, her artwork, and a host of printable activities about her book, Toby.

 

William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, retold by Georghia Ellinas/Illustrated by Jane Ray, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217735

Ages 4-8

The companion to last year’s William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a dreamlike, picture book interpretation of the famous Shakespeare comedy, great for new audiences. The Fairy Kingdom is up in arms as King Oberon is in a disagreement with his wife, Queen Titania; a group of young nobles arrive in the magical forest from Athens, all in love with the wrong person; and Puck, a mischievous servant of King Oberon’s decides to stir up some trouble just for the fun of it. Retold from Puck’s perspective, this is a very readable, enjoyable breakdown of the hilarious story of mistaken identity, love, and mischievous fairies. Shakespeare’s famous ending, “If we shadows have offended…” closes the story. The artwork is a tapestry of beautiful color, artwork that captures the playful spirit of the play and the otherworldly characters in the story. Moonlight figures heavily in the artwork, a glowing sheen adding illumination and bringing out the details in each character. A great read-aloud idea for older classes (1-3 grades, for instance), consider an Introduction to Shakespeare display for your Children’s Room with books like Anna Claybourne and Tilly’s Where’s Will?, The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review series by Ian Lendler and illustrated by Zack Giallongo, and Mabel and the Queen of Dreams, by Henry, Joshua, & Harrison Herz. Visit ilustrator Jane Ray’s website for free printable coloring pages.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

More Mother’s Day Wishes!

I’ve got more Mother’s Day books for the big day, but first, Everything Is Mama Activity Pages from Jimmy Fallon’s publisher, Macmillan! Enjoy three pages of activities and coloring with the kiddos!

What the Road Said, by Cleo Wade/Illustrated by Lucie de Moyencourt, (March 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250269492

Ages 6-10

If loving advice for living a good life could be summed up in verse, What the Road Said is it. Poet, activist, and one of Marie Claire’s 50 Most Influential Women in America Cleo Wade reminds young and grown readers alike to pay attention to the journey, not the destination. Sometimes, you may think you’re on the wrong path: keep going; “sometimes we go the wrong way on the way to the right way”. You may not always move forward, and you may need help on the way or feel alone. Keep going, the poem urges. Lead with kindness and love, even when met with hate, and just keep going. Illustrator Lucie de Moyencourt’s watercolor and ink artwork begins with an urban landscape, with nature scenes painted on buildings; a child watches them as they walk, and the city streets give way to lush, green pastures, beaches, dark forests, mountains, even outer space, the child following paths up mountains and through the woods; standing triumphant on the top of the world, and meditating on the growth from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Together, Cleo Wade and Lucie de Moyencourt encourage readers to reach for the stars on their journey through life. These comforting, inspiring words and artwork are the perfect story to pass to your little ones and they’re the words we parents need sometimes, because, as Cleo Wade states in her author’s note, “Being a grownup is hard and the Road  reminds me to take it one day at a time”.

 

I Love You, Baby Burrito, by Angela Dominguez, (January 12, 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250231093
Ages 2-5
This book is ADORABLE. A set of new parents greet their new baby – swaddled like a burrito – in this bilingual book of pure joy. Tender images of parents and baby pair with images of a new bird family in a nest outside the family’s window. The parents gaze, hold, and swaddle their little one, marveling at their new bundle, taking such care with every moment. Spanish words are in bright green, and English prose repeats the phrase, helping emphasize terms in both languages. A glossary at the end provides phonetic pronounciation. Mixed media illustrations are soft, gently colored, giving a real feeling of those quiet moments when baby and parents are still getting to know one another. I can’t wait to read this to my library families. An excellent Mother’s Day gift or baby shower gift, too; consider pairing with Hayley Barrett and Juana Martinez-Neal’s Babymoon.
Posted in Uncategorized

Pack your bags, we’re going to Antarctica!

Antarctica: Continent of Wonder, by Mario Cuesta Hernando/Illustrated by Raquel Martin, (June 2021, Prestel Junior), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791374567

Ages 5-8

Are you ready for a journey? Antarctica: Continent of Wonder begins with an invitation to adventure: the narrator has been invited by the United States Antarctic Program to an expedition to Antarctica, and we’re coming along! As we voyage through the colorful pages of this oversize book, we’ll encounter penguins, whales, and seals, watch our shop break through large packs of floating ice, and hunker down in the research station during a snowstorm. Very easy to read, interactive, and with a visually interesting and effective table of contents, this is a great introduction to Antarctica for kids. Facts about the continent pair with spotlights on famed researchers, like Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott; a section on dangers Antarctica faces alerts readers to conservation and environmental concerns like climate change, overfishing, and pollution.

I recently did a “Big Book” virtual readers advisory program with a colleague at my library, because these oversized books may not always get the love they deserve. With beautiful spreads showing humpback whales breaching against a backdrop of ice-covered mountains, or scientists making themselves at home in the research station while a snowstorm rails outside, I can’t wait to show this off at my next Big Book reveal. Give this to your armchair explorers. Revisit NatGeo’s 2020 Virtual Summer in Antarctica for videos and activities to share with your kiddos.

Posted in picture books

Take a walk on the beach with Harry and the Pelican

Harry and the Pelican, by Amy Leaf/Illustrated by Tami Boyce, (June 2021, Leaf Publishing LLC), $19.95, ISBN: 978-1736380925

Ages 3-6

Harry is a young boy who goes for a walk on the beach with his grandpa and cousins. As he walks along toward a lighthouse, he discovers a pelican on the beach, and makes a new friend who’s also visiting with family. It’s a small moment story: taking one small moment and expanding on it, and Amy Leaf does it with a sweet story about a day out with family and the accomplishment of making it all the way across the beach. Back matter includes facts about pelicans, and Tami Boyce’s colorful artwork and expressive characters make for a fun beach story.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

There’s no break being The Middle Kid…

The Middle Kid, by Steven Weinberg, (March 2021, Chronicle Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781452181806

Ages 6-9

It’s hard being the middle kid! The middle kid gets blamed when their little sister is crying, the one who gets picked on when the big brother is mad, and they’re just stuck in the middle; never the oldest, never the youngest. The middle kid telling the story takes readers through a day in the life of The Middle, starting with woken up by his siblings, through his brother’s “toughness training”, and getting a breather when his mom takes him to the library. During an exploring adventure with his siblings, he discovers that he can fit places his brother’s too big for and his sister’s too little for: he’s the perfect size. This realization helps him finish his day by inviting his siblings to create a blanket fort in the living room. Sometimes, being in the middle means you’re the perfect fit. A fun look at the life of a middle child that kids will recognize (my middle kid sure did) and laugh along with. I loved that Mom recognized the importance of taking a breather and giving Middle Kid his own space and time away from the chaos of siblings. Endpapers look like the scribbled insides of a marble notebook, as does the cover of the book when you slip off the jacket. Digital collage artwork is lively and expressive. Kids are going to love this one.

The Middle Kid has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books

Explore SIGHT!

Sight : Glimmer, Glow, SPARK, FLASH!, by Romana Romanyshyn & Andriy Lesiv, (July 2021, Chronicle Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781452179773
Ages 8-12
Art and science make a visually exciting combination in this book about sight, with a thoughtful narration linking scientific facts and infographics throughout. Kids are going to love the high-contrast artwork, with neon oranges, stark whites, and deep blues drawing them to pages on facial expression, deciphering symbols, and optical illusions. A philosophical narrative runs across the bottom of most pages, with thoughts like, “I see myself in the mirror. / I study my face carefully and know its tiniest details. / However, the reflection does not always how who I really am” and “I look at the world with wide-open eyes. / I yearn to discover the unknown, to see beyond the horizon, and to understand things that are not self-evident” encouraging introspection. Great for STEM collections. Display and booktalk with Professor Astro Cat books by Dr. Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman, and Flying Eye Books, which tend to have similar artwork and use infographics, like Dieter Braun’s Wild Animals of the South, and Owen Davies’ Crazy About Cats and Get Smart About Sharks.
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

You know you want to sing The Poop Song!

The Poop Song, by Eric Litwin/Illutarted by Claudia Boldt, (Apr. 2021, Chronicle Books), $15.99, ISBN: 9781452179506

Ages 2-6

The author who gave us Pete the Cat’s I Love My White Shoes has bestowed a new musical gift upon us: The Poop Song. Perfect for potty trainers and preschoolers who are still getting on a potty schedule, The Poop Song is all about…. well, pooping! The hilarious rhyming song applauds the pooping habits of animals: “Cats poop in their own little box. / Mountain goats poop as they climb over rocks. / Fishes poop as they swim in the sea. / Caterpillars poop at the top of a tree.” After a group of animals, Litwin reinforces that everybody’s pooping, and that big boys and big girls poop in the potty, hearing a “happy sound”: a flush! It’s a fun way to encourage kids to use the potty, with loads of laugh-out-loud moments. Colorful digital illustrations and bold fonts make this as much fun visually as it is to read aloud. Download an MP3 to sing along with the book or make up your own tune! The Poop Song has its own webpage where you can download the MP3 or watch the YouTube video, and download a potty chart to help your little poopers track their new potty habits. Absolute fun.

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

Brenna Thummler’s Sheets and Delicates: Ghost friends are the best friends

Sheets, by Brenna Thummler, (Aug. 2018, Oni Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9781941302675

Ages 9-13

Seventh grader Marjorie Glatt has a lot on her shoulders: still reeling from her mother’s untimely death, she’s also running the family laundromat while her father copes with his depression and grief. She’s helping care for her younger brother, and she’s trying to fend off the sleazy businessman who insists he is going to take over the laundromat and open up his “five star extravagant yoga retreat” in its place – but that Marjorie and her dad can work for him. Marjorie is just going through the motions, pushing her own grief down, when Wendell – the sheet-wearing ghost of an 11-year boy who’s trying to find his own place in ghost society – arrives at her shop and unintentionally wreaks havoc. The sheets are the only way ghosts have available in order to be visible: a pretty hefty metaphor for tweens and young teens trying to find their own way in the world. The book sensitively and masterfully handles big topics like grief, visibility, and identity. The villain is perfectly awful, the customers are believably demanding and abrasive, and add to Marjorie’s sense of being overwhelmed. Brenna Thummler’s artwork tells its own story, with interesting details in the backgrounds and a color palette that uses faded blues, grays, and whites to bring the characters to life. A must-buy for your graphic novel collections. TeachingBooks.net has some educator resources available.

Sheets has been selected by YALSA as a Great Graphic Novel for Teens (2019).

Delicates, by Brenna Thummler, (March 2021, Oni Press), $14.99, ISBN: 9781620107881

Ages 10-14

The sequel to Sheets introduces a new character, and delves even deeper into social themes like bullying, trauma, and teen suicide. Picking up shortly after Sheets left off, things are looking up for Marjorie Glatt. She and Wendell are still friends, she’s still providing a place for the ghosts to hang out and kick back, and she’s even in with the  in-crowd at school: the mean girls from the last book. Marjorie’s not in love with hanging out with Tessi and her crew – they keep her around as more of a project than a friend – but she’s all about the path of least resistance. When one of their teachers asks the group to keep an eye on his daughter, Eliza, who’ll be repeating eighth grade at the school, the schism between Marjorie and Tessi; Tessi sees Eliza’s quirkiness as a target for bullying, and Marjorie, not one for conflict, tries to appease both sides until she realizes that failing to act is just as much an act of bullying. The storytelling is incredibly introspective here: Eliza emerges as a particularly brilliant character as she deals with feelings of isolation, depression, and suicidal feelings. Eliza’s family is supportive and stands with her, finding her help. Brenna Thummler’s color palette is lighter, incorporating more rose-colored hues this time, speaking to the characters’ continuing journey toward happiness. A great follow-up to a superb story. I’d love to see more.

Delicates has a starred review from Foreword Reviews. Visit author/illustrator Brenna Thummler’s webpage for more information about her books and her artwork.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant

Dogs and Cats… the eternal struggle. Can they ever be friends? This adorable antagonists-to-besties story by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant (You Are (Not) Small,  I Am (Not) Scared, Eraser) believes they can. Hudson is a mud-loving, hole digging dog; Tallulah is a butterfly-chasing, self-cleaning cat. The two live on opposite sides of the same fence, and have very different outlooks on the world until they find themselves out on the town for a day of adventure. They bicker, they quibble, they flat-out squabble, until a moment arises when they discover that even those with different opinions can find a moment of community. From there, they discover how much they really can enjoy together, ending the day as besties.

Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides, by Anna Kang/Illustrated by Christopher Weyant,
(May 2021, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542006682
Ages 4-7

 

I adore the Kang/Weyant team; they have a gift with fun dialogue and make the most vehement disagreements gleefully silly. Christopher Weyant’s gouache and graphite artwork gives readers cartoonlike characters that kids will love from the outset; we know all we need to about this twosome from the opening spread, where Tallulah sits on a fluffy cat seat, surrounded by cat toys, as she swipes at a butterfly; Hudson’s yard is covered in balls, sticks, bones, and a tempting, muddy hole. The story takes place entirely in dialogue, letting readers develop their own voices for the two frenemies. Tallulah looks appropriately smug, as only a cat can do; Hudson, adorably disgruntled. Anna Kang’s back-and-forth dialogue reminds readers that they may see things differently, too; Hudson digs out from under his fence to explore, while Tallulah sits in judgment on the fence, as Hudson says, “I’m busting out. Fences keep me trapped”. Tallulah responds, “Fences keep us safe”. It’s a simple statement that appeals to both sides of the argument, and kids will see themselves in these two funny friends as they forge a new friendship.

Hudson and Tallulah Takes Sides has a starred review from Booklist, and anything by Team Kang/Weyant is an insta-buy for me.

Anna Kang and Chrisotopher Weyant are the creators of Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small as well as series titles That’s (Not) Mine, I Am (Not) Scared, and We Are (Not) Friends. They also wrote and illustrated Eraser, Can I Tell You A Secret?, and Will You Help Me Fall Asleep? Christopher’s work can also be seen in The New Yorker, and his cartoons are syndicated worldwide. This husband-and-wife team lives in New Jersey with their two daughters and their rescue dog, Hudson, the inspiration behind the character in this book. Visit them at www.annakang.com and www.christopherweyant.com.

Twitter: @annakang27 @ChristophWeyant

Instagram: annakangbookschristopherweyant   

Facebook: Anna Kang – AuthorChristopher Weyant

New Yorker cartoonist Weyant’s illustrations, which use gouache, graphite, and lots of white space, carry the day, filling the dog’s and cat’s reactions to what they encounter with plenty of comic details (like the bold lettering conveying the dog-park dogs’ frantic barking at the cat). Madcap fun.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Charming cartoons convey the nearly wordless story augmented with dialogue between the two rivals…An amusing exploration of how opposite personalities can learn to appreciate their unique relationship.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Aptly captured by married team Kang and Weyant (You Are (Not) Small), the unlikely friends’ comic path to camaraderie unfolds nearly wordlessly, with expressive gouache and graphite scenes that burst with physical humor, showing that even those who fight like cats and dogs can be friends.” —Publishers Weekly

 

 

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides, courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Barbara Throws a Wobbler… watch out!

Barbara Throws a Wobbler, by Nadia Shireen, (April 2021, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-68464-225-0

Ages 3-6

Barbara is not having a good day. First, there was a sock problem. Then, there was a strange pea at lunchtime. Things just keep going wrong for Barbara, and even her friends calling out to her isn’t helping. Barbara is nearing that last straw, which leads to a big… giant… WOBBLER! Wobbler is British slang for “tantrum”, something you’ll easily pick up in context, and it takes on a life of its own in this adorably fun and relatable story. The Wobbler is giant, gelatinous, and red, sitting atop Barbara’s head and eventually engulfing her until she can get a handle on it. Once she talks to her Wobbler and takes a deep breath, the Wobbler becomes more manageable, until it finally shrinks away – but not without letting her know it’ll be back one day! Kids and grownups alike will recognize toddler and preschooler triggers, from the “strange pea” at lunch, to the “hundred bad moods wrapped up in one” feeling that Barbara feels, right before the Wobbler takes over. A Very Useful Guide to Bad Moods at the end offers other moods to recognize, along with symptoms: The Sulk, The Tizzy, and The Seethe are just a few on the path to the Wobbler. Never making fun of Barbara or the frustration that leads to a tantrum, Barbara Throws a Wobbler takes an sensitive approach to identifying what sets a Wobbler off, and how to shrink it back down once it appears.

Originally published in the UK in 2020, Barbara Throws a Wobbler has just arrived on U.S. shores and has a starred review from Kirkus.