Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Board books make great stocking stuffers!

They’re portable, they’re sturdy, they fit in a stocking as easily as they do a purse or a toddler’s hands: board books are great gifts!

The Sun Shines on the Sea, by Michael Slack, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $9.99, ISBN: 9781536215694

Ages 3-5

The gentlest way to introduce the concept of the food chain to preschoolers, The Sun Shines on the Sea is a lift-the-flap board book that lets the flaps do the talking. While the sun shines on the sea, phytoplankton grow, and hungry krill snack on the phytoplankton as they soak up the sun, and that’s where the flaps take over: the story makes reference to a predator moving, swirling, and gliding past, and flaps reveal what’s in their bellies: “A shoal of fish swirls around the krill”, and a flap reveals a krill in a fish’s tummy. The story is factual, easy to understand, and begins and ends with the sun shining on the sea. The digital artwork is colorful, the sea life are kid-friendly, and the flaps are sturdy.

If you’re using this in an underwater story time, this is a great time to sing “Slippery Fish” and use some flannels. I really like this recycled cardboard aquarium craft, and you can easily make it a grab and go. Don’t have a cheese box? Trim some cardboard from cereal boxes, glue into a circle, and back it with construction paper.

 

Where’s Brian’s Bottom? A Veeeerrrry Long Fold-Out Book, by Rob Jones, (Oct. 2021, Pavilion), $9.95, ISBN: 9781843654667

Ages 0-3

Weiner dog fans will love this hilarious fold-out book. Brian is a dachshund who can’t find his bottom! Readers can help him as they unfold the book to search through five rooms, meeting a variety of Brian’s acquaintances to help with the search. The concertina book folds out into over 6 feet of Brian, and takes readers through different rooms of the house, his body streeeeetching along the way. Kids can identify different rooms, animals, and sounds, and repetitive questions invites readers to chime in. The endpaper at the front of the book features a wall of framed photos – Brian, naturally, takes up two frames – with animals that readers will meet during the course of the story. Each side that folds out tells a different story: one takes place during the day, one at night, with different events that you can invite readers to tell you about. The bold, cartoon artwork is eye-catching, and readers will love discovering something new with every turn of the flap. Absolute fun.

Where is Brian’s Bottom? is the first in a board book concertina series from Pavilion; I’ll be keeping an eye out for more.

 

 

 

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth, by Emily Haynes & Sanjay Patel, (Aug. 2021, Chronicle Books), $8.99, ISBN: 9781797212524

Ages 3-5

I was so excited to see a board book release for one of my favorite picture books, Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth! The story of how Hindu god Ganesha and the poet Vyasa create the great epic, The Mahabharata, translates beautifully to board book. The illustrations are colorful, vibrant, and eye-catching; the storytelling pace works in this format, and the author’s note at the end explains the story behind the story: how Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth isn’t a literal retelling of the classic legend, but more of a kid-friendly reimagining that kids can relate to, like breaking a tooth on a jawbreaker sweet and learning to channel a meltdown into something more productive.

Publisher Chronicle has a Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth activity kit, with a coloring sheet and fill-in-the-blank epic poem.

 

 

Dog’s First Baby, by Natalie Nelson, (Oct. 2021, Quirk Books), $9.99, ISBN: 9781683692799

Ages 2-5

Told from a dog’s point of view, Dog’s First Baby is a board book with a fun spin on things as a family dog discovers someone new joining the household: a baby. Dog isn’t sure whether or not to be thrilled with this latest development, as baby’s front paws pull his ears and hurt; with time, though Dog sees that maybe the two aren’t so different after all: they both howl; they both like to play tug-of-war; they both enjoy a good stretch, and baby sure likes to share food, and, as Dog says, “I admire this”. A great book for new parents who may be getting ready or are in the early stages of introducing a new baby and a dog, Dog’s First Baby embraces the chaos of those early months: Baby dropping food all over the floor (which Dog happily cleans up); Baby and Dog howling and wailing together; Baby attempting to ride Dog; Baby and Dog making messes together. The book also captures those moments that are worth every mess: Baby asleep on Dog’s flank; the two sitting in a chair together, and Dog’s quiet presence whenever Baby is near, whether they’re walking together or sleeping in the same room. Deep, rich colors and textured lighter colors make this a beautiful book to look through.

Quirk and Natalie Nelson have a companion book, Cat’s First Baby, coming in March 2022. I can’t wait! In the meantime, this is a perfect storytime book and gift book. There’s a free, downloadable activity kit available, too.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Aru Shah and the End of Time: Rick Riordan Presents with a strong debut!

Aru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi, (March 2018, Disney Book Group), $16.99, ISBN: 9781368012355

Recommended for readers 8-12

Rick Riordan introduces his new imprint with Aru Shah and the End of Time, author Roshani Chokshi’s adventure through Indian mythology.

Aru Shah is a 12-year-old Indian girl who has a hard time fitting in at school, so she… embellishes the truth… to keep up with her wealthy classmates. The thing is, they all know she lies, and she’s become a target of derision over it. She lives with her archaeologist mother in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, and tells her friends that there’s a cursed lamp in the exhibits. Naturally, they show up, demanding her to prove it. Ignoring her mother’s advice to never touch the lamp, Aru lights it and unwittingly releases The Sleeper – an ancient demon – who’s going to awaken the Shiva, the god of destruction, if Aru can’t make things right in time. After discovering that Aru is the reincarnation of one of the legendary heroes, the Pandava brothers, she sets off on a mythological adventure where she’ll learn more about herself and her mother than she could ever have imagined.

 

I was so excited to read Aru Shah, especially after finishing Sayantani Dasgupta’s brilliant The Serpent’s Secret a couple of weeks ago. Indian mythology is an area I’ve never read much about, and it’s time that was remedied. Aru is on a quest to save her family and friends, and she’s not alone: she’s got a Pandava sister she meets on the way, and a disgraced god-turned-pigeon to guide her as she seeks out the weapons that will stop the Seeker. There’s great world-building, with humor and a sense of wonder as Aru meets gods and goddesses she thought existed only in myth; the character development is great for people unfamiliar with Indian mythology, as each god, goddess, and demon gets enough of an explanation to keep readers in the story. There’s a glossary at the end to help readers with the origin tales of Indian myths featured in the book.

You know who to give this to: the Percy Jackson/Kane Chronicles/Magnus Chase/Riordan readers who love world mythology; the kids who read Serpent’s Secret and wanted more? Now you can give them Aru Shah and tell them that Rick Riordan Presents has Mayan and Korean mythology coming up next. Aru Shah and the End of Time has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, and Kirkus.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, mythology, Tween Reads

Put The Serpent’s Secret at the TOP of your TBR.

The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1), by Sayantani Dasgupta, (Feb. 2018, Scholastic), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1338185706

Recommended for readers 9-12

Kiranmala is an ordinary 12 year-old girl, living in New Jersey, with her totally embarrassing parents who keep calling her “Princess” and telling her stories about Indian mythology: so annoying. The thing is, they’re not telling stories. Kiranmala is a real Indian princess, she’s from a secret fantasy world, and she’s a totally awesome demon slayer. And she discovers all of this when she gets home from school, on her 12th birthday, to find her parents gone and a gross, slobbering, rhyming rakkhosh demon coming for her. While she’s trying to figure out what is going on, two princes show up to help out, bring her back to the secret world where she’s from, and help her rescue her parents. Oh, and save the world. No pressure.

This book is un-put-downable. Sayantani Dasgupta packs so much action into this story, yet gives us wonderful character development and a fabulous introduction to Indian mythology (black and white illustrations throughout help). Seriously! I tweeted at NatGeo Kids while I was reading The Serpent’s Secret, because I think it’s high time we got an Indian Mythology compendium to join their Norse, Greek, Egyptian, and Roman Mythology volumes. Rhyming demons? Talking birds? They have flying horses, too? There’s so much I need to know here! To be fair, Ms. Dasgupta does give us a bit of an introduction at the end of the book, but with all these wonderful Southeast Asian books hitting shelves (looking at you, Aru Shah and the End of Time), it’s time to join the party. There is a wealth of rich storytelling that readers are gaining access to; let’s give them the context, the origins, of these stories.

I know I’m gushing, but I’m not even sorry. Kiran is a fun, sarcastic, tween heroine, and she’s surrounded by a hilarious, exciting, and straight up gross cast of characters. And this is only the first book of a new series? Sign me up. I want more! Give this to any of your fantasy fans; especially those Rick Riordan readers who have already demonstrated their love of Greek, Egyptian, Norse, and Roman mythologies. Give this to the kids in your library who want heroes and heroines who look like them. Give this to the kids in your library who need to understand that there are heroes and heroines who don’t look like them.

The Serpent’s Secret has starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal.

Sayantani Dasgupta has an author website and a list of appearances and events.