Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

#BooksfromQuarantine: Baby Clown and Follow Me, Flo!

Baby Clown, by Kara LaReau/Illustrated by Matthew Cordell, (Apr. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763697433

Ages 3-7

Parents and littles alike will love this book. Frieda and Boffo are two circus clowns who’ve just had a baby clown! Everyone is thrilled for them, especially the Big Boss, Mr. Dingling, who swears the new baby is going to be a star. There’s one eensy problem, though… Baby Clown cries all the time! Boffo can’t calm him down, Frieda can’t calm him down, and Mr. Dingling is getting frustrated. There’s no crying at the circus! Each member of the circus tries to lend a hand, but neither the trapeze artists, the animals, nor the wire walker are successful. Will Baby Clown calm down in time for his Big Top debut?

This book is SO RELATABLE. Who hasn’t tried to calm a baby who will not be soothed? The baby’s dry, not hungry, not sleepy, just cranky, and amount of juggling, antics, or soothing voices will do a darned thing. The artwork from Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell brings the story to life with his colorful inks and watercolors, giving us a baby who becomes, as Geisel Honor Winner Kara LaReau writes, “a big, wide, loud, mouth” in full meltdown mode. The characters take on frantic, manic expressions as the baby continues to scream; one of my favorite illustrations has poor Mom Frieda curled up in a fetal position next to the screaming baby, as Dad Boffo, kneeling, pleads for peace. Does Baby Clown get it together? Heck, you need to see for yourself, but I promise you: you’ll recognize yourself in this one right away if you’ve ever been around young children. Inspired by Kara LaReau’s own experience with colic, Baby Clown is a must for storytime.

 

Follow Me, Flo!, by Jarvis, (March 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212709

Ages 3-7

Another book that is SO relatable to kids and grownups, Flo is a young duckling who loves to do her own thing, much to her father’s chagrin. When they go visit Aunt Jenna’s new nest, though, Daddy Duck lays it all out for Flo: she MUST follow him or she’ll get lost. He even makes up a song with directions for the trip, but Flo – you guessed it! – decides that she’s bored and decides to take a little side trip of her own. But when she finds herself in big trouble, Daddy’s directions will save the day!

Kids will immediately love Flo, an adorably bright, yellow duckling with some sass. She doesn’t want to follow Daddy’s boring instructions; he doesn’t even sing loud like she does! But, as we parents and caregivers know, when she strays off that path, things may look fun at first, but there’s always a moment when things aren’t quite so fun any more. After a brush with stranger danger, Flo quickly discovers that her dad’s directions are there for a reason, and thankfully, easy enough to remember! The pencil, chalk, and painted artwork is cheery and fun, and both Flo and Dad’s faces are expressive, communicating both the seriousness of Dad’s discussion with Flo, and Flo’s increasing impatience with him as they head out on their trip. Will Flo stick to the straight and narrow? In the short run, sure… but maybe, just maybe, Flo will be back with a new adventure? Follow Me, Flo! is a fun story for readalouds and a no-pressure way to broach the concept of stranger danger.

Follow Me, Flo! has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Halloween’s a-comin’!

I loooooove Halloween. I’m one of those wackos that start decorating the first week of October (I’ll be going out to the garage to get my decorations tonight), and I’ve already started stockpiling goodies to stock for my trick-or-treaters at home and the library, plus goodies to hand out to my kiddo’s class. For Halloween storytime, I hand out little trick or treat bags with a mini-coloring book, like this Five Little Pumpkins rhyme from DLTK, some stickers, and a little trinket or two.

Halloween storytimes are the best, because I go nuts. I dress up, we sing great Halloween songs and dance to videos, and I stockpile Halloween stories to read and display. So here are some of the newer books I have on my Halloween storytime pile.

Pick a Pumpkin, by Patricia Toht/Illustrated by Jarvis, (July 2019, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536207644

Ages 3-7

The folks who brought us 2017’s Pick a Pine Tree are back with a Halloween story from the pumpkin patch. This rhyming story brings a family to the pumpkin patch, where they pick the perfect pumpkins; bringing them home, they assemble a pumpkin carving crew, their tools, and create the coolest Jack O’Lanterns you could wish for! The kids don their Halloween costumes for a night on the town while the Jack O’Lanterns guard their homes. Easily readable, with a soothing rhyme cadence, this is perfect storytime reading. The pencil, chalk, and paint artwork uses warm and vibrant Fall colors, and creates fun Jack O’Lantern faces for the kids to love. Don’t miss this one; you’ll come back to it for regular holiday reading. Have Jack O’Lantern coloring sheets ready to hand out post-storytime.

Pick a Pumpkin has a starred review from Booklist.

 

Where’s the Witch?, by Ingela P. Arrrhenius, (July 2019, Nosy Crow), $8.99, ISBN: 9781536207538

Ages 0-3

Christmas authors are getting into the Halloween spirit this year! Ingela P. Arrenhius’ board book, Where’s Santa?, was perfect toddler holiday reading and exploring last year. This year, she introduces kids to Halloween concepts, using her bold, bright, expressive art to send kids searching for Halloween icons: a witch, a skeleton, a spider, and vampire, all hidden behind shaped felt. The final spread asks, “Where are you?” and hides a mirror behind a felt ghost, letting toddlers see themselves for the final reveal. These books are adorable, and little fingers will love exploring and discovering their Halloween friends. Pair this with A Mischief of Monsters for a monstrously good storytime! (I know, that was painful, but it was right there.) Order two if you can, and keep one in your storytime collection: this one will get beaten up in circulation.

Give Me Back My Bones!, by Kim Norman/Illustrated by Bob Kolar, (July 2019, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763688417

Ages 4-8

A rhyming anatomy lesson and hide-and-seek all in one book! A stormy night has wreaked havoc on a poor pirate skeleton, whose bones have been scattered all over the sea floor. The rhyme incorporates proper biological terms for the bones, including mandible, metacarpals, scapula, and femur. The endpapers lay it all out for you, too: the front endpapers feature the scattered skeleton, with all his parts labeled; the back endpapers have our skeletal friend reassembled, with everything labeled so kids can see how they come together. As the rhyme proceeds through the book, encourage kids to look for the old buccaneer’s bones, and for any other pirate gear he may be missing: his hat, sword, earring, peg leg, and more have all been scattered to the seven seas, too! The digital artwork is bright, bold, and fun, showing the skeleton reassemble amid curious marine life, all of whom have taken ownership of the shiny skeletal treasures. The cover of the book doubles as a poster, with our pirate skeleton assembled and labeled. Could be a fun decoration!┬áKids will love it if you read this in an improvised pirate voice, just make sure you have some water nearby to soothe your throat. That pirate rasp can leave you parched.

Don’t miss this one. Give Me Back My Bones! has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Stocking stuffers, snuggle time stories: Christmas picture books!

Happy Black Friday! While you’re deep into your holiday shopping, here are a few picture book suggestions for stocking stuffers or Christmastime snuggling. I’ll have Hanukkah and Kwanzaa book rundowns shortly; I just need to read a few and get a better idea of the good stuff out there.

And away we go!

Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder, by Rebecca Colby/Illustrated by Rob McClurkan,
(Nov. 2017, Albert Whitman & Company), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0-8075-1063-6
Recommended for readers 4-8

Captain Bling and his crew are planning a big plundering trip, but their ship gets blown off course, landing them by the North Pole! Well, when they get a look at Santa’s elves loading all those toys and goodies up, they decide to steal everything for themselves – until Santa shows those buccaneers a little Christmas spirit! Rhyming text, cartoony art, and a sweet message about giving, plus a heck of a trip on Santa’s sleigh, make this a cute Christmas tale for pirate fans and Santa fans alike.

 

A Christmas for Bear, Bonny Becker/Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton,
(Sept. 2017, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763649234
Recommended for readers 5-10

Bear doesn’t have much interest in Christmas – pickles are far better. But Mouse does, and when he shows up at Bear’s house for a Christmas party, he discovers that his surly friend Bear may have a little Christmas spirit after all. I love Bonny Becker’s Bear series; he and Mouse are wonderful foils for one another, and Bear always comes around to embrace the fun side of life (and pickles. Always pickles). Bear deliciously keeps Mouse in suspense, feigning total disinterest in the very idea of the holiday; when he thinks Mouse has had enough, he starts “a long and difficult poem” – The Night Before Christmas – and drops hints for Mouse that the ruse is up and it’s time for presents. The watercolor, ink, and gouache art creates a soft, cuddly feel for a winter’s evening storytime. It’s a great add to holiday picture book collections. A Christmas for Bear received a starred review from Kirkus.

 

The Christmas Fairy, by Anne Booth/Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw,
(Sept. 2017, Nosy Crow/Candlewick), $15.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9629-0
Recommended for ages 3-7

Clara is a lively little fairy with dreams of being a “proper Christmas fairy on a sparkly Christmas tree”, but her teacher seems to think she isn’t Christmas fairylike at all: she’s always singing, dancing, or laughing! Luckily, Santa sees things differently when the Christmas Show is in trouble; he tells Clara that he needs a “special fairy who is full of life and fun”; who cheers people up, and is contagiously happy. Clara steps in to save the day, and her teacher – and the reader – learn that not every fairy has to be perfect to be wonderful. The Christmas fairy is all about embracing who you are and not accepting someone else’s idea of perfect. The mixed media illustrations are absolutely adorable; there are towering flowers, little bugs, and a diverse little group of fairy friends. The rhyming text provides a nice rhythm to a sweet Christmas story. Add this one to collections where you have fairy fans (I’ve got a bunch here), and maybe toss in a showing of the Rankin-Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer animated show, with a a similar “Santa asks for help” moment.

 

Elf in the House, by Ammi-Joan Paquette/Illustrated by Adam Record,
(Sept. 2017, Candlewick), $15.99, ISBN: 9780-7636-8132-6
Recommended for readers 3-7

Jingle Jingle! A young girl hears a noise in her house on a snowy Christmas Eve, and creeps down to investigate. The cumulative, rhyming story leaves readers in suspense as she discovers who else is in her home with each turn of the page. Each reveal leads to another noise, another search, another reveal; the lyrical storytelling and the use of suspense ratchets up the excitement for readers, and the digital artwork is cute, with big-eyed characters and goofy expressions that will make younger readers giggle. A fun addition to Christmas storytimes, for sure.

 

Pick a Pine Tree, by Patricia Toht/Illustrated by Jarvis,
(Sept. 2017, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9571-2
Recommended for readers 3-7

The perfect way to kick off the Christmas holiday season: pick a tree! Pick a Pine Tree chronicles a tree’s journey from lot to dazzling. The rhyming tale shows a family choosing a tree, bringing it home, and decorating it to get it ready for Christmas. The pencil, chalk, paint, digitally colored illustrations have a vintage feel to them and have fun visual references that we associate with the holiday: a cat in the tree, boxes of decorations coming out of storage, a tree-trimming party, with kids wearing garland boas. It’s all about the ritual of the season, and the greatest moment: when the tree isn’t a pine tree anymore, but a Christmas Tree, dazzling and bright, with awestruck observers peeking out from the page margins. Pick a Pine Tree may very well be a new Christmas classic. The book has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Red and Lulu, by Matt Tavares, (Sept. 2017, Candlewick),
$17.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-7733-6
Recommended for readers 5-10

Red and Lulu are a mated pair of cardinals living in a beautiful evergreen tree; one day, Red returns to the tree to discover it’s being taken away – with Lulu still inside! Red follows the truck carrying the tree as far as he can, but the truck is New York bound, and the city is too big for Red. Overwhelmed, he sweeps through the city, tired and hungry, desperate to find Lulu. One day, he hears the song he and Lulu shared so many times: “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, thy leaves are so unchanging…” and follows the singing to Times Square, where, as he soars over the Rockefeller Center tree and toward their favorite branch. This book is absolutely going to tug at your heartstrings. The watercolor and gouache art is just beautiful, and Red’s bright red feathers stand out on every spread. Matt Tavares beautifully captures New York City at Christmastime: the wreaths around the New York Public Library lions; the bright lights and nonstop action of Times Square, the resplendence of the Rockefeller Center Tree. The spread where Red circles the Empire State Building spire is just breathtaking. The story of unconditional love will resonate with older readers, and younger readers will enjoy the story of a bird who refuses to give up on a lost friend. Another Christmas classic for shelves. Red & Lulu has a starred review from Publishers Weekly. You can visit the Red & Lulu page on Matt Tavares’ website and view the book trailer and more art.

That’s it for now – more holiday books and shopping lists on the way!