Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Magical, snuggly bedtime stories

Who doesn’t love a good bedtime story? And now, with virtual programming here for good, we can hold virtual pajama storytimes at any time! Here are a few adorable new bedtime stories to read to your littles, whether they’re curled up in your lap at home, or gathered around their devices for your storytime.

It’s So Quiet: A Not-Quite-Going-to-Bed Book, by Sherri Duskey Rinker, (Feb. 2021, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781452145440

Ages 3-7

As the sun goes down and the night drifts in, a little mouse isn’t able to fall asleep quite yet: it’s too quiet! Mom tells the little mouse to let the sounds of nature help them drift off to sleep: a croaking bullfrog, a snoring grandfather and his dog’s tail thumping against the porch; a coyote howling at the moon, all around the little mouse, there is sound – and maybe he would like it a little more quiet after all. Sherri Duskey Rinker creates wonderful bedtime stories that play with sound, rhyme, and repetition – Steam Train, Dream Train and Good Night, Good Night Construction Site are stalwart storytime favorites with my library kids – and It’s Too Quiet continues this fun tradition. Sound effects repeat and get their own exaggerated fonts, calling attention to them and making for flannel and finger puppet storytelling. Digital illustrations are cartoony and expressive, with bold lines. A great bedtime and storytime book that’s sure to pack in the laughs.

It’s So Quiet has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Ella’s Night Lights, by Lucy Fleming, (Nov. 2020, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212693

Ages 3-7

Ella is a little girl with moth wings and antenna, who sleeps in the nook of a tree by day. By night, she flies around, collecting light and bringing it to anyone that needs it, repeating a gentle rhyme: “Here’s some bright light. / Here’s a night light, / a little ray to calm your fright”. Ella wants so much to see the sunrise, but her delicate wings make that impossible, until her animal friends come together with a plan to celebrate her kindness. Ella’s Night Lights is a warm story of kindness and friendship, with soft digital illustrations and quietly colorful spreads bringing life to cold, snowy landscapes. The endpapers are soft yellow, with moths flitting across the pages. Ella’s evening rhyme is a lovely way to send dreamers off to sleep, especially for those who may appreciate a little extra light in the room.

 

Bedtime for Albie, by Sophie Ambrose, (Jan. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536211184

Ages 3-7

It’s time for bed in the savanna, but Albie, a young warthog, still wants to play! He runs off to ask his other animal buddies to play, but everyone’s going through their night time routines. That doesn’t stop Albie, who decides he’ll just play on his own… but it’s not really much fun playing all by himself, so Albie heads back to his mother, who has the best night time routine waiting for him. Kids will relate to this story about not being ready for bed just yet, and the different animals going through bedtime stories and baths is a good way to prompt conversation about our own bedtime routines: brushing teeth, washing up, stories, what else can you think of? The phrase, “skippety trot trit trot”, used when Albie dashes off, repeats often enough that you can invite readers to chime in. Watercolor and pencil illustrations are soft, with earthy colors and friendly animal faces. Endpapers show a grayed-out area of the savanna. A fun story on which to end the day.

 

While You’re Sleeping, by Mick Jackson/Illustrated by John Broadley, (Feb. 2021, Pavilion), $19.95, ISBN: 978-1843654650

Ages 4-8

While you’re tucking your little one into bed, there’s a whole world hustling and bustling outside. While You’re Sleeping is all about the folx who work while the rest of the world sleeps: people who clean public transportation and offices; delivery drivers; mail sorters, bakers, shopkeepers, and more, all work through the night to get the world ready for everyone else that next morning. Even the animal world doesn’t settle in for the night: foxes pass humans on the street as they forage for food, bats and owls hunt for prey. John Broadley’s illustrations remind me of Beth Krommes’s artwork; there’s so much detail to be discovered. Colors grow warmer as the night turns to dawn, with red-orange sunlight streaking through windows and down streets. Read with Karen Hesse’s Night Shift for a storytime about night time jobs.

While You’re Sleeping was originally published in the U.K. in 2020.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books about Working Animals!

Stanley’s Fire Engine, by William Bee, (Aug. 2020, Peachtree Publishers), $14.99, ISBN: 9781682632147

Ages 3-7

The hardest-working hamster in children’s books is back, and now he’s a firefighter! The day starts off with Stanley and Peggy work on keeping the fire engine in tip-top condition, because Stanley needs to use that fire engine for a bunch of things; whether he’s getting things stuck in trees, like kites or Little Woo; putting out the annual fire at Charlie’s barbecue, or filing up a pool so the littles can cool off on a hot day, Stanley and his fire engine are there. The fun begins when he loads his friends up in the fire engine and take off to watch the firework display! After the fireworks, it’s time for Stanley to go home, where he has his evening routine of dinner, bath and bed. Thanks for a fun day, Stanley!

The latest Stanley book shows the lighter side of being a firefighter, but the main idea is there: firefighters help in all sorts of ways, and it’s a really good idea to have a fire engine at the ready if you’re shooting off fireworks. The endpapers showcase some of the equipment kids can expect to find at the firehouse, including the big ladder, a hose, the fire bell, and a fire extinguisher. Bright colors, boldly outlined, and short sentences perfect for sight word readers make this a hit. If you’re doing a virtual storytime, many firefighting companies offer free links to coloring books. Check out Liberty Mutual’s coloring book, this one from Indian Mills Fire Company in New Jersey, and New York’s Official FDNY Fire Safety Activity Coloring Book.

Snakes On the Job, by Kathryn Dennis, (Jan. 2020, Feiwel & Friends),  $17.99, ISBN: 9781250214003

Ages 2-5

The companion to 2019’s Snakes on a Train is the adorable story of a group of snakes, working in construction, to build a playground. The story plays with sound, offering occasional rhyme, and plenty of sssssslithery, hissssshhing sounds to make a readaloud fun! Brightly colored snakes don yellow construction helmets and get behind the wheels of different trucks – backhoes, dump trucks, diggers, and more – to clear the way and prepare the ground for building. They work together, even eat together – I loved the food truck offering Ant Tacos – and get back to work to stay on schedule. Once the park opens, they welcome visitors.

Bright colors, adorable digital illustrations, and short sentences that are loaded with action make this a fun choice for a construction storytime.

 

Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog, by Lisa Papp, (Sept. 2020, Peachtree Publishers), $17.99, ISBN: 9781682631492

Ages 4-8

In this third Madeline Finn book, Madeline and her dog Star are training for Star to become a therapy dog. The two visit Walker Oaks, a retirement community, where Star will be evaluated three different times. Star seems to be a hit, and is so well-behaved, but Madeline is drawn to one gentleman, a wheelchair-bound man named Mr. Humphrey, who sits off by himself and doesn’t want to engage with Madeline or Star. While Madeline’s mother reminds her that people work at their own pace, Madeline thinks of ways she and Star can cheer up Mr. Humphrey.

This is such a great series, and this latest installment shows the value of therapy dogs and how they touch people’s lives. It’s a story with empathy and compassion, and inspires younger readers to make a difference in their communities. The pencil and watercolor artwork are realistic, with muted colors for this quietly moving story. A must-have. Publisher Peachtree has an activity kit covering all three Madeline Finn books available for free download.

Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

#HomesCool: Career Day, Playing with Words, Women’s History, and ICK!

More #HomesCool fun as I catch up on my Summer Reading TBR! Here’s what’s good this week:

Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of, by Natalie Labarre, (Apr. 2020, Nosy Crow), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536212198

Ages 9-12

Welcome to Career Day! What do you want to be when you grow up: a librarian? Teacher or doctor? How about… a Train Pusher, or a Pet Preservationist? If the usual Career Day job list is leaving you with a case of the blahs, Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of is the book for you and your kiddos. Oversized and illustrated in full color, this book spotlights jobs that are off the beaten path: sure, kids may have heard of an Egyptologist, but do they know that a Body Farmer uses the bodies of folks who’ve donated their bodies to science to recreate crime scenes or do scientific research? Or that a Chief Sniffer smell-checks anything going on a spacecraft launch? How about creating works of art from cheese, like a Cheese Sculptor? There are so many great jobs in here, kids will never look at Career Day the same way again. Illustrated with upbeat, fun artwork, and bright blue endpapers that give nods to all sorts of careers waiting inside, this is way too much fun, and a brand new take on the question, “So… what do you want to be when you grow up?”.

 

Alphamaniacs: Builders of the 26 Wonders of the Word, by Paul Fleischman/Illustrated by Melissa Sweet, (Apr. 2020, Candlewick Studio), $19.99, ISBN: 9780763690663

Ages 12+

Looking like an artist’s journal, filled with colorful, mixed media illustrations in bold, wild colors, Alphamaniacs is a book for those of us who love words and language. Twenty-six profiles fill this book, but they’re not the kind of wordsmiths you may think of: Simon Vostre, the 15-century publisher of religious books who wrote book curses to protect his works from careless readers and handlers: “Whoever steals this Book of Prayer / May he be ripped apart by swine, / His heart be splintered, this I swear, / And his body dragged along the Rhine”; Corín Tellado, the prolific author whose writing career left us with over 4,000 novels; and Daniel Nussbaum, the creator of “PL8SPK” – vanity license plates that retell the classics – are all here, as are other word artists and lovers. The book is perfect for tweens and teens who love a good word-related joke, and can be used in ELA classes to show how much fun it is to play with language. Any language!

Alphamaniacs has starred reviews from Kirkus and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

 

Noise Makers: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices & Changed the World, by Kazoo Magazine, Edited by Erin Bried, (Jan. 2020, Alfred A. Knopf), $25.99, ISBN: 9780525580171

Ages 9-14

This book is AMAZING. It’s a graphic novel look at 25 women who made history, written and drawn by some of the most outstanding names in comics and graphic novels today, including Lucy Knisley, Maris Wicks, and Kat Leyh. Collected by the editors at Kazoo Magazine, every woman profiled here gets star treatment: a biographical spread with a picture, summary paragraph, and bullets points, inviting readers to see what they have in common with these women (talk about inspiring!), and a short graphic novel story from the woman’s life. Eugenie Clark, the “Shark Whisperer” (and Shark Lady, according to Jess Keating), is here; Wangari Maathai, who planted trees in Kenya, is here, too. Junko Tabei, the first woman to reach the peak of Mount Everest; artist Frida Kahlo, and musician and spy Josephine Baker are all here, too. Their stories are beautifully told and in a way that links reader, writer, and subject. Noise Makers organizes profiles under six areas: Grow (women who worked with nature); Tinker (entrepreneurs and inventors); Play (those with more physical accomplishments); Create (artists and creators); Rally (advocates and activists); and Explore (pioneers and explorers). This is essential, joyful, reading. Each contributing artist has a profile in the back matter. Put a copy on your Biography shelves and a copy on your Graphic Novels shelves.

 

 

Ick! Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses, by Melissa Stewart, (June 2020, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426337468

Ages 7-13

You have got to love NatGeo Kids for having their finger on the pulse of what kids like. Ick! celebrates the grossest stuff in the animal world: caterpillars that camouflage themselves to look like dung, birds who build their nests with spit, a wasp who builds her nest inside her prey; it’s all here, with full-color photos that will make readers squeal with macabre delight. Organized into sections on Disgusting Dinners, Disgusting Dwellings, and Disgusting Defenses, readers learn all about the ways animals live, eat, and protect themselves. Callout facts and stats feature throughout the book, as do “Extra Ick!” sections with even grosser facts! Birds, bugs, mammals, fish, lizards, every type of animal can be found here: 45 of them, to be precise. A glossary, selected sources, and index round out the back matter.

Pair this with NatGeo Kids’ and Anna Claybourne’s Don’t Read This Book Before Dinner for an all-out squeal fest. And check out the Ick! section of author Melissa Stewart’s webpage, which includes a great interactive teaching presentation!

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A dad and son share special time during the Night Shift

Night Shift, by Karen Hesse/Illustrated by G. Brian Karas, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763662387

Ages 4-7

It’s a Friday night, and a boy and his dad head out at sundown for his father’s night shift as a school custodian. The pair ride to school on the boy’s father’s motorcycle, and as Dad cleans, the boy finds ways to himself busy; the two listening to a ball game on the radio. They eat their packed lunch together, and the boy reads to his father until he falls asleep on the couch. When Dad’s shift has ended, he wakes his son up, and they share a ride back home, where the boy cleans out his father’s lunch box, and curls up next to him on the recliner, drifting to sleep in his father’s embrace.

This gentle story shows a special relationship between father and son. The quiet blues and brows and mixed media are calming and provide a feeling that we’re getting a private glimpse into this family’s loving bond. The moment father and son unwrap their sandwiches and eat together is such a touching moment, the son genuinely happy to share this time with Dad as he leans into him, smiling; Dad smiling down on him. Dad gently puts his sleepy son into his jacket as they get ready to leave at 4 a.m. The boy curls into his father, head nuzzled into the crook of his father’s neck; his father’s head is turned away from readers, cheek on his son’s head. It’s a wonderful story that tells readers that quality time is what you make of it.

Narrated by the son, the prose shows a boy so aware of everything around him: the smell of the fish as they drive over the bay; the scent of the lilacs by the school; the sigh of the building as his father opens the door to the school; even what he imagines is the scene at the baseball game on the radio, “where the sun is shining on an emerald field”. Karen Hesse gives readers a feast for the senses and G. Brian Karas uses color to accent special moments throughout the text, be it the green couch that the boy naps on, his red sneakers, or the purple lilacs by the school building.

Night Job is a Junior Library Guild selection and has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

Karen Hesse is a Newbery Medal and the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction winner. G. Brian Karas has illustrated more than 90 children’s books.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Stanley’s Store Blog Tour!

The hardest working hamster in town is back in his sixth book, Stanley’s Store (by William Bee, March 2017, Peachtree Publishers, $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-56145-868-4) . It’s a busy day at Stanley’s Store: Stanley’s got to unload fresh fruits and vegetables; Mattie helps customers pick out cheese, and there’s some excitement when Charlie doesn’t know how to control his shopping cart! Stanley’s always there to help, though, and at the end of a busy day, it’s time for him to go home.

stanley

My colleague LOVES Stanley. When we opened this library, she made darned sure we had the full line of Stanley books ready for the kids, so when I told her there was a new book coming out, she was thrilled! I sat down and read the first five books, and they’re adorable. They introduce kids to different careers (builders, business owners – stores and diners, farmers, mechanics, and mailmen) that shape their world, and provide a little look into the events of each job’s day. Stanley’s Store is a good book to read with your child and talk about your experiences at the grocery store; it’s also a good opportunity to point out safety and paying attention, illustrated by Charlie’s mishap. I love Shamus and Little Woo, a father and son duo, whose cart mysteriously fills up with cookies and sweets when Shamus’ back is turned. The story also slips in shape and color awareness, making this a great book for toddler and pre-k audiences.

Play store! Save some packaging and let your kiddos “shop” and create displays! Plastic food is huge with the kids in my library (and with my own kiddos, when they were younger) and is available everywhere. Talk about shapes and colors and talk about what foods are good for you. This could be paired with a fun flannel board activity and there are many food-related songs available to put together a fun storytime and playtime.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate

Everyone has their purpose. What’s Hippopotamister’s?

hippo_1Hippopotamister, by John Patrick Green (May 2016, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626722002

Recommended for ages 6-10

Things haven’t been exactly bustling at the zoo. The habitats and the animals need maintenance, the zoo is a little dingy, and no one is really breaking down the rusty gates to get in and see the zoo. Red Panda takes off to see the world, and tells great stories of life on the outside. One day, Hippopotamister decides he’s going to join Red Panda; the two friends set out to find their fortunes. The only problem? They can’t seem to hold a job for long! When the two friends return to the zoo to visit the other animals, Hippopotamister discovers the perfect job for him.

This is a great story about finding your own groove. Hippopotamister is a nice guy who is actually really good at almost everything he sets out to do; Red Panda is a free spirit who wants to does his own thing, his way, but most of the time, his own thing is kind of a mess. Still, Hippo sticks by his buddy, wandering off with him to the next adventure. Once they return to the zoo to visit, though, Hippo sees that all of his adventures have really been training him to take on the job that’s perfect for him: running the zoo.

Hippopotamister is a good friend, always ready with an encouraging word, and a positive outlook: when one job falls through, he’s ready to go find another. He’s flexible, willing to try different jobs and industries, and he’s a smart cookie: he recognizes things he can fix, once he returns to the zoo, and embraces his calling. There are good morals for kids here, the main one being, everyone has their purpose. Sometimes, you need to wait until you discover yours.

This is a great independent read for readers who are ready to take on a little more of a challenge, but it’s a great storytime snuggler, too. My 3 year-old loved it, and was easily able to work out the humor in the story by using the cues in the pictures (patient wrapped in dental floss at the dentist, the bone house vs. the dinosaur skeleton in the museum). I love comics for young learners because it’s a great way to work out sequences and cause and effect, and Hippopotamister is a great book to use for this kind of discussion.

Take a look at some of Hippopotamister below, and make sure to get yourself a copy! Great for young reader graphic novel collections.

hippo_5 hippo_6

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Book Review: I Stink! by Kate McMullan/illus. by Jim McMullan (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2002)

i stinkRecommended for ages 2-5

While the rest of the city sleeps, a garbage truck wakes up to start his work day. The smiling truck is proud of his powerful engine and the noises and smells that are part of his job – he roars and burps his way through an “alphabet soup” of trash, from apple cores to zipped-up ziti with zucchini-and brags about how much he stinks, telling the reader, “No skunk has ever stunk this bad!” He heads to the river to eject the trash onto a barge, and heads back to the garage to gas up and sleep until the next night. The watercolor-and-ink illustrations use a palette of darker colors to communicate the sleepy city and the colors of the garbage itself. The text is bold and appears in assorted sizes and colors, fitting the garbage truck’s friendly and big personality.

The voice of the truck provides for a fun read-aloud, where children can chime in and make truck noises: burping, roaring, saying ahh. There are many truck crafts, songs and fingerplays to create a truck-related storytime. Children can create their own trucks using construction paper shapes and popsicle sticks; several websites offer printable truck pictures to color.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Book Review: Mr. Cookie Baker, by Monica Wellington (Dutton, 2006)

cookie bakerRecommended for ages 2-4

Every day, Mr. Baker makes cookies for his crowded store. When the day is done, he gets to have one, himself.

The story takes the reader through Mr. Baker’s day, most of which is devoted to baking cookies. He counts and measures his ingredients, mixes the dough, rolls out the dough and cuts shapes with cookie cutters, bakes the cookies, takes them out and decorates them, and greets his customers. When the customers go home and all of the cookies are gone, his day ends and he enjoys a cookie. It’s a simple story that features gouache and colored pencil artwork. The flat, bright colors and clean lines, along with the fun shapes of the cookies framing the text page of each spread, adds interest to the page. Ms. Wellington’s pages are busy – there are cooking utensils and ingredients, children, sprinkles, and cookies on every page, giving the eye many places to look. The font changes color to contrast with its backgrounds – white for darker backgrounds, brown and red for lighter backgrounds.  There are four recipes at the end of the book for any parents and/or guardians interested in baking.

This book would be part of a fun cooking and baking read-aloud. With permission, parents and guardians could receive copies of the four recipes included in the back of the book. A fun storytime craft would allow children to “make” their own cookies by using precut cookie shapes and “sprinkles” (stickers).

The author’s website offers some printable activities and recipes.