Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads

Cats, Cats, Cats!

Call it the librarian in me, but I love cats, and stories about cats are the perfect mix of cuddly, funny, and just plain sweet. Here are a few new and coming-soon books featuring some favorite furry friends.

The Pawed Piper, by Michelle Robinson/Illustrated by Chinlun Lee, (July 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0165-9

Ages 3-7

A girl wants a cat to cuddle, so she sets to work, creating a trail for a potential new pet to follow, with all sorts of cat-friendly stuff, like yarn, soft cushions, boxes, and catnip. At first, her grandmother’s cat, Hector, shows up to visit, but wait! Hector’s brought friends! Many, many friends – in fact, it appears that Hector has brought all the cats to the girl’s house! The girl is thrilled at first, but feels awful and guilty when she notices all the missing cat posters going up around her neighborhood. She didn’t want to take anyone else’s cat, after all; she just wanted one of her own. After she returns all the cats to their homes, she discovers a happy surprise: one cat has been hiding in her drawer, and has given birth to kittens! Those cats get homes, too, except for one little one: that one is just for the little girl.

The Pawed Piper is a sweet “I want a pet” story that kids will love and laugh along with. The endpapers get in on the fun, plastered with Missing! cat posters across the front endpapers; the same posters stamped “Found!” across the back endpapers. The watercolor and pencil artwork makes for a soothing, enjoyable setting to a fun story. A fun addition to pet storytimes, and for cat and pet fans.

Big Cat, by Emma Lazell, (July 2019, Pavilion Children’s Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1843654292

Ages 3-7

I laughed out loud at this sight gag-heavy story. A girl named Isobel tries to help her grandmother find her lost glasses (the kids will find them easily – ask them!) when they come across a giant cat. It’s a friendly cat, and Gran welcomes the cat in, with all of her other cats. Gran, who still can’t find her glasses, doesn’t seem to notice that she’s inadvertently adopted a tiger, but the other cats sure do! He’s eating their food, he’s taking up all their space, and making life very inconvenient. Thank goodness Big Cat’s mother and father show up – with Gran’s glasses! – to take their son home. Gran’s reaction when she finally realizes that she’s been letting a tiger live with her is laugh-out-loud funny; her housecats’ reaction to the tiger living with them is even funnier; their protest signs and facial expressions are kidlit comedy gold. Big Cat is going into my regular storytime rotation for sure. My 7-year-old and I read it last night and decided that we need to read this very, very often, because it just made us feel happy.

Big Cat was originally published in the UK, and is Emma Lazell’s debut picture book. I’m already looking forward to her next one, That Dog!, which looks like it’s being published in the US next spring. This is one of those books where text and art come together perfectly to create sight gags, with perfectly innocent text wandering around the artwork. The artwork is bold and bright, with hilariously expressive eyes. There are such sweet moments in here, too, like the giant hug that Mother and Father Tiger give their son when they finally discover him at Gran’s. It’s just a great book filled with wonderful moments and I can’t wait to read it again and again. There’s a free, downloadable activity kit, too, with mazes, coloring sheets, and a Missing! poster (that you could probably use with The Pawed Piper, too…).

Kitten Construction Company: A Bridge Too Fur, by John Patrick Green, (Oct. 2019, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626728318

Ages 7-9

The follow-up to last year’s Meet the House Kittens, this latest in the Kitten Construction Company series has Marmalade and friends facing a new construction project – building the new Mewburg Bridge! But Marmalade is afraid of water, and what do bridges cross? WATER! The kittens figure out a workaround, and they have to call subcontractors in to help with the demolition work. When the Demo Doggos show up to the site, though, Marmalade’s biased feelings about dogs stand in the way of true teamwork. Everyone is going to have to learn to work together to get the bridge done!

John Patrick Green creates stories that make me happy. Hippopotamister is all about a hippo finding his purpose; the first Kitten Construction Company story was about being taken seriously; and now, A Bridge Too Fur is about overcoming fears and biases, and embracing teamwork to make one’s corner of the world a better place. He tells big stories in a small space, with adorable artwork and situations that appeal to young readers while teaching them how to be a positive force in the world. That is good stuff, and that is the kind of book that flies off my shelves here at the library. Kids come for the cute animals, stay for the positive messages. There’s some fun humor on the down-low that sharp-eyed readers will catch, like references to a possum street artist named “Panksy”, and Marmalade knocking a mic off the podium when he goes to speak (because, that’s what cats do). A “How to Draw Kittens” section teaches readers to draw some of the characters in the story.

You simply can’t go wrong with a John Patrick Green graphic novel. The Kitten Construction Company is such a good series for intermediate readers; add this one to your collections.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Fall means back-to-school, and new BOOKS.

Here in NY, most of the kids start school tomorrow, but the bigger news is that there are amazing books lined up for Fall!

Magnificent Birds, by Narisa Togo, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $20, ISBN: 9781536201697

Ages 7-12

Linocut artist Narisa Togo presents readers with a gorgeous book on birds from all over the world. Fourteen beautifully colored spreads feature the familiar, including the bald eagle, flamingos, penguins, and pelicans and the exotic, such as the greater bird of paradise and the kakapo. Each spread includes the genus and species, range and habitat, and two brief, informative paragraphs about each species. The linocuts are striking, with muted colors that allow the texture of the cuts to speak. A wonderful gift for bird lovers, and a nice add to nonfiction collections. Create a beautiful display with Britta Teckentrup’s Birds and Their Feathers, Drawn from Nature, and Magnificent Creatures.

A Dog Named Haku: A Holiday Story from Nepal, by Margarita Engel, Amish Karanjit, & Nicole Karanjit/Illustrated by Ruth Jeyaveeran, (Sept. 2018, Lerner Publishing Group), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-5124-3205-3

Ages 4-8

Two brothers search the streets of Nepal for a stray dog to feed during the festival of Kukur Tihar, a special day honoring dogs. The festival is also a remembrance of the search and rescue dogs that saved lives after the devastating 2015 earthquake. Award-winning author Margarita Engle, her daughter, Nicole Karanjit and son-in-law Amish Karanjit, come together with illustrator Ruth Jeyaveeran to create a touching story of empathy, memory, and celebration. It’s a glimpse into Nepali culture, enhanced by a glossary, further reading, and activities, and a story that emphasizes empathy and love for all creatures, great and small. Ruth Jeyaveeran’s illustrations further this study in culture, with brown-skinned people wearing Nepali clothing and animals wearing vermilion paste, a sign of holiness and blessing, on their foreheads during the celebrations.

Get this one in your libraries and classrooms, and read it for Diwali – while you hit Pinterest for some Diwali crafts. I love this accordion fold paper diya craft.

My Beijing: Stories of Everyday Wonder, by Nie Jun, (Sept. 2018, Lerner Publishing Group), $30.65, ISBN: 9781512445909

Ages 8-12

This graphic novel contains four stories of Yu’er, a young girl who lives with an unnamed disability, and her grandfather, in a small Beijing neighborhood. Yu’er want to swim in the Special Olympics, but she and grandpa need to find a pool for her practice. Another story takes Yu’er and a friend to a place filled with musical insects; in one story, Yu’er learns a story about her grandparents; finally, Yu’er and her grandfather teach a painter a lesson about enjoying life. The watercolor artwork is quiet and soothing, with a storytelling style manga fans will recognize and enjoy. It’s a positive look at the relationship between grandchild and grandparent, and the colorful characters in their neighborhood illustrate the adage that it takes a village to raise a child. Display and booktalk with Atinuke’s Anna Hisbiscus books, Saadia Faruqi’s Meet Yasmin!, and Debbie Michiko Florence’s Jasmine Toguchi books for illustrated chapter books that introduce readers to world cultures.

Kitten Construction Company: Meet the House Kittens!, by John Patrick Green, (Sept. 2014, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 978162672830

Ages 7-10

Marmalade is the best architect you’d ever want to meet – but she’s also an adorable kitten, too! How can she get anyone to take her seriously? By teaming up with an adorable group of similarly skilled kittens to form the Kitten Construction Company, of course! Sampson, an electrical engineer, Bubbles, a skilled (and easily distracted) plumber, and Professor von Wigglebottom, a carpenter with a lot of contacts, decide to build their own mansion for Mewtown’s mayor. This graphic novel is the first in a new series and it’s too much fun for younger readers. There are great sight jokes, crisp, kid-friendly cartooning, and a smart story about being taken seriously, no matter how cute you are. I can’t wait to see more of this series!

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