Posted in Early Reader, Fiction

Two more #Nocturnals easy readers bring laughs and love!

The Nocturnals: The Best Burp, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (Apr. 2020, Fabled Films Press), $12.95, ISBN: 9781944020323

Ages 4-6

Another fun night out with the Nocturnals has Bismark (of course) competing in a burping contest with a new friend, Bink the Bat. As Bismark and Bink bicker (hee hee… alliteration is fun), Dawn emerges to suggest that maybe a burping contest isn’t the way to be their “best selves”. A cute story about recognizing that burps are natural, but sometimes, polite behavior calls for an “excuse me”, The Best Burp also has a cute side joke that involves my poor buddy, Tobin, as the butt (the burp?) of the joke when Bismark and Bink try to blame the other for the burping contest, which leaves them both pointing toward Tobin, who’s standing the in the middle. Adorably fun with a nice lesson about manners, to boot. Kids will love (and cafeteria aides will relate to) the characters and the tempting fun of the burping contest. Parents, educators, and caregivers will appreciate Dawn, ever the voice of reason, stepping in to negotiate more polite behavior.

 

The Nocturnals: The Weeping Wombat, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (Aug. 2020, Fabled Films Press), $5.99, ISBN: 9781944020330

Ages 5-8

Can you believe this is the eighth Nocturnals adventure? This time, we’ve got a sensitive story about Walter, an emotional, highly sensitive wombat who’s made fun of because he has a tendency to cry easily. The Nocturnals friends rally around Walter, letting him know that they all cry sometimes – even Bismark, who gets emotional just thinking about his Grandpa Guffy. Walter feels so much better after Dawn wisely explains that weeping is “just another way to show how we feel”, and that it can even make us feel better. A very sweet story about sensitivity and emotions, The Weeping Wombat is a nice addition to social-emotional learning texts for storytime.

Each book has a Nocturnals Fun Facts section that introduces readers to the Nocturnals. Don’t forget to visit their Nocturnals website, which is updated often and has great resources for homeschooling and nature camp activities. You’ll find Nocturnals character masks, book club questions, sight words games, and Common Core, Science, and Social-Emotional Learning Guides, all free and available for downloading.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Nocturnals Easy Readers are back with The Tasty Treat and The Kooky Kinkajou!

Regular readers know how much I love Tracey Hecht’s The Nocturnals series from Fabled Films Press. There are four great middle grade novels about the three adventuring animal friends, and there have been four easy readers so far, which has been fantastic for my second grader, who loves reading them. There are positive messages in each book, and the Fabled Films friends have really put the time in to create lesson plans and learning games that address kindness and compassion among kids, using the series’ characters to communicate the message. Here’s a look at the two latest books in the Nocturnals series.

The Nocturnals: The Kooky Kinkajou, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (Sept. 2019, Fabled Films Press), $5.99, ISBN: 9781944020248

Ages 4-7

The Nocturnals Brigade meets a Karina, a careening kinkajou, while stargazing one night. Naturally, Bismark is his usual churlish self at first, but Karina leads the group through imaginative play through the forest, enchanting them with her exciting way of seeing things: a weeping willow tree becomes a rainfall; bent tree, a rainbow. Even Bismark can’t stay cranky with Karina’s contagious enthusiasm and creative way of looking at things. Nocturnals fun facts and new words make up the back matter. This makes a good readaloud for preschoolers, indulging and encouraging their imaginations and creative play, and is a Grow & Read Level 3, making it spot-on for newly independent readers.

There are great moments for discussion within the story. Bismark always makes for good “what not to do” moments; Tobin’s sweet innocence makes him the first to commit to Karina’s game, and makes him the perfect character to inspire readers to see shapes in the clouds, make up stories with the stars, and jump over rocks in an imaginary riverbed.¬†Josie Yee’s art really captures the playful spirit of each character, making them soft, approachable, and cuddly for younger readers (especially my son, who made off with my plush Dawn months ago). Another win for my favorite group of nocturnal friends!

The Nocturnals: The Tasty Treat, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (Oct. 2019, Fabled Films Press), $5.99, ISBN: 9781944020309

Ages 4-7

The friends share a tasty treat – a pomelo, a favorite that shows up in many Nocturnals books – in this Level 1 reader. Short, simple sentences make this a good choice for pre-readers and new readers to start with, giving them some new vocabulary words and introducing them to the Nocturnals. The story revolves around Dawn, the fox, as she seeks and finds her friends one evening. Bismark has a pomelo, which he graciously offers to share, and the friends sit down to a pomelo picnic. Nocturnals fun facts reinforce character traits and introduce new words. Josie Yee’s artwork always makes the Nocturnals feel like cozy friends that kids will love spending time with. Bismark’s wide-eyed, exaggerated facial expressions are perfect for his blustering character with a heart of gold; Dawn’s all-knowing fox always has a slight smile, like she knows something most don’t (especially Bismark), and Tobin is the picture of shy but sweet, with eyes that gaze upward and a shy smile on his face.

This is a good introduction to The Nocturnals for new readers, and a great way to illustrate sharing.

The Nocturnals webpage has educator resources and activity kits, with Common Core activities and discussion questions and science activities that meet Next Generation Science standards. Activity Kits include word games, printable masks, and face-painting kits.

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

More Nocturnals! Who will win The Chestnut Challenge?

The Nocturnals: The Chestnut Challenge, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (April 2019, Fabled Films Press), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-944020-23-1

Ages 5-7

The latest Nocturnals easy reader is a story about playing fair. Sugar glider Bismark just loses a game of chestnut checkers to Tobin the pangolin, when a chinchilla named Chandler shows up and declares himself a chestnut champion, challining poor Tobin to a game. Tobin just likes to play for fun, but Bismark nudges him into play. Chandler causes distractions that get the group to look elsewhere so he can cheat, but Bismark finally catches him and calls him out! After confessing to cheating because he wanted to win, Tobin gently reminds him that practice makes perfect, and Dawn invites him to play with them as a group. The Chestnut Challenge addresses cheating, but it also looks at being sore losers and sore winners: we see Bismark being a sore loser, and Chandler, when cheating, gloats over his moves. Tobin doesn’t want to be in cutthroat competition, he just wants to have fun; it’s a point we should all be making when we read this with our kiddos. Winning can be fun, but cheating to win isn’t really winning. That said, being gracious and offering someone a second chance is winning, all on its own. (And, naturally, with Bismark keeping an eye out.) Back matter includes an introduction to each of the core group of Nocturnals, plus a fun fact about chestnuts.

I’m a dedicated fan of this series. Tracey Hecht has a way of reaching kids by using adorable animals with distinctive personalities to get to the heart of real-life situations kids find themselves coping with, and how to start discussions about those situations. These books are a great go-to for us grown-ups, too. The Nocturnals World website has great, free downloadables, including activity kids, coloring sheets and games, videos, and educational resources.

 

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

The Nocturnals teach kindness with The Peculiar Possum

The Peculiar Possum: The Nocturnals (Grow & Read Early Reader, Level 2), by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (Oct. 2018, Fabled Films Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9781944020194

Ages 4-7

This latest Nocturnals adventure has the group investigate a prowler! A prowler that wants pomelos, the fruit that Bismark and Tobin love so much! But when they discover that the prowler is actually a sweet little possum named Penny, Bismark is… well, predictably, rude. Judging her on her looks, he’s hurtful and mean, until Dawn and Tobin step in to give him a lesson in being kind. To his credit, Bismark recognizes that he was out of line and apologizes to Penny. Does this mean that the Nocturnals have a new friend joining the ranks? Future books will tell…

The Peculiar Possum is a story about kindness, and maybe, a little bit of tough love. Bismark is the outspoken blowhard of the Nocturnals (I say that with the greatest affection, mi amigo), but he oversteps in this story, insulting Penny and making her feel terrible. Dawn and Tobin step in, gently reassuring Penny – Tobin even shares his own scent gland issues with her, to make her feel better about her scent – and call Bismark out on his cruelty, pointing out his own differences. Once faced with the impact his words make, he gains an understanding of their power, and works to make things better. It’s an impactful message, especially when kids are faced with bullying at progressively younger ages.

Josie Yee’s art is adorable. Penny the Possum is big-eyed, and her body language is curled up, pensive; Bismark is overbearing, his small stature at odds with his larger than life personality. Dawn and Tobin are soft and kind. Fun Nocturnals Facts and a glossary of “peculiar” words from other languages make up the back matter.

The folks at Fabled Films Press, publisher of The Nocturnals, have developed a fun Kindness Game based on The Peculiar Possum. I was lucky enough to lead a storytime group through a round of the game, which is kind of like Simon Says meets reading comprehension. It gets kids up and moving, and it gets kids thinking about the physical effects that hurtful words, as well as supportive and appreciative language, have on all of us. You can download a copy of the game for free, and try it with your own storytime groups.


Thanks to everyone at Fabled Films, especially Stacey and Gisselle, for inviting me to be part of The Kindness Game. ūüôā

Posted in Adventure, Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Nocturnals for every reader!

My favorite group of nighttime dwellers, The Nocturnals, have two adventures to enjoy! Let’s see what mouthy Bismark, thoughtful Dawn, and sweet Tobin have been up to since we last met.

The Nocturnals: The Hidden Kingdom, by Tracey Hecht and Sarah Fieber/Illustrated by Kate Liebman,
(Feb. 2018, Fabled Films Press), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1944020118
Recommended for readers 8-12

The Nocturnals assemble in their fourth adventure to locate the source of a drought that’s ravaging their forest. The water is disappearing, animals are sick and possibly dying, and animals are convinced there’s an evil spell at work: tumbleweeds attack, sticks seemingly run away, and there’s no water to be found! Dawn, the fox, doesn’t believe in magic and knows there’s something afoot, and Tobin is desperate to save his friend, Cora, a sick wombat who needs water… FAST. What the friends discover is a hidden kingdom – right in front of their very eyes! Can they save the day, and the lives of their forest friends, once again?

This latest Nocturnals adventure has even more illustrations throughout, adding great resting points and visual interest for readers. I love the little touch of insect art throughout the book, directly tying into the storyline. Tobin, my favorite pangolin,¬†gets some nice character development, and yes, fear not: there are fart jokes to be had, making for a laugh out loud reading selection. The theme of friendship continues to be the uniting thread in this series, and Hidden Kingdom also explores the frustration of being ignored and overlooked. There are minor consequences for acts that could have resulted in serious harm to others, but there is a concerted effort to emphasize positive solutions versus punitive measures; I think that’s an important discussion to have with kids. Were they happy with the outcome?¬†What could have been done before¬†the drought, to¬†address¬†the hurt feelings?¬†Animal adventure fans will dig in and enjoy this latest chapter in the Nocturnals saga, and, as always, there are many opportunities for discussion here. Good characters, great humor, and a nonstop sense of adventure will keep kids coming back for more.

The Nocturnals: The Slithery Shakedown, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee,
(April 2018, Fabled Films Press), Paperback, $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-944020-16-3 OR Hardcover, $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-944020-17-0
Recommended for readers 5-7

The next Nocturnals Easy Reader is coming in April! I was so happy to see The Moonlight Meeting debut last year, because I always felt like younger audiences would get a kick out of these characters; particularly Bismark, the sugar glider with the larger-than-life personality! In The Slithery Shakedown, Bismark is menaced by a snake, who wants to snack on him! Thank goodness Dawn and Tobin are there to show the bully that no one messes with their friend. The Slithery Shakedown opens up the chance to talk about bullies, the importance of taking a stand, and the strength found in numbers. I’d even pair this with a reading of Kathryn Otoshi’s brilliant¬†book,¬†One, as part of a respect for all/anti-bullying storytime and discussion.

Josie Yee’s art makes the trio of friends adorable and soft for younger readers, and with deep colors and strong outlines to define her characters. A section about nocturnal animals and nighttime fun facts adds some nonfiction to this Level 2 reader (for grades 1 and 2). Having these books available in easy reader and novel formats also introduce the chance to have older readers and younger readers enjoy different Nocturnals stories and workshops together.

So… when do we get Nocturnals board books? Just sayin’…