Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Luna Loves Dance… You should, too!

Luna Loves Dance, by Joseph Coelho/Illustrated by Fiona Lumbers, (Sept. 2021, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-68464-273-1

Ages 4-7

Luna is a little girl who loves to dance, but loses faith in herself when she stumbles at a dance tryout. Convinced she’s not “really” a dancer, Luna’s family works to show her that it’s the love of dancing that makes you a dancer at heart, not perfection. Facing fears, embracing joy, and knowing that you are good enough are beautifully conveyed. Luna is an adorable little girl of color with a white mom and a dad of color; we meet her grandparents, also people of color, who love to dance the Charleston, Crazy Legs, and Heels and play old jazz records when they dance with Lulu. There is colorful, joyful artwork throughout, including a vibrant Carnival street scene that opens into a gatefold spread. Endpapers show Lulu and a variety of diverse children putting on their dancing shoes and dancing in different styles: a girl in hijab spots roller skates; a white boy in ’70s bell bottoms and a patterned shirt strikes a Travolta-esque disco pose; a boy of color goes on pointe in ballet shoes. Embrace joy and read this one to your little ones.

Originally published in Great Britain earlier this year, this is the third Lulu adventure, all available in the U.S. from Kane Miller. They are also available in Spanish, which means I’ll be loading up another cart for my library kids!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

New children’s book publisher: Red Comet Press!

I am so excited whenever a new indie publisher debuts on the scene! I just received wonderful book mail from Red Comet Press, a brand new children’s book publisher who will be sharing their books with everyone in just a few weeks! Here’s a sneak peek at what we can expect.

Cat & Dog: A Tale of Opposites, by Tullio Corda, (Sept. 2021, Red Comet Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781636550022

Ages 3-6

Concepts never made me laugh this hard. An orange cat and blue dog illustrate opposites in the most hilarious of ways as they go through a day of waking up, chasing one another, getting into trouble, and… being friends? Originally published in French in 2020, Taylor Barrett Gaines’s translation is spot on. Drowsy (and bored) Cat eyes sleepy Dog for Awake/Asleep; you just know what’s coming next. But the choice of Brave/Afraid is amusing and unexpected as Cat jumps on the startled Dog, whose eyes go wide, pupils as tiny pinpricks. My favorite spread? Upset and Unconcerned, which hilariously describe the action as Dog sports an overturned plant on his head as Cat blithely grooms. Fonts are in orange for Cat’s words; blue for Dog’s. A perfect combination of words and illustration, and a concept book that tells a cohesive story.

Find a free, downloadable activity cat on the publisher’s book detail page. A great beginning!

 

Before We Sleep, by Giorgio Volpe & Paolo Proietti, (Sept. 2021, Red Comet Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781636550046

Ages 4-8

Originally published in Italian in 2019, this book is a touching, beautifully illustrated story about friendship and the pain of separation. A red fox and gray dormouse are the best of friends, but as the Fall closes in and the seasons move toward Winter, Fox is sad, knowing Dormouse will be hibernating soon: “For Red, the smell of winter meant one thing: loneliness”. Fox tries to think of ways to keep Winter away so Dormouse can stay awake and with Fox, but who can hold off Nature? Agreeing to share one more story, the friends curl up together… and sleep. The storytelling is gentle, full of love and yearning; the muted colors in the artwork let Fox’s bright coat stand out beautifully against the encroaching gray of Winter. Dormouse’s tilted head and soft words show a kindness and love for a friend; body language that immediately sends a comforting signal to readers. A lovely story of friendship and the fear of separation and loss; a warm feeling of knowing that your friends will be there when you open your eyes. Think about this one for possible grief and loss resources, too.

Red Comet has a great activity kit available for download, with coloring sheets and discussion questions.

Before We Sleep has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Mister Fairy, by Morgane de Cadier/Illlustrated by Florian Page, (Sept. 2021, Red Comet Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781636550008

Ages 4-8

A forest full of animal-like fairies work their magic except for the taciturn Mister Fairy, whose spells never seem to match the other fairies. Depressed, Mister Fairy takes off to a dull, depressed city, where his seemingly backward spells are exactly what the citizens need: he adds much-needed splashes of color, tickling everyone with his wings and wand, and changing umbrellas into fluffy cotton candy. When he returns to the forest, he discovers that his friends have missed him there, too! A sweet story about embracing your talents, Mister Fairy was originally published in French in 2018 and is an empowering story about embracing your own gifts and uniqueness. Artwork reminds me a bit of Jon Klassen; the illustrations are colorful yet maintain a minimalist appeal. A fantastic back-to-school story about recognizing your own worth. Pair this one with Mister Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown.

Red Comet offers a free, downloadable activity kit for Mister Fairy. Enjoy!

 

That’s it for now – but I’ve got more to come! Welcome, Red Comet Press!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

“A wedding is a party for love”: Julián at the Wedding

Julián at the Wedding, by Jessica Love, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212389

Ages 4-8

This book is joy wrapped in paper and cardboard. Julián, the adorable child we met in 2018’s Julián is a Mermaid, is back with his abuela and in a wedding party. We learn that “a wedding is a party for love” as the two brides beam at each other and their friends and family surrounding them. Julián and his new friend Marisol are in the wedding party, along with Gloria, the brides’ dog. The three new friends wander off to play, where Marisol’s dress gets dirty. No worries! Julian shares his clothes with her and creates fairy wings for them both out of the leaves of a tree. When they’re discovered by their abuelas, all is well, and they’re received back at the wedding with hugs and kisses. A gorgeous celebration joy, friendship, and love, Julián at the Wedding is a book I want to read again and again. Watercolor, gouache, and ink illustrations come alive with rich, vibrant colors; the endpapers are the true beginning and close of the story, with two sleepy children and one sleepy pup resting, post-wedding, under a tree as the grandmothers enjoy cake and the happy couple dance in the background. Every page is a delight; I enjoyed this book even more than I enjoyed Julián is a Mermaid, which I adored. Read a conversation with the author and download an activity kit at publisher Candlewick’s page.

Julián at the Wedding has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and The Horn Book.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Lali’s Feather soars

Lali’s Feather, by Farhana Zia/Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman, (Apr. 2020, Peachtree Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-129-4

Ages 4-8

Lali is a little girl enchanted by a feather she finds. She brings the feather to Rooster, Crow, and Peacock to ask if it belongs to them; they scoff. She shows the feather to Hen, Duck, and Blue Jay, who are all fascinated by what she can do with the feather: write in the dirt, fan a fire, sweep dust, make her sister sneeze and tickle Bapu’s toes! The birds are just as fascinated by the feather as Lali is, even chasing it down to return to Lali when it flies away. A gentle story about finding joy in the smallest things, Lali’s Feather, set in an Indian village, is a story that spreads happiness as you read it. Repetition helps readers predict what will happen next, as Lali goes from bird to bird to show off the feather; kids learn creativity and different ways of seeing as Lali shows off the feather’s many uses; there’s empathy in the way the birds all come together to find and return the feather to Lali. Digital pastel illustrations are soothing yet infused with discovery and play. Read an excerpt, download the Educator’s Guide, and read the author Q&A at publisher Peachtree’s website.

For a book-related take and make project, consider adding a feather to your kit and a colorful sheet of paper, inviting kids to think of what they could do with their feathers. I’ve also fallen for this TP roll peacock craft from The Madhouse Mummy (consider using a rolled piece of sturdy cardstock in place of TP these days). This paper feather and scissor practice craft is a fun idea, too; print out the feather templates on sturdy colored paper, and make sure that grownups will supervise the safety scissor practice.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A little Joy goes a long way…

Joy the Elf, by Carmen Gil/Illustrated by Zuriñe Aguirre, (June 2018, NubeOcho), $15.95, ISBN: 9788494692611

Recommended for readers 4-8

Mateo is a boy who loves his tiny elf friend, Joy. She can be found in the most unexpected of places; his daddy’s beard, or in the sound of his grandparent’s car when they arrive for a visit. But the mean Ragdoll Witch doesn’t want Joy hanging around, so she cast a spell on Joy to keep her away from Mateo, and proceeded to give the boy everything he wished for: a fancy tablet, cool roller skates, even a giant dragon. And the more Mateo got what he wished for, the more Joy disappeared, until she finally became invisible. A fish and a fairy got together and created a counterspell, which slightly altered the gifts to be a little off – a mountain bike became a boat trip with Mateo’s grandparents; a video game became a library book – and with each small, slightly off-kilter gift, Joy came back.

The moral of the story? If you get everything you want, you don’t appreciate it; find your Joy in the simplest of moments. Joy the Elf is a bit heavy on the moralizing, but it does open up a nice discussion about finding happiness outside of the expensive things in life. The collage artwork is colorful and eye-catching. Joy the Elf was originally released in Spanish in 2017.

 

Joy, by Corrinne Averiss/Illustrated by Isabelle Follath, (July 2018, words and pictures), $17.95, ISBN: 9781910277669

Recommended for readers 4-8

Fern is a little girl who loves her cheerful Nanna, but lately, Nanna’s been very down. She’s not baking yummy butterfly cakes, she’s not keeping up her home, and she just sits and looks very sad. Fern’s mom mentions that the joy has gone out of Nanna’s life, prompting Fern to seek it out and bring it back! She discovers all the places you can find joy, and brings them to Nanna. The message is wonderfully clear: joy is wonderful, but it’s not a given; sometimes, it needs an infusion. The best part? Joy is also something that can be shared!

Joy also enlightens readers to the issue of elder depression. Nanna shows the signs of someone dealing with depression: Nanna looks sad. She’s stopped her daily routine; she appears to have stopped cleaning her home, grooming her cat, taking care of her appearance. Her daughter, Fern’s mother, is worried, and Fern, being a child, takes the most direct course of action. No one is relying on a little girl to cure her grandmother; she’s acting appropriately for a child, and seeking out things that will make her grandmother happy again. It works, and now, Fern understands that sometimes, people can become sad. The artwork flows with the storyline; happy Nanna has a bright, clean home, with butterflies zooming around; sad Nanna and her home are depicted in darker gray and black shades. Fern’s quest for joy brings us back to bright color and upward movements. This is a book that opens up the chance for discussions about feelings and empathy, and the importance of our family relationships.

Posted in Early Reader, Preschool Reads

A mirror unites a boy’s homes in The Mirror in Mommy’s House/The Mirror in Daddy’s House

The Mirror in Mommy’s House/The Mirror in Daddy’s House, by Luis Amavisca/Illustrated by Betanía Zacarías, (Apr 2016, nubeOCHO), $15.95, ISBN: 978-84-945415-5-1

Recommended for readers 4-8

A child talks about growing up in a home in the midst of a marital breakup, and how a mirror provided an escape into a wonderful land with no arguing parents. Now that the child lives in two houses, things are much better. Mom and Dad are happier, and so is the child. There are pictures of the entire family at both houses, and a very special mirror at each house; plus, Mom and Dad each share something very special: their child!

We don’t need to talk about the 51% divorce rate to illustrate the need for books like The Mirror. This is a positive book for families going through divorce for a number of reasons: it illustrates the stress on kids living with parents who argue constantly; it’s not singling out either gender – the child can easily be male or female; and the parents care enough about their child to make sure that photos of the entire family – rather than a single parent with the child – have real estate in the child’s room, along with the special mirror that’s become a touchstone. The book is a two-in-one, giving kids a chance to read about each parent’s home and what makes it special. When you finish reading about the mirror in Mommy’s house, just flip it over to read about the mirror at Daddy’s house.

The art appears to be mixed media, with some artwork appearing to be drawn in crayon; it gives the book a comfortable feeling, as if the child created these books himself or herself.

Originally published in Spanish in 2016, nubeOCHO published The Mirror book(s) in English this year and still makes the Spanish language edition available (978-84-945415-6-8). Additional books for families going through divorce to read with young children include Dinosaurs Divorce, by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown, Nancy Coffelt’s Fred Stays with Me, and Karen Stanton’s Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend.