It’s your birthday, and your buddy Duck got you a present! Well… kind of. He had the best of intentions; he wanted to get you something you’d really love. But do you know how hard it is to knit socks? Or carry a 10-scoop ice cream cone? Magic kits disappear, and since you don’t know how to drive yet, a race car was out of the question… poor Duck! What can he get his best friend? Maybe… something includes all these wonderful ideas, in one place? A story to remind you of what great friends you are? I Got You a Present! is a gleefully funny story about going into something with the best of intentions, and not quite having things go right. Adults and kids alike can relate as Duck comes up with wackier, funnier ideas to get that showstopper gift… and, of course, there’s a sneak peek at next year’s gift.
Colorful artwork features cheery animal friends and wacky situations that make this a good birthday readaloud choice (substitute other gift-giving events and get creative), and remind listeners that sometimes, just having a great friend to make memories with is the best present. Honest! (Or you could ask readers what they’d like to give their best friends. Let them get as outrageous as possible.)
Simon Jackson doesn’t quite fit in with the other kids as a child; he was bullied over his stutter, and found himself most at home in the woods, exploring, photographing, and learning about wildlife. As a teen, he found himself fascinated by a rare subspecies of black bear called a Spirit Bear and became an advocate and activist for the bears when their habitats were threatened with deforestation. Jackson founded the Spirit Bear Coalition, met Dr. Jane Goodall, and hiked the Great Bear Rainforest, always using his activism to educate others and advocate for the Spirit Bears. A Voice for Spirit Bears tells Jackson’s story, and shows kids that one is never too young to advocate for change. The book is an inspiring call to action for young activists (suggest a letter-writing exercise for a cause they believe in!). I would have liked to see a little more on the indigenous T’simshian people, for whom the Spirit Bear is sacred, but all in all, A Voice for Spirit Bears is a good biography on a young activist, with lovely, muted artwork. There are discussions to be had on overcoming obstacles, environmentalism and conservation, and activism, and would be a good STEM read-aloud. Check out the downloadable educator guide for discussion questions and an activity.
The Spirit Bear Coalition concluded its mission in 2014, after 20 years of advocacy. Their website is still active and offers education and information.
Teddy brings together the story of the teddy bear in three parts. First, we have the legend: President Theodore Roosevelt refused to kill a “scruffy, no-account cub” while hunting. This story spread, and the Washington Post ran a political cartoon by Clifford Berryman, entitled, “Drawing the Line in Mississippi“, which led to husband-and-wife toymakers Morris and Rose Michtom creating a bear doll to honor “the President’s big warm heart”. They received permission from President Roosevelt to feature “Teddy’s Bears” in their shop, and an iconic toy was born. The book tracks the evolution of the teddy bear from those first bears, stuffed with wood shavings and with sewed on buttons for eyes, through today and notes how the teddy bear endures. It’s a happy, warm story, and the digital illustrations lend a realistic yet warmly colored feel to the tale. An author’s note mentions the differing versions of the Teddy Roosevelt story. It’s a cute book to have in your nonfiction collections, and would make a nice display with the Caldecott Medal-winning Finding Winnie.
For readers interested in learning more about Clifford Berryman’s political cartoons, the National Archives has a wonderful Clifford Berryman collection, which includes a great piece featuring Berryman drawing a bear, while a black bear stands next to him. The Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University has an interesting blog entry on the origin of the teddy bear, and a link to Berryman’s artwork in their digital library.
This is an incredible year for children’s books! There’s something for everyone available or coming soon, with wonderful artwork and text that draws readers right in. This time around, I’m looking at some fun science books for readers – and caregivers will like them, too.
Izzy Gizmo is a curious little girl of color who loves to invent, tweak, and discover. Her inventions don’t always work, but she discovers that she has to put her frustrations aside when she rescues a crow with a broken wing. He wants her to help him fly again, and he’s willing to stick with her through trial and error, until she can get it right. I love the bright colors and chaotic art in this story; it lets readers know that creativity is often messy and wild; the story assures readers that mistakes are just opportunities to filter out what isn’t working and concentrate on what will work; and I love the story of endurance and perseverance. Izzy’s grandfather and her crow friend have faith in Izzy; she just has to find her faith in herself. The gray and white endpapers feature different gears and mechanical parts, letting readers know they’re going to put on their engineering hats to help Izzy out, and the art – a mix of pencil, ink, oil pastel, monoprint, and digital technique – create a busy background that provides a glimpse into the mind of a scientist. Originally published in the UK in 2011, Izzy’s just arrived here in the U.S. and her rhyming story would be a great addition to collections where Andrea Beaty’s Iggy Peck, Architect, Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Ada Twist, Scientist are popular.
Set to the cadence of the classic, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, scientist and dad Chris Ferrie introduces little readers to some of history’s greatest minds with Scientist, Scientist, Who Do You See? There is a strong mix of disciplines and diversity represented here, with Einstein sharing space with Grace Hopper, Ahmed Zewail, George Washington Carver, Katherine Johnson, and more. It’s noted as a “scientific parody”, and it certainly is a fun book that will make everyone smile, but kids are introduced to names and ideas, and that’s just great. Starting off with the question, “Einstein, Einstein, Who Do You See?” and the response, “I see Marie Curie in her laboratory”, the story goes on, introducing scientists and their accomplishments, in the soothing rhyme style we’ve grown up hearing and enjoying. Chris Ferrie has given us Baby Science board books and a fun take on Goodnight, Moon with Goodnight, Lab; let’s hope he keeps finding new, fun ways to make science lovers out of our kids.
One Day a Dot: The Story of You, the Universe, and Everything, by Ian Lendler/Illustrated by Shelli Paroline & Braden Lamb,
(Apr. 2018, First Second Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626722446
Recommended for readers 7-10
This one’s one of my standout favorites. Author Ian Lendler and illustrators Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb drill down the history of everything to one humble dot. From one dot’s excited burst of joy comes the Big Bang, bringing new dots together to form planets and, eventually, life. The dots are animated, dancing, playing, even running away from other dots that want to eat them! The artwork is bright with a retro feel and uses the dot theme as a focal point through the story, gently leading readers on a trip through time and space. It’s a simplified look at the formation of the universe, but works nicely for younger readers. Give this one to kids who like Stacy McAnulty’s Earth: My First 4.5 Billion Years, and Dominic Walliman’s Professor Astro Cat books, published by Nobrow.
Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea: How a Science Project Helps One Family and the Planet, by Elizabeth Suneby/Illustrated by Rebecca Green,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781771387200
Recommended for readers 7-10
The latest from Kids Can Press’ Citizen Kid imprint, Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea is a fictional story about a Bangladeshi boy named Iqbal, who comes with a clean, solar-powered cookstove for his science fair project. He sees his mother force to cook the family’s meals indoors during monsoon season, but the family has no stove: she cooks over an open fire, which produces smoke that makes breathing difficult, especially for his mother and baby sister. He learns about solar energy cooking, wins first place in the science fair, and introduces a sustainable and healthier way for families to prepare meals. The artwork illustrates everyday life in Bangladesh and communicates the closeness Iqbal shares with his family and his hard work to create a science fair project that accomplishes the dual purpose of getting him a good grade and helping his family. The story shows readers that kids can make a difference, and that healthier living doesn’t depend on expensive gadgets – a little research, and you can make the world a better place with tools right in front of you. The book includes more information on cookstoves, a glossary, and instructions for making a DIY solar cooker. Great for class projects and science fair ideas!
Audrey could hang out with Izzy (first book) and Andrea Beaty’s gang. A wild-haired, redheaded little girl who uses measuring tape for ribbons, Audrey is a curious kid who wants to be an inventor – but she doesn’t know what to invent! She sets off on a host of different ideas, some involving her poor cat, Happy Cat, all of which end up in the “rework” pile. She’s ready to throw in the towel, but decides to give it one last try after getting some encouragement. Little touches, like featuring a graph paper background and visualizing Audrey’s thought process and her doodles, invite kids to share their own ways of working out ideas. The collage, watercolor, and pen artwork comes together to create a busy story about a busy mind. A fun add to creative collections.
These books offer a great way to introduce the scientific method, even for younger grades. Little Bins for Little Hands has a good article, with tips on using the scientific method – and including links to experiments – for preschoolers.
Spring always brings some good books to read. In April and May, there’s a little something for everyone – come and see!
Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest, by Sarah Hampson/Illustrated by Kass Reich,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771383615
Recommended for readers 4-8
Dr. Archibald Coo is a sophisticated pigeon who’s tired of the way he and his fellow pigeons are treated by humans. They’re shooed at, swatted, and treated like a general menace. Dr. Coo remembers when pigeons enjoyed a higher profile in history: in ancient Greece, they delivered news about the Olympic Games; during World War I, they carried messages across battlefields. Now? pfft. So Dr. Coo and his pigeon friends organize and decide to strike: they disappear from every public space, leaving a confused public wondering what happened. Dr. Coo heads over to the mayor’s office a history of the pigeon and a note, asking for tolerance, opening the door to a new era of pigeon-human relations. It’s a cute urban story with a wink to New York and other urban spaces, and has a nice thread about inclusivity and diversity running through the book. Gouache paint and colored pencil art makes for a soft illustration, with attention to the different types of pigeons – there are! – in the cityscape. This would be cute to booktalk with James Sage’s Stop Feedin’ Da Boids!
My Teacher’s Not Here!, by Lana Button/Illustrated by Christine Battuz,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771383561
Recommended for readers 4-6
Kitty gets to school and knows something’s up when her teacher, Miss Seabrooke, isn’t there to meet her. What’s going on? There’s another teacher there today! How does school even work when your teacher is absent? This sweet rhyming tale about a student’s first substitute teacher is great for younger kids who are just getting into the swing of school routines and provides some fun advice for coping with and adjusting to unexpected change. Kitty teaches readers some coping strategies, including helping out her friends and the teacher by contributing to class and modeling good behavior using cues she learned from her teacher, that the substitute may not be aware of. This is an animal story, so kids will enjoy seeing the “ginormously tall” teacher, a giraffe named Mr. Omar; pigs, elephants, bears, a whole menagerie of students. Hand-drawn artwork and digital collage come together to create colorful, textured, cartoony fun. This one’s a good addition to preschool and primary collections.
Tinkle, Tinkle Little Star, by Chris Tougas,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $9.99, ISBN: 9781771388399
Recommended for readers 1-3
One of my favorite books coming out this season is this adorable board book! Set to the tune of everybody’s favorite classic song, this sweet and funny version is all about where not to go: not in a plane, not on Grandpa’s knee, not at a puppet show. Luckily, the poor Little Star gets relief by the story’s end, and sits on a potty to… “Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Star”. It’s adorable with the cutest digital art. Little Star is beyond cute, and gender neutral! Sing along at storytime – I know I’ll be throwing plenty of voice inflection (“Did you just pee on this page?”) and leg-crossing as I read this one. Absolutely adorable, must-add, must-give for collections and toddlers everywhere.
Polly Diamond and the Magic Book, by Alice Kuipers/Illustrated by Diana Toledano,
(May 2018, Chronicle), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452152325
Recommended for readers 7-9
Polly Diamond is an aspiring, biracial young writer who discovers a magic book on her doorstep one day. Not only does the book write back to her when she writes in it, Everything she writes in the book happens in real life! At first, Polly is psyched: who wouldn’t be, right? But you know how it goes… for every magic journal action, there’s a pretty wild reaction! Written in the first person, with excerpts from Polly’s book, including a pretty great intermediate-level book list for awesome display purposes (“Read Polly Diamond’s favorite books HERE!”). Chapter book readers who love books like Juana and Lucas (on Polly’s favorites list), Jasmine Toguchi, and Katie Woo will thoroughly enjoy Polly’s adventures. There are short, descriptive sentences and a nice amount of new words – Polly is an aspiring writer, after all! Lots of fun for chapter book readers; I’d have kids create their own aquariums as a related craft.
Old Misery, by James Sage/Illustrated by Russell Ayto,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781771388238
Recommended for readers 5-10
Readers with a darker sense of humor (and parents who are Gorey fans) will get a chuckle out of Old Misery, the story of a cranky old woman named – you got it – Old Misery, and her old cat, Rutterkin. She’s broke, and the apples keep disappearing from her apple tree! Lucky for Old Misery, she’s not completely heartless and feeds a wandering visitor, who grants her one wish: she wants all the apple thieves to be caught in the tree until she lets them go! Old Misery decides to play a little risky game when Death himself shows up at her door – and she sends him to the apple tree. Be careful what you wish for! The black and white, pen and ink artwork has a creepy, quirky feel to it, which will appeal to kids who like Lemony Snicket’s work, but may go over some kids’ heads. Old Misery narrates the story, offering an opportunity for a fun read-aloud.
Gordon: Bark To the Future!, by Ashley Spires,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781771384094
Recommended for readers 6-10
See How We Move!: A First Book of Health and Well-Being, by Scot Ritchie,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781771389679
The Bagel King, by Andrew Larsen/Illustrated by Sandy Nichols,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN; 978-1-77138-574-9
Recommended for readers 4-8
The Golden Glow, by Benjamin Flouw,
(May 2018, Tundra/Penguin Random House), $17.99, ISBN: 9780735264120
Recommended for readers 8-12
This fun book to public transportation introduces readers to the subway; light rail transit; buses, and ferry boats as five different characters head to a mutual venue in the imaginary city of Zoom. Robbie is a 7 year-old boy visiting the city; a secret agent, Theodore Rybka, is on a secret mission – but loves to stop for a cup of tea; the Zanies are a family of digeridoo and juggling performers; Dr. Brody is a scientist, excited about her newest discovery, and Boris is a seeing-eye dog who takes good care of his companion. Maps, facts, and a diverse urban crowd make this a good additional purchase for transportation shelves.
In my continuing struggle to get on top of my review list, I present another roundup; this time, with picture books!
Priscilla is a very sweet rat who loves to collect things, but when she’s invited to friends’ birthday parties, she finds that she has a hard time even parting with the gifts she chooses for her friends! When Priscilla’s house finally crashes around her, she realizes that her friends are worth much more than being surrounded by stuff. Magination Press is an imprint of the American Psychological Association; this is a book designed to discuss clutter and hoarding tendencies in kids, and it does so in a mild, easy manner. This can easily be a kids’ story on sharing and giving, no red flags necessary. Adorable felted characters and found objects create a visually interesting story that you can also turn into a little game of I Spy with little ones: there are plenty of things to find! A note to parents and caregivers advises parents on what to do if children have trouble parting with possessions, the differences between hoarding and collecting, and ways to help kids organize their belongings. A nice add to developing empathy collections and for caregivers and educators who need books to address behaviors.
Letters to a Prisoner is getting rave reviews, with good reason. The wordless picture book, inspired by the letter-writing campaigns of human rights organization Amnesty International, is so impactful, so relevant, and so necessary. A man is arrested during a peaceful protest, injured by a soldier who also pops the man’s daughter’s balloon. The man is thrown in a solitary jail cell, where he befriends a mouse and a bird. When letters arrive, the guard takes joy in burning them in front of the man, but the joke’s on the guard: the smoke from the burning letters serves as a worldwide beacon. Groups of people all over send the man letters; they arrive, en masse, and turn into wings with which the prisoner soars above the helpless, infuriated guard. The watercolor over black ink sketches adds an ethereal feel to this beautiful story of hope and social justice. The book’s wordlessness allows for every reader to come together, transcending language, to take part in this inspirational story. An author’s note tells readers about Amnesty International’s inspiration. Display and booktalk with Luis Amavisca’s No Water, No Bread, and talk with little ones and their parents as you display the book during social justice and empathy themed storytimes. Letters to a Prisoner has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Quill and Quire.
One of my favorite picture books this year. Bat is adorable. And he loves cherries. DO NOT TAKE HIS CHERRIES. He is quite serious about this, so you can imagine his distress when his cherries start disappearing! The reader’s clued in, naturally – we see paws and ants sneaking cherries out of the book’s margins while Bat stares at us, demanding to know what’s going on. The animals leave him a pear, which Bat embraces – and the story is ready to begin again. There’s bold, black fonts to make for expressive storytime reading, and Bat and Friends are just too much fun to read and play along with. Absolutely delightful storytime reading; just make sure you read this one before you get it in front of your group: you will squeal with glee the first couple of times you read it. Print out bat masks for the kids to color in as part of your storytime craft.
A storm’s approaching, and two strangers – brothers – arrive in the forest. They stop at several animal family homes, offering a trade for shelter; they have tea, can anyone offer them some food? A place to ride out the storm? We see each family, safe and with full larders, turn them away. A young fox feels terrible about this, and runs out to give the brothers a lamp, which they use to find shelter. But as fate would have it, the storm is even more trouble than the families expected, and soon, they’re asking the brothers for shelter: which is cheerfully given. This kind, moving story about kindness and succor is perfect for illustrating the power of empathy. Qin Leng’s watercolor and ink illustrations are soft and gentle, a perfect match for Céline Claire’s quiet narration. Shelter offers the perfect opportunity to talk about putting kind thoughts into practice; whether it’s sharing with others or offering friendship to someone who needs it.
A slightly macabre twist on the traditional Little Red Hiding Hood tale, The Little Red Wolf is a story about a little wolf who, on the way to visit an ailing grandma, encounters an awful human girl. The message here is consistent with the original fable: there’s a strong stranger danger warning, but also a reminder that every side has a story, every villain has an origin. The art is beautiful and dark; an additional add for collections where readers may be ready for darker fantasy.
The middle child gets lots of love in this adorable picture book. Middle Bear is the second of three brothers; not small, but not big; not strong, but not weak; not a lot, not a little… “he was the middle one”. He has a hard time feeling special until the day his parents both fall ill and the three cubs have to get willow tree bark from the mountain top, to help them get well. When big brother is too big, and little brother is too little, it’s up to Middle Brother to save the day: he is, to quote that other story starring three bears, “just right”. The emphasis on bear’s “middleness” will drive home the point that he persevered and succeeded as is, through determination. Manon Gauthier cut paper collage, pencil, and mixed media illustrations add texture and a childlike sense of place in the story. There’s a good lesson about empathy to be learned here, too; the bear’s brothers and parents all support him and let him know that what he may see as being a challenge – being the middle one – is what makes him the perfect bear for the job. Perfect storytelling for middle children who may be feeling the frustration of being too big for some things, not big enough for others.
Leon’s baby brother, Marcel, has arrived! Leon’s excited, but a little concerned about where the baby’s going to go when he’s not in his crib. He certainly can’t go in Leon’s room. And there’s no room on Mama’s lap for him; there’s only room for Leon. And Daddy’s shoulders are just too high. After Leon thinks on the situation, he discovers the best possible place for his baby brother: in his arms. This is the such a sweet story about becoming an older sibling; it addresses the fears an older sibling may have when a new baby joins the family, and it allows the sibling to work through his fears and come to his own happy decision. At no point do Leon’s parents correct him or force the baby on him; they stand back and let him reason things out for himself. It’s an empowering story with a sweet sense of humor. The simple black pencil, crayon and oils illustration feels childlike and will easily appeal to readers. I’m looking forward to adding this one to my new baby bibliography.
There is so much good nonfiction out for younger readers this Fall!
A hot-button topic today, Refugees & Migrants answers the tough questions that children ask: “Why would people leave their homes?” “What is a migrant – or a refugee?” Illustrations and concise text offer explanations that seek to foster empathy and empower kids to make a difference in the world around them. Barron’s Children in Our World series addresses difficulties that too many children in our world face today, and sensitively explain these issues to readers while giving them the power to make changes. Additional titles look at Poverty & Hunger, Racism & Intolerance (2018), and Global Conflict (2018). These books are a strong addition to elementary nonfiction shelves and provide a great opportunity to talk to your kids about what they see on the news, how they feel about it, and what we can all do, together, to make the world a better place.
Poor Abe Lincoln can’t find his hat, and he needs it in time to read the Gettysburg Address! Harriet Tubman is leading slaves to freedom, and Frederick Douglass is writing a book. Can any of his friends help him? This is the second in Misti Kenison’s Young Historians board book series (the first, being Cheer Up, Ben Franklin!). Each book features historical figures from periods in American History, with cartoony expressions and simple, one-sentence character actions that lay the groundwork for future learning. Everything ends on a happy note, and the end of the book includes historical figure profiles and a timeline. Fun for every historian’s library, no matter what your age.
Jane Addams was an activist for the poor and for peace. She founded Hull House, a settlement house in Chicago, where she took care of her neighbors by providing food, childcare, English lessons – anything anyone needed to live their lives with dignity. When World War I broke out in Europe, Jane organized the Women’s Peace Party, and led the International Congress of Women, to talk about ways to bring the war and suffering to an end. She endured angry press from those who would call her a traitor; that she cared more for people overseas than in her own home – she was even named The Most Dangerous Woman in America by the FBI! Ultimately, Dangerous Jane was the first American woman to receive the Nobel peace prize. Through all the press, good and bad, Jane maintained her dignity and continued caring for others until the end of her life. Dangerous Jane is an inspiring story rendered in washed-out watercolors that communicate quiet strength, like the book’s subject. Jane stands out in her green dresses and skirts, against the bleak landscape of war and poverty. A biography, timeline, and selected bibliography completes this book.
Wildlife photographer and advocate Suzi Eszterhaus put together one of the cutest books ever. It’s all right in the title: Baby. Animals. Playing. Who wouldn’t squeal at just the expectation of what’s to come? Full-color photos of baby animals (and their parents) at play will make anyone fall in love, instantly. Brief nonfiction text gives some background information on how Momma bears teach their cubs to fish for salmon, or how jackal pups fight over who gets to play with a ball of elephant poop. Which will, doubtless, be most kids’ favorite part of this book (it was for my 5 year-old). Eszterhas invites readers to connect with animals and nature by looking at photos, reading books, and going outside and immersing themselves in nature, just like baby animals do; it’s a nice call to get the kids outside and away from TV and electronics.
The third book in the “From Head to Tail” series gives readers an up-close look at bugs. We get rhinoceros beetle horns and luna moth antennae; tarantula hair (eeeek) and millipede legs, and a trick question! There are more facts to discover (tarantulas flick hair from their bellies at attackers… I know it would make me run screaming), with cute, wide-eyed bugs to attract readers. Kwanchai Moriya’s paper collage art continues to be visually exciting, popping off the pages. Additional bugs profiled at the end, plus a note about arthropods – the bugs profiled in this book – make this a great addition to bug books in primary collections. And if you have a kid like this young lady, whose love of bugs got her published in a scientific journal at 8 years old, you definitely want this book around to foster them!
This is a fun look at nocturnal animals in 12 different habitats, from the forest to more urban settings. You know when you see a museum display, with information about each animal in the display? That’s how nocturnals are presented here; each spread shows animals interacting in their environment, with a descriptive paragraph about each creature in the margins. Glow in the dark adds some more fun to the mix: a question is presented in each spread, answerable when readers turn off the lights to reveal the answers (answers are also at the back of the book, for any party poopers). With bright, bold animals that stand out against their night time backgrounds and glow in the dark challenges to find answers, it’s a fun addition to nonfiction collections for intermediate readers. Originally published in French in 2016. Pair this one with Tracey Hecht’s Nocturnals books for a nice fiction/nonfiction display.
Recommended for readers 3-6
This fun circular, rhyming story starts with a flea, who leaps into a grasshopper’s path; the startled grasshopper leaps onto a bunny. The action continues, involving a dog, bullfrog, horse, and finally, back to the dog and the flea. It’s a fun story that would make for a good storytime read; get the kids up and jumping if you have more active storytimes, or bounce for lapsits. The cadence of the rhyme is fun and energetic, but I expected to see more spreads with the full animal leaping; there were a few where the right-side page showed the back end of a leap and it felt a little cut off, choppy, for me.
I’d add this to a storytime with Kalan ‘s Jump, Frog, Jump! and add some flannels for audience interaction.
Recommended for readers 4-7