Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Books About Kindness

We’re heading toward the holidays, which means my library system is gearing up for their annual “It’s Time for Kind” campaign, where we encourage our communities to show kindness to one another. This year, it means a LOT. I won’t get on too much of a soapbox here, but I will say that I live in a state where people are arriving scared and alone, and need kindness more than ever. These books have been out for a few months, so consider these when you’re putting together readers advisory lists or book displays, or planning storytimes this season.

All You Need, by Howard Schwartz/Illustrated by Jasu Hu, (Apr. 2022, Neal Porter Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823443291

Ages 3-7

Written as a poem, All You Need is a meditation on what one needs for a fulfilling life, from the basics – sun and rain, food and water – to the higher needs, like “a place where you are welcome” and “words to share your thoughts”. Illustrator Jasu Hu tells the story of a young woman who grows to be an artist, nurtured by the land and the people around her. Inspired by Schwartz’s story, illustrator Jasu Hu’s watercolor illustrations bring a tenderness to the work that fits beautifully with the gentle lyrics and leaves touches of Chinese culture throughout the story, including a swallow, ever-present in the tale, to deliver words of happiness and homecoming. Back matter from Schwartz and Hu each explains their motivation. The main character presents as Asian, with touches of Asian culture and landscape throughout. All You Need is a reminder of how simple and fragile our needs are and is a beautiful opening story for storytimes.

All You Need has a starred review from School Library Journal.

 

 

Luli and the Language of Tea, by Andrea Wang/Illustrated by Hyewon Yum, (May 2022, Neal Porter), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823446148

Ages 3-7

A group of parents file into an ESOL (English as a Second Language) class, while their children head into the free childcare area while their parents are in class. The children play alone, not understanding English, until Luli decides to bring everyone together with one word that they all understand: tea. She sets up a tea party around a table and calls out “Chá!”, the Chinese word for “tea”; the children recognize the word, which sounds similar to the word for tea in their languages: Russian, Hindi, Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Spanish, German, Swahili, and Portuguese. The children sit together and share tea while the caregiver watches, delighted. Showing that language brings us together more than it divides us, Luli and the Language of Tea features a group of children from all over the world coming together in friendship. Each time the word “tea” is spoken it is illustrated in a colorful font with a phonetic spelling in parentheses. Endpapers feature colorful cups of tea from different countries. Colored pencil illustrations add a childlike innocence to this joyful story. Back matter includes an author’s note, a note on the languages spoken in the story, and notes on immigrants living in the U.S. and how they enjoy their tea. Author Andrea Wang’s website includes a bibliography of sources and audio of various children’s literature creators speaking the word for “tea” in their own languages; there’s also a downloadable educator’s guide. An excellent storytime choice.

Luli and the Language of Tea has starred reviews from Booklist and Shelf Awareness.

 

 

La Casita de Esperanza, by Terry Catasús Jennings/Illustrated by Raúl Colón, (June 2022, Neal Porter Books/Holiday House), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823452033

Ages 4-8

This is the Spanish translation of a book I fell in love with when I reviewed it in July. Terry Catasús Jennings writes about a little home that welcomes a family new to the U.S., and how that family turns that little house into a sanctuary where they, and their extended family, can come, be safe, and begin a new life. The Spanish text is lyrical and makes for a beautiful readaloud; Pura Belpré medalist Raúl Colón’s pencil and watercolor artwork frames pivotal moments in the characters’ lives to create powerful moments, from arriving home to a bustling household to people coming together to forge a new life when they’ve been forced to leave the old one behind. I have copies of both the English and Spanish translations on my shelves. One of the best books you’ll read this year.

Visit Terry Catasús Jennings’s webpage to see more of her books and read her own story; the inspiration for La Casita de Esperanza.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Big Bear, Little Fish, Great Friends

Big Bear and Little Fish, by Sandra Nickel/Illustrated by Il Sung Na, (Sept. 2022, Carolrhoda Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781728417172

Ages 4-8

Bear goes to a carnival hoping to win a giant teddy bear, but wins a goldfish instead. Worried that she is too big to play with, feed, or love the tiny fish, she stays as far away from it as possible, lamenting the fact that she’s saddled with this little fish instead of a big teddy bear. Fish helps Bear discover that the two are not so different after all. With a sweet look at relative size and ability, Big Bear and Little Fish is a story of looking past the surface and snap judgements to get to the heart of a situation. It’s a wise story of friendship and kindness that reads beautifully for a young audience and gives slightly older readers food for thought. Cartoon illustrations endear the animals to readers; cool shades of blue against a bright white background provide depth and texture; warm browns and golds on the animals add a warmth to the narrative. Sentences are brief and to the point, letting newly independent readers enjoy the book on their own or as part of a storytime. A good selection for storytime collections.

A free educator kit on the Lerner Books website offers discussion questions and activities.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

When Molly Ate the Stars… A Tale of Kindness

When Molly Ate the Stars, by Joyce Hesselberth, (Sept. 2022, Chronicle Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781797209401

Ages 3-5

On a starlit night, a girl named Molly decides to taste a star; its taste is so delicious, she gobbles them all up, leaving a dark, starless night. As Molly walks through the night, friends invite her to spend time with them, but she declines until she realizes that the world is a darker, gloomier place. Freeing the stars, she rejoins her friends to fill her with warmth and light. Molly’s dress looks like a cage, complete with lock and key, that she uses to hold and eventually free the stars; a cool purple and blue palette is a lovely contrast to the warm, redheaded Molly and her starlit body, illustrating her leeching the light and warmth of the night sky from her surroundings. A gentle reminder that we draw our strength and our inner light from the connections we make in our lives, When Molly Ate the Stars is a good choice for storytimes and collections where fables and fairy tales are popular.

Visit Joyce Hesselberth’s webpage for free printable activities!

 

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Smile: “Every smile starts a wonderful journey”

The Smile, by Marie Voigt, (Aug. 2022, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781684644131

Ages 3-6

Marie Voigt explores the power of a smile in this kind story. Easy-to-read, simple sentences build this “pay-it-forward” story, beginning with a baby’s smile. That smile, directed at another child, brings with it a glittery shower that illuminates everything in its path. The child cheers a lonely woman, as the child hands her a chunk of bread to feed the ducks; she goes on to pick up a beloved toy, dropped by a girl in a wheelchair. A smile cheers and inspires each person to do something kind for another; near or far, a smile sends love. A good deed from a local school puts smiles on the faces of others, worldwide, inspiring even larger good deeds. The story asks readers where their smiles will go, inviting children to start their own kindness chains. Endpapers feature glittery smile paths across a purple background. Great for social-emotional collections, great for storytimes.

The Smile was originally published in the UK earlier this year.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Pigeon & Cat embraces kindness and joy

Pigeon & Cat, by Edward Hemingway, (June 2022, Christy Ottaviano Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9780316311250

Ages 4-8

Cat lives all by himself in an abandoned city, and a cardboard box with his few possessions. He fiercely guards his little area from other neighborhood strays, but things change in Cat’s life when he discovers a little egg, intact, from a fallen nest. The unbroken egg is too pretty to eat; as Cat watches over it, the egg hatches and a sweet little Pigeon emerges. With Pigeon, Cat discovers something bigger than himself; he’s a parent now, and Cat’s world grows brighter. He nurtures Pigeon, who starts exploring her world, much to Cat’s concern: after all, Cat has only known the city to be large, lonely, and cruel. But Pigeon loves discovering her world and always returns home with a gift for Cat: until the one day that she doesn’t. Bereft, Cat looks for Pigeon, using chalk she gave him to create messages all over the city, hoping to lead her home. It’s an act that makes the City warmer, looking more like the comforting alley home that Cat has created for Pigeon, and gives Cat the ability to open his heart and home up. He befriends the other strays that he used to keep away, sharing food and friendship with them, and when Pigeon does return, Cat throws a party that the whole city can enjoy. An achingly gorgeous story of love, kindness, and the power of community through art, Pigeon & Cat will make you weep and cheer before you close the book. A storytime staple. Edward Hemingway’s mixed media illustrations create expressive animal characters that move readers; he uses color to show how Cat’s heart opens as Pigeon brings joy and companionship to his life, going from a brown-based palette to joyful, vibrant pages filled with color and happiness. Word balloons throughout the story add dialogue to the narration. Pigeon speaks in emoji-like rebuses, perfect for emerging readers.

Publisher Christy Ottaviano Books and author Edward Hemingway included a box of chalk in my review package, encouraging me to use the chalk, like Cat, to leave messages around my neighborhood; I’ll be sure to hand some out at my next storytime and encourage my families to do just that. Visit Pigeon and Cat‘s book detail page to download a free activity kit and book discussion guide.

Pigeon & Cat has a starred book review from School Library Journal.

Check out this Vimeo from Edward Hemingway on the making of Pigeon & Cat!

Edward Hemingway Presents PIGEON & CAT from LB School on Vimeo.

 

“A satisfying story exploring heart and home.”  —The Horn Book

“A sweet tale celebrating the joys of both personal and communal togetherness.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A satisfying story exploring heart and home.”  —The Horn Book

Edward Hemingway is the acclaimed creator of many popular books: Tough Cookie: A Christmas Story, Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus, and Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship. His writing and artwork have been published in The New York Times and GQ Magazine. The youngest grandson of Ernest Hemingway, he lives in Bozeman, Montana. He invites you to visit him at EdwardHemingway.com.

Twitter: @EdwardHemingway

Instagram: @edwardhemingway

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour and Giveaway: I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu

“I am, because you are.”

Ubuntu is more than just a word; it’s a philosophy. It’s an African ideal that speaks to the concept of community as a building block of society; we share a bond as humans that connects us all. Author Refiloe Moahloli and illustrator bring that idea to life in their picture book, I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu.

I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu, by Refiloe Moahloli/Illustrated by Zinelda McDonald,
(Feb. 2021, Amazon Crossing Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542035668
Ages 4-7

Originally published in South Africa in 2020, I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu is filled with inspiring, powerful messages that all come back to an essential element: I am you. I love you, and I love myself. By caring for you, I care for myself; to hurt you is to hurt myself. Refiloe Moahloli tells her story in simple, uncomplicated, evocative verse, repeating this simple and dynamic idea. Zinelda McDonald’s digital illustration shows children of all color interacting with one another; they hug, they ride bikes, they share laughs, warmth, and friendship, illustrating the idea of caring as community. A breathtaking spread shows a tree hosting life above and below ground, and a child hugs it, becoming part of nature’s web: we are connected to each other, and that includes every living thing.

An essential book for readalouds and collections, I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu is a gentle voice encouraging unity in an increasingly divisive time. A gorgeous marriage of verse and illustration that you and your readers will turn to again and again. Read it to babies, read it to children, read it to adults.

I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Amazon Crossing Kids aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives.

★“[Refiloe] Moahloli’s work makes for a stunning picture book for young readers and their grown-ups that focuses on our shared sense of community…. Celebrates our shared humanity and the strength in treating others with love and respect. A recommended first purchase.” School Library Journal (starred review)

“An edifying, unifying picture book that’s much needed in these divisive times.” Kirkus Reviews

 

Refiloe Moahloli is a bestselling South African picture book author. She is passionate about writing stories that bring out the best in the human spirit. She spent the early part of her career in the corporate world, but an eye-opening assignment to Mumbai led her to pursue her dream of becoming a full-time writer. She currently lives and works in Johannesburg. Learn more at refiloemoahloli.com, and follow her on Instagram @RefiloeMoahloli.

Zinelda McDonald is an award-winning South African illustrator who lives in Wellington in the Western Cape of South Africa. She has illustrated numerous children’s books and is also a well-known designer and illustrator of children’s book covers. Awards for her work include the Alba Bouwer Prize and the Exclusive Books IBBY SA Award. Follow her on Instagram @Zinelda.

One lucky winner will receive a copy of I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu, courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids (U.S. and Canada addresses).  If you’ve won a Rafflecopter giveaway in the last six months, please don’t enter again: give someone else a chance! Thanks so much! Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here!
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Setting the tone for a new year: A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes, by Mary Lee Donovan/Illustrated by Lian Cho (Oct. 2021, Greenwillow Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780062877727

Ages 4-8

Welcome! Readers travel to homes all over the world to share food and friendship in A Hundred Thousand Welcomes, being greeted in with a hearty “Welcome!” in 14 different languages. Each welcome includes a phonetic pronunciation to allow for readers to learn and share greetings with one another and spread a message of empathy, unity, and hope for a better world. Families greet one another and invite them to sit at tables together; a note from the artist explains her inspiration: “Food is something that joins us across cultures”. Warm colors and rhythmic verse send a wonderful message to all as people come together to share food, their cultures, and their homes. Reading this book today gives me hope for the holiday season and for a new year. Back matter includes a pronunciation guide, notes form the author and artist, and information about the languages featured in the story. Publisher HarperCollins includes A Hundred Thousand Welcomes discussion prompts and extension activities in a home and community teaching guide.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Redlocks and the Three Bears flips fairy tales for fun

Redlocks and the Three Bears, by Claudia Rueda, (Nov. 2021, Chronicle Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452170312

Ages 3-5

Claudia Rueda’s newest story is a sweet, humorous take on Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Bears, and that old trope of the Big Bad Wolf. Mama Bear is just about to get the porridge on the table when a knock sounds at the Bear Family’s door: it’s Little Red Riding Hood, and there’s a bear after her! Baby Bear convinces his parents to give Red some shelter; porridge is eaten, chairs get broken, a bed is too soft… but is the Big Bad Wolf really that bad? Redlocks takes a compassionate look at the maligned image of the Big Bad Wolf, who always finds himself in trouble throughout fairy tales, and offers readers some food for thought on how bad reputations can hurt.

The story offers a fun take on the Goldilocks story, with Little Red Riding Hood taking on some of Goldie’s actions in the story; narrated by Baby Bear, we get an empathetic storyteller who just wants to make others feel better. Colored pencil illustrations are soft and use warm colors with expressive characters and gentle movement moving the action forward. Mama’s porridge recipe is part of the back endpapers, and looks like it was written by Baby Bear himself.

A fun cameo from The Three Little Pigs and a twist ending will have readers chuckling, and the easy-to-read, unfussy storytelling is great for a readaloud. Grab your flannels for Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Bears, and The Three Little Pigs for this one!

Visit Claudia Rueda’s author website for more of her illustration work and information about her workshops.

Posted in picture books

A Sari for Ammi: Blog Tour and Giveaway!

Amazon Crossing Kids is doing such a wonderful job of bringing global children’s stories to U.S. shelves. I have loved every single book I’ve been lucky enough to read so far and am in love with the newest picture book, A Sari for Ammi by Mamta Nainy and illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat.

A Sari for Ammi, by Mamta Nainy/Illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat,
(Nov. 2021, Amazon Crossing Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542035071
Ages 5-8

A young girl sees her mother weaving beautiful saris, and wants desperately to see her mother wear one of her beautiful creations, so sets to planning with her sister on making money to buy Ammi – mom – a gift: one of her own saris. Set in India’s Kota district, in the town of Kaithoon, sari weaving is a family affair: Abba, or dad, dyes the threads; Amma weaves, and the girl and her sister, Sadaf, help weave. The saris are beautiful, but Ammi, dependent on the income that selling the saris brings, won’t wear any for herself. The two enterprising sisters find ways to earn enough money to buy Ammi their loving gift. Beautifully vibrant, with cartoon illustrations and rich patterns and texture, A Sari for Ammi is a visual feast. The story is wonderful, with bold purple words standing out to introduce readers to new vocabulary, colors, and excited exclamations. The story itself brilliantly depicts the love and desire to do something for their mother, tallying up how much they earn and what those earnings can by each time, as they work their way up from a dupatta (a scarf or shawl) to a sari.

A Sari for Ammi introduces us to a a part of India rich in history and famous for its saris, and illustrates a Muslim-Indian family is a loving, positive light. Back matter includes a word on the saris of Kaithoon and a glossary.

Kirkus Reviews has named A Sari for Ammi as one of their 16 Best Books to Read in November.

 

 

“This delightful picture book shines a spotlight on a rural, underrepresented Indian Muslim community.” Kirkus Reviews

Mamta Nainy is a children’s writer, editor, and translator based in New Delhi, India. She is the author of many children’s books, including A Brush with Indian Art, illustrated by Aniruddha Mukherjee, which won the Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Award in 2019; and Bioscope, illustrated by Shanti Devi, which was named to the IBBY Honor List in 2012. Follow the author on Instagram @mamtanainy.
 
Sandhya Prabhat is an independent animator and illustrator from Chennai, India, who resides in the United States. She has a master’s degree in animation and digital arts from New York University. She has illustrated nearly a dozen picture books, including her recent book I Am Brown, written by Ashok Banker. She animates for TV and movies and creates content for social media websites such as Facebook, Google, and Snapchat. Follow the artist on Instagram @sandhyaprabhat.

 

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of A Sari for Ammi, courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids (U.S. and Canada addresses). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Every Little Kindness makes goodwill contagious

Every Little Kindness, by Marta Bartolj, (Oct. 2021, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781797207926

Ages 5-8

A young woman hangs posters of her missing dog, handing an apple to a street musician as she goes about her day. Her act of kindness inspires others, creating a link between the inhabitants of a town as they inspire each other to do something kind for another. This wordless story speaks volumes about humanity, and how one good act can inspire countless others. They don’t need to be grand gestures, full of extravagance; one simple, thoughtful action is filled with meaning. The pencil, ink, acrylic, and watercolor artwork is rendered largely in shades of gray, with yellows to warm up various moments and reds to signify the passing of one good deed to another: handing a red apple to a musician inspires a man with a red bag to pick up a discarded red soft drink can, motivating a young boy wearing red overalls to buy a red balloon for a little girl who’s lost hers. The lost dog’s posters run throughout the book, reminding readers of the story that began this chain of empathy. A lovely way to explain good deeds, and how kindness links us to one another; it offers an opportunity for children to tell you their own stories. An essential book for your SEL (social-emotional learning) collections.

Every Little Kindness has a starred review from Foreword Reviews.