Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Indie author/publisher spotlight!

I’m back with more independently published authors! You’ve seen them here before: both Lois Wickstrom and Riya Aarini have been kind enough to share their books with me in the past, and I’m happy to feature more of their books today. Let’s see what Carefree Ollie and Alex the Inventory are up to, and meet some new friends along the way.

How to Make a Flying Carpet, by Lois Wickstrom/Illustrated by Janet King, (November 2020, Independently Published),  $24.99, ISBN: 978-0916176778

Ages 7-11

Alex is a girl who likes science and likes repurposing broken things, so when a frog magnet falls from her refrigerator and breaks, she sees opportunity. Taking the magnet, she discovers that she can rescue her father’s key from the heating vent where it fell, and she can make paper clips dance. She begins experimenting with the magnets to find out what else she can do, and when she discovers a cache of magnets in the garage, she gets an idea… can she use the repelling powers of magnets to make a real flying carpet? Filled with fun and easily creatable experiment with magnets, How to Make a Flying Carpet is a fun STEM/STEAM story that will work really well with a science club/Discovery Club. The illustrations help kids visualize how to work with magnets, especially in a household setting: super-helpful these days, when finding things around the house is the best way to keep kids busy during remote and blended learning days! Alex’s interest in learning and in expanding the scope of her experiments will motivate kids to dig deeper and embrace the fun in learning. If you’re interested in more magnet experiments, Babble Dabble Do has four easy magnet experiments that you can easily do with household items or with a quick trip to the 99-cent store.

Visit author Lois Wickstrom’s website, Look Under Rocks, for more information about her books, including What Do the Plants Say?, her first Alex the Inventor story.

 

Ollie’s Garden (Carefree Ollie #3), by Riya Aarini/Illustrated by Virvalle Caravallo, (Nov. 2020, Independently Published), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1735347325

Ages 6-10

Carefree Ollie has to negotiate between bickering groups of animals in his garden kingdom in his latest adventure. The orange ladybugs won’t let the red ladybugs near the daisies; frogs are chasing toads away from the water because they “ribbit” while toads “croak”; chipmunks and squirrels are quarreling over their tails. With Ollie’s garden kingdom in chaos, it’s up to him to stop the fighting and help bring peace, tolerance, and understanding to the kingdom once more.  A sweet parable on equity, diversity, and inclusion, Ollie’s Garden is a good way to approach embracing our differences and how those differences make us wonderful. Digital artwork is kid-friendly and colorful, and the storytelling is a good starting point for your own discussions about how diversity makes us stronger.

Education.com has some great activities on diversity, including a Kindergarten lesson plan on Appreciating Diversity, a second grade lesson plan on Appreciating Diversity and Differences, and a Welcome All activity for Kindergarten and first graders that helps develop an appreciation for differences and building social awareness.

 

Sam and Sophie, by Kerry Olitzky/Illustrated by Jen Hernandez, (March 2021, Higher Ground Books & Media), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1949798838

Ages 3-7

Sam has just become a big brother to baby sister Sophie, but he’s frustrated. There doesn’t seem to be much time or energy left over for him, and he’s not happy with all the attention baby Sophie is getting. But when Baby Sophie gets sick, Sam finds himself worrying and trying to make her happy and feel better. A moving story that grows from the Jewish tradition of planting a tree when a new child is born, Sam and Sophie includes back matter on the tradition and on trees, people, and their relationship to God. Mixed media artwork has a manga influence. Sam and Sophie is a good book to begin a talk on sibling jealousy and how to navigate complicated feelings that arise when a new baby arrives.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction

Spotlight on indie and small publishers!

I hope you like these as much as I do. As I’ve worked through my ginormous TBR this year, I’ve gotten to many of the books sent to me by independent and small authors and publishers; the best way to show them off is to give them their own little spotlight. There are some little gems to be found here.

 

Ollie’s Backpack (A Carefree Ollie Book), by Riya Aarini/Illustrated by Virvalle Caravallo, (July 2020, independently published), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1733166140

Ages 5-7

Ollie is a kid who loves to put stuff in his backpack. He knows there’s stuff that’s way too big, like a moose; way too heavy, like a watermelon, or way too cold, like an igloo. The thing is, he starts to collect little things that end up really weighing him down as he goes through his day: a crumpled homework assignment; a broken toy that a bully snatched from him; a granola bar that a classmate refused to share; even a trophy that he won! As Ollie takes a break from carrying all that heavy weight, he realizes that sometimes, you have to get rid of the weight you carry. He sheds the things that made him sad, and displays the trophy, which made him happy. Once he stops hiding everything away, he realizes that he’s not weighed down anymore!

Ollie’s Backpack is a good social-emotional learning story that reminds me of Brian Wray’s and Shiloh Penfield’s excellent Max’s Box. Kids will see themselves both in the packrat stuffing of everything and anything into a backpack, and will understand the meaning of holding onto memories – for better or for worse – and appreciate Ollie’s way of embracing the good and letting go of the bad. The digital artwork is bright and colorful. A nice choice for your SEL collections. Visit author Riya Aarini’s website for more books, including the next Ollie books.

 

Sam the Superhero and His Super Life, by Kathryn F. Pearson & James T Pearson/Illustrated by Lauren Jezierski, (July 2020, independently published), $9.25, ISBN: 979-8640502343

Ages 5-8

A young boy named Sam lives with his grandparents and loves his stuffed dog, Hercules. He’s very sensitive to sound, light, and touch, and he has what his grandfather calls “big feelings”: he feels everything intensely. His grandfather shows Sam photos of himself as a baby and explains that he was he was born very small and needed to stay in the hospital for a few weeks, and was very sensitive, even as a baby; he also tells Sam that he is a superhero, just like the guys in the comics, for overcoming so many obstacles.

The book looks at children born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS): children born substance-exposed and the challenges they overcome from birth. Developed by an 8-year old girl named Sophia, the story is brought to life through straightforward, simple prose and sketched, gently colorful artwork. Sam the Superhero and His Super Life raises NAS awareness and encourages adults and children alike to approach all kids with kindness and understanding. Visit https://2themoonandback.org/ for more info.

 

Chicken Little Investigates, by Lois Wickstrom/Illustrated by Francie Mion, (Aug. 2019, Look Under Rocks), $12, ISBN: 978-0916176365

Ages 5-7

A fun spin on the classic Chicken Little tale, Chicken Little Investigates puts a STEM spin on the story. Chicken Little and Henny Penny are strolling along when an acorn falls on Chicken Little’s head. Chicken Little and Henny Penny do some experimenting with gravity, and decide to go visit the king to find out what he would call their discovery. Along the way, they meet Goosey Loosey, Ducky Lucky, and Turkey Lurkey, all with different ideas on what to call their discovery, when they meet up with sly Foxy Woxy, who has his own ideas. But the gang is too smart for Foxy, and use their new discovery to escape to safety. A cute introduction to physics, with fun sounds like jangles, flops, and plops, this is a cute read-aloud that invites kids to chime in with their own sound effects. I’d use this in a Discovery Club readaloud and invite kids to drop their own pencils, pillows, and pom-pom balls to see what drops fast, what drops slow, and what sounds they make. Lois Wickstrom has been writing some fun STEM/STEAM stories; see more of her books at her website, Look Under Rocks.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Small and Indie Spotlight!

As I continue catching up to my TBR, I’ve got more independently published books for you to enjoy. Take a look!

Tucker and the Garbage Truck, by Sarah Brown/Illustrated by Oscar Franco, (May 2020, Independently Published), $12.97, ISBN: 979-8648207370

Ages 3-6

Tucker is a little truck who discovers a big garbage truck winding its way through his neighborhood. Tucker approaches the garbage truck and asks him about his job, and the garbage truck invites Tucker along as he makes his stops, explaining why he enjoys his job. He’s too big to be one of those itty bitty trucks or cars, and he likes helping keep the town clean! At the end of the day, Tucker is happy to have made a new friend and has learned about a new job: Garbage Truck!

Digital illustrations are cute, and the text is easy to read. Kids who Disney’s Cars movies and shows, plus vehicle books like Kate and Jim McMullan’s I’m Fast! and I Stink! and Byron Barton’s board books (Train, Trucks, Planes) will enjoy this one.   Author Sarah Brown has a series of Tucker books available on her Amazon author page.

 

Carrie’s Flight (Grandma’s Closet #1), by Lois Wickstrom/Illustrated by Francie Mion, (March 2019, Independently Published), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1090828224

Ages 4-7

A little girl named Carrie discovers some of her grandmother’s boxes in a closet, and pulls them into her room, where she video chats her grandmother to ask what they are. When Grandma invites Carrie to open the boxes, she discovers feathers! And wings! Donning a pair of wings for herself, Carrie soon realizes she can fly like the starlings outside her window, and joins them in flight. She heads to her grandmother’s home for a visit, and when the birds beckon her home, she flies back. A gentle Icarus story for younger readers, this is a sweet story about a girl and her grandmother, with a fantasy spin. The artwork is dreamlike, with soft colors, and the text has emphasized fonts on certain words for added interest. If the text were laid out over and around the images, it would flow better, but the overall story is cute and will appeal to younger readers. A nice bedtime story to share. An author’s note on how starlings arrived in North America and their environmental impact adds an interesting nonfiction touch to the book.

 

How I Made a (Tiny Wacky) Friend (My Crazy Stories), by Daniel Georges, (Aug. 2019, Independently Published), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1088442432

Ages 5-8

This is my first dip into the My Crazy Stories series, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. William is a kid who likes keeping to himself. He likes to spend time by himself, making spooky masks in his room, and enjoys being out and about when there’s no one else around: until “this kid” shows up: a new kid moves into the neighborhood, and William starts seeing him EVERYWHERE. It’s really cramping his style! When his parents invite the kid and his family over for dinner, William is ready to give the kid the scare of his life – but when he puts on one of his scariest masks, the boy is THRILLED. He loves scary stuff, too! The two new friends bond over their shared love of monsters, and Willy and Olly – that’s “this kid’s” name – become fast friends, spending their days at the playground and reading monster stories together. They even bestow secret code names upon each other, because “Good friends always have secret code names”. A spread at the end of the book invites kids to put pictures of themselves and their friends into the book, and give themselves secret code names.

The book is fun, narrated in the first person by William, and is so relatable to kids, especially kids with more introverted tendencies (or children dealing with a new sibling). The artwork is fun, colorful, boldly outlined. I was really happy with this book, and will keep an eye out for the other books in the series. A fun book to help kids break down complex emotions.

Dana Digs In, by Laura Pedersen, (Apr. 2020, Independently Published), $8.75, ISBN: 979-8638193270

Ages 4-7

Dana is a biracial girl who lives in an urban community and does not like the taste of the tomatoes in her salad. It’s not that she doesn’t like tomatoes, she doesn’t like the store-bought tomatoes her parents have bought! Her father explains that tomatoes are often picked before they’re ripe, and ripen on a truck, which gets Dana thinking about waste and pollution. She’s determined to find a better way to get good food, so she researches how and where to start a community garden – and discovers the perfect spot in a future building area that she can use for a few months. After getting the seeds started and learning to compost, she’s ready – and she gets help! The community pitches in and they have a healthy harvest, a portion of which Dana donates to the local food pantry. When it’s time to relocate the garden, Dana discovers that she’s got a couple of options – exciting! Dana Digs In shows how dedication, ingenuity, and research makes all things possible, no matter what age.  The artwork uses word balloons to illustrate dialog and nicely shows the steps involved in figuring out how to set up and run a community garden. Read during a Discovery Time/STEM program and encourage kids to start their own seeds – or do a food scrap program and show kids how to start their own crops from food scraps in their kitchens!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Spotlight on small press and self-published books!

Beautiful, Wonderful, Strong Little Me!, by Hannah Carmona Dias/Illustrated by Dolly Georgieva-Gode, (Nov. 2019, Eifrig Publishing), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1632331694

Ages 4-7

A rhyming story that celebrates multicultural diversity, Beautiful, Wonderful, Strong Little Me! stars Lilly, a young girl with dark skin, curly hair, freckles and full lips. She’s strong, she’s smart, she’s funny, and she’s friendly – but she doesn’t look like her friends, and she’s tired of being asked where she’s from. She’s no puzzle to be solved! She tells her friends she’s proud of who she is, but what she looks like is only a small part of that: she’s courageous, funny, resilient, and kind. And that is perfect! The joyful rhyming text is filled with a sense of play, self-respect, and self-love. The artwork is cartoony and cheery, with a diverse group of friends playing together on each spread. An author’s note encourages readers to come up with adjectives for themselves, and provides a framed space for a self-portrait.

A fun readalike to books like Karen Beaumont’s I Like Myself! and Grace Byers’s I Am Enough.

 

 

Goldilocks and the Six Simple Machines, by Lois Wickstrom/Illustrated by Nicole Hehn, (Jan. 2020), $12.99, ISBN: 978-0916176457

Ages 4-7

Everyone knows the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but what would have happened if Goldilocks had come in and started fixing things up in the Bear home? If Goldilocks had poured the precise amount of milk into the porridge to cool things off; fixed a wobbly table leg and squeaky chair? Would the Bears still be angry? (I would; I mean, she broke into their house.) If the bears discovered a sleeping Goldilocks in their beds, how would they move her to wake her up and thank her for all the repairs? In this STEM take on the classic story, Lois Wickstrom’s Goldilocks uses six simple machines: wheel and axle, an inclined plane and wedge, a screw, lever, and pulley, to show how Goldilocks was able to make life a little easier for the bears. The Bear family is gracious and Goldilocks is sweetly helpful in this retelling. The font design is exaggerated to add a dimension of fun to the story, but they can distract. The artwork could use a little finesse, but overall, a fun book to read in STEM classes and for STEM storytimes.

There are some great fairytale STEM projects available online, and the Goldilocks story has given rise to several. There’s a lesson plan available from the Utah Education Network; Teach Beside Me has a fun STEM project, as does Momgineer. Teachers Pay Teachers has a cute STEM project, where kids can make a latch for the three bears’ door.

 

Daisy and Friends: Outside Our Window, by Barbara J. Meredith/Illustrations by Kalpart, (Oct. 2018, Strategic Book Publishing & Rights Agency), $11.50, ISBN: 9781949483574

Ages 3-6

The third in a series of books about a cat named Daisy and her three dog friends, Daisy and Friends: Outside Our Window is all about the changing seasons. Phrased like a rhyming game, Daisy and the dogs each start with the phrase, “Looking out our window, what do we see?” Answers reflect those flora, fauna, and weather that map to different seasons: Butterflies, hummingbirds, and bumblebees welcome the spring; squirrels and chipmunks gathering acorns and seeds give hints that fall is on the way. Short, rhyming sentences, consistent question and answer patterns, and plenty of sight words give burgeoning learners a lot to enjoy and see here! The digital artwork is playful, and the dialogue between Daisy and her dog friends makes for good readaloud material, especially if you have a volunteer who’s comfortable reading! There are four Daisy and Friends books available: Daisy and Friends: Waiting for the School Bus was published in August!