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, Toddler Reads

Books to cuddle, snuggle, and hug by

This is a tough time of year we’re going into. We want to hug people that we can’t. We want to see people in person, not through a device screen. We’ll get there. Until then, we have books to share with those we love. Let these snuggly books do the talking when your arms can’t; if you are lucky enough to have snuggly folx within your quarantine circle, then enjoy these books together.

 

You Are a Beautiful Beginning, by Nina Laden/Illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley,
(Aug. 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250311832
Ages 3-6

If little ones ever needed inspiration and to hear about their incredible potential, this is the time. You Are a Beautiful Beginning is all about potential, with encouraging, rhyming phrases that are just what we all need to hear to keep us going: “It is not the number of pages. / It is the story in the book. / It is not how far you traveled. / It is the journey that you took.” Messages also include having self-confidence and not worrying about the outcome, but the progress; being a good person, and being part of a team, and ultimately, becoming who you are supposed to be. Mixed media artwork creates magical spreads with classic fantasy story elements bright colors. You Are a Beautiful Beginning is the encouraging talk so many of us need today, especially our little ones who are facing remote learning, lack of socialization, and feeling overwhelmed by big, often scary feelings. A much-needed pep talk and hug in book form.

 

Because You’re Mine, by Nancy Tillman, (Sept. 2020, Feiwel & Friends),
$18.99, ISBN: 9781250256133
Ages 2-7

Nancy Tillman, award-winning author of On the Night You Were Born, is back with a rhyming story about the love between a parent and child. Because You’re Mine is a parent’s declaration of love from the very beginning: “The moment that you came along / my heart grew mighty, fierce and strong / And everything just fell from view / All that I could see was you”. That fierce devotion never wanes, as Tillman also notes: “The clouds can blow, the wind can call / the snow can come, the rain can fall / but they’ll just have to wait in line”. It speaks to the protective love parents and caregivers have for their littles; children will feel secure and protected hearing their loving grownup read this to them and it’s perfect for bedtime and cuddle time reading. Ms. Tillman’s instantly recognizable artwork, images of children and grownups, frolicking across spreads of woods, fields, and enjoying flora and fauna, brings to mind carefree days and joy.

Posted in Toddler Reads

More Board Books!

I’m sorry I’ve been quiet for a few days, but this year has been… a lot. But I’m back and ready to bring you some of the cutest board books in my TBR. I know I gush about board books a lot, but they are just adorable, and they’ve grown so much over the last few years. They look at concepts in new ways and have gone beyond the basic “ABCs/123s” to give real storytelling fun for our youngest learners. Let’s see the ones I’ve got here.

My Big Family, by Jeffrey Turner, (Aug. 2020, Schiffer Publishing), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764360053

Ages 0-3

Meet Doodle, the Science Poodle, as she introduces her big, blended family to readers! Family members include one aardvark, eight llamas, nine elephants, and a bunch more. Bright, colorful digital illustrations and giant numbers let readers count each of the animals in Doodle’s family. A note about the science of arithmetic connects the counting story to STEM learning. A fun way to start kids learning and counting; have goodies around for them to count, like toys, blocks, or toes (yours, theirs, the dog’s). Absolute fun for readalouds and counting songs.

 

Peep!, by Kevin Luthardt, (Aug. 2020, Peachtree Publishers), $6.99, ISBN: 9781682632000

Ages 0-3

A duckling hatches and bonds to a boy he sees. Excitedly “peeping”, the duckling follows its new friend home, and the two share time together playing and enjoying one another’s company. One day, though, the “peep!” turns to a “quack!” and the boy and his family know they have to bring the duckling to be with other ducks. But there’s always a new friend waiting just around the corner. This sweet story of friendship is sparsely worded, letting the pictures tell the story. The colorful artwork is cheery, and kids will love the little duckling – sound effects run throughout, so invite your listeners to crack, peep, and quack along with you! Make sure to sing 5 Little Ducks with this one.

 

Guess Who is Behind the Door: A Counting Book in 4 Languages, by Susan S. Novich, (Oct. 2020, Schiffer Publishing), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764360046

Ages 0-3

This rhyming story about a painting porcupine introduces counting, colors, and language concepts. Pinky Porcupine paints the doors in the town, and finds a different animal friend behind each one. Kids can count from one to 10 in English, Spanish, Chinese, and French, with pronunciations noted on each page. The animals gather together to say goodnight in their different languages at the end and fun animal facts close out this fun, fact-filled board book.  Pictures are colorful and eye-catching and fun, perfect for counting storytimes and introducing readers to new languages.

 

Faster, Please!, by Catherine Leblanc/Illustrated by Laurent Richard, (Sept. 2020, Schiffer Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764360329

Ages 0-5

A board book that opens into a play mat! A dog can go faster on a scooter, but even faster on a bike! The pup picks different vehicles to take the speed up a notch as the sections unfold into a 4 foot-long play mat, just right for zooming little cars on. Illustrations are colorful and bright, and vehicle books are so popular, that kids will gobble this right up. Invite kids to tell you which vehicles are outlined on the cover, and point them out inside the book. A felt board with vehicle cutouts would be a fun accompaniment during storytime, too. Have a couple on hand, this one will circulate hard.

 

Paper Peek: Animals, by Chihiro Takeuchi, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Studio), $14.99, ISBN: 9781536211498

Ages 0-3

A board book, seek and find, and geography lesson all in one, Paper Peek: Animals is a wonder of board book making.  Visit the continents and oceans and discover animals native to each region through the artwork. Die cuts and colorful cut paper artwork make endless fun for exploring fingers and eyes. Discover African lions, giraffes, and zebras; North American brown bears and eagles; koalas, platypuses, and cockatoos from Oceania; seahorses, whales, and sharks from the oceans, and so much more. A map of the world at the end of the book shows the animals on their homelands. I love this book for its gorgeous artwork and for its versatility: you can use it during storytime or one-on-one time.

 

Love Can Come in Many Ways, by Terry Pierce, (Oct. 2020, Chronicle Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9781452172606

Ages 0-3

A perfect cuddle up and snuggle book, this rhyming story of all the ways animals (and people!) show love comes with 10 felt flaps to lift and explore. Giraffes nuzzlilng noses, elephant trunk hugs and embracing swan wings are just a few of the ways animals reveal their affection for one another. This is an adorable lapsit choice – invite parents to snuggle, rub noses, lightly squeeze, and play peekaboo with their littles. A soft color palette makes this a perfectly soothing read for babies and toddlers, maybe a good choice for a final story choice in storytime, to start calming things down. Make sure you keep a copy in your storytime collection; this one will get beaten up in circulation as family after family loves it.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Storytime is book review time! Something For You, With All My Heart, C Jumped Over Three Pots and a Pan

I’m a #SaturdayLibrarian today, so I figured that best way to catch up on book reviews was to put them in front of my toughest audience: TODDLERS. See, on Saturdays, I do storytimes in my children’s room’s Family Place center, which, in Corona (my library), is a little area full of learning toys for the kids to explore. So this is an audience that’s not always going to be riveted to my every word, ya know? I have to be on top of my game for Saturday Storytime, and I need books that are going to keep the kids and parents entertained. These three fit the bill.

Something for You, by Charlie Mylie, (Nov. 2019, Farrar Straus Giroux), $17.99, ISBN: 9780374312350

Ages 2-6

A sweet book about friendship, Something for You is about a mouse who wants to cheer up a sick friend. He searches for something to make her smile, but things don’t always go as planned. Mouse learns that just being a friend is all we need. The watercolor artwork brings a delicacy to the story, and the characters are drawn with kind, expressive faces; their movements also delicate and nurturing. The mouse who searches for something for his friend gently wraps a scarf around a cold pigeon and shares a flower with a bee – even if he’s a little grumpy about it! The story incorporates panels into the storytelling, allowing for a nice sequential feel, while showing small moments coming together to create a story.

This was the first book up, and the kids were intrigued. The cover caught their eye, and I asked, “Isn’t it nice when someone does something for you? Don’t you feel good when you do something nice for Mommy or Daddy?” Moms and dads smiled, and toddlers looked at them skeptically, but seemed to go along with it. The framed window, giving readers a view into the mouse caring for his sick friend, also caught the kids’ eyes: we’re natural spectators, right?

Something for You is adorable, and perfect for stories about kindness and empathy. Toddlers and preschoolers are the spot-on audience for this one, but older kids – Kindergarten and first grade, especially – will enjoy this one, too. Reading this book can lead to some wonderful discussions about friendship.

 

With All My Heart, by Stephanie Stansbie & Richard Smythe, (Dec. 2019, Silver Dolphin), $15.99, ISBN: 9781684129102

Ages 2-6

This is the sweetest book about parent-child love. A big bear and little bear cuddle together, splash, explore, and enjoy making memories together in this ultimate cuddle-sit rhyming story with die-cuts throughout the book. The verse reads with a soothing cadence and is a love letter to caregiving, to parenthood, to loving a child: “I saw your sweet smile/and I knew from the start,/I’d love you forever/with all of my heart”; “Each day, more than ever,/I love your sweet smile,/And feeling you close/as we cuddle a while”. Die cuts on each spread spotlight words in hearts, leaves, and star shapes.

The parents loved this one, and snuggled their little ones (still clutching their toys) into the laps and pointed out the bears, the diecuts, and details like the warm sun, the soft and silvery moon, the little moments between parent and child. This is a nice storytime/lapsit-cuddlesit/bedtime book to have in your collection, and would pair nicely with Anna Pignataro’s Our Love Grows, Margaret Wise Brown’s A Long Time That I’ve Loved You, and the classic Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney.

I’ll be reading this one again and again.

 

C Jumped Over Three Pots and a Pan and Landed SMACK in the Garbage Can!, by Pamela Jane/Illustrated by Hina Imtiaz, (Oct. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9780764357954

Ages 2-6

I had to end on a silly note! After a rousing rendition of the Alphabet Song, I launched into a spirited reading of this hilarious rhyming story. The alphabet letters are at camp, when C, trying to show off to A and B, decides to leap over  – you guessed it – three pots and a pan. C jumps a little farther than expected, though, and lands – SMACK! – in a garbage can, sending the rest of the alphabet into a tizzy as they search for the letter E, who has three arms and can help pull C out. But E’s gone missing, along with three other letters! We have an alphabet mystery with dramatic tension here, and the repeated phrase, “C jumped over three pots and a pan and landed smack in a garbage can” make this a laugh-out loud book to read aloud. This is made for silly, emphatic reading out loud: I smack my thigh to emphasize the word “smack”, which gave the kids an extra giggle. It’s a fun take on concepts, and is PERFECT for kids who love Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin Jr.

The artwork is fun, adorable, and bold, with large letters that have arms, legs, and expressive faces. The primary colors are bright and playful, set against a camp setting complete with tents, boats and rivers, and grass.

Parents and kids alike enjoyed this one, and I’ll be coming back to this book again and again. If you do storytime crafts after your storytimes, there are loads of ideas to enhance your program. There are Do-a-Dot printables (perfect for little hands), letter crafts (my second grader did these in preschool, but the teachers used construction paper and cut out the shapes for the kids to decorate), and hundreds of alphabet coloring sheets. A quick Pinterest search or Internet search will lead you down the wonderful rabbit hole of alphabet coloring and crafts. Enjoy.

And that was my storytime today!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour and Giveaway: A Crazy Much Love, by Joy-Jordan Lake

Back in February, I was thrilled to take part in a cover reveal for A CRAZY MUCH LOVE by Joy Jordan-Lake and illustrated by Sonia Sánchez. Now, I’m even more excited, because this gorgeous book is out in the world and I can finally tell you about it!

A Crazy-Much Love, by Joy Jordan-Lake/Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez,
(Sept. 2019, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1542043267

Ages 4-8

This is author Joy Jordan-Lake‘s first picture book, inspired by her own international adoption, and her words capture the longing, joy, and utterly all-consuming, crazy love of motherhood. In this story, a child’s parent share the moments throughout their child’s life, and try to put into words the overwhelming, “crazy-much love” they have for her: imagining her, as a baby dreaming about them as they tried to get their home ready and just right for her arrival; the big, crazy rush to fly to her, hold her in their arms, and bring her home; the incredible love she’s been surrounded with from the beginning, a “crazy-much love for you would grow and grow more and spill out the windows and bust down the doors”. Childhood milestones  – the first bath, first steps, first word, first tricycle ride, and first time on a school bus – take on sacred meaning, their every moment filled with love and gratitude for existing. As the family cuddle together and their daughter asks, “How long does it last, the crazy-much love?”, and laughs because she knows the response, we know, too: that crazy-much love never, ever ends.

Sonia Sánchez’s digital artwork beautifully brings Joy Jordan Lake’s words to life, creating a family story that translates warmth and love on every page. The artwork looks handcrafted, with warm colors and brushstroke-similar artwork that almost makes readers feel like they’re looking into a family diary. Add this one to your storytime collections and your picture book shelves.

Joy Jordan-Lake is the author of multiple books for adults, including A Tangled Mercy, a Goodreads Hot Reads Selection and Kindle bestseller, and Blue Hole Back Home, winner of the Christy Award in 2009 for Best First Novel. A Crazy-Much Love is her debut picture book. She holds a PhD in English and has taught literature and writing at several universities. She is a mother to two biological children and one child adopted from China, and her experiences inspired this book. She lives outside Nashville with her family, including two fluffy dogs. Learn more about the author at www.joyjordanlake.com.

Sonia Sánchez is an award-winning Spanish illustrator. Her debut picture book, Here I Am, written by Patti Kim, received two starred reviews and was nominated for the Eisner Award for Best Painter. Her artwork has been selected for the prestigious Society of Illustrators Original Art Show twice, and her books have been named a CBC NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year. She lives with her husband, her son, and a sleepyhead cat in a blue house near the Mediterranean Sea.

 

“The standout illustrations burst with energy and are as saturated with color as the subject of the story is showered with love. A perfect gift for an adoptive family—and every family that has a deep and abiding love for their young children.” —Booklist

“An honest and encouraging story about a transracial adoption.” —Kirkus Reviews

One lucky winner will receive a copy of A Crazy-Much Love, courtesy of Two Lions/Amazon (U.S. addresses only, please!). I’m trying a Google form this time, so please let me know in the comments if it’s not working for you! Contest closes 9/27. Good luck!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Valentine’s Day Readaloud: Love, by Stacy McAnulty

Love, by Stacy McAnulty/Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, (Dec. 2018, Running Press), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-7624-6212-4

Ages 3-8

Stacy McAnulty and illustrator Joanne Lew-Vriethoff team up again for Love, a sweet companion to Brave and Beautiful. Here, Ms. McAnulty and Ms. Lew-Vriethoff explore the sweet side of love, illustrated by children undertaking the kindest, most gentle tasks. Stacy McAnulty’s words take on even greater significance when paired with Joanne Lew-Vriethoff’s illustrations. “Love at first sight” features a spread of kids hugging shelter pets and new siblings; greeting a new friend in nature or a new, adopted sibling at the airport; “Love needs special presents and designer greeting cards” sees friends visiting and giving gifts and making cards for others, be it a sick friend, a grandmother, or someone who just needs a pick-me-up.

Love speaks to the value of time spent with friends and family, doing good things for the purpose of seeing one another smile. As Stacy McAnulty concludes, “Because nothing else matters without love”. The colorful illustrations and multicultural group of characters will keep readers interested. It’s a comfort to read stories that remind kids (and adults!) that the simplest things are the most important, and most remembered: time spent with family, friends, and community.

Love has a starred review from Kirkus, which also notes that this is a perfect read “for balancing the commercialism of Valentine’s Day”. Have your storytime group make their own “designer greeting cards” to give to someone they love. Maybe create a list of good deeds, based on the ones here, for readers to take home, reminding them of the power of kindness. This one is a good add to your storytime and empathy collections. Stacy McAnulty has valentines and worksheets based on Love available for free download at her website!

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

New Baby love: Lots of Love, Little One!

Lots of Love, Little One! (Forever and Always), by Sandra Magsamen, (Dec. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492683988

Ages 0-4

What better reason to celebrate love and life than a new baby? Although Lots of Love Little One can really be a book for anytime, anywhere, it’s perfect for a new baby/baby shower gift. Adorable illustrations and sweet phrases, like, “I love you more than all the stars that twinkle at night, and all the fireflies that glow so bright”, fill the pages with joy and adoration. The illustrations resemble stitched-together toys, and include a mother and baby elephant; spaghetti (it’s one of the rhymes); fireflies, and stars. A page dedicated to “I love you” in nine different languages includes Sioux, Hawaiian, and Swahili. The colors are bright and the art and words come together to create a love letter to the little ones in your life.

Sugary sweet, sure, but if you can’t give all the sweetness in the world to little ones, where’s the fun? An absolutely snuggly, cuddly book. Mommies-to-be, read this one to your bellies!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Sesame Street talks LOVE!

Love from Sesame Street, by Sesame Workshop, (Dec. 2018, Sourcebooks), $12.99, ISBN: 9781492677499

Ages 2-6

Leave it to Sesame Street to make it clear: Love is love. It’s been a major part of their message since the show aired almost 50 years ago, and it’s even more relevant and important today. Spreads starring our favorite Sesame Street characters spread the word: Big Bird scrawls, “Love is a sunny day!” in sidewalk chalk, while Super Grover dashes across the sky, leaving the message, “Love is being an everyday hero” in his wake. Count von Count delights in being surrounded by numbers, delivering the message that “Love is infinite – bigger than all of the numbers”. Cookie Monster’s powerful message – “Love is cookies… and then more cookies” comes right before Abby’s nod to the power of love: “Love is magical and full of wonder”. Yes, Bert and Ernie are here, as is Julia, surrounded by her family. The characters gather to deliver the final, beautiful message: “Love is everywhere and all around us”. Get it? It’s all about love, in all of its exciting and unexpected forms.

Ernie Kwiat’s artwork really catches the eye here; less solid outlines, more brushwork, almost making the characters look like they’ve been brush-painted. The characters and the message are the standouts, and are colorful, bright, and bold. The scenery is there, but fades into the white background, letting the characters and their declarations take center stage.

I love this book. I know, I say that about all the Sesame Street books, and it’s true. I’ve grown up with the show; my kids have grown up with the show, and I love its ever-constant, upbeat personality and outlook. Everyone just needs to be nice to one another. That’s it. Kindness wins.

Love from Sesame Street is perfect for toddler and preschooler audiences. There are hundreds of Sesame Street crafts and coloring sheets out there, but I always find myself back at the main site, SesameStreet.org. Enjoy.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

And They Lived Happily Ever After… Prince & Knight

Prince & Knight, by Daniel Haack/Illustrated by Stevie Lewis, (May 2018, little bee), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0552-9

Recommended for readers 4-8

I am head over heels in love with this gorgeous rhyming tale of a prince who finds his perfect knight and lives happily ever after! A handsome young prince is coming of age, so his parents set out to find him a worthy bride. The ladies all love him – he’s adorable! – but he just doesn’t feel it for any of them. While the royals are away, a dragon attacks the village, and the brave prince jumps on his horse and rides back, ready for battle… and discovers a knight in shining armor, ready to fight by his side and save their kingdom! The knight saves the prince from a nasty fall, takes off his helmet, and… FIREWORKS. The village and the king and queen are thrilled with the match, and the prince and knight live happily ever after. I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying.

This book just makes me swoon. The rich color illustrations are a joy to look at, the rhyming text is so adorable you’ll want to read it again and again, and the combination of the beautiful words and the artwork of the two young men, completely and happily in each other’s arms, makes this an absolute must for storytime and for collections everywhere. Read this often, and explain that sometimes, the prince wants a handsome knight at the end of the story. And that’s just wonderful. Prince & Knight has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

We all want a Little Small

My Little Small,by Ulf Stark/Illustrated by Linda Bondestam, Translated by Annie Prime, (March 2018, Enchanted Lion Books), $15.95, ISBN: 9781592702091

Recommended for readers 4-7

Originally published 2014 in Swedish as Min Egen Lilla Liten, this is a touching story about a lonely Creature that allows for some interpretation with readaloud audiences. A lonely gray Creature lives inside a mountain cave, living in darkness because the sun will hurt her; possibly kill her. She longs for something to love and care for: “someone small to sing to and care for”. She tries to share her affection with the moon, whose rays shatter when she attempts an embrace. But one ay, a stray spark from the sun finds its way into her cave, and her heart soars. The spark tells her stories about the sun, and the colors visible in the daylight: the blue ocean; the yellow deserts; the green forests; the animals and birds that live above. While the Creature is enchanted by the spark, calling it her Little Small, the spark must hurry back to the sun before dark.

The Creature in this story is gendered female in the text, but this is open to interpretation: The Creature can easily take on any preferred pronoun the reader wishes; it’s a gray, amorphous shape with large, expressive eyes, a bulbous, black nose, and sharp white teeth. It’s nowhere near scary; rather, it’s kind of cute. Creature’s story is the big thing here: the desire to love and care for a Little Small; the same desire that fuels parents and caregivers; the same desire that moves children to attach themselves to a Lovey. My Little Small is also a reminder that our time together is short, and to fill those moments with joy – a nice nod to us adults to stop sweating the small stuff. The artwork is bold, with textured grays giving life to Creature and her environs, and bold, bright colors populating the spark’s tales of life outside. The spark itself is tiny and bright, giving off rings of warm, yellow light.

Words Without Borders calls My Little Small a “sweetly eccentric book”, and that seems about perfect, so I’ll leave it at that. It may not appeal to every reader, but it does reach down and get to the heart of the desire to love and protect. Sunrise, 2013 comic by Heather L. Sheppard, from a few years ago, makes a good readalike with absolutely adorable artwork. If you can find it (it’s a digital comic, available through Comixology), give it a read.