Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Happy Book Birthday to Sleep, My Bunny – new Rosemary Wells!

Sleep, My Bunny, by Rosemary Wells, (Nov. 2018, Candlewick Press), $14.99, ISBN: 9780763692629

Ages 2-7

A delicate lullaby for bedtime, Sleep, My Bunny – originally published in 1977 as “Good Night, Sweet Prince” in Don’t Spill it Again, James – is Rosemary Wells’ newest picture book. A bunny family goes through their bedtime routine as the sun sets and night falls. As the words describe the sounds of the evening: crickets and owls sing together; the wind takes the moon for a ride; the pictures show a young bunny and his parents putting toys away, choosing pajamas, having a bath, and selecting a story before a little song and dance, and then, sleep.

The gentle pastels and mixed media artwork starts bold and bright, as the bright sun shines outside during sunset; gradually, the sky grows darker in each spread – the sky in the depicted window in each scene mirrors the text’s background on the accompanying pages – until a midnight blue brings bedtime to a sleepy Bunny. The family is loving and playful, delighting in one another; everyone’s smiles are wide and they have gentle, loving gazes for each other, making this a wonderful cuddle time book. Endpapers set the mood, with a tinge of sun in the lower left-hand corner of the front endpapers; a midnight blue sky and a hazy crescent moon shine on the back endpapers.

Sleepy, My Bunny is a gentle story for toddlers, preschoolers, and Kindergarteners; early readers can help at bedtime by reading this to a sibling (or pet, or lovey). Another classic from Rosemary Wells.

Posted in Intermediate

Nina introduces a new generation to Nina Simone

Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil-Rights Activist Nina Simone, by Alice Brière-Haquet/Illustrated by Bruno Liance, (Dec. 2017, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580898270

Recommended for readers 6-10

She is a legend in music and civil rights history. Author Alice Brière-Haquet and illustrator Bruno Liance introduce Nina Simone to new audiences with this beautifully written and illustrated book. Written as a story to Simone’s daughter, who’s having trouble falling asleep, Alice Brière-Haquet weaves a tale of achievement in the face of racism, using stunning imagery: the 52 white teeth “trapping” the 36 black teeth in the keyboard, and the white keys being whole notes while the black keys are half notes: “White was whole. Black was half. It was that way everywhere and for everyone.” Music was made by “important men in powdered wigs from past centuries”. Simone recalls her anger during a recital, when her mother was expected to give up her seat in the front, to white people who came to see her play; Simone refused to play until her mother resumed her rightful spot in the front row. She speaks of Martin Luther King, and his dream being her symphony – but the dream is fragile.

This book is gorgeous. The words are beautiful and strong, and using piano keys as an illustration of endemic racism is simply brilliant. Bruno Liance’s black and white illustrations are soft, dreamlike, beautiful. This spread is my absolute favorite; I’d love to give this print as a baby shower gift.

“Dream, my baby, dream, until you spread your wings…” (from Bruno Liance’s website)

Do kids know who Nina Simone is? Probably not, unless their parents are fans. Does that matter? Absolutely not – this is a gorgeous introduction to Nina Simone, and to activism, for all ages. This book is going on my shelves, in my storytimes, and in displays for social conscience, activism, and African-American history. If you’re so inclined, you can play Simone’s lullaby, “Hush Little Baby“, in your storytime or for your little one.

Nina was originally published in France in 2015. You can find more of Bruno Liance’s artwork at his (French/English) website, Pirate des Caramels, and you can follow Alice Brière-Haquet at her (French) blog, Alice in Wonderblog. Nina has starred reviews from Foreword Reviews and Booklist.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Book Review: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, by Iza Trapani (Whispering Coyote, 1997)

twinkle-twinkle-little-star-illustrated-by-iza-trapaniRecommended for ages 0-5

“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” is one of the first nursery rhymes many children learn, either from their parents, daycare providers, or preschool teachers. Ms. Trapani’s extended version of the song allows children to sing along as they view the story of a little gold star who takes a little girl on a trip through the night sky. After taking her to see the planets and sun, the star shows the girl how it guides ships at sea and shines light on loving families and sleeping animals and children. The star promises to shine on the little girl every night when it returns her back to her bed. The watercolor illustrations give a soft, dreamlike feel to the story, and the star itself appears to be rendered in a foil of some sort, so it stands out. The colors are muted, nighttime colors but for the light by the sun and the moon. There is a companion CD that lets readers sing along and can also help beginning readers sharpen their skills. There is also a Spanish translation available for a Spanish storytime.

This is a great candidate for a nursery rhyme-centered storytime, either with or without the CD accompaniment. There are many fingerplays available for Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, and a felt board may be fun to incorporate into the story, with the many sights the star takes the little girl to see through the course of the tale. The sheet music and lyrics are available in the back of the book and, with permission, may be handed out at the beginning of the storytime for parents, guardians, and children to sing along. The book’s publisher, Charlesbridge, has a free printable of the cover art that would make for a fun coloring project. The Perry Public Library has a wonderful “Star Light Star Bright” storytime that includes songs, rhymes and a star chart, an updated one of which can easily be found online.

The author’s webpage also offers downloadable activities and guides for her books.