I’ve been blogging and Instagramming about Odd Dot’s Outdoor School series, and today is the big day: launch day! Keep your eyes on this space for news about a giveaway coming soon, and if you’re able, register for a launch event tonight, featuring series creators Jennifer Davis, Haley Blevins, Mary Kay Carson, and Jennifer Swanson discussing the series and answering your questions about mastering outdoor skills! The event is free and open to the public; all you need to do is register here with EventBrite!
Step right up, I’ve got a bunch of back to school stories for your readers!
Pearl is the youngest and smallest student at her mother’s ballet school, but when Mom suggests that Pearl try out preschool – a school full of kids her age! – she’s got some questions: Is there dancing? Do they have stories? What else is there to do? Mom answers all of Pearl’s questions, and Pearl mulls it over, finally deciding that yes, she, and her stuffed mouse, Violet, are ready to try out preschool. Narrated from little Pearl’s point of view, this is an adorable story for kids getting ready for preschool: questions get answers, there’s a routine to the day, and best of all, Pearl has a wonderful day – and dances! Digital illustrations are soft, with muted pastels and lovely illustrations of ballet dancing and the relationship between a mother and her child. An adorable addition to school stories.
A free, downloadable activity kit features a Pearl paper doll with two outfits! Try to print it out on a heavier card stock, so it’s durable. Brightly has a good list of ballerina books for preschoolers, Scholastic has a list of books for beginning preschoolers.
It’s always a good day for a Toni Yuly book, and her latest, Play Day School Day, captures a sweet moment between a little boy and his older sister. Mona, a young girl, is excited for the first day of school; her younger brother, Milo, asks what she does at school. “Lots of things”, Mona replies, and tells him about a typical school day, from riding the bus, to practicing reading, writing, science, and math. She tells him that sometimes, one must sit quietly at school, but other times, one can run around and be loud with friends. Mona makes school sound pretty great! The two siblings share their day in a garden or backyard, playing together with their black cat. Toni Yuly’s spare prose is to-the-point and enticing, giving Milo a wonderful vision of school. The story text is bold and black, easily readable against the bright white background, and Toni Yuly’s mixed media artwork is bright, cheerful, and vibrant. Play Day School Day is a fun school story for school-aged children and their younger siblings.
Pair Play Day School Day with Anna McQuinn’s books, Lola Reads To Leo.
She’s back! The exuberant, spirit-filled little girl from Connie Schofield-Morrison and Frank Morrison’s previous books, I Got the Rhythm! and I Got the Christmas Spirit! is back and ready for school in her newest story! Brushing her teeth, and getting dressed, she’s filled with the spirit, which stays with her and powers her – and her friends – through the school day! The spirit helps her comfort a scared friend on the school bus and enjoy her school day; it helps her kick a ball at recess, and propels her right into her mother’s arms at the end of her school day, leaving her ready to do it all again the next day. Filled with small moments that make up a school day, and with gorgeous, evocative oil painting, I Got the School Spirit! is the picture of Black Joy, and a picture book that will get kids excited about their own upcoming school days. Sound effects throughout: the stomp, stomp of shiny new shoes, zip, zip! of a school bag, and crunch, munch, sip! of lunchtime makes this a perfectly interactive read-aloud. A definite must-add to your back-to-school/first day of school collections.
James Preller, author of the Jigsaw Jones chapter book series, and Mary GrandPré, whose illustrations we all know and love from Harry Potter, come together to present a collection of haiku poems about the first day of school. Covering subjects like new school supplies, the fear of boarding the bus, and class pets, all students will find themselves in the words and mixed media illustrations in the book. Moments like “Growing Up”, as a parent sighs after waving goodbye to the school bus, and “Principal K”, the new principal who has a dab of shaving cream on his ear, show kids that we grownups have our own first-day jitters, too. It’s not easy saying goodbye to our littles and it’s a little scary when the first day of school is your first day of work, too! Other poems celebrate first-day stalwarts like name tags on desks, the Reading Rug (it was the Circle Time rug when my elder boys were was in grade school), and running errands – and choosing a friend to accompany – all find their voice here. “Library” is a touching nod to school libraries everywhere: “…the whoosh and thrum / of the school’s heart beat”. Colorful and buoyant, with a diverse group of students and teachers, All Welcome Here is a thank you letter to schools, teachers, and students everywhere.
A free, downloadable storytime kit encourages readers to write their own haikus and make their own name tags.
A delightfully hilarious companion to Jancee Dunn and Scott Nash’s 2017 book, I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in Trouble Today, I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in the Principal’s Office is all about you – the principal is speaking to you, isn’t she? – and your teddy, who stashed away in your backpack and went to school with you today; Teddy, along with your friends’ stuffed animals, who all did the same thing, waited until everyone was in assembly to burst out of their schoolbags and wreak havoc all over your school! They wrote their names with condiments and tied up the coach; they trapped the art teacher in glue and rolled around in finger paint. As the principal details everything that went on during the day, parents will have to suppress their giggles – just like poor Mr. Krimple, standing next to the principal – as they imagine the principal’s tone of voice. But are you really in the principal’s office? Is there even a principal? Or is it an imaginative little girl playing school? Way too much fun to read and act out, I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in the Principal’s Office is fantastic reading… and will put a new spin on playing school, I’m sure. The colorful digital illustrations showcase a group of stuffed toys having the time of their lives throughout school, as teacher chase them through the chaos. The title page begs for a real-life storytime setup, featuring a bunch of guilty-looking toys sitting uncomfortably on chairs, some covered in paint, waiting to be claimed by their children. Just great fun to read.
The companion to 2019’s When Pencil Met Eraser, also by Karen Kilpatrick, Luis O. Ramos, Jr., and Germán Blanco, is about teamwork, friendship, and coloring outside the lines. A group of markers loves to color, but Purple sees things differently. He colors outside the lines, which drives the other markers CRAZY. They confront Purple, telling him his creativity is a mistake and that he doesn’t fit in. Dejected, Purple sets out on his own and meets Pencil and Eraser, who inspire him to look at things differently: he doesn’t need lines! As Purple creates, Pencil and Eraser fill in the area around his work, making gloriously purple grapes, butterflies, birds, and cupcakes. The creative team’s work draws the attention of the other markers, who ultimately learn that coloring outside the lines can be fun, and Pencil says – in a tribute to Bob Ross – that “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents!” It’s a great story to read to kids, while reminding them that it’s good to approach life with a flexibility and attitude, and to color outside the lines every once in a while. Be creative, take chances, and don’t be afraid to be the Purple Marker. The digital artwork has bright, primary colors that pop off the bright white background; dialogue between the markers, Pencil, and Eraser are bold and rounded, while the narrative text is more of a Roman font, not bolded. Endpapers let Purple – and, later, the other markers – show off their scribbly best. Full of lessons that respect the reader, When Pencil Met the Markers is perfect for school stories like Eraser, by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant, The Day the Crayons Quit/The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers, and A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen and Mike Lowery. Visit the When the Pencil Met website to sign up for their newsletter and get a free, downloadable activity book.
The second book in the new Startup Squad series has our group of entrepreneurial friends working to promote a band. The series is all about the adventures of four friends – Harriet, Resa, Amelia, and Didi – who take matters into their own hands, learning how to earn money by creating their own businesses! In the first Startup Squad adventure, the girls worked to get a lemonade stand business up and running for a class assignment and grand prize. Here, Harriet’s brothers are in a band called the Radical Skinks; they’re kind of on hiatus because Harriet accidentally broker her brother’s guitar. A Battle of the Bands is on the horizon, where the winner would get a spot on the huge talent show hit, American Supahstars! The Startup Squad jumps into action with a plan to sell t-shirts, raising enough money to get a new guitar for Harriet’s brother, Larry, in time for the show… but Harriet tends to be a little overenthusiastic, and doesn’t think things quite through, which cause a lot of tangles for the girls: and the band. Can the Startup Squad get it together in time to help the Skinks get back on their feet?
This is a fun, comprehensive series that embraces entrepreneurship and shows kids that everyone can start a business with the right information and drive. The multicultural group of girls each has different strengths and skills, and get some solid information and encouragement from friends and family members on the way. They make believable mistakes to illustrate the pitfalls of going into a business without a fully sketched out plan, and how to correct those mistakes the next time. Back matter includes a section on what principles the girls learned in this adventure, a breakdown of the terms and how to put them to use, with tips and emphasis on customer service, negotiating, and revenue vs. profit; there’s also a profile on a real-life tween entrepreneur. Brian Weisfeld is the founder of The Startup Squad; he was inspired after being disappointed in the lack of entrepreneurial books available for girls. Author Nicole Kear is also the author of The Fix-It Friends series, where a group of friend solve problems together.
The Startup Squad website has a wealth of information for young entrepreneurs, including free, downloadable parent and teacher guides; activity kits; business tips, and book recommendations. Add these to your collections and booktalk/display with books like The Babysitter’s Club (the original chapter book series and the newer graphic novels) and Jessie Janowitz’s novels The Doughnut Fix and The Doughnut King. The Startup Squad and The Fix-It Friends are great for those readers that are moving out of intermediate chapter books and moving toward longer fiction.
At the beginning of the school year, Macmillan sent me a box of new fiction to check out; I’ve been working my way through it, but had to take some time to post about the Spy Penguins books by Sam Hay, with illustrations by Marek Jagucki. These books are hilarious and loaded with wacky adventures! I read both books in the series so far (there’s a third one coming in September 2020), and have started reading the first book to my kiddo. He’s thoroughly enjoying them. So let’s take a look at the newest dynamic duo, The Spy Penguins.
The first book in the new Spy Penguins series introduces us to Agent 00Zero and Q, better known as Jackson and his best friend, Quigley. They’re two young penguins who have big dreams of joining the FBI (Frosty Bureau of Investigation). Jackson wants to be a field agent, just like his Uncle Bryn, while Quigley wants to be the gadget guy, creating all sorts of cool inventions, just like his cousin, Sunny. The problem? They’re a little young, a little dorky, and have a gift for getting into trouble. But when rare fish start disappearing from the aquarium, jeopardizing their friend’s Lily’s dad’s job and reputation, the two agents-in-training get down to business! But can the two crack the case AND avoid being the next to disappear?
Spy Penguins is just fun to read. There’s some good world-building, with penguin-related vocabulary (flipper and ice-related terms, krill-sized problems), and creative backgrounds for the side characters, like Jackson’s Type-A mom, who is a “truth magnet” that can track you down and whose temper is measured in shark levels, or Jackson’s father, a more creative type who constantly creates new rooms to add on to the family home. Jackson and Quigley make a great and lovable team, and the action and fast-paced storytelling will ensure that kids will want to spend time with these two – and their extended group of family and friends – again. Black and white illustrations add to the fun and the story, providing a visuals and a solid framework around the story.
Jackson and Quigley are back, and just in time! Jackson’s Uncle Bryn, actual member of the FBI (Frosty Bureau of Investigation), has been hypnotized and is on a crime spree! The two wannabe-agents-in-training have to figure out what happened to Uncle Bryn, prove his innocence, and dodge Jackson’s mom, who still has them on punishment from the last adventure!
Picking up immediately after the events of the first Spy Penguins novel, The Spy Who Loved Ice Cream begins with Jackson and Quigley scrubbing seagull poop as part of their punishment, meted out by Jackson’s mom. But things take a turn when they stop at the ice cream parlor and meet Uncle Bryn and two other FBI agents, who are eating a weirdly glowing ice cream and don’t acknowledge the two. Sure, it’s strange, since Uncle Bryn is Jackson’s favorite uncle; when they discover that Uncle Bryn is wanted for robbery, they know something is REALLY up. Loaded with more gadgets, delicious (and mind-altering) ice cream, and new ways of trying to avoid Jackson’s mom, The Spy Who Loved Ice Cream is every bit as much fun as Spy Penguins. More characters get fleshed-out backstories, including Quigley’s tech whiz cousin, Sunny and antagonist Hoff Rockhopper. The inventions are straight-up hilarious this time around, including a hat that’s supposed to deflect seagull poop and a suit made of sardine poop that should (emphasis on “should”) render the wearer invisible. The illustrations and fast-paced, fun writing will keep readers coming back for more.
This is Baby is Jimmy Fallon’s third children’s book, and gets down to the business of naming all the important parts of a baby: eyes, nose, fingers, and toes are all accounted for, as are other baby parts, along with the biggest, most important part of baby. It’s the sweetest, most fun type of concept book, showcasing a variety of cartoony, big-eyed babies and animal counterparts, showing off heads, hair, tummies, and bottoms, and the rhyming text makes this a storytime favorite that you’ll come back to again and again. All of baby’s parts are extra-bold and in word balloons, so invite your readers to shout out the names as you point them out on yourself or the story as you read.
Jimmy Fallon’s books are made for reading out loud, and give the grownups as much fun as the kids. Your First Word Will Be Dada and Everything is Mama are all about how our kids view us (through our own eyes, of course). This is Baby is a fun spin on concept books that teach children about their bodies, and I love it. (I’m also the one that bought the Frankenstein board book to teach my kid about names for his body parts, so…) Make sure you have plenty of fun lapsit songs to accompany this book; Storytime Katie has a great collection of them. Hand out coloring pages from This is Baby and Everything is Mama afterwards!
The Diva herself, Ophelia von Hairball V of Burglaria is back in her second caper, and I could not be happier! I loved the first book, and her sophomore outing is just as much fun and just as light-hearted. The queen of all cat burglars is still working with her long-suffering (senior) inventor, Oscar Fishgerald Gold, and his robot dog creation, P.U.G. In this new adventure, there’s trouble at the Furry Feline Burglary Institute (FFBI): someone has stolen an artifact from the Institute’s vault, and it could lead to disaster for the FFBI and for felines WORLDWIDE. It takes a thief to catch a thief, so Ophelia’s assigned to the case – but those mutts at the Central Canine Intelligence Agency (CCIA) are hot on her tail, and she’s going to need every trick in her marvelous designer bag to stay one fluffy tail ahead of them, not to mention all the brainpower Oscar has to design new gadgets and costumes for her every step of the way.
The Fast and the Furriest captures all the fun of the first book in the series, introduces a new mystery, and keeps some hilarious subplots going. Ophelia still has her long-simmering feud/competition with her unibrowed cousin, Pierre; she still really, REALLY wants to work alone, but Oscar finds a way to sneak on board – and thank goodness for it; and the dogs at the CCIA will stop at nothing to try and subjugate all of felinekind. The black and white graphic novel panels add directly to the story, breaking up the chunks of text and keeping kids on their toes, switching from text to graphics, and keeping them engaged and reading. In addition to the graphic novel panels, there are black and white illustrations, and each chapter begins, once again, with sage advice from Ophelia, which everyone needs to read and heed. She could write her own Little Instruction Book, in all honesty: “Be the fabulous you want to see in the world”; “Not everyone will adore what you do. That’s purr-fectly fine. Do what makes you feel shiny”; and “Don’t bother ‘overcoming’ your obstacles. Stomp them into fine dust, add glitz, and use as party confetti” are words I need to live by, and, quite frankly, I think the kids in my library do, too. I may have to start printing these up on colorful paper and hanging them up in the kids’ room.
In short, I’m fangirling hard for this intermediate/middle grade series, because we all need to lighten up and enjoy the finer things in life, just like Ophelia. Snazzy Cat Capers: The Fast and the Furriest will be on shelves in September, and what a way to welcome kids back to school.
Recommended for ages 3-7
The grumpiest fish in the sea is back, and this time, he’s stressed out over holiday shopping. He’s so worried about finding the perfect gifts for all of his friends, that he’s missing the whole point of the h0liday season – it’s the thought that counts, after all! He learns that making handmade gifts that speak from the heart are the best gifts of all – a valuable lesson for kids and adults alike.
The kids in my library LOVE Pout-Pout Fish. When I first got here, there were two board books of the original story that were worn to the point of falling apart (they’ve been replaced). I can’t wait to bring this story out as the holiday storytimes get a little closer (I have to do Thanksgiving, after all!), with a fun craft afterwards that will show the kids how delighted their parents are with their own handmade gifts.
The book is written in rhyme, perfect for young audiences to follow along. Pout-Pout’s initial refrain about gift-giving: “A gift should be big, and a gift should be bright, and a gift should be perfect—guaranteed to bring delight! And a gift should have meaning, plus a bit of bling-zing, so I’ll shop till I drop for each just-right thing.” will resonate with grownups who work themselves into a state each and every holiday, and maybe give them the message to slow the heck down and enjoy the season.
How happy are we when our kids give us a handprint on a piece of construction paper, or a tissue paper flower? It’s a gift made for us, with love. And it goes beyond that – look at the success of Etsy, the site where crafters sell their handmade stuff. We want that personal touch, that connection. I knit for my friends and family, and the time and love that goes into my gifts means that anyone who gets something handknit from me is pretty amazing in my life. It’s a message that we seem to inch away from a little more every year; maybe the Pout-Pout Fish will help bring us back to that all-important message this holiday season.
Dan Hanna’s art is absolutely adorable. Pout-Pout has a big, gloomy pout as he rushes around trying to make everyone happy – but himself. Paired with Deborah Diesen’s rhyming text, kids will giggle and engage with this book right away. My toddler loved it!
Add The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish to your holiday libraries and get your winter crafts ready. But wait – you can also enter this Rafflecopter giveaway//widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js for a chance to win your own copy!
INTERVIEWS WITH THE AUTHOR AND ILLUSTRATOR!
Since the first book, we’ve seen Mr. Fish go to school, learn to smile, face the dark, discover how to dream and play hide-and-seek. What do kids (and their parents) love most about the series?
I think one of the things that makes Mr. Fish an appealing character for many kids and parents is that kids and parents alike can identify with his experiences. Toddlers sometimes pout; so do adults! Preschoolers have things they’re scared of; so do adults! Kindergarteners get nervous about starting something new; so do adults! Mr. Fish’s experiences provide a way for kids and grown-ups to explore those issues together. In addition, the stories have rhyme, repetition, and wordplay, which are fun in a read-aloud book. And Dan Hanna’s illustrations! They’re fantastic. They truly bring the stories to life.
What do you hope young readers (ages 3-6) will learn from The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish? Is there a message here for grown-ups as well?
I hope that Mr. Fish’s latest tale will help children to realize that presents don’t need to be expensive or complicated or splashy. Simple, heartfelt presents that connect us to one another are the best gifts of all. A drawing; a craft project; time spent together; even just a smile! These sorts of gifts are the most cherished and the most enduring. It’s a lesson we grown-ups have to re-learn periodically as well.
Do you have any tips for parents of toddlers about the joy of giving presents, rather than just receiving them, this holiday season?
Kids love to give presents, and they especially love having an active role in the process of creating the presents. Try a craft idea or project that’s extremely simple and stress-free, and then let your child have at it with a minimum of help. The more messy, lopsided, and imperfect the results the better! Have fun with the process, and as you do you’ll create not just gifts but memories as well.
Dan Hanna, Illustrator
For the imagined gifts, I drew on my own experience as a kid where I would dream up magnificent presents for my family and friends. Eventually, as with Mr. Fish, I would have to confront reality and drastically scale back my plans.
The shop items are based on all the goofy stuff you can find on the shelves of some of the more interesting gift shops.
Of all the items that the Pout-Pout fish dreams up (robot, spaceship, submarine etc.), which one would you love to get this Christmas?
The Submarine! When I was a kid there was an ad in the back of a comic book for a submarine. The ad went something like this: “Deluxe Submarine! Life Size! Torpedo Tubes! Absolutely NO Cardboard Parts! Only $10!!
I saved up the money and sent away for it. As I waited for it to be delivered my dreams were filled with visions of underwater adventure. Eventually it arrived and sank my dreams into the abyss. It was just a cardboard box with torpedo tubes made from toilet roll tubes. It was even more depressing than the Sea Monkeys and X-Ray Glasses.
What do you think was your most valuable childhood experience?
Being bored. I firmly believe that having enough free time to sit around and be bored is very important for the development of a healthy imagination.
What do you want the students to get out of your school visits?
That being a writer or illustrator is like being a wizard. Your magic wand is a pencil. Your potions are words and scribbles. And the spells you cast will be the stories you write and the pictures you draw. So pick up a pencil and make some magic happen!
THE NOT VERY MERRY POUT POUT FISH BLOG TOUR
Chat with Vera chatwithvera.blogspot.com
Anakalian Whims anakalianwhims.wordpress.com
Mymcbooks Blog mymcbooks.wordpress.com
Outnumbered 3 to 1 http://www.outnumbered3-1.com
Picture Books Review http://www.picturebooksreview.com/
Check It Out https://maclibrary.wordpress.com/
Jumpin Beans http://jumpin-beans.blogspot.com/
Caiafa Craziness http://www.caiafacraziness.com
Kid Lit Reviews http://kid-lit-reviews.com/
Heck of A Bunch http://www.heckofabunch.com
Leslie Lindsay http://leslielindsay.com/
Double Duty Twins doubledutytwins.com
Cassandra M’s Place http://www.cassandramsplace.com
Philly Burb Moms http://www.phillyburbmoms.com
Not So Average Mama http://www.notsoaveragemama.com
Tales of Mommyhood http://www.talesofmommyhood.com/
Susan Heim on Parenting susanheim.blogspot.com
Bookish Babes https://bookishbabes.wordpress.com/
Bea’s Book Nook http://beasbooknook.blogspot.com/
Bumbles and Fairytales http://bumblesandfairytales.blogspot.com/
Be the Difference http://mariadismondy.com/blog/
Stacking Books http://www.stackingbooks.com/
Local Busy Bees http://www.localbusybees.com
Reading through Life http://readingtl.blogspot.com/
Parenting Healthy http://www.parentinghealthy.com
Unleashing Readers http://www.unleashingreaders.com/
Kristen Remenar http://kristenremenar.com/
Oh My! Omaha http://www.ohmyomaha.com/
My Silly Little Gang http://mysillylittlegang.com/
The Corner on Character http://corneroncharacter.blogspot.com/
Mommy Ramblings mommyramblings.org
SoCal City Kids socalcitykids.com
Saffron Tree http://www.saffrontree.org
Mrs Brown Loves Bookworms http://mrsbrownthebookworm.blogspot.com/
The Neighborhood Moms http://www.TheNeighborhoodMoms.com
Inspired by Savannah http://www.inspiredbysavannah.com
The Reading Nook Reviews http://www.bookrookreviews.com/
In the Pages Blog inthepages.blogspot.com
Writers’ Rumpus http://writersrumpus.com/
Miss Marple’s Musings http://www.joannamarple.com/
Investing Love http://www.aliciahutchinson.com/
Natural Mama http://www.naturalbabygoods.com/
One Crazy Kid http://onecrazykid.com
Mommy’s Block Party http://www.mommysblockparty.co/
Mommy Has to Work http://mommyhastowork.com/