Posted in Uncategorized

Terrific Toddlers understand your little ones

I first found the Terrific Toddlers series at BookExpo two years ago, and I love the way they communicate feelings and action to both parents and toddlers in a way that’s constructive and instructional. There are three new books coming in November, and they look at some big topics for little people.

Potty! (Terrific Toddlers), by Carol Zeavin & Rhona Silverbush/Illustrated by Jon Davis, (Nov. 2020, Magination Press), $8.99, ISBN: +978-1-4338-251-2

Ages 1-3

JoJo, Kai, and Jack are all learning to use the potty! Parents are there to help, whether it’s to usher a toddler into the bathroom to take off a diaper, or to help a little understand that when we flush, the water takes away the poop – but not the toddler! Each toddler has a different experience with the potty, and Ava has graduated to undies. With short, informational sentences, readers learn that, whether wearing a diaper or undies, we all use a potty to poop or pee, and we learn to recognize the feeling that tells us to use the potty. A note to parents and caregivers provides guidance for potty training, including signs of physical and emotional readiness. Soft pastel artwork and a white background with occasional splashes of pastel provide a relaxing reading experience, and a multicultural group of children to appeal to all readers.


Time to Go! (Terrific Toddlers), by Carol Zeavin & Rhona Silverbush/Illustrated by Jon Davis, (Nov. 2020, Magination Press), $$8.99, ISBN: 978-1-4338-252-9

Time To Go! is all about that challenging moment in toddlerhood: leaving one place or task to go somewhere else. Ava is singing, but Daddy knows it’s time to head to the playground; once at the playground, JoJo’s mom tells her it’s time to go; at home, Jack needs to take a bath, but he’s playing with his trains. Each parent recognizes the pushback: “I busy!”; I singing!”; and the one we all know so well, “NO!” Each parent follows their little, acknowledges how they feel at the moment, and uses a bit of deflection to help ease feelings. Ava’s dad tells provides her with a routine: “first we put on our shoes, then we take our snack”; JoJo’s mom gives JoJo a choice: slide down the slide one more time, or Mom can catch her; Jack’s mom lets him drive his trains to the bath. Each time, the toddler has a choice in how to proceed, but the parent is making the decision. There’s no yelling, no lost tempers, no crying, giving us parents a realistic plan for handling that toddler pushback. The parent and caregiver note offers suggestions for setting limits, including giving a heads-up (I still give my 8-year-old the “5-minute warning”), having a routine, using transitional objects, and giving a choice. Having the same cast of toddlers in each book gives our toddlers familiar faces, letting them bond with the characters and see them as having a full range of experiences, like our own kids do.


New Baby!, by Carol Zeavin & Rhona Silverbush/Illustrated by Jon Davis, (Nov. 2020, .Press), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-4338-32505

This book tackles the biggie: The New Baby. The opening sentences put it best: “Sometimes a new baby comes. Sometimes we worry about what will happen.” Kai’s mommy is about to have a baby, and Kai is not really sure how to feel about it.  Mommy and Daddy reassure him, but when Baby comes home, Kai is frustrated and wants the baby to go away! Mommy lets him get his emotions out, encouraging him to stomp and voice his anger, and then calms him down by letting him sit on her lap while Daddy shows him pictures of Kai when he was a baby. By letting Kai know that he will always be Mommy and Daddy’s baby, even when he’s their big boy, they are showing him that he is an important part of the family. New Baby! addresses fear and frustration that toddlers feel when a new baby joins the family. The parent and caregiver note encourages adults to acknowledge the possible regression, as toddlers try to revert back to baby behaviors; let toddlers help out by letting them get diapers, blankets, or toys for baby.

I’m really happy with this series of toddler books; looking forward to seeing how they do at my library.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Meditation, Gratitude, and Resilience – Books to help kids grow

Magination Press is the kids’ publishing arm of the American Pscyhological Association, and they cover some great topics for kids. These three books cover mindfulness, gratitude, and resilience: three traits that kids need now, seemingly more than ever.

Bee Still: An Invitation to Meditation, by Frank J. Sileo/Illustrated by Claire Keay, (Aug. 2018, Magination Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781433828706

Ages 4-7

Bentley is a lovable, calm honeybee who lives in a crowded hive. While the other bees are rushing around, Bentley takes a second to gather himself, then settles himself on a nice daffodil in the garden to meditate. He catches the attention of neighboring critters as he sits, eyes closed, centering himself. When Sammy Squirrel finally asks what he’s doing, Bentley happily explains that meditation helps quiet his mind and stay focused. This sounds great to the other animals! Bentley leads the group in a gentle guided meditation, to everyone’s benefit. The motto: “…when life is hard or you just need to chill, think of Bentley and try to bee still“.

This rhyming story about meditation and mindfulness is a great way to introduce preschoolers to the practice. Bentley guides his animal friends in a gentle meditation, and you can guide your storytime kids through a similar one, just by reading the book out loud. It’s a wonderful habit to develop, especially in kids. The muted watercolors and gentle rhyme scheme offer a meditative read; just invite the kids to close their eyes and listen. This is a great wrap-up story for a yoga storytime, or a calming bedtime – or anytime – read. A note to parents and caregivers provides further explanation about meditation, teaching kids to meditate, and how to create a family meditation time.


Grow Grateful, by Sage Foster-Lasser & Jon Lasser/Illustrated by Christopher Lyles, (Oct. 2018, Magination Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781433829031

Ages 5-8

This companion book to 2017’s Grow Happy brings back Kiko, the little girl who showed readers how to grow happiness. This time, she’s off on a camping trip with her class, and she’s a little bit nervous about going without her parents, but she’s happy, because her best friend, Jasmine is going on the trip, too. When Jasmine is put in a separate group, Kiko pairs with Camille, who’s also a little unsure about this whole camping and hiking business. At the end of an exciting day, their teacher gathers the kids around the fire and reflects on gratitude, inviting everyone to share what they are grateful for this evening. Kiko realizes she’s got so much to be grateful for, and can’t wait to get home and tell her family!

Grow Grateful teaches a simple but important lesson: gratitude. The entire story is a lesson in mindfulness – being aware of everything around you and your place within the world – and gratitude. Kiko is surrounded by beautiful nature, family, and friends. When she realizes that her parents won’t be on the trip, she still rises to the challenge, grateful for the chance to try something new; when Jasmine is put into another group, she doesn’t sulk or demand to go home, but joins up with another classmate who needs support and offers her own support. She takes in the beauty of nature and enjoys the new experience, filling her with gratitude. It’s a concept nicely explained by Kiko’s teacher, but perfectly summed up when Kiko drifts off to sleep and notes that she “feels happy in my heart”.

The artwork appears to be mixed media, providing a nice mix of texture and color for readers to catch. The characters in the story are multicultural, including Kiko, who has Caucasian parents and a sibling, but appears Asian. A note to parents offers advice for encouraging gratitude. This one’s a good add to storytimes and booktalks.


Yes I Can! A Girl and Her Wheelchair, by Kendra J. Barrett, Jacqueline B. Toner, & Claire A. B. Freeland/Illustrated by Violet Lemay, (Nov. 2018, Magination Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781433828690

Ages 4-8

Carolyn is a young girl with a lot of interests: she likes building with blocks, she helps around the house and with her baby brother, and she loves animals and castles. At school, she can do a lot of things her friends can: she gets onto the floor for circle time with the class, she joins in during reading time, and she hands out papers for the teacher. She may be in a wheelchair, but Carolyn isn’t slowed down at all! But when her friend invites her to a trampoline birthday party, Carolyn feels a little uncomfortable. All she can do is watch, while everyone else is bouncing around her – or can she? And when her friends decide to run a race at recess, a boy from another class jeers that she can’t run so she can’t play! Carolyn’s friends rally around her and tell her that she can be part of things – she can be a referee! – even if she isn’t a direct participant.

Yes I Can! is a book that teaches kids empathy. The text reaffirms that Carolyn, a girl in a wheelchair, is an active member of her class and her community. Using Carolyn’s “Yes I Can!” statement illustrates how much Carolyn can do – things that maybe kids didn’t realize using a wheelchair allowed one to do, like scooting across a carpet to join in circle time or feeding a class pet. But the book also examines how kids may feel when they’re left out of an activity, like being at a trampoline party, or being told they can’t take part in an activity because they can’t walk. It engenders a feeling of empathy by letting us ask kids, “How do you think Carolyn feels right now? How would this make you feel?” By having Carolyn’s friends rally around her, the author models positive behavior that lets readers know the right way to be a supportive, empathetic friend.

The group of kids is multicultural, and the artwork is animated with a more realistic bent. An author’s note offers talking points about disabilities, and how to be sensitive when interacting with people with physical disabilities. A solid addition to collections. The Measured Mom blog has a good list of additional children’s books about disabilities.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books

Sewing the Rainbow: The Story of a Flag and a Movement

Sewing the Rainbow: The Story of Gilbert Baker and the Rainbow Flag, by Gayle E. Pitman/Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown, (May 2018, Magination Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781433829024

Ages 5-8

Artist and gay rights activist Gilbert Baker started out as a little boy in Kansas who “was full of color and sparkle and glitter”; a little boy who would draw gowns and costumes alongside his clothing store proprietor grandmother. But his father would destroy his drawings and push Gilbert toward more “manly” pursuits: slingshots, erector sets, and sports. Being drafted at the age of 18 made Gilbert more miserable as he suffered hazing from his fellow soldiers for refusing to carry a gun, but being arriving in San Francisco finally brought the sparkle back to Baker’s life. He taught himself to sew and began designing dresses, costumes, and banners for activists and entertainers. And then came his friend Harvey Milk, who asked him for Baker’s greatest undertaking: create a flag to unite the gay rights, or LGBT, movement.

The story of the rainbow flag is just as much Gilbert Baker’s story as it is the LGBTQ+ movement’s story. Dr. Gayle Pitman tells the story of a sensitive boy who loved art and grew up to unite the world. Holly Clifton-Brown’s colorful illustrations give us an apple-cheeked, sweet-faced boy who just wants to create; her artwork goes wonderfully hand-in-hand with Dr. Pitman’s prose to engender empathy in reader. I love and adore Dr. Pitman’s observation that our generation, and future generations, will see the flag and know that it’s okay to be your colorful, sparkly, glittery self.”

Back matter goes into more detail about Gilbert Baker and the rainbow flag (which, chosen by Baker, is in part inspired by a Bible quote: Genesis 9:13). This story pairs nicely with Rob Sanders and Steven Salerno’s book, Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, which has a nice little cameo by a grown-up Gilbert. Sewing the Rainbow is a must-add to your biography collections.

Posted in Animal Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Hector’s Favorite Place shows kids how to face their fears

Hector’s Favorite Place, by Jo Rooks, (Aug. 2018, Magination Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781433828683

Ages 4-7

Hector is a hedgehog whose favorite place is home. He doesn’t go out that often, because everything he needs is home; home is “cozy and snuggly and safe”. At the same time, though, Hector wants to do things with his friends! He’s invited to the most exciting things: playing in the snow, ice skating, going to a party. But every time Hector accepts an invitation, he starts thinking about all the things that could go wrong, becomes anxious, and cancels plans. He decides to confront his anxiety, be brave, and head to the Winter party in the forest; when anxiety rears its ugly head again, he closes his eyes and imagines himself having fun and dancing at the party – and discovers that he’s having fun! After the party and some hot chocolate, Hector’ decides that he’s ready to take on new adventures outside of his home.

Hector’s Favorite Place is a child-friendly look at getting past fear. The author uses cute animals and age-appropriate text to communicate situations that may make kids nervous. Having Hector use creative visualization by imagining himself having fun is a great way to communicate this strategy to kids, giving them the tools to tackle worry and fear of everything from going to a friend’s party to starting the first day of school. Back matter gives parents some helpful advice on managing worry in kids and how to model helpful behaviors.

Magination Press is a publishing imprint of the American Psychological Association. The publisher’s website offers links to brochures and research from the APA, links to social media, and and links to the APA Book and APA Style blog. KidPsych is a kid- and parent-friendly site with games and activities.

I’ve been enjoying the Magination Press books for toddlers and kids. I like the topics the authors explore, and I love the way the authors and illustrators come together to create a story that appeals to kids and speaks to them in a way that respects and understands their feelings and challenges. So far, every book I’ve seen from Magination Press earns a spot in my library.


Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

BookExpo: The Picture Books!

Okay, another BookExpo post at last. There was SO much to see, it couldn’t be contained in just one post. Here’s a little bit of a rundown on picture books I saw/picked up.


A Home for Leo, by Vin Vogel, (June 2018, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781503902602

Recommended for readers 4-8

Leo’s a baby who becomes separated from his family and ends up being raised by seals. He loves his seal family, but his differences – he doesn’t look like anyone else; he can’t hold his breath for as long as they can – weigh on him, making him feel like “an empty shell”. He’s found by a family who “rescues” him from the seals, and his parents, who recognize him on TV, come to take him home. Leo’s happy to be with his family, but there’s a lot to adjust to, living among people. He misses his other family, and he misses the sea… maybe there’s a way that everyone can be happy? The digital illustrations are bright and defined, with friendly and diverse families. The story is a nice pick for adoptees, or just about any kid who doesn’t feel like they fit in.



The Kiddie Table, by Colleen Madden, (Aug. 2018, Capstone), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1-68446-002-1

Recommended for 5-8

An 8-year-old girl has to sit at the kiddie table at the family Thanksgiving dinner, and she is NOT having it! This laugh-out-loud rhyming story will have readers laughing along with you as our protagonist endures the indignity of being given a sippy cup, and having her toddler cousins pelt her with food before she finally blows her stack. When Mom calms her down and gives her a talking to, readers will learn how to maturely handle a situation before the meltdown hits, and how to ask for what you want when things don’t go your way. I love the colors, the artwork, and the extra details, like the child art hanging from the walls, Thanksgiving dishware, and naturally, flying food. A fun add to your holiday bookshelves!


Grow Up, David!, by David Shannon, (Aug. 2018, Scholastic), $17.99, ISBN: 9781338250978

Recommended for readers 3-7

David’s back! The little boy who’s perpetually in trouble shows readers what it’s like to be the kid brother in his fifth picture book outing (not counting the Diaper David board books). From the cover of the book, where David jumps up and down on his older sibling to wake him, it’s a nonstop “David!” fest that echoes sentiments every little brother or sister has heard time and again: “You’re too little!”; “Stop following me!”; “That’s MINE!”; “Give it back!” As with other David stories, just when David has driven everyone berserk, big brother takes a step back, engages David, and the story ends with a hug. Or a noogie. You be the judge. Who doesn’t love a David story? My 6-year-old loves David’s antics – mostly because they map so well to his own – and with two much older brothers, this book is going to ring very true for him, just like it will for other readers who have older siblings, cousins, or students in school that like to throw their age differences around. David Shannon books are a win for all!


Boo-Boo! (Terrific Toddlers), by Carol Zeavin & Rhona Silverbush/Illustrated by Jon Davis, (Aug. 2018, Magination Press), $8.99, ISBN: 9781433828751

Recommended for readers 3-5

This sweet little book is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. A little girl named JoJo likes to run! She falls down and bumps her chin, sending Daddy running to pick her up. The little toddler cries about her “boo-boo” while Daddy comforts her and takes her home to fix the boo-boo. There’s wonderful repetition here: the toddler repeats everything Daddy suggests, but with “NO!” in front of it: “No fix!” “No wash!” “No Band-Aid!”, all of which are age-appropriate responses. Daddy responds appropriately, too, keeping his cool and finding simple methods to deflect JoJo until the boo-boo is taken care of, and JoJo and Daddy are both happy again. The artwork is soft and realistic; JoJo and her dad are wonderfully expressive, and a note to parents and caregivers helps parents understand how to cope with their own boo-boo moments. JoJo and her dad are people of color. I really like this Terrific Toddlers series and think I’ll be putting a set in my library.



The Steves, by Morag Hood, (Sept. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-6914-2

Recommended for readers 3-7

Next up, another hilarious book from Morag Hood, whose 2017 book, I Am Bat, made me laugh out loud trying to get through storytime. The Steves promises more of the same: two puffins, each named Steve, battle it out who’s the better Steve. The Stevest Steve, if you will. Like two preschoolers, the insults fly fast, furious, and absolutely hysterical. When the insults go too far, the Steves have a time-out, work out their differences, and… are joined by another Steve. This book begs to be read out loud, and the art will make readers laugh as hard as the text, with accusatory feather-pointing, mountains of fish, and colorful, bright artwork.


My Wish For You, by Kathryn Hahn/Illustrated by Brigette Barrager, (Sept. 2018, Scholastic), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-15040-7

Recommended for readers 4-8

Actress and author Kathryn Hahn’s inspiration for this book is her six-year-old daughter; these are her wishes – all parents’ wishes – for their daughters as they grow. Illustrated groups of diverse young girls play and grow together across the spreads as life advice counsels them to “Be afraid. Be fearless. Have BIG, BIG feelings”; and “Make sure you are HEARD. SAY what you mean unless you can’t find the words. Then SHOUT it out till the words come back”. Uni the Unicorn illustrator Brigette Barrager creates fun, light images of girls climbing trees, catching stars, listening to music, and playing dress-up together, creating a very sweet love letter from mothers to daughters, with an undercurrent of empowerment. I’d pair this with Stacy McAnulty’s Beautiful; check A Mighty Girl for more girl-empowering titles to display, booktalk, or buy.


Star in the Jar, by Sam Hay/Illustrated by Sarah Massini, (Sept. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-6220-4

Recommended for readers 4-8

A young boy finds a fallen star, prompting him and his sister to find a way to send the star back home. When they succeed, he discovers not that he lost something by giving it away, but that he’s found a friend. Published in the UK earlier this year, Star in the Jar is an upbeat, quiet story about friendship, empathy, and a little magic.  The siblings have a close relationship, and work together on solutions to return the star to its home in the sky. A nice addition to picture book collections and could be a cute bedtime story/pajama storytime choice.




Pterodactyl Show and Tell, by Thad Krasnesky/Illustrated by Tanya Leonello, (Oct. 2018, Flashlight Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781936261345

Recommended for readers 3-7

This rhyming tale about a boy who brings his pterodactyl to school for show and tell will have readers laughing as the dino wreaks havoc on the school day. He tries to eat some classmates, and has teachers hiding behind their desks, but he also finds time to have fun in the playground, enjoy a math lesson, and demonstrate how to brush his teeth! The kids aren’t as open to the new experience as the ptero’s human is, but he gets a quick promotion to fourth grade out of it. Too bad the fourth grade doesn’t seem to allow show and tell! The rhyming is fun, but the pictures sell it in this book; the expressive, goofy-faced pterodactyl is never a threatening figure, which makes the reactions from classmates and faculty even funnier. Watching a winged dinosaur upend the school from classroom to cafeteria is likely every kid’s dream, and will go over in a big way here. Absolutely fun reading – who doesn’t love a dinosaur?


Good Morning, Snowplow!, by Deborah Bruss/Illustrated by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson, (Oct. 2018, Scholastic), $17.99, ISBN: 9781338089493

Recommended for readers 4-7

This gentle rhyming story about a snowplow driver and his dog getting ready for a night’s work is perfect for readers who love Sherri Duskey Rinker’s Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Mighty, Mighty Construction Site. Acrylics, colored pencil, pen, and collage artwork comes together to create weathered-looking trucks and snowflakes that dominate the pages while still appearing delicate. A good addition to your seasonal and transportation books.



Lorraine, the Girl Who Sang the Storm Away, by Ketch Secor/Illustrated by Higgins Bond, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-1692-4

Recommended for readers 4-8

Another rhyming story! I love it! This story of a young, African American girl named Lorraine, who lives with her grandfather, Paw Paw, in Tennessee is too much fun. The girl and her grandfather make music together: she’s got a penny whistle and he’s got a harmonica (called a French harp here). They start noticing things going missing around the farm, but that’s pushed aside by the arrival of a big storm that terrifies Lorraine. She and Paw Paw try to make some music to push away the noise, but discover their instruments are missing! Thankfully, Paw Paw encourages Lorraine to sing instead, and the two sing away that storm. The next morning, the storm has passed and they discover their missing treasures in the base of a tree, downed by the storm. The crow that’s been visiting them has been stealing stuff from them all along! This is a beautifully illustrated book, depicting a loving relationship between a girl and her grandfather; the fonts change size and color for emphasis and become part of the scenery. The acrylic paint creates a realistic slice of life in the Tennessee Hills. Absolutely add this to your shelves.


Miracle on 34th Street, by Valentine Davies/text adapted for picture book by Susanna Leonard Hill/Illustrated by James Newman Gray, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-6986-9

Recommended for readers 4+

Here’s one for the Christmas collections! For the first time, the popular Christmas movie is being adapted into a picture book. Oscar-winning screen writer Valentine Davies penned this story about a little girl named Susan, who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus until she meets Kris, a jolly, bearded gentleman who plays Santa at Macy’s. When he reveals that actually is Kris Kringle – Santa Claus – Susan isn’t sure, but he encourages her to be childlike and believe in things, even if you don’t always have proof. When he’s taken to court by a jealous supervisor at Macy’s, it’s up to Susan’s mother’s friend, Fred, to convince the judge of the same. This adaptation retains the heart of the movie classic, with warm-colored illustrations. Schedule a viewing of the classic film and get your displays up!


We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands, Illustrated by Rafael López, (Oct. 2018, Scholastic), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-17736-7

Recommended for readers 3+

Finishing strong here! The popular folk song, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”, gets a multicultural, nonsectarian adaptation with Rafael López’s beautifully illustrated update. The award-winning illustrator puts the world in “our” hands – the kids’ hands – and creates a feeling of empowerment and unity through diversity and understanding.  The words can be sung to the tune of the original folk song, or make up your own tune! Invite readers to clap along, hold hands, and dance along. It’s a feel-good book with a feel-great message! There’s sheet music for instruments at the end of the book, and a note about the original song. The mixed media illustration is incredible, with bright colors, blending, and texture. A must-add, and I’m keeping my eye on this for Caldecott.


That’s it! Whew! And this is just a smattering of what we’ve got coming our way this Fall. Get those book carts ready to order!


Posted in Uncategorized

Happy Pride! This Day in June

This Day in June, by Gayle E. Pitman/Illustrated by Kristyna Litten, (May 2014, Magination Press), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-4338-1658-1

Recommended for readers 3-7

It’s a parade, and you’re invited! This rhyming story about a Pride Parade taking place in June is vibrant, fun, and loaded with visuals to delight readers of all ages. It’s a celebration of equality, community, and love. Everyone is represented here: the artwork reflects a truly multicultural crowd of all genders, and children play alongside the bikers, sailors, mermaids, and out and proud marchers. Kids hold onto their proud parents; moms lovingly hug their sons and sons-in-law; everyone is happy and full of joy on this beautiful day.

Image courtesy of School Library Journal

The artwork and accompanying text reflect the excitement and lively atmosphere of the Pride Parade, and couples and singles alike dance and demonstrate affection. Weaving families, children, and pets into the action really communicates a loving community feel. A reading guide at the end provides a couplet by couplet explanation of the images – there’s so much to discover! – and a note to parents and caregivers provides a way to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity with kids for age groups 3-5, 6-12, and 13-18.

Image courtesy of The Baby Book Worm Blog

Author Dr. Gayle E. Pitman is a professor of psychology and women’s studies; her teaching and writing focus on gender and sexual orientation, and she has worked extensively with the LGBTQIA community. She received the American Library Association’s Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Book Award for This Day in June in 2015.

There is so much to love about This Day in June. Put this at the top of your Pride Storytime list!

Image courtesy of Electric Literature

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Picture Book Roundup: Bears, Babies, Bats, and more!

In my continuing struggle to get on top of my review list, I present another roundup; this time, with picture books!

Priscilla Pack Rat: Making Room for Friendship, by Claudine Crangle,
(March 2017, Magination Press), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1433823350
Recommended for readers 4-8

Priscilla is a very sweet rat who loves to collect things, but when she’s invited to friends’ birthday parties, she finds that she has a hard time even parting with the gifts she chooses for her friends! When Priscilla’s house finally crashes around her, she realizes that her friends are worth much more than being surrounded by stuff. Magination Press is an imprint of the American Psychological Association; this is a book designed to discuss clutter and hoarding tendencies in kids, and it does so in a mild, easy manner. This can easily be a kids’ story on sharing and giving, no red flags necessary. Adorable felted characters and found objects create a visually interesting story that you can also turn into a little game of I Spy with little ones: there are plenty of things to find! A note to parents and caregivers advises parents on what to do if children have trouble parting with possessions, the differences between hoarding and collecting, and ways to help kids organize their belongings. A nice add to developing empathy collections and for caregivers and educators who need books to address behaviors.

Letters to a Prisoner, by Jacques Goldstyn
(Sept. 2017, OwlKids Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781771472517
Recommended for readers 4+

Letters to a Prisoner is getting rave reviews, with good reason. The wordless picture book, inspired by the letter-writing campaigns of human rights organization Amnesty International, is so impactful, so relevant, and so necessary. A man is arrested during a peaceful protest, injured by a soldier who also pops the man’s daughter’s balloon. The man is thrown in a solitary jail cell, where he befriends a mouse and a bird. When letters arrive, the guard takes joy in burning them in front of the man, but the joke’s on the guard: the smoke from the burning letters serves as a worldwide beacon. Groups of people all over send the man letters; they arrive, en masse, and turn into wings with which the prisoner soars above the helpless, infuriated guard. The watercolor over black ink sketches adds an ethereal feel to this beautiful story of hope and social justice. The book’s wordlessness allows for every reader to come together, transcending language, to take part in this inspirational story. An author’s note tells readers about Amnesty International’s inspiration. Display and booktalk with Luis Amavisca’s No Water, No Bread, and talk with little ones and their parents as you display the book during social justice and empathy themed storytimes. Letters to a Prisoner has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Quill and Quire.


I Am Bat, by Morag Hood,
(Oct. 2017, OwlKids Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492660323
Recommended for readers 3-7

One of my favorite picture books this year. Bat is adorable. And he loves cherries. DO NOT TAKE HIS CHERRIES. He is quite serious about this, so you can imagine his distress when his cherries start disappearing! The reader’s clued in, naturally – we see paws and ants sneaking cherries out of the book’s margins while Bat stares at us, demanding to know what’s going on. The animals leave him a pear, which Bat embraces – and the story is ready to begin again. There’s bold, black fonts to make for expressive storytime reading, and Bat and Friends are just too much fun to read and play along with. Absolutely delightful storytime reading; just make sure you read this one before you get it in front of your group: you will squeal with glee the first couple of times you read it. Print out bat masks for the kids to color in as part of your storytime craft.

Shelter, by Céline Claire,
(Oct. 2017, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771389273
Recommended for readers 3-7

A storm’s approaching, and two strangers – brothers – arrive in the forest. They stop at several animal family homes, offering a trade for shelter; they have tea, can anyone offer them some food? A place to ride out the storm? We see each family, safe and with full larders, turn them away. A young fox feels terrible about this, and runs out to give the brothers a lamp, which they use to find shelter. But as fate would have it, the storm is even more trouble than the families expected, and soon, they’re asking the brothers for shelter: which is cheerfully given. This kind, moving story about kindness and succor is perfect for illustrating the power of empathy. Qin Leng’s watercolor and ink illustrations are soft and gentle, a perfect match for Céline Claire’s quiet narration. Shelter offers the perfect opportunity to talk about putting kind thoughts into practice; whether it’s sharing with others or offering friendship to someone who needs it.

The Little Red Wolf, by Amelie Flechais,
(Oct. 2017, Lion Forge),$19.99, ISBN: 9781941302453
Recommended for readers 6-10

A slightly macabre twist on the traditional Little Red Hiding Hood tale, The Little Red Wolf is a story about a little wolf who, on the way to visit an ailing grandma, encounters an awful human girl. The message here is consistent with the original fable: there’s a strong stranger danger warning, but also a reminder that every side has a story, every villain has an origin. The art is beautiful and dark; an additional add for collections where readers may be ready for darker fantasy.

Middle Bear, by Susanna Isern/Illustrated by Manon Gauthier,
(Oct. 2017, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771388429
Recommended for readers 3-7

The middle child gets lots of love in this adorable picture book. Middle Bear is the second of three brothers; not small, but not big; not strong, but not weak; not a lot, not a little… “he was the middle one”. He has a hard time feeling special until the day his parents both fall ill and the three cubs have to get willow tree bark from the mountain top, to help them get well. When big brother is too big, and little brother is too little, it’s up to Middle Brother to save the day: he is, to quote that other story starring three bears, “just right”. The emphasis on bear’s “middleness” will drive home the point that he persevered and succeeded as is, through determination. Manon Gauthier cut paper collage, pencil, and mixed media illustrations add texture and a childlike sense of place in the story. There’s a good lesson about empathy to be learned here, too; the bear’s brothers and parents all support him and let him know that what he may see as being a challenge – being the middle one – is what makes him the perfect bear for the job. Perfect storytelling for middle children who may be feeling the frustration of being too big for some things, not big enough for others.

No Room for Baby!, by Émile Jadoul,
(Oct. 2017, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771388412
Recommended for readers 3-7

Leon’s baby brother, Marcel, has arrived! Leon’s excited, but a little concerned about where the baby’s going to go when he’s not in his crib. He certainly can’t go in Leon’s room. And there’s no room on Mama’s lap for him; there’s only room for Leon. And Daddy’s shoulders are just too high. After Leon thinks on the situation, he discovers the best possible place for his baby brother: in his arms. This is the such a sweet story about becoming an older sibling; it addresses the fears an older sibling may have when a new baby joins the family, and it allows the sibling to work through his fears and come to his own happy decision. At no point do Leon’s parents correct him or force the baby on him; they stand back and let him reason things out for himself. It’s an empowering story with a sweet sense of humor. The simple black pencil, crayon and oils illustration feels childlike and will easily appeal to readers. I’m looking forward to adding this one to my new baby bibliography.