Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The familiar refrain: I Can Explain!

I Can Explain, by Shinsuke Yoshitake, (Aug. 2022, Chronicle Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781797216904

Ages 5-8

A young boy explains his bad habits in the most hilarious of ways in I Can Explain. His mom may think it’s bad manners, but when the boy picks his nose? It’s actually him pressing a button to release cheerful beams. And biting his nails? It releases a sound that makes crows fly away from the trash bags; adults just can’t hear it. For every behavior, there’s a completely valid reason: he can explain! An absolutely uproarious read-aloud that ends with Mom having to find an explanation of her own, too, I Can Explain is a conversation starter about manners that acknowledges a child’s imagination and doesn’t take itself so seriously. Pen and digital artwork create an unfussy story with bright pinks and yellows and over line art; other colors come into play for emphasis. Endpapers get into the act, with the front endpapers showing our narrator recreating some of his bad habits, and back endpapers showing readers that Mom isn’t always so blameless, either.

I Can Explain was originally published in Japan in 2015. Shinsuke Yoshitake is an award-winning author and illustrator.



Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

“Everyone makes mistakes”: How to Apologize

How to Apologize, by David LaRochelle/Illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, (May 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209440

Ages 3-7

A gentle and straightforward book about accountability and responsibility, How to Apologize starts off with a reassuring statement: “Everyone makes mistakes”. It’s a strong statement that’s meant to relax readers: it’s okay, no one’s perfect! But the important thing is, once we make a mistake that hurts someone or makes them feel bad, the kind thing to do is apologize. With woodland animals as our guides, David LaRochelle and Mike Wohnoutka lay out the differences between sincere apologies an insincere apologies; whether we like the person or not; apologizing is the right thing to do. And you can do it all sorts of ways! You can write a note, or you can say it in person. You can fix the mistake if it’s possible, but even if you can’t, apologizing will make you – and the person you hurt – feel better. And that’s the most important thing. Gouache artwork is subdued, letting readers readers take in the words and allowing the illustrations to show them how it’s done. Absolutely perfect for preschoolers who are still navigating social-emotional situations (and, let’s be honest, some adults, too).

Candlewick has a Teacher Tips card with some ideas for incorporating this book into the classroom, and coloring sheets that help emphasize some moments when an apology is helpful.

How to Apologize has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Animal Board Books!

Everyone doing the Tails and Tales summer reading program will love these board books – heck, anyone who loves board books will!

Pigs at a Party, by Hans Wilhelm/Illustrated by Erica Salcedo, (June 2021, Chronicle Books), $9.99, ISBN: 9781797203751

Ages 0-3

It’s a party, and you’re invited! A magnetic bow opens to let readers in to this rhyming story of manners and parties as three piggies are invited to their friend, Bunny’s, birthday party! They’re so polite, greeting each of their friends, saying “please” and “thank you”, and playing nicely with the other guests. The third book starring Hans Wilhelm’s Piggies, kids will enjoy seeing this group spend more fun time together, modeling the best behavior. Digital illustrations are bright and cheery, and the magnetic bow closure adds a little bit of fine motor play.


Sophie’s Seashell Scramble, by Educational Insights/Illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti, (May 2021, Candlewick Entertainment), $11.99, ISBN: 9781536218480

Ages 0-3

Help Sophie the Otter find the matches to the seashells she’s collecting by lifting the flaps and identifying the patterns! Colorful, cartoon illustrations and bold fonts lead little explorers through the story, and descriptions of each shell help readers identify the lost treasure; Sophie holds the matching shell in each spread, helping new learners link the description to the appearance of an object. Kids can lift three flaps on each page that guide them to the right answer. Turn the wheel at the end, to help Otto the Octopus juggle all the shells together! Based on a board game, this would be a cute idea to pair with the board game for preschoolers as either a gift or, if your budget allows, a library purchase for game time and post-storytime activities. (Educational Insights has several lift-the-flap board books and companion games; something to keep your mind on when you get your annual budgets.)

123 Cats: A Counting Book, by Lesléa Newman/Illustrated by Isabella Kung, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $7.99, ISBN: 9781536209952

Ages 0-3

Learn to count with this rhyming story about adorable kitties! Award-winning children’s author Lesléa Newman weaves an adorable story, counting cats from 1 to 12, where the cats interact with each other as the story progresses: “Cat Number One has nothing to do… / until she makes friends with Cat Number Two”; “Cat Number Two is a sweet as can be… / but not quite as sweet as Cat Number Three”. Colorful numbers are easy to read on each spread, and the cats multiply, letting readers count the felines as they increase. Absolutely adorable, this is a perfect counting story that begs for snuggly plush friends for readers to read along with.


ABC Cats: An Alpha-Cat Book, by Lesléa Newman/Illustrated by Isabella Kung, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $7.99, ISBN: 9781536209952

Ages 0-3

Lesléa Newman and Isabella Kung bring the magic of cats to the alphabet with their Alpha-Cat story, ABC Cats. Precious cats sleep, play, and doze, curled around oversized letters of the alphabet as a gentle rhyme, with adjectives describing each cat, run across the bottom of the pages: “Adorable cat with eyes of gold / Baby cat just two weeks old”. Isabella Kung’s ink and digital illustrations are so playful and delightful that they’ll enchant readers of any age. These two cat books are a must add to your collections, especially where you have animal lovers.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Sesame Street books! Counting and Kindness!

Is anyone else thrilled that Sesame Street is still going strong? It gives me something to share with my kids at home and my kids at the library. Until you’ve taught other parents to sing along to Ladybug Picnic and driven your own children crazy with Manamana, you just haven’t lived. One of my best friends and I have been known to Elmo-Bomb one another with “Number of the Day/Letter of the day (Clap-Clap)” gifs, just to keep us on our toes. We never really outgrow Sesame Street, so whenever I see the chance to talk up the show and its characters, I’m on it.

5 Little Rubber Duckies, by Matt Mitter/Illustrated by Tom Brannon, (Feb. 2018, Studio Fun), $11.99, ISBN: 9780794441197

Recommended for 2-5

Ernie still loves his rubber duckies, and this adorable book invites readers to join Ernie and his Sesame Street friends as they seek out five of them! The rhyming story is very similar to the nursery song, “5 Little Ducks”: Ernie plays hide and seek with five of his little rubber ducks, but one less duckie comes back each time Ernie calls them. Will Ernie get his duckies back in time for bathtime?

This book is loaded with interactive fun for toddlers and preschoolers alike. There are five little rubber duckies at the top of the book that little fingers can slide back and forth to count and play. Each spread has a highlighted box inviting readers to count the duckies, and trace the die-cut numbers from 5 to 1.

The pages are sturdy and will hold up to multiple readings and counting play, and all the Sesame Street royalty is here: Elmo; Abby Cadabby; Oscar the Grouch; Big Bird and his teddy bear, Radar; Cookie Monster; Prairie Dawn; Rosita, and even Bert, feeding his pigeons up on the roof. (I’m assuming Super Grover was off, patrolling the city.) Also available in Spanish (5 Patitos de Hule), this is absolute storytime, classtime, kidtime fun.


Kindness Makes the World Go ‘Round, by Sesame Workshop, (Apr. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $10.99, ISBN: 9781492660569

Recommended for readers 3-6

Elmo wakes up one morning to discover that his mommy has left him a gift! She’s given him a camera for World Kindness Day and asks him to take photos of Sesame Street neighbors being kind to one another! Elmo is so excited, and why wouldn’t he be? Everyone’s nice to each other on Sesame Street! Sure enough, he’s snapping pictures right and left, creating a scrapbook to share with Mommy at the end of the day!

Another great book from the Sesame Workshop group, teaching kids about empathy and kindness. From holding doors for the little twiddle bugs, to playing with Julia at the playground, Elmo sees his friends all being kind to one another. This is a great book – and so timely – to have now, and to read for World Kindness Day (November 3). Play Elmo’s Kindness Bingo with the kids – there’s a free printable on Sesame Workshop.

Want to show them some Elmo? Here’s the Elmo’s World segment on kindness.



Posted in Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Blog Tour: Kid Crazy and the Kilowatt King rocks out!

Kid Crazy is a kid living in a desert, dying to go on adventures in the dazzling City of Ever. When he encounters a droid named Denunzio, who overhears him wishing he could visit the City, the droid tells him that the king is rude and sour – a real creep, really. Kid Crazy doesn’t want to hear it – as soon as Denunzio admits that he can get Kid inside the castle, he’s off. They head off in a car made of bread and travel to the castle where, sure enough, the king is rude as all get out. He demands that Kid Crazy sing him a song, but Kid’s not having it. He decides it’s time the king learned some manners! He tells the king a riddle that brings home how rude he’s been, then teaches him the power of one simple word: Please.


KKC_jacketKid Crazy and the Kilowatt King, by Claudio Sanchez/Illustrated by Arthur Mask, (Oct. 2016, One Peace Books), $24.95, ISBN: 978-1-944937-03-4
Recommended for ages 5-8

A wild ride through a retro-futuristic, tech-y landscape and a rhyming story about a kid teaching a monarch manners – this book is too much fun! The 80-page length may give younger readers some pause – my 4 year old fizzled out about halfway through – but school-age kids  and independent readers will get into this fun fantasy tale with a great message. Arthur Mask’s illustrations give life to the text, and you can tell that our author, Claudio Sanchez, is a musician, because the text flows beautifully; they’re lyrics in a song about a better world beginning with one person: you. Mask lets his imagination run wild on the pages and it’s to the reader’s benefit, because there’s so much to see. The landscapes, the droids in the City (I love the teddy bear bot), the king with his floating crown and electric beard – it’s a book you experience.

I’d add this to my collections and booktalk it to my school-age kids and parents. I may try to read an abbreviated version at my all-ages storytime, which brings in a lot of preschoolers and kindergarteners, and I think I’ll write up a discussion guide to be able to talk this one up at school visits. When I get it written, I’ll post it here.

This is a blog tour, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t have links for you, to show where you can get a copy of Kid Crazy and the Kilowatt King. There are several exclusive book bundles Sanchez’s own Evil Ink Comics website,; one wild collectible is a Kid Crazy Limited Coke-Bottle-Green 7″ Vinyl, featuring an original song and the Kid Crazy and the Kilowatt King audiobook read by Claudio Sanchez. You can also get copies on Indiebound, Merchnow, and Amazon.

About the Creators

csanchez_creditmanelcasanova_13Claudio Sanchez (author) is the front man for the conceptual rock band Coheed and Cambria, with over 3 million albums sold worldwide. He is also the creator of several comic books, including The New York Times best-selling series The Amory Wars, and the critically acclaimed titles Translucid, Key of Z and Kill Audio, co-written with his wife, Chondra Echert. He is on tour in 2016 for Coheed and Cambria’s latest album, “The Color Before the Sun: Deconstructed.” He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and their son, Atlas. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. EvilInk is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can see his video, “A Friend to Enemies”, written for Kid Crazy and the Kilowatt King, on Facebook.


Arthur Mask (illustrator) illustrates books, magazines, games and comics. An eclectic mix of passions inspire him: from horror movies and music to retro video games. His mother says his first drawing was of a mosquito, but now he prefers to draw monsters. He lives in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Chondra Echert Sanchez (editor) is a comic book writer and the creative co-director of Evil Ink Comics. She is also co-founder of The Social Co., a social media agency. She writes about life on the road with her husband, Claudio Sanchez, and their 2-year-old son, Atlas, at

You can find the publisher, One Peace Books, on Facebook.


Posted in Early Reader, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Am I Big Enough? Empowers kids!

big enough_coverAm I Big Enough?: A Fun Little Book on Manners, by Julia Pinckney/Illustrated by Timothy Young (Jan. 2016, Schiffer Publishing), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764350535

Recommended for ages 3-6

A little boy named Finn watches his family as they go about their daily activities and wonders if he is big enough to do the same things. Finn knows his hands are smaller than his daddy’s, but they are big enough to do lots of things on their own – and he invites other kids to see how big they are, too!

Each spread poses one of Finn’s questions: Am I big enough to say please? Am I big enough to be quiet in the library? On the right hand side of the page is a handprint where children can place their hands to see if, like Finn, they are big enough to handle the task at hand. Bold fonts and colors exclaim, “I AM BIG ENOUGH!” With every spread, both Finn and the readers gain confidence because they’re big enough to do a lot more than they may think.

For toddlers and preschoolers that may be hearing about all the things they aren’t allowed to do because they’re too little, a book like Am I Big Enough? shows them all the things they are big enough to do; they’re big enough to share, big enough to shake hands, and big enough to show everyone around them how fantastic they are. It’s an empowering book for little ones that could work in a smaller story time, where each child gets a chance to find out if he or she is big enough. I read this with my 3 year-old and he LOVED it. It’s gone into our daily storytime rotation, and now he’s got no problem letting our family know that he’s big enough to do “LOTS OF THINGS”.

A good addition to collections for a toddler and preschool population, and a good recommendation for anyone who needs empowering books for their little ones.

Have a look at more pages from Am I Big Enough?

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Posted in Preschool Reads

Book Review: Emily’s Out and About Book, by Cindy Post Senning and Peggy Post/illus. by Leo Landry (Collins, 2009)

emilys out and aboutRecommended for ages 4-6

Little Emily and her mother have errands to run: they go to the library, the doctor’s office, the market, and then stop for lunch before going home. At each stop, Emily demonstrates good manners, from using her inside voice in the library to asking a neighbor before petting her dog. Emily shows young readers that remembering good manners makes the day more enjoyable for everyone!  Written by manners maven Emily Post’s great-granddaughter Cindy Post Senning and great-granddaughter in-law Peggy Post, Emily’s Out and About Book never reads like a rule book for children; the watercolor illustrations and subtle text, dressed in fiction, communicates the valuable information that preschoolers should know about manners as they get ready to enter Kindergarten. The colors are sedate and colorful on a white background, and the perspective changes from neighborhood spreads to individual pages featuring Emily and her mother. The endpapers provide a map of the neighborhood featured in the story. The plain black font tells the story simply and plainly. A word from the authors to parents at the book’s end explains the importance of manners and encourages parents to use the book as a teaching opportunity.

With preschool-age children getting ready to enter Kindergarten, a manners-related storytime would be a valuable way to reinforce positive social skills. Bay Views offers Manners/Etiquette storytime suggestions that suggests the song “Where is Thumbkin?”, which includes proper etiquette for greetings  and  saying thank you; it also links to Step by Step CC, a page that offers manners-themed activities. For a smaller storytime group, a tea party, serving iced tea and cookies, would be a good way to reinforce manners learned in the book. Other works by the authors include Emily’s Caring and Sharing Book; Emily’s New Friend; and Emily’s Christmas Gifts.

Posted in Toddler Reads, Uncategorized

Book Review: How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen/Illus. Mark Teague (Blue Sky Press, 2000)

how-do-dinosaurs-say-goodnightRecommended for ages 2-5

Do dinosaurs really act up when it’s bedtime? A host of dinosaurs, acting much like preschoolers, react to bedtime and show readers how a dinosaur should say good night.

Dinosaurs are a popular topic among young audiences, and these dinosaurs, loaded with personality, will connect with young readers. Young audiences will see themselves reflected in the dinosaurs and how they approach bedtime. The earthy, colorful paintings offer varying perspectives – some dinosaurs are viewed from up high, some tower over everything around them – and multicultural families will appeal to all families. Dinosaur names are cleverly offered in each room, providing the chance for a fun name hunt. The endpapers illustrate all the dinosaurs found in the story, along with their names.

This is a great story for either a dinosaur-related read-aloud or a bedtime tale, where children and parents/guardians can talk about how they good night in their homes. There are numerous bedtime songs and fingerplays to use in conjunction with the book, and Massachusetts Honor Books offers a fun activity where children can write down “good night” in different languages, posting them on a map of the world.

The book has received numerous accolades, including the ALA Notable Children’s Books: 2001, Colorado: Children’s Book Award Nominees: 2002, Helbie Award: 2001, Maryland: Children’s Book Award Honors: 2003, Missouri: Building Block Picture Book Award Nominees: 2001, Nevada: Young Readers’ Award Nominees: 2003, Tennessee: Volunteer State Book Award Nominees: 2003, Texas: and the 2×2 Reading List: 2001.

The author’s website offers information about her other books, book trailers, and resources for teachers and storytellers. The How Do Dinosaurs series includes How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food?, How Do Dinosaurs Go To School?, and How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends?



Posted in Fantasy, Humor, Tween Reads

Book Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl (Bantam, 1977)

Recommended for ages 8-12 (and ageless)

This was one of my favorite books growing up, and reading it again all these years later, I find that I love it as much now as I did when I was 8. Having spent the last few years watching multiple viewings of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Gene Wilder is Willy Wonka), I ended up surprised on a few occasions when I realized that scenes from the movie – such as the Fizzy Lifting Drinks scene when Charlie and Grandpa have to belch their way down from certain doom – were not in the book after all! While the movie retained much of Roald Dahl’s dark comic humor, nothing beats the book, and Dahl’s wry observations on rude children and the parents who indulge them, and how the meek inherit… well, if not the earth, at least a lifetime’s supply of chocolate.

Charlie Bucket is starving – no, really, he is. He lives with his mother, father, and four sickly grandparents, who are so old and sick that they never get out of bed. Father has a menial job screwing the caps onto toothpaste tubes, and they family is very poor. They are so poor, all they can eat is cabbage soup, and Charlie refuses to take more than his share. Every day he walks past the famous chocolatier Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and lifts his nose, inhaling the delicious smells; the only time he gets to enjoy a Wonka bar is on his birthday.

It all changes when Willy Wonka announces a contest where five winners will be allowed to tour the chocolate factory – and Charlie is holding one of the Golden Tickets. Grandpa Joe, his elderly grandfather who retains the joy and wonder of youth, jumps out of bed and insists that he go with him, and they’re off. Charlie meets the four other winners – the gluttonous Augustus Gloop, spoiled brat Veruca Salt, TV addict Mike Teavee, and boorish Violet Beauregarde – and their overly indulgent parents at the gates of the factory, and when Willy Wonka’s gates open for the first time in years, the fun really begins. Who will make it through the factory tour?

Dahl’s writing weaves words into pictures that are enhanced by Joseph Schindelman’s black and white illustrations. From Willy Wonka’s mysterious origins to the Oompa Loompa’s cautionary songs, this book is Mr. Dahl’s morality play. It’s a great reminder of the golden rules as children enter into the middle grades: be polite. Don’t be a bully. Share. Don’t be a glutton or have bad manners. Modesty and a humble demeanor reap their own rewards. Reading Dahl is like Emily Post for kids, but with chocolate rivers and candy flowers.

Roald Dahl is a well-known classic children’s author. There is an inactive wiki that appeared to be the start of a comprehensive body of work  with 106 articles; there is a call to revive it on the home page. There is also a wonderful Roald Dahl website that is animated and features links to the Roald Dahl store, museum, and his children’s charity. The site features a “book chooser” that will match kids with a “splendiferous read” of his, a biography on the author, and a “Wonkalator” – a calculator game that asks kids to help Wonka with his latest magical formula.