Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Even Bogeymen get scared: El Cucuy is Scared, Too!

El Cucuy is Scared, Too!, by Donna Barba Higuera/Illustrated by Juliana Perdomo, (July 2021, Harry Abrams), $17.99, ISBN: 9781419744457

Ages 4-8

A little boy named Ramón and his cucuy – a bogeyman of sorts in Mexican folklore – are restless and can’t sleep the night before Ramón starts at a new school. They’ve moved to a new town and both are nervous, talking about how they miss their old home. Gradually, Ramón begins to comfort El Cucuy, reassuring him that things will be better. By reassuring El Cucuy, Ramón learns to comfort himself and find his inner strength to embrace his new beginning. With Spanish words sprinkled throughout, and colorful cultural touches throughout the artwork, this is an adorable look into Latinx culture via a gentle story about overcoming fears. El Cucuy is a cute, wide-eyed grey monster with a little black cloak; Ramón is a boy with light-brown skin. Details in the spreads infuse the story with a Latinx cultural background, from the vibrant colors in his bedding, to the artwork on his walls, to the visions of his former home. A definite add to your collections.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Storytime Fiesta: One is a Piñata!

One is a Piñata, by Roseanne Greenfield Thong/Illustrated by John Para, (March 2019, Chronicle Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452155845

Ages 3-5

The duo behind concept books Round is a Tortilla and Green is a Chile Pepper are back with a counting book! This rhyming, bilingual English/Spanish concept book takes readers through the preparation for a fiesta, with maracas, calaveras, salsas, and plenty of sonrisas! The illustrations’ rich colors and the story’s lively, upbeat text will have readers counting down to a part of their own. There are wonderful Latinx touches to the artwork, including luchador masks and caleaveras; papel picado decorates the background, and a string of twinkling lights dangle across the endpapers. Count from 1 to 10, uno al diez, with your storytime group.

I love Roseanne Greenfield Thong’s multicultural concept series, and am so happy to see a counting book join her shapes and colors books. Invite your school-age kids to make their own papel picado to display, and let the little ones color some Sesame Street Spanish/English flash cards. Back matter includes a glossary with phonetic pronunciation of the Spanish-language words used in the book.

So… does this mean Roseanne Greenfield Thong and Grace Lin will team up on a counting book to accompany Round is a Mooncake and Red is a Dragon?

Roseanne Greenfield Thong is an award-winning author of over a dozen children’s books, including ‘Twas Nochebuena, Día de Los Muertos, and her multicultural concept books, Round is a Mooncake, Red is a Dragon, Round is a Tortilla, and Green Is a Chile Pepper.  John Parra is an award-winning illustrator who has three Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor awards, including one for Green is a Chile Pepper.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Books about art for kids to love and be inspired by

I love letting kids go hog wild on artwork. I’ve had art stortyimes where kids have made their own Frida self-portraits and contributed to a Diego Rivera mural; I’ve let little ones create collage by tearing up paper and gluing them to paper in any way, shape or form that strikes their fancy, and I make coloring sheets and crayons available at my reference desk every day. It’s fun to watch how kids take a simple piece of blank paper and create something wonderful, and if I get a contribution to my art gallery – the shelves running the length of the children’s room – even better. Here are some picture books that will get your storytimes jumping; two are interactive – think Herve Tullet readalikes – and one is a multicultural, bilingual rhyming book that explores Latinx culture and imagination. Go forth and create!

Crocodali, by Lucy Volpin, (Aug. 2017, little bee books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0633-5

Recommended for readers 4-8

Crocodali is the most talented painter in the whole wide world, and he’s allowing readers into his studio to help him create a new masterpiece! By tilting, turning, shaking, and rubbing pages, kids will get a kick out of seeing how they “affect” the painting with each turn of the page! Watercolor endpapers and artwork may inspire kids to create art with simple swipes of the brush, and Crocodali’s reactions – especially great for read-alouds – bring on the giggles. This has entered regular storytime rotation here at home and is great for preschooler storytimes with some time set aside afterward to let kids create their own artwork. I’d pair this one with Art & Max, by David Wiesner.

 

 

Rosa Draws, by Jordan Wray, (May 2018, words & pictures), $17.95, ISBN: 9781910277508

Recommended for readers 3-7

Rosa is a little girl who loves to draw, and has a big, vivid imagination! This adorable rhyming story introduces readers to a cat wearing a ridonkulous hat, a hungry bear, a posh goose, a peacock wearing socks, and more. Where will Rosa’s imagination take her – and readers who come along for the trip? There are bright, bold colors and wacky characters aplenty for kids to discover here; perfect for encouraging readers to create their own wacky characters after a stortyime. Positive messages about creativity and family make this a nice storytime read-aloud or cuddle time reading at home. For some extra fun, put rhyming words into a box or bag, have the kids choose a couple, and illustrate what they get. I think Lois Ehlert’s The Scraps Book would go nicely with the creative process introduced in Rosa Draws.

 

 

The Color Factory, by Eric Telchin/Illustrated by Diego Funck, (June 2018, little bee books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781499805567

Recommended for readers 4-8

The Color Factory has already entered regular storytime reading for me at home, with my Kindergartener demanding it on an almost daily/nightly basis. The follow-up to 2016’s The Black and White Factory (wait until my kid finds out about this one), the three animal friends are back and taking readers on a tour of their new color factory. They invite readers to help mix up new, factory-approved colors, until things go horribly wrong! Readers have to pitch in to help as the characters refer to the instruction manual, which isn’t really encouraging. Luckily, the trio – with our readers’ help – learn to accept and enjoy the exciting new colors they create. With bright, vibrant colors and loads of opportunities to “push” buttons, “mix” colors, and help save the day, kids are going to love this wacky, fun adventure. Pair this one with Herve Tullet’s Mix It Up for added interactive fun, and if you have the space, put some newspaper down, hand out old t-shirts, and let kids learn how to mix their own colors with some fingerpainting time.

 

A Paintbrush for Paco, by Tracey Kyle/Illustrated by Joshua Heinsz, (July 2018, little bee books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781499805444

Recommended for readers 4-8

Paco is a young boy sitting in class, doodling as he awaits recess. His drawings catch his teacher’s eye, and the excited profesor rushes Paco to the art room, where a world of color awaits him! The bilingual text flows like the beautiful, colorful artwork; I love the lyrical rhyming text that curls and wanders around each page as the world of color and imagination opens itself to Paco: “Pink, rosado. Purple, morado. A fiery orange, anaranjado. Verde, the green in a vine of ripe grapes. Rojo, the red in the matadors’ capes.” The artwork is influenced by Paco’s Latino heritage, enchanting readers with visions of mountains, family, and vibrant Mexican-inspired artwork. I love that Paco’s teacher is a positive role model that encourages his student’s talent, and I love the way the Spanish and English languages come together to tell a gorgeous story. This one is an absolute must-add for art collections and for storytime reading. Pair with Roseanne Thong’s Green is a Chile Pepper or Cynthia Weill’s concept books, published through Cinco Puntos Press, that teach concepts in Spanish and English, and feature Mexican folk art.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Fiction plus food is a winning reader combo!

Who doesn’t love curling up in your favorite reading spot with a snack and a book? These middle grade reads feature yummy treats as part of their stories – perfect for reading groups and snack suggestions (minus the flying pig cookies: read on)!

Love Sugar Magic, by Anna Meriano/Illustrated by Mirelle Ortega, (Nov. 2017, Walden Pond Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062498465

Recommended for readers 8-12

Leonora Logroño’s is an almost 12-year-old whose family owns Love Sugar Magic, the local bakery that makes the most delicious cookies and cakes. She’s the youngest among her five sisters, and she just knows the family is keeping something secret from her. With a little snooping and gentle, sisterly nudging, Leo learns the truth: her family are brujas – witches – who infuse their baked goods with rich magic. Leo discovers she has some magic ability already – it usually manifests in early adolescence – and decides to put it to the test by helping Caroline, her best friend, with a crush on at school, but things go upside down pretty quickly… Leo may need to draw on her sisters to make things right!

I adore this story! It’s got humor, great characters with a rich Mexican heritage, and they’re strong, smart young women. Leo is headstrong, sure – what tween isn’t? – and reacts to feeling left in the dark about family business by taking matters in to her own hands. It’s one thing, after all, to enchant flying pig cookies, but it’s entirely something else to play with someone’s free will. But the magical mix-ups are largely hilarious and mostly harmless. Readers can relate to Leo’s frustrations about being considered “too young” for the secret stuff, and author Anna Meriano makes Love Sugar Magic into a nicely handled cautionary tale about rushing into things without taking the time to think. I’m thrilled that this is the first book of a new series – I want to spend more time with the Logroño family. Especially that feline snitch, Mr. Gato. There are some tasty-looking recipes at the end of the story – you’re on your own for the magic – and the book is sprinkled with Spanish and English phrases that really bring readers into its world.

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Shelf Awareness.

 

The Doughnut Fix, by Jessie Janowitz, (Apr. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $16.99, ISBN: 9781492655411

Recommended 8-12

Eleven year-old Tristan is a New York City kid who’s pretty happy with life as it is until his parents announe that they’re moving upstate. Petersville, New York, to be exact. It ain’t Westchester, this is up in the mountains. There’s one road, no restaurants, and a general store that used to sell legendary doughnuts, as Tristan discovers one morning, as he rides around town trying to find something to do. But Millie, the general store proprieter, stopped making the donuts, and if Tristan – a baking enthusiast who’s sold on the legend of these doughnuts – wants the secret recipe, he has to provide Millie with proof that he’s going to use it wisely. He needs a business plan. Luckily for him, Petersville does have a public library (whoo hoo!), and with the help of his new friend, Josh, Tristan starts pulling it all together to bring the chocolate cream doughnuts back to Petersville.

The Doughnut Fix surprised me with its depth and its readability. It’s very readable, very engaging, and provides smart tips on starting one’s own business for kids – throughout the story, Tristan refers to his library copy of Starting Your Own Business for Dummies, and drills things down into kid-digestible bits. It’s empowering! Teachers can challenge kids to read this book and create their own summer job business plans, or librarians (and caregivers) can produce a similar challenge as a summer reading program. There are recipes and a recap of important information for starting a business at the end of the book. The story emphasizes themes of friendship, collaboration, planning, and budgeting, offering solid life lessons for middle graders.

Both books are great reading group selections that lend so much to deeper exploration, from Mexican culture and its celebration of ancestry, to life in a small town versus life in a city. Food is the easy in to discussing these books, but there are great ideas waiting to be touched on in each. These are great adds to your shelves or your gift list.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Middle Grade I read in January

I spent most of January with my nose in a book. I’m still catching up with books that pubbed in January, but here’s a quick take on a few good ones.

Potion Masters: The Eternity Elixir (Potion Masters, Book 1), by Frank L. Cole,
(Jan. 2018, Shadow Mountain), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-62973-559-7
Recommended for readers 8-12

A brand new adventure/fantasy series for middle graders! Potion Masters introduces us to 12-year-old Gordy Stitser, a budding Elixirist. Elixirists are potion masters; think of them as modern-day alchemists with more than a little touch of magic, who use their gifts to contribute to society by pushing for advancements in medicine, technology, and, yeah, even weapons tech. Gordy inherits his gift from his mom, who’s on the Board of Ruling Elixirists Worldwide (B.R.E.W.), while his Muggle dad (no, they don’t call them Muggles; it’s my usage) is content to hold down things at home with Gordy and his twin younger siblings. But Gordy intercepts a package meant for his mother while she’s away on a “business trip”, and finds himself – and his family and friends – in the sights of an evil Elixirist who’s bent on destroying B.R.E.W. and destroying the world. It’s a fun fantasy read, with positive adult role models and friends who work together to save the world. This book disappeared from the shelf the day I put it on display, and hasn’t been back yet, so I’m calling this a win right now. Fantasy fans who love a good series can start with this one and claim they read it before it was cool.

 

Abigail Adams: Pirate of the Caribbean (Mixed-Up History #2), by Steve Sheinkin/Illustrated by Neil Swaab,
(Jan 2018, Roaring Brook), $6.99, ISBN: (978-1-250-15247-3)
Recommended for readers 7-9

From Steve Sheinkin, the man who brought you the Newbery Award-winning book, Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, and National Book Award finalist Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War, comes… Abigail Adams: Pirate of the Caribbean. C’mon, I made you laugh. Steve Sheinkin shows his sillier side with his Mixed-Up History series; his first book in the series gave us Abraham Lincoln leaving history to become a professional wrestler. In this volume, Abigail Adams, sick and tired of hanging laundry in the White House, uses time traveling technology to take to the high seas as one of Calico Jack Rackham’s crew. It’s up to modern-day siblings Doc and Abby to fix history again and get Abigail back to her own time. It’s not necessary to have read the first book in the series to jump in with Mixed-Up History; there’s enough exposition to get readers caught up. Black and white illustrations and a quick-paced narrative make for some laugh-out-loud moments, usually at our second President’s expense. Siblings Abby and Doc represent a blended family and Doc is a child of color. It’s a fun read for intermediate readers that will get them acquainted with some big names in history, but really, this is just for kicks. A historical note from the author assures readers that no, this isn’t something you can cite in a report. A good add to humor collections.

 

Stella Diaz Has Something to Say, by Angela Dominguez,
(Jan. 2018, Roaring Brook Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-62672-858-5
Recommended for readers 8-12

Stella Diaz loves fish and underwater life, loves spending time with her mom and brother, and loves spending time with her best friend Jenny. She’s also incredibly shy and can’t find the words she wants to use, so she tends to stay quiet, afraid she’ll speak Spanish instead of English, or pronounce her words wrong. Either way, she’s made fun of by the class Mean Girl. When her teacher assigns presentations that means Stella will have to speak in front of the class – including the new boy that she wants to be friends with, but is too afraid to speak to – she knows she has to work to get past her fears, and FAST. I love this kind story about a girl who has so much to offer, but is afraid to look silly or wrong. It’s a wonderful story about friendship, making new friends, and being brave enough to face challenges one little step at a time. It’s infused with Mexican culture and Spanish language, inspired by the author’s own story of growing up Mexican-American, and features black and white illustrations throughout. I’m thrilled that Stella’s mom has an interesting job at a radio station and that Stella sees her mom as a positive force in her life, and I’m relieved to see that the middle grade “best friend meets a new friend” plotline is resolved in an upbeat manner, rather than devolving into two camps of kids being angry and upset with one another. Stella Diaz Has Something to Say is just a great book to read and share with your readers.