Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Let’s Get Sleepy! plays seek and find up ’till bedtime

Let’s Get Sleepy!, by Tony Cliff, (Aug. 2020, Imprint), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250307842

Ages 3-6

A group of kittens are trying to track down a mouse they call wee Sleepy, the Prince of the Night. Where can he be? This adorable seek-and-find adventure does double duty as a rhyming bedtime story that will have your Kiddos joining the kittens in their search for Sleepy. Searching their neighborhood block, a weekend parade, the beach, Mount Snow, even a swamp, slug caves, and the moon, Sleepy always manages to stay ahead of the kittens – will Sleepy stay ahead of your Kiddos? Tony Cliff, the author-illustrator of the Delilah Dirk graphic novel series, is an Eisner, Shuster, and Harvey award nominee and brings his talent for creating fun, fast-paced cartooning to this children’s adventure. The crowd scenes have movement and a sense of delightful play, and the rhyming text has repetitive phrases like, “Is this where he’ll be? We’ll search and we’ll seek and we’ll ask friends that we meet”, and – naturally – “Let’s Get Sleepy!”, that encourage readers to chime in along with you as you’re reading. You ask them to guess if the cats will find him on the next spread, or where he could be hiding – and then seek him out. An amusing brainteaser for bedtime, Let’s Get Sleepy is a nice addition to smaller storytime groups (or virtual storytimes) and bedtime reading.

Publisher Macmillan has a free, downloadable activity kit with instructions on making a felt bed for Sleepy, a Make Your Bedtime checklist, and more!

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Gorgeous concept books for toddlers and preschoolers!

There are some some amazing concept books in the publishing pipeline that are going to make toddler storytimes even more fun. Grab some colorful scarves, egg shakers, and art supplies because you’re going to want to hold an art storytime with these books as your foundation.

Lili’s Seasons, by Lucie Albon, (Apr. 2021, Schiffer Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764361043

Ages 2-6

Lucie Albon’s “On the Fingertips” series illustrates concepts using finger-and hand-painted artwork that kids are going to love – and that they’ll be able to try on their own. Two mice, Lily and Henri, explore the seasons. Each seasons is set off with a spread of what you’ll discover on the pages – or outside! – for each season. In the fall, you’ll look for autumn leaves, pine cones, and squirrels; in the winter, there will be mittens, wool socks, hot chocolate, and snowflakes. Lili and Henri enjoy the gifts of every season, together, whether having hot chocolate at home in the winter or visiting the beach in the summer. Back matter teaches readers how to “draw with their fingertips”, and provides instruction on necessary supplies, and how to use the paint on your hands and fingers to create clouds and trees through the seasons. The book has a create space for exploration, but if you’re using this in your library, consider having a create space ready for your library kiddos, stocked with paper, art materials, and smocks or old t-shirts. If you’re like me, and still virtual, you can explore doing a virtual art program, and offering some supplies via grab-and-go promotion. Colorful, bright, and absolutely “you can do this!” kid-friendly, this is a fun new series that I’m looking forward to spending time with.

 

Lili’s Colors, by Lucie Albon, (Apr. 2021, Schiffer Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764361036

Ages 2-6

In the companion “On the Fingertips” book to Lili’s Seasons, Lili’s Colors brings Lili and Henri back to talk about color. The two friends enjoy red lollipops, cuddle yellow chicks, sail on blue water, and spend a colorful day together, wandering across brightly colored, finger-painted spreads. Colors are featured in a bigger, bolder font, in their own shades, and the text – dialogue between Henri and Lili – is brief and perfect for young listeners and readers. A finger paint workshop section goes over primary and secondary colors, color mixing, and how to paint your fingers and hands to create the artwork in the book and a self-portrait. A spread showing paintings by children encourages readers with a “you can do it!” attitude! Adorable and cheery, this is an adorable new series for burgeoning artists.

 

Colors de la Runway, by Clarence Ruth, (Feb. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9780764356834

Ages 2-6

How, oh how, did I miss this when it came out the first time? I owe Schiffer big thanks for sending me a copy of Colors de la Runway to rectify my not seeing this earlier. Colors de la Runway is a concept book on color by Clarence Ruth, fashion designer and creative director of Cotte D’Armes. Vibrant colors named in both English and French come off the page as model sketches show off fashions and accessories in 20 spreads: red/rouge dresses, light blue/bleu clair eyeshadow and the peek of a shirt under a jacket, brown/marron frames to a pair of dramatic glasses. Clarence Ruth’s book is inspiration for older readers who love fashion and art, and for littles who want to learn their colors with some pizzaz. Stunning, playful, and absolutely fun: get out a feather boa and giant sunglasses and have yourself a fashion storytime.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle School, Teen, Tween Reads

Tales from the Backlist: Graphic novels you may have missed

You know that TBR that just keeps growing? Well, I’ve got one of those on my computers, too: yes, plural. My work PC, my laptop, my backup laptop… I see exciting looking graphic novels, I download them, and they join the TBR club. When I get a chance to read them, I want to talk about them, because they’re seriously good books, and we all know, it doesn’t matter when the book is published, right? So here, I present some graphic novels you may have missed the first time around: add these to your own TBR.

 

Sarah’s Dream (The Grémillet Sisters, #1), by Giovanni Di Gregorio/Illustrated by Alessandro Barbucci, Translated by L. Benson, Edited by Lisa Morris, (July 2020, Europe Comics), $5.99, ASIN: B08CHH5L3F

Ages 10-14

Three quirky sisters, one big secret: the first volume in The Grémillet Sisters series introduces readers to Sarah, Cassiopeia, and Lucille, three sisters with very different personalities. Lucille, the youngest, is an animal lover who spends most of her with the family cat or caring for strays; Cassiopeia lives with her head in the clouds, with princes and castles, and Sarah, the eldest, has strange dreams of trees and jellyfish. When she asks their mother about her past – a past the girls know almost nothing about – their mother becomes snappish and preoccupied, leading the girls to investigate, and discover a mysterious photo where their mother appears pregnant. But which sister is she pregnant with, and why was the photo hidden away? Originally published in French in 2020, Sarah’s Dream is lushly illustrated, with deep colors and gorgeous lighting throughout. The sisters have defined personalities have a realistic relationship with relatable ups and downs: Sarah, as the eldest, bosses the other two around; they go from being a cohesive “Three Sisters Club” one minute to never wanting to speak to each other again, the next. A good supplemental choice for middle school graphic novel collections. Content warning for pregnancy loss. Currently available as an ebook, it’s a purchase to consider if you have strong electronical graphic novel collections.

 

Jane, by Aline Brosh McKenna/Illustrated by Ramón K. Perez, (Sept. 2017, Archaia), $24.99, ISBN: 9781608869817

Ages 12+

This modern-day update of Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre, spins the story into a thriller about a nanny, her young charge, and the mysterious businessman, Rochester. Jane is an orphaned girl when she ends up on her aunt and uncle’s door; she scrimps and saves until she has enough money to leave the home that never had room her  in Massachusetts and heads to New York City, where she has secured a scholarship at an arts school. To earn some cash and keep the scholarship, she takes a job as a nanny to a young girl named Adele. Adele’s father, Rochester, is a seemingly unapproachable, uninterested father until Jane confronts him about Adele’s withdrawn behavior in school. As Rochester begins coming down from his ivory tower and taking on a more active role as Adele’s father, Jane also sees that he’s a man with secrets – secrets he’s not willing to bend on. But the two fall for one another, and Jane worries that Adele’s life – and Jane’s own life – may be on the line. Part thriller, part romance, award-winning screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna’s take on Jane Eyre uses the source material as a jumping-off point for a new reimagining, with great success. You’ll notice bits of the original Jane Eyre peeking out in the earlier part of the story, along with some moments that will make readers familiar with one of McKenna’s movies, The Devil Wears Prada, smile with recognition. The artwork is moody, enhancing the overall atmosphere of the story and never quite letting the reader – or Jane – relax; it moves from murky, as Jane recalls her childhood memories, to stark and shadowy, as the story moves into a modern noir. I’m really happy about this new take on a classic favorite; into my library shopping cart it goes.

Aline Brosh McKenna is the award-winning screenwriter of The Devil Wears Prada, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. This is her graphic novel debut. Illustrator Ramón K. Pérez is the with Eisner Award-winning illustrator of Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand. The book received the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Nominee for Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17) & Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team (for Ramón K. Perez) (2018).

The Not-So Secret Society: Tale of the Gummy, by Matthew Daley & Arlene Yiadom-Daley/Illustrated by Wook Jin Clark, (Aug. 2017, KaBoom!), $9.99, ISBN: 9781608869978

Ages 8-12

Take five science and candy-loving friends, a dose of STEM/STEAM, and a group of uber-over-achievers to go up against for the all-city science fair, and you’ve got the NS3: the Not-So Secret Society. This group of middle schoolers needs a project that will wow the judges at the science fair, and they come up with one when they create a machine that can bring candy to life! Their test run brings an adorable gummy bear to life, but Gummy has a sweet tooth that won’t quit – and neither will the growth spurts that follow! The NS3 has to track down Gummy, who goes on a sugar-eating rampage, before it’s too late, and they still have to make it to the science fair on time! This is an hilarious story of friendship, science, and candy, starring a group of middle schoolers that readers will love: Madison, the bookish one; Aidan, the inventor; Emma, the licorice-obsessed artist; Dylan, the comedian, and Ava, the tiny wrestling fan with a big temper. Readers who loved Eleanor Davis’s Secret Science Alliance will enjoy this comic. I just want to know why three years have passed without a new adventure! Back matter includes a parent reading guide and learning activities, along with Common Core standards info. Unfortunately, the website for the NS3 doesn’t seem to be up at the moment, but in the meantime, try some safer candy experiments in the spirit of the NS3, with no risk of giant gummy bear attacks. This Pinterest board never disappoints – I’ve made the candy slime with my library kids, and I’ve made the Ziploc bag ice cream with my own kiddo. If you want to go old school, show them a few episodes of the early 2000s cartoon, Codename: Kids Next Door.

 

 

Mouse Guard Alphabet Book, by David Peterson & Serena Malyon, (Sept. 2017, Archaia), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1684150106

Ages 3-6

I can’t believe I’ve never written about Mouse Guard. One of the first graphic novels my now 21-year old son enjoyed, Mouse Guard is the award-winning, fantastic tale of a group of mice and the predators they must always be on guard against. It’s Dungeons & Dragons, Tolkien-esque fantasy for children and a perfect stepping stone to the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. Breathtaking high-fantasy, medieval artwork is the hallmark of the series, and this abcedary showcases beautiful illuminated manuscript artwork for each letter of the alphabet, incorporating elements from the Mouse Guard series, and rhyme in pentameter. If you’re like me and want to introduce your Kiddos to fantasy at an early age, concept books like this are gold. Psst.. there’s a coloring book and a roleplaying game available, too.

The Mouse Guard website also has free, downloadable craft ideas and MP3s of songs featured in the Mouse Guard books.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Next Stop: Christmas!

5 More Sleeps ‘Til Christmas, by Jimmy Fallon/Illustrated by Rich Deas, (Oct. 2020, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250266477

Ages 3-7

Jimmy Fallon’s newest picture book outing is an ode to the anticipation that seems to increase exponentially, the closer Christmas morning gets! In this rhyming tale, a boy is counting his “sleeps” until the big day. He knows he’s been good and that Santa will take care of business, but going to sleep every night is SO HARD when Christmas is so close! “5 more sleeps ’til Christmas. / I’m not sure I can wait. / I get good grades, / I fed the dog. / I even cleaned my plate. Gary’s chew toy Peppy / is helping me count sheep. / But it’s not working! We’re still up! / We cannot fall asleep!” Colorful illustrations set against the deep blue night time sky and the dark warmth of the boy’s night time room, combined with the adorable, expressive main character and his faithful pup, Gary, are full of holiday anticipation that kids and adults alike will remember and enjoy revisiting time and again. Absolute holiday fun that will brighten up your shelves.

 

Claris: Holiday Heist (The Chicest Mouse in Paris), by Megan Hess, (Oct. 2020, Hardie Grant), $17.99, ISBN: 9781760504953

Ages 4-8

Fashion illustrator Megan Hess’s series about the Claris, “chicest mouse in Paris” sees her fabumouse main character visiting New York along with her friend, Monsieur the Cat, and the family they live with. The Brat – the family’s spoiled daughter – is throwing tantrums per usual, but the real story is in the title. Claris and Monsieur spy a thieving cat on a shopping trip, and follow the felonious feline to his home and demand his return his booty! Will the cat burglar give up his life of crime and embrace the giving spirit of the holidays?Eloise and Olivia fans will love this chic, smart, determined little heroine as she takes on the streets of New York’s chic shopping district. Author Megan Hess’s fashion illustration expertise makes for gorgeous fashion sketches throughout, with bright, colorful moments that pop against the black and white backgrounds. Rhyming text makes the story a fun readaloud.

 

Dinosaur Christmas!, by Penny Dale, (Sept 2020, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536214499

Ages 2-6

This is the seventh book in Penny Dale’s Dinosaur series! This time out, Santa’s stuck and it’s dinos to the rescue! Trucks, plows, even helicopters arrive on the scene to dig Santa out and get him back on his way. Short sentences, repetition and sight words, and sounds like “crunch, crunch”, “swish, swish”, and “scoop, scoop” make this a fantastic readaloud choice (have a sensory storytime with this book and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt). Flannels and/or toy dinos are always fun to add. Watercolor and ink dinosaurs look realistic and friendly, and colorful endpapers show dinosaurs that appear in the book, with their names clearly spelled out, along with the vehicles they use in the story. Who doesn’t love dinosaurs?

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Storytime is book review time! Something For You, With All My Heart, C Jumped Over Three Pots and a Pan

I’m a #SaturdayLibrarian today, so I figured that best way to catch up on book reviews was to put them in front of my toughest audience: TODDLERS. See, on Saturdays, I do storytimes in my children’s room’s Family Place center, which, in Corona (my library), is a little area full of learning toys for the kids to explore. So this is an audience that’s not always going to be riveted to my every word, ya know? I have to be on top of my game for Saturday Storytime, and I need books that are going to keep the kids and parents entertained. These three fit the bill.

Something for You, by Charlie Mylie, (Nov. 2019, Farrar Straus Giroux), $17.99, ISBN: 9780374312350

Ages 2-6

A sweet book about friendship, Something for You is about a mouse who wants to cheer up a sick friend. He searches for something to make her smile, but things don’t always go as planned. Mouse learns that just being a friend is all we need. The watercolor artwork brings a delicacy to the story, and the characters are drawn with kind, expressive faces; their movements also delicate and nurturing. The mouse who searches for something for his friend gently wraps a scarf around a cold pigeon and shares a flower with a bee – even if he’s a little grumpy about it! The story incorporates panels into the storytelling, allowing for a nice sequential feel, while showing small moments coming together to create a story.

This was the first book up, and the kids were intrigued. The cover caught their eye, and I asked, “Isn’t it nice when someone does something for you? Don’t you feel good when you do something nice for Mommy or Daddy?” Moms and dads smiled, and toddlers looked at them skeptically, but seemed to go along with it. The framed window, giving readers a view into the mouse caring for his sick friend, also caught the kids’ eyes: we’re natural spectators, right?

Something for You is adorable, and perfect for stories about kindness and empathy. Toddlers and preschoolers are the spot-on audience for this one, but older kids – Kindergarten and first grade, especially – will enjoy this one, too. Reading this book can lead to some wonderful discussions about friendship.

 

With All My Heart, by Stephanie Stansbie & Richard Smythe, (Dec. 2019, Silver Dolphin), $15.99, ISBN: 9781684129102

Ages 2-6

This is the sweetest book about parent-child love. A big bear and little bear cuddle together, splash, explore, and enjoy making memories together in this ultimate cuddle-sit rhyming story with die-cuts throughout the book. The verse reads with a soothing cadence and is a love letter to caregiving, to parenthood, to loving a child: “I saw your sweet smile/and I knew from the start,/I’d love you forever/with all of my heart”; “Each day, more than ever,/I love your sweet smile,/And feeling you close/as we cuddle a while”. Die cuts on each spread spotlight words in hearts, leaves, and star shapes.

The parents loved this one, and snuggled their little ones (still clutching their toys) into the laps and pointed out the bears, the diecuts, and details like the warm sun, the soft and silvery moon, the little moments between parent and child. This is a nice storytime/lapsit-cuddlesit/bedtime book to have in your collection, and would pair nicely with Anna Pignataro’s Our Love Grows, Margaret Wise Brown’s A Long Time That I’ve Loved You, and the classic Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney.

I’ll be reading this one again and again.

 

C Jumped Over Three Pots and a Pan and Landed SMACK in the Garbage Can!, by Pamela Jane/Illustrated by Hina Imtiaz, (Oct. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9780764357954

Ages 2-6

I had to end on a silly note! After a rousing rendition of the Alphabet Song, I launched into a spirited reading of this hilarious rhyming story. The alphabet letters are at camp, when C, trying to show off to A and B, decides to leap over  – you guessed it – three pots and a pan. C jumps a little farther than expected, though, and lands – SMACK! – in a garbage can, sending the rest of the alphabet into a tizzy as they search for the letter E, who has three arms and can help pull C out. But E’s gone missing, along with three other letters! We have an alphabet mystery with dramatic tension here, and the repeated phrase, “C jumped over three pots and a pan and landed smack in a garbage can” make this a laugh-out loud book to read aloud. This is made for silly, emphatic reading out loud: I smack my thigh to emphasize the word “smack”, which gave the kids an extra giggle. It’s a fun take on concepts, and is PERFECT for kids who love Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin Jr.

The artwork is fun, adorable, and bold, with large letters that have arms, legs, and expressive faces. The primary colors are bright and playful, set against a camp setting complete with tents, boats and rivers, and grass.

Parents and kids alike enjoyed this one, and I’ll be coming back to this book again and again. If you do storytime crafts after your storytimes, there are loads of ideas to enhance your program. There are Do-a-Dot printables (perfect for little hands), letter crafts (my second grader did these in preschool, but the teachers used construction paper and cut out the shapes for the kids to decorate), and hundreds of alphabet coloring sheets. A quick Pinterest search or Internet search will lead you down the wonderful rabbit hole of alphabet coloring and crafts. Enjoy.

And that was my storytime today!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

‘Tis the Season to be Reading!

Seasons Readings! I’ve got a bunch of holiday and winter books to talk about over the next couple of days. Let’s start with Christmas!

How Winston Saved Christmas: An Advent Story in Twenty-Four and a Half Chapters, by Alex T. Smith, (Sept. 2019, Silver Dolphin), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-983-6\

Ages 3-10

How Winston Saved Christmas is adorable. It’s an Advent storybook and activity book, starring a mouse named Winston, who discovers a little boy’s note to Santa and is determined to deliver that important message in time for Christmas! Start reading on December 1st, a chapter a day, leading up to the big day. Each chapter is about three pages, and the book is beautifully illustrated with color artwork. After each chapter, there’s a story-related craft that you can easily do with your kiddos. Great for the library, great for a way to end a day in the classroom, great to do with your own kids at home. The crafts are simple and don’t require lots of time or materials, making this a wonderful way to spend holiday time with your kiddos. Tips for next year, Christmas poems, and an author’s note finish everything off and get you ready for the holidays; the chapters and craft ideas are laid out in the front of the book, written on little gift tags, across an opening spread before the story begins, so you can get a peek at each activity (and gather your materials in advance).

This is an adorable way to prepare for the holidays. I think Winston will become a regular part of our holiday celebrations.

 

The Lobsters’ Night Before Christmas, by Christina Laurie/Illustrated by Elizabeth Moisan, (Oct. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7643-5826-5

Ages 3-10

Who doesn’t know and love Clement Moore’s classic poem, A Visit by Saint Nicholas (also known as The Night Before Christmas)? Add some ocean life to the mix for an Underwater the Sea holiday storytime with The Lobsters’ Night Before Christmas! Read the rhyming tale of Sea Nick, pulled in his clamshell by his eight minnows, each with a distinctive species name, as he fills skate cases with holiday gifts and moves on to the next cave. There are lobster and fish facts woven into the rhyme, making this a great story for sea life readers. Elizabeth Moisan’s watercolor artwork brings a soft, underwater feel to the illustrations, and she’s hidden a lobster, hiding in the eel grass, for sharp-eyed readers to find. Make it a game to see who can find the hidden lobster! The endpapers are loaded with tiny little lobsters, some holding little red stars for a tree. The cover is die-cut in a pine tree shape, adding fun to the design. Back matter includes an All About Lobsters feature, with information about what lobsters look like, eat, how they molt, and how they’re affected by climate change.

A cute read and gift for your sea life readers.

More winter and holiday books to come! If you know of any upcoming or new Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and other multicultural holiday books, please tweet me @roesolo or email me here and let me know!

Posted in Adventure, Animal Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

A little mouse has a big adventure in Douglas

Douglas, by Randy Cecil, (Sept. 2019, Candlewick), $19.99, ISBN: 9780763633974

Ages 5-8

Iris Espinosa goes to the movies one day, and ends up taking a small mouse home with her when it curls up in her pocket to nap. She names the mouse Douglas, after her favorite actor, Douglas Fairbanks, and Douglas ends up having a big adventure on the way back home to the movie theatre! A companion to Randy Cecil’s Lucy (2016), Douglas is also told in four acts, and is an exciting adventure filled with cats, humans, chases, and escapes.

The black-and-white artwork gives a lovely, vintage feel to the artwork, especially when Randy Cecil places readers into a more specific time frame by recalling a screen star from Hollywood’s Golden Age (Fairbanks was active in the 1920s and 1930s). There are mini-stories throughout the main story that make this so much fun to read: Iris’ sister meeting her boyfriend’s mother, with Douglas tagging along for the ride; the vigilant six-toed cat; Everett Dunn, who desperately wants a pet of his own; Mrs. Pennington and her large hat. There’s so much to enjoy while reading Douglas, and it’s a book kids will want to come back to, because there’s something new to discover each time. As Douglas Fairbanks had his own swashbuckling adventures, so does Douglas.

Douglas has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Animal Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Picture Book Roundup: Cats and Dogs, Bears, Birds, and Dinosaurs!

I’m still going through my BookExpo bags (okay, I’ve moved them from one area of my room to another), but in the meantime, I’ve got picture books to talk about! Some are available, some are up-and-coming, all are a pleasure to read. Let’s take a look at what’s good!

SumoKitty, by David Biedrzycki, (Aug. 2019, Charlesbridge), $18.99, ISBN: 9781580896825

Ages 5-9

A stray cat hangs around a sumo training center, hoping for some food. He’s about to be thrown out by the manager when one of the sumo shrieks: a mouse! Looks like the kitty has a new job and a new home, which he quickly becomes accustomed to. But the good life makes him lose his edge: he’s gained weight and the mice come back with a vengeance. Tossed back out into nature, Kumo, a kind sumo, lets the cat back in, but levels with him: the mice have humbled the cat like the sumo’s main opponent, the yokozuna, has humbled him. From there, SumoKitty starts a faithful training routine, inspired by Kuna’s disciplined regiment. When a mouse dares show up in the dojo next time, SumoKitty is there, pushing and tossing the mouse and his friends around until they clear out for good. He’s rewarded by not only being welcomed back to the dojo, but he’s given a sweet topknot haircut, too. He also gets a front row seat at the next sumo tournament, where he watches his friend Kumo face his own demons and takes on his longtime opponent.

A sweet story about overcoming challenges, SumoKitty is loaded with Japanese sumo terms and wise observations like “Fall down seven times; get up eight” and “Even monkeys fall from trees”. Adorable SumoKitty is cartoonish with large, expressive eyes and exaggerated facial expressions, while the sumo artwork appears inspired by Japanese woodblock paintings. The black and white endpapers give readers a before-and-after glimpse into the story, with a mouse running in a Zen garden as someone maintains the area; later, SumoKitty is fast asleep on a rock in the same Zen garden, no maintainer, and no mouse present. It’s a sweet peek into sumo culture and an all-around fun read. Jon J. Muth’s Zen Shorts, Zen Ties, and Zen Happiness are nice readalikes to SumoKitty; for a good giggle and a more madcap take on sumo, you can’t go wrong with David Wisniewski’s Sumo Mouse, which has been a favorite in my home since my eldest (now 20) was in Kindergarten and continues to be required reading with my first grader.

 

Hey, Dog, by Tony Johnson/Illustrated by Jonathan Nelson, (June 2019, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580898775

Ages 4-8

A boy finds a dog hiding in a bush. The dog is afraid, runs, but the boy returns, time and again, to care for the dog, leaving him food, water, even an umbrella propped up to cover him in the rain. The boy confides in his mother that the dog is skinny and has scars; he refuses to give up on Dog, determined if not to earn his trust, then to care for him.

Hey, Dog crushed me. It’s just gorgeous writing that packs an emotional punch. The boy’s relationship with his mother, who is nervous – her son is trying to care for a strange dog that could very well bite him, right? – but supports her empathetic child, helping him in any way she can and the boy’s quiet resilience in the face of Dog’s fear and mistrust will make you have hope for people after all. The boy is written so wonderfully, whether he’s asking a shopkeeper if his dog food “is the most luscious” or when he drops to his knees, tears “warming his face”, as he tries to comprehend how anyone could have it in them to hurt an animal. Dog is illustrated to provoke another emotional gut punch; his cringing and reticence come through so viscerally, it’ll bring tears to your eyes. Seeing this poor pup, single paw raised, ribs poking through his coat, and trusting once more to lick the boy’s hand make this story a powerful, must-have book for you collection. Read this, hand this to kids, talk about the need for empathy in our world.

 

 

Bear’s Book, by Claire Freedman/Illustrated by Alison Friend, (May 2019, Templar Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536205718

Ages 4-8

Bear loves to read, but his favorite book of stories has been read to bits! He decides to create his own story, but holy writer’s block, he can’t think of anything! He decides to go for a stroll and see if inspiration hits, and meets several friends along the way. When he returns home and goes over his day, he realizes that the best inspiration comes from one’s own adventures!

This is an adorable story of inspiration and friendship, and fits nicely with Small Moments writing prompts. Bear’s adventure is a series of small moments, pulled together to create a lovely adventure. He’s inspired by his friends, and they have all enjoyed their friend’s company for a day. A fold-out spread publishes Bear’s story for his friends – and our – enjoyment. Mixed media illustrations are gently rendered with soft earth tones.  This one is a sweet storytime pick, and good inspiration for a Summer Reading creative writing program.

 

 

My Name Isn’t Oof!: Warren the Warbler Takes Flight, by Michael Galligan/Illustrated by Jeremiah Tramell, (May 2019, Little Bigfoot), $17.99, ISBN: 9781632171931

Ages 4-8

A little bird tries to fly after watching his siblings take off, but he falls, landing with a giant, “Oof!” Naturally, every animal in the forest has an opinion, and to add insult to injury, they all call him “Oof”! The chipmunk says he forgot to jump; the Mouse says he needs to spread his wings; Squirrel says he has to flap. While they all have feedback aplenty on Warren’s flying prowess, they manage to bonk, push, and trip one another up, but Warren – who keeps protesting this new nickname – finally takes to the sky, to everyone’s cheering!

A cute story of perseverance with some hilarious physical comedy, My Name Isn’t Oof! will have younger readers giggling during a read-aloud, especially if you move around and act out the story. The repeated phrase, “My name isn’t Oof!” is a good discussion point to get kids talking about how unwanted nicknames can stick; you can also point out that while all the animals jump to find fault with Warren’s first flight, they’re just as clumsy as he is: no one is perfect! Back matter includes a paragraph on the Townsend Warbler, the kind of bird our star Warren is, and what readers can do if they find a baby bird fallen from a nest. Suggest Charlie Alder’s Daredevil Duck as a readalike for more humorous stories of overcoming obstacles.

 

 

How To Take Care of Your Dinosaur, by Jason Cockcroft, (May 2019, Nosy Crow), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536205688

Ages 3-6

Taking care of your very own dinosaur is a very big job! How to Take Care of Your Dinosaur is here to help. Written similar to a handy-dandy manual, the book takes a look at some of the more light-hearted moments in pet parenting a dinosaur. Taking your dino for a walk? Bring a bucket and a shovel, there’s no pooper scooper that’s built for this job. Dinos can be a little tough on sharing, so make sure to get them around new people and encourage them to make friends! The book stresses the importance of routine when caring for your dinosaur; something parents and caregivers will appreciate!

Digital illustrations are adorable and feature soft colors. The endpapers add to the fun: the front endpapers show a mailman struggling under the weight of a gigantic package (the egg); the back endpapers show a brick wall, papered with “Dino Sale” flyers, and feature the poor mailman laboring with two giant packages this time.

A fun storytime addition. Pair with Dragons Get Colds, Too for a fun, wacky pet-related storytime.

 

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Scampers teaches kids the scientific method!

Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist, by Mike Allegra/Illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel, (March 2019, Dawn Publications), $8.95, ISBN: 9781584696438

Ages 4-8

Scampers is a curious little mouse who wants to know what it will take to get a menacing-looking owl out of the vegetable garden, so he and the other mice can go back to getting food. With the help of Scampers’s friend, Nibbles, the two proceed to conduct a few experiments, including waving a rag doll and making noise that will startle the owl, and building an egg catapault to scare it off. No reaction. (Have you guessed yet?) When Scampers and Nibbles figure out the owl’s secret, they let their fellow mice know: the owl isn’t real! Will the mice believe their two scientists?

Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist is an adorable, abbreviated introduction to an scientific method. Scampers has a theory about the mouse, so she conducts some tests, considers her conclusion, and shares her results. The tests are amusing and let caregivers and educators work with readers to reason out the conclusion. It’s a cute way to introduce scientific thinking to younger readers, and publisher Dawn Publications has a free, downloadable companion activities for kids. Add this one to your science storytime.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade

Lulu the Broadway Mouse is ready for the Great White Way!

lulu the broadway mouseLulu the Broadway Mouse, by Jenna Gavigan,
(Oct. 2018, Running Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7624-6461-6
Ages 8-12

Lulu is a little girl who loves, loves, LOVES the theatre. She lives in New York’s famed Schubert Theatre, where she and her family work side by side with the actors, actresses, and crew to help every production stay on track. Lulu dreams of being of making her Broadway debut, but there’s just one sticking point… Lulu is a mouse. When a young understudy named Jayne joins the cast of the Theatre’s current show, she and Lulu bond immediately over their love of the craft and their frustration with Amanda, the child star and resident mean girl. Will Lulu – and Jayne – ever get that big break?

Written by actress Jenna Gavigan, who made her Broadway debut at the age of 16, Lulu is a fun story that takes a look at dreaming big and navigating the mean girls we all meet in life. The novel also gives a wonderfully detailed peek behind the curtain at the inner workings of a stage show; your drama fans will love it and your animal fiction fans will cheer for Lulu, a lovable heroine who can stand up for herself and her friends.

Booktalk this one with Being Juliet by Joanne Stewart Wetzel for your drama fans who want a good story with a dash of theatre life.

Author Jenna Gavigan’s webpage has a page dedicated to Lulu, links to social media, and background information.