Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: Before the World Wakes, by Estelle Laure

Remember those mornings when you were a kid, when you were awake before everyone else woke up and it felt like you were the only person in the world? That spirit of magic and anticipation is the heart of Estelle Laure and Paola Zakimi’s Before the World Wakes.

Before the World Wakes, by Estelle Laure/Illustrated by Paola Zakimi,
(April 2022, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542028837

Ages 4-7

Two siblings awaken in the wee hours of the morning and explore the world around them, enjoying each other’s company. It’s the best time of day: it’s not too bright; there’s not a lot of noise; they aren’t rushing to be anywhere. Estelle Laure’s lyrical prose evokes the best childhood memories and makes them available to a new audience, brought to life by Paola Zakimi’s gentle watercolor, pencil, and gouache illustrations. Phrases like, “The stars say good morning at the same time / they say good night, / and we watch the moon pull them home, / as night and day hold hands” beautifully capture the gentle time before the hectic rush of the day begins; the spread brings the words together by illustrating a waking sky, moving from midnight blue to soft blue, stars and moon still twinkling in the sky, with a pink and yellow dawn moving in from the east and bringing secrets of the day with it: flowers perking up to greet the sun, and snails creeping out to snack on morning dew. Perspectives shift from close-up portraits of the children watching the world awaken around them, moving out to glimpse them dancing in their blanket capes, to their toes squishing into the “wet grass that is cold but not too cold”. Before the World Wakes is a joyful celebration of childhood, of exploration, and of the anticipation of a new day.

A great sensory storytime read aloud, inviting kids to talk about how they “feel” their days begin: the warmth of a blanket versus the shiver of cold air when they emerge from their blankets; the feel of a floor – grass or otherwise! – under their feet, the sounds of the morning, from the birds outside to the chatter in their homes as everyone starts their day.

“The poetic text and charming pictures celebrate a special time and universal feelings” – Booklist

Estelle Laure is the author of six young adult novels, including This Raging Light, Mayhem, Remember Me, and the City of Villains series, and the picture book The Perfect Pet for You, illustrated by Amy Hevron. She lives with her family in New Mexico, where you can often find her walking the dogs and watching the sun rise before the world wakes. For more about Estelle, visit www.estellelaure.com or on Instagram: @estellelaurewrites

Paola Zakimi is the illustrator of Secrets I Know by Kallie George, Teddy & Co. by Cynthia Voigt, The Christmas Tree Who Loved Trains by Annie Silvestro, and Ruby’s Sword by Jacqueline Viessid. She is also a doll maker and fine artist and lives in Argentina. Her favorite part of the early morning is listening to the buzz of the bees while the sun comes out all bright and beautiful. You can learn more about her at www.paolazakimi.com or Instagram: @paolazakimi
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Apple and Magnolia: A STEM story woven into a friendship tale

Apple and Magnolia, by Laura Gehl/Illustrated by Patricia Metola, (Feb. 2022, Flyaway Books), $18, ISBN: 9781947888357

Ages 3-7

Apple and Magnolia are two trees with a connection, witnessed by a young girl of color named Britta. She enjoys the tree’s relationship to one another; her father and sister may not believe her, but her grandmother assures her that “unusual friendships can be the most powerful of all”. When Magnolia begins to show signs of being ill, Britta does her best to stay by her friends and support them both, using the scientific method to help facilitate the trees’ connection to the other: she connects two cups to a string so they can hear each other; wrapping a scarf between the two to feel each other’s warmth; measuring the distance between the trees to see if they are growing closer together, and journaling her findings, all with the support and love of her grandmother. Britta’s father and sister are largely for comic relief, providing the devil’s advocate side of science: the nay-sayer. Cheery illustrations that look like they could be taken from Britta’s own journal make this a wonderfully playful readaloud, including endpapers that depict Britta’s sketches of the trees and their flowers and fruit. Inspired by the science of trees and how they communicate with one another, Apple and Magnolia is a great storytime readaloud and perfection for a STEM storytime or Discovery Club-type story. Author Laura Gehl’s website has a free downloadable Educator’s Guide for Apple and Magnolia, plus resources her many of her other books.

For more information about trees and their relationships to one another, visit this NPR article on an ecologist who’s studied trees; this article from Smithsonian magazine; and this article from One Tree Planted. Andy Hirsch’s Science Comics Trees: Kings of the Forest also delves into these complex and amazing relationships.

Apple and Magnolia has starred reviews from Kirkus and Foreword Reviews.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Hiking Viking teaches his family valuable lessons

The Hiking Viking, by Laura Gehl/Illustrated by Timothy Banks, (Feb. 2022, Capstone Editions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781684464272

Ages 4-8

A young Viking enjoys more quiet pursuits while everyone around him brawls and battles, hollers and howls. But the Viking Games are coming, and Leif has to take part! Losing the games would make others think Leif’s family is weak, and leave them vulnerable. Can Leif figure out a way to show everyone that real treasure can’t always be measured in silver or gold? Laura Gehl tells a sweet story that values more thoughtful pursuits and a love of nature. Leif is able to get through to his clan when he shows them the beauty of the natural landscape surrounding them – the beautiful and famed fjords of Norway – rendered in gorgeous, colorful artwork. The story and illustration are reminiscent of animated favorites like How to Train Your Dragon, and the message is similar: be true to yourself, and others will value you for it. Laura Gehl writes with a deep appreciation for nature, translated masterfully by Timothy Banks. A fun and thoughtful book for readers. Visit publisher Capstone’s website for a free, downloadable Educator’s Guide.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

To let go… just a little bit: Somewhere

Somewhere, by Robie Harris/Illustrated by Armando Mariño, (Feb. 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536207354

Ages 4-6

A young girl and her father go for a walk in the park. She wants to go somewhere she’s never been before, so she kisses her father goodbye and wanders off to explore. She’s aware of every sight and sound, every color and texture, and collects souvenirs to bring back to Daddy, who’s waiting for her… so they can go somewhere else together. Watercolor and ink illustrations envelop the reader in a verdant, colorful setting that goes from park to adventurous landscape that provides a sense of wonder as the girl becomes smaller against the large bushes and trees she encounters, the flora and fauna she interacts with, and the perspective of the artwork. It’s a poetic story about a small moment in time that every parent and caregiver knows is coming: that moment where we have to let go, even just a little bit, to encourage a child’s independence. Here, the girl’s father is close, but never intrusive; he lets his child return to him after having a solo adventure. Once reunited, the two discover another new “somewhere” together. Keep this one in mind for Father’s Day, too; it’s always great to get a father-daughter book. Pair with Mi Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero and Hope Lim’s I Am a Bird. Get a teacher tip card from Candlewick’s website.

Robie Harris a New York Times best-selling author whose books include It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health and It’s NOT the Stork! A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families, and Friends. Visit her website for more about her books and for class visit information. Armando Mariño is an award-winning Cuban artist; you can find more of his artwork at his website.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Welcome Spring with My Big Book of Outdoors

My Big Book of Outdoors, by Tim Hopgood, (March 2022, Candlewick Studio), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536215335

Ages 7-10

One part poetry book, one part nonfiction resource, one part craft and activity primer, My Big Book of Outdoors is an illustrated guide to the seasons with activities and mixed media illustrations. Each season is organized like a scrapbook of art, poetry, nature facts, and nature-based projects to create, like chocolate nests (made with shredded wheat and chocolate); leaf mobiles, and bird feeders. Thoughtful observations and questions invite readers to consider nature as seasons move from one to the next; to think about different birds they see in each season, or look for types of plants and trees. The artwork is vibrant. Think of it as a scrapbook that celebrates and encourages active participation in each season. It’s beautiful to look at, enjoyable to read, fun to play with. There are tons of ideas for seasonal programs and grab-and-go programs in here, too – an all-around great resource for kids and educators.

My Big Book of Outdoors was originally published in the UK in 2021.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Some poetry books for National Poetry Month

April 1 starts off National Poetry Month, and Candlewick Press is ready with three new books to share with your readers! Take a look at these picture book poetry collections.

Behold Our Magical Garden : Poems Fresh from a School Garden, by Allan Wolf/Illustrated by Daniel Duncan, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536204551

Ages 8-12

Perfect for springtime reading, this collection of poems celebrates gardening at school; from scientific observations and flavorful herbs to bugs on strike and compost bins, all facets of gardening get a moment in the sun (so to speak) here. Colorful illustrations featuring diverse students and an enthusiastic teacher have cartoony moments and photorealistic artwork that comes together to give readers a fun expedition into gardening. Great for quick readalouds, Behold Our Magical Garden gives silly moments like an underwear-sporting thundercloud: “We saw up in the sky by chance / a rain cloud who had lost his pants. / But luckily he wore a pair / of silver lining thunder-wear”, and thoughtful moments, as with The Green Bean Bower: “so much depends / upon / a green bean / bower / covered with vine / leaves / climbing the bamboo / poles”. Back matter includes notes on each poem, and endpapers showcase a variety of gardening tools and inhabitants. What a way to welcome springtime planting activities!

For extension activity ideas, visit KidsGardening.org, and find learning activities, lesson plans, and information on designing a school garden of your own.

 

Marshmallow Clouds: Two Poets at Play among Figures of Speech, by Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek/Illustrated by Richard Jones, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536203035

Ages 9+

Framed by the four elements – fire, water, air, earth – and infused with dreamlike imagery, Marshmallow Clouds is a collection of poems that takes readers into the heart of a hot July day: “I was the crimson crayon / melting in a sunny car, / the color of firecrackers and flags / and Mars, where once water / cooled the red stones” and confides in the readers as to why pets don’t write: “Parrots could, actually, / but they don’t believe that’s / any of your business”. The authors let their imaginations run wild, envisioning remote controls “designed for the human hand / the way a pacifier fits exactly / where a baby cries” and old barns “pull[ing] on / its patched-up underwear of rotten boards / beneath its coveralls of corrugated metal”. Richard Jones’s dreamlike illustrations manage to bring Ted Kooser’s and Connie Wanek’s imagery to life while maintaining a surreal, hazy feel. Readers will devour these, come to the end, and turn back to start all over again.

Marshmallow Clouds has starred reviews from The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Booklist, and The Horn Book. Ted Kooser is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former US Poet Laureate; find more of his poetry at his webpage. Find more of Connie Wanek’s poetry at her website.

 

Take Off Your Brave, by Nadim (age 4)/Illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536223163

Ages 4-8

Enjoy this collection of poems that shows the world through a preschooler’s eyes. Nadim, the author, wrote these poems when he was a 4-year-old preschooler (his sister and his preschool class have piece in here as well) after discovering poetry at school. The poems are adorably created, by children for children, with observations on love: “Everyone has love / even baddies”, beloved teachers: “Miss Angela is nice. / Miss Angela smells like flowers. / Miss Angela is warm. / Miss Angela sounds like a bell, ringing gently”, and best friends: “He’s as fast as anyone – / Faster than everyone – / And everyone you’ve ever seen. / And he knows pretty much everything / About aliens”. The poems are a true, wonderful look into a preschooler’s mind; a sweet, comforting hug kids and adults alike could really use to get through a rough day. Essential reading for Poetry Month and beyond, teachers can use Nadim’s Take Off Your Brave as a class project jumping off point and create their own poetry collections to share. A note from Nadim’s mother explains how Nadim discovered poetry. Yasmeen Ismail’s watercolor illustrations are a joyful celebration of being a child, with a diverse group of children and animals playing together. Take Off Your Brave was originally published in the UK in 2021.

Poets.org has a wealth of National Poetry Month resources, including printable Poem in Your Pocket PDFs and programming ideas, both in-person and virtual.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Arbordale Publishing’s Compare and Contrast books get readers thinking

I haven’t written about Arbordale books in about a minute, but I am remedying that right now. The folks at Arbordale were kind enough to send me some of their new books to look over, and I love the colorful artwork and photos, interesting factual writing, and the thought-provoking activities at the end of each book. They also publish in English and Spanish, which is aces for my library kids. I’m starting off with their Compare and Contrast series, which takes a topic and encourages learners to think about similarities and differences.

Natural or Man-made? A Compare and Contrast Book, by Arbordale Publishing, (Sept. 2021, Arbordale Publishing), $10.95, ISBN: 9781643518244

Ages 4-8

Opening with an explanation of natural resources, Natural or Man-made? uses straightforward writing to explain natural resources and how we use those resources to create other resources. A tree, for instance, grows food, like nuts and fruits; we also use trees to make lumber, and build homes with them. We use plants and animals for clothing and food; we use sunlight and air by converting it to energy. Thought-provoking questions and color photos encourage readers to think about the different ways we use our natural resources. The Creative Minds section has four activities to expand on reading, you can find a PDF for Natural or Man-made‘s For Creative Minds section here, with permission for non-commercial use. (Psst… great for grab-and-go programs!)

You can find a PDF preview of Natural or Man-made on the book detail page at the Arbordale website.

 

Renewable or Non-Renewable Resources: A Compare and Contrast Book, by Arbordale Publishing, (Sept. 2021, Arbordale Publishing), $10.95, ISBN: 9781643519807

Ages 5-9

Continuing on the resources theme, we have Renewable or Non-Renewable Resources. Beginning with an age-appropriate explanation about natural resources and how they replace themselves: “within a period of time usually shorter than a person’s lifetime”, versus nonrenewable resources, which “cannot be easily replaced as it takes much longer than a human lifetime to make new”, the book elaborates on how natural resources replenish themselves and how nonrenewable resources, like oil, rocks, and minerals, lead humans to create synthetic materials to replace them when they run out – and how that impacts our planet. There’s a discussion on recycling nonrenewable resources and a cautionary word on not taking our resources for granted. A smart, respectful discussion on conservation, recycling, and being environmentally aware. Color photos throughout show a variety of renewable and nonrenewable resources; this is a great book to introduce in younger STEM classes. Create scavenger hunts and games by asking readers to find renewable versus nonrenewable resources! Find a PDF preview on the book detail page on the Arbordale website.

Donald Baiter on TeachersPayTeachers has a fun card sorting game on renewable and nonrenewable resources; Karen Jordan has a very cute song that helps with sorting the two concepts, and The Magical Gallery has natural resources clip art!

 

Penguins: A Compare and Contrast Book, by Cher Vatalaro, (Nov. 2021, Arbordale Publishing), $10.95, ISBN: 9781643519876

Ages 4-8

Penguins! Kids love penguins, I love penguins, Cher Vatalaro loves penguins! Penguins: Compare and Contrast is all about the 18 different species of penguins and where they live: and most of them live in warm climates, not cold ones! Colorful photos of each type of penguin, paired with informative text, let learners learn what makes each type of penguin alike and different, from colorful feathers to differently shaped beaks. Readers will be able to tell right away that these are all penguins, and standout features like orange and yellow patches make King and Emperor penguins very similar, yet wildly different from Macaroni and Rockhopper penguins, who sport colorful feathers around their eyes. A fun activity invites readers to match different penguins with their area of the world.

There is so much fiction and nonfiction available for penguin fans: make a great display! TeachersPayTeachers has loads of free penguin clip art available, including this Penguin Life Cycle Clip Art from Sylph Creatives. Education.com has a wealth of free penguin resources: worksheets, coloring sheets, crafts, even lesson plans. Preview Penguins: A Compare and Contrast at Arbordale’s book detail page.

 

Otters: River or Sea? A Compare and Contrast Book, by Cathleen McConnell, (Nov. 2021, Arbordale Publishing), $10.95, ISBN: 9781643519784

Ages 4-8

Otters are like puppies of the water. Look at those boopable noses! Otters: River or Sea? A Compare and Contrast Book, like Penguins, is about the similarities and differences between river and sea otters: their habitats, their physiology; appearance; eating habits, and social habits. Readers will love the colorful photos of otters at play, with their babies, in groups, and in action, and fun facts and easy-to-read writing make this a fun way to learn. There are fun otter books – fiction, like Laurie Keller’s Do Unto Otters and Lisa Connor’s Oliver’s Otter Phase; nonfiction, like NatGeo Kids’s Sea Otters and Susannah Buhrman-Deever’s If You Take Away the Otter – that will form a display that features something for everyone. Education.com has free otter worksheets and coloring sheets; National Geographic has a webpage with facts and information. You can see a preview of Otters: River or Sea? A Compare and Contrast Book at Arbordale’s book detail page.

Extra shout-out: Arbordale features a free multilingual ebook every month. Check out their website and bookmark it. Find all sorts of free resources, including downloads for each Arbordale book’s For Creative Minds section, at the Arbordale website.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Going Outside board books introduce concepts in nature

Going Outside: Look, by Amy Huntington, (Sept. 2021, Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 9781684642465

Ages 0-3

This new concept board book series invites readers to mindfully explore their world, concentrating on their senses.  In Look, a toddler and her parent help rehabilitate an urban space, creating a community garden where there was once litter and neglect: “Bags of paper, bottles, cans, / Bits of plastic, shards of glass. / Friends and neighbors, pitching in. / Look, what can you see?” Spreads show the community working together to clean up the area, boxing up garbage and tending to the land, planting and watering the earth, creating a welcoming garden. The artwork moves from a darker, almost gloomy cityscape to a warm, green space that local wildlife returns to, with gentle repetition to encourage readers to point out what they see on each spread. Ask your littles what they see and how it differs from the previous spread: are there more plants? Less junk and litter? Notice how the cityscape fades further into the background as the garden – the focus of the story – grows and flourishes. The toddler and her parent are brown-skinned; the community is diverse.

Download a coloring page for Look from publisher Kane Miller and have them ready to hand out.

 

 

Going Outside: Listen, by Amy Huntington, (Sept. 2021, Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 9781684642472

Ages 0-3

The companion book to Look, Listen follows a toddler and his parent as they go on a nature walk on a rainy day. The focus here in on the sounds around the two: “Winds whisper. Winds whoosh. / Rain pitters, patters, pours, / Through the leaves. / Listen, what can you hear?” The fonts play with language, stretching and bending to elicit sounds from readers. The repetitive question, “What can you hear?” invites readers to think about what the characters must be hearing, based on the verse, or even what they themselves hear in their environments. This is a great book to read twice in a seating if you can manage it: ask your readers to close their eyes and listen to a reading first, asking them, to form a picture in their minds of walking through a woodsy area on a rainy day. Animals add to the soundscape on each spread, as deer sniff, moles scratch, birds tweet, and frogs croak. The parent and child are people of color. Watercolor illustrations create a peaceful landscape and foster a love for nature.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Amy Huntington has planned for our other touch, taste, and smell! Download a coloring page for Listen at Kane Miller’s webpage.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads, Uncategorized

Guess the birdie! Who is Singing?

Who is Singing?, by Janet Halfmann/Illustrated by Chrissy Chabot, (July 2021, Pen It! Publications), $20.99, ISBN: 978-1954868373

Ages 2-6

Take a walk and listen on any given day, and you’ll hear a cacophony of birds: tweets, chirps, screeches, and coos abound; even city kids can hear a dove coo, a pigeon scold, and a blue jay (like the one who likes to argue with the squirrels, right outside my window). Who is Singing? is author Janet Halfmann’s tribute to some colorful, musical birds, all identifiable by their songs. Using each bird’s defining song, repetitive verse, and a noticeable characteristic for each bird, Janet Halfmann introduces readers to the gentle art of bird-watching and bird-listening, giving readers 11 fairly familiar birds to start out with. You’ll recognize pigeons, “begging for treats along a city sidewalk”; “bully loud and bold” blue jays screaming; cheery chick-a-dees, “dressed up for dinner in a black cap and bib”, and more. Ms. Halfmann encourages the birds to “take a bow”, making for a fun readaloud where you can invite your littles to take a bow – or let a bird puppet or flannel take their own bows when you announce them, too.

Chrissy Chabot’s illustrations are bright and lovely, photorealistic birds that will help readers more easily spot and identify them the next time they’re out and about. A lovely little story to read out loud, and works well with a lapsit. Print out some coloring pages and let the kiddos envision their own colorful birds and make some music of their own!

Posted in picture books

The Over and Under series continues with Over and Under the Canyon

Over and Under the Canyon, by Kate Messner/Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal, (Sept. 2021, Chronicle Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781452169392

Ages 5-8

The fifth book in Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal’s series on the world’s habitats, Over and Under the Canyon explores life in a desert through the eyes of a family on a hike. Mom and child hike through the desert, glimpsing hawks circle, hear stones crunch underfoot, and see any animal life scrambling, seeking relief from the sweltering sun. They squeeze through tight spaces and observe animals hunting for food: a jackrabbit is lucky, a rattlesnake is not. The boy joyfully dances in flowerbeds and marvels at the world around him. Back at camp, the family eats together; as the sun goes down, they hear coyotes howl and glimpse – thanks to mom’s special flashlight – a scorpion making its way through the dark. The son is biracial; his mother is a woman of color, and his father appears white. A lovely, nonintrusive look at both diurnal and nocturnal animals and desert life, the artwork is rich with browns and oranges during the day, cool blues at night. Kate Messner tells a beautiful story, describing the desert evening as a “desert-night lullaby of moonlight and shadows, insect song and stars”. Together, she and Christopher Silas Neal make an outstanding team. Great for early STEM/STEAM collections.