Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Over and Under the Waves explores the ocean

Over and Under the Waves, by Kate Messner/Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal, (Sept. 2022, Chronicle Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781797203478

Ages 4-7

Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal’s latest Over and Under story explores the ocean ecosystem. Narrated in the first person by a child while out rowing with their family, we encounter sea lions sunning on the rocks, birds soaring overhead, and a mother and baby otter cuddling among the kelp. A glimpse below the water reveals an entirely different, bustling world: shimmering fish and bristly urchins; lurking eels and drifting jellies, and a giant surprise! There’s a sense of wonder in Messner’s storytelling, beautifully translated by Neal, who creates spread after spread of mixed media realistic ocean life. The family is present only to help place the reader in the story; nature takes center stage, with the human characters occasionally appearing from the side of the spread, or from far above to provide perspective. Endpapers show sea stars, fish, and shells in white silhouette across a field of deep blue. An author’s note describes Messner’s inspiration for the tale, and an “About the Animals” section provides a brief informational paragraph on each animal in the story. Recommended books and websites direct readers to further reading. A thoughtful meditation on the ocean, and an excellent addition to both this series and STEM/STEAM and nature collections.

Posted in picture books

The Wild Garden brings a community together

The Wild Garden, by Cynthia Cliff, (May 2022, Prestel Publishing), $16.95, ISBN: 9783791375120

Ages 5-9

Jilly is a young girl who lives with her grandfather and her dog, Blue, in a small village. The community where they live works together to plan and grow their village garden as Jilly, Bleu, and Grandpa  wander the woods outside the village walls, foraging in the wild garden for berries, nuts, and edible greens. When the community considers knocking down a wall to expand their garden, Jilly and Grandpa take action to raise awareness and respect for the wildlife currently living and thriving there. Alternating spreads show the community working together to care for their gardens and Jilly, Grandpa, and Bleu exploring the woods. The narrative and illustrations show both sides of a coin: love of nature and working together. Jilly and her grandfather create a walking path with signs to invite their neighbors to explore the area and develop their own relationships with the land. Once understanding is achieved, they create a “new kind of garden” where the people and the wildlife coexist. Colorful illustrations show diverse townspeople working and playing together; natural areas are vibrant with life. The story moves through the seasons, with a color palette that shifts from verdant greens to warm oranges and yellows. A good story about community and on coexisting with nature.

 

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Spend a relaxing read At the Pond

At the Pond, by David Elliott/Illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford, (May 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536205985

Ages 3-7

David Elliott adds to his poetry series with At the Pond, a meditation on a day in the life of all the animals who live in and around the pond. Red-winged blackbirds sing and a family of mallards have a morning swim; dragonflies buzz by and a water snake guards her nest. It’s a lovely glimpse at the natural world, alternating beautiful lyrics and amusing wordplay. One spread illustrating a frog’s lifecycle from tadpole to frog reads, “Polly! / Polly! / Pollywog! / Golly! / Golly! Golly! Frog!”; another, a reflection on a water strider: “…enigmatic / but prolific. / Each day / he writes / his story / in rippling / hieroglyphics”. Amy Schimler-Safford’s mixed media illustrations create spread after spread of alluring images with deep greens, blues, and browns setting the background for brilliant pops of color. A gorgeous book for nature lovers and a great accompaniment to discussions on ecosystems. Back matter includes more information about the flora and fauna that makes an appearance in the book.

Publisher Candlewick has a downloadable teacher’s guide for companion books in the poetry series. Education.com has coloring sheets and activity sheets to extend pond-related learning.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books about Birds

Birds are a great storytime theme: there are great songs and fingerplays, crafts are plentiful and adorable, and there’s a bird for every season. I’ve got some new(ish) bird books for your storytimes right here; let’s see what’s good.

Odd Birds: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Flock, by Laura Gehl/Illustrated by Gareth Lucas, (June 2022, Abrams Appleseed), $8.99, ISBN: 9781419742231

Ages 2-4

Laura Gehl and Gareth Lucas’s companion board book to Odd Beasts (2021) has gone to the birds! Odd Birds is a rhyming look at eight different birds, all with unusual characteristics: “This seabird has a pouch. / This booby has blue feet. / This shoebill’s beak is huge. / This ostrich likes the heat.” Striking, colorful illustration brings these birds to life, with a new spread for every encounter. Back matter includes photos and descriptions on each of the eight featured birds: the magnificent frigatebird; the blue-footed booby; the ostrich; the shoebill stork; the hoatzin; the oilbird; the California condor, and the burrowing owl. An excellent storytime choice.

 

The Song of the Nightingale, by  Tanya Landman/Illustrated by Laura Carlin, (Apr. 2022, Candlewick Studio), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217681

Ages 6-9

A newly created world thrums with color, but the animals are so drab! The Painter sets to work, imbuing each animal with color and patterns, from the striped zebras and blue whales to the golden scarab beetle. As the day comes to an end and the animals head back to their homes, the Painter discovers a shy bird, preferring the quiet and stillness of the nighttime, has come forward for a splash of color. Will the Painter have enough paint left?

This rich story carries the lyricism and storytelling magic of myth and legend. Tanya Landman uses sporadic rhyme, alliteration, and humor to tell her story and enchant readers. Watercolor, acrylic, and pencil illustrations add a dreamlike quality, letting readers easily imagine an omniscient Painter wielding a paintbrush to bring color to their world. Th titular character’s gift adds a final spark of wonder. Endpapers show black and white and colorful menageries. A gorgeous story that wraps itself around readers.

Show kids a picture of a nightingale at National Geographic. Print out some coloring pages and let kids become Painters! Here are some nightingale pictures, and here are some wild animal coloring pages.

 

Chirp!, by Mary Murphy, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217698

Ages 2-6

Mary Murphy has entered that realm of go-to authors I always have ready for anyone who asks me for book suggestions for early readers: Eric Carle, Lois Ehlert, Donald Crews, and Mary Murphy. With Chirp!, different birds show off their different songs as the night gradually moves toward a bright new day. A little bluebird demands their turn, and the other birds join in, serenading the new day. Bold, easy-to-read fonts and high-contrast illustrations make this an excellent lapsit choice for babies, too!

With colorful, bold illustrations, cheerful rhymes, and lovable characters, kids love looking at her books, and grownups love reading them. An insta-buy for storytime collections.

 

The Legend of the Storm Goose, by Fiona Halliday, (Feb. 2022, Page Street Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781645673484

Ages 5-8

Fiona Halliday creates a legend, inspired by the Scottish coastline of her childhood, about a magical bird that protects those who live and work along the coast. Erin is a little girl living with her dad and her Nana, and loves hearing her father’s stories about the Storm Goose, a great white bird who protects him while he’s at sea. Shortly after he returns to the sea, a terrible storm hits and she discovers an injured bird, tangled in a net. Is it the Storm Goose? And if it is, who’s protecting her Papa?

The Legend of the Storm Goose is a moving story of grief, loss, and recovery. Illustrations add a mythic quality to the overall look and feel of the story, with the Storm Goose wreathed in gold dust; a shimmering aura. A sensitive story about healing oneself by healing another.

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.