Stop Feedin’ the Boids!, by James Sage/Illustrated by Pierre Pratt, (Apr. 2017, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-77138-613-5
Recommended for readers 4-8
A young girl named Swanda moves to Brooklyn. Missing all the local wildlife she used to enjoy, she spots a pigeon on a rooftop and decides to set up a feeder on her fire escape. Since Swanda appears to be new to New York living, she has no idea what can of worms she’s opened, and before she can say, “bagel”, pigeons swarm the fire escape. New Yorkers know all too well what a horde of pigeons brings, and sure enough, Swanda’s neighbors find themselves under siege as the pigeons leave their mark as literally as they do figuratively.
Stop Feedin’ Da Boids is a love letter to New York. Sage and Pratt capture the city’s diversity by giving us a heroine of color, and in the bustling community. The pages are loaded with representatives of different cultures and colors; Hasidim and Rastafarian, women with rollers in their hair, kids running through the street, men chatting with one another. Pratt even captures the New York pigeon to perfection, with the bright yellow eyes that target lock on any scrap of food in the birds’ vicinity, and the grey/black bodies with a hint of color, usually green. Sage nails the New Yawk accent so well when Swanda’s beleaguered neighbors gather together to tell Swanda, “YOU GOTTA STOP FEEDIN’ DA BOIDS!” that any reader, anywhere, will hear it, as clear as a clanging bell.
This makes a great read-aloud – you can go to town with the voice! – and invite the kids to give their best New York accents a whirl. Let them feel like part of the city! There are oodles of New York-centric books to add to a New York/New Yawk storytime: Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny books spotlight Mo’s art over black and white photos of Brooklyn, home of Swanda and the pigeons; Mommy Poppins has a nice list of New York-related books to choose from, and I also love Christoph Niemann’s Subway and Bryan Collier’s Uptown. You could also have a pigeon read-aloud, which gives you an excuse to read Mo Willems’ Pigeon books. (Not that anyone needs an excuse to read Mo.) A fun storytime craft that may or may not get you in trouble: a bird feeder. Or you can do the sticker/coloring sheet thing, too.
Stop Feedin’ Da Boids! received a starred review from Kirkus.
The Way Home in the Night, by Akiko Miyakoshi, (Apr. 2017, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771386630
Recommended for ages 4-7
A mother bunny carries her little bunny home at night. Narrated in the first person by the young bunny, readers see what he sees from the its vantage point in bunny’s mother’s arms. Shops are closing; phones ring; bunny smells a pie. Neighbors have parties, watch television, and say goodbye, all visible through their open windows. As the father bunny tucks the little one into bed, little bunny wonders about all the neighbors: are the party guests saying goodnight? Is the restaurant cook taking a bath, and is the bookseller reading on the couch?
Children love being out at night. It’s a magical thing; everything looks different. The bunny’s descriptions of the sights, sounds, and smells of night time, carried in mother’s arms, will appeal to readers who have had the same experience. The story also provides an opportunity for interactivity – ask kids to think of a time they, like the bunny, were carried home, and what they remember. Take your own kids outside at night for a walk down the street – what do you see together?
Akiko Miyakoshi’s black and white pencil, charcoal, and acrylic gouache artwork adds gently placed color for emphasis, and the hazy look to the artwork makes the story almost dreamlike; like the young bunny’s sleepy memory. Invite kids to draw their neighborhood at night – what are the neighbors doing? Do they hear cars, people talking, a train rumbling by, a dog bark, or silence?
The Way Home in the Night received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. The original Japanese release received a 2016 Bologna Ragazzi Award. Miyakoshi’s first picture book, The Storm (2016), won the Nissan Children’s Storybook and Picture Book Grand Prix.
Butterfly Park, by Elly MacKay (2015, Running Press), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0762453399
Recommended for ages 3-8
A young girl moves from her home, surrounded by green and butterflies, to a new house, where she hears horns and sirens, and everything looks the same. Until she finds the gates to a park next door, that read “Butterfly Park”. Thrilled, she drops in – but there are no butterflies to be found in the park! She sets to work with her neighbors to create a place that the butterflies will return to again and again.
This book delivers such positive messages in a beautiful setting. Created with collage and diorama, the art seemingly takes on an extra dimension, inviting the reader to join in the quest to bring the butterflies to Butterfly Park. The characters, known only as The Girl and The Boy, facilitate this by easily allowing any child reading the book to become The Girl or The Boy, chasing butterflies and planting flowers with nectar that the butterflies will love. The entire neighborhood comes together to help The Girl create the garden, illustrating the value and the fun in teamwork. The girl’s determination to make the best of her move and her new surroundings will resonate with anyone who’s had to move and start over.
The book’s cover folds out into a poster featuring plants that attract butterflies, and the final pages fold out into a beautiful panorama of a community butterfly garden. Kids will likely want to get some seeds and tools and plant their own gardens after reading this book – and they should! It’s springtime! Show kids they can create a garden anywhere – container gardens and houseplants are just as much fun to work with as outdoor gardens.
Join #TheButterflyTrail at Running Press’ Butterfly Park site and learn more about the book and the author.
Recommended for ages 9-12
Cal lives with his family, including Frankie, a talking dog
that only he can understand, next door to a very loud neighbor. Mr. Frout regularly wakes the neighborhood with clanging and banging in the early hours of the morning. He’s not a very friendly neighbor, so curious Cal decides to spy on him to see what all the commotion is about and discovers Mr. Frout, in a suit of armor, hovering in the air. His experiment goes awry and Cal rescues him, which makes Mr. Frout a little more friendly and Cal learns that Mr. Frout is making an anti-gravity machine. Inevitably, things get out of hand and it’s left to Cal to save the day.
The book skews toward the younger end of the reading range, as it is a chapter book with lots of black and white line drawings that will keep younger readers interested. The characters are well-described, and have just enough reality to them that kids can identify with them, while being fantastic enough to make the story fun. I appreciated that the parents weren’t drawn as hopeless dimbulbs, as often happens in children’s books – I particularly liked a section of the book where Cal’s mother gets angry at him for befriending a stranger (Mr. Frout), despite Cal’s assertions that he is friendly. It was a smart way to take advantage of a teachable moment on stranger danger.
Richard Hamilton and Sam Hearn are an British writer-illustrator team who have worked on four books together.