Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Everyone has bad days!

Mr. Brown’s Bad Day, by Lou Peacock/Illustrated by Alison Friend, (Nov. 2020, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536214369

Ages 2-5

Mr. Brown is a tiger with a Very Important Job; as such, he has a Very Important Briefcase that he carries with him at all times. Mr. Brown’s briefcase goes on a big adventure during a lunch in the park one day, and our poor friend is forced to chase it all over town! What can possibly be so important in the Very Important Briefcase? No matter how big you get, or how Very Important you may be, some things are just non-negotiable. Mr. Brown is a friendly-faced lion, and the colorful mixed media illustrations show his madcap day; he starts off in a pin-striped suit, but ends up bedraggled, shirt sleeves rolled up, tie askew, jacket completely missing. The repeated “fortunately” and “unfortunately” phrases invite kids to predict whether something good or bad is about to happen. A fun adventure and a fun storytime; pair with stories like Peter Brown’s Mr. Tiger Goes Wild and Aliki’s That’s Good, That’s Bad! for similar tiger adventures.

Mr. Brown’s Bad Day has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books about friends make back to school all better!

So how’s everyone doing? My kids went back to school as fully remote students today… it’s got to get better, right? RIGHT? I will say that one thing that’s been a saving grace during this has been the ability to get together with friends. We wear our masks, we sit out in the open, and our kids are able to run around together and get some much-needed friend time in.

My older son, a high school senior (WOW), has been active throughout the quarantine by gaming and videochatting with his friends; he’s just started meeting up with them in public parks and spaces, so that’s helped him, too.

Seeing my 3rd grader brighten up when he saw all his friends online (the remote learners all have the same class for now) was amazing. He saw a bunch of these kids yesterday, but seeing him light up at the thought of having ALL of his school friends in his class was wonderful: “Mom! There’s Harry! And Rahwi! And Miles!” He went down the line, calling out every one of his friends, and it helped him engage with the teacher and ease into a fairly stressful day (for me, anyway).

Having said that, I thought I’d talk up some books about friends that are just right for readalouds this time of year, when we’re making new friends and greeting existing friends. Enjoy some buddy time with your littlest friends and read a few of these.

Lost Beast, Found Friend, by Josh Trujillo/Illustrated by Nick Kennedy and Melanie Lapovich, (June 2020, Oni Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781620107423

Ages 3-7

This rhyming story of friends helping one another is absolutely adorable. Keelee is a young girl living on an island, who discovers a big, purple beast one day! The poor beast is lost and scared, and Keelee comes to the rescue by calming and befriending the Beast, and journeys with her new, lost friend across the island to find Beast’s home. The rhyme is so comforting; it’s a joy to read and listen to, and kids will ask for this one again and again. The colors are just incredible: so vibrant and happy, with adorable characters and lush landscapes. I love spending time with this story and can’t wait to bring this to my preschoolers. It’s a sweet story of friendship that appeals to all ages.

 

 

Will You Be Friends With Me?, by Kathleen Long Bostrom/Illustrated by Jo de Ruiter, (July 2020, WorthyKids), $7.99, ISBN: 9781546033806

Ages 0-3

I love board books! Will You Be Friends With Me? is an adorable board book that’s all about celebrating the little things that make us individuals: “I like orange. / You like pink. / I use crayon. / You use ink.” Each phrase ends with the question, “Will you be friends with me?”; it’s an invitation to embrace these fun differences and celebrate the choices available to us. Featuring a soothing rhyme scheme and a gently illustrated group of diverse children, this is an adorable story for storytime and cuddle time. It’s a sweet way to introduce personal preferences and remind toddlers and preschoolers that we don’t always have to like the same things to be friends: in fact, liking different things just gives us that much more to talk about. Don’t miss the free, downloadable companion activity sheets, courtesy of publisher, Hachette.

 

The Same But Different Too, by Karl Newson/Illustrated by Kate Hindley, (March 2020, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212013

Ages 2-6

Another book about celebrating what makes us unique, The Same But Different Too is a rhyming look at what makes us the same – but different, all at once. Diverse children and animals join together to celebrate what we have in common, and what makes us each a special individual: children play hide and seek with a zebra, against a striped wall: “I am playful. / You are too. / I can’t hide as well as you”;  a child and a tiger wait at a rainy bus stop, while another child dives underwater with jellyfish, a whale, and a squid: “I am wet. / You are too. I can splash and swim like you.” The pencil artwork and digitally colored illustrations are lively, cartoony, and fun. This one is a guaranteed win for storytime.

 

The Word for Friend, by Aidan Cassie, (June 2020, Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR), $18.99, ISBN: 9780374310462

Ages 4-8

Kemala is a pangolin who’s moved, with her family, to a new country! She loves to talk and can’t wait to make new friends… but she realizes that their words are different from hers. She doesn’t understand the language here in her new country, and she curls into a little ball, feeling alone. But not to worry! A friendly anteater named Ana introduces herself to Kemala as she sits by herself at recess, cutting animal shapes from leaves. The two bond over a shared love of crafting, and before Kemala knows it, she’s laughing and learning how to communicate, with and without words. A timely story of kindness, empathy, and being the new kid, The Word for Friend is touching and heart-aching at points. Aidan Cassie makes us ache for Kemala when she realizes that “all her wonderful words were missing”; and we rejoice as Kemala and Ana discover how to communicate together with the puppets they create, giving Kemala the confidence she needs to come out of her little ball. An author’s note introduces readers to Esperanto, Kemala’s “new language”, and provides phrases used throughout the book. There’s a note about pangolins, too! (If you love them and want more pangolin stories, may I steer you to Tracey Hecht’s Nocturnals series?) The artwork has earth colors and softer, less cartoony versions of animals like foxes, otters, raccoons, and, naturally, a pangolin and an anteater. The endpapers are stunning, with black, intricate cutout artwork of animal puppets that become part of the story, set against a brown/beige background.

A gorgeous story of friendship and language that you shouldn’t miss. Keep this with books like Anne Sibley O’Brien’s Someone New and I’m New Here, and Chana Stiefel’s My Name is Wakawakaloch!

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

#HomesCool: Career Day, Playing with Words, Women’s History, and ICK!

More #HomesCool fun as I catch up on my Summer Reading TBR! Here’s what’s good this week:

Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of, by Natalie Labarre, (Apr. 2020, Nosy Crow), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536212198

Ages 9-12

Welcome to Career Day! What do you want to be when you grow up: a librarian? Teacher or doctor? How about… a Train Pusher, or a Pet Preservationist? If the usual Career Day job list is leaving you with a case of the blahs, Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of is the book for you and your kiddos. Oversized and illustrated in full color, this book spotlights jobs that are off the beaten path: sure, kids may have heard of an Egyptologist, but do they know that a Body Farmer uses the bodies of folks who’ve donated their bodies to science to recreate crime scenes or do scientific research? Or that a Chief Sniffer smell-checks anything going on a spacecraft launch? How about creating works of art from cheese, like a Cheese Sculptor? There are so many great jobs in here, kids will never look at Career Day the same way again. Illustrated with upbeat, fun artwork, and bright blue endpapers that give nods to all sorts of careers waiting inside, this is way too much fun, and a brand new take on the question, “So… what do you want to be when you grow up?”.

 

Alphamaniacs: Builders of the 26 Wonders of the Word, by Paul Fleischman/Illustrated by Melissa Sweet, (Apr. 2020, Candlewick Studio), $19.99, ISBN: 9780763690663

Ages 12+

Looking like an artist’s journal, filled with colorful, mixed media illustrations in bold, wild colors, Alphamaniacs is a book for those of us who love words and language. Twenty-six profiles fill this book, but they’re not the kind of wordsmiths you may think of: Simon Vostre, the 15-century publisher of religious books who wrote book curses to protect his works from careless readers and handlers: “Whoever steals this Book of Prayer / May he be ripped apart by swine, / His heart be splintered, this I swear, / And his body dragged along the Rhine”; Corín Tellado, the prolific author whose writing career left us with over 4,000 novels; and Daniel Nussbaum, the creator of “PL8SPK” – vanity license plates that retell the classics – are all here, as are other word artists and lovers. The book is perfect for tweens and teens who love a good word-related joke, and can be used in ELA classes to show how much fun it is to play with language. Any language!

Alphamaniacs has starred reviews from Kirkus and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

 

Noise Makers: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices & Changed the World, by Kazoo Magazine, Edited by Erin Bried, (Jan. 2020, Alfred A. Knopf), $25.99, ISBN: 9780525580171

Ages 9-14

This book is AMAZING. It’s a graphic novel look at 25 women who made history, written and drawn by some of the most outstanding names in comics and graphic novels today, including Lucy Knisley, Maris Wicks, and Kat Leyh. Collected by the editors at Kazoo Magazine, every woman profiled here gets star treatment: a biographical spread with a picture, summary paragraph, and bullets points, inviting readers to see what they have in common with these women (talk about inspiring!), and a short graphic novel story from the woman’s life. Eugenie Clark, the “Shark Whisperer” (and Shark Lady, according to Jess Keating), is here; Wangari Maathai, who planted trees in Kenya, is here, too. Junko Tabei, the first woman to reach the peak of Mount Everest; artist Frida Kahlo, and musician and spy Josephine Baker are all here, too. Their stories are beautifully told and in a way that links reader, writer, and subject. Noise Makers organizes profiles under six areas: Grow (women who worked with nature); Tinker (entrepreneurs and inventors); Play (those with more physical accomplishments); Create (artists and creators); Rally (advocates and activists); and Explore (pioneers and explorers). This is essential, joyful, reading. Each contributing artist has a profile in the back matter. Put a copy on your Biography shelves and a copy on your Graphic Novels shelves.

 

 

Ick! Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses, by Melissa Stewart, (June 2020, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426337468

Ages 7-13

You have got to love NatGeo Kids for having their finger on the pulse of what kids like. Ick! celebrates the grossest stuff in the animal world: caterpillars that camouflage themselves to look like dung, birds who build their nests with spit, a wasp who builds her nest inside her prey; it’s all here, with full-color photos that will make readers squeal with macabre delight. Organized into sections on Disgusting Dinners, Disgusting Dwellings, and Disgusting Defenses, readers learn all about the ways animals live, eat, and protect themselves. Callout facts and stats feature throughout the book, as do “Extra Ick!” sections with even grosser facts! Birds, bugs, mammals, fish, lizards, every type of animal can be found here: 45 of them, to be precise. A glossary, selected sources, and index round out the back matter.

Pair this with NatGeo Kids’ and Anna Claybourne’s Don’t Read This Book Before Dinner for an all-out squeal fest. And check out the Ick! section of author Melissa Stewart’s webpage, which includes a great interactive teaching presentation!

 

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

#SummersCool: Concepts, Political Science, and MAD LIBS!

Summer marches on, and we still don’t know what Fall is going to look like. So let’s keep pulling together all the learning material we can get our hands on, because whether or not we realize it, we’re all learning alongside our kids these days. Let’s make it fun!

This or That? What Will You Choose at the British Museum?, by Pippa Goodhart, (March 2020, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212235

Ages 3-7

First up, I’ve got a great concept book: This or That? is part of the Early Learning at the Museum series from Candlewick’s Nosy Crow imprint. Author Pippa Goodhart and the Trustees of the British Museum have curated 12 spreads of artifacts from the British Museum’s collection, each with a different theme in mind: would you rather wear a skirt or a shirt? Live in a tent or a tree house? Soar above the ground in a balloon or skim the water in a boat? There are hundreds of jumping off points for more questions, some posed in the text (“Do you see any vehicles pulled by animals?” “Do you see any buildings with a ladder?”), and endless questions you can come up with as you look through the pictures with your kiddos. This is serious I Spy territory for colors, shapes, and counting here. The index has numbered spreads that provide more information about each featured piece. This is just a gorgeous, fun book that always offers something new to discover.

 

Baby Loves Political Science: Democracy!, by Ruth Spiro/Illustrated by Greg Paprocki, (April 2020, Charlesbridge), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-62354-227-6

Ages 0-5

And now, for political science! The Baby Loves… series of board books have been a hit at my library (Baby Loves Science titles include Baby Loves Quarks! and Baby Loves Aerodynamics!), so I’m especially interested in this latest offshoot of the series. The first book, Baby Loves Political Science: Democracy! introduces the democratic process to little ones with easy-to-understand explanations of choosing leaders and defining terms like “candidate”, “rally”, and “polling place”. Bright, colorful and cartoony illustrations appeal to the littlest listeners, inviting them to look at the action in the books and get used to hearing these new vocabulary words; the text is wonderful for explaining the political process to pre-K readers and Kindergarteners. Ruth Spiro and Greg Paprocki let kids know that there’s enough room for everyone to get involved and have a voice, including cheering parents on when they’re voting, stamping postcards, and coloring signs for rallies. Involve children early on so they’ll grow up knowing they have a voice! Charlesbridge has a free, downloadable activity kit with coloring sheets and more.

 

Baby Loves Political Science: Justice!, by Ruth Spiro/Illustrated by Greg Poprocki, (Sept. 2020, Charlesbridge), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-62354-228-3

Ages 0-5

Coming in September, we have a new Baby Loves Political Science book, Justice! Here, a little boy learns that breaking rules come with consequences, when he breaks something at home; it’s a jumping off point to explain how laws are rules that keep our communities safe and fair, and touches on an explanation of the Constitution, three branches of government, and how lawyers and courts help interpret the law to keep things as safe and fair as possible for all of us.

Greg Poprocki’s artwork is adorably bright and sweet, creating expressive cartoon characters who lead readers through classrooms, public spaces, and the halls of the court and government. Ruth Spiro explains huge concept in an easy-to-understand way that kids (and, like me, some adults) will easily understand and appreciate.  I’m a fan of this new offshoot of Baby Loves Science and look forward to seeing what else is on the horizon. (Psst… Baby Loves Civil Disobedience? Anyone?)

 

Mad Libs Workbook: Grade 2 Reading, by Mad Libs, (Apr. 2020, Penguin Young Readers), $8.99, ISBN: 978-0-593-09616-1

Ages 7-9

WOW, I never thought I’d see the day when Mad Libs was recognized as an actual ELA aid! Mad Libs kept me sane during many a summer road trip as a kid, and seeing these new workbooks now just make my ’80s kid heart happy. Remember Mad Libs? You created crazy stories by inserting random adjectives, verbs, names of animals, numbers, planets, you name it, into the dialogue, and then read it back? Hilarious! Well, now, my generation must be in the driver’s seat, because there’s a line of Mad Libs Reading Workbooks for Grades 1-4. I checked out a copy of Grade 2’s reading workbook, because I have a second grader (well, he’s a rising third grader now) at home, so why not?

WOW. So spiffy.  Now aligned with State and National Common Core Standards, Mad Libs workbooks have phonics work, grammar and spelling explanations, comprehension exercises, and vocabulary words. There are rebuses throughout the stories, helping readers use pictures to look at columns and identify the types of words that get dropped in the slots. Rather than just note, “adjective”, for instance, there will be a picture that leads the child to a column full of descriptive words. There are phonics exercises, with work on prefixes and suffixes, plurals, digraphs, and more. This is a phonics workout wrapped in absolute fun, and my kiddo and I are having a ball with it. Mad Libs, I’m so glad you’re still with me. Parents and educators, use some of these for summer reading challenges – or rewards!

 

That’s all for this #SummersCool. More to come! Stay cool and safe!

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Happy Earth Day! Books for the Journey.

Tomorrow is Earth Day, which is a surreal experience when we’re sheltering in place. Luckily, we can still go out, taking precautions, to enjoy our world; whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood or just sitting in front of your home to notice the sky, the trees, the birds: everything around us is part of the experience. Here are some books to enjoy on the way.

Only a Tree Knows How to Be a Tree, by Mary Murphy, $16.99, ISBN: 9781536214703

Ages 3-7

Is there anything like a comfort of a Mary Murphy book? As soon as I see her artwork and that font I’ve come to know and love, I just know I’m going to experience the picture book equivalent of a hug. Her new book, Only a Tree Knows how to Be a Tree, celebrates nature and life by pointing out how we’re all unique and how we all manage to live together, here, on Earth. Trees have leaves that turn sunshine into food; birds build homes in trees and can fly; dogs can wag their tails and flick water into their mouths to drink, fish live in water and flash like jewels. We are all a part of one another, as each spread illustrates, yet only a fish can be a fish; only a bird can be a bird; only a tree can be a tree. We’re all unique. Mary Murphy’s brush and ink artwork is colorful, bright, inviting, and warm. Endpapers show vibrant areas with a varied group of people coming together to celebrate trees and play in the sun. It’s just the perfect book to start off an Earth Day readaloud.

Mary Murphy’s author website has free, downloadable coloring sheets and card crafts! Keep the fun going!

Only a Tree Knows How to Be a Tree has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

 

Alba and the Ocean Cleanup, by Lara Hawthorne, (March 2020, Big Picture Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536210446

Ages 4-8

Alba is a sweet little fish who loves collecting shiny things. She enjoys being surrounded by her friends in their ocean home, but, as the ocean becomes more polluted, her friends have moved on, looking for cleaner waters and leaving Alba all alone. When Alba spies a shiny pearl, she must have it: and ends up trapped in a plastic bottle! A young girl cleaning up her beach notices Alba and takes her home to rehabilitate while the girl mobilizes her town to clean up the beach. Once she returns Alba to cleaner water, she’s thrilled to discover that her friends have returned – and that she can put her shiny pearl into her collection to proudly show off! An engaging story with dual messages makes Alba and the Ocean Cleanup such a good story to read on Earth Day and every day. Kids will be motivated by Kaia – the girl who discovers Alba trapped in a bottle – a child who makes a big difference, and they’ll relate to Alba’s love of shiny things and empathize with her experiencing her friends moving away. The artwork is colorful, vibrant, and just fun: it’s like a carnival underwater when Alba and her friends have clean living spaces! Endpapers are a colorful presentation of the ocean floor, with little Albas swimming around. Sharp-eyed readers can go back and look for 10 different kids of fish that author Lara Hawthorne provides information about at the end of the book, along with ways families can help take care of our oceans.

Alba and the Ocean Cleanup was originally published in 2019 in the UK.

 

My Green Day: 10 Green Things I Can Do Today, by Melanie Green, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $7.99, ISBN: 9781536211313

Ages 3-7

This is a must-have Earth Day book for home, classroom, and library collections. Melanie Walsh’s 10 Things I Can Do To Help My World (2012) has been an Earth Day standard for me for years; adding My Green Day to my storytime reference and my circulating collection is just a given. A narrator moves through their day coming up with ways to be green; be environmentally friendly, for the day: from eating a free-range egg breakfast and composting the egg shell, handmaking gifts with recycled materials, bringing recyclable bags to the grocery store, and taking a short shower before bed are just a handful of the green things that come up in the course of a day. Each step is a simple, easy-to-accomplish task that kids can do and feel empowered, having taken action to improve their world. Each spread has simple, helpful facts on how each task accomplishes a green goal: “Cloth bags can be used again and again. You’ll never need to use another plastic bag”; Playing outside with friends keeps you fit and makes you feel good”.

Empowering, easy-to-read, and with colorful mixed media artwork that beckons readers to the pages makes My Green Day another great Melanie Green book to add to your collections.

 

More to come tomorrow! In the meantime, check out the Earth Day Education Resource Library.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

The weather outside is frightful, but the books are so delightful!

Seriously, though, here in New York, the weather IS frightful, and I’m getting over a 3-week stint with bronchitis. Luckily for me, I’ve got a yummy mug of hot chocolate and a stack of winter books that let me enjoy a nice, snowy evening… vicariously.

The Boy and the Bear, by Tracey Corderoy/Illustrated by Sarah Massini,
(Nov. 2019, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536208146
Ages 2-5

A lonely boy wishes for a best friend to play with. A shy bear wants a friend to play with, and sends a message in a paper boat to the boy. The boy’s joy turns to apprehension when he discovers his new friend is a bear, but together, the two navigate a friendship as they learn to play together. When Bear has to go away when the weather changes, Boy is worried: will his friend ever be back? The Boy and the Bear is a sweet story of friendship through the seasons, with beautiful mixed media illustrations and sparse verse that travels through each spread. Perfect for storytime and cuddle time… and a stuffed animal sleepover.

 

The Shortest Day, by Susan Cooper/Illustrated by Carson Ellis,
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763686987
Ages 4-8

Easily my favorite book in this bunch. A celebration of Yule, of the Solstice, of darkness and light. The Shortest Day brings the reader through history, where early people gathered on the shortest day to drive the dark away, to the present day, where people gather to “carol, feast, give thanks,/ And dearly love their friends,/ and hope for peace”. The book and its beautiful gouache illustrations connect us to one another and generations and civilizations long past, set to Newbery Medal winner Susan Cooper’s poem. Caldecott Honor winner Carson Ellis creates a mood filled with warmth through the darkness, togetherness, and joy; the illustrations vividly communicate the waiting and the the relief the season is well-known for. The Shortest Day has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus, Shelf Awareness, and Book Page. This one is on my Caldecott watch list.

 

A Day for Skating, by Sarah Sullivan/Illustrated by Madeline Valentine,
(Nov. 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763696863
Ages 3-7

What a day to go ice skating! This rhyming story is all about a day in the life of an ice skating pond. Kids and parents lace up and skate across the ice; slipping and falling is all part of the learning process. Warm up with a hot cocoa in the cottage by the pond as hockey players raise a clatter and figure skaters glide by. When the sun goes down and everyone heads home to warm baths and beds, the pond is ready for the next group of skaters: the local wildlife explores. A Day for Skating is a lovely welcome to winter fun, with a note at the very beginning of the book about ice safety, especially if you’re not skating at a rink. Front endpapers start the story by showing a car heading somewhere, presumably the pond; back endpapers show a quiet, empty pond at night, with the marks left by skaters earlier in the day. Watercolor, pencil, and digital illustrations make every spread a welcoming winter scene, with calming blues and winter whites throughout. Add this to your winter storytimes for rhyming fun.

 

Snow Still, by Holy Surplice, (Oct. 2019, Nosy Crow),
$8.99, ISBN: 9781536208344
Ages 0-3

This padded board book is the perfect toddler story for the wonder of winter. A little fawn discovers winter, and romps and plays through the forest, discovering and playing as it goes. Each spread illustrates a different two-word snowy phrase: “Snow white. / Snow slide. / Snow chase. / Snow hide” as the fawn wanders through a winter wonderland with animal friends. The watercolor illustrations are quietly engaging, with a curious little fawn and a winter white forest background. The rhyming text and easy sight words will engage toddlers and early preschoolers. A great lap-read on a cold winter day or night.

 

The Little Snowplow Wishes For Snow, by Lora Koehler/Illustrated by Jake Parker,
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201178
Ages 3-7

This is an adorable seasonal read that works wonderfully for winter storytimes! The second Little Snowplow book sees Little Snowplow go through the seasons, desperately wishing for snow. But when winter arrives… no snow! On his birthday morning, though… there’s snow! Will Little Snowplow get all his plowing done in time for his birthday party? The pencil and digital illustrations are colorful, giving the vehicles sweet faces full of expression. Publisher Candlewick offers a free, downloadable activity kit that includes games, coloring sheets, even birthday invitations. Preschoolers love their vehicle books; add this to your storytime collection and watch them light up.

 

Snow Leopard: Ghost of the Mountains, by Justin Anderson/Illustrated by Patrick Benson,
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536205404
Ages 5-8

Zoologist and filmmaker Justin Anderson weaves a story of a zoologist who travels into the Himalayan mountains in search of the elusive snow leopard. Anderson’s story – inspired by his experiences – is beautifully descriptive, with facts in smaller callouts throughout the book. His respect for and awe of the snow leopard and her habitat shines through in his descriptions, brought to life by Owl Babies illustrator Patrick Benson, whose earth-colored and winter watercolors transport us to a different world. Endpapers with footprints in the snow bring us into and lead us out of the book. Back matter includes an author’s note about snow leopards and the need for conservation and awareness, an index of key leopard terms, and resources for more about saving snow leopards.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Gift Guide for Little Readers

What do you get the littlest readers? (Hint: BOOKS) Come on, everyone else is going to get them all the toys.

Alphabet Street, by Jonathan Emmett/Illustrated by Ingela P. Arrhenius, (Oct. 2019, Nosy Crow), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536208276

Ages 0-4

How fantastic is a lift-the-flap book that also folds out into a little neighborhood street? It’s an alphabetical trip through 13 storefronts, where each store is named after neighboring letters (Alfie’s Bakery; Coffee & Donuts; Elegant Fashions) and feature two big flaps, where little explorers can discover an alphabet lesson. The reverse side of the flaps is a bright, bold, park play area, making this absolutely perfect for kids to bring out their toys to interact with the storefronts and the book characters! The construction is sturdy, and will hold up to lots of play; the book is held together with a blue satin ribbon to keep everything together when not laid out. There’s eight feet of play here, so kids can play together or fly solo. If you put a copy in your storytime reference, your library kids will love you.

I am a big fan of Ingela P. Arrhenius’s art, which is so perfect for toddlers and preschoolers who love to see big, expressive, and friendly animal faces. The retro art, the big, bold color, it all makes for fun, tactile learning play.

 

 

100 First Words, by  Edward Underwood, (Sept. 2019, Nosy Crow), $9.99, ISBN: 9781536208221

Ages 0-3

This giant board book is loaded with words to explore – there are bunches of them hidden behind flaps, where a fence can reveal a pig; fold back a leaf to discover a caterpillar; discover a cat hidden behind a houseplant. Big, bold words are paired with bold, bright artwork, and sturdy flaps will hold up to curious little hands that want to explore over and over again. There are animals; household items; means of transportation (including a rocket ship!); body parts; baby esssentials, like diaper, cup, pajamas, and teddy: all easy words for you to share with your little one, and most easily enough spotted in the wild that you can point them out and reinforce the picture-word connection. Edward Underwood is great with concept art for little ones, and makes this book absolute fun.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Counting, Colors, and Animals Eating – Concept Fun!

Two fun picture books give kids the giggles while inviting them to count, call out colors, and animals!

One Shoe Two Shoes, by Caryl Hart/Illustrated by Edward Underwood, (July 2019, Bloomsbury USA), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-5476-0094-6

Ages 3-6

A dog and a bunch of curious mice explore all the shoes in their world in this adorable rhyming story. The rhyming pattern reminds me of Dr. Seuss’ classic, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish – “Old shoes/New shoes/On their way to school shoes” – minus the wacky, new words. The pup notices shoes all around, both inside and outside the home, when…. wait! There are two mice, making a home in a pair of shoes! A few more scramble by the dog, and before you can say “shoelace”, there are 10 mice, all making their homes in various sneakers, skates, and boots.

Originally published in the UK in 2018, this is an absolutely fun concept book that would work nicely with felt board accompaniment. The pencil, ink, and digital collage artwork is bold and bright, with primary colors and bold black fonts. The endpapers are loaded with footwear. The rhyming, counting, and colors in this book make it a multitasker for concepts, making this a good add to your concept bookshelves and storytimes. Pair with Hart and Underwood’s companion picture book, Big Box Little Box for more concept fun!

Visit author Caryl Hart’s webpage for info about visits and, for aspiring writers, mentorship! Illustrator Edward Underwood features more of his artwork on his Instagram.

What Does an Anteater Eat?, by Ross Collins, (July 2019, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0591-6

Ages 3-6

Anteater wakes up hungry, but there’s a bit of a problem. What does an anteater eat? He sets off to find out, asking sloths, snakes, bats, and cheetahs he encounters on his exploratory walk, all with different results. The book is one hilarious inside joke – we know what the anteater eats, and it’s a good bet that the ants scurrying across each spread in the story do, too – presented in Q&A format. The anteater asks every new animal he meets what anteaters eat, and the animals’ responses are colored by their experiences: the snake, belly bulging with its latest meal, cautions the anteater to chew its food; the cheetah hungrily eyes the anteater. The anteater’s questions are in bold font; the responses, in italics, signaling the chance in voice to your audience. The adorable, funny ending makes the book a storytime winner for toddlers and preschoolers.

Originally published in the UK in 2018, What Does an Anteater Eat? has the playfulness that make Ross Collins’ books so much fun to read. This one is another great candidate for felt board storytelling or puppet accompaniment. Collins’ artwork is cartoony and entertaining with a playful sense of joy added to each spread. The endpapers are in on the story’s joke, starting with an ant crawling across the front endpapers, and finishing with a pile of banana peels.

This one is a storytime winner. Ross Collins’ author webpage includes info about his books, and provides free, printable posters of his book covers and a few activity sheets.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Buggy Books!

It’s summer, and there are bugs. Why not talk about a couple of great bug books that have hit shelves recently?

Firefly Home, by Jane Clarke/Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup, (June 2019, Nosy Crow), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0587-9

Ages 3-6

This book is ADORABLE. It’s also perfect for a storytime readaloud, as it’s very interactive. Little Florence Firefly is lost, and there are so many bright lights around her will she ever get home? That’s up to you and your readers, because this sweet little story is loaded with reader prompts to help Florence: flapping hands to show Florence how to fly fast, turning pages, making wishes are just a few of the ways readers can help Florence get back to her home. The text is made up of short sentences, with questions on each page, inviting readers to get involved. This is just too much fun to read out loud! Brita Teckentrup’s artwork is always a pleasure to enjoy; here, her digital artwork creates a sweet little firefly with a bright yellow light, with deep nighttime blues and muted colorful flowers and leaves throughout. House, train, and streetlights are bright and bold, matching our little firefly’s light.

This one is a must-buy, must-read. Let your kids make a firefly craft with this template, and use yellow tissue paper for the tail!

 

Moth: An Evolution Story, by Isabel Thomas/Illustrated by Daniel Egnéus, (June 2019, Bloomsbury Children’s Books), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-5476-0020-5

Ages 5-8

This stunning book tells the story of the peppered moth and its evolution, and humanity’s intervention in the process. Originally, peppered moths emerged as light with dark speckling; dark moths were easier to spot against trees and were easy prey. But as humans created factories and machines, spewing pollution into the air, the branches moths sought out became blackened with soot, putting light peppered moths at the mercy of birds, bats, and other predators. But wait! We’ve gotten better! We’ve cleaned up our world, and the trees and surroundings have gotten cleaner again! The moths adapted once again, passing their speckled wings onto new generations. Moth is a powerful story of change and hope for the future, seen through the evolution of a single species directly affected by us.

This is one of the most visually stunning books I’ve read this year. Mixed media illustrations create gorgeous texture, and the moths seem to emerge from the pages in an almost dreamlike fashion. The factories and towers look menacing, silhouetted against grey and black skies; as humanity works to heal the earth, hopeful blue skies break through the gloom. The art and text together create a dramatic, emotionally powerful experience. Originally released in the UK last year, Moth has just hit U.S. shelves and is perfect to supplement a unit on evolution, environmentalism, and conservation.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

A Christmas Book for every stocking!

We’re into the holiday season now, everyone! I’ve got gift books coming, and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa books are on the way, but first, a look at some Christmas books to stuff in your kiddos’ stockings. Take a look!

Where’s Santa Claus? by Ingela P. Arrhenius, (Oct. 2018, Nosy Crow), $8.99, ISBN: 9781536206975

Ages 0-3

Guessing games don’t get much cuter than this! Five illustrated spreads show different Christmassy folks, including a polar bear, snowman, elf, and Santa, all hidden behind fuzzy felt flaps. Bold, black font asks,, “Where the polar bear?” “Where’s the snowman?”, inviting babies and toddlers to lift the cloth and discover them all on their own! The final flap, shaped like a house, asks where YOU are, and the reveal is a mirror so little ones can see themselves. The illustrations are bold, bright, and adorable; the felt is soft to the touch and bright.

It’s a perfect cuddle time, circle time, and storytime book for your youngest kiddos. I’ll be using mine quite a bit this season, mainly because I can’t stop reading it to myself in a high-pitched voice and announcing, “There he is!” The kids here at the library are starting to stare at me.

 

Christmas ABC, by Jannie Ho, (Oct. 2018, Nosy Crow), $6.99, ISBN: 9781536202496

Ages 0-3

This holiday abcedary is loaded with seasonal icons: A is for angel; B is for bell; C is for candy canes, and D is for drummer boy. Cartoony, bold, and bright, with capital and lowercase letters side by side, this concept book is as sweet as a bowlful of chocolate chips. Smiling Nutcrackers share spreads with Mrs. Claus as a pup emerges from an Unwrapped box and a bottoms-up Santa is upside down in a chimney as he Visits a home. There are familiar sights to see, but there are also words to describe feelings and emotions, like joy, excited, and quiet. Read this with your little ones and point out familiar objects around the home, classroom, or library: ornaments, reindeer, or tree will work nicely. Some concepts, like Kings and Winter (a winter scene at a windowsill), make take a little explanation, but it’s all part of the holiday fun.

I love a good board book, and Christmas ABC delivers. Put this one front and center in your board books, holidays, and concepts areas, and watch the little ones reach for it.

 

Little Christmas Tree, by Jessica Courtney-Tickle, (Oct. 2018, Big Picture Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536203110

Ages 2-5

This larger board book is loaded with flaps, letting little fingers discover wintry delights as they wander through the story of a little Christmas tree wakes up in its forest after a snowfall. Nature comes alive with each spread as foxes, birds, squirrels, and mice join the scene, and by the story’s end, the tree sparkles in the moonlight. The silver foil added to the trees and snowflakes create a lovely scene that catches light nicely; make sure to let the kids touch the book and feel the texture of the pages. Each flap reveals color, animals, and woodland life, many of which will be familiar to kids: owls, foxes, and sun, to name a few. Little Christmas Tree is a beautifully crafted, interactive reading experience that toddlers and preschoolers will come back to. Keep this one in your storytime reference so you have one intact for next year’s storytime – the flaps are sturdy, but circulating copies of this book will be well-loved.

Little Christmas Tree has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Pip and Posy: The Christmas Tree, by Axel Scheffler, (Sept. 2018, Nosy Crow), $12.99, ISBN: 9781536202762

Ages 2-5

Pip and Posy are back, and trying to decorate their Christmas tree – but the edible ornaments keep disappearing! When Pip develops a bellyache, it’s pretty clear to Posy what happened, but she’s a good friend: she gets Pip outside for some air, and the two decorate their tree in a slightly less tasty, more durable fashion.

This series about two best friends is popular here at my library, so this will be a welcome add to the shelves. The Pip and Posy books are all about simple problems, resolutions, and friendship. Here, it’s about decorating a Christmas tree with tasty ornaments that Pip can’t resist: the kids are in on the joke, as Pip smiles and sneaks snacks whenever Posy leaves the room. You can invite kids to count ornaments and candy canes as part of the storytime; the text lends itself to a guessing game as Posy announces how many things are missing. There’s a bit of a cautionary tale here, too, since Pip eats too much junk food and feels sick afterward, and a wink and a laugh at Santa’s gifts to both friends.

The gouache illustrations and bold text are eye-catching and perfect for storytime reading. The white pages let the characters pop off the page, allowing the eye to go directly to the action. The Christmas Tree is a nice addition to both holiday shelves and Pip and Posy collections.

Oliver Elephant, by Lou Peacock/Illustrated by Helen Stephens, (Sept. 2018, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536202663

Ages 3-7

Noah is a little boy who gets up early to go Christmas shopping with his mom and baby sister, bringing his stuffed elephant, Oliver, along for the ride. As Mom shops, Noah and Oliver are predictably antsy and manage to get into a little bit of trouble – but Mom and the staff are good-natured, thank goodness! A quick snack and it’s time to go home, but wait! Oliver is missing! There’s a panicked search, but little sister Evie-May saves the day when she reveals that Oliver has been hitching a ride with her all along.

Originally published in the UK, this Christmas rhyming story beautifully captures the hustle and bustle of the holiday season with lively, crowded city streets and department store scenes. There’s a particularly gorgeous spread early on in the story, as a whole department store is laid out for the eye to take in, complete with giant Christmas tree in the center; the detail of Mom holding onto Evie-May’s stroller with one hand while she keeps a hold on Noah, who’s swinging Oliver around, will make parents smile in recognition.  Kids will relate to Noah’s restlessness; while Mom shops, he and Oliver play with dollhouses and dance on the displays until the inevitable “oops” happens. On the next spread, Oliver and Noah are slumped on a chair while Mom finishes shopping. The illustrations are warm and colorful, with point of view going from large to intimate – Noah playing with Evie-May, Mom snuggling Noah; there are wonderful little details to see throughout the story, and the primarily beige backgrounds let the story pop off the page for readers. Red lined endpapers put readers in a holiday mood going into the story.

Oliver Elephant has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus and is a sweet addition to holiday collections.

Coming Home, by Michael Morpugo/Illustrated by Kerry Hyndman, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536200423

Ages 3-7

A robin sets out on his own to fly back to his home and his mate in this lyrical Christmas tale. The bird bravely invokes his heart and wings to fly him home as he travels day and night, through battering rain, fog, and snow, and under threat of predatory birds to make his way home. He encounters a kind-hearted fisherman who takes him out of the rain, letting him rest and eat, before setting him free on the final leg of his journey; finally arriving home to his garden, his mate, and the human family that’s been waiting for his return.

The digital illustrations are crisp, with the robin’s red face and chest a bright spot against the cold winter backgrounds. Kerry Hyndman creates some memorable moments, including the menacing black shadow of a hawk swooping over the robin, and the looming hands of the fisherman, from the bird’s point of view. At once a story about migration and its hazards, and families reuniting for the holidays, Endpapers bring you into the story by offering a single robin, tracking through the snow on the front endpapers, and joined by his mate on the rear endpapers. Coming Home is a lovely add to your collections. Display and booktalk with Matt Tavares’ Red and Lulu (2017) for a similar themed story. Make your own no-cook bird cakes with this recipe from Saltwater Kids.

Michael Morpugo is no stranger to sweeping stories: he’s an award-winning writer who boasts a Carnegie Medal (2003). He has also been Children’s Laureate (2003-2005) and he’s been knighted. You may know him as the author of War HorseIllustrator Kerry Hyndman is also a mapmaker, a talent you can see just by seeing how she plans out her landscapes. Her frozen forests are breathtaking, and her residential neighborhood is so well plotted out, it could be your own neighborhood.

 

Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets, by Russell Ince, (June 2013, Waxcrayon Ltd), $21.95, ISBN: 0-937739-65-0

Ages 7-12

Geared for a more independent audience, Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets gives kids the full scoop on all of Santa’s secrets, including his history (he’s not the Saint Nicholas from Turkey that people often take him for), how the Post Offices around the world help him out, and how to stay off the dreaded Naughty List. Chronicled by Santa’s official biographer, Russell Ince, the book combined the look of an illuminated manuscript with a journal feel, as if Santa’s – and Russell’s – words were written especially for each reader. There are sketches throughout to bring the words to life, including realistic reindeer and Santa’s sleigh, and a sack full of toys, waiting to be loaded up for that Christmas Eve journey.

This one’s a good bet for your intermediate readers, who may be questioning the Man in Red’s existence, and have more questions to ask.

 

Santa Claus: The Annual (Volume 1), by Russell Ince, (July 2016, Waxcrayon Ltd), $19.99, ISBN: 0-937739-67-7

Ages 7-12

Santa was so delighted with the response to his Book of Secrets, that he decided to write a book about how he spends a year. Each 2-page spread details a month in Santa’s life: January is a time to rest up after a hectic December; March is dedicated to training reindeer and visting the Elf School; in June, the Clauses pack up and travel the world, while the elves stay home and compete in an Elf Olympics. In September, the Christmas planning begins anew. Learn more about the elves, Mrs. Claus, and the general ins and outs of the North Pole here, one month at a time.

The style is consistent here, with an illuminated title setting off each page, festooned with colorful snowflakes, toys, candy, and sketches. Written on a parchment-look paper, these two slim volumes provide a magical look at the Christmas secrets kids are dying to know.

 

That’s a taste of Christmas for you! I’ve got Kwanzaa and Hanukkah books on the way, plus a gift guide for the holidays. I’ll keep you posted!