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!

Posted in Preschool Reads

Stocking stuffers, snuggle time stories: Christmas picture books!

Happy Black Friday! While you’re deep into your holiday shopping, here are a few picture book suggestions for stocking stuffers or Christmastime snuggling. I’ll have Hanukkah and Kwanzaa book rundowns shortly; I just need to read a few and get a better idea of the good stuff out there.

And away we go!

Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder, by Rebecca Colby/Illustrated by Rob McClurkan,
(Nov. 2017, Albert Whitman & Company), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0-8075-1063-6
Recommended for readers 4-8

Captain Bling and his crew are planning a big plundering trip, but their ship gets blown off course, landing them by the North Pole! Well, when they get a look at Santa’s elves loading all those toys and goodies up, they decide to steal everything for themselves – until Santa shows those buccaneers a little Christmas spirit! Rhyming text, cartoony art, and a sweet message about giving, plus a heck of a trip on Santa’s sleigh, make this a cute Christmas tale for pirate fans and Santa fans alike.

 

A Christmas for Bear, Bonny Becker/Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton,
(Sept. 2017, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763649234
Recommended for readers 5-10

Bear doesn’t have much interest in Christmas – pickles are far better. But Mouse does, and when he shows up at Bear’s house for a Christmas party, he discovers that his surly friend Bear may have a little Christmas spirit after all. I love Bonny Becker’s Bear series; he and Mouse are wonderful foils for one another, and Bear always comes around to embrace the fun side of life (and pickles. Always pickles). Bear deliciously keeps Mouse in suspense, feigning total disinterest in the very idea of the holiday; when he thinks Mouse has had enough, he starts “a long and difficult poem” – The Night Before Christmas – and drops hints for Mouse that the ruse is up and it’s time for presents. The watercolor, ink, and gouache art creates a soft, cuddly feel for a winter’s evening storytime. It’s a great add to holiday picture book collections. A Christmas for Bear received a starred review from Kirkus.

 

The Christmas Fairy, by Anne Booth/Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw,
(Sept. 2017, Nosy Crow/Candlewick), $15.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9629-0
Recommended for ages 3-7

Clara is a lively little fairy with dreams of being a “proper Christmas fairy on a sparkly Christmas tree”, but her teacher seems to think she isn’t Christmas fairylike at all: she’s always singing, dancing, or laughing! Luckily, Santa sees things differently when the Christmas Show is in trouble; he tells Clara that he needs a “special fairy who is full of life and fun”; who cheers people up, and is contagiously happy. Clara steps in to save the day, and her teacher – and the reader – learn that not every fairy has to be perfect to be wonderful. The Christmas fairy is all about embracing who you are and not accepting someone else’s idea of perfect. The mixed media illustrations are absolutely adorable; there are towering flowers, little bugs, and a diverse little group of fairy friends. The rhyming text provides a nice rhythm to a sweet Christmas story. Add this one to collections where you have fairy fans (I’ve got a bunch here), and maybe toss in a showing of the Rankin-Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer animated show, with a a similar “Santa asks for help” moment.

 

Elf in the House, by Ammi-Joan Paquette/Illustrated by Adam Record,
(Sept. 2017, Candlewick), $15.99, ISBN: 9780-7636-8132-6
Recommended for readers 3-7

Jingle Jingle! A young girl hears a noise in her house on a snowy Christmas Eve, and creeps down to investigate. The cumulative, rhyming story leaves readers in suspense as she discovers who else is in her home with each turn of the page. Each reveal leads to another noise, another search, another reveal; the lyrical storytelling and the use of suspense ratchets up the excitement for readers, and the digital artwork is cute, with big-eyed characters and goofy expressions that will make younger readers giggle. A fun addition to Christmas storytimes, for sure.

 

Pick a Pine Tree, by Patricia Toht/Illustrated by Jarvis,
(Sept. 2017, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9571-2
Recommended for readers 3-7

The perfect way to kick off the Christmas holiday season: pick a tree! Pick a Pine Tree chronicles a tree’s journey from lot to dazzling. The rhyming tale shows a family choosing a tree, bringing it home, and decorating it to get it ready for Christmas. The pencil, chalk, paint, digitally colored illustrations have a vintage feel to them and have fun visual references that we associate with the holiday: a cat in the tree, boxes of decorations coming out of storage, a tree-trimming party, with kids wearing garland boas. It’s all about the ritual of the season, and the greatest moment: when the tree isn’t a pine tree anymore, but a Christmas Tree, dazzling and bright, with awestruck observers peeking out from the page margins. Pick a Pine Tree may very well be a new Christmas classic. The book has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Red and Lulu, by Matt Tavares, (Sept. 2017, Candlewick),
$17.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-7733-6
Recommended for readers 5-10

Red and Lulu are a mated pair of cardinals living in a beautiful evergreen tree; one day, Red returns to the tree to discover it’s being taken away – with Lulu still inside! Red follows the truck carrying the tree as far as he can, but the truck is New York bound, and the city is too big for Red. Overwhelmed, he sweeps through the city, tired and hungry, desperate to find Lulu. One day, he hears the song he and Lulu shared so many times: “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, thy leaves are so unchanging…” and follows the singing to Times Square, where, as he soars over the Rockefeller Center tree and toward their favorite branch. This book is absolutely going to tug at your heartstrings. The watercolor and gouache art is just beautiful, and Red’s bright red feathers stand out on every spread. Matt Tavares beautifully captures New York City at Christmastime: the wreaths around the New York Public Library lions; the bright lights and nonstop action of Times Square, the resplendence of the Rockefeller Center Tree. The spread where Red circles the Empire State Building spire is just breathtaking. The story of unconditional love will resonate with older readers, and younger readers will enjoy the story of a bird who refuses to give up on a lost friend. Another Christmas classic for shelves. Red & Lulu has a starred review from Publishers Weekly. You can visit the Red & Lulu page on Matt Tavares’ website and view the book trailer and more art.

That’s it for now – more holiday books and shopping lists on the way!

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Bring a book (or three) for the kids at Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK. How did that sneak up so fast? If you’re spending the holidays with family, you don’t want to show up empty-handed, right? And if you have kids in your family, you may be that sort of guest that likes to bring a book. (It’s not just me, is it?) Here are a few holiday books to get kids ready for Christmas:

 

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Panorama Pops), Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith,
(Sept. 2017, Candlewick Press), $8.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9485-2
Perfect for ANY age!

 

How adorable is this itty bitty gift book? It comes in its own little slipcase, and opens to a pop-up, beautifully illustrated panoramic reading of the classic Christmas carol. There’s a brief explanation of the 12 days in the beginning of the book, which was news to me. I’ve spent the last *cough cough* decades thinking my birthday kicked off the 12 days of Christmas, but the days are actually from the 25th, Christmas Day, to the Epiphany, on January 5th. (I bet my parents are thrilled about that Catholic school tuition money.) There’s a note about the song’s origins; the words dating back to 1780, the music to 1909. Sing along with the kiddos, and then sing a fun take on the carol, like my son’s favorite, The Twelve Bots of Christmas! This one will take a beating in a public library – this one is great for storytime reference, but you’re taking matters into your own hands if you put this in circulation.

 

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Snow Globe Edition), by Michael Rosen/Illustrated by Helen Oxbury,
(Oct. 2017, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536200294
Great for all ages, but perfect for readers 3-7

This is such a fun update of a storytime classic! The cover is a 3-D, plastic-encased snow globe, with little styrofoam balls to shake up and down and all around.  This version of the story features die-cut and pop-up that will add to all of your splashing and sploshing, squelching, and squerching. I’m reading this one, along with Over the River: The Turkey’s Tale at my Thanksgiving storytime next week, and I can’t wait to see the kids’ faces when I show off the snow globe. Again, this one is great for gifts and storytime reference, but circulating librarians, be ware.

 

We Wish You a Merry Christmas (Sing Along With Me!), Illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang,
(Sept. 2017, Nosy Crow/Candlewick), $8.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9612-2
Great for all ages, but the board book is perfect for 2-5

Another illustrated Christmas carol, this time in board book form! Sing along with adorable animal friends as they get ready to celebrate Christmas, and scan the QR code in the book for a free, downloadable version of the song. There are five fun sliders, one on each spread, that let little hands peek at little buddies hiding behind a Christmas tree, pop up snowmen, slide a cat and mouse team down a hill, open a home to visiting friends, and watch Santa fly by. This book is way too much fun, and it’s nice and sturdy: built to last repeated uses. Put this one in your board book collections, you’re all good!

 

Posted in Early Reader, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Handmade Holidays: Books for the littles

Don’t shoot me, I know we haven’t even hit Thanksgiving yet! But you and I both know that the holidays have a way of sneaking up on you, and I have some books that are perfect to let the kiddos make their own special gifts to celebrate the season. (Plus, you know me, I love a program in a book.)

Gift Boxes to Decorate and Make: Christmas, illustrated by Sarah Walsh,
(Sept. 2017, Nosy Crow), $15.99, ISBN: 9780763696375

Every single page in this book can be colored in and made into a box! Pages are perforated, to easily tear out, and scored for easy folding. This is such a great idea for storing little goodies for teacher gifts; you can take care not to rip the boxes when you open them and hang them up so you have a nice piece of artwork; or, you can keep little things like paper clips or rubber bands in them. It’s the gift you’ll enjoy receiving because it’s handmade, and the kids will love creating their own gift for you.

 

Make and Play: Christmas, illustrated by Joey Chou,
(Sept. 2017, Nosy Crow), $11.99, ISBN: 9780763696160

From the time my older kids were little, we’ve had a tradition of buying ornaments to decorate and hang on our tree. I’d buy kits from Oriental Trading, plain ornaments at Michael’s, anything my boys could make their own; I date them and hang them on the tree, and it’s created a sweet legacy to look back on. This year, I’m going to give my 5 year-old a new project: Make & Play Christmas! There are 10 absolutely adorable die-cut pieces to press out and create, all with die-cut slots to easily fit pieces together, and holes to tie string or ribbon through, to hang on the tree. From angels and colorful ornaments, to Santa and his reindeer, there is something for every kid to enjoy. A fun activity section at the end has more ideas to get ready for the holidays: craft instructions for paper chains, reindeer prints, and DIY wrapping paper; the words to “Jingle Bells”, “Deck the Halls”, and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”; and recipes for gingerbread cookies and snowball truffles. Way too much fun!

 

Press Out & Color Christmas Ornaments, illustrated by Kate McLelland,
(Sept. 2017, Nosy Crow), $15.99, ISBN: 9780763696184

For slightly older kids who want in on the fun (or little ones who want more to color), there’s Press Out & Color Christmas Ornaments. There are 20 die-cut ornaments in here for coloring; outlined in shiny gold foil and featuring beautiful designs including rocking horses, Russian nesting dolls, nutcrackers, and snowflakes. There are standalone pieces and pieces that fit together to make 3-D ornaments, and small holes punched in at the top to thread ribbon or thread through to hang up. Absolutely stunning.

 

Make & Play Nativity, illustrated by Joey Chou,
(Sept. 2017, Nosy Crow), $11.99, ISBN: 9780763696177

Last one for now! This Nativity, also illustrated by Joey Chou, makes a great gift to place under someone’s tree. There are 20 press out and put together figures to create the Nativity scene. Pages are thick and sturdy, and the pieces fit easily together; ideal for little fingers; instructions are included for more complex pieces, like the manger. Christmas activities feature at the end of the book: the Nativity story; crafts, like Make a Christmas Star, Make an Advent Calendar, and Make a Christmas Angel; and Christmas carols “Away in a Manger”, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, and “We Three Kings”.