Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me…

Pirate Nell’s Tale to Tell: A Storybook Adventure, by Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty, (Sept. 2020, Sourcebooks), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1492698678

Ages 4-7

This rhyming tale of literacy on the high seas stars an all-canine cast. Nell, a younger pup, is so excited to join a pirate crew, but Captain Gnash scoffs at her bookishness and saves the ickiest tasks for her to do. A treasure map in a bottle shows up one night, but Captain Gnash manages to get himself and his crew into big trouble until Nell, and her Pirate’s Almanac, save the day! They finally make it to the island and discover the best treasure of all. Smart and light, this upbeat tale of books and how handy a little extra knowledge can be is great for library visits. Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty always manage to create the best stories about book lovers: they also wrote The Snatchabook and The Storybook Knight; both wonderfully woven rhyming tales of books and how they make things better. The colorful acrylic artwork will attract all readers; who doesn’t love a rollicking pirate story with sea monsters and treasure? Endpapers show off a cross-section of a pirate ship before and after the plunder. See if kids can spot the differences! Pair with Ronan the Librarian for the ultimate class visit storytime. Visit Helen Docherty’s website for downloadable goodies including masks and coloring sheets!

 

Daniela and the Pirate Girls, by Susana Isern/Illustrated by Gómez, Translated by Laura Victoria Fielden, (Aug. 2020, NubeOcho), $16.95, ISBN: 978-84-17673-27-7

Ages 5-8

The second book to star Daniela the Pirate, Daniela and her crew spend a good part of this new adventure aboard their pirate ship, the Black Croc, tracking down a group of pirates called The Fearless Piranhas. They keep showing up to rescue sea folk just before the Black Croc arrives, and the crew is starting to get worried: what if they beat the Croc to the best treasure, too? Just as the Black Croc happens upon the Fearless Piranhas ship, they both get caught up in a dangerous storm: luckily, Daniela knows a friend who can help everyone out! The two crews finally meet and decide that teamwork is the best way to work! Upbeat and positive, this pirate story is all about sharing and teamwork, with the acknowledgement that sometimes, jealousy and competition can get in the way of how we perceive others. Gómez always uses bright, cheerful colors in her artwork; here, vibrant landscapes and pirates stand out against the light blue sea and sky, really giving the characters center stage. Originally published in Spanish, this English translation will appeal to pirate fans while teaching a lesson in kindness.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Halloween(ish) Books: Witchy Things!

Witchy Things, by Mariasole Brusa/Illustrated by Marta Sevilla, (Aug. 2020, NubeOcho), $16.95, ISBN: 9788417673604

Ages 4-8

Oh no! The witch is furious! A potion explosion turned her hair blue! BLUE! Not Blood Red, or Ash Gray, or Booger Green, but BLUE FAIRY BLUE! The Witch is furious, so she’s off to prove that blue hair doesn’t make her any goody-goody: she’s going to snatch a kid. She discovers a boy named Adam playing in the park with some dolls and immediately thinks he’s some rotten kid stealing his sister’s dolls, but she discovers that making assumptions about others is just as wrong as people making assumptions about her! Adam proceeds to drop some wisdom on the Witch, telling her to stop doing what she thinks she’s supposed to do, based on what people think, and do what makes her happy. And isn’t that the best advice you’ve heard today?

Originally published in Italy in 2019, Witchy Things is available in Spanish as Cosas de Bruja. The text won the Narrating Equality contest. It’s a story about looking past appearances and assumptions and celebrating just being oneself. The artwork is cartoony fun, with a furiously blue-haired witch, complete with hairy wart (kind of looks like a cute spider) on her nose and her very expressive familiars, a black cat and two rats. Fun, sweet, and with a good message, Witchy Things/Cosas de Bruja is a Halloween story about which witch you want to be. (See what I did there?)

There are some great self-esteem activities for kids available online. Teachers Pay Teachers has a free, downloadable set of self-esteem bookmarks for kids to color in and use; 5 Things I Love About Myself are printables that allow kids to write about what they value in themselves. Education.com has a free, downloadable Venn diagram of differences and similarities than be used in conjunction with this book; ask kids to think about what makes Adam and the Witch the same and different.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads

August Picture Book Rundown

Loretta’s Gift, by Pat Zietlow Miller/Illustrated by Alea Marley, (Aug. 2018, little bee books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1499806816

Recommended for readers 4-8

Loretta is a little girl who’s so excited when she learns that her aunt and uncle are having a baby! Everyone is busy getting ready for the baby; making things, buying things, preparing a room, but try as she might, Loretta can’t seem to make the perfect gift. When Baby Gabe is born, Loretta feeds with him and plays with him; she adores him and he has the biggest smiles for her. At Gabe’s first birthday party, Loretta is sad that she doesn’t have a gift for him yet, but when he falls and hurts himself, Loretta knows just what to do. Turns out, love is the best gift of all.

This gentle story is a sweet way to show kids that the best gifts aren’t bought; they’re already with us. Loretta’s capacity to love Gabe, to make him smile and laugh, and to comfort him, is a gift that means more to him than any toy that will break or be forgotten. The story delivers this message in the most loving of ways, while showing readers about the exciting preparations made for a new baby: the room decorating, the knitting, the collection of family photos, even wrestling with putting together the crib. Getting ready to welcome Gabe involves the whole family. Loretta’s parents makes the wonderful statement that “Babies are a celebration… of love. Of Life. Of hope”, and Loretta’s first response is to look at her aunt’s belly and wonder if all of that and a baby could fit in one belly? It’s an adorable and perfectly childlike reaction.

The artwork is warm, with earthy shades of green, orange, and muted, darker colors; there are some great textured patterns that make me think there may be some collage here. The illustrations give a comfortable, close feel to the story.

Loretta’s Gift is a nice addition to New Baby collections, and a good big brother/sister/relative gift idea.

 

How to Cook a Princess, by Ana Martinez Castillo/Illustrated by Laura Liz, Translated by Ben Dawlatly (Aug. 2018, nubeOCHO), $16.96, ISBN: 9788494692642

Recommended for ages 7-10

Dark fantasy fans with a morbid sense of humor, this one’s for you. No handsome princes are saving the day here: he’s likely to end up in a stew or as a side dish (with frog legs, to be precise). Gingrich the witch is famous for her recipes, and she dishes all here, where she cooks up the best of fairytale royalty. You’ll learn what kitchen utensils are best (a cage should have 12 padlocks and 2 chains, to prevent sneaky princesses from escaping) and how to trap a princess; there are recipes, like the Snow White Stew, which also gives a shout-out to the dwarves for their skill in rearing organic, free-range princess; and there are tasty treats, like little pigs, fairy godmothers, Puss in Boots, and, yes, Prince Charmings. It goes without saying that this hilarious book is best served with a side of tongue in cheek. The pencil artwork is loaded with gasps from horrified – or, really, more very annoyed – princesses and dark shades. This is a book of fairy tales for kids who don’t think they like fairy tales. Booktalk this one with The Lunch Witch graphic novels. How to Cook a Princess was originally released in Spanish in 2017.

 

A Place for Pluto, by Stef Wade/Illustrated by Melanie Demmer, (Aug. 2018, Capstone), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Ages 5-8

Pluto is a happy little planet; he’s one of the famous Nine and life’s all good until the day the news breaks: he’s not a planet anymore. He’s confused and sad, and wanders around the universe trying to figure out where he fits in: can he be a comet, like his buddy, Haley? How about a meteoroid or an asteroid? Just when Pluto doesn’t think he fits in anywhere, he meets a whole new group of friends who are just like him: the dwarf planets! This book is just adorable, and it’s my son’s favorite of the BookExpo 2018 haul. It’s a smart approach to explaining Pluto’s history to readers, with a timeline (1930 – Pluto’s a planet! 2006 – Nope, it’s not!) and information on what makes Pluto, Ceres, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea dwarf planets, as opposed to part of the Big Nine. With an upbeat messages about identity, acceptance, and friendship, and adorable artwork, this is a must-add to your planet books. (We sing They Might Be Giants’ “How Many Planets?” planet song – modified to include all the dwarf planets, Haley’s comet, and a few galaxies – at home, after reading this one.)

 

 

The Truth About Dinosaurs, by Guido van Genechten, (Aug. 2018, Clavis Publishing), $18.95, ISBN: 978-1-60537-423-9

Ages 5-10

A chicken walks readers through its family history to prove that they are descended from dinosaurs. Family resemblances include has similar feet and feathers, in addition to that whole egg-hatching business. Presented as a family album, The Truth About Dinosaurs is a fun introduction to dino science for readers, with an accessible illustration of evolution from dinosaur to modern-day birds, and ends with the chicken hatching a rather large dino egg. Guido van Genecthen uses earth tones and his cartoony look to make non-threatening dinosaurs, and the green chicken is an amusing host to the book. The scrapbook features BC dates when showing off the “family photos” throughout history, and each dinosaur’s weight appears on tags that look like amusement part tickets. It’s a cute, additional add for your dino collections.

 

Maximillian Villainous, by Margaret Chiu Greanias/Illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow, (Aug. 2018, Running Press Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780762462971

Ages 5-8

Poor Maximillian Villainous! He’s from a long line of villainous monsters, but he doesn’t have it in him to be mean. He always finds a way to make up for things his family does, like giving Santa Claus the keys to the family car when his father stole Santa’s sleigh, or sending Mother Nature to a spa when his mother stole her powers. But when his family threatens to get rid of his pet bunny – it’s not a suitably villainous sidekick – he promises to succeed at three evil tasks to make things right. He’s got to steal something; make someone cry, and gain fame by being devious. What his family doesn’t realize is how open to interpretation that is! Maximillian Villainous is a sweet story about being true to oneself, accepting who you are – even if that’s different from how those around you think you should be – and the wonderful power of kind acts. The storytelling is light and plays with interpretation, and the artwork reminds me of Richard Scarry’s bold colors and big facial expressions. Pair this one with Mo Willems’ Leonardo the Terrible Monster for some monsters that aren’t really very monstrous.

 

That’s a taste of what August has in store. What books are you excited for?

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A little Joy goes a long way…

Joy the Elf, by Carmen Gil/Illustrated by Zuriñe Aguirre, (June 2018, NubeOcho), $15.95, ISBN: 9788494692611

Recommended for readers 4-8

Mateo is a boy who loves his tiny elf friend, Joy. She can be found in the most unexpected of places; his daddy’s beard, or in the sound of his grandparent’s car when they arrive for a visit. But the mean Ragdoll Witch doesn’t want Joy hanging around, so she cast a spell on Joy to keep her away from Mateo, and proceeded to give the boy everything he wished for: a fancy tablet, cool roller skates, even a giant dragon. And the more Mateo got what he wished for, the more Joy disappeared, until she finally became invisible. A fish and a fairy got together and created a counterspell, which slightly altered the gifts to be a little off – a mountain bike became a boat trip with Mateo’s grandparents; a video game became a library book – and with each small, slightly off-kilter gift, Joy came back.

The moral of the story? If you get everything you want, you don’t appreciate it; find your Joy in the simplest of moments. Joy the Elf is a bit heavy on the moralizing, but it does open up a nice discussion about finding happiness outside of the expensive things in life. The collage artwork is colorful and eye-catching. Joy the Elf was originally released in Spanish in 2017.

 

Joy, by Corrinne Averiss/Illustrated by Isabelle Follath, (July 2018, words and pictures), $17.95, ISBN: 9781910277669

Recommended for readers 4-8

Fern is a little girl who loves her cheerful Nanna, but lately, Nanna’s been very down. She’s not baking yummy butterfly cakes, she’s not keeping up her home, and she just sits and looks very sad. Fern’s mom mentions that the joy has gone out of Nanna’s life, prompting Fern to seek it out and bring it back! She discovers all the places you can find joy, and brings them to Nanna. The message is wonderfully clear: joy is wonderful, but it’s not a given; sometimes, it needs an infusion. The best part? Joy is also something that can be shared!

Joy also enlightens readers to the issue of elder depression. Nanna shows the signs of someone dealing with depression: Nanna looks sad. She’s stopped her daily routine; she appears to have stopped cleaning her home, grooming her cat, taking care of her appearance. Her daughter, Fern’s mother, is worried, and Fern, being a child, takes the most direct course of action. No one is relying on a little girl to cure her grandmother; she’s acting appropriately for a child, and seeking out things that will make her grandmother happy again. It works, and now, Fern understands that sometimes, people can become sad. The artwork flows with the storyline; happy Nanna has a bright, clean home, with butterflies zooming around; sad Nanna and her home are depicted in darker gray and black shades. Fern’s quest for joy brings us back to bright color and upward movements. This is a book that opens up the chance for discussions about feelings and empathy, and the importance of our family relationships.

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

Inspector Croc helps kids manage their emotions

Inspector Croc’s Emotion-O-Meter, by Susanna Isern/Illustrated by Mónica Carretero, (May 2018, NubeOCHO), $22.95, ISBN: 9788417123079

Recommended for readers 7-10

Inspector Croc, the great emotion inspector, is here to help kids identify and manage their emotions in this entertaining and insightful book from NubeOCHO. Accompanied by Yippee, an Emi (emotion) from a large family of emotions, kids will learn what an emotion is, how to identify behaviors associated with emotions, and read through Inspector Croc’s case files; 10 cases where emotions came into play. He introduces his Emotion-O-Meter, allowing kids to identify whether they are feeling emotions on a low, medium, or high level of intensity, and gives kids the ability to put their feelings into words. Finally, we get “recipes” for working with both good and bad emotions, and the Inspector explains that sometimes, emotions like sadness are good and right for us to feel, but that we also have to learn how to let them go when it’s time.

It’s a smart book that addresses ideas that can be tough for kids to identify and express; author Susanna Isern respectfully talks to readers and uses empowering language to promote understanding and courtesy. Mónica Carretero’s animal artwork is cartoony and light, but don’t dismiss that: she illustrates, in detail, various emotions and uses facial expressions to illuminate the physical changes our emotions bring about. It’s a very mindful book, and encourages self-exploration. The book has a dust jacket with an emotion-o-meter on the back cover, but if this book is used in a classroom or library setting, it’s not going to last: do yourselves a favor, and make this a great class project/library program. This would go wonderfully with a viewing of Pixar’s Inside Out (2015).

Inspector Croc’s Emotion-O-Meter is also available in Spanish.

Posted in Animal Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Dormouse is afraid to sleep alone… do you have space for him?

Dormouse and His Seven Beds, by Susanna Isern/Illustrated by Marco Somà, (April 2018, NubeOcho), $16.95, ISBN: 978-84-946926-6-6

Recommended for readers 3-6

Green Forest is a pretty quiet, uneventful place until the morning that Rabbit wakes up to discover Dormouse is sleeping in his carrot box. Dormouse apologizes, and says he couldn’t sleep, so he decided to try a new bed. This quickly becomes a habit: Dormouse tries out Robin’s tie drawer, Deer’s antlers, Tortoise’s glasses case, Mouse’s cuckoo clock, and Squirrel’s music box! The animals have a talk with Dormouse: this has to stop; he’s giving everyone a fright! Dormouse disappears the next day, worrying his neighbors. When they start a search, they discover him in Gray Forest, in Wolf’s sock! After a quick rescue, they discover the reasoning behind Dormouse’s wandering: he doesn’t want to sleep alone.

This story is perfect for preschoolers who may have similar fears, and the parents and caregivers who wake up to discover an errant foot or arm lodged in a hip, the small of a back, or a neck. (Speaking from experience.) Dormouse’s desire for company overrides his sense of propriety, leading him to sneak into his neighbors’ homes to be near someone at night; understandably, it’s a little nerve-wracking to wake up with someone unexpected in one’s home, and the group confronts Dormouse, not giving him a chance to explain himself. Parents will understand the guilt the animal friends feel when Dormouse disappears, and both parents and caregivers will appreciate the arrangement everyone comes to for future sleepovers. A sweet addition at the tale’s end gives Dormouse a chance to pay it forward.

Marco Somà’s illustration is just beautiful, with small details that will keep readers noticing something new with every read; from the carrot wallpaper in Rabbit’s home, to the owl’s face built into Owl’s home, and beyond. The blue tinge throughout the artwork lends a peaceful vibe to the story, making this a loving bedtime read, perfect for snuggling with the kiddos before they fall asleep in their own beds (or at least, start out there).

Released in 2017 in Spanish (978-84-946926-5-9), Dormouse and His Seven Beds is part of nubeOCHO’s nubeclassics line, and reads like a classic fable should.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Hedgehog and Rabbit: Friends who have each other’s backs

Hedgehog and Rabbit: The Scary Wind, by Pablo Albo/Illustrated by Gómez, (Nov. 2017, nubeOCHO), $14.95, ISBN: 978-84-945971-7-6
Recommended for readers 3-7

Two friends, Hedgehog and Rabbit, are in the garden looking for snails and eating cabbage, when a gust of wind stirs up a pile of leaves and scares them both! Each friend runs off in a different direction, but realizes they’ve left the other behind. Determined to be brave, Hedgehog and Rabbit each disguise themselves to scare the windy monster – but will they end up scaring each other instead?

 

Hedgehog and Rabbit: The Stubborn Cloud, by Pablo Albo/Illustrated by Gómez, (Nov. 2017, nubeOCHO), $14.95, ISBN: 978-84-945971-9-0
Recommended for readers 3-7

Hedgehog and Rabbit, are in the garden on a sunny day, looking for snails and eating cabbage, when a cloud rolls in and covers the sun! Try as they might, neither Rabbit nor Hedgehog can get the cloud to move out of the way. Looks like they’ll have to enlist some help from their fellow animal friends.

 

The Hedgehog and Rabbit stories are sweet, fun books about friendship. Like an earlier readers’ Frog and Toad, the two friends spend time together, watch out for one another, and face some amusing weather-related misunderstandings together. The stories revolve around Rabbit and Hedgehog not being in on the joke – but the readers are, allowing for some fun dialogue with your audience as the stories progress. These stories can be a fun enhancement for early lessons on weather. Gomez’s illustrations are bright and eye-catching, and the characters have expressive faces, which makes these books a fun storytime choice.

Hedgehog and Rabbit are also available in Spanish (Erizo y Conejo).

Posted in Preschool Reads

Hispanic Heritage Month: nubeOcho picture books

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I love nubeOCHO picture books. I discovered the publisher when I was at the PLA conference last year; I was a children’s librarian in a largely monolingual Spanish-speaking community, with outdated books on the shelves in their language. I was buying books in Spanish that I knew how to search for: Goosebumps, Harry Potter, Percy  Jackson – but I needed to find new books that spoke to the kids and their cultures. I found that publisher in nubeOCHO, who simultaneously publishes Spanish and English language copies of their books that are perfect for my kiddos. I could read a storytime book in English, interjecting some Spanish words where I knew how, and the parents could borrow the Spanish copy to take home and read with their kids. I am forever grateful.

This season, nubeOCHO has a couple of adorable books out – available in English and Spanish – for beginning readers and cuddlers. Enjoy.

The Perfect Animal (El animal perfecto), by Raquel Diaz Reguera, (Sept. 2017, nubeOCHO), $15.95, ISBN: 978-8494633393
Recommended for readers 4-8

The kids at school have to dress up as an animal; Valentina wants to be “the perfect animal”. But what does that mean? Valentina considers several animals: elephants, bears, bats, birds, and more. She notes their strengths and their “curiosities” – noted throughout the book as fun facts, paper-clipped to the pages, written on note paper. So which one is the perfect animal? Why pick just one? There’s vibrant art throughout the book, plus fun facts kids will love (elephant are the only mammals that can’t jump, which makes really good sense). The Perfect Animal is part of nube’s Egalite imprint; publishing stories that emphasize equality and that illustrate the richness of diversity.

A Surprise for Mrs. Tortoise (Una sopresa para tortuga), by Paula Merlan/Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer, (Oct. 2017, nubeOCHO), $16.95, ISBN: 978-84-946333-4-8
Recommended for readers 4-8

Mrs. Tortoise sees her reflection one morning, and it really brings her down. Her shell looks old and worn out, and it’s really making her feel old and sad. Luckily for her, Birdie, her best friend, is there to cheer her up! He bops around to the sky, the flowers, the wind, and clouds to help decorate her  shell and cheer her up, but it seems like everything just makes Mrs. Tortoise feel worse; she loses her temper and snaps at Birdie, but even that doesn’t stop him. When Mrs. Tortoise goes to apologize to Birdie, she discovers that forgiveness and friendship are all that matter (and a little help from the rainbow doesn’t hurt). Washed-out watercolor art splashed across each page spread creates beautiful artwork that readers will gravitate to – especially when Mrs. Tortoise’s shell is covered in flowers! (I see art project at storytime here!) This is a sweet story about friendship and going the extra mile for a friend. A Surprise for Mrs. Tortoise is part of nube’s Somos8 imprint, exploring first sensations and challenges kids meet.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Realistic Fiction

No Water No Bread delivers a powerful message

No Water No Bread, by Luis Amavisca/Illustrated by Guridi, (Oct. 2017, nubeOCHO), $15.95, ISBN: 978-84-945971-3-8

Recommended for readers 4+

Two groups of people live on either side of a barbed wire fence. One side has water. One side has bread. Neither will share their resources, flatly stating: “This is our water.” “This is our bread.” The children gather at the fence and trade bread and water, wondering, “Why are our parents like this?” They play ball over the fence, knowing that life would be much better “without the fence”. When a new group shows up, the barbed wire fence is sectioned off into yet a third area. Again, the adults hoard their resources while the children all approach the fence, ready to share, and wonder why their parents are like this.

In a day and age where some talk about building walls, No Water No Bread asks a simple, powerful question: Why are we like this? Seen through the eyes of a child, we live in a ridiculous society. We tell our children to share, yet decide that others don’t deserve basic needs if we find them lacking: if they’re from the wrong area of the world, if they’re the wrong faith, if they’re the wrong color.

Simple art and simple words deliver a powerful message that children will understand. Let’s hope that the adults do, too.

This book is a project created in Europe by NubeOcho with the support of Amnesty International Spain and Amnesty International Italy. It is also available in Spanish (ISBN: 978-84-946333-7-9).

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Ozzy the Ostrich teaches kids to stand up to bullies

Ozzy the Ostrich, by José Carlos Andrés/Illustrated by Bea Enríquez, (June 2017, NubeOCHO), $15.95, ISBN: 978-8494541599

Recommended for readers 3-6

Ozzy Ostrich and two friends trot across the plain, munching on flowers, until three lions threaten to eat them! Ozzy – who also has an egg to defend – stands up to the bullies, scaring the so badly that one loses his teeth, one loses all of his fur, and one turns completely white. The former bullies befriend the ostriches, but what happens when another pride of lions shows up to menace the group?

Ozzy the Ostrich is a good introduction to the concepts of bullying and standing up for oneself and others. When the first group of lions bullies Ozzy, she stands up for herself and the bullies back down. When the next group comes along, Ozzy sees that her actions resonate. The art is bright, vibrant, and bold; both lions and ostriches have exaggerated facial expressions that readers will enjoy and laugh at (especially when the chastised lions react).

Originally published in Spanish under the title Un avestruz con much luz (2016), Ozzy the Ostrich makes a good social issues read-aloud for storytime. Pair with Kathryn Otoshi’s One for an anti-bullying storytime message.