Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

#HomesCool for Littles: Board Books with a mission!

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the great board books that are loaded with learning activities for tiny hands to explore. Turning wheels, sliding panels, flaps, these books are filled with fun and imagination. Let’s take a look at a few.

Turn•Seek•Find: Habitats, by Ben Newman, (Feb. 2021, Twirl), $14.99, ISBN: 9782408019693

Ages 3-5

Perfect for preschoolers, this larger board book (11″x9.5″) takes readers on a journey to five different areas – the African Savanna, the Ice Field, the Indian Jungle, the Pacific Island, and the Big City – and talks a little about the kind of habitat each one provides, along with fun seek and find activities at the turn of a wheel. Two wheels on each spread encourages readers to discover different items and colors within the spreads. The artwork is bright and cold, with eye-catching colors and details that kiddos will love exploring. Perfect for cultivating observation skills and fine motor skills, the book is sturdy and will hold up to multiple readings. Find books and facts about each spread to encourage littles to go deeper and learn more. Ask kids what they recognize from the spreads and encourage them to find out more about things that may be new. Never seen a baobab tree before? Look it up on kid-friendly sites like National Geographic and find books like John Archambault’s By the Baobab Tree. There are so many ways to encourage and extend learning with a fun book like this; let it be your jumping-off point and follow your little’s interests.

 

Matching Game Book: Bugs and Other Little Critters, by Stéphanie Babin/Illustrated by Manu Callejón (March 2021, Twirl Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9782408024659
Ages 3-5
Another fun, larger-sized board book with activities to keep little brains busy! Meet the bugs that live in the meadow, at the pond, in the forest, in the ground, and in the dark! Sliding panels allow kids to play a memory game on each spread, and additional suggested activities encourage kids to play seek and find, I Spy, and Hide and Seek. Panels slide easily back and forth; no struggles here. The insects are cute, with big, expressive eyes and are colorful and kid-friendly. Excellent manipulation for fine motor skills, and pair with Eric Carle books like The Very Grouchy Ladybug and The Very Lonely Firefly. Bob Barner’s Bugs, Bugs, Bugs! is a great choice, too. There are so many “Buggie Books”, as my Kiddo used to refer to them, out there  – just ask your favorite librarian! The Spruce Crafts has some adorable and easy bug-related crafts, too: I’m partial to the ladybug hat and firefly suncatcher.
Animal Friends 1 2 3, by Christophe Loupy/Illustrated by Shunsake Satake, (Feb. 2021, Twirl Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9782408024680
Ages 3-5
A lift-the-flap counting book with a fun spin, Animal Friends 1 2 3 has a fun question-and-answer format that encourages readers’ curiosity: “5 little bears are busy picking blueberries. 2 got a wee bit hungry!”  The facing spread has five little smiling bears sitting among minimalist blueberry trees. Easy-to-lift flaps reveal two bears snacking on blueberries. Colored dots run across the bottom of each spread, adding a fun visual component. The story also includes basic addition skills, with a group of 4 mice inviting groups of friends to their party, and increasing their number: “‘Let’s invite our 4 performer friends!’ says the fourth mouse. ‘With them, there will be 9 of us. They can show us magic tricks!'” Flaps will reveal the four friends, while dots across the bottom of the page will account for all nine characters. Good for preschoolers developing their math skills and toddlers who are learning their 123s. There are so many great printables for little counters available. Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds has some fun printables, On Teachers Pay Teachers, Play to Learn Preschool has a fun apple counting printable, and Kamp Kindergarten has an adorable school bus clip and count activity.
Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Math, Loss, and Zombie Movies: A Good Night for Shooting Zombies

A Good Night for Shooting Zombies, by Jaco Jacobs/Illustrated by Jim Tierney/Translated from Afrikaans by Kobus Geldenhuys, (March 2019, Rock the Boat), $12.95, ISBN: 9781786074508

Ages 10-14

Martin is a South African teen living with loss. His father was killed in a car crash a few years ago, and his mother hasn’t left the house since. His sister is hardly ever home, usually out with her sketchy boyfriend. All Martin has is his chickens – his nickname is Clucky – and his propensity for numbers. When the neighbor kid’s dog kills his prize chicken, he goes over to say something – and ends up making a friend instead. Vusi, whose dog, Cheetah has a taste for chicken, is a horror movie fan determined to make his own zombie movie. He’s also fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but he has no interest in letting that, or his protective parents and nurse, stop him. He quickly recruits Martin as a zombie extra, and before Martin realizes it, he’s sneaking out with Vusi, shooting Vusi’s movie and even developing a crush on a schoolmate. And, bonus: the cover glows in the dark!

Jaco Jacobs knows how to pack a book. While A Good Night for Shooting Zombies is primarily about Martin’s and Vusi’s friendship, it’s also about coping with loss, as Martin and his family grieve in their own ways; it’s about potential loss, as Vusi and Martin cope with Vusi’s lymphatic cancer, and it’s got a quietly compelling subplot about a group of troublemaking teens and Vusi and Martin bumbling their way into their sights. Martin is comforted by his mathematics equations, which he uses as a coping mechanism, very similar to Willow in Counting by 7s. He and Vusi each have their comforts – Vusi’s is horror movies – and as they share these pieces of themselves, they build a deeper friendship. Jim Tierney’s black and grey illustrations add some visual interest, and Jaco Jacobs’ writing keeps pages turning; the end of the story will stick with you long after you close the book.

I became a Jaco fan after reading last year’s A Good Day for Climbing Trees. A Good Night for Shooting Zombies just sealed it. I can’t wait to read more.

A Good Night for Shooting Zombies has a starred review from Foreword Reviews. There’s a free, downloadable readers’ guide available from publisher OneWorld Publications.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl is wonderful!

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, by Stacy McAnulty, (May 2018, Random House), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-5247-6757-0

Recommended for readers 8-12

I am so excited to talk up this book, because it is SO GOOD. I was lucky enough to be on author Stacy McAnulty’s “street team”, so I have evangelized this book to my library kiddos, bending the ear of everyone I talk to (including grownups) at the library and at home, and generally shoving this book at people to tell them that they need to read it immediately.

Lucy is a gifted tween, thanks to a lightning strike at age seven that left her with savant abilities in math. She loves math. She sees and smells the numbers and equations; they reveal themselves to her and tell them all their secrets, but social relationships have eluded her. She struggles with OCD behaviors and has been homeschooled by her grandmother, who finally decides that Lucy develop socially, and enrolls her in middle school, which doesn’t really go over so well with Lucy, who’s more ready for college applications. But Lucy promises her grandmother that she’ll make one friend, join one activity, and read one book that isn’t a math textbook. Lucy’s OCD automatically makes her a target to the local mean girl, but she persists, finding ways to use her talents in a class project, and making two pretty good friends, while she’s at it.

I can’t find enough great things to say about Lightning Girl. Stacy McAnulty gives us a strong, funny, sweet, and complex group of characters that reader will recognize bits of themselves in; supportive parental figures that are doing their best, and parents that need a bit more work. It’s a glimpse at everyday life with a touch of the extraordinary, and it’s a touching look at the power of caring about something bigger than oneself. Lucy goes through tremendous upheaval, but she rides it out, and grows through the course of the book. Before the events that form the narrative, she sees life as a series of problems that can be worked out, but learns that some of the toughest problems bring rewarding solutions. Even if the final answer isn’t correct, the work to get there makes a difference.

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl is compulsively readable, discussable, and perfect middle grade reading. Teachers, PLEASE put this on your Summer Reading lists, so I can hand this book to every middle grader I see this summer. Lightning Girl has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Kirkusand Publisher’s Weekly. Author Stacy McAnulty is on a book tour for Lightning Girl right now: head to her author webpage for a schedule!

 

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.