Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Board Books to celebrate Spring, Dinosaurs, and Art!

How much do I love board books? SO MUCH. And they just keep coming and coming! I’ve got a stack of adorable board books that celebrate Spring, and a few that were originally published as picture books but that have made a great transition to board books.

Hello Garden!, by Katherine Pryor/Illustrated by Rose Soini, (May 2021, Schiffer Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764361098

Ages 0-3

Two kids wake up and enjoy a day in their garden! They crunch on green beans and snap peas, help tend to the garden, and enjoy the local wildlife. Rhyming verse tells a story that celebrates each of the senses, and accompanied by colorful artwork. Kids will want to get their hands and toes in the dirt and revel in being in nature after reading this cheery, upbeat story. A great addition to a Spring or Garden storytime – pair with the National Geographic board book, In My Garden, from the Look & Learn series, and Kadir Nelson’s gorgeous book, If You Plant a Seed. If you’re looking for a Spring activity with your Kiddos, Nat Geo Kids has you covered with an article on planting a garden; Kids Gardening has Garden Lesson Plans for kids and a free newsletter. Short on space? Try a garden sensory bin! There are great ideas at Mess for Less and Fireflies and Mud Pies.

 

Little Bug on the Move, Stéphanie Babin/Illustrated by Olivia Cosneau, (March 2021, Twirl Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9782408024642

Ages 0-3

A little bug goes exploring in this interactive book that kids can slide, spin, and play with. The bug crawls uphill, inches along the trees, spins on a flower, and hides on a mushroom, all heading toward a pop-up surprise at the end. The question-and-answer format format of the text encourages kids to think as they manipulate the activities on the pages, and provides an opportunity for an older sibling, parent, or caregiver to read along. Bright and colorful artwork and sturdy activities and pages make this another book kids will reach many, many times. Invite readers to identify different bugs, shapes, and colors as you go! Pair with the board book of The Very Hungry Caterpillar for an adorably buggy storytime.

 

Mamasaurus, by Stephan Lomp, (April 2021, Chronicle Books), $7.99, ISBN: 9781797205328

Ages 3-5

I’ve written about my love for Mamasaurus before. It’s the sweetest little story of a baby dinosaur who finds himself separated from his Mama and has to ask other dinosaurs if they’ve seen her; all of whom describe their own Mamas when trying to get an idea of what Mamasaurus looks like. The book makes a great transition from picture book to board book, making it even easier to read during a lapsit and cuddle storytime.

 

Papasaurus, by Stephan Lomp, (May 2021, Chronicle Kids), $7.99, ISBN: 9781797205335

Ages 3-5

The companion book to Mamasaurus, Papasaurus makes the seamless transition from picture book to board book in time for Father’s Day, with a May release date. Here, Babysaurus and his dad are playing a game of hide and seek. As he searches for his Papa, he encounters other Kid-osaurs and asks for their help. As with Mamasaurus, the little dinos all frame their questions using their own parents as reference. Papasaurus and Babysaurus are sweetly reunited, reassuring readers that “misplaced” parents will always be found. The artwork is charming, with bright colors and sweetly expressive dinosaurs with large eyes and smiley faces. Perfect for cuddle time and Dino storytime.

 

Mix It Up!, by Hervé Tullet, (May 2021, Chronicle Books), $8.99, ISBN: 9781797207605

Ages 2-5

Another great transition from picture book to board book, Hervé Tullet’s Mix It Up! brings creativity and interactivity to this wonderful board book that keeps kids pressing, touching, and shaking their books as they work with color. The narration walks readers through the book, directing readers through cause-and-effect spreads that will invoke delight as readers discover that the page they’ve touched leads to a riot of color on the next spread, or mixing colors by tilting the book leads to an entirely new color emerging! Hervé Tullet writes like he’s in a one-on-one with each reader, gently leading them with sentences like, “take a little bit of the read… and rub it on the blue”; “Do you want to go on? OK!” I’ve read all of Tullet’s books in my storytimes, and they never fail to elicit joyful participation as I weave through the seated kids, everyone waiting their turn to take part. Art storytime, Color storytime, everything works with an Hervé Tullet story. Having this in board book format invites little learners to sit and play on their own or with another reader. They’re just wonderful books. The original release of Mix It Up! was a Junior Library Guild Selection, a Buzzfeed Best Book of the Year, a PBS Parents Best Picture Book, an ACL Distinguished Book, and selected as a Best Book of the Year by Chicago Public Library. Get out the fingerpaints and let your Littles create their own masterpieces!

Posted in Young Adult/New Adult

Blog Tour: Nourish (one for the grownups!)

I know this is MomReadIt, and I talk mainly about kids books, but every now and then, I put up something for the grownups. Nourish is a nutrition guide for parents and caregivers with information, advice, and recipes for creating a plant-based life for you and your littles – or just incorporating more plant-based food into their diets.  From pregnancy to teen, Nourish is comprehensive, with easy-to-understand discussions of plant-based food, micronutrients, supplements, and getting the whole family on board are just the beginning of what you’ll find in here. For anyone who wants to work on getting a healthier diet onto their tables and into their lunchboxes, start with Nourish. I’ll be keeping their “no recipe meals” advice on my fridge for those days when I need to bring something to work for lunch, but have no idea what I want to eat.

Nourish: The Definitive Plant-Based Nutrition Guide for Families,
by Reshma Shah, MD, MPH and Brenda Davis, RD, (November 2020, HCI),
$18.95, ISBN: 9780757323621

Enjoy an excerpt from Nourish:

10 TIPS FOR A HEALTHY FAMILY TABLE

Excerpt adapted from Nourish: The Definitive Plant-Based Nutrition Guide for Families by Reshma Shah, MD, MPH and Brenda Davis, RD (November 2020, HCI). More at nourishthebook.com.

As parents and guardians of children, we are tasked with ensuring that our family table is a place where cultural traditions are honored, community is celebrated, and each family member is well nourished. Sometimes balancing nutrition with joy and connection can be challenging for parents. Here are 10 healthy eating tips to make nourishing your family simple and mindful.

  1. Eat a variety of foods from each food group. The greater the variety of foods included from each group, the greater the diversity of nutrients, fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants you will consume. When you make healthy choices from each food group, you establish healthy eating patterns that cover a lifetime of protection.
  2. Make water your beverage of choice. Beverages can easily be the downfall of any dietary pattern. They may contain unwanted sugars, sodium, saturated fat, caffeine, and/or alcohol (in adult beverages). Water is critical to overall health and is the most effective beverage for quenching thirst. To increase water intake, drink it hot or cold, drink it with your meals and between your meals, drink it during physical activity, and carry a reusable water bottle with you. To provide a flavor boost, add fruit pieces, lime, lemon, mint, cucumbers, cinnamon sticks and/ or a frozen juice cube. Use soda water as a base to make it fizzy.
  3. Skip the highly processed foods. Highly processed foods are major contributors to the excess consumption of unhealthy fats, refined sugars and starches, salt, and potentially harmful food additives. Examples of highly processed foods are fast foods, deep-fried foods, sweet baked goods, sugar-laden ice creams and frozen treats, salty snacks, candy bars, candies, and sweet beverages. While you don’t have to eliminate these foods altogether, consider reserving them as occasional foods in your family’s diet. To curb intake of highly processed foods, start by slowly replacing some of these foods with healthier options. For example, instead of store-bought cookies and muffins, try making homemade baked goods with nutritious ingredients; swap out French fries for oven-baked “fries.”
  4. Keep sodium intake moderate. Over 70 percent of our sodium comes from processed food, about 15 percent is naturally present in whole food and only about 10 percent comes from salt added during cooking and at the table. The balance comes mostly from water and dietary supplements. So, reducing processed foods will put a major dent in your sodium load.

Be aware of foods that are hyper concentrated in sodium such as pickles and olives, as generous intakes can quickly lead to excess. You can easily adjust the amount used in cooking and at the table, if need be. Kids can overconsume sodium as well, and as diet habits are formed in childhood, reducing intake can help promote long-term health.

  1. Read food labels. Food labels can supply information that will help you to make more healthful choices. The most valuable information is provided in the nutrition facts and ingredient list. The Nutrition Facts provide information about serving size, calories, and some nutrients (as a percent of the Daily Value). The ingredient list tells you about the ingredients in order of their weight in the product. It is common practice to try to fool customers by including multiple forms of less desirable ingredients such as sugar, so they all end up lower on the ingredient list. For example, instead of listing 16 grams of cane sugar per serving, a manufacturer might list 4 grams each of cane sugar, dextrose, maltose, and corn syrup. You can use the food label to help you compare products and choose those with less sugar, less salt, less fat, and more fiber. Additionally, nutrition claims (“high in fiber,” “low in sugar,” or “high in protein”) are often depicted on a label. Foods must meet specific criteria to make these claims, and generally the healthiest foods (think broccoli!) don’t require a label to convince you of their nutritional benefit.
  2. Be savvy about food marketing. Food marketing is advertising that attempts to sell you a product. Most marketing is for products that are highly processed like presweetened cereals or toaster pastries, rather than for broccoli or blueberries. A significant amount of this advertising is directed towards children. Food marketing is designed to convince you or your children that a product is superior to its competitor’s (for example, in taste, convenience, or nutrition) or that it will provide you with some desirable outcome—higher energy, more strength, better looks, or a more robust social life. Being savvy about marketing will help you and your children to avoid being deceived by a sales pitch.
  3. Prepare meals at home. Cooking your own food means that you control what goes into your meals, including the amount of fat, sugar, and salt. You will be reducing highly processed foods and saving money for healthier foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits. It’s perfectly alright to purchase some ready-to-eat greens, pre-cut or frozen vegetables, pasta sauces, salsa, pre-seasoned tofu, or ready-to-eat veggie burgers to reduce meal prep time.
  4. Make your foods appealing and enjoyable. Making foods appealing and enjoyable leads to more positive eating experiences for your family. Take the time to present your food attractively by using colorful vegetables and fruits, herbs, and sauces. Kids love fun food, like bear-shaped pancakes or fruit plated in a flower shape. Be creative, adventurous, and open to experiencing new flavors. Weave in traditions from your family’s culture. Set an attractive table, light some candles, put on some soft music, and enjoy the company.
  5. Eat with others. When you eat with others—family, friends, colleagues, or neighbors, you will connect in a valuable way. Eating together allows you to share your cultural traditions, to explore new foods, and to have quality time with others. Enjoy your meal at a leisurely pace, and get rid of distractions such as TV and cell phones.
  6. Eat mindfully. Being mindful about your food choices means being more conscious about where your food comes from, how it is selected, and how it arrives on your table. It means experiencing your food’s appearance, taste, and texture, and appreciating the effort that went into procuring and preparing the food. It means being aware of your eating behaviors and trying to take steps to improve them, such as removing distractions, slowing down to enjoy your food, spacing meals and snacks, and creating an inviting environment.

Website: nourishthebook.com

IG: https://www.instagram.com/nourishthebook/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/nourishthebook/

Buy links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Nourish-Definitive-Plant-Based-Families-Connection/dp/0757323626/ref=sr_1_1?crid=31G6K33FJPUWD&dchild=1&keywords=nourish+the+definitive+plant-based+nutrition+guide+for+families&qid=1602864459&sprefix=Nourish%3A+the+%2Caps%2C192&sr=8-1

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/nourish-dr-reshma-shah-md/1136472931?ean=9780757323621

 

RESHMA SHAH, MD, MPH is an affiliate clinical instructor at Stanford University School of Medicine and has been a practicing pediatrician for nearly 20 years. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Johns Hopkins University and her medical degree from Drexel University College of Medicine. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband and two children. Most Sundays, you can find her at the California Avenue Farmers Market in Palo Alto where she finds inspiration for weekly family meals. reshmashahmd.com

BRENDA DAVIS, RD is a registered dietitian and widely regarded as a rock star of plant-based nutrition. VegNews called her “The Godmother of vegan dietitians.” She has been a featured speaker at medical and nutrition conferences in over 20 countries on 5 continents and is the author of 11 books on vegetarian and vegan nutrition. In 2007, she was inducted into the Vegetarian Hall of Fame. She lives in Calgary with her husband, Paul. She has two grown children and two beautiful grandchildren. brendadavisrd.com

 

More stops on the Nourish tour!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Blog Tour: World So Wide

Have you ever connected with a child and just wanted to celebrate every moment, every experience, every second of them? That’s the story at the heart of this gorgeous rhyming ode to life, Alison McGhee’s World So Wide.

World So Wide, by Alison McGhee/Illustrated by Kate Alizadeh,
(March 2020, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 781542006330
Ages 2-6

A couple imagine their newborn’s first moments: first sights; first sounds; first smells; first touches. It’s an exploration of the senses, of nature, and the captivating, all-consuming love that parents and babies have for one another. Phrased with questions and answers: “What will be the first sights they see? / Sun and moon and sky… / the love in someone’s eye?”, the story moves in verse throughout the family’s life together; through toddlerhood, adulthood, and, to show the cyclical nature of life, parenthood again, with a new father, holding his baby as he was once held, overjoyed and completely in love.

 

Kate Alizadeh’s digital illustrations paint pastel landscapes of flowery fields and family rooms; parents gently holding a baby and staring lovingly at one another. Paired with Alison McGhee’s ode to parental adoration, World So Wide comes together as a beautiful exploration of parenthood through the senses, through nature, and the future. The family appears multicultural, with a brown-skinned mom and a white, fair-haired dad. I adored Alison McGhee’s Someday; she has a gift for speaking to what’s in my heart as a mom, and she does it again with World So Wide. She takes those small moments that we wish could last forever, and gives them a voice, so we know we’re not alone. World So Wide is a lovely storytime choice, and I’d consider this a good baby shower gift, too.

Posted in picture books

My Footprints addresses family, bullying, and imagination

My Footprints, by Bao Phi/Illustrated by Basia Tran, (Sept. 2019. Capstone), $19.99, ISBN: 9781684460007

Ages 5-8

Thuy is a biracial child with two moms who feels “double different”. Walking home one winter afternoon, she tries to ignore the bullies who go at her, but she’s frustrated – and then she sees a bird, which takes her away from the bullies and into the air, soaring like the bird; from there, she wonders about taking on characteristics of other animals: sprinting like a deer; roaring like a bear; anything that can help her channel her frustration. She arrives home to her moms, Momma Ngoc and Momma Arti, and talks with them as the three walk together, creating all sorts of footprints: a phoenix, a Sarabha from Hindu mythology, even a new creature that leaves heart-shaped footprints in the snow, as Thuy walks between her mothers.

This is a quietly captivating book about imagination and family; about taking power away from bullies by talking things out with family, and gaining strength from coming together. Using mythological animals like a phoenix, which rises from its ashes, and a Sarabha, a powerful beast with the ability to leap great distances, is a nod to both Thuy’s and her mothers’ Asian and Southeast Asian backgrounds. These animals also let readers follow Thuy further into an imaginary world where she – and we – can channel the strength of these creatures into ourselves when faced with adversity.

Beautifully told, beautifully illustrated, My Footprints is a solid addition to picture book collections.

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

Middle Grade Quick Takes: Toy Academy, Ask Emma, Confusion is Nothing New

Every now and then, I dive into my TBR, which accumulates at an astonishing rate. This week, I managed to read a few more from the TBR, and wanted to give a quick take on them, since they’ve been out for a while but still deserve some mention.

Toy Academy: Some Assembly Required (Toy Academy #1), by Brian Lynch/Illustrated by Edwardian Taylor, (Jan. 2018, Scholastic), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-14845-9

Ages 7-10

This is the first in a new intermediate/middle grade series, and it’s SO much fun. Grumboldt is a stuffed animal of some sort – he has a somewhat amusing and dubious origin – and desperately wants to belong to a kid of his own. He meets a transforming car robot named Omnibus Squared, who, as it turns out, is recruiting toys for Commander Hedgehog’s Institute for Novelty Academia – The Toy Academy. Grumboldt manages to talk his way into admission, and tries desperately to be a great toy, so he’ll be assigned to a great kid, but he’s got some challenges. There’s a bully (it’s always a soldier, isn’t it?) named Rex constantly bugging him, and he can’t stay awake during Bedtime Prep. When Commander Hedgehog’s arms go missing, though, Grumboldt sees a chance to help out and make good at Toy Academy after all.

Have readers who love Toy Story? (Seriously, who doesn’t?) Give them Toy Academy. It’s sweet, hilarious, and loaded with toy references that everyone – kids and grownups alike – will recognize and get a laugh out of. Brian Lynch is a screenwriter with Minions and The Secret Life of Pets to his credit, so he knows how to write things that kids like. Edwardian Taylor’s art is a perfect match for the wacky, fun storytelling and gives us characters we’ll know and love for books to come: Grumboldt is a lovable plush with mismatched parts; Micro is a lively action figure whose collectable status limits her movement – she’s stuck in a plastic bag, because she HAS VALUE; Commandant Hedgepig is a knockoff, off-brand version of Commander Hedgehog who insists on being called his proper name rather than his emerging nickname, Bootleg. The second Toy Academy book, Ready for Action, is also available, so put these on your series purchase lists if you don’t have them already.  The kids will love them.

Ask Emma, by Sheryl Berk & Carrie Berk, (May 2018, Yellow Jacket), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0647-2

Ages 8-12

Emma is a 13-year-old seventh grader who loves to give advice, whether or not it’s asked for. She decides to start an Ask Emma column, so she can make herself available to all of her classmates at Austen Middle School, but quickly discovers that she’s a bit tone deaf in the process; she tends to push her best friends into doing things her way. She even tries to get the cute new guy, Jackson Knight, to join all the groups she thinks he should and tell her all about himself, but he gives a little pushback, which adds to his mystery. Emma starts getting some negative comments on her blog, and things start going haywire in Emma’s real world, too. When a hurtful picture of Emma starts making the rounds around the school, she decides to nip a potential cyberbully in the bud and takes action.

This is the first book in a new series from The Cupcake Club authors Carrie Berk and Sheryl Berk, and it left me a little wanting. Emma never really sees how self-absorbed she is, or apologizes for the things she does to her best friends. Her friends turn their backs on her when another student that Emma tries to “help” lies to make herself look good, but she never has that aha! moment when she examines her own behavior. A few negative blog comments and one mean picture become an overblown cyberbullying campaign, which, in this day and age, is forward thinking – catch cyberbullying in its early stages, before it becomes something out of control – but her related blog entry makes it sound like she endured a hateful campaign where she was bullied day and night. This one is a little out of touch; maybe an additional purchase where the authors are popular. The additional characters, including Jackson Knight and Emma’s best friends, Izzy and Harriet, seem interesting and I’d like to read more of their stories.

 

Confusion is Nothing New, by Paul Acampora, (May 2018, Scholastic Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-20999-0

Ages 9-13

Fourteen-year-old Ellie Magari just found out her mother, who left her and her father when Ellie was a baby, has died. Never having known her mother, Ellie tries to figure out who her mother was, especially when her father presents her with a box of her mother’s memorabilia, mysteriously sent to Ellie. She discovers that her mother was the singer in an ’80s tribute band, married her *other* high school sweetheart, and that the band is playing the local college soon. Ellie struggles with learning about her mother and how to grieve someone she never knew, while expressing frustration with her father’s reluctance to talk about her at all. Thankfully, Ellie’s friends, her principal, and an interesting new music teacher are there to help her put together the rest of the missing pieces.

Confusion is Nothing New is good, and yes, I say that partly because I love all things ’80s. (I would make a heck of a playlist to booktalk this book.) But aside from the music, it’s got a solid, readable story, and the characters have incredible heart and humor. Ellie is a likable, relatable character who takes no foolishness when a teacher treats her friend badly; she’s also vulnerable and working her way through big revelations dropped on her throughout the book. I loved her school band friends and the ease of their relationships; their humor, and their loyalty to one another. This one is a good read for tweens and teens – it’s on the cusp of being YA, but not – who want to read about another character figuring it out as best as she can.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Cover Reveal: A Crazy Much Love by Joy Jordan Lake

Author Joy Jordan-Lake has her very first picture book debuting in September: A Crazy-Much Love is all about adoption, and the crazy-much love that just grows and grows. And I’ve got a cover reveal, right here!

A Crazy-Much Love, by Joy Jordan-Lake/Illustrated by Sonia Sanchez, (Sept. 2019, Two Lions),
$17.99, ISBN: 9781542043267
Ages 3-8

From Goodreads: “How MUCH is the crazy-much love?” This simple question is answered as a parent recounts the journey of adopting her daughter and the many milestone moments that follow. From the child’s first bath and first time riding a tricycle, all the way to her boarding that big yellow bus, the crazy-much love grows SO MUCH that it spills out the windows and busts down the doors. A warm, lyrical celebration of the deep love parents hold for their children, and a comforting message for kids about how there can be only one special YOU.

I can’t wait for this one. Get this on your Fall radar!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Am I Yours? is an adorable dino guessing game

Am I Yours?, by Alex Latimer, (Sept. 2018, Peachtree Publishers), $16.95, ISBN: 9781682630440

Ages 3-6

An icy prehistoric wind blows an egg out of its nest; it rolls, then lands, in the midst of a group of dinosaurs. As the egg begs for help in identifying its parents, each dinosaur offers a description of itself and asks the embryonic dinosaur if it shares the same trait: Stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Triceratops, Corythosaurus, even Tyrannosaurus all try to help, but the poor egg is bereft: it doesn’t sound like any of these dinosaurs are its parents! In a melodramatic turn, the egg fears the chill night will be its last, but no worries: the setting sun presents a silhouette of the little pterosaur inside the egg, and the dinosaurs rejoice: they can reunite the family!

This adorable rhyming tale is a dinoriffic take on the “Are You My Mother?” theme. The dinosaurs are mostly familiar faces, and the rhyming and repetition allows kids to anticipate what will happen next. Dinosaurs are bright in color; pencil art that’s been digitized and finished with color and texture gives the artwork a mixed media feel. This would make an adorable flannel story – get yourself to the craft store! There’s a free downloadable matching game on Peachtree’s website.

Booktalk and display with Stephen Lomp’s Mamasaurus and Papasaurus, and Ed Young’s Seven Blind Mice.

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

Grief and conflict collide in The Girl with More Than One Heart

The Girl with More Than One Heart, by Laura Geringer Bass, (Apr. 2018, Amulet), $16.99, ISBN: 9781419728822

Ages 10+

Briana is starting her eighth grade year when her father dies of a sudden heart problem. Her mother spirals into grief, leaving Briana with the responsibility of caring for her 5-year-old brother, Aaron, who’s on the autism spectrum. Briana thought of her father as “her” parent and her mother as “Aaron’s parent”, which introduces frustration and resentment on top of her own grief. Briana feels a “second heart” form in her stomach, which communicates to her in her father’s voice, telling her to “find” her mother, and to “let go”.

Told in the first person in Briana’s voice, this novel is a touching, sensitive look at the complicated grief process: it’s messy, frustrating, and filled with mixed emotions, especially when thrown into the volatile mix of adolescent emotions. The writing is so believable, so real, that I felt overwhelmed by both Briana’s and her mother’s grief at points. Readers receive a wealth of information through Briana’s “Before Aaron” flashbacks, back to when her mother had as much time for her as her father; back when they were a cohesive, whole family. This process also helps Briana become a more present sibling to Aaron, and to reach out to new friends when the opportunities present themselves. We get a glimpse of what grief can do to a parent, and the effect of that grief on a child, and we see how the extended family – in this case, Briana’s grandfather – have to take on roles that they may be unprepared for.

The Girl with More Than One Heart is a must-add to your realistic fiction collections, and keep this one in your booktalking pocket for books on grief and loss.

 

Readalikes:

 

Never That Far, by Carol Lynch Williams: Twelve-year-old Libby and her father work through their grief after her grandfather dies.

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, by John David Anderson: Three school friends give their dying teacher the best day ever.

A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness: Thirteen-year-old Conor’s mother is fighting cancer and losing; at the same time, a yew tree tells Conor stories and expects him to tell his.

The Haunted House Project, by Tricia Clasen: Andie tries to hold onto her mother’s memory by having her “haunt” the family home.

Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan: Twelve-year-old Willow loses both parents in a car accident, leaving her to find her place in the world.

Teen Librarian Toolbox and Pragmatic Mom have additional choices, all excellent reading.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

What memories does YOUR door hold?

Beyond the Doors, by David Neilsen, (Aug. 2017, Crown), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-101-93582-8

Recommended for readers 8-13

Four siblings have the weirdest, worst day of their lives when they’re pulled out of class to learn that their father is in a coma after a fire consumed their home. As their mother disappeared years ago, there’s a sobbing social worker, ready to split them up to horrors unknown, until a mystery aunt is located. Janice, Zack, Sydney, and Alexa Rothbaum are quickly shuttled off to this mysterious, scatterbrained aunt. Once the kids start exploring and settling in, they learn the bizarre secret behind their aunt’s fortress home: she’s got a machine that allows her to use doors to access the memories contained within them, and she’s searching for her father: their grandfather.

Remember Monsters, Inc? How the Monsters would go through different doors to reach different kids’ rooms? Think of it like that, but instead of using the doors to get into kids’ rooms, you stepped into the memories of the person most identified with the door. If you stepped through the door to my room from 1986, for instance, you’d see me, sprawled on my bed reading a copy of Bop! Magazine, in a room papered with Duran Duran posters, and talking to my best friend on the phone. The memories are sepia-tinged, and while you can interact to a degree with the memories, too much interaction has… consequences.

It’s a madcap adventure, with a wacky aunt, an off-the-walls social worker with a penchant for the melodramatic, and loads of family secrets to discover, but character development and world-building aren’t as rich as I’d have enjoyed. There’s quite a bit of humor and a climactic battle that’s both gruesome and thrilling, and readers will never look at a bowl of Cheerios without groaning again. Black and white illustrations keep readers invested in the story. Beyond the Doors will appeal to Series of Unfortunate Events and Mysterious Benedict Society fans; display and booktalk with The Problim Children for some fun discussions about weird siblings and families. Ask kids what doors they would like to wander into – or what their doors would have to say. It’s a great creative writing or art exercise!

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Picture Book Roundup: Bears, Babies, Bats, and more!

In my continuing struggle to get on top of my review list, I present another roundup; this time, with picture books!

Priscilla Pack Rat: Making Room for Friendship, by Claudine Crangle,
(March 2017, Magination Press), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1433823350
Recommended for readers 4-8

Priscilla is a very sweet rat who loves to collect things, but when she’s invited to friends’ birthday parties, she finds that she has a hard time even parting with the gifts she chooses for her friends! When Priscilla’s house finally crashes around her, she realizes that her friends are worth much more than being surrounded by stuff. Magination Press is an imprint of the American Psychological Association; this is a book designed to discuss clutter and hoarding tendencies in kids, and it does so in a mild, easy manner. This can easily be a kids’ story on sharing and giving, no red flags necessary. Adorable felted characters and found objects create a visually interesting story that you can also turn into a little game of I Spy with little ones: there are plenty of things to find! A note to parents and caregivers advises parents on what to do if children have trouble parting with possessions, the differences between hoarding and collecting, and ways to help kids organize their belongings. A nice add to developing empathy collections and for caregivers and educators who need books to address behaviors.

Letters to a Prisoner, by Jacques Goldstyn
(Sept. 2017, OwlKids Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781771472517
Recommended for readers 4+

Letters to a Prisoner is getting rave reviews, with good reason. The wordless picture book, inspired by the letter-writing campaigns of human rights organization Amnesty International, is so impactful, so relevant, and so necessary. A man is arrested during a peaceful protest, injured by a soldier who also pops the man’s daughter’s balloon. The man is thrown in a solitary jail cell, where he befriends a mouse and a bird. When letters arrive, the guard takes joy in burning them in front of the man, but the joke’s on the guard: the smoke from the burning letters serves as a worldwide beacon. Groups of people all over send the man letters; they arrive, en masse, and turn into wings with which the prisoner soars above the helpless, infuriated guard. The watercolor over black ink sketches adds an ethereal feel to this beautiful story of hope and social justice. The book’s wordlessness allows for every reader to come together, transcending language, to take part in this inspirational story. An author’s note tells readers about Amnesty International’s inspiration. Display and booktalk with Luis Amavisca’s No Water, No Bread, and talk with little ones and their parents as you display the book during social justice and empathy themed storytimes. Letters to a Prisoner has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Quill and Quire.

 

I Am Bat, by Morag Hood,
(Oct. 2017, OwlKids Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492660323
Recommended for readers 3-7

One of my favorite picture books this year. Bat is adorable. And he loves cherries. DO NOT TAKE HIS CHERRIES. He is quite serious about this, so you can imagine his distress when his cherries start disappearing! The reader’s clued in, naturally – we see paws and ants sneaking cherries out of the book’s margins while Bat stares at us, demanding to know what’s going on. The animals leave him a pear, which Bat embraces – and the story is ready to begin again. There’s bold, black fonts to make for expressive storytime reading, and Bat and Friends are just too much fun to read and play along with. Absolutely delightful storytime reading; just make sure you read this one before you get it in front of your group: you will squeal with glee the first couple of times you read it. Print out bat masks for the kids to color in as part of your storytime craft.

Shelter, by Céline Claire,
(Oct. 2017, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771389273
Recommended for readers 3-7

A storm’s approaching, and two strangers – brothers – arrive in the forest. They stop at several animal family homes, offering a trade for shelter; they have tea, can anyone offer them some food? A place to ride out the storm? We see each family, safe and with full larders, turn them away. A young fox feels terrible about this, and runs out to give the brothers a lamp, which they use to find shelter. But as fate would have it, the storm is even more trouble than the families expected, and soon, they’re asking the brothers for shelter: which is cheerfully given. This kind, moving story about kindness and succor is perfect for illustrating the power of empathy. Qin Leng’s watercolor and ink illustrations are soft and gentle, a perfect match for Céline Claire’s quiet narration. Shelter offers the perfect opportunity to talk about putting kind thoughts into practice; whether it’s sharing with others or offering friendship to someone who needs it.

The Little Red Wolf, by Amelie Flechais,
(Oct. 2017, Lion Forge),$19.99, ISBN: 9781941302453
Recommended for readers 6-10

A slightly macabre twist on the traditional Little Red Hiding Hood tale, The Little Red Wolf is a story about a little wolf who, on the way to visit an ailing grandma, encounters an awful human girl. The message here is consistent with the original fable: there’s a strong stranger danger warning, but also a reminder that every side has a story, every villain has an origin. The art is beautiful and dark; an additional add for collections where readers may be ready for darker fantasy.

Middle Bear, by Susanna Isern/Illustrated by Manon Gauthier,
(Oct. 2017, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771388429
Recommended for readers 3-7

The middle child gets lots of love in this adorable picture book. Middle Bear is the second of three brothers; not small, but not big; not strong, but not weak; not a lot, not a little… “he was the middle one”. He has a hard time feeling special until the day his parents both fall ill and the three cubs have to get willow tree bark from the mountain top, to help them get well. When big brother is too big, and little brother is too little, it’s up to Middle Brother to save the day: he is, to quote that other story starring three bears, “just right”. The emphasis on bear’s “middleness” will drive home the point that he persevered and succeeded as is, through determination. Manon Gauthier cut paper collage, pencil, and mixed media illustrations add texture and a childlike sense of place in the story. There’s a good lesson about empathy to be learned here, too; the bear’s brothers and parents all support him and let him know that what he may see as being a challenge – being the middle one – is what makes him the perfect bear for the job. Perfect storytelling for middle children who may be feeling the frustration of being too big for some things, not big enough for others.

No Room for Baby!, by Émile Jadoul,
(Oct. 2017, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771388412
Recommended for readers 3-7

Leon’s baby brother, Marcel, has arrived! Leon’s excited, but a little concerned about where the baby’s going to go when he’s not in his crib. He certainly can’t go in Leon’s room. And there’s no room on Mama’s lap for him; there’s only room for Leon. And Daddy’s shoulders are just too high. After Leon thinks on the situation, he discovers the best possible place for his baby brother: in his arms. This is the such a sweet story about becoming an older sibling; it addresses the fears an older sibling may have when a new baby joins the family, and it allows the sibling to work through his fears and come to his own happy decision. At no point do Leon’s parents correct him or force the baby on him; they stand back and let him reason things out for himself. It’s an empowering story with a sweet sense of humor. The simple black pencil, crayon and oils illustration feels childlike and will easily appeal to readers. I’m looking forward to adding this one to my new baby bibliography.