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

March Picture Books

Astro Pea, by Amalia Hoffman, (March 2019, Schiffer Publishing), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764356988

Ages 3-6

Pete the Pea pops out of his pod, finds a carrot rocket ship and blasts off into space! When his ship collides with a satellite, he’s rescued by a shuttle full of corn kernels, who also provide him with a ride back home to Earth. This adorable picture book stars a cast of vegetables posing as heavenly bodies. Pete zooms by cauliflower star clusters, asparagus satellites, corn shuttles, and mushroom parachutes. It’s a fun story about space and exploring, and a sweet story about making new friends.

The artwork is bright, with primary colors leaping off the jet black background of outer space. The anthropomorphic veggies have smiley little faces, and the simple artwork and text makes for an attention-grabbing storytime selection. Display, booktalk, and read Astro Pea with your healthy eating books, like Eating the Rainbow by Rena D. Grossman and Lois Ehlert’s classics, Growing Vegetable Soup or Eating the Alphabet.

The artwork also lends itself to an interactive storytime and craft. The artwork can be recreated with colorful chalk and black construction paper, letting the kids create their own outer space adventures. Make some felt veggies and let the kids identify each of them as they come up throughout the story. There so many ways to enjoy this adorable book – there’s even a free coloring page available through author Amalia Hoffman’s website. Astro Pea is a cute add to your picture book and storytime collections.

Bravo, Chico Canta, Bravo!, by Pat Mora and Libby Martinez/Illustrated by Amelia Lau Carling, Translated by Elena Iribarren, (March 2019, Groundwood Books), $9.95, ISBN: 9781773062198

Ages 7-10

Originally released in hardcover in 2014, this mouse tale is all about the benefits of being bilingual. This release is the paperback version, written by superstar author Pat Mora and her daughter, Libby Martinez. Chico Canta is the youngest mouse in his family; they live in a theatre and love to watch the performances, and yelling “Bravo!” along with the audiences.The family loves the theatre so much, they decide to put on their own production, getting right to work. But Gato-Gato, the cat, is always sneaking around, and Chico saves the day when he uses his own knack for languages to alert everyone on opening night.

This is such an adorable story, embracing the gift of a multi-lingual household. Chico’s mom, Mrs. Canta, speaks many languages (English, Spanish, Italian, Cricket, Spider, and Moth) and encourages her children to develop their own skills. Chico saves the day when he uses his own developing language skill – a dog’s bark – to scare off the cat and save the day. The family works together on the production, everyone working on their own task. The artwork is full of rich color, with adorable animal faces. An author’s note from Pat Mora describes how she and her daughter were inspired to write the story after reading a book of Mexican-American folktales. An inspirational add to collections, especially in communities with multicultural families. I’m always telling parents at my library that the more languages kids know, the better!

Friends, by Geraldo Valério, (March 2019, Groundwood Books), $19.95, ISBN: 9781773061023

Ages 3-6

A girl and her frog go fishing, but are disappointed when the fish aren’t biting. She and the frog start making silly faces in the water, and their reflections come to life! The girl’s reflection transforms into a mermaid, and the two sets of friends enjoy a day of underwater adventure where the two girls discover glowing pearls, which they turn into matching necklaces. It’s a sweet, wordless story about friendship and imagination, with bright pastel, color pencil, and acrylic artwork. Pre-readers will love to look at the pictures and tell you what they see happening. Invite your readers to draw their own underwater adventure.

There’s wonderful detail in every spread, with little seahorses and jellyfish popping up. The frogs have their own little underwater romp, so encourage your readers to spot them! This one is a cute additional add to your wordless books.

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

Bookjoy, Wordjoy, Reading Joy!

Bookjoy, Wordjoy, by Pat Mora/Illustrated by Raúl Colón, (May 2018, Lee & Low), $17.95, ISBN: 9781620142868

Recommended for readers 5-9

Fans of words and language will enjoy this book of poems by award-winning author and poet Pat Mora, beautifully illustrated by award-winning children’s book artist Raúl Colón. Each spread presents vibrant, colorful artwork with accompanying wordplay celebrating books, words, and the fun of playing with language; English and Spanish words come together like old friends; or, as Mora would have it, “toast and jelly/o queso y tortillas”. Most of the poems flow in free verse, and every selection is upbeat and loaded with a sense of play. Artist Raúl Colón’s images have a lovely Mexican influence, with bright colors coming together and communicating in rich visuals.

This is a great jumping-off point for introducing younger readers and writers to poetry, particularly free verse poetry, which demands less rigor and allows more freedom and imagination. Give kids visual points and ask them to think up their own poems, or flip the tables and introduce them to mural art by taping some butcher paper (or the blank side of an old roll of wrapping paper) across a wall, a table, or another long, flat surface. Let them go wild, and then ask them to talk about what they see. You’ll be amazed at a kid’s natural poetry.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction

Say Gracias-Thanks! every day!

graciasGracias ~ Thanks, by Pat Mora/Illustrated by John Parra. Translated by Adriana Dominguez, (2005, Lee & Low Books), $17.95, ISBN: 9781600602580

Recommended for ages 4-8

Told in English and Spanish, a biracial boy gives thanks for everyday things, from the bee that didn’t turn him into a pincushion to his brother making him laugh so hard he fell off his chair; for his friend, who showed him a book with a great idea about what to do with troublesome parents, to his abuelita, who always has a dollar to give him. It’s a sweet, lyrical look at the little things we encounter daily, but may not remember to be grateful for. A note from the author asks readers what they’re thankful for and notes that making a list helps keep track of all the little things to be thankful for.

The book is a gentle reminder to be thankful for things all year long – we don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to say “thank you” for things that make us happy! This can be a jumping-off point for a discussion about being grateful and saying thank you more often. Have the kids contribute with three things that they are grateful for today.

Gracias ~ Thanks received starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus Reviews, and is a Pura Belpre Honor Book (2010). It has received numerous awards and honors, including the 2010/2011 Gelett Burgess Award – Children’s Book of the Year and the 2009 Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Illustration.

Pat Mora’s author website includes some ideas and activities to use when reading Gracias, and a page dedicated to the book lists its multiple awards and honors, includes a video from the author.

I love anything by Pat Mora – she writes instant classics that draw focus to small moments, as with Gracias, folklore (Doña Flor), and love for our families (so, so many books). Her books, by virtue of being bilingual, invite all readers to sit down and enjoy a story. Together.