Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Watch Me is a powerful immigration story

Watch Me: A Story of Immigration and Inspiration, by Doyin Richards/Illustrated by Joe Cepeda (Jan. 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250266514

Ages 3-5

Author and advocacy powerhouse Doyin Richards brings his father’s story to children with Watch Me.  As a child in Sierra Leone, Joe dreamed of going to America. People told him America wouldn’t accept him with his accent and his dark skin. Joe smiled and said, “Watch me”. It was a phrase he repeated often as he arrived in America and experienced racism and people questioned his intelligence. And Joe succeeded. More of a conversation than a one-sided narrative, Doyin Richards asks readers to think about times they were told they were different, or came up against things they couldn’t control. He asks them to think about times they may have seen kids at school be treated differently, or walk by themselves in the hall at school. He encourages readers to put themselves in Joe’s position – in the position of that classmate, eating lunch in the library alone – and to maybe consider a kind word, a smile, a simple act of kindness. As Richards says, “This land is your land. This land is my land. There is enough for everyone”. There’s no place for racism here. There is enough of everything for everyone; all we need to do is share. Beautiful oil and acrylic artwork makes each spread look like a portrait-worthy painting. A perfect readaloud for children.

Watch Me has a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Doyin Richards is a TEDx speaker who has spoken on anti-racism, and his book and blog, Daddy Doin’ Work, became a book that encouraged women to help dads become more engaged, hands-on fathers.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour Kickoff (and a giveaway!): THE ITTY BITTY WITCH

I’m so excited to be kicking off the blog tour for Trisha Speed Shaskan and Xindi Yan’s adorable story about being small yet mighty, The Itty Bitty Witch! I reviewed this fun story about a little witch with a big spirit back in July, so today, I’ve got an interview with author Trisha Speed Shaskan. Enjoy!

The Itty Bitty Witch by Trisha Speed Shaskan/Illustrated by Xindi Yan,
(July 2019, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1542041232
Ages 4-7

“Caregivers and teachers will be pleased with the multiple extensions the story offers, all wrapped up in a Halloween theme. Proving size does not matter, this itty-bitty witch casts a bewitching spell.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A familiar portrayal of [a] determined, lone underdog who discovers her sense of worth.” —Publishers Weekly

 

And now, the Trisha Speed Shaskan interview. Thank you so much to Trisha and to Barbara at Blue Slip Media!

MomReadIt: As someone who was always first or second on the size order line at school, I love and appreciate Betty’s story! What inspired you to write THE ITTY-BITTY WITCH?

Trisha Speed Shaskan: Thank you! I’m so happy you enjoyed The Itty-Bitty Witch. When I was a child, Halloween was magical because the neighborhood kids took over the streets at night, in costumes. Because of my love for Halloween, the first book I chose at a RIF event was Tilly Witch by Don Freeman, a story about a witch who feels happy instead of wicked on Halloween! Drat! That story inspired me to write and read witch stories as a child and into adulthood.

As a child, I was also one of the smallest or shortest kids in my class. And I played many sports—too bad I couldn’t race atop a broom like Betty! I was often the one girl athlete on a team of boys. Kids called me “short” and “Tommy” since I was seen as a tomboy. I didn’t like being labeled because it set me apart from other kids. And although my height and ability to play on any team was often an asset, I didn’t always see it that way. In The Itty-Bitty Witch, Betty is similarly given a nickname she doesn’t like (“Itty-Bitty”) but learns that being small can be a strength.

MomReadIt: Betty starts out being bullied because she’s small, but her bullies change their tune when they see that Betty wins the Halloween Dash! As an educator, how did you teach younger kids about self-acceptance and resiliency?

Trisha Speed Shaskan: My husband/children’s book author and illustrator Stephen Shaskan and I teach kids how to create comics and graphic novels. Recently, we taught a class that had only two students in it, which allowed us to get to know them. Eleven-year-old Brian told everyone he wasn’t a good artist. He clearly felt insecure. But by the end of the class he said he created the best drawing he’d ever created. He built that confidence and in turn self- acceptance in a couple hours. How? First, Stephen and I built a relationship with the kids in the room by listening to them. We learned Brian’s favorite TV show (“Zig and Sharko”), and the names of the cows on his family’s farm. We joked around. Stephen and I modeled the drawing activity. The students made suggestions and Stephen drew a character out of simple shapes. Next, we set out tools for the students to use, such as geometric templates. The template helps kids who don’t feel they can draw the shapes consistently. I praised Brian for his focus and for using the template. I sat down next to him and drew. I’m not a trained artist so I had a hard time drawing the hand. I failed. Stephen gave me an example of a how-to-do it from a drawing book. Brian encouraged me. Brian had a difficult time drawing part of the snowman from a new angle. I encouraged Brian. By the end of the day, Brian invented a hexasnowman, drew it from different points of view, and told us he was going to draw it more at home. How do you get kids to accept and love themselves? First and foremost, build a positive relationship with them. Give them tools. Give them specific praise that focuses on the process, not result. Be honest. Take risks alongside them or share your mistakes or failures. Lift them up.

MomReadit: Will Betty return in another adventure?

Trisha Speed Shaskan: Betty’s return is yet to be determined, but I do have more stories about her brewing!

MomReadIt: How would you encourage younger kids to start their own storytelling?

Trisha Speed Shakan: I write from my own experiences and imagination. But I also write to learn about myself and the world. If kids want to write stories, I encourage them to explore the world through activities and books! Take a walk outside. Develop a hobby. Learn about a subject you enjoy. Learn about an animal you love. While exploring and learning, you’re sure to collect story ideas! Pay attention to the stories you love and why you love those stories, whether it’s a book, a TV show, or a movie. When you set out to write a story, think about those elements and how to incorporate them in your story.

Thank you so much!

When Trisha Speed Shaskan was a child, Halloween meant bobbing for apples, daring to touch brains (which may have been noodles), and—best of all—wearing costumes. She still loves dressing up for Halloween. Trisha is the author of more than forty children’s books, including Punk Skunks and the Q & Ray series, both illustrated by her husband, Stephen Shaskan. Trisha lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with Stephen; their cat, Eartha; and their dog, Beatrix. Learn more at www.trishaspeedshaskan.com.

Find her on Twitter and Facebook

 

Xindi Yan grew up in a small city called Wuhu in China, and like Betty, she was always the smallest in her class. Standing a little shy of five feet, she still can’t reach the high shelves in grocery stores and sometimes finds that shoes made for kids fit her best. But her size didn’t stop her from chasing her big dreams of being a published artist in New York City. Xindi is the illustrator of Sylvia Rose and the Cherry Tree by Sandy Shapiro Hurt and the Craftily Ever After series by Martha Maker. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and hopes to have a puppy one day. Learn more at www.xindiyanart.com

Twitter: @xindiyan

Instagram: @xindiyanart

One lucky winner will receive a copy of The Itty-Bitty Witch, courtesy of Two Lions/Amazon (U.S. addresses). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Out of the nest and into the air! Why Should I Walk? I Can Fly!

Why Should I Walk? I Can Fly!, by Ann Ingalls/Illustrated by Rebecca Evans, (March 2019, Dawn Publications), $8.95, ISBN: 9781584696391

Ages 3-7

This rhyming story is all about a baby bird who’s ready to take the leap out of the nest and into the air… but maybe brother and sister can go first. The story is all about overcoming fears and persistence; kids will see themselves in the little robin’s excitement to take this next step, and the hesitation of moving out of one’s comfort zone. The kids will chuckle when Momma Bird gives the little bird some help leaving the nest, and parents will smirk in recognition; sometimes, we just have to help nudge our kids out of those comfort zones.

This is an encouraging story that shows kids it’s okay to be nervous, especially when trying something new; it’s perfectly normal to have excitement mixed with being nervous. And, yes, sometimes, we need a little push in the right direction; it’s all worth it, though, when we take off and succeed. Back matter includes a bird Q&A, photos, and STEM activities.

Why Should I Walk? I Can Fly! is a fun story about stretching one’s boundaries, trying new things, and growing up. It’s a good STEM storytime pick.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Your heart cannot handle the adorableness of Tiny T. Rex!

Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug, by Jonathan Stutzman/Illustrated by Jay Fleck, (March 2019, Chronicle Books), $15.99, ISBN: 9781452170336

Ages 3-7

Tiny T. Rex wants to hug his sad friend, Pointy the Stegosaurus, but there’s one problem: he has very tiny arms! He seeks advice from his parents, aunt, and siblings, and ultimately decides that practice makes perfect: but it’s sometimes precarious!

I have been squealing about this book since I first saw it at a Book Buzz a couple of months ago. A combination of smart writing and adorable cartoony artwork makes Tiny T. Rex one of the cutest, funniest books I’ve ever read. Tiny T. Rex is every kid, from preschool age on up, who has to contend with weird adult responses to big childhood dilemmas. When he asks his new age-y Aunt Junip for hugging advice, she recommends “balance and freshly squeezed cucumber juice”, to which T. Rex responds, “That is disgusting. I will ask my mother for help instead”. Mom’s advice isn’t much more helpful; she falls back on the traditional mom answer (which I’ve used quite a few times, myself): “It’s okay if you can’t hug. You are good at many other things… You are tiny, but your heart is big!” You can almost see his little eyes roll when he responds, “I cannot hug with my heart, mother”. When T. Rex decides to take his siblings’ advice and practice, he creates a hug strategy blackboard that kids will love: he’s considering being shot out of a cannonball, parachuting into the hug, and several other hilariously adorable ways to accomplish the hug. As he starts putting his ides into practice, he learns that trial and error can be a little painful, but ultimately, that the best hugs are the ones given with all the love you have to give. The artwork is heart-exploding levels of adorable. T. Rex and his fellow family and friends are bright and bold, with bright, cheerful foliage all around them.

It’s impossible not to squeal when you first lay eyes on this book: I have a dining room full of librarians and educators that backed me up, when Chronicle debuted this at the book buzz. With a sweet storyline about compassion and determination, eye-catching graphics that kids and adults alike will love, and text that was made for storytime reading, Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug is a home run. Now, we wait for another adventure…

Illustrator Jay Fleck has a video on drawing Tiny T. Rex – invite your storytime kiddos to give it their best!

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Fables from the Stables: Murray the Race Horse

Murray the Race Horse, by Gavin Puckett/Illustrated by Tor Freeman, (May 2018, Faber & Faber), $8.95, ISBN: 9780571334681

Recommended for readers 6-10

Murray is a sweet horse with big dreams: he wants to race, he wants a trophy, he wants the adulation of the fans, but there’s a big problem: Murray just can’t run that fast. He’s used as a service horse, and the other sleek, fast racing horses poke fun at him, but Murray gets his chance at greatness when Ned, one of the racing horses, is injured at the big Speed Saddle Cup race and Murray is pulled out of the crowd to compete in his place! Murray’s handed off to a stable boy for shoeing – but the stable boy puts the shoes on the wrong way, leaving Murray to run the race backwards! Is seeing things differently the key to Murray’s success?

Originally released in the UK in 2017, Murray is the first in author Gavin Puckett’s Fables from the Stables series, and is a short story, written in verse, and illustrated in full color. Murray is a sweet horse that kids will root for, and the storyline about seeing things differently, or trying a different strategy to change your luck, will appeal to parents, educators, and caregivers that may need some help explaining the concept. This can easily be a read-aloud or independent reading book. Give this to your horse story fans (get those Horse Diaries books on display) and your humor readers.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Snail Mail celebrates the art of letter-writing!

Snail Mail, by Samantha Berger/Illustrated by Julia Patton, (May 2018, Running Press), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-762462-51-3

Recommended for readers 4-6

This adorable story celebrates the special touches that correspondence sent by “snail mail” – mail sent (GASP!) without electronic communication. Real letters! Birthday cards! Letters to Santa, postcards, and love letters! In Samantha Berger’s latest book, four snails (Dale Snail, Gail Snail, Colonel McHale Snail, and Umbérto) trek across the country to deliver a special letter from a Girl to her friend, a Boy. As they travel, they take the time to explore the country; the deserts, canyons, rainbows and sunsets, experiencing beautiful and not-so-great weather, until they arrive in a giant city and find the Boy.

Snail Mail is a love letter (wink) to slowing down and enjoying life. It’s about a handwritten letter and why they’re so much nicer than emails and texts; it’s about taking the time to write a letter, see a sunset, road trip across the country and experience life. As the author writes, “Although it took much longer, everyone agreed that some things were just A LITTLE more special when they were delivered by Snail Mail.” The snails each have their own personality, and work together to bring the Girl’s letter on a journey to its recipient, always uttering their Snail Mail Promise, “Neither rain, nor snow, nor heat, nor hail will stop a snail from bringing the mail.” Letter delivered, the snails are rewarded with their own mail: medals and a congratulatory letter; “something they could have only gotten through Snail Mail.”

Snail Mail is a thoroughly enjoyable story that would be adorable to follow or start off a program on letter writing and pen pals. I found this cute graphic organizer on This Reading Mama that would be great for teaching the parts of a letter to younger readers, and Reading Rockets has a nice introduction to letter writing for kids. has a starred review from Kirkus.

(Pair this with Dashka Slater’s Escargot and discuss: are Escargot and Umberto related? They share a common fashion interest!)

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books for your Spring radar!

Spring always brings some good books to read. In April and May, there’s a little something for everyone – come and see!

April Books

Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest, by Sarah Hampson/Illustrated by Kass Reich,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771383615
Recommended for readers 4-8
Dr. Archibald Coo is a sophisticated pigeon who’s tired of the way he and his fellow pigeons are treated by humans. They’re shooed at, swatted, and treated like a general menace. Dr. Coo remembers when pigeons enjoyed a higher profile in history: in ancient Greece, they delivered news about the Olympic Games; during World War I, they carried messages across battlefields. Now? pfft. So Dr. Coo and his pigeon friends organize and decide to strike: they disappear from every public space, leaving a confused public wondering what happened. Dr. Coo heads over to the mayor’s office a history of the pigeon and a note, asking for tolerance, opening the door to a new era of pigeon-human relations. It’s a cute urban story with a wink to New York and other urban spaces, and has a nice thread about inclusivity and diversity running through the book. Gouache paint and colored pencil art makes for a soft illustration, with attention to the different types of pigeons – there are! – in the cityscape. This would be cute to booktalk with James Sage’s Stop Feedin’ Da Boids!

My Teacher’s Not Here!, by Lana Button/Illustrated by Christine Battuz,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771383561
Recommended for readers 4-6
Kitty gets to school and knows something’s up when her teacher, Miss Seabrooke, isn’t there to meet her. What’s going on? There’s another teacher there today! How does school even work when your teacher is absent? This sweet rhyming tale about a student’s first substitute teacher is great for younger kids who are just getting into the swing of school routines and provides some fun advice for coping with and adjusting to unexpected change. Kitty teaches readers some coping strategies, including helping out her friends and the teacher by contributing to class and modeling good behavior using cues she learned from her teacher, that the substitute may not be aware of. This is an animal story, so kids will enjoy seeing the “ginormously tall” teacher, a giraffe named Mr. Omar; pigs, elephants, bears, a whole menagerie of students. Hand-drawn artwork and digital collage come together to create colorful, textured, cartoony fun. This one’s a good addition to preschool and primary collections.

Tinkle, Tinkle Little Star, by Chris Tougas,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $9.99, ISBN: 9781771388399
Recommended for readers 1-3
One of my favorite books coming out this season is this adorable board book! Set to the tune of everybody’s favorite classic song, this sweet and funny version is all about where not to go: not in a plane, not on Grandpa’s knee, not at a puppet show. Luckily, the poor Little Star gets relief by the story’s end, and sits on a potty to… “Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Star”. It’s adorable with the cutest digital art. Little Star is beyond cute, and gender neutral! Sing along at storytime – I know I’ll be throwing plenty of voice inflection (“Did you just pee on this page?”) and leg-crossing as I read this one. Absolutely adorable, must-add, must-give for collections and toddlers everywhere.

May Books

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book, by Alice Kuipers/Illustrated by Diana Toledano,
(May 2018, Chronicle), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452152325
Recommended for readers 7-9
Polly Diamond is an aspiring, biracial young writer who discovers a magic book on her doorstep one day. Not only does the book write back to her when she writes in it, Everything she writes in the book happens in real life! At first, Polly is psyched: who wouldn’t be, right? But you know how it goes… for every magic journal action, there’s a pretty wild reaction! Written in the first person, with excerpts from Polly’s book, including a pretty great intermediate-level book list for awesome display purposes (“Read Polly Diamond’s favorite books HERE!”). Chapter book readers who love books like Juana and Lucas (on Polly’s favorites list), Jasmine Toguchi, and Katie Woo will thoroughly enjoy Polly’s adventures. There are short, descriptive sentences and a nice amount of new words – Polly is an aspiring writer, after all! Lots of fun for chapter book readers; I’d have kids create their own aquariums as a related craft.

Old Misery, by James Sage/Illustrated by Russell Ayto,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781771388238
Recommended for readers 5-10
Readers with a darker sense of humor (and parents who are Gorey fans) will get a chuckle out of Old Misery, the story of a cranky old woman named – you got it – Old Misery, and her old cat, Rutterkin. She’s broke, and the apples keep disappearing from her apple tree! Lucky for Old Misery, she’s not completely heartless and feeds a wandering visitor, who grants her one wish: she wants all the apple thieves to be caught in the tree until she lets them go! Old Misery decides to play a little risky game when Death himself shows up at her door – and she sends him to the apple tree. Be careful what you wish for! The black and white, pen and ink artwork has a creepy, quirky feel to it, which will appeal to kids who like Lemony Snicket’s work, but may go over some kids’ heads. Old Misery narrates the story, offering an opportunity for a fun read-aloud.

Binky fans, Gordon’s got his own adventure! For readers who love Ashley Spires’ Binky the Space Cat graphic novels will love Gordon, fellow member of PURST (Pets of the Universe Ready for Space Travel) and Binky’s house-mate, as he finds himself traveling through time to stop an alien invasion. But Gordon travels back too far – before PURST even exists! He’s got to get back to his normal time and set things right! This is fun reading for graphic novel fans, and a nice addition to a popular series. There’s time-travel, problem-solving, aliens, and humor, along with fun art.

See How We Move!: A First Book of Health and Well-Being, by Scot Ritchie,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781771389679

Recommended for readers 5-8
Author Scot Ritchie’s multicultural group of friends are back together again. Last time we save them, they visited a farm to learn how to grow grains and vegetables in See How We Eat!; this time, Pedro, Yulee, Nick, Sally, and Martin are training as their swim team, The Flying Sharks, prepares to compete. They learn about using proper equipment for different activities, warming up before beginning your activity, teamwork and encouragement, goal-setting, nutrition, the mind-body connection, and more. There are suggestions for fun activities and words to know, all coming together to give kids a fun story about a group of friends staying strong and having fun together while encouraging kids to create lifelong habits of health, nutrition, and physical fitness. I like this See How! series; it offers a wealth of information on healthy living, made accessible to younger readers. I can easily read this in a storytime and get the kids talking about the different ways they play, how they eat, and good habits to get into.

The Bagel King, by Andrew Larsen/Illustrated by Sandy Nichols,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN; 978-1-77138-574-9
Recommended for readers 4-8

Zaida, Eli’s grandfather, gets bagels from Merv’s Bakery every Sunday morning. One morning, when no bagels show up, Eli gets a phone call: Zaida’s fallen on his tuchus and can’t get the bagels! Eli and his family aren’t the only ones waiting on bagels, either – Eli visits Zaida, only to discover that Zaida’s friends are verklempt, too. No bagels! What a shanda, as my stepdad would say! Eli helps care for his zaida and keep him company, but he knows the best way to cheer Zaida up, and heads to the bagel store on his own the very next Sunday. This story is the most charming book about grandparents and grandchildren, loaded with compassion, a wink and nudge type of humor, and loads of fun, new Yiddish terminology. If you’re an urban dweller, like me, these words are kind of a second language: Zaida is grandfather, and tuchus is your bottom; there’s a little glossary of other Yiddish words that show up in the story, too. (Verklempt is overwhelmed with emotion, and shanda is a shame – you won’t find them in the story, but all I could hear was my stepdad when I read this, so there you go.) I loved the sweet storytelling, the compassion and the decision to act on Eli’s part, and Zaida and his group of friends were wonderful. It’s got an urban flavor that everyone will enjoy, and is good storytelling. Use this story as an opportunity to get your kids talking about relationships with their grandparents: what do you call your grandparents? Do they cook, bake, or shop for food? Do you go with them? (I’d love to get some bagels to hand out with my group… hmmm…) The acrylic artwork has a soft, almost retro feel, but really emphasizes the relationship story with colors, gentle expressions, and soft lines.

The Golden Glow, by Benjamin Flouw,
(May 2018, Tundra/Penguin Random House), $17.99, ISBN: 9780735264120

Recommended for readers 4-8
A fox who loves nature and botany goes on a quest for a rare plant to add to his collection. The Golden Glow is a plant from the Wellhidden family, and only grows high in the mountains. There’s not even a picture of it; it’s never been described. Fox packs his supplies and heads off to the mountains, meeting different animals and noting different plants and trees along the way. When Fox finally reaches the mountaintop, he waits… and discovers the Golden Glow! It’s stunning! It’s breathtaking! And Fox realizes that “the golden glow is more beautiful here on the mountaintop than it ever would be in a vase in his living room”. Part story and part nature journal, The Golden Glow is just gorgeous and teaches a respect for nature. The angular art draws the eye in; there’s so much to see on every page, every spread. Flouw creates detailed lists of Fox’s hiking pack, plus trees and flowers that he encounters on his way, and a map of different zones on the way up to the mountain, from the foothill to snow zones, all in beautiful detail for younger readers to enjoy. Fox’s decision to leave the flower where it is presents a love of and respect for nature that can lead to a great discussion on conservation. Bright red endpapers with angular design could be a topographic map of the area – talk about how different areas look from above! I know it’s way early, but I’ll quietly whisper this one now: Caldecott contender.
Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Different Days looks at German internment during World War II

Different Days, by Vicki Berger Erwin, (Oct. 2017, Sky Pony Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781510724587

Recommended for readers 9-13

Eleven year-old Rosie lives with her mother, father, and younger brother, Freddie, in Honolulu, Hawaii. They love their home, their family, their lives, until December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor is attacked and everything changes, seemingly overnight. Rosie’s parents are of German descent, but are American citizens who have lived in Hawaii for most of their lives. It doesn’t matter. They’re rounded up by the military, along with Rosie’s Aunt Etta; they’re detained as German spies, their possessions confiscated. Rosie and Freddie are left alone, and suddenly, their schoolmates and neighbors don’t seem as friendly as they used to be. They’re sent to live with their emotionally distant Aunt Yvonne, who tells her neighbors they are refugee children and never admits to her own German ancestry. Luckily, Aunt Etta is released and takes the children, but this is just the beginning of the struggle: her family’s home has been sold; their possessions and properties now “in storage” or gone, and the children at the new school they attend are quick to call them Nazis. Rosie longs for her family to reunite and for things to stabilize, but these are very different days.

Different Days is based on the true story of 11-year-old Doris Berg, who watched the attack on Pearl Harbor from her home in Honolulu. The next day, her parents and aunt were taken into custody and sent to internment camps. Like Rosie and Freddie, Doris and her sister were sent to an aunt that refused to acknowledge their familial link, and lost her home and possessions. Rosie is a strong, resilient character who wishes she were like her heroine, teen sleuth Nancy Drew, so she could solve the mysteries facing her: who was responsible for informing on her parents and having them detained, and who is this shady Mr. Smith who allegedly “manages” her family’s disappearing property and possessions? She endures the prejudice of those around her, and focuses on small victories, whether it’s having something to eat that day or knowing she’ll visit her mother soon. The novel takes readers into the story of one family affected by the internment of German “persons of interest”; a moment in history not often discussed. The book includes information about Doris Berg and her family’s ordeal, and further information. Different Days is a good addition to historical fiction collections and is as relevant today, when we seek to label others and blame an entire nationality/ethnicity/religion for the actions of a few.

Vicki Berger Erwin writes for both children and adults. You can find out more by visiting her website.

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.

Posted in Preschool Reads

The Tiny Tale of Little Pea

The Tiny Tale of Little Pea, by Davide Cali/Illustrated by Sébastien Mourrain, (Sept. 2017, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771388436

Recommended for readers 4-7

So begins the tale of Little Pea, who could sleep in a matchbox, ride a grasshopper, and wore his doll’s shoes, while his clothes were lovingly hand-sewn by his mom. When it’s time for Little Pea to go to school, he realizes just how small he is. He’s too small for his desk. Too small to play the flute. Definitely too small for gym class. But is Little Pea’s confidence shaken? No way! He finds his own place in the world, painting postage stamps and living in a home that fits him just right.
Little Pea is a cute story with a main character who has a lot to say about resilience. He doesn’t let his perceived weakness stop him from living life on his terms; it’s a strong message for kids who hear, “You’re too little for that” once too often. Self-acceptance, creativity, and individuality drive the story, and every reader can take something away from it. Sébastien Mourrain comes up with wonderful scenes to demonstrate Little Pea’s size, bringing to mind some of my favorite parts of E.B. White’s Stuart Little. It’s a sweet story that will add to a storytime or individual reading.