Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

It’s all in the perspective… So Big and So Small

So Big and So Small, by John Coy/Illustrated by Steph Lew, (Oct. 2020, Beaming Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781506460581

Ages 3-7

A young boy considers perspective: he’s so big next to a baby, a puppy, a kitten, or a bumblebee; he’s giant compared to a seashell or a speck of sand. But when he goes to the zoo, he’s so small compared to the animals, or next to a tree or waterfall. Compared to a mountain or the universe? He’s so tiny! But when he considers his place within his family, he’s the perfect size. A sweet concept story that celebrates a child’s place in the world and in his world, So Big and So Small has charming illustrations of characters with expressive, friendly faces, and sweetly present the concepts of big and small. The large-scale illustrations of mountains, waterfalls, and the night sky are beautiful and give us a real sense of our place in the world. There’s so much to think about, and so much to talk about with our Kiddos here.  A nice addition to concept collections.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books

A change in perspective: Mr. Posey’s New Glasses

Mr. Posey’s New Glasses, by Ted Kooser/Illustrated by Daniel Duncan, (Apr. 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763696092

Ages 6-9

Mr. Posey is an older gent who’s feeling down. When he puts his glasses on, everything looks boring. Everything is just the same, same, same, and he wants to do something about it! He heads to the thrift store with his young friend, Andy, and starts trying on glasses from a big barrel, with… interesting results. The star-shaped glasses transport him to a field, where he can see all the constellations in the night sky, but it’s much too dark for him. The stripy brown frames bring him underwater, where some mean-looking fish swim around him, menacingly. The big, round lenses send the room spinning, and the cat=shaped frames put him in a field, pursued by dogs! Nothing clicks for him, no matter how many frames he tries on – and then, Andy notices that his glasses are dirty. Once Mr. Posey cleans his glasses, everything is clear and colorful again! Mr. Posey’s New Glasses is all about how we see things; what filters we have in place that color how we enjoy – or are brought down by – the world around us. There’s a lovely inter-generational friendship between Mr. Posey and his young friend, Andy; Andy also helps give Mr. Posey some perspective, noticing his dirty glasses and rejuvenating his attitude. The story is fun, and meatier than most picture books; this one is good for first to third graders. The digital artwork is tinged with a tan overlay and muted colors for most of the book, letting readers experience things as Mr. Posey does, but once he clears his glasses up, color becomes more lively, with pink store signs, blue skies, and colorful buildings. The thrift store is eclectic and has a great feel to it. This is a great book to start a discussion on how one’s outlook can affect mood, and how imagination can help spice things up. (Psst… glasses craft!)

Ted Kooser is a former US Poet Laureate and has a weekly column on American life in poetry available on his website.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Inside Outside plays with perspective and scale

Inside Outside, by Anne-Margot Ramstein & Matthias Arégui, (Apr. 2019, Candlewick Studio), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536205978

Ages 4-8

Playing with perspective and scale, Inside Outside is a wordless book that uses 18 spreads to encourage readers to look at things differently. A spelunker descends into a cave filled with crystals on one page; on the other, his fellow explorers wait outside the hole, helping to lower him down. It’s an unassuming scene until you take both views into consideration. On another spread, a canopy bed sits alone in the dark; a pillow lies on the floor, and the canopy is torn; the torn fabric tied to a post and leading out a window. On the facing spread, we see a a castle among a wide vista, knight standing guard at a turret… and a slit of a window, with a knotted fabric rope traveling down the wall. Look closer, and you’ll see a figure wading to shore, her long blonde hair down her back. Some of the illustrations are tongue-in-cheek, like the page that has a darkened museum gallery with a broken velvet rope and a missing picture; its facing page has a burglar, dressed in black, carrying a flashlight and a white frame across city rooftops; others invite more thought, like a rapidly beating heart that reveals itself to belong to a bungee jumper on the facing spread.

Inside Outside‘s digital artwork is bold with deep and bright colors throughout. It’s a great way to introduce discussions about how we see things: size, color, shapes, all factor into the illustrations and provoke consideration and evaluation. A good addition to art classes for older kids, and storytelling for younger kids. The authors previous book, Before After, plays with perspective and nature.

Inside Outside has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Storytimes, Toddler

New Books at Storytime: The Song of Spring and New York Day & Night

I had storytime today, and decided to test drive two brand-new (coming in March) books that I received for review. They went RESOUNDINGLY well!

The Song of Spring, by Hendrik Jonas, (March 2019, Prestel Publishing), $12.95, ISBN: 9783791373799

Ages 3-6

We started off with The Song of Spring, since the weather here in New York has been… interesting. (It was 3 degrees last week; yesterday, 65. Today, 45.) In this adorable story, a little bird watches other birds call to one another with their songs of spring. One little bird can’t remember his song of spring, but he really, really wants to find a friend, so he takes a shot at it, opening his beak and shrieking… WOOF. A friendly dog answers, but the little bird is looking for a bird friend, so he tries again. And again. Various oinks, moos, meows, mehs, and hee-haws later, the little bird has quite a diverse group of friends, but still, no bird, until a hilariously unexpected fart sounds, and a pretty little female bird sitting nearby says she’s looking for a friend, too. The new friends happily celebrate their good fortune in finding one another.

The Song of Spring is adorable and unexpectedly funny, with a well-timed joke that got the kids in my storytime cracking up. I made a big deal of the sound, waving my hand by my backside, and the kids loved that such a giant sound would come from such a teeny, tiny bird. The book is wonderfully interactive, giving kids the chance to call out the different animals and make their different sounds, each of which gets a big, bold, fancy scripted black font for emphasis. The artwork looks like mixed media or collage – you can see book pages and notebook paper in the artwork – and adds some fun interest to the watercolor artwork. The animals pop off the stark white background, and the plain black story font lets the reader do the reading while the artwork and animal sounds take center stage.

The Song of Spring is going in my storytime collection, for sure. I even had a mom ask me for my copy when I was done with storytime! (So it’s also going in my order cart.) Pair this with Bark, George! by Julies Feiffer, and Sandra Boyton’s classic Moo, Baa, La La La! for an out of this world animal sound storytime!

 

New York Day & Night, by Aurélie Pollet/Illustrated by Vincent Bergier, (March 2019, Prestel Publishing), $16.95, ISBN: 9783791373782

Ages 3-7

This one got a great reception, too. A cat named Sandy and a squirrel named Frankie let readers see New York City through their eyes: the cat, by night; the squirrel, by day. Each sees very different things, aided by translucent blue plastic sheets that turn the Empire State Building into a rocket, the Guggenheim Museum into a spaceship, or a construction worker into a flying superhero.

New York Day & Night plays with perspective, and the idea that we see things differently in the light of day. Sandy, a nocturnal cat, sees the fantastic; Frankie, a diurnal squirrel, chastises Sandy, and sheds light – literally and figuratively – on what’s really happening. Or is it? Who’s to tell, in New York, right? The artwork is done in blues, oranges, and black and white, making for stark images that pop right off the page, boldly outlined and with easily recognizable New York icons.

My storytime group LOVED this one; I got cheers and gasps from parents and kids alike as I showed them a monster that turned out to be an elevated train (the community here lives near our own Queens elevated train) and King Kong beating his chest over the jungle that turns out to be Central Park. My favorite came in at the end – but I’ll let you get the book yourself to enjoy that one.

New York Day & Night is absolute fun, and a great way to extend a storytime by talking about colors, shapes, and city life. You can pair this with any books about a city: any of Kate McMullan’s truck books would pair well (I’m Big!, I Stink!); Julia Denos’ Windows; or Dave Eggers’ Her Left Foot are always good to go with.

I also read Have I Ever Told You, which I just wrote about a few days ago. It went over better with the parents than the babies; the artwork kept their attention for a little bit, but these were babies and toddlers; this one will be much better for a preschool and kindergarten storytime. I’ve read Hands Can to my babies and toddlers in the past, and it’s been a hit, so I’ll stick with that for the wee ones.

I also updated my songs for my Mother Goose Storytime (newborns to 18 months) and Toddler Storytime (18 mos-3 or 4 years) sessions. I try to change them up every season, so the families have time to get comfortable with the songs; I’ll insert one or two for different seasons or holidays, and I usually slot in a song in Mandarin and/or Spanish. (Mandarin for my community; Spanish, because I have a couple of Spanish-speaking families that I want to feel part of things, and because it’s fun to sing songs in different languages!)

And that was my storytime today!

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Graphic Novels

BirdCatDog: A graphic novel for beginners, with multiple points of view

birdcatdogBirdCatDog, by Lee Nordling and Meritxell Bosch (Nov. 2014, Lerner Publishing Group). $25.26, ISBN: 9781467745222

Recommended for ages 5+

Three narratives, three separate points of view, all come together in this graphic novel by Lee Nordling and Meritxell Bosch. A bird, a cat, and a dog all start their day with different achievement – the bird, to find freedom, the cat, to explore his world, and the dog, to defend his home. Each character meets and interacts with the others throughout the course of the book – the bird chases the cat, who ends up on the wrong side of the dog’s fence – and other character come into play to lead to more pandemonium.

The stories can be ready separately – each character’s narrative is color-coded – or as a whole. The pages are split into three panels, facilitating the individual narratives. The animals are cartoony, but not exaggeratedly so. They have expressive faces and body language, and the story is straightforward, making it perfect for new readers and even pre-readers, with the help of an adult or older sibling.

The split narratives make this book useful in many different ways across different ages. You can talk about perspective and point of view; you can read the individual narratives; you can encourage children to talk about what they see happening on the page in any number of combinations. It’s a great way to introduce sequential concepts in reading to kids.