Posted in Uncategorized

Books for Pet Lovers

It’s another roundup! This time, I’ve got books for pet lovers: large, small, stinky, all here!

 

Not That Pet!, by Smriti Prasadam-Halls/Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw, (Feb. 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217766

Ages 2-5

Mabel is so excited: her family is letting her choose the family pet! Her first choice is a bit unorthodox – it’s an elephant – but hey, the elephant keeps the plants watered and pulls weeds, right? When the elephant seems to be a bit too big, the family asks her to make another choice. And another. And another. Mabel’s penchant for choosing unusual pets is upending her family in the most hilarious of ways: ants crawl into her dad’s pants, a snake gets a little too huggy, and skunk… well, you can guess what the skunk does. Can Mabel find a pet that’s going to fit in with her whole family? The hijinks are hilarious and Rosalind Beardshaw’s colorful, cartoony illustrations bring this family to big, colorful life as they try to acclimate to each new pet. The multi-generational, biracial family – Mabel’s mom is South Asian, her dad is white, and mom’s parents live with the family, as shown in a house cross-section. The story bounces humorously along, words in caps for emphasis; this will make a spectacular read-aloud. Mabel and her little brother have a sweet relationship, as he follows her through the book, engaging with each new pet she brings home. A good add to storytime collections.

 

 

Hat Cat, by Troy Wilson/Illustrated by Eve Coy, (Feb. 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536213669

Ages 4-8

An elderly man visits the park to feed squirrels every day, and one day discovers that a kitten has taken up residence in his hat! He takes the kitten home, naming it Hat, and lavishes Hat with love and affection. He won’t let Hat outside to roam, though; he is afraid Hat won’t come back, and he’s afraid for the squirrels. But one day, the man doesn’t come home. A few days later, a woman and child arrive to take care of Hat, and an open door gives Hat the chance he’s waited for: he heads outside, but he doesn’t chase the squirrels and he doesn’t run away. He finds the Man’s hat, left on the bench, and he curls up to sleep in it. And when the Man finally comes back home, he, his caregivers, and Hat all sit together, outside, enjoying the day. Hat Cat is a moving story of friendship and companionship. Pencil and watercolor illustrations give a soft, gentle feel to the story, with the Man and Hat in their cozy book- and plant-filled home. When Hat realizes the Man is gone, the loneliness communicated is just heartbreaking: tiny Hat, standing against a door, the sun shining in, feels so big and empty, and the reunion between Hat and Man bring a warmth and coziness back to the story. The old man presents as white; the caregiver and her daughter are brown-skinned. Details like family photos on the wall give the old man a life beyond the confines of the book. A gorgeous book that evokes emotion.

 

Big Dog, Little Dog, by Sally Rippin/Illustrated by Lucinda Gifford, (March 2022, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684643837

Ages 3-6

A big dog learns about friendship in this adorable story, originally published in the UK in 2021. Big Dog has a good life with his male human, even if it feels a little lonely, from time to time. But things change when Big Dog’s human meets a lady, who has a Little Dog. The two humans move in together, and Big Dog is not thrilled about sharing his home with Little Dog, who interprets things like “Sit”, “Up”, and “Come” very differently. Big Dog has had the run of the house, and now Little Dog – who’s better behaved – seems to be stealing his thunder. Big Dog goes on a campaign of chaos to try framing Little Dog, but when he goes too far, he’s put out for the night; Little Dog refuses to go to sleep without Big Dog, and raises a ruckus indoors until the two are reunited, leading to a friendship between the former rivals. Little Dog calms some of Big Dog’s rebellious nature, and Big Dog teaches Little Dog that it’s okay to take a mud bath every now and then. Big Dog’s owner presents as white, Little Dog’s owner is brown-skinned. Endpapers show Big Dog running across a park in the opening spread, and being joined by Little Dog in the closing. The dogs are expressive from their faces to their active tails, and the illustrations show the amusing difference between Big Dog’s and Little Dog’s interpretations of commands like “UP!” (he lies on the couch; Little Dog jumps into his human’s arms) and “Walkies!” (he takes off, dragging his human being him; Little Dog walks alongside his human). Great for dog fans and kids with new siblings, Big Dog Little Dog shows kids that even the roughest of beginnings can lead to a sweet ending. Adorable for storytime reading.

 

 

We Love You, Magoo, by Briony Stewart, (March 2022, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781684643646

Ages 2-6

A lovable cartoon pup has his own ideas about what a dog should do in this giggle-worthy rhyming look at a dog’s life. Alternating spreads show Magoo contemplating what he thinks he should be doing – chowing down on bacon and eggs at the breakfast table, taking the car wheel, chewing a bunch of toys – and what he should be doing, like eating kibble from his bowl, sitting in his dog house, or playing with a tennis ball. Spreads fall into a question and answer format, making it easy for kids to chime in with the repetitive answer, “No, Magoo. This is for you”. Magoo’s facial expressions and body language are adorably played for laughs, and the sweet ending will melt hearts. The bold, bright artwork and big, black fonts make this an excellent readaloud choice that will get little ones gleefully taking part in your storytime. Originally published in Australia in 2020, We Love You, Magoo is new to U.S. shores and has a companion book, Where Are You, Magoo? that I hope makes its way here.

Author-illustrator Briony Stewart’s webpage has more information about her books, including the Magoo books.

 

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Another Holiday Gift Guide!

Last minute shoppers, I feel you. I AM you. Last minute 2021 book budget shoppers, I got you, too. Spent your 2021 dollars? No problem; these books are set to keep your readers happy next year, too.

The Secret of the Magic Pearl, by Elisa Sabatinelli/Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno/Translated by Christopher Turner, (Oct. 2021, Red Comet Press), $21.99, ISBN: 9781636550060

Ages 7-11

New kid on the block Red Comet Press has been hitting home runs this year! The Secret of the Magic Pearl is a magical story for kids who love picture books, newly independent readers who are ready to take on denser material, and chapter book readers alike. Hector is a boy living with his family in an Italian coastal town. He wants to be a deep-sea diver like his father, and his family organizes underwater expeditions for tourists. But Amedeo Limonta, a man who “lost his sailor’s soul and betrayed the sea”, forces Hector’s family out of business so that he can continue on his obsession: to find a legendary Pearl and sell it. Hector, determined to save his family and his connection to the sea, has to figure out a way to throw a wrench into Amedeo’s plans.

Originally published in Italian in 2019, this book is gorgeous. The story is about love of family and a passion for the sea. First-person narrator Hector immediately warms readers with his voice, full of fun details and emotion. The artwork is simply beautiful, bringing a sense of movement and wonder. Together, the words and artwork make for a breathtaking fantasy that readers will return to time and again. Red Comet has been great about creating activity kits for their books, too; download one for The Secret of the Magic Pearl here.

The Secret of the Magic Pearl has starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly.

 

Guitars (Made by Hand series), by Patricia Lakin, (Nov. 2021, Aladdin), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481448352

Ages 8-12

The Made by Hand series by Patricia Lakin is a great nonfiction series to have available to your middle graders and middle schoolers. The newest, Guitars, is a great introduction to the art and science of guitar music, including a history of the instrument, the science behind how electric and acoustic guitars work, and a tour through luthier (a maker of string instruments!) Meredith Coloma’s custom guitar-making workshop. Color photos detail the step-by-step process of making both electric and acoustic guitars, and there’s a fun and easy STEM challenge for kids to learn how sound travels over string (we used to call it a tin can telephone). A timeline, list of guitar greats, a glossary and further resources make this a must-have for music collections and for kids with an interest in science or music.

Do I have a program in mind for this? Glad you asked! PBS Kids has a great DIY Guitar activity here, and all the materials are available in the home! The Michigan Children’s Hospital has a similar DIY here, using a tissue box instead of a cereal box. Get the band together and jam at Christmas!

 

My Christmas Wish for You, by Lisa Swerling & Ralph Lazar, (Oct. 2021, Chronicle Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781452184364

Ages 3-7

A sweet poem about Christmas and good wishes to last the whole year long, My Christmas Wish for You is the latest book from Happiness Is… creators and spouses Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar. This poem works for children and adults alike, and is full of goodwill and cheer; reading it, you can’t help but feel warm inside, with couplets like “Friends joined together in goodwill and song, / a welcome to others… the sense you belong”, and “Mugs of hot chocolate for tummies’ delight, / breathing like dragons to warm up the night”. Whimsical illustrations show a variety of people and pets celebrating the Christmas season as hearts and stars abound. It’s a great little gift book, and a wonderful way to bring the chaos of Christmas Day to a close, as we all look hopefully toward a new year.

 

A Donkey Called Mistletoe (Jasmine Green Rescues), by Helen Peters/Illustrated by Ellie Snowdon, (Sept. 2021, Walker Books US), $6.99, ISBN: 9781536222463

Ages 7-10

This is one of my favorite more recent intermediate series. Jasmine Green is an aspiring vet who, with her best friend, Tom, rescue all sorts of animals they discover around Jasmine’s Oak Tree Farm. Luckily for the two friends, Jasmine’s mom is an actual veterinarian and her dad is a farmer, so they can learn from the pros! In this outing, Jasmine and Tom learn that their neighbor is moving to an assisted-care facility and is rehoming his animals, including his donkey, Mistletoe. Jasmine, stricken by the thought of Mistletoe moving far away, impulsively offers to adopt him and keep him at Oak Tree Farm, but her little brother, Manu, proves to be a challenge: Mom isn’t sure Manu will be safe around Mistletoe, and vice versa! But Jasmine is not giving up on Mistletoe, and when a Christmas play needs an extra donkey, she knows exactly what to do. These stories are such feel-good stories, balanced by realistic moments that remind kids that animals need special care by professionals. Previous books have touched on orphaned and abandoned animals and reckless pet ownership, and this story, centered on an elderly man going into assisted care and worrying about finding homes for his animals, reminds kids once again that pets of any kind are a commitment. Black and white illustrations throughout give deeper texture to the narrative, and a quiz on donkeys invites readers to test their knowledge. I will always love this series, and am happy to booktalk them to my animal-loving readers.

 

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Board books make great stocking stuffers!

They’re portable, they’re sturdy, they fit in a stocking as easily as they do a purse or a toddler’s hands: board books are great gifts!

The Sun Shines on the Sea, by Michael Slack, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $9.99, ISBN: 9781536215694

Ages 3-5

The gentlest way to introduce the concept of the food chain to preschoolers, The Sun Shines on the Sea is a lift-the-flap board book that lets the flaps do the talking. While the sun shines on the sea, phytoplankton grow, and hungry krill snack on the phytoplankton as they soak up the sun, and that’s where the flaps take over: the story makes reference to a predator moving, swirling, and gliding past, and flaps reveal what’s in their bellies: “A shoal of fish swirls around the krill”, and a flap reveals a krill in a fish’s tummy. The story is factual, easy to understand, and begins and ends with the sun shining on the sea. The digital artwork is colorful, the sea life are kid-friendly, and the flaps are sturdy.

If you’re using this in an underwater story time, this is a great time to sing “Slippery Fish” and use some flannels. I really like this recycled cardboard aquarium craft, and you can easily make it a grab and go. Don’t have a cheese box? Trim some cardboard from cereal boxes, glue into a circle, and back it with construction paper.

 

Where’s Brian’s Bottom? A Veeeerrrry Long Fold-Out Book, by Rob Jones, (Oct. 2021, Pavilion), $9.95, ISBN: 9781843654667

Ages 0-3

Weiner dog fans will love this hilarious fold-out book. Brian is a dachshund who can’t find his bottom! Readers can help him as they unfold the book to search through five rooms, meeting a variety of Brian’s acquaintances to help with the search. The concertina book folds out into over 6 feet of Brian, and takes readers through different rooms of the house, his body streeeeetching along the way. Kids can identify different rooms, animals, and sounds, and repetitive questions invites readers to chime in. The endpaper at the front of the book features a wall of framed photos – Brian, naturally, takes up two frames – with animals that readers will meet during the course of the story. Each side that folds out tells a different story: one takes place during the day, one at night, with different events that you can invite readers to tell you about. The bold, cartoon artwork is eye-catching, and readers will love discovering something new with every turn of the flap. Absolute fun.

Where is Brian’s Bottom? is the first in a board book concertina series from Pavilion; I’ll be keeping an eye out for more.

 

 

 

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth, by Emily Haynes & Sanjay Patel, (Aug. 2021, Chronicle Books), $8.99, ISBN: 9781797212524

Ages 3-5

I was so excited to see a board book release for one of my favorite picture books, Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth! The story of how Hindu god Ganesha and the poet Vyasa create the great epic, The Mahabharata, translates beautifully to board book. The illustrations are colorful, vibrant, and eye-catching; the storytelling pace works in this format, and the author’s note at the end explains the story behind the story: how Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth isn’t a literal retelling of the classic legend, but more of a kid-friendly reimagining that kids can relate to, like breaking a tooth on a jawbreaker sweet and learning to channel a meltdown into something more productive.

Publisher Chronicle has a Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth activity kit, with a coloring sheet and fill-in-the-blank epic poem.

 

 

Dog’s First Baby, by Natalie Nelson, (Oct. 2021, Quirk Books), $9.99, ISBN: 9781683692799

Ages 2-5

Told from a dog’s point of view, Dog’s First Baby is a board book with a fun spin on things as a family dog discovers someone new joining the household: a baby. Dog isn’t sure whether or not to be thrilled with this latest development, as baby’s front paws pull his ears and hurt; with time, though Dog sees that maybe the two aren’t so different after all: they both howl; they both like to play tug-of-war; they both enjoy a good stretch, and baby sure likes to share food, and, as Dog says, “I admire this”. A great book for new parents who may be getting ready or are in the early stages of introducing a new baby and a dog, Dog’s First Baby embraces the chaos of those early months: Baby dropping food all over the floor (which Dog happily cleans up); Baby and Dog howling and wailing together; Baby attempting to ride Dog; Baby and Dog making messes together. The book also captures those moments that are worth every mess: Baby asleep on Dog’s flank; the two sitting in a chair together, and Dog’s quiet presence whenever Baby is near, whether they’re walking together or sleeping in the same room. Deep, rich colors and textured lighter colors make this a beautiful book to look through.

Quirk and Natalie Nelson have a companion book, Cat’s First Baby, coming in March 2022. I can’t wait! In the meantime, this is a perfect storytime book and gift book. There’s a free, downloadable activity kit available, too.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Frankie and Amelia is a great buddy story

Frankie and Amelia, by Cammie McGovern, (Oct. 2021, HarperCollins), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062463326

Ages 8-12

Franklin is a cat who ends up separated from his family. He finds a temporary home with a family, where he meets a dog named Chester, a service dog to a boy with autism named Gus. But Gus’s dad is allergic to Franklin, so he ends up with one of Gus’s classmates, a girl named Amelia, who loves cats, and who really needs a good friend.

Frankie and Amelia is a the companion book to Chester and Gus (2017), but you don’t need to have read it to enjoy Frankie and Amelia. It’s a gentle story about found families, inclusion, and autism, particularly how it’s often missed in girls. The story is narrated by Franklin, who grows as a character as the story progresses and he learns more about and becomes more sensitive to his adopted humans, Gus and Amelia. Chester, a seasoned seizure response dog, is Franklin’s guide into this new world and provides an incredible amount of information to readers on autism and the sensitivity that companion animals provide to their charges. Cammie McGovern, the parent of a child with autism, writes with an understanding and sensitivity to the topic, and creates characters that are kind, realistic, and lovable. By exploring the relationship between pets and people, she’s able to give readers a new understanding of autism, how people with autism are often perceived by others, and how autism presents differently in boys and girls.

A must-have for your shelves.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Mr. Watson’s Chickens is shooby-doo, wonky-pow, bawka-bawka in da chow-chow!

Mr. Watson’s Chickens, by Jarrett Dapier/Illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi, (Oct. 2021, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781452177144

Ages 3-6

Mr. Watson and Mr. Nelson are a happy couple who share their lives and their home with a couple of dogs, a few cats, and a handful of chickens. But Mr. Watson just loves his chickens so much, and acquires more and more, until he’s got 456 chickens! The chickens are everywhere and into everything, and one chicken, Aunt Agnes, has a habit of making up her own song that she sings all the time. Mr. Nelson loves Mr. Watson, but something has to give. Mr. Watson loves his chickens, but he loves Mr. Nelson more, so together, they decide to give the chickens away to loving homes at the county fair… but the chickens escape, and chaotic hilarity ensues! An hilarious Where’s Waldo-type spread invites kids to help find a missing chicken, and Aunt Agnes’s favorite song makes for an extra-fun interactive readaloud. Mr. Watson’s Chickens features an LGBTQ+ couple in a sweet story of love and chickens, and a richy diverse cast of characters throughout the story. Perfect for storytime reading, with a fun chick and egg peekaboo craft for after the story’s done.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Longest Letsgoboy brings a dog’s journey to a close

The Longest Letsgoboy, by Derick Wilder/Illustrated by Cátia Chien, (Oct. 2021, Chronicle Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452177168

Ages 3-6

A dog reflects on his life, his human, and his last day in this painfully beautiful story about the relationship we have with our pets and how love goes beyond our time on earth. Told using the dog’s language, we see a white-faced dog spending the day with his “foreverfriend”, Little. They run and play, and he takes in all the joy, all the feeling of this day as he quietly bids his farewells to the world around him. When he lays down to sleep one more time, he keeps an eye on Little and her “pack of twopaws”, watching them from beyond. I can’t even describe this book accurately, because it’s such a powerful experience to read. If you’ve ever loved a pet, you’ll feel Good Boy’s words in your heart; it’s painful, yet so comforting to read, and will call to mind your own Good Boys, Girls, and Pals who have moved on, and maybe you’ll look up to see if they wigglewag down at you, too. Mixed media illustrations create feelings rather than images, with muted colors that come together and give life to Good Boy’s thoughts and emotions. Endpapers show GoodBoy’s life with Little, and how he stays on as a guardian after he’s moved on, and how he’s still playing with Little and her Awpuppy.

An incredible book to help kids work through grief, and a wonderful way to talk about what happens to our pets when they die. It’s optimistic and hopeful while honoring the grief and loss we feel. An essential purchase.

The Longest Letsgoboy has starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Bridge Easy Readers and Intermediate chapter books with Barkus and Charlie & Mouse

Transitioning from Easy Readers to chapter books is even more fun with these colorful chapter book series!

Barkus: The Most Fun, by Patricia MacLachlan/Illustrated by Marc Boutavant, (Sept. 2021, Chronicle Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781452173344

Ages 6-9

Newbery Medalist Patricia Machlachlan’s Barkus series is adorable and perfect for easy readers who are ready to take on some more complex reading. The third book, Barkus: The Most Fun, has Barkus, the family dog, and his family going on a series of outdoor adventures. Composed of four stories, Barkus, Baby the Kitten, and his human family go camping, visit grandmother and grandfather’s farm, visit a parade, and head to their winter cabin. Narrated by the young girl who happens to be Barkus’s favorite human, the stories are brief enough to read one at a time or all at once; sentences are simple and informative, and the colorful illustrations show a happy family doing things together. There are warm and funny moments in each story: Barkus and Baby end up making news in “The Most Fun!” and witness the birth of a calf in “The Crazy Cows of Spring”. The images are warm, comforting, and familiar: a family traveling in their car, a dog and cat curled up together in the back; a grandparent hugging his granddaughter and patting Barkus’s head as he leans into the loving touch; even a mildly put-upon dad, frowning as his daughter, her dog, and cat peek out from a pile of leaves that he was raking. Patricia MacLachlan and Marc Boutavant make magic and memories here.

Visit Scribd and download Barkus activity sheets!

 

Charlie & Mouse: Lost and Found, by Laurel Snyder/Illustrated by Emily Hughes, (Aug. 2021, Chronicle Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781452183404

Ages 6-9

Siblings Charlie and Mouse have new adventures in their fifth outing. Lost & Found has four short stories, taking the sibs on slightly smaller – but no less exciting – adventures, all taking place in the course of one day. In “Somewhere”, the two search high and low for Mouse’s blanket; in “Errands”, they join Mom on the dreaded series of errands – the bank, the post office – but make a BIG discovery! In “Silly”, Charlie and Mouse have a sad goodbye, but in “Boop”, another discovery warms their hearts. Chapters are short, with simple sentences; stories are kid-friendly and oh-so relatable (the very mention of the words “bank”, “grocery store”, or “post office” strikes fear into my 9-year-old’s heart), Illustrations are softly illustrated, with friendly, expressive characters. The body language between the siblings is comforting and playful. The siblings slump on each other in the car during the dreaded errands; Charlie comforts a distraught Mouse, who cannot locate Blanket. Parents show up for a few moments in the stories, but the focal point is the relationship between Charlie and Mouse, as it should be. The first book in the series, Charlie and Mouse, is a 2018 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner.

Get a free Teacher’s Guide to the series, and two activity sheets here.

Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

Jurassic Pets! Dr. Dean Lomax and Mike Love gives us Preshistoric Pets

Prehistoric Pets, by Dr. Dean Lomax/Illustrated by Mike Love, (Sept. 2021, Templar), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217148

Ages 5-9

Cat people all know that our little furballs think of themselves as savage, saber-toothed tigers on the hunt, whether they’re stalking a daydreaming dinosaur or a dust bunny. But did you ever imagine what your guinea pig’s ancestors may have looked like? Paleontologist Dr. Dean Lomax has you covered. Prehistoric Pets looks at the evolution of seven favorite kinds of pets: guinea pigs, parakeets, corn snakes, cats, goldfish, dogs, and horses. Using the fossil record to trace each pet’s lineage, Dr. Lomax goes back through the family trees of each of these popular pets to give us an idea of their prehistoric parentage. That chatty parrot likely descended from the Velociraptor; your corn snake can trace its heritage back to the giant Titanoboa. Each spread folds out into a pop-up gatefold, with the prehistoric beast rising up from the pages. Loaded with facts about both the modern animal and its primeval counterpart, and filled with colorful artwork, this is a home run for your prehistory collections. Display and talk up with one of my favorite read-alouds, Steve Jenkins’s Prehistoric Actual Size. The pop-ups are going to seal the deal for readers on this book – get a couple if your budget permits.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

New children’s book publisher: Red Comet Press!

I am so excited whenever a new indie publisher debuts on the scene! I just received wonderful book mail from Red Comet Press, a brand new children’s book publisher who will be sharing their books with everyone in just a few weeks! Here’s a sneak peek at what we can expect.

Cat & Dog: A Tale of Opposites, by Tullio Corda, (Sept. 2021, Red Comet Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781636550022

Ages 3-6

Concepts never made me laugh this hard. An orange cat and blue dog illustrate opposites in the most hilarious of ways as they go through a day of waking up, chasing one another, getting into trouble, and… being friends? Originally published in French in 2020, Taylor Barrett Gaines’s translation is spot on. Drowsy (and bored) Cat eyes sleepy Dog for Awake/Asleep; you just know what’s coming next. But the choice of Brave/Afraid is amusing and unexpected as Cat jumps on the startled Dog, whose eyes go wide, pupils as tiny pinpricks. My favorite spread? Upset and Unconcerned, which hilariously describe the action as Dog sports an overturned plant on his head as Cat blithely grooms. Fonts are in orange for Cat’s words; blue for Dog’s. A perfect combination of words and illustration, and a concept book that tells a cohesive story.

Find a free, downloadable activity cat on the publisher’s book detail page. A great beginning!

 

Before We Sleep, by Giorgio Volpe & Paolo Proietti, (Sept. 2021, Red Comet Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781636550046

Ages 4-8

Originally published in Italian in 2019, this book is a touching, beautifully illustrated story about friendship and the pain of separation. A red fox and gray dormouse are the best of friends, but as the Fall closes in and the seasons move toward Winter, Fox is sad, knowing Dormouse will be hibernating soon: “For Red, the smell of winter meant one thing: loneliness”. Fox tries to think of ways to keep Winter away so Dormouse can stay awake and with Fox, but who can hold off Nature? Agreeing to share one more story, the friends curl up together… and sleep. The storytelling is gentle, full of love and yearning; the muted colors in the artwork let Fox’s bright coat stand out beautifully against the encroaching gray of Winter. Dormouse’s tilted head and soft words show a kindness and love for a friend; body language that immediately sends a comforting signal to readers. A lovely story of friendship and the fear of separation and loss; a warm feeling of knowing that your friends will be there when you open your eyes. Think about this one for possible grief and loss resources, too.

Red Comet has a great activity kit available for download, with coloring sheets and discussion questions.

Before We Sleep has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Mister Fairy, by Morgane de Cadier/Illlustrated by Florian Page, (Sept. 2021, Red Comet Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781636550008

Ages 4-8

A forest full of animal-like fairies work their magic except for the taciturn Mister Fairy, whose spells never seem to match the other fairies. Depressed, Mister Fairy takes off to a dull, depressed city, where his seemingly backward spells are exactly what the citizens need: he adds much-needed splashes of color, tickling everyone with his wings and wand, and changing umbrellas into fluffy cotton candy. When he returns to the forest, he discovers that his friends have missed him there, too! A sweet story about embracing your talents, Mister Fairy was originally published in French in 2018 and is an empowering story about embracing your own gifts and uniqueness. Artwork reminds me a bit of Jon Klassen; the illustrations are colorful yet maintain a minimalist appeal. A fantastic back-to-school story about recognizing your own worth. Pair this one with Mister Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown.

Red Comet offers a free, downloadable activity kit for Mister Fairy. Enjoy!

 

That’s it for now – but I’ve got more to come! Welcome, Red Comet Press!

Posted in picture books

The Caiman blog tour and giveaway celebration!

We all know and love our pets: dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles of all sorts… but have you ever heard of having a pet alligator (Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile notwithstanding)? The Caiman is a loving story of a gentle man who opened his heart and his home to an orphaned baby caiman – a river caiman – and received a lifetime of love in return.

The Caiman, by María Eugenia Manrique/Illustrated by Ramón Paris,
Translated by Amy Brill, (July 2021, Amazon Crossing Kids),
$17.99, ISBN: 9781542031585Ages 5-8

 

Set in San Fernando de Apure, a tiny riverside city in Venezuela, the story begins with an orphaned alligator, discovered by a little girl during a game of hide and seek. A jeweler and watchmaker named Faoro offers to take the little alligator – no bigger than the palm of his hand  home, and tells the city’s children they can come visit and play with her whenever they’d like. The alligator, who he names Night for her dark skin, is a star attraction as adults and children alike visit to get a look at the pet alligator, who sleeps in her human’s bed and plays with the children. When Faoro falls in love, he introduces Angela, his intended, to Night, who approves. Years pass in a home filled with love and laughter, but when Faoro falls ill and passes away, Night goes into hiding, grief-stricken, until Angela coaxes her out with song. It’s a beautiful story of the connections we find with nature, often in unexpected moments. Back matter includes photos of the author, who was one of the city children who played with and even rode on Night’s back; bios on the illustrator and José Faoro round out the story.

The artwork is a wonderful mix of black and white and colorful illustration, all contained in the same spreads. Ramón Paris has a vintage feel to his artwork, and infuses the natural world with vibrant color and his human subjects, black and white with colorful clothing, stand out against their backgrounds, making the point that we fit into the world around us, never quite blending in, but living and moving within it.

Amazon Crossing Kids has a gift for finding gems in children’s literature across the globe. Don’t miss this one. The Caiman has a starred review from Booklist.

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of The Caiman, courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids (U.S. and Canada addresses). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

New York Times Globetrotting Pick!

★“The striking illustrations…have a wild and whimsical feel about them, featuring lush foliage and expressive characters, including the eventually enormous caiman. It’s a memorable and unexpected demonstration of the universality of love, grief, and kindness.” —Booklist (starred review)

María Eugenia Manrique is one of the girls portrayed in this story. She rode the caiman when she visited her family in San Fernando de Apure. She was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and currently lives in Barcelona, Spain. She studied fine art in Mexico City, specializing in xylography and engraving; Eastern painting at Nankín University, China; and sumi-e and calligraphy at the Nihon Shuji Kyoiku Zaidan Foundation in Japan. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. The Caiman is her first children’s book. For more information, visit her website: https://mariaeugeniamanrique.wordpress.com/.

Instagram: @mem.manrique

Ramón París was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and as a child lived in Barinas, a plains state like Apure, where he also heard the story of the caiman. He currently lives in Barcelona, Spain. Hismost recent book for children, Duermevela, was selected for the Bologna Book Fair Illustrators Exhibition. His books have been recognized with honors including Los Mejores del Banco del Libro and  the IBBY Honor List, among others, and they have been translated into numerous languages. Visit him at: ramon.paris.

Instagram: @ramon_paris_ilustrador

Amy Brill’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous publications including the Washington PostMediumReal Simple, Oprah.com, and One Story. Her first novel, The Movement of Stars, was published by Riverhead Books. A native New Yorker, Amy lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters