Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Graphic Novels for Tweens and Teens

I’m back with more graphic novels! It’s an all-consuming joy of mine; I love them all. I’ve got some newer and up-and-coming books, and some backlist that shouldn’t be missed. I’ve got books for middle grade/middle school, and I’ve got teen/YA, so let’s see what’s good!

Sylvie, by Sylvie Kantorovitz, (Jan. 2021, Walker Books US), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536207620

Ages 9-13

An autobiographical graphic novel that really hits the sweet spot for middle schoolers but will also appeal to upper elementary and high schoolers, Sylvie is the story of the author and illustrator’s life, quirks and all. She grows up in a school where her father was principal. She loves art from an early age, but her mother is focused on her pursuing a career in math or science. The book follows her family as they add more children to the family and Sylvie’s mother doggedly pushes her academically. As she grows in confidence, and seeks her father’s council, Sylvie takes control of her own future. Artwork is cartoony and friendly, and easy-to-read, first-person narration makes Sylvie readers feel like they’re talking with a friend. Discussions about racism and anti-Semitism in ’60s and ’70s France sets the stage for discussion.

Candlewick/Walker Books US has a sample chapter available for a preview.

 

Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas, by Sam Maggs/Illustrated by Kendra Wells, (Feb. 2021, Amulet), $21.99, ISBN: 9781419739668

Ages 10-14

Another middle school-geared book, Tell No Tales is a fictionalized account of pirate Anne Bonny, pirate Mary Read, and their female and non-binary pirate crew. They have a growing reputation, but a privateer is on their heels: Woodes Rogers, a failed pirate turned pirate hunter for the Crown, has sworn to wipe the stain of piracy from the seas. There are strong positive female and non-binary characters, based on characters from history, but the overall story falters, leaving readers to look for the thread in between the individual stories of Bonny’s crew, all of which are fascinating. The artwork is colorful, manga-inspired, and will grab viewers. Back matter includes a word on the real-life exploits of Anne Bonny and Mary Read, notes, and a bibliography.

Publishers Weekly has an interview with Sam Magga and Kendra Wells. 

Fantastic Tales of Nothing, by Alejandra Green & Fanny Rodriguez, (Nov. 2020, Katherine Tegen Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062839473

Ages 8-13

One of the most beautifully illustrated graphic novels I’ve ever seen, Fantastic Tales of Nothing is one of heck an epic fantasy for middle graders and tweens, and early teens. Nathan is a human living what he considers a pretty ordinary life until that fateful day when he wakes up in the middle of nowhere and meets a being named Haven and a race of shape shifters called the Volken. As the unlikely group find themselves on a quest, Nathan also learns that he isn’t that ordinary – he has mysterious power in side of him, and the fate of Nothing lies in his hands. Vivid color, breathtaking fantasy spreads, and solidly constructed worldbuilding lays the foundation for what could be a groundbreaking new fantasy series for middle graders, with nonbinary and Latinx representation to boot. Where are the starred reviews for this book?

Tales of Nothing received IndieNext Honors. The website has more information about the characters, authors, and upcoming projects.

 

Poems to See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry, by Julian Peters, (March 2020, Plough Publishing House), $24, ISBN: 9780874863185

Ages 12+

Illustrator Julian Peters has taken 24 poems by some of the most recognizable names in the art form, and brought them to life using different art forms, from manga to watercolor to stark expressionist black and white.  Organized into six areas of introspection: Seeing Yourself; Seeing Others; Seeing Art; Seeing Nature; Seeing Time, and Seeing Death, Peters illustrates such master works as “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou, “Annabel Lee”, by Edgar Allan Poe, and “Juke Box Love Song” by Langston Hughes. It’s a great way to invite middle school, high school, and college students to deep dive into some of the greatest works of poetry.

Marvin: Based on The Way I Was, by Marvin Hamlisch with Gerald Gardner/Adapted and Illustrated by Ian David Marsden, (Feb. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764359040

Ages 9-13

This graphic adaptation of PEGOT (Pulitzer, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner Marvin Hamlisch’s biography is one I did not see coming! The legendary musician, composer, and conductor discusses his family’s flight from Hitler’s Austria and settling in America, Hamlisch’s admittance to Julliard at the age of 6, and the intense anxiety that plagued him before every performance. He tells readers about attending high school with Christopher Walken and Liza Minelli, and playing the piano for Judy Garland as a teen; about composing pop radio hits and learning to compose music for a motion picture as he went along. By the time he was 30, he’d won his first major award. Hamlisch’s voice is funny, warm, and conversational throughot, and Marsden’s realistic art has touching moments, particularly between Hamlisch and his father. A great read for theatre and music fans – this one is going to be my not-so-secret weapon.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Books from Quarantine: Tag Your Dreams!

Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence, by Jacqueline Jules/Illustrated by Iris Deppe, (Apr. 2020, Albert Whitman & Company), $17.99, ISBN: 9780807567265

Ages 7-10

I’m getting that TBR under control a little more every day! Tag Your Dreams is a book of poetry about sports and play for kids, but it’s more than that. These are poems about endurance, self-esteem, community, and reaching goals. It’s about a girl reaching out to a new friend by reciting a rhyme that her Guatemalan grandmother taught her (“Clapping  Hands”); it’s about a girl, swimming gracefully, mermaid-like, as she remembers being bullied for her weight earlier that day (“Mermaid Manatee”); a father and son cruising through a park on matching scooters (“Kick Scooters”), and a playground where “Spanish jumps just as high as English” as the kids skip rope and sing together. A multicultural group of adults and kids come together on these pages to play, to laugh, and to inspire readers. Jacqueline Jules, award-winning author of the Zapato Power and Sofia Martinez book series, created 31 poems about the power of play and the power of persistence to motivate readers: motivate them to play, motivate them to embrace themselves, and work as part of a team while striving to be their best. Iris Deppe’s colorful artwork shows children and grown-ups together in various stages of play: clapping hands underneath a tree, reaching for a ball in the outfield, or walking a trail with grandparents. A nice addition to poetry collections, with positive messages that we need more than ever these days.

Jacqueline Jules’s author webpage has information about her books and plenty of free, downloadable activities connected to her books.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Back to School stories!

Step right up, I’ve got a bunch of back to school stories for your readers!

Pearl Goes to Preschool, by Julie Fortenberry, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536207439

Ages 3-5

Pearl is the youngest and smallest student at her mother’s ballet school, but when Mom suggests that Pearl try out preschool – a school full of kids her age! – she’s got some questions: Is there dancing? Do they have stories? What else is there to do? Mom answers all of Pearl’s questions, and Pearl mulls it over, finally deciding that yes, she, and her stuffed mouse, Violet, are ready to try out preschool. Narrated from little Pearl’s point of view, this is an adorable story for kids getting ready for preschool: questions get answers, there’s a routine to the day, and best of all, Pearl has a wonderful day – and dances! Digital illustrations are soft, with muted pastels and lovely illustrations of ballet dancing and the relationship between a mother and her child. An adorable addition to school stories.

A free, downloadable activity kit features a Pearl paper doll with two outfits! Try to print it out on a heavier card stock, so it’s durable. Brightly has a good list of ballerina books for preschoolers, Scholastic has a list of books for beginning preschoolers.

 

Play Day School Day, by Toni Yuly, (June 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536202830

Ages 3-7

It’s always a good day for a Toni Yuly book, and her latest, Play Day School Day, captures a sweet moment between a little boy and his older sister. Mona, a young girl, is excited for the first day of school; her younger brother, Milo, asks what she does at school. “Lots of things”, Mona replies, and tells him about a typical school day, from riding the bus, to practicing reading, writing, science, and math. She tells him that sometimes, one must sit quietly at school, but other times, one can run around and be loud with friends. Mona makes school sound pretty great! The two siblings share their day in a garden or backyard, playing together with their black cat. Toni Yuly’s spare prose is to-the-point and enticing, giving Milo a wonderful vision of school. The story text is bold and black, easily readable against the bright white background, and Toni Yuly’s mixed media artwork is bright, cheerful, and vibrant. Play Day School Day is a fun school story for school-aged children and their younger siblings.

Pair Play Day School Day with Anna McQuinn’s books, Lola Reads To Leo.

 

I Got the School Spirit!, by Connie Schofield-Morrison/Illustrated by Frank Morrison, (July 2020, Bloomsbury Kids US), 9781547602612

Ages 4-7

She’s back! The exuberant, spirit-filled little girl from Connie Schofield-Morrison and Frank Morrison’s previous books, I Got the Rhythm! and I Got the Christmas Spirit! is back and ready for school in her newest story! Brushing her teeth, and getting dressed, she’s filled with the spirit, which stays with her and powers her – and her friends – through the school day! The spirit helps her comfort a scared friend on the school bus and enjoy her school day; it helps her kick a ball at recess, and propels her right into her mother’s arms at the end of her school day, leaving her ready to do it all again the next day. Filled with small moments that make up a school day, and with gorgeous, evocative oil painting, I Got the School Spirit! is the picture of Black Joy, and a picture book that will get kids excited about their own upcoming school days. Sound effects throughout: the stomp, stomp of shiny new shoes, zip, zip! of a school bag, and crunch, munch, sip! of lunchtime makes this a perfectly interactive read-aloud. A definite must-add to your back-to-school/first day of school collections.

For more Black Joy book selections, refer to these articles and lists from School Library Journal, We Are Teachers, Brightly, and Helping Kids Rise.

All Welcome Here, by James Preller/Illustrated by Mary GrandPré, (June 2020, Feiwel and Friends), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-15588-7

Ages 4-7

James Preller, author of the Jigsaw Jones chapter book series, and Mary GrandPré, whose illustrations we all know and love from Harry Potter, come together to present a collection of haiku poems about the first day of school. Covering subjects like new school supplies, the fear of boarding the bus, and class pets, all students will find themselves in the words and mixed media illustrations in the book. Moments like “Growing Up”, as a parent sighs after waving goodbye to the school bus, and “Principal K”, the new principal who has a dab of shaving cream on his ear, show kids that we grownups have our own first-day jitters, too. It’s not easy saying goodbye to our littles and it’s a little scary when the first day of school is your first day of work, too! Other poems celebrate first-day stalwarts like name tags on desks, the Reading Rug (it was the Circle Time rug when my elder boys were was in grade school), and running errands – and choosing a friend to accompany – all find their voice here. “Library” is a touching nod to school libraries everywhere: “…the whoosh and thrum / of the school’s heart beat”. Colorful and buoyant, with a diverse group of students and teachers, All Welcome Here is a thank you letter to schools, teachers, and students everywhere.

A free, downloadable storytime kit encourages readers to write their own haikus and make their own name tags.

 

I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in the Principal’s Office, by Jancee Dunn/Illustrated by Scott Nash, (June 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201987

Ages 3-8

A delightfully hilarious companion to Jancee Dunn and Scott Nash’s 2017 book, I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in Trouble Today, I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in the Principal’s Office is all about you – the principal is speaking to you, isn’t she? – and your teddy, who stashed away in your backpack and went to school with you today; Teddy, along with your friends’ stuffed animals, who all did the same thing, waited until everyone was in assembly to burst out of their schoolbags and wreak havoc all over your school! They wrote their names with condiments and tied up the coach; they trapped the art teacher in glue and rolled around in finger paint. As the principal details everything that went on during the day, parents will have to suppress their giggles – just like poor Mr. Krimple, standing next to the principal – as they imagine the principal’s tone of voice. But are you really in the principal’s office? Is there even a principal? Or is it an imaginative little girl playing school? Way too much fun to read and act out, I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in the Principal’s Office is fantastic reading… and will put a new spin on playing school, I’m sure. The colorful digital illustrations showcase a group of stuffed toys having the time of their lives throughout school, as teacher chase them through the chaos. The title page begs for a real-life storytime setup, featuring a bunch of guilty-looking toys sitting uncomfortably on chairs, some covered in paint, waiting to be claimed by their children. Just great fun to read.

 

When Pencil Met the Markers, by Karen Kilpatrick & Luis O. Ramos, Jr./Illustrated by Germán Blanco, (July 2020, imprint), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250309402

Ages 4-8

The companion to 2019’s When Pencil Met Eraser, also by Karen Kilpatrick, Luis O. Ramos, Jr., and Germán Blanco, is about teamwork, friendship, and coloring outside the lines. A group of markers loves to color, but Purple sees things differently. He colors outside the lines, which drives the other markers CRAZY. They confront Purple, telling him his creativity is a mistake and that he doesn’t fit in. Dejected, Purple sets out on his own and meets Pencil and Eraser, who inspire him to look at things differently: he doesn’t need lines! As Purple creates, Pencil and Eraser fill in the area around his work, making gloriously purple grapes, butterflies, birds, and cupcakes. The creative team’s work draws the attention of the other markers, who ultimately learn that coloring outside the lines can be fun, and Pencil says – in a tribute to Bob Ross – that “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents!” It’s a great story to read to kids, while reminding them that it’s good to approach life with a flexibility and attitude, and to color outside the lines every once in a while. Be creative, take chances, and don’t be afraid to be the Purple Marker. The digital artwork has bright, primary colors that pop off the bright white background; dialogue between the markers, Pencil, and Eraser are bold and rounded, while the narrative text is more of a Roman font, not bolded. Endpapers let Purple – and, later, the other markers – show off their scribbly best. Full of lessons that respect the reader, When Pencil Met the Markers is perfect for school stories like Eraser, by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant, The Day the Crayons Quit/The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers, and A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen and Mike Lowery. Visit the When the Pencil Met website to sign up for their newsletter and get a free, downloadable activity book.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A Place Inside of Me is necessary reading

A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart, by Zetta Elliott/Illustrated by Noa Denmon, (July 2020, Farrar Straus Giroux), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-374-30741-7

Ages 4+

This has been an ugly year; there’s no better way to put it. Let this Black Lives Matter poem by award-winning author, poet, and playwright Zetta Elliott and illustrated by the fantastic Noa Denmon, be the must-read book that will start important conversations and inspire hope and joy. A young Black child works through his shifting emotions over the course of a year in A Place Inside of Me: summertime brings joy, and hoops with friends at the basketball court; the joy turns to sorrow as the news covers a story about a child being shot, and sorrow becomes fear, which festers into anger. Anger isn’t enough to satisfy the hunger for justice and freedom, and with the end of Fall and Winter, comes Spring, bringing pride, peace, compassion, hope, and love; a wish for brighter futures and better days, and a reminder that Black Lives Matter.

Zetta Elliott’s verse is powerful, loaded with emotion like pain, anger, and hope; Noa Denmon’s artwork is colorful and vibrant, with an expressive child who invites us to follow through their dialogue. Color sets the child apart in the foreground, as washed backgrounds show them skateboarding against a neighborhood, playing basketball against a mural-painted wall in the court, and the neighborhood barber shop, where a look at photos on the wall lets you rest your eyes on a rendering of a slave ship’s blueprints. It’s a reminder of a history where Black lives most certainly did not matter. There’s a poster of Malcolm X in the child’s room, and a collection of Black faces like Beyonce’s, Mae Jemison’s, Martin Luther King’s, and Jackie Robinson’s form a stunning display as the child raises his arms in a gesture of pride. See more of Noa Denmon’s artwork at her Instagram, @noadenmon.

If you can’t understand why Black Lives Matter, rather than “all lives mattering”, I beg you, please read this book.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate

Books from Quarantine: Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem by Kate DiCamillo

Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem, by Kate DiCamillo/Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen (Tales from Deckawoo Drive), (June 2020, Candlewick Press), $14.99, ISBN: 9781536201802

Ages 7-10

When my bigger little ones (my first and second graders, usually) come into the library, many of them automatically ask me for Mercy Watson books. They love Kate DiCamillo, they love Mercy Watson and all her friends on Deckawoo Drive, and they love Kate DiCamillo at an early age; when they’re a couple of years older, and come in looking for Tales of Desperaux, I remind them that this is the same author they’ve been reading since they picked up Mercy Watson, and that smile, that book hug, it makes every day I’m there fantastic. Yeah, I’m rhapsodizing again; forgive me. It’s been going on three months since I’ve been around my Corona Kids and I’m missing them, big time. Every book I read, I know just the kid I want to tell about it. This is hard, folks. Don’t think for a second it isn’t.

Okay. So, let’s talk the newest book in the Tales from Deckawoo Drive series. Stella Endicott loves school and loves her teacher, Miss Liliana. She’s so excited to work on her assignment, to write a poem, because she knows just who she’s going to write about: Mercy Watson, the pig who lives next door and relaxes on a couch! She creates a lovely poem, but class know-it-all Horace Broom insists that she’s lying: wizards don’t play accordions, and pigs don’t live in houses! Annoyed not only by Horace’s lack of imagination, but the fact that he called her a liar, Stella shouts back at him, and the two are sent to the principal’s office, which leads to an adventure where the two will learn to see things from the other’s point of view.

The Deckawoo Drive books just make me happy. They’re funny, upbeat, and always have a good message to share. Here, we learn that it’s good to be literal and metaphorical. It’s balance! Stella is smart and spirited, and Horace may have learned his lesson about offering uninvited criticism. Gouache artwork from Chris Van Dusen is automatically recognizable: kids will spot this book on a bookshelf (literal or virtual) a mile away. Mercy’s cameo is adorable – if you have the space in your reading area, stick some cushions or pillows on the floor with a stuffed pig and let your kids curl up with their Mercy to read, imagine, and create with.

Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem has a starred review from Kirkus. Want to visit Deckawoo Drive and spend some time with Mercy? Visit the Mercy Watson website for information about the books, resources for parents and educators, join the fan club, and play some games.

Kate DiCamillo is the Newbery-Award winning author of Flora & Ulysses and The Tale of Desperaux, and a former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Chris Van Dusen is the illustrator of the Mercy Watson and Deckawoo Drive series, and an author-illustrator of books including The Circus Ship and Hattie & Hudson.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

T.S. Eliot’s Cats get the picture book treatment

The Cats movie is coming out in December; whether you’ve seen the trailer or not, whether you’re ready for this movie to come to the big screen or not, you know it’s going to be an event. Me? I’m perfectly happy to read these Faber & Faber picture books starring some of T.S. Eliot’s more memorable feline characters. There are five books in the series; I’ve received three to review, and have to say, I really enjoy them. Am I going a Cats movie storytime? I don’t know about that, but I am always down for a cat storytime.

Macavity: The Mystery Cat, by T.S. Eliot/Illustrated by Arthur Robins,
(July 2016, Faber & Faber), $9.95, ISBN: 978-0-571-30813-2
Ages 4+

Macavity is a master thief, a cheat, a sneak, a charismatic rebel who always manages to stay one paw ahead of the law. T.S. Eliot’s Macavity poem wanders through this story, amusingly illustrated by Arthur Robins, who wittily draws the marmalade tabby as a rangy, sly cat who sharp-eyed readers will catch glimpses of at the scenes of his various crime scenes. The bloodhound police dog just can’t keep up with the Napoleon of Crime.

 

Mister Mistoffelees: The Conjuring Cat, by T.S. Eliot/Illustrated by Arthur Robins,
(October 2016, Faber & Faber), $9.95, ISBN: 978-0-57132-222-0
Ages 4+

Mister Mistoffelees is the elegant conjurer, the magician, who can creep through the tiniest crack and walk on the narrowest rail. He can play tricks on humans, and is rumored to have magical powers, not just skill at sleight of hand. The little black cat is can saw a dog in half and produce kittens from his magical hat; he can be asleep by the fire while he’s heard on the roof. He’s just the Magical Mister Mistoffelees!

 

Jellicle Cats, by T.S. Eliot/Illustrated by Arthur Robins, (Aug. 2017, Faber & Faber),
$9.95, ISBN: 978-0-57133-341-7
Ages 4+

The Jellicle Cats are the party animals of T.S. Eliot’s world. With their dapper attire and their cool dance moves, the group of black and white cats head en masse to the Jellicle Ball, where they dance and sing by the light of the moon. They sleep all day, saving their energy to let it rip when the Jellicle Moon shines bright.

Each book is illustrated by Arthur Robins, who brings a wonderful, fun look to T.S. Eliot’s playful rhymes. Each cat is bursting with personality, from Mister Mistoffelees’s rainbow bow tie and wand flourishes to Macavity’s sly smile as he traps an unsuspecting mouse, to the dapper Jellicle Cats doing the Charleston under a full moon. The books are colorful and the art is bold, with chunky outlines defining the cats and their environs. The poetry is in large, bold, black font, making this an easy read for newly confident readers that like to play with language, and works really well in a storytime, where you can be playful with the words and your own movements. Add some felt Cats to your storytime! These are begging for a felt board reading.

The Kiddo (my second grader) got a big kick out of these – Macavity is a favorite, because he’s 7 and he’s all about being a rebel. I’m going to introduce these in a storytime and see how they go over; I’d love to include these in our poetry collection, because it’s making a classic work super-accessible to young learners.

Don’t miss Arthur Robins’s webpage, where you can see more of his illustration, scribbles, and cartoons he’s had featured in UK magazines.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Climbing Shadows: Poems inspired by children, for children

Climbing Shadows: Poems for Children, by Shannon Bramer/Illustrated by Cindy Derby, (March 2019, Groundwood Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781773060958

Ages 4-7

A small, sweet collection of poems inspired by kindergartners, Climbing Shadows offers a child’s-eye view of moments like a bad day at school (“I’m going to go home and tell my dad/today was hard it was so hard/I don’t want to go anymore/I want/to be a puddle”) or a child’s explanation of imagination (“I see things in my head come loose on the paper and there are my eyes here, and my names and my trees and faces and crazy squiggles and also this is a drawing of my family because I usually draw what I miss or what I love”). There are 20 poems in this collection, created by poet Shannon Bramer during the time she worked as a lunchtime supervisor for a kindergarten class. She eventually began reading poetry to them and explained that she was also a poet; the kids’ fascination grew as they learned that anyone could be a poet – “a poet could be a mom” – and a poem could be about anything. Shannon Bramer wrote these poems for her “kindies”.

The poems are sweet, short, and are a nice introduction to poetry for children; they show that a poem doesn’t have to rhyme, and can ramble, freely, like a thought or a stream. Cindy Derby’s watercolor, India ink, and digital collage illustrations are often dreamlike, with muted colors that set the stage for Ms. Bramer’s words to transport readers. It’s a great way to get kids writing about what’s on their minds at the moment. An author’s note explains how the author was inspired by the kids and is just as lovely to read as the poems are, with each child’s name illustrated around the page.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books, Teen, Toddler Reads, Tween Reads

Need a gift? Give a book!

Now that the discount coupons are hitting inboxes, it’s a great time to stock up on books to give for the holidays. Here’s a look at some more books that will delight the readers in your life!

For the Little Ones:

Baby’s First Cloth Book: Christmas, Ilustrated by Lisa Jones & Edward Underwood, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $18, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0275-5

Ages 0-2

It’s Baby Boo’s first Christmas! This 8-page book is soft and squishy, perfect for exploring little hands and mouths. Baby Boo enjoys the snow, builds a snowman with Daddy, goes back inside to warm up by the fire and gaze at the Christmas tree, and at night, Santa drops off presents! The plush book is soft, and the page featuring the snowman is crinkly; perfect for play time and engaging your little one’s senses. The colors are bright, with gentle-faced animals and people. The book comes in its on add Park, Farm, and Zoo to the list.

 

Ten Horse Farm, by Robert Sabuda, (Apr. 2018, Candlewick Press), $29.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-6398-8

Ages 5+

You don’t have to be a kid to love Robert Sabuda; his paper engineering is stunning to see. Ten Horse Farm is a full-color, pop-up counting book where each spread stars a different horse engaging in some kind of activity: racing, resting, jumping, or bucking. Let your kiddos count the horses as you go, and use this book in storytime to bring wonder and surprise to your readers. This fits in nicely with a horse storytime, farm storytime, animal storytime… any time storytime. Inspired by rural America, Robert Sabuda even named his upstate New York art studio Ten Horse Farm. Sabuda books are timeless gifts.

Ten Horse Farm has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

For the Dinosaur fan:

Dragon Post, by Emma Yarlett, (Dec. 2018, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-818-6

Ages 6-10

If you’re a regular reader here, you know I LOVE Emma Yarlett. Her Nibbles the Book Monster books are required reading in my home, and the kids at my library and my son’s Kindergarten class can’t get enough Nibbles. Dragon Post has the same fun spirit as we meet Alexander, a young boy who finds a dragon in his home. He’s excited, naturally, but he’s also a little concerned about fire safety. So he writes a series of letters, as different questions pop up for him. The best part? We get to read the letters!

This is an interactive book, with envelopes (lightly toasted) and letters you can pull up and read for yourself. The story is hilarious as Alexander’s predicament grows, and just when it takes a bittersweet turn, we get the hope of a sequel. The laser-cut correspondence is a fun addition to the story, and the full-color, cartoony artwork will appeal to readers. The scrawled black text reminds me of Oliver Jeffers’ lettering. Absolute fun for the holidays. If you’re buying this for your library, put it an extra copy in your storytime reference to keep one safe. This one will be loved quite a bit.

For the adventure seeker:

Atlas Obscura: Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid, by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco/Illustrated by Joy Ang, (Sept. 2018, Workman), $19.95, ISBN: 978-1-5235-0354-4

Ages 8-12

Here’s one for the kids who love the offbeat, quirky, and awe-inspiring things in life: Atlas Obscura is the kids’ companion to the website and adult guide book and is all about 100 of the most “weird but true” places on earth. Discover the Door to Hell in Turkmenistan (it’s a drilling accident gone terribly wrong), then head to Germany to ride a rollercoaster in the Wunderland Kalkar – an abandoned nuclear power plant. Check out the world’s seed bank in Norway, or visit an underwater museum near the Canary Islands.

Full-color illustrations offer an incredible point of view, and each site includes a locator globe and longitude and latitude (ahem… program in a book). A packing list – in case you’re so motivated – and explorer’s tips, along with alternate travel routes, methods of travel by speed, and height comparisons of attractions from biggest to smallest help with travel planning, and a list of further reading will have your world explorers putting up maps and pins in their rooms. This is just way too much fun. Give this to all the kids you normally hand your National Geographic gifts to, and you’ll be the favorite for another year running.

A World of Cities: From Paris to Tokyo and beyond, a celebration of the world’s most famous cities, by James Brown, (July 2018, Candlewick Studios), $25, ISBN: 9780763698799

Ages 8-12

Visit 30 of the world’s most famous cities with this book as your guide! It’s an oversize book with two- or 3-color tourism poster artwork and facts on each spread. Did you know Dubai has its own archipelago of artificial islands? Or that Albert Einstein’s eyeballs are stored in a safe-deposit box in New York City? There are tons of fun facts here, all assembled to create a stylized art book that takes armchair travelers to the bright lights and big cities of the world.

This is a follow-up to James Brown’s A World of Information, for anyone who’s a fan of infographics style information delivery.

 

For the animal lovers:

Heroes: Incredible True Stories of Courageous Animals, by David Long/Illustrated by Kerry Hyndman, (Nov. 2018, Faber & Faber), $22.95, ISBN: 978-0-5713-4210-5

Ages 9-13

I loved the companion series to this book, the more human-focused Survivors, that came out earlier this year, so I dove into Heroes when the publisher sent me a copy. If you and your kids loved Survivors, you’re going to love Heroes, with 33 stories of courageous animals (and an epilogue about London’s Animals in War Memorial). It’s more than an “I Survived” starring animals; these are stories about how we rely on animals to survive and to thrive. There’s Rip, the terrier who rescued people trapped in the rubble of the London Blitz during World War II: “…somehow having Rip around made things more bearable… if Rip could cope with the war, so they [the people]”; and Mary of Exeter, a messenger pigeon who spent five years carrying messages back and forth between England and France during World War II and who’s buried alongside Rip and Beauty, another WWII hero dog profiled here. Kerry Hyndman’s illustrations are all at once intense and beautiful, and David Long’s tributes are filled with respect for these companions. Read with a box of tissues nearby. Give to your animal fans and your adventure story fans.

 

Fly With  Me: A Celebration of Birds Through Pictures, Poems, and Stories, by Jane Yolen, Heidi EY Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple, (Oct. 2018, NatGeo Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3181-7

Ages 8+

A compendium of all things bird for your bird-readers and watchers, Fly With Me has everything you’d want to know about birds: the physical characteristics, history (dino birds!), state bird profiles, songs, migration, and birding in your own backyard are just a few areas. There’s an emphasis on conservation and activism, and the section on birds in the arts is fantastic for your budding artists. The photos are jaw-dropping, with colors that burst off the page, and gorgeous illustrations. Endpapers are loaded with bird-related quotes, including one of my favorites: “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like  duck, it must be a duck”. Back matter is loaded with additional resources. Pull some of the poems out and use them in your storytimes!

 

For the poetry reader:

Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year, selected by Fiona Waters/Illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon, (Oct. 2018, Nosy Crow), $40, ISBN: 9781536202472

All Ages

There’s a poem for every single day of the year in this book. From January 1st through December 31st, greet each day with a poem and a beautiful illustration. Poets include Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Frost, Ogden Nash, ee cummings, and John Updike, and poems are indexed by poet name, poem title, and first lines. This is a gorgeous gift: the illustrations are absolutely beautiful, with cold winter scenes, green fall forests, and colorful, shell-covered beaches. Start the day off, or end a day, snuggled up with a poem.

This one’s a great gift for grownups, too – librarians and teachers, put this on your wish list and you’ll be thrilled to add new poems and fingerplays to your storytimes. I’m currently trying to think of hand movements to add to Alastair Reid’s “Squishy Words (To Be Said When Wet)” (August 4th).

Sing a Song of Seasons has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

The Poetry of US: More Than 200 poems that celebrate the people, places, and passions of the United States, Edited by J. Patrick Lewis, former US Children’s Poet Laureate, (Sept. 2018, NatGeo Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3185-5

All Ages

This is another incredible poetry volume, all celebrating the United States: it’s a love letter to the country, compiled by former US Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis. Organized by region: New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Midwest, Great Plains, Rocky Mountain West, Pacific Coast, and Territories, over 200 poems celebrate the natural beauty of our lands and our rich cultural and diverse history. “Never Say No” by Laurie Purdie Salas is all about the perfection of a Philly cheesesteak, while Linda Sue Park’s “Asian Market” – showcased here in both English and Korean –  is a tantalizing tribute to the smells and sights of eating at an Asian food market. Reuben Jackson’s haunting “For Trayvon Martin” is side by side with J. Patrick Lewis’ “The Innocent”, a poem for Emmett Till. “Spelling Bee”, an acrostic by Avis Harley, is a nod to the Scripps Spelling Bee, and Allan Wolf’s “Champion Betty” celebrates a competitor at the Westminster Kennell Club Dog Show. There are poems about beaches and forests, Disney and weddings; there are poems in Korean and Spanish, and poems that shine a light on how far we have to go. It’s America, and these voices are why it’s beautiful.

For your reader who loves the classics:

Into the Jungle: Stories for Mowgli, by Katherine Rundell/Illustrated by Kristjana S. Williams, (Oct. 2018, Walker Books), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536205275

Ages 8-12

The flap of Into the Jungle says it best: “To turn the page of The Jungle Book is to long for more tales of Mowgli the man-cub, Baheera the panther, Baloo the bear, and Kaa the python”. Into the Jungle is a companion to the classic Rudyard Kipling book, enriching readers with five more stories about Mowgli and his companions: “Before Mother Wolf Was a Mother, She Was a Fighter”; “Bagheera’s Cage”; “Baloo’s Courage”; “Kaa’s Dance”, and “Mowgli” all bring back fan favorite characters and deliver themes of empathy, kindness, and understanding across species, cultures, and genders. Katherine Rundell has given Kipling’s classic – and, by extension, his fans – new life, and new relevance in a world very different – and sadly, not so different – from 1894.

Illustrations are full-color and created in collage, using Victorian engravings, to give an historical feel with incredible texture. Humans and animals alike share expressive faces and body language, and the lush Indian jungle unfurls itself to readers, beckoning them to join them in the pages. A gorgeous gift book.

I hope that helps with some shopping lists! Happy Holidays, all!
Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books

H is for Haiku and the magic of the small moment

H is for Haiku, by Sydell Rosenberg/Illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi, (Apr. 2018, Penny Candy Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0998799971

Ages 5+

Sydell “Syd” Rosenberg, who lived, wrote, and taught in New York City. Syd passed away in 1996, but her daughter, Amy Losak, made it her mission to see her mother’s work published. H is for Haiku, is a fun, illustrated book containing 26 “small moments” haiku: little slices of daily life. As Ms. Losak notes in her introduction, “Haiku poems make small moments big”.

Reading H is for Haiku took me back to sons’ “small moments” units in elementary school. They and I both struggled with the idea of a small moment; often puzzling over the feedback, “no, smaller”. How could a trip to the grocery store get smaller? H is for Haiku is the book to go to for those moments: a cat dreams; rain water collects in an old watering can, a girl rides a bike downhill. Syd Rosenberg captures the magic in these tiny moments, finding the poetry in the everyday and illuminating them for readers. Sawsan Chalabi’s artwork is a treat, bringing creativity and movement to these magical moments with color and bold fonts.

A library card’s potential, through the eyes of a new reader. I want a print of this for my library!

This is so Queens. I love it. Book samples courtesy of Penny Candy Books.

This is a great way to bring poetry, particularly haiku, to kids. It’s a great way to explain small moment writing to students, too. Consider adding H is for Haiku to your collections, or giving a copy to your poetry readers. To see more of a illustrator Sawsan Chalabi’s work, visit her website; to learn more about Amy Losak and her mother’s haiku, visit the Penny Candy website.

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.