Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

There’s got to be rain to get rainbows…

Rain Before Rainbows, by Smriti Prrasadam-Halls/Illustrated by David Litchfield, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212839

Ages 3-7

A rhyming story that reminds us to look for the light in the dark places, Rain Before Rainbows features a young girl and her companion fox leaving a castle, shrouded in fog. She looks back, as the two travel into the rain, and the two forge a path through the dark, across mountains, fighting the elements and their own nightmares until finally arriving at a sun-drenched wood, with new animal friends waiting to care for them. The verse is hopeful, optimistic, yet acknowledges that struggle often accompanies success: “Rain before rainbows, / Clouds before sun, / Night before daybreak, / The old day is done.” The artwork takes readers across fantastic landscapes, colorful and surreal, as the companions journey through forests, where wraithlike dragons await, and dreamlike foxes spirit them away. It’s a hopeful end to what’s been a difficult year for most, and I’m choosing it to kick off my New Year’s Eve posts in the hope that it will give some comfort to you as it has to me. A good book to have in hand when caregivers and kids ask for books on getting through tough times.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Excellent life advice: Eat the Cake!

Eat the Cake, by MH Clark/Illustrated by Jana Glatt, (Feb. 2020, Compendium), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1946873842

Ages 4-7

It’s time to celebrate? Celebrate what, you ask? Who needs a reason? Eat the Cake is all about picking a special day – it can be a birthday, a graduation, a special occasion, or just waking up and deciding this is YOUR day – and celebrating! Great things are coming your way, so relax, enjoy, and eat the cake!

This rhyming, upbeat story is all about embracing positivity; a new mindset; creativity, and being bold and brave. Brightly colored figures parade up, down, and all around the pages, throwing confetti, playing instruments, and celebrating the reader. The bright, happy colors pop off the bright white of the pages, really grabbing the reader’s attention and creative a fun, festive atmosphere. The story is a celebration of the reader/audience, encouraging them to “be so bright that the stars, watching all that you do, / look right down from the sky and start wishing on you”. How fantastic is that to read?

Play some upbeat music, give kids egg shakers, and let them celebrate themselves after reading Eat the Cake at storytime. Don’t limit the fun to the little ones, either: this works nicely with Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! for a graduation reading at any age. Give this to a retiring colleague or family member to remind them to enjoy life and all they have ahead of them, or someone achieving a major milestone, or someone who just needs a pick-me-up. Eat the Cake is just too much fun.

MH Clark is also the author of Tiger Days, a great book about emotions, and Tiny Perfect Things, a lovely book about those small and perfect moments in our day.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour and Giveaway!: What if Everybody Thought That? by Ellen Javernick

What if Everybody Thought That?, by Ellen Javernick/Illustrated by Colleen Madden, (Aug. 2019, Two Lions), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1542091374

Ages 4-8

The third book in Ellen Javernick and Colleen Madden’s “What if Everybody…” series takes a look at our internal dialogues. You know what that means… those moments when you think you’re keeping your feelings to yourself, but those thoughts come out in other ways. Here, we see crossed arms, pouts, and sneers as kids make suppositions about classmates with special needs, classmates who stutter, kids on the playground that want to play basketball, but may be a little shorter than the others.

Many of us grew up being told that “you can think it, but just don’t say it”, but What if Everybody Thought That? is here to tell you that thoughts can be toxic, too. What if Everybody Thought That? is all about how what we think influences how we act toward others. Kids scrunch up their faces and glare at foods from other cultures at an international food fair, or decide that a special needs classmate who mispells a word isn’t smart enough to be in their class. Alternating spreads illustrate a situation where classmates thinking devaluing thoughts, only to have those conclusions turned on their head when the children show other talents. The classmate who had trouble spelling vacation? He’s a whiz at robotics. That food fair turns into a success when kids try exciting new foods and rave about their experiences. A boy with a stutter can sing with a clear and strong voice, bringing his classmates to their feet with resounding applause.

What If Everybody Thought That? is here to remind readers to give everyone a chance. We’ve all got different talents and abilities, after all. The book also illustrates how thoughts can lead to action – if we think devaluing or negative things about one another, it can eventually lead to us “othering” people – separating and isolating people who aren’t like us. As one boy says to another, “I think we should all be more thoughtful”. What if everybody thought that? Ellen Javernick’s repetitive message challenges readers to pause and take a moment to ponder what would happen if positive, as well as negative, thoughts were to go viral. It creates a thoughtful atmosphere, and provides opportunities for strong class discussions and teachable moments.

Colleen Madden’s artwork presents a multicultural group of kids with a wide range of abilities and challenges, and includes quiet background lessons that support and emphasize author Ellen Javernick’s message. A playground blacktop has encouraging messages, like, “You can do it!” written in chalk; a girl with alopecia stands in a bathroom that sports graffiti-ed statements like, “How do you know, if u don’t ask?” and “Put yourself in someone else’s s-h-o-e-s”; a stage curtain hosts the message, “things are seldom what they seem”.

This is a great series, and one that I’ll be reading during class visits in the coming school year. What if Everybody Said That? went over well last year, and I’m looking forward to introducing visiting teachers and students to What if Everybody Thought That? this year.

Want a chance at winning your very own copy of What if Everybody Thought That? Check out this Rafflecopter giveaway! (U.S. addresses only, please!)

 

Ellen Javernick is the author of more than twenty books for children, including the Children’s Choice Book Award finalist The Birthday Pet, illustrated by Kevin O’Malley, and the bestselling picture book What If Everybody Did That?, illustrated by Colleen Madden. She has been an elementary school teacher for more than twenty years and currently teaches second grade. She lives in Loveland, Colorado.

Colleen Madden is the illustrator of numerous children’s books, including the picture book adaptation of All I Want for Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey and the bestselling picture book What If Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick. She lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons. To see more of her work, visit: http://www.mbartists.com/cgi-bin/iowa/artists.html?artist=77

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Saving Winslow is another hit for Sharon Creech

Saving Winslow, by Sharon Creech, (Sept. 2018, Harper Collins Children’s Books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-06-257073-4

Ages 7-12

Louie is a gentle 10-year-old boy with a horrible history of caring for animals: worms, lightning bugs, goldfish, and several bigger animals have all perished or escaped under his care, but when his father brings home a baby donkey, orphaned at birth, from Louie’s uncle’s farm – to care for it until, “you know – until it dies”, Louie accepts the mission. He’s going to save this donkey. You see, Louie was a preemie at birth, and his parents weren’t sure he’d make it, either. Love and determination kept Louie going, and he’s sure that it will keep Winslow – the name he gives the donkey – going. And it does. Winslow struggles, but thrives under Louie’s care, to everyone’s surprise. His new neighbor, Nora, a girl grieving the losses of both her premature baby brother and her dog, is amazed, but pessimistic, warning Louie that Winslow is going to die, and not to get too attached. Louie puts everything into saving Winslow, wishing he could speak to his older brother, Gus, who’s serving in the military, about Winslow, but letters from Gus come few and far between these days, and are always signed “remember me”. As Louie saves Winslow, Winslow may save everyone around him.

Full disclosure: this is my first Sharon Creech novel. Now I get it. I get why she’s a force in kidlit, a multiple award winner, and why her books are always on my library kids’ summer reading lists. She masters feeling and emotion through eloquent, brief prose. I was hers from the opening lines in the book, and I was with her until the last phrase closed the story. I told a friend of mine that Saving Winslow broke me apart and put me back together in the way that Charlotte’s Web did when I read it the first time as a child. Sharon Creech invests readers in every single character in this book, from the baby donkey, to the pessimistic neighbor kid, to the crabby next door neighbor, but we are always focused on Louie and his story. Saving Winslow is a story of hope and perseverance, and it’s a story about the need to believe in the positive. Every library needs a copy of this book – let’s get this one on the summer reading lists, please! – and kids with gentle hearts and sad souls alike will find comfort in it. An absolute must-have, must-read.

Saving Winslow has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, and Horn Book. Sharon Creech has a Newbery Medal for Walk Two Moons (1995), and received Newbery Honors for The Wanderer (2001). Her book, Ruby Holler (2002), is a Carnegie Medal winner. Her author website offers information and links to her social media, and downloadable reading guides for most of her books.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Size matters not… Small, by Gina Perry

Small, by Gina Perry, (Aug. 2017, Little Bee Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0401-0

Recommended for readers 3-7

Sometimes it’s a drag being small. It can be intimidating. In Small, a little girl goes through a day in the crowded city feeling small and overwhelmed. When ducks snatch her hot dog, she feels helpless… until a trip to a playground helps her turn it around by allowing her to embraces the positives in her life and how they make her feel big. The love of her family; her drawing ability; her fierce game – all of these and more make her big, brave, and loved.

Small is loaded with positivity. It’s a good book for preschoolers and kindergarteners on self-esteem, filled with moments kids recognize all too well: feeling like second banana to a younger sibling; fears about being lost in a crowd; of not being heard; of just feeling plain helpless. It also taps into positive moments that kids feel: the invincibility of being on a slide or the monkey bars; the power of sidewalk chalk, the power that comes from doing something for someone else. I read this to my toddler/preschooler storytime group, and they loved it! Two of my QH kiddos were captivated by the sidewalk chalk art, so we spent a couple of minutes letting everyone look at the spread and point to the different drawings. The story and the pictures resonated with them.

Author/Illustrator Gina Perry’s webpage has a free, downloadable butterfly craft and activity kit that I’ll definitely use – especially since I just saw a sidewalk art page! This is a great book for letting little ones know what a big space they take up in your life.

Posted in Toddler Reads

Retro Review: Nick Jr’s Oswald’s A Nice Quiet Picnic/The Big Parade

Oswald (A Nice Quiet Picnic/The Big Parade). Directed by Ken Kessel. NickJr, 24 minutes. HIT Entertainment PLC, Nicktoons Productions. 2001

Toddlers and Preschoolers will love the early 2000’s cartoon, Oswald, based on the series of books by Dan Yaccarino. The show ran on Nicktoons from 2001-2003; parents can still find the show on the NickJr channel. Yaccarino served as producer on the show, assuring that the look and feel of the books carried over. Each episode runs approximately 24 minutes and contains two episodes that run about 12 minutes each.

Oswald

The show follows the adventures of Oswald, an octopus, and his friends in the city of Big. Each episode contains the same characters: Oswald (voiced by Fred Savage), his dachshund, Weenie, who looks like an actual hot dog (voiced by Debi Derryberry), and his friend, Henry, a penguin (voiced by David L. Lander) appear in every episode. Other friends show up from time to time. In the episode A Nice Quiet Picnic, Oswald, Henry and Weenie go on a picnic; as more friends show up, the group tries to figure out how to feed everyone when there are only three sandwiches. The episode highlights the value of sharing, as Oswald continues to invite friends to the picnic as he encounters them in the park, despite Henry’s protests that there is not enough food to feed everyone; it also focuses on teamwork, as the group of friends comes together to feed everyone at the picnic. There are repetitive phrases and counting exercises throughout for toddler and preschool audiences, and simple songs round out the episode.

In The Big Parade, Oswald hears parade music from his window and is excited, believing that a parade is coming to town. He and Weenie fetch Henry and their friend, Daisy (voiced by Crystal Scales) – an actual Daisy flower – and find a spot to wait for the parade to pass, talking excitedly about their favorite parade performers; in particular, the acrobats, the jugglers, and the Grand Marshall. When they learn that there is no parade, and that the music was coming from a friend’s radio, they decide to make their own parade, each character assuming their favorite role. As with A Nice Quiet Picnic, there is a great deal of repetition, this time, reinforcing the roles of the parade performers. The episode teaches children to deal with disappointment, as the group does when they realize that there is no parade – they turn a letdown into a positive situation.

The artwork is the same as the artwork from the Oswald book series, with bright, vibrant color against a calm backdrop of City. The skies are blue, the grass is a calming green, and even Oswald’s apartment building is an inviting backdrop of light color, all assuring that the main characters will stand out. The characters speak calmly, in quiet, soothing voices.

The series is not very interactive, but it does provide good storytelling with characters that may be known to young audiences; it also serves, for those audiences that are unfamiliar with Oswald, as a bridge to reading the books. It may be a fun idea to have an Oswald day where audiences can view a two-story episode and talk about the themes of teamwork and what to do when you feel sad. Have Oswald books available and on display for parents and children to read and take out after the read-aloud. There are Oswald board books available for younger audiences. The Oswald mini-site on the NickJr. webpage offers printables that attendees could color.

NickToons and the now-defunct Noggin network also ran episodes of Maurice Sendak’s series, Little Bear and Bil Cosby’s Little Bill; these shows were based on series of books and could also be of interest to younger viewers and readers.

The Oswald series of books by Dan Yaccarino includes early readers, board  books, and 8×8 books. Titles include Oswald’s Camping Trip; Counting with Oswald; Colors with Oswald and Henry’s First Haircut.