Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

#HomesCool for babies, too! Anti-Racism, Climate Change, Oceanography, and Mammals!

Babies need fun books, too! #HomesCool doesn’t just start with school-age kids: let’s take a look at some of the best board books out this summer, ready for you to read to your lap-sitters as we head into Fall.

Anti-Racist Baby, by Ibram X. Kendi/Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky, (June 2020, Kokila), $8.99, ISBN: 9780593110416

Ages 0-4

If you haven’t had the chance to enjoy Anti-Racist Baby yet, please find a copy now! National Book Award Winner Ibram X. Kendi and illustrator Ashley Lukashevsky have created a gorgeous, playful book for readers of all ages that celebrates diversity and offers simple, wonderful ways that we can teach our children, from the  youngest ages, to be actively anti-racist. There are easy concepts to grasp here; it’s our job as parents and caregivers to use the vocabulary to break down large concepts as “see all colors” “and “blame the policies, not the people” to our kids. The illustrations are bold, upbeat, and feature diverse groups of families. The rhyming scheme will keep kids entertained, introducing them to new words – just like STEM board books! – while we show them concepts through our own actions. Consider this for your collections, display and read with books like Feminist Baby, Woke Baby, and A is for Activist.

Anti-Racist Baby has a starred review from School Library Journal.

 

Climate Change for Babies, by Chris Ferrie/Illustrated by Katherina Petrou, (Aug. 2020, Sourcebooks Explore), $9.99, ISBN: 9781492680826

Ages 2-5

Another Chris Ferrie STEM board book! I love his STEM series for babies and toddlers. Here, Chris Ferrie and illustrator Katherina Petrou teach littles about climate change, using the idea of a blanket keeping planets warm: that’s the atmosphere. Different planets have different blankets, but Earth’s blanket is just right, thanks to our trees, animals, and oceans… but not when people start changing the blanket with transportation, pollution, and livestock! When our blanket gets too hot, Earth doesn’t feel well, and makes a lot of things go wrong. What can we do? Lots of things, like plant more trees, cut down on coal, oil, and cars and factories! Simply illustrated with bright colors and pictures of happy and sad planets, vehicles, and landscapes, kids will be entertained while we grownups digest the big picture and talk about keeping our world safe and healthy.

 

ABCs of Oceanography, by Chris Ferrie/Illustrated by Katherina Petrou, (Aug. 2020, Sourcebooks Explore), $9.99, ISBN: 9781492680819

Ages 2-5

It’s a Chris Ferrie Fest! ABCs of Oceanography is the seventh(ish?) book in Ferrie and illustrator Katherina Petrou’s ABCs series. Like other books in the series, this book grows along with your little ones: Colorful pictures illustrate each alphabetical concept, with the letter and word bright and bold, standing out against a stark white background: “A is for Algae”, with an illustration of algae. Next, for young learners, the concept word is used in a descriptive sentence: “Algae are aquatic life that conduct photosynthesis”; using bigger vocabulary words in a scientific context, to introduce preschoolers to the basic words they can expect to learn in kindergarten. Finally, a fuller definition, perfect for children moving up into elementary school, yet still easy enough to grasp, to give them the full breadth of the definition and ownership of the concept. There are familiar words, like Dolphin, Island, and Octopus, and newer words, like Euphotic Zone, Gyre, and Quahog. Pair with Baby Shark and get some flannel ocean figures out!

Sourcebooks has a Baby University page on their publisher website, that features Chris Ferrie’s books organized into series: For Babies, ABCs, and Picture Books.

 

Curious About Mammals, by Cathryn Sill/Illustrated by John Sill, (Aug. 2020, Peachtree Publishing), $6.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-198-0

Ages 0-3

This book is adorable and informative! The second book in Peachtree’s and author-illustrator team Cathryn and John Sill’s Discovering Nature series, Curious About Mammals presents one-sentence facts about mammals, accompanied by elegant, detailed wildlife artwork by wildlife illustrator John Sill. The sentences contain basic facts and plenty of sight words for young learners, with the accompanying artwork showing animals in their daily lives: climbing; swimming; flying; alone, or with a group. Each animal’s common name appears under their picture, in small italic text, letting readers go back and discover their new favorite animals again and again. Some may be familiar, like the Northern Raccoon and Blue Whale; others may be brand new, like the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit and American Badger. A great add to board book collections where you have burgeoning animals fans.

Posted in Uncategorized

Board Books, Board Books, Board Books!

There’s a whole bunch of great board books out, and I love it!

Cat & Mouse, by Britta Teckentrup, (March 2019, Prestel Publishing), $14.95, ISBN: 978-3-7913-7374-4

Ages 0-4

This die-cut, rhyming book is adorable! A cat and mouse play a game of hide and seek, with die-cut squares on each page letting little ones find the mouse, and explore with their fingers as well as their eyes and ears, as they go along. Cat and mouse wreak havoc across each spread, upending furniture and running up and down stairs: will the cat catch the mouse? I read this to my storytime group and wiggled fingers through the squares, let the little ones peek through the holes, and stuck my nose through one or two to mimic a cat sniffing for a mouse, all to tremendous giggles. This is an adorable storytime read, and a great pick for sensory and explorative reading. The artwork is loaded with shapes and colors to identify, making this a book you can really engage your little ones with.

 

Who is Afraid of Little Wolf?, by Yayo Kawamura, (Apr. 2019, Prestel Publishing), $12.95, ISBN: 978-3-7913-7381-2

Ages 0-3

Little Wolf is bored and wants to play, but it seems like no one wants to play with him: the squirrel, rabbit, and fox all tell him their moms won’t let them play with wolves! Just when Little Wolf starts to cry, a little bee invites him to play. Seeing Wolf and Bee play together, the other animals realize that there’s nothing to be afraid of, and join the game. At sunset, Little Wolf and his new group of friends sit in a cuddled group, enjoying one another’s company after a big day of playing hide and seek. A sweet, simple story about overcoming prejudice, Who is Afraid of Little Wolf is a story that has a big message for little eyes and ears. Bold, colorful artwork and friendly animal faces make this instantly appealing to young readers and listeners, and gives a face to the fallout of predetermined ideas.

 

I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0757-6

Ages 2-5

This is one of my favorite picture books of ALL TIME, and now it’s available in board book form! The darkly hysterical tale of a bear, a hare, and a hat is complete here; just in smaller format for littler fingers. The illustrations are beautifully, perfectly recreated here. My 6-year-old asked me if this was a “backpack copy” for him to bring to school, and darned if I didn’t say, “Wow… you may be onto something here”. Start your younger readers off right: give them Jon Klassen board books! (PLEASE say we’ll be getting Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Triangle, Square, and Circle trilogy in board book at some point!)

Do you have crafts after storytime? Use this free, downloadable activity kit to let the kids make their own red hat, recreate their own forest story scene, and more.

 

Wild Bios: Frida Catlo, by Courtney Acampora & Maggie Fischer/Illustrated by Lindsay Dale-Scott, (Jan. 2019, Silver Dolphin Books), $7.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-558-6

Ages 2-5

This is the cutest new board book series! Wild Bios puts an “animalistic twist” onto famous figure biographies by adding cute animals and wink, nudge puns to the biographical text. Here, we’ve got artist Frida Kahlo’s life with a feline spin: Frida Catlo was born in Meowixco City, painted self-pawtraits, and married fellow artist Doggo Rivera. A sweet way to introduce art to your little ones (I think it’s time for me to revisit my Art Storytime) and the puns will keep older siblings and adult caregivers chuckling at storytime. The bright, festive artwork is fun to look at, and Frida’s even got a little unibrow. Make sure to mention that Friday Kahlo loved animals – display and booktalk Monica Brown’s Friday Kahlo and Her Animalitos handy. Let the little ones draw afterward!

 

The Story of Rock, by the Editors of Caterpillar Books/Illustrated by Lindsey Sagar, (May 2019, Silver Dolphin Books), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-509-8

Ages 0-5

Perfect for music storytime, this rhyming look at the history of rock music starts – as it should! – with rock’s roots in blues and features some of the most iconic names in rock history, including Chuck Berry, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Queen, the Ramones, and more. The blues, through the rockabilly ’50s, the psychadelic ’60s, punk, hair metal, grunge, and ska are all here, with sweetly illustrated, friendly faces and instruments. Add this to your music shelf with board books like What is Punk?, Brandon Stousy’s What is Music? and We Are Music, Amazing Me! Music, by Carol Thompson, and Baby Loves to Rock! by Wednesday Kirwan.

 

The Story of Rap, by the Editors of Caterpillar Books/Illustrated by Lindsey Sagar, (May 2019, Silver Dolphin Books), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-508-1

Ages 0-5

A companion to The Story of Rock, The Story of Rap starts off with rap’s beginning at a New York house party in 1973 and explains the genre’s sound: big bass, spoken word rhyme. Learn about rap icons, from Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC, and NWA; the protests, the East vs. West battle, and modern figures, including Jay-Z, and Kendrick Lamar. The emphasis on soul and social justice is here, and like the books says: “Rap is for the people, just like from the start, it’s more than music: it’s a work of heart”. The artwork is identical to The Story of Rock, with soft, cute, friendly faces and urban street wear; there’s some breakdancing, mixing and scratching at the turntables, and female representation (Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott are here, but where’s Queen Latifah?). Add this to your music board books, and keep up your readers’ music education.

 

Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Social Justice, Union Organizing, Dairy Wars, and an Orphan Band!

The Orphan Band of Springdale, by Anne Nesbet, (Apr. 2018, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9780763688042

Recommended for readers 8-12

It’s 1941, and things are tense in the U.S. as the world is at war in Europe. Eleven-year-old Gusta is on the run with her father, a German labor organizer, heading toward Maine to stay with her grandmother, when her father disappears. Gusta shows up on her grandmother’s doorstep with the clothes on her back and her beloved French horn. Her grandmother and aunt, who run an orphanage, take her in, and Gusta starts adjusting to life in a place very different from New York. American nationalism runs rampant in Maine, and Gusta’s last name and status as a newcomer brings some suspicion with it, as does her talk about unions and workers’ rights. Her uncle, a mill-worker whose hand was mangled at the factory, can’t work, so Gusta takes it upon herself to approach the owner of the mill to ask him to consider helping with her uncle’s bills. What Gusta doesn’t realize is that her desire to do the right thing puts her at odds with the mill owner, who has a history of his own with her family.

There is such rich and relevant storytelling here. Gusta is a wonderfully realized character with a strong background in social justice: a background that makes her an outsider in her own country. She comes to Small Town America during a time when there of alien registration drives (it really happened) and extreme patriotism; when something as innocuous as a last name aroused suspicion. Gusta is hyper-aware of injustice and determined to do what’s right, whether it’s bringing union reps to her town or point-blank asking for compensation for her uncle’s work-related injury. It’s her unflinching sense of right and wrong that puts her at odds in her community – and her father’s reputation certainly doesn’t help. Thank goodness her tough but loving grandmother is there to lean on. The Orphan Band of Springdale moves at a good pace, has believable characters in relatable situations, and readers can easily draw parallels between 1941 and today.

An author’s note reveals the very personal connection between the author and Gusta’s story. Readers can download a discussion guide and author’s notes from Candlewick’s website. The Orphan Band of Springdale has starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and the Bulletin of the Center for Chidren’s Books.

 

 

Posted in Middle School, picture books, Preschool Reads

Just Like Brothers teaches valuable lessons

Just Like Brothers, by Elizabeth Baguley/Illustrated by Aurélie Blanz, (March 2018, Barefoot Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781782853459

Recommended for ages 3-7

A young boy and a young wolf cub are each warned by their mothers. The boy’s mother warns of the wolves; the wolf’s mother, of men. The children listen, then go off and play, as children do. When each gets lost in the forest and come upon the other, their first reaction is fear; eventually, though, they discover that their similarities far outweigh their differences. And their mothers discover that they have a lot to learn from their children.

Told like a modern-day fable, Just Like Brothers teaches readers about the problems formed by prejudice and baseless judgement; it also teaches the value of empathy and trust. The innocence of children, both here and in real life, has no place for prejudice; it’s passed on at an early age. It’s a call to us as caregivers to be careful not to let our own fears make us irrational in what we teach our kids. It’s the start of a conversation, with lyrical descriptions like, “rough-hand and sharp stick” to describe humans, and “wag-tail and scamper-paw” to describe the playful cub. This makes for a good read-aloud and discussion about friendship and trust.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books, Realistic Fiction

Black History Month: As Fast as Words Could Fly

As Fast As Words Could Fly, by Pamela M. Tuck/Illustrated by Eric Velasquez, (Apr. 2013, Lee and Low), $18.95, ISBN: 9781600603488

Recommended for readers 6-10

I had to start my Black History Month reviews off with this gorgeous book by Pamela M. Tuck. As Fast As Words Could Fly is inspired by Ms. Tuck’s father, who – along with his brothers – integrated a North Carolina school, and by her grandfather, who was active in the Civil Rights movement. Mason Steele is a 14 year-old who helps his father’s civil rights group by writing letters for them, shining light on injustices. Mason’s father brings home a manual typewriter, transforming Mason’s life and letting his words fly across the pages. At the same time as Mason receives his typewriter, his father tells him and his brothers that they will integrate the local high school rather than continue busing to one twelve miles away. Integration is tough on Mason and his brothers: buses drive right by them and teachers and students alike make it known that the boys aren’t welcome there, but Mason endures and uses his typewriter to increase his skill and earn some money. He also uses his typewriter to make a change: he defies racism to keep his job at the local library and to represent his school in a typing contest. For Mason, the words on the paper speak loud and clear.

This was Pam Tuck’s first published story, which won the Lee & Low New Voices Winner. I was lucky enough to see her speak about her experience, and her family’s experience, at KidLitCon back in November, and I got my own copy of As Fast As Words Could Fly signed for my kiddo. Pam’s voice comes through so clearly in her story; I can hear her, even now, telling me about her grandfather and father’s story. I mentioned that I was a fan of her illustrator, Eric Velasquez, and she sat with me; as we went through the book together, she pointed out her favorite pieces of artwork. I mentioned that I loved Mr. Velasquez’s books, Grandma’s Records and Grandma’s Gift, and his talent for creating warm, loving family artwork, and she told me that the spread where Mason’s father tells his boys that they are going to a new school was perfectly recreated: she pointed out areas of her grandparents’ kitchen that she remembered, and said that Pa’s posture and hands were spot-on; the artist had given life to her grandfather.

As Fast As Words Could Fly is a strong story about a family during the Civil Rights movement, and it’s the story of a young man who was determined to make a change on his own terms. I love this story, and would love to see it on more bookshelves. Find a teacher’s guide and interviews on the Lee & Low website, and learn more about Pamela Tuck here. See more of award-winning illustrator Eric Velasquez’s artwork at his website.

Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Different Days looks at German internment during World War II

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

Recommended for readers 9-13

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

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

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

Posted in Non-Fiction

Children in Our World addresses racism, intolerance, and global conflict

Barron’s Educational’s Children in Our World series continues with the release of two more books: Racism and Intolerance and Global Conflict.

Racism & Intolerance (Children of the World), by Louise Spilsbury/Hanane Kai,
(Feb. 2018, Barron’s Educational), $9.99, ISBN: 9781438050225
Recommended for readers 6-10

As with the previous titles, Refugees and Migrants (2017) and Poverty and Hunger (2017), these titles provide smart, open social commentary on issues that face our kids every day, in a manner that’s factual, sensitive, and empowering. Illustrations provide examples of everyday intolerance, from someone refusing to provide a bouncy ball to a Jewish child to a group of people who refuse to give up their seats on a bus – or their bags’ seats – for an elderly woman with a cane. Global Conflict explores the reasons for conflict, and the violent ways that conflict can manifest: terrorism and war.

Global Conflict (Children of the World), by Louise Spilsbury/Hanane Kai,
(Feb. 2018, Barron’s Educational), $9.99, ISBN: 9781438050218
Recommended for readers 6-10

Each book also describes the aid efforts of individuals and charities who step into help others, and soothes children who may be afraid of what they see going on around them by encouraging them to talk to a grownup about their fears. Author Louise Spilsbury offers ways that children can help elevate the dialogue: by understanding one another, and by offering ways to help, whether it’s taking part in a bake sale fundraiser for charity or by writing letters to elected officials. There are additional books and resources for readers, caregivers, parents, and educators who want to learn more, glossaries of terms used, and indexes.

Hanane Kai’s artwork creates soft, muted pictures showing individuals working together to create understanding and, in turn, a better world for all.

Originally published in the UK in 2016 and 2017, these books – paired with the first two in the series – contribute to a strong current events shelf for elementary-age students, and a nice addition to collections for burgeoning activists. Add books like Innosanto Nagara’s A is for Activist and Counting on Community, and Maribeth Boelt’s Those Shoes and A Bike Like Sergio’s for a strong social commentary collection.