Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books for your Spring radar!

Spring always brings some good books to read. In April and May, there’s a little something for everyone – come and see!

April Books

Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest, by Sarah Hampson/Illustrated by Kass Reich,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771383615
Recommended for readers 4-8
Dr. Archibald Coo is a sophisticated pigeon who’s tired of the way he and his fellow pigeons are treated by humans. They’re shooed at, swatted, and treated like a general menace. Dr. Coo remembers when pigeons enjoyed a higher profile in history: in ancient Greece, they delivered news about the Olympic Games; during World War I, they carried messages across battlefields. Now? pfft. So Dr. Coo and his pigeon friends organize and decide to strike: they disappear from every public space, leaving a confused public wondering what happened. Dr. Coo heads over to the mayor’s office a history of the pigeon and a note, asking for tolerance, opening the door to a new era of pigeon-human relations. It’s a cute urban story with a wink to New York and other urban spaces, and has a nice thread about inclusivity and diversity running through the book. Gouache paint and colored pencil art makes for a soft illustration, with attention to the different types of pigeons – there are! – in the cityscape. This would be cute to booktalk with James Sage’s Stop Feedin’ Da Boids!

My Teacher’s Not Here!, by Lana Button/Illustrated by Christine Battuz,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771383561
Recommended for readers 4-6
Kitty gets to school and knows something’s up when her teacher, Miss Seabrooke, isn’t there to meet her. What’s going on? There’s another teacher there today! How does school even work when your teacher is absent? This sweet rhyming tale about a student’s first substitute teacher is great for younger kids who are just getting into the swing of school routines and provides some fun advice for coping with and adjusting to unexpected change. Kitty teaches readers some coping strategies, including helping out her friends and the teacher by contributing to class and modeling good behavior using cues she learned from her teacher, that the substitute may not be aware of. This is an animal story, so kids will enjoy seeing the “ginormously tall” teacher, a giraffe named Mr. Omar; pigs, elephants, bears, a whole menagerie of students. Hand-drawn artwork and digital collage come together to create colorful, textured, cartoony fun. This one’s a good addition to preschool and primary collections.

Tinkle, Tinkle Little Star, by Chris Tougas,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $9.99, ISBN: 9781771388399
Recommended for readers 1-3
One of my favorite books coming out this season is this adorable board book! Set to the tune of everybody’s favorite classic song, this sweet and funny version is all about where not to go: not in a plane, not on Grandpa’s knee, not at a puppet show. Luckily, the poor Little Star gets relief by the story’s end, and sits on a potty to… “Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Star”. It’s adorable with the cutest digital art. Little Star is beyond cute, and gender neutral! Sing along at storytime – I know I’ll be throwing plenty of voice inflection (“Did you just pee on this page?”) and leg-crossing as I read this one. Absolutely adorable, must-add, must-give for collections and toddlers everywhere.

May Books

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book, by Alice Kuipers/Illustrated by Diana Toledano,
(May 2018, Chronicle), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452152325
Recommended for readers 7-9
Polly Diamond is an aspiring, biracial young writer who discovers a magic book on her doorstep one day. Not only does the book write back to her when she writes in it, Everything she writes in the book happens in real life! At first, Polly is psyched: who wouldn’t be, right? But you know how it goes… for every magic journal action, there’s a pretty wild reaction! Written in the first person, with excerpts from Polly’s book, including a pretty great intermediate-level book list for awesome display purposes (“Read Polly Diamond’s favorite books HERE!”). Chapter book readers who love books like Juana and Lucas (on Polly’s favorites list), Jasmine Toguchi, and Katie Woo will thoroughly enjoy Polly’s adventures. There are short, descriptive sentences and a nice amount of new words – Polly is an aspiring writer, after all! Lots of fun for chapter book readers; I’d have kids create their own aquariums as a related craft.

Old Misery, by James Sage/Illustrated by Russell Ayto,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781771388238
Recommended for readers 5-10
Readers with a darker sense of humor (and parents who are Gorey fans) will get a chuckle out of Old Misery, the story of a cranky old woman named – you got it – Old Misery, and her old cat, Rutterkin. She’s broke, and the apples keep disappearing from her apple tree! Lucky for Old Misery, she’s not completely heartless and feeds a wandering visitor, who grants her one wish: she wants all the apple thieves to be caught in the tree until she lets them go! Old Misery decides to play a little risky game when Death himself shows up at her door – and she sends him to the apple tree. Be careful what you wish for! The black and white, pen and ink artwork has a creepy, quirky feel to it, which will appeal to kids who like Lemony Snicket’s work, but may go over some kids’ heads. Old Misery narrates the story, offering an opportunity for a fun read-aloud.

Binky fans, Gordon’s got his own adventure! For readers who love Ashley Spires’ Binky the Space Cat graphic novels will love Gordon, fellow member of PURST (Pets of the Universe Ready for Space Travel) and Binky’s house-mate, as he finds himself traveling through time to stop an alien invasion. But Gordon travels back too far – before PURST even exists! He’s got to get back to his normal time and set things right! This is fun reading for graphic novel fans, and a nice addition to a popular series. There’s time-travel, problem-solving, aliens, and humor, along with fun art.

See How We Move!: A First Book of Health and Well-Being, by Scot Ritchie,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781771389679

Recommended for readers 5-8
Author Scot Ritchie’s multicultural group of friends are back together again. Last time we save them, they visited a farm to learn how to grow grains and vegetables in See How We Eat!; this time, Pedro, Yulee, Nick, Sally, and Martin are training as their swim team, The Flying Sharks, prepares to compete. They learn about using proper equipment for different activities, warming up before beginning your activity, teamwork and encouragement, goal-setting, nutrition, the mind-body connection, and more. There are suggestions for fun activities and words to know, all coming together to give kids a fun story about a group of friends staying strong and having fun together while encouraging kids to create lifelong habits of health, nutrition, and physical fitness. I like this See How! series; it offers a wealth of information on healthy living, made accessible to younger readers. I can easily read this in a storytime and get the kids talking about the different ways they play, how they eat, and good habits to get into.

The Bagel King, by Andrew Larsen/Illustrated by Sandy Nichols,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN; 978-1-77138-574-9
Recommended for readers 4-8

Zaida, Eli’s grandfather, gets bagels from Merv’s Bakery every Sunday morning. One morning, when no bagels show up, Eli gets a phone call: Zaida’s fallen on his tuchus and can’t get the bagels! Eli and his family aren’t the only ones waiting on bagels, either – Eli visits Zaida, only to discover that Zaida’s friends are verklempt, too. No bagels! What a shanda, as my stepdad would say! Eli helps care for his zaida and keep him company, but he knows the best way to cheer Zaida up, and heads to the bagel store on his own the very next Sunday. This story is the most charming book about grandparents and grandchildren, loaded with compassion, a wink and nudge type of humor, and loads of fun, new Yiddish terminology. If you’re an urban dweller, like me, these words are kind of a second language: Zaida is grandfather, and tuchus is your bottom; there’s a little glossary of other Yiddish words that show up in the story, too. (Verklempt is overwhelmed with emotion, and shanda is a shame – you won’t find them in the story, but all I could hear was my stepdad when I read this, so there you go.) I loved the sweet storytelling, the compassion and the decision to act on Eli’s part, and Zaida and his group of friends were wonderful. It’s got an urban flavor that everyone will enjoy, and is good storytelling. Use this story as an opportunity to get your kids talking about relationships with their grandparents: what do you call your grandparents? Do they cook, bake, or shop for food? Do you go with them? (I’d love to get some bagels to hand out with my group… hmmm…) The acrylic artwork has a soft, almost retro feel, but really emphasizes the relationship story with colors, gentle expressions, and soft lines.

The Golden Glow, by Benjamin Flouw,
(May 2018, Tundra/Penguin Random House), $17.99, ISBN: 9780735264120

Recommended for readers 4-8
A fox who loves nature and botany goes on a quest for a rare plant to add to his collection. The Golden Glow is a plant from the Wellhidden family, and only grows high in the mountains. There’s not even a picture of it; it’s never been described. Fox packs his supplies and heads off to the mountains, meeting different animals and noting different plants and trees along the way. When Fox finally reaches the mountaintop, he waits… and discovers the Golden Glow! It’s stunning! It’s breathtaking! And Fox realizes that “the golden glow is more beautiful here on the mountaintop than it ever would be in a vase in his living room”. Part story and part nature journal, The Golden Glow is just gorgeous and teaches a respect for nature. The angular art draws the eye in; there’s so much to see on every page, every spread. Flouw creates detailed lists of Fox’s hiking pack, plus trees and flowers that he encounters on his way, and a map of different zones on the way up to the mountain, from the foothill to snow zones, all in beautiful detail for younger readers to enjoy. Fox’s decision to leave the flower where it is presents a love of and respect for nature that can lead to a great discussion on conservation. Bright red endpapers with angular design could be a topographic map of the area – talk about how different areas look from above! I know it’s way early, but I’ll quietly whisper this one now: Caldecott contender.
Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Big love for My First Puppy/My First Kitten!

my_first_puppyMy First Puppy, by Dr. Lisa Chimes/Illustrated by Tina Burke, (2016, Kane Miller), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1610675161

My First Kitten, by by Dr. Lisa Chimes/Illustrated by Tina Burke, (2016, Kane Miller), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1610675178

Recommended for ages 4-8

Getting a pet is so exciting! Most kids love the soft purr of a new kitten, or the excited kisses from a new puppy, and this new picture book duo, written by veterinarian, Dr. Lisa Chimes, is great for  younger kids – and their parents – who are about to embark on pet parenthood.

My First Puppy and My First Kitten follow two kids – Sam and Fran – as they adopt their new pets. Each family takes this very seriously, looking into what breeds of dogs and cats would fit well with their respective families; what each pet needs when they first join the family (bowls for food and water, places to sleep, toys); and the importance of veterinary care, including great checklists of things to watch out for or talk to your vet about during a routine pet checkup.

my-first-kittenWhat I love most about the My First books? Dr. Chimes having her characters explore shelters and veterinarian offices for pets that need homes, rather than having the families to buy a cat or dog at a pet store. I loved that she drew attention to these great options, where families can find their newest member and really provide a loving home to a pet who needs it.

The art is sweet and loving, realistically rendered and brightly colored to attract a reader’s attention. Each cover stars the adopted pet and its loving new human on the cover, with little paw prints set into the background. While most of my pet books tend to run a little older, a good picture book series like this (will we be getting books for fish, birds, and lizards, too?) is great for my younger readers. Encourage families to read this one together, and pair it with books like Dr. Seuss’ What Pet Should I Get?, Mo Willems’ The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!, and Alexandra Day’s Carl series. I also love Emma Jackson’s A Home for Dixie, the true story of a rescue dog.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

A school can be anywhere: Armando and the Blue Tarp School

armandoArmando and the Blue Tarp School, by Edith Hope Fine, Judith Pinkerton Josephson/Illustrated by Hernán Sosa (March 2014, Lee & Low), $12.95, ISBN: 9781620141656

Recommended for ages 5-8

Armando’s family are pepenadores -trash pickers – living off things they can use, recycle, and sell from the city trash dump community where they live. Armando works with his father to help support the family, but dreams of being one of Señor David’s regular students. Señor David sets up a blue tarp in his colonia and teaches the children how to spell, count, and learn words in English, and says a school can be anywhere – even on a tarp in a colonia. At first, Armando’s parents discourage him from attending the school, saying that they need him to help the family and that they have always been pepenadores, but slowly, his father sees the importance of an education and allows Armando to attend the school. Shortly after, a fire burns down several homes in the colonia, Armando’s included, and it’s Armando’s picture of the blaze that runs in a newspaper and calls support to the colonia. Money and support come into the community, allowing for a new school building to be built.

Inspired by the real-life Señor David: a New York City special education teacher in the 1980s who went to Mexico to teach children living in the Tijuana colonia – Armando and the Blue Tarp School shows kids that education is a privilege not every child enjoys. Armando desperately wants to learn; he saves bits of erasers, paints, and paper he finds while working alongside his father in the trash dumps, and is thrilled when Señor David returns to his area. Kids will also see that not all parents understand the value of education: Armando’s father scoffs at his son’s “dreams of school”. To many parents in poverty-stricken areas, education takes time away that could be spent working and earning money for the family. For many families, work is survival and education is an expense they can’t afford.

This is a great book to use in classroom, library, and home discussion about how education is perceived throughout the world, and it opens up a chance to find out from kids what they think about education. Do they understand how important it is in the long run? Ask themselves to think about Armando, and put themselves in his place. There are some activities at the Blue Tarp website, some discussion questions, and suggestions for expanding on the story’s theme.

Armando and the Blue Tarp School was a nominee for a California Young Reader Medal and was turned into a stage production in 2009; kids can listen to one of the songs from the show and watch video taken from the show at the Lee & Low blog.

An author’s note at the end of the book provides more information about David Lynch, his Responsibility organization, and the Los Angeles Times article about his work in Mexico that prompted an anonymous donor to donate money to build a school in the Tijuana colonia. There are photos of Lynch and his colonia students, success stories of previous students, and a glossary and pronunciation guide.

A valuable addition to #weneeddiversebooks and school-age collections.


Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

Is Jasper John Dooley Public Library Enemy #1?

jasper john dooleyJasper John Dooley: Public Library Enemy #1, by Caroline Adderson/Illustrated by Mike Shiell (Apr. 2016, Kids Can Press), $15.95, ISBN: 9781771380157

Recommended for ages 7-10

Poor Jasper! He borrowed a book from the library, so he could practice reading. He wanted his skills to be sharp when it was his turn to sit on the big, comfy chair at the library and read to Molly the dog, that’s all! But Jasper accidentally dropped the book in the tub and drowned it, and THEN, his father set it on fire by trying to dry it in the stove. And THEN, he shot it with a fire extinguisher! Now, Jasper and his dad are Book Killers, and he’s terrified that he owes the library $2500 for the book! How can he raise that much money before Wednesday, when it’s his turn to read to Molly?

This is the sixth book in the Jasper John Dooley early chapter book series, and it’s adorable; great for young readers who are ready to advance from Easy Readers to chapter books. Jasper is very likable, and his reasoning will click with readers: his mom reads in the bathtub, so it should be easy, right? He misjudges a decimal point when trying to determine the price of the book he needs to replace, and comes up with $2500 instead of $25. He feels huge responsibility for the library book in his care, which provides opportunities for discussion about responsibility and taking care of others’ belongings, as well as realizing that everyone makes mistakes – even parents – and that, yes, accidents happen.

This is the first Jasper John Dooley book I’ve ever read, but I would like to get these on my library’s shelves, because they’re great reading. Like most series fiction for emerging and newly independent readers, you don’t need to read from book one to pick up the series; they’re independent stories with characters that you’ll get to know right away. Black and white llustrations add to the enjoyment of the story. You can easily have a read-aloud with this book: classes will get a kick out of it! Good role models, sweet humor based on misunderstanding, solid discussion points make this a good addition to your series collections.

Learn more about the Jasper John Dooley series on the Kids Can Press webpage.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

The Magical Animal Adoption Agency is open for business!

cover66347-mediumThe Magical Animal Adoption Agency, Book 2 The Enchanted Egg, by Kallie George/Illus. by Alexander Bolger (Nov. 2015, Disney Book Group), $14.99, ISBN: 9781423183839

Recommended for ages 8-12

The Magical Animal Adoption Agency is back, and so are Clover, whose gifts with animals surpass any magic she may not have, Mr. Jams, the proprietor, and Dipity, the green magical cat Clover rescued from the witch in the first book. In this second book in the series, Clover must once again keep an eye on the adoption agency while Mr. Jams is away – but a large egg has hatched early, and the newest member of the adoption agency is keeping Clover on her toes!

This series is a feel-good read. Clover is a sweet, gentle soul who learns about herself and what she’s capable of in each book, going from a self-conscious, clumsy girl in the first, to a more confident young girl who realizes that she doesn’t need magic to take care of magical creatures in this book. There are positive messages about self-esteem and caring for others, taking responsibility, and most importantly, the value of being kind.

This is a great series for kids, especially those who love fantasy or just love animals. The first book was well-received at my former library, and I can’t wait to get these two books into my new patrons’ hands. Animal fiction does really well with middle graders, and a series like this, that pairs the fantastic within our everyday world gives readers a necessary spark of magic in their lives.

Magic Tree House fans, Critter Club fans, steer them all to these books. They’ll love you for it.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures is an adorable look at friends and sharing responsibilities.

juliaJulia’s House for Lost Creatures, by Ben Hatke (:01 First Second, Sept. 2014). $17.99, ISBN: 9781596438668

Admittedly, I’m a Ben Hatke fan thanks to the Zita the Spacegirl series; when when I saw that he had a picture book coming out, I jumped to review it. I knew it was going to be adorable as well as fun, and I was right – Julia’s House for Lost Creatures is a sweet look at friendship, individuality, and sharing responsibility.

Julia’s house comes to a quiet, seaside area and decides to settle in. At first, Julia enjoys the warm fire, toast, and tea, but soon realizes it’s just too quiet. So she posts a sign that states the house is for “Lost Creatures”, and in no time, goblins, trolls, ghosts, and more homeless or lost creatures show up. Everyone’s happy at first, but Julia becomes frustrated by everyone’s refusal to make a mess and leave it for Julia to clean up. When the noise reaches critical mass, Julia sequesters herself in her workshop, only to emerge with a solution that will make everyone happy.

The book delivers several sweet, but important messages – Julia offers her home to misfits of all sorts; all “lost creatures” are welcome there. It’s not an exclusive club, or a place allowing only certain types. It appeals to anyone – or anything – that’s been shut out somewhere else. And it brings home the point that everyone pitches in to make their home a happy place. Julia creates a chore chart, so all of the creatures know exactly what to do. I love these messages and I love Hatke’s art, done in watercolor for this book. It lends a soft quality to the art that makes the story even sweeter, more dreamlike. There are few, short sentences per page, making this a great read-aloud candidate. The font is usually black and fairly low-key, unless Hatke wants to make a point; then, the font is large and takes on the character of the sound, whether it’s Julia’s exclamation or the sounds of a house that needs some help.

This book is due out in September of this year, and I can’t wait to get it on my library’s shelves. I’ve already got a storytime planned around it!