Posted in Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Books About Nature to Brighten Your Spring

It’s time for a roundup! This time, we’ve got nature books to enjoy now that the Spring weather finally looks like it’s going to stick around. Get comfortable by your favorite tree, or sit in the warmth of the sun, and enjoy some of these Spring-y books.

Be Thankful for Trees : A tribute to the many & surprising ways trees relate to our lives, by Harriet Ziefert/Illustrated by Brian Fitzgerald, (March 2022, Red Comet Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781636550206

Ages 4-8

This is a fantastic way to introduce younger readers to all the great ways people and animals depend on trees! A rhyming tale expounds on the seven big things trees provide: food; comfort; music; art; recreation; home, and life. Colorful illustrations shows trees in nature, and how they’re used in day-to-day life, from providing a forest full of animals with food, to a kitchen table seating a family for dinner; from a child playing a piano, to a bird feeding her babies high up on a branch. Each area opens with a repetitive question and answer: “Would life be satisfying/good/possible without trees? It would not!” During a read-aloud, it’s the perfect opportunity for interaction; invite your littles to tell you what they think. The verse reminds also readers that trees are essential to life on earth, and the man-made disasters that threaten them, like deforestation and forest fire; Ziefert encourages readers to “explore a cool forest with its pine-scented breeze” and to “remember forever, BE THANKFUL FOR TREES!”. Playful, cheery color illustrations add to the fun verse, and golden leaves pop from the blue endpapers, really making this a wonderful book for early childhood natural science readalouds.

Author Harriet Ziefert has written hundreds of children’s books. You can see more of illustrator Brian Fitzgerald’s work at his website.

Visit Red Comet’s book detail page for a free, downloadable Teachers Guide. TeachersPayTeachers has a wealth of free learning activities about trees. I really like the idea of adopting a “class tree” and journaling observations over the course of a school year, as Robynn Drerup’s class has. Amanda Whitaker also has a fun tree journal for kids. Our Time to Learn’s Tree Animals Coloring sheet is great to hand out after a readaloud.

Firsts and Lasts: The Changing Seasons, by Leda Schubert/Illustrated by Clover Robin, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536211023

Ages 4-8

Every season comes with its own unique firsts and lasts. Leda Schubert and illustrator Clover Robin beautifully capture these moments in Firsts and Lasts: The Changing Season. Organized by season, the book offers gentle observation designed to provoke memories and warm feelings as we follow family through the year: Spring is the last time they (and we) wear snowsuits and build snow forts, but it’s the first time they see new grass, and wash the car; in the Fall, it’s the last time for things like going to the ice cream stand, but it’s the first time for seeing wooly caterpillars and jumping in leaves. Cut paper illustrations add a playful whimsy and the colors capture the feelings for each season; crisp winter skies and warm autumn leaves; bright spring flowers and lush summer landscapes. It’s a wonderful illustration of the transition nature – and people! – go through from season to season, and offers opportunities for kids to share their observations on seasonal change.

First and Lasts has a starred review from The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

KB3Teach has a fun Seasons Cut and Paste activity on TeachersPayTeachers that nicely extends this book. Teresa Tretbar’s Amazing Literacy has seasonal coloring pages and posters for you to hand out, too.

Olaf Hajek’s Fantastic Fruits, by Olaf Hajek (Illustrations) and Annette Roeder (Text), (Apr. 2022, Prestel Junior), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791375069

Ages 6-9

Olaf Hajek has made beautiful art from vegetables and flowers; now, fruit gets the Hajek treatment in Olaf Hajek’s Fantastic Fruits. Annette Roeder returns to provide fun and interesting profiles on 25 fruits, like the pomegranate, also known as the “apple of discord” that was created, according to Greek myth, by an angry goddess of strife and discord; the banana, whose curve is slowly being bred out of the fruit in order to make for easier stacking; and the fig, whose juice can help against insect bites. Factual information on each fruit’s countries of origin, and other names and varieties of each fruit run across the bottom of each profile, and – as we’ve come to expect from Hajek – colorful, stunning portraits are the star of the show in this oversized volume. A fox and a woman collect orange juice from giant fruits hanging from a tree in one painting; another woman serves cherry cake to a young boy and a bird as cherries hang from a tree and provide a headdress; a porcupine carries a gigantic blackberry and raspberry on its back through a field. Hajek’s playfully surreal artwork is sure to catch eyes and make new fans as they pore through the pages of this gorgeous book. Great for art sections and 634 sections (fruits, naturally!).

Visit Olaf Hajek’s illustrator webpage for more of his work.

 

What’s Cooking in Flowerville? Recipes from Balconies, Rooftops, and Gardens, by Felicita Sala, (Apr. 2022, Prestel Junior), $14.95, ISBN: 9783791375182

Ages 6-10

Flowerville is a bustling, multicultural neighborhood where everyone loves to grow and share food! Beginning in April, the book takes readers through the year, month by month, with Flowerville citizens tending to their plants: in April, Maria chops down her asparagus spears; in July, Ramon tests the floating ability of a cucumber as his parent waters the plants. Each month features a new recipe, made with ingredients shown in the artwork. In July, we get creamy tzatziki sauce; in November, roasted beet dip. Warm and colorful artwork shows families and friends sharing food and friendship, and gardening tips and recipes make this a handy gardening guide for families and classes. Pair with Francine Sala’s What’s Cooking at 10 Garden Street and Cynthia Cliff’s Pie for Breakfast for a worldwide trip for the palate.

Felicita Sala’s webpage has more of her illustration work, and a link to her food illustration is a must-see.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

What is The Most Important Thing?

The Most Important Thing, by Antonella Abbatiello, (March 2022, Red Comet Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781636550220

Ages 3-6

A group of animals has a discussion about what each considers “the most important thing”. Is it to have long ears, to hear any potential danger? Quills, to protect oneself? Maybe it’s a long neck, to keep an eye out for danger. Each animals takes a turn expounding on why a quality they possess is the most important, and the other animals envision themselves with those traits in amusing, large-size foldout spreads, and the recurring rhyming phrase, “That could be true. / Perhaps it is so. ‘ It could be [trait], / but how can we know?” helps readers with predicting what’s coming next. A wise owl weighs in with the importance of uniqueness and variety being important, bringing home the message that everyone is unique; everyone has a special quality that makes them special and important. Flaps are sturdy and fun to fold out, and the illustrations of elephants with quills; flying snakes and foxes; giraffes and alligators with gopher teeth, and more make this a home run for storytime reading.

The Most Important Thing was originally published in Italy in 1998, and it beautifully holds up today. Download the free activity kit through the Red Comet website and have copies on hand for a storytime activity.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Celebrate Poetry Month with Imagine!

Imagine! Rhymes of Hope to Shout Together, by Bruno Tognolini/Illustrated by Giulia Orecchia, Translated by Denise Muir, (March 2022, Red Comet Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781636550145

Ages 5-8

One of Italy’s most beloved children’s poets, Bruno Tognolini, brings a collection of “rhymes of hope to shout together” to U.S. shores. Originally published in Italy in 2021, Imagine! can be read as a series of short poems or as one continuous story. The rhythmic verse covers a wide range of imagination and wish, from wishing that one could share a meal with fictional characters to heartbreaking thoughts about war and the hope for peace and compassion, to the desire to draw a parent out of a depression caused by unemployment. The collage artwork instantly evokes Eric Carle’s colorful illustration play, and each brief poems ends in a colorful cry, “Imagine!”, which you can encourage your readers to join in and invoke with each reading. It’s poetry with a desire for social change and a cry for understanding and empathy.

You can stream the song and the instrumental for Imagine! on Red Comet Press’s SoundCloud site. Red Comet’s website also offers a downloadable educator’s and discussion guide to use when working with kids and reading the book.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Passover, Here I Come! collects fun holiday poems for kids

Passover, Here I Come!, by D.J. Steinberg/Illustrated by Emanuel Wiemans, (Feb. 2022, Grosset & Dunlap), $5.99, ISBN: 9780593224038

Ages 4-6

Clean the house, set the Seder plate, and get the matzoh, because Passover’s coming! Author D.J. Steinberg’s newest “Here I Come!” book collects poems celebrating all things Passover, including a kid-friendly Haggadah: “A Hebrew hero, Moses / told him, ‘Let my people go!’ / But guess what mean old Pharaoh answered / ‘No, no, no!'” There’s a sweet farewell to bread (“It’s been fun, but bye-bye, Bread- / We’re eating matzoh now instead!”) and a hilarious ode to gefilte fish (“There’s no fish in any ocean / that looks anything like that!”). Illustrations are so much fun, with marching slices of bread, a bustling household getting ready for Passover, and coming together to celebrate; characters are diverse. The rhymes are fun to read out loud, so consider adding to your celebrations. Like other Here I Come! books, this one has stickers; great for gifts, not great for circulating copies. Make sure to slice out the stickers and hand them out instead.

See all of D.J. Steinberg’s Here I Come! books here. Visit author D.J. Steinberg’s author page here to find more of his books and learn about author appearances.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Get the Ear Worm and shimmy!

Ear Worm!, by Jo Knowles/Illustrated by Galia Bernstein, (Jan. 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536207835

Ages 2-6

A little worm has a song stuck in his head! Where did it come from? He asks an owl, a chipmunk, a rabbit, and a fox, but they’ve all got their own songs! As they dance and sing their way across the story, Little Worm hopes to find out who put that ear worm in his head!

Ear Worm is storytime GOLD. It’s got rhyme, fun animals, dancing, and an adorable conclusion. Digital illustrations are bold, expressive, and let the animals take center stage as they pop off a bright white page, with fun, oversized fonts inviting readers to jump up and dance to their own ear worms. Think of Sandra Boynton’s Barnyard Dance and Rebecca Emberley’s If You’re a Monster and You Know It when you’re putting your storytime together, and get up there and show the littles how it’s done! Publisher Candlewick has free teacher tips to get the maximum fun out of this story.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Visiting neighbors, Moonlight Prances, and board books for all!

Be My Neighbor?, by Suzy Ultman, (Feb. 2022, Chronicle Kids), $15.99, ISBN: 9781452177120

Ages 2-4

Hello hello hello! A family of cats has moved into the neighborhood, but they’re still settling in, and want to bake a batch of cookies to greet their neighbors. They need a few things in order to get things underway, though: maybe you can help? Seek and find meets lift the flap in this entertaining book with a playful and chic sense of style. The cats head to each house on their block – each spread in our book – to ask for a different ingredient, letting readers play and explore the different flaps to find the ingredients. Ingredients all collected, the family heads home to bake and deliver the yummy cookies! The repetitive, introductory phrase, “Hello, hello, we are new. May we borrow *INGREDIENT* from you?” eases readers into a comfortable routine, and each animal’s home is filled with delightful little details. The cats have hanging balls of yarn as an art piece, while a panda soaks in a tub, a “nap time” tea bag submerged in the water. The horse family has a coffee table book of Horse Tales and a pony puppet theatre, and the koalas are a STEM-loving family with a lab and a Jane Goodall fan club banner (that reveals a Katherine Johnson fan club banner on the flip side). They’re so much fun, so personal with little details, that kids will turn to this one again and again. Flaps are sturdy but small, so the littlest toddlers may need someone to ease those flaps open at first. Absolute fun.

 

Moonlight Prance, by Serena Gingole Allen/Illustrated by Teagan White, (Apr. 2022, Chronicle Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9781452174068

Ages 0-3

An enticing rhyming, interactive board book inspired by the author’s late night with her infant son, Moonlight Prance is a celebration of nocturnal animals that is an adorable bedtime story. Sturdy sliding panels and pull tabs let readers play with foxes and fireflies, hedgehogs and porcupines, and other adorable animals illustrated by artist and naturalist Teagan White. Pair with its companion book, Sunrise Dance, also by Serena Gingole Allen and Teagan White, publishing in April 2022, for an animal storytime that takes readers through a whole day with cheerful, playful animal friends.

Bundle and display with books like Sleepyheads, by Sandra J. Howatt and Joyce Wan; Sandra Boynton’s The Going to Bed Book, and Isabelle Simler’s Sweet Dreamers. Want to stick with the nocturnal animals theme? Mrs. Jones Creation Station has a nice list of books for you.

 

 

Sunrise Dance, by Serena Gingole Allen/Illustrated by Teagan White, (Apr. 2022, Chronicle Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9781452174051

Ages 0-3

When the Moonlight Prance is over, the daytime animals wake up for a Sunrise Dance! The companion book to Moonlight Prance is every bit as interactive and playful, with daytime dwellers like shimmying salmon, dancing dragonflies, and marmots who mambo. Sliding panels, pull tabs, and movable discs let playful little explorers in on the fun as they move a group of dancing ducklings back and forth on the book’s cover, help dragonflies dance across the pond, and more. The rhyme is playful, introducing groups of animals at play, and the illustrations show the sunlight growing in strength across the spreads; starting with a pinkish sky as the sun first awakens through to a warm light that brings out the gentle color in all the animals and their surroundings. A young boy appears at the end, inviting readers to talk about what they plan to do on this bright day. Great to partner with Moonlight Prance or read alone, Sunrise Dance is a fun way to engage little learners and teach them about diurnal animals, versus the nocturnal friends they meet in books like Moonlight Dance.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Discover Israel with this rhyming tour

My Israel and Me, by Alice Blumenthal McGinty/Illustrated by Rotem Teplow, (Sept. 2021, Kalaniot Books), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-7350875-3-5

Ages 3-8

Told in verse through the eyes of the diverse groups of people living in and visiting Israel, My Israel is a celebration of both the ancient and modern-day country.  Verse shares space with factual information about areas like The Dead Sea, the modern city and Israel’s status as a “Start-Up Nation”, kibbutzes, Biblical history, and more. Alice Blumenthal McGinty celebrates Jewish and Muslim culture and family life, and Rotem Teplow’s colorful artwork takes readers on a journey across the small country with a big history. Endpapers show a plethora of objects to take readers on a visual journey, like camels, kites, olive leaves, and cats, all of whom are waiting to be discovered in the pages.

To extend a lesson on Israel, visit TeachersPayTeachers, where you can find a map of ancient Israel from Taylor Beck; an Israel Activities Pack from Marshal Jewish Learning Center, and more! Download a free educator kit from Kalaniot’s website.

Author Alice Blumenthal McGinty is an award-winning author. You can find educator guides on her website, along with more information on her books, and information about school visits. Visit illustrator Rotem Teplow’s website for more of her artwork.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads

Indie author spotlight!

Yes, it’s another Indie Author Spotlight! I’ve got loads of books to talk about, but I’ll start with these very lovely books.

The Very Determined Dragonfly: Odonata’s Adventure, by Midge Newth & Ruth Cruz/Illustrated by Spencer Epps, (July 2019, Indepedently Published), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1079290844

Ages 6-9

Odonata is a baby dragonfly – a nymph – who wants more adventure in her life. Her brother, Darner, wishes she’s just stay put and stay away from danger, but that’s not Odie’s way! Set in a graphic novel format, The Very Determined Dragonfly is part Science Comic, part adventure. Illustrations are bright and cheerful, and the storytelling is upbeat and positive, encouraging readers to take hurdles as they present themselves and always envision going past them. Back matter includes a glossary of scientific terms and fun facts about dragonflies.

National Geographic has a page about dragonflies that you can steer your learners to; SuperColoring has plenty of dragonfly coloring pages to put out, and if your library has access to World Book Online, there is a good entry with related reading available.

 

Let’s Make a Rainbow: A Yoga Story for Kids, by Susan Rose/Illustrated by Timna Green, (Dec. 2020, Susan Rose Yoga), $16.99, ISBN:  978-0578811680

Ages 4-7

I do enjoy a fun yoga story, and this rhyming ode to yoga is just what my toddler yoga storytime needs (when I get to start that up again, that is). It’s a rainy day, and siblings Lily and Lee need something to do: so why not enjoy some yoga? Touching on the mind-body connection and how movement can cheer you up, the book’s rhyme scheme is playful and uplifting: “Yoga makes you happy / when you feel bad, / and can turn the day / sunny instead of sad”. Flowing through a series of poses, the story describes how to create each pose and enjoy the good feelings that flow with each movement. As the story nears its conclusion, kids can enjoy – along with Lily and Lee! – a flowing series, ending with a rainbow. Colorful artwork shows the two characters demonstrating each pose.

Author Susan Rose’s webpage includes free resources for parents and educators, including lesson plans and coloring pages.

 

Stop That Lion, by Lois Wickstrom/Illustrated by Timna Green, (Nov. 2020, Look Under Rocks), $12.99, ISBN: 978-0-916176-64-8

Ages 4-8

STEM storyteller Lois Wickstrom spins a tale about two kingdoms and the young girl who helped solve their differences. Mir and Sher are neighboring kingdoms, but there are some problems: the kingdom of Sher had a lion that liked sneaking into the Kingdom of Mir to eat the farmers’ sheep. Suggestions like building a wall or placing an archer on the wall fail, and more sheep disappear until a young girl named Wynnie asks some thoughtful questions of the king, and comes up with an answer that will work for everyone. It’s a story about common sense and listening that highlights the value of asking questions when problem solving. Illustrations are soft and colorful.

 

The Upside-Down Gardener, by Chrysa Smith/Illustrated by Pat Achilles, (Nov. 2018, The Well-Bred Book), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1730777271

Ages 5-8

Dory Oslo is a kid who can’t wait for the warm weather: she wants her new baseball uniform, and she wants color! Her mom encourages her to discover color a different way, and earn some money for her new uniform, while she’s at it: plant a garden of colorful flowers! The only thing is, Dory’s not a patient kid: she wants these flowers to wake up and grow already! She hilariously sets off an alarm clock, pours coffee, and blows a coach’s whistle by the seeds in her attempt to force them to wake up, but could her actions have wacky consequences? Colorful artwork and light storytelling make The Upside-Down Gardener is an easily read, fun story that Easy Readers and beginning Intermediate readers will enjoy. It celebrates imagination and creativity while embracing a sense of humor.

Visit The Well Bred Book’s webpage for activity sheets. Consider a container gardening program (hey, it’s winter right now) to encourage your kiddos to explore their own gardens!

Posted in picture books

We Are One: How the World Adds Up – Unity Counts!

We Are One: How the World Adds Up, by Susan Hood/Illustrated by Linda Yan, (Nov. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536201147

Ages 3-7

Individually, we may be one – one person, one student, one kid – but together, we are so much more: a nation; a family; a society. That’s the underlying message delivered in rhyming concept story, We Are One: How the World Adds Up. The rhyming story here will attract younger readers, with easy-to-imagine concepts like “one sandwich requires two slices of bread / Two vows make one marriage when friends want to wed”, while informational panels run across the bottom of each page, with more meaty information for older kids: how the sandwich got its name, or Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s 2015 statement that “In forming a marital union, two people become something stronger than they once were”. The book goes from 1 to 10 – a relatively simple concept – and illustrates how those base 10 numbers contribute to greater and greater moments that make up our world. The message at the heart of the book is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that each of those parts are connected to one another. It’s a great book to explain the beginnings of early math concepts, and can be a book you can turn to as readers progress in their education to explain exponents, part/whole relationships, fractions, or more. All of these concepts come back to cooperation, kindness, and unity, making this a positive, upbeat read all around. Colorful digital artwork shows a wealth of illustrations, with an ever-present cast of diverse children and animals bringing the concepts to life. Back matter includes sources and resources, additional reading, and more stats on how the world adds up.

We Are One: How the World Adds Up has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Itch the Witch learns about real friends in The Twitchy Witchy Itch

Twitchy Witchy Itch, by Priscilla Tey, (June 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763689810

Ages 4-7

Itch the witch is having friends over to tea, but the worries are tickling her brain: is her house too twitchy? After some whirlwind housecleaning, her friends, Fidget and Glitch arrive, each with their own quirks, but Itch is too worried about her home’s appearance to enjoy herself. She casts another spell to get rid of the fidgets and glitches, only to discover that she’s banished her friends to the closet along with the itches, fidgets, and glitches! A humorous story about what really matters, Twitchy Witchy Itch shows readers – big and little! – that real friends don’t worry about appearances: they just want to spend time together.

Digital and gouache artwork gives feeling to the sensations described in the story: Itch has what looks like curly hair all over the house. As a proud pet mom, I feel Itch’s pain; my home is itchy, too. Fidget the witch appears blurred, in a constant state of fidgeting; she’s technicolor, and spreads her fidgets and colorful world to her surroundings. Glitch looks like a glitchy computer screen, with colorful, geometric smears that remind readers of a buggy video game. Like Fidget, she spreads her glitchiness around, but Itch doesn’t realize that these are her friends, sharing themselves with her; she immediately sees everything as a reflection on her and a need to be perfect. The rhyming text offers great opportunities for readaloud interaction, with knocks and amusingly worded spells for everyone to chant together.