Posted in Uncategorized

I Wish You Knew… a teacher’s question turns into a movement

I Wish You Knew, by Jackie Azúa Kramer/Illustrated by Magdalena Mora, (May 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250226303

Ages 4-7

In 2016, educator Kyle Schwartz wrote a book called I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything For Our Kids, based on a getting to know you class exercise where she asked her third graders to write something they wanted her to know about them. She received the usual, adorable responses like, “I love my family” and “I love animals”, and she also received deeper feedback that gave her insight into the children in her care: “my mom and dad are divorced”; “I live in a shelter”; “my mom might get diagnosed with cancer this year”. Kids are dealing with a lot; we need to be better at listening.

In the spirit of Ms. Schwartz’s book comes Jackie Azúa Kramer and Magdalena Mora’s  I Wish You Knew. A girl named Estrella’s father was not born here, so he has to leave; she misses him, and helps care for her brother while her mother works long hours. A teacher wants her kids to know that she cares for them. She creates a space for them, in the space where their little school wraps around a 100-year-old tree; a sharing circle, where they can tell her what they wish she knew: one student is hungry. One student’s mother is serving in the military. One student lives in a shelter. And Estrella misses her father. The group shares and finds comfort and support in one another, and Estrella waits to see her father, surrounded by the sunflowers that he helped plant. A touching story, I Wish You Knew is great for welcome back to school reading and to let your kids know that with you, there is a safe space. Mixed media illustrations in soothing pastels show a diverse group of children and a teacher of color among sunflowers and in the warm greens of the area outside school. Estrella and her father are affectionate, leaning toward one another as they sit in a giant sunflower when he tells her he must leave, but that he’ll be back. A beautiful book to engender compassion and empathy.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Let’s get the school year off to a great start!

You want books for back to school? I got books for back to school!

 

My First Ready for School, by Roger Priddy, (May 2021, Priddy Books US), $9.99, ISBN: 9781684491384

Ages 3-5

Priddy Books does it again; I’ve loved their board books and early learning books for babies since my own now-fourth grader (fourth grade!) was born. This preschool activity book is the perfect Welcome to School gift for preschoolers, and a great add to preschool shelves and collections in your classrooms and libraries. It’s all about concepts, early learning, and fun: there are pull tabs and flaps on every single page, all getting the little ones ready to experience a school day. Learn what to put in your school bag, with pull-down flaps that reveal what goes in your pencil case, lunch box, gym bag, and backpack; use the pull tab to discover all the great activities taking place at school, like playtime and storytime; learn about mixing colors, school shapes, patterns, and more! The book is tough, strong enough to stand up to repeated use, with bulky board pages, strong tabs, and secure flaps. Colorful and friendly animal characters will greet little readers and help them sharpen their pattern and shape recognition, counting skills, and sight words. Get a few of these in your collections if possible; they’re a great investment.

 

 

Let’s Be Safe, by Alice Le Henand/Illustrated by Thierry Bedouet (Oct. 2021, Twirl Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9782408028497

Ages 0-3

I am a big fan of Twirl Books’s Pull and Play series. This outing, Let’s Be Safe, teaches readers about safety while doing everyday tasks. Familiar animal friends from previous books in the series are back, like Little Kangaroo, Little Cat, and Little Monkey, and their parents gently guide them through scenarios that could end up with tears – but don’t, thanks to some smart thinking and safe action. Little Crocodile wants to come down the stairs by himself – great! – and Dad lets him, as long as he holds onto the railing. Little Kangaroo wants to stand up to play in the tub, but Mom cautions against it, because slipping and falling really hurts. Isn’t it better to sit and play? Pull tabs illustrate the before-and-after, with the Little Gang modeling safe behaviors as parents lovingly explain and stand by to help. Parents will appreciate the modeling on what to say to newly independent toddlers and preschoolers, and kids will love pulling the tabs and seeing their animal friends be safe. Win-win for all.

 

The New Kid Has Fleas, by Ame Dyckman/Illustrated by Eda Kaban, (June 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250245243

Ages 3-6

Award-winning author Ame Dyckman’s story about welcoming the new kid is a study in kindness and discovery. There’s a new kid at school, and she’s a little… different. Naturally, the rumors fly when the mean girl tries to spread rumors, but our narrator, who ends up paired with the New Kid for a science project, discovers that she and her family are pretty cool, after all! The New Kid – who we discover is named Kiki – is different, with a different family and a different home. She doesn’t wear shoes, she howls, she chases squirrels, and her family seem to be wolves! After spending a day working on a school project, though, our narrator – a young boy – embraces Kiki’s family, tussles with her brothers and sisters, and, in a laugh-out-loud moment, “goes with the flow” when it comes to using the restroom. Turns out, welcoming the new kid is a far more fun way to go than being mean! Digital illustrations capture the fun spirit of the story and show the growing friendship between Kiki and her new friend, and I loved the use of a wolf’s shadow to illustrate the Kiki is more than meets the eye. What a great way to teach kids to extend a friendly hand to new students. Another win from Ame Dyckman!

Visit Ame Dyckman’s author page for more information about her books.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Book bundle: Back-to-School Strong

I’m back after a brief staycation! How’s everyone doing? I needed to get some time before my little guy goes back to school, and help get my teen settled for his first week of college. I thought I’d start off my grand return with some books about feelings, emotions, and inner strength as our kids head back to school, so let’s see what we’ve got.

Born to Sparkle : A Story About Achieving Your Dreams, by Megan Bomgaars/Illustrated by Pete Olczyk, (Sept. 2021, Flowerpot Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9781486721108

Ages 5-8

Megan Bomgaars, a leading Down syndrome spokesperson, artist, and star of A&E’s reality TV show Born This Way, gave a powerful speech in 2010 called “Don’t Limit Me”, which inspired this book about working hard and finding your sparkle. It is unshakeable in its upbeat tone, filled with inspiring thoughts for readers: “You can sparkle. / There are no limits. / Anything is possible. / Don’t limit yourself”. The important thing here is that Megan Bomgaars follows through and lets readers know that you have to work for it, nothing that “dreams are not like wishes. You can’t just wish upon a star and then wait”, letting readers know that there are no limits but those which we place on ourselves. Colorful illustrations show a cartoony group of jungle animal friends supporting a young lioness who wants to share her sparkle and be a singer. Sparkly endpapers and a glittered texture cover make this an eye-catching, texture-friendly book for young readers, and a great storytime read. Kids starting the new school year could use this wonderful dose of encouragement.

Learn more about Megan Bomgaars by visiting her Instagram page @meganbomgaars.

 

Be Strong, Pat Zietlow Miller/Illustrated by Jen Hill, (Aug. 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN 9781250221117
Ages 3-6
Tanisha, a young girl of color, faces down the rock-climbing wall at school. Her friend Cayla can easily climb it, but Tanisha struggles doesn’t reach the top. This gets her thinking about strength and what her family says about strength. Different members of her family see strength in different ways, from showing up to help neighbors, speaking up to make changes where you see problems, and never giving up. Tanisha mulls this advice over and decides to be strong: she helps other kids at school, whether with classwork or with feeling lonely; she takes up playing an instrument, and keeps practicing. She also understands that being strong also means accepting a helping hand, because “when I’m not strong enough alone, I can be strong with someone else”. A powerful, eloquent statement for kids to hear, Be Strong is the companion book to Pat Zietlow Miller and Jen Hill’s 2018 book, Be Kind and is an essential for preschool and early classrooms.
Teaching children that strength takes so many forms – including knowing when to ask for help! – is an important and necessary lesson in creating strong, kind future adults. Gouache artwork shows a diverse group of people helping one another: a neighborhood comes together to help families who have lost their homes and lobby for safer streets. Illustrations show that doing the right thing isn’t always the easy decision, as we see Tanisha watch friends play outside as she stays indoors during recess, helping friends with math work. Images like this are so important, because we know that sometimes we’re split in what we want to do versus what we know we should do: it’s honest and affirming to see images like this, and know that Tanisha made the truly selfless decision to show up for what she knows is being kind and strong. Great for starting discussions, Be Strong is a great book for getting the school year off to a strong start.
Be Strong has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster, by Manka Kasha, (Sept. 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250618795
Ages 4-7
A Small Knight feels pressured by their parents to be a perfect princess, but that’s not what they see for themselves. They want to go on adventures with their Teddy Bear! Worrying about how to explain this to their parents brings on an Anxiety Monster that follows Small Knight everywhere until the Knight and Teddy realize that they have to save themselves on this one. They set off on a journey and discover that the answer to defeating the Monster lies inside themself.
This is such a good book for kids to see: a nonbinary child lets all children see themselves in Small Knight’s place; the scribbly menacing anxiety monster that only Knight and Teddy can see – and that parents dismiss as imagination or “just part of being a princess” – understands that kids feel unheard or told to just endure some things as “part of childhood”; the understanding that the key to defeating the monster lies with Knight believing in themselves to call out the monster lets kids know that they have all the tools they need to beat their own anxiety monsters, no matter what those forms take. Told as a fairy tale, the watercolor and ink illustrations give us softly colored kings and queens, an adorable knight with a soft blue shirt, helm, and sword, and an anxiety  monster that kids can draw on their own and defeat in any type of class or library exercise. The artwork shows us a young hero on their journey, and it’s a hero that all kids can look up to.
Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster is a Kids’ Indie Next List Pick.
When I See Red, by Britta Teckentrup, (Sept. 2021, Prestel Junior), $14.95, ISBN: 9783791374949
Ages 3-5
A beautiful and moving meditation on anger by Britta Teckentrup, When I See Red takes readers through a young girl’s anger from beginning to end. In verse, we view her anger as a storm, untamed; the artwork dramatically whirling and spinning our heroine in the middle of her own emotional storm. She roars at the sea, her anger giving rise to tornadoes and hurricanes; we understand that anger can be a force for confidence as we see her rage propel her above the waves, allowing her to stand tall. When I See Red is about the cleansing power of unbottling rage, using one’s words, not forcing things down where they can hurt us (or unleash our own anxiety monsters!). Beautiful verses weave the girl’s anger into something powerful, propelling her forward, until, anger spent, her “monsters and dragons have disappeared”. Rage as a journey and a tool for moving forward, this is an excellent book to explain the power of positive self-expression for preschoolers and kindergarteners.
Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Middle Grade Twofer: Stella Díaz!

I’ve gotten into a groove (of sorts) when it comes to my middle grade reading; I’ve been reading one upcoming book and one from my TBR, trying to keep both lists copasetic. I had to read Angela Dominguez’s latest two Stella Díaz books back to back because I enjoyed them so much! I wrote about the first Stella book, Stella Díaz Has Something to Say, when I read it in 2018 (and revisited in a book bundles post this past June), and finally read the next two. Stella is such a great young heroine for middle graders; read on and see for yourself.

Stella Díaz Never Gives Up, by Angela Dominguez, (Jan. 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250229113
Ages 6-9
Stella is finished with third grade and is ready to take on saving the world: well, the oceans, to start. She’s found her voice and a new confidence; she’s signed up to attend a special summer camp at the Shedd Aquarium in her Chicago hometown, and she can’t wait! After a trip to visit family in Mexico, she’s ready to meet the marine animals and hopefully, make some new friends. While at the Shedd, she learns about the danger to sea life that water pollution, especially plastics, poses, and is determined to take action. Starting a group called the Sea Musketeers, Stella and her new camp friends work on ways to take action, starting with asking members of her family to sign a pledge to use less plastic. In addition to Stella’s new environmental awareness, she has to navigate new friendships and navigate some bumps in the road with her best friend, Jenny. Stella is such a wonderful and relatable character! She’s working through a lot of feelings in this book: her best friend, Jenny, is interested in saving the oceans, but has her own passion for dance; her older brother, Nick, is about to enter high school and has a part-time job, so their relationship is evolving; her dad is not as active in her life as she’d like, and she’s still uncomfortable with the fact that she’s not fluent in Spanish. Stella shows readers – adults and kids alike – that there’s a lot of growing, evolving, and change in a kid’s life! The story has a great pace, characters that are equally interesting and likable, and a strong call to environmental awareness and action that helps kids see that they can make positive changes in the world. Spanish words throughout the story – translated by Stella for us readers – give a richer feeling to the prose and give readers some new vocabulary. There are black and white illustrations throughout.
Stella has her own website! Visit and find a multitude of resources, including an activity kit, a copy of Stella’s and the Sea Musketeers’s pledge, and links to environmental resources, including the Shedd Aquarium.
Stella Díaz Dreams Big, by Angela Dominguez, (Jan. 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250763082
Ages 6 to 9
Stella’s starting fourth grade! She’s got good friends, she’s president of the Sea Musketeers, and she’s… OVERSCHEDULED. She’s taking swimming lessons, and jumps at the chance to join a new art club at school. She’s also got a lot more homework this year… how is she going to keep all of her projects and studies straight? When things start to slip, Stella realizes that she’s going to have to learn to organize her schedule, and she’s going to have to start sharing some of her responsibilities. A story about growing up and taking responsibility, the narrative and the situations are growing up along with Stella and her readers. As a second grader, she was overcoming her shyness and learning to speak up. Now, a fourth grader, she’s navigating complex feelings and relationships, including sharing responsibility – and the recognition! – with others for her ideas; her feelings about dating when her mother makes a new friend with a single dad who just moved to the town, and when the school bully taunts her and her best friend, Stanley, and the desire to do all the great things we want to do versus the reality of what we have to do. Angela Dominguez takes these challenges on with ease, letting readers know that it is all going to be okay; this is a normal part of growing up, and offers some ideas for how to jump those hurdles.
Put Stella Díaz on your shelves, if you don’t already have her there. She’ll look great next to Jasmine Toguchi, Ramona Quimby, and Dominguita Melendez.
Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Vacation Reading: Bad Kitty Goes on Vacation

Bad Kitty Goes On Vacation, by Nick Bruel, (Dec. 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $13.99, ISBN: 9781250208088
Ages 7-10
It’s those last couple of weeks of summer vacation for some, and that means – for a lot of families – it’s time for a road trip! So who better to go on a road trip with than Uncle Murray and Kitty? This latest Bad Kitty read is a full-color graphic novel, and it is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Uncle Murray wins a trip to Love Love Angel Kitty World, and he ends up suckered into taking Kitty – one of Angel Kitty’s biggest fans! – with him. But nothing is ever that easy, right? Sure enough, Uncle Murray encounters obstacles at the airport, checking in, and getting into the park. Once he and Kitty are in the park, all Kitty wants to do is shop for overpriced souvenirs! Will poor Uncle Murray get a break? Will Kitty get Love Love Angel Kitty ears for all her friends? Bad Kitty Goes on Vacation has trademark Bad Kitty humor, including overwrought Uncle Murray, humorous asides and observations, and, ultimately, a sweet ending. It’s a home run for Kitty fans who may see themselves and their parents, whether they’re asking for that toy car on the grocery store endcap or in a theme park souvenir store, when they just have to have that t-shirt/exclusive water bottle/branded plush.
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

More Mother’s Day Wishes!

I’ve got more Mother’s Day books for the big day, but first, Everything Is Mama Activity Pages from Jimmy Fallon’s publisher, Macmillan! Enjoy three pages of activities and coloring with the kiddos!

What the Road Said, by Cleo Wade/Illustrated by Lucie de Moyencourt, (March 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250269492

Ages 6-10

If loving advice for living a good life could be summed up in verse, What the Road Said is it. Poet, activist, and one of Marie Claire’s 50 Most Influential Women in America Cleo Wade reminds young and grown readers alike to pay attention to the journey, not the destination. Sometimes, you may think you’re on the wrong path: keep going; “sometimes we go the wrong way on the way to the right way”. You may not always move forward, and you may need help on the way or feel alone. Keep going, the poem urges. Lead with kindness and love, even when met with hate, and just keep going. Illustrator Lucie de Moyencourt’s watercolor and ink artwork begins with an urban landscape, with nature scenes painted on buildings; a child watches them as they walk, and the city streets give way to lush, green pastures, beaches, dark forests, mountains, even outer space, the child following paths up mountains and through the woods; standing triumphant on the top of the world, and meditating on the growth from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Together, Cleo Wade and Lucie de Moyencourt encourage readers to reach for the stars on their journey through life. These comforting, inspiring words and artwork are the perfect story to pass to your little ones and they’re the words we parents need sometimes, because, as Cleo Wade states in her author’s note, “Being a grownup is hard and the Road  reminds me to take it one day at a time”.

 

I Love You, Baby Burrito, by Angela Dominguez, (January 12, 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250231093
Ages 2-5
This book is ADORABLE. A set of new parents greet their new baby – swaddled like a burrito – in this bilingual book of pure joy. Tender images of parents and baby pair with images of a new bird family in a nest outside the family’s window. The parents gaze, hold, and swaddle their little one, marveling at their new bundle, taking such care with every moment. Spanish words are in bright green, and English prose repeats the phrase, helping emphasize terms in both languages. A glossary at the end provides phonetic pronounciation. Mixed media illustrations are soft, gently colored, giving a real feeling of those quiet moments when baby and parents are still getting to know one another. I can’t wait to read this to my library families. An excellent Mother’s Day gift or baby shower gift, too; consider pairing with Hayley Barrett and Juana Martinez-Neal’s Babymoon.
Posted in picture books

Two books about Trees for Earth Day

I’ve got two more books about trees for Earth Day today! Sit in the great outside with these books and take a nice, deep breath for Earth Day.

The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom, by Lita Judge, (March 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250237071

Ages 7-12

Verse comes together with nonfiction writing to tell the story of trees, and how they work together to create ecosystems that provide food and shelter to everything around them. Beautiful watercolor and pencil artwork provides visuals that will enchant readers with visions of ancient trees, baby animals, and wooded sanctuaries. Additional back matter includes more information about different types of trees and the dangers posed to our world’s forests.

Teachers Pay Teachers has a great Adopt a Tree lesson and journal, courtesy of Common Core Kelly; it would be a good activity to introduce to grade schoolers as a STEM/STEAM project.

The Wisdom of Trees has starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal.

 

Zee Grows a Tree, by Elizabeth Rusch/Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, (March 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763697549

Ages 5-8

A baby is born and her mother and father, who run a Christmas tree farm, set aside a Douglas fir seedling that emerges that same day, to be “Zee’s Tree”. Little Zee and her tree grow up together: they both grow bigger and stronger with love and care; when Zee starts preschool, the tree also starts life outside, being planted outside the nursery; Zee makes friends at school, and the tree enjoys company from the local birds. When the tree contracts a heat-related illness, Zee is there to nurse it back to health. Filled with interesting facts about Douglas fir trees, Zee Grows a Tree is a lovely combination of fact and fiction that will draw readers in and maybe encourage them to care for a plant of their own. Mixed media illustrations show peaceful landscapes and two friends growing together. The relationship between Zee and her tree is sweetly depicted. Back matter includes an index and a list for further reading.

Zee Grows a Tree has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Posted in Uncategorized

Women to Know: Dovey Johnson Roundtree

We Wait for the Sun by Dovey Johnson Roundtree & Katie McCabe/Illustrated by Raissa Figueroa, (Feb. 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250229021

Ages 4-8

A young girl and her grandmother enjoy each other’s company in the time before dawn. Civil rights activist, attorney, veteran, and minister Dovey Johnson Roundtree collaborated with author Kate McCabe on this, a favorite childhood memory, before her death in 2018 at age 104. We Wait for the Sun is a moment in time between child and grandparent, engaging every sense through Ms. Roundtree’s, Ms. McCabe’s and enjoying each other’s company in the early hours before dawn. Every sense is engaged: readers will hear the swish of Dovey’s grandmother’s skirts; smell the damp earth and feel the dewy air; hear the perfect, pre-dawn silence with the sounds of nature as a backdrop, and taste the explosion of berries on their tongues and Dovey samples the berries she, her grandmother, and her grandmother’s friends pick them together. Raissa Figueroa’s artwork is lush, splendid, filled with joy in the present and anticipation of the dawn. Endpapers show juicy blackberries in the pre-dawn darkness, moving toward the sunlight, in four gorgeous panels. Comprehensive back matter includes a note from Katie McCabe on the importance of Dovey Johnson Roundtree’s relationship with her grandmother, biographies on both Dovey Johnson Roundtree and her grandmother, a timeline of her life, and a bibliography.

We Wait for the Sun has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and Publisher’s Weekly.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

#SockontheLoose!

We’ve all been there. We open the dryer, we start sorting the socks… and there’s one missing. Where could it have gone? You know you put all the socks in at the same time, right? Well, friends, Conor McGlauflin has the answer for you…

Sock on the Loose, by Conor McGlauflin, (Feb. 2021, Roaring Brook Press),
$18.99, ISBN: 9781250304575
Ages 3-6

Sock on the Loose is about all the adventures our socks are having while they take a break from being stuck in our drawers or on our feet. They’re learning to tie bow ties and hiding out in watermelon caves! Riding moose and dancing the  polka! Watercolor and gouache artwork show colorful socks in a variety of pastimes, and his rhyme is infectiously cheery. Get some socks of your own – you know you have a pile of mismatched ones at home – and wash ’em again, either handing some out for sock storytime or decorating for your own virtual storytime use. TwistyNoodle has printable sock coloring sheets for you to hand out – let your kiddos decorate them, cut them out, and send them on their own adventures! Publisher Roaring Brook Press also has a free, downloadable Sock On The Loose Activity Kit that includes a maze, matching game, and draw your favorite sock activities.

If you wander over to Twitter (@roesolo) or Instagram (@roesolo), you’ll find out what my own sock has been up to – Roaring Brook Press and Conor McGlauflin have been kind enough to send me a sock of my very own to chronicle adventures.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Cover Reveal: YES & NO by Elisha Cooper

How adorable is this new cover for Elisha Cooper’s new book, Yes & No?

Yes & No, by Elisha Cooper, (April, 2021, Roaring Brook Press),
$18.99, ISBN: 9781250257338
Ages 2-6

Elisha Cooper is the critically acclaimed author/illustrator of many children’s books, including Caldecott Honor-winning BIG CAT, LITTLE CAT. This new story is a timeless tale of friendship, adjusting your perspective, and the joys (and trials) of siblinghood.

As a mother of three children, a dog, and a cat, I can tell you that sibling relationships cross species lines. Reading the sneak peek at Macmillan’s website, I realized it, and you will, too, with chuckles and grins. Visit the book’s page at Macmillan’s site for yourself – Elisha Cooper’s artwork is always a joy to see.