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.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The special bond between grandparent and grandchild: I Dream of Popo

I Dream of Popo, by Livia Blackburne/Illustrated by Julia Kuo, (Jan. 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250249319

Ages 3-7

Inspired by the author’s own story, I Dream of Popo is about the special connection between a young girl and her grandmother, that crosses the distance between Taiwan and America. The girl grows up spending time with her grandmother, rocking on her lap and enjoying food and holidays together, but when she moves to America with her family, Popo – grandma – stays in Taiwan. She sees her over videochat and even visits, and their love endures even as she sees Popo’s hair get gray and she gets sick. A book rich with emotion and connection, this is an incredible #OwnVoices story that will resonate with all families, especially when most of our visits are conducted via device screen. Livia Blackburne creates a yearning feel for Popo and her granddaughter throughout the story; her connection to her own Popo shines through in her prose. Julia Kuo’s artwork is vibrant, deep reds, greens, and golds weaving a warm atmosphere to comfort readers. Back matter includes an author note and an illustrator note, each remembering their relationships with their own grandparents, and a glossary.

I was lucky enough to be at a Macmillan live event with other librarians and the author and illustrator, and they each spoke at length about their inspiration for the prose and artwork for the book. They drew on their relationships with their grandparents, lived on two shores and over phone, in the days before videochat. The book is stunning; Livia Blackburne and Julia Kuo put their hearts into creating a testament to the enduring love between grandparent and grandchild. An instabuy for collections, I Dream of Popo has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The epic tale of Ronan the Librarian

Ronan the Librarian, by Tara Luebbe & Becky Cattie/Illustrated by Victoria Maderna, (Apr. 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250189219

Ages 3-7

To truly enjoy this writeup, please click here to enjoy The Anvil of Crom from the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack, courtesy of Spotify and CimmercianRecords.com.

The mighty Ronan was a barbarian invader, raider, and trader. He led his people and pillaged the best jewelry, precious metals, weapons, you name it. If you wanted to trade for it, Ronan had it. But when one of Ronan’s raids turned up a chest  of books, he was baffled. Barbarians don’t read, right? What was he supposed to do with these things? No one else wanted them either! Until… well, one night he figured reading a sentence won’t hurt. Maybe a paragraph. A page? Every reader worth their salt knows what happens next: a true disregard of bedtime; Ronan becomes a Reader and seeks out books on all of his pillages from then on. And again, like any true book fan… his collection threatens to overwhelm him. After all, no one else wants the books: Barbarians don’t read! So Ronan builds a library, and decides to entice his fellow barbarians into reading. Like any bookworm knows, one of the best parts about loving books is sharing them with friends! This hilarious, wonderful story about barbarians and books is perfect storytime reading (I’ve got one coming up myself): it’s got adventure, barbarians, and books! Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie create a story that book lovers will relate to, and give a wink, nudge, come to the Book Side for those kids who don’t think they’re readers… yet.

Victoria Maderna’s artwork is cartoony fun, with so many little moments to love: the Viking ship toppling over with books (I feel seen); Ronan riding into battle, axe held high in one hand, book wide open in his other hand; Ronan curled up with a cup of tea amidst his towering pile of books (so precarious!), the swirling, dreamlike story of Odin coming to life as it leaps from a book Ronan reads out loud to his fellow barbarians, and – one of my favorite pieces in the whole story – the bulletin board Ronan puts up in his library, with notes like “Keep Out: This Goat” (sharp-eyed viewers will notice the goat snacking on some books, a few spreads earlier), “Closed During Raids”, and a cautionary “Swords Make Terrible Bookmarks”. Clearly, library signage hasn’t seen the need to evolve much.

I’m gushing with love for Ronan the Librarian because it’s just too much fun and it’s all about discovering the joy of books and reading. Insta-buy for your collections if you don’t already have it. Consider it an investment in your class visits for life. Make sure to visit the authors’ website, and find activities, guides, and more information about their books!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books to cuddle, snuggle, and hug by

This is a tough time of year we’re going into. We want to hug people that we can’t. We want to see people in person, not through a device screen. We’ll get there. Until then, we have books to share with those we love. Let these snuggly books do the talking when your arms can’t; if you are lucky enough to have snuggly folx within your quarantine circle, then enjoy these books together.

 

You Are a Beautiful Beginning, by Nina Laden/Illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley,
(Aug. 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250311832
Ages 3-6

If little ones ever needed inspiration and to hear about their incredible potential, this is the time. You Are a Beautiful Beginning is all about potential, with encouraging, rhyming phrases that are just what we all need to hear to keep us going: “It is not the number of pages. / It is the story in the book. / It is not how far you traveled. / It is the journey that you took.” Messages also include having self-confidence and not worrying about the outcome, but the progress; being a good person, and being part of a team, and ultimately, becoming who you are supposed to be. Mixed media artwork creates magical spreads with classic fantasy story elements bright colors. You Are a Beautiful Beginning is the encouraging talk so many of us need today, especially our little ones who are facing remote learning, lack of socialization, and feeling overwhelmed by big, often scary feelings. A much-needed pep talk and hug in book form.

 

Because You’re Mine, by Nancy Tillman, (Sept. 2020, Feiwel & Friends),
$18.99, ISBN: 9781250256133
Ages 2-7

Nancy Tillman, award-winning author of On the Night You Were Born, is back with a rhyming story about the love between a parent and child. Because You’re Mine is a parent’s declaration of love from the very beginning: “The moment that you came along / my heart grew mighty, fierce and strong / And everything just fell from view / All that I could see was you”. That fierce devotion never wanes, as Tillman also notes: “The clouds can blow, the wind can call / the snow can come, the rain can fall / but they’ll just have to wait in line”. It speaks to the protective love parents and caregivers have for their littles; children will feel secure and protected hearing their loving grownup read this to them and it’s perfect for bedtime and cuddle time reading. Ms. Tillman’s instantly recognizable artwork, images of children and grownups, frolicking across spreads of woods, fields, and enjoying flora and fauna, brings to mind carefree days and joy.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A Little Space for Me addresses kids’ need for their own space

A Little Space for Me, by Jennifer Gray Olson, (July 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250206268

Ages 3-6

In a story that speaks to all of us, but especially young children, A Little Space for Me is a relatable story of a little girl who needs a little space of her own from time to time. The opening sentence says it all: “Sometimes my life feels very crowded”: the art depicts a young girl sitting on a window seat of a living room, along with five other family members and a pet cat. The child’s life is crowded; her space gets too loud, messy, scratchy, bright – you get the idea. After seven months of quarantine and living in the age of the Coronavirus, this an unbelievably relatable observation. The artwork speaks volumes, showing the girl, curled into herself against the white space of the page, with a riot of color swirling around her as becomes “too much for no reason at all”. She needs space, and claims it for herself: in the story, she physically grabs the page and pulls it down, revealing a black and midnight blue stretch of our space that she puts into a bottle around her neck and claims more and more, as her need for space grows. When she decides to share her space, we see members of her family all have a piece of the space in their heads; their hair revealing the calming cosmos of space as the main character sits in a cross-legged meditation pose with her fingers in a meditation mudra.

Artwork and simple text really reaches readers in this story, made even more relevant by current events. When I first read this, pre-pandemic, I thought of many of my library families, many of whom live with extended family, which can make for crowded spaces. Reading it now, it takes on even greater relevance, as many of us are still sheltering in place, remote learning, with several family members working and attending school together in the same space. The book brings home the importance of meditation and mindfulness and the need to give kids their own space, and, even more important, to help kids understand how to recognize their need for space and ways they can claim that space. This is an excellent book to read at storytime, and an excellent companion read to Charlotte and the Quiet Place (2016) by Deborah Sosin and Leyla by Galia Bernstein (2019).

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

It’s Earth Day! Resources and reading for you and your family

It’s Earth Day! I’ve got more books to gush about, and some resources, too.

We Are Water Protectors, by Carole Lindstrom/Illustrated by MIchaela Goade, (March 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250203557

Ages 3-10

The first book up is one of the most visually stunning books I’ve read this year – and the lyrical prose reads like a prayer, a poem, a witnessing. Inspired by the Standing Rock Water Protectors who protested the Dakota Pipeline, We Are Water Protectors is created by indigenous author, Carole Lindstrom, and illustrator, Michaela Goade. Phrased as a story passed down through generations, about the sustaining life we receive from water, it also stands as a witnessing and call for help as we face the continued debasing of our planet’s natural resources. The artwork has traditional details, like a traditional skirt worn by the main character; swirling patterns inspire thoughts of water and its place in our life cycle; deep blues, purples, and orange inspire the dreamlike, womblike, atmosphere created by water. It’s a book that should give you chills as you read it, and is quietly urgent in its plea for action and positive, forward movement. Notes about Water Protectors, a glossary, and list of further reading add valuable resources to this story; an Earth Steward and Water Protector Pledge inspires kids to take action.

If you don’t want to mess up your book, or have a library book (please don’t write in it or tear the page out!), you can print a copy of the pledge, and activities to help readers realize their place in the world as stewards of our future, in this free, downloadable activity kit.

We Are Water Protectors has starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Bookpage.

 

Some Earth Day things to do with your family today:

Earth Day 2020: Earth Day’s official website let readers tune into Earth Day events via webcast, including protests in Spanish and English, through the Earth Day Live link. Find Earth Day events on the general website.

The American Museum of Natural History is going all out for Earth Day, holding Earth Fest 2020; a collection of virtual celebrations to take part in, including Field Trip Earth, a global field trip around the world using interactive data-visualization software. Join a botany watch party and make a mini garden, learn to make your own instruments out of household objects like rubber bands and cardboard boxes, and travel to Venus and Mars and hang out with Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

National Geographic Kids has great, easy ways for kids to get involved in taking care of the world.

Check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, filled with videos, activities, and information on Earth Day.

NASA has Earth Day projects, videos, and images of our big, blue marble!

Zoos are getting in on Earth Day with virtual field trips and activities. Check out:

The San Diego Zoo

The Virginia Zoo

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

Phoenix Zoo

 

Protect our planet: it’s the only one we have!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Books for Bedtime… or not.

Anyone else finding that bedtimes are taking on lives of their own? Here are a few books to let us know we’re not alone. Turn bedtime into funtime with these wacky families!

Friday Night Wrestlefest, by JF Fox/Illustrated by Micah Player, (Feb. 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250212405

Ages 4-8

It’s Friday night. Pizza’s been eaten, school’s out for the weekend… it’s time for FRIDAY NIGHT WRESTLEFEST! One family’s Battle To the Bedtime is an inspiration to the rest of us as they adopt their fantastic ring personas – Dangerous Daddooo (“He’s mad. He’s bad. He’s DAD.”), Tag Team Twins, Peanut Brother and Jellyfish, and “special guest star”, Big Bald Baby – and turn their living room into an all-star arena! Will Mom come in for the big save, or will Big Bald Baby clear the ring?

The artwork is a riot of color and movement, with kids and parents sailing through the air, talking smack, and dramatically posing. The family that plays together, stays together, for sure: endpapers feature a lovely wall of family photos in the usual well-mannered poses up front; back endpapers have the family striking victorious poses, hugging one another while celebrating various Wrestlefest wins.

This is a non-stop fun family read for bedtime or anytime. And if you were to construct your own wrestling ring in your living room to take on your family, you’d definitely want to download this activity kit from the publisher, so you could outfit yourself with a cool mask, pick out a great wrestler name, and get that championship belt all shined up.

Everyone’s Awake, by Colin Meloy/Illustrated by Shawn Harris, (March 2020, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4521-7805-9

Ages 4-8

A foreboding house on a hill has a single light shining on a dark, dark, night… wait a minute, this is no scary story! Turn the page, and discover what’s going on in that house on that late, late night: everyone’s awake! This rhyming story stars a family that just can’t sleep, and the young narrator takes us through what everyone’s up to: Dad’s in the kitchen, Grandma’s crafting, Sister’s flossing and putting her hair in braids, but all of a sudden things take a turn for the anarchic when Mom starts tap-dancing to Prince and Dad rolls a motorcycle in the room. Even the ghost of Grandpa shows up for a late night visit!  The manic story lets readers cut loose and embrace the chaos of bedtime gone wild. The ink, charcoal, and pencil artwork has a soft, surreal feel to it, lending a dreamlike, half-awake half asleep feel to the story. There are amazing details to be found in each spread, like Prince’s album covers, and the spines on the family bookshelf. Blues, oranges, and yellows dominate the landscape, taking readers from a drowsy sleep to full-on, sleepless mania and back again.

Author Colin Meloy is the lead singer and songwriter of The Decemberists, and the author of several children’s books, including the New York Times bestselling Wildwood series. Illustrator Shawn Harris is an artist and musician and the illustrator of several award-winning children’s books including Her Right Foot and What Can a Citizen Do?

Will this family ever get to sleep? You don’t expect me to spoil the surprise, do you? Everyone’s Awake is an hilarious bedtime romp.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Join the Red Rover as it wanders Mars

Red Rover: Curiosity on Mars, by Richard Ho/Illustrated by Katherine Roy, (Oct. 2019, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-19833-4

Ages 4-7

I am in love with this sweet, factual story about the Curiosity Rover, the robotic rover currently exploring Mars after landing in the Gale Crater in August, 2012. The story is straightforward, yet gives life to the Curiosity by referring to it as the “little rover” and wondering about its habits. Is it looking for water because it’s thirsty? It may seem lonely, but it has friends that came before. The narrator is the planet Mars, who seems to be watching Curiosity and its predecessors with interest. Mars states, “They call me Mars. I am not like your world”, and notes that life is hard for Curiosity: there are sand storms; the air is thin and it’s cold; it’s very, very, red. Through it all, artwork depicts the scrappy Curiosity rover, undeterred from its mission: it collects, its observes, it records. Back matter includes an annotated sketch of the Curiosity; facts about Mars, and brief profiles of the previous orbiters, landers, and rovers that have explored the planet (and that are in progress). There’s a bibliography and websites for further reading.

The story gives the Curiosity a personality of sorts, and the artwork presents a breathtaking artist’s rendering of the Red Planet. The sandstorms are chaotic, and a foldout of the red landscape is just stunning: the Curiosity stands on a cliff, overlooking the barren, beautiful world. Red Rover is a nice introduction for younger readers to the world of space exploration. If you have Wall-E fans, introduce them to Red Rover.

If you have readers who want more on Mars, Kiddle has Curiosity Facts for Kids; NASA’s Space Place has the Mars rovers broken out into trading cards with stats; and NASA’s FunZone has coloring sheets.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, mythology, Tween Reads

Middle Grade Quick Takes: Thundercluck! and The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library

I did some more TBR-diving over the last few weeks, and have some more middle grade quick takes!

Thundercluck!, by Paul Tillery IV & Meg Wittwer, (Oct. 2018, Roaring Brook Press), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-15228-3

Ages 8-12

How do you not check out a book that has the tagline, “Half moral. Half god. All natural chicken”? Thundercluck is about the valiant chicken of Thor. The story begins when Thor and the evil Under-Cook Gorman Bones fight as Thor defends his hen, Hennda, from the cooking pan. Thor hits Bones with lightning, but Hennda gets a jolt, causing her to lay a giant egg, which hatches and reveals a tiny chick with a horned helmet and little vest, and who shoots lightning from his beak. Behold, the birth of Thundercluck! Raised by Brunhilda, a young Valkyrie in Odin’s court, Thundercluck and Hennda are sent to Midgard (that’s Earth), to be kept safely hidden from vengeful Gorman Bones, but like every epic tale, the heroes return to do battle; it’s the Under-Cook versus the Valkyrie and her faithful chicken for the win!

Thundercluck! is the first in a new series – the next book is due out in September – and is a win for your middle grade readers. There’s a lot of hilarious moments, some good Norse mythology, epic battles, and, at the heart of the book, is the story of an enduring friendship. Black and white illustrations throughout are adorable and will keep readers turning pages. There’s a Thundercluck! website that includes an award-winning short on Thundercluck!, which was author Paul Tillery IV’s MFA thesis. Give this one to your younger mythology fans – if they like Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams’s Thunder Girls series, they’ll love this one!

 

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library, by Linda Bailey/Illustrated by Victoria Jamieson, (June 2017, Greenwillow Books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-06-244093-8

Ages 8-12

Ferny Creek School Library has a beloved librarian who goes on maternity leave, and her awful replacement wants to get rid of the library and make way for a testing space! Meanwhile, Eddie, a tiny green bug with a passion for books, finds himself in the library as he searches for his Aunt Min, who was injured and can’t get out of the library. Together, the two bookworms – bookbugs? – cook up a Charlotte’s Web-type strategy to plead for the library to stay as is.

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library is just adorable. The story, loaded with great book references, includes Eddie & Min’s “Bugliography” at the end; a nice listing of all the books mentioned, in one spot, and serves as a good readers’ advisory guide (and display guide). This is a love letter to libraries, particularly school libraries, which have had a really rough time of it these last few years. The heart of the story is the love for a school library, and its librarian, who makes the library a home for the kids at school, versus the mean Mrs. Visch, sister of the school’s superintendent, and testing enthusiast who sees books and reading as frivolous at best. Roller Girl’s Victoria Jamieson created adorable black and white illustrations, featured throughout the book, and really makes readers fall in love with Eddie, Min, and their quest to save the library. It’s a feel good story that book lovers will come to again and again, and reminded me of all the great memories I have from my first library and Mrs. Reale, my first school librarian, who always seemed to know what book to hand me when I needed it.