Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Two back-to-school titles to ease kids into a new school year

I know, I know, the kids aren’t even out of school yet, and I’m talking about back-to-school books. Don’t yell at me! I received some adorable books from Charlesbridge, and thought, what better way to get rising preschoolers and kindergarteners ready for school? When my youngest was getting ready to start Pre-K, and later, Kindergarten, we read books about starting school throughout the summer, to introduce the ideas of classroom setup, recess, and learning time (as opposed to running around and playing all the time) to him. By the time school started, he had more of an idea of what to expect, and I felt better about dropping him off those first few days (look, I still cried, I’m not made of stone).

Anyway, if you’re developing your collections for back-to-school or want to have books handy to get your own kiddos excited about school over the next couple of months, jump in and check these two titles out.

Clothesline Clues to the First Day of School, by Kathryn Heling & Deborah Hembrook/Illustrated by Andy Robert Davies, (June 2019, Charlesbridge), $14.99, ISBN: 9781580898249

Ages 3-6

This is the third Clothesline Clues book from Kathryn Heling, Deborah Hembrook, and Andy Robert Davies, and I’m thrilled that they’re introducing kids to the different people they’ll meet in a school setting. The Clothesline Clues books are popular at my library; Clothesline Clues to the Jobs People Do is especially popular for the local schools’ community helpers unit.

The rhyming story greets readers by drawing them in and letting them know that people are looking forward to meeting them on the first day of school: “High on the clotheslines/hang clue after clue/It’s the first day of school!/Who wants to meet you?” Spreads alternate between clotheslines for different people the kids will meet at school, inviting readers to guess “who wants to meet you?”, and the clothes belonging to that person, illustrated and performing their job. The crossing guard’s clothesline has a cloat, reflective vest, gloves, and hat; she’s revealed on the next spread, allowing a child and her grownup to cross the street. Teachers, cafeteria cooks, custodians, and classmates all have their clothes out on the line, waiting for the big first day of school. The characters are diverse, making this a book that welcomes all readers to a new school year. The text creates a real sense of anticipation, encouraging kids to wonder who’s waiting to meet them when they start school.

Another good Clothesline Clues book that I’ll be adding to my Back to School storytime in August. Get this one on your shelves now, so it’s there when kids and families need it.

Lola Goes to School, by Anna McQuinn/Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw, (June 2019, Charlesbridge), $15.99, ISBN: 9781580899383

Ages 3-7

One of our favorite readers, Lola (Lula, in the UK), is starting school! I feel so invested in Lola; I’ve been reading Anna McQuinn’s Lola books since my high schooler was a preschooler, and she’s been a cornerstone of countless class visit readalouds. Lola is excited about starting school; she and her family set out her schoolbag and clothes the night before, and Lola brings her stuffed cat, Dinah, for moral support. In the morning, Lola’s mom takes that first day photo, and she’s off! She meets a new friend, Julia – another book fan – and has a great first day, filled with play, snacks, and circle time. Mommy picks Lola up after her big first day, and falls right to sleep: “School is fun… but exhausting!”

Lola Goes to School is a sweet look at a first day in preschool; Lola and her family develop a routine and have familiarized Lola with the school through previous visits, so she knows what to expect. The day is mixed with play, learning, and rest, and at the end of the school day, Mom’s there to take Lola home. Lola has been growing up through her books, creating a relationship with readers that will take them from toddlerhood through preschool and kindergarten. Sentences are short, easily readable for stronger, emerging readers and perfect for storytime reading. Lola’s colorful outfit pattern also repeats itself on the endpapers. Lola is a child of color, and her classmates are a diverse group of children.

Originally published in the UK, Lola (Lulu) is just as popular here as she is over on the other side of the pond. How do you not add a Lola book to your collections? You don’t. Add Lola Goes to School to your shelves, your Back To School storytimes, and buy an extra copy or two if your budget permits; your local teachers may be stopping in to pick up books for their Welcome To School storytimes.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Stocking stuffers, snuggle time stories: Christmas picture books!

Happy Black Friday! While you’re deep into your holiday shopping, here are a few picture book suggestions for stocking stuffers or Christmastime snuggling. I’ll have Hanukkah and Kwanzaa book rundowns shortly; I just need to read a few and get a better idea of the good stuff out there.

And away we go!

Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder, by Rebecca Colby/Illustrated by Rob McClurkan,
(Nov. 2017, Albert Whitman & Company), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0-8075-1063-6
Recommended for readers 4-8

Captain Bling and his crew are planning a big plundering trip, but their ship gets blown off course, landing them by the North Pole! Well, when they get a look at Santa’s elves loading all those toys and goodies up, they decide to steal everything for themselves – until Santa shows those buccaneers a little Christmas spirit! Rhyming text, cartoony art, and a sweet message about giving, plus a heck of a trip on Santa’s sleigh, make this a cute Christmas tale for pirate fans and Santa fans alike.


A Christmas for Bear, Bonny Becker/Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton,
(Sept. 2017, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763649234
Recommended for readers 5-10

Bear doesn’t have much interest in Christmas – pickles are far better. But Mouse does, and when he shows up at Bear’s house for a Christmas party, he discovers that his surly friend Bear may have a little Christmas spirit after all. I love Bonny Becker’s Bear series; he and Mouse are wonderful foils for one another, and Bear always comes around to embrace the fun side of life (and pickles. Always pickles). Bear deliciously keeps Mouse in suspense, feigning total disinterest in the very idea of the holiday; when he thinks Mouse has had enough, he starts “a long and difficult poem” – The Night Before Christmas – and drops hints for Mouse that the ruse is up and it’s time for presents. The watercolor, ink, and gouache art creates a soft, cuddly feel for a winter’s evening storytime. It’s a great add to holiday picture book collections. A Christmas for Bear received a starred review from Kirkus.


The Christmas Fairy, by Anne Booth/Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw,
(Sept. 2017, Nosy Crow/Candlewick), $15.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9629-0
Recommended for ages 3-7

Clara is a lively little fairy with dreams of being a “proper Christmas fairy on a sparkly Christmas tree”, but her teacher seems to think she isn’t Christmas fairylike at all: she’s always singing, dancing, or laughing! Luckily, Santa sees things differently when the Christmas Show is in trouble; he tells Clara that he needs a “special fairy who is full of life and fun”; who cheers people up, and is contagiously happy. Clara steps in to save the day, and her teacher – and the reader – learn that not every fairy has to be perfect to be wonderful. The Christmas fairy is all about embracing who you are and not accepting someone else’s idea of perfect. The mixed media illustrations are absolutely adorable; there are towering flowers, little bugs, and a diverse little group of fairy friends. The rhyming text provides a nice rhythm to a sweet Christmas story. Add this one to collections where you have fairy fans (I’ve got a bunch here), and maybe toss in a showing of the Rankin-Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer animated show, with a a similar “Santa asks for help” moment.


Elf in the House, by Ammi-Joan Paquette/Illustrated by Adam Record,
(Sept. 2017, Candlewick), $15.99, ISBN: 9780-7636-8132-6
Recommended for readers 3-7

Jingle Jingle! A young girl hears a noise in her house on a snowy Christmas Eve, and creeps down to investigate. The cumulative, rhyming story leaves readers in suspense as she discovers who else is in her home with each turn of the page. Each reveal leads to another noise, another search, another reveal; the lyrical storytelling and the use of suspense ratchets up the excitement for readers, and the digital artwork is cute, with big-eyed characters and goofy expressions that will make younger readers giggle. A fun addition to Christmas storytimes, for sure.


Pick a Pine Tree, by Patricia Toht/Illustrated by Jarvis,
(Sept. 2017, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9571-2
Recommended for readers 3-7

The perfect way to kick off the Christmas holiday season: pick a tree! Pick a Pine Tree chronicles a tree’s journey from lot to dazzling. The rhyming tale shows a family choosing a tree, bringing it home, and decorating it to get it ready for Christmas. The pencil, chalk, paint, digitally colored illustrations have a vintage feel to them and have fun visual references that we associate with the holiday: a cat in the tree, boxes of decorations coming out of storage, a tree-trimming party, with kids wearing garland boas. It’s all about the ritual of the season, and the greatest moment: when the tree isn’t a pine tree anymore, but a Christmas Tree, dazzling and bright, with awestruck observers peeking out from the page margins. Pick a Pine Tree may very well be a new Christmas classic. The book has a starred review from Kirkus.


Red and Lulu, by Matt Tavares, (Sept. 2017, Candlewick),
$17.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-7733-6
Recommended for readers 5-10

Red and Lulu are a mated pair of cardinals living in a beautiful evergreen tree; one day, Red returns to the tree to discover it’s being taken away – with Lulu still inside! Red follows the truck carrying the tree as far as he can, but the truck is New York bound, and the city is too big for Red. Overwhelmed, he sweeps through the city, tired and hungry, desperate to find Lulu. One day, he hears the song he and Lulu shared so many times: “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, thy leaves are so unchanging…” and follows the singing to Times Square, where, as he soars over the Rockefeller Center tree and toward their favorite branch. This book is absolutely going to tug at your heartstrings. The watercolor and gouache art is just beautiful, and Red’s bright red feathers stand out on every spread. Matt Tavares beautifully captures New York City at Christmastime: the wreaths around the New York Public Library lions; the bright lights and nonstop action of Times Square, the resplendence of the Rockefeller Center Tree. The spread where Red circles the Empire State Building spire is just breathtaking. The story of unconditional love will resonate with older readers, and younger readers will enjoy the story of a bird who refuses to give up on a lost friend. Another Christmas classic for shelves. Red & Lulu has a starred review from Publishers Weekly. You can visit the Red & Lulu page on Matt Tavares’ website and view the book trailer and more art.

That’s it for now – more holiday books and shopping lists on the way!