Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Fairy tale meets the half pipe: Beauty and Bernice

Beauty and Bernice, by Nancy Viau, (Sept. 2018, Schiffer Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764355806

Ages 8-12

I continue my quest to read down my TBR and feature great backlist for your readers advisory and your booklists. This time out, I’ve got another Nancy Viau book, Beauty and Bernice. Twelve-year-old Bernice Baransky is a skater girl. She’s a grunge-loving whiz on a skateboard, on the verge of middle school, and she’s got a crush on fellow skater Wyatt – not that she can do anything other than nod when he calls her “Dude”. Enter Odelia, a new transplant to the neighborhood, who appears dressed in princess gowns and decides to make Bernice her new best friend and project. She’s determined to teach Bernice her guide to the “Social Graces”, with lessons on hygiene, posture, and manners, and Bernice reluctantly goes along for the ride, teaching Odelia that she can let loose a little, herself. Both spend a summer learning about one another while volunteering with Smile Academy, a summer camp for children with Down syndrome. A kind story that brings a little everyday magic to realistic fiction, this has some surprises that will make readers smile. The subplot with the girls volunteering – and encouraging their friends to help – with the Smile Academy gives nice depth to the characters and allows for Bernice’s character growth.  If you have skater fans, sell the detailed discussions on skateboarding.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Gorgeous concept books for toddlers and preschoolers!

There are some some amazing concept books in the publishing pipeline that are going to make toddler storytimes even more fun. Grab some colorful scarves, egg shakers, and art supplies because you’re going to want to hold an art storytime with these books as your foundation.

Lili’s Seasons, by Lucie Albon, (Apr. 2021, Schiffer Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764361043

Ages 2-6

Lucie Albon’s “On the Fingertips” series illustrates concepts using finger-and hand-painted artwork that kids are going to love – and that they’ll be able to try on their own. Two mice, Lily and Henri, explore the seasons. Each seasons is set off with a spread of what you’ll discover on the pages – or outside! – for each season. In the fall, you’ll look for autumn leaves, pine cones, and squirrels; in the winter, there will be mittens, wool socks, hot chocolate, and snowflakes. Lili and Henri enjoy the gifts of every season, together, whether having hot chocolate at home in the winter or visiting the beach in the summer. Back matter teaches readers how to “draw with their fingertips”, and provides instruction on necessary supplies, and how to use the paint on your hands and fingers to create clouds and trees through the seasons. The book has a create space for exploration, but if you’re using this in your library, consider having a create space ready for your library kiddos, stocked with paper, art materials, and smocks or old t-shirts. If you’re like me, and still virtual, you can explore doing a virtual art program, and offering some supplies via grab-and-go promotion. Colorful, bright, and absolutely “you can do this!” kid-friendly, this is a fun new series that I’m looking forward to spending time with.

 

Lili’s Colors, by Lucie Albon, (Apr. 2021, Schiffer Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764361036

Ages 2-6

In the companion “On the Fingertips” book to Lili’s Seasons, Lili’s Colors brings Lili and Henri back to talk about color. The two friends enjoy red lollipops, cuddle yellow chicks, sail on blue water, and spend a colorful day together, wandering across brightly colored, finger-painted spreads. Colors are featured in a bigger, bolder font, in their own shades, and the text – dialogue between Henri and Lili – is brief and perfect for young listeners and readers. A finger paint workshop section goes over primary and secondary colors, color mixing, and how to paint your fingers and hands to create the artwork in the book and a self-portrait. A spread showing paintings by children encourages readers with a “you can do it!” attitude! Adorable and cheery, this is an adorable new series for burgeoning artists.

 

Colors de la Runway, by Clarence Ruth, (Feb. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9780764356834

Ages 2-6

How, oh how, did I miss this when it came out the first time? I owe Schiffer big thanks for sending me a copy of Colors de la Runway to rectify my not seeing this earlier. Colors de la Runway is a concept book on color by Clarence Ruth, fashion designer and creative director of Cotte D’Armes. Vibrant colors named in both English and French come off the page as model sketches show off fashions and accessories in 20 spreads: red/rouge dresses, light blue/bleu clair eyeshadow and the peek of a shirt under a jacket, brown/marron frames to a pair of dramatic glasses. Clarence Ruth’s book is inspiration for older readers who love fashion and art, and for littles who want to learn their colors with some pizzaz. Stunning, playful, and absolutely fun: get out a feather boa and giant sunglasses and have yourself a fashion storytime.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Somethings Bugging Samantha Hansen – but it’s not bees!

Something’s Bugging Samantha Hansen, by Nancy Viau, (Aug. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764357763

Ages 8-12

Samantha Hansen is a 10-year-old fourth grader with a love for bugs, especially bees! When she discovers that the local apiary owner is considering selling his bee farm, she launches into action, assembling her classmates to drop some knowledge on the importance of bees to her community, and encourage everyone to help save the apiary. She’s also dealing with some big feelings: she is learning to keep her temper under control, which is really difficult, because her best friend, Kelli, is hanging out with another girl lately, and she’s got big feelings to contend with. This is the second Samantha Hansen book; the first, Samantha Hansen has Rocks in Her Head (2008), introduced us to Samantha, her temper, and her coping mechanisms. It’s a good book for STEM/STEAM readers, with information about bees and apiaries; it’s a good family story that continues the exploration of loss within a family, and working through feelings in a positive way. Black and white illustrations introduce the chapter heads, and colorful endpapers show bee-friendly flowers, a honeycomb, and different types of bees. A good book club choice because there’s so much covered in this story, you can also use this Bee Hotel activity from Vivify as an end of book activity.

Posted in picture books

Gizmo Girl Geraldine is back, and taking a stand against bullies!

Geraldine and the Anti-Bullying Shield, by Sol Regwan/Illustrated by Denise Muzzio, (March 2020, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764361135

Ages 5-8

The Gizmo Girl’s third adventure has her joining forces with her friends to stand up against Jimmy, the school bully. He’s making everyone miserable, and Geraldine plans to teach him a lesson using her inventor skills! Culling bits of technology and supplies from her home and her friends’ homes, she invites everyone over where they construct the Anti-Bullying Shield: a shield with mirrors on its front, and an old cell phone on the back, so show Jimmy what he looks and sounds like when he’s at his meanest! Will Jimmy see how mean he looks and sounds, and change his ways? Geraldine is a smart kid who uses her STEM/STEAM skills to solve problems, and her idea to stand up against a bully by showing him what other kids see is a smart way to turn the tables. She also encourages her friends to stand together, forming a united front against the bully. Adults are ready to help out here, as Geraldine’s dad assists with the bully shield construction and a teacher takes a walk with Jimmy to help him work through whatever could be causing him to act out.

There are many anti-bullying resources available to share with kids and caregivers alike. KidPower.org and StopBullying.gov are both excellent resources, and this Edutopia article has more information and links available.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Do you know a Grumbletroll?

The Grumbletroll, by aprilkind & Barbara van den Speulhof/Illustrated by Stephan Pricken, (Apr. 2021, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764361173

Ages 3-6

A cute little troll sets out to build himself a little cottage, but things don’t go the way he wants them to and gets very cranky. There’s a rumbling in his tummy that grows and grows as the angry feelings grow inside of him until they finally pour out: he’s a grumbletroll! His friends are tired of his tantrum, so they head off to play without him while he carries on. When the tantrum subsides, the troll apologizes to his friends: there are no grudges here! A story that captures the mood swings and frustrations of being a toddler and a preschooler The Grumbletroll speaks to kids respectfully about understanding big feelings and how they can take over, and how they can make people around them want to stay away. But the story also acknowledges that friends forgive and forget, and can pick up where they left off. Originally published in German in 2018, The Grumbletroll understands that childhood, and great big emotions, are universal. Colorful artwork and expressive faces and body language let kids communicate what the troll and his friends all feel. This fits in nicely with a feelings and emotions storytime: add Mo Willems’s famous Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Bob Raczka’s Niko Draws a Feeling, Laura Dockrill’s Angry Cookie, and M.H. Clark’s Tiger Days. This would be a good opportunity to use the Little Box of Emotions, if you have them, and let Kiddos identify and describe different feelings. If Grumbletroll feels like a storm when he’s angry, what do you feel like when you feel happy? Excited? Nervous? Adorable fun for a Pre-k storytime.

Educrafters on Teachers Pay Teachers has a cute Feelings Faces Craft that’s a free download, and you can have a ball with emoji crafts! Elizabeth Low on Teachers Pay Teachers has a downloadable emoji feelings charts, and Lisa Markle Sparkles, also on Teachers Pay Teachers, has emoji clipart.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Shhh explores the background noise of our day

Shhh, by Fred Paronuzzi/Illustrated by Mariana Ruiz Johnson (Feb. 2021, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764361067

Ages 2-6

This mostly wordless book contains all the ambience noise that provides the soundtrack to our days: from the “brrrring brrrring” of an alarm clock, the “plop!” of a morning tea bag and the “pop!” of the toaster, through the “blah, blah, blah” and “rumble” of street sounds, a child and their family go through their day; at night, the child opens a book and, in the quiet, their imagination is unleashed. Splashed across a dark spread, the child’s imagination gives rise to mermaids, volcanoes, exotic foliage, and more. A tip of the hat to our everyday hustle and bustle and the unexpected moment when we open a book and are swept into a magical world of our own, Shhh is a story of everyday magic. The artwork is cheery, colorful, and moves across the spreads, giving a feeling of motion to go with the sounds. A fun book to invite toddlers and preschoolers to chime in with their own everyday stories and sounds.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

We only get one world. Books to help us care for it.

Bea’s Bees, by Katherine Pryor/Illustrated by Ellie Peterson, (March 2019, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764356995

Ages 5-8

Beatrix is a young girl who loves to listen to and watch the bees buzzing around their hive in a tree on her way home from school. They zig and zag from flower to flower, and head back to the hive, weighed down with pollen and nectar. But one day, the tree is silent, and Bea discovers that the flowers by the tree have all been cut down. She take a trip to the library and researches bees: what flowers they like to feast on, the important part bees play in our own food web, and how some bees are an endangered species. She takes action, planting seeds for mint, clover, and flowers that bees like; she encourages others to plant wildflowers, even handing out seed packets; she even does her science fair project on bees. Can Bea’s dedication bring the bees back to the tree? A moving story about the impact one person can make on helping the environment, Bea’s Bees is realistic fiction that weaves information about bees, environmental impact, and activism seamlessly into the story of a young girl. Back matter has more information about being a friend to bees, and the artist’s rendering of plants that Bea grows in her garden will encourage readers to grab their shovels and some seeds. Endpapers feature dancing, realistic bees against a white backdrop. A good pick to put aside for Earth Day. Read and display with Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann’s award-winning Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera. If you’re doing grab-and-go bags, consider handing out some seeds for flowers that will grow in your area and that bees enjoy. I looked at the NY State Parks blog and found this article; the Native NY Gardens website also has helpful information. Buggy and Buddy has adorable and affordable craft ideas and books to feature.

 

The Tiny Giant, by Barbara Ciletti/Illustrated by Cathy Morrison, (Sept. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764360299

Ages 5-8

On the heels of Earth Day is Arbor Day (April 30th in 2021), and The Tiny Giant is great Arbor Day reading. A tiny acorn falls from a blue jay’s mouth, and settles into the ground as the seasons, and life, goes on around it. As the seasons change, the seed within the acorn swells and bursts through, with roots anchoring a tentative sapling poking up through the dirt. The sapling will grow until one day, it will provide acorns for future trees, too. The Tiny Giant plays with perspective, shifting from traditional left-right reading to top-bottom as the tree grows, letting storytime listeners see the exciting shift as the tree grows tall. One and two-sentence spreads use beautiful language to describe the sights unfolding: “…blossoms parade along the branches of the tall oak”, “Buds dress in sleeves of summer’s glory”, “…warm summer rain feed the little seed as it sends a single spare thread of life toward the sky”. The story is about a tiny acorn, but the incredible, detailed artwork shows the life that goes on around the acorn as it begins its journey into a mighty tree; seasons pass, animals wander the landscape in search of food and shelter, leaves curl and wither in the snow, and ripe blackberries burst through the pages as spring arrives. It’s a celebration of life and nature, a look at seasons, and a primary STEM story. Wonderfully done. Back matter includes artwork on North American acorns, Arbor Day Fun Facts, and how readers can grow their own oaks from acorns. Endpapers are decorated with leaves and acorns, faded and pale against a light blue background. The Arbor Day Foundation has a kids corner with digital games and printable coloring sheetsPBS Cartoon Nature Cat has an Arbor Day episode, available with teacher materials, on the PBS website.

 

Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies, (Aug. 2020, Chronicle Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781452176802

Ages 6-8

A girl discovers a love of butterflies, a desire for advocacy, and defines a place for herself in her new home in the U.S. Told in first person narration, a girl reads about butterflies as she learns English, and learns that butterflies, “make a long, long journey, just like we did. They have to be strong to fly so far”; as she becomes a more proficient English reader, she learns that the monarch butterfly population is faltering because of environmental impact: milkweed, the plant they eat and lay eggs on, is being decimated by climate change and by farmers who use chemicals to keep it from growing in fields. She gains the confidence to become an activist, motivating her classmates to take action and create a monarch way station that will create a safe space for monarch butterflies. The girl’s story runs parallel to the caterpillar to butterfly life cycle: she feels herself transforming into someone confident, strong, ready to take a stand. The story moves easily between the girl’s narrative and “book excerpts” that provie the nonfiction text and maps the girl reads, letting readers feel like they’re sharing the same book with the narrator. A quiet subplot about immigration makes itself known as the girl wonders if she belongs in her new life; these doubts diminish as she gains more confidence in herself through her activism. Endpapers illustrate a beautiful kaleidoscope of butterflies fluttering across the page. Back matter is written with children and adult readers in mind, including a guide to getting a monarch way station up and running, monarch facts, booklists for young environmental activists and grown-up activists and educators, and a rich list of Internet resources.

BookRiot has a nice list of butterfly books; I also recommend Caroline Arnold’s Butterflies in Room 6. and activism books like Thank You, Earth: A Love Letter to Our Planet by April Pulley Sayre, The Honeybee by Kirsten Hall, and Greta and the Giants: Inspired by Greta Thunberg’s Stand to Save the World by Zoë Tucker are great display ideas. The Spruce Crafts has a list of 15 butterfly crafts that hit that grab-and-go budget sweet spot.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Little Box of Emotions: Great for communication, great when kids struggle to find the words

Little Box of Emotions: Matching and Memory Cards, by Louison Nielman , illustrated by Marie Paruit, (July 2020, Schiffer Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 9780764358975

Ages 2+

Twenty-four cards with colorful and expressive animals and items make for a memory game and teaching tool. A 32-page guide book explains represented emotions and offers some game ideas, from matching colors to memory games. What I appreciated most is the opportunity to use these cards to teach children how to recognize emotions in themselves and others; to use these cards to define what they may not have had the words to describe before. I work in a community of English language learners; for me, having cards like this available to my kids is great: when we reopen, I would use these in storytimes to deep dive into emotions experienced by different characters; I’d leave the box by my desk, so anyone wanting to talk to me without having the words, regardless of language capability, can use these little cards to communicate feelings and thoughts. They’re a good choice to have available for toddlers, who are learning more and more words by the day, and experiencing very big emotions that may scare or frustrate them. It makes for a fun game for parents and children to play together, and the adorable animals are eye-catching and colorful. Consider making some crib notes for yourself, describing these emotions in different languages to help language learners get a firmer foot in their two worlds. For those of us with big infant populations, have some baby sign language books around to enhance language, and make yourself familiar with ASL signs for emotions.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Soar lets readers spread their wings and face fear

Soar, by Hillary Daecher/Illustrated by Angie Hohenadel, (Aug. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7643-5987-3

Ages 4-7

Ramone is a ruby-throated hummingbird who’s about to leave his nest for the first time. But he’s shy and he’s scared: what if something goes wrong? What if his wings don’t work? Luckily, Mom is there with comforting hugs and words. As he watches the other hummingbirds take to the sky, he screws up his courage and manages to get airborne! A rhyming story of facing one’s fears, Soar is beautifully illustrated with bright, vivid color. The rhyming meter makes for a good read-aloud, and you know what I’m going to say about flannels, right? Colorful birds are PERFECT flannel storytime accompaniment if you’ve got them! Back matter includes hummingbird facts, discussion questions, and a bibliography.

 

Ramone, a shy, ruby-throated hummingbird, is about to leave the nest for the first time. But his anxiety and fear keep him from taking off as he contemplates all that could go wrong. Full of kind words and encouragement, Ramone’s mother gives him room to work through his emotions, building his confidence and letting him set his own pace. Ramone watches as his friends soar through the sky, realizing all he might miss out on if he doesn’t conquer his fear. Ramone’s adventure showcases the emotions, both positive and negative, children experience as they approach new challenges. Accompanied by strikingly beautiful illustrations, this tale guides readers through Ramone’s emotional journey, showing kids that fear must be overcome in order to grow.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Embrace Curiosity! Maia and the Very Tall Wall

Maia and the Very Tall Wall, by Brian Wray/Illustrated by Shiloh Penfield, (Sept. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764360800

Ages 4-7

Maia is a curious little girl who wonders out loud about anything that interests her. She especially wonders about a strange stone wall that’s behind her house. She notices that wall grows as she gets older; as that wall grows higher, Maia grows shyer, keeping her questions to herself. After multiple tries to get to find out what’s on the other side of the wall, she gathers her courage and states that she wants to know what’s on the other side of the wall: and a voice responds! The voice offers to lower a rope; Maia climbs it, and meets another curious girl on the other side. Having found one another, and their voices, the two are free to discover and explore and invite other children to make their own climb. Maia and the Very Tall Wall is an inspiring story that kids will see themselves in as they may have moved from inquisitive to quiet, worried about speaking up in public. It inspires children to embrace their curiosity and encourage it in others. Author Brian Wray and illustrator Shiloh Penfield create thoughtful stories together; here, Shiloh Penfield uses deep and soft colors to keep the story gentle and calming for readers. Brian Wray has a talent for writing about big emotions and feelings for young people; here, he’s captured the apprehension some children develop for fear of “asking too many questions” or “bothering people” and keeping their thoughts to themselves; this story is his way of nudging those worries away. Sharp-eyed readers will notice one of their precious characters, the stuffed rabbit in Unraveling Rose, riding in a baby carriage.