Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Think Board Books teach concepts

Former Romper Room teacher Karen Robbins still keeps her Do-Bees in mind with a trio of concept board books! Think Triangles!, Think Circles!, and Think Squares! are a sturdy series of books that help develop toddler and preschooler thinking skills. Each colorful book has ten flaps that present a a number of shapes to readers, asking where they can be. Lift the flap, and a bright, cheery scene – mountains, birdhouses, watermelon slices – invites kids to count the shapes. Colors are bright and easily identifiable, and inviting readers to “think… and lift the flap to see!” challenges them, asking them to pause and count the shape outlines before moving on to identify them after lifting the flap.

Think Triangles!, by Karen Robbins, (Sept. 2017, Schiffer Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764353819

 

Think Squares!, by Karen Robbins, (Sept. 2017, Schiffer Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764353833

 

Think Circles!, by Karen Robbins, (Sept. 2017, Schiffer Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764353826

Recommended for readers 0-3

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

A boy tries to find his defining talent in Just One Thing!

just-one-thingJust One Thing!, by N. Viau/Illustrated by Timothy Young, (Sept. 2016, Schiffer Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764351624

Recommended for ages 8-12

Anthony Pantaloni has GOT to get a better nickname. The class bully christened him with Antsy Pant, and he needs to get rid of that name before they start middle school, or he’ll be stuck with it for the rest of his LIFE. He needs to find his One Thing – the thing that will define him. His buddy Marcus is Mr. Athletic; Alexis is really smart; Bethany is obsessed with horses, and Cory – the bully – is the toughest kid in school. Every time he tries to develop a new talent, it just doesn’t stick. What’s a kid to do? He can’t be Antsy Pantsy forever, he just can’t! To make matters worse, his cousin, who’s living with them while her parents are deployed, drives him crazy, and his dad is dating one of his teachers! Anthony doesn’t want THAT to be what he’s known for, either! This kid needs help!

I got a kick out of Just One Thing. It’s a fun book about growing up and self-exploration; trying to figure out what you’re good at, and trying to define yourself. Anthony is funny and genuine; he’s frustrated by things around him, but tries to be sensitive to everyone around him at the same time. It’s a nice balance to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Pages at the end of each chapter let kids journal, doodle, or draw; a nice added touch that makes the book more personal for kids trying to figure out their One Thing. The book is told in the first person from Anthony’s point of view, and various words get fun font treatment for emphasis, and it works – you hear the tone as you read. There are doodles – Anthony’s doodles – and lists, so the journal feel is there.just-one-thing_2

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I would absolutely give this as a gift, but it would be wrecked in circulation. Yes, the text says to doodle or draw if it’s YOUR copy of Just One Thing, but that’s not going to fly in my library. I do have an extra copy to give as a prize in my upcoming Winter Reading Challenge, and I am going to feature this book in a Read-Aloud book club that I’m starting this month. More on that in a future post.

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Just One Thing! is a lot of fun for middle graders who love Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, and Lenore Look’s Alvin Ho series. I may write a discussion guide for this book if I can get my group talking about it – if I do, I’ll post it here.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Sometimes, being a princess ain’t all it’s cracked up to be… I Am NOT a Princess!

princess_coverI Am NOT a Princess!, by Bethany Burt/Illustrated by Brenda McCallum, (Oct. 2016, Schiffer Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764352126

Recommended for ages 3-6

Eliza loved to twirl and twirl, and she loved dressing up like a princess. She flashed her beautiful dress, jewelry, and glass slippers; but Mom asked her to go grocery shopping with her. Grocery shopping?! Princesses don’t grocery shop! They have servants to do that sort of thing for them! Honestly! She twirls away, turning down opportunities to go biking with her best friend and play baseball with her brother and his friends. Princesses don’t do things that could get their dresses dirty! When Eliza’s dad offers to let her help him paint – something she loves to do – and she turns it down because princesses don’t paint, her dad asks her what princess do, then. Eliza realizes that, come to think of it, princesses – at least, the way she’s thinking of them – don’t do much other than twirl and look pretty. That’s no fun! Maybe she doesn’t want to be a princess, after all!

I have to admit, I was conflicted while reading this book. I grew up loving my Barbies and I see little girls around me, including my niece, love their Princesses, and they aren’t the type to turn down getting good and dirty while wearing a tutu. I can see where a little girl who may have a certain vision of being a princess in her head – the princesses that are waited on hand and foot and twirl around looking pretty – may need a slight dose of reality, but enjoying Disney Princesses isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. Princesses like Merida and Mulan and Belle sure teach us that.

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I Am NOT a Princess is a good book to emphasize the importance of play-acting and the importance of having a strong sense of self. You can be a princess, and you can – and should – help around the house and go out and play. If you’re worried about a mixed message, talk about the positive characteristics of princesses: Belle’s love of reading and refusal to be bullied by the Beast; Merida’s skill with a bow and arrow; Mulan’s ability to train and fight toe to toe with the men in her army; Ariel’s rebellious nature. The most important characteristic any princess or prince needs is a good self-esteem.

The cute art will appeal to readers, as will the pink and pastel colors. Eliza is adorable, and her twirling makes her especially fun and girly. I love the clear, glossy crown on Eliza’s head on the cover of the book; it’s a nice, added touch that will draw eyes (and fingers) to the book. Little girls in my library are always asking for “Princess Books”, so this, along with Kate Beaton’s Princess and the Pony, Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious books, Catherine Hapka’s Sofia the First, and my Disney Princess books, will make for a fun display. Just make sure that the little girls in your life know that balance is good – you can be a princess and help around the house and enjoy getting dirty; it’s not a one or the other choice.

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Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Do Not Open the Box: A Picture Book Guessing Game!

box_coverDo Not Open the Box, by Timothy Young (Dec. 2015, Schiffer Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764350436

Recommended for ages 3-6

A little boy named Benny sees a box with a sign taped to it that says, “DO NOT OPEN”. Well, that just sends Benny’s imagination into overdrive: what could be in the box? Could it be something cool, like the robot he’s wanted? Or could it be something scary, like a monster? Maybe his sister put something in there to scare him!

The cartoony artwork is printed against a background made to look like corrugated cardboard, making the story look like it’s been written and drawn on a cardboard box. Sentences are simple and short, written in a rounded font and in blue to stand out against the brown cardboard background. Each spread has Benny wondering what could be in the box, and a rendering of his imagination. Kids will have loads of fun with this book: especially with the end reveal.

Bring out your own box for storytime, and have kids guess what could be in it! They can draw what they think, or they can call it out, but it’ll get their minds working and they’ll learn more about how guessing can lead us to the answers, if you provide hints and information as you go along. I could hide a teddy bear in a box and tell the kids that something furry is in the box; using trial and error, they can figure it out.

I read this book with my 3 year-old, and he loved it. He had a fun time guessing what was really going to be in the box, because nothing was too outlandish for us! “Could there be an OCTOPUS in the box? How about a REAL DINOSAUR?” Have fun with a read-aloud!

 

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Timothy Young also wrote The Angry Little Puffin, which is an adorable book that G-man (my little guy) LOVES. Now that I’m remembering that, I need to order that for my library, too; that’s a great storytime book, and so is Do Not Open the Box. Give your readers’ imaginations a workout and add this one to your collection.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, History, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade

George Washington, friendship, and time travel: The President and Me

gw_hatThe President and Me: George Washington and the Magic Hat, by Deborah Kalb/Illustrations by Robert Lunsford, (Feb. 2016, Schiffer Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764351105

Recommended for ages 8-12

Fifth grader Sam is feeling down. He’s a bit of an introvert, and when his best friend, Andrew, seemingly abandoned him to get more involved in sports, he feels more alone than ever. Plus, the most annoying kid in school took the part he wanted in the school play: the role of George Washington! During a trip to Washington’s home at Mount Vernon, Sam finds himself drawn to a beat-up old hat in the gift shop, but this is no ordinary hat: it’s a magic hat that sends him off to the 18th century, where he meets George Washington himself! As Sam travels back and forth between the present day and the 18th century, he finds himself witnessing pivotal moments in George Washington’s life, and just possibly, building a friendship with the charismatic leader.

The President and Me is a fun middle grade fantasy adventure. The hat has a personality all its own, which makes for some amusing moments; whether he’s trying to find out what a bus is or what this newfangled century is all about, or blathering on while Sam’s trying to keep him a secret, the hat is a good supporting character for Sam, often encouraging him by showing him a time in George Washington’s history that teaches Sam a lesson he desperately needs – lessons that operate under the guise of history, but carry some pretty great lessons that help Sam learn about himself, too. Black and white illustrations add interest.

Readers will find some interesting history and facts about George Washington in the book, too. Most of us know by now that George didn’t really chop down a cherry tree, let alone confess the fact to his dad, but did you know that Mount Vernon was his brother’s estate first? Or that he wanted to be a sailor before he wanted to be a soldier? The author includes some helpful sources in her acknowledgements; pair that with some resources of your own and give kids a great George Washington or Colonial America bibliography. There are a few questions left unanswered, but you can use those areas as kickoffs to discussions. (What would happen if George Washington were given a LEGO spaceship?)

A light, fun addition to your historical fantasy fiction collections.

Posted in Early Reader, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Am I Big Enough? Empowers kids!

big enough_coverAm I Big Enough?: A Fun Little Book on Manners, by Julia Pinckney/Illustrated by Timothy Young (Jan. 2016, Schiffer Publishing), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764350535

Recommended for ages 3-6

A little boy named Finn watches his family as they go about their daily activities and wonders if he is big enough to do the same things. Finn knows his hands are smaller than his daddy’s, but they are big enough to do lots of things on their own – and he invites other kids to see how big they are, too!

Each spread poses one of Finn’s questions: Am I big enough to say please? Am I big enough to be quiet in the library? On the right hand side of the page is a handprint where children can place their hands to see if, like Finn, they are big enough to handle the task at hand. Bold fonts and colors exclaim, “I AM BIG ENOUGH!” With every spread, both Finn and the readers gain confidence because they’re big enough to do a lot more than they may think.

For toddlers and preschoolers that may be hearing about all the things they aren’t allowed to do because they’re too little, a book like Am I Big Enough? shows them all the things they are big enough to do; they’re big enough to share, big enough to shake hands, and big enough to show everyone around them how fantastic they are. It’s an empowering book for little ones that could work in a smaller story time, where each child gets a chance to find out if he or she is big enough. I read this with my 3 year-old and he LOVED it. It’s gone into our daily storytime rotation, and now he’s got no problem letting our family know that he’s big enough to do “LOTS OF THINGS”.

A good addition to collections for a toddler and preschool population, and a good recommendation for anyone who needs empowering books for their little ones.

Have a look at more pages from Am I Big Enough?

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Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Trudy the Tree Frog tries out a new bed

trudy the tree frogTrudy the Tree Frog, by Jennifer Keats Curtis/Illustrated by Laura Jacques (Nov. 20015, Schiffer Publishing), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764349973

Recommended for ages 4-8

A plucky little tree frog decides to broaden her horizons, but learns that the grass isn’t always greener – and the bed isn’t always more comfortable – on the other side in this rhyming bedtime tale.

Trudy the Tree Frog is just about to get comfy in her tree, among her leaves, and fall asleep for the night, when she has an idea. She leaps onto the window of the house next to her tree and gazes in at a little girl who has a bunk bed all to herself. That bed looks so comfortable and soft! Trudy begins croaking and trilling, begging to be let in; not wanting to wake her family, the little girl obliges. Once inside, Trudy discovers that the bed really isn’t comfortable for a frog: she’s sticking to everything! The bed’s too big! She starts to cry again – but this time, she wakes up Daddy! Can Dad and the little girl get Trudy back to her tree so she can sleep?

This is a good bedtime story: it rhymes and has a definite cadence to it when read out loud. Kids may recognize themselves in Trudy, who’s satisfied with what she has until she thinks someone else has it better – and then she finds out that what makes one person happy is subjective; it may not work for another. Trudy happily ends up back where she belongs, and makes a new friend in the process.

Both the author and award-winning illustrator have a wealth of wildlife/environmental storytelling experience. Readers will learn a little bit about tree frog habitats and behaviors, and the illustrations clearly show Trudy’s sticky foot pads and tongue, and how that presents a bit of a problem for sleeping in a bed, but how it would be a big help to sleeping in a tree. The color scheme is perfect for a bedtime story, with sedate, deep blues and purples, and low yellows for the lights. Bold, black, decorative font adds a whimsical touch to storytelling and reading.

I read this story to my toddler storytime class and they really enjoyed it! They loved seeing Trudy leap and the parents got a kick out of learning about her tussle with the bed, too.

A sweet addition to bedtime story collections and nature-centric collections.

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction

Four Little Witches: A Tale of Friendship and Mother Earth

4_witches_coverFour Little Witches, by T.J. Perkins/illus. by Eimi Pinero (2015, Schiffer Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 978-0-7643-4943-0

Recommended for ages 2-6

Four Little Witches is a sweet little story about four friends who control the elements: Fiona, the Earth witch, Gale, the Air witch, Blaze, the Fire witch, and Marrie the Water witch. One day, an accident sets off a potential disaster, but the girls come together and use their powers to protect and heal the Earth.

This book works on several fronts: it’s a charming look at friendship and the power of working together, and it’s a good way to introduce the the elements to young children. Fire, water, earth, and air are powerful elements, and we see both their potentially destructive AND their healing powers here. It’s a loving look at nature and can provide a good Nature storytime read. I’d get some leaves for a fun nature craft afterward for my little group.

Eimi Pinero’s art provides an idyllic setting to go with the story, using muted pastels and vibrant colors together to communicate the beauty and power of nature. The story uses a simple black font in the white space on each page, making it both a good read-aloud choice and inviting a new reader to discover some new words.

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Four Little Witches makes a nice addition to a Nature bookshelf, providing a new way to explain the elements and engender a respect for Mother Earth.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Change the World Before Bedtime – Proof that everyone can affect positive change!

change the world before bedtimeChange the World Before Bedtime, a collaboration by Mark Kimball Moulton, Josh Chalmers, and Karen Good (Schiffer Publishing, 2012). $16.99, ISBN: 978-0764342387

Recommended for ages 4-8

For all the kids out there tired of being told that they’re too young to affect change, Change the World Before Bedtime is a primer on everything anyone, big or small, can do to bring about positive change in their world. The book takes place over the course of a day, with a group of children making positive decisions and taking positive actions to brighten the world around them. By tying on their “hero capes” and eating a healthy breakfast, they prepare for a  day of random good deeds, like picking up litter, visiting a sick friend or family member, donating clothing, toys, and food to the needy, and just thinking and saying happy thoughts and words.

The book features multicultural images and the artwork incorporates some great collage work. The images remind me of Joan Walsh Anglund’s illustrations that I loved, growing up. The rhyming text makes this a fun read-aloud, particularly to 5-6 year olds who may have a better grasp on activism. Positive messages, like “recycle” and “one beautiful world”, are emphasized throughout the book, as are images including composting, teamwork, manners, and environmental awareness. The last page of the book asks the children to write their “bright ideas to change the world before bedtime”, and the endpapers look like pieces of looseleaf paper, encouraging the children to keep writing.

The book’s optimistic tone and beautiful imagery will motivate children and adults alike to do something right away! There’s no need to wait for Earth Day to come around again – there’s always something to do to change the world.

Change the World Before Bedtime received the 2012 Gold Medal Award from the Mom’s Choice Awards.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Preschool Reads

We all have our own song – A Song for Papa Crow

song for papa crowA Song for Papa Crow, by Marit Menzin (Schiffer Publishing, 2012). $16.99 ISBN: 978-0764341311

Recommended for ages 4-8

A young crow sings his happy song wherever he goes, but the birds around him – Goldfinches, Flycatchers, and Cardinals, to name a few – can’t bear to hear Little Crow’s caw. Papa Crow tells his son that he always knows where to find him when he follows his song, but Little Crow wants to sing like the other birds. When he sees The Amazing Mockingbird sing, and finds out the bird’s secret, he wants to change his song – but learns that singing your own song is the best song of all.

This is a sweet story about individuality, by collage artist Marit Menzin. She uses mixed media collage to great effect to illustrate her story, making this a gorgeous book to use in a storytime. The textures make the birds and scenery come alive, and her font – a decorative font, black in color – allows for a reader to weave the story to an audience that can sit and listen to the tale. I would read this book to an older group, maybe 4-6, that can sit quietly and enjoy the story.

This book invites a fun workshop for any librarian/parent/educator who has the space – make your own birds with collage materials! The book also includes a list of the birds referenced in the book, with some information on each. For a simpler storytime activity, there are bird printables all over the Internet.

A Song for Papa Crow received a Mom’s Choice Award Gold Honor in 2012. The author’s website offers a look at some more of her beautiful collage work.