Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Essential school year knowledge: How to Be Cooler Than Cool

How to Be Cooler Than Cool, by Sean Taylor/Illustrated by Jean Jullien, (July 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536215298

Ages 3-7

A cat finds a pair of sunglasses, dons them, and immediately pronounces herself “cooler than cool”. She really is… until she decides that she’s so cool, she can go down the slide backwards, to look “cooler than cool… WITH EXTRA COOL ON TOP”! When she falls and her glasses get knocked off, Cockatoo and Pig each find the glasses, adapting the same “cooler than cool” stance, until they, too, try stunts that end much like Cat’s. The glasses were supposed to make them cooler than cool; what happened? Chick stops by to teach them the best lesson: having fun and not being worried about looking cooler than cool? That’s the coolest thing of all. A smart, laugh-out-loud funny story about being concerned with appearances, kids will love and see themselves in How to Be Cooler Than Cool. I say this as a mom who’s seen my own kids hold punching contests, sliding sandwich contests (using the slide to slam into the kid before you, piling on and on until someone eventually goes flying), and, for some reason, deciding against wearing a sweatshirt or jacket when it’s chilly out, all in the quest of looking eternally cool. Jean Jullien’s bold ink illustrations capture the spirit of the story, with hilarious posing and the aftermath of “being cool”.

An excellent readaloud choice, make sure to don your own supercool glasses (or not, it may be too dark to read, and that will certainly NOT be cool).

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

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Turkey Goes to School

Welcome back to school with a HUGE giveaway for a great new book! Read ahead to find out more!

It’s time to go back to school, and Turkey can’t wait! He and his friends at the farm are practicing their writing and math skills, getting ready to show off their big brains in the classroom, but the school bus brings with it the bad news: animals can’t go to school! Turkey just knows he has to show the students, teachers, and the principal that he and his friends belong in school, and he’s going to find a way to do it equipped with his brains and a closet full of costumes.

Turkey Goes to School, by Wendi Silvano/Illustrated by Lee Harper,
(Aug. 2021, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542023641
Ages 4-8

Wendi Silvano’s Turkey books are a staple in my library, with Turkey Trouble holding a firm favorite spot in my Thanksgiving storytimes. Wendi Silvano and Lee Harper have worked on four Turkey books, inviting us to share holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and Halloween with them, and now it’s time to take Turkey to school! The story is adorably fun and silly, with Turkey trying his very best to score an invite to school, even inserting himself into an actual story to get there (while the teacher reads Turkey Trouble: I love a good cameo appearance!)

The story will appeal to kids who can’t wait to get back to school, and show kids who want summer to last forever that school can be a pretty fun place to be, whether or not they’re sharing classrooms with farm animals. The artwork is light-hearted, with expressive animals and people alike; exaggerated expressions and colorful spreads will keep readers interested in both farm life and classroom interactions. Positive messages about school and about rolling with changes make this a great way to start a school year. The school has a diverse group of students and little details throughout will keep kids’ attention. Ask them what they see that reminds them of their own classrooms!

Add Turkey Trouble to your holiday collections and Back to School storytime lists. I’d love to see teachers reading this to welcome their students back!

Wendi Silvano was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and has lived in Oregon, Colorado, and Peru. The author of the Turkey Trouble series, she has a BA in early childhood education and taught preschool and elementary school for eleven years. She is the mother of five children and the owner of an assortment of odd pets that are not nearly as clever as Turkey. She now writes from her home in Colorado, where she enjoys hiking, reading, and playing the piano. Visit her online at wendisilvano.com.

Lee Harper is the author-illustrator of the books CoyoteThe Emperor’s Cool Clothes, and Snow! Snow! Snow! Lee is also the illustrator of the Turkey Trouble series, by Wendi Silvano, as well as the Woolbur series, written by Leslie Helakoski. Lee has four children, a German shepherd, a Great Pyrenees, two barn cats, eleven chickens…but no turkeys. Yet. He lives with his wife in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Visit him online at leeharperart.com.

“A cute twist on both the farm and school themes.” Kirkus Reviews

To celebrate this latest installment in the Turkey Trouble series, Two Lions is offering a set of all 5 books in the series: Turkey TroubleTurkey ClausTurkey Trick or Treat, Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter, and Turkey Goes to School to one lucky winner (U.S. addresses). Just enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Summertime Rumble! Beach Toys vs. School Supplies

Beach Toys vs. School Supplies, by Mike Ciccotello, (June 2021, Farrar Straus and Giroux), $17.99, ISBN: 9780374314040

Ages 3-6

It’s beach toys versus school supplies in a sandcastle contest to beat all sandcastle contests! Shovel is relaxing at the beach when Ruler shows up to start working. Shovel doesn’t want to think about school just yet! The two decide to find out who’s better – beach toys or school supplies – with a sandcastle building contest, and the two teams set to work. Just as the winner is determined, a big wave threatens to wipe out one of the castles: will the two groups work together to save the castle and enjoy the summer?

An adorable look at the balance between work and play, Beach Toys vs. Sand Castles is filled with fun and wry observations about both sides: the school supplies naturally only want to work and appear pompous, while the beach toys are all about fun. Messages about teamwork and respecting the need for a work and play balance come across playfully and with equal weight to both sides. Cartoon artwork is colorful, with anthropomorphic supplies bearing fun, exaggerated expressions. Endpapers show the toys and supplies standing off against one another; look for my favorite, the backpack, pocket unzippered to reveal a menacing box of colored pencils shaking a fist.

Absolute fun, with a free, downloadable activity kit, to boot! Find it here. Read this to your preschoolers and kindergarteners who may be annoyed by already seeing school supplies creeping back into stores and assure them that there’s room for both.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade

Johnny Constantine, the Early Years!

The Mystery of the Meanest Teacher: A Johnny Constantine Graphic Novel, by Ryan North/Illustrated by Derek Charm, (June 2021, DC Comics), $9.99, ISBN: 9781779501233

Ages 7-10

More DC Comics for Kids! You know how much I love this middle grade series, and introducing hard-bitten demonologist John Constantine – one of my favorites! – to kids with a kid-friendly background makes me SO happy. Don’t fret, none of his dark backstory or unattractive habits show up here. Johnny Constantine is a kid who just happens to know magic and knows a handful of demons in his native London, but when he’s sent to boarding school in America, he discovers that his magic isn’t as easily accessible here. Johnny, who prefers to be called “Kid”, is a loner with no patience for friends, but a fellow student named Anna is too interested in Johnny’s abilities when she sees him manifest a pencil out of thin air. Turns out, Anna likes magic, too! The two new friends also have some concerns about one of their teachers, who seems to have it out for Johnny and who may or may not be a witch.

The story is hilarious and so well done. We perfectly get the feel for Johnny’s loner, antihero character, a guy who learned in childhood that you push people away before they can reject you, or run screaming from your abilities; whatever happens first. It’s a guessing game, and a few well-known and loved DC characters make appearances, making this a book kids and their parents can enjoy together (still thrilled that The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid introduced my then 7-year old to Swamp Thing). There’s magic mixed with the struggles of being a kid – making friends, enduring school, staying out of the way of a teacher who doesn’t like you – and will appeal to graphic novel readers in a big way. I’m really hoping I get to see more of Kid Constantine.

Author Ryan North is a comic book writer who kids will know from his Eisner- and Harvey Award-winning run on Adventure Time. Sign up for his newsletter at his author page. Derek Charm is an Eisner Award winner whose work you’ll recognize from Star Wars and Archie Comics.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Back to school stories to soothe everyone’s nerves

Two more back to school stories to make the days a little brighter. And we can all use that.

It’s Not a School Bus, It’s a Pirate Ship, by Mickey Rapkin/Illustrated by Teresa Martinez, (June 2020, imprint), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250229779

Ages 3-6

It’s the first day of school, and as the school bus rolls up to the bus stop, a young boy is nervous: who will he sit with? Who will talk to him? It looks really scary in there! But never fear! The school bus driver is there to let him in on a secret: it’s not a school bus… he’s boarded a PIRATE SHIP! The school bus transforms into a magical pirate ship, taking the kids on an adventure as they swashbuckle their way to school! This fun back to school story speaks to the fears some kids have, especially when boarding a school bus by themselves for the first time: as he walks in, the artwork shows a scary interior with childlike drawings of stick figure bullies, snakes, sharks, and ghosts! All it takes is an empathetic driver to put our main character at ease by encouraging him to think of the trip as a pirate adventure, and the artwork becomes a riot of imagination and color, with a school bus pirate ship sailing the high seas of the neighborhood, with street signs like “Yo Ho Ho” and cross streets called “Shiver” and “Me Timbers”. Dogs go past in rowboats; flying fish and dolphins play in the water, and the bus passengers all become fast friends, trading pirate jokes and singing pirate songs. By the time they drop anchor at school and head into their classroom, the kids are ready for their next adventure… announced on the last page. Childlike drawings of mermaids with backpacks, crabs waving hot dogs, and shark with sunglasses decorate the endpapers.

A companion to 2019’s It’s Not a Bed, It’s a Time Machine, this is a fun adventure that takes a little bit of the fear out of that school bus ride, and adds a spark of imagination to your day.

 

Mila Wants to Go to School, by Judith Koppens/Illustrated by Anoukh Nijs, (Sept. 2020, Clavis Publishing), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1605375694

Ages 3-6

Mila is a little girl who can’t wait to go to school! Why is Daddy taking SO LONG to get her there? This adorable story of a little girl who can’t wait to start school reaches out and touches the hearts of every parent who has the hardest time letting go, especially on that first day. While Mila is full of get-up-and-go, we see Daddy take a little extra time… he has to tie his shoe before he leaves; he makes sure to greet a neighbor on the way out; and look, there’s the playground! Maybe Mila wants to have some playtime on the swings before school? Mila wonders why Daddy is being so dilly-dally, but we parents know why: it’s right there, on Dad’s face, when they arrive at school and he goes from a small smile to an uncertain frown. He even asks Mila if she’s sure she doesn’t want to go back home with him. After Mila reassures her Daddy that she may make new friends, but he’ll always be her Daddy, she heads in to enjoy her first day at school and we know that Daddy will be waiting for that clock to let him know when to get her.

Mila and her dad are characters of color. The illustrations are warm and humorous; colors are bright but not overpowering, letting the story speak for itself and providing context with body language and facial expressions. For every parent who’s heart hurts letting go, Mila Wants to Go to School is for you. Mila Goes to School is the companion to Mila Has Two Beds, published earlier this year.

 

When We Stayed Home, by Tara Fass, LMFT & Judith A. Proffer/Illustrated by Yoko Matsuoka, (Sept. 2020, Huqua Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781-7353844-0-5

Ages 5-8

This is a different kind of back to school book, but it’s a different kind of back to school year. When We Stayed Home is a look at one boy’s experience with being home. Pictured on the cover wearing a spotted mask, he’s posing with his dog who’s wearing a dog-snout mask. In straightforward, uncomplicated text, he tells us about when he and his family stayed home “to help the helpers… when a scary virus traveled all over the world”. It’s a story kids and adults will be able to relate to, as he details all the things he’s done in quarantine: washing his hands (“All. The. Time.”), building forts, doing crazy things with his hair, and having screen time with family and friends. He thinks about everyone he misses, and admits that “even super-helpers are sad every now and then”, letting readers know that it’s okay to have mixed emotions in the middle of this global malestrom. He enjoys being a super-helper superhero, but sometimes, the mask gets annoying to wear; he misses his friends, his school, and going to the playground. An uplifting and honest story to everyone, especially those children who are attending school remotely so far this year, When We Stayed Home is a gentle book that stands as a witness to these challenging times, and will be an interesting book to look back on when this is in our past.

 

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Back to School stories!

Step right up, I’ve got a bunch of back to school stories for your readers!

Pearl Goes to Preschool, by Julie Fortenberry, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536207439

Ages 3-5

Pearl is the youngest and smallest student at her mother’s ballet school, but when Mom suggests that Pearl try out preschool – a school full of kids her age! – she’s got some questions: Is there dancing? Do they have stories? What else is there to do? Mom answers all of Pearl’s questions, and Pearl mulls it over, finally deciding that yes, she, and her stuffed mouse, Violet, are ready to try out preschool. Narrated from little Pearl’s point of view, this is an adorable story for kids getting ready for preschool: questions get answers, there’s a routine to the day, and best of all, Pearl has a wonderful day – and dances! Digital illustrations are soft, with muted pastels and lovely illustrations of ballet dancing and the relationship between a mother and her child. An adorable addition to school stories.

A free, downloadable activity kit features a Pearl paper doll with two outfits! Try to print it out on a heavier card stock, so it’s durable. Brightly has a good list of ballerina books for preschoolers, Scholastic has a list of books for beginning preschoolers.

 

Play Day School Day, by Toni Yuly, (June 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536202830

Ages 3-7

It’s always a good day for a Toni Yuly book, and her latest, Play Day School Day, captures a sweet moment between a little boy and his older sister. Mona, a young girl, is excited for the first day of school; her younger brother, Milo, asks what she does at school. “Lots of things”, Mona replies, and tells him about a typical school day, from riding the bus, to practicing reading, writing, science, and math. She tells him that sometimes, one must sit quietly at school, but other times, one can run around and be loud with friends. Mona makes school sound pretty great! The two siblings share their day in a garden or backyard, playing together with their black cat. Toni Yuly’s spare prose is to-the-point and enticing, giving Milo a wonderful vision of school. The story text is bold and black, easily readable against the bright white background, and Toni Yuly’s mixed media artwork is bright, cheerful, and vibrant. Play Day School Day is a fun school story for school-aged children and their younger siblings.

Pair Play Day School Day with Anna McQuinn’s books, Lola Reads To Leo.

 

I Got the School Spirit!, by Connie Schofield-Morrison/Illustrated by Frank Morrison, (July 2020, Bloomsbury Kids US), 9781547602612

Ages 4-7

She’s back! The exuberant, spirit-filled little girl from Connie Schofield-Morrison and Frank Morrison’s previous books, I Got the Rhythm! and I Got the Christmas Spirit! is back and ready for school in her newest story! Brushing her teeth, and getting dressed, she’s filled with the spirit, which stays with her and powers her – and her friends – through the school day! The spirit helps her comfort a scared friend on the school bus and enjoy her school day; it helps her kick a ball at recess, and propels her right into her mother’s arms at the end of her school day, leaving her ready to do it all again the next day. Filled with small moments that make up a school day, and with gorgeous, evocative oil painting, I Got the School Spirit! is the picture of Black Joy, and a picture book that will get kids excited about their own upcoming school days. Sound effects throughout: the stomp, stomp of shiny new shoes, zip, zip! of a school bag, and crunch, munch, sip! of lunchtime makes this a perfectly interactive read-aloud. A definite must-add to your back-to-school/first day of school collections.

For more Black Joy book selections, refer to these articles and lists from School Library Journal, We Are Teachers, Brightly, and Helping Kids Rise.

All Welcome Here, by James Preller/Illustrated by Mary GrandPré, (June 2020, Feiwel and Friends), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-15588-7

Ages 4-7

James Preller, author of the Jigsaw Jones chapter book series, and Mary GrandPré, whose illustrations we all know and love from Harry Potter, come together to present a collection of haiku poems about the first day of school. Covering subjects like new school supplies, the fear of boarding the bus, and class pets, all students will find themselves in the words and mixed media illustrations in the book. Moments like “Growing Up”, as a parent sighs after waving goodbye to the school bus, and “Principal K”, the new principal who has a dab of shaving cream on his ear, show kids that we grownups have our own first-day jitters, too. It’s not easy saying goodbye to our littles and it’s a little scary when the first day of school is your first day of work, too! Other poems celebrate first-day stalwarts like name tags on desks, the Reading Rug (it was the Circle Time rug when my elder boys were was in grade school), and running errands – and choosing a friend to accompany – all find their voice here. “Library” is a touching nod to school libraries everywhere: “…the whoosh and thrum / of the school’s heart beat”. Colorful and buoyant, with a diverse group of students and teachers, All Welcome Here is a thank you letter to schools, teachers, and students everywhere.

A free, downloadable storytime kit encourages readers to write their own haikus and make their own name tags.

 

I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in the Principal’s Office, by Jancee Dunn/Illustrated by Scott Nash, (June 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201987

Ages 3-8

A delightfully hilarious companion to Jancee Dunn and Scott Nash’s 2017 book, I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in Trouble Today, I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in the Principal’s Office is all about you – the principal is speaking to you, isn’t she? – and your teddy, who stashed away in your backpack and went to school with you today; Teddy, along with your friends’ stuffed animals, who all did the same thing, waited until everyone was in assembly to burst out of their schoolbags and wreak havoc all over your school! They wrote their names with condiments and tied up the coach; they trapped the art teacher in glue and rolled around in finger paint. As the principal details everything that went on during the day, parents will have to suppress their giggles – just like poor Mr. Krimple, standing next to the principal – as they imagine the principal’s tone of voice. But are you really in the principal’s office? Is there even a principal? Or is it an imaginative little girl playing school? Way too much fun to read and act out, I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in the Principal’s Office is fantastic reading… and will put a new spin on playing school, I’m sure. The colorful digital illustrations showcase a group of stuffed toys having the time of their lives throughout school, as teacher chase them through the chaos. The title page begs for a real-life storytime setup, featuring a bunch of guilty-looking toys sitting uncomfortably on chairs, some covered in paint, waiting to be claimed by their children. Just great fun to read.

 

When Pencil Met the Markers, by Karen Kilpatrick & Luis O. Ramos, Jr./Illustrated by Germán Blanco, (July 2020, imprint), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250309402

Ages 4-8

The companion to 2019’s When Pencil Met Eraser, also by Karen Kilpatrick, Luis O. Ramos, Jr., and Germán Blanco, is about teamwork, friendship, and coloring outside the lines. A group of markers loves to color, but Purple sees things differently. He colors outside the lines, which drives the other markers CRAZY. They confront Purple, telling him his creativity is a mistake and that he doesn’t fit in. Dejected, Purple sets out on his own and meets Pencil and Eraser, who inspire him to look at things differently: he doesn’t need lines! As Purple creates, Pencil and Eraser fill in the area around his work, making gloriously purple grapes, butterflies, birds, and cupcakes. The creative team’s work draws the attention of the other markers, who ultimately learn that coloring outside the lines can be fun, and Pencil says – in a tribute to Bob Ross – that “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents!” It’s a great story to read to kids, while reminding them that it’s good to approach life with a flexibility and attitude, and to color outside the lines every once in a while. Be creative, take chances, and don’t be afraid to be the Purple Marker. The digital artwork has bright, primary colors that pop off the bright white background; dialogue between the markers, Pencil, and Eraser are bold and rounded, while the narrative text is more of a Roman font, not bolded. Endpapers let Purple – and, later, the other markers – show off their scribbly best. Full of lessons that respect the reader, When Pencil Met the Markers is perfect for school stories like Eraser, by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant, The Day the Crayons Quit/The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers, and A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen and Mike Lowery. Visit the When the Pencil Met website to sign up for their newsletter and get a free, downloadable activity book.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Back to School stories: Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten!

Hi all! I’m getting caught up on the avalanche of books in my home, so bear with me if I’m a little behind on my Back to School posting. NYC public school kids are back to school today – GOOD LUCK, EVERYONE! – and I’ve been getting my kiddos ready to start their school years off right. (So. Many. Supplies.) Anyway, with that, let’s talk starting Kindergarten with Lisa Robinson and Eda Kaban!

Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten, by Lisa Robinson/Illustrated by Eda Kaban,
(Aug. 2019, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542092753
Ages 4-6

Yeeeargh! It’s the first day of Kindergarten, but Pirate Emma has decided that she’s not leaving her preschool Captain, Cap’n Chu, and her crew! Cap’n Chu brings her over to the Kindergarten classroom – a spaceship! – but Pirate Emma isn’t having it. She runs back to Cap’n Chu’s room and refuses to leave, even going so far as to start a mutiny, and threatening Cap’n Chu with walking the plank! Thankfully, the Cap’n is a good and understanding Cap’n, who’s likely been through this before. She consoles Emma and convinces her that, while it’s time to join her new crew, she can always visit the pirate waters of preschool. From there, Emma’s ready: she joins the Kindergarten class as Space Pirate Emma.

This is a story that gets it. The transition from Pre-K to Kindergarten can be tough for kids, and Emma embodies those feelings of fear and defiance. She bellows things like, “Pirates don’t go to Kindergarten!”; “Pirates don’t take naps!”, and “Pirates don’t follow rules!” as she pushes back against having to join her new class, and it takes the combination of the very patient Ms. Hayes, the Kindergarten teacher, and the very understanding Ms. Chu, to help Emma work through her worries and resistance, leading her to make the decision to join her new Kindergarten crew.

Having been one of those moms, reading Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten was a relief: authors and illustrators who get it! They’re speaking to my now-second grader, who used to wake up morning after morning with one ailment or other that would render him unable to go to Kindergarten (and he, too, had a VERY understanding teacher, thank goodness). They’re speaking to me, letting me know that this is okay. I’m not the first parent, nor will I be the last, who will have a pirate that defies Kindergarten, or first grade, or maybe things on a smaller level, like going to the bathroom in school, or eating school lunch. This is all part of growing up, and growing up can be scary and hard. Having books like this can make it easier on all of us: kids, parents, caregivers, and educators alike.

The digital illustrations are colorful and lend themselves to exciting classrooms, where teachers create atmospheres for their students: Cap’n Chu created a pirate setting for her Pre-K class; Ms. Hayes has a spaceship-themed classroom for her Kindergarteners. (Psst… these teachers exist, I know a bunch of them!) The illustrations are enticing, giving kids (and worried caregivers) a glimpse into how fun a classroom can be. There are also tons of craft project ideas here: pirate hats and paper swords, anyone? Space helmets and stars?

Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten is aces for me. I’ll be reading this to my son’s former Kindergarten teacher’s class, to let those kids know that pirates certainly DO go to Kindergarten, and it’s pretty darned cool.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blob Tour Stop: A. Blob on a Bus

Hi, all! Happy to be a stop on this fun book tour about a bully, a blob (one and the same), and a bus. Read on!

A. Blob on a Bus, by L.A. Kefalos/Illustrated by Jeffrey Burns,
(July 2019, Laughing Leopard Press), $9.95, ISBN: 978-1-731251107
Ages 3-6

The second book in the A. Blob series stars A. Blob, who’s just a big, gooey bully. He pulls hair, he oozes all over the place as he shoves his way through the bus, he throws erasers, he’s just awful. One day, a little girl named Alexandra has had enough. She confronts the bully, and the other kids, bolstered by her courage, stand behind her. Faced with a united front, the bully puts itself in their shoes, and stops oozing! What lies beneath the muck that is A. Blob?

The first book, This is A. Blob, took a look at the other side of bullying, introducing us to the big, oozing bully tormenting kids at the school playground, and hints that bullies can be sad and lonely people who have trouble connecting with others. Here, we’ve got another common bully setting – the school bus – and the story of what happens when one person says, “Enough”. With A. Blob’s ooze slithering away, we see that possibly, that ooze is a wall built up to keep others out. The third book promises to reveal all!

The artwork reminds me of Nick Jr.-like characters; a realistic cartoony feel. Characters are diverse, with large, expressive eyes. Blob’s eyes are just as expressive, on eye stalks at the top of his head, letting readers know that there’s more than just what’s on the surface. The A. Blob books are a nice addition to your anti-bullying bookshelf, adding a thoughtful look at a bully’s internal motivation while encouraging kids to stand up for themselves and others. Display and read with Kathryn Otoshi’s books, particularly One.

There are bullying facts and free, downloadable materials guides for both This is A. Blob on A. Blob on a Bus at the Laughing Leopard website.