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.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Itty Bitty Witch proves that being small is pretty handy!

The Itty Bitty Witch by Trisha Speed Shaskan/Illustrated by Xindi Yan, (July 2019, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1542041232

Ages 4-7

Betty Ann Batsworth is a little witch who can’t wait to start first grade, but she ends up being teased by some of the kids for being small and still having her kinder-broom, calling her “Itty Bitty”. The nickname makes Betty feel itty bitty on the inside, but when her teacher, Ms. Fit, tells the class that they’re going to prepare for the Halloween Dash – a big broom race – Betty is determined to win, and shuck that Itty Bitty nickname!

Coming from the kid who was ALWAYS first or second in height order, I am right there with Itty Bitty Betty. Being small is something we all have to grow into. The Itty Bitty Witch is a sweet story about overcoming childhood teasing, thinking outside the box, and determination. Betty discovers, during the course of the race, that being Itty Bitty is pretty handy – we can fit into places bigger folks can’t, after all! The digital illustration is bold, with cartoony characters and vibrant color. It’s full of teachable moments we can discuss with our kids like teasing vs. encouraging, and loving ourselves in any package.

The Itty Bitty Witch is good Halloween reading, and it’s good anytime reading. Size matters not!

Visit Xindi Yan’s illustrator page for more of her adorable artwork, and author Trisha Speed Shaskan’s author page for more info about her books.

 

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 picture books, Preschool Reads

Two new Pout-Pout Fish adventures!

Pout-Pout Fish: Back to School, by Wes Adams/Illustrated by Isidre Monés, (May 2019, Farrar Straus Giroux), $5.99, ISBN: 9780374310479

Ages 3-6

The Pout-Pout Fish is off to school! This time, he’s a substitute teacher, subbing for his favorite teacher, Miss Hewitt, who’s down with a cold. On the way to school, he meets a nervous new student and helps him feel comfortable with his new school and new classmates. When Pout-Pout – Mr. Fish here – feels a little overwhelmed in front of his first class, the little fish is there to return the favor, giving Mr. Fish the confidence to carry the class. TAt the end of the day, Pout-Pout gets a sweet drawing from his new student and a warm reception from his new students. What a way to start a school year!

Pout-Pout Fish: Back to School is a Pout-Pout Fish story by Wes Adams and illustrator Isidre Monés. I admit I miss the rhyme scheme and repetition that Deborah Diesen traditionally uses, but the emphasis on kindness present in Pout-Pout Fish stories is here. Isidre Monés uses calming blues for Pout-Pout and bright primary colors for the classroom, all of which will appeal to readers. And there are stickers at the end of the book, making this a great back-to-school gift for kids (and if you’re putting this on your library shelves, hold onto those stickers, or your books won’t last the day – hand them out to your kiddos as welcome back gifts).

 

The Pout-Pout Fish Cleans Up the Ocean, by Deborah Diesen/Illustrated by Dan Hanna, $17.99, ISBN: 9780374309343

Ages 3-6

Pout-Pout and friends are cleaning up the ocean! Mr. Fish and his friends love the ocean’s beauty, but when he looks around and sees a giant mess, he and his friends investigate and find out that THEY are the cause of the mess! That simply won’t do, so the group team up to clean up in this rhyming story by original writer and illustrator Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna.

Kids (and grownups) familiar with Pout-Pout stories will fall right into the rhyme and repetition of the story. There’s always a phrase or two that sets the plot moving; here, it’s “There’s a problem that needs solving/And we don’t know what to do/But we’re going to find some answers/Would you like to join us, too?” Old boxes of junk, food waste, plastic bags, all of it has to go, because it’s “a big… BIG.. MESS!” The friends come together to pitch in and clean up; even sorting their recyclables from their garbage. Once they’ve cleaned the ocean floor, they feel good about themselves, and extend the invitation to the reader to join them! An author and illustrator note encourages readers to clean up and protect the ocean, encouraging everyone to take action and learn more. It’s a great way to introduce conservation to kids.

The Pout-Pout website has lots of printable activities, and the website is way too much fun! (There are floating bubbles and fish!)

 

 

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

Beep and Bob bring the fun to intermediate sci-fi

I’m always on the lookout for good intermediate books (and good easy readers). There’s such an importance to good chapter books to develop that initial love of books into something really special; some kids can be a little scared by the leap from easy reader to chapter book, so you want to make sure you find that magic combination of artwork and story that will draw readers right in. When a publicist friend of mine sent copies of the first three Beep and Bob books by Jonathan Roth, she knew I’d love them and want to booktalk them. And what can I say? She was right.

Beep and Bob: Too Much Space! (Beep and Bob #1), by Jonathan Roth, (March 2018, Aladdin), $16.99, ISBN: 9781481488532

Ages 6-10

Here we have Beep and Bob’s origin story and first adventure: Bob is a kid who goes to school in space; he’s the new kid at a school called Astro Elementary, and space is apparently terrifying. Thankfully, he has a little alien friend named Beep at his side Beep’s a little guy who lost his 600 siblings while playing hide and seek in an asteroid field; he knocked on a door at Astro Elementary, Bob answered, and a friendship was born. Beep has bonded to Bob and thinks of him as a mother, even calling him “Bob-mother”. Luckily for the duo, the teachers let Beep stick with Bob throughout the school day. Bob’s got some other friends, including Lani, a supersmart girl who carries three supersmart pet spiders in a jar; and Blaster, kind of a bully, who likes to raise Bob’s hand and volunteer him for class missions: like being the first on the field trip to explore Pluto. Or exploring near the event horizon of a black hole. Which is where we find Beep and Bob in this first adventure: trying to escape, and save Lani’s spiders, from being sucked into the black hole (or, as Professor Zoome puts it, “the bye-bye-forever zone”). Can they make it out safe? (Hint: it’s the first book in a series, you tell me.)

Too Much Space! is a fun start to a new series. There’s a little bit of science fact tossed into the fun to give kids an idea of what exactly a black hole can do (bye-bye forever is certainly a clear explanation to me), and Beep’s observations are hilarious and even sweet. Extra-Credit Fun Space Facts gives drops some non-fiction knowledge related to the adventure: in this case, the discovery of Pluto , it’s downgrade to a dwarf planet, and the fact that it is seriously cold. Pair even pacing, fun writing, and outrageous scenarios with black and white artwork throughout, and this is the start of a beautiful friendship between Beep, Bob, and your readers. I started this one with my first grader last night, and he’s getting a big kick out of Beep and the whole Astro Elementary idea – but he’s not quite ready to jettison off into space just yet.

 

Beep and Bob: Party Crashers (Beep and Bob #2), by Jonathan Roth, (March 2018, Aladdin), $16.99, ISBN: 9781481488563

Ages 6-10

The second series of Bob’s Splog entries (space log entries – that make up each Beep and Bob adventure) starts off with a similar story: Bob introduces himself, Astro Elementary, and Beep’s origin. Rather than space being terrifying, though, this time, he asserts that “SPACE IS STUPENDOUSLY BORING”! This time out, things perk up a bit when Lani invites Beep, Bob, and the other Astro Elementary gang to her birthday party aboard the Starship Titanic! (Douglas Adams fans, this is where you chuckle.) It’s got everything: gravity, for starters, which is pretty fantastic; water parks, amusement parks, and 12 million hypershow channels on TV! What doesn’t it have? Ahem… escape pods. Because it’s indestructible. Where have you heard that before? Oh, and there’s a jewelry thief running around the ship, too. It’s up to Beep and Bob to save the day again!

Party Crashers ups the ante from Too Much Space by bringing the laughs and the crazy situations. We have the Titanic parallels, including the captain, a descendant of the original ship’s captain, who doesn’t know how to pilot his ship because everything is pretty much done for him. He spends most of his day in the amusement park! Throw in a little Agatha Christie-type whodunit mixed with some Star Wars humor, and laugh-out-loud moments throughout the book, and Party Crashers is a strong follow-up to Too Much Space. The Extra-Credit Fun section is all about Neptune, the planet posing a danger in this installment. Black and white artwork is plentiful and adorable.

 

Beep and Bob: Take Us To Your Sugar (Beep and Bob #3), by Jonathan Roth, (Sept. 2018, Aladdin), $16.99, ISBN: 9781481488594

Ages 6-10

Oh NO! Not only is space alternately terrifying and boring, now there’s a problem with THE FOOD! The artificial sweetinizer is broken, and Mr. DaVinci – the school maintenance man, whose genius goes unappreciated – is taking his sweet time fixing it. Bob needs sugar, and he needs it fast, so he decides to come up with his own holiday: Astroween! You see, Astro Elementary doesn’t celebrate Earth holidays, because they’re in space, so Bob and Lani form a secret club called S.C.A.R.E.S. (Society of Candy Addicts who Rely on Energy from Sugar) and employ some quick thinking to create an entirely new holiday and convince Principal Quark to let the school celebrate Astroween. It’s a success but as the kids are planning their costumes and waiting for the candy rush, Beep convinces Bob to send a message out into space, hoping to attract some of his own kind. The message ends up attracting a bunch of sugar-crazy aliens who want to convert all the candy into power for their fleet! Beep and Bob are going to need to do some fast thinking and talking to get out of this one.

Take Us to Your Sugar is a sweeter (no pun intended) adventure in this series, as Lani and Bob start thinking of how lonely Beep feels as the only one of his kind aboard the ship. It’s no less amusing, especially with the addition of the long-suffering Mr. DaVinci, who can’t seem to believe that human race has progressed to the stars and yet… we’ve stayed relatively simple. The Extra-Credit is on Earth holidays and planetary years.

Jonathan Roth has created a smart, humorous series with heart for intermediate readers. Have readers who aren’t quite ready for Diary of a Wimpy Kid but want something funny to read? This is the series for them. There’s a fourth book coming – Double Trouble – next  month, so invest in this series now and get your readers in at the beginning. Beep and Bob was named one of Scholastic Teacher Magazine’s “50 Magical Books for Summer”. Jonathan Roth’s Beep and Bob webpage has loads of info about the author and his series, including scans of his artwork from childhood on – he’s an elementary school teacher, so he knows how to talk to kids! – and there’s an adorable, free PDF available to teach readers how to draw Beep.  Absolute cuteness.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

Celebrate holidays with Ellie May!

Ellie May on President’s Day, by Hillary Homzie/Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler, (Nov. 2018, Charlesbridge), $14.99, ISBN: 9781580898195

Ages 6-10

Second grader Ellie May loves learning about the US Presidents and is desperate to show her patriotism during Presidents’ Week at school. She just has to be flag leader during the Pledge of Allegiance during this week! She is on a mission to be presidential and to make sure her teacher, Ms. Silva, knows it; this way, she’ll be sure to get picked. But Ellie can’t seem to catch a break, whether she’s chopping the class plant (a cactus!) while trying to relive George Washington and the cherry tree, or taking apart the pencil sharpener and making a big mess, while attempting to tinker like Abraham Lincoln. Don’t even ask about how she tried to make her little sister, Midge, a flag, so she could teach her the Pledge at home. Ellie’s got a good heart and means well – she just has to learn to let that shine through, and most importantly, to be patient.

This is a brand new chapter book series that celebrates popular classroom holidays, and stars a dynamic, funny child of color named Ellie May. Second graders will love her, and they’re sure to see themselves reflected in her and her quest to be noticed. Patience? Who needs patience, when you’re eager? Ellie discovers she has a lot to learn as each of her attempts to show off for her teacher end in near catastrophe, but she’s surrounded by supportive friends, family, and teachers who are there to slow Ellie down and put her on the right path. Written in the first person from Ellie’s point of view, and illustrated with black and white sketches throughout, kids will enjoy this one – and it’s a great series to feature in classrooms and libraries. back matter includes the history of the Pledge of Allegiance, and of the Presidents’ Day holiday.

 

 

Ellie May on April Fools’ Day, by Hillary Homzie/Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler, (Dec. 2018, Charlesbridge), $14.99, ISBN: 9781580898201

Ages 6-10

Ellie May is back, and is ready for April Fools’ Day! Her class is allowed to celebrate, as long as the pranks are made in good fun. Ellie decides she’s going to prank her friend, Ava, whose birthday celebration is taking place on the same day! After a few attempts at pranks fall flat at home and at school, she’s ready for the big day: but this is Ellie May, after all, and her attempt at a silly goof goes awry when she gets carried away in the classroom. After sitting it out and thinking it over, Ellie May starts understanding the true meaning of a good-natured prank, apologizes to her friend, Mo, and to Ava, and celebrates April Fool’s Day with her whole class as her teacher takes them outside for a rare bird sighting!

This second Ellie May story is every bit as fun as the first one. Ellie is trying so hard to make a name for herself that she gets a little carried away, but it’s never mean-spirited, and she’s always got someone there to point her in the right direction. Kids will see themselves and their classmates in this one, and the story lends itself to a good discussion about how getting carried away can lead to hurt feelings or hurt body parts. The teacher’s April Fools’ Day activity is a fun one – I may have to try that one in the library. Back matter includes an explanation on April Fools’ Day’s history and traditions. Black and white illustrations throughout add to the fun and promote reader interest.

This series is going on my to-buy list. Chapter books do really well here at my library, and books about classroom holidays – holidays, in general, for my growing readers – are always in high demand. I’ll have to mention this series to a few visiting teachers, too!

 

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Show kids the excitement of cooking with Kids Cooking!

Kids Cooking: Students Prepare and Eat Foods From Around the World, by George Ancona, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763698768

Ages 4-7

When my son (now a high schooler) was in first grade, his school participated in a great program called CookShop. The teachers ran the program, and we parents volunteered as helpers, and a couple of times a month, kids learned cooking skills: chopping (with plastic knives), mixing, and the math involved in putting together a recipe. I loved it, and he loved the process of creating meals. No, he didn’t eat anything he made (that honor went to me), but working together brought us even closer, and the whole class came together as a group to prepare and share food. I may have enjoyed CookShop more than he did – I still have my apron! – and am glad it’s still a program in NYC schools. When I read Kids Cooking: Students Prepare and Eat Foods From Around the World, I was immediately brought back to that first grade classroom and the warm memories.

Kids Cooking is photographer George Ancona’s venture into classrooms where a similar organization, Cooking with Kids, brings children from diverse backgrounds come together to prepare healthy meals from different cultures. They roast vegetables and prepare a Moroccan sauce called chermoula; make Chinese-American fried rice with sweet and sour cucumbers; work together to cook up an Italian minestrone soup with breadsticks, and learn about different tomatoes that go into making a Mexican salsa with tortillas and tamales. They draw pictures as they go; teachers use a globe to demonstrate where different meals originate, and parents and teachers make sure that everyone’s cooking experience is safe and exciting.

The book presents photos of the kids and grownups at work, along with some of the children’s artwork, and phrases from the cultures whose meals they’ve prepared. It’s a celebration of food, friendship, and different cultures: meals prepared and shared together are the best meals. An author’s note mentions the Cooking With Kids program and the schools that participated in the book.

With the holidays on the horizon, Kids Cooking is a great book to read to kids and get them talking about meals they enjoy at home. A recipe link included in the book didn’t work for me, but the Cooking with Kids website has recipes available: see if your family wants to try a few out!

You can find more of George Ancona’s photos and learn more about his children’s books here.