Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Grow Love, Share Love: Oscar’s Tower of Flowers

Oscar’s Tower of Flowers, by Lauren Tobia, (May 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217773

Ages 2-6

In this wordless book, a little boy named Oscar stays with his Nana when his mother goes away. He finds joy in planting with his grandmother, who takes him to the store to buy some seeds. Oscar’s green thumb proves to be pretty impressive, and Nana’s home quickly becomes covered in green! Oscar has an idea: share his love with others in Nana’s building! He loads up a red wagon with plants, and shares them with his grandmother’s neighbors throughout the building, spreading the joy he experienced while growing them all. When Mom returns, he happily sits on her lap, sharing some together time with Mom and Nana. Mixed media artwork beautifully tells this story, beginning with the endpapers: an apartment building bustles with people as Nana seems to wave to someone off in the distance; the back endpapers show a happier bunch of neighbors, with all of Oscar’s greenery decorating homes and the building’s roof, which appears to have added an apiary, too! The artwork is gentle, soft, loving.

As a mom of a certain age, I was relieved to see Nana looking so young! But don’t relegate yourself to the woman being Nana. There’s nowhere in the book that says so, and to be honest, until I read other reviews and the blurb text online, I thought the other woman was Mom’s partner. Flap copy says, “When someone Oscar loves has to go away on a trip, he tries to find ways to stay busy. With some grown-up help, a red wagon, and his favorite toy, Oscar plants all kinds of flowers and waits for them to grow”. You want Oscar to have two mommies? Oscar can have two mommies. The heart of the story is Oscar’s kind heart and his joy in cultivating plants to share. Keep a copy of this in your daycare/after school collections for littles who miss their parents when they go to work.

Oscar’s Tower of Flowers has a starred review from Kirkus. Visit Lauren Tobia’s website to see more of her work on Oscar’s Tower of Flowers and her work on one of my favorite chapter book series, Anna Hibiscus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Sharey Godmother has love to share!

The Sharey Godmother, by Samantha Berger/Illustrated by Mike Curato, (Apr. 2021, Imprint), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250222305

Ages 3-6

Shari T. Fairy is a fairy godmother who LOVES to share. She’ll throw you a party, she’ll share her ice cream sundae, she’ll leave you surprises on your doorstep. She just loves to share! But when other fairies get in Shari’s ear, asking what she’s getting in return for all of that sharing, Shari starts to wonder… does she share TOO much? She tries not sharing, but is so unhappy… she realizes that sharing is who she is and what she does, and that sharing and doing good things has nothing to do with what you get out of it; it’s how it makes you feel. A feel-good story about how being kind makes your world a better place, The Sharey Godmother also delivers an important lesson to readers: don’t let other people influence what you think, feel, and do! Shari knows herself best; it’s when she lets others influence her that she doubts herself and ends up doing something that goes against who she is at heart. Mike Curato’s mixed media illustration is so much fun! Cartoon artwork, photographs of various textures, bold fonts, and vibrant color make this a perfect readaloud, and a perfect book for empathy, kindness, and socio-emotional collections.

Samantha Berger is the award-winning author of books like Crankenstein and Snail Mail. Her website is a delight, with links to information about her books, her blog, and video clips from her work on Sesame Street and Nickelodeon. Mike Curato is the award-winning author and illustrator of the Little Elliott books and the YA graphic novel, Flamer. His website has links to information about his books, along with links to videos, virtual events, and his shop.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Board Book Bonanza!

I haven’t done a board book bonanza in a while, so let’s get right to it! There are OODLES of great board books out and hitting shelves soon, so make sure you have your collections ready for your littlest learners!

Surprise! Slide and Play Shapes, by Elsa Fouquier, (Feb. 2021, Twirl Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9782408024697

Ages 0-3

Way too much fun! A cat goes on an adventure in this adorable book with chunky sliding panels and colorful spreads. Readers can twist, push, wiggle, and slide colorful shaped blocks to reveal hidden panels that pop up to delight and surprise: Make birds fly, shoot stars into the sky, grow a tree, and reveal a happy rainbow. Sturdy pages will hold up to multiple readings; if your budget allows, buy two: the kids will thank you.

 

Sleep, Cat, Sleep!, by Antje Damm, (March 2021, Prestel), $9.95, ISBN: 9783791374482

Ages 0-3

This board book about a cat who wants to go to sleep is perfect for naptime and bedtime. Cat want to have a nap, but the reader’s woken him up by opening the book! With every turn of the page, sleepy cat just gets grumpier… but, wait! Cat notices YOU look a bit sleepy, too… would you like to take a nap together? Sleep, Cat, Sleep! is a silly, funny way to nudge readers toward a nap: toddlers will see themselves in a grumpy cat who doesn’t want to be woke up once he falls asleep, and they’ll also appreciate cat’s expressive facial expressions. Ask your little ones if they want to peek in and see Cat, but that they mustn’t wake him… and watch the giggles begin. If you’ve ever read Grover and the Monster at the End of the Book, you know what to do here. Colorful spreads and playful fonts will make this a book your littles will come back to often.

 

Sharing, by Alice Le Hénand/Illustrated by Thierry Bedouet, (Feb. 2021, Twirl Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9782408019716

Ages 0-3

Twirl’s Pull and Play books teach toddlers and preschoolers valuable social and emotional skills. In Sharing, Little Bear, Little Cat, and their friends are learning how to share. It’s not always easy, but thank goodness their grownups are there to help support them! Little Crocodile isn’t so sure about sharing his car with Little Kangaroo, but when Mom suggests letting Little Kangaroo play with another toy while he’s got the car, the two friends even figure out a game to play together. Little Kangaroo doesn’t really want to give up space on Mama’s lap, even for her baby brother, but Mama encourages her to scoot over, showing her that there’s room for both. Each spread has a pull tab that shows readers the before and after effects of sharing, and straightforward, simple text helps guide parents through the not-so-easy work of negotiation. The books are durable, the illustrations are colorful, and the characters are expressive. Great additions to your social-emotional learning collections.

 

Pacifier, by Alice Le Hénand/Illustrated by Thierry Bedouet, (Feb. 2021, Twirl Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9782408024611

Ages 0-3

Another addition in the Pull and Play series from Twirl, Pacifier is all about the big moment: moving away from the pacifier. Little Bear, Little Crocodile, and their friends still use their pacifiers, but their parents encourage them to leave them behind, little by little: a slow, gradual separation; say, to take a walk or go play outside. Parents encourage their little ones to think about whether or not they want to use the pacifier any more, or mention that sometimes, the pacifier is a hindrance, making it harder to be understood when speaking. When the children all leave their pacifiers behind, even for a little while, the parents cheer their children on! They’ve taken big kid steps today! Pull tabs show each character with the pacifier and in the process of putting it away. Straightforward text helps give adult caregivers easy ways to talk to children about the process of separating from the pacifier. Pull and Play Books are all about support, encouragement, and empowering our children, making them a good addition to your collections. There are nine other books in the Pull and Play collection, covering a wide range of topics for toddlers, including potty training, feelings, siblings, and saying please and thank you.

 

Drive the Race Car, Illustrated by Dave Mottram, (March 2021, Chronicle Books), $9.99, ISBN: 9781452178868

Drive the Fire Truck, Illustrated by Dave Mottram, (March 2021, Chronicle Books), $9.99, ISBN: 9781452178851

Ages 0-3

We’ve got a twofer here, with Dave Mottram’s super-cute Drive the Car books! The wheel-shaped books open up to let little hold onto the book like a steering wheel and play as their grownup reads the rhyming stories of a day in the life of a race car and a fire truck. Each spread lets the reader imagine themselves behind the wheel of a vehicle, watching the action take place from the dashboard.  The race car puts the reader on a race track, where they can see other cars they’re racing against. They can pretend to press the buttons on the dashboard and make all the fun sound effects of a race car on the move!

Drive the Fire Truck! puts the reader in the driver’s seat of a fire truck as a call comes in: there’s a fire and they have to go to the rescue! The dashboard shows readers button including the siren, horn, and the radio, all of which come into play throughout the story. The action on the streets unfolds in front of the reader as they see the black smoke, and drive toward the fire. Perfect for lapsits, and if you’re able to secure copies for a few families to read their own copies during the storytime, even better. If you’re doing a virtual storytime, this comes in handy: hold the book up and let the readers imagine they’re at the wheel as you read.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me…

Pirate Nell’s Tale to Tell: A Storybook Adventure, by Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty, (Sept. 2020, Sourcebooks), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1492698678

Ages 4-7

This rhyming tale of literacy on the high seas stars an all-canine cast. Nell, a younger pup, is so excited to join a pirate crew, but Captain Gnash scoffs at her bookishness and saves the ickiest tasks for her to do. A treasure map in a bottle shows up one night, but Captain Gnash manages to get himself and his crew into big trouble until Nell, and her Pirate’s Almanac, save the day! They finally make it to the island and discover the best treasure of all. Smart and light, this upbeat tale of books and how handy a little extra knowledge can be is great for library visits. Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty always manage to create the best stories about book lovers: they also wrote The Snatchabook and The Storybook Knight; both wonderfully woven rhyming tales of books and how they make things better. The colorful acrylic artwork will attract all readers; who doesn’t love a rollicking pirate story with sea monsters and treasure? Endpapers show off a cross-section of a pirate ship before and after the plunder. See if kids can spot the differences! Pair with Ronan the Librarian for the ultimate class visit storytime. Visit Helen Docherty’s website for downloadable goodies including masks and coloring sheets!

 

Daniela and the Pirate Girls, by Susana Isern/Illustrated by Gómez, Translated by Laura Victoria Fielden, (Aug. 2020, NubeOcho), $16.95, ISBN: 978-84-17673-27-7

Ages 5-8

The second book to star Daniela the Pirate, Daniela and her crew spend a good part of this new adventure aboard their pirate ship, the Black Croc, tracking down a group of pirates called The Fearless Piranhas. They keep showing up to rescue sea folk just before the Black Croc arrives, and the crew is starting to get worried: what if they beat the Croc to the best treasure, too? Just as the Black Croc happens upon the Fearless Piranhas ship, they both get caught up in a dangerous storm: luckily, Daniela knows a friend who can help everyone out! The two crews finally meet and decide that teamwork is the best way to work! Upbeat and positive, this pirate story is all about sharing and teamwork, with the acknowledgement that sometimes, jealousy and competition can get in the way of how we perceive others. Gómez always uses bright, cheerful colors in her artwork; here, vibrant landscapes and pirates stand out against the light blue sea and sky, really giving the characters center stage. Originally published in Spanish, this English translation will appeal to pirate fans while teaching a lesson in kindness.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

More Holiday Book Joy!

More great holiday books to crow about! Let’s take a look!

The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol, by Arthur A. Levine/Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9780763697419

Ages 5-8

“Nate Gadol is a great big spirit with eyes as shiny as golden coins and a smile that is lantern bright.” He has the gift of making things last as long as they are needed, whether it’s a tiny bit of oil that needs to stretch for the eight nights of Hanukkah, or a little bit of chocolate that will be enough to give a a family like the Glasers a sweet holiday treat. He sees the Glasers and their neighbors, the O’Malleys, helping one another out all the time, sharing what little they have with one another, so when Nate spots Santa Claus having sleigh trouble on Christmas Eve, he’s happy to figure out how to stretch some holiday magic – and share a special evening with old friends and new. Author Arthur A. Levine was inspired to write this hybrid holiday tale that creates a “supplementary mythology” that has less to do with religion than with the spirit of the holiday season.An author’s note from Mr. Levine explains his inspiration, and the story is a sweet pairing of two holidays. Acyrlic artwork is rich, with lots of texture, and gold foil accents bring a magical element to life. A cheerful holiday story to have available for your readers.

Publisher Candlewick has a free, downloadable activity kit available on their website.

 

Christmas is Joy, by Emma Dodd, (Sept. 2020, Templar Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781536215458

Ages 2-5

The latest in her Love You series, Emma Dodd creates another affectionate story that’s perfect for lapsits and cuddle time. Rhyming verse presents tender holiday musings: “Christmas is joy / that’s overflowing / It’s sparkling eyes / and faces glowing”. Two reindeer take in the wonder of the snow season together and in a group. Digital illustrations are gently colorful, with silver foil effects added for snowy winter magic. Emma Dodd’s books always create a quiet sense of joy when I read them; I hope they do for you, too. A nice choice for your holiday bookshelves.

 

The Worst Christmas Ever, by Kathleen Long Bostrom/Illustrated by Guy Porfirio, (Sept. 2020, Flyaway Books), $17, ISBN: 978-1947888098

Ages 5-8

Matthew is not happy when his family decides to pack up and move to California. He misses his friends, his school, and now, with Christmas coming, he misses snow! Palm trees instead of evergreen? No way! Pink Christmas trees for sale? NOPE. When Matthew’s dog, Jasper, runs away, Matthew is heartbroken and convinced that this will be the worst Christmas ever. His sister, Lucy, is sympathetic, but she is much more excited about the move than Matthew is, and he feels more alone than ever. It will take a special kind of magic during the Christmas Eve church service to save the holiday for Matthew. A story of feeling uprooted and finding the strength to believe, The Worst Christmas Ever is a holiday story with the message of the season at its heart. Illustrations are realistic and expressive, and the relationship between Matthew and Jasper comes across through the artwork. A nice story about believing in miracles for the kids this holiday.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Halloween Books: Bears and Boos

Bears and Boos, by Shirley Parenteau/Illustrated by David Weber, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536208375

Ages 2-5

In the seventh Bears outing by Shirley Parenteau and David Weber, the bears are getting ready for Halloween and couldn’t be more excited! They rifle through a box of costumes, but as they get excited, manners give way to chaos, and little Floppy’s knocked right on her plushy behind! Floppy decides to let everyone else have their turn, but when the fuzz clears, there’s nothing left for Floppy but a crumpled sash. The other bears realize their mistake, and each takes a turn in giving part of their costume to Floppy, creating a wonderful costume. Now that they’re all ready for Halloween, they can all enjoy their holiday. As Shirley Parenteau writes, “When the bears all share, the bears all win. Let the Halloween celebration begin!”

A gently rhyming story that makes for a wonderful readaloud about sharing and kindness, kids and adults alike will recognize the chaos that can happen when emotions run high and even small tasks, like choosing a costume from a box, becomes a free-for-all. Having the teddies empathize with their friend and share their costumes with Floppy teaches a valuable lesson about kindness. The acrylic artwork is soft in color and depicts the teddies in their different colors, with cheerful costumes. Soft orange endpapers feature hanging ghost decorations for a fun Halloween feel. A fun Halloween addition to an adorable series.

Shirley Parenteau’s author website has downloadable resources for educators and caregivers, including writing prompts and drawing sheets.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Nocturnals Easy Readers are back with The Tasty Treat and The Kooky Kinkajou!

Regular readers know how much I love Tracey Hecht’s The Nocturnals series from Fabled Films Press. There are four great middle grade novels about the three adventuring animal friends, and there have been four easy readers so far, which has been fantastic for my second grader, who loves reading them. There are positive messages in each book, and the Fabled Films friends have really put the time in to create lesson plans and learning games that address kindness and compassion among kids, using the series’ characters to communicate the message. Here’s a look at the two latest books in the Nocturnals series.

The Nocturnals: The Kooky Kinkajou, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (Sept. 2019, Fabled Films Press), $5.99, ISBN: 9781944020248

Ages 4-7

The Nocturnals Brigade meets a Karina, a careening kinkajou, while stargazing one night. Naturally, Bismark is his usual churlish self at first, but Karina leads the group through imaginative play through the forest, enchanting them with her exciting way of seeing things: a weeping willow tree becomes a rainfall; bent tree, a rainbow. Even Bismark can’t stay cranky with Karina’s contagious enthusiasm and creative way of looking at things. Nocturnals fun facts and new words make up the back matter. This makes a good readaloud for preschoolers, indulging and encouraging their imaginations and creative play, and is a Grow & Read Level 3, making it spot-on for newly independent readers.

There are great moments for discussion within the story. Bismark always makes for good “what not to do” moments; Tobin’s sweet innocence makes him the first to commit to Karina’s game, and makes him the perfect character to inspire readers to see shapes in the clouds, make up stories with the stars, and jump over rocks in an imaginary riverbed. Josie Yee’s art really captures the playful spirit of each character, making them soft, approachable, and cuddly for younger readers (especially my son, who made off with my plush Dawn months ago). Another win for my favorite group of nocturnal friends!

The Nocturnals: The Tasty Treat, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (Oct. 2019, Fabled Films Press), $5.99, ISBN: 9781944020309

Ages 4-7

The friends share a tasty treat – a pomelo, a favorite that shows up in many Nocturnals books – in this Level 1 reader. Short, simple sentences make this a good choice for pre-readers and new readers to start with, giving them some new vocabulary words and introducing them to the Nocturnals. The story revolves around Dawn, the fox, as she seeks and finds her friends one evening. Bismark has a pomelo, which he graciously offers to share, and the friends sit down to a pomelo picnic. Nocturnals fun facts reinforce character traits and introduce new words. Josie Yee’s artwork always makes the Nocturnals feel like cozy friends that kids will love spending time with. Bismark’s wide-eyed, exaggerated facial expressions are perfect for his blustering character with a heart of gold; Dawn’s all-knowing fox always has a slight smile, like she knows something most don’t (especially Bismark), and Tobin is the picture of shy but sweet, with eyes that gaze upward and a shy smile on his face.

This is a good introduction to The Nocturnals for new readers, and a great way to illustrate sharing.

The Nocturnals webpage has educator resources and activity kits, with Common Core activities and discussion questions and science activities that meet Next Generation Science standards. Activity Kits include word games, printable masks, and face-painting kits.

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

The Bossy Pirate is facing a mutiny!

The Bossy Pirate, by John Steven Gurney, (Oct. 2018, Schiffer Publishing), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764356254

Ages 6-8

A little boy who goes by the pirate moniker “Salty Jack” plays pirate in his room, and invites – well, commands, really – his friends to come on board as his crew. As the title suggests, Salty Jack is not the greatest captain or playmate, continually reminding his friends that “I’m Captain! I give the orders!” and not letting anyone else have a say in their pirate game. When he tries to boss his sister, Millie the Mermaid, around, thought, she merely says, “Mermaids don’t take orders”, and leaves. Shortly after that, Jack’s other two friends have had it with his bossiness and leave, too. Jack broods, and blames his friends for ruining his fun; when Millie returns to ask him if his friends were having fun, too, he doesn’t answer. Jack discovers that being a solo pirate is no fun, and has a change of heart that brings all his mates back on board, where they hunt for lost treasure together.

A smart easy reader story about sharing and playing well together, The Bossy Pirate is a good read-aloud and a good independent book for newly confident readers. The sentences are slightly longer than beginning easy readers, and include imaginative words like scuttlebutt, barnacle, and nautical. Back matter includes a list of nautical terms that come up in the book, and a list of “nonsense words” that the pirate friends use. The artwork combines realistic and imaginative, with action going from Jack’s room to the high seas, where whales and dolphins glide and leap around a pirate ship. The group of friends is multicultural.

The Bossy Pirate is good fun with a smart message: it’s always better to play well together. Let the kids make their own newspaper pirate hats and have a pirate storytime.

 

 

 

 

Posted in picture books

Introducing The Sharing Bees

The Sharing Bees: Kindness Matters, by Antoinette Clark/Illustrated by Russel Wayne, (2017, Royal7Publishing), $19.99, ISBN: 9780997926019

Ages 5-8

The Sharing Bees are a group of bees who play and work together in Honeycomb City. Kindness Matters stars Sadie, a worker bee who loves to share with her fellow bees, especially the adorable baby bees. Sadie heads out to get some pollen and nectar for the hive, along with her best friends, Gabby, Madi, and Simone, but when the rain starts to fall, the bees are worried: they’re loaded with with pollen and nectar, can they safely fly back to the hive? No problem! Sadie encourages her friends to work together, and the bees start sharing their load, spreading out the weight. They arrive home safely, feed the baby bees, and get some praise from the Queen herself!

Kindness Matters has a solid story to tell about teamwork and sharing. The text is a little dense for new readers, so it will work better as a readaloud. The artwork is bright and colorful, and the characters have bee bodies with human heads and antenna, so think about letting the kids make their own antenna headbands as a storytime craft. The characters are a diverse group and have big, expressive eyes and wide, happy smiles.

A cute story about teamwork and sharing, Kindness Matters is a nice additional purchase for collections.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Valentine’s Day Readaloud: Love, by Stacy McAnulty

Love, by Stacy McAnulty/Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, (Dec. 2018, Running Press), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-7624-6212-4

Ages 3-8

Stacy McAnulty and illustrator Joanne Lew-Vriethoff team up again for Love, a sweet companion to Brave and Beautiful. Here, Ms. McAnulty and Ms. Lew-Vriethoff explore the sweet side of love, illustrated by children undertaking the kindest, most gentle tasks. Stacy McAnulty’s words take on even greater significance when paired with Joanne Lew-Vriethoff’s illustrations. “Love at first sight” features a spread of kids hugging shelter pets and new siblings; greeting a new friend in nature or a new, adopted sibling at the airport; “Love needs special presents and designer greeting cards” sees friends visiting and giving gifts and making cards for others, be it a sick friend, a grandmother, or someone who just needs a pick-me-up.

Love speaks to the value of time spent with friends and family, doing good things for the purpose of seeing one another smile. As Stacy McAnulty concludes, “Because nothing else matters without love”. The colorful illustrations and multicultural group of characters will keep readers interested. It’s a comfort to read stories that remind kids (and adults!) that the simplest things are the most important, and most remembered: time spent with family, friends, and community.

Love has a starred review from Kirkus, which also notes that this is a perfect read “for balancing the commercialism of Valentine’s Day”. Have your storytime group make their own “designer greeting cards” to give to someone they love. Maybe create a list of good deeds, based on the ones here, for readers to take home, reminding them of the power of kindness. This one is a good add to your storytime and empathy collections. Stacy McAnulty has valentines and worksheets based on Love available for free download at her website!