Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Counting, Colors, and Animals Eating – Concept Fun!

Two fun picture books give kids the giggles while inviting them to count, call out colors, and animals!

One Shoe Two Shoes, by Caryl Hart/Illustrated by Edward Underwood, (July 2019, Bloomsbury USA), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-5476-0094-6

Ages 3-6

A dog and a bunch of curious mice explore all the shoes in their world in this adorable rhyming story. The rhyming pattern reminds me of Dr. Seuss’ classic, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish – “Old shoes/New shoes/On their way to school shoes” – minus the wacky, new words. The pup notices shoes all around, both inside and outside the home, when…. wait! There are two mice, making a home in a pair of shoes! A few more scramble by the dog, and before you can say “shoelace”, there are 10 mice, all making their homes in various sneakers, skates, and boots.

Originally published in the UK in 2018, this is an absolutely fun concept book that would work nicely with felt board accompaniment. The pencil, ink, and digital collage artwork is bold and bright, with primary colors and bold black fonts. The endpapers are loaded with footwear. The rhyming, counting, and colors in this book make it a multitasker for concepts, making this a good add to your concept bookshelves and storytimes. Pair with Hart and Underwood’s companion picture book, Big Box Little Box for more concept fun!

Visit author Caryl Hart’s webpage for info about visits and, for aspiring writers, mentorship! Illustrator Edward Underwood features more of his artwork on his Instagram.

What Does an Anteater Eat?, by Ross Collins, (July 2019, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0591-6

Ages 3-6

Anteater wakes up hungry, but there’s a bit of a problem. What does an anteater eat? He sets off to find out, asking sloths, snakes, bats, and cheetahs he encounters on his exploratory walk, all with different results. The book is one hilarious inside joke – we know what the anteater eats, and it’s a good bet that the ants scurrying across each spread in the story do, too – presented in Q&A format. The anteater asks every new animal he meets what anteaters eat, and the animals’ responses are colored by their experiences: the snake, belly bulging with its latest meal, cautions the anteater to chew its food; the cheetah hungrily eyes the anteater. The anteater’s questions are in bold font; the responses, in italics, signaling the chance in voice to your audience. The adorable, funny ending makes the book a storytime winner for toddlers and preschoolers.

Originally published in the UK in 2018, What Does an Anteater Eat? has the playfulness that make Ross Collins’ books so much fun to read. This one is another great candidate for felt board storytelling or puppet accompaniment. Collins’ artwork is cartoony and entertaining with a playful sense of joy added to each spread. The endpapers are in on the story’s joke, starting with an ant crawling across the front endpapers, and finishing with a pile of banana peels.

This one is a storytime winner. Ross Collins’ author webpage includes info about his books, and provides free, printable posters of his book covers and a few activity sheets.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Socially smart storytelling: Sara Varon’s New Shoes

New Shoes, by Sara Varon, (March 2018, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781596439207

Recommended for readers 8-12

Francis the Donkey is the best shoemaker in his village, using the finest materials to handcraft beautiful shoes. One day, he gets the most exciting news: his favorite calypso singer, Miss Manatee, is coming to sing in his village, and she wants him to create a special pair of new shoes just for her! He’s so excited, but he’s out of the special tiger grass that’s integral to his shoe designs. He asks his friend and supplier, Nigel the Squirrel Monkey, to go into the jungle and get some more tiger grass, but when Monkey doesn’t come back as expected, Francis has to go find him… will he get back to his village AND be able to make Miss Manatee’s shoes on time?

I am a Sara Varon fan. I loved Sweater Weather, and my library kids adore Robot Dreams. I love her cartoony illustration, her bright colors, and in the case of New Shoes, the deeper messages found in her story. Francis is a genuinely kind character who is mortified when he discovers that his shoe materials have been acquired via shady means, and immediately sets to putting things right. When Francis realizes he has to make special accommodations for his newest client, he does the work, researching how to make the best footwear for Miss Manatee. Nigel is big enough to admit his mistakes, apologizes, and helps Francis grow his own materials responsibly.  There are strong messages about fair trade and honesty, good business practices, sustainability, and consideration of others’ differences to be found here, all told in a story that kids can understand without dumbing down the message. It’s smart storytelling with a social conscience that respects the reader. What more can you ask from your books?

I can’t wait to put New Shoes on my graphic novel shelves. It’s got a little nonfiction snuck in, as Francis travels, with his guide book, through the South American jungle and encounters such inhabitants as the capybara, jaguar, and three-toed sloth; it’s got a moral compass, a main character who loves calypso music, and it’s just fun reading.