Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Next Stop: Christmas!

5 More Sleeps ‘Til Christmas, by Jimmy Fallon/Illustrated by Rich Deas, (Oct. 2020, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250266477

Ages 3-7

Jimmy Fallon’s newest picture book outing is an ode to the anticipation that seems to increase exponentially, the closer Christmas morning gets! In this rhyming tale, a boy is counting his “sleeps” until the big day. He knows he’s been good and that Santa will take care of business, but going to sleep every night is SO HARD when Christmas is so close! “5 more sleeps ’til Christmas. / I’m not sure I can wait. / I get good grades, / I fed the dog. / I even cleaned my plate. Gary’s chew toy Peppy / is helping me count sheep. / But it’s not working! We’re still up! / We cannot fall asleep!” Colorful illustrations set against the deep blue night time sky and the dark warmth of the boy’s night time room, combined with the adorable, expressive main character and his faithful pup, Gary, are full of holiday anticipation that kids and adults alike will remember and enjoy revisiting time and again. Absolute holiday fun that will brighten up your shelves.

 

Claris: Holiday Heist (The Chicest Mouse in Paris), by Megan Hess, (Oct. 2020, Hardie Grant), $17.99, ISBN: 9781760504953

Ages 4-8

Fashion illustrator Megan Hess’s series about the Claris, “chicest mouse in Paris” sees her fabumouse main character visiting New York along with her friend, Monsieur the Cat, and the family they live with. The Brat – the family’s spoiled daughter – is throwing tantrums per usual, but the real story is in the title. Claris and Monsieur spy a thieving cat on a shopping trip, and follow the felonious feline to his home and demand his return his booty! Will the cat burglar give up his life of crime and embrace the giving spirit of the holidays?Eloise and Olivia fans will love this chic, smart, determined little heroine as she takes on the streets of New York’s chic shopping district. Author Megan Hess’s fashion illustration expertise makes for gorgeous fashion sketches throughout, with bright, colorful moments that pop against the black and white backgrounds. Rhyming text makes the story a fun readaloud.

 

Dinosaur Christmas!, by Penny Dale, (Sept 2020, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536214499

Ages 2-6

This is the seventh book in Penny Dale’s Dinosaur series! This time out, Santa’s stuck and it’s dinos to the rescue! Trucks, plows, even helicopters arrive on the scene to dig Santa out and get him back on his way. Short sentences, repetition and sight words, and sounds like “crunch, crunch”, “swish, swish”, and “scoop, scoop” make this a fantastic readaloud choice (have a sensory storytime with this book and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt). Flannels and/or toy dinos are always fun to add. Watercolor and ink dinosaurs look realistic and friendly, and colorful endpapers show dinosaurs that appear in the book, with their names clearly spelled out, along with the vehicles they use in the story. Who doesn’t love dinosaurs?

 

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

A Christmas Book for every stocking!

We’re into the holiday season now, everyone! I’ve got gift books coming, and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa books are on the way, but first, a look at some Christmas books to stuff in your kiddos’ stockings. Take a look!

Where’s Santa Claus? by Ingela P. Arrhenius, (Oct. 2018, Nosy Crow), $8.99, ISBN: 9781536206975

Ages 0-3

Guessing games don’t get much cuter than this! Five illustrated spreads show different Christmassy folks, including a polar bear, snowman, elf, and Santa, all hidden behind fuzzy felt flaps. Bold, black font asks,, “Where the polar bear?” “Where’s the snowman?”, inviting babies and toddlers to lift the cloth and discover them all on their own! The final flap, shaped like a house, asks where YOU are, and the reveal is a mirror so little ones can see themselves. The illustrations are bold, bright, and adorable; the felt is soft to the touch and bright.

It’s a perfect cuddle time, circle time, and storytime book for your youngest kiddos. I’ll be using mine quite a bit this season, mainly because I can’t stop reading it to myself in a high-pitched voice and announcing, “There he is!” The kids here at the library are starting to stare at me.

 

Christmas ABC, by Jannie Ho, (Oct. 2018, Nosy Crow), $6.99, ISBN: 9781536202496

Ages 0-3

This holiday abcedary is loaded with seasonal icons: A is for angel; B is for bell; C is for candy canes, and D is for drummer boy. Cartoony, bold, and bright, with capital and lowercase letters side by side, this concept book is as sweet as a bowlful of chocolate chips. Smiling Nutcrackers share spreads with Mrs. Claus as a pup emerges from an Unwrapped box and a bottoms-up Santa is upside down in a chimney as he Visits a home. There are familiar sights to see, but there are also words to describe feelings and emotions, like joy, excited, and quiet. Read this with your little ones and point out familiar objects around the home, classroom, or library: ornaments, reindeer, or tree will work nicely. Some concepts, like Kings and Winter (a winter scene at a windowsill), make take a little explanation, but it’s all part of the holiday fun.

I love a good board book, and Christmas ABC delivers. Put this one front and center in your board books, holidays, and concepts areas, and watch the little ones reach for it.

 

Little Christmas Tree, by Jessica Courtney-Tickle, (Oct. 2018, Big Picture Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536203110

Ages 2-5

This larger board book is loaded with flaps, letting little fingers discover wintry delights as they wander through the story of a little Christmas tree wakes up in its forest after a snowfall. Nature comes alive with each spread as foxes, birds, squirrels, and mice join the scene, and by the story’s end, the tree sparkles in the moonlight. The silver foil added to the trees and snowflakes create a lovely scene that catches light nicely; make sure to let the kids touch the book and feel the texture of the pages. Each flap reveals color, animals, and woodland life, many of which will be familiar to kids: owls, foxes, and sun, to name a few. Little Christmas Tree is a beautifully crafted, interactive reading experience that toddlers and preschoolers will come back to. Keep this one in your storytime reference so you have one intact for next year’s storytime – the flaps are sturdy, but circulating copies of this book will be well-loved.

Little Christmas Tree has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Pip and Posy: The Christmas Tree, by Axel Scheffler, (Sept. 2018, Nosy Crow), $12.99, ISBN: 9781536202762

Ages 2-5

Pip and Posy are back, and trying to decorate their Christmas tree – but the edible ornaments keep disappearing! When Pip develops a bellyache, it’s pretty clear to Posy what happened, but she’s a good friend: she gets Pip outside for some air, and the two decorate their tree in a slightly less tasty, more durable fashion.

This series about two best friends is popular here at my library, so this will be a welcome add to the shelves. The Pip and Posy books are all about simple problems, resolutions, and friendship. Here, it’s about decorating a Christmas tree with tasty ornaments that Pip can’t resist: the kids are in on the joke, as Pip smiles and sneaks snacks whenever Posy leaves the room. You can invite kids to count ornaments and candy canes as part of the storytime; the text lends itself to a guessing game as Posy announces how many things are missing. There’s a bit of a cautionary tale here, too, since Pip eats too much junk food and feels sick afterward, and a wink and a laugh at Santa’s gifts to both friends.

The gouache illustrations and bold text are eye-catching and perfect for storytime reading. The white pages let the characters pop off the page, allowing the eye to go directly to the action. The Christmas Tree is a nice addition to both holiday shelves and Pip and Posy collections.

Oliver Elephant, by Lou Peacock/Illustrated by Helen Stephens, (Sept. 2018, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536202663

Ages 3-7

Noah is a little boy who gets up early to go Christmas shopping with his mom and baby sister, bringing his stuffed elephant, Oliver, along for the ride. As Mom shops, Noah and Oliver are predictably antsy and manage to get into a little bit of trouble – but Mom and the staff are good-natured, thank goodness! A quick snack and it’s time to go home, but wait! Oliver is missing! There’s a panicked search, but little sister Evie-May saves the day when she reveals that Oliver has been hitching a ride with her all along.

Originally published in the UK, this Christmas rhyming story beautifully captures the hustle and bustle of the holiday season with lively, crowded city streets and department store scenes. There’s a particularly gorgeous spread early on in the story, as a whole department store is laid out for the eye to take in, complete with giant Christmas tree in the center; the detail of Mom holding onto Evie-May’s stroller with one hand while she keeps a hold on Noah, who’s swinging Oliver around, will make parents smile in recognition.  Kids will relate to Noah’s restlessness; while Mom shops, he and Oliver play with dollhouses and dance on the displays until the inevitable “oops” happens. On the next spread, Oliver and Noah are slumped on a chair while Mom finishes shopping. The illustrations are warm and colorful, with point of view going from large to intimate – Noah playing with Evie-May, Mom snuggling Noah; there are wonderful little details to see throughout the story, and the primarily beige backgrounds let the story pop off the page for readers. Red lined endpapers put readers in a holiday mood going into the story.

Oliver Elephant has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus and is a sweet addition to holiday collections.

Coming Home, by Michael Morpugo/Illustrated by Kerry Hyndman, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536200423

Ages 3-7

A robin sets out on his own to fly back to his home and his mate in this lyrical Christmas tale. The bird bravely invokes his heart and wings to fly him home as he travels day and night, through battering rain, fog, and snow, and under threat of predatory birds to make his way home. He encounters a kind-hearted fisherman who takes him out of the rain, letting him rest and eat, before setting him free on the final leg of his journey; finally arriving home to his garden, his mate, and the human family that’s been waiting for his return.

The digital illustrations are crisp, with the robin’s red face and chest a bright spot against the cold winter backgrounds. Kerry Hyndman creates some memorable moments, including the menacing black shadow of a hawk swooping over the robin, and the looming hands of the fisherman, from the bird’s point of view. At once a story about migration and its hazards, and families reuniting for the holidays, Endpapers bring you into the story by offering a single robin, tracking through the snow on the front endpapers, and joined by his mate on the rear endpapers. Coming Home is a lovely add to your collections. Display and booktalk with Matt Tavares’ Red and Lulu (2017) for a similar themed story. Make your own no-cook bird cakes with this recipe from Saltwater Kids.

Michael Morpugo is no stranger to sweeping stories: he’s an award-winning writer who boasts a Carnegie Medal (2003). He has also been Children’s Laureate (2003-2005) and he’s been knighted. You may know him as the author of War HorseIllustrator Kerry Hyndman is also a mapmaker, a talent you can see just by seeing how she plans out her landscapes. Her frozen forests are breathtaking, and her residential neighborhood is so well plotted out, it could be your own neighborhood.

 

Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets, by Russell Ince, (June 2013, Waxcrayon Ltd), $21.95, ISBN: 0-937739-65-0

Ages 7-12

Geared for a more independent audience, Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets gives kids the full scoop on all of Santa’s secrets, including his history (he’s not the Saint Nicholas from Turkey that people often take him for), how the Post Offices around the world help him out, and how to stay off the dreaded Naughty List. Chronicled by Santa’s official biographer, Russell Ince, the book combined the look of an illuminated manuscript with a journal feel, as if Santa’s – and Russell’s – words were written especially for each reader. There are sketches throughout to bring the words to life, including realistic reindeer and Santa’s sleigh, and a sack full of toys, waiting to be loaded up for that Christmas Eve journey.

This one’s a good bet for your intermediate readers, who may be questioning the Man in Red’s existence, and have more questions to ask.

 

Santa Claus: The Annual (Volume 1), by Russell Ince, (July 2016, Waxcrayon Ltd), $19.99, ISBN: 0-937739-67-7

Ages 7-12

Santa was so delighted with the response to his Book of Secrets, that he decided to write a book about how he spends a year. Each 2-page spread details a month in Santa’s life: January is a time to rest up after a hectic December; March is dedicated to training reindeer and visting the Elf School; in June, the Clauses pack up and travel the world, while the elves stay home and compete in an Elf Olympics. In September, the Christmas planning begins anew. Learn more about the elves, Mrs. Claus, and the general ins and outs of the North Pole here, one month at a time.

The style is consistent here, with an illuminated title setting off each page, festooned with colorful snowflakes, toys, candy, and sketches. Written on a parchment-look paper, these two slim volumes provide a magical look at the Christmas secrets kids are dying to know.

 

That’s a taste of Christmas for you! I’ve got Kwanzaa and Hanukkah books on the way, plus a gift guide for the holidays. I’ll keep you posted!

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Last Minute Shopping? No worries, find a bookstore!

I saw a piece on the news today that said today – December 23rd – is the second biggest holiday shopping day of the year.

https://giphy.com/embed/3oEjI1erPMTMBFmNHi

via GIPHY

If you still have kids and teens on your shopping list, I humbly offer a few more suggestions to make the season bright.

Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me, by Carrie Ann DiRisio and Broody McHottiepants/Illustrated by Linnea Gear,
(Oct. 2017, Sky Pony Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781510726666

Recommended for readers 13-17

You know him. You may have loved him. He’s the EveryBroody – that dark, brooding bad boy main character that shows up in darned near every YA novel. He’s got a deep, dark history; he has trust issues; he may be an intergalactic prince, a scoundrel smuggler, or… dare I say? a sparkly vampire. Here, we get the scoop – straight from the Broody’s mouth – on what it’s like to be a Brooding YA Hero. It’s a writing guide with a wink and a nudge to YA tropes, with some straight talk – in the form of nemesis Mean Girl Blondi DeMeani – about smashing the patriarchy and recognizing the value of diverse characters. Give this to your fanfic writer, your feminists, and anyone who loved Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie. And if you’re not already following the @broodingYAhero account on Twitter, you are doing yourself a disservice.

 

Hey, Baby! A Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Stories from Nature’s Nursery, by Stephanie Drimmer,
(Nov. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1426329319

Recommended for ages 4-12 and beyond

It’s an entire book of baby animal pictures. The cutest, funniest, littlest baby animals. This is a win-win for everyone! Added to the pictures are the sweetest companion folktales, stories, and poems, to make this a great gift for new moms and moms-to-be, kids who love their baby animals, and middle-aged librarians who follow accounts like @emergencykittens and @fluffsociety on Twitter. Add a copy of NatGeo’s Animal Ark, for more beautiful photos and poetry by Newbery award winner Kwame Alexander.

 

A World of Cookies for Santa, by M.E. Furman/Illustrated by Susan Gal,
(Oct. 2017, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt),$16.99, ISBN: 9780544226203

Recommended for readers 7-10

Take a tasty sleigh ride around the world and find out how children across the globe celebrate Christmas, from the different names Santa goes by (Papai Noel, Father Christmas, Christmas Baba, to name a few) to the tasty treats left out for Santa and his reindeer to enjoy on their journey. Try your hand at a multicultural Christmas with nine recipes for holiday cookies, included at the end! Pair with a copy of Clement Moore’s classic The Night Before Christmas and add a few cookies.

 

Top Elf, by Caleb Zane Huett, (Sept. 2017, Scholastic Press),
$14.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-05212-1

Recommended for readers 9-12

Santa’s ready to pass on the Big Red Suit. The call to competition goes out across the North Pole, and Ollie the Elf decides to go for it. Thing is, he’s up against Santa’s kids, a bullying elf named Buzz, Ramp, who swears he’s a kid, but looks and smells suspiciously grown-up, and even his best friend, Celia. How’s Ollie going to prove he’s the Top Elf for the job? This middle grade story is pure Christmas fun and adventure with a touch of Christmas magic. Stick this in a stocking for readers who love a good giggle, and add a couple of candy canes and some hot cocoa mix – maybe with a Minecraft or Lego mug. 

 

Ultimate Dinopedia, Second Edition, by “Dino” Don Lessem/Illustrated by Franco Tempesta,
(Oct. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1426329050

Recommended for readers 8-13

It’s the ULTIMATE dinosaur encyclopedia! This updated edition is one of the most comprehensive dinosaur references going, with profiles on favorite dinos like the T-Rex and Velociratpr, to new finds like the Anzu, Kosmoceratops, and Yi. There are maps, comparison renderings to show kids how they stack up against different dinos, and descriptions of dino diets, geographic areas, and eras. There are over 600 dinosaurs in this volume, with profiles for 10 newly discovered dinos, and a comprehensive dino dictionary. Full-color illustrations from dinosaur artist Franco Tempesta come right off the page – look at that T-Rex on the cover! – and “Dino” Don Lessem – a world-renowned dinosaur presenter who also happened to be the dinosaur adviser for the first Jurassic Park movie – writes in a language that respects, but never speaks down, to readers. Kids love dinos. They’ll love this book. Tuck a tube of dino toys in the stocking and call it a holiday.

 

The Witch Boy, by Molly Ostertag, (Oct. 2017, Scholastic Graphix),
$12.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-08951-6

Recommended for readers 8-13

Aster is a 13-year-old, raised in a society of of supernatural beings. The girls are raised to be witches, the boys, to be shapeshifters. That’s the way it is, and anyone who falls outside those lines faces exile. Aster waits for his ability to shift to kick in, but is fascinated by magic, despite the disciplinary action and ridicule he faces. Aster befriends a non-magic neighbor named Charlotte, who goes by Charlie, who has her own frustrations with gender lines at her school; neither can figure out what the big deal is, saying, “You should just be allowed to do it!” Charlie discovers Aster’s magic abilities, and tries encouraging him to continue practicing magic; Aster will need that support when a mysterious force threatens his community; he may be the only one able to save them. A brilliant story about smashing gender expectations, The Witch Boy is a brilliant, compelling story about finding one’s place and speaks volumes to every kid out there who feels, at some point, like she or he doesn’t fit in. Molly Ostertag is the writer/artist on Shattered Warrior and the webcomic Strong Female Protagonist. The Witch Boy has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, and Fox Animation has feature film rights. Bundle this one up with Victoria Jamieson’s All’s Faire in Middle School.

 

Bet You Didn’t Know!, by National Geographic Kids, (Aug. 2017, National Geographic Kids),
$19.99, ISBN: 978-1426328374

Recommended for readers 8-13

Kids love fact books; when they’re accompanied by amazing photos and include facts like, “A storm on Neptune was a wide as THE ENTIRE EARTH”, “Chewing gum can make your heart beat faster”, or “The Bahamas once had an undersea post office”, this becomes GOLD. Pair this one with NatGeo’s Weird But True Christmas, and you’re set.

 

The World of the Bible: Biblical Stories and the Archaeology Behind Them, by Jill Rubalcaba,
(Nov. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1426328817

Recommended for readers 9-13

More than a book of Bible stories, The World of the Bible is a great reference for budding history buffs and archaeologists, going deeper into the text to study the time periods and geographic locations where these stories took place, to learn more about human history. Stories like Moses and the Ten Commandments and the Garden of Eden get a closer look, accompanied by classic paintings, photos, and illustrations of the lands where the events in the Bible took shape. Give to your budding young Indiana Jones or Lara Croft.

 

1,000 Facts About the White House, by Sarah Wassner Flynn, (Sept. 2017, National Geographic Kids),
$14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2873-2

Recommended for readers 8-13

Wild and crazy facts about the most famous house in America: The White House. Learn about White House ghosts, events like the Easter Egg Roll, and presidential pets. Check out photos of the interiors and exteriors of the White House and grounds, and view some of the history-making moments that took place there. Learn about the different people who live and work there, those who keep it safe, and those who built it. There are groups of fun lists, like 25 Rooms That Rock, and there are loads of cutouts and info bits throughout. It’s a fun reference on American History for history fans. Pair with a copy of Weird But True! US Presidents and you’re set.

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

Stanley’s Store Blog Tour!

The hardest working hamster in town is back in his sixth book, Stanley’s Store (by William Bee, March 2017, Peachtree Publishers, $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-56145-868-4) . It’s a busy day at Stanley’s Store: Stanley’s got to unload fresh fruits and vegetables; Mattie helps customers pick out cheese, and there’s some excitement when Charlie doesn’t know how to control his shopping cart! Stanley’s always there to help, though, and at the end of a busy day, it’s time for him to go home.

stanley

My colleague LOVES Stanley. When we opened this library, she made darned sure we had the full line of Stanley books ready for the kids, so when I told her there was a new book coming out, she was thrilled! I sat down and read the first five books, and they’re adorable. They introduce kids to different careers (builders, business owners – stores and diners, farmers, mechanics, and mailmen) that shape their world, and provide a little look into the events of each job’s day. Stanley’s Store is a good book to read with your child and talk about your experiences at the grocery store; it’s also a good opportunity to point out safety and paying attention, illustrated by Charlie’s mishap. I love Shamus and Little Woo, a father and son duo, whose cart mysteriously fills up with cookies and sweets when Shamus’ back is turned. The story also slips in shape and color awareness, making this a great book for toddler and pre-k audiences.

Play store! Save some packaging and let your kiddos “shop” and create displays! Plastic food is huge with the kids in my library (and with my own kiddos, when they were younger) and is available everywhere. Talk about shapes and colors and talk about what foods are good for you. This could be paired with a fun flannel board activity and there are many food-related songs available to put together a fun storytime and playtime.