Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Smile: “Every smile starts a wonderful journey”

The Smile, by Marie Voigt, (Aug. 2022, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781684644131

Ages 3-6

Marie Voigt explores the power of a smile in this kind story. Easy-to-read, simple sentences build this “pay-it-forward” story, beginning with a baby’s smile. That smile, directed at another child, brings with it a glittery shower that illuminates everything in its path. The child cheers a lonely woman, as the child hands her a chunk of bread to feed the ducks; she goes on to pick up a beloved toy, dropped by a girl in a wheelchair. A smile cheers and inspires each person to do something kind for another; near or far, a smile sends love. A good deed from a local school puts smiles on the faces of others, worldwide, inspiring even larger good deeds. The story asks readers where their smiles will go, inviting children to start their own kindness chains. Endpapers feature glittery smile paths across a purple background. Great for social-emotional collections, great for storytimes.

The Smile was originally published in the UK earlier this year.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Pigeon & Cat embraces kindness and joy

Pigeon & Cat, by Edward Hemingway, (June 2022, Christy Ottaviano Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9780316311250

Ages 4-8

Cat lives all by himself in an abandoned city, and a cardboard box with his few possessions. He fiercely guards his little area from other neighborhood strays, but things change in Cat’s life when he discovers a little egg, intact, from a fallen nest. The unbroken egg is too pretty to eat; as Cat watches over it, the egg hatches and a sweet little Pigeon emerges. With Pigeon, Cat discovers something bigger than himself; he’s a parent now, and Cat’s world grows brighter. He nurtures Pigeon, who starts exploring her world, much to Cat’s concern: after all, Cat has only known the city to be large, lonely, and cruel. But Pigeon loves discovering her world and always returns home with a gift for Cat: until the one day that she doesn’t. Bereft, Cat looks for Pigeon, using chalk she gave him to create messages all over the city, hoping to lead her home. It’s an act that makes the City warmer, looking more like the comforting alley home that Cat has created for Pigeon, and gives Cat the ability to open his heart and home up. He befriends the other strays that he used to keep away, sharing food and friendship with them, and when Pigeon does return, Cat throws a party that the whole city can enjoy. An achingly gorgeous story of love, kindness, and the power of community through art, Pigeon & Cat will make you weep and cheer before you close the book. A storytime staple. Edward Hemingway’s mixed media illustrations create expressive animal characters that move readers; he uses color to show how Cat’s heart opens as Pigeon brings joy and companionship to his life, going from a brown-based palette to joyful, vibrant pages filled with color and happiness. Word balloons throughout the story add dialogue to the narration. Pigeon speaks in emoji-like rebuses, perfect for emerging readers.

Publisher Christy Ottaviano Books and author Edward Hemingway included a box of chalk in my review package, encouraging me to use the chalk, like Cat, to leave messages around my neighborhood; I’ll be sure to hand some out at my next storytime and encourage my families to do just that. Visit Pigeon and Cat‘s book detail page to download a free activity kit and book discussion guide.

Pigeon & Cat has a starred book review from School Library Journal.

Check out this Vimeo from Edward Hemingway on the making of Pigeon & Cat!

Edward Hemingway Presents PIGEON & CAT from LB School on Vimeo.

 

“A satisfying story exploring heart and home.”  —The Horn Book

“A sweet tale celebrating the joys of both personal and communal togetherness.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A satisfying story exploring heart and home.”  —The Horn Book

Edward Hemingway is the acclaimed creator of many popular books: Tough Cookie: A Christmas Story, Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus, and Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship. His writing and artwork have been published in The New York Times and GQ Magazine. The youngest grandson of Ernest Hemingway, he lives in Bozeman, Montana. He invites you to visit him at EdwardHemingway.com.

Twitter: @EdwardHemingway

Instagram: @edwardhemingway

Posted in Uncategorized

Happy Book Birthday to Rosa’s Song by Helena Ku Rhee and Pascal Campion

Rosa’s Song, by Helena Ku Rhee/Illustrated by Pascal Campion, (June 2022, Random House Studio), $17.99, ISBN: 9780593375495

Ages 4-8

Jae, a young boy from South Korea, and his mother move into a new building in a new country. Missing his home and friends, Jae is withdrawn, but his mother urges him to get out and meet other kids in the building; Jae meets Rosa, a friendly young girl whose pet parrot, Pollito, sits on her shoulder and warbles a sweet song. Rosa and Jae become fast friends, and engage in imaginative play that evokes memories of each of their home countries; scaling sofa mountains and exploring lost Incan cities and rainforests. When Rosa and her family suddenly leave one night, she leaves her parrot to console the heartbroken Jae. Shortly after Rosa leaves, Jae meets two new children in the building, and follows Rosa’s example, becoming their friend and guide to their new home and world. Helena Ku Rhee’s childhood inspired the story, which shows the need for connection and highlights the often erratic home lives of immigrant families, who often have to move suddenly, whether because of immigration status, employment, financial stress, or family issues. Pascal Campion’s digital artwork gives vision to Helen Ku Rhee’s voice: Jae stares out a window at a brick wall while standing in a beige room with faded wallpaper; upon meeting Rosa, his world becomes more colorful. Touches of each child’s home country are represented, with Asian brush paintings decorating the walls of Jae’s home, and colorful parrots and lush green trees in the rainforest of Rosa’s memory. When Rosa leaves, Jae’s world goes gray again, and the portrait of Jae in Rosa’s vacated apartment is absolutely devastating. Endpapers show Rosa and Jae at imaginative play, with Pollito flying around them. A touching and lovely book on empathy and friendship.

Rosa’s Song has a starred review from Booklist.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: Thursday by Ann Bowill and Kayla Harden

Thursday, by Ann Bowill/Illustrated by Kayla Harden, (June 2022, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542032896

Ages 4-7

Thursday used to be a little girl’s favorite day of the week, until she learns that her parents are getting a divorce on a Thursday. Now, instead of art class, and popsicles with friends, Thursdays mean that everything will change. Her stuffed unicorn steps in to give the girl a much-needed friend and comfortable shoulder, staying with her to support her through the hard feelings and the move, until Thursday becomes “just Thursday again”. The story moves forward with a gentle sensitivity, told in first person by the unicorn, who repays an act of kindness with love and and concern. The unicorn grows into a larger-than-life-sized companion that the little girl can lean on; when she can stand on her own again, the unicorn shrinks back to a toy-sized stuffie, but never leaves her – always around, ready to take her side if she needs it. Kayla Harden’s digital illustrations glow with optimism, letting readers know that things may be difficult right now, but the sun will always come up the next day, and things will eventually get better. The unicorn has its own cheerful radiance, sharing its warmth with the little girl. Add this one to your SEL (social-emotional learning) collections, and maybe consider adding some stuffed friends to your collection for kids who need a friend to lean on.

 

Ann Bonwill grew up in Maryland surrounded by books. Before becoming an author, Ann worked as a clinical social worker, a Montessori teacher, and an autism therapist. She is the author of multiple picture books and nonfiction books for children, including When Mermaids Sleep, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, and I Am Not a Copycat!, illustrated by Simon Rickerty. Ann has lived in many places, from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Frankfurt, Germany. She currently lives in Virginia with her family. Learn more at www.annbonwill.com.

Kayla Harren is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City with a BFA in illustration. She’s an award-winning illustrator of multiple picture books, including A Boy Like You, written by Frank Murphy, and The Boy Who Grew a Forest, written by Sophia Gholz, among other titles. Her work has been featured in the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Communication Arts, and 3×3 Magazine, and she won the Highlights for Children Pewter Plate Award. She lives in Minnesota with her family. Learn more at www.kaylaharren.com.

Facebook: Kayla Harren Illustrator

Instagram: @kaylaharren

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction

Really Bird is great for preschool and kindergarten SEL collections

Red Comet Press debuted a new Easy Reader series that is great for preschoolers and kindergarteners and SEL collections. Really Bird is a round, blue bird that lives in a city park and spends time with friends Cat and Pup. Really Bird is REALLY enthusiastic about things: “They call me Really Bird because when I’m happy, or sad, or thirsty, or scared, I’m REALLY happy, or REALLY scared… or REALLY thirsty!” Sound familiar? If you’ve spent any time around young kids, it should! The first two books hit shelves in April; let’s take a peek inside.

I Really Want a Bigger Piece! (A Really Bird Story), by Harriet Ziefert/Illustrated by Travis Foster, (Apr. 2022, Red Comet Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9781636550190

Ages 4-7

Really Bird, Cat, and Pup are having a blueberry pie picnic, but each has different ideas on how big a slice they should get. Pup feels like slices should be in size order; Really Bird is starving, so he wants a really big piece, and Cat is frustrated that his piece is messy and missing crust. Can the friends figure out how to share the pie to make everyone happy? The story is laid out in similar fashion to popular Easy Readers like Elephant and Piggie, the Ballet Cat books by Bob Shea, and Cece Bell’s Chick and Brain books, with the narration taking place as dialogue between the characters. The friends state the problem – how to figure out sharing the blueberry pie – and offer different steps to solve the issue, with pluses and minuses (plus – dog gets the biggest piece; minus – Really Bird gets the smallest!); the characters work together to resolve the problem, and all is well at the end! Discussion questions and an activity help kids reflect on what they’ve read and apply it to their experiences. Cartoony characters with bold colors and outlines make this an eye-catching book that makes for a great read-aloud, read-along, or read together.

 

 

 

I Really Want to Be First! (A Really Bird Story), by Harriet Ziefert/Illustrated by Travis Foster, (Apr. 2022, Red Comet Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9781636550183

Ages 4-7

Really Bird and friends are together again! Really Bird is usually last when the friends walk together, but decides today’s the day he’s going to be first! Now that Really Bird is the leader, he takes his friends on a hike that isn’t really easy if you aren’t a bird! Cat and Pup help one another down from a tree, and Really Bird is so focused on being first, he’s ready to start an argument over it. Thankfully, cooler heads prevail and the day is saved. Really Bird is a recognizable voice for young children who are still working on social skills and taking turns, and the story illustrates equity and equality through taking turns and in going on an adventure that isn’t always fair to everyone – all three can climb the tree, but it’s certainly going to be easier for friends with wings! Discussion questions prompt conversation and insight. The story has the comforting familiarity of starting out in the same way: an introduction to Really Bird, the park where he lives, and the origin of his name, along with an introduction to the book’s topic: “Today I REALLY want to be First!” versus “Today I REALLY want a bigger piece!”

 

 

Red Comet also sent me an adorable Really Bird plush to accompany at me at storytime! According to Red Comet’s website, he should be available now. Take a look at this cutie!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour and Giveaway: I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu

“I am, because you are.”

Ubuntu is more than just a word; it’s a philosophy. It’s an African ideal that speaks to the concept of community as a building block of society; we share a bond as humans that connects us all. Author Refiloe Moahloli and illustrator bring that idea to life in their picture book, I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu.

I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu, by Refiloe Moahloli/Illustrated by Zinelda McDonald,
(Feb. 2021, Amazon Crossing Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542035668
Ages 4-7

Originally published in South Africa in 2020, I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu is filled with inspiring, powerful messages that all come back to an essential element: I am you. I love you, and I love myself. By caring for you, I care for myself; to hurt you is to hurt myself. Refiloe Moahloli tells her story in simple, uncomplicated, evocative verse, repeating this simple and dynamic idea. Zinelda McDonald’s digital illustration shows children of all color interacting with one another; they hug, they ride bikes, they share laughs, warmth, and friendship, illustrating the idea of caring as community. A breathtaking spread shows a tree hosting life above and below ground, and a child hugs it, becoming part of nature’s web: we are connected to each other, and that includes every living thing.

An essential book for readalouds and collections, I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu is a gentle voice encouraging unity in an increasingly divisive time. A gorgeous marriage of verse and illustration that you and your readers will turn to again and again. Read it to babies, read it to children, read it to adults.

I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Amazon Crossing Kids aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives.

★“[Refiloe] Moahloli’s work makes for a stunning picture book for young readers and their grown-ups that focuses on our shared sense of community…. Celebrates our shared humanity and the strength in treating others with love and respect. A recommended first purchase.” School Library Journal (starred review)

“An edifying, unifying picture book that’s much needed in these divisive times.” Kirkus Reviews

 

Refiloe Moahloli is a bestselling South African picture book author. She is passionate about writing stories that bring out the best in the human spirit. She spent the early part of her career in the corporate world, but an eye-opening assignment to Mumbai led her to pursue her dream of becoming a full-time writer. She currently lives and works in Johannesburg. Learn more at refiloemoahloli.com, and follow her on Instagram @RefiloeMoahloli.

Zinelda McDonald is an award-winning South African illustrator who lives in Wellington in the Western Cape of South Africa. She has illustrated numerous children’s books and is also a well-known designer and illustrator of children’s book covers. Awards for her work include the Alba Bouwer Prize and the Exclusive Books IBBY SA Award. Follow her on Instagram @Zinelda.

One lucky winner will receive a copy of I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu, courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids (U.S. and Canada addresses).  If you’ve won a Rafflecopter giveaway in the last six months, please don’t enter again: give someone else a chance! Thanks so much! Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here!
Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, picture books

Fen’s Drop of Gray colors her whole world

Fen’s Drop of Gray, by Brian Wray/Illustrated Shiloh Penfield, (Nov. 2021, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764362194

Ages 5-8

A hedgehog named Fen loves to paint with bright colors, but one day, a drop of gray gets into her paints and colors her entire world: her paintings and everything around her lose their color, slowly turning gray and adding to her sadness. It’s not like Fen doesn’t want color in her world: she looks through her mother’s art books and tries to find rainbows in the rain, but the gray persists until her mother gives her new, colorful paints. With the color back in her life, Fen takes back her happiness and knows that when the gray tries to take her colors away again, she’ll be ready. A gentle story about how depression can sneak up on us, Fen’s Drop of Gray is Brian Wray and Shiloh Penfield’s latest intuitive story about managing emotions. Using the metaphor of a drop of gray finding its way into our colorful worlds is a great way of explaining those unexplainable “sads” that can show up unexpected, stripping the color in our lives. Try as she might, Fen can’t find her colors and she doesn’t know how to ask for help. Sometimes, all we need is someone – in Fen’s case, her mom – to reach through the gray. It’s not a cure-all, but knowing that someone is there to listen and help is the important message. It’s also important that Fen knows the gray may try to come back, and creates her own coping mechanisms for when that happens.

An important acknowledgement of childhood depression, Fen’s Drop of Gray is another must-have to put into your social-emotional collections and a good starting point for discussion.

Posted in Uncategorized

Picture book series help kids Dealing with Feelings

I’m in a pandemic state of mind these days. Call it the post-holiday surge, added to the fact that I’ve been quarantining at home because what I thought was just a cold wasn’t exactly just a cold, and throw in a dash of watching the numbers and panic rise again. As kids go in and out of remote learning, and as schools go back and forth on whether to stay open or shift to remote learnintg this year, I know there are a lot of stressful feelings. Poet and children’s author Deborah Fannie Miller has been writing books in a new series, “Dealing with Feelings”, to help kids and families navigate these emotions.

Grappling with the Grumblies, by Deborah Fannie Miller/Illustrated by Diane Jacobs, (Sept. 2013, Frontenac House), $12.95, ISBN:  978-1927823002

Ages 4-7

A girl’s mom wakes her up too early, setting off a grumpy mood – and a Grumblie appears! It’s a spiky little purple monster who says one word: “Grump!” The Grumblie follows the girl around, feeding off of her bad mood and growing larger and larger, pushing the girl out of her own room! Mom recognizes the sign of a Grumblie, and deflects the situation by inviting her daughter to wiggle, dance, and laugh that Grumblie back to size. Kids will recognize how a Grumblie can just show up and take over their whole day, feeding off a bad mood, and it’s important for parents to see how they can recognize a Grumblie at work, and help de-escalate a situation by acknowledging that something’s going on, and helping their kids get their attention away from the bad mood. Illustrations are subdued and colorful, and the Grumblie is a creature kids can easily draw; invite them to create their own Grumblies to help them talk about what they’re feeling.

 

Juggling the Jitters, by Deborah Fannie Miller/Illustrated by Danielle Bazinet, (Sept. 2013, Frontenac House), $10.10, ISBN: 978-1927823026

Ages 4-7

A boy named Jacob goes to bed, excited for a birthday party he’s attending the next day. But just when he tries to sleep, the Jitters creep in: what if his friend doesn’t like her present? Will he make new friends? Will he get a balloon? There’s so much to worry about, and the Jitters multiply and cause a ruckus, jumping on Jacob’s bed and turning the lights on. Papa comes in to find out what’s going on, and realizes what’s going on; he takes Jacob into his arms and consoles him, and teaches him some deep breathing to relax him. Those spiky, mean-spirited Jitters keep trying to get Jacob’s attention, but as he and Papa do a little dance together to shake them away, the Jitters head out the window, where they turn into Glitters: bright yellow stars. Another good story about how nerves and anxiety can disrupt one’s sleep and peace of mind, Juggling the Jitters is also important in illustrating to parents how to react; not with anger, but with comfort and a touch of whimsy. The breathing practices are a great idea for putting kids in a calming headspace, and the dancing is light and playful, putting kids at ease.

If you have additional funding for social-emotional books, these are a good additional purchase.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Awake… when creepy crawlies aren’t SO creepy

Awake, by Mags DeRoma, (Oct. 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250753199

Ages 4-8

A little girl gets ready for bed at night. She and her pup are so very sleepy… until she spies a SPIDER in her room! GAH! Stricken with fear, she goes on the offensive, her imagination going wild with thoughts of giant, spider-removing devices and huge spiders coming for retribution. When she finally traps the spider under a glass, she realizes that the spider? It’s rather itsy-bitsy after all. And it looks pretty terrified. Putting herself in the spider’s shoes, she realizes that the spider isn’t here to rain havoc down on her and her dog; it probably just wants to get back home, or make a home in a warm, comfortable spot. Author Mags DeRoma says that Awake is about coming face-to-face with ‘otherness'”; an idea more of our children (and adults, quite frankly) should sit down and take a minute to think about. When something – or someone – appears that isn’t within our usual realm of understanding or experience, we often react with fear and aggression. If we take a moment to put ourselves in someone else’s position, to see the world through another’s eyes, we may – like the little girl in Awake – rethink our initial, knee-jerk reactions. Awake is also about facing one’s fears and growing from the experience. The cut paper artwork gives depth and texture to the story, with fun details and character expressions, and gorgeous cityscapes, including a gatefold that brings home the true size of the little spider compared to the sprawling city outside the girl’s window. Endpapers bring the reader in, with heartwarming messages like “open eyes, open mind, open heart, to be awake”, and instructions on relocating a “surprise guest”.

This is Mags DeRoma’s debut picture book, and I’m excited to see where else she will bring us in the future. Visit her webpage for more artwork and a look at other books she’s illustrated. Add Awake to your social-emotional learning collections, and consider displaying with Jacob Grant’s Bear’s Scare and Bear Out There, and Bethany Barton’s I’m Trying to Love Spiders.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

“Everyone makes mistakes”: How to Apologize

How to Apologize, by David LaRochelle/Illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, (May 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209440

Ages 3-7

A gentle and straightforward book about accountability and responsibility, How to Apologize starts off with a reassuring statement: “Everyone makes mistakes”. It’s a strong statement that’s meant to relax readers: it’s okay, no one’s perfect! But the important thing is, once we make a mistake that hurts someone or makes them feel bad, the kind thing to do is apologize. With woodland animals as our guides, David LaRochelle and Mike Wohnoutka lay out the differences between sincere apologies an insincere apologies; whether we like the person or not; apologizing is the right thing to do. And you can do it all sorts of ways! You can write a note, or you can say it in person. You can fix the mistake if it’s possible, but even if you can’t, apologizing will make you – and the person you hurt – feel better. And that’s the most important thing. Gouache artwork is subdued, letting readers readers take in the words and allowing the illustrations to show them how it’s done. Absolutely perfect for preschoolers who are still navigating social-emotional situations (and, let’s be honest, some adults, too).

Candlewick has a Teacher Tips card with some ideas for incorporating this book into the classroom, and coloring sheets that help emphasize some moments when an apology is helpful.

How to Apologize has a starred review from Kirkus.