Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Love Made Me More imbues objects with love and magic

Love Made Me More, by Colleen Rowan Kosinski/Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez, (Dec 2022, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542006200

Ages 4-7

A boy and with brown skin and dark hair, and his grandmother with tan skin and greying hair sit at a table, folding origami cranes. The boy’s paper – “just a piece of paper – orange with white and blue spots” – transforms into Origami Crane, and his love for his Boy runs deeply. The feeling is mutual, as we see Origami Crane provide friendship and comfort, imagination and adventure. As the boy grows older, he and Crane go on fewer adventures, and when a new person enters the Boy’s life, Crane is momentarily upset: and then the Crane discovers that love can multiply, not divide. A superb story of the magic we give objects, Love Made Me More spans generations and illustrates the passage of rituals. Uncomplicated storytelling, narrated by the Crane, is moving and creates an invested relationship between the Crane and the Boy; children and adults alike will understand the relationship and the meaning of the phrase, “Love has made me so much more”: it’s the love, the memories, the feelings, that create our investment with certain objects. Digital illustrations have a hand-colored feel. The Crane gives off a warm glow during time spent with the Boy. Bright oranges and deep greens bring the spreads to life, and movement swirls around each spread: pieces of paper, dream journeys, tendrils of light. An excellent readaloud choice, Love Made Me More allows for discussions on our favorite objects and the memories they hold for us.

The Spruce Crafts has step-by-step instructions on folding a paper crane, complete with photos and a video.

Love Made Me More has a starred review from School Library Journal.

 

Colleen Rowan Kosinski is the author of A Home Again and the author-illustrator of Lilla’s Sunflowers and A Promise Stitched in Time. She received her BA from Rutgers University in visual art, is an alumna of Philadelphia’s Moore College of Art and Design, and spent many years as a successful freelance fine artist. Colleen calls New Jersey her home and resides there with her family. Learn more at http://www.colleenrowankosinski.com.

Sonia Sánchez is the illustrator of a number of picture books, including Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina, A Crazy-Much Love by Joy Jordan-Lake, and The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier. Her books have been nominated for the Eisner Award and named a CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year. She lives with her husband, her kids, and a sleepyhead cat in Barcelona, Spain.

 

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Tales from the TBR: The Kids Under the Stairs

More reporting as I continue scaling Mount TBR. Two years ago, I read BenBee and the Teacher Griefer; the first in a new series from KA Holt. The Minecraft-looking cover art and storyline drew me in – I’m a kids’ librarian and a mom, Minecraft and Roblox is allllll around me – and seriously, a KA Holt book is an exciting time. I loved BenBee, and finally made time to read the next two books in the series. Folx, I am a fan.

Ben Y and The Ghost in the Machine: The Kids Under the Stairs, by KA Holt, (Sept. 2021, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781452183213

Ages 10-14

The second Kids Under the Stairs book puts Ben Y on center stage: Ben Y, Benita, whose older brother, Benito, helped create Sandbox and communicated with her via Sandbox chat. and whose recent sudden death has her reeling. She still logs into chat to talk to him, but one night, someone responds. Who knows about Benito’s and Ben Y’s secret chat? Grief and recovery are major plot drivers in Ben Y and the Ghost in the Machine, and equally strong subplots about gender identity, dress coding, and journalism drive this brilliant story. Ben Y narrates most of the story, with appearances from the other Kids Under the Stairs: BenBee, Jordan, Javier, and Ms. J, the lovable teacher-turned-librarian who runs the “Newspaper Typing Club”, the new name for the Sandbox club. The introduction of a new character, Ace, keeps the narrative even more interesting and adds a drop of conflict. The story narrative pairs with Sandbox interactions to keep readers engaged. Ben Y’s writing is in verse, with other character interactions emphasized with italics and written in straight prose. Chat room interactions are presented as block text interactions and set off with black-framed pages. The Kids Under the Stairs is an excellent series that examines issues facing tweens and young teens and features brilliant portrayals of neurodiverse people. Download a free teacher guide to the book at Chronicle’s book detail page.

Ben Y and The Ghost in the Machine has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

 

Jordan J and the Truth About Jordan J: The Kids Under the Stairs, by KA Holt, (Sept. 2021, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781452183213

Ages 10-14

It’s Jordan’s turn, and I am psyched! Jordan’s energy and honest enthusiasm made this my favorite book in the Kids Under the Stairs series so far. Jordan loves a competitive dance show, Fierce Across America; as such, he obsessively talks about it and even writes a column about it in the school newspaper – it doesn’t go well, because Jordan is a little too honest in his opinions about the school’s dance team and where they stand in reference to Fierce Across America hosts and dancers. Things change when Fierce Across America tryouts come to the Kids’ town in Florida, and Casey Price – one of Jordan’s schoolmates – asks him to choreograph a winning routine to advance her through the competition. Subplots on Jordan and Javier connecting through an art class and family financial stress meet many readers where they’re at, addressing issues that they can understand and work through. Jordan’s voice is exuberant and sweet, hesitant and apologetic, as he navigates situations; storytelling takes place in Sandbox chat rooms, through notes drawn on artwork from the “old lady art class” Jordan and Javier take together, school newspapers, Jordan’s notes to his therapist, and Jordan’s own storytelling. Boo-yah!

Download a free teacher guide at Chronicle’s book detail page.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Payden’s Pronoun Party is celebratory!

Payden’s Pronoun Party, by Blue Jaryn/Illustrated by Xochitl Cornejo, (Oct. 2022, Page Street Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781645675587

Ages 4-8

Payden is a child on a quest to find the pronouns that best fit: “I’m not sure I’m a boy… so maybe he is not best for me”. With Mom and Dad’s love and support – and the promise of a party to celebrate Payden’s chosen pronouns. Off Payden goes, speaking to his friends about all the possibilities: he and she, they and ze, em and e… there’s a rainbow of possibilities to discover! Celebrating individuality and choice, Payden’s Pronoun Party is at once gentle and exciting, charged with potential. Endpapers extend the story, bookending Payden’s quest. Digital illustrations show cartoon art people, all delightfully content in their pronouns and in themselves. Colors of the rainbow permeate the artwork in both background and in character; each pronoun choice is bolded in a different color of the rainbow. A joy to read aloud, Payden’s Pronoun Party welcomes choice, empowers LGBTQIA+ youth, and encourages understanding.

Download a free activity kit from Page Street Kids, including a fun pronoun badge worksheet that is perfect for decorating library spaces, classrooms, and people. TeachersPayTeachers has some good gender pronoun posters to have up in your rooms, including these from Everyone Deserves to Learn and this set from The Tie Tuesday Teacher.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Big Bear, Little Fish, Great Friends

Big Bear and Little Fish, by Sandra Nickel/Illustrated by Il Sung Na, (Sept. 2022, Carolrhoda Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781728417172

Ages 4-8

Bear goes to a carnival hoping to win a giant teddy bear, but wins a goldfish instead. Worried that she is too big to play with, feed, or love the tiny fish, she stays as far away from it as possible, lamenting the fact that she’s saddled with this little fish instead of a big teddy bear. Fish helps Bear discover that the two are not so different after all. With a sweet look at relative size and ability, Big Bear and Little Fish is a story of looking past the surface and snap judgements to get to the heart of a situation. It’s a wise story of friendship and kindness that reads beautifully for a young audience and gives slightly older readers food for thought. Cartoon illustrations endear the animals to readers; cool shades of blue against a bright white background provide depth and texture; warm browns and golds on the animals add a warmth to the narrative. Sentences are brief and to the point, letting newly independent readers enjoy the book on their own or as part of a storytime. A good selection for storytime collections.

A free educator kit on the Lerner Books website offers discussion questions and activities.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

When Molly Ate the Stars… A Tale of Kindness

When Molly Ate the Stars, by Joyce Hesselberth, (Sept. 2022, Chronicle Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781797209401

Ages 3-5

On a starlit night, a girl named Molly decides to taste a star; its taste is so delicious, she gobbles them all up, leaving a dark, starless night. As Molly walks through the night, friends invite her to spend time with them, but she declines until she realizes that the world is a darker, gloomier place. Freeing the stars, she rejoins her friends to fill her with warmth and light. Molly’s dress looks like a cage, complete with lock and key, that she uses to hold and eventually free the stars; a cool purple and blue palette is a lovely contrast to the warm, redheaded Molly and her starlit body, illustrating her leeching the light and warmth of the night sky from her surroundings. A gentle reminder that we draw our strength and our inner light from the connections we make in our lives, When Molly Ate the Stars is a good choice for storytimes and collections where fables and fairy tales are popular.

Visit Joyce Hesselberth’s webpage for free printable activities!

 

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

A love letter to special moments: ALL THAT IS YOU

All That is You, by Alyssa Satin Capucilli/Illustrated Devon Holzwarth, (Aug. 2022, Henry Holt & Co), $18.99, ISBN: 9781627797023

Ages 2-6

The bestselling author of the Biscuit Easy Reader series has a gorgeous picture book that’s all about love and joy. All That You Are features diverse groups of people across generations sharing wonderful moments, from splashing in puddles to sharing meals; from sailing across magical seas to soaring through skies. Blending the everyday with the magical everyday, artist Devon Holzwarth uses vibrant colors and mixed media to bring Capuccilli’s verses to life. Verse reads like an ode to joy at the wonder of connection: “You’re my ‘Gather ’round the table’, / the ‘Make room for one more’, / the share in my together, / the warm hug at the door”; “You’re the wide in my world, / the home in my soon, / the star that found my dream, / the glow of my moon”.

An essential first purchase. This will become a storytime standard. Download an activity kit to share at storytime here.

 

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Marisol Rainey is back!

Surely Surely Marisol Rainey, by Erin Entrada Kelly, (Aug. 2022, Greenwillow Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062970459

Ages 7-10

Marisol Rainey is a middle grader with a little bit of an anxiety issue, introduced in Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey earlier this year. Her dad works on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, and she lives at home in Louisiana with her mom, older brother, and cat. This time out, Marisol is nervous when she her gym teacher introduces a unit on kickball: Marisol does NOT like kickball! She works on being brave, but it’s so hard, especially when classmate Evie, who is “an expert at throwing invisible darts at Marisol’s feelings”, is excellent at kickball. Newbery Medalist Kelly creates approachable, likable characters in her stories; Marisol and her best friend, Jada, are characters with depth that readers will see themselves in. Illustrations on almost every page make this a great book to move up from early chapter books and easy readers. Marisol is biracial; her mother is Filipino. Jada is brown-skinned with curly hair.

Surely Surely Marisol Rainey has a starred review from Horn Book. Visit author Erin Entrada Kelly’s webpage for resources on her books.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Little House of Hope is the story of America

The Little House of Hope, by Terry Catasús Jennings/Illustrated by Raúl Colón, (June 2022, Neal Porter Books/Holiday House), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823447169

Ages 4-8

A family arrives from Cuba and finds a home to call their own as they build their new lives in America. In time, La Casita – the little house – welcomes other family members and later, a family who needs a place to call home; together, they all work toward making the casita and America their new home. Terry Catasús Jennings was inspired by anger to write this story, after a realtor claimed to never rent to “Hispanics because they lived four families to a house and always destroyed the properties where the lived”. She was also inspired by the memories of growing up in her own casita. Here, the Definitely Dominguita author tells the stories of families who come here to be safe. In quietly passionate storytelling, she tells readers about the fears that spurred these people to leave their homes and come to the States, and she tells readers how these families all worked together to turn the house into a warm, loving casita: adults and children coming together to paint and clean, to mow lawns and make artwork, and how the casita inspired them. A father starts their own landscaping business. A mom starts a daycare in the casita. Another mother secures a job as a high school Spanish teacher, and a father becomes an accountant. A daughter uses her passion for collage to welcome new families to the casita, and when they’re ready to move on, sends them off with artwork to display in their home.

Pura Belpré medalist (2006) and Eric Carle Honor (2021) illustrator Raúl Colón pencil and watercolor artwork uses perspective and soft color to create beautiful moments: a family, looking up at la casita; gathered around a table, smiling; confiding in one another; a father, looking through the window and seeing a full home ready to welcome him. The Little House of Hope reminds us all that this is what America should be when we’re at our best.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Missing Mommy: Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle

Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle, by Nina LaCour/Illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536211511

Ages 3-7

A little girl loves her cuddly life with her Mama and her Mommy, but when Mommy has to go away for a week for work, she misses her more than anything. This book just bursts with joy and love, and is spot-on for any child who misses a beloved presence in their lives; something Nina LaCour touches on when the little girl shares her feelings with her class, and her friends weigh in, missing older siblings away at school, parents in another country, and pets that have run away. Nina LaCour embraces the childhood ache of missing a parent and the residual feelings when Mommy returns, and the little girl experiences the mixed emotions upon her return. She’s thrilled to have Mommy back home where she belongs, but confronts resentment at being left in the first place. Kaylani Juanita’s colorful mixed media illustrations show a loving family who lavish affection on one another. Mommy and the little girl are brown-skinned with hair and skin patches that allude to vitiligo. Mama is light-skinned, with lilac hair and tattoos. Inclusive and honest, Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle touches on all the right emotions kids experience when missing someone.

Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle has starred reviews from Booklist, Bookpage, and Publishers Weekly.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: Pruett and Soo!

A robot and alien make friendship and life colorful in this adorable story by Nancy Viau.

Pruett & Soo, by Nancy Viau/Illustrated by Jorge Lacera,
(March 2022, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542043427
Ages 4-7

Pruett is an adorable little robot with a computer monitor for a head, living on Planet Monochrome, where everything is… well, monochrome. Signs all over the place remind citizens to “Blend In. Wear Only Black, Gray, or White. Be Calm”, and encourage them to never ask questions, never play, and never use colorful crayons. That all changes when Soo, a colorful alien from Planet Prismatic, shows up in class one day! She’s a friendly extrovert who wants to share crayons and talk to her new classmates, and is stymied by the distanced reaction she gets. Pruett, who desperately wants to break out of his black, white, and grey world, sees Soo being rebuffed and becoming progressively sadder and lonelier, takes the chance: a colorful exclamation point lights up above his head, and he invites Soo to play tag. The two friends have so much fun together, that they spread a little of their joy – and their color – through the classroom. A colorful, playful story about taking the first step and affecting positive change, Pruett and Soo combines picture book narration with comic book word balloons to denote conversations between characters. The story begins in monochromatic black, white, and gray, and uses color to show the infectious fun Soo and Pruett bring to Planet Monochrome; a change reflected in the characters’ mannerisms and fonts, which become as colorful as Soo’s with time. The digital illustrations will delight young video gamers familiar with 8-bit games like Minecraft and Roblox.

Bottom line: Don’t let anyone dull your color. Change the world by adding some color! Pair this with F. Isabel Campoy, Theresa Howell, and Rafael López’s book, Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood, to illustrate how bringing color to a landscape brings positive change.

“The unlikely friendship at the heart of this allegorical picture book is touching. Viau’s writing is engaging.” Kirkus Reviews

“Highlighting the value of asserting one’s individuality in the face of pressures to conform, this vivid episode can stand alone or fit neatly into a storytime. – Booklist

Nancy Viau is the author of a number of books for children including Storm Song, illustrated by Gynux; Today Is a Beach Day!, illustrated by Charlie Alder; First Snow, illustrated by Talitha Shipman; and the Samantha Hansen series. A former teacher, she currently lives in New Jersey and travels around the solar system in her imagination. Learn more at nancyviau.com.

Twitter: @NancyViau1

Instagram: @nancyviau1

Facebook: Nancy Viau

 

Jorge Lacera was born in Colombia and grew up in Florida. He attended Ringling College of Art and Design and has worked as an artist or art director at major gaming studios and entertainment companies. He is the illustrator of Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies by Megan Lacera and XO, Exoplanet by Deborah Underwood. He lives in Canada with his family. Learn more at studiolacera.com.

Twitter: jlacera

Instagram: jlacera