Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A dad and son share special time during the Night Shift

Night Shift, by Karen Hesse/Illustrated by G. Brian Karas, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763662387

Ages 4-7

It’s a Friday night, and a boy and his dad head out at sundown for his father’s night shift as a school custodian. The pair ride to school on the boy’s father’s motorcycle, and as Dad cleans, the boy finds ways to himself busy; the two listening to a ball game on the radio. They eat their packed lunch together, and the boy reads to his father until he falls asleep on the couch. When Dad’s shift has ended, he wakes his son up, and they share a ride back home, where the boy cleans out his father’s lunch box, and curls up next to him on the recliner, drifting to sleep in his father’s embrace.

This gentle story shows a special relationship between father and son. The quiet blues and brows and mixed media are calming and provide a feeling that we’re getting a private glimpse into this family’s loving bond. The moment father and son unwrap their sandwiches and eat together is such a touching moment, the son genuinely happy to share this time with Dad as he leans into him, smiling; Dad smiling down on him. Dad gently puts his sleepy son into his jacket as they get ready to leave at 4 a.m. The boy curls into his father, head nuzzled into the crook of his father’s neck; his father’s head is turned away from readers, cheek on his son’s head. It’s a wonderful story that tells readers that quality time is what you make of it.

Narrated by the son, the prose shows a boy so aware of everything around him: the smell of the fish as they drive over the bay; the scent of the lilacs by the school; the sigh of the building as his father opens the door to the school; even what he imagines is the scene at the baseball game on the radio, “where the sun is shining on an emerald field”. Karen Hesse gives readers a feast for the senses and G. Brian Karas uses color to accent special moments throughout the text, be it the green couch that the boy naps on, his red sneakers, or the purple lilacs by the school building.

Night Job is a Junior Library Guild selection and has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

Karen Hesse is a Newbery Medal and the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction winner. G. Brian Karas has illustrated more than 90 children’s books.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Realistic Fiction

It takes love to Build a Better Tree Fort

The Better Tree Fort, by Jessica Scott Kerrin/Illustrated by Qin Leng, (March 2018, Groundwood Books), $17.95, ISBN: 9781554988631

Recommended for readers 4-8

A boy named Russell and and his dad move into their new home. Russell sees the giant maple tree in their yard as a perfect spot for a tree fort, so he and his dad set to work designing it, and – after multiple trips to the lumber store – build it together. It may not look like the tree fort in Russell’s imagination, but it is perfect. He and dad eat peanut butter and jam sandwiches in the fort, unfurl their sleeping bags for a tree fort sleepover, and enjoy each other’s company in the tree fort. When Russell sees construction workers in the yard three houses over, he realizes there’s another tree fort going up, so he heads over to meet his neighbor, a boy named Warren. Warren’s tree fort has it all: a balcony, escape slide, even electricity. After all, his dad bought the plans and paid for the builders to come build it. But all Warren can focus on is what it doesn’t have (a kitchen sink). Russell heads back home to his perfect tree fort, made with his father, for some quality time.

This is a sweet story about appreciation that makes for great reading and discussion. It’s nice to see a story about the relationship between father and son – a single dad, it would appear, from the text. They create this tree fort together, building it with their own two hands, sharing the time together. Warren and his dad – who isn’t present in the story – present a foil for readers: the dad with money but no time, and the child who doesn’t appreciate what he’s got. Russell goes home to his dad, who wants to hang out with his son, in the tree fort that they made together. The experience is what counts, not the gewgaws that make it fancy. It’s a great message to communicate to kids and parents alike: spend time together. Create together.

 

The ink, watercolor, and pencil crayon art uses subdued colors and perspective to tell the story: the giant, overwhelming shelves at the lumber store; the chaos of materials surrounding Russell and his dad as they try to figure out how to bring the tree fort to life; the colors of the sunset as they sit in the fort, eating sandwiches and sitting on sleeping bags. It’s a great story for a storytime and one-on-one cuddle time. Talk to your readers about appreciation, and about things they do with their grownups that they enjoy: do they cook with family? Play board games, or solve puzzles? Which tree fort did they like more, and why?

Jessica Scott Kerrin is an award-winning Canadian author who writes picture and middle grade books. You can learn more at her website. Find more of Canadian illustrator Qin Leng’s beautiful artwork (including artwork from another book I adore, Shelter) at her website.

Posted in Humor, Preschool Reads

Where do dads go when they’re lost? The Bureau of Misplaced Dads!

misplaced dadsThe Bureau of Misplaced Dads, by Éric Veillé/Illus. by Pauline Martin (Aug. 2015, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771382380

Recommended for ages 4-8

A young boy misplaces his dad one morning, and heads over to the Bureau of Misplaced Dads to see if he ended up there. Dads show up there every day, many of whom are reclaimed the same day, some who have waited a while, and some who get released into the wild. There are dads of all shapes and sizes, with all sort of quirks and talents, but is the boy’s dad there? And does he want a replacement dad if he’s not?

This is a cute story that will go over well in a storytime, as kids get to see all kinds of dads: strongman dads, dads named Michael, dancing dads, and clueless dads, for starters. The very idea of misplacing one’s dad will be familiar to any child whose parents have “gotten lost”, whether in a department store or in the same home.

The retro, digital artwork is entertaining and lively, with bright colors, exaggerated mustaches, and crazy costumes; various dads strike wacky poses as the little boy looks on, searching for the perfect dad: his.

The book is light and played for laughs, and would also make for a fun cuddle time story at bedtime for Dad and kids. I’m going to add this to a storytime and have the kids draw a picture of their dad on a milk carton template.

 

 

Posted in Preschool Reads

Walking Home to Rosie Lee: A boy’s search for his mother, post-Civil War

rosie leeWalking Home to Rosie Lee, by A. LaFaye, illus. by Keith D. Shepherd (Sept. 2015, Cinco Puntos Press), $7.95, ISBN: 9781941026052

Recommended for ages 6-10

The Civil War is finally over. The slaves have been freed. Young Gabe is searching for his mother, Rosie, who was sold before the war’s end. Told in the first person through Gabe’s perspective, Walking Home to Rosie Lee chronicles Gabe’s search for his mother.

This is a 2-hankie book, everyone. I’ve got three sons, and reading Gabe’s earnest voice describing his mother’s appearance, his potential joy and disappointment, his fear, just struck me right in the heart. It’s a beautiful story about the love of a son for his mother, and a small story within the larger story of the struggle that freed slaves went through, post-Civil War, to find their families and start their lives. We learn about the Freedman’s Bureaus, where freed slaves could go to find pictures and news of their relatives, and the importance of word of mouth – and sheer luck.

Keith D. Shepherd’s artwork is beautiful, truly enhancing the story with striking images like young Gabe, sleeping next to a woman he discovered on the search for his mother. Gabe, the focus for the book, is striking, with his huge, loving eyes. You want this boy to find his mother, you want everyone on that trail, that search, to be reunited with their families. The artwork gives this story a deeper pathos than words alone can reach.

rosie lee_6

Walking Home to Rosie Lee is a beautiful story of love and reunion. Put this one on your shelves, parents and educators, and read it often. Talk about it often.

Walking Home to Rosie Lee was a Stepping Stones Honor book, a 2012 IRA Teachers Choice Selection, 2012 Bank Street School of Education Best Books of the Year Selection, and a Nominee for the 2012 Kentucky Bluegrass Award. It will be published through Cinco Puntos Press in September 2015. There is an educator’s guide on the author’s website.

 

Posted in Animal Fiction, Preschool Reads

We all have our own song – A Song for Papa Crow

song for papa crowA Song for Papa Crow, by Marit Menzin (Schiffer Publishing, 2012). $16.99 ISBN: 978-0764341311

Recommended for ages 4-8

A young crow sings his happy song wherever he goes, but the birds around him – Goldfinches, Flycatchers, and Cardinals, to name a few – can’t bear to hear Little Crow’s caw. Papa Crow tells his son that he always knows where to find him when he follows his song, but Little Crow wants to sing like the other birds. When he sees The Amazing Mockingbird sing, and finds out the bird’s secret, he wants to change his song – but learns that singing your own song is the best song of all.

This is a sweet story about individuality, by collage artist Marit Menzin. She uses mixed media collage to great effect to illustrate her story, making this a gorgeous book to use in a storytime. The textures make the birds and scenery come alive, and her font – a decorative font, black in color – allows for a reader to weave the story to an audience that can sit and listen to the tale. I would read this book to an older group, maybe 4-6, that can sit quietly and enjoy the story.

This book invites a fun workshop for any librarian/parent/educator who has the space – make your own birds with collage materials! The book also includes a list of the birds referenced in the book, with some information on each. For a simpler storytime activity, there are bird printables all over the Internet.

A Song for Papa Crow received a Mom’s Choice Award Gold Honor in 2012. The author’s website offers a look at some more of her beautiful collage work.

 

Posted in Preschool Reads

Book Review: Blue Ribbon Dad, by Beth Raisner Glass/Illus. by Margie Moore (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2011)

blue ribbon dadRecommended for ages 2-6

The book, a love letter to dads, shows a young squirrel counting down the hours until his father gets home from work. As he works on a craft project to have ready for his father’s arrival, he thinks of all the things his dad does with him: he wakes him up in the morning, packs his lunch and brings him to school, and watches his swimming lessons. When Dad comes home, his son presents him with a blue ribbon, for being a Number 1 Dad. The story, told in rhyme, will appeal to young readers and audiences. The illustrations are made with black pen and watercolors on cold press paper and provide soft images with enough definition that the characters stand out against their backgrounds. The faces on the family members are gentle and expressive. The endpapers feature all of the craft supplies used to make the blue ribbon plus the clock, an important part of the story as the squirrel son counts each hour down until his father comes home. The book comes with a detachable blue ribbon that should probably be removed before putting circulating, rather than invite theft and damage to the book.

This would be a good addition to a Father’s Day read-aloud. The blue ribbon is an easily made storytime craft. The Perry Public Library has a Daddy storytime theme that includes songs and rhymes that would enhance any read-aloud.