Posted in Family Storytimes, picture books, Preschool Reads, Storytime, Toddler Reads

Saturday Storytime: Mindfulness and Wonder

I had a Saturday storytime a couple of weeks ago, and used it as a testing ground for some new books. A nice theme of mindfulness emerged, with a smidgen of wonder underneath; the kids and parents alike seemed to really enjoy this one. I created a short YouTube playlist to show videos for the singalong parts of the storytime; you can use this one, too, or build on it. Now, onto the books!

You Are Light, by Aaron Becker, (March 2019, Candlewick), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536201154

Ages 2-8

I started off with this gorgeous board book by Aaron Becker. The cover has a beautiful die-cut sun and circles; when you hold it up to the light, the effect is really stunning. The book is a rhyming meditation on the relationships between everything in our world: “This is the light that brings the dawn/to warm the sky and hug the land/It sips the sea to make the rain,/which waters wheat to grow the grain”. Each page highlights a facet of the world: sun, fire, water, wheat, leaves, a flower, the moon, and finally, a multicolored mandala with a human form inside of it. The die-cut circles shift in color as each spread progresses, always keeping the readers’ attention and reminding us that all things are connected, including us. The watercolor art is elegant, simple, and lovely; the pacing and text is thought-provoking and soothing. I saw parents cuddle their little ones while the bigger kids reveled in the shifting colors on each page. Aaron Becker does it again, bringing a board book with incredible depth for readers to love. This is going into my regular storytime rotation: it’s beautiful to look at, soothing to read and hear, and inspires thought and affection.

Aaron Becker is a Caldecott Honor-winning author of the Journey picture book trilogy and A Stone for Sascha. His author website has a wealth of free downloadables for parents, caregivers, and educators. You Are Light has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

The Whole Wide World and Me, by Toni Yuly, (Feb. 2019, Candlewick), $15.99, ISBN: 9780763692636

Ages 2-6

A young girl considers the world and her place in it in this beautifully illustrated book. This is another story about how we, and nature, are all connected; the story reads like a gentle meditation: “Like a flower/in a field…/like a fish…/in a pond…/like a cloud…/in the sky…/so am I”. It’s a story of being present, being mindful, and reads almost like a mantra. This would easily be as at home in a yoga or meditation storytime as it is in a traditional storytime. The ink, charcoal, torn tissue, cut paper, and digital collage artwork comes together and provides texture, with bright, bold colors adding a sweet, childhood feel that will bring the grownups in the room back to days when they would climb a tree, lay on the grass, or stick their toes in the water in a pond or at the beach. The artwork is perfect for a post-storytime craft where kids can make their own torn paper collage art.

The Whole Wide World and Me was another hit; I encouraged the kids to stretch to touch the clouds and pretend they were trees; bloom like a flower, spreading their hands wide and raising them up over their heads; and waving like a leaf floating from a tree. I’d pair this with Tiny, Perfect Things and Gina Perry’s Small for another storytime, too.

The Whole Wide World and Me has a starred review from Kirkus.

Stardust, by Jeanne Willis/Illustrated by Briony May Smith, (Feb. 2019, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536202656

Ages 3-8

A little girl dreams of being a star, but she always ends up in her sister’s shadow. Whether it’s finding her mother’s ring, knitting a scarf for her grandfather, or entering a costume contest, the girl’s sister outshines her in everything she does, but Grandpa is in her corner, cheering her on. He tells her that of course she’s a star: he explains the Big Bang Theory to her and how we are all made of stardust, and that she just “shines in [a] different way” from her sister. It’s a message that stays with the girl, as we later discover.

Stardust is one of those stories we can all relate to: there’s always someone better, smarter, funnier… sibling or no, Stardust speaks to us all and reminds us that we all have gifts, we all have something that makes us special – we’re just special at different things. The mixed media artwork gives a multilayered feel to the story, and Briony May Smith’s use of shadows give depth to her spreads. The spreads devoted to the birth of the universe are breathtaking, and placing the girl and her grandfather within those spreads is genius; it gives a real sense of the universe and our place in it, and a source of inspiration for kids everywhere.

The kids enjoyed this one, especially the outer-space spreads. I’d pair this with The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer and Jordan Crane’s We Are All Me for future storytimes and displays.

 

 

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Board and Picture Book Rundown!

I started this post in Hershey, PA while I attended KidLitCon17 – which was amazing, but kicked my butt! – so I’m finishing up now that I’m back home and getting ready to great a new week. More to come on the conference, but for now, let’s talk board books! I’ve been on a board book kick at work, having weeded a bit of the collection, so let’s take a look at a few that have just hit shelves. I’m on the lookout for fun, new, and different board books to get in front of the littles, and to keep up the momentum for my Mother Goose lapsit storytime. The Rodgers & Hammerstein board books are a must, and these look like big fun, too.

 
ABC for Me: ABC Baby Signs: Learn baby sign language while you practice your ABCs!, by Christiane Engel,
(Oct. 2017, Quarto Group), $16.95, ISBN: 9781633223660
Recommended for parents for kiddos 0-2
Sign language with babies has increased in popularity over the years. I used a couple of signs with my now high-schooler, and it blew my mind to see him communicating before he was fully forming words. It made things easier, too; he was able to express himself when he was hungry, for instance, and I was able to put together when he was fussy because he was hungry rather than running through a flow chart of options that always ended in tantrum. I use ASL in my toddler storytime to teach the kids a hello and goodbye song, so ABC for Me: Baby Signs is going in my distributor cart for my November order. This one goes in my Parenting collection, and I’ll use it in a storytime, too. With adorable illustrations and small call-outs with arrows and movement to show how to fully communicate signs, this book is a great new parent gift, too.
ABC Baby Signs is part of the ABC for Me series of board books, which includes ABC Yoga and ABC Mindful Me.
Little Concepts: ABC Color: Apricot, Burgundy & Chartreuse, 26 cool new colors are out on the loose!
Illustrated by Ingela Peterson Arrhenius, (Nov. 2017, Walter Foster Jr), $12.95, ISBN: 9781633223363
Recommended for readers 1-4
Primary colors are exciting, but why limit yourself? ABC Color introduces kids to the 64-crayon box, with colors like chartreuse, persimmon, and razzmatazz (it is too a real color). Each spread features two colors: they’re named on the left hand page, and the background design and accompanying illustration on the right page combine to create strongmen in striped singlets (scarlet and turquoise) or umber and violet (a reindeer by the light of a snowy moon). It’s just good fun, and a nice way to introduce even more complex words into a toddler’s or preschooler’s vocabulary. Get out the crayons and explore once you’re done! Kick your color by number worksheets up a notch!
The newest picture books I looked at are perfect for my littles, too. I can easily put these into my toddler storytime rotation and see the kids enjoying them.
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star: Classic Nursery Rhymes Retold, by Joe Rhatigan/Illustrated by Carolina Farias,
(Sept. 2017, Quarto Group), $12.95, ISBN: 9781633222373
Recommended for ages 0-5
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star is big in my storytimes (or anyone’s, really!), so a fun takeoff on the classic always brings some new life with it. Joe Rhatigan and illustrator Carolina Farias’ vision introduces readers to a group of cats that wants to hang out with their friend, the twinkling little star, but she’s so far away! Some ingenuity and teamwork, all in verse and to the tune of the original classic song, bring the friends together in the sweetest way that explains a lot. The song gets progressively sillier as the cats attempt their visit to the stars, offering readers the opportunity to work with facial expressions, gestures, and voice to make kids laugh along with you and the story. Perfect for a sing-a-long storytime. Make toilet paper roll rockets – DLTK Kids has an easy one that comes with a template.
GOA Kids – Goats of Anarchy: Polly and Her Duck Costume: + The true story of a little blind rescue goat,
by Leanne Lauricella/Illustrated by Jill Howarth, (Sept. 2017, Quarto Group), $17.95, ISBN: 9781633224186
Recommended for readers 3-8
Any book that includes the phrase, “Goats of Anarchy”, gets my attention. Polly and Her Duck Costume is the story of one of the Goats of Anarchy – a rescue for disabled and special needs goats in New Jersey – named Polly, a blind goat rescued when Leanne Lauricella adopted her and brought her to GOA. Polly loved being snuggled; it made her feel safe, so Lauricella came up with the idea of putting her in an adorable duck costume. It worked! When rescue goat Pippa joins the fold, she gets a duck costume, too. Eventually, the goats feel secure enough to go without their costumes, a testament to the safety and love they get at their home. A great book for kids because it’s adorable – there are baby goats wearing duck onesies! – and it leads into a discussion about special needs. Special needs readers will see themselves in Polly and Pippa, with their need for compression clothing to help them feel swaddled and secure; explaining to all kids that some children have sensory issues, and special clothes help them process their world at their own pace. The cartoony artwork is soft and sweet, almost reminding me of classic Golden Books artwork. There is a photo album starring Polly, Pippa, and Leanne Lauricella at the end of the book. Visit the Goats of Anarchy website to learn more about the organization, and link to their Instagram for more adorable pictures. There are more GOA books to come, including The Goat with Many Coats and Piney the Goat Nanny, about a rescue pig who comes to live at the sanctuary.  There’s a 2018 calendar due out, too!
Feather, by Cao Wenxuan/Illustrated by Roger Mello, Translated by Chloe Garcia-Roberts (Translated by)
(Oct. 201, Steerforth Press), $18.00, ISBN: 9780914671855
Recommended for readers 4-8

This beautiful book by celebrated Chinese children’s author and 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Award-winner Cao Wenxuan tells the tale of a feather trying to find its origin. The feather blows along with the wind, encountering different birds and asking, “Am I yours?”; the feather is usually ignored or brushed off. Just when Feather is about to give up hope, she spies a bird missing a feather… could it be? This beautifully illustrated and narrated story of searching for one’s origin, one’s place in the world, works on different levels for different age groups. For little readers, I’d pair this with Are You My Mother? and talk about families, who we are. For school-age children, this pairs with Jon Muth’s books, Zen Shorts and Zen Ties, offering a deeper look into daily life. The storytelling is meditative and the artwork is dynamic and beautiful. Both Wenxuan and illustrator Roger Mello are Hans Christian Anderson Award winners, and this pairing is wonderful. I’m hoping to see this one on my Mock Caldecott shortlist this year. Feather has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

 

Seagrass Dreams: A Counting Book, by Kathleen M. Hanes/Illustrations by Chloe Bonfield,
(May 2017, Quarto Group), $17.95, ISBN: 9781633221253
Recommended for readers 4-8
This is a solid mix of concepts and nonfiction for readers who love ocean animals. Seagrass is rooted to the sea floor, long blades or narrow, hollow tubes, that provide food and shelter for a variety of animals. In Seagrass Dreams, readers meet and count barracudas, stingrays, dugongs, sea cucumbers, and more. Each spread provides the opportunity to count marine life and learn their numbers. Readers who can sit still a little longer can learn more about each animal through a descriptive paragraph. Back matter includes a recap of the animals, their scientific names, a glossary of new terms, and a map of seagrass meadow locations around the world. There are further references for readers who want to learn more. The illustrations are created with deep colors and movement; you can envision the seagrass waving underwater as the fish zip through the blades.  A nice addition to concept collections, especially where you have readers who love ocean books. Display and booktalk with Alison Formento’s These Seas Count! and Marianne Berkes’ Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef.

 

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Book Review: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, by Iza Trapani (Whispering Coyote, 1997)

twinkle-twinkle-little-star-illustrated-by-iza-trapaniRecommended for ages 0-5

“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” is one of the first nursery rhymes many children learn, either from their parents, daycare providers, or preschool teachers. Ms. Trapani’s extended version of the song allows children to sing along as they view the story of a little gold star who takes a little girl on a trip through the night sky. After taking her to see the planets and sun, the star shows the girl how it guides ships at sea and shines light on loving families and sleeping animals and children. The star promises to shine on the little girl every night when it returns her back to her bed. The watercolor illustrations give a soft, dreamlike feel to the story, and the star itself appears to be rendered in a foil of some sort, so it stands out. The colors are muted, nighttime colors but for the light by the sun and the moon. There is a companion CD that lets readers sing along and can also help beginning readers sharpen their skills. There is also a Spanish translation available for a Spanish storytime.

This is a great candidate for a nursery rhyme-centered storytime, either with or without the CD accompaniment. There are many fingerplays available for Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, and a felt board may be fun to incorporate into the story, with the many sights the star takes the little girl to see through the course of the tale. The sheet music and lyrics are available in the back of the book and, with permission, may be handed out at the beginning of the storytime for parents, guardians, and children to sing along. The book’s publisher, Charlesbridge, has a free printable of the cover art that would make for a fun coloring project. The Perry Public Library has a wonderful “Star Light Star Bright” storytime that includes songs, rhymes and a star chart, an updated one of which can easily be found online.

The author’s webpage also offers downloadable activities and guides for her books.