Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Gift ideas for Little Kiddos

They’re going to get tons of toys, why not be the cool gift-giver that gives books? Here are some recent faves:

My Favorite Color: I Can Only Pick One?, by Aaron Becker, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Studio), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536214741

Ages 0-3

Caldecott Honor-winner Aaron Becker’s board book follow up to 2019’s You Are Light is all about choosing one’s favorite color… wait, can you choose a favorite color? Is it yellow, like the sun? Or blue, like the sea? But then again… there’s green… or pink! Yikes, how can someone have just one favorite color when there’s beautiful colors in all of nature? Aaron Becker takes readers through colors in nature, with die-cuts and small, colorful squares laid out; some translucent and beautiful to look at in the light. It’s an art book and a lovely meditation on nature; at its simplest, it’s a relatable book for any kid who’s been asked a question for which there is no one clear answer. Read and display with Mary Murphy’s What I Like Most, and, of course, You Are Light.

My Favorite Color has starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus. Publisher Candlewick has a free, downloadable teacher’s guide with helpful tips to start a conversation.
This is a Book of Shapes, by Kenneth Kraegel, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Press), $8.99, ISBN: 9781536207019
Ages 0-3
A laugh-out-loud concept book of shapes with curveballs thrown in, This is a Book of Shapes starts off like most concept books: A circle on one page; a statement on the other: This is a circle. The pattern follows for a few pages, and then… “This is an emu pushing a pancake wagon down a hill”. Wait, what? Perfect for those “are you paying attention?” moments, the book alternates shape statements with surreal, wacky divergences that will delight kids and grownups alike. Read as deadpan as you can – you may need to practice a few times to get there, I keep giggling as soon as I turn the page to the emu – for extra loud laughs. You can’t NOT read this for storytime. Make sure to have copies of Candlewick’s activity page handy for afterward.
1, 2, 3 Do the Dinosaur, by Michelle Robinson & Rosalind Bearshaw, (Jan. 2020, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-68464-044-7
Ages 2-5
Follow a little boy named Tom as he teaches all the dinos a new dance: The Dinosaur! Tom is a little boy dressed in dinosaur PJs, surrounded by all sorts of colorful dinosaurs as he leads them – and you! – through chomps, roars, tail swishes, and stomps. But what happens when the big T-Rex shows up? Why, you let him join in the fun, of course! The rhyming text is interactive and is perfect for storytime stomping and swishing. Colorful, friendly dinosaurs will appeal to all dino lovers. No scary ones here.  Think of Ed Emberley’s If You’re a Monster and You Know It, Sandra Boynton’s Barnyard Dance, Kelly Starling Lyons’s One More Dino on the Floor, or Laurie Berkner’s We Are the Dinosaurs. It’s a dino dance party and your readers are invited, so let them color in some dinosaurs and take them along!
Catch that Chicken!, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Angela Brooksbank, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212686
Ages 2-5
The latest outing from Anna Hibiscus author Atinuke and illustrator B is for Baby illustrator Angela Brooksbank is all about ingenuity. Lami is a little girl who’s the best chicken catcher in her village, but when she chases a chicken up a baobab tree and has a fall, her ankle is sprained and she needs a new way to think about catching the fiesty birds. Her Nana encourages her to think differently: “It’s not quick feet that catches chickens – it’s quick thinking”, and with a little thought, Lami has an idea: make the chickens come to her! A simple, smart way to get kids to consider alternatives, Catch That Chicken! has short sentences with lots of repetition; alliterative action words that will be fun in a story time (“Lami leans! Lami lungues! Lami leaps!”), and the colorful mixed media artwork is done in warm colors. Characters have friendly, welcoming faces and body language, and there’s a lot of movement in the pictures. A fun story for storytime and for little ones’ bookshelves.
Arlo the Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep, by Catherine Rayner, (Oct. 2020, Peachtree Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-222-2
Ages 2-6
Arlo is a lion who just can’t get comfortable and fall asleep. The grass is too prickly, his family wriggles too much, he just can’t make it work and he is EXHAUSTED. Luckily, Owl is nearby and teaches Arlo a sweet relaxation exercise that soothes him right to sleep. When Arlo finally has a refreshing night’s sleep, he’s so excited that he wakes Owl to tell her… and proceeds to help Owl soothe herself back to sleep. Together, the two friends teach the trick to Arlo’s family, and everyone is happily dozing in no time. Except for Owl, who’s nocturnal. Kate Greenway Medal winner Catherine Rayner creates a sensitive bedtime story that’s perfect for teaching kids to self-soothe using visualization and deep breathing. Mixed media artwork uses soft colors, with warm landscapes and a cuddly, sleepy lion; the meditative phrase repeats throughout the story, helping little ones listen to their reader lead them into a night of pleasant dreaming. Perfect for bedtime reading, read this one slowly and guide your littles through thoughts and breathing into naptime or bedtime.
Arlo the Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep has a starred review from Kirkus. Publisher Peachtree has an excerpt and Author Q&A available on their website.
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A concept classic returns! Yellow Yellow by Frank Asch & Mark Alan Stamaty

Yellow Yellow, by Frank Asch/Illustrated by Mark Alan Stamaty, (May 2019, Drawn & Quarterly), $15.95, ISBN: 9781770463585

Ages 2-6

Originally published in 1971, Yellow Yellow is back for a new generation of readers. A boy finds a bright yellow hat as he goes walking in the city one day. He wanders the streets, wearing the hat, until he finally meets up with the hat’s owner: a burly construction worker, who needs his hat back. When the boy goes home, he makes his own yellow hat.

Yellow Yellow has vintage ’70s artwork that just explodes across the page, and the story is truly written in a different time; the boy wanders crowded urban streets with no parental guidance, walking along a construction site loaded with screws, pipe fittings, and paint cans; passes blocks jammed with small storefronts, like a barbershop, a bookstore, and a deli; and passes through a lunch counter joint, where he weighs himself on a scale that costs a penny. This is the urban New York landscape of my childhood, and I love every single second I spend with this boy and his stroll. Tiny details abound, providing a feast for the sharp-eyed reader. The black and white scratchy ink drawings have yellow touches for effect and appear like 1970s-era mandalas for Gen Xers like myself. Mark Alan Stamaty made each 2-page spread filled with things to see, from the paint cans that offer inspirational messages (read ’em!) to the boys’ room at home, walls covered in pictures of planes, numbers, and letters. Surreal touches dot the artwork, too: the boy has fish in a birdcage, and two birds thriving in a clearly full fish tank. At the lunch counter, a live frog waits under one glass dome, while a bird makes a nest in another. Hope they’re not on the menu!

If you love the old school Sesame Street music cutaways, like the famous pinball “12” song, Yellow Yellow will hit you right in the heartstrings. Right this to your kidlings, play the Number 12 song, and have plenty of yellow construction paper handy to make yellow hats.

Frank Asch went on to create the classic Moonbear books, and Mark Alan Stamaty wrote another children’s classic, Who Needs Donuts, in 1973.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Intermediate, picture books

Grab your passport! These picture books will take your imagination on an adventure!

An Atlas of Imaginary Places, by Mia Cassany/Illustrated by Ana de Lima, (March 2018, Prestel), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791373478

Recommended for readers 5-10

How do you not love a book that came together over coffee and carrot cake? An Atlas of Imaginary Places came together when author Mia Cassany and Ana de Lima did just that; talking about the places they pictured in their minds and dreams, they came up with “colors and languages for an atlas that would never exist… Or would it?” Bursting with color, islands, and mountains; with animals that change their coats every time someone sneezes, and volcanoes that spit lava made of bubble gum, the places in this atlas provide something new and exciting with each turn of the page.

This is the kind of book that begs for multiple readings. Every spread offers a new place with new wonders, and you’ll notice something new each time. There are cities, oceans, jungles, and islands waiting to be explored by readers who can get lost in their pages. Send your little ones to bed with a page or two, setting the stage for wonderful dreams, or ask your readers to add to the landscape and come up with their own exciting places and inhabitants. This is the kind of book that makes readers love reading; this is the kind of storytelling that sets the stage for creativity. Give this to your explorers and dreamers, and display with books like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Adele in Sandland, or Wallpaper. An Atlas of Imaginary Places was originally released in Spain in 2016.

 

The Dangerous Journey, by Tove Jansson, (Apr. 2018, Drawn & Quarterly), $16.95, ISBN: 9781770463202

Recommended for readers 6+

Originally published in 1977 in Finland and translated to English in 2010, this Moomin adventure was the last picture book completed by beloved artist and author Tove Jansson. A young girl named Susanna is bored and irritable; her cat, being a cat, is curled up on the grass, enjoying the beautiful day, which seems to annoy Susanna even more. When a new pair of glasses just appears next to her, she tries them on and is transported to a fantastic land, where, though frightened, she sets off on a new adventure. She meets a group of fellow travelers who seem to know who she is: Hemulen (who readers familiar with Moomin will recognize), and friends from Moomin Valley:  Bob and Thingummy, Sniff, and Snufkin. Together, the group treads through surreal, creepy landscapes, braving volcanoes, storms, and monsters, until they reach Moomin Valley and safety.

The Dangerous Journey is a surreal adventure fit for kids and adults alike. The Dangerous Journey‘s rhyming text begs for a read-aloud, and Tove Jansson’s watercolor artwork appeals to the eyes and the imagination. The book’s final message also makes this a good graduation gift á la  Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go!: “Whether things turned out okay/She’s never going to know./When adventure comes your way/Enjoy it. Let it go.” This is a picture book classic to add to your collections; introduce it to readers of all ages who haven’t yet met the Moomins. You can meet the characters in Moomin, and see which character you’d be at the Moomin website.

 

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Need a shot of creativity? Go on a Jabber Walk!

Jabberwalking, by Juan Felipe Herrera, (March 2018, Candlewick), $22.99, ISBN: 9781536201406

Recommended for readers 7-12

Juan Felipe Herrera, the first Mexican-American Poet Laureate in the U.S.A., encourages readers to spark their creativity by going on a Jabber Walk. Part biography, part writing guide, Jabber Walking is an effusive, silly, excitable look inside a creative mind. Herrera wants to show kids that it’s easy to get the creative juices flowing by getting moving: go Jabber Walking, and let your imagination go wild! Herrera’s Jabber Walk takes readers with him on a walk to the Library of Congress, accompanied by his Chinese Pit Bull Shar-Pei, Lotus, who loves getting into her own blue-cheesy, crazy adventures. Black and white scrawled pictures are proof that creativity and Jabber Walking aren’t limited solely to words. He asks questions to prompt thought: Do you remember a family story? How far back in time do your familiar stories take you? and introduces us to his story, starting with his father’s great escape from Mexico in the early 20th Century. We learn that Jabber poems aren’t supposed to be “too clean”: they’re “fast poems… wild poem… an unkempt, dirty, poem. A scribble, gooey, cuckoo, sweaty, puffy, blue-cheesy, incandescent poem!”

Throw the idea that you need to be linear out the window – this is the kind of book that embraces the creative process, with all of the crazy, fun, random thoughts that go into it. I’d love to see this used to teach creative writing; I’d love to start a Jabber Writing program at my library. Hmmm… Give this to kids that love to write, and give this to kids that need a gentle nudge to unleash their inner Jabber writer. Jabber Walking is too much fun, and it’s one of those books that begs for more than one reading; there’s just too much to take in on one read. Jabber Walking received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.