Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

A gift for every learner!

It’s that time of year, expect the gift guides to be coming at you fast and furious. Let’s see what’s making my lists this year.

Mercury: 100 Piece Puzzle (Featuring Photography from the Archives at NASA), (Aug. 2021, Chronicle Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781797210346

Ages 6+

Puzzle fans, astronomy fans, science fans, everyone will love the next planetary puzzle from Chronicle Books. Mercury is the newest 100-piece puzzle using photography from the Archives at NASA, a follow-up to April’s Earth puzzle (which my kid and I still haven’t solved). It’s a beautiful photo of Mercury, and it is huge: 2 1/2 feet in diameter, so clear off a table for Thanksgiving/holiday gatherings and let the family and friends have at it. Puzzle pieces are sturdy, and they’re a good size, inviting little hands to help out, too. It’s a round puzzle, so you can somewhat figure out the outside of Mercury, but don’t forget: it’s a photo, so have fun trying to figure out which crater is goes where (G, my kiddo, and I are still arguing over them).

 

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! An Animal Poem for Each Day of the Year, selected by Fiona Waters/Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup, (Oct. 2021, Nosy Crow), $40.00, ISBN: 9781536217186

Ages 3-8

This is a beautiful collection of animal poems for readers, poetry fans, and animal lovers. There are 366 poems – one for every day, including Leap Year – organized by month. Each month begins with a table of contents that lays out each poem and author by day. The spreads are beautiful and the poems are related on each spread, giving a feeling of cohesion. January 1-3 have poems about polar bears; 4-5 about whales; the action moves through the days, with spreads turning to sheepdogs on guard, wolves, and more. Britta Teckentrup’s artwork is just beautiful, with cold, quiet winter spreads moving into warm, home interiors; crocodiles lurk on one spread, gazelles leap through grass in another. Colorful, not overwhelming, the artwork brings the ideas in each poem to life. Endpapers offer lush, green leaves, inviting us in, and closing their doors behind us. Read a few a time, or savor them day by day.

 

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame/Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith, (Nov. 2021, Templar Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536219999

Ages 7-12

The classic children’s novel gets a gift hardcover release just in time for the holidays! If you’ve never read The Wind in the Willows, you’re missing out. The adventures of Mr. Toad, Mole, Ratty, and Badger have been delighting readers since its publication in 1908. This hardcover gift version has illustrations from Kate Greenway Medal winner Grahame Baker-Smith that give gorgeous life to the story; some are sepia-toned, some rendered in shades of blue, green, or brown, some in rich, warm, earth colors. The cloth cover looks like a copy of the book I found on my own public library’s shelves a lifetime ago; just running my hand over the cover brought back memories of sitting down with it and wandering into Mr. Toad’s magic world. Give this to a younger reader, give it to a grownup who needs to go back in time, even if just for a moment.

Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

Jurassic Pets! Dr. Dean Lomax and Mike Love gives us Preshistoric Pets

Prehistoric Pets, by Dr. Dean Lomax/Illustrated by Mike Love, (Sept. 2021, Templar), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217148

Ages 5-9

Cat people all know that our little furballs think of themselves as savage, saber-toothed tigers on the hunt, whether they’re stalking a daydreaming dinosaur or a dust bunny. But did you ever imagine what your guinea pig’s ancestors may have looked like? Paleontologist Dr. Dean Lomax has you covered. Prehistoric Pets looks at the evolution of seven favorite kinds of pets: guinea pigs, parakeets, corn snakes, cats, goldfish, dogs, and horses. Using the fossil record to trace each pet’s lineage, Dr. Lomax goes back through the family trees of each of these popular pets to give us an idea of their prehistoric parentage. That chatty parrot likely descended from the Velociraptor; your corn snake can trace its heritage back to the giant Titanoboa. Each spread folds out into a pop-up gatefold, with the prehistoric beast rising up from the pages. Loaded with facts about both the modern animal and its primeval counterpart, and filled with colorful artwork, this is a home run for your prehistory collections. Display and talk up with one of my favorite read-alouds, Steve Jenkins’s Prehistoric Actual Size. The pop-ups are going to seal the deal for readers on this book – get a couple if your budget permits.

 

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Reading Takes you Everywhere: Nature!

I’m going to stick to my library’s Summer Reading theme, Reading Takes You Everywhere, for this post; in this case, reading takes you into the Great Outdoors!

Weird but True! Ocean: 300 Fin-Tastic Facts from the Deep Blue Sea, by National Geographic Kids, $8.99, ISBN: 9781426371813

Ages 7-12

I have said this before, and I’ll say it again: these chunky, digest-sized NatGeo books MOVE. I refresh my collection throughout the year, every year, because the kids in my library love them. They love the wild collection of facts across all sorts of subjects, they love that they’re small enough to shove in their schoolbags (or mom’s bag), and they’ll pull them out anywhere (ANYWHERE) to rattle off facts to anyone (ANYONE) who will listen. It’s just great. This volume has loads of facts about the ocean: did you know that otters keep rocks under their arms to help them crack open clams? Or that feeding cows seaweed helps them burp less? Maybe you didn’t know this, but a sea cucumber can expel its organs to distract predators, and grow them back later. There are tons of great and fun facts here, accompanied by incredible color photos. Just add it to your cart; the kids will take care of the rest.

 

Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas, by Elizabeth Shreeve, Illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon, (May 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536214109

Ages 6-9

I love this gorgeous book! It’s a “story from out of the blue” about how animals evolved from microbes in the ocean to land creatures through Earth’s timeline. Spread by spread, readers travel through the planet’s history, from the Archean Eon (4-2.5 billion years ago) through the Cenzoic Era (66 million year ago to the present), with colorful illustrations as life evolves from sea-dwelling single-celled organisms, to athropods and echinoderms, to mollusks, dinosaurs, and finally, humans. It’s a compulsively readable history that describes the different types of organisms and illustrates the evolution from single- to multi-celled creatures; the development of fins to limbs, and how we are always connected to the water.  Readers learn how animals (and people!) compare to those that came before, and the informative text is chunked into readable paragraphs that respect and never overwhelm readers. Perfect for STEM/STEAM collections.

Out of the Blue has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.
Wild is the Wind, by Grahame Baker-Smith, (May 2021, Templar), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536217926
Ages 4-8
A girl named Cassi watches over a small bird, a swift, that she’s cared for. It’s time to let the bird go; the swifts soar around them, hearing the call of the wind, and Cassi knows that “They are wild and belong to the wind”. This breathtaking book is alternately a story about a girl letting her bird rejoin the world that brought it to her, and a story about the wonder of the wind. Across the world, winds whip into the sky, as ancient as the dinosaurs; they power turbines and give us power; they “howl with power” as storms. Every spread is a gorgeous revelation, with the ever-present swifts traveling the currents. Deep colors and incredible visions in the sky make this a fantasy to sweep readers away and return them, where they’ll never think of an ordinary breeze in the same way again. Grahame Baker-Smith is a Kate Greenaway Award-winning illustrator, and his companion book, The Rhythm of the Rain, is an excellent companion to Wild is the Wind. Have these available for your nature readers and display this with Aaron Becker’s Journey Trilogy.
Wild is the Wind has a starred review from Kirkus.
Little Kids First Big Book of Rocks, Minerals & Shells, by  Moira Rose Donohue & National Geographic Kids, (July 2021, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426372223
Ages 4-8
The “Little Kids First Big Book” is another great series from NatGeo Kids. They introduce younger learners to science concepts in a fun, accessible way. It’s NatGeo, so you know the photos are amazing, and the information is organized into easily readable sections of interest. Here, kids will learn how rocks are formed, the difference between rocks and minerals, and how they’re used in just about every facet of our lives. Chapters are organized into Rocks, Minerals, and Seashells, and activities and map-reading activities at the end of every chapter help kids put their thinking caps on and sharpen new and developing skills. Fact boxes and cool callout boxes throughout keep kids turning pages, almost feeling like they’ve got that fun, small digest (see up above, Weird But True) handy, where they can tell everyone cool bits of info (The Great Sphinx in Egypt was carved from limestone!).  A Parent Tips section offers fun and safe ways to join your kids in learning about rocks, minerals, and seashells (ahem… STEM program in a book!). There are additional resources, including a Bill Nye video on the rock cycle, and a glossary, and the book is indexed. What a great resource to have handy!
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

How we learn: The Boy Who Knew Nothing

The Boy Who Knew Nothing, by James Thorp/Illustrated by Angus MacKinnon, (May 2021, Templar), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217131

Ages 3-7

The gorgeously illustrated rhyming story about a boy who seeks answers is all about how we learn: by asking. “On the day he was born, / before he could crawl, / the boy who knew nothing / knew nothing at all” starts readers off with a baby in a hot pink stroller, a blank slate waiting to fill up. He discovers a pink creature in a dress-up box one day, and asks his parents what it is; his father scoffs and says it’s a sleepy giraffe (it is not). Not terribly confident in his father’s response, the boy sets out on his own, traveling his island and asking others for their input. He returns to his home and his school, much wiser for his experiences, and teaches his classmates a valuable rule: “If there’s ever something / you don’t understand, / don’t be too frightened / to put up your hand”. It’s a valuable lesson for children who may be too shy to speak up, and for anyone – adults or children – whose instinct has ever been to chuckle and say, “Everyone knows…”.

Angus MacKinnon’s artwork is outstanding; it’s got a real Peter Max and Heinz Edelmann pop art/psychadelic feel, with bold, black outlines and bright pink and teal ink and digital illustration. Shifting perspectives as the book goes from landscape to portrait will keep readers’ attention. The reveal of the pink animal that starts our friend off on his journey is an incredible 2-page spread that just begs for a dramatic read-aloud. A read-aloud with a strong message, this should be part of your back-to-school storytimes every year.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

More Holiday Book Joy!

More great holiday books to crow about! Let’s take a look!

The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol, by Arthur A. Levine/Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9780763697419

Ages 5-8

“Nate Gadol is a great big spirit with eyes as shiny as golden coins and a smile that is lantern bright.” He has the gift of making things last as long as they are needed, whether it’s a tiny bit of oil that needs to stretch for the eight nights of Hanukkah, or a little bit of chocolate that will be enough to give a a family like the Glasers a sweet holiday treat. He sees the Glasers and their neighbors, the O’Malleys, helping one another out all the time, sharing what little they have with one another, so when Nate spots Santa Claus having sleigh trouble on Christmas Eve, he’s happy to figure out how to stretch some holiday magic – and share a special evening with old friends and new. Author Arthur A. Levine was inspired to write this hybrid holiday tale that creates a “supplementary mythology” that has less to do with religion than with the spirit of the holiday season.An author’s note from Mr. Levine explains his inspiration, and the story is a sweet pairing of two holidays. Acyrlic artwork is rich, with lots of texture, and gold foil accents bring a magical element to life. A cheerful holiday story to have available for your readers.

Publisher Candlewick has a free, downloadable activity kit available on their website.

 

Christmas is Joy, by Emma Dodd, (Sept. 2020, Templar Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781536215458

Ages 2-5

The latest in her Love You series, Emma Dodd creates another affectionate story that’s perfect for lapsits and cuddle time. Rhyming verse presents tender holiday musings: “Christmas is joy / that’s overflowing / It’s sparkling eyes / and faces glowing”. Two reindeer take in the wonder of the snow season together and in a group. Digital illustrations are gently colorful, with silver foil effects added for snowy winter magic. Emma Dodd’s books always create a quiet sense of joy when I read them; I hope they do for you, too. A nice choice for your holiday bookshelves.

 

The Worst Christmas Ever, by Kathleen Long Bostrom/Illustrated by Guy Porfirio, (Sept. 2020, Flyaway Books), $17, ISBN: 978-1947888098

Ages 5-8

Matthew is not happy when his family decides to pack up and move to California. He misses his friends, his school, and now, with Christmas coming, he misses snow! Palm trees instead of evergreen? No way! Pink Christmas trees for sale? NOPE. When Matthew’s dog, Jasper, runs away, Matthew is heartbroken and convinced that this will be the worst Christmas ever. His sister, Lucy, is sympathetic, but she is much more excited about the move than Matthew is, and he feels more alone than ever. It will take a special kind of magic during the Christmas Eve church service to save the holiday for Matthew. A story of feeling uprooted and finding the strength to believe, The Worst Christmas Ever is a holiday story with the message of the season at its heart. Illustrations are realistic and expressive, and the relationship between Matthew and Jasper comes across through the artwork. A nice story about believing in miracles for the kids this holiday.

Posted in Animal Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Picture Book Roundup: Cats and Dogs, Bears, Birds, and Dinosaurs!

I’m still going through my BookExpo bags (okay, I’ve moved them from one area of my room to another), but in the meantime, I’ve got picture books to talk about! Some are available, some are up-and-coming, all are a pleasure to read. Let’s take a look at what’s good!

SumoKitty, by David Biedrzycki, (Aug. 2019, Charlesbridge), $18.99, ISBN: 9781580896825

Ages 5-9

A stray cat hangs around a sumo training center, hoping for some food. He’s about to be thrown out by the manager when one of the sumo shrieks: a mouse! Looks like the kitty has a new job and a new home, which he quickly becomes accustomed to. But the good life makes him lose his edge: he’s gained weight and the mice come back with a vengeance. Tossed back out into nature, Kumo, a kind sumo, lets the cat back in, but levels with him: the mice have humbled the cat like the sumo’s main opponent, the yokozuna, has humbled him. From there, SumoKitty starts a faithful training routine, inspired by Kuna’s disciplined regiment. When a mouse dares show up in the dojo next time, SumoKitty is there, pushing and tossing the mouse and his friends around until they clear out for good. He’s rewarded by not only being welcomed back to the dojo, but he’s given a sweet topknot haircut, too. He also gets a front row seat at the next sumo tournament, where he watches his friend Kumo face his own demons and takes on his longtime opponent.

A sweet story about overcoming challenges, SumoKitty is loaded with Japanese sumo terms and wise observations like “Fall down seven times; get up eight” and “Even monkeys fall from trees”. Adorable SumoKitty is cartoonish with large, expressive eyes and exaggerated facial expressions, while the sumo artwork appears inspired by Japanese woodblock paintings. The black and white endpapers give readers a before-and-after glimpse into the story, with a mouse running in a Zen garden as someone maintains the area; later, SumoKitty is fast asleep on a rock in the same Zen garden, no maintainer, and no mouse present. It’s a sweet peek into sumo culture and an all-around fun read. Jon J. Muth’s Zen Shorts, Zen Ties, and Zen Happiness are nice readalikes to SumoKitty; for a good giggle and a more madcap take on sumo, you can’t go wrong with David Wisniewski’s Sumo Mouse, which has been a favorite in my home since my eldest (now 20) was in Kindergarten and continues to be required reading with my first grader.

 

Hey, Dog, by Tony Johnson/Illustrated by Jonathan Nelson, (June 2019, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580898775

Ages 4-8

A boy finds a dog hiding in a bush. The dog is afraid, runs, but the boy returns, time and again, to care for the dog, leaving him food, water, even an umbrella propped up to cover him in the rain. The boy confides in his mother that the dog is skinny and has scars; he refuses to give up on Dog, determined if not to earn his trust, then to care for him.

Hey, Dog crushed me. It’s just gorgeous writing that packs an emotional punch. The boy’s relationship with his mother, who is nervous – her son is trying to care for a strange dog that could very well bite him, right? – but supports her empathetic child, helping him in any way she can and the boy’s quiet resilience in the face of Dog’s fear and mistrust will make you have hope for people after all. The boy is written so wonderfully, whether he’s asking a shopkeeper if his dog food “is the most luscious” or when he drops to his knees, tears “warming his face”, as he tries to comprehend how anyone could have it in them to hurt an animal. Dog is illustrated to provoke another emotional gut punch; his cringing and reticence come through so viscerally, it’ll bring tears to your eyes. Seeing this poor pup, single paw raised, ribs poking through his coat, and trusting once more to lick the boy’s hand make this story a powerful, must-have book for you collection. Read this, hand this to kids, talk about the need for empathy in our world.

 

 

Bear’s Book, by Claire Freedman/Illustrated by Alison Friend, (May 2019, Templar Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536205718

Ages 4-8

Bear loves to read, but his favorite book of stories has been read to bits! He decides to create his own story, but holy writer’s block, he can’t think of anything! He decides to go for a stroll and see if inspiration hits, and meets several friends along the way. When he returns home and goes over his day, he realizes that the best inspiration comes from one’s own adventures!

This is an adorable story of inspiration and friendship, and fits nicely with Small Moments writing prompts. Bear’s adventure is a series of small moments, pulled together to create a lovely adventure. He’s inspired by his friends, and they have all enjoyed their friend’s company for a day. A fold-out spread publishes Bear’s story for his friends – and our – enjoyment. Mixed media illustrations are gently rendered with soft earth tones.  This one is a sweet storytime pick, and good inspiration for a Summer Reading creative writing program.

 

 

My Name Isn’t Oof!: Warren the Warbler Takes Flight, by Michael Galligan/Illustrated by Jeremiah Tramell, (May 2019, Little Bigfoot), $17.99, ISBN: 9781632171931

Ages 4-8

A little bird tries to fly after watching his siblings take off, but he falls, landing with a giant, “Oof!” Naturally, every animal in the forest has an opinion, and to add insult to injury, they all call him “Oof”! The chipmunk says he forgot to jump; the Mouse says he needs to spread his wings; Squirrel says he has to flap. While they all have feedback aplenty on Warren’s flying prowess, they manage to bonk, push, and trip one another up, but Warren – who keeps protesting this new nickname – finally takes to the sky, to everyone’s cheering!

A cute story of perseverance with some hilarious physical comedy, My Name Isn’t Oof! will have younger readers giggling during a read-aloud, especially if you move around and act out the story. The repeated phrase, “My name isn’t Oof!” is a good discussion point to get kids talking about how unwanted nicknames can stick; you can also point out that while all the animals jump to find fault with Warren’s first flight, they’re just as clumsy as he is: no one is perfect! Back matter includes a paragraph on the Townsend Warbler, the kind of bird our star Warren is, and what readers can do if they find a baby bird fallen from a nest. Suggest Charlie Alder’s Daredevil Duck as a readalike for more humorous stories of overcoming obstacles.

 

 

How To Take Care of Your Dinosaur, by Jason Cockcroft, (May 2019, Nosy Crow), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536205688

Ages 3-6

Taking care of your very own dinosaur is a very big job! How to Take Care of Your Dinosaur is here to help. Written similar to a handy-dandy manual, the book takes a look at some of the more light-hearted moments in pet parenting a dinosaur. Taking your dino for a walk? Bring a bucket and a shovel, there’s no pooper scooper that’s built for this job. Dinos can be a little tough on sharing, so make sure to get them around new people and encourage them to make friends! The book stresses the importance of routine when caring for your dinosaur; something parents and caregivers will appreciate!

Digital illustrations are adorable and feature soft colors. The endpapers add to the fun: the front endpapers show a mailman struggling under the weight of a gigantic package (the egg); the back endpapers show a brick wall, papered with “Dino Sale” flyers, and feature the poor mailman laboring with two giant packages this time.

A fun storytime addition. Pair with Dragons Get Colds, Too for a fun, wacky pet-related storytime.