Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Back to School stories!

Step right up, I’ve got a bunch of back to school stories for your readers!

Pearl Goes to Preschool, by Julie Fortenberry, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536207439

Ages 3-5

Pearl is the youngest and smallest student at her mother’s ballet school, but when Mom suggests that Pearl try out preschool – a school full of kids her age! – she’s got some questions: Is there dancing? Do they have stories? What else is there to do? Mom answers all of Pearl’s questions, and Pearl mulls it over, finally deciding that yes, she, and her stuffed mouse, Violet, are ready to try out preschool. Narrated from little Pearl’s point of view, this is an adorable story for kids getting ready for preschool: questions get answers, there’s a routine to the day, and best of all, Pearl has a wonderful day – and dances! Digital illustrations are soft, with muted pastels and lovely illustrations of ballet dancing and the relationship between a mother and her child. An adorable addition to school stories.

A free, downloadable activity kit features a Pearl paper doll with two outfits! Try to print it out on a heavier card stock, so it’s durable. Brightly has a good list of ballerina books for preschoolers, Scholastic has a list of books for beginning preschoolers.

 

Play Day School Day, by Toni Yuly, (June 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536202830

Ages 3-7

It’s always a good day for a Toni Yuly book, and her latest, Play Day School Day, captures a sweet moment between a little boy and his older sister. Mona, a young girl, is excited for the first day of school; her younger brother, Milo, asks what she does at school. “Lots of things”, Mona replies, and tells him about a typical school day, from riding the bus, to practicing reading, writing, science, and math. She tells him that sometimes, one must sit quietly at school, but other times, one can run around and be loud with friends. Mona makes school sound pretty great! The two siblings share their day in a garden or backyard, playing together with their black cat. Toni Yuly’s spare prose is to-the-point and enticing, giving Milo a wonderful vision of school. The story text is bold and black, easily readable against the bright white background, and Toni Yuly’s mixed media artwork is bright, cheerful, and vibrant. Play Day School Day is a fun school story for school-aged children and their younger siblings.

Pair Play Day School Day with Anna McQuinn’s books, Lola Reads To Leo.

 

I Got the School Spirit!, by Connie Schofield-Morrison/Illustrated by Frank Morrison, (July 2020, Bloomsbury Kids US), 9781547602612

Ages 4-7

She’s back! The exuberant, spirit-filled little girl from Connie Schofield-Morrison and Frank Morrison’s previous books, I Got the Rhythm! and I Got the Christmas Spirit! is back and ready for school in her newest story! Brushing her teeth, and getting dressed, she’s filled with the spirit, which stays with her and powers her – and her friends – through the school day! The spirit helps her comfort a scared friend on the school bus and enjoy her school day; it helps her kick a ball at recess, and propels her right into her mother’s arms at the end of her school day, leaving her ready to do it all again the next day. Filled with small moments that make up a school day, and with gorgeous, evocative oil painting, I Got the School Spirit! is the picture of Black Joy, and a picture book that will get kids excited about their own upcoming school days. Sound effects throughout: the stomp, stomp of shiny new shoes, zip, zip! of a school bag, and crunch, munch, sip! of lunchtime makes this a perfectly interactive read-aloud. A definite must-add to your back-to-school/first day of school collections.

For more Black Joy book selections, refer to these articles and lists from School Library Journal, We Are Teachers, Brightly, and Helping Kids Rise.

All Welcome Here, by James Preller/Illustrated by Mary GrandPré, (June 2020, Feiwel and Friends), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-15588-7

Ages 4-7

James Preller, author of the Jigsaw Jones chapter book series, and Mary GrandPré, whose illustrations we all know and love from Harry Potter, come together to present a collection of haiku poems about the first day of school. Covering subjects like new school supplies, the fear of boarding the bus, and class pets, all students will find themselves in the words and mixed media illustrations in the book. Moments like “Growing Up”, as a parent sighs after waving goodbye to the school bus, and “Principal K”, the new principal who has a dab of shaving cream on his ear, show kids that we grownups have our own first-day jitters, too. It’s not easy saying goodbye to our littles and it’s a little scary when the first day of school is your first day of work, too! Other poems celebrate first-day stalwarts like name tags on desks, the Reading Rug (it was the Circle Time rug when my elder boys were was in grade school), and running errands – and choosing a friend to accompany – all find their voice here. “Library” is a touching nod to school libraries everywhere: “…the whoosh and thrum / of the school’s heart beat”. Colorful and buoyant, with a diverse group of students and teachers, All Welcome Here is a thank you letter to schools, teachers, and students everywhere.

A free, downloadable storytime kit encourages readers to write their own haikus and make their own name tags.

 

I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in the Principal’s Office, by Jancee Dunn/Illustrated by Scott Nash, (June 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201987

Ages 3-8

A delightfully hilarious companion to Jancee Dunn and Scott Nash’s 2017 book, I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in Trouble Today, I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in the Principal’s Office is all about you – the principal is speaking to you, isn’t she? – and your teddy, who stashed away in your backpack and went to school with you today; Teddy, along with your friends’ stuffed animals, who all did the same thing, waited until everyone was in assembly to burst out of their schoolbags and wreak havoc all over your school! They wrote their names with condiments and tied up the coach; they trapped the art teacher in glue and rolled around in finger paint. As the principal details everything that went on during the day, parents will have to suppress their giggles – just like poor Mr. Krimple, standing next to the principal – as they imagine the principal’s tone of voice. But are you really in the principal’s office? Is there even a principal? Or is it an imaginative little girl playing school? Way too much fun to read and act out, I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in the Principal’s Office is fantastic reading… and will put a new spin on playing school, I’m sure. The colorful digital illustrations showcase a group of stuffed toys having the time of their lives throughout school, as teacher chase them through the chaos. The title page begs for a real-life storytime setup, featuring a bunch of guilty-looking toys sitting uncomfortably on chairs, some covered in paint, waiting to be claimed by their children. Just great fun to read.

 

When Pencil Met the Markers, by Karen Kilpatrick & Luis O. Ramos, Jr./Illustrated by Germán Blanco, (July 2020, imprint), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250309402

Ages 4-8

The companion to 2019’s When Pencil Met Eraser, also by Karen Kilpatrick, Luis O. Ramos, Jr., and Germán Blanco, is about teamwork, friendship, and coloring outside the lines. A group of markers loves to color, but Purple sees things differently. He colors outside the lines, which drives the other markers CRAZY. They confront Purple, telling him his creativity is a mistake and that he doesn’t fit in. Dejected, Purple sets out on his own and meets Pencil and Eraser, who inspire him to look at things differently: he doesn’t need lines! As Purple creates, Pencil and Eraser fill in the area around his work, making gloriously purple grapes, butterflies, birds, and cupcakes. The creative team’s work draws the attention of the other markers, who ultimately learn that coloring outside the lines can be fun, and Pencil says – in a tribute to Bob Ross – that “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents!” It’s a great story to read to kids, while reminding them that it’s good to approach life with a flexibility and attitude, and to color outside the lines every once in a while. Be creative, take chances, and don’t be afraid to be the Purple Marker. The digital artwork has bright, primary colors that pop off the bright white background; dialogue between the markers, Pencil, and Eraser are bold and rounded, while the narrative text is more of a Roman font, not bolded. Endpapers let Purple – and, later, the other markers – show off their scribbly best. Full of lessons that respect the reader, When Pencil Met the Markers is perfect for school stories like Eraser, by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant, The Day the Crayons Quit/The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers, and A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen and Mike Lowery. Visit the When the Pencil Met website to sign up for their newsletter and get a free, downloadable activity book.

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.