Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Happy Earth Day! Books for the Journey.

Tomorrow is Earth Day, which is a surreal experience when we’re sheltering in place. Luckily, we can still go out, taking precautions, to enjoy our world; whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood or just sitting in front of your home to notice the sky, the trees, the birds: everything around us is part of the experience. Here are some books to enjoy on the way.

Only a Tree Knows How to Be a Tree, by Mary Murphy, $16.99, ISBN: 9781536214703

Ages 3-7

Is there anything like a comfort of a Mary Murphy book? As soon as I see her artwork and that font I’ve come to know and love, I just know I’m going to experience the picture book equivalent of a hug. Her new book, Only a Tree Knows how to Be a Tree, celebrates nature and life by pointing out how we’re all unique and how we all manage to live together, here, on Earth. Trees have leaves that turn sunshine into food; birds build homes in trees and can fly; dogs can wag their tails and flick water into their mouths to drink, fish live in water and flash like jewels. We are all a part of one another, as each spread illustrates, yet only a fish can be a fish; only a bird can be a bird; only a tree can be a tree. We’re all unique. Mary Murphy’s brush and ink artwork is colorful, bright, inviting, and warm. Endpapers show vibrant areas with a varied group of people coming together to celebrate trees and play in the sun. It’s just the perfect book to start off an Earth Day readaloud.

Mary Murphy’s author website has free, downloadable coloring sheets and card crafts! Keep the fun going!

Only a Tree Knows How to Be a Tree has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

 

Alba and the Ocean Cleanup, by Lara Hawthorne, (March 2020, Big Picture Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536210446

Ages 4-8

Alba is a sweet little fish who loves collecting shiny things. She enjoys being surrounded by her friends in their ocean home, but, as the ocean becomes more polluted, her friends have moved on, looking for cleaner waters and leaving Alba all alone. When Alba spies a shiny pearl, she must have it: and ends up trapped in a plastic bottle! A young girl cleaning up her beach notices Alba and takes her home to rehabilitate while the girl mobilizes her town to clean up the beach. Once she returns Alba to cleaner water, she’s thrilled to discover that her friends have returned – and that she can put her shiny pearl into her collection to proudly show off! An engaging story with dual messages makes Alba and the Ocean Cleanup such a good story to read on Earth Day and every day. Kids will be motivated by Kaia – the girl who discovers Alba trapped in a bottle – a child who makes a big difference, and they’ll relate to Alba’s love of shiny things and empathize with her experiencing her friends moving away. The artwork is colorful, vibrant, and just fun: it’s like a carnival underwater when Alba and her friends have clean living spaces! Endpapers are a colorful presentation of the ocean floor, with little Albas swimming around. Sharp-eyed readers can go back and look for 10 different kids of fish that author Lara Hawthorne provides information about at the end of the book, along with ways families can help take care of our oceans.

Alba and the Ocean Cleanup was originally published in 2019 in the UK.

 

My Green Day: 10 Green Things I Can Do Today, by Melanie Green, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $7.99, ISBN: 9781536211313

Ages 3-7

This is a must-have Earth Day book for home, classroom, and library collections. Melanie Walsh’s 10 Things I Can Do To Help My World (2012) has been an Earth Day standard for me for years; adding My Green Day to my storytime reference and my circulating collection is just a given. A narrator moves through their day coming up with ways to be green; be environmentally friendly, for the day: from eating a free-range egg breakfast and composting the egg shell, handmaking gifts with recycled materials, bringing recyclable bags to the grocery store, and taking a short shower before bed are just a handful of the green things that come up in the course of a day. Each step is a simple, easy-to-accomplish task that kids can do and feel empowered, having taken action to improve their world. Each spread has simple, helpful facts on how each task accomplishes a green goal: “Cloth bags can be used again and again. You’ll never need to use another plastic bag”; Playing outside with friends keeps you fit and makes you feel good”.

Empowering, easy-to-read, and with colorful mixed media artwork that beckons readers to the pages makes My Green Day another great Melanie Green book to add to your collections.

 

More to come tomorrow! In the meantime, check out the Earth Day Education Resource Library.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Dewdrop is the cheerleader we all need right now

Dewdrop, by Katie O’Neill, (Apr. 2020, Oni Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781620106891

Ages 3-7

One of the ruling monarchs of All That is Adorable, Katie O’Neill – whom you may know from her Tea Dragon series, Aquicorn Cove, or Princess Princess Ever After graphic novels – now gives us a cheerleading axolotl named Dewdrop, in an upbeat, sweet graphic novel.

Dewdrop and his underwater friends are practicing their skills to show off at the yearly sports fair. Mia is a weightlifting turtle, Newman the newt is a musician, and three minnows fancy themselves as chefs. Dewdrop? He’s a cheerleader! And as his friends practice for the fair, Dewdrop visits each one of them to cheer them on and get them past their fears, which is perfect practice for his own skills: cheering! Dewdrop is a sweet story with tips about mindfulness, positivity, and friendship, and it turns some antiquated gender tropes on their heads: Dewdrop is male. A pink, cheerleading, adorable male. Mia is a female turtle, rocking a little flower head decoration, and she’s a weightlifter. Having a male character radiate positivity – something we’ve often seen as the female characters’ responsibility – sends a refreshing, reassuring message to all children about how easy it is to be a good friend. Katie O’Neill is fantastic at upending outdated gender roles, and Dewdrop continues to deliver upbeat, inspiring messages through colorful and bright artwork with charming characters.

Katie O’Neill is an award-winning author and graphic novelist. Her author webpage has more of her illustrations, information about her graphic novels, and an online store.

Want to learn more about axolotls? Live Science has pictures and facts, as does National Geographic. Author Jess Keating has the cutest axolotl coloring page, and her book, Cute As An Axolotl, is all about “nature’s cutest weirdos”.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

I give you… STEVE, TERROR OF THE SEAS!

Steve, Terror of the Seas, by Megan Brewis, (March 2109, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-825-4

Ages 3-7

Steve is the cutest, friendliest little fish in the sea, so why is everyone so afraid of him? Steve swims around the sea, explaining to readers that it’s not easy being Steve as creatures large and small swim away in terror. Could it be the company he keeps?

Steve, Terror of the Seas, is straight-up hilarious, relying on the end reveal to bring home the joke. Sharp-eyed readers may be able to guess beforehand, but make that reveal dramatic: get out hand puppets or felt boards for this one. The writing keeps the joke running, with Steve baring his little teeth, wondering if they’re “too bad”, or puckering up to a group of retreating fish as he utters possibly the best phrase in the book, “Finding love has been a challenge”.

The book presents fun facts about pilot fish (like Steve), and some other scary denizes of the deep, including pufferfish, viperfish, toadfish, anglerfish, and my favorite, the not-very-threatening blobfish. Being that Steve is a pilot fish, we get some facts about them, too… including their relationships with sharks, like Steve’s best friend, George.

The artwork is adorable and works hand-in-hand with the text to provide a reading experience with a great punchline. Make sure to sing Baby Shark and Slippery Fish for this storytime!

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Murder on The Transatlantic Express? The Transatlantic Conspiracy

transatlantic consThe Transatlantic Conspiracy, by G.D. Falksen (June 2016, Soho Press), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1616954178

Recommended for ages 12+

It’s 1908, and 17 year-old Rosalind Wallace, daughter of a self-made millionaire industrialist, is vacationing in England, spending time with her best friend, Cecily de Vere. Cecily’s family is high-society, old moneyed England, and treats Rosalind as more of a curiosity, even referring to her as “my peasant”. Where Cecily eschews intellectual pursuits and seeks a full dance card during party season, Rosalind is more adventurous; her father has used her to promote his inventions for years, and she’s quite brilliant. When her father calls for her to return back to the States by way of his newest venture, the Transatlantic Express – an underwater railway – Cecily and her handsome brother, Charles, offer to journey with Rosalind.

The problems begin almost immediately, when Charles goes missing while boarding the train; things take a turn for the worst when Cecily and her maid are discovered murdered in their room. Rosalind tries to deal with her grief while proving her innocence and conducting her own investigation into her friend’s murder.

There is so much rich material to draw on in The Transatlantic Conspiracy, but it never fully realized its potential. It’s promoted as a YA novel, but reads more like a middle grade book; the black and white illustrations throughout the book add to this overall look and feel. The characters are stiff, with little development; there are some interesting concepts glanced over, but we don’t get much in the way of development. The detective on the train is one-dimensional but borders on being so much more. Cecily is victimized by her lack of development; all we get is a vapid party girl who, it turns out, is more than she seems, but gets killed off so early on, that I guess we’ll eventually find out about her, posthumously, in subsequent adventures.

I was hoping for more from The Transatlantic Conspiracy. It may be a good introduction to readers who aren’t typical steampunk readers, but fans of the genre may be let down. I’m going to test this one out with the kids in my library and see how it goes; I’ll report back.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Ocean Animals from Head to Tail is SO MUCH FUN!

ocean animalsOcean Animals from Head to Tail, by Stacey Roderick/Illustrated by Kwanchai Moriya, (Sept. 2016, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771383455

Recommended for ages 3-7

Does anyone love Steve Jenkins’ Actual Size and Prehistoric Actual Size as much as I do? They are the perfect non-fiction read-aloud for elementary school class visits; the kids go berserk when they see a life-sized Goliath beetle, or watch me put a dinosaur’s claw to the back of my head to illustrate how it could pick me up like a grape. Less terrifying, but just as amazing for the younger set – especially those Octonauts fans out there! – is Ocean Animals from Head to Tail, by Stacey Roderick and illustrated by Kwanchai Moriya.

Ocean Animals introduces readers to eight different ocean animals, focusing on a unique body part. First, we see a close-up of the animals in question – the scalloped head of a hammerhead shark, a colossal squid’s eye, a blue whale’s mouth with a focus on its baleen – and a question: What ocean animal has a head like this? What ocean animal has eyes like this? What ocean animal has a mouth like this? The body part in question is highlighted with a gray font to call attention to it, and the following spread answers the question, zooms out to illustrate the animal in its natural environment, and provides interesting and quick facts about the animal. We learn that the squid’s soccer ball-sized eyes are the largest of any animal, and help the squid see in areas where there’s very little light. The blue whale’s baleen act as a huge sieve to catch the tasty krill it loves to eat. A spread at the end introduces kids to eight more ocean animals.

Not featured in actual size, but still in huge detail, the kids will LOVE this book. Kwanchai Moriya’s paper collage art is bright and interesting, popping off the page and adding depth to the spreads. My three year-old loves this book (as well as the Actual Size books) and has me read this to him constantly. (It came in handy at the doctor’s office today!) With shows like Octonauts and Wild Kratts generating interest in animals, nature, and conservation, this is a great book to have on home, school, and library shelves. It’s a great storytime book, too: pair it with a Rainbow Fish story, Shark in the Dark, Mr. Seahorse – any underwater theme will do! Show an episode of Octonauts that stars one of the featured animals, and let the kids color some pictures of underwater animals that appear in the book.

This is the second in the Head to Tail series: Dinosaurs from Head to Tail was published in 2015, and Bugs From Head to Tail will be coming in 2017.

Great book for easy nonfiction collections.