Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Value of a Kindness: The Smile Shop

The Smile Shop, by Satoshi Kitamura, (Apr. 2021, Peachtree Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 9781682632550

Ages 4-8

A boy has saved his pocket money and explores his local market, enjoying a feast for the senses as he decides how to spend his money. But an accident causes him to lose most of his money, and the boy is distraught. When he spies a shop called the Smile Shop, his heart lifts: surely a smile can’t be terribly expensive, and that’s what he really needs right now! The story of a kindhearted shopkeeper and a little boy, The Smile Shop is a touching story of connection and empathy, and shows readers that there are some things no one can put a price on, like kindness. Satoshi Kitamura’s artwork, created with pen, ink, watercolor, and gouache, creates a softly colorful world where readers can explore with the boy in the story. Spare text allows the illustrations to tell the story through actions and facial expressions, with words filling in the details. A wonderful story that kids will return to again and again.

The Smile Shop has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Sesame Street books! Counting and Kindness!

Is anyone else thrilled that Sesame Street is still going strong? It gives me something to share with my kids at home and my kids at the library. Until you’ve taught other parents to sing along to Ladybug Picnic and driven your own children crazy with Manamana, you just haven’t lived. One of my best friends and I have been known to Elmo-Bomb one another with “Number of the Day/Letter of the day (Clap-Clap)” gifs, just to keep us on our toes. We never really outgrow Sesame Street, so whenever I see the chance to talk up the show and its characters, I’m on it.

5 Little Rubber Duckies, by Matt Mitter/Illustrated by Tom Brannon, (Feb. 2018, Studio Fun), $11.99, ISBN: 9780794441197

Recommended for 2-5

Ernie still loves his rubber duckies, and this adorable book invites readers to join Ernie and his Sesame Street friends as they seek out five of them! The rhyming story is very similar to the nursery song, “5 Little Ducks”: Ernie plays hide and seek with five of his little rubber ducks, but one less duckie comes back each time Ernie calls them. Will Ernie get his duckies back in time for bathtime?

This book is loaded with interactive fun for toddlers and preschoolers alike. There are five little rubber duckies at the top of the book that little fingers can slide back and forth to count and play. Each spread has a highlighted box inviting readers to count the duckies, and trace the die-cut numbers from 5 to 1.

The pages are sturdy and will hold up to multiple readings and counting play, and all the Sesame Street royalty is here: Elmo; Abby Cadabby; Oscar the Grouch; Big Bird and his teddy bear, Radar; Cookie Monster; Prairie Dawn; Rosita, and even Bert, feeding his pigeons up on the roof. (I’m assuming Super Grover was off, patrolling the city.) Also available in Spanish (5 Patitos de Hule), this is absolute storytime, classtime, kidtime fun.

 

Kindness Makes the World Go ‘Round, by Sesame Workshop, (Apr. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $10.99, ISBN: 9781492660569

Recommended for readers 3-6

Elmo wakes up one morning to discover that his mommy has left him a gift! She’s given him a camera for World Kindness Day and asks him to take photos of Sesame Street neighbors being kind to one another! Elmo is so excited, and why wouldn’t he be? Everyone’s nice to each other on Sesame Street! Sure enough, he’s snapping pictures right and left, creating a scrapbook to share with Mommy at the end of the day!

Another great book from the Sesame Workshop group, teaching kids about empathy and kindness. From holding doors for the little twiddle bugs, to playing with Julia at the playground, Elmo sees his friends all being kind to one another. This is a great book – and so timely – to have now, and to read for World Kindness Day (November 3). Play Elmo’s Kindness Bingo with the kids – there’s a free printable on Sesame Workshop.

Want to show them some Elmo? Here’s the Elmo’s World segment on kindness.

 

 

Posted in Preschool Reads, Realistic Fiction

No Water No Bread delivers a powerful message

No Water No Bread, by Luis Amavisca/Illustrated by Guridi, (Oct. 2017, nubeOCHO), $15.95, ISBN: 978-84-945971-3-8

Recommended for readers 4+

Two groups of people live on either side of a barbed wire fence. One side has water. One side has bread. Neither will share their resources, flatly stating: “This is our water.” “This is our bread.” The children gather at the fence and trade bread and water, wondering, “Why are our parents like this?” They play ball over the fence, knowing that life would be much better “without the fence”. When a new group shows up, the barbed wire fence is sectioned off into yet a third area. Again, the adults hoard their resources while the children all approach the fence, ready to share, and wonder why their parents are like this.

In a day and age where some talk about building walls, No Water No Bread asks a simple, powerful question: Why are we like this? Seen through the eyes of a child, we live in a ridiculous society. We tell our children to share, yet decide that others don’t deserve basic needs if we find them lacking: if they’re from the wrong area of the world, if they’re the wrong faith, if they’re the wrong color.

Simple art and simple words deliver a powerful message that children will understand. Let’s hope that the adults do, too.

This book is a project created in Europe by NubeOcho with the support of Amnesty International Spain and Amnesty International Italy. It is also available in Spanish (ISBN: 978-84-946333-7-9).

Posted in Animal Fiction, Preschool Reads

Bow-Wow-Meow takes a sensitive look at identity

Bow-Wow-Meow, by Blanca Lacasa/Illustrated by Gómez, (May 2017, nubeOCHO), $16.95, ISBN: 978-84-94515-7-5

Recommended for readers 4-8

Fabio’s a dog that really isn’t into doggish things. He doesn’t play fetch, he doesn’t roll over to have his belly tickled, he doesn’t wag his tail, and he doesn’t bark. His family tries to teach him how to act like a dog: they throw sticks, they roll around on the floor, and they bark at him. Fabio is uninterested. One night, Max, a little boy in the family, discovers that Fabio is going out at night, and follows him: right into a group of cats engaging in very catlike behavior, from coughing up hairballs to playing cards (hey, are you with your cat 24/7?). Max can’t believe how happy Fabio is as he sharpens his claws, climbs drainpipes, chases mice, and bow-wow-meows along with his feline friends. The next morning, when Max’s parents try to get Fabio to act like a dog, Max quietly acknowledges Fabio, making him the happiest member of his family.

Recognition and visibility are important. When Max acknowledges Fabio, when he sees Fabio for who he really is, Fabio’s whole world changes; Max’s world widens that much more. Bow-Wow-Meow sensitively handles identity and diversity for young readers. By telling Fabio’s story using dogs and cats, kids are entertained and enlightened in a sweet, fun way that leaves the pathways open for discussion again and again. Gómez’s bold artwork is fun and expressive and will appeal to storytime audiences. Younger readers may struggle with some pages, where the black text is superimposed over a dark background.

I’d love to read this with Jules Feiffer’s Bark, George, for a good storytime on diversity and animals. You can also display and pair this with books like Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, by Christine Baldacchino, or Jacob’s New Dress, by Sarah and Ian Hoffman. Mothering.com has a good article with recommendations for kids’ books that defy gender.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Sugar and Spice and everything… Candy Pink?

candy-pink-coverCandy Pink, by Adela Turin/Illustrated by Nella Bosnia, (Nov. 2016, NubeOcho), $15.95, ISBN: 978-84-944446-7-8

Recommended for ages 5-8

A classic written 40 years ago with the goal to promote equality between boys and girls arrives in the United States for the first time. Candy Pink is written in the style of a folk tale, explaining how elephant all became gray. You see, male elephants were always gray, but female elephants were candy pink. To get that color, they ate only peonies and anemones, wore bibs and shoes, and stayed together in a little walled garden, while the boy elephants playing in the mud, eating yummy grass, and sleeping beneath trees. When one little elephant named Daisy doesn’t turn pink, her father is harsh and cruel, her mother, sad. They pressure her to eat more pink food and threaten her by telling her no one will want to marry her. When they finally give up, the girl elephant embraces her freedom, sheds her bib and shoes, and enjoys life – something that doesn’t go unnoticed by the other female elephants. And, well… you can’t tell the difference between boy and girl elephants anymore, can you?

I was taken aback the first time I read Candy Pink, because it seems harsh on a young girl: the emphasis on appearance and girlish pursuits, Daisy’s parents’ terrible reaction to her inability to fit their mold for her. A second reading put more in perspective for me – the little elephant embraced her uniqueness and wasn’t ostracized for it – the other female elephants flocked to her, and made a huge change that exists to this day. It’s a powerful little story for school-age kids that lends itself to some pretty big ideas. Originally published in Italian in 1976 with the title Rosaconfetto, Adela Turin tackled gender identity and the pressure society puts on appearances by using a parable that everyone could understand and that young girls could relate to. Forty years later, Candy Pink is just as relevant.

Award-winning illustrator Nella Bosnia’s artwork is beautiful. She uses shades of gray and pink against muted background colors for the world of the story; primarily greens, blues, and yellows for the assorted flora and fauna. The bibs, shoes, and bows on the elephants tails are frilly and exaggerated, even pinker than the pale pink elephants; against Daisy’s natural gray, it’s a true contrast.

An interesting and still-timely look at gender, society, and the expectations parents put on their own children. A good addition to bookshelves. Booktalk and display with self-esteem boosters like Karen Beaumont’s I Like Myself!, Peter Reynolds’ Ish, and Todd Parr’s It’s Okay to Be Different. Want another elephant fairy tale? Emma Dodd’s Cinderelephant is a light-hearted, fun take on the classic fairy tale.