Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Garlic and the Vampire: An unlikely friendship story

Garlic and the Vampire, by Bree Paulsen, (Sept. 2021, Quill Tree Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062995087

Ages 8-12

This very sweet graphic novel is one for the readers who never think they can do the thing… until they do. Garlic and her fellow vegetables live with friendly Witch Agnes, where they work on tending her garden. But rumors start spreading that a vampire lives in the neighboring castle! Oh, no! Celery, a surly member of the bunch, decides that Garlic should go confront the vampire. After all, garlic repels vampires, right? Scared but resolute, Garlic sets out to face the vampire… and learns that rumors and stereotypes are no match for meeting and talking to someone!

I love Garlic and the Vampire’s artwork, which is so warm and comforting, so cuddly and kind, that kids are going to love it. Garlic is a childlike, feminine character; a bulb of garlic with rosy cheeks, sporting a little red dress. Carrot, her best friend, offers sage advice and comfort, and sports a shirt, tie, and overalls. The vegetable characters are all anthropomorphic, with distinct personalities and expressive faces and gestures. Alice the Witch isn’t at all threatening, with a warm burgundy top, forest green skirt, and a white apron; she sports less of a witch’s black hat and more of a pilgrim’s hat, not pointed but squared off, with a brown band around the brim. The colors throughout the book are warm, natural colors; lots of greens, oranges, and reds. Even the so-called horrible vampire looks like a kindly gentleman who’d rather have a cup of tea than rampage through a town. The character interactions are as humorous as they are gentle. Have this ready as an alternative to kids who aren’t into the scary side of Halloween, but still want to feel a part of things.

Visit Bree Paulsen’s website to see more of her illustration work, and read her webcomic, Patrik the Vampire.

Garlic the Vampire has a starred review from the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, picture books, Tween Reads

Olaf Hajek gives veggies their due: Veggie Power!

Veggie Power, by Annette Roeder/Illustrated by Olaf Hajek, (Apr. 2021, Prestel Junior), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791374789

Ages 8-12

After profiling nature’s healing flowers in last year’s Flower Power, artist Olaf Hajek turns his illustrative magic to elevating vegetables to high art in Veggie Power. Seventeen vegetables receive the portrait treatment here, with Annette Roeder’s informative discussions on each spread giving readers a background of featured vegetables, with fun and interesting facts (fennel bulbs were stuffed into keyholes during Midsummer, to ward off bad spirits for the year), edible parts of each plant, and varieties of each. Annette Roeder makes reading about vegetables fun – honest! – and Olaj Hajek’s gallery art treatment may actually make kids tempted to try some of these beauties. (Maybe. This is not a guarantee.) A woman sports a majestic fennel bulb crown as a bird flies overhead and a man and woman make a stew or soup in front of her. Animals approach a giant sweet potato plant growing across the ground as a hand rises from the bottom of the book, bowl full of sweet potatoes in hand. A group of individuals sit around a long table, ready to dine on a giant carrot and parsnip. It’s fun, it’s surreal, it’s colorful, it’s a coffee table art book on vegetables. Enjoy.

Source: OlafHajek.com

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Yum! Books about Food

It’s getting near to Thanksgiving here in the States, but that’s another post. Here, it’s late afternoon, so I’ve got the snacky urge – you know, that urge that hits after lunch, but while dinner is still too long away to wait? Let’s talk about food books and see if that takes the edge off (or I’ll just brew a cup of coffee, while I’m at it).

Little Green Donkey, by Anuska Allepuz, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209372

Ages 3-6

In this relatable story that will give preschoolers and grownups a giggle, Little Donkey LOVES to eat grass, even when his mom pleads for him to try something different. Little Donkey just responds, “No thanks!” and keeps munching on leafy, chewy grass until waking up one morning and discovering, upon seeing his reflection, that – AHHH! – he’s turned GREEN! After unsuccessfully trying to disguise the new color, Little Donkey has to try new foods: Blech! Pew! Pew! Yuck! But hey… carrots are pretty good… watch out, Little Donkey! What color will you turn next? Mixed media illustrations bring this hilarious story to life, and kids and parents alike will recognize the picky eater in all of us (I’ve got a chicken nugget Kiddo here, myself). Pair this with Greg Pizzoli’s The Watermelon Seed for extra laughs and dramatic reading.

 

Every Night is Pizza Night, by J. Kenji López-Alt/Illustrated by Gianna Ruggiero, (Sept. 2020, Norton Young Readers), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-324-00525-4

Ages 4-7

Pipo is a little girl who loves pizza. Pizza is the best, and she wants it every night, no matter what her family says: after all, she says it’s a scientific fact; she’s done the research. But maybe…. just maybe she needs to collect more data, so off she goes to visit friends around the neighborhood and try their foods. For data collection, clearly. As she tries different foods like bibimbap, tagine, red beans and rice, and more, she discovers that other foods are really good, too! Pipo learns that pizza can be the best, along with other foods, too: it just depends on what you need at that moment. Beautifully written with humor and sensitivity, Every Night is Pizza Night looks at the connection we have to food within our cultures and our homes and hearts: Pipo learns that food can be “something that reminds you of home”; “the kind that says ‘I love you’ without making a sound’, or something to share”. Food brings us together. Front endpapers feature all the pizza makings splashed colorfully across the spread, and back endpapers incorporate other ingredients for the foods Pipo discovers in the story. The artwork is colorful, bright, a touch frenetic when Pipo declares her love for pizza, and adorably delivers the story’s message. A pizza recipe at the end of the book invites readers to cook with their families. Pair with William Stieg’s Pete’s a Pizza for a tasty, ticklish pizza storytime.

 

Hot Pot Night!, by Vincent Chen, (Sept. 2020, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-62354-120-0

Ages 4-7

This modern take on Stone Soup is diverse and adorable. It’s evening in a building, and everyone asks the eternal question: What’s for dinner? A young boy proposes hot pot, a traditional dish in Asian countries, and the whole building is in! Neighbors arrive with a hot pot and ingredients to share: one neighbor brings the broth; another, the meat; one grew the vegetables to add to the pot, and others help out by prepping the food. Once it’s ready, everyone partakes until the last scrap is gone… until next time! A story of coming together and sharing food, culture, and company, Hot Pot Night is perfect for storytime reading and would be great with flannel board figures you can easily make. Digital illustrations are colorful, bright, and fun. A hot pot recipe at the end encourages readers to start their own hot pot nights. Endpapers feature colorful hot pot ingredients.

While we can’t eat together as often as we’d like these days, there’s always Zoom and Google Meets. Try a virtual storytime and dinner one night! Publisher Charlesbridge has loads of free downloadables for a Hot Pot party!

 

Veg Patch Party, by Clare Foges/Illustrated by Al Murphy, (Oct. 2020, Faber & Faber), $15.95, ISBN: 978-0571352852

Ages 3-7

From the team that brought you Kitchen Disco and Bathroom Boogie, we get a Veggie Patch-a-Palooza as the farm beds down for the night and the vegetables take the stage to dance and sing in the mud for a Veg Patch Party! Kids will love seeing cartoon pumpkins put on disco boots, carrots forming a conga line, and red hot chillis rock out on stage. The rhyming story has great repetition with its call to action: “So conga like a carrot, / Party like a pea, / Rock out like a radish, / YEAH! / And boogie like a bean!” Bathroom Boogie went over huge for me at storytime, so I’ll be enjoying Veg Patch Party with my littles next. Perfect for flannel storytimes, and there are lots of cute vegetable coloring pages to have handy. I like doing a “cute vegetable coloring pages” search so you get animated, kid-friendly faces, like this selection. Endpapers have veggie sketches with smiling vegetables to greet readers. Pair with one of my oldies but goodies, Food Fight, for a storytime about feisty food.

 

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

March Picture Books

Astro Pea, by Amalia Hoffman, (March 2019, Schiffer Publishing), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764356988

Ages 3-6

Pete the Pea pops out of his pod, finds a carrot rocket ship and blasts off into space! When his ship collides with a satellite, he’s rescued by a shuttle full of corn kernels, who also provide him with a ride back home to Earth. This adorable picture book stars a cast of vegetables posing as heavenly bodies. Pete zooms by cauliflower star clusters, asparagus satellites, corn shuttles, and mushroom parachutes. It’s a fun story about space and exploring, and a sweet story about making new friends.

The artwork is bright, with primary colors leaping off the jet black background of outer space. The anthropomorphic veggies have smiley little faces, and the simple artwork and text makes for an attention-grabbing storytime selection. Display, booktalk, and read Astro Pea with your healthy eating books, like Eating the Rainbow by Rena D. Grossman and Lois Ehlert’s classics, Growing Vegetable Soup or Eating the Alphabet.

The artwork also lends itself to an interactive storytime and craft. The artwork can be recreated with colorful chalk and black construction paper, letting the kids create their own outer space adventures. Make some felt veggies and let the kids identify each of them as they come up throughout the story. There so many ways to enjoy this adorable book – there’s even a free coloring page available through author Amalia Hoffman’s website. Astro Pea is a cute add to your picture book and storytime collections.

Bravo, Chico Canta, Bravo!, by Pat Mora and Libby Martinez/Illustrated by Amelia Lau Carling, Translated by Elena Iribarren, (March 2019, Groundwood Books), $9.95, ISBN: 9781773062198

Ages 7-10

Originally released in hardcover in 2014, this mouse tale is all about the benefits of being bilingual. This release is the paperback version, written by superstar author Pat Mora and her daughter, Libby Martinez. Chico Canta is the youngest mouse in his family; they live in a theatre and love to watch the performances, and yelling “Bravo!” along with the audiences.The family loves the theatre so much, they decide to put on their own production, getting right to work. But Gato-Gato, the cat, is always sneaking around, and Chico saves the day when he uses his own knack for languages to alert everyone on opening night.

This is such an adorable story, embracing the gift of a multi-lingual household. Chico’s mom, Mrs. Canta, speaks many languages (English, Spanish, Italian, Cricket, Spider, and Moth) and encourages her children to develop their own skills. Chico saves the day when he uses his own developing language skill – a dog’s bark – to scare off the cat and save the day. The family works together on the production, everyone working on their own task. The artwork is full of rich color, with adorable animal faces. An author’s note from Pat Mora describes how she and her daughter were inspired to write the story after reading a book of Mexican-American folktales. An inspirational add to collections, especially in communities with multicultural families. I’m always telling parents at my library that the more languages kids know, the better!

Friends, by Geraldo Valério, (March 2019, Groundwood Books), $19.95, ISBN: 9781773061023

Ages 3-6

A girl and her frog go fishing, but are disappointed when the fish aren’t biting. She and the frog start making silly faces in the water, and their reflections come to life! The girl’s reflection transforms into a mermaid, and the two sets of friends enjoy a day of underwater adventure where the two girls discover glowing pearls, which they turn into matching necklaces. It’s a sweet, wordless story about friendship and imagination, with bright pastel, color pencil, and acrylic artwork. Pre-readers will love to look at the pictures and tell you what they see happening. Invite your readers to draw their own underwater adventure.

There’s wonderful detail in every spread, with little seahorses and jellyfish popping up. The frogs have their own little underwater romp, so encourage your readers to spot them! This one is a cute additional add to your wordless books.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction

DK shows kids how to eat the rainbow with Eat Your Greens, Reds, Yellows, and Purples!

eat your redsEat Your Greens, Reds, Yellows, and Purples: Children’s Cookbook, by DK Children (May 2016, DK Children), $12.99, ISBN: 9781465451521

Recommended for ages 8-12

Article after article tells adults and kids alike to “eat the rainbow”, but what does that really mean? Skittles, after all, tells us to “taste the rainbow”, but I’m pretty sure that’s not exactly the same thing. Simply put, to eat the rainbow means to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables; each color comes with different benefits. DK’s newest cookbook, Eat Your Greens, Reds, Yellows, and Purples teaches kids and adults alike what it means to eat the rainbow, with fun facts and 25 vegetarian recipes for kids to try. There’s a section on food prep: how to slice an avocado, seed a tomato, or dice an onion. Knife skills and cooking instructions are noted with an exclamation point, so readers know to get an adult to help.

There’s something for everyone here – honest! Detailed, step by step instructions and photos let readers know what materials we need – equipment as well as food! – and tasty recipes, including spinach and phyllo tarts, black bean and guacamole quesadillas, red pepper hummus, cornbread, and mango-pineapple ice pops.

Helpful callout signs and arrows provide fast facts on the benefits of each food color; for instance, did you know that greens like spinach and broccoli provide vitamins and fiber, while red foods like tomatoes and cherries protect your body’s cells? Purples help fight disease, yellows boost the immune system, and oranges contain beta-carotene, which helps keep your eyes, skin, hair, bones, and teeth in working order.

A good addition to a children’s collection where you have older kids that are ready and able to start making simple recipes with adult assistance. You can also check out this printout from the Whole Kids Foundation on “eating the rainbow”. It would make a good class handout!