Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

More Mother’s Day Wishes!

I’ve got more Mother’s Day books for the big day, but first, Everything Is Mama Activity Pages from Jimmy Fallon’s publisher, Macmillan! Enjoy three pages of activities and coloring with the kiddos!

What the Road Said, by Cleo Wade/Illustrated by Lucie de Moyencourt, (March 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250269492

Ages 6-10

If loving advice for living a good life could be summed up in verse, What the Road Said is it. Poet, activist, and one of Marie Claire’s 50 Most Influential Women in America Cleo Wade reminds young and grown readers alike to pay attention to the journey, not the destination. Sometimes, you may think you’re on the wrong path: keep going; “sometimes we go the wrong way on the way to the right way”. You may not always move forward, and you may need help on the way or feel alone. Keep going, the poem urges. Lead with kindness and love, even when met with hate, and just keep going. Illustrator Lucie de Moyencourt’s watercolor and ink artwork begins with an urban landscape, with nature scenes painted on buildings; a child watches them as they walk, and the city streets give way to lush, green pastures, beaches, dark forests, mountains, even outer space, the child following paths up mountains and through the woods; standing triumphant on the top of the world, and meditating on the growth from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Together, Cleo Wade and Lucie de Moyencourt encourage readers to reach for the stars on their journey through life. These comforting, inspiring words and artwork are the perfect story to pass to your little ones and they’re the words we parents need sometimes, because, as Cleo Wade states in her author’s note, “Being a grownup is hard and the Road  reminds me to take it one day at a time”.

 

I Love You, Baby Burrito, by Angela Dominguez, (January 12, 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250231093
Ages 2-5
This book is ADORABLE. A set of new parents greet their new baby – swaddled like a burrito – in this bilingual book of pure joy. Tender images of parents and baby pair with images of a new bird family in a nest outside the family’s window. The parents gaze, hold, and swaddle their little one, marveling at their new bundle, taking such care with every moment. Spanish words are in bright green, and English prose repeats the phrase, helping emphasize terms in both languages. A glossary at the end provides phonetic pronounciation. Mixed media illustrations are soft, gently colored, giving a real feeling of those quiet moments when baby and parents are still getting to know one another. I can’t wait to read this to my library families. An excellent Mother’s Day gift or baby shower gift, too; consider pairing with Hayley Barrett and Juana Martinez-Neal’s Babymoon.
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Get ready for a Pumpkin Hunt!

We’re Going on a Pumpkin Hunt, by Mary Hogan-Wilcox/Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, (Aug. 2020, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-62354-118-7

Ages 3-7

The latest spin on the classic “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” is this Fall story about a group of animal friends who go off in search of the biggest orange and round pumpkin in town! Dressed in costumes for trick-or-treating fun, the friends wander into the “dark, shiver-your-socks night”. The story has all the sensory fun that every retelling features; in this case, squeaky gates, blinking night time bugs, tickly grass, and an unexpected surprise! Lots of repetition helps kids get into the story with you, and the check-ins – “I’m not scared. / Are you? / Not me.” – are a nice opportunity to check in with your own listeners and make sure no one feels too nervous about the story. Pen, ink, and watercolor artwork is gentle and soft. A cute addition to your storytime collections; most folks are familiar with We’re Going On a Bear Hunt and like the different variations on a familiar theme.

We’re Going on a Pumpkin Hunt has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Books from Quarantine: Tag Your Dreams!

Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence, by Jacqueline Jules/Illustrated by Iris Deppe, (Apr. 2020, Albert Whitman & Company), $17.99, ISBN: 9780807567265

Ages 7-10

I’m getting that TBR under control a little more every day! Tag Your Dreams is a book of poetry about sports and play for kids, but it’s more than that. These are poems about endurance, self-esteem, community, and reaching goals. It’s about a girl reaching out to a new friend by reciting a rhyme that her Guatemalan grandmother taught her (“Clapping  Hands”); it’s about a girl, swimming gracefully, mermaid-like, as she remembers being bullied for her weight earlier that day (“Mermaid Manatee”); a father and son cruising through a park on matching scooters (“Kick Scooters”), and a playground where “Spanish jumps just as high as English” as the kids skip rope and sing together. A multicultural group of adults and kids come together on these pages to play, to laugh, and to inspire readers. Jacqueline Jules, award-winning author of the Zapato Power and Sofia Martinez book series, created 31 poems about the power of play and the power of persistence to motivate readers: motivate them to play, motivate them to embrace themselves, and work as part of a team while striving to be their best. Iris Deppe’s colorful artwork shows children and grown-ups together in various stages of play: clapping hands underneath a tree, reaching for a ball in the outfield, or walking a trail with grandparents. A nice addition to poetry collections, with positive messages that we need more than ever these days.

Jacqueline Jules’s author webpage has information about her books and plenty of free, downloadable activities connected to her books.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Lights Out rails against light pollution

Lights Out, by Marsha Diane Arnold/Illustrated by Susan Reagan, (Aug. 2020, Creative Editions), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-56846-340-7

Ages 4-8

A fox and a beetle are trying to settle in for the night, but it’s too bright! Lights Out, a story about the ways that light pollution affects nature, sees a series of animals set out on a journey to find out how to shut off all the lights: but they just keep finding more. “House lights / Car lights / Truck lights / Street lights… Everywhere -LIGHTS!” The artificial lights shine on, confusing birds and frogs, and keep a bear from hibernating. The group of animals travels together, looking for the source of all the light, until they discover newly hatched baby turtles, running toward the moonlit water and decide to follow. Swimming together to a small island, the animals finally discover the natural light they crave. A powerful statement on light pollution, the text reads like a lyric poem, beautiful and evocative. Susan Reagan’s artwork is soft and dreamlike, with the harsh yellow light almost intrusive to the reader as we shift to the animals’ point of view, following Marsha Diane Arnold’s words. There are breathtaking moments, like the moment the animals discover the stars after not seeing them for so long; Marsha Diane Arnold’s verse builds a yearning in readers, so the moment when they arrive at the island brings such joy, perfectly communicated by Susan Reagan’s artwork. An author’s note on light pollution begins the story.

Visit author Marsha Diane Arnold’s website for Lights Out downloadable activities!

A beautiful, poignant picture book to add to your collections. Display and read with Sue Soltis’s The Stars Just Up the Street, and Lizi Boyd’s Flashlight (I know, it’s artificial light, but we’ll keep it as non-intrusive as possible).

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

No Voice Too Small lifts up kids voices

No Voice Too Small: 14 Young Americans Making History, edited by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila Dawson, & Jeanette Bradley/Illustrated by Jeanette Bradley, (Sept. 2020, Charlesbridge), $18.99, ISBN: 9781623541316

Ages 5-12

Fourteen outstanding young people who saw injustice and took action are celebrated here in poetry and art. Activists include Mari Copeny – “Little Miss Flint” – who demanded clean water for her community and got President Obama’s attention; Virsidiana Sanchez Santos, whose quinceañera at the Texas State Capitol called attention to the state’s stringent immigration policy; and Marley Dias, the girl who started the #1000BlackGirlBooks initative to collect books with characters who looked like her, and so many other readers looking for representation. These activists and 11 more find a place in the pages here, celebrated by luminaries including G. Neri, Nikki Grimes, Joseph Bruchac, and Lesléa Newman. Each profile includes a biographical paragraph; back matter explains the poetry forms used throughout the book, and profiles on each of the featured poets. Callout quotes invite readers to think about ways they can take action. The artwork showcases each of individual, and endpapers look like blackboards, with quotes from each activist in a chalk-white font. One percent of hardcover sales will go to TeachingforChange.org.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Blog Tour: World So Wide

Have you ever connected with a child and just wanted to celebrate every moment, every experience, every second of them? That’s the story at the heart of this gorgeous rhyming ode to life, Alison McGhee’s World So Wide.

World So Wide, by Alison McGhee/Illustrated by Kate Alizadeh,
(March 2020, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 781542006330
Ages 2-6

A couple imagine their newborn’s first moments: first sights; first sounds; first smells; first touches. It’s an exploration of the senses, of nature, and the captivating, all-consuming love that parents and babies have for one another. Phrased with questions and answers: “What will be the first sights they see? / Sun and moon and sky… / the love in someone’s eye?”, the story moves in verse throughout the family’s life together; through toddlerhood, adulthood, and, to show the cyclical nature of life, parenthood again, with a new father, holding his baby as he was once held, overjoyed and completely in love.

 

Kate Alizadeh’s digital illustrations paint pastel landscapes of flowery fields and family rooms; parents gently holding a baby and staring lovingly at one another. Paired with Alison McGhee’s ode to parental adoration, World So Wide comes together as a beautiful exploration of parenthood through the senses, through nature, and the future. The family appears multicultural, with a brown-skinned mom and a white, fair-haired dad. I adored Alison McGhee’s Someday; she has a gift for speaking to what’s in my heart as a mom, and she does it again with World So Wide. She takes those small moments that we wish could last forever, and gives them a voice, so we know we’re not alone. World So Wide is a lovely storytime choice, and I’d consider this a good baby shower gift, too.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Celebrating Happy Papas!

Happy Papas, by Kathleen T. Pelley/Illustrated by Mariya Prytula, (July 2018, CWLA Press), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1587601682

Ages 3-6

A companion to Happy Mamas (2016), Happy Papas celebrates dads in both the animal and human world, taking readers through a Happy Papas kind of day: as the sun pops up; as the sun sails high; as the clouds and sun play peek-a-boo; as the shadows gather, and finally, as the moon blooms. Otter dads, meerkat dads, tiger dads, and all sorts of human dads celebrate the day-to-day joys of fatherhood as they play, protect, cook for, and cuddle their little ones.

Written in verse, the storytelling moves along at a soothing cadence, with sound effect words like “screech and squawk”, “giggly wiggly”, “wade and wallow”, and “slide and pop”, using both alliteration and rhyme to play with language. There are all kinds of Happy Papas, and all kinds of Happy Babies and Kids. Perfect for storytime, the soft colors and realistic illustrations will attract readers’ attention, and the simple black font lets the artwork take center stage.

This is a sweet tribute to dads, and a lovely read-along with Happy Mamas for a Mom and Dad tandem bedtime reading, or a Family Storytime.

Author Kathleen Pelley has a podcast and literacy resources on her website. You can find more of Mariya Prytula’s watercolor artwork at her website.

Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, History, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Read some US History in verse with Siege

Siege: How General Washington Kicked the British Out of Boston and Launched a Revolution, by Roxanne Orgill, (March 2018, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763688516

Recommended for readers 10-13

The summer of 1775 was rough. The British occupied Boston, and kept a stranglehold on the city, cutting the residents off from food and medical supplies, which really didn’t help the smallpox situation, either. George Washington was chosen to lead the American armed forces, and expected to work miracles with almost no money and troops with no training. Author Roxanne Orgill uses verse to tell the story of how General George Washington turned the tables on the British. Beginning in the Summer of 1775 and going through to Spring 1776, she gives voice not only to Washington, but his generals, soldiers, and aides; his servant-slave, William Lee; and his wife, Martha. We also get to read The News from Boston, newspaper-like reports on the state of the city; and Orders, daily instructions from Washington to his officers. Source notes, a glossary, and a bibliography complete the book.

If you’ve got Hamilton fans in your readership, this is an easy booktalk. The fast-paced verse moves the book along and takes readers into the minds of historic figures that we don’t normally hear much from. Siege is a good additional read for tweens interested in US history, especially those kids interested in the American Revolution.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Welcome #NationalPoetryMonth with Animal Ark

Animal Ark, created by photographer Joel Sartore/text by Kwame Alexander, (Feb. 2017, National Geographic), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2767-4

Recommended for ages 3+

Newbery Award winning author Kwame Alexander lends his voice to award-winning National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore’s beautiful book of wild animals. Animal Ark is inspired by the National Geographic Photo Ark: a project between Sartore and the National Geographic Society to document every species in captivity, with the goal of raising awareness and protecting these animals for future generations.

Kwame Alexander writes amazing verse. If you’ve read The Crossover or Booked, you know this. His Animal Ark verse is at once playful and a call to action; paired with Sartore’s visually stunning photos, they pack a powerful punch to the psyche. A full-page photo of a wolf’s face in profile proclaims, “Howl like you mean it… the world is listening”; brightly colored beetles stand out against a black background, reading “Color me ancient and sacred”. The words placement is also playful, winding across the page and around the animals, to create a full visual experience for the reader. Several gatefolds throughout the book surprise the reader with a “chorus of creatures”, collages of photos. Here, the text reminds us of what we have and not to squander our gifts: “There are too few remaining/in the rain forest/in the big blue sea/in the whole wide world/because of you and me”.

Joel Sartore has photographed more than 6,000 species for the PhotoArk project, more than 100 of which are featured in Animal Ark. A companion adult book, National Geographic The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals (March 2017) includes more photographs and a foreword by Harrison Ford.

This is a perfect book to read and display for National Poetry Month (starting April 28), and for Earth Day (April 22nd). It’s a beautiful photo book with lovely verse that will draw readers in. Animal Ark received a starred review from School Library Journal and the companion adult book received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Have a look at the blooper reel – photographing animals isn’t always easy!

Posted in Fantasy, mythology, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Myth of the Minotaur? That’s BULL.

Bull, by David Elliott, (March 2017, HMH Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9780544610606

Recommended for ages 13+

You may know the myth of Theseus, the Minotaur, and the Labryinth, but I guarantee you’ve never read it like this. Told in verse, with each character’s voice using its own poetric form, from sonnets and stanzas to split couplets.  Poseidon acts as a kind of narrator, boastful and smug, laying out the lay of the land for readers: how Minos wouldn’t sacrifice a bull to him, so he decided to take it out on his wife and son. We have Minos, who’s not winning any father of the year awards; poor, insane Queen Pasiphae, who loves her baby boy and loses her mind when he’s taken from her; Ariadne, Minos’ daughter who just wants to take her brother, Asterion – the Minotaur – away from the hell he’s living, Daedalus, the engineer of the labyrinth, and last but never least, Asterion, the voice of the Minotaur himself.

There are inevitable Hamilton comparisons to be made, and this is a good thing: it’s a modern, compulsively readable, update of the classic myth, full of dark humor, angst, and betrayal. Elliott fleshes out the story by giving his take on the characters’ internal dialogue; most notably, Asterion’s growing despair and rage, also depicted by the progressively darker pages on which his dialogue runs. I’d love to see this staged, and I’m sure many, many high school and college students will, too.

Bull received (well-deserved) starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus. Language and situations may give some more conservative readers pause, but it is a Greek myth, after all.

Author David Elliott’s webpage has more information about the author and his books, plus information about author visits. There is also a link to Mr. Elliott’s Pinterest page, where readers can find more links to information about the players in Bull and their mythology.