Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

You Rule!: The best things is life are measurable in words!

You Rule!, by Rilla Alexander, (Apr 2023, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781797211794

Ages 3-5

Sure, you can measure quantitatively – length, width, height – but measuring things with your heart is just as important and can be incredibly descriptive. You Rule! follows a child and their dog through the day as they help a caterpillar become a butterfly. They dash through spreads filled with common kids’ questions; imaginative, effusive responses help expand emotional vocabulary: How ready are you? Responses go from “not at all” to “fired up” and “rarin” to go”; How happy are you? calls forth responses like “exhilarated”, “pretty much ok”, “pleased as punch”, and “walking on air”. Bright, bold rubber stap and digital collage illustrations create eye-catching spreads and the positive affirmations for questions and responses make this a feel-good book to read again and again. Put this one in your collections and consider posting some of the words and phrases around your children’s area to keep these uplifting ideas in front of kids.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Fun with words: A Storytelling of Ravens

A Storytelling of Ravens, by Kyle Lukoff/Illustrated by Natalie Nelson, (May 2018, Groundwood Books), $17.95, ISBN: 9781554989126

Recommended for readers ages 5-8

If you loved Lane Smith’s There is a Tribe of Kids (2016), you’ll get a kick out of A Storytelling of Ravens, which finds new animal collectives to name and puts each group in an amusing context. A nuisance of cats blames some wayward yarn on a sleeping dog; a trip of sheep looks away from one clumsy member in pure embarassment; a knot of toads get their tongues in a – well, a knot, really – over a tasty fly. Where There is a Tribe of Kids follows one child through animal groups as he searches for his tribe, the animals are at the silly focus of this book, which shows readers how to have more fun with words – something I thoroughly enjoy doing in my storytimes. Tell your kiddos that a group of jellyfish is known as a smack, and they will have fun with that for HOURS. Trust me. I have a five-year-old, I know. The art is an eclectic mix of gouache paint, ink drawings, found photographs, and digital collage, giving the book a funky, vintage art feel. This one is fun for English classes, fun for nature/science classes, and fun for storytime – try introducing it to readers during an animal storytime. I think I’m going to give some flannels a shot with this one, now that I think of it.

Pair this with more wordplay books like TOON’s Wordplay graphic novel by Ivan Brunetti, Michaël Ecoffier’s Take Away the A, or Tara Lazar’s hilarious book, 7 Ate 9.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Preschool Reads

Start ’em off right: BLIP! from TOON Books

blipBLIP!, by Barnaby Richards, (Sept. 2016, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1-935179-98-6

Recommended for ages 2-5

A robot’s ship is separated from his friends and lands on a strange, new world. Now, his challenge is to find another being that speaks his language! He explores his surroundings and encounters things that roar and snap, but will anyone or anything speak “Blip” and “Bleep”?

This is one of TOON’s Level 1 graphic novels, so there are minimal words, one-two syllables; lots of sound effects, expressive faces and lush scenery, and clearly delineated panels to teach kids how things happen in a sequence. It’s a wonderful and fun way to introduce kids to graphic novels!

I recommend TOON Books all the time. I’ve talked them up when I’ve staffed booth at comic conventions, and I bring parents right to my graphic novels shelves here at my library. Level 1 books, like BLIP!, are a brilliant way to introduce sequential art to kids. They introduce fun, new words that they can associate with sounds their toys make, like blips and bleeps, bangs and snaps; they teach kids that events happen in a sequence, and you can introduce prediction by asking them what they see, and what they think will happen next.

I love the retro futuristic art in BLIP! – his ship looks like Flash Gordon’s spaceship! – and there’s an 8-bit inspired panel that makes my ’80s soul sing. My little guy gets a huge kick out of this one, and I can’t wait to share it with my storytime crew when I have my next Robot storytime. Ask kids what sounds their robots would make, and have a robot craft ready.

I’d add this to any burgeoning graphic novel collection, especially where you’ve got developing readers and English Language Learners. BLIP!‘s not due out until September, so keep your eye on their detail page on TOON’s website; there will be an educator’s guide closer to pub date.





Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Toddler Reads

Vocabulary the Dickens Way – Cozy Classics’ Great Expectations

great_coverCozy Classics: Great Expectations, by Holman Wang and Jack Wang (March 2016, Chronicle Books), $9.95, ISBN: 9781452152431

Recommended for infant-3 years

The brothers behind one of my favorite board book series, Star Wars Yarns, is back with their Cozy Classics series, this time, tackling Charles Dickens. But seriously, don’t sweat it – they’re teaching our wee ones vocabulary, using their adorable felted yarn figures and words related to the Dickens’ tale. Words like “boy”, “help”, “manners”, and “old”, set against the backdrop of the Victorian epic, give extra feel to the words. I particularly love Pip – the “boy” – standing on the first page of the story. Parents will love it, kids will think it’s something cool (because it is). “greatexpec_1





greatexpec_2Miss Havisham illustrates the word “old”. With her tattered dress and her worn expression, young readers will see that old takes on many meanings – the dress is old, Miss Havisham is old, and are those cobwebs surrounding her in that picture? Explain that cobwebs form when something hasn’t been moved or dusted in a while.






Naturally, Estella is “pretty”. See Pip staring at her from behind the wall? That speaks volumes – she’s pretty, and Pip has a crush on her. greatexpec_3


There are about 12 illustrations and words in Cozy Classics: Great Expectations, with great words that aren’t sight words – it’s a real chance to expand kids’ vocabulary. The Wang brothers’ art is amazing – my Star Wars Yarns books are never on the shelf here at the library – and I think it’s time to bring some Cozy Classics to my home and work libraries.

I love this classics to teach concepts trend. BabyLit does it, Cozy Classics does it, and Mini Myths teaches kids Greek myths on a level that makes complete sense in today’s world. The books make for great storytimes, and you can get moms, dads, and caregivers to pick up a grown-up book, too – pair up your board books with their companion grown-up titles for a heck of a list!

Posted in Animal Fiction, Media, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

In Which I Explore an An Animated Book: Hondro & Fabian

Hondo & Fabian. Written and Illustrated by Peter McCarty. 6 minutes. DVD. Weston Woods. 2006. $ 59.95 ISBN 0-439-84909-8

Suggested for ages 3-6

When I saw the animated books at my local library, I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect. Was I just going to be staring at a static series of pictures with a voiceover laid over the whole business? I decided to give it a shot with Peter McCarty’s Caldecott Honored-story, Hondo & Fabian. I am very happy to say I was delighted by what I watched.

hondo & fabian

Hondo & Fabian is the 2003 Caldecott Award-winning story of Hondo & Fabian, a dog and cat who live in the same household and have very different experiences one day, when one goes to the beach and one stays home with the family baby. Who has the better day?

Weston Woods produced this animated version of the book for schools and libraries, and author Peter McCarty’s soft, grey pencil on watercolor paper illustrations come to life as narrator Jeff Brooks tells the tale of the two friends who spend their day in two different ways. The illustrations are animated, allowing viewers to see Hondo’s ears blowing in the breeze as he hangs out a window, and Fabian putting his claws to work, shredding toilet paper. The story is brief, and Joel Goodman and David Bramfitt’s music adds to the beauty of the artwork, bringing with it a relaxing feeling as the story’s events unfold. Readers will enjoy viewing this story about pet friends; the option to use English subtitles will allow for new readers to read along with the narration. A study guide comes with the DVD that provides pre- and post-viewing activity ideas that can be incorporated into a storytime session, such as a discussion about pets and which animals are pets versus which are not.

This would be an interesting addition to a pet-related storytime. The DVD could break up the routine of a traditional read-aloud and attract renewed attention from attendees. The Perry Public Library’s Parade of Pets storytime theme has pet-related songs and fingerplays, and having a sing-along to an animal song-related CD, like Raffi’s Animal Songs, would make for an interactive and fun time.

The Hondo & Fabian animated book has received numerous accolades, including designation as an ALA Notable Video; Honorable Mention from the Columbus International Film & Video Festival; and was an Official Selection at the Kids First Film Festival.

The Hondo & Fabian series of books by Peter McCarty also includes Fabian Escapes.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Book Review: Moonlight, by Helen V. Griffith/Illus. by Laura Dronzek (Greenwillow Books, 2012)

moonlightRecommended for ages 2-6

Told in rhyme, Moonlight tells the story of a rabbit that is so sleepy, he cannot wait for the moon to come out from behind the clouds, and heads to his burrow to sleep. When the moonlight emerges from behind the clouds, it coats everything it touches in a “butter trace”. It even reaches into Rabbit’s burrow and into his dreams, waking him up.

The illustrations, done in deeply saturated acrylics, set a drowsy, sleepy tone as readers see the moon lazily “butter” everything in its path with its light. The stars and comets look almost like Van Gogh’s Starry Night; the animals bathed in its light all sleep peacefully, and the landscapes  – mountains, trees, and  streams  – all seem soft, relaxed. The brief text itself seems quiet and relaxed, showing up unobtrusively on each spread and without punctuation to halt the eye or the mind.

This would be a wonderful addition to a bedtime read-aloud. Audiences can attend in their pajamas with a favorite stuffed animal, and serving milk and cookies would add to the storytime atmosphere. There are many bedtime rhymes and songs that can fit in with this theme. Using a flannel board may add to young audiences’ appreciation of the story.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Book Review: Diary of a Worm, by Doreen Cronin/illus. by Harry Bliss (Joanna Cotler Books, 2003)

diary of a worm

Recommended for ages 2-6

A young worm journals his daily life, writing about his friends, his family, and the pluses and minuses of being a worm.  His observations are often very funny, as when he talks about spending the day above ground with his family after a rainstorm, and then notes, “Hopscotch is a very dangerous game”, with illustrations from a worm’s point of view. The story includes facts about earthworm behavior that gives young audiences a fun lesson in science: earthworms dig tunnels that help the earth breathe; worms cannot walk upside down, and worms have no teeth being just a few fun factoids to take away.

The artwork adds to the appeal of the book. Mr. Bliss uses watercolor and ink illustrations to bring Worm, his family and friends to life; while not overly anthropomorphizing them, he does infuse them with personality. The worm’s-eye view of the world provides a different point of view that young audiences will appreciate, and could lead to a good post-storytime discussion of how things look different from a worm’s point view as opposed to a human’s. The text looks almost like a printed font, and the entries are dated, like a real diary would be. The endpapers are set up like a scrapbook or diary, with photos of Worm’s friends, family, and accomplishments – report cards, a web made for him by his friend, Spider, a comic strip – “taped” to the pages.

The “Ðiary Of” series includes Diary of a Fly; Diary of a Spider; and Diary of a Worm.

A Wiggling Worms/Garden read-aloud would be a fun idea for the Spring. Diary of a Worm may be a tricky read-aloud if done conventionally, as there is a lot of activity within each page. Bringing in puppets may be a fun way to accomplish a fun read-aloud, with assistants or another librarian acting out with puppets of worms, spiders, and flies, while the librarian narrates the journal entries. Amazon offers a Diary of a Worm & Friends Finger Puppet Playset that would connect the puppet show to the book even further. An after-story discussion about worms would involve children, inviting them to share what they have learned about worms after reading the book. A fun craft would let children make worms out of modeling clay, which they could take home. Scholastic has a Diary of a Worm DVD that may be fun viewing for younger audiences.

Diary of a Worm has received numerous awards and accolades since its publication, including designation as a School Library Journal Best Book for Children (2003).

Posted in Preschool Reads

Book Review: Clumsy Crab, by Ruth Galloway (Tiger Tales, 2007)

clumsy-crabRecommended for ages 3-6

Nipper the Crab’s claws always seem to get in his way, until one day, when he discovers how helpful they can be. Clumsy Crab is a very good story about accepting yourself that should resonate with preschoolers. Nipper the Crab hates his claws because they always seem to get in his way; one day, though, playing hide and seek with his friends, he discovers that having claws to snip, snap and clip, clap can come in handy when he is the only one that can rescue a friend. All of the sea creatures are friendly and helpful to Nipper; there is no bullying, only encouraging. The cartoon artwork is bright and the sea creatures have expressive, happy faces. The endpapers offer an underwater welcome, with Nipper and some sea life friends greeting readers. The text is rounded, almost cartoonish to match the illustrations, with larger, bolded words for emphasis.

The book’s use of alliteration and onomatopoeia makes this a good storytime selection that will keep readers interested. Storytime Katie’s blog offers songs and fingerplays for a Sea Creatures read-aloud; if possible, stock the storytime area with plastic and plush sea life toys to allow for playtime after the read-aloud. Enchanted Learning offers ocean life printables for a coloring craft. The Raffi CD, Baby Beluga, is a fun music choice to for children to listen to while playing and coloring.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Book Review: Rain Romp, by Jane Kurtz/Illus. by Diana Wolcott (Greenwillow Books, 2002)

RainRompRecommended for ages 3-6

Preschoolers often deal with moods that they don’t know how to control; many will associate with this young girl who wakes up in a bad mood on a rainy day. Her parents try to boost her mood, but she wants none of it, until she decides to stomp her bad mood away in the rain. Her parents join her, and the bad mood goes away. The watercolor and gouache art is perfect to convey the both the weather and the girl’s moods, going from angry and gray, like the rain, to happy and content, as the sun peeks through the clouds. The text curves around the art and gets larger for emphasis when the girl vents her anger.  As she and her family hug, mood lifted, the text curves underneath them, allowing the reader to join in the hug.

This would be a good addition to a read-aloud on moods. There could be a discussion on what preschoolers do when they are angry, or sad, or happy. If they feel sad or mad, what makes them feel better? A good storytime craft would allow the children to draw a picture of how they deal with a bad mood, and they could receive a smiley face handstamp at the end of the storytime.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Book Review: Food Fight, by Carol Diggory Shields/Illus. by Doreen Gay-Kassel (Handprint Books, 2002)

food fightRecommended for ages 3-8

Late at night, when we are fast asleep, who knows what goes on in our refrigerators? In Food Fight, it’s the cat who bears witness to this story about what happens when the food in a kitchen decides to throw a late-night party. The story, told in rhyme, escalates when tuna fish tells the garlic, “You stink”, angering the chili pepper, and the rumble is on. The artwork, done in modeling clay, brings life to the food, creating a wide variety of facial expressions and movements. The multicolored text, in different sized, exaggerated font, swirls and flows around the artwork and stands out against the brightly colored backgrounds, adding more fun to the book and for the reader. The endpapers offer a cursory look into the refrigerator, showing assorted groceries on shelves.

This would be part of a fun, food-related read-aloud for preschoolers and kindergarteners. It could fit in with other fun food books, like Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, and can also lead to a discussion about healthy eating. Putting out plastic food for children to play with will provide a fun playtime, as will singing songs like “On Top of Spaghetti”.

Food Fight has received numerous awards and accolades, including designation as an ALA Notable Children’s Book (2012), Colorado: Children’s Book Award Nominees (2013), Horn Book Fanfare (2011), Indies Choice Book Award for Picture Book (2012), Irma S. & James H. Black Picture Book Honor (2012), NY Times Best Illustrated Books (2011), NY Times Notable Children’s Books (2011), Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Books (2011), Texas: 2×2 Reading List (2012), Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor (2012), Virginia: Readers’ Choice Award Nominees (2013).