Posted in Preschool Reads

Book Review: The Spooky Hour, by Tony Mitton/illus. by Guy Parker-Rees (Orchard Books, 2004)

spooky hourRecommended for ages 3-7

Spooky Hour is a counting story – counting down, rather than a counting up – about a dog and a cat who witness spooky creatures on their way to a party at the strike of twelve. The dog and cat follow the creatures: eleven witches, ten ghosts, nine skeletons, and more, all the way to the spooky castle doors, where Mitch and Titch, the witchy twins, are waiting to welcome them to the big, spooky party, where they feast on one gigantic pumpkin pie. The cartoon illustrations are fun, even silly, but never scary, and younger audiences will enjoy the anticipation of counting down to the party. The full-bleed images have a great deal of action going on in the frames: flying ghosts, a  line of skeletons dancing into a forest, observed by owls, trolls tromping through a forest as the cat and dog hide behind a log. The font is black or yellow – whatever needs to pop on the page’s background – and looks similar to a typewriter font.

The book has interactive elements that make it a good candidate for a Halloween read-aloud. The story itself is written in rhyme, and each creature has a sound attached to its action that audiences can mimic and act out: the witches shriek, the ghosts swirl,whirl, and say, “whoooo”, the skeletons dance and go clickety-clack. Attendees can come in costume and receive a trick or treat bag with some candy and a small toy, and there can be a jack-o-lantern craft for children to color. Time permitting, they can cut out shapes for jack-o-lantern faces and glue them on. Perpetual Preschool has Halloween songs that the children can sing after the story, and there are CDs with Halloween music, like Kids Bop Halloween, which can play during the craft time, and children can receive a Halloween hand stamp before they go home.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Book Review: Tough Boris, by Mem Fox/Illus. by Kathryn Brown (Harcourt Brace, 1994)

tough-borisRecommended for ages 3-6

Boris van der Borsch is a tough, massive, scruffy, greedy, fearless, and scary pirate with a tough, scary- looking crew. When his pet parrot dies, though, preschoolers see that even the toughest pirate can cry. The story is told through the eyes of a young boy who stows away on the ship in the very beginning of the book, and whom Boris and crew leave back on his home shore at the end of the story, prompting the boy to cry as well. It is a subtle but strong subplot readers will enjoy. The watercolor artwork shows Boris and his crew in all their scruffy, tough pirate glory, with angry faces and bristly beards. The text is rendered in a simple, black font that matches the solemn brevity of the story. Tough Boris is an American Library Association (ALA) Notable Children’s Book (1995).

This is a great book for a pirate storytime, as it portrays pirates as capable of sensitive feelings on top of being rough and tough. It shows young audiences that everyone cries when they are sad – even a mean old pirate. It can be used with more fun pirate fare to lighten the mood, or it can be used on its own to get kids talking about feelings. Children would enjoy a Jolly Roger handstamp as a memento of their day, and there are many printable treasure maps available online, for attendees to color in, take home and start their own search for buried treasure. The British Columbia Public Library has very good Pirates Storytime theme that includes songs and fingerplays.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Book Review: My Two Hands/My Two Feet, by Rick Walton/illus. by Julia Gorton (Putnam, 2000)

my two handsRecommended for ages 2-5

My Two Hands/My Two Feet is two stories in one, each story celebrating the many things that hands and feet can do over the course of a day. On one side, we have hands: stretching, washing, making a cup for water, holding onto someone, and folding together at bedtime. Flip the book over and discover what feet can do: wiggle, dance, stomp, twirl, and lie still at bedtime. The stories meet in the middle, with the two narrators asleep side by side. The endpapers clue readers in as to which body parts they will read about first, with overlapping hands decorating one side and overlapping feet, the other. The stories are told in rhyme and illustrated in airbrushed acrylics, with bright colors and full-bleed images on each page. The illustrations are flat, and the characters are semi-realistic looking, with large heads and small, black shiny dots for eyes. The only texture in the images comes by way of the characters’ knitted sweaters, which appear to be collage.

The story, told in rhyme, uses simple language that younger readers will understand and enjoy. The font is a simple yet decorative font, alternating in black and white to stand out on the brightly colored backgrounds.

This is a great opportunity for an interactive read-aloud. Children can be invited to pantomime the movements mentioned in the book, like wiggling their toes and stretching their hands.  This would also allow for a fun, movement-based storytime: get the children up and dancing, play Ring Around the Rosie, maybe even a game of Simon Says. Younger attendees can play “Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes”.

The author’s website links to information about Mr. Walton, including school visits and a biography; he also links to free book resources online for parents, writers, and educators.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Book Review: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr./illus. by Eric Carle (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1967)

brown bear Recommended for ages 0-5

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is a children’s literature classic. An unseen narrator asks different animals what they see; the animals respond that another animal is looking at them, repeating the process throughout the book. The animals are described in terms of color: a brown bear, a red bird, a yellow duck, a blue horse. The endpapers lead readers into this study in color, with the colors named in the book appearing, striped, across them.

Bill Martin’s repetitive question-and-answer rhyme format, coupled with Eric Carle’s signature hand-painted and layered collage technique, appeals to toddlers and preschoolers alike, giving the animals a textured appearance that makes them stand out on the white background of the page. The font is a simple, black font; the question appears on the left hand page of each spread, and the response on the right. The rhythm of the book is comfortably repetitive, so children know what to expect on each spread. There is a board book version available that is perfect for the tiniest hands.

This is a great book to add to a read-aloud on color and would translate well to a felt board. DLTK’s website offers printable pictures of animals named in the book, complete with instructions on how to use the sheets as felt board characters and can provide an enjoyable, post-story coloring craft. Attendees may enjoy getting a hand stamp with one of the animals named in the book, to have as a memento of the storytime, and a guide to the book on the Macmillan website features a printable matching game where readers can connect the color to the animal mentioned in the book.

Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle collaborated on other children’s classics, Polar Bear, Polar  Bear, What Do You Hear?, Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What  Do You See? and Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? that fall into the same cadence and predictive text, providing opportunities for additional read-alouds.

The author’s website offers information on school visits and the Bill Martin model for reading, which is valuable reading for anyone who reads to young children.

Posted in Preschool Reads

My Beastly Brother, by Laura Leuck/illus. Scott Nash (HarperCollins, 2003)

beastly brotherRecommended for ages 3-6

A young monster reflects on life with his older brother, who can be  truly beastly or very kind. Ms. Leuck uses two monster brothers to illustrate the ups and downs of sibling relationships. The younger brother makes a laundry list of his older brother’s “beastly” – a double entendre here – behavior toward him: he will not allow him to play with his stuff, feed his pets, and outdoes his younger brother at everything he does, from burping to spewing spider spit. He throws his toys away, bothers him, and never lets him win.  But when he has scary dreams of humans coming after him, the younger monster learns that sometimes, his beastly brother is not so beastly after all.

Scott Nash’s cartoon illustrations bring humor to the monster family; they are not scary at all.  He turns the idea of the traditional family on its head by creating a monster nuclear family, complete with details like eyeball wallpaper and skull upholstery. The humans are the monsters in this tale; to that end, Mr. Nash illustrates the young monster’s nightmare with scary humans with frozen smiles and outstretched arms. The text is black, bold font on a stark white background, with a single image beneath the text, allowing the illustrations to take center stage. The monsters, other than being hairy, are fairly normal.  Their faces are pleasant and expressive, with large eyes and big smiles fully of pointy teeth. The boys wear jeans and t-shirts; Mom wears a pink dress with a spider print pattern, and Dad mows the lawn in shorts, a t-shirt and a baseball cap.

Laura Leuck and Scott Nash’s monsters show up again in My Creature Teacher.

This would be a fun book to incorporate into a family read-aloud. There are many family printables available for coloring on DLTK, along with family puppets, and poems.

HarperCollins offers an author webpage that allows interested readers to sign up for author updates.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Book Review: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, by Iza Trapani (Whispering Coyote, 1997)

twinkle-twinkle-little-star-illustrated-by-iza-trapaniRecommended for ages 0-5

“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” is one of the first nursery rhymes many children learn, either from their parents, daycare providers, or preschool teachers. Ms. Trapani’s extended version of the song allows children to sing along as they view the story of a little gold star who takes a little girl on a trip through the night sky. After taking her to see the planets and sun, the star shows the girl how it guides ships at sea and shines light on loving families and sleeping animals and children. The star promises to shine on the little girl every night when it returns her back to her bed. The watercolor illustrations give a soft, dreamlike feel to the story, and the star itself appears to be rendered in a foil of some sort, so it stands out. The colors are muted, nighttime colors but for the light by the sun and the moon. There is a companion CD that lets readers sing along and can also help beginning readers sharpen their skills. There is also a Spanish translation available for a Spanish storytime.

This is a great candidate for a nursery rhyme-centered storytime, either with or without the CD accompaniment. There are many fingerplays available for Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, and a felt board may be fun to incorporate into the story, with the many sights the star takes the little girl to see through the course of the tale. The sheet music and lyrics are available in the back of the book and, with permission, may be handed out at the beginning of the storytime for parents, guardians, and children to sing along. The book’s publisher, Charlesbridge, has a free printable of the cover art that would make for a fun coloring project. The Perry Public Library has a wonderful “Star Light Star Bright” storytime that includes songs, rhymes and a star chart, an updated one of which can easily be found online.

The author’s webpage also offers downloadable activities and guides for her books.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Book Review: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Trout! by Teri Sloat/Illus. by Reynold Ruffins (Henry Holt, 2002)

there was an old ladyRecommended for ages 3-7

The book puts a new spin on the popular cumulative tale, There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly,  this time, telling the story of an old woman who begins by swallowing a trout, and goes on to ingest a salmon, an otter, a seal, a porpoise, a  walrus, a whale, and finally, the entire ocean. The story, told in rhyme, is increasingly funny as the old woman swallows increasingly larger sea animals. Reynold Ruffins depicts the Pacific Northwest setting of the story through brightly colored double-paged spreads inspired by folk art. The action words are silly and will keep young listeners giggling as they “slippity-flippity-flop”, “splish and splash”, and squeal along with the old woman. The rhyme and rhythm of the story make it a very good read-aloud candidate.

This story would be a good companion story to the original, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. It would also be a good addition to a cumulative tales read-aloud, with old favorites like The House That Jack Built. This is a great chance to use a felt board to illustrate the different animals that the Old Lady eats; there are also popsicle stick puppet printables on Making Learning Fun that storytime attendees can color and bring home to play along with.

The author’s webpage offers downloadable printables and games, art galleries, and information about school visits.



Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Book Review: Green, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Roaring Brook Press, 2012)

greenRecommended for ages 2-6

This award-winning concept book provides an illustrated explanation of the many shades of the color green, with  beautifully depicted scenes in painted oils interpreting the color’s many nuances. The text, written in rhyme, explains the shade illustrated in each spread: “forest green, sea green, lime green, pea green”. There are references to what is “never green”, like a stop sign, and there are “wacky” greens like a green zebra. Die cuts on each spread add a level of complexity and playfulness, making the leaves in the “forest green” spread the outlines of the fish in the “sea green” spread. The white and black bold text simply describes each scene. Little hands will enjoy exploring the pictures and diecuts, but it could lead to accelerated wear and tear on the book.

Green received 2013 Caldecott Honors and has been designated as a Kirkus Best Children’s Book of 2012 and a Booklist Editor’s Choice for Youth.

This would be a great addition to a color-related read-aloud. Bright Hub Education’s and Preschool Express’ websites offer songs about color, many sung to the tunes of popular nursery rhymes, which children will enjoy. Printing out pictures of various objects – an apple, a leaf, a banana – and letting children color them in would be a fun coloring craft. Enchanted Learning has free printable color books that children can color in and take home.

The author’s website offers information about the author and her books, with some interviews and book trailers.


Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Book Review: Mr. Cookie Baker, by Monica Wellington (Dutton, 2006)

cookie bakerRecommended for ages 2-4

Every day, Mr. Baker makes cookies for his crowded store. When the day is done, he gets to have one, himself.

The story takes the reader through Mr. Baker’s day, most of which is devoted to baking cookies. He counts and measures his ingredients, mixes the dough, rolls out the dough and cuts shapes with cookie cutters, bakes the cookies, takes them out and decorates them, and greets his customers. When the customers go home and all of the cookies are gone, his day ends and he enjoys a cookie. It’s a simple story that features gouache and colored pencil artwork. The flat, bright colors and clean lines, along with the fun shapes of the cookies framing the text page of each spread, adds interest to the page. Ms. Wellington’s pages are busy – there are cooking utensils and ingredients, children, sprinkles, and cookies on every page, giving the eye many places to look. The font changes color to contrast with its backgrounds – white for darker backgrounds, brown and red for lighter backgrounds.  There are four recipes at the end of the book for any parents and/or guardians interested in baking.

This book would be part of a fun cooking and baking read-aloud. With permission, parents and guardians could receive copies of the four recipes included in the back of the book. A fun storytime craft would allow children to “make” their own cookies by using precut cookie shapes and “sprinkles” (stickers).

The author’s website offers some printable activities and recipes.


Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Book Review: Circle Dogs, by Kevin Henkes/illus. by Dan Yaccarino (Greenwillow Books, 1998)

circle dogsRecommended for ages 2-5

Circle dogs live with their family in a square house with a square yard, eat circle snacks, and dig circle holes. Created by popular children’s author/illustrator duo Kevin Henkes and Dan Yaccarino, Circle Dogs provides a fun lesson in shapes wrapped within a story about two fun-loving dachshunds, referred to as “circle dogs” because they twist themselves into circles when they sleep. The story takes place over a day in the life of the circle dogs and their family: they wake up in the morning, along with the sun, alarm, baby and birds; kiss their family members; play; eat; nap; eat, and go to bed for the night. Dan Yaccarino’s artwork has shades of Lane Smith’s retro feel here; his brightly colored gouache pictures look like cutouts on white space and will attract a young reader’s attention with his contrasting colors. The bold text is black on lighter spaces and white against black spaces, standing out and making reading easy.

This concept book provides a great opportunity for a read-aloud on shapes. The book invites interactive reading by using repetitive sounds to communicate the dogs’ day: their tags go clink-clank, their tails flip-flap and swish, swoosh, and they eat their dog food with a kibble-clatter, kibble nibble.   Circles, squares and triangles are easily identifiable and plentiful throughout. This would be a great opportunity to use a felt board with shapes for young audiences to identify and create pictures with – a square can be a house, a sandwich, a window; a circle can be a sun, a face, or a table; a triangle can be an ice cream cone, a hat, or a dog’s ear, as in Circle Dogs. The DLTK website offer a Shapes Buddies webpage with printables including a Shapes Bingo game and Buddy Shapes to color.

The author’s webpage offers information about more of his books, plus downloadable guides and printables for parents and teachers.