Posted in picture books

Two books about Trees for Earth Day

I’ve got two more books about trees for Earth Day today! Sit in the great outside with these books and take a nice, deep breath for Earth Day.

The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom, by Lita Judge, (March 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250237071

Ages 7-12

Verse comes together with nonfiction writing to tell the story of trees, and how they work together to create ecosystems that provide food and shelter to everything around them. Beautiful watercolor and pencil artwork provides visuals that will enchant readers with visions of ancient trees, baby animals, and wooded sanctuaries. Additional back matter includes more information about different types of trees and the dangers posed to our world’s forests.

Teachers Pay Teachers has a great Adopt a Tree lesson and journal, courtesy of Common Core Kelly; it would be a good activity to introduce to grade schoolers as a STEM/STEAM project.

The Wisdom of Trees has starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal.

 

Zee Grows a Tree, by Elizabeth Rusch/Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, (March 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763697549

Ages 5-8

A baby is born and her mother and father, who run a Christmas tree farm, set aside a Douglas fir seedling that emerges that same day, to be “Zee’s Tree”. Little Zee and her tree grow up together: they both grow bigger and stronger with love and care; when Zee starts preschool, the tree also starts life outside, being planted outside the nursery; Zee makes friends at school, and the tree enjoys company from the local birds. When the tree contracts a heat-related illness, Zee is there to nurse it back to health. Filled with interesting facts about Douglas fir trees, Zee Grows a Tree is a lovely combination of fact and fiction that will draw readers in and maybe encourage them to care for a plant of their own. Mixed media illustrations show peaceful landscapes and two friends growing together. The relationship between Zee and her tree is sweetly depicted. Back matter includes an index and a list for further reading.

Zee Grows a Tree has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Snow Friends are great friends!

Snow Friends, by Margery Cuyler/Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, (Oct. 2020, Holt Books for Young Readers), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250171313

Ages 3-7

It’s snowing! The ground is covered in white, wonderful snow and Oscar the dog can’t wait to get outside and play! His boy, Matt, however, isn’t quite awake yet, and Oscar can’t find enough to keep busy in the backyard until Matt is ready, so he decides to go off exploring on his own, and makes a new friend while he’s outside. He and Daisy, another dog, play together, make snow dogs and snow angels together, and romp happily through the snow; once Matt and and Daisy’s girl come looking for them, they become snow friends, too! With brief, easy-to-read sentences to help newly independent readers along and hold the attention of lapsitters, Snow Friends is a great readaloud pick. Will Hillenbrand’s mixed media artwork adds warmth even to the bluish-white winter snow, giving a feel for the crisp cold, infused by the warmth of play. Snow Friends celebrates winter, the spirit of play, and the fun of making new friends.

Margery Cuyler is an award-winning author who’s collaborated with award-winning artist Will Hillenbrand. You can visit Margery Cuyler’s author webpage for more information about her books, honors, and photos. Will Hillenbrand’s website has information about his books, a gallery of artwork, and free downloadable, printable activities.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: Santa’s Story by Will Hillenbrand

It’s Christmas Eve, and Santa’s sleigh is packed and ready to go. The reindeer are off, doing their own thing: dancing and prancing, dozing, boasting… but when Santa calls them to get ready to leave, no one is showing up! What the heck is going on? And then, Santa remembers: he almost forgot the most important step of all!

Santa’s Story, by Will Hillenbrand, (Sept. 2019, Two Lions), $17.00, ISBN: 9781542043380
Ages 3-7

This cuddly Christmas story is perfect for kids who understand the power of routine. Who wants to go to bed without a good night story? No one! Well, no reindeer wants to take off for a long night’s ride without a story to get them ready, either. When Santa puts out the call, the reindeer don’t respond until Santa says the phrase they’ve been waiting to hear: “STORY TIME!” It’s an adorable story that kids will see themselves in, and parents and caregivers sure will, too. This can be a lead-in to the famous Clement Moore poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas”  and the start of a new Christmas ritual – the kids will love it if you tell them that you’re reading the same story that Santa reads to his reindeer before they head out to bring gifts to their homes! Get your hot chocolate ready, and put out extra cookies and milk for the kids to share, pre-Santa.

Will Hillenbrand’s artwork is soft and sweet, perfectly cuddly to match the story. The snow looks cottony soft, and the cartoony reindeer and other North Pole denizens are earth-toned against the brilliant white snow, and Santa’s bright red (and green book) is an attention-getter. Pair this with Will Hillenbrand’s Snowman’s Story for a sweet Christmas storytime, and make sure to visit Hillenbrand’s author website for free Snowman downloadables.

Praise for SANTA’S STORY:

“Hillenbrand’s digital illustrations have a pleasingly soft visual aesthetic…A merrily-ever-after read.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Hillenbrand reveals the spirited goings on in snowy, buoyant digital pictures featuring expressive reindeer and a jolly Santa who would be right at home in an animated movie. A light and cheery holiday tribute to tradition and storytelling.” —Publishers Weekly

“Interesting vocabulary, a touch of suspense, and a satisfying conclusion make this simple story a good addition to holiday collections.” —School Library Journal

Will Hillenbrand has written and illustrated many beloved picture books, including Snowman’s Story, Down by the Barn, Mother Goose Picture Puzzles, and the Bear and Mole series. He has also illustrated dozens of books, including the Big Bear series by Maureen Wright. Will lives with his wife and son in Terrace Park, Ohio. You can find out more about him at www.willhillenbrand.com.

Connect with Will on Facebook

On Instagram: willhillenbrand

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

March picture book roundup

There are some adorable picture books publishing in March and April! Let’s take a look at some – there are some great storytime reads to be found!

A Fire Truck for Chuck, by Annika Dunklee/Illustrated by Cathon,
(March 2018, OwlKids), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771472852
Recommended for readers 3-6

A little boy named Chuck visits a yard sale with his mom, where he sees it: a fire truck! And it’s only a buck! What luck! Mom buys Chuck the truck, who proceeds to play with it everywhere. Including the mud. Yuck! Chuck is afraid his fire truck is lost forever, but joyfully finds out otherwise. Thanks, Mom! This adorable story of a boy and his truck is perfect for kids who love their vehicle stories – and there are many! You don’t need to be a car and truck fan to love this story, too – toddlers and preschoolers will all empathize and understand the love between a kid and his or her favorite toy. While not exactly a rhyming story, A Fire Truck for Chuck uses the easily rhyming word to weave humor and fun into the story. Cartoony illustrations are bold and bright and will get kids’ attention.

 

I’m a Duck, by Eve Bunting/Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand,
(March 2018, Candlewick Press), $15.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-8032-9
Recommended for readers 3-6
This adorable rhyming tale about overcoming fears is especially great for pre-K 3 and 4-year-olds. A little duck recounts the tale of falling into the lake as an egg; saved by his mother, he’s grown up too scared to go swimming, “…and that is bad. A landlocked duck is very sad”. With some encouragement from family and friends, and a little bit of practice in safe, shallow puddle, little Duck is ready to face his fears – and succeeds! I’m a Duck illustrates the importance of encouragement and positive reinforcement in addition to the power of facing one’s fears (and the emphasis on safety is a relief for caregivers). Mixed media illustrations give a snuggly, cuddly feel to the animals in the story. I love Eve Bunting’s books, and am thrilled to add this one to my shelves.

George is a happy old hound dog who just wants a nap. Farmer Fritz, his human, heads off to a retirement cabana and leaves George in charge: and that means helping the new family navigate life on the farm! Poor George; these folks are hapless, which means George is herding cows, finding lost siblings, and generally saving the day. Not only can he not get his nap in, he can’t get these folks to figure out his name, which goes through several name changes throughout the story. Full-panel artwork alternates with graphic novel-like panels to provide a fun romp. Short, concise sentences and farm animal shenanigans make this a fun read-aloud choice. Ask the kids what they’d like to call George – or how he could finally get his new family to figure out his name! A fun story for animal fans.
Not ‘Til Tomorrow, Phoebe, by Julie Zwillich,
(March 2018, OwlKids), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771471725
Recommended for readers 4-7
The second book in the Phoebe series (the first, Phoebe Sounds It Out, was published in March 2017) introduces kids to the concepts of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and just as importantly, patience. Phoebe’s day is full of “tomorrows”: Mama will make her pancakes tomorrow; she’ll get ice cream after her haircut tomorrow; musicians will visit her class – you guessed it – tomorrow. Frustrated, Phoebe turns to her grandmother, who bakes cookies and teaches Phoebe the best way to turn today into tomorrow: get a good night’s sleep. Kids will understand Phoebe’s frustration, for sure; you can even introduce the story by asking kids, “Who’s tired of hearing about all the good things that will happen TOMORROW?” As with Phoebe Sounds It Out, the illustrations are bold and expressive, with soothing colors to put kids in the mind to listen and learn. There’s a lovely relationship between grandparent and grandchild here. Phoebe is a child of color.
Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Blog Tour: Share, Big Bear, Share! And Giveaway!

Big Bear has a big pail of yummy blueberries! His friends would like some, too, but Big Bear seems to be a bit clueless. The old oak tree tells him to SHARE, BIG BEAR, SHARE!, but Bear is so enamored of his blueberries, he’s not really listening – and hears something different each time! Will he finally realize that a good friend shares, and invite his pals to have some berries?

Share, Big Bear, Share!, by Maureen Wright/Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, (Apr. 2017, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1503951006. Recommended for readers 3-7

Share, Big Bear, Share! is a great story for preschoolers and kindergarteners, who are developing social skills and learning to share and work together. Big Bear is a nice bear, he’s just a little unaware; when the Old Oak Tree tells him – multiple times – to share, Big Bear – who’s not really listening; he’s got an entire bucket of blueberries! – half-hears the message, with hilarious results. The message for readers is twofold: sharing is important, but so is paying attention! I think a round of the old game, Telephone is a perfect accompaniment to this story: a teacher, parent, or educator whispers something into one child’s ear and has the message go around the group, until the last player states what he or she heard, which is usually something very different from the original statement!

The story makes it point in a sweet, funny way that appeals to young readers. Will Hillenbrand’s graphite pencil artwork, fleshed out with digital media, gives Bear and his woodland friends a cuddly quality that kids will love. Old Oak Tree looks wonderfully wise and his facial expressions are perfect and accurate. Kids will have seen that face on their caregivers many times!

Share, Big Bear, Share! is the third Big Bear book by Maureen Wright and Will Hillenbrand (Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep! and Sneeze, Big Bear, Sneeze!) Display this one with books like Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama, Time to Share and Leo Lionni’s It’s Mine! for readalikes; build a social skills library by adding Beth Ferry’s Stick and Stone, Rowboat Watkins’ Rude Cakes, and Julie Gassman’s You Get What You Get.

There’s a Help Big Bear SHARE Game, available through illustrator Will Hillenbrand’s website, for you to download, print, and hand out.

GIVEAWAY! Want a chance to win your own copy of Share, Big Bear, Share? Enter here!

WILL HILLENBRAND has written and/or illustrated over 60 books for young readers including Down by the Barn, Mother Goose Picture Puzzles and the Bear and Mole series. He has lived almost all of his life in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he grew up as the youngest of four boys. He now lives in Terrace Park and was recently honored as Author/Illustrator in Residence at Kent State University.

Information about his books, selected readings, art process videos and activity ideas can be viewed at www.willhillenbrand.com. Connect with Will at www.facebook.com/willhillenbrandbooks.