Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The title is the mood: If Winter Comes, Tell It I’m Not Here

If Winter Comes, Tell It I’m Not Here, by Simona Ciraolo, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536215304

Ages 3-7

A little boy loves summer, and what isn’t to enjoy? Swimming, ice cream, being warm, it’s awesome. His older sister tells him to make the most of it, though, because it doesn’t last. Summer’s going to end, and Fall will move in, bringing with it shorter and colder days. Winter will follow, and it’ll be dark all time time; rain will turn into snow, and you’ll be stuck on the sofa. And forget ice cream or swimming, you won’t even want to think of it! The boy isn’t thrilled about Winter muscling in and ruining his fun, but as the seasons change, he discovers that there’s something to love everywhere, from the changing colors of the leaves, to snuggly nights on the sofa, to belly-warming hot chocolate. Simona Ciraolo’s prose gives a wink and a nudge to her foreboding text with visions of family togetherness and wonder in the moment. Sentences are brief and easy to read, and make for a cuddly lapsit or preschool storytime. If Winter Comes, Tell It I’m Not Here is, on the one hand, a perfect statement for how many of us are feeling right now – I know we’re ankle-deep in slush here in NYC, for instance – as much as it is an urging to stop, reassess, and see the good in the moment.

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 and Giveaway: The Snow Dancer by Addie Boswell and Merce Lopez

Was there ever a more perfect book than The Snow Day to describe that feeling when you first hit that first-fallen snow?

The Snow Dancer, by Addie Boswell/Illustrated by Mercè López,
(Dec. 2020, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1542093170
Ages 4-8

A girl named Sofia wakes up to discover a snow-white world. The snow has fallen while she slept, and it’s unblemished, perfect, on the ground, just waiting. She exclaims “SNOW DAY!” and runs out to enjoy the stillness, the beauty, the absolute wonder of the snow day. She races to the park, and finds it empty, untouched, pristine; she joyfully dances through the crunchy snow until other neighborhood kids show up. But once they do, the spell is broken as they charge into the playground, laughing, pushing, and making a giant mess out of the quiet. Sofia’s solitude is broken until she meets a new little friend with fairy wings and a snowsuit, asking if she is a fairy. The two new friends dance their own dance and join the other kids, creating a wonderful snow day for all. A story of solitude and resilience, Snow Dancer is a gorgeous book to welcome the winter.

Kids and adults alike will get lost in the prose, so evocative of childhood memories: “fuzzy hats on the fire hydrants”, and “her voice hung in the still air. / No buses squealed. / No cars honked. / No neighbors shouted” bring back those incredible memories of being the first one awake and discovering the snow day. Kids will also feel it when the neighborhood kids show up and wreck Sofia’s solitude, and admire her resilience in making the most of her day, especially when making a new friend. Mercè López’s artwork brings the quiet beauty of a snowy morning to life, the mayhem of the manic play as kids try to fit as much as possible into the day, and the quiet solitude at the end of the day as Sofia curls up in a chair, with a mug (of hot chocolate? of soup?) and her cat. A wonderful winter story that will work for storytime and anytime.

 

***********************************************************************************

“A spirited paean to the snow day that will appeal to children and their parents.” —Booklist

“Vivid imagery, onomatopoeia, and supple blue-gradient typography enliven Sofia’s journey as she learns to share her snow day. A dynamic tale of cooperation, adaptation, and friendship.” —Publishers Weekly

Addie Boswell is an artist and writer living in Portland, Oregon. She specializes in murals and picture books that focus on family, community, and the creative power of children. Her recent titles include Go, Bikes, Go! and Go, Boats, Go!, both illustrated by Alexander Mostov, and Five on the Bed, which she both wrote and illustrated. Her debut book, The Rain Stomper, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, was the winner of the Oregon Spirit Award. Learn more about the author at www.addieboswell.com.

Mercè López is an artist from Barcelona, Spain. She holds a degree in illustration from Llotja Art School in Barcelona. Her recent title Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons by Laura Purdie Salas received multiple starred reviews and was named a Center for Children’s Books Gryphon Honor Book, an NCTE Notable Poetry Book, a Kirkus Best Picture Book, and a Parents Magazine Best Kids’ Book, among other accolades. Learn more about the artist at www.mercelopez.com.
Instagram: mercelopez

 

 

 

Win a copy of The Snow Dancer for your collection! Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

The weather outside is frightful, but the books are so delightful!

Seriously, though, here in New York, the weather IS frightful, and I’m getting over a 3-week stint with bronchitis. Luckily for me, I’ve got a yummy mug of hot chocolate and a stack of winter books that let me enjoy a nice, snowy evening… vicariously.

The Boy and the Bear, by Tracey Corderoy/Illustrated by Sarah Massini,
(Nov. 2019, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536208146
Ages 2-5

A lonely boy wishes for a best friend to play with. A shy bear wants a friend to play with, and sends a message in a paper boat to the boy. The boy’s joy turns to apprehension when he discovers his new friend is a bear, but together, the two navigate a friendship as they learn to play together. When Bear has to go away when the weather changes, Boy is worried: will his friend ever be back? The Boy and the Bear is a sweet story of friendship through the seasons, with beautiful mixed media illustrations and sparse verse that travels through each spread. Perfect for storytime and cuddle time… and a stuffed animal sleepover.

 

The Shortest Day, by Susan Cooper/Illustrated by Carson Ellis,
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763686987
Ages 4-8

Easily my favorite book in this bunch. A celebration of Yule, of the Solstice, of darkness and light. The Shortest Day brings the reader through history, where early people gathered on the shortest day to drive the dark away, to the present day, where people gather to “carol, feast, give thanks,/ And dearly love their friends,/ and hope for peace”. The book and its beautiful gouache illustrations connect us to one another and generations and civilizations long past, set to Newbery Medal winner Susan Cooper’s poem. Caldecott Honor winner Carson Ellis creates a mood filled with warmth through the darkness, togetherness, and joy; the illustrations vividly communicate the waiting and the the relief the season is well-known for. The Shortest Day has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus, Shelf Awareness, and Book Page. This one is on my Caldecott watch list.

 

A Day for Skating, by Sarah Sullivan/Illustrated by Madeline Valentine,
(Nov. 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763696863
Ages 3-7

What a day to go ice skating! This rhyming story is all about a day in the life of an ice skating pond. Kids and parents lace up and skate across the ice; slipping and falling is all part of the learning process. Warm up with a hot cocoa in the cottage by the pond as hockey players raise a clatter and figure skaters glide by. When the sun goes down and everyone heads home to warm baths and beds, the pond is ready for the next group of skaters: the local wildlife explores. A Day for Skating is a lovely welcome to winter fun, with a note at the very beginning of the book about ice safety, especially if you’re not skating at a rink. Front endpapers start the story by showing a car heading somewhere, presumably the pond; back endpapers show a quiet, empty pond at night, with the marks left by skaters earlier in the day. Watercolor, pencil, and digital illustrations make every spread a welcoming winter scene, with calming blues and winter whites throughout. Add this to your winter storytimes for rhyming fun.

 

Snow Still, by Holy Surplice, (Oct. 2019, Nosy Crow),
$8.99, ISBN: 9781536208344
Ages 0-3

This padded board book is the perfect toddler story for the wonder of winter. A little fawn discovers winter, and romps and plays through the forest, discovering and playing as it goes. Each spread illustrates a different two-word snowy phrase: “Snow white. / Snow slide. / Snow chase. / Snow hide” as the fawn wanders through a winter wonderland with animal friends. The watercolor illustrations are quietly engaging, with a curious little fawn and a winter white forest background. The rhyming text and easy sight words will engage toddlers and early preschoolers. A great lap-read on a cold winter day or night.

 

The Little Snowplow Wishes For Snow, by Lora Koehler/Illustrated by Jake Parker,
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201178
Ages 3-7

This is an adorable seasonal read that works wonderfully for winter storytimes! The second Little Snowplow book sees Little Snowplow go through the seasons, desperately wishing for snow. But when winter arrives… no snow! On his birthday morning, though… there’s snow! Will Little Snowplow get all his plowing done in time for his birthday party? The pencil and digital illustrations are colorful, giving the vehicles sweet faces full of expression. Publisher Candlewick offers a free, downloadable activity kit that includes games, coloring sheets, even birthday invitations. Preschoolers love their vehicle books; add this to your storytime collection and watch them light up.

 

Snow Leopard: Ghost of the Mountains, by Justin Anderson/Illustrated by Patrick Benson,
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536205404
Ages 5-8

Zoologist and filmmaker Justin Anderson weaves a story of a zoologist who travels into the Himalayan mountains in search of the elusive snow leopard. Anderson’s story – inspired by his experiences – is beautifully descriptive, with facts in smaller callouts throughout the book. His respect for and awe of the snow leopard and her habitat shines through in his descriptions, brought to life by Owl Babies illustrator Patrick Benson, whose earth-colored and winter watercolors transport us to a different world. Endpapers with footprints in the snow bring us into and lead us out of the book. Back matter includes an author’s note about snow leopards and the need for conservation and awareness, an index of key leopard terms, and resources for more about saving snow leopards.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Bear parents: Just like us! Hush up and Hibernate

Hush Up and Hibernate, by Sandra Markle/Illustrated by Howard McWilliam, (Aug. 2018, Persnickety Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781943978366

Ages 3-7

Parents and caregivers will love this one as much as their kids. Mama Bear knows that winter’s coming, and it’s time to hibernate, but Baby Bear is just not ready to go to sleep yet, and can’t understand why he can’t stay up all winter. So he asks for something to eat. And then he has to have something to drink. And then the bed is too hard. And he hasn’t said goodbye to all the other animals in the forest! Mama Bear has finally had E-NOUGH, and tells him, in no uncertain terms, that it is time for hibernating. While Baby Bear finally beds down for the winter, he manages to have the hilarious, adorable, last word.

Sandra Markle is a nonfiction maven, and Hush Up and Hibernate shows that she’s got fiction chops, too. She creates a situation that every parent and child will recognize – that bedtime back-and-forth – and makes it sweet, funny, and absolutely relatable to nature, both wild and human. What parent hasn’t said, “Okay, I’m going, bye now…” to their child, who refuses to leave with them? (My mom did it to me, and I see parents saying it to their kids at the library. We wink at each other and smile.) What parent hasn’t heard “One more hug”, “I need a glass of water”, “I need to go to the bathroom”, and “I need to say goodnight to my 100 stuffed animals/everyone in the house/the moon and each planet”?

The artwork is bold and warm, with Mama and Baby Bear’s black fur standing out against the changing seasonal colors. Expressive, big eyes let readers know what’s on each bear’s mind, and Mama Bear’s expression at the end is utterly relatable. Absolute fun for bedtime and anytime. Add this one to your collections.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

As I write this, it’s almost 70 degrees in New York. In November. So what’s left to do when you’ve unpacked all your Fall and Winter clothes? Think SNOW. So, join me in thinking chilly thoughts with some of these books.

How to Build an Elf Trap, by Larissa Juliano, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $9.99, ISBN: 9781492663904

Ages 4-8

This fun nonfiction companion to Adam Wallace & Andy Ellerton’s How to Catch an Elf (2016) is all about STEAM for the holidays! Learn how to build 12 elf traps this Christmas, and take your pick of 12 bonus Christmas activities! Projects tend to run fairly simple, with most of the materials being found around the house. The projects encourage you to experiment with materials, too: swap things out! Add things! Take each construction and make it your own! Difficulty is measured in candy canes (1 for easy, 2 for intermediate, 3 for difficult) and Elf Appeal (how it will appeal to the elves you’re trying to nab). Projects are laid out step by step, with photos to guide you along, and digital artwork adds a fun flavor to the festivities. There are STEAM connections that explain how each project connects to science, and Did You Know? facts boxes add some fun Christmas facts throughout. Make an Elf Door, stick some tea light snowmen on your fridge (or locker), and get to work on your Elf Snatcher 500 while you snack on a Reindeer Cupcake.

Librarians and educators: PROGRAM IN A BOOK. This, my friends, is your December STEAM programming, right here!

One Snowy Day, by Diana Murray/Illustrated by Diana Toledano, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492645863

Ages 3-7

Two siblings enjoy a snowy day in this rhyming counting story! The story begins, as the best ones do, with a snowfall, while two children of color sleep snug in their beds – until their ONE pup wakes them up! The kids rise and shine, play with the pup and eat their breakfast, then it’s time to go out and play, as sister and brother meet their SIX friends for some winter fun and games. The text is light and fun, counting everything from a pup to ten snowballs – and then we count backwards, from nine buttons on a snowman’s chest to one sleepy puppy at the end of the day. The children are a multicultural group, and the detail on their clothes and the scenery itself is breathtaking. The mixed media artwork brings winter scenery to life, from sweaters with intricate Fair Isle designs, and beautifully detailed snowflakes. One Snowy Day pairs up nicely with other snowy day books and makes a nice winter concept book for your shelves.

Holiday Heroes Save Christmas, by Adam Wallace/Illustrated by Shane Clester, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $10.99, ISBN: 9781492669708

Ages 4-7

Sourcebooks is rocking the Christmas picture books! This is the latest book by How to Catch… series author Adam Wallace, and this time, Santa needs help from his fellow holiday heroes! Santa’s too sick to deliver Christmas presents, so it’s up to the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Witch, and Leprechaun to save Christmas – but they’re not so great at this Christmas thing. The Tooth Fairy is hiding presents under pillows, and the Leprechaun is taking spare change from the houses they visit. Santa’s got to step in, but is it too late? Is Christmas done for? C’mon, you know it’s not. The gang gets their act together after a quick pep talk from Santa, and each hero plays to his or her strengths to make Christmas amazing! This is a fun story about teamwork, and a laugh out loud comedy of errors. (Psst… if you want to screen the movie, Rise of the Guardians, you can compare the heroes in the book versus the ones in the movie.) The digital art is bright, kid-friendly, and cartoony; end papers offer brief character descriptions of Santa and the gang. The book is set up with graphic novel-type panels and word balloons, so you can offer this one to your fledgling graphic novel readers to get them in the holiday spirit. This one’s a fun take on the “Santa needs help!” story theme, and should go over pretty well in libraries (and as a stocking stuffer).

Once Upon a Snowstorm, by Richard Johnson, (Nov. 2018, Faber & Faber), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0-5713-3928-0

Ages 2-7

A boy and his father go into the woods to hunt, and are separated during a snowstorm. The boy is rescued by a group of animals, who care for him and befriend him. When the bear in the group takes the boy back through the snow to find his father, Dad is grateful, and befriends the animals, too.

The art says it all in this stunning, wordless story. As father and son head into the woods, the snow comes down in the shapes of woodland animals: deer, foxes, hares, ethereal in their delicacy and beauty. Lost, the boy sleeps, shivering, under velvet skies with constellations creating animal shapes around him. When the animals accept the boy into their group, they dance, feast, and paint on cave walls; at that moment, the boy remembers his father and how desperately he misses him (Mom is present only in old family photos hanging in the home), signaling to his new friend, Bear, that it’s time to find Dad. At the story’s end, father and son enjoy a spring day, sitting on a hill with their animal friends.

The artwork alternates between panels and full bleed pages and is dreamlike in its subdued beauty. The endpapers bookend the story, with driving snow on the front papers, and a cave painting of the boy, his father, and the animals, playing together, on the back papers. The artwork is soft, and goes from the cold outdoor artwork to warm interiors both in the family home and in the company of the animals.

I love this book, and can’t wait to share it with my little readers, so I can hear their stories. This one’s a wonderful add to your winter collections – booktalk this one with Raymond Briggs’ wordless classic, The Snowman.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Get ready for the season with First Snow with a giveaway!

First Snow, by Nancy Viau/Illustrated by Talitha Shipman,, (Sept. 2018, Albert Whitman), $16.99, ISBN: 9780807524404

Ages 2-6

A brother and sister join their friends for a day of fun when the first snow falls.

This rhyming story stars a brother and sister, both children of color, who wake up to discover that it’s snowing! With mostly two- and three-word rhyming sentences, we follow them as they get dressed and meet their friends for a day of sledding and snowplay. Their pup follows along, adding to the fun and games, and at the end of the day, the siblings and their dog head home to enjoy hot chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, and a story before bedtime.

A lovely companion to Ezra Jack Keats’ A Snowy Day, First Snow takes place in a more suburban settting than Peter’s famous city backdrop. The kids’ bright winter clothes stand out against the soft, white snow. The watercolor artwork is soft, lending a comfortable, hazy, snowy-day feel to the scenery. Brightly colored kids’ hats and mittens set the tone on the endpapers.

Perfect for snowy day reading, preferably with some hot chocolate and a warm blanket and stuffed animal. Great for toddlers and easy readers alike!

Nancy Viau is the author of five picture books, including City Street Beat, Storm Song, and Look What I Can Do!  Her middle-grade novels include her new release, Beauty and Bernice, along with Just One Thing! (2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Gold Award Winner), Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head (to be reissued in the spring of 2019), and Something is Bugging Samantha Hansen (fall 2019). As a member of the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature, Nancy volunteers with other council members to produce the Rutgers One-on-One Plus Conference every year. She works as an assistant librarian, and when not reading or writing, she hikes, bikes, and travels wherever her frequent flyer miles take her. To learn more, and to download a free Story Hour kit for First Snow, visit her website, NancyViau.com.

 

Talitha Shipman graduated with an MFA in illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2008. She’s illustrated several books, including You Are My Little Pumpkin Pie, Everybody Says Shalom, and Applesauce Day. Talitha lives in Indiana with her husband, daughter, and dog. She can be found at talithashipman.com.

 

Praise for First Snow:

“A sweet suburban/rural contrast to the snowy day enjoyed by Peter in the city.”  — Kirkus Reviews

Relive the joy of the season’s first snow in this sweet trailer!

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of First Snow, courtesy of Albert  Whitman & Co (U.S. addresses). Just enter this Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance!

 

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

The newest Board Books for little learners are GREAT!

I have a special place in my heart for a good board book. They’re so little, and durable, and take the biggest ideas in the world and make them perfect for little eyes, fingers, and minds (and yes, mouths) to enjoy. I  love everything about board books, so I’m always on the lookout for good ones to read to my toddlers and babies. Here are the latest ones that you can expect to show up in storytimes.

8 Little Planets, by Chris Ferrie/Illustrated by Lizzie Doyle, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $10.99, ISBN: 9781492671244

Ages 2-5

How adorable is this book?! Put a cute little face on a planet or two, and I will buy it. It’s a weakness. Chris Ferrie, whose praises I sing pretty regularly here at MomReadIt, shifts his focus from the sciences to this sweet rhyming story about the planets. Counting down from 8 to 1, readers learn a couple of facts about each planet, from Neptune to Mercury, in an upbeat rhyming pattern that kids and caregivers will easily clap along with. Each planet is unique in its own way: Uranus spins on one side; Mars has the tallest mountain in the solar system. The collage artwork adds fun texture; there are corrugated planets and waffle-patterned moons, comets that combine textures, and happy stars and constellations abound. The happy-faced planets are going to delight any reader that comes across the book.

This is a perfect flannel board read. I’m going to have to get some flannel planets underway. Pair this with They Might Be Giants’ “How Many Planets?” to get the little ones up and dancing. For some more nonfiction-y board books, you can’t go wrong with ABC Universe, from the American Museum of Natural History (nice and big, for a larger storytime), and Our Solar System, also from the American Museum of Natural History, complete with graduated flaps that make turning pages a little easier for itty bitty fingers.

Vroom Vroom Garbage Truck, by Asia Citro/Illustrated by Troy Cummings, (Oct. 2018, Innovation Press), $8.99, ISBN: 9781943147434

Ages 0-4

A garbage truck wakes up and starts its day in this fun board book. Creaks and clangs, rumbles and bangs, and naturally, vroom-a-vroom vrooms abound as the garbage truck trundles through the city, picking up the trash and keeping its headlights open for crossing ducks and slowing down for a grateful early riser who forgot to put out his trash the night before. After a trip to the dump to lighten its load, Garbage Truck heads back to the garage for a good night’s sleep, with a shush, a sigh, and a click.

Told using only sound effects, this is a great story for infant and toddler storytime! There are so many fun sounds to make, and inviting caregivers to rumble and gently bounce little ones on their laps adds to the fun. Bold, black lines, bold, large text, and bright colors will keep little eyes engaged and active. There are oodles of great transportation board books out there to make for a fun storytime, especially anything by Byron Barton. If you want to go with a city-inspired storytime, you can’t go wrong with Christopher Franceschelli’s CityBlock. Songs and fingerplays abound, too. Add some plastic cars and trucks to your playtime and let the toddlers vroom along!

 

You Can Be, by Elise Gravel, (Oct. 2018, Innovation Press), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-943147-40-3

Ages 3-5

A sight familiar to any kid or caregiver, You Can Be starts readers off with a carefree kid, clad only in underwear, running across the cover. And you know this is going to be a kid-friendly book about being a carefree, happy kiddo. Elise Gravel starts off by telling readers, “There are many ways to be a kid. You can be…” and proceeds to bring readers through weird and wonderful ways of being a kid: funny and sensitive; noisy and artsy; grumpy and smelly (sometimes… complete with toot cloud!). Kids are diverse and the drawings are bold and bright, each adjective large, bold, colorful, and fun. The message here? You can be angry, you can be smelly, you can be funny, or quiet… there’s no wrong way to be a kid. After all, as Elise Gravel says, “you can feel “almost any way you feel like being. (Except mean or rude, of course.)” I love that gender doesn’t define anyone’s mood here: girls are smelly, boys are artsy; kids are kids. It’s a great message to readers about self-acceptance and self-awareness.

Invite your readers to act out different moods! Let them be as silly or serious as they want to be. I love all things Elise Gravel, so this one will be on my shelves, no question. Pair this one with any Todd Parr book for a feel good, I Love Me! storytime. Check out Elise’s website for a free downloadable book, Artsy Boys and Smelly Girls, and other fun downloadables!

 

Autumn Babies and Winter Babies, by Kathryn O. Galbraith/Illustrated by Adela Pons, (Sept. 2018, Peachtree Publishers), $6.95, ISBN: 9781682630662 (Autumn) and 9781682630679 (Winter)

The first in a new series, Babies in the Park, Autumn Babies and Winter Babies star a group of multicultural babies who discover the joy in each season as they play in the park. Composed of two- and three-word sentences, each book takes readers through a park as it goes through the season. The four babies ( Sai, Simón, Jayden, and Emma) are dressed for the season and stomp, romp, and roll through the Fall, throwing sticks for pups to fetch, flying kites, and throwing leaves.

They bundle up for their winter playdate, sporting boots, hats, scarves, and warm coats. Snow plops, and babies catch snowflakes on their tongues, run, glide, and ride through the snow. Each book begins with a simple statement of the season: “It’s autumn in the park.” “It’s winter in the park”, establishing the season, and ends with a closeup of one a baby, with a joyful exclamation of the season: “It’s Autumn!” “It’s Winter!”

These books are such fun ways to greet the seasons, and the Babies in the Park idea is adorable. Give parents and caregivers ideas about activities – Peachtree has done the work for you and made up an activity companion sheet to the books! There are great extension activities to engage the kids during storytime: show different shapes (circle trees, diamond kites, triangle roofs), talk about different colors that you see. There are so many seasonal songs and fingerplays to be found on the Web: TeachingMama, one of my favorite blogs, always has adorable printables that you can give out to your families to sing along; let them bring the sheets home to keep the kids singing along after storytime.

If you want to read a little more about the series, Peachtree has an article on their website. Spring Babies and Summer Babies will be out early next year, so completionists like me can breathe a sigh of relief.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Oskar and the Eight Blessings: A Hanukkah tale

Oskar and the Eight Blessings, by Ricahrd Simon & Tanya Simon/Illustrated by Mark Siegel, (Sept. 2015, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781596439498

Recommended for readers 4-8

Oskar is a young, Jewish refugee arriving in New York to stay with his aunt after the horror of Kristallnacht. He arrives in New York on the seventh day of Hanukkah in 1938, which also falls on Christmas Eve. He has no money, and faces a long walk from Battery Park to his Aunt Esther’s apartment on West 103rd Street. As he walks the length of Manhattan, he keeps his father’s words in mind: “…even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.” And sure enough, he encounters blessings, in the forms of people whose paths he crosses, that provide him with small moments of kindness, from a woman who gives him bread to newsstand man who gives him a copy of a Superman comic. Two legendary figures pop up to show kindness toward Oskar, whistling a tune with him and giving him a wink. Each act of kindness sustains Oskar on his journey, which ends in his aunt’s arms.

This is a gorgeous book. It’s about the power of empathy, and how the seemingly smallest kindnesses can make the greatest differences. It’s about the resilience of the human spirit and the strength of children. The book begins with a gut punch, and ends with a crescendo; you can’t be unaffected by Oskar’s story. The artwork relies on close-ups of faces, particularly eyes, to convey emotion, and it’s through Oskar’s eyes that we see the fear of being in a strange, new place; wonder and joy at the connections he makes, and finally, the comfort of home. I need my own copy of this book.

Oskar and the Eight Blessings received the National Jewish Book Award for Children’s Literature and was chosen for both the Booklist Editors’ Choice and Kansas State Reading Circle. The book received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Hanukkah picture books for holiday storytime!

I realized that my winter holiday reading has been somewhat narrow in scope, so I’m looking for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa books to read deeper and stronger. Here are some adorable Hanukkah books I’ve just read; I hope you enjoy them, too!

Latke, the Lucky Dog, by Ellen Fischer/Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke,
(Aug. 2014, Kar-Ben Publishing), $7.95, ISBN: 978-0761390398
Good for readers 4-8

Narrated by Latke, a shelter dog that’s rescued on the first night of Hanukkah, this is an adorable story about pet adoption and Hanukkah. As he gets used to his new home, Latke manages to get in trouble every single night of Hanukkah! He’s eating the sufganiyot, chewing up dreidels, and slobbering all over the gelt. Yikes! Luckily for Latke, his family is very forgiving, and gives him his very own present on the eighth night. As Latke repeats throughout the book, he is “one lucky dog”. Latke the Lucky Dog has soft illustrations and changes in font color to note when Latke is narrating (blue) versus when someone else speaks (black). Anyone who has lived with a puppy will recognize Latke doing what dogs do; the forgiving family makes this a story of compassion and empathy while also giving kids a look into what life with a pet can be like. The story touches on the foods and activities that are part of the Hanukkah celebration.

 

Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah, by Sylvia A. Rouss/Illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn,
(Oct. 1993, Kar-Ben Publishing), $7.99, ISBN: 978-0929371467
Good for readers 4-7

Sammy Spider and his mom watch from their web as their family, the Shapiros, light their menorah on the first night of Hanukkah. Sammy is intrigued, and drops down a bit. He loves the way the menorah keeps his feet warm, and he enjoys hearing the story of Hanukkah, but what he really loves are the dreidels that Josh, the young boy, receives from his parents each night! He asks his mother if he can have a dreidel, but Mom tells him spiders spin webs, not dreidels… but on the last night of Hanukkah, Mom has a wonderful surprise for Sammy. I really enjoyed this book, because it provided a nice background on the holiday itself – the story of the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil – and incorporated family traditions. It’s also a concept book, with illustrations reinforcing numbers and colors. The artwork is reminiscent of Eric Carle, with a collage feel. There is a whole library of Sammy the Spider books, where he learns about different aspects of Jewish life, from holidays, to traveling to Israel.

Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf, by Greg Wolfe/Illustrated by Howard McWilliam,
(Sept. 2016, Bloomsbury), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1619635210
Good for readers 4-8

This story is adorable, and handles that whole Elf on the Shelf business (Shmelf on the Shelf, maybe?) while we’re at it. Shmelf is a new elf, working on Santa’s List, checking it twice, when he notices something really distressing: there are a whole bunch of kids that aren’t on the naughty list, yet they’re not receiving presents! When he asks the head elf what the deal is, he finds out that the kids on the list are Jewish, and have their own holiday, where they receive gifts from their parents. This still doesn’t sit right with Shmelf, who goes investigating and sees a family celebrating Hanukkah: they’re spinning dreidels, they’re snacking on gelt, and yes, they’re getting presents! One for each night! He hears the story of Hanukkah and is so excited, he races back to the North Pole, where Santa gives him a special task: he’s going to travel the world, spreading Hanukkah magic! He gets a snazzy blue and white outfit, a sleigh and reindeer of his own, and heads out every year – sometimes November, sometimes December – to make sure your latkes are crispy and think, your menorahs burn bright, and your dreidels win. You want to thank Shmelf and his reindeer, Asher? No cookies – they like gelt and kosher dill! How can you not love this story? It’s a great way to explain Hanukkah – I love how Mom’s story takes shape in word bubbles  – and adds a fun spin to the holiday.

That was my first foray into Hanukkah reading, and now I plan to request more!