Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Wordless wonder: Grand Isle

Grand Isle, by Kate Samworth, (Sept. 2021, Black Sheep), $18.95, ISBN: 9781617759765

Ages 3-8

In the great tradition of wordless adventure stories, Grand Isle takes readers on a big adventure, joining two sisters on a day at the beach for a day of fun. They discover a giant seed pod that just begs to be a canoe; sure enough, they climb aboard and journey to a mysterious island where everything is huge, from the plants to the bugs! When their seed pod canoe gets pulled back to sea, they discover they’re stranded: are they resourceful enough to get back home?

In the vein of books like Aaron Becker’s Journey trilogy, Grand Isle uses illustration to transport readers: the pages burst with color and scale; the characters go from typical size, as they build a sand castle together and roam the coastline, to smaller as they discover the seed pods and arrive at the hidden island. The shift is subtle, with no grand reveal; it’s never disruptive. When the girls arrive at the island, they are tiny and discover giant flora and fauna around them! The illustrations are lush and have beautiful movement to them. A rich story that invites readers to tell you what they see.

See more of Kate Samworth’s work at her website.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Every Little Kindness makes goodwill contagious

Every Little Kindness, by Marta Bartolj, (Oct. 2021, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781797207926

Ages 5-8

A young woman hangs posters of her missing dog, handing an apple to a street musician as she goes about her day. Her act of kindness inspires others, creating a link between the inhabitants of a town as they inspire each other to do something kind for another. This wordless story speaks volumes about humanity, and how one good act can inspire countless others. They don’t need to be grand gestures, full of extravagance; one simple, thoughtful action is filled with meaning. The pencil, ink, acrylic, and watercolor artwork is rendered largely in shades of gray, with yellows to warm up various moments and reds to signify the passing of one good deed to another: handing a red apple to a musician inspires a man with a red bag to pick up a discarded red soft drink can, motivating a young boy wearing red overalls to buy a red balloon for a little girl who’s lost hers. The lost dog’s posters run throughout the book, reminding readers of the story that began this chain of empathy. A lovely way to explain good deeds, and how kindness links us to one another; it offers an opportunity for children to tell you their own stories. An essential book for your SEL (social-emotional learning) collections.

Every Little Kindness has a starred review from Foreword Reviews.

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

The Holiday Shopping has started… buy some books!

It’s that time of year again, where I dig deep to find all sorts of great books to add to your holiday shopping lists. This is the first round, so I’m thinking this post will suggest books and goodies to bring when you celebrate Thanksgiving, or the Fall Harvest, with your families and friends. These books will be fun for the kiddie table – before the food, naturally!

City, by Ingela P. Arrhenius, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick Press), $22, ISBN: 9781536202571

Ages 3-7

This book is just too much fun. First of all, it’s huge: over 40 inches high by over 17 inches wide, making it almost as big as some of the kids you’ll be seeing this holiday season! My niece giggle-shrieked when I stood the book up next to her, and that was that. She was hooked. It’s a gorgeous, funky concept book, introducing readers to different sights of city life: streetlamps, subways, coffee shops, fountains, zoos, even skateboarders are all here, with retro chic, bright art. The only words are the descriptive words for each picture; the endpapers are loaded with pictures of the smaller details of city life: a cat, a server, a scale, a shrub.

Put this in front of the kids, and let them have at it. My niece and my son loved talking about things they recognized: my niece remembers taking a train to work with her mom, and my son talked up the subway when I took him into the city on our winter break. And they both pretended that I was in the coffee shop and the bookstore, so it’s nice to know they think of me.

City is a gorgeous gift book that can be a coffee table art book for kids, or a prompt for creativity. Its only limit is the imagination.

The Smithsonian Exploration Station sets are fantastic gifts. Bring one or two of these with you, and set the kids up in their own personal science labs while the food cooks.

Smithsonian Exploration Station: The Human Body, (Nov. 2018, Silver Dolphin Books), $21.99, ISBN: 9781626867215

Ages 4-10

The Smithsonian sets are contained in a nice, sturdy box that holds a lot of stuff. The Human Body box includes a 56-page fact book, 30 stickers, a plastic model skeleton kids can put together, and 25 fact cards. It’s similar to the Adventures in Science kit Silver Dolphin put out earlier this year, and my son loved them both. Learn what makes your blood pump, your muscles stretch and how your different systems come together to make you walk, run, eat, sleep, and play. Older kids can help younger kids with some basic terms and reading, and the littlest ones can still enjoy putting the stickers on the skeleton body while bigger kids help put the skeleton together.

 

Smithsonian Exploration Station: World Atlas, (Nov. 2018, Silver Dolphin Books), $21.99, ISBN: 9781626867208

Ages 4-10

This set was hands-down my son’s favorite set. A blow-up globe, a world map and stickers of landmarks from all over the world, and cardstock puzzles of the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, and a Mayan Pyramid? Plus, a 56-page fact book that tells readers all about the cool landmarks as they decorate their maps? SOLD. We spent three days working on the map, at which time he told me that he wants to see every single one of these sights. We built the cardstock models, which called for much dexterity – so I called my eldest son in to help, because I tend to become a little exuberant, shall we say, with my papercrafting. My son also loves his inflatable globe, and asks me to point out cool places to him; some from the map, some, the countries that his friends at school hail from, some, names of places he hears about on TV. It’s a great set.

 

Smithsonian Exploration Station: Space!, (Nov. 2018, Silver Dolphin Books), $21.99, ISBN: 9781626867222

Ages 4-10

Kids love planets! The Space! Exploration Station includes a 56-page fact book, astronaut and rocket plastic figurines, stickers, and glow in the dark stars to make their own constellations. There are incredible, full-color photographs and text that explains the makeup of our solar system, galaxies, planets, and constellations. Let the kids decorate your dining room to and eat under the stars!

Every single one of these kits is such fun, and urges kids to be curious and explore the world inside them and around them. If you have the budget for it, throw these in your distributor cart and get a few sets for your STEM/STEAM programming, too. The Smithsonian has a good science education channel on YouTube, with kid-friendly videos that make for good viewing.

 

Where’s Waldo? The Spectacular Spotlight Search, by Martin Handford, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536201765

Ages 5-9

Waldo’s back with a new trick: this time, the spreads have all gone dark! Luckily, the Spectacular Spotlight Search comes with a cool spotlight viewer to help you find him, and the challenges he sets out for you. There are six puzzles and a magic slider that slides into the scene to “light up” small sections – like a spotlight. Find Waldo and other familiar characters, plus other hidden challenges and games on each spread.  My 6-year-old and my 3-year-old niece had a blast with this book, eventually recruiting me for my Waldo-finding skills (narrator: The children were better.)

If you have puzzle and game fans in your family, this is a great gift to bring along. If you’re looking at it for your library, I suggest keeping it in reference; that spotlight will go missing or get beaten up in no time. But it’s good Waldo fun.

I have so much more to come, but I think this is a good start. A little something for everyone and plenty of hands-on fun!

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads, Tween Reads

Book List for Beginning Activists

It’s getting harder and harder, waking up to the world we’re living in today. Some of our best defenses are, and will always be, empathy and information. I was inspired to create my own list of books to cultivate young activists by CuriousCity’s Books for All of Us post; I hope these books inspire you, too. Remember what J.R.R. Tolkien told us: even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

 

A is for Activist, by Innosanto Nagara, (Nov. 2013, Triangle Square), $9.40, ISBN: 978-1609805395

Available in board book or hardcover, A is for Activist is a rhyming abcedary of activism. The book introduces little ones to ideas like Co-Op, Equal Rights, Grassroots, Indigenous, and Justice. Best for pre-k and up in terms of grasping the concepts, but it’s never too early to get an ABC book in front of the little ones. The illustrations are loaded with new things to find with each reading.

 

Change the World Before Bedtime, a collaboration by Mark Kimball Moulton, Josh Chalmers, and Karen Good (Schiffer Publishing, 2012). $16.99, ISBN: 978-0764342387

One of my storytime constants, Change the World Before Bedtime is loaded with ways for kids to make positive changes in their world, from eating locally to visiting a sick friend, to donating money from a lemonade stand to a good cause. It’s another rhyming text, with homespun, cozy artwork that immediately evokes the warm fuzzies.

 

Say Hello!, by Rachel Isadora, (Apr. 2010, GP Putnam), $14.95, ISBN: 978-0399252303

Everyday activism! Carmelita is a little girl going to visit her abuela. As she walks through her neighborhood, she and her neighbors greet one another in their native languages: “Buenos días!”, “Konichiwa!”, “Shalom!”, and other joyful salutations embrace the multicultural world in which we live. Say Hello! will have kids sharing their own greetings with one another.

 

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade, by Justin Roberts/Illustrated by Christian Robinson, (Sept. 2014, GP Putnam), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0399257438

Little Sally McCabe may be the smallest girl in the smallest grade, but she’s making big things happen when she decides to speak up when she sees bullying at the playground. This rhyming story lets kids of all sizes know that we can all make a difference.

 

Letters to a Prisoner, by Jacques Goldstyn, (Sept. 2017, OwlKids Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781771472517

This wordless picture book is inspired by human rights organization Amnesty International’s letter writing campaigns. A man is arrested during a peaceful protests and languishes in jail. A cruel guard burns letters that would sustain the man, inspiring more letter writers to come together and create a winged army of written support that overwhelms the guard and lifts the prisoner up and away. The book illustrates the power of the written word to sustain as well as to take a stand.

 

A Good Day for Climbing Trees, by Jaco Jacobs, Translated from Afrikaans by Kobus Geldenhuys/Illustrated by Jim Tierney, (Apr. 2018, One World Publications), $11.99, ISBN: 978-1-78607-317-4

Middle graders have more of a grasp on the world around them, can take action in different ways. Marnus, the 13-year-old protagonist in A Good Day for Climbing Trees, and a friend take action to save a local tree from demolition by petitioning and holding a sit-in, which alerts others to their cause. Readers get a more involved view of activism, and some potential results, here.

 

This is just a small handful of the growing number of books out there.  I encourage you all to read these books, read them to your kids, and add them to your collections.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Let Wallpaper take you on an adventure!

Wallpaper, by Thao Lam, (Apr. 2018, OwlKids Books), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771472838

Recommended for readers 3-7

A young girl moves into a new neighborhood, but is too shy to greet the neighborhood kids playing outside her window. She notices a little bird peeking at her from an upturned piece of wallpaper, and follows the bird on an exciting journey! She releases a flock of birds, wanders into a flower-filled garden, and escapes from a monster as she discovers world after world.

The collage illustration is breathtaking. This is a wordless book that could be used as easily in a storytime as it can in a creative writing class or an art class. The collage artwork is so colorful, so crisp, and so textured, that it appears to stand apart from the page – my own son tried to tap my tablet, seeing if it would cause a flap to lift, or a bird to fly. Thao Lam creates world after world for her protagonist, and us readers, to explore, marvel at, and thrill to. Her protagonist is a child of color and the children in her neighborhood are a wonderfully diverse group, making Wallpaper an exciting journey for all kids. As a librarian in an urban system, I can put this book out on my desk and have the kids in my children’s room identify with all of the children in this book – now, I’ll have to figure out how to explain a possible rash of torn wallpaper to parents…

Wallpaper is a must-have book for collections. I’m interested in exploring this as a book discussion choice, where my kids tell me what worlds they’d like to find if they were in the same situation. And come on: how much fun will it be to have kids create their own collage art? Have magazines and some weeded picture and easy reader books available to cut up.

Wallpaper has starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus.