Mom Read It

If the kids are reading it, chances are I have, too.

The Kaitan Chronicles #1: Shadow Run March 29, 2017

Shadow Run, by Michael Miller and AdriAnne Strickland, (March 2017, Delacorte Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780399552533

Recommended for readers 13+

Nev is the newest crew member aboard the starship Kaitan Heritage, a ship that “fishes” for Shadow, a volatile energy harvested from space. The crew is a ragtag collection of misfits, and their captain, a teenage female named Qole, is the youngest ever to pilot her own ship – she’s hard as nails because she has to be. She’s from a desolate world where Shadow poisoning killed her family, except for her brother, Arjan, a member of her crew. Nev has his own secrets: he’s a prince from a world that wants to examine how Shadow binds to organic material, ostensibly to make the galaxy a better place – and help their own interests, naturally. But Nev has to get close to Qole first, before he can reveal who he is and convince her to come back to his homeworld with him.

Nev isn’t the only one who knows about Qole and her ability to channel the Shadow inside her, though. A rival royal family is onto them, and they’re not nearly as concerned with the greater good as Nev is. As Nev tries to win Qole’s trust, and the trust of everyone aboard the Kaitan, he must navigate the rough and tumble spacefaring world and the world of privilege he’s grown up; he may also learn that not everything on his home world is what it seems to be, and his own family’s intentions may not be as honorable as his are.

Shadow Run is the first book in the science fiction series, Kaitan Chronicles. There is a lot of solid world-building here, but the first half of the book just didn’t catch me. Once the story hit its stride, though, it was a solid pulse-pounder, loaded with diplomatic intrigue, betrayal, and action. The characters are well thought out; revelations happen throughout the course of the book, so it’s worth sticking with it.

Shadow Run‘s been compared to both Firefly and Dune. I see more Firefly than Dune; the rivalry between the royal families is the only facet tying it to Dune. This is more space opera/western, like Firefly, with a diverse crew of characters that have much more going on than meets the eye. I liked the chemistry between Qole and Nev, and I liked the relationships that each of the supporting characters had to Qole. Their reactions to Nev were honest, visceral, and I appreciated that; no “magic friendships” or melodrama popped up here and I respect the writers for it. There’s gender fluidity that truly brings this novel into the 21st century and beyond, too. Stick with Shadow Run: you’ll be happy you did.

 

Sam Usher’s Rain explores patience and celebrates imagination

Rain, Sam Usher, (March 2017, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9296-4

Recommended for readers 3-7

It’s raining out – and the young boy sitting inside can’t wait to go outside and have an adventure! Grandpa suggests they wait for the rain to stop, and putters around the home while the boy fidgets and waits for the weather to let up. When the rain finally lets up, Grandpa and grandson go out to mail a letter, and have their own adventure together.

I adore the quiet adventure of Rain: it’s got a soothing repetition while pulsing with the excited impatience a child knows all too well when waiting for an adult to give him or her the go-ahead to do something fun. The boy tries to talk his grandfather into heading outside by talking about things one can do in the rain (catch raindrops splash in puddles) and expressing a desire to go on adventures, like voyaging with sea monsters or visit a floating city. Grandpa, unruffled, continues to tell the boy to wait for the rain to stop. We feel the boy’s impatience when he repeats, “But did the rain stop? NO!” When it’s finally time to venture out, the excursion is every bit as exhilarating as the boy expected. When they return home, grandfather and grandson sit together, with warm socks and hot chocolate, sharing a perfect moment together, complete with the dispensing of grandfatherly wisdom: “…the very best things are always worth waiting for”.

Sam Usher’s art reminds me of some of my favorite British illustrators, Tony Ross and Quentin Blake. His use of watercolor makes grandfather’s home warm and cozy, and the rain outside looks almost dewy and real as seen from the boy’s window. His rainy scene spreads are properly gray and stormy, with sparks of imagination wandering into the picture to prepare readers for what’s coming: a prow of a boat here, an upturned umbrella there. The endpapers extend the story, with puddles and birds, and a cameo by the penguin from Usher’s previous book, Snow.

This is the second in a four-part celebration of the seasons. Snow (2015) saw the boy trying to get Grandpa out of bed to adventure in the snow. I can’t wait to see what Mr. Usher has in store for the next two seasons.

This is a great read-aloud for toddlers and preschoolers alike, and a wonderful companion to nonfiction books about weather and the seasons. Ask the kids what their adventure in the rain would look like; talk about what to wear in the rain (raincoats, boots), and let them decorate their own umbrellas. I really like this one from MamaJenn that incorporates glue raindrops.

 

Blog Tour and a Giveaway: I Am (Not) Scared

How many times have you heard (or said) that famous boast? Anna Kang and illustrator Christopher Weyant bring their fuzzy buddies back for a third installment of fun and friendship. This time, the friends are at an amusement park, psyching one another up to brave a ride on a roller coaster. What’s scarier than a roller coaster? Lots of things: Snakes, a tub of hairy spiders, or a pan of fried ants, for starters!

I Am (Not) Scared, by Anna Kang/Illustrated by Christopher Weyant,
(March 2017, Two Lions/Amazon), $17.99, ISBN: 978-150-3937-45-1

I Am (Not) Scared is perfect for preschoolers and young readers because kids will see themselves in the two friends who learn that there are fun ways to be scared – especially when you’re with a friend. The friends brave a roller coaster with a newfound friend, and let themselves admit to being scared, which brings a giggly kind of relief, doesn’t it? Once the group has conquered their fear, they’re ready to go back and enjoy the thrill of being scared all over again.

Christopher Weyant’s ink and watercolor illustrations are bold, expressive and sweet. The bears are cuddly and friendly, inviting kids to join them on their adventures. The art, along with the bold, black text, makes this a great read-aloud, too. Invite kids to tell you what they think is scarier than fried ants or snakes on roller coasters and watch the wacky responses roll on in. There’s a great activity kit available via Anna Kang’s website, complete with discussion questions, a roller coaster-y maze, courage bracelets to give out, and more!

Get in on the fun with an I Am (Not) Scared giveaway! One winner will receive an I Am (Not) Scared gift pack: a set of squeezable stress balls, two adorable plush characters, and a copy of I AM (NOT) SCARED courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses). Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance!

Wife and husband team Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant are the creators of two other books featuring these characters: Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small and That’s (Not) Mine. Christopher’s work can be seen regularly in The New Yorker magazine and his cartoons are syndicated worldwide. This husband-and-wife team lives in New Jersey with their two daughters and dog, Hudson. Visit them at www.annakang.com and www.christopherweyant.com.

 

 

Mapping My Day brings back the lost art of mapmaking March 28, 2017

Mapping My Day, by Julie Dillemuth/Illustrated by Laura Wood, (March 2017, Magination Press), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1-4338-2333-6

Recommended for readers 5-10

Flora is a girl who loves making maps. From sun-up to sundown, Flora maps her day and invites readers to see how she does it! Starting with an early morning wake-up thanks to the sun streaming through her bedroom window, Flora explains and illustrates terms like cardinal directions, map scales, landmarks, even seating plans.

I remember when I was a kid and learning about maps in Social Studies. That whole one inch = 1 mile thing made me want to bang my head against the desk in frustration. If I’d had a book like Mapping My Day to start me off, things would have gone a lot easier with those issues of Scholastic News. The book brings readers right into Flora’s circle. It’s like having a friend show you her journal, where she writes out how she watches her grandmother’s show poodles train on their obstacle course, or map out her school playground, or how she manages to beat her brother to the bathroom in the morning.

There are no frustrating measurements, no rulers necessary. It’s a great invitation to start mapping out our world – something that may be seen by some as a dying art in this age of GPS, but is a critically important skill to have. We should all know how to lay out a space; what our cardinal directions are and how to find them, and the importance of landmarks when you’re finding your way. For librarians and teachers, this is a lesson or a program in a book: the activities at the end of the book are even available for download so you can get a head start on planning. A note to parents, caregivers, and professionals explains the importance of mapping, diagramming, and understanding spatial relations, and includes ideas for incorporating them into kids’ play.

The art is friendly and fun. Flora is a biracial child from a multiethnic family. The family eats at the table together and enjoys time with extended family members. Spreads move between Flora’s story – driving in a car with family, eating at the table with family, playing at school – and Flora’s maps, which have a hand-drawn/handwritten appearance. Key words appear bolded.

Julie Dillemuth was mystified by maps until she figured out how to read them and make them, and it was a particularly difficult map that inspired her to become a spatial cognition geographer. She lives with her family and writes children’s books in Santa Barbara, California, where the west coast faces south. Visit her at her website: http://juliedillemuth.com.

One lucky winner will receive a copy of MAPPING MY DAY (U.S. addresses). Enter this giveaway for your chance!

https://goo.gl/forms/yiZyHr8CNDC7iVWg1

 

An overscheduled princess takes a day off: Princess Cora and the Crocodile March 27, 2017

Princess Cora and the Crocodile, by Laura Amy Schlitz/Illustrated by Brian Floca, (March 2017, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-4822-0

Recommended for readers 4-8

A king and queen have a baby that they coo and marvel over – until they realize that she’s clearly not ready to run an entire kingdom. From that moment on, Princess Cora’s life is a nonstop schedule of lessons, physical training, and nonstop bathing (seriously, her nanny’s got a bit of a complex). Cora writes to her fairy godmother in desperation, and the response, while not necessarily what Cora expected, is exactly what she needs. A crocodile shows up to take Cora’s place for a day; while Cora takes a day off to enjoy being a kid, the crocodile sets to teaching the king, queen, and nanny a thing or two.

Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz and Caldecott Medalist Brian Floca have joined their considerable forces to create a book that parents need to read (cough, cough, and education administrators, cough, cough) as much as their children do. Princess Cora and the Crocodile is all about the stresses our kids face today: the lack of time to enjoy being a kid, doing kid things. The king and queen are so stressed out about what Cora’s not ready for, they strip the joy not only from Cora’s childhood, but rob themselves of the chance to enjoy watching Cora grow up; of playing on the floor with her as an infant, climbing trees and running around their considerable lands with her, of reveling in the carefree fun that parents should embrace.

When Cora’s fairy godmother sends a crocodile to her family, the croc immediately – if a bit roughly – sets to whipping Cora’s family into shape, with hilarious results. While the croc wreaks havoc at home, Cora spends the day picking strawberries, climbing trees, even stepping in a cow pie, and enjoying every moment of it. Every. Unscheduled. Moment. Brian Floca’s ink, watercoor, and gouache artwork is fun, hilarious, and every bit as free and joyful as the story’s text.

Image courtesy of Brian Floca

Parents, read this one. Please. It’s as much for us as it is for our kids. Schlitz and Floca created this fairy tale to let kids know that it’s okay to be a kid, but the message here is for us adults, because we’re the ones who can make the changes kids need to be happy – to be kids – again.

Princess Cora and the Crocodile received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly.

Illustrator Brian Floca has a fantastic webpage, with lots of online extras, information about school visits, and upcoming events.

 

Baby Storytime: A World of Love and Fun March 23, 2017

I’ve been enjoying my month of lapsit storytimes. Being part of a 3-librarian children’s room, March was my turn with the babies; for April, one of my colleagues takes over and I’ll have time to craft more storytimes. I’ve been using the same songs each week, which has been great; I’ve seen the parents get the hang of the songs and fingerplays and we’ve had a great time together.

I’ve been trying to stick less to a story-specific theme, more of an overall theme of using one concept book, one fun book, and one book that addresses diversity. This week, we read Shhh! This Book is Sleeping, by Cedric Ramadier; Wherever You Are, by Mem Fox; and A You’re Adorable, by Martha Alexander. The families loved the interactivity of Shhh! This Book is Sleeping. As I read Whoever You Are, there was plenty of opportunity for families to cuddle, and seeing my storytime group of families from all over the world playing not only with their own little ones, but the little ones around them, made my morning. I was amazed at how well A You’re Adorable went over: families repeated each verse after me, bouncing, kissing, and tickling their babies as we went along.

     

It’s been a lovely month of storytimes, and I’ve come away with an excited new perspective, thanks to Storytime Underground. I’ll be working on toddler and preschooler themes next.

 

 

 

A mirror unites a boy’s homes in The Mirror in Mommy’s House/The Mirror in Daddy’s House March 21, 2017

The Mirror in Mommy’s House/The Mirror in Daddy’s House, by Luis Amavisca/Illustrated by Betanía Zacarías, (Apr 2016, nubeOCHO), $15.95, ISBN: 978-84-945415-5-1

Recommended for readers 4-8

A child talks about growing up in a home in the midst of a marital breakup, and how a mirror provided an escape into a wonderful land with no arguing parents. Now that the child lives in two houses, things are much better. Mom and Dad are happier, and so is the child. There are pictures of the entire family at both houses, and a very special mirror at each house; plus, Mom and Dad each share something very special: their child!

We don’t need to talk about the 51% divorce rate to illustrate the need for books like The Mirror. This is a positive book for families going through divorce for a number of reasons: it illustrates the stress on kids living with parents who argue constantly; it’s not singling out either gender – the child can easily be male or female; and the parents care enough about their child to make sure that photos of the entire family – rather than a single parent with the child – have real estate in the child’s room, along with the special mirror that’s become a touchstone. The book is a two-in-one, giving kids a chance to read about each parent’s home and what makes it special. When you finish reading about the mirror in Mommy’s house, just flip it over to read about the mirror at Daddy’s house.

The art appears to be mixed media, with some artwork appearing to be drawn in crayon; it gives the book a comfortable feeling, as if the child created these books himself or herself.

Originally published in Spanish in 2016, nubeOCHO published The Mirror book(s) in English this year and still makes the Spanish language edition available (978-84-945415-6-8). Additional books for families going through divorce to read with young children include Dinosaurs Divorce, by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown, Nancy Coffelt’s Fred Stays with Me, and Karen Stanton’s Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend.