Posted in picture books

Folk and Fairy Tales with Mulla Nasruddin: Riding a Donkey Backwards

Riding a Donkey Backwards: Wise and Foolish Tales of Mulla Nasruddin, retold by Sean Taylor & the Khayaal Theatre/Illustrated by Shirin Ali, (Aug. 2019, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536205077

Ages 4-8

Mulla Nasruddin, the wise fool from Muslim folk tales, is here to entertain and liven up your 398 sections with 21 trickster tales. Every story is amusing; some are laugh-out-loud funny, and all of them will make you think. There are stories like “Whose Move?”, where the Mulla’s home is robbed; the Mulla follows the robber back to his home, gets into his bed, and informs him that his wife and family will join them tomorrow, convinced that he thought the robber was moving the Mulla and his family to the robber’s house. Stories like “Who Owns the Land?”, where the Mulla gives a thoughtful response to a dispute between farmers, will make readers pause and think about the earth and who has rights to it, after all. There’s a little bit of wisdom in each story.

The stories run 1-2 pages, allowing for quick reads during a circle time, story time, or lesson. The mixed media art is wonderful; it’s colorful and has different textures, almost inviting readers to touch the Mulla’s cottony beard or run a finger across a woven rug. An author’s note at the beginning of the book introduces readers to Mulla Nasruddin, and a glossary of Arabic terms helps readers with some new words. A welcome addition to trickster tales on the folktales shelf.

You can find out more about the Khayaal Theatre Company at their website. See more of Shirin Adl’s illustrations at her website. Get a riddle at author Sean Taylor’s website, or visit his blog for older readers.

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Posted in picture books

Saying Farewell to Summer Reading with How to Be on The Moon

How to Be on the Moon, by Viviane Schwarz, (June 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536205459

Ages 4-7

A little girl and her best crocodile friend decide to go to the moon. They ready their math skills, practice having patience, and pack travel games and sandwiches, then take off for a jaunt on the moon.

This is the second Anna and Crocodile adventure from Viviane Schwarz (the first, How to Find Gold, was published in 2016), and it is a celebration of friendship and imagination. The illustrations are pencil, crayon, and watercolor, giving the scenery different textures; it’s like taking a peek into an imaginary landscape. The moonscape is amazing, and looks like aluminum foil (more on that in a minute) against a colorful rocketship and blue-black spacescape. The book is upbeat, with an overall sense of playful fun, that makes this a book I’ll return to again and again at storytime and science time.

Speaking of science time, I’m finishing up my summer reading programs this week, and will be reading How to Be on the Moon when the kids and I make aluminum foil moons. It’s a simple enough craft that I can open it up to all ages, and I think it will be a fun way to bid summer reading goodbye for another year.

Author/illustrator Viviane Schwarz has fun, free downloadables and activities on her author webpage. Check them out!

I look forward to seeing where Anna and Crocodile go on their next trek!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blob Tour Stop: A. Blob on a Bus

Hi, all! Happy to be a stop on this fun book tour about a bully, a blob (one and the same), and a bus. Read on!

A. Blob on a Bus, by L.A. Kefalos/Illustrated by Jeffrey Burns,
(July 2019, Laughing Leopard Press), $9.95, ISBN: 978-1-731251107
Ages 3-6

The second book in the A. Blob series stars A. Blob, who’s just a big, gooey bully. He pulls hair, he oozes all over the place as he shoves his way through the bus, he throws erasers, he’s just awful. One day, a little girl named Alexandra has had enough. She confronts the bully, and the other kids, bolstered by her courage, stand behind her. Faced with a united front, the bully puts itself in their shoes, and stops oozing! What lies beneath the muck that is A. Blob?

The first book, This is A. Blob, took a look at the other side of bullying, introducing us to the big, oozing bully tormenting kids at the school playground, and hints that bullies can be sad and lonely people who have trouble connecting with others. Here, we’ve got another common bully setting – the school bus – and the story of what happens when one person says, “Enough”. With A. Blob’s ooze slithering away, we see that possibly, that ooze is a wall built up to keep others out. The third book promises to reveal all!

The artwork reminds me of Nick Jr.-like characters; a realistic cartoony feel. Characters are diverse, with large, expressive eyes. Blob’s eyes are just as expressive, on eye stalks at the top of his head, letting readers know that there’s more than just what’s on the surface. The A. Blob books are a nice addition to your anti-bullying bookshelf, adding a thoughtful look at a bully’s internal motivation while encouraging kids to stand up for themselves and others. Display and read with Kathryn Otoshi’s books, particularly One.

There are bullying facts and free, downloadable materials guides for both This is A. Blob on A. Blob on a Bus at the Laughing Leopard website.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Great TBR Readdown: Hello, Neighbor and The Land of Broken Time

My Great TBR Readdown continues!

Hello Neighbor: Missing Pieces (Hello Neighbor, Book 1), by Carly Anne West/Illustrated by Tim Heitz, (Sept. 2018, Scholastic), $7.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-28009-8

Ages 10-14

Based on the horror video game, Hello Neighbor, this is the first book in a middle school-and-up series introducing Nicky Roth, a new kid in the town of Raven Brooks, and their neighbors, the Petersons. Nicky and Aaron, the Peterson’s son, become friends over their shared interest in tinkering, but when Nicky visits Aaron’s home, he’s uncomfortable. Aaron’s father makes him uneasy, and Nicky notices that Aaron, his mother, and sister are equally uncomfortable around him. The kids at school seem afraid of Aaron, and secrets and rumors about his father run wild. What’s the Peterson family’s dark secret, and why does Nicky feel like Aaron’s father is stalking him?

Knowing nothing about the Hello Neighbor game, I picked this book up and discovered a quietly creepy, light horror novel for tweens. If you have horror fans, this should be a good book to hand them. There are three in the series so far; the characters have a good background to build on, and the suspense builds nicely throughout the book. Illustrations throughout keep the pages turning.

 

In the Land of Broken Time, by Max Evan/Illustrated by Maria Evan, (Aug. 2016, self-published), $7.99, ISBN: 978-1520569291

Ages 8-10

A self-published novella by husband-wife team Max and Maria Evan, we’ve got a time-traveling fantasy starring a boy, a girl, and a talking dog, taking place in a fantasy land ruled by time – or the lack of it. Christopher sneaks out of his house to go to a nearby traveling circus, meets a girl named Sophie, and ends up hijacking a hot-air balloon, where the two meet a talking circus dog named Duke. They end up in a land where sibling scientists work at opposite ends: one seek to help them repair time, while the other wants to use time to manipulate his own power struggle.

The books is only about 50 pages, and is a quick enough read. I’d like to see something a little more fleshed out, because the world-building felt a little rushed, but was promising. Where is this land? What are the origin stories for the scientists, gnomes, and townspeople who waited for the prince? How did this power struggle between the two scientists begin? There are Narnian influences here that I enjoyed spotting, and there’s obviously more backstory to draw on; the story’s end leaves a sequel – or a prequel? – open to possibility. Maria Evan’s illustrations are beautiful, bright, and colorful, and brought the land and its characters to life. I’d like to see more. Let’s hope we get it.

Posted in Librarianing

Updating reading lists is important.

You may have heard about the recent uproar over the Florida Department of Education reading list, which offered little diversity and consisted of very few recently published books (the most recent book for 3-5th grades is 20 years old).

I understand the importance of getting the classics in front of kids, but let’s be real: kidlit has radically changed in the last 5-10 years, let alone the last 20. Our kids have radically changed, too, and giving them books that don’t speak to 90% of their experiences is a quick way to discourage them from the joy of reading. It’s just not a great way to go.

I see a lot of lists when I’m at that children’s desk. Some are amazing – I asked one middle schooler to give his librarians and teachers, whoever came up with his school’s list, a high five from me when he saw them, because the books were great. Nonfiction selections included graphic novels and a book on creating Minecraft worlds. The fiction was recent, within the last 7-10 years, with some being only 6 months to a year old. I know I work in an urban library in a multicultural community, and for that, I’m fortunate; our teachers get what our kids need and want to read. But I also get book lists that have books on them that are so old, there may be only one or two repeatedly book-taped, repaired copies in the system: surely, there are more recent concept books than this one?

Anyway, after reading the School Library Journal article, I sat down and came up with some of my own suggestions to rejuvenate some of the school reading lists out there. I’ve read most of these books; what I haven’t, fellow educators have read, and enjoyed, and suggested that I read (and so, they go on my precariously lurching TBR). I humbly suggest considering some of these for future reading lists.

This is by no means a complete list – it’s just a hopeful start for a conversation. I’d like to hear what you’re reading, and what you suggest, so I can pass along the good word to the families in my community and in my life. My list is influenced by my living and working in urban Queens, New York, so I’ve worked to give it a multicultural feel that speaks to everyone living here. I haven’t included graphic novels and only included a smattering of primary nonfiction; I may work on a list for each of those next.

Books are in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

Books K-2

Books 3-5

Books 6-8

 

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads

Cats, Cats, Cats!

Call it the librarian in me, but I love cats, and stories about cats are the perfect mix of cuddly, funny, and just plain sweet. Here are a few new and coming-soon books featuring some favorite furry friends.

The Pawed Piper, by Michelle Robinson/Illustrated by Chinlun Lee, (July 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0165-9

Ages 3-7

A girl wants a cat to cuddle, so she sets to work, creating a trail for a potential new pet to follow, with all sorts of cat-friendly stuff, like yarn, soft cushions, boxes, and catnip. At first, her grandmother’s cat, Hector, shows up to visit, but wait! Hector’s brought friends! Many, many friends – in fact, it appears that Hector has brought all the cats to the girl’s house! The girl is thrilled at first, but feels awful and guilty when she notices all the missing cat posters going up around her neighborhood. She didn’t want to take anyone else’s cat, after all; she just wanted one of her own. After she returns all the cats to their homes, she discovers a happy surprise: one cat has been hiding in her drawer, and has given birth to kittens! Those cats get homes, too, except for one little one: that one is just for the little girl.

The Pawed Piper is a sweet “I want a pet” story that kids will love and laugh along with. The endpapers get in on the fun, plastered with Missing! cat posters across the front endpapers; the same posters stamped “Found!” across the back endpapers. The watercolor and pencil artwork makes for a soothing, enjoyable setting to a fun story. A fun addition to pet storytimes, and for cat and pet fans.

Big Cat, by Emma Lazell, (July 2019, Pavilion Children’s Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1843654292

Ages 3-7

I laughed out loud at this sight gag-heavy story. A girl named Isobel tries to help her grandmother find her lost glasses (the kids will find them easily – ask them!) when they come across a giant cat. It’s a friendly cat, and Gran welcomes the cat in, with all of her other cats. Gran, who still can’t find her glasses, doesn’t seem to notice that she’s inadvertently adopted a tiger, but the other cats sure do! He’s eating their food, he’s taking up all their space, and making life very inconvenient. Thank goodness Big Cat’s mother and father show up – with Gran’s glasses! – to take their son home. Gran’s reaction when she finally realizes that she’s been letting a tiger live with her is laugh-out-loud funny; her housecats’ reaction to the tiger living with them is even funnier; their protest signs and facial expressions are kidlit comedy gold. Big Cat is going into my regular storytime rotation for sure. My 7-year-old and I read it last night and decided that we need to read this very, very often, because it just made us feel happy.

Big Cat was originally published in the UK, and is Emma Lazell’s debut picture book. I’m already looking forward to her next one, That Dog!, which looks like it’s being published in the US next spring. This is one of those books where text and art come together perfectly to create sight gags, with perfectly innocent text wandering around the artwork. The artwork is bold and bright, with hilariously expressive eyes. There are such sweet moments in here, too, like the giant hug that Mother and Father Tiger give their son when they finally discover him at Gran’s. It’s just a great book filled with wonderful moments and I can’t wait to read it again and again. There’s a free, downloadable activity kit, too, with mazes, coloring sheets, and a Missing! poster (that you could probably use with The Pawed Piper, too…).

Kitten Construction Company: A Bridge Too Fur, by John Patrick Green, (Oct. 2019, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626728318

Ages 7-9

The follow-up to last year’s Meet the House Kittens, this latest in the Kitten Construction Company series has Marmalade and friends facing a new construction project – building the new Mewburg Bridge! But Marmalade is afraid of water, and what do bridges cross? WATER! The kittens figure out a workaround, and they have to call subcontractors in to help with the demolition work. When the Demo Doggos show up to the site, though, Marmalade’s biased feelings about dogs stand in the way of true teamwork. Everyone is going to have to learn to work together to get the bridge done!

John Patrick Green creates stories that make me happy. Hippopotamister is all about a hippo finding his purpose; the first Kitten Construction Company story was about being taken seriously; and now, A Bridge Too Fur is about overcoming fears and biases, and embracing teamwork to make one’s corner of the world a better place. He tells big stories in a small space, with adorable artwork and situations that appeal to young readers while teaching them how to be a positive force in the world. That is good stuff, and that is the kind of book that flies off my shelves here at the library. Kids come for the cute animals, stay for the positive messages. There’s some fun humor on the down-low that sharp-eyed readers will catch, like references to a possum street artist named “Panksy”, and Marmalade knocking a mic off the podium when he goes to speak (because, that’s what cats do). A “How to Draw Kittens” section teaches readers to draw some of the characters in the story.

You simply can’t go wrong with a John Patrick Green graphic novel. The Kitten Construction Company is such a good series for intermediate readers; add this one to your collections.

Posted in Librarianing

Annotated Bibliographies: Do you create them?

I’ve been on an annotated bibliography kick of sorts. I love coming up with lists and readalikes for kids, and it’s handy to have a list available when a parent or child comes in, looking for books about a specific topic. What started as an Excel spreadsheet with tab dedicated to popular topics has morphed into little brochures of books available in my branch, along with resources, that I have ready to give out.

While they’re not currently complete annotated bibs, since they’re limited to the books at my last library branch, I am going to add to them now, and aim for having some strong booklists and bibliographies available to use not just for the kids while they’re in the library, but for them to turn to for help with research and additional reading in the future.

One of the ones I’m proudest of is a piece I did on grief and loss, shortly after a friend of mine passed away after a bout with pancreatic cancer. Working on this one helped me work through my own feelings about my friend, and I hope that I’ve created the beginnings of something that will help families in the future.

I’ve also got a fun one about losing that first tooth, because I was amazed at how many books there are about the Tooth Fairy and losing teeth there are – and parents often don’t realize there are any! This helped me create a fun display. It’s very out of date – I don’t even have Erin Danielle Russell’s How to Trick the Tooth Fairy on this one, so I need to update it, stat.

I’m working on whether or not to create full annotated bibs for subjects, or separating them by age: resources, for instance, for babies and toddlers, picture books, then middle grade and/or YA. If anyone has feedback, I’d appreciate hearing how you structure your bibliographies. I’ve got one here, for instance, that I started for middle grade historical fiction, but I did include a Patricia Polacco book, because I feel like her picture books are weighty enough to translate to a slightly older audience.

Speaking of toddlers and preschoolers, here’s one I created, featuring sing-a-long books. I had a lot of parents asking me for books for their kids going into Pre-K, so I tried to pick some fun ones, leaning heavily on concepts and singing books. Here’s a concept-heavy bibliography on books about shapes, too.

These are, as I’ve mentioned, pretty out of date, but I’m excited about revising them and adding to them. I’d love to hear from anyone else who creates annotated bibliographies and booklists, and learning how you create yours.