Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

When the World is Full of Friends, it’s a pretty great place

When the World is Full of Friends, by Gillian Shields/Illustrated by Anna Currey, (Feb. 2018, Bloomsbury USA), $16.99, ISBN: 9781681196268

Recommended for readers 3-6

The rabbit family from When the World Was Waiting for You and When the World is Ready for Bed returns in this sweet book about play and discovering new friends. Siblings Albert, Tom, Flossie, and Pipkin love to play, and wish they had more friends to play with. They see a squirrel family across the stream, and put their heads together to figure out how to cross the stream to play together, turning the experience into a fun game in itself. The takeaway? “Playing with friends was wonderful!”

This is a great bedtime, quiet time, or circle time story. It’s got a calm pace, with soft watercolor and ink art. The messages of friendship and working together to play together reinforce positive lessons, and the opening and closing rhyming verses beautifully bookend the story narrative. Add this one to your storytime collections.

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Posted in picture books

Catalina and the King’s Wall helps explain current events

Catalina and the King’s Wall, by Patty Costello/Illustrated by Diane Cojocaru, (May 2018, Eifrig Publishing LLC), $19.99, ISBN: 9781632331052

Recommended for readers 5-8

Who says cookies don’t solve problems? In a fairy tale that speaks to present-day events, a king decides he doesn’t like the people in a neighboring kingdom and plans to build a wall that will keep them out. Catalina, the king’s baker, has family in the neighboring kingdom and is upset by the news, but she’s got a plan. The king loves her delicious snacks, so she encourages him to build a wall using ingredients like icing, sprinkles, and cookie dough. The first two wash away, but that cookie dough holds fast – until the king finds it irresistible, and eats his way through the whole wall! Catalina cheerfully reunites with her family, and the king never bothers anyone ever again.

Catalina was fully funded through a Kickstarter earlier this year and published earlier this month, and it’s a smart, tongue-in-cheek fairy tale that makes explaining what kids are seeing on the news a little easier to understand. At once parody and social commentary, adults will get subtle winks at lines like, “The king’s face turned from orange to red” and at the king’s framed Time magazine photo in his royal chambers (hey… did he really make the cover of Time?). We’ve got a king obsessed with having his will carried out, and a bright heroine who figures out how to work around his myopia. The watercolor artwork is colorful and bright; the king is not orange-skinned, but does wear orange hose and has a suspiciously familiar curl to the back of his blonde hair; Catalina’s mother wears a hijab.

Pair this one with The Emperor’s New Clothes, get some pre-made cookie dough, and build your own edible wall for Summer Reading. Catalina and the King’s Wall is available online and via the author’s website, which also has an events calendar.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Lola Dutch is just TOO MUCH!

Lola Dutch, by Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright, (Jan. 2018, Bloomsbury USA), $17.99, ISBN: 9781681195513

Recommended for readers 3-7

Lola Dutch is a little girl whose life motto may well be, “Go big or go home”. She starts her day by sliding down the bannister of a grand stairway, landing on her cushy friend, Bear’s, belly. She is bursting with ideas, and this is going to be an AMAZING day. She has grand ideas for breakfast, which turns into a several course meal for Lola and her animal friends, Gator, Pig, and Crane; a trip to the library for some “light reading” yields a Herculean amount of books. Lola’s inspired to create art, and begins producing work that the masters would be cowed by, including a Sistine Chapel-esque work on her ceiling, starring Lola and friends. At bedtime, seems overwhelmed. Everything’s quiet for the night, but Gator’s got cold feet, Pig is snoring, and Crane kicks in her sleep. Frazzled, Lola cries out, “This is ALL TOO MUCH!” and wants something simple and comforting: a hug from Bear.

We all have a little Lola in us, don’t we? I know I get those moments where I want to READ ALL THE BOOKS and end up reserving 5 books, which will sit on the pile I have at home; from there, I’ll want to straighten up all my bookshelves, and to do that, empty all the shelves on the floor so I can go through them, which will inevitably end up with me, sidetracked, coming back hours later to just shove everything on the shelves until the next time I get inspiration. Lola’s friend Bear is her guardian, and knows his charge too well: he takes a deep breath at breakfast, and often repeats the phrase this book is built on: “you are a little bit much”. At the end of the day, though, it’s a warm hug that’s all Lola really needs.

Lola Dutch is cute, if a bit manic; she just has a lot of energy to devote to each day. The pencil, gouache, and watercolor artwork is soft, largely pink, and has lots of kid appeal. Endpapers spotlight Lola sitting on the windowsill, reading (under Bear’s watchful eye, below) and using a telescope, and the cover of the book converts into a dollhouse that kids can play with; the back flap comes with paper dolls of Lola and Bear to cut out and play with. There are great extras on the Lola Dutch webpage, including paper dolls of Crane, Gator, and Pig; a coloring sheet, and a book hunt challenge and certificate (psst… good for Summer Reading programs at the library).

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Dork Diaries’ co-author Erin Danielle Russell tries to trick the Tooth Fairy!

How to Trick the Tooth Fairy, by Erin Danielle Russell/Illustrated by Jennifer Hansen Rolli, (May 2018, Simon & Schuster Aladdin), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481467322

Recommended for readers 3-7

Erin Danielle Russell, co-author of the Dork Diaries, brings us a prank war on an epic level in her new picture book, How to Trick the Tooth Fairy. Kaylee is an adorable little girl with wild brown hair and a twinkle of mischief in her eye, and she’s all about a good prank. But see, so is the Tooth Fairy. In fact, the Tooth Fairy is THE ruling prank princes, and she’s got “more tricks in her bag than teeth”. The prank battle begins when Kaylee leaves a fake frog for the Fairy, rather than a tooth; the Fairy retaliates with a bunch of real frogs; pranks escalate until the unthinkable happens: TOPSY-TURVY TOOTH FAIRY TROUBLE! The two foxhole friends hide under a table and survey the damage in the aftermath, help each other clean up, and decide to join prank forces for future fun.

This is such a fun story, and not overly gooey or sweet. This is a prank war between two bright young ladies, one of whom happens to be the Tooth Fairy. As kids know, pranks can escalate and feelings can get hurt, and that’s what happens here: once that happens, the girls see the humor in what happened – sprinkles in the Fairy’s hair, a banana peel and water dripping off Kaylee’s – and work it out in a way that makes everyone happy. Well, except for future prank victims.

The oil paint illustrations are done on brown craft paper, giving a great feel to the spreads, and the characters are expressive, with winks, shouts, and smirks aplenty. This is a fun book about childhood mischief that kids everywhere will get a kick out of. I hope we get some more adventures with Kaylee… maybe we’ll see how she celebrates a birthday? Visit the How to Trick the Tooth Fairy webpage to learn more about our tricksters, view a trailer, and get updates.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

And They Lived Happily Ever After… Prince & Knight

Prince & Knight, by Daniel Haack/Illustrated by Stevie Lewis, (May 2018, little bee), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0552-9

Recommended for readers 4-8

I am head over heels in love with this gorgeous rhyming tale of a prince who finds his perfect knight and lives happily ever after! A handsome young prince is coming of age, so his parents set out to find him a worthy bride. The ladies all love him – he’s adorable! – but he just doesn’t feel it for any of them. While the royals are away, a dragon attacks the village, and the brave prince jumps on his horse and rides back, ready for battle… and discovers a knight in shining armor, ready to fight by his side and save their kingdom! The knight saves the prince from a nasty fall, takes off his helmet, and… FIREWORKS. The village and the king and queen are thrilled with the match, and the prince and knight live happily ever after. I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying.

This book just makes me swoon. The rich color illustrations are a joy to look at, the rhyming text is so adorable you’ll want to read it again and again, and the combination of the beautiful words and the artwork of the two young men, completely and happily in each other’s arms, makes this an absolute must for storytime and for collections everywhere. Read this often, and explain that sometimes, the prince wants a handsome knight at the end of the story. And that’s just wonderful. Prince & Knight has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Boy builds empathy and understanding

Boy, by Phil Cummings/Illustrated by Shane Devries, (March 2018, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-739-4

Recommended for readers 4-8

A deaf young boy, growing up in a medieval village ravaged by a giant dragon, brings peace to all by simply encouraging them to listen. He speaks with his hands or by drawing pictures in the sand, but not everyone is patient enough to understand Boy – until he wanders into a big fight between the king’s troops and the dragon. He can’t hear everyone screaming for him to be careful, but looks up to see everyone staring at him. He asks them, via written message, why they’re all fighting, which sets off blame and pointing fingers on both sides. Turns out, it was all just a big misunderstanding that grew into years of conflict. The boy has helped bring about peace with his simple question, and teaches the villagers how to speak with their hands: and, most importantly, to listen.

Boy is all about empathy. By introducing a deaf protagonist, readers learn that sometimes, words get in the way; being able to take the time to understand and be understood is the key to brokering a peace between the kingdom and the dragon. I loved the poetic language used to describe how Boy communicates: “he spoke with dancing hands and he drew pictures for people in the sand”. The subdued art is sweet and will appeal to kids who love dragons and knights, just on a calmer scale. Introduce some ASL in this storytime: Jbrary has great tips and songs. I use the Hello and Goodbye songs in my toddler storytimes, and the kids love it. Introduce simple ASL like a fingerplay, and you’re teaching kids how to communicate in a new language.

Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Intermediate, picture books

Blacksmith’s Song: An entry into African-American folklore

Blacksmith’s Song, by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk/Illustrated by Anna Rich, (Feb. 2018, Peachtree Publishers), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-56145-580-5

Recommended for readers 6-10

An enslaved boy realizes that the rhythm of his blacksmith father’s “song” – the hammer striking the anvil as he works – changes when he sends word to other slaves that it’s time to escape. He waits for it to be his family’s turn, but when his father falls ill, he takes matters into his own hands: for himself, his family, and the slaves who rely on his father’s message.

Inspired by stories from the Underground Railroad, Blacksmith’s Song gives readers a new entry into African-American folklore: some may have heard of the quilts and the messages they provided; some may know that dances and songs like “Wade in the Water” provided coded messages; now, we have the rhythm of the smith’s hammer. Anna Rich paints stunning portraits in oils: the forge’s flame and sparks; the grim slave catchers riding out in search of escaped slaves; the watchful eyes of the boy and his family, and the warm glow of the firelight as the boy takes up his father’s hammer for the first time. A good addition to historical fiction picture book collections and to readers interested in American folktales, particularly surrounding the Civil War-era South.