Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Introducing Peace Dragon Tales!

Peace Dragon Tales is a little imprint with a big mission: to spread peace and to channel our energies into “peaceful and productive outlet[s]”. Author Linda Ragsdale has two Peace Dragon books: How I Did It, and a fun twist on a beginner’s dictionary: Alpha Better.

How I Did It, by Linda Ragsdale/Illustrated by Anoosha Syed, (Apr. 2017, Flowerpot Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1486712113
Recommended for readers 3-6

In How I Did It, the letter I breaks out of its spot in the alphabet and sees things from different points of view. The other letters don’t always support I‘s being different, but I won’t be stopped – and ends up inspiring a friend: U. Told from I‘s point of view, it’s an inspiring read-aloud to young audiences. The cartoony, primary colored artwork is fun and lively, and kids will have fun guessing the words the letters act out on the endpapers.  (Psst… the front and back endpapers have different words.) It’s a fun story of embracing differences and trying new things. Pair this one with Kathryn Otoshi’s books, like One and Zero.

 

Alpha Better, by Linda Ragsdale/Illustrated by Martina Hogan, (Apr. 2017, Flowerpot Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1486712106
Recommended for readers 4-7

Alpha Better is a fun spin on a dictionary – it’s a Fabularictionary! (Fabulous + Hilarious + Dictionary) Loaded with words that go above and beyond our usual exclamations – awesome, fantastic, excellent – Alpha Better is loaded with positive word mashups for kids to introduce to their vocabularies. Words like absomemendous (absolutely + tremendous), lovuggable (loving + huggable), phenomenational (phenomenal + inspirational) will have kids laughing and coming up with their own words. I can see bebud ( best + buddy) being a popular one in elementary school. This is a great book to inspire a writing exercise where kids can make up their own Alpha Better words. Think of it as a fun companion to Eats Shoots and Leaves.

 

Peace Dragon Tales is an imprint of Flowerpot Press; initially a project drawn from tragedy, the project now seeks to inspire people to focus “on the universal desire for peace presented in its many dragon forms… where truth and the celebration of diversity will build bridges” and encompasses dance, music, visual arts, food, and more. Learn more about The Peace Dragon Project at their website, where you can find printables that provide great starting points for discussion.

 

 

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Ozzy the Ostrich teaches kids to stand up to bullies

Ozzy the Ostrich, by José Carlos Andrés/Illustrated by Bea Enríquez, (June 2017, NubeOCHO), $15.95, ISBN: 978-8494541599

Recommended for readers 3-6

Ozzy Ostrich and two friends trot across the plain, munching on flowers, until three lions threaten to eat them! Ozzy – who also has an egg to defend – stands up to the bullies, scaring the so badly that one loses his teeth, one loses all of his fur, and one turns completely white. The former bullies befriend the ostriches, but what happens when another pride of lions shows up to menace the group?

Ozzy the Ostrich is a good introduction to the concepts of bullying and standing up for oneself and others. When the first group of lions bullies Ozzy, she stands up for herself and the bullies back down. When the next group comes along, Ozzy sees that her actions resonate. The art is bright, vibrant, and bold; both lions and ostriches have exaggerated facial expressions that readers will enjoy and laugh at (especially when the chastised lions react).

Originally published in Spanish under the title Un avestruz con much luz (2016), Ozzy the Ostrich makes a good social issues read-aloud for storytime. Pair with Kathryn Otoshi’s One for an anti-bullying storytime message.

Posted in Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Preschool Reads

Surreal graphic novel fun for little ones: Adele in Sandland

Adele in Sandland, by Claude Ponti, (June 2017, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1-943145-16-4

Recommended for readers 3-7

Little Adele’s mother takes her to the park. While Mama chats with a friend, Adele begins to dig and sets off on an adventure with her doll, Stuffy, and Sandy – a creature from her sand pail – where they’re eaten by a sand dragon, she meets a tree of hot dogs, a king who likes to walk, barefoot, on his subjects’ heads, and ventures forth to a tasty dessert island.

Adele in Sand Land is surreal fun for readers who’ve become more comfortable with slightly longer sentences than those introduced in early readers. The book is TOON Level 1, which is about a Kindergarten reading level and corresponds to Guided Reading Levels E-J. TOON includes all of this information in the back of each book, and on their website, which is a great resources for parents and educators alike. The story is a fun storytime selection for younger audiences, too: kids will easily envision themselves on a magical adventure while playing at the park.

The surreal art makes this a great choice when introducing young readers to graphic novels, too. While the overall story is sequential, the dreamlike quality of the art allows kids to let their imaginations run wild. Let your kids draw their own surreal adventure for a fun accompanying activity, or introduce stories like Alice in Wonderland or Harold and the Purple Crayon for more adventures with a touch of the surrealistic. Teacher’s Resources are forthcoming for this title.

Adele in Sand Land received a starred review from Kirkus. An early Adele story, Adele’s Album (1988), is out of print but can be found for varying prices through third party sellers online.

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

The jungle heat begs for The Perfect Siesta

The Perfect Siesta, by Pato Mena, (June 2017, NubeOCHO), $15.95, ISBN: 978-84-945415-3-7

Recommended for readers 3-7

It’s a hot day in the jungle, so when a lovely, cool breeze blows through, a jaguar seizes the moment to take a nap. He has things to do, though, so he asks a coati to wake him in 10 minutes. The coati doesn’t want to say no to a jaguar, out of a healthy sense of self-preservation, but that breeze is just sooo nice… so he asks a cockatiel to wake him up in 10 minutes, who then goes on to ask a sloth. The poor sloth feels the pressure to stay awake, but can’t fight it anymore and lets out a giant SNORE that keeps everyone’s promise!

The Perfect Siesta has entered regular storytime reading at home, and I’m planning a great nap-centric read-aloud to debut this one at my library. It’s hilarious and I love the art, especially the giant, sleepy sloth’s eyes (shown on the cover). Snoring is up there with farts in terms of read-aloud humor, so let your loudest snore rip when you’re reading – the text will support you!

The collage-style artwork will catch readers’ attention and makes for a great read-aloud to large groups as well as small groups. The animals are native to South America, so this also makes for a good rainforest storytime, with extra fun if you have plush or flannels to add to the atmosphere.

Originally published in Spanish, The Perfect Siesta translates hilariously into English and makes for a fun bedtime, naptime, anytime read. The Perfect Siesta is a Junior Library Guild selection.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

A mother’s love letter to her daughter: When I Carried You In My Belly

When I Carried You In My Belly, by Thrity Umrigar/Illustrated by Ziyue Chen, (Apr. 2017, Running Press Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7624-6058-8

Recommended for readers 3-7

A mother explains where all of her daughter’s wonderful qualities were born: as she grew in her mother’s belly. Her mother laughed so hard that baby laughed, too; that’s why she has a great laugh today. Her grandmother’s loving hands built her crib, and grandfather made sweets to eat; that’s why she dreams softly at night and is so sweet. Her mother sangs joyful songs in different languages, and that’s why the girl feels at home anywhere in the world. It’s a sweet love story between mother and daughter, but also illustrates the love and importance of family.

This is a first picture book for author Thrity Umrigar, who hopes that children will come away understanding the importance of family and the importance of being kind and generous. Her text – a mother lavishing praise on her daughter while reminiscing about her pregnancy – combined with Ziyue Chen’s joyful illustrations featuring multicultural characters, invites children to laugh and play together, part of a world community.

This is a great baby shower gift: the story embraces motherhood, empowers mothers to love their bodies (mom happily belly dances with a beautiful bare midriff), and encourages mother-child interaction from the womb. I remember the little tickles and wiggles I felt with each of my boys even now. I remember playing with them, pushing on my belly in one spot and the delight in seeing a little hand (or foot) push back in response. It’s also a good reading choice for a discussion group, to get moms talking with one another, and their children, about their own pregnancies and what they love about their children. When I Carried You in My Belly is a love letter from mother to child, and a love letter to mothers everywhere.

Display this with books on family and individuality. I like Mary Ann Hoberman’s All Kinds of Families, Everywhere Babies, by Susan Meyers, The Family Book, by Todd Parr, and What I Like About Me, by Allia Zobel-Nolan.

Thrity Umrigar is the bestselling author of a memoir and six novels, including The Space Between Us, If Today Be Sweet, and The Story Hour. Her books, articles, and more information is available via her website. Ziyue Chen’s work has been recognized in the 3×3 Picture Book Show (2014), SCBWI’s SI Scholarship (2013), the Society of Illustrators’ Student Scholarship Show (2013), and Creative Quarterly (2012). You can see more of her illustration at her website.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

The Blue Songbird discovers her song

The Blue Songbird, by Vern Kousky, (Apr. 2017, Running Press Kids), $22.49, ISBN: 9780762460663

Recommended for readers 4-8

A young blue songbird wishes that she could sing like her sisters. She wants to sing along with them, but she can’t seem to sing like they do. Her mother encourages her to go and find a special song that only she can sing, and the little bird sets off in search of her special song. She meets other birds and experiences the world, only to discover that, upon reaching home again, her song was inside of her all along.

The sweet story of self-awareness also shows readers that your experiences help make you who you are. The songbird’s song is influenced by her travels and who she met; the music was inside of her all along, but venturing out – and returning home – helped shape the music into a song.

The watercolor artwork is beautiful to look at. The colors are soft and the depiction of the music, as a spray of notes and color, is lovely and stirring. The text encourages kids to explore their world, even if, at a young age, that world is their backyards, their playgrounds, their friends’ homes. At the same time, it reassures kids that they can always return home.

There are so many ways to enjoy and extend the lessons put forth in this story. The little birds can be recreated with thumbprint art. Have little readers make their own songbird families by using watercolor paint, dipping their thumbs into a color, and giving their own songbirds adventures in finding their songs. Encourage kids to go on scavenger hunts – I love this idea for scavenger hunt bags and plan to go on an adventure with my little guy once this crazy NYC weather lets up – to explore the world around them.

Good readalikes for this book include A Song for Papa Crow, by Marit Menzin, and the classic Over in the Meadow. Over the Meadow also makes a good singalong and flannel play.

Vern Kousky is an adjunct professor of English for Touro College and the author of the award-winning book, Otto the Owl Who Loved Poetry. You can see more of his artwork, including some interior art from The Blue Songbird, at his website.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Preschool Reads

Have visual vocabulary fun with Wordplay!

Wordplay, by Ivan Brunetti, (May 2017, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1-943145-17-1

Recommended for readers 3-8

Kids learn about compound words – two words that come together to form a whole new word, like housework – in this visual feast for the eyes. Ever see a house vaccuming? A moon in an easy chair, reading under a bright light? You will here, as the kids in the story think up and visualize compound words that will make kids (and you) laugh and think.

This book is made for classrooms and programs. Ask your kids what compound words they can come up with – then draw it! Make a bookmark for one of the easiest compound words: Bookworm! The fun, bold art leaps off the page, and bright white word balloons make for dialogue that you can ask kids to read out loud, turning the book into a performance. Display Wordplay with other fun word books, like Lynne Truss’ younger readers’ version of Eats, Shoots and Leaves and Patricia Byers’ One Sheep, Two Sheep: A Book of Collective Nouns. Wordplay is a TOON Level 1; Levels E-J in Guided Reading. Teachers’ Resources are forthcoming.

Wordplay received a starred review from Kirkus.