Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

More Nocturnals! Who will win The Chestnut Challenge?

The Nocturnals: The Chestnut Challenge, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (April 2019, Fabled Films Press), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-944020-23-1

Ages 5-7

The latest Nocturnals easy reader is a story about playing fair. Sugar glider Bismark just loses a game of chestnut checkers to Tobin the pangolin, when a chinchilla named Chandler shows up and declares himself a chestnut champion, challining poor Tobin to a game. Tobin just likes to play for fun, but Bismark nudges him into play. Chandler causes distractions that get the group to look elsewhere so he can cheat, but Bismark finally catches him and calls him out! After confessing to cheating because he wanted to win, Tobin gently reminds him that practice makes perfect, and Dawn invites him to play with them as a group. The Chestnut Challenge addresses cheating, but it also looks at being sore losers and sore winners: we see Bismark being a sore loser, and Chandler, when cheating, gloats over his moves. Tobin doesn’t want to be in cutthroat competition, he just wants to have fun; it’s a point we should all be making when we read this with our kiddos. Winning can be fun, but cheating to win isn’t really winning. That said, being gracious and offering someone a second chance is winning, all on its own. (And, naturally, with Bismark keeping an eye out.) Back matter includes an introduction to each of the core group of Nocturnals, plus a fun fact about chestnuts.

I’m a dedicated fan of this series. Tracey Hecht has a way of reaching kids by using adorable animals with distinctive personalities to get to the heart of real-life situations kids find themselves coping with, and how to start discussions about those situations. These books are a great go-to for us grown-ups, too. The Nocturnals World website has great, free downloadables, including activity kids, coloring sheets and games, videos, and educational resources.

 

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Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

The Bossy Pirate is facing a mutiny!

The Bossy Pirate, by John Steven Gurney, (Oct. 2018, Schiffer Publishing), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764356254

Ages 6-8

A little boy who goes by the pirate moniker “Salty Jack” plays pirate in his room, and invites – well, commands, really – his friends to come on board as his crew. As the title suggests, Salty Jack is not the greatest captain or playmate, continually reminding his friends that “I’m Captain! I give the orders!” and not letting anyone else have a say in their pirate game. When he tries to boss his sister, Millie the Mermaid, around, thought, she merely says, “Mermaids don’t take orders”, and leaves. Shortly after that, Jack’s other two friends have had it with his bossiness and leave, too. Jack broods, and blames his friends for ruining his fun; when Millie returns to ask him if his friends were having fun, too, he doesn’t answer. Jack discovers that being a solo pirate is no fun, and has a change of heart that brings all his mates back on board, where they hunt for lost treasure together.

A smart easy reader story about sharing and playing well together, The Bossy Pirate is a good read-aloud and a good independent book for newly confident readers. The sentences are slightly longer than beginning easy readers, and include imaginative words like scuttlebutt, barnacle, and nautical. Back matter includes a list of nautical terms that come up in the book, and a list of “nonsense words” that the pirate friends use. The artwork combines realistic and imaginative, with action going from Jack’s room to the high seas, where whales and dolphins glide and leap around a pirate ship. The group of friends is multicultural.

The Bossy Pirate is good fun with a smart message: it’s always better to play well together. Let the kids make their own newspaper pirate hats and have a pirate storytime.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

I Think I Can is a sight-word reader made for book buddies!

I Think I Can, by Karen S. Robbins/Illustrated by Rachael Brunson, (Jan. 2019, Schiffer Publishing), $14.99, ISBN: 9780764356919

Ages 5-7

How exciting! Karen Robbins, a Romper Room teacher in the 1960s, has realized a new career as a children’s book author. I loved her THINK board book series (2017) for its fun take on concept board books. Her latest book, I Think I Can, is great for emerging readers to practice together. Aardvark is convinced he can sing; his friend, Mouse, encourages him to sing a song, and acts as a supportive audience. Written in short, color-blocked sentences largely composed of sight words, kids can take turns being Aardvark (in blue font) and Mouse (in black font). A note in the beginning of the book explains how the book works, and the sentences model question-and-answer behavior, with Mouse repeating Aardvark’s statements as questions until it’s established that Aardvark will sing.

The artwork is spare and keeps the emphasis on the characters, each on their own page, set against a plain white background. Aardvark has large, expressive eyes and body language; Mouse relies more on body language and his big smile to communicate. The story itself reminds me of how a teacher would work with young children, explaining behavior as the story progresses. For instance, when Mouse is seated, waiting for Aardvark to sing, he says, “OK. I’m sitting in the chair. I’m looking at you. Let me hear you sing your song. Let me see the surprise.”

This works just as well as a storytime for preschoolers and pre-readers; there are actions that make the story interactive: Mouse hides his eyes in anticipation of a surprise; Aardvark’s song is sung to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat, allowing kids to clap along to the beat of the song, and Mouse applauds at the end, letting readers know they can jump in and clap, too.

This is a sweet story, great for pairing up your readers to practice. I hope Miss Karen has more stories like this to tell!

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

This is Owl flaps and taps its way into your heart

This is Owl, by Libby Walden/Illustrated by Jacqui Lee, (March 2019, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781610678964

Ages 3-7

I love a good interactive book that brings my kiddos into the storytime! Hervé Tullet got me started on the interactive book fun when I was starting out in my first preschool libraries, and it’s been something I gravitate to ever since. Here, we have Owl, asleep in a tree. Readers get to tickle Owl, play with the sun and moon, flap the pages to help Owl fly, and more. The Owl is adorable and expressive. The artwork is cartoony and bold, with bright colors leaping off a minimal background. Die cuts and half-pages make for fun reading and chances to let everyone at storytime have a turn.

There’s a mix of simple sentences and slightly more complex sentences; sight words make up a good portion of the words in the book, making this a nice read for emerging readers and a great readaloud choice for pre-readers and early readers.

This is Owl is in my storytime collection; consider it for yours. If you’re putting a copy in circulation, make sure you have a backup – this one will get passed around!

 

 

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

Mouse takes a trip to the top of a volcano… but when can he get pizza?

A Trip to the Top of the Volcano with Mouse, by Frank Viva, (May 2019, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 9781943145362

Ages 4-7

Mouse and his friend are off to explore Italy and climb Mount Etna in this second Mouse adventure! The explorer can’t wait to go start the adventure, but all Mouse can think of is pizza. Together, the friends lay out the plan: supplies (walking sticks, warm gloves, strong mountain boots, thick sweaters, and cool sunglasses) and set out for the mountain. They discover the different foods that grow at the base of the mountain (but not pizza), hike to the top, and see what types of wildlife wander around the area, before ending their day with a trip to the pizzeria.

A Trip to the Top of the Volcano is a fun mix of fiction and nonfiction, with stylish, vibrant graphics. There’s a beautiful cross-section spread, showing not only how plant life grows up the mountain, but the parts of the volcano, including the magma chamber, vents, and crater. There is information about local wildlife, plant life, and volcano characteristics, all communicated with simple, straightforward sentences that new readers will love reading and pre-readers will love listening to.

This is the second Mouse adventure from Frank Viva and TOON; the first, A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse, sees the two friends off on an expedition to Antarctica. A Trip to the Top of the Volcano with Mouse has a free, downloadable Teacher’s Guide.

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

Get ready for the season with First Snow with a giveaway!

First Snow, by Nancy Viau/Illustrated by Talitha Shipman,, (Sept. 2018, Albert Whitman), $16.99, ISBN: 9780807524404

Ages 2-6

A brother and sister join their friends for a day of fun when the first snow falls.

This rhyming story stars a brother and sister, both children of color, who wake up to discover that it’s snowing! With mostly two- and three-word rhyming sentences, we follow them as they get dressed and meet their friends for a day of sledding and snowplay. Their pup follows along, adding to the fun and games, and at the end of the day, the siblings and their dog head home to enjoy hot chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, and a story before bedtime.

A lovely companion to Ezra Jack Keats’ A Snowy Day, First Snow takes place in a more suburban settting than Peter’s famous city backdrop. The kids’ bright winter clothes stand out against the soft, white snow. The watercolor artwork is soft, lending a comfortable, hazy, snowy-day feel to the scenery. Brightly colored kids’ hats and mittens set the tone on the endpapers.

Perfect for snowy day reading, preferably with some hot chocolate and a warm blanket and stuffed animal. Great for toddlers and easy readers alike!

Nancy Viau is the author of five picture books, including City Street Beat, Storm Song, and Look What I Can Do!  Her middle-grade novels include her new release, Beauty and Bernice, along with Just One Thing! (2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Gold Award Winner), Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head (to be reissued in the spring of 2019), and Something is Bugging Samantha Hansen (fall 2019). As a member of the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature, Nancy volunteers with other council members to produce the Rutgers One-on-One Plus Conference every year. She works as an assistant librarian, and when not reading or writing, she hikes, bikes, and travels wherever her frequent flyer miles take her. To learn more, and to download a free Story Hour kit for First Snow, visit her website, NancyViau.com.

 

Talitha Shipman graduated with an MFA in illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2008. She’s illustrated several books, including You Are My Little Pumpkin Pie, Everybody Says Shalom, and Applesauce Day. Talitha lives in Indiana with her husband, daughter, and dog. She can be found at talithashipman.com.

 

Praise for First Snow:

“A sweet suburban/rural contrast to the snowy day enjoyed by Peter in the city.”  — Kirkus Reviews

Relive the joy of the season’s first snow in this sweet trailer!

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of First Snow, courtesy of Albert  Whitman & Co (U.S. addresses). Just enter this Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance!

 

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Stanley the Hamster heads off to school in his latest picture book adventure

Stanley’s School, by William Bee, (Oct. 2018, Peachtree Publishers), $14.95, ISBN: 9781682630709

Ages 3-7

It’s another busy day at Stanley’s school, as he and his assistant, Hattie, get ready to welcome their students. The children follow their morning routine of hanging up their hats, bags, and teddy bears, and sit on the carpet while Stanley calls attendance. At storytime, they dress up: Sophie as a dragon, Little Woo as a knight, and Benjamin, a princess, complete with blue crown and tutu. There’s playtime, time in the garden, lunch, nap, and art to end the day, and Stanley brings his busy day to a close with supper and a bath.

The Stanley books are a hit because they’re adorable. They’re provide children with introductions to different careers, the direct, concise text is great for newly confident readers and for storytime, and the digital artwork is simple, attractive, and fun, with bright colors and bold lines. William Bee doesn’t limit gender roles in Stanley’s School, putting a kid named Benjamin in princess garb. (Jessica Spanyol’s Clive series is another good series that bucks genderized norms.)

Stanley’s School was on shelves in time for back-to-school, but it’s a great choice for storytimes now, because younger kids will recognize the students’ daily routine. It won’t be new and exciting or nerve-wracking; it’ll be familiar and comfortable. Let the kids tell you what else their daily routines include, and tell them yours. Do you, like Stanley, get home, eat, and go to bed? Maybe you play with a pet, or eat dinner with your family, or read to your kids. Stanley’s School is all about comforting routines, and a good add to your shelves.

There’s a school supply activity sheet free for download on the Peachtree website; you’ll find other Stanley activity sheets there, too. Stanley fans can find out more about Stanley’s world on the Peachtree Stanley Fan Site.