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.

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

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.

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Mapping My Day brings back the lost art of mapmaking

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

Posted in Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

An overscheduled princess takes a day off: Princess Cora and the Crocodile

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.