Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, picture books

In First Laugh Welcome, Baby!, a family waits…

First Laugh Welcome, Baby!, by Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood/Illustrated by Jonathan Nelson, (Aug. 2018, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580897945

Ages 5-8

A Navajo family waits for baby’s first laugh. Who will be the first to hear it? Will nima-sami (grandmother) hear it, as she tucks Baby in for a nap? Will it be big sister (nadi), who cooks Baby a tasty meal? Maybe it will be nima (mama), who sits weaving while Baby rests in a papoose. Or will it be cheii (grandpa), who splashes Baby with water? Everyone in the family is waiting, kissing, tickling, hugging, and singing, as Baby squirms, yawns, frowns, until… suddenly… a smile! Let the First Laugh celebration begin!

First Laugh Welcome, Baby is a beautiful look at a Navajo tradition; the First Laugh Celebration is a child’s first formal welcome into a family and clans. The lyrical story is filled with Navajo words and glimpses of Navajo life, woven into a story about the joy of a baby’s first laugh and the celebration it brings to families and communities. Jonathan Nelson’s pencil, acrylic, and Photoshop artwork create a loving portrait of a family that spends time together both in the city and on a Navajo reservation; they eat together, enjoy nature together, and socialize together in settings primarily illustrated with earthy tones and bold lines.

Back matter includes author’s notes from the late Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood, and an illustrator’s note from Jonathan Nelson; a note about the First Laugh Celebration, and ceremonies in other cultures, including Muslim, Nigerian, and Jewish families.

Nancy Bo Flood’s Soldier Sister, Fly Home is a powerful middle grade story about a Navajo family; First Laugh is a wonderful picture book that introduces younger readers to First Nation families. Please, please, please, put these and other books by indigenous authors and illustrators in your bookshelves and in front of your readers.

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

Where does your mind go during class?

Free Association: Where My Mind Goes During Science Class (Adventures of Everyday Geniuses), by Barbara Esham/Illustrated by Mike Gordon, (May 2018, Sourcebooks), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492669951

Recommended for readers 4-8

Emily is a  young student who loves doing science: the hands-on stuff, not the rote memorization that comes with the routine school day, which tends to set her mind off, wandering. Emily wants to be like Albert Einstein, setting her off into a daydream where Einstein climbs out of a classroom poster; he ends up sticking around as a quiet mentor throughout the book. After catching Emily daydreaming again, her teacher gives her a science journal – a way to be mindful of when she’s paying attention, versus when her mind is about to wander. Emily discovers that the journal is just what she needed, and the teacher, impressed with a theory Emily comes up with in her journal, encourages the whole class to keep science journals and use their imaginations.

The Adventures of Everyday Geniuses is a series of books for kids who may learn in nontraditional ways. Where My Mind Goes During Science Class addresses everyday boredom in class – come on, we all know it happens – as well as how to reach students with ADHD. The teacher embraces creativity and imagination, and understands that journaling can lead to some pretty exciting work – bravo, teacher! Emily speaks for most kids when she grouses, “It seems like the only thing we do in science is memorize information from a book”. Who hasn’t felt like that at some point? Emily is relatable to all kids (and a heck of a lot of grownups). Back matter talks to readers who are “everyday geniuses” and offers tips for focusing and centering themselves when their minds wander. The story font is set in OpenDyslexic, a font specifically designed for readability with dyslexia; an impressive commitment by the publishers to readers. Kids may recognize illustrator Mike Gordon’s artwork – he illustrates the super-popular Robin Hill School Easy Reader series.

Find out more about the Everyday Geniuses at the series website. This looks like a good series to have in classroom and library collections, to introduce kids to different ways of learning. I’m going to request other titles in the series from my libraries, to get to know this set better. The Adventures of Everyday Geniuses series is Reading Rockets Recommended, a Parents Choice Award Winner, and an ALA Booklist Pick.

Posted in Adventure, Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Nocturnals for every reader!

My favorite group of nighttime dwellers, The Nocturnals, have two adventures to enjoy! Let’s see what mouthy Bismark, thoughtful Dawn, and sweet Tobin have been up to since we last met.

The Nocturnals: The Hidden Kingdom, by Tracey Hecht and Sarah Fieber/Illustrated by Kate Liebman,
(Feb. 2018, Fabled Films Press), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1944020118
Recommended for readers 8-12

The Nocturnals assemble in their fourth adventure to locate the source of a drought that’s ravaging their forest. The water is disappearing, animals are sick and possibly dying, and animals are convinced there’s an evil spell at work: tumbleweeds attack, sticks seemingly run away, and there’s no water to be found! Dawn, the fox, doesn’t believe in magic and knows there’s something afoot, and Tobin is desperate to save his friend, Cora, a sick wombat who needs water… FAST. What the friends discover is a hidden kingdom – right in front of their very eyes! Can they save the day, and the lives of their forest friends, once again?

This latest Nocturnals adventure has even more illustrations throughout, adding great resting points and visual interest for readers. I love the little touch of insect art throughout the book, directly tying into the storyline. Tobin, my favorite pangolin, gets some nice character development, and yes, fear not: there are fart jokes to be had, making for a laugh out loud reading selection. The theme of friendship continues to be the uniting thread in this series, and Hidden Kingdom also explores the frustration of being ignored and overlooked. There are minor consequences for acts that could have resulted in serious harm to others, but there is a concerted effort to emphasize positive solutions versus punitive measures; I think that’s an important discussion to have with kids. Were they happy with the outcome? What could have been done before the drought, to address the hurt feelings? Animal adventure fans will dig in and enjoy this latest chapter in the Nocturnals saga, and, as always, there are many opportunities for discussion here. Good characters, great humor, and a nonstop sense of adventure will keep kids coming back for more.

The Nocturnals: The Slithery Shakedown, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee,
(April 2018, Fabled Films Press), Paperback, $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-944020-16-3 OR Hardcover, $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-944020-17-0
Recommended for readers 5-7

The next Nocturnals Easy Reader is coming in April! I was so happy to see The Moonlight Meeting debut last year, because I always felt like younger audiences would get a kick out of these characters; particularly Bismark, the sugar glider with the larger-than-life personality! In The Slithery Shakedown, Bismark is menaced by a snake, who wants to snack on him! Thank goodness Dawn and Tobin are there to show the bully that no one messes with their friend. The Slithery Shakedown opens up the chance to talk about bullies, the importance of taking a stand, and the strength found in numbers. I’d even pair this with a reading of Kathryn Otoshi’s brilliant book, One, as part of a respect for all/anti-bullying storytime and discussion.

Josie Yee’s art makes the trio of friends adorable and soft for younger readers, and with deep colors and strong outlines to define her characters. A section about nocturnal animals and nighttime fun facts adds some nonfiction to this Level 2 reader (for grades 1 and 2). Having these books available in easy reader and novel formats also introduce the chance to have older readers and younger readers enjoy different Nocturnals stories and workshops together.

So… when do we get Nocturnals board books? Just sayin’…

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books

Science for Kindergarteners!

I’m always looking for ways to get more science in my kids’ days: my QBH Kids and my own Kindergartener alike. I’ve had some great successes and some that fell a little flat. At my previous library, I had a phenomenal early learning assistant who helped create amazing Science Storytimes, using popular storybooks to demonstrate simple science concepts for little ones: using Ellen Stoll Walsh’s Balancing Act to teach balance, while showing them a simple balance board that kids were invited to place small objects on and discover what balanced, and what tipped the sides.

I also look to fellow librarian and teacher bloggers for hints. Pinterest is a great resources, as is Education.com and Teachers Pay Teachers. Science In Storytime is one of my more recent go-tos, with loads a great book and activity ideas, and The Show Me Librarian has some fantastic programming for Pre-K and elementary programs.

I’ve just received some new books from Nomad Press’ Picture Book Science series, too. These are a lot of fun: color artwork on every page, a fun poem to kick off each book, and my favorite part: an explanation of the scientific term, with all the uses of the term. Take, for instance, the book Waves: it starts off with the simplest interpretation of the word; a way to say hello. The book goes on to include ocean waves in that explanation, then the motion of a wave, and finally, a discussion of waves: energy, light, sound, all using questions to provoke thought, discussion, and understanding. Each book “Try This!” boxes, with simple activities kids can easily do at home or in the classroom (or during Science Storytime). Glossaries are handy to define terms that come up. There are currently four books in the Picture Book Science series: Waves, Forces, Matter, and Energy, all written by Andi Diehn and illustrated by Shululu; at $9.95 each, it’s a good and reasonable investment for our home, school, and public shelves. (Waves: 978-1-61930-635-6; Forces: 978-1-61930-638-7; Matter: 978-1-61930-644-8; Energy: 978-1-61930-641-7)

   

 

Rosen Classroom has a new series of easy readers called Computer Science for the Real World. They’re not attempting to teach Python or Scratch to the little ones (yet): these readers break the concepts needed to study computer science down for beginning readers. The three readers I received use everyday concepts – morning routines, alphabetizing books, building a birdhouse – to introduce activities that will help learn computer science; in this case, repetition and doing things step by step.

 

The books are leveled and contain instructional guides with include new vocabulary words, background knowledge for the specified concept, and text-dependent questions. There are independent and class activities to help kids learn through experience, and are available in English and Spanish. I really like these readers; there aren’t that many “just right books” (as my son’s school calls them) explaining science like this, and I’d love to have them in my library, but this is more of a Central library purchase, at least in my system, because you’re going to want to buy these by the collection; you can certainly buy them as single books, but having a whole set will better benefit your readers. The pricing is pretty reasonable, so I’ll be slipping this into an interoffice envelope bound for my collection development department tomorrow morning.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Ginger Green, Playdate Queen, meets The Crazy Friend!

The Crazy Friend (Ginger Green), by Kim Kane/Illustrated by Jon Davis, (Apr. 2018, Capstone), $5.95, ISBN: 9781515819479

Recommended for readers 6-8

Ginger Green is the 7 year-old playdate queen! But when she invites Maisy over to play, she may have taken on more than she (or her mother) have bargained for. Maisy is out of control, and she takes Ginger’s little sister, Penny, with her! Maisy needs to figure out how to turn this playdate around, super-fast!

Every caregiver has had at least one playdate like this. Maybe it’s even your little one that strips down to his or her underwear and takes off through a friend’s house. Parents – and kids! – will sympathize with Ginger and her mom, who are taken by surprise by a playdate that is anything but expected. For parents and caregivers, The Crazy Friend provides an interesting look at kids’ behavior without knowing what’s behind it: is Maisy just a badly behaving child, or is there something more to the situation that neither Ginger nor her mom are aware of? There are some cues in the text that could lead readers to believe Maisy has some impulse control/ADHD-type behaviors. Ginger and her mom are frustrated (and I’m a little mortified that Maisy’s mom was all too quick to leave her daughter for someone else to contend with), but each decides to embrace the situation and work toward a solution that will save the playdate for everyone.

The Crazy Friend provides teachable moments and the chance for discussion. There are three short chapters, illustrated in two-color purple and white, and can easily fit in either an Easy Reader or intermediate section. There are currently four Ginger Green books available through Capstone in the US; in the author’s native Australia, there are 11.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction

A Nocturnals Easy Reader! The Moonlight Meeting

The Nocturnals: The Moonlight Meeting, by Tracey Hecht & Rumur Dowling/Illustrated by Waymond Singleton, (Sept. 2017, Fabled Films Press), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-944020-14-9

Recommended for ages 5-8

YAY! One of my favorite recent middle grade series is expanding to easy readers! The Nocturnals: The Moonlight Meeting introduces younger readers to my favorite Nocturnal group of friends: Tobin, the pangolin, Dawn, the fox, and last but never least, Bismark, the sugar glider (don’t dare call him a squirrel). An unlikely pomelo fruit brings the three new friends together, as Tobin – forever hungry – and Bismark disagree over ownership rights. Readers get a fun dose of fart humor thanks to sweet Tobin, who’s a bit nervous and has… well, a bit of a reaction. (Readers familiar with Tobin and the latest middle grade Nocturnals story, The Fallen Star, will enjoy the reference.)

Waymond Singleton’s artwork is perfect for an easy reader audience, giving the group more definition and providing an animated feel. Bismark is all wide eyes and open mouth; Tobin’s glance is shyly cast downward, and Dawn is ever gentle and ready to step in to help. As with the middle grade novels, The Moonlight Meeting emphasizes friendship, teamwork, and sharing. Fun Facts at the end of the book provide descriptions about the real-life Nocturnal counterparts. The brief sentences and easy dialogue make this a great step for readers who are ready to move on from Level 1 readers. A leveling guide on the back of the book, similar to the Step Into Reading series, explains each leveled step for parents and caregivers. This works well with a preschool or kindergarten read-aloud, too.

I can’t wait to introduce The Nocturnals to my storytime group. The group’s website at Nocturnals World is a treasure trove of information for caregivers and educators, featuring curriculum guides, library resources, discussion guides, and activity kits. If you’ve got animal fiction fans, get them hooked early and add The Moonlight Meeting to your easy readers.

 

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.