Posted in Non-Fiction

My Wild Activity Book is BIG fun for kids!

My First Wild Activity Book, by Maxime Lebrun, (Jan. 2018, Silver Dolphin), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626869578

Ages 4+

This activity book on animals and their habitats is packed with things to do and make! Inviting kids on an adventure, the book begins with a challenge: take a journey through seven habitats around the world, and offers kids the chance to write their own profiles and draw a self-portrait. From there, the game is on! Readers can work their way through the seven habitats: rain forests, deserts, oceans, the mountains, forests, the savanna, and the polar ice by enjoying search and find activities across fold-out spreads, mazes, connect-the-dots and matching games, coloring sheets, and spot the difference challenges. There are loads of facts throughout the book, and each habitat offers a “think outside of the book” activity that parents, caregivers, and educators can enjoy with the kiddos! Sticker badges for each habitat add a little passport-y punch to the book, and two pages of animal stickers (seriously, so. many. stickers) lets readers go wild on the spreads, or, if you’ve got a kid like mine, his bed, the walls in his room, and, in one case, my laptop.

My son went through this book in just shy of a day and a half, and that’s only because I begged for mercy to make dinner when he was halfway through. We had a great time working on these activities and coloring the pages together, and our next step is to work on a few of the “outside of the book” activities: should we make a leaf collage first, or liberate some of our renegade socks, to make a snake? Maybe we’ll go for the paper plate aquarium! This one is absolute fun for families, and the projects are great for a STEM or Discovery Club at the library or in school. It’s a fun way to enhance natural science learning.

There’s a free maze and “spot the differences” printable at Silver Dolphin’s website. Enjoy!

Advertisements
Posted in Fiction, Intermediate

She’s here! She’s here! MEET YASMIN is finally here!

Meet Yasmin!, by Saadia Faruqi/Illustrated by Hatem Aly, (Aug. 2018, Capstone), $5.95, ISBN: 978-1-68436-022-2

Ages 6-8

I am insanely excited to talk about Meet Yasmin! I first saw the book when author Saadia Faruqi tweeted the cover reveal, and I went berserk for it! Since I’m not known for my restraint when I’m excited about something, Ms. Faruqi was kind enough to message me and offer to send me a copy, and I was thrilled to receive one! Let’s dive in!

Yasmin is a smart, curious, creative second grader with an imagination that’s twice as big! She lives with and her Pakistani-American family and has a close, upbeat relationship with them. Meet Yasmin! is a chapter book with four short stories that introduce readers to this young dynamo: in Yasmin the Explorer, Yasmin learns how to make a map and use it when she misplaces her mother at a farmer’s market; Yasmin the Painter enters an art competition; Yasmin the Builder contributes to a class construction project, and Yasmin the Fashionista and her Nani (grandmother) have a fashion show straight from Nani’s closet! Every story presents a challenge that Yasmin meets and overcomes with determination and creativity.

The back matter is just as good as the stories are. A Think About It, Talk About It section offers discussion questions, and there’s a nice Urdu-to-English glossary to introduce new words to readers. We get some facts about Pakistan, a recipe for the yogurt drink, lassi (which is SO good – I tried it immediately), and a fun flower motif bookmark craft.

I adore Meet Yasmin! Saadia Faruqui gives young readers a fun, positive new protagonist with a rich cultural heritage that I hope we learn more about with subsequent books. She’s got a good relationship with her multigenerational family, and has a diverse group of friends. She’s the kids we parents and caregivers want our kids to be, and to be with. Hatem Aly’s artwork is a joy to look at, with his big, bright-eyed characters with beautiful, bright, richly patterned clothing. The facial expressions are big and bold, ready to catch a reader’s eye, and the positive stories will encourage multiple reads. You must absolutely, positively, add this book to your collections, read it with your kids, and read it on your own. Meet Yasmin! has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal and BookRiot has a great interview with author Saadia Faruqi.

 

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

Sarai: From viral video to chapter books!

Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome, by Sarai Gonzalez and Monica Brown/Illustrated by Christine Almeda, (Sept. 2018, Scholastic), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-29131-5

Ages 7-9

Fourth grader Sarai Gonzalez is awesome. She can bake, dance, and runs her own cupcake catering business, so when her grandparents learn that they have to move, because the home they’re renting is being sold, she takes action. She’s going to raise the money herself! Okay, with the help of her siblings, too, but they’re going to raise the money together and buy back her grandparents’ house! Sarai didn’t realize a few things, though: houses can be expensive, and younger siblings can test your patience! Sarai’s determined to make it all work, though, and she’s got a lot of support behind her.

Sarai Gonzalez is a real-life viral video star and social activist. This new chapter book series, starring Sarai and co-written with kidlit superstar Monica Brown (Lola Levine series, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/no combina), is a fun new series starring a child of color and filled with positive messages about family and social activism. Sarai wants to make positive change and finds ways she can take action to affect change. There are black and white illustrations throughout that show fun family life: dancing with grandparents, pictures of crazy cousins having fun together, a neighborhood coming together for a good cause. I liked the sprinkles of Central and Latin American (Sarai’s family hails from Peru and Costa Rica – pura vida!) life and food; I would have really liked Sarai’s limonada and chicha morada recipes at the end of the book, and a little glossary of Spanish words. That said, my ARC is nowhere near a final copy, so that could be something in the works. Fingers crossed.

Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome is a fun new chapter book that’s adding much-needed diversity to kids’ books. Don’t pass this one up.

Want to see Sarai in action, and dance to an infectious tune? Enjoy her appearance in Bomba Estéreo’s Soy Yo!

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Birds and Their Feathers brings art and STEM together

Birds and Their Feathers, by Britta Teckentrup, (March 2018, Prestel), $16.95, ISBN: 9783791373355

Ages 6+

It’s always wonderful when art and science come together to show us the world in all of its natural beauty. Britta Tecktentrup’s Birds and Their Feathers is a stunning example. The book introduces readers to the science of plumology – bird feather science, or plumage science. If this is a new term for you, you’re not alone; this is a branch of ornithology that I wasn’t aware of, either! The book beautifully blends fascinating facts about plumage and birds with breathtaking artwork to give readers a wonderful introduction to this area of the natural world, with spreads dedicated to the structure and development of the feather; types and colors of feathers (they all have their own jobs!) and wings, human usage of the feather, and how humankind was so inspired by the feather, we used it to take flight on our own.

The artwork is quietly breathtaking, using earth tones and collage artwork to create soft, yet dramatic, pictures of birds and their plumage. The endpapers are covered with feather artwork so realistic, you’ll swear you can feel their softness under your fingertips. The writing is never overwhelming; rather, each page has anywhere from a few lines to a handful of paragraphs dedicated to its topic, with facts like: “The inside of a feather needs colours that help protect it and keep it durable. Such colours may include red and yellow, which can prevent bacteria from harming the feather”; “Some birds can make different sounds generated by their feathers”; and “Some fish-eating birds eat their own feathers to line their stomachs, which protects them from sharp fish bones”. This book is perfect for kids and grown-ups alike.

Perfect for a nature study or STEM project, Birds and Their Feathers is a must-add to your nonfiction shelves. Get your readers working with feathers to make their own art, and if you can find a feather or two to show off the parts of a feather up close (wear gloves if you get this from outside!), even better. I’d use this in my Discovery Club in a second. Birds and Their Feathers has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

 

 

Feathers: Not Just for Flying, by Melissa Stewart/Illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen – Science picture book on how different birds use their feathers.

Feather, by Cao Wenxuan/Illustrated by Roger Mello, Translated by Chloe Garcia-Roberts – A fable about a feather trying to find its origin.

 

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads

August Picture Book Rundown

Loretta’s Gift, by Pat Zietlow Miller/Illustrated by Alea Marley, (Aug. 2018, little bee books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1499806816

Recommended for readers 4-8

Loretta is a little girl who’s so excited when she learns that her aunt and uncle are having a baby! Everyone is busy getting ready for the baby; making things, buying things, preparing a room, but try as she might, Loretta can’t seem to make the perfect gift. When Baby Gabe is born, Loretta feeds with him and plays with him; she adores him and he has the biggest smiles for her. At Gabe’s first birthday party, Loretta is sad that she doesn’t have a gift for him yet, but when he falls and hurts himself, Loretta knows just what to do. Turns out, love is the best gift of all.

This gentle story is a sweet way to show kids that the best gifts aren’t bought; they’re already with us. Loretta’s capacity to love Gabe, to make him smile and laugh, and to comfort him, is a gift that means more to him than any toy that will break or be forgotten. The story delivers this message in the most loving of ways, while showing readers about the exciting preparations made for a new baby: the room decorating, the knitting, the collection of family photos, even wrestling with putting together the crib. Getting ready to welcome Gabe involves the whole family. Loretta’s parents makes the wonderful statement that “Babies are a celebration… of love. Of Life. Of hope”, and Loretta’s first response is to look at her aunt’s belly and wonder if all of that and a baby could fit in one belly? It’s an adorable and perfectly childlike reaction.

The artwork is warm, with earthy shades of green, orange, and muted, darker colors; there are some great textured patterns that make me think there may be some collage here. The illustrations give a comfortable, close feel to the story.

Loretta’s Gift is a nice addition to New Baby collections, and a good big brother/sister/relative gift idea.

 

How to Cook a Princess, by Ana Martinez Castillo/Illustrated by Laura Liz, Translated by Ben Dawlatly (Aug. 2018, nubeOCHO), $16.96, ISBN: 9788494692642

Recommended for ages 7-10

Dark fantasy fans with a morbid sense of humor, this one’s for you. No handsome princes are saving the day here: he’s likely to end up in a stew or as a side dish (with frog legs, to be precise). Gingrich the witch is famous for her recipes, and she dishes all here, where she cooks up the best of fairytale royalty. You’ll learn what kitchen utensils are best (a cage should have 12 padlocks and 2 chains, to prevent sneaky princesses from escaping) and how to trap a princess; there are recipes, like the Snow White Stew, which also gives a shout-out to the dwarves for their skill in rearing organic, free-range princess; and there are tasty treats, like little pigs, fairy godmothers, Puss in Boots, and, yes, Prince Charmings. It goes without saying that this hilarious book is best served with a side of tongue in cheek. The pencil artwork is loaded with gasps from horrified – or, really, more very annoyed – princesses and dark shades. This is a book of fairy tales for kids who don’t think they like fairy tales. Booktalk this one with The Lunch Witch graphic novels. How to Cook a Princess was originally released in Spanish in 2017.

 

A Place for Pluto, by Stef Wade/Illustrated by Melanie Demmer, (Aug. 2018, Capstone), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Ages 5-8

Pluto is a happy little planet; he’s one of the famous Nine and life’s all good until the day the news breaks: he’s not a planet anymore. He’s confused and sad, and wanders around the universe trying to figure out where he fits in: can he be a comet, like his buddy, Haley? How about a meteoroid or an asteroid? Just when Pluto doesn’t think he fits in anywhere, he meets a whole new group of friends who are just like him: the dwarf planets! This book is just adorable, and it’s my son’s favorite of the BookExpo 2018 haul. It’s a smart approach to explaining Pluto’s history to readers, with a timeline (1930 – Pluto’s a planet! 2006 – Nope, it’s not!) and information on what makes Pluto, Ceres, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea dwarf planets, as opposed to part of the Big Nine. With an upbeat messages about identity, acceptance, and friendship, and adorable artwork, this is a must-add to your planet books. (We sing They Might Be Giants’ “How Many Planets?” planet song – modified to include all the dwarf planets, Haley’s comet, and a few galaxies – at home, after reading this one.)

 

 

The Truth About Dinosaurs, by Guido van Genechten, (Aug. 2018, Clavis Publishing), $18.95, ISBN: 978-1-60537-423-9

Ages 5-10

A chicken walks readers through its family history to prove that they are descended from dinosaurs. Family resemblances include has similar feet and feathers, in addition to that whole egg-hatching business. Presented as a family album, The Truth About Dinosaurs is a fun introduction to dino science for readers, with an accessible illustration of evolution from dinosaur to modern-day birds, and ends with the chicken hatching a rather large dino egg. Guido van Genecthen uses earth tones and his cartoony look to make non-threatening dinosaurs, and the green chicken is an amusing host to the book. The scrapbook features BC dates when showing off the “family photos” throughout history, and each dinosaur’s weight appears on tags that look like amusement part tickets. It’s a cute, additional add for your dino collections.

 

Maximillian Villainous, by Margaret Chiu Greanias/Illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow, (Aug. 2018, Running Press Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780762462971

Ages 5-8

Poor Maximillian Villainous! He’s from a long line of villainous monsters, but he doesn’t have it in him to be mean. He always finds a way to make up for things his family does, like giving Santa Claus the keys to the family car when his father stole Santa’s sleigh, or sending Mother Nature to a spa when his mother stole her powers. But when his family threatens to get rid of his pet bunny – it’s not a suitably villainous sidekick – he promises to succeed at three evil tasks to make things right. He’s got to steal something; make someone cry, and gain fame by being devious. What his family doesn’t realize is how open to interpretation that is! Maximillian Villainous is a sweet story about being true to oneself, accepting who you are – even if that’s different from how those around you think you should be – and the wonderful power of kind acts. The storytelling is light and plays with interpretation, and the artwork reminds me of Richard Scarry’s bold colors and big facial expressions. Pair this one with Mo Willems’ Leonardo the Terrible Monster for some monsters that aren’t really very monstrous.

 

That’s a taste of what August has in store. What books are you excited for?

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books

H is for Haiku and the magic of the small moment

H is for Haiku, by Sydell Rosenberg/Illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi, (Apr. 2018, Penny Candy Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0998799971

Ages 5+

Sydell “Syd” Rosenberg, who lived, wrote, and taught in New York City. Syd passed away in 1996, but her daughter, Amy Losak, made it her mission to see her mother’s work published. H is for Haiku, is a fun, illustrated book containing 26 “small moments” haiku: little slices of daily life. As Ms. Losak notes in her introduction, “Haiku poems make small moments big”.

Reading H is for Haiku took me back to sons’ “small moments” units in elementary school. They and I both struggled with the idea of a small moment; often puzzling over the feedback, “no, smaller”. How could a trip to the grocery store get smaller? H is for Haiku is the book to go to for those moments: a cat dreams; rain water collects in an old watering can, a girl rides a bike downhill. Syd Rosenberg captures the magic in these tiny moments, finding the poetry in the everyday and illuminating them for readers. Sawsan Chalabi’s artwork is a treat, bringing creativity and movement to these magical moments with color and bold fonts.

A library card’s potential, through the eyes of a new reader. I want a print of this for my library!

This is so Queens. I love it. Book samples courtesy of Penny Candy Books.

This is a great way to bring poetry, particularly haiku, to kids. It’s a great way to explain small moment writing to students, too. Consider adding H is for Haiku to your collections, or giving a copy to your poetry readers. To see more of a illustrator Sawsan Chalabi’s work, visit her website; to learn more about Amy Losak and her mother’s haiku, visit the Penny Candy website.

Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Nibbles Does Nonfiction! Nibbles: The Dinosaur Guide!

Nibbles: The Dinosaur Guide, by Emma Yarlett, (March 2018, Kane Miller),  $16.99 ISBN 978-1-61067-643-4

Recommended for readers 4-8

Nibbles the Book Monster is a HUGE celebrity in my home, in my storytime, and now, in my kiddo’s classroom. More on that in a sec. So, Nibbles is a little yellow monster who loves to nibble books. In his first adventure, he nibbled his way through some fairy tales, but he wanted more. Enter Nibbles: The Dinosaur Guide, which combines solid nonfiction dinosaur information, including eras, scientific names (with pronunciation), and fast facts. This is no regular dinosaur book, though: Nibbles is on another adventure, chomping and nom nom-ing his way through the prehistoric era, irritating dinosaurs and spreading mayhem as he goes! Will Nibbles end up on the menu this time?

Nibbles: The Dinosaur Guide is full of the same flips and bite-sized page nibbles that makes the first book so much fun to read. Add to that, the hilarious bodily functions of dinosaurs (did you know that a single diplodocus fart could power a hot air balloon? You do now!) and a laugh-out-loud interaction with a T-Rex, and you have a dino book that kids will come back to again and again.

Now the fun part: I brought Nibbles: The Dinosaur Guide to my son’s kindergarten class for a storytime visit. The kids had a choice of books, and Nibbles got the overwhelming vote, so we got into circle time on the carpet and I read the story. The screaming. The hilarity. It was controlled pandemonium, and I loved every second of it. The best part of the visit was my reading the phrase, “I am the Prince of Parps!” (polite British speak for ‘fart’) and the one Scottish kid in my son’s class burst out laughing; his classmates said, “What’s a parp?”, so I looked at him and nodded. He proudly pronounced, “IT”S A FART!” and the class lost their minds. That, my friends, is how you embrace storytime.

Need more Nibbles in your life? Who doesn’t? Author Emma Yarlett’s webpage has printable activities aplenty. Go make a Nibbles bookmark!

Rocking Nibbles in the classroom