Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

There’s an Anthill for Sale! Wait… maybe.

Anthill for Sale, by Johnny Ray Moore/Illustrated by Zuzana Svobodova, (Nov. 218, Big Belly Book Co.), $10.95, ISBN: 978-1-7325541-1-5

Ages 3-6

This whimsical rhyming tale tells the story of Alvin, an ant, who puts his home up for sale… but has some reservations about the whole thing. We meet a hilarious group of potential buyers, including a stinkbug, a mole, and a centipede, all of whom want to remodel the home in their own fashion. Each one gets a hearty heave-ho from Alvin, who has so many memories much invested in his home, that it’s almost impossible to think of having someone else living there. He and his wife raised their family in that anthill, after all; and entertained countless family and friends there. He finally turns to his wife and says, “This anthill is full of our dreams. They have made us so happy, day in and day out, They have taught us what life really means”.

With bright, bold illustrations and a relaxing cadence to the rhyme, parents will relate to Alvin’s reluctance to sell his longtime home, and kids will understand how memories form who we are. This one is an nice additional purchase to picture book collections. The Not-the-Mama-Dad Blog has a great interview with author Johnny Ray Moore, where he talks about his inspiration for the story.

 
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Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Celebrating Happy Papas!

Happy Papas, by Kathleen T. Pelley/Illustrated by Mariya Prytula, (July 2018, CWLA Press), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1587601682

Ages 3-6

A companion to Happy Mamas (2016), Happy Papas celebrates dads in both the animal and human world, taking readers through a Happy Papas kind of day: as the sun pops up; as the sun sails high; as the clouds and sun play peek-a-boo; as the shadows gather, and finally, as the moon blooms. Otter dads, meerkat dads, tiger dads, and all sorts of human dads celebrate the day-to-day joys of fatherhood as they play, protect, cook for, and cuddle their little ones.

Written in verse, the storytelling moves along at a soothing cadence, with sound effect words like “screech and squawk”, “giggly wiggly”, “wade and wallow”, and “slide and pop”, using both alliteration and rhyme to play with language. There are all kinds of Happy Papas, and all kinds of Happy Babies and Kids. Perfect for storytime, the soft colors and realistic illustrations will attract readers’ attention, and the simple black font lets the artwork take center stage.

This is a sweet tribute to dads, and a lovely read-along with Happy Mamas for a Mom and Dad tandem bedtime reading, or a Family Storytime.

Author Kathleen Pelley has a podcast and literacy resources on her website. You can find more of Mariya Prytula’s watercolor artwork at her website.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Happy Book Birthday to Sleep, My Bunny – new Rosemary Wells!

Sleep, My Bunny, by Rosemary Wells, (Nov. 2018, Candlewick Press), $14.99, ISBN: 9780763692629

Ages 2-7

A delicate lullaby for bedtime, Sleep, My Bunny – originally published in 1977 as “Good Night, Sweet Prince” in Don’t Spill it Again, James – is Rosemary Wells’ newest picture book. A bunny family goes through their bedtime routine as the sun sets and night falls. As the words describe the sounds of the evening: crickets and owls sing together; the wind takes the moon for a ride; the pictures show a young bunny and his parents putting toys away, choosing pajamas, having a bath, and selecting a story before a little song and dance, and then, sleep.

The gentle pastels and mixed media artwork starts bold and bright, as the bright sun shines outside during sunset; gradually, the sky grows darker in each spread – the sky in the depicted window in each scene mirrors the text’s background on the accompanying pages – until a midnight blue brings bedtime to a sleepy Bunny. The family is loving and playful, delighting in one another; everyone’s smiles are wide and they have gentle, loving gazes for each other, making this a wonderful cuddle time book. Endpapers set the mood, with a tinge of sun in the lower left-hand corner of the front endpapers; a midnight blue sky and a hazy crescent moon shine on the back endpapers.

Sleepy, My Bunny is a gentle story for toddlers, preschoolers, and Kindergarteners; early readers can help at bedtime by reading this to a sibling (or pet, or lovey). Another classic from Rosemary Wells.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Up, up, and away with My Bed is an Air Balloon!

My Bed is an Air Balloon, by Julia Copus/Illustrated by Alison Jay, (Oct. 2018, Faber & Faber), $15.95, ISBN: 9780571334841

Ages 3-6

This bedtime story has an entertaining spin: the book has two front covers, and can be read front to back, or back to front. It’s a mirror form poem where two children – a light-skinned boy and a dark-skinned girl go on a bedtime adventure in their beds, which magically transform into hot air balloons that transport them over treetops and hills, spying fantastic animals like flutterrufts, whifflepigs, and floogs. The children meet in the middle – two air balloons that pass in the night? – and the journey resumes on the next spread, as the story continues in reverse with the opposite child.

My Bed is an Air Balloon brings playfulness and joy to bedtime storytime. Alison Jay’s whimsical art creates a fantasy landscape where smiling suns and moons overlook a sea of white, cloudlike dream-shapes; giant beds that become balloons and ships, and boats that look suspiciously like bedtime slippers. There is a wonderfully retro feel to the artwork; a 1920s-type look and feel with round faces, expressive eyes, and long, thin noses with a slight, secret smile.

This one is a cute add to your bedtime story collections, and a nice gift to a parent or caregiver who’s always on the lookout for a bedtime adventure. What better way to send your kids off to dreamland?

(Thanks to illustrator Alison Jay for putting open book shots on her Facebook page!)

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Show kids the excitement of cooking with Kids Cooking!

Kids Cooking: Students Prepare and Eat Foods From Around the World, by George Ancona, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763698768

Ages 4-7

When my son (now a high schooler) was in first grade, his school participated in a great program called CookShop. The teachers ran the program, and we parents volunteered as helpers, and a couple of times a month, kids learned cooking skills: chopping (with plastic knives), mixing, and the math involved in putting together a recipe. I loved it, and he loved the process of creating meals. No, he didn’t eat anything he made (that honor went to me), but working together brought us even closer, and the whole class came together as a group to prepare and share food. I may have enjoyed CookShop more than he did – I still have my apron! – and am glad it’s still a program in NYC schools. When I read Kids Cooking: Students Prepare and Eat Foods From Around the World, I was immediately brought back to that first grade classroom and the warm memories.

Kids Cooking is photographer George Ancona’s venture into classrooms where a similar organization, Cooking with Kids, brings children from diverse backgrounds come together to prepare healthy meals from different cultures. They roast vegetables and prepare a Moroccan sauce called chermoula; make Chinese-American fried rice with sweet and sour cucumbers; work together to cook up an Italian minestrone soup with breadsticks, and learn about different tomatoes that go into making a Mexican salsa with tortillas and tamales. They draw pictures as they go; teachers use a globe to demonstrate where different meals originate, and parents and teachers make sure that everyone’s cooking experience is safe and exciting.

The book presents photos of the kids and grownups at work, along with some of the children’s artwork, and phrases from the cultures whose meals they’ve prepared. It’s a celebration of food, friendship, and different cultures: meals prepared and shared together are the best meals. An author’s note mentions the Cooking With Kids program and the schools that participated in the book.

With the holidays on the horizon, Kids Cooking is a great book to read to kids and get them talking about meals they enjoy at home. A recipe link included in the book didn’t work for me, but the Cooking with Kids website has recipes available: see if your family wants to try a few out!

You can find more of George Ancona’s photos and learn more about his children’s books here.

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 picture books, Preschool Reads

A little post-Halloween fun: Bear’s Scare

Bear’s Scare, by Jacob Grant, (June 2018, Bloomsbury), $16.99, ISBN: 9781681197203

Ages 3-6

Bear keeps a tidy house for himself and his friend, a stuffed bear named Ursa. He loves to clean the house every day, but one day, he notices something: a cobweb! As he searches his home, he notices another web! And another! Convinced he has a spider problem, Bear works himself into a frenzy – the spider is covering the house with webs! It’s making it sticky mess! – and tears his home apart, searching for the spider. The pictures belie what Bear imagines is happening, as we see the spider very politely knitting, painting, and reading a book as Bear turns his house upside down. In his panic to get the messy spider out of his house, Bear traps Ursa’s arm under a chair and tears it off when he pulls her. Stunned into realization, Bear focuses on getting Ursa some first aid, only to discover that the spider has stitched Ursa’s arm together with its own silk. Bear discovers that getting to know someone is a much better way to determine one’s character, and embraces his new friend – who invites some more new friends to visit.

Bear’s Scare is an adorable story about how our own perceptions can get away from us, and the havoc it wreaks. The charcoal and crayon artwork lends a hand-crafted feel to the story, with digital coloring adding a depth of warm color. Bear is a deep navy blue; he stands out against his earth-toned home yellow spider neighbor. Pages are mostly bright white, with the artwork standing out against the background, with some full bleed spreads, usually for a more dramatic moment. The plain black font lets the artwork tell the full story while the text is there to let the storyteller be as tongue-in-cheek as they want to be.

Bear’s Scare is adorable fun with a smart message about friendship and judging others on appearances. It’s a nice add to picture book collections where kids enjoy a little wink, wink, nudge, nudge humor.

See more of Jacob Grant’s artwork and information about his books at his website.