Posted in Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads

Monsters and Mermaids bring fantasy fun!

Two fun picture books are coming up in August and September! If you’re looking for books for your late Summer/early Fall shopping carts, give these a spin.

Alfred’s Book of Monsters, by Sam Streed, (Aug. 2019, Charlesbridge), $15.99, ISBN: 9781580898331

Ages 5-8

Alfred is a little boy who loves monsters, not boring old tea times. Aunty thinks monsters are dreadful, and constantly interrupts Alfred’s precious reading time by calling him to tea. Alfred decides to invite the monsters he reads about: the Nixie, the Black Shuck, and the Lantern Man, to tea time; when they take him up on the invitation, they have a fabulously terrible time! Poor Aunty never knew what hit her.

This is the picture book for the kids who enjoy a good, morbidly amusing story. Have Neil Gaiman or Lemony Snicket fans? Do you have storytime kids who giggle time and again at I Want My Hat Back? Do you just want a fun Halloween read in your back pocket? This is the book for you and your readers. Baby goths and kids who love monsters will get a kick out of this story, which has a lovely Victorian vibe going for it, with bold, black lines and brown and black artwork, occasionally punched up with washed out greens, pinks, yellows, and blues for effect. The story alternates between Alfred’s monster stories and tea time, letting you switch voices back and forth to get your readers squealing with monstrous delight. The artwork was created by scanning and combining old paper, ink splotches, and spooky sketches, and was influenced by antique books and Victoriana; the endpapers sport a dark brownish-red rose wallpaper with framed photos of Aunty, Alfred, and an assortment of pets, people, and tea sets.

Less spooky than humorous, this is a fun book for storytime. Make some puppets and bring your own monsters to tea!

 

Five Little Mermaids, by Sunny Scribens/Illustrated by Barbara Vagnozzi, (Sept. 2019, Barefoot Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781782858317

Ages 3-7

This adorably rhyming story is an underwater take on the popular counting tale. A multicultural group of five little mermaids decide to go swimming to “see what they could see”, each of them leaving the group when they meet with various turtles, penguins, giant squid, and jellyfish. Together, the group travels through the world’s oceans, then comes together back home to talk about what they’ve seen. It’s a soothing, familiar rhyme scheme with cheery, bright art that uses vivid colors and brings readers through a lovely underwater world. Back matter includes spreads on the world’s oceans and their properties; notes about mermaid legends from different cultures (Greece, Japan, Central America, New Zealand, and West, Central and Southern Africa); marine life that appears in the book, and finally, sheet music for the song. There will be a CD and downloadable copy available, read by jazz vocalist Audra Mariel.

Barefoot Books always puts a great message out there in such a fun way. The mermaids play alongside their ocean friends and come from all around the world. The back matter provides interesting mermaid and ocean information using a one world, many cultures approach, taking myth examples from cultures including African, Asian, and Central American.

If you want to explore some videos from Barefoot Books, their YouTube channel is a good place to start. I find some of their mindful and diverse kidlit videos good professional development, and I’m sure Five Little Mermaids will have a book trailer up as the release date gets closer.

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Posted in Animal Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Picture Book Roundup: Cats and Dogs, Bears, Birds, and Dinosaurs!

I’m still going through my BookExpo bags (okay, I’ve moved them from one area of my room to another), but in the meantime, I’ve got picture books to talk about! Some are available, some are up-and-coming, all are a pleasure to read. Let’s take a look at what’s good!

SumoKitty, by David Biedrzycki, (Aug. 2019, Charlesbridge), $18.99, ISBN: 9781580896825

Ages 5-9

A stray cat hangs around a sumo training center, hoping for some food. He’s about to be thrown out by the manager when one of the sumo shrieks: a mouse! Looks like the kitty has a new job and a new home, which he quickly becomes accustomed to. But the good life makes him lose his edge: he’s gained weight and the mice come back with a vengeance. Tossed back out into nature, Kumo, a kind sumo, lets the cat back in, but levels with him: the mice have humbled the cat like the sumo’s main opponent, the yokozuna, has humbled him. From there, SumoKitty starts a faithful training routine, inspired by Kuna’s disciplined regiment. When a mouse dares show up in the dojo next time, SumoKitty is there, pushing and tossing the mouse and his friends around until they clear out for good. He’s rewarded by not only being welcomed back to the dojo, but he’s given a sweet topknot haircut, too. He also gets a front row seat at the next sumo tournament, where he watches his friend Kumo face his own demons and takes on his longtime opponent.

A sweet story about overcoming challenges, SumoKitty is loaded with Japanese sumo terms and wise observations like “Fall down seven times; get up eight” and “Even monkeys fall from trees”. Adorable SumoKitty is cartoonish with large, expressive eyes and exaggerated facial expressions, while the sumo artwork appears inspired by Japanese woodblock paintings. The black and white endpapers give readers a before-and-after glimpse into the story, with a mouse running in a Zen garden as someone maintains the area; later, SumoKitty is fast asleep on a rock in the same Zen garden, no maintainer, and no mouse present. It’s a sweet peek into sumo culture and an all-around fun read. Jon J. Muth’s Zen Shorts, Zen Ties, and Zen Happiness are nice readalikes to SumoKitty; for a good giggle and a more madcap take on sumo, you can’t go wrong with David Wisniewski’s Sumo Mouse, which has been a favorite in my home since my eldest (now 20) was in Kindergarten and continues to be required reading with my first grader.

 

Hey, Dog, by Tony Johnson/Illustrated by Jonathan Nelson, (June 2019, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580898775

Ages 4-8

A boy finds a dog hiding in a bush. The dog is afraid, runs, but the boy returns, time and again, to care for the dog, leaving him food, water, even an umbrella propped up to cover him in the rain. The boy confides in his mother that the dog is skinny and has scars; he refuses to give up on Dog, determined if not to earn his trust, then to care for him.

Hey, Dog crushed me. It’s just gorgeous writing that packs an emotional punch. The boy’s relationship with his mother, who is nervous – her son is trying to care for a strange dog that could very well bite him, right? – but supports her empathetic child, helping him in any way she can and the boy’s quiet resilience in the face of Dog’s fear and mistrust will make you have hope for people after all. The boy is written so wonderfully, whether he’s asking a shopkeeper if his dog food “is the most luscious” or when he drops to his knees, tears “warming his face”, as he tries to comprehend how anyone could have it in them to hurt an animal. Dog is illustrated to provoke another emotional gut punch; his cringing and reticence come through so viscerally, it’ll bring tears to your eyes. Seeing this poor pup, single paw raised, ribs poking through his coat, and trusting once more to lick the boy’s hand make this story a powerful, must-have book for you collection. Read this, hand this to kids, talk about the need for empathy in our world.

 

 

Bear’s Book, by Claire Freedman/Illustrated by Alison Friend, (May 2019, Templar Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536205718

Ages 4-8

Bear loves to read, but his favorite book of stories has been read to bits! He decides to create his own story, but holy writer’s block, he can’t think of anything! He decides to go for a stroll and see if inspiration hits, and meets several friends along the way. When he returns home and goes over his day, he realizes that the best inspiration comes from one’s own adventures!

This is an adorable story of inspiration and friendship, and fits nicely with Small Moments writing prompts. Bear’s adventure is a series of small moments, pulled together to create a lovely adventure. He’s inspired by his friends, and they have all enjoyed their friend’s company for a day. A fold-out spread publishes Bear’s story for his friends – and our – enjoyment. Mixed media illustrations are gently rendered with soft earth tones.  This one is a sweet storytime pick, and good inspiration for a Summer Reading creative writing program.

 

 

My Name Isn’t Oof!: Warren the Warbler Takes Flight, by Michael Galligan/Illustrated by Jeremiah Tramell, (May 2019, Little Bigfoot), $17.99, ISBN: 9781632171931

Ages 4-8

A little bird tries to fly after watching his siblings take off, but he falls, landing with a giant, “Oof!” Naturally, every animal in the forest has an opinion, and to add insult to injury, they all call him “Oof”! The chipmunk says he forgot to jump; the Mouse says he needs to spread his wings; Squirrel says he has to flap. While they all have feedback aplenty on Warren’s flying prowess, they manage to bonk, push, and trip one another up, but Warren – who keeps protesting this new nickname – finally takes to the sky, to everyone’s cheering!

A cute story of perseverance with some hilarious physical comedy, My Name Isn’t Oof! will have younger readers giggling during a read-aloud, especially if you move around and act out the story. The repeated phrase, “My name isn’t Oof!” is a good discussion point to get kids talking about how unwanted nicknames can stick; you can also point out that while all the animals jump to find fault with Warren’s first flight, they’re just as clumsy as he is: no one is perfect! Back matter includes a paragraph on the Townsend Warbler, the kind of bird our star Warren is, and what readers can do if they find a baby bird fallen from a nest. Suggest Charlie Alder’s Daredevil Duck as a readalike for more humorous stories of overcoming obstacles.

 

 

How To Take Care of Your Dinosaur, by Jason Cockcroft, (May 2019, Nosy Crow), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536205688

Ages 3-6

Taking care of your very own dinosaur is a very big job! How to Take Care of Your Dinosaur is here to help. Written similar to a handy-dandy manual, the book takes a look at some of the more light-hearted moments in pet parenting a dinosaur. Taking your dino for a walk? Bring a bucket and a shovel, there’s no pooper scooper that’s built for this job. Dinos can be a little tough on sharing, so make sure to get them around new people and encourage them to make friends! The book stresses the importance of routine when caring for your dinosaur; something parents and caregivers will appreciate!

Digital illustrations are adorable and feature soft colors. The endpapers add to the fun: the front endpapers show a mailman struggling under the weight of a gigantic package (the egg); the back endpapers show a brick wall, papered with “Dino Sale” flyers, and feature the poor mailman laboring with two giant packages this time.

A fun storytime addition. Pair with Dragons Get Colds, Too for a fun, wacky pet-related storytime.

 

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Unicorn Day: All are welcome!

Unicorn Day, by Diana Murray/Illustrated by Luke Flowers, (June 2019, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492667223

Ages 3-7

It’s Unicorn Day! All the unicorns come out to play and show their unicorn pride; they shine up their horns, they fluff up their manes, and they sing the Unicorn Day song as they dance and celebrate. But what happens when a horse tries to fit in with a fake horn on Unicorn Day? Why, the unicorns embrace him and get back to celebrating! Unicorn Day is for everyone!

Sliding down rainbows? Raining cupcakes? A glitter fight? This is the best book ever! Unicorn Day is an adorable tale of fun, celebration, and inclusivity. No mean unicorns here! These unicorns know how to have fun and want everyone around them to feel as happy and loved as they do. The rhyming text has a festive feel, and Luke Flowers’ colorful, vibrant art will get your little readers up and marching. Alligators, octopus, even a yeti parade across the page, all sporting unicorn horns and megawatt smiles. I love the joyful feel of the story, and the positive message about making space for everyone. Author Diana Murray has a free, downloadable activity kit available that has everything you need for your own unicorn party, including tasty recipes, a pin-the-horn on the unicorn game, invitations, and name tags. This Craftiness is Not Optional post also has a cute step-by-step to make your own glittery unicorn horns using scrapbooking paper. Want to make unicorn balloons? Here’s a template from the Minidrops blog; the post is in German, but the pictures are there to guide you.

Slip this into your Pride storytimes, your unicorn storytimes, and your anytime storytimes. It’s feel-good storytelling, and a must-have for your collections!

Seriously, though, check out Diana Murray’s author website. I’ve been a fan for several years now; she’s got goodies attached to most of her book pages, and her books are consistently wonderful. Follow Luke Flowers on Instagram to see more of his adorable artwork, and because he’s a great guy who personalizes books at his signings. (My 7-year-old is still thrilled with his ‘Be T-Rexcellent’ message and drawing on his copy of One More Dino on the Floor.)

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Get ready for summer with Rosie the Dragon, her friend, Charlie, and a giveaway!

Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Make Waves, by Lauren H. Kerstein/Illustrated by Nate Wragg, (June 2019, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1542042925

Ages 4-8

A boy and his dragon have fun and practice pool safety at a local pool. Charlie is a boy of color who has a pet dragon named Rosie. They’ve stayed up all night, preparing for this (Rosie’s last pool outing didn’t turn out so well), and they’re ready. They arrive at the pool, read the rules, and get in the pool, but it’s still tough for Rosie! Dragons aren’t great at sharing, and fingers tend to look really tasty to a hungry dragon. Finally, the two start having fun, blowing bubbles, giving rides around the pool to the other kids, and swimming across the pool. Rosie even manages a cannonball before Charlie realizes that she’s eaten the very snack that gives her wicked dragon breath: Oh No! Clear the pool!

How cute is this story about pool safety? Rosie is remarkably similar to toddlers and preschoolers that I know, between her fear of the water and reluctance to share. Kids will see themselves in this story, either as Rosie or Charlie, and there are great, teachable moments about being safe around the water. Reading the rules is a great way to help kids gain awareness of being safe at the pool, for starters, and reminding kids that running at the pool is a great way to get hurt or hurt someone else. Silly moments like the bubble blowing, flutter kicks that cause a tidal wave, and – reminiscent of Dragons Love Tacos – the skunk candy that brings on wicked dragon’s breath just make this an absolutely hilarious, light summer read-aloud. Nate Wragg’s digital artwork is bright, colorful, and adorable, with a big, friendly-faced, red dragon and her human friend and foil. The bold font makes this an easy read-aloud, and the kids I read it to at my Saturday storytime fell in love with Rosie and her antics. Have a dragon puppet? Put it on let Rosie come to life for the kids. A fun book for a summer circle time!

Want a chance to win your own copy of Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Make Waves? Try your luck with this Rafflecopter giveaway!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Happy National Hug Your Cat Day! Celebrate with Max Attacks and a Giveaway!

Max Attacks, by Kathi Appelt/Illustrated by Penelope Dullaghan, (June 2019, Atheneum), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481451468

Ages 3-8

Max is a cat. A cat who attacks. No, he’s not a mean cat, he’s just a cat cat. If you’re a cat person, you know that look: the ears go flat, the backside wiggles, and the cat is off, attacking its prey, usually a random piece of plastic, small plush toy, or – in my case – a rogue Lego. In Max Attacks, Max is an adorable blue striped cat who attempts to trounce and pounce on the fishbowl, but is sidetracked by foes like window screens, catnip toys, laundry, and a shoelace (still attached to the person’s shoe). But when Max finally turns his undivided attention to the fishbowl, is he in for a wet surprise?

Max Attacks is absolutely adorable. The rhyming text gives a playful feel to the story and makes for a fun, boisterous readaloud. I read this to my Saturday storytime group and they loved it! Penelope Dullaghan’s acrylic, charcoal, and digital illustrations are bright and add a hand-drawn touch to each spread. She’s got the cat’s reactions down perfectly, from the loping run to the I-meant-to-do-that reaction when a leap goes horribly awry. The white background lets the brightly-colored characters take charge of the story, and the bold, black text has different colored words for emphasis, letting a reader change voice to create asides or pitch.

This is an adorable must-read for your storytimes and for your cat fans. Max Attacks is out on June 11th, but feel free to hug your cat and read to them today.

 

Want a shot at your own copy of Max Attacks? (U.S. addresses only, please!) One lucky reader will receive a copy of Max Attacks, courtesy of Atheneum; just visit this Rafflecopter giveaway!

Kathi Appelt is the New York Times best-selling author of more than forty books for children and young adults. Her first novel, The Underneath, was a National Book Award Finalist and a Newbery Honor Book. It also received the PEN USA Award. Her other novels include Angel Thieves, for young adults, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, a National Book Award finalist, and Maybe a Fox, one of the Bank Street Books Best Children’s Books of the Year. In addition to writing, Ms. Appelt is on the faculty in the Masters of Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in College Station, Texas. To learn more, and to find curriculum materials and activity pages, visit her website at kathiappelt.com!

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Can friendship can make Spiky less prickly?

Spiky, by Ilaria Guarducci/Translated by Laura Watkinson, (June 2019, Amazon Crossing Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542040433

Ages 4-8

Spiky is one of the new books from Amazon’s new imprint, Amazon Crossing Kids, publishing children’s books in translation. Originally published in Italian, Spiky tells the story of a rather prickly fellow named Spiky. He’s brown and covered with spikes, and he’s a big bully. His spikes keep everyone around him at arm’s length, and he just revels in being mean; he pulls the wings off butterflies, he puts birds in glass jars, and he pokes holes in snail shells, all for the sake of being mean. But one day, his spikes start falling out. Before he knows it, Spiky is now a big, pink, spikeless marshmallow who isn’t scary at all. How the tables have turned! Bernardo, a kind bunny, befriends Spiky and shows him how nice it is to be surrounded by friends, especially when there are no spikes to stand between them. Eventually, Spiky’s spikes come back and he begins to re-embrace the Bad Side, but his heart just isn’t in it anymore. Bernardo still sees his friend under all those spikes, and that kind gesture is all Spiky needs to realize that feeling good is pretty darn awesome.

Spiky is a sweet story about a bully who changes his ways and the difference having one good friend can make. Spiky is raised to be mean – the story even notes that his father sends him to “the best school for badness in the whole country” – giving readers a heads-up, particularly us grown-ups, that children learn what they live. Raised and encouraged to be mean, Spiky’s badness runs unchecked until he finds himself in a vulnerable position. From here, Bernardo the bunny comes in and nudges the story into a sweet one of redemption and friendship, leading Spiky down a very different, upbeat path by showing him kindness.

A cute story for storytime, and offers some good moments for discussion with preschoolers to second graders. Ilaria Guarducci’s Facebook page also offers some adorable Spiky artwork that you can have your kiddos easily create: get some brown (and pink) construction paper, a box of toothpicks, some glue, and voila!

See more of Ilaria Guarducci’s artwork at her blog.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Two back-to-school titles to ease kids into a new school year

I know, I know, the kids aren’t even out of school yet, and I’m talking about back-to-school books. Don’t yell at me! I received some adorable books from Charlesbridge, and thought, what better way to get rising preschoolers and kindergarteners ready for school? When my youngest was getting ready to start Pre-K, and later, Kindergarten, we read books about starting school throughout the summer, to introduce the ideas of classroom setup, recess, and learning time (as opposed to running around and playing all the time) to him. By the time school started, he had more of an idea of what to expect, and I felt better about dropping him off those first few days (look, I still cried, I’m not made of stone).

Anyway, if you’re developing your collections for back-to-school or want to have books handy to get your own kiddos excited about school over the next couple of months, jump in and check these two titles out.

Clothesline Clues to the First Day of School, by Kathryn Heling & Deborah Hembrook/Illustrated by Andy Robert Davies, (June 2019, Charlesbridge), $14.99, ISBN: 9781580898249

Ages 3-6

This is the third Clothesline Clues book from Kathryn Heling, Deborah Hembrook, and Andy Robert Davies, and I’m thrilled that they’re introducing kids to the different people they’ll meet in a school setting. The Clothesline Clues books are popular at my library; Clothesline Clues to the Jobs People Do is especially popular for the local schools’ community helpers unit.

The rhyming story greets readers by drawing them in and letting them know that people are looking forward to meeting them on the first day of school: “High on the clotheslines/hang clue after clue/It’s the first day of school!/Who wants to meet you?” Spreads alternate between clotheslines for different people the kids will meet at school, inviting readers to guess “who wants to meet you?”, and the clothes belonging to that person, illustrated and performing their job. The crossing guard’s clothesline has a cloat, reflective vest, gloves, and hat; she’s revealed on the next spread, allowing a child and her grownup to cross the street. Teachers, cafeteria cooks, custodians, and classmates all have their clothes out on the line, waiting for the big first day of school. The characters are diverse, making this a book that welcomes all readers to a new school year. The text creates a real sense of anticipation, encouraging kids to wonder who’s waiting to meet them when they start school.

Another good Clothesline Clues book that I’ll be adding to my Back to School storytime in August. Get this one on your shelves now, so it’s there when kids and families need it.

Lola Goes to School, by Anna McQuinn/Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw, (June 2019, Charlesbridge), $15.99, ISBN: 9781580899383

Ages 3-7

One of our favorite readers, Lola (Lula, in the UK), is starting school! I feel so invested in Lola; I’ve been reading Anna McQuinn’s Lola books since my high schooler was a preschooler, and she’s been a cornerstone of countless class visit readalouds. Lola is excited about starting school; she and her family set out her schoolbag and clothes the night before, and Lola brings her stuffed cat, Dinah, for moral support. In the morning, Lola’s mom takes that first day photo, and she’s off! She meets a new friend, Julia – another book fan – and has a great first day, filled with play, snacks, and circle time. Mommy picks Lola up after her big first day, and falls right to sleep: “School is fun… but exhausting!”

Lola Goes to School is a sweet look at a first day in preschool; Lola and her family develop a routine and have familiarized Lola with the school through previous visits, so she knows what to expect. The day is mixed with play, learning, and rest, and at the end of the school day, Mom’s there to take Lola home. Lola has been growing up through her books, creating a relationship with readers that will take them from toddlerhood through preschool and kindergarten. Sentences are short, easily readable for stronger, emerging readers and perfect for storytime reading. Lola’s colorful outfit pattern also repeats itself on the endpapers. Lola is a child of color, and her classmates are a diverse group of children.

Originally published in the UK, Lola (Lulu) is just as popular here as she is over on the other side of the pond. How do you not add a Lola book to your collections? You don’t. Add Lola Goes to School to your shelves, your Back To School storytimes, and buy an extra copy or two if your budget permits; your local teachers may be stopping in to pick up books for their Welcome To School storytimes.