Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads, Tween Reads

Book List for Beginning Activists

It’s getting harder and harder, waking up to the world we’re living in today. Some of our best defenses are, and will always be, empathy and information. I was inspired to create my own list of books to cultivate young activists by CuriousCity’s Books for All of Us post; I hope these books inspire you, too. Remember what J.R.R. Tolkien told us: even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

 

A is for Activist, by Innosanto Nagara, (Nov. 2013, Triangle Square), $9.40, ISBN: 978-1609805395

Available in board book or hardcover, A is for Activist is a rhyming abcedary of activism. The book introduces little ones to ideas like Co-Op, Equal Rights, Grassroots, Indigenous, and Justice. Best for pre-k and up in terms of grasping the concepts, but it’s never too early to get an ABC book in front of the little ones. The illustrations are loaded with new things to find with each reading.

 

Change the World Before Bedtime, a collaboration by Mark Kimball Moulton, Josh Chalmers, and Karen Good (Schiffer Publishing, 2012). $16.99, ISBN: 978-0764342387

One of my storytime constants, Change the World Before Bedtime is loaded with ways for kids to make positive changes in their world, from eating locally to visiting a sick friend, to donating money from a lemonade stand to a good cause. It’s another rhyming text, with homespun, cozy artwork that immediately evokes the warm fuzzies.

 

Say Hello!, by Rachel Isadora, (Apr. 2010, GP Putnam), $14.95, ISBN: 978-0399252303

Everyday activism! Carmelita is a little girl going to visit her abuela. As she walks through her neighborhood, she and her neighbors greet one another in their native languages: “Buenos días!”, “Konichiwa!”, “Shalom!”, and other joyful salutations embrace the multicultural world in which we live. Say Hello! will have kids sharing their own greetings with one another.

 

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade, by Justin Roberts/Illustrated by Christian Robinson, (Sept. 2014, GP Putnam), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0399257438

Little Sally McCabe may be the smallest girl in the smallest grade, but she’s making big things happen when she decides to speak up when she sees bullying at the playground. This rhyming story lets kids of all sizes know that we can all make a difference.

 

Letters to a Prisoner, by Jacques Goldstyn, (Sept. 2017, OwlKids Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781771472517

This wordless picture book is inspired by human rights organization Amnesty International’s letter writing campaigns. A man is arrested during a peaceful protests and languishes in jail. A cruel guard burns letters that would sustain the man, inspiring more letter writers to come together and create a winged army of written support that overwhelms the guard and lifts the prisoner up and away. The book illustrates the power of the written word to sustain as well as to take a stand.

 

A Good Day for Climbing Trees, by Jaco Jacobs, Translated from Afrikaans by Kobus Geldenhuys/Illustrated by Jim Tierney, (Apr. 2018, One World Publications), $11.99, ISBN: 978-1-78607-317-4

Middle graders have more of a grasp on the world around them, can take action in different ways. Marnus, the 13-year-old protagonist in A Good Day for Climbing Trees, and a friend take action to save a local tree from demolition by petitioning and holding a sit-in, which alerts others to their cause. Readers get a more involved view of activism, and some potential results, here.

 

This is just a small handful of the growing number of books out there.  I encourage you all to read these books, read them to your kids, and add them to your collections.

 

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Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Hazy Dell Press makes monsters fun for readers!

Last year at BookExpo, I saw a table with board books like, “Goodnight Krampus” and “Get Dressed, Sasquatch!” and I immediately ran over. I’m the mom that buys Cthulhu board books for my kid, so this spoke to me. The guy at the table was great, gave me a bunch of stickers, and I went happily on my way. (My kid quickly snagged and stuck the stickers all over his closet. So much for decorating my laptop.) A year later, I saw the board books up on Edelweiss for review, and yelped, quickly hitting “request”. My little guy was thrilled that he got read the books that matched the stickers on his closet, and the best news of all: the books are as much fun on the inside as they are on the outside. Check ’em out.

Get Dressed, Sasquatch!, by Kyle Syllivan/Illustrated by Derek Sullivan,
(Sept. 2018, Hazy Dell Press), $13.95, ISBN: 9780996578738
Ages 1-5

Sasquatch loves running around without his clothes on – he’s a Sasquatch, it’s what they do! But the exasperated park ranger wants him to put on some pants. This hilarious rhyming tale is all about getting Sasquatch to try on some clothes and find something that works for him… or maybe, just letting go and taking advantage of the moment! There’s fun, kid-friendly art, a friendly neighborhood Sasquatch and a good-natured bear, and a park ranger who learns to loosen up with the rules once in a while.

 

Don’t Eat Me, Chupacabra! / ¡No Me Comas, Chupacabra!, by Kyle Syllivan/Illustrated by Derek Sullivan,
(Sept. 2018, Hazy Dell Press), $13.95, ISBN: 9780996578776
Ages 1-5

A little chupacabra has a hankering for goat in this bilingual story about picky eaters. He nips a goat, who tries to expand the little monster’s palate, introducing him to other food options like fruits, flowers, fish, or bugs, but Little Chupa isn’t having any of it. Luckily for the goat, Abuela is home and she always knows what to do! Set in Puerto Rico, the book offers Spanish and English vocabulary, and a nice lesson about finding new strategies for picky eaters. If food allergies aren’t an issue, bring some plantain chips to introduce to the readers at storytime.

 

Goodnight Krampus, by Kyle Syllivan/Illustrated by Derek Sullivan,
(Sept. 2018, Hazy Dell Press), $13.95, ISBN: 9780996578776
Ages 1-5

Santa’s getting ready to go on his Christmas Eve ride, but little Krampus is WAY too keyed up to go to sleep! This rhyming tale stars Santa Claus, trying to talk the Krampus into bedtime – something every parent and caregiver is familiar with, right? Krampus is riding toy trains, he’s banging drums, he’s psyched. But Santa breaks it down for him: if he can’t go to bed, Santa can’t deliver toys. Krampus immediately discovers that he’s exhausted after all, and Christmas Eve can continue! Absolute fun for Christmas reading or anytime reading, and gives us a mischievous but sweeter Krampus than the traditional German one.

 

Monster ABC, by Kyle Syllivan/Illustrated by Derek Sullivan,
(Sept. 2018, Hazy Dell Press), $13.95, ISBN: 9780996578707
Ages 1-5

Don’t trust appearances – that’s the first thing kids will learn with this rhyming abcedary, which tells kids, “Some monsters seem spooky when seen at first glance, but who knows if they’re scary if we don’t give them a chance?” Good life advice! The next 26 pages are dedicated to different monsters and their fun descriptions: “G is is for Ghost, who gave us a start; H is for Hobgobin, who smells like a fart” (guess what spread my kid’s favorite is?). Banshee, Krampus, Chupacabra, and Sasquatch are all in here, which makes me hope that the other featured monsters are in the pipeline for their own adventures. (I will buy a Quezsalcoatl board book YESTERDAY if you offer it, Hazy Press!) Kudos for introducing me to a new one, too: I had to look up Xingtian after we discovered him in the book.

 

Hush Now, Banshee!, by Kyle Syllivan/Illustrated by Derek Sullivan,
(Sept. 2018, Hazy Dell Press), $13.95, ISBN: 9780996578752
Ages 1-5

Another rhyming tale, this one, on manners! Banshee is a shrieking little demon who wants friends to play with her, but she’s so loud that she startles everyone! The story counts the monsters that Banshee encounters on her way through the Irish landscape: one Banshee, two ghosts, three hobgoblins… you get the idea. Sad Banshee wonders why no one is around for her to play with, until her friends have a polite intervention, telling her that she’s got to respect their quiet time, and teach her to count down from ten to one. It’s a nice read-aloud for teaching kids to be patient, and respectful of other people’s space. And the nine meditating druids are my absolute favorite (nudge nudge, Hazy Press).

The digital artwork in each of these books is super kid-friendly, eye-catching, and just fun to read. I’m in love with this set! Check out Hazy Press’ website, where you can sign up for a newsletter, read their blog, and download some free activity sheets. Give to your C is for Cthulhu, Sweet Dreams Cthulhu, and Mummy’s Always Right-loving parents and kids, and if you don’t have ’em in your library… consider it. Seriously, they’re too much fun.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Baby Loves Science – big ideas for little ones

I’m all for introducing science in all its wonderful forms to kids as early as possible, and all about introducing new vocabulary to kids, so science and math don’t scare them as they get bigger. I haven’t read any of the Baby Loves… Science! series by Ruth Spiro and illustrated by Irene Chan, so I started with the two newest books, Baby Loves Gravity! and Baby Loves Coding!

Baby Loves Gravity, by Ruth Spiro/Illustrated by Irene Chan, (June 2018, Charlesbridge), $8.99, ISBN: 9781580898362

Baby drops a noodle, and Puppy gobbles it up. How does that noodle fall? Gravity! Simple enough concept to explain to a toddler, and that’s how Baby Loves Gravity! starts out: simple and relatable. From there, we get a clear explanation of matter, mass, and gravity, and how it works on the sun, moon, and earth’s pull on us here. It’s clear and nicely illustrated, but this is a lot of information, even for toddlers, no matter how simply it’s phrased. I liked the illustrations, was pleased to see a child of color as the star of the show, but would read the beginning and ending, where baby slides down a slide, illustrating gravity, for a toddler STEAM or science storytime. I would rather test this out in a Kindergarten-level science storytime. The board book format makes for easy holding, and the illustrations are large, bright, and easily seen by a circle time group of kids. I could work with a group of kindergarteners, even pre-kindergarteners, in a science workshop using this as a companion text.

 

Baby Loves Coding!, by Ruth Spiro/Illustrated by Irene Chan, (June 2018, Charlesbridge), $8.99, ISBN: 9781580898843

Baby’s playing choo-choo, and wants to add a red car to his train. Let’s follow him as he walks over! Baby Loves Coding features a child of cover on the cover, and is an adorably illustrated, clearly laid out way to introduce coding to kids, but this is also way above a little one’s head. The first few spreads, explaining how baby walks to the toy box, are great – you can get kids up and moving along with you on this one – but the text launches into an explanation of algorithms, programmers, and reading code, and this is just going to lose little ones. The pictures do all the work here, illustrating, with colorful interlocking blocks, how code fits together, like the cars of a train. I do love the explanations and the artwork, and the idea of getting kids up and moving works with CS Unplugged activities I’ve done in my library. I’ve used Code.org’s curriculum; CS Unplugged also has some great lesson plans and printables.

My advice? Use these with your pre-k and Kindergarten science storytimes. They’re great books for the right age.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Doesn’t matter what you think you see, Lulu is a Rhinoceros.

Lulu is a Rhinoceros, by Jason Flom & Allison Flom/Illustrated by Sophie Corrigan, (June 2018, Wicked Cow Studios), $16.99, ISBN: 9780692070987

Ages 4-7

Lulu may look like an bulldog to you and me, but when she looks in the mirror, she sees a rhinoceros. In her heart, her fluffy, soft fur is really thick skin, and her nubby little tail is actually whiplike. The only thing she needs is a horn: then everyone will know she’s really a rhino! But as she searches for her horn, others laugh at her and cruelly mock her; her Cinderella-like search for the perfect horn takes a few sweet, giggle-worthy turns, especially at the ice cream cart. When Lulu wanders into a rhino enclosure at a zoo, she meets a friend who uses common sense to see her for who she is, and they come together to form a mutually beneficial, wonderful, friendship.

This sweet story is perfect for everyone: in addition to addressing gender identity, Lulu speaks to readers who don’t feel like they quite fit in; readers who don’t want to go with the crowd. The message is strong: be true to yourself. It also extols the virtue of finding – or being – that one friend who can see through the exterior to who you are inside. The softly drawn artwork has muted colors, bringing a sense of calm to the story and allows readers to focus on Lulu’s internal dialogue. The story addresses social issues like introspection, friendship, social issues, tolerance, and yes, gender identity, and I love it. A portion of all the proceeds from sales of Lulu is a Rhinoceros are being donated to the African Wildlife Foundation to help protect Africa’s endangered wildlife and their habitat, so you’re doing two good deeds by buying the book! There’s an interview with authors Jason and Allison Flom (with real-life Lulu!) on the African Wildlife Foundation’s webpage. Pair this one with Bow-Wow Meow, by Blanca Lacasa.

Posted in Preschool Reads

A mother’s last love letter: A Bubble, by Geneviève Castrée

A Bubble, by Geneviève Castrée, (June 2018, Drawn & Quarterly), $12.95, ISBN: 9781770463219

Ages 4+

Artist and musician Geneviève Castrée passed away in 2016 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. This last project, a board book for her 2-year-old daughter, is at once a celebration of parental love and a comfort to anyone moving through grief and loss. Maman loves her daughter, but has been encased in a bubble since before the little girl can remember. She and her mother spend time in the bubble, eating together, playing together, and napping together; when daughter goes out exploring with Papa, she comes back to share what she’s done and seen with Maman, who cannot leave her bubble. As the story unfolds, we see the family’s activities change as Maman’s illness progresses; the story ends with hugs, kisses, and going for ice cream: a last, loving moment between mother and daughter.

The Bubble is simple and exquisite. I ache reading every page of this brief book and the final note from Castrée’s singer-songwriter husband, Phil Elverum. The artwork is focused on Castrée and her daughter; their loving relationship, the bubble, and the intrusion of the outside world. Narrated by the child, each page has 1-3 sentences, describing her relationship with her mother. It’s a comfort to children coping with loss and a testament to the everlasting love between a parent and child. I’ve read this book at least 5 times now, each time with a lump in my throat and an ache in my chest. It’s beautiful, and a good book to give to children – and parents – dealing with grief.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Not Yet, Zebra! is a study in the alphabet and patience

Not Yet, Zebra!, by Lou Kuenzler/Illustrated by Julia Woolf, (June 2018, Faber & Faber), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0-571-34288-4

Recommended for readers 3-5

Little Annie wants to paint the alphabet, so her animal friends line up in alphabetical order. Except for Zebra, whose impatience results in adorable hijinks. This sweet rhyming alphabet story wanders through animal ABCs: aardvarks and bears, elephants and flamingos, gorillas and hamsters; Zebra pops up throughout the story, trying to pass for an earlier letter in the alphabet by donning animal disguises. When Annie finally gets to Z, poor Zebra is fast asleep! Well… tomorrow is another day, right, Zebra?

This is an adorable abecedary for preschoolers and kindergarteners, who will relate to the impatience of having to wait one’s turn. Zebra gives the saddest eyes, the nudgiest nudges, and the most creative disguises, all in an attempt to wheedle his way to the front of the line, but Annie catches our wily friend every time. This one’s fun to read aloud, and would make a great companion to my other favorite impatient friend, The Pigeon.

The endpapers feature our Zebra friend, contorting himself into all the letters in the alphabet, and the artwork is colorful and cartoony, nicely set against the subdued background pages. I’m always up for a good concept book for my collection; something that gets the ideas covered, but with a little fun; something that brings some personality to the narrative. Not Yet, Zebra brings the giggles, for sure.

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