Mom Read It

If the kids are reading it, chances are I have, too.

A mirror unites a boy’s homes in The Mirror in Mommy’s House/The Mirror in Daddy’s House March 21, 2017

The Mirror in Mommy’s House/The Mirror in Daddy’s House, by Luis Amavisca/Illustrated by Betanía Zacarías, (Apr 2016, nubeOCHO), $15.95, ISBN: 978-84-945415-5-1

Recommended for readers 4-8

A child talks about growing up in a home in the midst of a marital breakup, and how a mirror provided an escape into a wonderful land with no arguing parents. Now that the child lives in two houses, things are much better. Mom and Dad are happier, and so is the child. There are pictures of the entire family at both houses, and a very special mirror at each house; plus, Mom and Dad each share something very special: their child!

We don’t need to talk about the 51% divorce rate to illustrate the need for books like The Mirror. This is a positive book for families going through divorce for a number of reasons: it illustrates the stress on kids living with parents who argue constantly; it’s not singling out either gender – the child can easily be male or female; and the parents care enough about their child to make sure that photos of the entire family – rather than a single parent with the child – have real estate in the child’s room, along with the special mirror that’s become a touchstone. The book is a two-in-one, giving kids a chance to read about each parent’s home and what makes it special. When you finish reading about the mirror in Mommy’s house, just flip it over to read about the mirror at Daddy’s house.

The art appears to be mixed media, with some artwork appearing to be drawn in crayon; it gives the book a comfortable feeling, as if the child created these books himself or herself.

Originally published in Spanish in 2016, nubeOCHO published The Mirror book(s) in English this year and still makes the Spanish language edition available (978-84-945415-6-8). Additional books for families going through divorce to read with young children include Dinosaurs Divorce, by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown, Nancy Coffelt’s Fred Stays with Me, and Karen Stanton’s Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend.

 

Do Fairies Bring the Spring? Let’s find out! March 15, 2017

Do Fairies Bring the Spring?, by Liza Gardner Walsh/Illustrated by Hazel Mitchell, (Feb. 2017, Down East Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-60893-633-5

Recommended for readers 3-7

Do fairies bring the spring? This adorable picture book poses the question while infusing nature with a little bit of magic, as Liza Gardner Walsh’s rhyming text suggests that fairies are behind the scenes, working to bring spring to the world. Suggestions for attracting fairies to your own gardens in the spring, at the end of the book, encourage you to dig into nature with your little ones and take care of your little corner of the world.

Hazel Mitchell’s illustrations of diverse, adorable little fairies and their woodland friends infuse this Spring story with all the charm and wonder that makes a preschool/Kindergartner story a success.

Invite some magic into your life this spring with this sweet springtime story! Little ones will love the soothing rhyme and the adorable pictures. Encourage parents to get outside with their little ones and enjoy nature while respecting it –  no littering, please! This is a great story to read and follow up with a planting activity, whether it’s going out in the yard with your little one, or planting some seeds in recyclable egg cartons and bringing them home to start a container garden. Hand out fairy coloring sheets, or print small fairy pictures out on card stock, let the kids color them in, and mount them on popsicle sticks to give your new  plants extra fairy protection!

Liza Gardner Walsh is a former librarian (whoo hoo!) and has a companion book, Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows? (2015). Her website, Moss & Grove, encourages parents and kids to get outside and embrace nature. See more of illustrator Hazel Mitchell’s work at her website.

 

Duck and Hippo brave the rain together! March 14, 2017

Duck and Hippo In the Rainstorm, by Jonathan London/Illustrated by Andrew Joyner, (March 2017, Two Lions/Amazon), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-5039-3723-9

Duck and Hippo are the best of friends, and want to go for a walk in the rain. But the umbrella isn’t big enough for them both! Luckily, the two friends find a solution and go off on a rainy day walk, filled with adventures, until a strong gust of wind sends one of them up in the air!

Jonathan London is best known for his Froggy series, most of which end up on my library kids’ summer reading lists every year. Booktalking Duck and Hippo will be a breeze – the author already has a tremendous fanbase. Then, we have Andrew Joyner’s brush and ink illustration, with wash and pencil, then digitally colored; which it makes me happy just looking at it. It’s classic illustration; hearkening to timeless books like Frog and Toad and Danny and the Dinosaur. colors are soothing with bright touches, like Duck’s red jacket and yellow umbrella, which matches Hippo’s yellow rain boots. The definitive outlines make each piece, each character, step off the page. Sound effects are in playful font sizes and colors, swirling along like the water in a creek or coming down with the rain.

This book is a fun read-aloud about friendship and sharing. Read and display with Frog and Toad, James Marshall’s George and Martha, or Sue Gallion’s Pug Meets Pig. Hand out a Duck and Hippo coloring sheet, courtesy of Andrew Joyner’s website – and give your bigger readers Joyner’s How to Draw Duck and Hippo instructions!

About the Author and Illustrator

Jonathan London is the author of more than one hundred children’s books, including the bestselling Froggy series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. Many of his books explore nature, among them Flamingo Sunset, illustrated by Kristina Rodanas, and Little Penguin: The Emperor of Antarctica, illustrated by Julie Olson. He is currently writing a middle-grade series, which started with Desolation Canyon, illustrated by his son Sean London. Jonathan lives in Graton, California. Learn more online at www.jonathan-london.net.

Andrew Joyner is an illustrator, author, and cartoonist based in South Australia. He has illustrated a number of picture books, and he wrote and illustrated a chapter book series about a warthog named Boris. He has also illustrated for newspapers and magazines, including the Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, and Rolling Stone magazine, among others. Learn more online at www.andrewjoyner.com.au.

Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win your own copy of Duck and Hippo in the Rainstorm!

 

See the animal mommies, count the baby animals! March 13, 2017

Count the Baby Animals, by Guido van Genechten, (March 2017, Clavis Publishing), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1605-37324-9

Recommended for readers 2-5

This fun die-cut book shows a pregnant animal mommy; with a flip of the page, she’s surrounded by her babies! Sweet rhyming text throughout invites readers to count each group of animals while offering descriptive details.

This is an adorable book to introduce to toddlers, who can point to and name animals as you read along. Encourage them to make animals sounds for each one to extend the fun. There are oodles of fun animal coloring sheets and activities available online; matching games with moms and babies would be a great choice for older toddlers and early preschoolers. You can pair this with books like P.D. Eastman’s classic, Are You My Mother?, or Nancy Tafuri’s All Kinds of Kisses (one of my personal faves).

Originally published in 2016, this is the English translation of Guido van Genechten’s original Dutch. His artwork is child-friendly, with gentle, cartoony faces and smiles. Endpapers with frolicking baby animals bring the reader right into the fun, and the sturdy paper stock will hold up to exploring little hands, who will love turning the half pages back and forth to see each mommy animal with a round belly, and later, surrounded by her babies.

How Many Baby Animals is a fun addition to toddler bookshelves and would make a fun sibling-to-be gift, too.

 

Before & After – sequential fun! March 12, 2017

Before & After, by Jean Julien, (March 2017, Phaidon), $12.95, ISBN: 978-0-7148-7408-1

Recommended for readers 2-4

A haggard cat grooms itself into a stylish feline. Raw spaghetti becomes a tasty dinner. The eternal question of what comes first, chicken or egg, is answered. This is just a sampling of what awaits little hands in graphic designer Jean Julien’s second large format board book, Before & After.

Each spread depicts alternating “before” and “after” artwork; a page dedicated to the drawing and a page boldly declaring “before” or “after”. There are picture books standards – pasta becomes dinner, water pours into a glass – are more amusing, unexpected scenes, like the outcome of wearing sunglasses on a sunny day. A gatefold centerfold is a fun surprise for little lapsitters.

The brush and ink art is fun and boldly outlined, set against bright, digitally painted page backgrounds, and the pages themselves are sturdy, able to hold up to lots of use, which this book will surely experience. Kids can flip pages back and forth, fold and unfold, to their hearts’ content. It’s a great way to teach sequence. Before & After will join Jean Julien’s first board book, This is Not a Book (2016), in my storytime rotation.

See more of Jean Julien’s artwork at his website.

 

Fun with Phonics: Phoebe Sounds It Out March 9, 2017

Phoebe Sounds It Out, by Julie Zwillich, (Apr. 2017, Owl Kids), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-77147-164-0

Recommended for readers 3-7

Phoebe’s teacher announces that the children are going to learn to write their names today. All they have to do is sound it out. Phoebe doesn’t quite agree. First of all, Mama sewed her name on her school bag, and she’s convinced that she made a mistake: Phoebe’s name begins with a P, but that’s not the sound her name makes! She dawdles as the teacher encourages the class to sound it out, and finally, she gives it a shot. Her encouraging teacher tells her that it’s a great start – she did sound it out, after all!

I enjoyed so much about this book. I love that there’s a child of color main character and the diversity reflected in the classroom. One of the two teachers is also a person of color, and there is diversity in the classroom, including a classmate in a wheelchair. I enjoyed Phoebe’s thought process while the rest of the class works on their assignment: she fidgets, she goofs off, she “borrows” a letter from a classmate’s name to jazz up her name as she sounded it out. Kids will recognize themselves in Phoebe.

I’ve seen comments questioning whether a teacher would let Phoebe’s misspelling stand. I tend to say yes, especially for this first attempt. The point of the story is to sound out a word, and Phoebe does just that. When my older kids were in elementary school, the practice for teachers was not to correct spelling errors on similar assignments; the kids were expected to catch on eventually, and they did, through vocabulary words, spelling tests, and reading and being read to.

Denise Holmes’ art is rendered in ink and colored using Photoshop, and it’s very cute. There are bright colors and fun patterns, and sweet touches, like the children’s pictures on their cubby spaces and the handwritten children’s work.

This book presents a fun chance for a similar Sound It Out activity, complete with glitter glue to finish up your kids’ work. Let them sound out their names, or other fun words around them.

Julie Zwillich is a television personality with shows on Food Network Canada. You can see more of Denise Holmes’ illustration at her website.

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Little Blue Chair: the power of sharing, the power of home

Little Blue Chair, by Cary Fagan/Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper, (Jan. 2017, Tundra Books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-77049-755-9

Recommended for readers 3-7

A little boy outgrows his favorite blue chair, so his mother puts it on the curb with a sign reading, “Please take me”. From there, Little Blue Chair follows the chair as it’s passed from hand to hand: it’s used as a replacement seat on a plant stand; a ferris wheel; a bird feeder; a throne, and a chair for elephant rides. It travels to amusement parks, houseboats, and beaches, ultimately coming full-circle as it arrives back where it began. It’s a sweet story about a favorite belonging – it could easily be a toy, as in Kate DiCamillo’s The Mysterious Journey of Edward Tulane – and the power of home, but it’s also a story about the permanence of objects. The chair is never thrown in the trash; it’s used again and again, serving different purposes for different people, all of whom love the chair while they have it. It’s a journey home.

Madeline Kloepper’s ink and pencil illustrations, finished digitally, a soft and gentle, calming to the reader. The palette of opaque greens, reds, dark yellows, and gray-blues gives the story almost dreamlike feel; a child’s imagination realized, from one boy using the chair as a tent, to another using it as a throne, his stuffed toys as subjects. Everything in this world has a story; everything has a value. Read this with your little ones and talk about the stories their toys hold. If you’re in a school, talk about the desks: what stories could they tell?

courtesy of Madeline Kloepper’s website

I’d love to pair this with Mirielle Messier’s The Branch and compare the two stories. They’re both books about reusing and repurposing; one, a child’s chair; the other, a branch from a favorite tree.

Cary Fagan is an award-winning children’s author. See more of Madeline Kloepper’s illustration at her website.