Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Detectives Fox and Goat are on the case!

The Missing Bouncy Ball, by Misti Kenison, (Oct. 2018, Schiffer Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764356001

Ages 1-4

A little girl’s ball bounces out of her backpack! Luckily, Detectives Fox and Goat are on the case. They search through spreads, identifying different balls, and eliminating them from consideration by identifying properties that set them apart from the bouncy ball: color, size, shape, texture. When they reunite the bouncy ball with Emma, its owner, they congratulate one another and get ready for their next adventure.

I’ve been a fan of Misty Kenison’s Young Historians series, so when I saw her name on the Fox and Goat books, I knew I was in for something fun. I love the question and answer pattern her books take, letting readers learn to spot clues as they go. The end Bouncy Ball recaps the clues used to find the bouncy ball, reminding kids of the steps they took to arrive at the conclusion. Sharp-eyed readers will notice the bouncy ball’s location a few times through the book, too.

 

The Lost Race Car, by Misti Kenison, (Oct. 2018, Schiffer Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764355998

Ages 1-4

Detectives Fox and Goat return for their next great mystery: a little boy’s race car disappears! Using concept clues, the two sleuths sniff out the details to solve the case: colors, number of wheels, weight, length, and slightly more complex characteristics, like roads traveled. When they reunite Jayden with his car, they share a congratulatory fist bump and share their clues, at the end, to remind readers of the concepts used to solve the mystery.

These are such great books! The digital artwork is bright, bold, and eye-catching. The question and answer pattern to each spread invites kids to think, explore, and solve the mysteries as they go, and offers the chance to talk about other colors/textures/sizes/shapes on the pages. Once again, sharp-eyed readers will notice the race car lingering around as they get closer to solving the case.

I just read these in a Saturday storytime with a mixed group of kids: two toddlers, a first grader, and three middle graders, all of whom got a kick out of the story. The toddlers loved pointing to the cars and balls on each page; the first grader was my sharp-eyed reader who spotted the missing items as they popped up in spreads, and the first and middle graders all loved pointing out the characteristics that set them apart from the item in question. I’m looking forward to more Fox and Goat Mysteries for my toddlers and preschoolers, for sure. A nice add to concept and board book collections.

 

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Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Kwanzaa Books made the holidays bright!

My holds are in! I’ve got Kwanzaa books for everyone! (Okay, for kids. But that’s the most important audience here, right?) Let’s start the fun.

K is for Kwanzaa: A Kwanzaa Alphabet Book, by Juwanda G. Ford/Illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max, (Nov. 1997, Scholastic), $10.95, ISBN: 0-590-92200-9

Ages 3-7

This holiday abcedary starts off with a history of the Kwanzaa holiday and the seven Kwanzaa principles, then journeys into the alphabetic aspects of Kwanzaa. Using English and non-English words, readers learn a Kwanzaa vocabulary, from Africa to Zawadi. There are phonetic pronunciations for all African words, which is a huge help for readers just learning about Kwanzaa and its icons, and Juwanda G. Ford explains each aspect of the holiday simply and fully enough for a child to understand, appreciate, and learn: the mkeka is a special mat used when setting a Kwanzaa table, and mazao are the fruits and vegetables symbolizing the harvest, set on the mkeka; neighborhoods are part of the Kwanzaa celebration, promoting community, working together, and respecting where we live, to make the world a better place. Gele, the cloth that African and African-American use as a headwrap, shows pride in African heritage, as does Jewelry, which also allows families to practice the creativity principle, Kuumba.

Ken Wilson-Max’s illustrations are lovely, featuring African-American families and African icons, instilling a pride in the beauty of African heritage. His illustrations are boldly outlined and feature bright colors, appealing to little eyes. Each letter and its corresponding word are emphasized with bold, black font that let the words pop off the page. The alphabet

K is for Kwanzaa lets kids learn about the holiday from A to Z, and is an enduring holiday book. It’s a strong introduction to Kwanzaa, and to African heritage.

 

It’s Beginning to Look at Lot Like Kwanzaa!, by Rex Perry, (Sept. 2004, Jump at the Sun), $3.50, ISBN: 0-7868-0924-8

If the holiday standard, “It’s Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas” is stuck in your head as you read this Kwanzaa carol, don’t worry – I found myself reading along with a similar cadence, adjusting for some of the text. Families together, snow falling, and the repetitive phrase, “It’s beginning to look at lot like Kwanzaa!” invites readers to join this book’s family as they prepare for the holiday. The family wears Kwanzaa colors and kente, share food, and gifts, and touch on all of the holiday principles in the text. As Kwanzaa’s end nears, the family reflects on the holiday and the promises made for the year, and looks forward to the new year.

The artwork is bright, with bold outlines and warm colors that draws readers right into the story. Family members hold and dance with one another, having fun and showing affection, making the warmth contagious. You’ll want to cuddle your little ones as you read this rhyming story, guaranteed. The story focuses less on the facts and iconography – although they are present and alluded to in the text – and more on the family and togetherness theme of the season. A nice add to your holiday sections.

 

 

Celebrate Kwanzaa with Boots and Her Kittens, by Alma Flor Ada & F. Isabel Campoy/Illustrated by Valeria Docampo, Translated by Joe Hayes & Sharon Franco, (Feb. 2007, Alfaguara), $11.95, ISBN: 9781598201352

Ages 4-8

It’s time to come together and celebrate Kwanzaa, but wait! Boots the Cat is missing! A young boy and his family pull together and put the principles of Kwanzaa to work as they spend each day searching for the cat – with a sweet surprise on the last day.

Celebrate Kwanzaa with Boots and Her Kittens is half fiction, half non-fiction. The first half is the story of Boots and her family. The family dresses in African garb and have African decorations, including drums and masks, displayed in their home. The colors are warm and earthy. A page-a-day calendar and family members holding scroll with the day’s principles teach readers about each day’s principle and message.

The non-fiction section of the book uses photos and artwork to provide information about Kwanzaa, its place in African-American family homes, and how different families celebrate.

The combination of fiction and non-fiction in one spot makes this a good addition to your holiday shelves. It’s hard to find now, but check your local libraries for a copy!

 

A Kwanzaa Miracle, by Sharon Shavers Gayle/Illustrated by Frank Norfleet, (Sept. 1996, Troll Communications), $3.50, ISBN: 0-8167-4182-4

Ages 5-9

This touching story is all about families. Ashley and Darryl Parker are siblings who are excited for the holidays; their parents are on the planning committee for their building’s Kwanzaa celebration, but their grumpy neighbor, Mrs. Parker, doesn’t seem to be interested in anything other than snapping at the kids. When Ashley and Darryl have a snowball fight and hit Mrs. Parker’s window, they expect to feel her full fury – and discover that their neighbor is a kind, loving person. With this new development, they work with the families on the planning committee to honor Mrs. Parker and reunite her with her sister.

This is a loving, kind story that will touch any reader. It busts that “mean old neighbor” trope and reminds kids – and adults! – that everyone has their own challenges. Darryl and Ashley are good kids who build a bridge between their neighbor, their building (community), and her sister. It’s a great story, and the oil painted artwork by Frank Norfleet gives us realistic characters and settings, with warm colors and expressive, kind faces and body language. The principles of Kwanzaa, explained in the back matter, are communicated through the characters’ actions, opening up the chance to discuss with your readers, and see if they can find examples of each.

I wish this was still in print! It’s such a wonderful book – check your local libraries, and third party sellers have some available.

 

My First Kwanzaa, by Karen Katz, (Nov. 2003, Square Fish), $7.99, ISBN: 9781250050465

Ages 3-6

Karen Katz brings her adorable collage and mixed-media artwork to this adorable celebration of Kwanzaa. The text is spare but informative, speaking directly to children about each day of Kwanzaa, and how our protagonist – a young African-American girl – celebrates it. Phonetic pronunciation of the principles and and terms help introduce new vocabulary, and each explanation is empowering, offering ways for kids to take part in the celebration. From asking her mother to braid her hair “in a fancy African way” on the second day of Kwanzaa (kujichagulia – self-determination) and feeling pride in her heritage, to dreaming of being an African dancer like her Aunt Tasha on the fifth day (nia – purpose), to painting clay pots and weaving baskets on the sixth day (kuumba – creativity), there’s something for every child to take to heart.

Karen Katz’s illustrations are precious. Her characters have round, sweet faces with gentle expressions. They all wear bright colors and have braided, beaded, and natural hair. A kinara appears on every spread, another candle lit, to visually represent the days of Kwanzaa. Holiday cuteness for littles and bigger kids alike.

 

 

So that’s my Kwanzaa book wrap-up! What have I learned from this year and last year’s roundups? That we need more Kwanzaa and Hanukkah books: published more frequently, in greater volume, and that stay in print longer. How can we make that happen next year?

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

New Baby love: Lots of Love, Little One!

Lots of Love, Little One! (Forever and Always), by Sandra Magsamen, (Dec. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492683988

Ages 0-4

What better reason to celebrate love and life than a new baby? Although Lots of Love Little One can really be a book for anytime, anywhere, it’s perfect for a new baby/baby shower gift. Adorable illustrations and sweet phrases, like, “I love you more than all the stars that twinkle at night, and all the fireflies that glow so bright”, fill the pages with joy and adoration. The illustrations resemble stitched-together toys, and include a mother and baby elephant; spaghetti (it’s one of the rhymes); fireflies, and stars. A page dedicated to “I love you” in nine different languages includes Sioux, Hawaiian, and Swahili. The colors are bright and the art and words come together to create a love letter to the little ones in your life.

Sugary sweet, sure, but if you can’t give all the sweetness in the world to little ones, where’s the fun? An absolutely snuggly, cuddly book. Mommies-to-be, read this one to your bellies!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Sesame Street talks LOVE!

Love from Sesame Street, by Sesame Workshop, (Dec. 2018, Sourcebooks), $12.99, ISBN: 9781492677499

Ages 2-6

Leave it to Sesame Street to make it clear: Love is love. It’s been a major part of their message since the show aired almost 50 years ago, and it’s even more relevant and important today. Spreads starring our favorite Sesame Street characters spread the word: Big Bird scrawls, “Love is a sunny day!” in sidewalk chalk, while Super Grover dashes across the sky, leaving the message, “Love is being an everyday hero” in his wake. Count von Count delights in being surrounded by numbers, delivering the message that “Love is infinite – bigger than all of the numbers”. Cookie Monster’s powerful message – “Love is cookies… and then more cookies” comes right before Abby’s nod to the power of love: “Love is magical and full of wonder”. Yes, Bert and Ernie are here, as is Julia, surrounded by her family. The characters gather to deliver the final, beautiful message: “Love is everywhere and all around us”. Get it? It’s all about love, in all of its exciting and unexpected forms.

Ernie Kwiat’s artwork really catches the eye here; less solid outlines, more brushwork, almost making the characters look like they’ve been brush-painted. The characters and the message are the standouts, and are colorful, bright, and bold. The scenery is there, but fades into the white background, letting the characters and their declarations take center stage.

I love this book. I know, I say that about all the Sesame Street books, and it’s true. I’ve grown up with the show; my kids have grown up with the show, and I love its ever-constant, upbeat personality and outlook. Everyone just needs to be nice to one another. That’s it. Kindness wins.

Love from Sesame Street is perfect for toddler and preschooler audiences. There are hundreds of Sesame Street crafts and coloring sheets out there, but I always find myself back at the main site, SesameStreet.org. Enjoy.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books, Teen, Toddler Reads, Tween Reads

Need a gift? Give a book!

Now that the discount coupons are hitting inboxes, it’s a great time to stock up on books to give for the holidays. Here’s a look at some more books that will delight the readers in your life!

For the Little Ones:

Baby’s First Cloth Book: Christmas, Ilustrated by Lisa Jones & Edward Underwood, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $18, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0275-5

Ages 0-2

It’s Baby Boo’s first Christmas! This 8-page book is soft and squishy, perfect for exploring little hands and mouths. Baby Boo enjoys the snow, builds a snowman with Daddy, goes back inside to warm up by the fire and gaze at the Christmas tree, and at night, Santa drops off presents! The plush book is soft, and the page featuring the snowman is crinkly; perfect for play time and engaging your little one’s senses. The colors are bright, with gentle-faced animals and people. The book comes in its on add Park, Farm, and Zoo to the list.

 

Ten Horse Farm, by Robert Sabuda, (Apr. 2018, Candlewick Press), $29.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-6398-8

Ages 5+

You don’t have to be a kid to love Robert Sabuda; his paper engineering is stunning to see. Ten Horse Farm is a full-color, pop-up counting book where each spread stars a different horse engaging in some kind of activity: racing, resting, jumping, or bucking. Let your kiddos count the horses as you go, and use this book in storytime to bring wonder and surprise to your readers. This fits in nicely with a horse storytime, farm storytime, animal storytime… any time storytime. Inspired by rural America, Robert Sabuda even named his upstate New York art studio Ten Horse Farm. Sabuda books are timeless gifts.

Ten Horse Farm has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

For the Dinosaur fan:

Dragon Post, by Emma Yarlett, (Dec. 2018, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-818-6

Ages 6-10

If you’re a regular reader here, you know I LOVE Emma Yarlett. Her Nibbles the Book Monster books are required reading in my home, and the kids at my library and my son’s Kindergarten class can’t get enough Nibbles. Dragon Post has the same fun spirit as we meet Alexander, a young boy who finds a dragon in his home. He’s excited, naturally, but he’s also a little concerned about fire safety. So he writes a series of letters, as different questions pop up for him. The best part? We get to read the letters!

This is an interactive book, with envelopes (lightly toasted) and letters you can pull up and read for yourself. The story is hilarious as Alexander’s predicament grows, and just when it takes a bittersweet turn, we get the hope of a sequel. The laser-cut correspondence is a fun addition to the story, and the full-color, cartoony artwork will appeal to readers. The scrawled black text reminds me of Oliver Jeffers’ lettering. Absolute fun for the holidays. If you’re buying this for your library, put it an extra copy in your storytime reference to keep one safe. This one will be loved quite a bit.

For the adventure seeker:

Atlas Obscura: Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid, by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco/Illustrated by Joy Ang, (Sept. 2018, Workman), $19.95, ISBN: 978-1-5235-0354-4

Ages 8-12

Here’s one for the kids who love the offbeat, quirky, and awe-inspiring things in life: Atlas Obscura is the kids’ companion to the website and adult guide book and is all about 100 of the most “weird but true” places on earth. Discover the Door to Hell in Turkmenistan (it’s a drilling accident gone terribly wrong), then head to Germany to ride a rollercoaster in the Wunderland Kalkar – an abandoned nuclear power plant. Check out the world’s seed bank in Norway, or visit an underwater museum near the Canary Islands.

Full-color illustrations offer an incredible point of view, and each site includes a locator globe and longitude and latitude (ahem… program in a book). A packing list – in case you’re so motivated – and explorer’s tips, along with alternate travel routes, methods of travel by speed, and height comparisons of attractions from biggest to smallest help with travel planning, and a list of further reading will have your world explorers putting up maps and pins in their rooms. This is just way too much fun. Give this to all the kids you normally hand your National Geographic gifts to, and you’ll be the favorite for another year running.

A World of Cities: From Paris to Tokyo and beyond, a celebration of the world’s most famous cities, by James Brown, (July 2018, Candlewick Studios), $25, ISBN: 9780763698799

Ages 8-12

Visit 30 of the world’s most famous cities with this book as your guide! It’s an oversize book with two- or 3-color tourism poster artwork and facts on each spread. Did you know Dubai has its own archipelago of artificial islands? Or that Albert Einstein’s eyeballs are stored in a safe-deposit box in New York City? There are tons of fun facts here, all assembled to create a stylized art book that takes armchair travelers to the bright lights and big cities of the world.

This is a follow-up to James Brown’s A World of Information, for anyone who’s a fan of infographics style information delivery.

 

For the animal lovers:

Heroes: Incredible True Stories of Courageous Animals, by David Long/Illustrated by Kerry Hyndman, (Nov. 2018, Faber & Faber), $22.95, ISBN: 978-0-5713-4210-5

Ages 9-13

I loved the companion series to this book, the more human-focused Survivors, that came out earlier this year, so I dove into Heroes when the publisher sent me a copy. If you and your kids loved Survivors, you’re going to love Heroes, with 33 stories of courageous animals (and an epilogue about London’s Animals in War Memorial). It’s more than an “I Survived” starring animals; these are stories about how we rely on animals to survive and to thrive. There’s Rip, the terrier who rescued people trapped in the rubble of the London Blitz during World War II: “…somehow having Rip around made things more bearable… if Rip could cope with the war, so they [the people]”; and Mary of Exeter, a messenger pigeon who spent five years carrying messages back and forth between England and France during World War II and who’s buried alongside Rip and Beauty, another WWII hero dog profiled here. Kerry Hyndman’s illustrations are all at once intense and beautiful, and David Long’s tributes are filled with respect for these companions. Read with a box of tissues nearby. Give to your animal fans and your adventure story fans.

 

Fly With  Me: A Celebration of Birds Through Pictures, Poems, and Stories, by Jane Yolen, Heidi EY Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple, (Oct. 2018, NatGeo Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3181-7

Ages 8+

A compendium of all things bird for your bird-readers and watchers, Fly With Me has everything you’d want to know about birds: the physical characteristics, history (dino birds!), state bird profiles, songs, migration, and birding in your own backyard are just a few areas. There’s an emphasis on conservation and activism, and the section on birds in the arts is fantastic for your budding artists. The photos are jaw-dropping, with colors that burst off the page, and gorgeous illustrations. Endpapers are loaded with bird-related quotes, including one of my favorites: “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like  duck, it must be a duck”. Back matter is loaded with additional resources. Pull some of the poems out and use them in your storytimes!

 

For the poetry reader:

Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year, selected by Fiona Waters/Illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon, (Oct. 2018, Nosy Crow), $40, ISBN: 9781536202472

All Ages

There’s a poem for every single day of the year in this book. From January 1st through December 31st, greet each day with a poem and a beautiful illustration. Poets include Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Frost, Ogden Nash, ee cummings, and John Updike, and poems are indexed by poet name, poem title, and first lines. This is a gorgeous gift: the illustrations are absolutely beautiful, with cold winter scenes, green fall forests, and colorful, shell-covered beaches. Start the day off, or end a day, snuggled up with a poem.

This one’s a great gift for grownups, too – librarians and teachers, put this on your wish list and you’ll be thrilled to add new poems and fingerplays to your storytimes. I’m currently trying to think of hand movements to add to Alastair Reid’s “Squishy Words (To Be Said When Wet)” (August 4th).

Sing a Song of Seasons has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

The Poetry of US: More Than 200 poems that celebrate the people, places, and passions of the United States, Edited by J. Patrick Lewis, former US Children’s Poet Laureate, (Sept. 2018, NatGeo Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3185-5

All Ages

This is another incredible poetry volume, all celebrating the United States: it’s a love letter to the country, compiled by former US Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis. Organized by region: New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Midwest, Great Plains, Rocky Mountain West, Pacific Coast, and Territories, over 200 poems celebrate the natural beauty of our lands and our rich cultural and diverse history. “Never Say No” by Laurie Purdie Salas is all about the perfection of a Philly cheesesteak, while Linda Sue Park’s “Asian Market” – showcased here in both English and Korean –  is a tantalizing tribute to the smells and sights of eating at an Asian food market. Reuben Jackson’s haunting “For Trayvon Martin” is side by side with J. Patrick Lewis’ “The Innocent”, a poem for Emmett Till. “Spelling Bee”, an acrostic by Avis Harley, is a nod to the Scripps Spelling Bee, and Allan Wolf’s “Champion Betty” celebrates a competitor at the Westminster Kennell Club Dog Show. There are poems about beaches and forests, Disney and weddings; there are poems in Korean and Spanish, and poems that shine a light on how far we have to go. It’s America, and these voices are why it’s beautiful.

For your reader who loves the classics:

Into the Jungle: Stories for Mowgli, by Katherine Rundell/Illustrated by Kristjana S. Williams, (Oct. 2018, Walker Books), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536205275

Ages 8-12

The flap of Into the Jungle says it best: “To turn the page of The Jungle Book is to long for more tales of Mowgli the man-cub, Baheera the panther, Baloo the bear, and Kaa the python”. Into the Jungle is a companion to the classic Rudyard Kipling book, enriching readers with five more stories about Mowgli and his companions: “Before Mother Wolf Was a Mother, She Was a Fighter”; “Bagheera’s Cage”; “Baloo’s Courage”; “Kaa’s Dance”, and “Mowgli” all bring back fan favorite characters and deliver themes of empathy, kindness, and understanding across species, cultures, and genders. Katherine Rundell has given Kipling’s classic – and, by extension, his fans – new life, and new relevance in a world very different – and sadly, not so different – from 1894.

Illustrations are full-color and created in collage, using Victorian engravings, to give an historical feel with incredible texture. Humans and animals alike share expressive faces and body language, and the lush Indian jungle unfurls itself to readers, beckoning them to join them in the pages. A gorgeous gift book.

I hope that helps with some shopping lists! Happy Holidays, all!
Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Epic Hanukkah Books Post!

Happy Hanukkah, everyone! I’ve been browsing a lot of lists, and found some books for the season to share with you. There aren’t nearly as many Hanukkah or Kwanzaa books as there are Christmas books, so most of these are not brand spankin’ new, but I’m still excited to spread the joy of the season with everyone. Let’s dig in.

All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah, by Emily Jenkins & Paul O. Zelinsky, (Sept. 2018, Schwartz & Wade Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9780399554193

Ages 4-8

Based on the All-of-a-Kind Family series of books (1951-1958) by Sydney Taylor, All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah celebrates Hanukkah with the All-of-a-Kind Family in New York’s Lower East Side in the early 20th Century. Four-year old sister, Gertie, is desperate to be part of the Hanukkah preparation, but Mama says she’s just too young to help make the latkes: she can get hurt by the potato peeler, cut herself with the knife, and get splattered by the hot oil. Frustrated, Gertie yells and stomps her feet, which earns her some thinking time in the girls’ bedroom; but Papa comes home and gives Gertie a very special Hanukkah task, and the family – Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, Gertie, Papa, Mama, and Uncle Hyman – enjoy their first night of Hanukkah meal together.

I haven’t read Sydney Taylor’s series since I was in grade school, but All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah brought me right back to the warm feeling of family I always had, reading these books. Paul O. Zelinsky’s artwork wonderfully sets the tone for the story, with a look at the lower east side’s crushed together tenement buildings and bustling city streets. He captures little Gertie’s spirit on every page, whether she’s dancing through the snow, placing herself in the middle of holiday preparation, or communicating her frustration at being too young to be part of the action. Bold lines and warm colors draw readers right in, and intimate family moments, like Gertie being held by her sisters or Papa holding his daughter after a long day (for both of them), bring all the love from their family to yours. I love the humorous moments, like Papa searching for Gertie as she’s hiding under the bed, asking a pillow or library book where his daughter is; it’s a sweet twist on the whole “wait ’til your father gets home!” business, and it reveals a playful nature in this family. Emily Jenkins has fully realized the family dynamic here, and Paul Zelinsky gives them life.

Back matter includes a glossary, an author note putting the story into historical context and her own relationship with Sydney Taylor’s books. An illustrator note talks about Paul Zelinsky’s deliberate decisions when making choices for the story’s artwork. There’s also a link to extra back matter, including downloadable coloring pages, educator resources, and a latke recipe.

An essential addition to your holiday collections, and a comforting storytime read. All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus, and has been written up by The New York Times and the Jewish Book Council.

Grover’s Eight Nights of Light, by Jodie Shepard/Illustrated by Joe Mathieu, (Sept. 2017, Random House), $6.99, ISBN: 9781524720735

Ages 3-5

Hanukkah is coming to Sesame Street, and Grover is so excited! He and his Mommy decorate their home and open it up to their friends for the next eight days and nights. Grover’s Eight Nights of Light explains Hanukkah rituals to younger readers, from the shamash candle (the helper candle that lights the candles in the menorah) to the story of Judah Maccabee and the Hanukkah miracle. Some big Sesame Street names pop up here: Cookie Monster shows up and discovers that latkes are the same shape as cookies: what could be wrong with that?; Oscar the Grouch likes watching the dreidel fall over; Elmo and Abby arrive with gifts, the Bear family drops by to celebrate and trade gifts, Prairie Dawn sings a song with Grover, and Bert and Ernie accompany Grover and his mom to the food pantry on tzedakah night, when they perform an act of charity. Big Bird and Grover talk patterns of color candles in the menorah, and what would an 8-night holiday be without Count von Count? On the last night of Hanukkah, Grover and his Mommy have a party for everyone, and readers are invited to throw their own: the book includes stickers and a poster for a Pin the Candle on the Menorah game.

Sesame Street is synonymous with diversity and representation, and Grover’s Eight Nights of Light is a fun book that informs with love. The kids’ favorite characters are here, and present the history of Hanukkah in a child-friendly, accessible way. If you’ve got PBS/Sesame fans in your life, this is a great little gift to tuck into your gift bag for one of those eight nights. (Librarians, save the stickers and poster for programs; your book will last a little longer that way, too.)

From Joe Mathieu’s webpage

 

Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale, by Eric A. Kimmel/Illustrated by Matthew Trueman, (Sept. 2014, Disney/Hyperion), $16.99, ISBN: 9781423143550

Ages 4-8

A tale of miracles follows Simon, a Russian boy, who leaves home and heads to America in search of a better life. Once he secures a job, he’ll send for his mother, brothers, and sisters. But the ship hits and iceberg, and Simon saves a man’s life by switching places in a lifeboat with him. He’s marooned on an iceberg on the first night of Hanukkah, with only his menorah, candles, matches, and some food, which he shares with a polar bear who happens by. Over the next few days, Simon and the bear shares freshly caught fish with him and keeps him warm at night, while he lights Hanukkah candles and tells her stories. He reflects on the seven miracles he’s experienced so far, and prays for just one more: to be rescued and make it to America. Simon’s optimism pays off, and he’s rescued; reunited with the man whose life he saved, he discovers that there’s one extra Hanukkah miracle in store for him – just like the menorah has one extra candle.

Simon and the Bear pairs historical storytelling with a touch of holiday magic: and isn’t that the best kind? Matthew Trueman’s artwork, a combination of collage, crushed paper cutouts and acrylics, creates a textured story that comes to life as readers turn the pages. Icy blue shades add a little bit of chill to Simon’s marooning, but his ever-present knit red hat and the warm glow of the Hanukkah candles adds the optimism and warmth we all need. His family wears traditional Russian clothing for the time period, all in warm colors, really bringing the family together. Endpapers show a cold, clear, starry sky.

A cheerful story about optimism and the power of a good deed, and a nice addition to shelves and collections. An author’s note offers a brief explanation of the holiday. Simon and the Bear has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama, by Selina Alko, (Sept. 2012, Alfred A. Knopf), $16.99, ISBN: 9780375860935

Ages 3-7

A little girl has the best of both worlds: she’s a “mix of two traditions. From Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama”, in this lovable story about blending holiday traditions. Little Sadie and her family decorate their home for the holidays, leaving latkes out for Santa and hanging candy canes on the menorah, and sing Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs as they go caroling. The last night of Hanukkah is a big night, as Daddy stuffs a turkey with cranberry kugle and Mama makes sweet jelly donuts and fruitcakes for dessert. The families celebrate together, retelling the stories of both the miracle of the oil and the birth in the manger: “Wide-eyed, we listen to these traditional tales, which link us together today”. When everyone’s gone home, the family relaxes together and shares final gifts, getting ready to do it all again next year.

Selina Alko evokes big holiday feelings and childhood excitement here. Her gouache, collage, and colored pencil on watercolor paper artwork is bold and colorful, contributing to the excitement and anticipation of the holidays, and she brings Judeo-Christian traditions together with fun and childlike joy. A timeline at the end of the story illustrates all the holidays Sadie and her family celebrate together, from Hanukkah/Christmas (Kwanzaa gets a mention, but the family here is white) through to Easter and Passover, and Thanksgiving. Endpapers are colorful portraits of Sadie and her parents, and include icons for each holiday: a dreidel and a menorah, a tree and an angel. Inspired by the author and her husband’s decision to integrate each of their religious backgrounds into their home for the holidays, Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama is a lovely addition to holiday collections and storytimes.How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?, by Jane Yolen/Illustrated by Mark Teague, (Sept. 2012, Blue Sky Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0545416771

Ages 3-6

Those misbehaving dinosaurs are here to demonstrate what to do – and what NOT to do – during Chanukah! We see Rugops fuss through prayer and Nodosaurs blow out menorah lights while Ichtyostega writes his own name on everyone’s gift cards and Chirostenotes grabs all the gelt, all while horrified parents bear witness. But we know that’s not really what dinosaurs do when they celebrate Hanukkah. Camarasaurus shows readers that dinosaurs sing every prayer, and Chirostenotes is sharing the gelt and taking turns with the dreidel. Dinosaurs give Bubbie and Zaida holiday kisses, and then head off to bed.

I remember reading the first book in this series – How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight (2000) – when my eldest was barely a year old; these books have become a touchstone in kids’ lives, with books to celebrate everything from managing emotions to table manners. Having Dinosaurs celebrate the holidays is just a natural addition to this series. The rhyming pattern is soothing and consistent through each book, and the dinosaurs are always drawn as larger-than-life goofballs having larger-than-life emotions: which is kind of what it’s like, being a kid. Different facets of the holiday get the spotlight, including latkes, gifts, lighting menorahs, and prayers.

Plus, kids love dinosaurs. So, home run. This series does well wherever it lives, so why not add to it?

 

Happy Hanukkah, Curious George, by H.A. Rey and Margret Rey, (Sept. 2012, HMH Books for Young Readers), $7.99, ISBN: 9780547757315

Ages 2-5

Six short rhyming stories show readers how Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat celebrate Hanukkah with friends. Each story, tabbed for little fingers to turn quickly to, looks at a different moment in the eighth night celebration: George and his friend wrap gifts and head out visiting; they arrive and the party begins; the Man in the Yellow Hat (with his hat respectfully off) lights the menorah, George and the children spin the dreidel, George tries to help makes latkes; George and the kids play; and finally, George does a mitzvah by cleaning up and packing up some latkes to take to a sick friend.

Illustrated in the classic Curious George style we all know and love, and with a shiny, silver foil cover, Happy Hanukkah, Curious George is a good add to toddler holiday collections. The book and tabs are in shades of blue and yellow, with colorful Hanukkah symbols on each tab, and Curious George is one of the most recognizable children’s icons in literature. His familiarity will draw in readers, and the rhyming cadence is perfect for storytime reading.

Maccabee! The Story of Hanukkah, by Tilda Balsley/Illustrated by David Harrington, (Sept. 2010, Kar-Ben Publishing), $7.95, ISBN: 9780761345077

Ages 3-7

Maccabee! is the historical Hanukkah story, made into a rhyming epic tale for younger readers. The polytheist Greeks and their leader, King Antiochus, weren’t happy that the Jews refused to bow to their gods, and decided to desecrate their holy ground, raise statues of their gods, and force the people into worship. Mattathias, an elder, turned to his sons, his son Judah, in particular, for support in raising a resistance. Judah led his army of Maccabees against Antiochus’ armies until they won, and then lead his people in rebuilding their civilization, devastated by war. An epilogue asks readers what Judah would do if he were alive today, and posits that he’d be pretty happy that his people are still thriving.

This is a very readable, child-friendly history of the struggle behind the celebration of Hanukkah. The rhyme scheme is simple and easily falls into pattern for a readaloud. A repeated phrase, “Sometimes it only takes a few, Who know what’s right, and do it, too”, brings home the message embodied by the Maccabees: see the need to do the right thing, and do it. It takes bravery, it takes strength, and it takes determination; here, the Maccabees model the behavior and inspire readers.

The artwork is bright, with a realistic cartoon feel: think of Judah Maccabee like a buff superhero. The spreads are full-bleed and colorful, with movement across the pages to keep little eyes engaged. Back matter includes a brief backgrounder on the festival of Hanukkah. This one’s a fun addition to holiday collections; it’s more history-based, yet still includes the focus on family that is central to the celebration.

 

My First Chanukah, by Tomie DePaola, (Sept. 2008, Grosset & Dunlap), $5.99, ISBN: 9780448448596

Ages 2-5

Tomie DePaola has a sweet board book that uses simple language and his immediately recognizable watercolor artwork to explain Chanukah to babies and toddlers. My First Chanukah simply and eloquently explains why families light candles (“to remember Judah Maccabee and his brothers”) and how the menorah is lit each night; he makes sure to cover latkes (“delicious potato pancakes”) and the dreidel, gelt, presents, and songs and prayers. He closes, reminding readers that they’ll celebrate again next year.

My First Chanukah covers the kid-friendly parts of Hanukkah: food, family, goodies, and together time. His illustrations are warm and intimate, with a welcoming glow from the menorahs and a smiley baby with its family. It’s a great pick to have in your board book collections, and a perfect storytime choice for the holiday.

 

That’s it for my first Hanukkah round-up! I’ve got a few more holds waiting to come in, so I hope to have at least one more post before the holiday is over. Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

A Christmas Book for every stocking!

We’re into the holiday season now, everyone! I’ve got gift books coming, and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa books are on the way, but first, a look at some Christmas books to stuff in your kiddos’ stockings. Take a look!

Where’s Santa Claus? by Ingela P. Arrhenius, (Oct. 2018, Nosy Crow), $8.99, ISBN: 9781536206975

Ages 0-3

Guessing games don’t get much cuter than this! Five illustrated spreads show different Christmassy folks, including a polar bear, snowman, elf, and Santa, all hidden behind fuzzy felt flaps. Bold, black font asks,, “Where the polar bear?” “Where’s the snowman?”, inviting babies and toddlers to lift the cloth and discover them all on their own! The final flap, shaped like a house, asks where YOU are, and the reveal is a mirror so little ones can see themselves. The illustrations are bold, bright, and adorable; the felt is soft to the touch and bright.

It’s a perfect cuddle time, circle time, and storytime book for your youngest kiddos. I’ll be using mine quite a bit this season, mainly because I can’t stop reading it to myself in a high-pitched voice and announcing, “There he is!” The kids here at the library are starting to stare at me.

 

Christmas ABC, by Jannie Ho, (Oct. 2018, Nosy Crow), $6.99, ISBN: 9781536202496

Ages 0-3

This holiday abcedary is loaded with seasonal icons: A is for angel; B is for bell; C is for candy canes, and D is for drummer boy. Cartoony, bold, and bright, with capital and lowercase letters side by side, this concept book is as sweet as a bowlful of chocolate chips. Smiling Nutcrackers share spreads with Mrs. Claus as a pup emerges from an Unwrapped box and a bottoms-up Santa is upside down in a chimney as he Visits a home. There are familiar sights to see, but there are also words to describe feelings and emotions, like joy, excited, and quiet. Read this with your little ones and point out familiar objects around the home, classroom, or library: ornaments, reindeer, or tree will work nicely. Some concepts, like Kings and Winter (a winter scene at a windowsill), make take a little explanation, but it’s all part of the holiday fun.

I love a good board book, and Christmas ABC delivers. Put this one front and center in your board books, holidays, and concepts areas, and watch the little ones reach for it.

 

Little Christmas Tree, by Jessica Courtney-Tickle, (Oct. 2018, Big Picture Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536203110

Ages 2-5

This larger board book is loaded with flaps, letting little fingers discover wintry delights as they wander through the story of a little Christmas tree wakes up in its forest after a snowfall. Nature comes alive with each spread as foxes, birds, squirrels, and mice join the scene, and by the story’s end, the tree sparkles in the moonlight. The silver foil added to the trees and snowflakes create a lovely scene that catches light nicely; make sure to let the kids touch the book and feel the texture of the pages. Each flap reveals color, animals, and woodland life, many of which will be familiar to kids: owls, foxes, and sun, to name a few. Little Christmas Tree is a beautifully crafted, interactive reading experience that toddlers and preschoolers will come back to. Keep this one in your storytime reference so you have one intact for next year’s storytime – the flaps are sturdy, but circulating copies of this book will be well-loved.

Little Christmas Tree has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Pip and Posy: The Christmas Tree, by Axel Scheffler, (Sept. 2018, Nosy Crow), $12.99, ISBN: 9781536202762

Ages 2-5

Pip and Posy are back, and trying to decorate their Christmas tree – but the edible ornaments keep disappearing! When Pip develops a bellyache, it’s pretty clear to Posy what happened, but she’s a good friend: she gets Pip outside for some air, and the two decorate their tree in a slightly less tasty, more durable fashion.

This series about two best friends is popular here at my library, so this will be a welcome add to the shelves. The Pip and Posy books are all about simple problems, resolutions, and friendship. Here, it’s about decorating a Christmas tree with tasty ornaments that Pip can’t resist: the kids are in on the joke, as Pip smiles and sneaks snacks whenever Posy leaves the room. You can invite kids to count ornaments and candy canes as part of the storytime; the text lends itself to a guessing game as Posy announces how many things are missing. There’s a bit of a cautionary tale here, too, since Pip eats too much junk food and feels sick afterward, and a wink and a laugh at Santa’s gifts to both friends.

The gouache illustrations and bold text are eye-catching and perfect for storytime reading. The white pages let the characters pop off the page, allowing the eye to go directly to the action. The Christmas Tree is a nice addition to both holiday shelves and Pip and Posy collections.

Oliver Elephant, by Lou Peacock/Illustrated by Helen Stephens, (Sept. 2018, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536202663

Ages 3-7

Noah is a little boy who gets up early to go Christmas shopping with his mom and baby sister, bringing his stuffed elephant, Oliver, along for the ride. As Mom shops, Noah and Oliver are predictably antsy and manage to get into a little bit of trouble – but Mom and the staff are good-natured, thank goodness! A quick snack and it’s time to go home, but wait! Oliver is missing! There’s a panicked search, but little sister Evie-May saves the day when she reveals that Oliver has been hitching a ride with her all along.

Originally published in the UK, this Christmas rhyming story beautifully captures the hustle and bustle of the holiday season with lively, crowded city streets and department store scenes. There’s a particularly gorgeous spread early on in the story, as a whole department store is laid out for the eye to take in, complete with giant Christmas tree in the center; the detail of Mom holding onto Evie-May’s stroller with one hand while she keeps a hold on Noah, who’s swinging Oliver around, will make parents smile in recognition.  Kids will relate to Noah’s restlessness; while Mom shops, he and Oliver play with dollhouses and dance on the displays until the inevitable “oops” happens. On the next spread, Oliver and Noah are slumped on a chair while Mom finishes shopping. The illustrations are warm and colorful, with point of view going from large to intimate – Noah playing with Evie-May, Mom snuggling Noah; there are wonderful little details to see throughout the story, and the primarily beige backgrounds let the story pop off the page for readers. Red lined endpapers put readers in a holiday mood going into the story.

Oliver Elephant has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus and is a sweet addition to holiday collections.

Coming Home, by Michael Morpugo/Illustrated by Kerry Hyndman, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536200423

Ages 3-7

A robin sets out on his own to fly back to his home and his mate in this lyrical Christmas tale. The bird bravely invokes his heart and wings to fly him home as he travels day and night, through battering rain, fog, and snow, and under threat of predatory birds to make his way home. He encounters a kind-hearted fisherman who takes him out of the rain, letting him rest and eat, before setting him free on the final leg of his journey; finally arriving home to his garden, his mate, and the human family that’s been waiting for his return.

The digital illustrations are crisp, with the robin’s red face and chest a bright spot against the cold winter backgrounds. Kerry Hyndman creates some memorable moments, including the menacing black shadow of a hawk swooping over the robin, and the looming hands of the fisherman, from the bird’s point of view. At once a story about migration and its hazards, and families reuniting for the holidays, Endpapers bring you into the story by offering a single robin, tracking through the snow on the front endpapers, and joined by his mate on the rear endpapers. Coming Home is a lovely add to your collections. Display and booktalk with Matt Tavares’ Red and Lulu (2017) for a similar themed story. Make your own no-cook bird cakes with this recipe from Saltwater Kids.

Michael Morpugo is no stranger to sweeping stories: he’s an award-winning writer who boasts a Carnegie Medal (2003). He has also been Children’s Laureate (2003-2005) and he’s been knighted. You may know him as the author of War HorseIllustrator Kerry Hyndman is also a mapmaker, a talent you can see just by seeing how she plans out her landscapes. Her frozen forests are breathtaking, and her residential neighborhood is so well plotted out, it could be your own neighborhood.

 

Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets, by Russell Ince, (June 2013, Waxcrayon Ltd), $21.95, ISBN: 0-937739-65-0

Ages 7-12

Geared for a more independent audience, Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets gives kids the full scoop on all of Santa’s secrets, including his history (he’s not the Saint Nicholas from Turkey that people often take him for), how the Post Offices around the world help him out, and how to stay off the dreaded Naughty List. Chronicled by Santa’s official biographer, Russell Ince, the book combined the look of an illuminated manuscript with a journal feel, as if Santa’s – and Russell’s – words were written especially for each reader. There are sketches throughout to bring the words to life, including realistic reindeer and Santa’s sleigh, and a sack full of toys, waiting to be loaded up for that Christmas Eve journey.

This one’s a good bet for your intermediate readers, who may be questioning the Man in Red’s existence, and have more questions to ask.

 

Santa Claus: The Annual (Volume 1), by Russell Ince, (July 2016, Waxcrayon Ltd), $19.99, ISBN: 0-937739-67-7

Ages 7-12

Santa was so delighted with the response to his Book of Secrets, that he decided to write a book about how he spends a year. Each 2-page spread details a month in Santa’s life: January is a time to rest up after a hectic December; March is dedicated to training reindeer and visting the Elf School; in June, the Clauses pack up and travel the world, while the elves stay home and compete in an Elf Olympics. In September, the Christmas planning begins anew. Learn more about the elves, Mrs. Claus, and the general ins and outs of the North Pole here, one month at a time.

The style is consistent here, with an illuminated title setting off each page, festooned with colorful snowflakes, toys, candy, and sketches. Written on a parchment-look paper, these two slim volumes provide a magical look at the Christmas secrets kids are dying to know.

 

That’s a taste of Christmas for you! I’ve got Kwanzaa and Hanukkah books on the way, plus a gift guide for the holidays. I’ll keep you posted!