Posted in Graphic Novels, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Sara Varon’s Hold Hands eases fears

Hold Hands, by Sara Varon, (June 2019, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781596435889

Ages 3-6

It’s a day in the life of a preschooler in this adorable graphic novel by award-winning graphic novelist Sara Varon. Her adorable animal characters all hold hands: camels hold hands with giraffes, the sun and the moon share a hand-to-hand clasp as they pass in the sky, cats and dogs walk hand-in-hand, even the title page of the book sports colorful letters with sweet, smiling faces, holding onto one another. The whole day is seen as a series of hand-holding moments: a little bear holds hands with his mother, father, and brother during morning routines and on the way to daycare; holds hands with teachers and friends during the school day; during playdates; on the way home, and during bedtime stories and nighttime routines. The rhyming text is short and sweet, assuring readers that every time is a good time to hold hands: “Hold hands when the day is new, when you need a pal, or when one needs you”; “Hold hands with your buddy when you’re on the go, especially if your teacher tells you so”. The illustrations are colorful, boldly outlined, and loaded with sweet details, like a father wearing bunny slippers, or a heart charm hanging off a mom’s rear view mirror. Sara Varon emphasizes the power of connection by creating little starbursts around each hand-holding relationship.

Hold Hands is perfect for kids in daycare and preschool, and it’s an adorable testament to the power of physical contact. A must-have.

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Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

To Baa or Not To Baaa… it’s William Sheepspeare’s Wild Bio!

William Sheepspeare (Wild Bios), by Courtney Acampora & Maggie Fischer/Illustrated by Benedetta Capriotti, (Apr. 2019, Silver Dolphin), $7.99, ISBN: 9781684126194

Ages 2-5

The latest in the Wild Bios board book series introduces readers to William Shakes- I mean, William Sheepspeare, the Baa-rd of Avon. Like Frida Catlo, the first book in the series, William Sheepspeare uses animal-related puns to tell the story of playwright William Shakespeare: “William Sheepspeare wrote over thirty plays-histories, comedies, ram-ances, even shearious tragedies”. The authors even pun the titles of several of his play, including “Hamblet” and “The Taming of the Ewe”, and notes historical details like men taking on women’s roles: “…no ewes acted. All of the roles were performed by rams. The rams would perform the parts of the ewes, dressed in fancy fleeces and wooly wigs“. Sheep-related words are highlighted and in bold yellow font to stand out, and the artwork is cartoonish and charming. Most of this is going to go over little ones’ heads, but for preschoolers and kindergarteners, it’s a cute story about a sheep who writes plays. There’s a lot of text for a board book, and I lost my little ones during a storytime; I had to pick up the pace to get them back again. If you’re reading during a toddler time, you can cut it down to a sentence or two per page, and they’ll love it. I do like the Wild Bios, and want to continue getting the set to keep for my preschoolers.

Posted in Family Storytimes, picture books, Preschool Reads, programs, Storytime, Toddler Reads, Toddler Storytime

Margaret Wise Brown storytime: The Diggers, Count to 10 with a Mouse, Sleep Tight, Sleepy Bears

Last week, I decided to test drive three Margaret Wise Brown re-released books in my toddler storytime. Most of my kiddos and families know Ms. Brown as the “Goodnight Moon Lady”, or “The Runaway Bunny lady”, so I thought it would be fun to give them more choices when they’re looking for something to read. It went over pretty well. Before I get into that, though, I thought some background on these three books would be interesting – I know I found it fascinating.

In 1990, author Amy Gary discovered a trunk of unpublished manuscripts and songs in the attic of Margaret Wise Brown’s sister’s barn. These manuscripts provided the source material for many of the titles in a new line of classics by the beloved author. While I’d seen Sleep Tight, Sleepy Bears pretty recently – Kohl’s had the book and a companion teddy bear as one of their Kohl’s Cares book/plush sets about a year or two ago, and my mom picked up a book and teddy for my little guy – The Diggers and Count to 10 With a Mouse are new to me.

The Diggers, by Margaret Wise Brown/Illustrated by Antoine Corbineau, (March 2019, Silver Dolphin Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684127429

Ages 3-7

Moles dig holes. So do dogs. Worms, rabbits, mice, and pirates all dig holes, too! Animals and people alike dig holes for different reasons, and The Diggers tells their stories. The kids loved the whole process of digging a hole for a subway system, and I favored the digger machine digging up “stones, and find dinosaur bones, and cavemen’s homes, and buried gnomes”. This is just an fun, rhyming story that has so much detail to enjoy: buried dinosaur bones and pottery; worm homes that curve to meet their owner’s bodies; a train running along the horizon as it goes down its track, a pirate’s trail of thievery. The kids really enjoyed this one, and so did I. Artist Antoine Corbineau (whose website features much of the artwork from The Diggers, and from where I sampled the interior art) makes bright, bold artwork with loads of things for kids to find. The black and grey-purple endpapers show a cityscape in progress, with pathways all dug out. This is an adorable choice for a construction or transportation storytime; two choices that always go over well with my storytime groups.

The verse is Margaret Wise Brown – you can’t go wrong. The repeated phrase, “Dig Dig Dig” allows kids to jump right in and interact with you during a reading, and there are so many chances to ask them questions: identify the animals, where do they live/what do they eat; what predictions can they make about what’s going to happen next?

Consider an author study with your school-age kids, to really expose them to Margaret Wise Brown’s body of work; The Diggers is such an active book compared to Runaway Bunny and Goodnight, Moon; it will give the kids so much to think about and discuss.

 

Count to 10 With a Mouse, by Margaret Wise Brown/Illustrated by Kirsten Richards, (March 2019, Silver Dolphin Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684127412

Ages 2-5

This book is a hit! I love a counting book that has a fun story to go along with it, and Count to 10 With a Mouse fits the bill perfectly! The endpapers are covered in mouse paw prints, and there are two holes, one of which has the cutest little mouse peeking out of it! This counting story has everything: rhyme, repetition, and concepts (counting). A little mouse lives in a hole, and teaches himself to count by looking at the things around him: one mouse, two holes, three fish; all things he discovers as he crawls through the holes to the next pages. The rhyme and repetition are sweet, and filled with discovery: Each page, each discovery, starts off with the repeated phrase, “And there, what does he see? And there, what does he see?” Each spread leads readers to the next with a tempting invitation: “Then the mouse ran through the book, the mouse ran through the book. He ran onto the next page to take a little look”. Kirsten Richards’ illustrations are soft, sweet, and fit perfectly with Margaret Wise Brown’s storytelling rhyme, creating a whole experience for readers. The end of the book suggests turning around and starting all over again – expect that at bedtime!

I loved Count to 10 With a Mouse, and this one is definitely going in my storytime collection. I’m tucking it into my Children’s Book Week book ideas.

 

Sleep Tight, Sleepy Bears, by Margaret Wise Brown/Illustrated by Julie Clay, (Apr. 2019, Silver Dolphin), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684127603

Ages 2-6

What would a Margaret Wise Brown collection be without another cuddly bedtime story? Sleep Tight, Sleepy Bears is perfect for bedtime cuddling. Pastel-colored endpapers look like a comfy quilt to snuggle down into, and the story – a big sleepy bear and a little sleep bear get ready for bed – teaches important lessons about modeling behavior. Everything big sleepy bear does, little sleepy bear does, from yawning, to stretching, to getting into bed and putting heads on the pillow. They each recite a sweet little rhyme (a variation of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep) and drift off to sleep. I’ve read this to my little guy when we’re both about to nod off, and it’s a wonderful way to ease into bedtime. The affection between big and little bear comes through as words and the soft art palette come together to send readers off to their own dreams.

The kids at storytime weren’t quite ready to go to bed when I finished this story, but it was a nice close to storytime. Sleep Tight, Sleepy Bears is a new bedtime classic to add to your shelves.

 

The best news? Silver Dolphin is launching 15 more Margaret Wise Brown books this Spring and Summer, and will have two more in the fall!

 

Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads, Toddler Storytime

Birds, Birds, Birds: Hello, I’m Here! A new bird greets the world, and Carme Lemniscrates’s Birds

Hello, I’m Here!, by Helen Frost/Photographs by Rick Lieder, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763698584

Ages 2-5

With rhyming text accompanying beautiful wildlife photos, Hello, I’m Here! is the story of an adorable sandhill crane chick hatching and exploring its new world. The hatchling and its sibling splash around in the water and enjoy some bugs and snails under the watchful guidance of their Mama and Papa, always nearby. The photographs are beautiful, allowing readers to enjoy the fuzzy, long-legged chicks and the stunning adult birds’ coloring. The photos have incredible texture; the birds’ feathers look like they’d ruffle under one’s hand, and the chicks look so fuzzy, you’ll want to run your finger across their heads. The photos of the birds in flight are stunning. The text is sweet and has a comforting cadence; the sentences are short and put readers in the chick’s place as it discovers the world around it. An author note about sandhill cranes has some great additional information for readers: did you know that parents and chicks communicate while the chicks are still in their eggs? That went over really well when I told the parents! I love being able to add little facts like that in a storytime. The endpapers have beautiful photos of a baby sandhill crane and its parent, and of four cranes flying across the sky at sunset. Absolutely breathtaking.

I tried Hello, I’m Here! out in a recent storytime, and the kids and parents alike loved it. The parents gestured to the pages quite often, impressed with the photos, and the little ones loved hearing about the little bird taking its first steps, flapping around with its sibling, and watching other cranes fly overhead. This is a great choice for a nature/discovery/science storytime, a spring storytime, and just a plain, good storytime for the little ones. I would also read Alex Latimer’s Am I Yours? as a companion to this one: it’s got dinosaurs, but the whole story of a baby dino in its egg talking to prospective parents is just too cute to pass up.

Hello, I’m Here! has a starred review from Kirkus. This is the fifth book that Helen Frost and Rick Lieder have collaborated on; all of which have received starred reviews from Kirkus.

 

 

Birds, by Carme Lemniscates, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $14.99, ISBN: 9781536201789

Ages 2-5

Next up, I read Birds, by Carme Lemniscates. It’s a nonfiction book of a different sort, with bright, bold mixed media illustrations of various birds and two children enjoying their company. The text reads like a poetic ode to birds, starting first with descriptive sentences: “Some birds are really big/Others are tiny/Some like to show off, while others would rather watch”, moving into more illustrative musings: “A bird’s song is like the loving words of a friend/A happy song that greets us every morning/And our hearts sing, too, because birds are like good news coming”. Eagles, owls, peacocks, and hummingbirds all find a home here, as do parrots, toucans, and Canadian geese. It’s a celebration of birds, of spring, and of nature. The endpapers feature bright and bold feathers, some that you’ll recognize right away, like the peacock’s; some, you may have to guess at (is that black and white spotted one a woodpecker or a guinea fowl?). Let the kids color some feathers of their own as an after-storytime craft.

Birds went over nicely in storytime. The kids loved the bright colors and enjoyed calling out birds they recognized. We made some bird sounds (honking for the Canadian geese went over well, as did the parrot caws) and spread our arms to soar and flap like the birds do. It’s a nice addition to picture books where nature and birds are popular.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

B is for… Beautiful Baby Book!

B is for Baby, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Angela Brooksbank, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201666

Ages 0-5

An adorable baby gives her grandfather and older brother a surprise visit in this adorable book of words, all featuring the letter B. Baby climbs into a basket full of bananas for a little nibble, but big brother puts the basket on his bicycle and goes on a bumpy trip to their Baba’s. Brother rides across the African landscape, where readers can see baobab trees, birds and butterflies, bougainvillea flowers, and buses and bridges, until they reach Baba’s home. When Baby pops out of the basket, it’s a happy surprise! Baba brings his grandchildren inside for some biscuits and cuddling, and Brother rides home and returns Baby to Mama’s arms.

I love Atinuke’s Anna Hisbicus books and her wonderful stories about African daily life. B is for Baby is another glimpse at family life, this time, aimed at younger children and early readers. Angela Brooksbank, who worked with Atinuke on Baby Goes To Market, introducing readers to a West African market. The mixed media artwork is sweet, loaded with hugs and cuddles, and lovely nature landscapes. What a fun way to introduce new readers to the letter B!

B is for Baby has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Family Storytimes, picture books, Preschool Reads, Storytime, Toddler Reads

Saturday Storytime: Mindfulness and Wonder

I had a Saturday storytime a couple of weeks ago, and used it as a testing ground for some new books. A nice theme of mindfulness emerged, with a smidgen of wonder underneath; the kids and parents alike seemed to really enjoy this one. I created a short YouTube playlist to show videos for the singalong parts of the storytime; you can use this one, too, or build on it. Now, onto the books!

You Are Light, by Aaron Becker, (March 2019, Candlewick), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536201154

Ages 2-8

I started off with this gorgeous board book by Aaron Becker. The cover has a beautiful die-cut sun and circles; when you hold it up to the light, the effect is really stunning. The book is a rhyming meditation on the relationships between everything in our world: “This is the light that brings the dawn/to warm the sky and hug the land/It sips the sea to make the rain,/which waters wheat to grow the grain”. Each page highlights a facet of the world: sun, fire, water, wheat, leaves, a flower, the moon, and finally, a multicolored mandala with a human form inside of it. The die-cut circles shift in color as each spread progresses, always keeping the readers’ attention and reminding us that all things are connected, including us. The watercolor art is elegant, simple, and lovely; the pacing and text is thought-provoking and soothing. I saw parents cuddle their little ones while the bigger kids reveled in the shifting colors on each page. Aaron Becker does it again, bringing a board book with incredible depth for readers to love. This is going into my regular storytime rotation: it’s beautiful to look at, soothing to read and hear, and inspires thought and affection.

Aaron Becker is a Caldecott Honor-winning author of the Journey picture book trilogy and A Stone for Sascha. His author website has a wealth of free downloadables for parents, caregivers, and educators. You Are Light has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

The Whole Wide World and Me, by Toni Yuly, (Feb. 2019, Candlewick), $15.99, ISBN: 9780763692636

Ages 2-6

A young girl considers the world and her place in it in this beautifully illustrated book. This is another story about how we, and nature, are all connected; the story reads like a gentle meditation: “Like a flower/in a field…/like a fish…/in a pond…/like a cloud…/in the sky…/so am I”. It’s a story of being present, being mindful, and reads almost like a mantra. This would easily be as at home in a yoga or meditation storytime as it is in a traditional storytime. The ink, charcoal, torn tissue, cut paper, and digital collage artwork comes together and provides texture, with bright, bold colors adding a sweet, childhood feel that will bring the grownups in the room back to days when they would climb a tree, lay on the grass, or stick their toes in the water in a pond or at the beach. The artwork is perfect for a post-storytime craft where kids can make their own torn paper collage art.

The Whole Wide World and Me was another hit; I encouraged the kids to stretch to touch the clouds and pretend they were trees; bloom like a flower, spreading their hands wide and raising them up over their heads; and waving like a leaf floating from a tree. I’d pair this with Tiny, Perfect Things and Gina Perry’s Small for another storytime, too.

The Whole Wide World and Me has a starred review from Kirkus.

Stardust, by Jeanne Willis/Illustrated by Briony May Smith, (Feb. 2019, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536202656

Ages 3-8

A little girl dreams of being a star, but she always ends up in her sister’s shadow. Whether it’s finding her mother’s ring, knitting a scarf for her grandfather, or entering a costume contest, the girl’s sister outshines her in everything she does, but Grandpa is in her corner, cheering her on. He tells her that of course she’s a star: he explains the Big Bang Theory to her and how we are all made of stardust, and that she just “shines in [a] different way” from her sister. It’s a message that stays with the girl, as we later discover.

Stardust is one of those stories we can all relate to: there’s always someone better, smarter, funnier… sibling or no, Stardust speaks to us all and reminds us that we all have gifts, we all have something that makes us special – we’re just special at different things. The mixed media artwork gives a multilayered feel to the story, and Briony May Smith’s use of shadows give depth to her spreads. The spreads devoted to the birth of the universe are breathtaking, and placing the girl and her grandfather within those spreads is genius; it gives a real sense of the universe and our place in it, and a source of inspiration for kids everywhere.

The kids enjoyed this one, especially the outer-space spreads. I’d pair this with The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer and Jordan Crane’s We Are All Me for future storytimes and displays.

 

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Out of the nest and into the air! Why Should I Walk? I Can Fly!

Why Should I Walk? I Can Fly!, by Ann Ingalls/Illustrated by Rebecca Evans, (March 2019, Dawn Publications), $8.95, ISBN: 9781584696391

Ages 3-7

This rhyming story is all about a baby bird who’s ready to take the leap out of the nest and into the air… but maybe brother and sister can go first. The story is all about overcoming fears and persistence; kids will see themselves in the little robin’s excitement to take this next step, and the hesitation of moving out of one’s comfort zone. The kids will chuckle when Momma Bird gives the little bird some help leaving the nest, and parents will smirk in recognition; sometimes, we just have to help nudge our kids out of those comfort zones.

This is an encouraging story that shows kids it’s okay to be nervous, especially when trying something new; it’s perfectly normal to have excitement mixed with being nervous. And, yes, sometimes, we need a little push in the right direction; it’s all worth it, though, when we take off and succeed. Back matter includes a bird Q&A, photos, and STEM activities.

Why Should I Walk? I Can Fly! is a fun story about stretching one’s boundaries, trying new things, and growing up. It’s a good STEM storytime pick.