Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Next stop: Happy County!

This morning, we met the residents of Bustletown, courtesy of Rotraut Susanne Berner and Prestel Publishing. I figured I’d turn today’s posts into a road trip; now, we’re entering Happy County, courtesy of Ethan Long and Henry Holt and Company.

Hello, World!, by Ethan Long, (March 2020, Henry Holt & Company), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-19175-5

Ages 3-5

“Welcome to Happy County, where every day ends on a happy note.” With that, we’ve got another new series of interactive picture books in the spirit of Richard Scarry. In Happy County, readers get some concept work in while enjoying the antics of the townspeople, many of whom we meet on the endpapers: Farmer Del and L’il Beaky, a pig and chick that run throughout the book; naturalists Mr. Grzzles and Ms. Green; Dottie, the Dog Walker, Monkey¬† Mantle, the ballplayer, and more. Stories bring in concept activities: helping bird watchers identify and spot birds; letter lessons; shapes and colors; and counting dogs with a dog walker are only a few of the fun challenges that come up in Hello, World!’s storytelling. All of the citizens are pencil and digitally illustrated animals, making this an eye-catching book for younger readers.


Sun and Moon Together, by Ethan Long, (Aug. 2020, Henry Holt & Company), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-19174-8

Ages 3-5

Welcome back to Happy Town! The endpapers introduce readers to some more residents, and some we’ve already met (Farmer Del is still trying to get L’il Beaky. This time, we’re learning about the Sun and the Moon, with fun lessons about the water cycle, photosynthesis, phases of the moon and the moon’s effect on tides, and solar power. In between there’s a funny rhyming story about Grammy Tammy, a lamb visiting from Miami; a paneled story about Sssonny the snake, who wants to grow some sunflowers; and loads of seek and find challenges.

Ethan Long books are so much fun to read! He’s a Theodor Seuss Geisel award winner and a creator of children’s programming, including the short film, Farm Force; Tasty Time with Zefronk for Disney Jr.; and an online interactive series for PBS Kids, Scribbles & Ink. He also hosts a bunch of activities and coloring sheets on his webpage. Check out the activity kit here, too! The Happy County series is shaping up to be big, learning fun for littles.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads, Uncategorized

Welcome to Bustletown!

All Around Bustletown is a series of oversize board books, originally published in Germany that introduces readers to a bustling little town where there’s so much to see! Let’s enjoy the four seasons as experienced by the citizens of Bustletown, several of whom we meet on the back cover of the book: Sadie, whose car won’t start in the cold; a motorcyclist who comes from far away; Petra, a bookworm who loves to read, and more.

All Around Bustletown: Winter, by Rotraut Susanne Berner, (Oct. 2019, Prestel Publishing), $12.95, ISBN: 978-3-7913-7414-4

Ages 1-5

It’s winter in Bustletown! The trees are bare, the townsfolk are bundled up, and the day begins on a clear, cold morning. There are seven spreads we visit in our trek through the town: a cross section of a house with a busy street in front, where we can board a bus that will take us through the book; a country scene with a house in the background, a farmer’s market and garage/gas station in the foreground; a cross section of a shopping and transportation center; a busy town, where we notice ground being broken on a new kindergarten to come and a cultural center with a library, museum, and performance area; the center of town has shops and shoppers; a shopping mall with parking garage has a bunch of holiday shoppers making their purchases; and a petting zoo overlooks an iced over pond and cafe, where skaters practice and kids slide down a snowy hill.

It’s a series of fun winter scenes with so much to see. Readers can look for townsfolk introduced on the back cover, and there are so many details to spot! Follow the bus as it rides through each spread; count Christmas trees on each spread; follow a person wandering the town with a goose under their arm; will that lady in the yellow jacket catch up to the bus? Seek and find readers will enjoy this wordless book where they can create their own adventures.


All Around Bustletown: Spring, by Rotraut Susanne Berner, (Feb. 2020, Prestel Publishing), $12.95, ISBN: 978-3-7913-7409-3

Ages 1-5

Spring comes to Bustletown with green landscapes and budding trees! A garbage truck trundles through the book and a fox shows up to stir up some excitement. The farmer’s market is open and the animals are out, enjoying the springtime. A class trip enjoys a trip to the museum and that new kindergarten is still under construction. There are some new residents to follow, like Officer Tony, who’s very busy; and Tom the Cat, who joins Bonnie on walks through town. Other characters return, like Anne, who gave up on trying to catch the bus and is going on a long hike. There’s always something to see in Bustletown. Work with your littles to identify colors (bright primary colors prominently feature in the artwork), everyday items like trees, trucks, or cats. Ask bigger littles what they notice in Bustletown that reminds them from home: shopping with Mom? Visiting a petting zoo or farm? Ask questions: what is that person doing, walking around with a goose? Where do you think the fox is going next?


All Around Bustletown: Summer, by Rotraut Susanne Berner, (Apr. 2020, Prestel Publishing), $12.95, ISBN: 978-3-7913-7420-8

Ages 1-5

Summer comes to Bustletown! The greenery is thick and lush, and a new driver cruises along the spreads. It’s time to pick strawberries at the farm, and crows are eating the ripe cherries from the trees. The fish store has started selling sushi, there’s a new armor exhibit at the museum, there’s a sidewalk sale at the bookstore, and the kindergarten will open in October! For readers who go through the whole series, it’s fun to see how life moves forward as the books progress through the year. There’s a birthday in the park, a penguin balloon on the loose, and Tom the cat has a new mission: find a mouse. By introducing new characters and continuing to build on others, readers will enjoy visiting Bustletown and their friends, knowing there’s something new to find every time.


All Around Bustletown: Fall, by Rotraut Susanne Berner, (July 2020, Prestel Publishing), $12.95, ISBN: 978-3-7913-7422-2

Ages 1-5

The last book in the All Around Bustletown series hits the U.S. this summer, with its townspeople getting ready for winter. A street sweeper trundles through the town, getting leaves under control, and George and Anne load a giant pumpkin into a wagon and head for the big pumpkin carving contest at the cultural center. The leaves are turning color and falling; there’s pumpkins everywhere, and fall colors dominate the scene: lighter greens, bright oranges, and reds decorate the pages. Geese fly south for the winter, and the new Kindergarten opens for a brand new school year! A lantern parade makes its way through the town square, heading for the park, and Halloween costumes show up in a store window. It’s a sweet conclusion to a year full of stories.

The Bustletown books are a very nice add to board book collections. Their large size makes it easy to fit loads of details in for readers to seek out, and the thick pages will stand up to repeated reads.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

It’s a Great Big Colorful World! Let’s see what’s in it!

It’s a Great Big Colorful World!, by Tom Schamp, (March 2020, Prestel Publishing), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791374246

Ages 2-5

It’s concept book fun! Otto the Cat wakes up and wants to know why everything is so gray. Thank goodness Leon the chameleon is available to take Otto out and about and show him that gray is a color – and that there are so many other colors, too! They explore things that are gray, black, white, yellow, orange, red, pink, blue, green, and brown, showing that all colors are wonderful! Brown chocolate, burgers, and dogs; greenhouses and salads; blues music; there’s so much color in the world. Each spread has a riot of images to look through, with little facts and questions peppered about to prompt thought and discussion. A table of contents at the end guides readers to spreads on their favorite color. A fun choice for concept collections.


Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Abracadabra, katakurico! What’s in the Hat?

Hat Tricks, by Satoshi Kitamura, (March 2020, Peachtree Publishing), $16.99, ISBN: 9781682631508

Ages 2-6

Meet Hattie, the magician! She’s going to perform a wonderful magic show, and you get the front seat! With every spread, readers guess what’s in Hattie’s magic hat! Mattie pops out first, and with each spread and the magic words, abracadara, katakurico… a surprise awaits! But we get hints peeking out from the hat, so readers can take a guess at who’s next to pop out of the hat. The shenanigans get progressively sillier, heading toward a grand finale that everyone will love.

I LOVE this book. It’s meant to be read out loud, and to a group! Satoshi Kitamura’s comic book-type artwork is colorful, with bold outlines and expressive faces. This book would work very well with some flannels, or small stuffed animals, too: just pull ’em out of a hat and watch the kids cheer. The movement in the book takes up the whole spread, with hilarious energy and action that will make kids squeal and giggle.

Originally published in the UK in 2019, I’m very happy to welcome Hat Tricks to our shores and hope Satoshi Kitamura gives us some more interactive books to read with toddlers and preschoolers.

Hat Tricks has a starred review from Kirkus. There is a free, downloadable activity sheet available at the publisher’s website.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Blog Tour: World So Wide

Have you ever connected with a child and just wanted to celebrate every moment, every experience, every second of them? That’s the story at the heart of this gorgeous rhyming ode to life, Alison McGhee’s World So Wide.

World So Wide, by Alison McGhee/Illustrated by Kate Alizadeh,
(March 2020, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 781542006330
Ages 2-6

A couple imagine their newborn’s first moments: first sights; first sounds; first smells; first touches. It’s an exploration of the senses, of nature, and the captivating, all-consuming love that parents and babies have for one another. Phrased with questions and answers: “What will be the first sights they see? / Sun and moon and sky… / the love in someone’s eye?”, the story moves in verse throughout the family’s life together; through toddlerhood, adulthood, and, to show the cyclical nature of life, parenthood again, with a new father, holding his baby as he was once held, overjoyed and completely in love.


Kate Alizadeh’s digital illustrations paint pastel landscapes of flowery fields and family rooms; parents gently holding a baby and staring lovingly at one another. Paired with Alison McGhee’s ode to parental adoration, World So Wide comes together as a beautiful exploration of parenthood through the senses, through nature, and the future. The family appears multicultural, with a brown-skinned mom and a white, fair-haired dad. I adored Alison McGhee’s Someday; she has a gift for speaking to what’s in my heart as a mom, and she does it again with World So Wide. She takes those small moments that we wish could last forever, and gives them a voice, so we know we’re not alone. World So Wide is a lovely storytime choice, and I’d consider this a good baby shower gift, too.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Red Red Red helps during meltdown time

Red Red Red, by Polly Dunbar, (March 2020, Kane Miller), @14.99, ISBN: 9781684640263

Ages 2-4

Originally published in the UK in 2019, Red Red Red is a rhyming story about a toddler on the verge of a meltdown when a mission to reach a highly-placed biscuit (we call ’em cookies on this side of the pond) and falls down, getting hurt. If you know toddlers like I know toddlers, you know that the meltdown is mighty. In this case, the little one is hurt and still has no biscuit to show for the pain. This is cause for an apocalyptic-level meltdown, and we see it unfolding, spread by spread. Mom asks if the little one’s okay, leading to blame (“Yes! I had a bump. / It made my cry. / The biscuit jar / war up too high!”); dismay (“My socks are down. / My pants are twisted. / I want… / I want… / I WANT / A BISCUIT!”); and ultimately, the tantrum. The toddler rails against the cursed cookie jar, roars, and thumps their head on the floor. This kid is SEEING RED. Luckily, Mom is there to save the day, and provides some calming wisdom; she acknowledges her child to stop engaging in self-destructive behavior and encourages them to count to 10. The panels illustrate each number with an angry red scribble as the little one counts their way to solace; the fonts become less black and bold, more gray, almost ethereal, and the angry red scribbles lessen, becoming little sprinkles as the little one learns to self-comfort and goes from rage to relaxed. Mom and little one do some deep breathing, the little one gets that cookie, and all is well once again.

Red Red Red wonderfully depicts a meltdown from beginning to end, with a positive workaround that parents and caregivers can put into action. The toddler depicted is genderless, making them accessible to any reader, and the illustrations are boldly outlined with light, pastel colors, really letting that angry red blast off the page and make a statement. Even the endpapers get into the story, with angry red scribbles greeting readers as they open the book; as the book concludes, tantrum over, the back endpapers show childlike drawings of red hearts strung across the pages.

A very helpful book to have on hand (we adults need to remember this stuff, too) for parents, educators, and caregivers. We get frustrated, too, and seeing this mom keep her cool as she comforts and guides her little one through a tantrum is a helpful reminder that two people getting mad leads nowhere. Display this one with book like Zachariah Ohora’s No Fits, Nilson!; two of my favorites are still Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! andHow Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Storytime is book review time! Something For You, With All My Heart, C Jumped Over Three Pots and a Pan

I’m a #SaturdayLibrarian today, so I figured that best way to catch up on book reviews was to put them in front of my toughest audience: TODDLERS. See, on Saturdays, I do storytimes in my children’s room’s Family Place center, which, in Corona (my library), is a little area full of learning toys for the kids to explore. So this is an audience that’s not always going to be riveted to my every word, ya know? I have to be on top of my game for Saturday Storytime, and I need books that are going to keep the kids and parents entertained. These three fit the bill.

Something for You, by Charlie Mylie, (Nov. 2019, Farrar Straus Giroux), $17.99, ISBN: 9780374312350

Ages 2-6

A sweet book about friendship, Something for You is about a mouse who wants to cheer up a sick friend. He searches for something to make her smile, but things don’t always go as planned. Mouse learns that just being a friend is all we need. The watercolor artwork brings a delicacy to the story, and the characters are drawn with kind, expressive faces; their movements also delicate and nurturing. The mouse who searches for something for his friend gently wraps a scarf around a cold pigeon and shares a flower with a bee – even if he’s a little grumpy about it! The story incorporates panels into the storytelling, allowing for a nice sequential feel, while showing small moments coming together to create a story.

This was the first book up, and the kids were intrigued. The cover caught their eye, and I asked, “Isn’t it nice when someone does something for you? Don’t you feel good when you do something nice for Mommy or Daddy?” Moms and dads smiled, and toddlers looked at them skeptically, but seemed to go along with it. The framed window, giving readers a view into the mouse caring for his sick friend, also caught the kids’ eyes: we’re natural spectators, right?

Something for You is adorable, and perfect for stories about kindness and empathy. Toddlers and preschoolers are the spot-on audience for this one, but older kids – Kindergarten and first grade, especially – will enjoy this one, too. Reading this book can lead to some wonderful discussions about friendship.


With All My Heart, by Stephanie Stansbie & Richard Smythe, (Dec. 2019, Silver Dolphin), $15.99, ISBN: 9781684129102

Ages 2-6

This is the sweetest book about parent-child love. A big bear and little bear cuddle together, splash, explore, and enjoy making memories together in this ultimate cuddle-sit rhyming story with die-cuts throughout the book. The verse reads with a soothing cadence and is a love letter to caregiving, to parenthood, to loving a child: “I saw your sweet smile/and I knew from the start,/I’d love you forever/with all of my heart”; “Each day, more than ever,/I love your sweet smile,/And feeling you close/as we cuddle a while”. Die cuts on each spread spotlight words in hearts, leaves, and star shapes.

The parents loved this one, and snuggled their little ones (still clutching their toys) into the laps and pointed out the bears, the diecuts, and details like the warm sun, the soft and silvery moon, the little moments between parent and child. This is a nice storytime/lapsit-cuddlesit/bedtime book to have in your collection, and would pair nicely with Anna Pignataro’s Our Love Grows, Margaret Wise Brown’s A Long Time That I’ve Loved You, and the classic Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney.

I’ll be reading this one again and again.


C Jumped Over Three Pots and a Pan and Landed SMACK in the Garbage Can!, by Pamela Jane/Illustrated by Hina Imtiaz, (Oct. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9780764357954

Ages 2-6

I had to end on a silly note! After a rousing rendition of the Alphabet Song, I launched into a spirited reading of this hilarious rhyming story. The alphabet letters are at camp, when C, trying to show off to A and B, decides to leap over¬† – you guessed it – three pots and a pan. C jumps a little farther than expected, though, and lands – SMACK! – in a garbage can, sending the rest of the alphabet into a tizzy as they search for the letter E, who has three arms and can help pull C out. But E’s gone missing, along with three other letters! We have an alphabet mystery with dramatic tension here, and the repeated phrase, “C jumped over three pots and a pan and landed smack in a garbage can” make this a laugh-out loud book to read aloud. This is made for silly, emphatic reading out loud: I smack my thigh to emphasize the word “smack”, which gave the kids an extra giggle. It’s a fun take on concepts, and is PERFECT for kids who love Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin Jr.

The artwork is fun, adorable, and bold, with large letters that have arms, legs, and expressive faces. The primary colors are bright and playful, set against a camp setting complete with tents, boats and rivers, and grass.

Parents and kids alike enjoyed this one, and I’ll be coming back to this book again and again. If you do storytime crafts after your storytimes, there are loads of ideas to enhance your program. There are Do-a-Dot printables (perfect for little hands), letter crafts (my second grader did these in preschool, but the teachers used construction paper and cut out the shapes for the kids to decorate), and hundreds of alphabet coloring sheets. A quick Pinterest search or Internet search will lead you down the wonderful rabbit hole of alphabet coloring and crafts. Enjoy.

And that was my storytime today!