Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Concept Fun: Big Box, Little Box… perfect for a cat box!

Big Box Little Box, by Caryl Hart/Illustrated by Edward Underwood, (July 2018, Bloomsbury USA), $17.99, ISBN: 9781681197869

Ages 2-6

What’s the best way to illustrate the many words to describe a box? Put a cat in the story! Big Box Little Box stars a curious cat who investigates all sorts of boxes: big and little boxes; brown and blue. The descriptive words take a fun turn when the cat stands on a box (cat box?), which immediately squashes under its weight (flat box), or when human hands designate “my box” versus “YOUR box”. As our inquisitive friend wanders through the boxes, it spies a hole in a box – and a mouse! The two run and play together, providing readers with some more fun words like “tickle”, “purr”, and “warm fur”. The endpapers show a cat and mouse romp through all sorts of boxes.

This book is a fun way to introduce adjectives to beginning readers, and ways to explore objects with younger readers. The pencil, ink, and computer-assisted collage work makes for fun, angular art, vividly colored and textured, almost inviting readers to feel the rough cardboard of the boxes under their fingertips. Lois Ehlert fans will find some similarities to the artwork, and the text is repetitive with occasional rhyme, inviting interaction.

Originally released in the UK, Big Box Little Box is a companion to Hart and Underwood’s upcoming One Shoe Two Shoes, and a fun addition to toddler and preschooler collections and concept bookshelves.

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

Book List for Beginning Activists

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Hazy Dell Press makes monsters fun for readers!

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

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

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

Recommended for readers 3-5

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

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

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

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Beauty in the small places: Tiny, Perfect Things

Tiny, Perfect Things, by M.H. Clark/Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper, (June 20118, Compendium), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-946873-06-4

Recommended for readers 3-8

A grandfather and granddaughter go for a nature walk, where they keep their “eyes open for tiny, perfect things”: the glint of light on a spider’s web; the bright color of an apple against the blue sky. It’s a lovely story of slowing down and taking the time to look at the little treasures around us. The grandparent and grandchild stop to examine these tiny, perfect things, leading us on our own adventure; when they arrive at home later that day, mom and dad are cuddled on the couch. A spread opens up to reveal the neighborhood, inviting readers to find their own tiny, perfect things.

Tiny, Perfect Things offers readers a glimpse at a small moment between a grandparent and grandchild, yet speaks volumes about their relationship. It’s also a moving statement to the power of slow movement – the slowing down of life’s hectic pace – and taking the time to notice the little bits and pieces that so many just ignore or don’t see. It’s a tribute to getting our noses out of our phones and enjoying the warmth of a little hand in ours; smelling the rain in the air; listening to the crunch of sneakers on dirt. The illustration is dreamy and soft, like a wonderful daydream, in warm colors. There’s a quiet, beautiful diversity in the story, from the white grandfather and his biracial grandchild, to the multicultural neighbors, to the father of color and white mom at home. You can follow Madeline Kloepper’s Instagram to see more.

It’s also the perfect opportunity to get out the door with our kiddos and explore! There’s a great post on Book Nerd Mommy about Tiny, Perfect Things and nature walks. Get out there! I love wandering around my neighborhood with my kiddo – we found a complete, empty snail shell and some acorns when we were clearing our yard for spring planting. What things can you find when you look?

Tiny, Perfect Things received a starred review from Kirkus.

This is a great storytime add and a nice book to feature in mindfulness collections. You can easily read this in your Toddler/Preschooler Yoga storytimes during belly breathing. You can pair and display with any of the Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds books, like I Am Yoga and I Am Peace; or Whitney Stewart, Stacy Peterson’s Mindful Me.

Posted in Toddler Reads

Adorable board books: actions, feelings, and opposites

This board book trio from author Ruth Austin and illustrator Kanae Sato is just adorable: Wiggle Jump Tickle looks at action words; Hide Seek Stinky Sweet – one of the best board book titles ever – introduces readers to opposites; and Happy Grumpy Loved is all about feelings. Let’s dive in.

Wiggle Jump Tickle, by Ruth Austin/Illustrated by Kanae Sato, (June 2018, Compendium), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1946873095

Recommended for readers 0-3

A young boy and an egg demonstrate cause and effect using action words in this adorable board book. The boy sees and egg, and reaches for it; grabs the egg, and it wiggles; as the egg hatches, he and his new friend play together, introducing words like play, stomp, dance, and wiggle to new readers. The illustrations are bright and bold, emotive, joyfully playful, and loaded with action and movement. It’s a celebration of discovery and new friendship, perfect for developing readers and listeners.

 

 

Hide Seek Stinky Sweet, by Ruth Austin/Illustrated by Kanae Sato, (June 2018, Compendium), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1946873088

Recommended for readers 0-3

A young girl and her black cat introduce children to opposites in this fun little book. At the start of the day, the girl is asleep, until Kitty decides it’s time to give some morning kisses to awaken her. Throughout their day, the girl gives a piece of candy to the cat, who decides to take her slipper; the girl takes out the stinky garbage, while the cat smells the sweet flowers. Where the Wiggle Tickle Jump illustrations are set against a blue background, Hide Seek Stinky Sweet has bold illustrations set against a bright yellow background. The characters are cheerful; two friends enjoying a day together, and the bright, bold words pop off the page and make for easy reading.

 

 

Happy Grumpy Loved, by Ruth Austin/Illustrated by Kanae Sato, (June 2018, Compendium), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1946873071

Recommended for readers 0-3

A boy, a girl, and their alligator demonstrate words to describe feelings in Happy Grumpy Loved. The children and alligator frolic their way through a bright red/pink background, introducing kids to words like friendly and shy; embarrassed and worried; pleased and excited. There’s movement, expressive body language, and a slew of great new words to get little ears used to hearing. The words map wonderfully to the illustrations, helping readers learn nonverbal communication, and develop empathy. The friendly girl waves at a dog, a big smile on her face; her friends hang back, heads cast down and the boy hiding behind the alligator, because they are shy. The dog barks, causing the alligator to leap into the air, surprised; he runs away, scared.

 

These books are absolute fun and loaded with teachable moments. They teach children to put words to feelings, actions, and concepts, and they encourage empathy by allowing children to experience cause and effect from an onlooker’s perspective. In Happy Grumpy Loved, the boy is jealous that the girl and alligator play together without him; he reacts by becoming grumpy, and destroying the structure the two friends built. In the next spread, he continues to throw the blocks, because he is angry; then, when the smoke clears, he is sad. The alligator helps him rebuild the structure, which makes him pleased, and together, the two friends are excited at their new creation.  Each book follows a story path, using the words to introduce readers to new vocabulary, while relying on the illustrations to tell the story.

The books are especially sturdy, too. They’ll hold up under multiple reads, and kids will want to return to these again and again. Put these books on your board book shelves and give them to your toddlers to enjoy. These pair nicely with Todd Parr books like The Feelings Book and Big and Little, and Leslie Patricelli’s board and picture books like Higher, Higher, Yummy Yucky, and Huggy Kissy.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Sesame Street books! Counting and Kindness!

Is anyone else thrilled that Sesame Street is still going strong? It gives me something to share with my kids at home and my kids at the library. Until you’ve taught other parents to sing along to Ladybug Picnic and driven your own children crazy with Manamana, you just haven’t lived. One of my best friends and I have been known to Elmo-Bomb one another with “Number of the Day/Letter of the day (Clap-Clap)” gifs, just to keep us on our toes. We never really outgrow Sesame Street, so whenever I see the chance to talk up the show and its characters, I’m on it.

5 Little Rubber Duckies, by Matt Mitter/Illustrated by Tom Brannon, (Feb. 2018, Studio Fun), $11.99, ISBN: 9780794441197

Recommended for 2-5

Ernie still loves his rubber duckies, and this adorable book invites readers to join Ernie and his Sesame Street friends as they seek out five of them! The rhyming story is very similar to the nursery song, “5 Little Ducks”: Ernie plays hide and seek with five of his little rubber ducks, but one less duckie comes back each time Ernie calls them. Will Ernie get his duckies back in time for bathtime?

This book is loaded with interactive fun for toddlers and preschoolers alike. There are five little rubber duckies at the top of the book that little fingers can slide back and forth to count and play. Each spread has a highlighted box inviting readers to count the duckies, and trace the die-cut numbers from 5 to 1.

The pages are sturdy and will hold up to multiple readings and counting play, and all the Sesame Street royalty is here: Elmo; Abby Cadabby; Oscar the Grouch; Big Bird and his teddy bear, Radar; Cookie Monster; Prairie Dawn; Rosita, and even Bert, feeding his pigeons up on the roof. (I’m assuming Super Grover was off, patrolling the city.) Also available in Spanish (5 Patitos de Hule), this is absolute storytime, classtime, kidtime fun.

 

Kindness Makes the World Go ‘Round, by Sesame Workshop, (Apr. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $10.99, ISBN: 9781492660569

Recommended for readers 3-6

Elmo wakes up one morning to discover that his mommy has left him a gift! She’s given him a camera for World Kindness Day and asks him to take photos of Sesame Street neighbors being kind to one another! Elmo is so excited, and why wouldn’t he be? Everyone’s nice to each other on Sesame Street! Sure enough, he’s snapping pictures right and left, creating a scrapbook to share with Mommy at the end of the day!

Another great book from the Sesame Workshop group, teaching kids about empathy and kindness. From holding doors for the little twiddle bugs, to playing with Julia at the playground, Elmo sees his friends all being kind to one another. This is a great book – and so timely – to have now, and to read for World Kindness Day (November 3). Play Elmo’s Kindness Bingo with the kids – there’s a free printable on Sesame Workshop.

Want to show them some Elmo? Here’s the Elmo’s World segment on kindness.