Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

The jungle heat begs for The Perfect Siesta

The Perfect Siesta, by Pato Mena, (June 2017, NubeOCHO), $15.95, ISBN: 978-84-945415-3-7

Recommended for readers 3-7

It’s a hot day in the jungle, so when a lovely, cool breeze blows through, a jaguar seizes the moment to take a nap. He has things to do, though, so he asks a coati to wake him in 10 minutes. The coati doesn’t want to say no to a jaguar, out of a healthy sense of self-preservation, but that breeze is just sooo nice… so he asks a cockatiel to wake him up in 10 minutes, who then goes on to ask a sloth. The poor sloth feels the pressure to stay awake, but can’t fight it anymore and lets out a giant SNORE that keeps everyone’s promise!

The Perfect Siesta has entered regular storytime reading at home, and I’m planning a great nap-centric read-aloud to debut this one at my library. It’s hilarious and I love the art, especially the giant, sleepy sloth’s eyes (shown on the cover). Snoring is up there with farts in terms of read-aloud humor, so let your loudest snore rip when you’re reading – the text will support you!

The collage-style artwork will catch readers’ attention and makes for a great read-aloud to large groups as well as small groups. The animals are native to South America, so this also makes for a good rainforest storytime, with extra fun if you have plush or flannels to add to the atmosphere.

Originally published in Spanish, The Perfect Siesta translates hilariously into English and makes for a fun bedtime, naptime, anytime read. The Perfect Siesta is a Junior Library Guild selection.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Realistic Fiction

#AnimalPlanetAdventures mix fiction and fact for maximum fun!

Animal Planet has great nonfiction for kids. I particularly love their Animal Bites series, which looks at animals from different habitats, and offers a rich mix of beautiful photos and easy-to-read facts. For those beginning readers who want to feel part of an animal adventure, Liberty Street – Animal Planet’s publisher, a division of Time Inc. Books – introduced Animal Planet Adventures chapter books earlier this year. I read the first two adventures, Dolphin Rescue and Farm Friends Escape!

Animal Planet Adventures: Dolphin Rescue, by Catherine Nichols, (Feb. 2017, Liberty Street), $5.95, ISBN: 978-1-61893-417-8

Dolphin Rescue introduces us to siblings Maddie and Atticus, who live off the coast of Maine with their single dad and volunteer at the local aquarium. While trying to solve a rash of trash dumping incidents happening throughout their town, they notice a pod of dolphins in the nearby cove, looking very distressed. They’ll need to use their knowledge of animals, plus their problem-solving skills to help the pod out.

 

Animal Planet Adventures: Farm Friends Escape!, by Catherine Nichols, (Feb. 2017, Liberty Street), $5.95, ISBN: 978-1-61893-416-1

In Farm Friends Escape!, we meet cousins Luke and Sarah, who spend every summer at their grandparents’ farm. This year, their grandparents put them in charge of running the farm’s petting zoo. They’re thrilled, even if they don’t always agree on how to get things up and running. A mysterious kid lingers around the farm, though; and while they’re trying to figure him out, they discover that somehow, the animals have all gotten loose! The cousins need to track down each of the petting zoo escapees, relying on their animal knowledge and deduction skills – and they need to figure out how they got loose in the first place.

Animal Planet Adventures is a great way to reach readers who may struggle with nonfiction, but love a good story. There’s a little bit of mystery in each storyline, so your series fiction fans who love books like Ron Roy’s A to Z Mysteries, Capital Mysteries, and Calendar Mysteries will gobble these up. Books are in full color – both story illustration and nonfiction sections – and feature the beautiful photography that we already love in Animal Planet books. Nonfiction sections are spread evenly throughout the book, so it flows with the overall narrative of the story, often fleshing out information contained in the plotline. I don’t know if future books (there are two more adventures – Puppy Rescue Riddle and Zoo Camp Puddle – releasing in September) will introduce more new characters or if we’ll meet Mattie, Atticus, Luke, and Sarah again, but the character pair-ups are fun and appeal to both boys and girls. I’ve just ordered a set of Adventures for my library, because series fiction and animal nonfiction is aces around here. Display with your series mystery fiction and your animal nonfiction – it all works!

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

The Blue Songbird discovers her song

The Blue Songbird, by Vern Kousky, (Apr. 2017, Running Press Kids), $22.49, ISBN: 9780762460663

Recommended for readers 4-8

A young blue songbird wishes that she could sing like her sisters. She wants to sing along with them, but she can’t seem to sing like they do. Her mother encourages her to go and find a special song that only she can sing, and the little bird sets off in search of her special song. She meets other birds and experiences the world, only to discover that, upon reaching home again, her song was inside of her all along.

The sweet story of self-awareness also shows readers that your experiences help make you who you are. The songbird’s song is influenced by her travels and who she met; the music was inside of her all along, but venturing out – and returning home – helped shape the music into a song.

The watercolor artwork is beautiful to look at. The colors are soft and the depiction of the music, as a spray of notes and color, is lovely and stirring. The text encourages kids to explore their world, even if, at a young age, that world is their backyards, their playgrounds, their friends’ homes. At the same time, it reassures kids that they can always return home.

There are so many ways to enjoy and extend the lessons put forth in this story. The little birds can be recreated with thumbprint art. Have little readers make their own songbird families by using watercolor paint, dipping their thumbs into a color, and giving their own songbirds adventures in finding their songs. Encourage kids to go on scavenger hunts – I love this idea for scavenger hunt bags and plan to go on an adventure with my little guy once this crazy NYC weather lets up – to explore the world around them.

Good readalikes for this book include A Song for Papa Crow, by Marit Menzin, and the classic Over in the Meadow. Over the Meadow also makes a good singalong and flannel play.

Vern Kousky is an adjunct professor of English for Touro College and the author of the award-winning book, Otto the Owl Who Loved Poetry. You can see more of his artwork, including some interior art from The Blue Songbird, at his website.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Welcome #NationalPoetryMonth with Animal Ark

Animal Ark, created by photographer Joel Sartore/text by Kwame Alexander, (Feb. 2017, National Geographic), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2767-4

Recommended for ages 3+

Newbery Award winning author Kwame Alexander lends his voice to award-winning National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore’s beautiful book of wild animals. Animal Ark is inspired by the National Geographic Photo Ark: a project between Sartore and the National Geographic Society to document every species in captivity, with the goal of raising awareness and protecting these animals for future generations.

Kwame Alexander writes amazing verse. If you’ve read The Crossover or Booked, you know this. His Animal Ark verse is at once playful and a call to action; paired with Sartore’s visually stunning photos, they pack a powerful punch to the psyche. A full-page photo of a wolf’s face in profile proclaims, “Howl like you mean it… the world is listening”; brightly colored beetles stand out against a black background, reading “Color me ancient and sacred”. The words placement is also playful, winding across the page and around the animals, to create a full visual experience for the reader. Several gatefolds throughout the book surprise the reader with a “chorus of creatures”, collages of photos. Here, the text reminds us of what we have and not to squander our gifts: “There are too few remaining/in the rain forest/in the big blue sea/in the whole wide world/because of you and me”.

Joel Sartore has photographed more than 6,000 species for the PhotoArk project, more than 100 of which are featured in Animal Ark. A companion adult book, National Geographic The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals (March 2017) includes more photographs and a foreword by Harrison Ford.

This is a perfect book to read and display for National Poetry Month (starting April 28), and for Earth Day (April 22nd). It’s a beautiful photo book with lovely verse that will draw readers in. Animal Ark received a starred review from School Library Journal and the companion adult book received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Have a look at the blooper reel – photographing animals isn’t always easy!

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Duck and Hippo brave the rain together!

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

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

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

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

About the Author and Illustrator

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

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

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

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Adorable animal books for toddlers and preschoolers!

Anita Bijsterbosch has two adorable animal books out this month and next, perfect for toddlers who love to explore their books.

do-you-see-my-tailDo You See My Tail? (March 2017, Clavis Books, $12.95, ISBN: 978-1605373201) introduces readers to seven animals – well, seven animal tails; the rest of the animals are hidden behind local flora. The text drops a hint, and a gatefold reveals the full answer: an animal family! The repetitive question/answer format, and greeting to the animals and their babies, creates a fun discovery experience for little hands. An extra challenge: find the little ladybug hiding on every spread.

Preschoolers will like being able to control finding out more about the animals and learning about animal habitats: beavers play in a nest of tree trunks and branches, rabbits in a hole under the ground. Toddlers will love the excitement of discovery and the very cute artwork.

Whewhen-i-grow-upn I Grow Up (April 2017, Clavis Books, $14.95, ISBN: 978-1605373348) features six young animals who dream about what they’ll be able to do once they grow up: a little lion who can only growl softly now will be a big lion whose roar will be heard by all the animals; a little giraffe whose nose barely touches the leaves in a tree will one day be able to reach everything with his long neck. Die cut pages let readers flip the page to reveal the adult animal in the young animal’s place within the same setting.

As with Do You See My Tail?, When I Grow Up offers toddlers the excitement of discovery, with something new on every page. The pages are sturdy and will hold up to multiple page flips (always a concern in my library). Preschoolers can focus on habitats, food, and other animals sharing the living spaces.

Originally published in 2016 in Belgium and Holland, these are fun new choices to bookshelves and collections.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Do you like to play? Animals do, too!

animals-doAnimals Do, Too!, by Etta Kaner/Illustated by Marilyn Faucher, (May 2017, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771385695

Recommended for ages 4-8

Do you like to dance? Do you like to play leapfrog? Play tag? Well, guess what: animals do, too! This fun book features pictures of families at play on one spread, and a corresponding spread on the next two pages, with a group of animals engaged in the same fun. The alternating question and answer format engages kids right away, and the activities that we humans do for fun, while animals do them to find food and care for their young will spark discussion with young learners.

Animals Do, Too! features animals that differ from the usual farm and jungle animals kids meet in their books. Sure, we’ve got bumblebees and frogs, but we also meet cattle egrets and marmosets, gazelles and leaf-cutter ants. A spread at the back of the book provides fast facts about each animal in the book.

There is some lovely watercolor work here, featuring lovely nature scenes. The families are enjoying one another, and the animals are playful while completing their everyday work. The parallels between humans and animals should engender interest and empathy in kids and will start some great conversations – ask the kids around you to think of animals they see every day: what does a cat do that a person does? (Stretching is a good one!) What does a dog do that a person does? (Jump and play!) You can create matching games that match the activity with the animal, for younger learners; bonus: they get to color.

The question and answer pattern of the text invites kids to interact with the text and gives them a chance to contribute before revealing the answer on the following spread. This is a good additional purchase for nature, life science, and animal collections.