Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

It’s all in how you see it… Do You Believe in Unicorns?

Do You Believe in Unicorns?, by Bethanie Deeney Murguia, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $14.99, ISBN: 9780763694685

Ages 3-7

Do You Believe in Unicorns is fun and absolutely magical. It’s a visual wink that starts out with the horse on the cover: a white horse in a top hat. The story that follows is a conversation between the narrator and the reader, who we think must be a unicorn. But that’s crazy, right? It’s just a horse in a hat! Or is it? The narrator comes up with excuses as to why the horse can’t be a unicorn – his hair is a mess; he’s trying to keep dry in the rain – while our cartoony friend, sporting a knowing smile, prances through the book, eventually joined by other unicorns – HORSES! – wearing hats. But wait! The horses left their hats behind! And here’s where the joke is just perfect: the horses appear in front of spires, mountain peaks, and blades of grass. So, are those unicorns, or just expertly placed visual puns? Like the story says: “Maybe you can only see unicorns if you believe in them.”

What a way to bring magic into someone’s day. The cartoony art makes the unicorn/horse instantly kid-friendly, and its knowing smirk lets on that there may be more than meets the eye at play here. The facial expressions are an outright hoot, as our horse side-eyes other hat-wearing horses and admires himself in a mirror. It’s a lovely way to let kids know that there may be magical moments all around them, and a wonderful way to remind adults of the days when we believed in unicorns, too (and may still). And keep your eye on the lizard at the end of the story: he may be more than he appears, too. An absolute must-add to collections and great gift choice.

Do You Believe in Unicorns has starred reviews from Kirkus and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and is a Junior Library Guild selection. I think I’m adding this to my Caldecott longlist.

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Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

How islands raised an activist: Galápagos Girl/Galapagueña, by Marsha Diane Arnold

Galápagos Girl/Galapagueña, by Marsha Diane Arnold/Illustrated by Angela Domínguez, translated by Adriana Dominguez, (Sept. 2018, Lee & Low Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9780892394135

Ages 4-8

This bilingual English/Spanish story is based on the life of Galápagos Islands conservationist Valentina Cruz. Raised on the island, Valentina grew up surrounded by beauty: the blue-green sea, the playful penguins and sea lions, the sounds of the waves crashing against the rocks, and her father’s two tortoises, Carlitos and Isabela. Valentina goes away to school, but promises the animals and her islands that “I will not forget you… And I will help to keep you safe.” It’s a promise she keeps, returning to the islands on school holidays, camping out on remote islands to live and learn among the different flora and fauna, eventually becoming a biologist who returns to the islands to teach visitors to love her home as she does, and about the importance of preservation and conservation.

Author Marsha Diane Arnold met Valentina on a 2007 trip to the Galápagos and was inspired to write Galápagos Girl in the hope that readers would learn, as Valentina did, to help keep nature safe. Under threat from invasive species, active tourism, and encroaching humans, plant and animal life on the Galápagos is increasingly vulnerable. With bright, tropical colors and bold illustration, Pura Belpré Honoree Angela Dominguez transports readers to the magical islands; she communicates the feeling that we’re seeing something truly special as Valentina moves among unique plants and animals that aren’t found anywhere else on Earth. We’re given a special, secret pass to paradise as we turn each page of Galápagos Girl, and reading it with an unabashed sense of wonder will inspire that spark in a storytime group. An author’s note and a note about the Islands explains Marsha Diane Arnold’s first meeting with Valentina and provides background on the Islands. Five pages of information about the animals introduced in the story adds nice background information to the story, as does a solid bibliography. The bilingual text makes it accessible to Spanish and English-speaking readers.

The storytelling gives readers a glimpse at Valentina’s passion for conservation and illustrates how growing up with a respect for nature creates a better world for everyone. Galápagos Girl is a worthwhile add to storytime collections, bilingual collections, and natural history collections. There’s a free Animals of the Galápagos matchup download available at the Lee & Low website.

Marsha Diane Arnold is an award-winning picture-book author. Her past titles include the Smithsonian Notable Book The Pumpkin Runner and Lost. Found., which received three starred reviews. Marsha was inspired to write this story after traveling to the Galápagos Islands, where she met Valentina Cruz and had the opportunity to swim with sea lions and dolphins. She lives with her family in Alva, Florida. You can find her online at marshadianearnold.com.

Angela Domínguez is the author and illustrator of several books for children, including the Children’s Book Press title Let Me Help! / Quiero ayudar!Marta Big and Small, and Maria Had a Little Llama, which received the Pura Belpré Illustration Honor. In 2016, she received her second Pura Belpré Honor for her illustrations in Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina. When Angela is not in her studio, she teaches at the Academy of Art University, which honored her with their Distinguished Alumni Award. She lives in Virginia. Visit her online at angeladominguezstudio.com.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Delivery Bear has a message about being yourself

Delivery Bear, by Laura Gehl/Illustrated by Paco Sordo, (Sept. 2018, Albert Whitman & Company), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-8075-1532-7

Ages 4-7

Zogby is a big, brown bear who’s wanted to be a Fluffy Tail Cookies delivery animal ever since he was a cub. When he finally gets his chance, he’s up against a few obstacles: management is a little concerned that he doesn’t have “the Fluffy Tail Cookies look”, and his trial run is less fluffy, more… terrifying. He tries to change his appearance to be less scary to his little woodland customers, but no one wants to give the big guy a chance! It’s time for Zogby to put the lyrics to the Fluffy Tail jingle to work: You are special! You are YOU! Zogby comes up with his own original song to put the animals at ease, and before he knows it, he’s being invited in for tea and giving out bear hugs.

Delivery Bear is an adorable story about judging other based on appearances, and about appreciating yourself for who you are.The book is loaded with comic moments of a friendly cartoon bear trying to be friendly, and wide-eyed little animals screaming in terror, but there are plenty of teachable moments to talk over with readers; most notably, why Zogby had to change his approach to be accepted. Is it right or wrong to change for someone else? There is a lot to talk about here. (There’s also the question of whether or not the hiring manager was facing a lawsuit for not hiring Zogby, based on appearances, but I digress.)

With cartoony, kid-friendly artwork and a sweet story about self-acceptance, Delivery Bear is a cute add to storytime collections. Author Laura Gehl has a bunch of free downloads on her author website, including curriculum guides and coloring sheets for her Peep & Egg series, and One Big Pair of Underwear (which is a storytime standard for me).

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Take it Slow! Sloth at the Zoom shows you how

Sloth at the Zoom, by Helaine Becker/Illustrated by Orbie, (Aug. 2018, OwlKids), $17.95, ISBN: 9781771472494

Ages 3-7

Poor Sloth! She thought she was being dropped off at the Zzzzzoo, but something must have gone wrong with the paperwork: she’s been brought to the Zoom! It’s a very big difference, you see. At the Zzzzzoo, life moves along at a gentle pace; there’s time for naps in the sun, it’s relaxing, it’s all good. But at the Zoom? Whoosh! Zebras run by so fast, they leave their stripes in puddles! Parrots fly so fast, their tails draw rainbows across the sky! It’s VERY stressful, especially for poor Sloth, who wants to make friends, but no one has the time to give her. Finally, she meets Snail. Snail has time! Snail becomes Sloth’s friend, and the next thing you know, the Zoom is becoming a much nicer place to be. Sometimes, you just have to slow down and enjoy life, right?

It’s so nice to read a story that encourages life in the slow lane, isn’t it? I feel like we’re overscheduled and stressed out, our kids are overscheduled and stressed out, everyone’s got extracurricular activities, work, school, and deadlines seem to pop up everywhere, like neon signs. Kids are racing around like zebras, leaving their stripes behind, and so are we. Seeing two friends meet in the middle of this chaotic atmosphere, and bond over their shared moment of slowing down, gives hope to the rest of us, doesn’t it? Sloth at the Zoom shows readers that it’s in our hands to just stop, just slow down, and to discover the wonderful things that we often miss when we’re running by them. Slow living is contagious, too – if you slow down, someone else may, too. And that’s a good thing.

Sloth at the Zoom celebrates the Slow Living Movement, a lifestyle that puts the importance on mindfulness and embracing the slower aspects of life. There are blogs and websites dedicated to the movement, and there are books for adults and kids alike. One of my current favorites is The Slowest Book Ever, by April Pulley Sayre, which celebrates the science of slow in our world. But to start, all you really need to do is just take a deep breath and slow down.

Cuddle up with your little ones and enjoy a nice, slow read.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Liven up storytime with Play This Book and Pet This Book!

I love using interactive books in my storytimes. They get the kids involved, engage their minds and their bodies, and they’re just a load of fun. I’ve just received two new interactive books from Bloomsbury that will be big fun for pre-k and Kindergarten readers, and that can easily be applied to lessons incorporating music time or a sensory storytime. Let’s read on.

 

Play This Book!, by Jessica Young/Illustrated by Daniel Wiseman,
(May 2018, Bloomsbury USA), $15.99, ISBN: 9781681195063
Ages 4-7

A group of friends is getting ready to put on a show, but they need some extra hands to play in their band! This rhyming story invites kids to try out their musical skills on each spread: strum a guitar, bang on a drum, tickle the ivories on a piano, or shake some maracas! Every instrument has its own sound in bold, expressive fonts. Pass the book around and let your readers take a turn on the instruments in the book, or lead a band of your own with toy instruments! A diverse group of children march across the stage playing their song, and invite readers to make their own music: take the book up on that offer, and lead your little band on a march around the room. It’s absolute fun to read, and the art is big and eye-catching. Endpapers get into the fun, with a stage bearing a “Welcome” banner in front, and a custodian cleaning up afterward.

 

Pet This Book!, by Jessica Young/Illustrated by Daniel Wiseman,
(May 2018, Bloomsbury USA), $15.99, ISBN: 9781681195070
Ages 4-7

Bust out the stuffed animals and get cuddly for this fun book about the senses. A child of color (reminiscent of Doc McStuffins) invites readers right into her world, where she’s getting ready to take care of pets. Readers can pet a cat, scrub a pup in a tub, and feed a lizard a tasty treat. Each spread features a bright, boldly illustrated animal and a bold animal sounds. As with Play This Book, there’s time for a break, where kids can count to three and continue. There are no textures here for the kids to touch, but the book provides a perfect opportunity to ask kids what they think a cat, bird, or a lizard feels like. Have some textured toys available for kids to touch and explore! The rhyming text moves the book along at a fun pace, and a there’s good advice about the responsibility of caring for a pet built into the rhyme. A diverse group of kids line up with their animals to sound off. Endpapers open with a daytime scene on a farm, and close with the same group of animal friends sleeping, moon and stars in the sky.

Each book has digital art created with “Photoshop, custom brushes, and a lot of bright colors”, and kids will thoroughly enjoy it. Author Jessica Young has free, downloadable resources, including printable activity sheets for both Play This Book and Pet This Book, at her website, so make sure to visit.

These are big fun for storytimes bookshelves. Check them out.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Book Birthday: Who Eats Orange?

Who Eats Orange?, by Dianne White/Illustrated by Robin Page, (Aug. 2018, Simon & Schuster Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781534404083

Ages 3-6

Need a fun, new concept book on your shelves? Who Eats Orange looks at the eating habits of animals from bunnies to bears. Four animals eat one color, and the fifth doesn’t – but eats a different color, which brings us into the next group of animals. There’s quite a bit of information, broken down into simple, easily understandable bites, to be found here: colors, animals and what they eat, and their habitats: “Who eats orange? Bunnies in their hutches do. / Chickens in the henhouse too. / Who else eats orange? Goats. / Pigs. Gorillas too. Gorillas? NO! The repetitive text pattern gets kids ready; they’ll learn quickly who doesn’t eat a chosen color, and join in with a hearty “NO!” when the time comes. The text brings things right back to kids, encouraging them to eat the rainbow, with a colorful spread of fruits and vegetables. The back matter organizes the animals, and their foods, by habitat (farm, Africa, ocean, forest, rainforest, tundra) and provides more information on animals and their culinary tastes.

The digital art is wonderful; reminiscent of one of my favorite realistic animal artists, Steve Jenkins. (Robin Page also dedicates the book to Steve Jenkins, which was pretty great to see.) The vivid artwork stand out against stark white backgrounds, inviting readers to imagine the roughness of a hippo or the bushy fur of a fox and marmot. The faces are gentle, with expressive eyes that will draw storytime fans right in. It’s such an interactive book, with opportunities to get the kids talking about animals, food, and color. There’s an activity kit available for download that comes with animals masks to cut out, a rainbow recipe, and writing activities.

I read Who Eats Orange, along with one of my old favorites, Who Hops?, to my 6-year-old. Who Hops? works in a similar manner, introducing different animals who hop, swim, crawl… and then one animal that obviously cannot! Anyway, we had big laughs, he pronounced Who Eats Orange “so much fun”, and laughed at me when I suggested he start eating the rainbow with me. Hey, I tried.

Who Eats Orange is way too much fun for toddlers and preschoolers! A fun add to concepts and animal collections, and a good gift book for rising preschoolers and kindergarteners.

Posted in Non-Fiction

My Wild Activity Book is BIG fun for kids!

My First Wild Activity Book, by Maxime Lebrun, (Jan. 2018, Silver Dolphin), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626869578

Ages 4+

This activity book on animals and their habitats is packed with things to do and make! Inviting kids on an adventure, the book begins with a challenge: take a journey through seven habitats around the world, and offers kids the chance to write their own profiles and draw a self-portrait. From there, the game is on! Readers can work their way through the seven habitats: rain forests, deserts, oceans, the mountains, forests, the savanna, and the polar ice by enjoying search and find activities across fold-out spreads, mazes, connect-the-dots and matching games, coloring sheets, and spot the difference challenges. There are loads of facts throughout the book, and each habitat offers a “think outside of the book” activity that parents, caregivers, and educators can enjoy with the kiddos! Sticker badges for each habitat add a little passport-y punch to the book, and two pages of animal stickers (seriously, so. many. stickers) lets readers go wild on the spreads, or, if you’ve got a kid like mine, his bed, the walls in his room, and, in one case, my laptop.

My son went through this book in just shy of a day and a half, and that’s only because I begged for mercy to make dinner when he was halfway through. We had a great time working on these activities and coloring the pages together, and our next step is to work on a few of the “outside of the book” activities: should we make a leaf collage first, or liberate some of our renegade socks, to make a snake? Maybe we’ll go for the paper plate aquarium! This one is absolute fun for families, and the projects are great for a STEM or Discovery Club at the library or in school. It’s a fun way to enhance natural science learning.

There’s a free maze and “spot the differences” printable at Silver Dolphin’s website. Enjoy!