Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Bear and Wolf: A tale of two friends

Bear and Wolf, by Daniel Salmieri, (Feb. 2018, Enchanted Lion), $17.95, ISBN: 9781592702381

Recommended for readers 4-8

Bear and Wolf discover one another walking through the snow one day; they wander together, enjoying the sights and sounds of the snowy forest, glancing at an owl flying overhead, and peering into a frozen lake to see the sleeping fish. They part so Bear can hibernate in his den, and Wolf can run with his pack. When Spring returns, the friends reunite across the green forest.

With cool color shades to welcome winter and warm earth colors to celebrate spring, Bear and Wolf is less a story about seasons than about renewal: of friendship and of nature. It also honors the joy of taking one’s time, noticing the details, enjoying the journey. The gouache, watercolor, and crushed colored pencil artwork provides texture and yet, is soft and comforting. Bear and Wolf is a serene story that is nicely paired with books like Tiny, Perfect Things or The Magic Garden. A must-add to storytime shelves.

Bear and Wolf has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, and is on my Caldecott shortlist.

 

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Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Lola Dutch is just TOO MUCH!

Lola Dutch, by Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright, (Jan. 2018, Bloomsbury USA), $17.99, ISBN: 9781681195513

Recommended for readers 3-7

Lola Dutch is a little girl whose life motto may well be, “Go big or go home”. She starts her day by sliding down the bannister of a grand stairway, landing on her cushy friend, Bear’s, belly. She is bursting with ideas, and this is going to be an AMAZING day. She has grand ideas for breakfast, which turns into a several course meal for Lola and her animal friends, Gator, Pig, and Crane; a trip to the library for some “light reading” yields a Herculean amount of books. Lola’s inspired to create art, and begins producing work that the masters would be cowed by, including a Sistine Chapel-esque work on her ceiling, starring Lola and friends. At bedtime, seems overwhelmed. Everything’s quiet for the night, but Gator’s got cold feet, Pig is snoring, and Crane kicks in her sleep. Frazzled, Lola cries out, “This is ALL TOO MUCH!” and wants something simple and comforting: a hug from Bear.

We all have a little Lola in us, don’t we? I know I get those moments where I want to READ ALL THE BOOKS and end up reserving 5 books, which will sit on the pile I have at home; from there, I’ll want to straighten up all my bookshelves, and to do that, empty all the shelves on the floor so I can go through them, which will inevitably end up with me, sidetracked, coming back hours later to just shove everything on the shelves until the next time I get inspiration. Lola’s friend Bear is her guardian, and knows his charge too well: he takes a deep breath at breakfast, and often repeats the phrase this book is built on: “you are a little bit much”. At the end of the day, though, it’s a warm hug that’s all Lola really needs.

Lola Dutch is cute, if a bit manic; she just has a lot of energy to devote to each day. The pencil, gouache, and watercolor artwork is soft, largely pink, and has lots of kid appeal. Endpapers spotlight Lola sitting on the windowsill, reading (under Bear’s watchful eye, below) and using a telescope, and the cover of the book converts into a dollhouse that kids can play with; the back flap comes with paper dolls of Lola and Bear to cut out and play with. There are great extras on the Lola Dutch webpage, including paper dolls of Crane, Gator, and Pig; a coloring sheet, and a book hunt challenge and certificate (psst… good for Summer Reading programs at the library).

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

Lion (Forge), Tigers, and Bears… Oh, My!

In a twist on the classic Wizard of Oz quote, I found myself with a tiger book, a bear book, but no lion book. Lion Forge came to the rescue with a hilarious (and animal-related) picture book! Enjoy!

This is a Taco!, by Andrew Cangelose/Illustrated by Josh Shipley, (May 2018, Lion Forge), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1941302729

Recommended for readers 4-8

Lion Forge Comics also puts out some really good kids’ books. This is a Taco! is a laugh-out-loud take on a nature book about squirrels that breaks the fourth wall. Taco is a squirrel who loves tacos. As the nonfiction narrative on squirrels progress, Taco is there to disabuse readers of any facts they may be picking up about squirrels. Squirrels eat tree bark? This is news to Taco, who really wants to know where his tacos are. Great climbers? Taco’s terrified! He lives in a bush! Taco has enough by the time a section on hawks – the greatest squirrel predator – shows up on the scene, and decides to change the story. Grabbing a red pen, Taco writes his own happy ending and imparts serious wisdom to readers: “if you want tacos in your story, then YOU make sure there are tacos in your story”.

Kids are going to love this hilarious book. Taco the Squirrel is right up there with Mo Willems’ Pigeon in terms of characters who take charge of their stories and bring the laughs. This makes for a great creative writing exercise with older kids; let them “rewrite” their own stories with weeded picture books or some photocopied pages. Show them Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett’s Battle Bunny for another example of a picture book taking on a life of its own. And for taco-loving readers, get those Dragons Love Tacos books on the display shelves. This book is way too much fun – get it into the hands of kids, ASAP! There’s a companion book, This is a Whoopsie, coming out in October.

 

The Tiptoeing Tiger, by Philippa Leathers, (Feb. 2018, Candlewick Press), $14.00, ISBN: 9780763688431

Recommended for readers 3-7

Everyone knows that tigers are sleek, silent, and totally terrifying. Except for Little Tiger. He can’t seem to get anyone in the forest to notice him, let alone be afraid of him! After his brother bets that he can’t scare any animal in the forest, Little Tiger sets off, determined to frighten someone. He tiptoes his way through the book, trying to scare boars, elephants, and monkeys, with no luck. Isn’t there anyone he can scare before the day is out?

This is a great book for the littles, who LOVE “scaring” people. I remember I couldn’t walk out of my bathroom without my little guy jumping and “boo!”-ing me starting around the age of 3. (He’s 5 now, and still tries it; these days, it’s usually with a Nerf sniper rifle.) The author speaks to a child’s desire to be seen as someone bigger, and the frustration at being ignored, or worse – laughed at – when they’re trying to be like the bigger folks. The repetition of Little Tiger’s tiptoeing up to his prey invites readers to be part of the story, whether they tiptoe with their toes or walk their fingers on a surface. Let them give their best ROAR! to see how they’d match up with Little Tiger.

The pencil and watercolor illustrations are adorable; very kid-friendly, and leave a lot of open space to show the size differences between Little Tiger and the rest of the animals. Green endpapers with fern leaf patterning bring readers into the story. The Tiptoeing Tiger is a fun story about being small, but determined. A fun additional book for animal lovers.

 

The Curious Cares of Bears, by Douglas Florian/Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez, (Aug. 2017, little bee books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0462-1

This rhyming story takes readers through the four seasons with a group of bears and how they spend their time. In the spring, they love to climb trees and steal honey from bees, play and chase each other; in the summer, there’s swimming and games, family reunions, and parties; in the fall, they play all day and sing by a campfire at night; and when winter arrives, it’s time to make their way to their den to hibernate, until the spring thaw comes, and they get ready to explore their world all over again.

This is a gentle, fun read about the seasons. The group of cuddly bears pass their time in similar ways to our own families, which makes for some fun questions to pose to readers, especially near different seasonal school breaks. The rhyming text has a nice, steady rhythm for readers and the soft art makes the bears look fuzzy and cuddly, like the best bear books do. Endpapers feature an extended family group of bears wandering around the forest, setting the tone for the story. Give this to your teddy bear loving readers, and booktalk with some easy reader season books, like those from Rookie Readers.

 

Great Polar Bear, by Carolyn Lesser, (Apr. 2018, Seagrass Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781633225022

Recommended for readers 5-8

I had to add an extra bear book here, because Great Polar Bear is just beautiful. A nonfiction book written in verse, Carolyn Lesser takes readers through a year in the life of a polar bear. Originally published in 1996 as The Great Crystal Bear (illustrated by William Noonan), this new edition features all-new collage artwork by Lesser; it gives beautiful texture and depth to the illustrations. The narrative brings facts to readers through rhythmic verse, rather than terse statements: the bear’s fur, for instance, “gathers sunlight, to heat your black skin and thick layer of fat”. We also learn about the endangered environment and problems caused by climate change. Back matter contains “Explorer’s Notes” and emphasizes conservation. This is a good additional text for nonfiction collections where bears are popular.

 

Africa Calling, Nighttime Falling, by Danny Adlerman/Illustrated by Kim Adlerman, (March 2018, Lee and Low Books), $9.95, ISBN: 9781620147955

Recommended for readers 3-7

For my Oh My! book, I’ve got the bedtime story, Africa Calling, Nighttime Falling; a mellow story about African animals in their habitats as the sun sets for the day. The rhyming text leads includes quiet accompanying phrases for each animal: “As moonlight cloaks the desert land, Viper slinks across the sand… swiftly sliding, vipers gliding”. I read them as whispered phrases, between stanzas, because it seems to really work with my Kindergartner. The artwork includes collage over paintings, with what looks like some photographic media mixed in. The twist at the end brings this full circle when readers see that it’s a little girl’s imagination, before bedtime, and that she’s surrounded by her jungle’s worth of stuffed animals. It’s a nice additional add where bedtime stories and animal books are popular, and a good one to test out with stuffed animal sleepover storytimes.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Count along with Annie Aardvark, Mathematician!

Annie Aardvark, Mathematician, by Suzie Olsen/Illustrated by Davina “Viv” Kinney, (Jan. 2017, STEAM Publishing), $9.99, ISBN: 9780998433707

Recommended for readers 3-6

This cute counting book stars Annie, an aardvark mathematician. She loves math! She decides to count everything she finds, and takes readers on a 1-10 feast for the senses where she enjoys sniffing and tasting cucumbers, rocks, assorted bugs, berries, and plants. Each spread features a white page with black text for easy storytime reading, and a full-color page featuring Annie and her latest discovery. Kids can count along with the repetitive text, which features written numbers, illustrated things to count, and – most fun – the sounds Annie makes as she explores and investigates each treasure. She gulp, gulp, gulps beetles, slurp, slurp, slurp, slurps sticks, and has a whole bunch of snorts for leaves!

This is a cute concept book that would work really well with flannels – nature flannels are easy enough to make or find. It fits in well with a nature storytime; I’d pair this with Sue Williams’ I Went Walking. Make fun sound effects to get the kiddies giggling! The art is cute; Annie has a friendly smile and expressive eyes that will draw readers’ attention. Explain what an aardvark is, and more importantly, what a mathematician is. Pronounce the kids mathematicians and have them count!

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Teen

Three new graphic novels coming your way in May!

There are some good graphic novels coming out in May. There’s manga-influenced work, an animal tale that brings Watership Down to mind, and a gripping story about being an undocumented immigrant. Let’s see what’s up!

 

Snails are Just My Speed!, by Kevin McCloskey, (May 2018, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 9781943145270

Recommended for readers 3-7

The latest in Kevin McCloskey’s Giggle and Learn series of graphic novels takes a look at snails! They live in their shells! They like to eat together! They make a LOT of mucus! (So. Much. Mucus.) This latest easy reading, nonfiction graphic novel is perfect for pre-k and Kindergarten science groups and animal lovers. It’s loaded with fun facts, much of it mucus-related, which will make this a guaranteed hit with kids who love to squeal and shriek at “gooey” stuff. I love the infographic, built into the story, of all the animals that are faster – and slower! – than a snail, and the different types of snails that exist, including a hairy snail and a “glass” snail with a see-through shell. There’s a quick drawing lesson at the end – great way to end a storytime or science group session! – and the TOON website always has great teacher’s resources available for download. Kevin McCloskey is aces in my book!

 

Animus, by Antoine Revoy, (May 2018, First Second), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626721838

Recommended for readers 12+

This is a creepy ghost tale/mystery surrounding a ghost destined to haunt a playground. Schoolmates Hisao and Sayrui meet Toothless, a ghost who tells them that the playground is magic: the swings let you look into people’s dreams; the sandbox brings your worst fears to life, and the slide has the power to give or take years from your life, depending on the direction you go. When another friend goes down the slide, rapidly ages, and develops dementia, the two friends must save him – and to do that, they must discover who Toothless really is, and how he came to haunt the playground.

Heavily influenced by Japanese and French comics, this black-and-white graphic novel is eerie and unsettling; a strong noir story with ghostly elements woven throughout to create a story that will stay with readers.

 

Chasma Knights, by Boya Sun & Kate Reed Petty, (May 218, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626726048

Recommended for readers 8-12

Beryl is a Neon Knight in the fantasy land of Chasma, where toys “catalyze” with a touch and come to life, merging with their owners and imbued with special abilities. But the thing is, in Chasma, being a Neon Knight isn’t that great – it’s kind of a joke. Neon Knights can’t catalyze; Oxygen Knights do. But Beryl has a talent all her own: she’s an inventor that can repurpose broken toys into new creations. Coro, an Oxygen Knight, meets Beryl at the Toy Market, and the two strike up an initially cautious friendship.

I’ll be honest, this one left me scratching my head – I didn’t always quite get what was going on, but I did appreciate the kid-friendly artwork and storyline: who wouldn’t want to read about toys coming to life? I booktalked this to a few of my library kids – all big manga fans – and they seemed to have a better grasp on the concept than I did, so go them! My best advice? It’s a fun, bright, kid-friendly graphic novel. Let your audience be your guide.

And two that are already out, but that I just read…

Chloe, Vol. 1: The New Girl, by Greg Tessier and Amandine, (May 2017, Papercutz), $9.99, ISABN: 9781629917634

Recommended for readers 10-12

Originally published in French, the Chloe graphic novels are fun stories about a fashion-fabulous teen named Chloe as she navigates high school, friendships, and relationships. Her family mortifies her, and the mean girl fashionistas at school are mean to her – in other words, she’s totally relatable. In this first issue, Chloe starts high school and tries to get in with the in crowd. The artwork is fun and the subject matter is light.

Chloe, Vol. 2: The Queen of High School, by Greg Tessier and Amandine, (October 2017, Papercutz), $9.99, ISBN: 9781629917634

Recommended for readers 10-12

In this second volume, Chloe is back for her second year of high school and taking things by storm. She’s got a cute new boyfriend, a fashion blog, and a group of friends to call her own. She’s still got embarrassing parents and mean girls at school, but she’s taking it all in stride.
There are four Chloe volumes in total available. These would be good for Summer Reading groups, maybe even in conjunction with a blog project for tweens!
Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Take a nature walk On Gull Beach

On Gull Beach, by Jane Yolen/Illustrated by Bob Marstall, (March 2018, Cornell Lab Publishing Group), $16.95, ISBN: 9781943645183

Recommended for readers 4-7

The latest book in Jane Yolen and Bob Marstall’s On Bird Hill & Beyond series takes us to the beach, where a boy wanders along the shore, observing the wildlife as he goes. He sees a starfish get snapped up by a gull, and he follows along as a group of gulls toss the sea star, trying to grab it as the birds pass it from one to the next. As he follows along, readers learn about the shoreline ecosystem; the tidepools, seaglass, and crabs.

All of the On Bird Hill books are standalone stories, each looking at a different ecosystem through the eyes of a child; all come together to form an early reader science and nature series on habitats. On Gull Beach looks at life on a New England beach, with extra information about different gulls, shorebirds, sea stars, and crabs that make an appearance in the book. There’s also a note about supporting our beaches and wildlife that back up discussions about ecology and conservation. This is a beautifully written and illustrated rhyming story about nature that kids will enjoy and that supports early earth science and habitat study. Have kids point out the different birds they see, and the crabs they spot – that’s my son’s favorite part of the book!

Posted in Animal Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Dormouse is afraid to sleep alone… do you have space for him?

Dormouse and His Seven Beds, by Susanna Isern/Illustrated by Marco Somà, (April 2018, NubeOcho), $16.95, ISBN: 978-84-946926-6-6

Recommended for readers 3-6

Green Forest is a pretty quiet, uneventful place until the morning that Rabbit wakes up to discover Dormouse is sleeping in his carrot box. Dormouse apologizes, and says he couldn’t sleep, so he decided to try a new bed. This quickly becomes a habit: Dormouse tries out Robin’s tie drawer, Deer’s antlers, Tortoise’s glasses case, Mouse’s cuckoo clock, and Squirrel’s music box! The animals have a talk with Dormouse: this has to stop; he’s giving everyone a fright! Dormouse disappears the next day, worrying his neighbors. When they start a search, they discover him in Gray Forest, in Wolf’s sock! After a quick rescue, they discover the reasoning behind Dormouse’s wandering: he doesn’t want to sleep alone.

This story is perfect for preschoolers who may have similar fears, and the parents and caregivers who wake up to discover an errant foot or arm lodged in a hip, the small of a back, or a neck. (Speaking from experience.) Dormouse’s desire for company overrides his sense of propriety, leading him to sneak into his neighbors’ homes to be near someone at night; understandably, it’s a little nerve-wracking to wake up with someone unexpected in one’s home, and the group confronts Dormouse, not giving him a chance to explain himself. Parents will understand the guilt the animal friends feel when Dormouse disappears, and both parents and caregivers will appreciate the arrangement everyone comes to for future sleepovers. A sweet addition at the tale’s end gives Dormouse a chance to pay it forward.

Marco Somà’s illustration is just beautiful, with small details that will keep readers noticing something new with every read; from the carrot wallpaper in Rabbit’s home, to the owl’s face built into Owl’s home, and beyond. The blue tinge throughout the artwork lends a peaceful vibe to the story, making this a loving bedtime read, perfect for snuggling with the kiddos before they fall asleep in their own beds (or at least, start out there).

Released in 2017 in Spanish (978-84-946926-5-9), Dormouse and His Seven Beds is part of nubeOCHO’s nubeclassics line, and reads like a classic fable should.