Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A little post-Halloween fun: Bear’s Scare

Bear’s Scare, by Jacob Grant, (June 2018, Bloomsbury), $16.99, ISBN: 9781681197203

Ages 3-6

Bear keeps a tidy house for himself and his friend, a stuffed bear named Ursa. He loves to clean the house every day, but one day, he notices something: a cobweb! As he searches his home, he notices another web! And another! Convinced he has a spider problem, Bear works himself into a frenzy – the spider is covering the house with webs! It’s making it sticky mess! – and tears his home apart, searching for the spider. The pictures belie what Bear imagines is happening, as we see the spider very politely knitting, painting, and reading a book as Bear turns his house upside down. In his panic to get the messy spider out of his house, Bear traps Ursa’s arm under a chair and tears it off when he pulls her. Stunned into realization, Bear focuses on getting Ursa some first aid, only to discover that the spider has stitched Ursa’s arm together with its own silk. Bear discovers that getting to know someone is a much better way to determine one’s character, and embraces his new friend – who invites some more new friends to visit.

Bear’s Scare is an adorable story about how our own perceptions can get away from us, and the havoc it wreaks. The charcoal and crayon artwork lends a hand-crafted feel to the story, with digital coloring adding a depth of warm color. Bear is a deep navy blue; he stands out against his earth-toned home yellow spider neighbor. Pages are mostly bright white, with the artwork standing out against the background, with some full bleed spreads, usually for a more dramatic moment. The plain black font lets the artwork tell the full story while the text is there to let the storyteller be as tongue-in-cheek as they want to be.

Bear’s Scare is adorable fun with a smart message about friendship and judging others on appearances. It’s a nice add to picture book collections where kids enjoy a little wink, wink, nudge, nudge humor.

See more of Jacob Grant’s artwork and information about his books at his website.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Perfectly Norman is perfectly lovely

Perfectly Norman, by Tom Percival, (May 2018, Bloomsbury USA), $16.99, ISBN: 9781681197852

Ages 4-7

Norman is a perfectly normal little boy until the day he sprouts big, colorful wings! At first, he enjoys his wings and the freedom they give him, letting him soar through the sky, but then worry slips in: what would his parents think?  Norman slips on a heavy yellow coat and resigns himself to being hot, uncomfortable, and sad, until his parents encourage him to take off the coat. Norman unfurls his beautiful wings, embraces his true self, and takes to the skies again: this time, encouraging other children to shed their coats and embrace their wings, too. Because there’s no such thing as perfectly normal, but he is perfectly Norman.

This sweet picture book embraces diversity and self-awareness. Norman is a biracial boy with a light-skinned mom and a dark-skinned dad, who shows lives and moves throughout his black and white world. Even Norman is black and white, sporting a bright yellow sweater with red striped sleeves, and carrying a bright yellow and red kite. once Norman’s wings make an appearance, though, Norman’s no longer black and white: he’s full color, and so are the blue skies and colorful birds he flies with! He soars above his black and white world, soaking in the color, until he gets called to dinner: Norman’s world goes back to black and white, the yellow coat now setting him apart in a seemingly different way, calling attention not to his uniqueness, but his desire to hide. When the colorful birds fly by him again, and his parents encourage him to shed the coat, the world fills with color again – and so do the multicultural group of kids he invites to fly with him. Perfectly Norman sends a passionate message about the freedom of self-acceptance and encourages kids to share that message with others. It’s a solid storytime read and a good addition to picture book collections.

Originally published in the UK, Perfectly Norman is available in the States. Tom Percival is also the author of the Little Legends chapter book series, which flies off the shelves.


Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Henry and the Yeti is about snuggle-worthy friendship!

Henry and the Yeti, by Russell Ayto, (Aug. 2018, Bloomsbury USA), $16.99, ISBN: 9781681196831

Ages 3-7

Henry is a little boy who loves yetis, but no one is quite sure whether or not yetis actually exist. Except for Henry, that is. He gets some time off from school, packs his equipment, and heads off on an expedition to the snowy mountains. Just when he’s ready to turn around and go home, SURPRISE! He finds a yeti! The two hit it off, snap some pictures, and Henry heads back home, delighted. But when he unpacks his gear, he discovers, to his horror, that he left his camera behind! How can he prove to his principal and classmates that he isn’t making things up? It’s a good thing that yetis are such good friends.

What an adorable book about friendship Henry and the Yeti is! I especially love the quirky, cool-hued artwork, making Henry and instantly likable little boy with huge glasses, expressive eyes, and a turtleneck that hides the rest of his face and covers most of his body. The yeti is an amorphous, white blob on two legs, and he, too, has tremendous, kind eyes. The size difference makes these two friends adorable together as they take selfies and share hugs. The sparse illustration allows readers to give Henry their full attention and sets him apart from his principal and classmates, all of whom stand taller and wear more shifty, less open, facial expressions. The text is tongue-in-cheek, working wonderfully with the artwork. When the principal uses a bullhorn to announce Henry’s punishment, we see the large yeti’s legs and body come into view, and the text reads, “Oh! Henry sees the yeti again. The yeti sees Henry. The principal sees the yeti. And everybody stops laughing.” The joke is on the mean crowd, and we’re there to savor it as it unfolds, as does on the next page… but I’ll let you read it for yourself. Suffice to say, Henry’s reputation is saved and he’s gained a friend for life; the principal and classmates have learned a valuable lesson about being kind. The book was originally released in the UK in 2017

Read this one out loud, and make sure you leave time for all the giggles and “awwwwwws” you’ll hear. Add Henry and the Yeti to your stories about empathy, friendship, and yes… yetis (psst… sasquatches work, too).


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.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade

Bad Mermaids Make Waves!

Bad Mermaids Make Waves, by Sibéal Pounder/Illustrated by Jason Cockcroft, (May 2018, Bloomsbury USA), $13.99, ISBN: 9781681197920

Recommended for readers 8-12

What happens when you’re a mermaid, spending a summer on land with your temporary legs and feet, and you have to go back under the sea early because someone fishnapped the Mermaid Queen? That’s what besties Beattie, and twin sisters Zelda and Mimi have to do in this first middle grade mermaid adventure by Witch Wars author Sibéal Pounder. The mermaids arrive back under the sea to discover everyone acting… strange. A new queen who hides her face and calls herself The Swan is making everyone go back to wearing shell tops, and piranhas patrols are keeping things in check. The threesome steal a clamshell car and investigate who could be behind this fishy plot!

Mermaid stories are HUGE here. Heck, they’ve been huge at every library I’ve been at, from picture books, through YA. You’ve got three best friends who work really well together, a mystery to solve, and humorous villains and mean mermaids (all genders are referred to as mermaids), a café set inside an actual whale, plus black and white illustrations throughout. There are loads of in-jokes poking fun at mermaid tropes, like the clamshell tops and hair-combing, and the characters’ speech is full of fishy references like the exclamation, “Oh cod!”

This is an automatic add to my shelves. Give this to your Mermaid Tales and Mermaid S.O.S. fans who are ready for higher leveled books, and your Emily Windsnap fans.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

When the World is Full of Friends, it’s a pretty great place

When the World is Full of Friends, by Gillian Shields/Illustrated by Anna Currey, (Feb. 2018, Bloomsbury USA), $16.99, ISBN: 9781681196268

Recommended for readers 3-6

The rabbit family from When the World Was Waiting for You and When the World is Ready for Bed returns in this sweet book about play and discovering new friends. Siblings Albert, Tom, Flossie, and Pipkin love to play, and wish they had more friends to play with. They see a squirrel family across the stream, and put their heads together to figure out how to cross the stream to play together, turning the experience into a fun game in itself. The takeaway? “Playing with friends was wonderful!”

This is a great bedtime, quiet time, or circle time story. It’s got a calm pace, with soft watercolor and ink art. The messages of friendship and working together to play together reinforce positive lessons, and the opening and closing rhyming verses beautifully bookend the story narrative. Add this one to your storytime collections.

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).