Posted in Preschool Reads

A mother’s last love letter: A Bubble, by Geneviève Castrée

A Bubble, by Geneviève Castrée, (June 2018, Drawn & Quarterly), $12.95, ISBN: 9781770463219

Ages 4+

Artist and musician Geneviève Castrée passed away in 2016 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. This last project, a board book for her 2-year-old daughter, is at once a celebration of parental love and a comfort to anyone moving through grief and loss. Maman loves her daughter, but has been encased in a bubble since before the little girl can remember. She and her mother spend time in the bubble, eating together, playing together, and napping together; when daughter goes out exploring with Papa, she comes back to share what she’s done and seen with Maman, who cannot leave her bubble. As the story unfolds, we see the family’s activities change as Maman’s illness progresses; the story ends with hugs, kisses, and going for ice cream: a last, loving moment between mother and daughter.

The Bubble is simple and exquisite. I ache reading every page of this brief book and the final note from Castrée’s singer-songwriter husband, Phil Elverum. The artwork is focused on Castrée and her daughter; their loving relationship, the bubble, and the intrusion of the outside world. Narrated by the child, each page has 1-3 sentences, describing her relationship with her mother. It’s a comfort to children coping with loss and a testament to the everlasting love between a parent and child. I’ve read this book at least 5 times now, each time with a lump in my throat and an ache in my chest. It’s beautiful, and a good book to give to children – and parents – dealing with grief.

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Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Before & After – sequential fun!

Before & After, by Jean Julien, (March 2017, Phaidon), $12.95, ISBN: 978-0-7148-7408-1

Recommended for readers 2-4

A haggard cat grooms itself into a stylish feline. Raw spaghetti becomes a tasty dinner. The eternal question of what comes first, chicken or egg, is answered. This is just a sampling of what awaits little hands in graphic designer Jean Julien’s second large format board book, Before & After.

Each spread depicts alternating “before” and “after” artwork; a page dedicated to the drawing and a page boldly declaring “before” or “after”. There are picture books standards – pasta becomes dinner, water pours into a glass – are more amusing, unexpected scenes, like the outcome of wearing sunglasses on a sunny day. A gatefold centerfold is a fun surprise for little lapsitters.

The brush and ink art is fun and boldly outlined, set against bright, digitally painted page backgrounds, and the pages themselves are sturdy, able to hold up to lots of use, which this book will surely experience. Kids can flip pages back and forth, fold and unfold, to their hearts’ content. It’s a great way to teach sequence. Before & After will join Jean Julien’s first board book, This is Not a Book (2016), in my storytime rotation.

See more of Jean Julien’s artwork at his website.

Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Preschool Reads, Teen, Toddler Reads, Tween Reads

Holiday Shopping: Something for Every Reader!

The days are getting closer! Get to your nearest bookstore (or order online, if you can swing the express shipping) and fill your basket with some of these goodies for the readers you love.

Edited to add: Please excuse the terrible formatting! It looked fine when I previewed this post last night, but things have gone wonky. I’m still learning HTML, so I hope this doesn’t turn anyone off the post.

what-does-kitten-hearWhat Does Kitten Hear? A Big Book of Animal Sounds, by Lizelot Versteeg, (Nov. 2016, Clavis), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1605372525

Recommended for ages 2-4

This big board book is an adorable combination of seek and find, counting, and name that sound. A kitten wanders through a farm, city, zoo, beach, the woods, a park, and a house. Every spread is a new part of Kitten’s world, complete with sights and sounds to explore. Questions prompt readers and their favorite cuddly grownups to look identify the sounds kitten hears, and count the different objects to be found. Additional questions throughout each spread prompt discussion on about other things in the book: compare hot air balloons to see which flies higher; what squirrels eat versus what blackbirds eat. Toddlers and early preschoolers will love this book – I’m lucky I got my copy away from my preschooler long enough to write this piece.

 

artists-alphabetAn Artist’s Alphabet, by Norman Messenger, (Sept. 2016, Candlewick Press), $$17.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-8123-4

Recommended for ages 2+

This ain’t your usual ABCedary. Artist Norman Messenger has created beautiful watercolor and pencil artwork to demonstrate upper- and lower-case letters in the alphabet. Kids will connect with some right away – the acrobats demonstrating the letter A, the eels for the letter E – and some will take some thought. Bold, black upper- and lower-case letters in a lined box on each page will help developing writers get an idea of scale for their letters. The only thing that would have made this perfect for me would have been a key to the drawings at the end of the book, because there are a few I’m still working out. It’s a stunning art book for kids of all ages.

 

doll-peopleThe Doll People’s Christmas, by Ann L. Martin and Laura Godwin/Illustrated by Brett Helquist, (Sept. 2016, Disney/Hyperion), $17.99, ISBN: 9781484723395

Recommended for ages 4-7

This latest Doll People book is a picture book! It’s Christmas at the Palmer family residence, and Annabelle Doll is excited to share the holiday with her best friend, Tiffany. After all, she knows what makes Christmas perfect! But nothing is perfect, and sure enough, things start going wrong. Annabelle is convinced that Christmas is ruined, but she learns that being surrounded by family and friends makes Christmas – even Christmases that aren’t what you expect – perfect. You don’t need to be familiar with the Doll People series to enjoy this story; it’s a great way to introduce the characters to new readers.

 

book-of-heroesbook-of-heroinesThe Book of Heroes: Tales of History’s Most Daring Dudes, by Crispin Boyer, (Nov. 2016, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2553-3
The Book of Heroines: Tales of History’s Gutsiest Gals, by Stephanie Warren Drimmer, (Nov. 2016, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2557-1

Recommended for ages 8-13

Guys and girls alike will love these books, each including over 100 figures from history, fiction, and entertainment. There are world leaders, athletes, gods and goddesses, pioneers for human rights, and animals here, offering something for everyone. One eyebrow raise goes to Wonder Woman, whose clothing and accessories are highlighted in the Heroines book, while a generic superhero in the Heroes version is the backdrop for “superpowered” real people (Usain Bolt and his superspeed, a blind teen who taught himself to “see” using echolocation). The cartoon hero’s superpowers of invincibility, speed, heightened senses and strength get the highlight here, thanks to these gifted individuals, but why are we concentrating on what Wonder Woman is wearing? She can fly (even without her invisible plane), she’s super strong, and she’s got superior fighting ability. Other than that? Love these books, and love the recent spate of women in history books that have come out this year, like Rejected Princesses, Frontier Grit, and Wonder Women.

dungeonologyDungeonology, by Matt Forbeck,, (Oct. 2016, Candlewick Press), $24.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9353-4

Recommended for ages 10+

This book is AMAZING. If you have fantasy roleplaying gamers in your life, this is the perfect gift for them. If they want to game, but have just been reading Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons books, get them this book plus the D&D basic board game. Dungeonology takes readers, led by Volo the Wizard, on a journey through the Forgotten Realms universe. See basic Dungeonology equipment, fold out a giant map of the Sword Coast; check out a novice’s spell book (Magic Missile is there, fellow D&D fans), and check out all sorts of magic items. There is so much to explore in this book; pull-out books, pages that unfold to share their secrets, and a dragon waiting for you at the end of the book, if you play your cards right (and tilt the book). This is THE gift for your gamers, trust me on this.I hope you find enough here to make everyone’s holidays bright. Everything is available right now!

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

Black Cat & White Cat: Friends Forever!

Black Cat & White Cat coverBlack Cat & White Cat, by Claire Garralon (June 2016, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $7.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-3781-3

Recommended for 0-4

I just spotlighted Black Cat & White Cat yesterday, but today’s where I get to talk about actually reading and testing the book out at storytime. The story is simple and very sweet: Black Cats live in white houses. White Cats live in black houses. Black Cat and White Cat want to meet up and play, but Black Cat disappears when he goes to White Cat’s house, and vice versa. What can the two friends do to find a place that lets them have a great playdate? Strike out in search of a place that’s not too black or too white, naturally!

I LOVE this book. It’s perfect for a mixed storytime like my baby storytime, which ends up having a healthy combination of baby and toddler siblings all together. I explained to my parents that high contrast, black and white books are great for infants; they can best see these images. Older siblings get to enjoy a fun story about two friends in search of the perfect playdate while the littlest lapsitters enjoy the cutest images of cats and houses. The use of negative space is wonderful, especially when the friends try to visit one another – parts disappear! We see hind quarters and tails and cat feet; window cut-outs and stark trees add to the lonely atmosphere the cats feel as they try to make the most of a hide and seek playdate. When they finally arrive at a place just for them, it’s a surprise, a revelation, like stepping into Oz from Kansas. Beautiful, bright colors await the reader and the cats, and make for a very happy ending. My babies and my toddlers love this book, my 4 year-old loves this book, and I love this book.

For collections that see a lot of storytime action, particularly for babies and toddlers, this is a must-add. Put together a baby read-aloud with high contrast titles like Hello Animals, Hello Ocean Friends, and Hello Baby Animals for a fun, animal-friendly storytime with tons of fingerplay and song potential.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Toddler, Toddler Reads

Mini-Myths – A board book series that brings the myths to your toddlers!

play nice herculesMini Myths: Play Nice, Hercules! (2015, Abrams), by Joan Holub/Illus. by Leslie Patricelli, $6.99, ISBN: 1-4197-0954-2

Recommended for ages 0-3

This series works for me on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin. This new board book series, written by Joan Holub – whose Goddess Girls chapter book series is a huge hit with the girls at my library – and illustrated by one of my favorites, Leslie Patricelli (Tubby, Yummy Yucky, and Toot, and other fabulous baby board books), is the perfect way to introduce the wonder of Greek myths to your toddler.

Hercules is a strong little boy. He doesn’t want to be nice – he wants to wham-bam monsters! To whomp-stomp bad guys! But when he ka-booms his baby sister’s castle, he learns that being strong also means using strength to help people, too.

This book is wonderfully subtle. Toddlers aren’t going to sit down and have a discourse on Greek mythological heroes, but they can get the big older brother acting like a strong man – or even a bully.  Parents will love the hints Ms. Patricelli includes in the story – Hercules wham-bams a Cyclopean monster, and stomps on Greek soldiers. The blocks of the castle depict the twelve labors of Hercules. A note from Ms. Holub at the end of the story gives more detail on the myth of Hercules, allowing even older siblings to join in the fun and learn about the story of the mythological strong man.

I adore this book. I bought it for my library, and I’m buying a copy for my own little guy. Abrams has a series of Mini Myths ready to hit shelves; Be Patient, Pandora is out right now, and books on Medusa and Midas are coming. Get this series – it’s BRILLIANT.

hercules_2

Posted in Toddler Reads

Toddlers need Cthulhu!

Every now and then, I see a Kickstarter that’s too good to click away from. When I saw this one for the board book, C is for Cthulhu, I had to be part of it. My husband introduced me to H.P. Lovecraft’s works when we first met (a long time ago…), and I was immediately hooked. Seeing his monsters made adorable, and offering me the opportunity to introduce my own toddler to the cuddliness of Cthulhu and Yog Soggoth? Couldn’t resist.

c is for cthulhu

The great news is that these guys hit 100$ funding FOUR DAYS IN. Amazing, right? I’m not the only Lovecraft-loving parent out there! Anyway, I’m posting about it here because now, they’ve introduced stretch goals – goals to shoot for now that their initial funding is met. And this stretch goal is amazing. For every additional $750 they get, they will donate two copies of C is for Cthulhu to a library! I love these guys!

stretch

 

If you’re a fan of classic horror – whether or not you’re a parent – give this Kickstarter a look and consider backing it. You’re supporting libraries, independent creators, and getting great artwork!

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Book Review: What Does Baby Do? by Martin Larranaga (Begin Smart, 2008)

whatdoesbabydoRecommended for ages 0-4

Using lift-the-flaps to teach babies the concept of object permanence, What Does Baby Do? presents cartoon children in different situations and asks the question, “What does baby do?” Each flap reveals how baby handles a new situation: petting a cat, blowing kisses to grandma and grandpa, and waving good-bye to Daddy. Each action is physical, allowing for parents and guardians to interact with their children by asking them the question, “What does baby do?”, and acting out the answers. The book features multi-ethnic families and its artwork is cartoon style with bright colors and pastels and a bold, childlike font. Flaps are oversized for small fingers that are just learning to grasp. A note to parents in the book provides information on object permanence in infants and offers ideas on using the book.

This is a participatory book, so a story time allows the audience to take an active role, repeating the question on each page and acting out the answers. Story time leaders can also teach object permanence games like Peek-a-Boo to parents and guardians, and provide handouts from parenting websites with more information.