Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Friendship has been around since the beginning: Cavekid Birthday

Cavekid Birthday, by Cathy Breisacher/Illustrated by Roland Garrigue, (March 2019, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580898768

Ages 4-8

Caveboy and Cavegirl are best friends, born on the same day in side by side caves. Caveboy loves rocks, while Cavegirl enjoys working with tools and painting on cave walls. One birthday, each wants to give the other a gift, but what to get? They each visit Caveman’s Collectibles, separately, and find the perfect gifts. Caveboy trades his rock collection to get a box for Cavegirl to put her tools and paintbrushes in; Cavegirl trades her tools and paintbrushes to get a box for Caveboy to store his rock collection. When they exchange gifts, they figure out ways to put their new gifts – and existing talents – to work.

An updated, kids’ version of O’Henry’s The Gift of the Magi, Cavekid Birthday is a story about friendship, and it’s a story about creative thinking. Caveboy and Cavegirl’s friendship means so much to the other that they’re willing to trade their prized possessions away to get each other the perfect gift – and once they have those perfect gifts, they put them to creative use. But as they start to miss their rock and tool collections, they use their creative talents in another way in order to barter and get them back. Cavekid Birthday has a message about resourcefulness that encourages kids to think outside… well, the box.

The cartoon artwork is mostly earth-toned, with tonal greens and browns, and bright yellows and oranges that perk up the landscape. The characters are expressive and cute, and will keep readers interested. The storytelling leaves room for discussion throughout; ask the kids what they predict will happen when each Cavekid goes to the store, and what will happen when they unwrap each other’s gifts. A nice add to storytime collections.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized

Board Books, Board Books, Board Books!

There’s a whole bunch of great board books out, and I love it!

Cat & Mouse, by Britta Teckentrup, (March 2019, Prestel Publishing), $14.95, ISBN: 978-3-7913-7374-4

Ages 0-4

This die-cut, rhyming book is adorable! A cat and mouse play a game of hide and seek, with die-cut squares on each page letting little ones find the mouse, and explore with their fingers as well as their eyes and ears, as they go along. Cat and mouse wreak havoc across each spread, upending furniture and running up and down stairs: will the cat catch the mouse? I read this to my storytime group and wiggled fingers through the squares, let the little ones peek through the holes, and stuck my nose through one or two to mimic a cat sniffing for a mouse, all to tremendous giggles. This is an adorable storytime read, and a great pick for sensory and explorative reading. The artwork is loaded with shapes and colors to identify, making this a book you can really engage your little ones with.

 

Who is Afraid of Little Wolf?, by Yayo Kawamura, (Apr. 2019, Prestel Publishing), $12.95, ISBN: 978-3-7913-7381-2

Ages 0-3

Little Wolf is bored and wants to play, but it seems like no one wants to play with him: the squirrel, rabbit, and fox all tell him their moms won’t let them play with wolves! Just when Little Wolf starts to cry, a little bee invites him to play. Seeing Wolf and Bee play together, the other animals realize that there’s nothing to be afraid of, and join the game. At sunset, Little Wolf and his new group of friends sit in a cuddled group, enjoying one another’s company after a big day of playing hide and seek. A sweet, simple story about overcoming prejudice, Who is Afraid of Little Wolf is a story that has a big message for little eyes and ears. Bold, colorful artwork and friendly animal faces make this instantly appealing to young readers and listeners, and gives a face to the fallout of predetermined ideas.

 

I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0757-6

Ages 2-5

This is one of my favorite picture books of ALL TIME, and now it’s available in board book form! The darkly hysterical tale of a bear, a hare, and a hat is complete here; just in smaller format for littler fingers. The illustrations are beautifully, perfectly recreated here. My 6-year-old asked me if this was a “backpack copy” for him to bring to school, and darned if I didn’t say, “Wow… you may be onto something here”. Start your younger readers off right: give them Jon Klassen board books! (PLEASE say we’ll be getting Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Triangle, Square, and Circle trilogy in board book at some point!)

Do you have crafts after storytime? Use this free, downloadable activity kit to let the kids make their own red hat, recreate their own forest story scene, and more.

 

Wild Bios: Frida Catlo, by Courtney Acampora & Maggie Fischer/Illustrated by Lindsay Dale-Scott, (Jan. 2019, Silver Dolphin Books), $7.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-558-6

Ages 2-5

This is the cutest new board book series! Wild Bios puts an “animalistic twist” onto famous figure biographies by adding cute animals and wink, nudge puns to the biographical text. Here, we’ve got artist Frida Kahlo’s life with a feline spin: Frida Catlo was born in Meowixco City, painted self-pawtraits, and married fellow artist Doggo Rivera. A sweet way to introduce art to your little ones (I think it’s time for me to revisit my Art Storytime) and the puns will keep older siblings and adult caregivers chuckling at storytime. The bright, festive artwork is fun to look at, and Frida’s even got a little unibrow. Make sure to mention that Friday Kahlo loved animals – display and booktalk Monica Brown’s Friday Kahlo and Her Animalitos handy. Let the little ones draw afterward!

 

The Story of Rock, by the Editors of Caterpillar Books/Illustrated by Lindsey Sagar, (May 2019, Silver Dolphin Books), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-509-8

Ages 0-5

Perfect for music storytime, this rhyming look at the history of rock music starts – as it should! – with rock’s roots in blues and features some of the most iconic names in rock history, including Chuck Berry, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Queen, the Ramones, and more. The blues, through the rockabilly ’50s, the psychadelic ’60s, punk, hair metal, grunge, and ska are all here, with sweetly illustrated, friendly faces and instruments. Add this to your music shelf with board books like What is Punk?, Brandon Stousy’s What is Music? and We Are Music, Amazing Me! Music, by Carol Thompson, and Baby Loves to Rock! by Wednesday Kirwan.

 

The Story of Rap, by the Editors of Caterpillar Books/Illustrated by Lindsey Sagar, (May 2019, Silver Dolphin Books), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-508-1

Ages 0-5

A companion to The Story of Rock, The Story of Rap starts off with rap’s beginning at a New York house party in 1973 and explains the genre’s sound: big bass, spoken word rhyme. Learn about rap icons, from Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC, and NWA; the protests, the East vs. West battle, and modern figures, including Jay-Z, and Kendrick Lamar. The emphasis on soul and social justice is here, and like the books says: “Rap is for the people, just like from the start, it’s more than music: it’s a work of heart”. The artwork is identical to The Story of Rock, with soft, cute, friendly faces and urban street wear; there’s some breakdancing, mixing and scratching at the turntables, and female representation (Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott are here, but where’s Queen Latifah?). Add this to your music board books, and keep up your readers’ music education.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Your heart cannot handle the adorableness of Tiny T. Rex!

Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug, by Jonathan Stutzman/Illustrated by Jay Fleck, (March 2019, Chronicle Books), $15.99, ISBN: 9781452170336

Ages 3-7

Tiny T. Rex wants to hug his sad friend, Pointy the Stegosaurus, but there’s one problem: he has very tiny arms! He seeks advice from his parents, aunt, and siblings, and ultimately decides that practice makes perfect: but it’s sometimes precarious!

I have been squealing about this book since I first saw it at a Book Buzz a couple of months ago. A combination of smart writing and adorable cartoony artwork makes Tiny T. Rex one of the cutest, funniest books I’ve ever read. Tiny T. Rex is every kid, from preschool age on up, who has to contend with weird adult responses to big childhood dilemmas. When he asks his new age-y Aunt Junip for hugging advice, she recommends “balance and freshly squeezed cucumber juice”, to which T. Rex responds, “That is disgusting. I will ask my mother for help instead”. Mom’s advice isn’t much more helpful; she falls back on the traditional mom answer (which I’ve used quite a few times, myself): “It’s okay if you can’t hug. You are good at many other things… You are tiny, but your heart is big!” You can almost see his little eyes roll when he responds, “I cannot hug with my heart, mother”. When T. Rex decides to take his siblings’ advice and practice, he creates a hug strategy blackboard that kids will love: he’s considering being shot out of a cannonball, parachuting into the hug, and several other hilariously adorable ways to accomplish the hug. As he starts putting his ides into practice, he learns that trial and error can be a little painful, but ultimately, that the best hugs are the ones given with all the love you have to give. The artwork is heart-exploding levels of adorable. T. Rex and his fellow family and friends are bright and bold, with bright, cheerful foliage all around them.

It’s impossible not to squeal when you first lay eyes on this book: I have a dining room full of librarians and educators that backed me up, when Chronicle debuted this at the book buzz. With a sweet storyline about compassion and determination, eye-catching graphics that kids and adults alike will love, and text that was made for storytime reading, Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug is a home run. Now, we wait for another adventure…

Illustrator Jay Fleck has a video on drawing Tiny T. Rex – invite your storytime kiddos to give it their best!

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Springtime reading: April Graphic Novels

Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America, by Box Brown, (Apr. 2019, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781250154088

Ages 14+

Award-winning graphic novelist Box Brown is back with the real story of how cannabis – weed, marijuana, reefer – went from being a plant used for spiritual purposes to being labeled a gateway drug that caused “reefer madness”. How did it happen, you say? Racism. Politics. Propaganda.  Scare tactics. The usual song and dance. Box Brown has done his research and, combined with his minimalist artwork, presents a tale that will have you seeing the politics of marijuana (the origin of that name is in here, too, and it’s a doozy) in an entirely new light.

The War on Drugs started long before Nancy Reagan went on Diff’rent Strokes and told kids to “just say no”, and the fallout has targeted minorities – primarily young black men – and left thousands imprisoned for minor infractions. Studies have purposely included falsified data and allowed Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, to perpetuate his war against narcotics by weaponizing moral outrage and using propaganda to get the plant a schedule 1 classification, putting it on par with heroin.

Ignatz Award winner Box Brown has a gift for nonfiction. While he’s primarily done biographical graphic novels thus far, including Andre the Giant, Andy Kaufman, and the rise of the video game Tetris, Cannabis is a thoroughly researched, fully realized, history of marijuana, from its earliest recorded uses through the present day. It’s a good add for your young adult/new adult collections and could be a good selection for a book group, especially with its increasing legality and medicinal usage.

Peter and Ernesto: The Lost Sloths, by Graham Annable, (Apr. 2018, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626725720

Ages 6-10

It’s the return of my favorite sloth buddies! Peter and Ernesto are back, and they’ve got a new adventure when a hurricane blows their beloved tree away! Peter, Ernesto, and the rest of their sloth friends must set out to find a new tree. A great tree. A tree just like the one they had, preferably. As they journey through the jungle, there are new dangers to brave: angry ants, slithering snakes, running pigs, and a very hungry jaguar! Ernesto is up to the challenge, but poor Peter… well, Peter’s going to need his best friend next to him as they lead their friends to a new tree. And maybe, a new friend or two along the way.

I love this new series! The two friends are like the Bert and Ernie of sloth civilization, with idealistic, upbeat Ernesto and cautious, nervous Peter acting as counterbalances to each other. The new animals the group meets as they venture through the jungle are hilarious, and the twist near the end will have your readers cheering. It’s emotional to see the sloths survey the damage to their tree, and it adds a depth to Peter’s and Ernesto’s characters as they take on the responsibility of shepherding their group to a new home. It’s just as emotional to see them find a new tree and the final resolution will just make you feel good. Peter and Ernesto is feel-good reading, and who doesn’t need more of that?

I can’t wait to see where life takes them next. Add this to your graphic novels collections and talk them up! Make a Best Friends display and make sure to include Frog & Toad, Elephant and Piggie, Narwhal & Jelly, and Duck and Porcupine.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: Duck and Hippo – The Secret Valentine!

Duck and Hippo are back, spreading their messages of friendship and celebration, with their fourth adventure!

Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine, by Jonathan London/Illustrated by Andrew Joyner,
(Dec. 2018, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781503900356
Ages 4-7

It’s Valentine’s Day, and Duck has a fun idea to bring her friends together to celebrate! Hippo, Elephant, Pig, and Turtle all receive mysterious cards, inviting them to meet their Valentine at the park at 4 p.m. Each friend has their own idea of who it could be, and when they get all dressed up and arrive at the park with their gifts, they’re in for a big SURPRISE!

The Duck and Hippo books are just adorable, and The Secret Valentine does away with the idea of having one set Valentine: everyone gets to share the day here! Sharp-eyed readers will spot Duck as she hides before being discovered, as she delivers her Valentine invites. There are great sound effect opportunities, too: there are water SPLOOPS, pizza dough SPLATS, street sweeping HUSHA-SHUSHA-SHUSHAS, and more, all emphasized with bold, colorful, oversized fonts. Great to get the kids pantomiming along! The whole idea of the book is perfect for a storytime or classroom Valnetine’s party: everyone gets a Valentine, and everyone gets to celebrate together. Like every Duck and Hippo book, the heart of the story is friendship and sharing – a lovely message to pass along! Jonathan London and Andrew Joyner have created adorable, memorable, children’s book characters with Duck, Hippo, and their friends. I look forward to spending time with them again and again.

Learn how to draw Duck and Hippo in this free downloadable activity page! https://www.andrewjoyner.com.au/activities/.

 

Jonathan London is the author of more than one hundred children’s books, including the Froggy series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz, which has sold more than fifteen million copies. Jonathan lives in Graton, California. Learn more at www.jonathan-london.net.

Andrew Joyner is an Australian illustrator and author whose work has been published in more than twenty-five countries. He has created the artwork for many picture books, and he is author and illustrator of a chapter book series about a warthog named Boris. Andrew lives in South Australia. Learn more at www.andrewjoyner.com.au.

 

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of DUCK AND HIPPO: THE SECRET VALENTINE courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance!

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

March graphic novels look at the power of relationships

The Breakaways, by Cathy G. Johnson, (March 2018, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626723573

Ages 8-12

This Bad News Bears of Soccer story stars Faith, a child of color who joins her school team at the urging of Amanda, one of the school’s popular girls. Thinking it’s a great way to make new friends, Faith signs up, only to discover that there are different soccer teams, and she’s been put on the Bloodhounds, which is made of up the lousiest players in the school. They may be horrible at soccer, but the group gradually comes together to form a tight friendship unit, and that’s the heart of the story.

There’s a fantastic diversity among the group. There are queer characters, including one who’s transitioning, and characters of color. The storyline is moved forward by each character’s quest for identity and acceptance within their families and the group, making for some deeply heartfelt moments. It’s a book about friendship, self-awareness, and acceptance, set in a middle school – often a battleground for kids who want to stand out without being “different”.

This one’s a must-add to your shelves. Talk this one up to your Lumberjanes fans.

The Mary Sue has a great write-up and preview of The Breakaways, and you can visit author/illustrator Cathy G. Johnson’s website for more info.

Kiss Number 8, by Colleen AF Venable/Illustrated by Ellen T. Crenshaw, (March 2018, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781596437098

Ages 12+

Mads is a Catholic school teen who whose dad is her best friend. They go to minor league baseball games together, watch TV shows together, and generally just hang out together. It rocks her world when she discovers that her dad is hiding a secret, and it couldn’t have come at a harder time: Mads is also discovering that she may be attracted to her friend, Cat.

Kiss Number 8 looks at a sexual awakening within a close Catholic family. Mads tries out different kisses with different guys, trying to feel something, because her wilder friend, Cat – the archetypal Catholic school bad girl – encourages it, and it’s because what Mads feels like she’s supposed to do. While she torments herself over what she thinks her father’s hiding, she and Cat fall out, and the rumor mill goes wild, leading Mads to admit to her feelings and attractions to herself, and to Cat. Once Mads accepts herself, she has to deal with her father’s secret, his reaction to her emerging identity, and his overall mindset; luckily, she has support from a place she never dreamed of.

I really enjoyed Kiss Number 8. The characters are real, and Mads’ struggle with her own identity and sexuality works seamlessly with the family secret, revealed in all of its emotional pain. Mads has to come to realizations about herself, her relationships, and her own father, in order to move forward, but she’s a smart heroine that navigates these challenges to come out on top. Kiss Number is an exploration of teen sexuality, families, and relationships. A necessary book for your collections.

Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw‘s websites both offer some sneak peeks at Kiss Number 8 and their additional work.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Beep and Bob bring the fun to intermediate sci-fi

I’m always on the lookout for good intermediate books (and good easy readers). There’s such an importance to good chapter books to develop that initial love of books into something really special; some kids can be a little scared by the leap from easy reader to chapter book, so you want to make sure you find that magic combination of artwork and story that will draw readers right in. When a publicist friend of mine sent copies of the first three Beep and Bob books by Jonathan Roth, she knew I’d love them and want to booktalk them. And what can I say? She was right.

Beep and Bob: Too Much Space! (Beep and Bob #1), by Jonathan Roth, (March 2018, Aladdin), $16.99, ISBN: 9781481488532

Ages 6-10

Here we have Beep and Bob’s origin story and first adventure: Bob is a kid who goes to school in space; he’s the new kid at a school called Astro Elementary, and space is apparently terrifying. Thankfully, he has a little alien friend named Beep at his side Beep’s a little guy who lost his 600 siblings while playing hide and seek in an asteroid field; he knocked on a door at Astro Elementary, Bob answered, and a friendship was born. Beep has bonded to Bob and thinks of him as a mother, even calling him “Bob-mother”. Luckily for the duo, the teachers let Beep stick with Bob throughout the school day. Bob’s got some other friends, including Lani, a supersmart girl who carries three supersmart pet spiders in a jar; and Blaster, kind of a bully, who likes to raise Bob’s hand and volunteer him for class missions: like being the first on the field trip to explore Pluto. Or exploring near the event horizon of a black hole. Which is where we find Beep and Bob in this first adventure: trying to escape, and save Lani’s spiders, from being sucked into the black hole (or, as Professor Zoome puts it, “the bye-bye-forever zone”). Can they make it out safe? (Hint: it’s the first book in a series, you tell me.)

Too Much Space! is a fun start to a new series. There’s a little bit of science fact tossed into the fun to give kids an idea of what exactly a black hole can do (bye-bye forever is certainly a clear explanation to me), and Beep’s observations are hilarious and even sweet. Extra-Credit Fun Space Facts gives drops some non-fiction knowledge related to the adventure: in this case, the discovery of Pluto , it’s downgrade to a dwarf planet, and the fact that it is seriously cold. Pair even pacing, fun writing, and outrageous scenarios with black and white artwork throughout, and this is the start of a beautiful friendship between Beep, Bob, and your readers. I started this one with my first grader last night, and he’s getting a big kick out of Beep and the whole Astro Elementary idea – but he’s not quite ready to jettison off into space just yet.

 

Beep and Bob: Party Crashers (Beep and Bob #2), by Jonathan Roth, (March 2018, Aladdin), $16.99, ISBN: 9781481488563

Ages 6-10

The second series of Bob’s Splog entries (space log entries – that make up each Beep and Bob adventure) starts off with a similar story: Bob introduces himself, Astro Elementary, and Beep’s origin. Rather than space being terrifying, though, this time, he asserts that “SPACE IS STUPENDOUSLY BORING”! This time out, things perk up a bit when Lani invites Beep, Bob, and the other Astro Elementary gang to her birthday party aboard the Starship Titanic! (Douglas Adams fans, this is where you chuckle.) It’s got everything: gravity, for starters, which is pretty fantastic; water parks, amusement parks, and 12 million hypershow channels on TV! What doesn’t it have? Ahem… escape pods. Because it’s indestructible. Where have you heard that before? Oh, and there’s a jewelry thief running around the ship, too. It’s up to Beep and Bob to save the day again!

Party Crashers ups the ante from Too Much Space by bringing the laughs and the crazy situations. We have the Titanic parallels, including the captain, a descendant of the original ship’s captain, who doesn’t know how to pilot his ship because everything is pretty much done for him. He spends most of his day in the amusement park! Throw in a little Agatha Christie-type whodunit mixed with some Star Wars humor, and laugh-out-loud moments throughout the book, and Party Crashers is a strong follow-up to Too Much Space. The Extra-Credit Fun section is all about Neptune, the planet posing a danger in this installment. Black and white artwork is plentiful and adorable.

 

Beep and Bob: Take Us To Your Sugar (Beep and Bob #3), by Jonathan Roth, (Sept. 2018, Aladdin), $16.99, ISBN: 9781481488594

Ages 6-10

Oh NO! Not only is space alternately terrifying and boring, now there’s a problem with THE FOOD! The artificial sweetinizer is broken, and Mr. DaVinci – the school maintenance man, whose genius goes unappreciated – is taking his sweet time fixing it. Bob needs sugar, and he needs it fast, so he decides to come up with his own holiday: Astroween! You see, Astro Elementary doesn’t celebrate Earth holidays, because they’re in space, so Bob and Lani form a secret club called S.C.A.R.E.S. (Society of Candy Addicts who Rely on Energy from Sugar) and employ some quick thinking to create an entirely new holiday and convince Principal Quark to let the school celebrate Astroween. It’s a success but as the kids are planning their costumes and waiting for the candy rush, Beep convinces Bob to send a message out into space, hoping to attract some of his own kind. The message ends up attracting a bunch of sugar-crazy aliens who want to convert all the candy into power for their fleet! Beep and Bob are going to need to do some fast thinking and talking to get out of this one.

Take Us to Your Sugar is a sweeter (no pun intended) adventure in this series, as Lani and Bob start thinking of how lonely Beep feels as the only one of his kind aboard the ship. It’s no less amusing, especially with the addition of the long-suffering Mr. DaVinci, who can’t seem to believe that human race has progressed to the stars and yet… we’ve stayed relatively simple. The Extra-Credit is on Earth holidays and planetary years.

Jonathan Roth has created a smart, humorous series with heart for intermediate readers. Have readers who aren’t quite ready for Diary of a Wimpy Kid but want something funny to read? This is the series for them. There’s a fourth book coming – Double Trouble – next  month, so invest in this series now and get your readers in at the beginning. Beep and Bob was named one of Scholastic Teacher Magazine’s “50 Magical Books for Summer”. Jonathan Roth’s Beep and Bob webpage has loads of info about the author and his series, including scans of his artwork from childhood on – he’s an elementary school teacher, so he knows how to talk to kids! – and there’s an adorable, free PDF available to teach readers how to draw Beep.  Absolute cuteness.