Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Size matters not… Small, by Gina Perry

Small, by Gina Perry, (Aug. 2017, Little Bee Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0401-0

Recommended for readers 3-7

Sometimes it’s a drag being small. It can be intimidating. In Small, a little girl goes through a day in the crowded city feeling small and overwhelmed. When ducks snatch her hot dog, she feels helpless… until a trip to a playground helps her turn it around by allowing her to embraces the positives in her life and how they make her feel big. The love of her family; her drawing ability; her fierce game – all of these and more make her big, brave, and loved.

Small is loaded with positivity. It’s a good book for preschoolers and kindergarteners on self-esteem, filled with moments kids recognize all too well: feeling like second banana to a younger sibling; fears about being lost in a crowd; of not being heard; of just feeling plain helpless. It also taps into positive moments that kids feel: the invincibility of being on a slide or the monkey bars; the power of sidewalk chalk, the power that comes from doing something for someone else. I read this to my toddler/preschooler storytime group, and they loved it! Two of my QH kiddos were captivated by the sidewalk chalk art, so we spent a couple of minutes letting everyone look at the spread and point to the different drawings. The story and the pictures resonated with them.

Author/Illustrator Gina Perry’s webpage has a free, downloadable butterfly craft and activity kit that I’ll definitely use – especially since I just saw a sidewalk art page! This is a great book for letting little ones know what a big space they take up in your life.

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Posted in Intermediate

Nina introduces a new generation to Nina Simone

Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil-Rights Activist Nina Simone, by Alice Brière-Haquet/Illustrated by Bruno Liance, (Dec. 2017, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580898270

Recommended for readers 6-10

She is a legend in music and civil rights history. Author Alice Brière-Haquet and illustrator Bruno Liance introduce Nina Simone to new audiences with this beautifully written and illustrated book. Written as a story to Simone’s daughter, who’s having trouble falling asleep, Alice Brière-Haquet weaves a tale of achievement in the face of racism, using stunning imagery: the 52 white teeth “trapping” the 36 black teeth in the keyboard, and the white keys being whole notes while the black keys are half notes: “White was whole. Black was half. It was that way everywhere and for everyone.” Music was made by “important men in powdered wigs from past centuries”. Simone recalls her anger during a recital, when her mother was expected to give up her seat in the front, to white people who came to see her play; Simone refused to play until her mother resumed her rightful spot in the front row. She speaks of Martin Luther King, and his dream being her symphony – but the dream is fragile.

This book is gorgeous. The words are beautiful and strong, and using piano keys as an illustration of endemic racism is simply brilliant. Bruno Liance’s black and white illustrations are soft, dreamlike, beautiful. This spread is my absolute favorite; I’d love to give this print as a baby shower gift.

“Dream, my baby, dream, until you spread your wings…” (from Bruno Liance’s website)

Do kids know who Nina Simone is? Probably not, unless their parents are fans. Does that matter? Absolutely not – this is a gorgeous introduction to Nina Simone, and to activism, for all ages. This book is going on my shelves, in my storytimes, and in displays for social conscience, activism, and African-American history. If you’re so inclined, you can play Simone’s lullaby, “Hush Little Baby“, in your storytime or for your little one.

Nina was originally published in France in 2015. You can find more of Bruno Liance’s artwork at his (French/English) website, Pirate des Caramels, and you can follow Alice Brière-Haquet at her (French) blog, Alice in Wonderblog. Nina has starred reviews from Foreword Reviews and Booklist.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

A Chesapeake Fable: Wind and Oyster Jack

Wind and Oyster Jack, by Marcia G. Moore/Illustrated by Heather Crow, (Nov. 2017, Schiffer Publishing), $14.99, ISBN: 9780764354229

Recommended for readers 6-10

Oyster Jack is a Chesapeake Bay waterman, out on his boat, Dinah, harvesting oysters. Their friend, Wind, helps them by lifting Dinah’s sails and allowing the boat to move. The weather is getting chilly, though, and Wind is cold. She asks Oyster Jack to share his coat and his blanket, but he can’t – he needs them for himself! – so Wind goes off to find a coat of frost, and a blanket of snow, that she hears about on Jack’s radio. They don’t fit Wind, and Oyster Jack and Dinah are stuck without Wind. Finally, Oyster Jack comes up with a solution that will make everyone happy.

This sweet story, set in the Chesapeake Bay area, is a nice way to introduce different areas of the States to readers, and a good way to talk about the different careers that flourish in different areas and environments. There’s an explanation of the skipjack – the type of boat watermen use when they go out harvesting – at the end, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has a good section on the area’s geography and facts; the Maryland Sea Grant website has a section on the oyster trade and current restoration efforts. The narrative sounds much like a modern-day fable, with the Wind interacting as a living being with Oyster Jack; the resolution explains the windsock’s origin.

This is a text-heavy story, making it a good choice for older readers who can process deeper and longer text. The artwork appears to be watercolor and has an Impressionist feel. The wind has a visible face, and breathes in swirls that cascade through each spread. The light glimmers on the water, and the snow softly blankets the town. Most pages are full-bleed; a few exceptions for large blocks of text are plain, bright white. Bunches of oysters set the tone on the endpages.

If you want to introduce readers to the Chesapeake Bay area, this is a good place to start.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Night Creepers: nonfiction that goes from toddler to school-age

Night Creepers, by Linda Stanek/Illustrated by Shennen Bersani, (Sept. 2017, Arbordale Publishing), $9.95, ISBN: 978-1-607-183235

Recommended for readers 3-7

Night Creepers is both a rhyming tale about night time animals for toddlers and preschoolers and a nonfiction text on nocturnal animals for first and second graders. Each spread introduces a new nocturnal animal: foxes and wolves, bats and flying squirrels, skunks, possums, and more. On the left hand side of the spread, we have short, rhyming text about animals who wake up when the rest of the world starts getting ready for bed. On the right hand side, we have short paragraphs, constructed with simple sentences, containing information about each animal. Shennen Bersani’s realistic illustrations are beautiful, with vibrant and deep colors coming together to give readers an exciting reading experience. As with all Arbordale books, there is a “Creative Minds” section at the end, with activities and resources for further learning; they are free to photocopy and hand out for educational, non-commercial use.

I read Night Creepers in my toddler storytime this past week, and the little ones enjoyed it. One of my QH Kids excited pointed out animals she knew, and we all repeated the names of the animals on each spread. The rhyming, brief text was just the right length for a short story.

I was able to see author Linda Stanek speak at a non-fiction panel at KidLitCon, and look forward to adding more of her books – particularly, award-winner Once Upon an Elephant. Arbordale has a great website, releasing Spanish editions concurrently with English editions of their books, e-book access (and one free read-aloud e-book a month), and free resources for educators. Linda Stanek’s author website has more info about her books, and about school and library visits.

I’m always on the lookout for good nonfiction – my library’s collection needs constant updating, and animal books are big here. Night Creepers‘ appeal to different age groups means I can get this book in front of a larger group of kids, getting more bang for my budget’s buck. A nice add to primary nonfiction/easy nonfiction collections.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Hedgehog and Rabbit: Friends who have each other’s backs

Hedgehog and Rabbit: The Scary Wind, by Pablo Albo/Illustrated by Gómez, (Nov. 2017, nubeOCHO), $14.95, ISBN: 978-84-945971-7-6
Recommended for readers 3-7

Two friends, Hedgehog and Rabbit, are in the garden looking for snails and eating cabbage, when a gust of wind stirs up a pile of leaves and scares them both! Each friend runs off in a different direction, but realizes they’ve left the other behind. Determined to be brave, Hedgehog and Rabbit each disguise themselves to scare the windy monster – but will they end up scaring each other instead?

 

Hedgehog and Rabbit: The Stubborn Cloud, by Pablo Albo/Illustrated by Gómez, (Nov. 2017, nubeOCHO), $14.95, ISBN: 978-84-945971-9-0
Recommended for readers 3-7

Hedgehog and Rabbit, are in the garden on a sunny day, looking for snails and eating cabbage, when a cloud rolls in and covers the sun! Try as they might, neither Rabbit nor Hedgehog can get the cloud to move out of the way. Looks like they’ll have to enlist some help from their fellow animal friends.

 

The Hedgehog and Rabbit stories are sweet, fun books about friendship. Like an earlier readers’ Frog and Toad, the two friends spend time together, watch out for one another, and face some amusing weather-related misunderstandings together. The stories revolve around Rabbit and Hedgehog not being in on the joke – but the readers are, allowing for some fun dialogue with your audience as the stories progress. These stories can be a fun enhancement for early lessons on weather. Gomez’s illustrations are bright and eye-catching, and the characters have expressive faces, which makes these books a fun storytime choice.

Hedgehog and Rabbit are also available in Spanish (Erizo y Conejo).

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Peep and Egg debate the pros and cons of bathing: I’m NOT Taking a Bath!

Peep and Egg: I’m Not Taking a Bath, by Laura Gehl/Illustrated by Joyce Wan, (Oct. 2017, Farrar Straus Giroux), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-374-30327-3

Recommended for readers 3-7

I adore Peep and Egg. Yes, they’re illustrated by Joyce Wan; I should have heart-eyed emojis setting off her name every time I talk about one of her books, because I adore her art. In addition to the squeal-worthy art, though, they’re just fun. They’re Elephant and Piggie for the toddler set; one surly little bird and one level-headed friend who manages to steer the other in the right direction.

This time, it’s about bathing. The front endpapers show us a bunch of pigs, happily playing in the mud; the verso shows us a pair of muddy footprints tracking across the page, leading us to the title page, where we see a very dirty Egg, already stating, “I’m Not Taking a Bath”. We know what we’re getting into from the second we open the book, and I don’t know about you, but I’m already giggling. (Maybe it’s because I have three boys and am having deja vu.) Sure enough, there’s Peep, suggesting Egg take a bath. “Too wet!” Egg fires back. Peep suggests different enticing bath ideas: special shampoo, the hose, the dog’s water bowl; all met with reasons why Egg refuses to consider them, ending with the repeated phrase, “I’m NOT taking a bath!” Egg even refuses a bath in the river, to which Peep responds – like most parents I know – with the time-tested, “Okay… well, see ya!” As Egg notices all their friends run by – including the muddy pigs! – ready for a day of playing at the river, Egg changes tune pretty fast and heads to the river!

When Peep offers Egg a towel, Egg politely declines… “because I’m not getting out!” Sound familiar, folks? Peep and Egg works so well because – like Mo Willems’ Pigeon books – we have seen the characters, and they are US. Egg is the fussy toddler and preschooler, starting to make their own decisions; we’re the caregivers, trying to get them to make the decision WE want them to make. We cajole, we entice, we finally say, “Okay, well, I guess I’ll have to play with all of these cool bath toys all by myself“, and our kiddos change their tune. Only to assert themselves again when it’s time to come out of the tub, their fingers wrinkled, lips blue from sitting in the now-cold bathwater. Laura Gehl gets us: children and caregivers alike.

Laura Gehl has loads of great stuff, including curriculum guides and activity sheets, at her website. Joyce Wan has downloads and printables aplenty at her website, too!

Want a chance to win your own copy of Peep and Egg: I’m Not Taking a Bath? Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway!

Posted in Preschool Reads

Aliens Get the Sniffles, Too! Get the lunar decongestants!

Aliens Get the Sniffles, Too!, by Katy S. Duffield//Illustrated by KG Campbell, (Nov. 2017, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-6502-9

Recommended for readers 3-7

A couple of weeks ago, I posted the trailer for the adorable picture book, Aliens Get the Sniffles, Too! Now that the book’s available, I can finally talk about it! Poor little Alien feels just awful! his two throats are scratchy, his five ears hurt, and he’s got three runny noses! Mama and Daddy Alien try all the different remedies, from Milky Way milkshakes to the dreaded lunar decongestants, but nothing works. Poor Mars Rover, Alien’s best buddy and loyal pet, feels awful seeing his friend so sick – and sometimes, a good friend is the cure for what ails you.

Aliens Get the Sniffles, Too! is great sick-day reading for little ones who feel just plain yucky. His sneezes, loaded with space terms (“AHHH-3-2-1-blastoff-CHOO!”), are powerful and shoot his friend across the room, scaring the poor parents. The story captures the pure misery of a cold, and the lengths we parents go to in order to try and make things better (even if they may make our kids feel worse while we’re trying). KG Campbell’s pen, watercolor, and colored pencil artwork presents readers with the cutest aliens, with giant, expressive eyes and calming pastel colors. Loyal Mars Rover is a three-eyed golden mutt whose attention is focused on his companion.

Aliens Get the Sniffles, Too! is a good add to picture book collections – we can never have enough sick day books! Recommend this one, along with favorites like Jane Yolen’s How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon? And Philip Stead’s A Sick Day for Amos McGee, to caregivers who have a snuffly one at home.