Mom Read It

If the kids are reading it, chances are I have, too.

A Horse Named Steve is exceptional! March 3, 2017

steveA Horse Named Steve, by Kelly Collier, (April 2017, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771387361

Recommended for readers 4-8

Steve is a horse that’s just fine as he is, but he thinks he can be better. He wants to be exceptional. He finds a beautiful gold horn lying on the ground in the forest, and that’s it: he’s found the pass to being exceptional! He ties the horn on his head and showboats to all of his woodland friends, who are so taken, they find items to tie on their own heads: sticks, rocks, anything they can find. But Steve accidentally loses his horn – oh no! What’s an exceptional horse to do when he loses his exceptional horn?

A Horse Named Steve is hilarious in its side commentary (notes throughout the book explain words like devastated: “that means really, really bummed”, or refer to his moods: “Mr. Mopeypants”) and its execution of an image-obsessed horse, but kids will get it: it’s not what you wear, or how you look. The commentary adds a little wink, wink, nudge, nudge humor to kids, bringing them in on the joke, and the raccoon that isn’t quite as enamored of Steve gives kids an entry point to a discussion: why doesn’t he think Steve’s so great? Do you think Steve is treating his friends with respect? What really makes our friends special?

Kelly Collier’s two-color ink and watercolor art, finished in Photoshop, is adorable and fun. Steve’s physicality plays up his ego for laughs, and there are visual jokes aplenty, especially when his golden horn slips from on top of his head to under his chin. Playing with fonts brings more humor to the page by emphasizing different words and making Steve’s very name a standout with curlicues and bolding.

You can have a lot of storytime fun with this book: make horns with your readers! For older readers, pair this one with Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches for a good discussion on the value we place on appearances.

 

Do you like to play? Animals do, too! March 2, 2017

animals-doAnimals Do, Too!, by Etta Kaner/Illustated by Marilyn Faucher, (May 2017, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771385695

Recommended for ages 4-8

Do you like to dance? Do you like to play leapfrog? Play tag? Well, guess what: animals do, too! This fun book features pictures of families at play on one spread, and a corresponding spread on the next two pages, with a group of animals engaged in the same fun. The alternating question and answer format engages kids right away, and the activities that we humans do for fun, while animals do them to find food and care for their young will spark discussion with young learners.

Animals Do, Too! features animals that differ from the usual farm and jungle animals kids meet in their books. Sure, we’ve got bumblebees and frogs, but we also meet cattle egrets and marmosets, gazelles and leaf-cutter ants. A spread at the back of the book provides fast facts about each animal in the book.

There is some lovely watercolor work here, featuring lovely nature scenes. The families are enjoying one another, and the animals are playful while completing their everyday work. The parallels between humans and animals should engender interest and empathy in kids and will start some great conversations – ask the kids around you to think of animals they see every day: what does a cat do that a person does? (Stretching is a good one!) What does a dog do that a person does? (Jump and play!) You can create matching games that match the activity with the animal, for younger learners; bonus: they get to color.

The question and answer pattern of the text invites kids to interact with the text and gives them a chance to contribute before revealing the answer on the following spread. This is a good additional purchase for nature, life science, and animal collections.

 

Different? Same! looks at repeating patterns in nature March 1, 2017

different-sameDifferent? Same!, by Heather Tekavec/Illustrated by Pippa Curnick, (May 2017, Kids Can Press), 416.95, ISBN: 9781771385657

Recommended for ages 3-6

Zebras gallop, bumblebees fly, lemurs leap, and a tiger prowls, but look closer: they all have STRIPES! Different? Same! celebrates the similarities among animals that would otherwise seem very different. Each spread features a group of animals that mentions a different trait, inviting readers to look closer to find the common characteristic. One animal from the previous spread shows up in each new spread – ask your eagle-eyed readers to spot them! A final spread puts all forty animals together and asks readers to search for animals with specific characteristics: who’s furry? Who would make good pets? Who would you NOT like to touch? Brief paragraphs at the end of the book explain why animals have the characteristics they do.

The digital art is very colorful and cute, creating happy, friendly animals that kids will love. The book is useful when introducing the concept of patterns to young learners and when discussing similarities and differences, which can lead to a talk on a greater scale about diversity; what makes us different, what makes us the same. This is a good additional purchase to concept collections.

 

A rabbit mother and child find The Way Home in the Night February 26, 2017

the_way_home_in_the_nightThe Way Home in the Night, by Akiko Miyakoshi, (Apr. 2017, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771386630

Recommended for ages 4-7

A mother bunny carries her little bunny home at night. Narrated in the first person by the young bunny, readers see what he sees from the its vantage point in bunny’s mother’s arms. Shops are closing; phones ring; bunny smells a pie. Neighbors have parties, watch television, and say goodbye, all visible through their open windows. As the father bunny tucks the little one into bed, little bunny wonders about all the neighbors: are the party guests saying goodnight? Is the restaurant cook taking a bath, and is the bookseller reading on the couch?

Children love being out at night. It’s a magical thing; everything looks different. The bunny’s descriptions of the sights, sounds, and smells of night time, carried in mother’s arms, will appeal to readers who have had the same experience. The story also provides an opportunity for interactivity – ask kids to think of a time they, like the bunny, were carried home, and what they remember. Take your own kids outside at night for a walk down the street – what do you see together?

Akiko Miyakoshi’s black and white pencil, charcoal, and acrylic gouache artwork adds gently placed color for emphasis, and the hazy look to the artwork makes the story almost dreamlike; like the young bunny’s sleepy memory. Invite kids to draw their neighborhood at night – what are the neighbors doing? Do they hear cars, people talking, a train rumbling by, a dog bark, or silence?

The Way Home in the Night received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. The original Japanese release received a 2016 Bologna Ragazzi Award. Miyakoshi’s first picture book, The Storm (2016), won the Nissan Children’s Storybook and Picture Book Grand Prix.

 

Spork shows readers that there’s a place for everyone February 25, 2017

sporkSpork, by Kyo Maclear/Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, (Apr. 2017, Kids Can Press), $8.95, ISBN: 978-1-77138-805-4

Recommended for ages 4-8

One of the most maligned utensils in history has its moment in the sun with Kyo Maclear’s Spork. His mom’s a spoon. Dad’s a fork. And poor Spork doesn’t fit in with either group, no matter how hard he tries. He tries to cover up his tiny tines, to fit in with the spoons; he wears a pointy hat to emphasize those tines to hang with the forks – neither attempt works. Just as he’s resigned to languishing in the utensil drawer, someone comes along that shows Spork that everyone has a place and a purpose.

Spork is adorable. It’s a story about standing out and finding your own value, just as you are. It’s a sweet story with a strong message about distinctiveness and the beauty of diversity. Isabelle Arsenault’s illustrations are soft, sweet, adorable; loaded with personality and feeling, love, and ultimately, joy.

Put this one in your collections, for sure. Read it, have a spork workshop where kids can personalize their own Spork. File down the edges – some of those plastic sporks can be a little sharp; for younger readers, print out a paper spork template, like this fun one from the Kingdom Hearts Wiki, or this really cute stock photo. Put out crayons, yarn, pom poms, stickers, whatever you have to let the kids personalize their Spork. Enjoy!

spork_6_1600x800px

Image source: KyoMaclearKids.com

Author Kyo Maclear has an author webpage with a book trailer for Spork and some fun Spork facts. Kids Can Press has great educator resources, including a One-of-a-Kind certificate you can hand out after your Spork workshop and discussion points for before, during, and after the storytime.

Previously published in hardcover, Spork received a starred review from Kirkus and multiple awards, including the 2011 Bank Street Children’s Committee Best Children’s Book of the Year and the 2010 Outstanding Book for Young People with Disabilities.

 

 

What is it that Lou can’t do? February 10, 2017

louThe Thing Lou Couldn’t Do, by Ashley Spires, (May 2017, Kids Can Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781771387279

Recommended for ages 3-7

Lou and her friends are adventurers! They run faster than airplanes, build mighty fortresses, and rescue wild animals. One day, though, Lou’s friends decide to make a nearby tree the location of their pirate ship, and Lou balks. She’s never climbed a tree before. She likes her adventures to be down, on the ground. Her friends scurry up the tree, but Lou’s not going. What will it take for Lou to get up that tree?

Kids will recognize themselves in Lou, whose got a vibrant imagination, a great group of friends, and a healthy fear of a climbing a tree, which – let’s be honest – can be a pretty scary thing. Like most kids, Lou tries to divert her friends’ attention by suggesting “not-up-a-tree games” and stalling (changing her shoes, claiming an injury, spotting an asteroid heading right for them). With her friends’ encouragement, Lou does attempt that climb – and when she doesn’t make it, her friends are right there for her, heading for a playground to continue their game. Is Lou defeated? Nope. She’s going to try again, maybe even tomorrow. Showing a child overcome her fear and her self-reliance when she doesn’t succeed the first time sends a positive message to kids who may struggle with anxiety over new situations; surrounding her main character with supportive friends sends a message to all kids, to support one another and to compromise.

The digital art is fun and will appeal to all kids; the group of friends is diverse and no one is relegated to “girl” or “boy” roles here – they’re all pirates, race car drivers, or deep sea divers. They’re kids, playing together, like kids do.

I loved Ashley Spires’ award-winning book, The Most Magnificent Thing, and her Binky the Space Cat series has been a winner at any library I’ve worked at. I love her positive messages of self-reliance and the power of imagination, and I can’t wait to get this book on the shelves next to my other Spires books. A great book for elementary collections and kids who are learning that it’s okay to be scared sometimes.

Check out Ashley Spires’ website for more of her artwork and information about her books.

 

A boy and his friend must act fast to save The Last Tree January 20, 2017

last-treeThe Last Tree, by Ingrid Chabbert/Illustrated by Guridi, (April 2017, Kids Can Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781771387286

Recommended for ages 4-7

A boy listens to his father describe running and playing in the grass as a child, but has only a concrete playing area with a diminishing patch of grass available to him. One day, the boy and his friend discover a baby tree – a sapling, really – hidden behind a wall and are amazed: it’s the first tree they’ve ever seen up close. The boy goes home and discovers, to his horror, that a luxury condo complex is scheduled to begin construction right in the very spot where the tree is growing, and the boys spring into action to save the last tree.

This is a powerful look at how lack of green spaces affects children. Ingrid Chabbert’s narrator is an adult, looking back on his childhood, and how important saving that tree was to him and his friend. It sends a message about the importance of conservation and preservation today, and offers some hope for tomorrow. Artist Guridi communicates this message using charcoal, gravure ink, gouache, pencil, and digital art to create a spark of hope in the grey, bleak future that faces us as we see more green spaces disappear under development.

A strong addition to collections for Earth Day, conservation units, and to empower kids who may not understand that they can have a long-lasting impact on the world with the smallest and kindest of acts. The Last Tree invites a discussion on empathy by examining the boys’ actions and asking children to contribute by sharing a time when they took action to help someone or something that needed it.