Mom Read It

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

Dragons pop off the page – for real! – in Dragon Hunters! March 5, 2017

31409133The Dragon Hunters (The Dragon Brothers Trilogy, #1), by James Russell/Illustrated by Link Choi, (Apr. 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-4861-1

Recommended for readers 5-10

Brothers Flynn and Paddy are on a rescue mission: their dog has been kidnapped by a dragon! Mom thinks it’s all part of their goofing around, but the boys are determined and set off to rescue poor Coco from the dragon’s clutches – hope they can get out unsinged!

The Dragon Hunters – originally published in New Zealand in 2012 – is a fun, rhyming fantasy tale for grade school level kids, but preschoolers will also appreciate the rhyming tale and the cartoony art. The dragon is bold, red, and mean, gorgeous in its sinister ferocity. Pages alternate with full color art and sketches (I’ve got an ARC – this may not be the case with the finished version), and the longer length of the tale gives it an old-school, epic poem feeling.

The best part of this book? The augmented reality! Download a free app for your tablet or smartphone, hold it over the map endpapers of the book, and see the map come to life! There’s a little bit of sound, but the real thrill is seeing the landscape come to life, complete with little dragon flying over the mountains and the steaming Putrid Plains. My little guy went nuts for it, and so did my coworker’s tween daughter. I tried to capture it using my phone camera, but the Dragon Hunters site does this far better justice than my overworked Samsung. Take a look:

The site also offers free coloring sheets, which makes my passive programmer’s heart SING.

The Dragon Hunters is the first in a trilogy, all of which are publishing this year. The Dragon Tamers hits shelves in June, and The Dragon Riders arrives in August. James Russell has a chapter book series called The Dragon Defenders coming out this year – let’s hope it reaches American shores, so middle graders can enjoy Paddy, Flynn, and Coco.

Artist Link Choi’s work on The Dragon Hunters was a finalist for New Zealand’s Russell Clark Medal for Illustration. See more of his illustration at his website.

 

 

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.

 

Miles McHale, Tattletale teaches the difference between tattling and reporting

mchaleMiles McHale, Tattletale, by Christianne Jones/Illustrated by Elina Ellis, (March 2017, Capstone), $14.95, ISBN: 9781515807537

Recommended for ages 3-6

Miles McHale is funny, smart, and sweet, but he’s also a tattletale. He tattles all day long, to anyone who will listen. Mrs. Snitcher, Miles’ teacher, decides to seize the teachable moment and decrees a Tattle Battle: two teams, one week, no tattling, and gives them a pledge: “If a friend is sick, hurt, or in harm’s way, then telling someone is okay.” It’s a hard lesson for him to learn, even when his friends stop talking to him over it, but when Miles’ little sister gets hurt, it’s up to him to figure out what the difference is between tattling and asking a grownup for help.

Tattling is a rite of childhood passage. Kids can be little town criers, and Christianne Jones is spot on with Miles. Kids will recognize their friends, relatives, and classmates (and maybe even themselves) as they read about Miles telling on his friends for scratching arms, standing on one foot, or sharpening a pencil. Miles provides an excellent opportunity to teach children the difference between tattling and reporting: when to seek help from an adult.

Miles McHale is an especially good book for preschoolers and kindergarteners, who are just starting to sharpen their tattling skills, and are navigating social relationships in a school setting. There are some good tattling vs. reporting resources available online, including articles and activities on tattling management in the classroom and coping skills and activities for kids.

 

Black History Month: The Youngest Marcher, by Cynthia Levinson February 14, 2017

youngest-marcherThe Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist, by Cynthia Levinson/illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton, (Jan. 2017, Atheneum Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481400701

Recommended for ages 5-10

In May 1963, children in Birmingham, Alabama, trained in peaceful, civil disobedience, marched to protest segregation. Nine year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks was the youngest marcher, fully invested in civil rights and aware that she would likely go to jail. She spent a week in juvenile hall with flimsy blankets and no toothbrush, but she persevered and made history. Nonfiction author Cynthia Levinson tells the story of the youngest marcher, with illustrations by Vanessa Brantley Newton, here for younger audiences, assuring children that no one is too small, too young, to make a difference in the world.

I’ve been handing this book to kids coming in, looking for African-American biographies for their Black History Month reports for just this reason. I want children to see that they are important. They count. At a time when many feel marginalized, books like The Youngest Marcher, with its powerful words and images, offer representation and affirmation. Children have a voice, and with support and encouragement, they can use them and be heard.

Cynthia Levinson’s author website offers links to further resources, including curriculum guides and videos. Illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton was spotlighted by the WeNeedDiverseBooks initiative, for which she also created original artwork. For more information about the 1963 Birmingham Children’s Crusade, visit Biography.com or the Zinn Education Project, offering information about the award-winning documentary, Mighty Times.

 

 

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.