Posted in Animal Fiction, Preschool Reads

On Duck Pond, there is chaos… and then peace.

On Duck Pond, by Jane Yolen/Illustrated by Bob Marstall, (Apr. 2017, Cornell Lab Publishing Group), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1-943645-22-0

Recommended for readers 3-7

A boy and his dog walk by a duck pond in the morning, when nature is at peace; when a quack of ducks appear, they splash, they chitter and chatter, and the pond’s inhabitants scramble in the momentary chaos. The boy notes that even his reflection looks different in the disturbed water. When the ducks move on, the pond returns to its peaceful setting, the pond life resumes, and the boy, contemplative, heads home.

This rhyming tale is a sequel to On Bird Hill, but it’s not necessary to have read it to enjoy this quiet nature tale. Award-winning author Jane Yolen gives readers a wonderful rhyming tale of quiet and chaos, coming up with fun, descriptive terms like “a quack of ducks”, and evocative phrases like, “Old Duck Pond, once still and quiet/Now seemed battered by the riot”, and, of the boy’s reflection, “Every part of me was changed/I looked like I’d been re-arranged”. She captures the riot of noise and blunder of movement that disturbs the quiet  morning, and the gradual pace with which nature recovers when the ducks move on, all witnessed by the boy and his dog. We meet some of the pond’s inhabitants – turtles, herons, frogs, and tadpoles – during the course of the story; the realistic illustrations introduce us to even more wildlife. There are lovely, detailed drawing of the pond from various angles, from close-ups of lily pads to sweeping vistas. The ducks’ descent is beautifully rendered, with wings spread, water splashing, beaks open, communicating the movement and noise they bring to the scene. A section on pond habitats and birds, and information about the ducks and other birds and animals featured in the story, adds a nice non-fiction section to the book.

This is a great read-aloud for storytimes – the rhyming text provides a nice cadence for readers to listen to – and for introductions to habitats for younger readers. Kirkus captures the spirit of the narration by referring to it as a “sense of wonder” book.

Pair this with some of Jane Yolen’s  more nature-oriented books, like On Bird Hill or Owl Moon for an author study, or display with books like Denise Fleming’s In the Small, Small Pond and Henry Cole’s I Took a Walk.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Blog Tour: Share, Big Bear, Share! And Giveaway!

Big Bear has a big pail of yummy blueberries! His friends would like some, too, but Big Bear seems to be a bit clueless. The old oak tree tells him to SHARE, BIG BEAR, SHARE!, but Bear is so enamored of his blueberries, he’s not really listening – and hears something different each time! Will he finally realize that a good friend shares, and invite his pals to have some berries?

Share, Big Bear, Share!, by Maureen Wright/Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, (Apr. 2017, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1503951006. Recommended for readers 3-7

Share, Big Bear, Share! is a great story for preschoolers and kindergarteners, who are developing social skills and learning to share and work together. Big Bear is a nice bear, he’s just a little unaware; when the Old Oak Tree tells him – multiple times – to share, Big Bear – who’s not really listening; he’s got an entire bucket of blueberries! – half-hears the message, with hilarious results. The message for readers is twofold: sharing is important, but so is paying attention! I think a round of the old game, Telephone is a perfect accompaniment to this story: a teacher, parent, or educator whispers something into one child’s ear and has the message go around the group, until the last player states what he or she heard, which is usually something very different from the original statement!

The story makes it point in a sweet, funny way that appeals to young readers. Will Hillenbrand’s graphite pencil artwork, fleshed out with digital media, gives Bear and his woodland friends a cuddly quality that kids will love. Old Oak Tree looks wonderfully wise and his facial expressions are perfect and accurate. Kids will have seen that face on their caregivers many times!

Share, Big Bear, Share! is the third Big Bear book by Maureen Wright and Will Hillenbrand (Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep! and Sneeze, Big Bear, Sneeze!) Display this one with books like Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama, Time to Share and Leo Lionni’s It’s Mine! for readalikes; build a social skills library by adding Beth Ferry’s Stick and Stone, Rowboat Watkins’ Rude Cakes, and Julie Gassman’s You Get What You Get.

There’s a Help Big Bear SHARE Game, available through illustrator Will Hillenbrand’s website, for you to download, print, and hand out.

GIVEAWAY! Want a chance to win your own copy of Share, Big Bear, Share? Enter here!

WILL HILLENBRAND has written and/or illustrated over 60 books for young readers including Down by the Barn, Mother Goose Picture Puzzles and the Bear and Mole series. He has lived almost all of his life in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he grew up as the youngest of four boys. He now lives in Terrace Park and was recently honored as Author/Illustrator in Residence at Kent State University.

Information about his books, selected readings, art process videos and activity ideas can be viewed at www.willhillenbrand.com. Connect with Will at www.facebook.com/willhillenbrandbooks.

 

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Two Little White Fish books make for a fishy storytime!

Little White Fish Is So Happy, by Guido van Genechten, (March 2017, Clavis Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-6053-7326-3

Recommended for reads 2-6

Little White Fish is so happy! His mom is here to pick him up and take him home! He says goodbye to all of his friends, and heads home with his mom.

Kids will love Little White Fish’s excitement – who doesn’t love when Mommy comes to take them home? Children who spend the day with a daycare provider, whether it’s daycare or a caregiver, will recognize the joy of going home, the routine of saying goodbye to friends, and the playful fun of running up ahead of Mom on the way home. Alternate caregivers can easily switch “Mom” to “Grandma”, “Dad”, or any name during a read-aloud.

 

Well Done, Little White Fish!, by Guido van Genechten, (March 2017, Clavis Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-6053-7327-0

Recommended for readers 2-6

Little White Fish teaches readers that everyone has a talent in this story. Little Crab can cut sea grass with his claws; Turtle can carry a heavy rock on his back, and Sea Urchin can do somersaults. Little White Fish watches each of his friends perform aquatic feats with some amazement – and maybe a little envy – until he discovers that he can swim really well, even in ways his friends can’t. His friends encourage him and cheer him on as he finds his special knack, teaching readers that encouraging your friends and cheering them on is far better than being jealous or feeling bad.

Each of the books feature bright black backgrounds on each page, allowing the bright white Little White Fish (and the soft coloring on his head), to stand out and catch little eyes. Little White Fish’s friends are all brightly colored, and the textured colorwork really gives the sea creatures and their environs a nice depth.

Both books, originally published in Dutch in 2016, are additions to Guido van Genechten’s Little White Fish series, which spans both picture and board books.

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

Welcome #NationalPoetryMonth with Animal Ark

Animal Ark, created by photographer Joel Sartore/text by Kwame Alexander, (Feb. 2017, National Geographic), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2767-4

Recommended for ages 3+

Newbery Award winning author Kwame Alexander lends his voice to award-winning National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore’s beautiful book of wild animals. Animal Ark is inspired by the National Geographic Photo Ark: a project between Sartore and the National Geographic Society to document every species in captivity, with the goal of raising awareness and protecting these animals for future generations.

Kwame Alexander writes amazing verse. If you’ve read The Crossover or Booked, you know this. His Animal Ark verse is at once playful and a call to action; paired with Sartore’s visually stunning photos, they pack a powerful punch to the psyche. A full-page photo of a wolf’s face in profile proclaims, “Howl like you mean it… the world is listening”; brightly colored beetles stand out against a black background, reading “Color me ancient and sacred”. The words placement is also playful, winding across the page and around the animals, to create a full visual experience for the reader. Several gatefolds throughout the book surprise the reader with a “chorus of creatures”, collages of photos. Here, the text reminds us of what we have and not to squander our gifts: “There are too few remaining/in the rain forest/in the big blue sea/in the whole wide world/because of you and me”.

Joel Sartore has photographed more than 6,000 species for the PhotoArk project, more than 100 of which are featured in Animal Ark. A companion adult book, National Geographic The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals (March 2017) includes more photographs and a foreword by Harrison Ford.

This is a perfect book to read and display for National Poetry Month (starting April 28), and for Earth Day (April 22nd). It’s a beautiful photo book with lovely verse that will draw readers in. Animal Ark received a starred review from School Library Journal and the companion adult book received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Have a look at the blooper reel – photographing animals isn’t always easy!

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate

Dragons pop off the page – for real! – in Dragon Hunters!

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.

 

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

Do you like to play? Animals do, too!

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.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Different? Same! looks at repeating patterns in nature

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.