Posted in Preschool Reads

Fun with words: A Storytelling of Ravens

A Storytelling of Ravens, by Kyle Lukoff/Illustrated by Natalie Nelson, (May 2018, Groundwood Books), $17.95, ISBN: 9781554989126

Recommended for readers ages 5-8

If you loved Lane Smith’s There is a Tribe of Kids (2016), you’ll get a kick out of A Storytelling of Ravens, which finds new animal collectives to name and puts each group in an amusing context. A nuisance of cats blames some wayward yarn on a sleeping dog; a trip of sheep looks away from one clumsy member in pure embarassment; a knot of toads get their tongues in a – well, a knot, really – over a tasty fly. Where There is a Tribe of Kids follows one child through animal groups as he searches for his tribe, the animals are at the silly focus of this book, which shows readers how to have more fun with words – something I thoroughly enjoy doing in my storytimes. Tell your kiddos that a group of jellyfish is known as a smack, and they will have fun with that for HOURS. Trust me. I have a five-year-old, I know. The art is an eclectic mix of gouache paint, ink drawings, found photographs, and digital collage, giving the book a funky, vintage art feel. This one is fun for English classes, fun for nature/science classes, and fun for storytime – try introducing it to readers during an animal storytime. I think I’m going to give some flannels a shot with this one, now that I think of it.

Pair this with more wordplay books like TOON’s Wordplay graphic novel by Ivan Brunetti, Michaël Ecoffier’s Take Away the A, or Tara Lazar’s hilarious book, 7 Ate 9.

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Posted in Preschool Reads

Turtle’s First Winter is great for ALL seasons!

Turtle’s First Winter, by Sara Beth Videtto, (Aug. 2017, Hill House Press, LLC), $18.95, ISBN: 978-0-692-87516-2

Recommended for readers 4-7

I’ve been holding onto this one for too long, and I need to tell more people about this book. I met Sara Beth Videtto at KidLitCon this past November, and snapped this book up ASAP. Just looking at the cover, it looks like it’s a perfect readalike for our Eric Carle fans, right? It is! It’s a sweet story about a turtle and his friend, Bear, who experience the four seasons and all they have to offer. But it’s Turtle’s first go-round, so Bear lets him know what to expect from each one. We learn the duo’s favorite parts of the seasons, like the soft, ticklish green grass in the summer and the crisp fall air; we learn how turtles hibernate, and we are happy when the friends reunite in the spring. It’s a sweet story about the seasons and friendship.

This is a great read for preschoolers to Grade 1; it would fit into a storytime on the seasons as easily as it would hibernation. I’d read this with Denise Fleming’s In the Small, Small Pond as easily as I’d read it with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? for the pre-k to kindergarteners, and with Kate Messner’s Over and Under the Snow, and Nancy Elizabeth Wallace’s Pond Walk for kindergartners to first graders.

But the best part about this book is the art. Sara Beth Videtto creates layered artwork that gives the book such a unique look and feel. She prints up pictures from nature – dirt, grass, bark, leaves – cuts them into strips and shapes, and glues them together; then, she scans them into her computer to type the words onto the pictures (more on that in a second).

This is a Read and Find Storybook, so it’s loaded with things for kids to read and find! If you look at the bear and the turtle, you’ll notice each animal has its name, cleverly included within the artwork. Identifying words for the nature around them crop up here and there, too. The words for Bear, Turtle, and the parts of nature within the story text map to the textured artwork, too! I’ve taken some photos from my copy of the book to show off the artwork a little better.

See the text? Turtle maps to the textured artwork for Turtle; Bear, leaves, grass – it creates a relationship between the reader and the artwork!

Textured artwork, beautiful layers. Have a good nap, Turtle!

Do you see Bear’s name?

How about Turtle’s?

I know I’m gushing, but this is such a great book and my Kindergartner loves it. Which makes sense, since Ms. Videtto is a former K-3 teacher. She is the nicest person, taking the time to talk with me about her book and answer any questions I had, but even better? Once my kiddo read the book with me, HE had questions. A lot of them; all about the artwork. He never asks questions like that! So I took to The Twitter and asked Sara Beth all of his questions, and she got back to me ASAP, with a full explanation (with pictures!) of how she creates her artwork. My little guy was so excited to get a response from an author; she’s helped create a lifelong fan and a lifelong reader. And for that, I’m grateful.

Sara Beth Videtto has a website with extra information and activity sheets to accompany Turtle’s First Winter, along with links to her blog and info about school visits. Most importantly, you can buy a copy of her book straight from the website! She’s got some teasing info about her next two books, which I’m very excited about (there’s an octopus!), and links to Turtle’s fan club page on Facebook. I’m so happy to have met her, and thrilled to talk this book up.

Posted in Non-Fiction

Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They left Behind

Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They left Behind, by Cynthia Grady/Illustrated by Amiko Hirao, (Jan. 2018, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580896887

Recommended for readers 5-10

Inspired by a true story, Write to Me tells the story of Clara Breed, a children’s librarian who corresponded with her Japanese American patrons when they were sent to internment camps during World War II. She gave them postcards to let her know where they were; she visited them, wrote to them, and sent them books and crafts to help ease their minds during their confinement. She advocated for those children by writing articles and attending rallies, advocating for her kids. When the kids came home, she was waiting for them – and they came to her. She was comfort in a cruel time. Write to me tells the story of Clara Breed through conversations with her library kids; muted pencil art illustrates life in the prison camps, with excerpts from actual letters on each page to show the passage of time. Endpapers display photos from the period, including family arrivals at the camps and evacuation notices for Japanese Americans. An author’s note features a photo of Clara Breed and two of her patrons, taken at a reunion in 1991. There’s a timeline of Clara Breed’s life, including links to her articles on the war, relocation, civil liberties, and human rights, and a selected history of the Japanese People in the United States. Source notes, bibliography, and further reading are available. A touching book about a woman who touched lives, and a nice addition to biography collections.

 

 

Posted in Preschool Reads

Put Dragon Dancer on your Lunar New Year reading lists

Dragon Dancer, by Joyce Chng/Illustrated by Jérémy Pailler, (Jan. 2018, Lantana Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 9781911373261

Recommended for readers 4-8

As the Lunar New Year approaches, a Singaporean boy named Yao waits to awaken the sky dragon, Shen Long. When he does, Yao will go on a magical adventure with the dragon, dancing the bad luck of the previous year away, and bringing in the good luck for a prosperous new year.

Originally released in the UK by Lantana Publishing in 2015, Dragon Dancer is a gorgeous book that draws on ancestry, legend, and tradition for Lunar New Year reading. The text pulses with the energy of the dragon dance, the art coming alive from the page as the dragon writhes, corkscrews, and spins away misfortune and welcomes in prosperity. The background pages remain starkly white, allowing the brilliant colors to spring off the page and into readers’ imaginations. The music in the story urges dragon and dancer on, and draws the reader into the narrative: you can feel the drums pounding, the cymbals clashing, the crowds cheering. Yao thinks of his grandfather, hoping for his strength and guidance as he prepares to wake Shen Yao, and the dragon praises his skills as a dragon dancer. A note from the author provides a bit of personal experience of the New Year celebration. This one’s a definite purchase for my holiday collection.

 

Posted in Preschool Reads

Oskar and the Eight Blessings: A Hanukkah tale

Oskar and the Eight Blessings, by Ricahrd Simon & Tanya Simon/Illustrated by Mark Siegel, (Sept. 2015, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781596439498

Recommended for readers 4-8

Oskar is a young, Jewish refugee arriving in New York to stay with his aunt after the horror of Kristallnacht. He arrives in New York on the seventh day of Hanukkah in 1938, which also falls on Christmas Eve. He has no money, and faces a long walk from Battery Park to his Aunt Esther’s apartment on West 103rd Street. As he walks the length of Manhattan, he keeps his father’s words in mind: “…even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.” And sure enough, he encounters blessings, in the forms of people whose paths he crosses, that provide him with small moments of kindness, from a woman who gives him bread to newsstand man who gives him a copy of a Superman comic. Two legendary figures pop up to show kindness toward Oskar, whistling a tune with him and giving him a wink. Each act of kindness sustains Oskar on his journey, which ends in his aunt’s arms.

This is a gorgeous book. It’s about the power of empathy, and how the seemingly smallest kindnesses can make the greatest differences. It’s about the resilience of the human spirit and the strength of children. The book begins with a gut punch, and ends with a crescendo; you can’t be unaffected by Oskar’s story. The artwork relies on close-ups of faces, particularly eyes, to convey emotion, and it’s through Oskar’s eyes that we see the fear of being in a strange, new place; wonder and joy at the connections he makes, and finally, the comfort of home. I need my own copy of this book.

Oskar and the Eight Blessings received the National Jewish Book Award for Children’s Literature and was chosen for both the Booklist Editors’ Choice and Kansas State Reading Circle. The book received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Little Sid – Meet the Buddha!

Little Sid, by Ian Lendler/Illustrated by Xantha Bouma, (Jan. 2018, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626726369

Recommended for readers 3-8

This adorably illustrated story of the Buddha’s childhood is both a nice introduction to Buddhism for younger readers, and a meaningful fable about valuing connections over possessions.

Little Sid is Siddhartha, a little prince who gets everything he could ever want, except for time with his parents. They’re always running off to some grand event or monarch duty, leaving Sid to be raised by an army of handlers who all fawn over him. He isn’t happy. He takes off to find the secret to happiness and meets a wise man who confuses him, a tiger who terrifies him, and a mouse who makes it all come together for him. When he comes back, he’s a changed kid, ready to put what he’s learned into practice: starting with his parents.

Xanthe Bouma’s artwork is adorable and bright, lively and bold. Sid’s face is filled with expression, whether he’s happily greeting readers on the opening page or reveling in the joy of a ripe strawberry. Ian Lendler’s text weaves a story of a child who has everything he could want, but wants only his parents’ time. It’s a story of mindfulness and gratitude, and that’s something every child should know and every family should embrace. My favorite lesson? That being happy isn’t permanent, but neither is being sad. It teaches kids that life comes in ebbs and flows, and to go with those ups and downs. A brief biography of Siddhartha Gautama closes out this volume.

Booktalk or display Little Sid with one of my favorite books, Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth; together, the two books present a starting point to discover different cultures and faiths, all while delivering solid messages about awareness and resilience. Talk about the religions that inspire these tales; introduce your readers to Buddhism and Hinduism. It’s a great way to make their worlds a little bigger.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Peace be upon you: Salam Alaikum

Salam Alaikum: A Message of Peace, by Harris J/Illustrated by Ward Jenkins, (Sept. 2017, Simon & Schuster Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481489386

Recommended for readers 4-8

A young, British, Muslim artist’s YouTube hit reaches an even wider audience with this picture book that celebrates peace, love, and happiness. Called “the Muslim Justin Bieber” by NPR, Harris J’s words, combined by Ward Jenkins digital artwork, come together to create a story where peace is spread, hand to hand, via kind deeds: handing an umbrella to someone in the rain; a balloon; a cup of coffee – each recipient paying it forward and spreading kindness to another. The characters from the book come together to hold hands, forming a human chain of love and understanding that embraces the world.

“Salam alaikum” means “peace be upon you”; the formal and informal greeting, in both English and Arabic, greets readers at the beginning of the book. The response, “wa alaikuma salam” – “and upon you, peace” – leaves the reader in peace at the book’s close. The kindness spread from one hand to another is depicted as a golden glow that grows as it’s passed on. The story is optimistic, bright, and filled with hope more importantly, it’s a call to action for everyone who reads it, who witnesses this message, to be part of the change for good. That’s a message we really want to pass on, especially now. The cast of characters is diverse, and the text is bold, black, and stands out against the pages, making it an easy read-aloud. The refrain, “Assalamu Alaikum”, appears throughout in large, scripted font, the message standing out.

Salam Alaikum sends a positive message about peace and living together as a global community. It’s a strong and upbeat choice for storytimes and collections.