Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

BookExpo: The Picture Books!

Okay, another BookExpo post at last. There was SO much to see, it couldn’t be contained in just one post. Here’s a little bit of a rundown on picture books I saw/picked up.

June

A Home for Leo, by Vin Vogel, (June 2018, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781503902602

Recommended for readers 4-8

Leo’s a baby who becomes separated from his family and ends up being raised by seals. He loves his seal family, but his differences – he doesn’t look like anyone else; he can’t hold his breath for as long as they can – weigh on him, making him feel like “an empty shell”. He’s found by a family who “rescues” him from the seals, and his parents, who recognize him on TV, come to take him home. Leo’s happy to be with his family, but there’s a lot to adjust to, living among people. He misses his other family, and he misses the sea… maybe there’s a way that everyone can be happy? The digital illustrations are bright and defined, with friendly and diverse families. The story is a nice pick for adoptees, or just about any kid who doesn’t feel like they fit in.

 

August

The Kiddie Table, by Colleen Madden, (Aug. 2018, Capstone), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1-68446-002-1

Recommended for 5-8

An 8-year-old girl has to sit at the kiddie table at the family Thanksgiving dinner, and she is NOT having it! This laugh-out-loud rhyming story will have readers laughing along with you as our protagonist endures the indignity of being given a sippy cup, and having her toddler cousins pelt her with food before she finally blows her stack. When Mom calms her down and gives her a talking to, readers will learn how to maturely handle a situation before the meltdown hits, and how to ask for what you want when things don’t go your way. I love the colors, the artwork, and the extra details, like the child art hanging from the walls, Thanksgiving dishware, and naturally, flying food. A fun add to your holiday bookshelves!

 

Grow Up, David!, by David Shannon, (Aug. 2018, Scholastic), $17.99, ISBN: 9781338250978

Recommended for readers 3-7

David’s back! The little boy who’s perpetually in trouble shows readers what it’s like to be the kid brother in his fifth picture book outing (not counting the Diaper David board books). From the cover of the book, where David jumps up and down on his older sibling to wake him, it’s a nonstop “David!” fest that echoes sentiments every little brother or sister has heard time and again: “You’re too little!”; “Stop following me!”; “That’s MINE!”; “Give it back!” As with other David stories, just when David has driven everyone berserk, big brother takes a step back, engages David, and the story ends with a hug. Or a noogie. You be the judge. Who doesn’t love a David story? My 6-year-old loves David’s antics – mostly because they map so well to his own – and with two much older brothers, this book is going to ring very true for him, just like it will for other readers who have older siblings, cousins, or students in school that like to throw their age differences around. David Shannon books are a win for all!

 

Boo-Boo! (Terrific Toddlers), by Carol Zeavin & Rhona Silverbush/Illustrated by Jon Davis, (Aug. 2018, Magination Press), $8.99, ISBN: 9781433828751

Recommended for readers 3-5

This sweet little book is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. A little girl named JoJo likes to run! She falls down and bumps her chin, sending Daddy running to pick her up. The little toddler cries about her “boo-boo” while Daddy comforts her and takes her home to fix the boo-boo. There’s wonderful repetition here: the toddler repeats everything Daddy suggests, but with “NO!” in front of it: “No fix!” “No wash!” “No Band-Aid!”, all of which are age-appropriate responses. Daddy responds appropriately, too, keeping his cool and finding simple methods to deflect JoJo until the boo-boo is taken care of, and JoJo and Daddy are both happy again. The artwork is soft and realistic; JoJo and her dad are wonderfully expressive, and a note to parents and caregivers helps parents understand how to cope with their own boo-boo moments. JoJo and her dad are people of color. I really like this Terrific Toddlers series and think I’ll be putting a set in my library.

 

September

The Steves, by Morag Hood, (Sept. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-6914-2

Recommended for readers 3-7

Next up, another hilarious book from Morag Hood, whose 2017 book, I Am Bat, made me laugh out loud trying to get through storytime. The Steves promises more of the same: two puffins, each named Steve, battle it out who’s the better Steve. The Stevest Steve, if you will. Like two preschoolers, the insults fly fast, furious, and absolutely hysterical. When the insults go too far, the Steves have a time-out, work out their differences, and… are joined by another Steve. This book begs to be read out loud, and the art will make readers laugh as hard as the text, with accusatory feather-pointing, mountains of fish, and colorful, bright artwork.

 

My Wish For You, by Kathryn Hahn/Illustrated by Brigette Barrager, (Sept. 2018, Scholastic), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-15040-7

Recommended for readers 4-8

Actress and author Kathryn Hahn’s inspiration for this book is her six-year-old daughter; these are her wishes – all parents’ wishes – for their daughters as they grow. Illustrated groups of diverse young girls play and grow together across the spreads as life advice counsels them to “Be afraid. Be fearless. Have BIG, BIG feelings”; and “Make sure you are HEARD. SAY what you mean unless you can’t find the words. Then SHOUT it out till the words come back”. Uni the Unicorn illustrator Brigette Barrager creates fun, light images of girls climbing trees, catching stars, listening to music, and playing dress-up together, creating a very sweet love letter from mothers to daughters, with an undercurrent of empowerment. I’d pair this with Stacy McAnulty’s Beautiful; check A Mighty Girl for more girl-empowering titles to display, booktalk, or buy.

 

Star in the Jar, by Sam Hay/Illustrated by Sarah Massini, (Sept. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-6220-4

Recommended for readers 4-8

A young boy finds a fallen star, prompting him and his sister to find a way to send the star back home. When they succeed, he discovers not that he lost something by giving it away, but that he’s found a friend. Published in the UK earlier this year, Star in the Jar is an upbeat, quiet story about friendship, empathy, and a little magic.  The siblings have a close relationship, and work together on solutions to return the star to its home in the sky. A nice addition to picture book collections and could be a cute bedtime story/pajama storytime choice.

 

 

October

Pterodactyl Show and Tell, by Thad Krasnesky/Illustrated by Tanya Leonello, (Oct. 2018, Flashlight Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781936261345

Recommended for readers 3-7

This rhyming tale about a boy who brings his pterodactyl to school for show and tell will have readers laughing as the dino wreaks havoc on the school day. He tries to eat some classmates, and has teachers hiding behind their desks, but he also finds time to have fun in the playground, enjoy a math lesson, and demonstrate how to brush his teeth! The kids aren’t as open to the new experience as the ptero’s human is, but he gets a quick promotion to fourth grade out of it. Too bad the fourth grade doesn’t seem to allow show and tell! The rhyming is fun, but the pictures sell it in this book; the expressive, goofy-faced pterodactyl is never a threatening figure, which makes the reactions from classmates and faculty even funnier. Watching a winged dinosaur upend the school from classroom to cafeteria is likely every kid’s dream, and will go over in a big way here. Absolutely fun reading – who doesn’t love a dinosaur?

 

Good Morning, Snowplow!, by Deborah Bruss/Illustrated by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson, (Oct. 2018, Scholastic), $17.99, ISBN: 9781338089493

Recommended for readers 4-7

This gentle rhyming story about a snowplow driver and his dog getting ready for a night’s work is perfect for readers who love Sherri Duskey Rinker’s Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Mighty, Mighty Construction Site. Acrylics, colored pencil, pen, and collage artwork comes together to create weathered-looking trucks and snowflakes that dominate the pages while still appearing delicate. A good addition to your seasonal and transportation books.

 

 

Lorraine, the Girl Who Sang the Storm Away, by Ketch Secor/Illustrated by Higgins Bond, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-1692-4

Recommended for readers 4-8

Another rhyming story! I love it! This story of a young, African American girl named Lorraine, who lives with her grandfather, Paw Paw, in Tennessee is too much fun. The girl and her grandfather make music together: she’s got a penny whistle and he’s got a harmonica (called a French harp here). They start noticing things going missing around the farm, but that’s pushed aside by the arrival of a big storm that terrifies Lorraine. She and Paw Paw try to make some music to push away the noise, but discover their instruments are missing! Thankfully, Paw Paw encourages Lorraine to sing instead, and the two sing away that storm. The next morning, the storm has passed and they discover their missing treasures in the base of a tree, downed by the storm. The crow that’s been visiting them has been stealing stuff from them all along! This is a beautifully illustrated book, depicting a loving relationship between a girl and her grandfather; the fonts change size and color for emphasis and become part of the scenery. The acrylic paint creates a realistic slice of life in the Tennessee Hills. Absolutely add this to your shelves.

 

Miracle on 34th Street, by Valentine Davies/text adapted for picture book by Susanna Leonard Hill/Illustrated by James Newman Gray, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-6986-9

Recommended for readers 4+

Here’s one for the Christmas collections! For the first time, the popular Christmas movie is being adapted into a picture book. Oscar-winning screen writer Valentine Davies penned this story about a little girl named Susan, who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus until she meets Kris, a jolly, bearded gentleman who plays Santa at Macy’s. When he reveals that actually is Kris Kringle – Santa Claus – Susan isn’t sure, but he encourages her to be childlike and believe in things, even if you don’t always have proof. When he’s taken to court by a jealous supervisor at Macy’s, it’s up to Susan’s mother’s friend, Fred, to convince the judge of the same. This adaptation retains the heart of the movie classic, with warm-colored illustrations. Schedule a viewing of the classic film and get your displays up!

 

We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands, Illustrated by Rafael López, (Oct. 2018, Scholastic), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-17736-7

Recommended for readers 3+

Finishing strong here! The popular folk song, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”, gets a multicultural, nonsectarian adaptation with Rafael López’s beautifully illustrated update. The award-winning illustrator puts the world in “our” hands – the kids’ hands – and creates a feeling of empowerment and unity through diversity and understanding.  The words can be sung to the tune of the original folk song, or make up your own tune! Invite readers to clap along, hold hands, and dance along. It’s a feel-good book with a feel-great message! There’s sheet music for instruments at the end of the book, and a note about the original song. The mixed media illustration is incredible, with bright colors, blending, and texture. A must-add, and I’m keeping my eye on this for Caldecott.

 

That’s it! Whew! And this is just a smattering of what we’ve got coming our way this Fall. Get those book carts ready to order!

 

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Posted in Historical Fiction

Redemption in the Old West: The Outlaw

The Outlaw, by Nancy Vo, (May 2018, Groundwood Books), $17.95, ISBN: 9781773060163

Recommended for readers 5-9

A small town in the Old West is terrorized by an Outlaw, who disappears one day. But when a mysterious stranger rides into town and starts making repairs and improvements, it draws close attention from some of the townspeople. Can even the meanest outlaws get redemption?

This is a beautifully created story of redemption and empathy. The spare text finds power in its brevity, with powerful mixed media images to enhance the story. The Outlaw quietly comes back to town – has he had a moment of clarity? – to make life in the town better, but when he’s recognized, any goodwill he may have built up is dashed: until a young boy stands up to the crowd. And sometimes, a voice of reason is all it takes to set change in motion. Not everyone will be on board, but the value; the importance, of taking a stand is the important thing. The Outlaw brings strong themes of empathy and redemption to readers, and with it, the opportunity for solid discussion about forgiveness and whether or not good deeds balance out terrible wrongs.

Author-illustrator Nancy Vo’s webpage has more of her artwork, links to her blog, and information about her books.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, picture books, Preschool Reads, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Upcoming books to get kids excited for summer

I know, I know, we’re not even heading into Spring yet, and here I am, talking about Summer-themed books. Honestly, though, can you think of a better time to imagine grains of sand running through your fingers, the warm sun on your back, or the smell of the woods after a summer rain? Here are a few upcoming books to whet your readers’ appetites for the longer, warmer days of summer.

Grains of Sand, by Sibylle Delacroix, (Apr. 2018, OwlKids Books), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771472050
Recommended for readers 4-7

A young girl and her brother come back home after a family vacation; her shoes are filled with sand. What to do with all of it? Should they plant a field of umbrellas to wave at the sun? How about a forest of windmills, or a castle fort? The possibilities are as endless as a child’s wish for the summer to stay. As the girl falls asleep in her father’s arms, she extracts a promise that they’ll return for more sand, next year. This sweet love letter to summer and family uses grainy gray and white artwork, with splashes of yellow and blue, and will enchant young readers and make us adults smile and remember our own summer vacations. You’ll feel the sand run through your fingers and smell the ocean as you turn each page. It’s the perfect way to greet a summer full of possibilities. Originally published in 2017 in French, this English translation of Grains of Sand has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Be Prepared, by Vera Brosgol, (April 2018, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626724457
Recommended for readers 10-14

A semi-autobiographical graphic novel about author/illustrator Vera Brosgol’s life, Be Prepared tells the story of Vera, a girl who desperately wants to fit in, but she doesn’t have the money that her fancier suburban friends have, and her Russian household doesn’t quite match her schoolmates’ WASP-y upbringing. When the girls start talking about the lavish summer camps they’re heading to for the summer, Vera does some research and finds an option even her single mom can afford: a Russian summer camp.  How can Mom say no? She’ll be able to make friends and learn more about her Russian heritage. Mom gives in, and Vera and her brother are off to camp – but it’s nothing like Vera expects. She’s got history lessons and tests?! Awful outhouses? And mean girls in Russian camp, too?! This hilarious look back at summer camp is great for tweens and young teens who know just what it feels like not to fit in. I really enjoy Vera Brosgol’s cartoon art, especially those giant, expressive eyes that communicate volumes. Vera Brosgol’s picture book, Leave Me Alone! is a Caledecott Honor book and her graphic novel Anya’s Ghost is a Cybils, Harvey, and Eisner Award winner. See more about her books and artwork at her website.

All Summer Long, by Hope Larson, (May 2018, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9780374310714
Recommended for readers 10-13

Thirteen-year-old Bina is not looking forward to this summer. Not only is her best friend, Austin, heading off to soccer camp this summer, but he doesn’t even seem interested in keeping up their Summer Fun Index anymore! Bina consoles herself by getting lost in music and finding an unlikely friendship with Austin’s sister, who has similar taste. When Austin comes home, he’s acting more distant and weirder than ever. Can Bina and Austin ever get their friendship back on an even keel? This great graphic novel will resonate with tweens who are navigating their own growing pains and the evolution so many friendships go through in that summer space between middle and high school. It’s funny and touching, loaded with understanding. An A+ summer read. Hope Larson is an Eisner Award-winning comic and graphic novel artist whose books include Chiggers (2008), Goldie Vance (ongoing), and Compass South (2016). Her 2012 adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time earned her a second Eisner.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books for your Spring radar!

Spring always brings some good books to read. In April and May, there’s a little something for everyone – come and see!

April Books

Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest, by Sarah Hampson/Illustrated by Kass Reich,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771383615
Recommended for readers 4-8
Dr. Archibald Coo is a sophisticated pigeon who’s tired of the way he and his fellow pigeons are treated by humans. They’re shooed at, swatted, and treated like a general menace. Dr. Coo remembers when pigeons enjoyed a higher profile in history: in ancient Greece, they delivered news about the Olympic Games; during World War I, they carried messages across battlefields. Now? pfft. So Dr. Coo and his pigeon friends organize and decide to strike: they disappear from every public space, leaving a confused public wondering what happened. Dr. Coo heads over to the mayor’s office a history of the pigeon and a note, asking for tolerance, opening the door to a new era of pigeon-human relations. It’s a cute urban story with a wink to New York and other urban spaces, and has a nice thread about inclusivity and diversity running through the book. Gouache paint and colored pencil art makes for a soft illustration, with attention to the different types of pigeons – there are! – in the cityscape. This would be cute to booktalk with James Sage’s Stop Feedin’ Da Boids!

My Teacher’s Not Here!, by Lana Button/Illustrated by Christine Battuz,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771383561
Recommended for readers 4-6
Kitty gets to school and knows something’s up when her teacher, Miss Seabrooke, isn’t there to meet her. What’s going on? There’s another teacher there today! How does school even work when your teacher is absent? This sweet rhyming tale about a student’s first substitute teacher is great for younger kids who are just getting into the swing of school routines and provides some fun advice for coping with and adjusting to unexpected change. Kitty teaches readers some coping strategies, including helping out her friends and the teacher by contributing to class and modeling good behavior using cues she learned from her teacher, that the substitute may not be aware of. This is an animal story, so kids will enjoy seeing the “ginormously tall” teacher, a giraffe named Mr. Omar; pigs, elephants, bears, a whole menagerie of students. Hand-drawn artwork and digital collage come together to create colorful, textured, cartoony fun. This one’s a good addition to preschool and primary collections.

Tinkle, Tinkle Little Star, by Chris Tougas,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $9.99, ISBN: 9781771388399
Recommended for readers 1-3
One of my favorite books coming out this season is this adorable board book! Set to the tune of everybody’s favorite classic song, this sweet and funny version is all about where not to go: not in a plane, not on Grandpa’s knee, not at a puppet show. Luckily, the poor Little Star gets relief by the story’s end, and sits on a potty to… “Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Star”. It’s adorable with the cutest digital art. Little Star is beyond cute, and gender neutral! Sing along at storytime – I know I’ll be throwing plenty of voice inflection (“Did you just pee on this page?”) and leg-crossing as I read this one. Absolutely adorable, must-add, must-give for collections and toddlers everywhere.

May Books

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book, by Alice Kuipers/Illustrated by Diana Toledano,
(May 2018, Chronicle), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452152325
Recommended for readers 7-9
Polly Diamond is an aspiring, biracial young writer who discovers a magic book on her doorstep one day. Not only does the book write back to her when she writes in it, Everything she writes in the book happens in real life! At first, Polly is psyched: who wouldn’t be, right? But you know how it goes… for every magic journal action, there’s a pretty wild reaction! Written in the first person, with excerpts from Polly’s book, including a pretty great intermediate-level book list for awesome display purposes (“Read Polly Diamond’s favorite books HERE!”). Chapter book readers who love books like Juana and Lucas (on Polly’s favorites list), Jasmine Toguchi, and Katie Woo will thoroughly enjoy Polly’s adventures. There are short, descriptive sentences and a nice amount of new words – Polly is an aspiring writer, after all! Lots of fun for chapter book readers; I’d have kids create their own aquariums as a related craft.

Old Misery, by James Sage/Illustrated by Russell Ayto,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781771388238
Recommended for readers 5-10
Readers with a darker sense of humor (and parents who are Gorey fans) will get a chuckle out of Old Misery, the story of a cranky old woman named – you got it – Old Misery, and her old cat, Rutterkin. She’s broke, and the apples keep disappearing from her apple tree! Lucky for Old Misery, she’s not completely heartless and feeds a wandering visitor, who grants her one wish: she wants all the apple thieves to be caught in the tree until she lets them go! Old Misery decides to play a little risky game when Death himself shows up at her door – and she sends him to the apple tree. Be careful what you wish for! The black and white, pen and ink artwork has a creepy, quirky feel to it, which will appeal to kids who like Lemony Snicket’s work, but may go over some kids’ heads. Old Misery narrates the story, offering an opportunity for a fun read-aloud.

Binky fans, Gordon’s got his own adventure! For readers who love Ashley Spires’ Binky the Space Cat graphic novels will love Gordon, fellow member of PURST (Pets of the Universe Ready for Space Travel) and Binky’s house-mate, as he finds himself traveling through time to stop an alien invasion. But Gordon travels back too far – before PURST even exists! He’s got to get back to his normal time and set things right! This is fun reading for graphic novel fans, and a nice addition to a popular series. There’s time-travel, problem-solving, aliens, and humor, along with fun art.

See How We Move!: A First Book of Health and Well-Being, by Scot Ritchie,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781771389679

Recommended for readers 5-8
Author Scot Ritchie’s multicultural group of friends are back together again. Last time we save them, they visited a farm to learn how to grow grains and vegetables in See How We Eat!; this time, Pedro, Yulee, Nick, Sally, and Martin are training as their swim team, The Flying Sharks, prepares to compete. They learn about using proper equipment for different activities, warming up before beginning your activity, teamwork and encouragement, goal-setting, nutrition, the mind-body connection, and more. There are suggestions for fun activities and words to know, all coming together to give kids a fun story about a group of friends staying strong and having fun together while encouraging kids to create lifelong habits of health, nutrition, and physical fitness. I like this See How! series; it offers a wealth of information on healthy living, made accessible to younger readers. I can easily read this in a storytime and get the kids talking about the different ways they play, how they eat, and good habits to get into.

The Bagel King, by Andrew Larsen/Illustrated by Sandy Nichols,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN; 978-1-77138-574-9
Recommended for readers 4-8

Zaida, Eli’s grandfather, gets bagels from Merv’s Bakery every Sunday morning. One morning, when no bagels show up, Eli gets a phone call: Zaida’s fallen on his tuchus and can’t get the bagels! Eli and his family aren’t the only ones waiting on bagels, either – Eli visits Zaida, only to discover that Zaida’s friends are verklempt, too. No bagels! What a shanda, as my stepdad would say! Eli helps care for his zaida and keep him company, but he knows the best way to cheer Zaida up, and heads to the bagel store on his own the very next Sunday. This story is the most charming book about grandparents and grandchildren, loaded with compassion, a wink and nudge type of humor, and loads of fun, new Yiddish terminology. If you’re an urban dweller, like me, these words are kind of a second language: Zaida is grandfather, and tuchus is your bottom; there’s a little glossary of other Yiddish words that show up in the story, too. (Verklempt is overwhelmed with emotion, and shanda is a shame – you won’t find them in the story, but all I could hear was my stepdad when I read this, so there you go.) I loved the sweet storytelling, the compassion and the decision to act on Eli’s part, and Zaida and his group of friends were wonderful. It’s got an urban flavor that everyone will enjoy, and is good storytelling. Use this story as an opportunity to get your kids talking about relationships with their grandparents: what do you call your grandparents? Do they cook, bake, or shop for food? Do you go with them? (I’d love to get some bagels to hand out with my group… hmmm…) The acrylic artwork has a soft, almost retro feel, but really emphasizes the relationship story with colors, gentle expressions, and soft lines.

The Golden Glow, by Benjamin Flouw,
(May 2018, Tundra/Penguin Random House), $17.99, ISBN: 9780735264120

Recommended for readers 4-8
A fox who loves nature and botany goes on a quest for a rare plant to add to his collection. The Golden Glow is a plant from the Wellhidden family, and only grows high in the mountains. There’s not even a picture of it; it’s never been described. Fox packs his supplies and heads off to the mountains, meeting different animals and noting different plants and trees along the way. When Fox finally reaches the mountaintop, he waits… and discovers the Golden Glow! It’s stunning! It’s breathtaking! And Fox realizes that “the golden glow is more beautiful here on the mountaintop than it ever would be in a vase in his living room”. Part story and part nature journal, The Golden Glow is just gorgeous and teaches a respect for nature. The angular art draws the eye in; there’s so much to see on every page, every spread. Flouw creates detailed lists of Fox’s hiking pack, plus trees and flowers that he encounters on his way, and a map of different zones on the way up to the mountain, from the foothill to snow zones, all in beautiful detail for younger readers to enjoy. Fox’s decision to leave the flower where it is presents a love of and respect for nature that can lead to a great discussion on conservation. Bright red endpapers with angular design could be a topographic map of the area – talk about how different areas look from above! I know it’s way early, but I’ll quietly whisper this one now: Caldecott contender.
Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Fun concept books: ABC French, Alphabet Boats and This is London!

This is such a great Spring for toddler and preschooler books! I’m super excited about new concept books for my collection; I never feel like I have quite enough. It’s always great to find a fun new take on the ABCs, too – take a look for yourself!

ABC French (Little Concepts), Illustrated by Daniel Roode,
(Feb. 2018, Quarto Group), $12.95, ISBN: 9781633224124
Perfect for readers 2-6

Fantastique! A picture book that introduces kids to a different language is always fun! ABC French illustrates the names of animals (and a few objects) , all dressed for a circus parade. The alphabet goes according to the French word – C is for chien (dog), D is for dauphin (dolphin) – and offers the English translation underneath. Each letter is highlighted in a brightly colored circle at the top of the page. The digital illustrations are bright and fun, with a strong sense of play that will appeal to kids and their caregivers – you may pick up a word or two, yourself! I really enjoy this Little Concepts series from Walter Foster Jr./Quarto Group; their ABC Baby Signs book, released back in October 2017, teaches kids and parents alike how to use sign language to communicate simple words and ideas.  You may recognize artist Daniel Roode’s illustrations from his Broadway Baby book, My Favorite Things.

 

Alphabet Boats, by Samantha R. Vamos/Illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke,
(Apr. 2018, Charlesbridge), $14.99, ISBN: 9781580897310
Perfect for readers 3-7

I’m most familiar with Samantha R. Vamos thanks to her book, The Cazuela That the Maiden Stirred (2011, illustrated by Rafael López), and was happy to discover that she and artist Ryan O’Rourke have several other alphabet vehicle books available: 2013’s Alphabet Trucks, and 2015’s Alphabet Trains! Alphabet Boats introduces readers to all sorts of new boats, from airboats (watch out for gators!) and barges to water taxis and zebecs. The text is in rhyme, giving read-alouds a nice cadence to flow with. There is a brief description at the end of the book for each type of boat named – who knew that Very Slender Vessel was really a type of boat? Ryan O’Rourke’s Adobe Photoshop illustrations have lively movement to them and include each letter smartly worked into the art: alligators munch on letter As; catamarans sport the letter C on their sails; a tugboat tugs a boat loaded with Ts. Kids who love vehicle and transportation books will enjoy this series, for sure. Find fun printables on Samantha R. Vamos’ author page.

 

L is for London, by Paul Thurlby, (Apr. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky),
$19.99, ISBN: 9781492660934
Perfect for ages 3-8

L is for London speaks to me as an Anglophile (although, why no Doctor Who references… no T is for TARDIS?). I love Paul Thurlby’s vintage-looking art – any of these illustrations could be tourism posters for London – and the book provides a little history on each spread, with an explanation of the illustration. From the iconic Abbey Road to the London Zoo (he needed something for Z), every spread provides something to love. There’s a sneaky little fox hiding in each spread, so challenge readers to find them all. The endpapers feature some well-known British figures: the marching Royal Guards, black taxis, red phone boxes, and red mailboxes. It’s a great way to introduce younger readers to other countries, and pairs so well with some of my favorite books by Miroslav Sasek: This is London, This is Paris, This is New York. Thurlby is an award-winning illustrator with a nice collection of concept books, including NY is for New York and Paul Thurlby’s Alphabet.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade

Fish-Boy spins an Inuit tale

Fish-Boy, by Vanita Oelschlager/Illustrated by Mike Blanc, (May 2018, Vanita Books), $15.95, ISBN: 9781938164200

Recommended for readers 7-10

A wise old Inuit relates the tale of Fish-Boy, a magical folk tale that explains why so many sea parrots (also known as puffins) nest on Ignaluk, a great rock in the Arctic region of North America. When the hunter Kitmesuk went out to fish one day, he discovered Fish-Boy instead: an armless boy with a fish body, lonely, and looking for a father. When the two travel to another village on a chief’s invitation, the villagers’ behavior toward them is awful – rude and combative. Fish-Boy uses magic to turn men that would harm them into sea-parrots, thus providing a strong message about being a good host.

The art allows for readers to interact with the story; the narration, plus point of view artwork, makes the reader feel like he or she is sitting around the fire, listening to the wise man tell his tale. There are bright colors, strong faces, and images that blend together, almost dreamlike, lending an imaginative feel to the story. There is a section with new words for readers, teaching points, and biographies on the author and illustrator. The endpapers provide maps of the Arctic region, helping place readers in the course of events.

I love a good folktale, and I want to get more First Nations books in my collection. This one is a definite add to my shelves. It’s good for an older reader storytime, and it’s great to display and booktalk when kids have to do projects on Native Americans – show the diversity of stories within the Nations, and introduce them to fiction as well as non-fiction so we foster discovery.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Realistic Fiction

It takes love to Build a Better Tree Fort

The Better Tree Fort, by Jessica Scott Kerrin/Illustrated by Qin Leng, (March 2018, Groundwood Books), $17.95, ISBN: 9781554988631

Recommended for readers 4-8

A boy named Russell and and his dad move into their new home. Russell sees the giant maple tree in their yard as a perfect spot for a tree fort, so he and his dad set to work designing it, and – after multiple trips to the lumber store – build it together. It may not look like the tree fort in Russell’s imagination, but it is perfect. He and dad eat peanut butter and jam sandwiches in the fort, unfurl their sleeping bags for a tree fort sleepover, and enjoy each other’s company in the tree fort. When Russell sees construction workers in the yard three houses over, he realizes there’s another tree fort going up, so he heads over to meet his neighbor, a boy named Warren. Warren’s tree fort has it all: a balcony, escape slide, even electricity. After all, his dad bought the plans and paid for the builders to come build it. But all Warren can focus on is what it doesn’t have (a kitchen sink). Russell heads back home to his perfect tree fort, made with his father, for some quality time.

This is a sweet story about appreciation that makes for great reading and discussion. It’s nice to see a story about the relationship between father and son – a single dad, it would appear, from the text. They create this tree fort together, building it with their own two hands, sharing the time together. Warren and his dad – who isn’t present in the story – present a foil for readers: the dad with money but no time, and the child who doesn’t appreciate what he’s got. Russell goes home to his dad, who wants to hang out with his son, in the tree fort that they made together. The experience is what counts, not the gewgaws that make it fancy. It’s a great message to communicate to kids and parents alike: spend time together. Create together.

 

The ink, watercolor, and pencil crayon art uses subdued colors and perspective to tell the story: the giant, overwhelming shelves at the lumber store; the chaos of materials surrounding Russell and his dad as they try to figure out how to bring the tree fort to life; the colors of the sunset as they sit in the fort, eating sandwiches and sitting on sleeping bags. It’s a great story for a storytime and one-on-one cuddle time. Talk to your readers about appreciation, and about things they do with their grownups that they enjoy: do they cook with family? Play board games, or solve puzzles? Which tree fort did they like more, and why?

Jessica Scott Kerrin is an award-winning Canadian author who writes picture and middle grade books. You can learn more at her website. Find more of Canadian illustrator Qin Leng’s beautiful artwork (including artwork from another book I adore, Shelter) at her website.