Posted in Preschool Reads

Kwanzaa books for the holidays!

Continuing along with my multicultural holiday reading, I checked a few Kwanzaa books out this week. Any suggestions for more books I should read? Let me know!

 

Kevin’s Kwanzaa, by Lisa Bullard/Illustrated by Constanza Basaluzzo,
(Oct. 2012, Millbrook Press), $25.32, ISBN: 9780761350750
Good for readers 4-8

A young boy named Kevin and his family are getting ready to celebrate Kwanzaa! The family gathers around the candeholder – a kinara – and lights a candle each night, explaining the special principle for that night. Through the family’s celebration, readers learn the history of Kwanzaa, the meanings of each of the seven principles of the holiday, and kid-friendly examples of taking those principles to heart: solving problems can be helping keep a room clean; making decorations and gifts for one another, creativity. You can read the story to younger readers, and tweak it for older readers by pointing out the callouts on each spread that provide more information: the history of the celebration and meaning of the word Kwanzaa, the lighting of the candles, ways for families to celebrate together. Instructions on making a Kwanzaa drum provide a fun way to put reading into practice, and a glossary provides definitions for some words that come up in the text. The illustrations are cartoony and colorful; bright reds and pinks, deep blues and greens, communicating the festive mood of the holiday. The family is always shown working and celebrating together. This is a great introduction to Kwanzaa for younger readers.

 

Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story, by Angela Shelf Medearis/Illustrated by Daniel Minter,
(2000, Albert Whitman & Company),  $15.95, ISBN: 9780807573150
Good for readers 6-10

Seven brothers bicker over everything, day and night. When their father dies, they are charged with a task in order to receive their inheritance: each brother receives a different colored spool of yarn and are told to turn the thread into gold. The brothers work together to find a way to accomplish this, finding ways to brainstorm and complement one another as they form and execute their plan, which creates the woven Kente cloth. It’s a holiday legend that embodies each of the seven Kwanzaa principles and blends the history of the African Kente tribe in with the holiday. The illustrations are beautiful: rich colors, deep ebonies, and stunning woodcut art. This book appears to be out of print, which is a shame; I think this should be considered a holiday classic. It delves into myth and legend and embodies the spirit of the holiday just as much as Clement Moore’s The Night Before Christmas. If you can score a copy of this from your local library, do it; it’s worth the read. If you need a copy for your library, consider buying a gently used copy through a third-party seller. There’s a note about the origin of Kente cloth, and a weaving activity at the end of the book. This is an essential holiday book for your collections.

 

Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa, by Donna L. Washington/Illustrated by Shane W. Evans,
(Sept. 2010, Katherine Tegen Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780060728168
Good for readers 6-8

Li’l Rabbit isn’t having a great Kwanzaa: his grandma, Granna Rabbit, is sick, so no one is able to ready the big Kwanzaa feast, Karamu. Li’l Rabbit knows that Granna says Kwanzaa is a special time when everyone helps one another, so he decides he’s going to get her a special Karamu treat, and goes about asking his animal neighbords – orioles, rabbits, groundhogs, frogs, field mice, and squirrels – for different things to make Granna’s Kwanzaa better. The animals don’t know much about what Li’l Rabbit is asking for, but they do know Granna, so they come together to surprise Granna and Li’l Rabbit in the nicest way. It’s a story inspired by Brer Rabbit, a trickster from African folklore, and beautifully communicates the meaning of the season. The story offers great opportunities to discuss the seven principles and note where they see those principles in action throughout the course of the story; kids can also talk about the ways they can bring the principles to life during the holiday season (and beyond). The seven principles, plus illustrative examples from the text, are also noted at the end of the book, along with a prompt for kids to find other examples in the story. The story is fun, with an emphasis on empathy and community. This is a great storytime book for the holidays, with opportunities to talk with children about intentions that all of the winter holidays – family, community, faith – share.

If you’re looking for my posts on Christmas and Hanukkah books, here’s the place!

Advertisements
Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

So Many Cuddles: Reading time is cuddle time!

So Many Cuddles, by Ruth Austin/Illustrated by Clare Owen, (June 2017, Compendium), $16.95, ISBN:  978-1-943200-49-8

Good for readers ages 3-6

So Many Cuddles is an adorable look at the many different types of cuddles: rise and shine cuddles, bear-sized cuddles for being extra brave, tickly, giggly, wriggly cuddles – one of my personal favorites – and more, all illustrated by a young girl, her cat, her dog, and her doll. Each spread is a new type of cuddle; one page for text, one for illustration, giving each picture space to breathe and for kids to explore details like the textured rug in the girl’s room, or her sneakers, kicked to the floor when the friends are cuddling on the couch. It’s a great bedtime story – the cuddling winds down with “feeling very tired cuddles/let’s be cozy in bed cuddles” – or a great anytime story. This went over fabulously with my toddler storytime! Parents cuddled their little ones, and I had soft toys out for the kids to cuddle. It’s a soothing, loving story that encourages affection – what’s more perfect than that? The kids also loved the textured cover – I passed it around for everyone to love!

So Many Cuddles is a sweet celebration of cuddling. I love it, the kiddos here at my library love it, and my 5 year-old and I loved reading it while cuddling on the couch. Clare Owen’s soft, sweet art immediately gets readers’ attention, and the different kinds of cuddles helps explain different moods and feelings – something toddlers are still working on verbalizing.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Hanukkah picture books for holiday storytime!

I realized that my winter holiday reading has been somewhat narrow in scope, so I’m looking for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa books to read deeper and stronger. Here are some adorable Hanukkah books I’ve just read; I hope you enjoy them, too!

Latke, the Lucky Dog, by Ellen Fischer/Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke,
(Aug. 2014, Kar-Ben Publishing), $7.95, ISBN: 978-0761390398
Good for readers 4-8

Narrated by Latke, a shelter dog that’s rescued on the first night of Hanukkah, this is an adorable story about pet adoption and Hanukkah. As he gets used to his new home, Latke manages to get in trouble every single night of Hanukkah! He’s eating the sufganiyot, chewing up dreidels, and slobbering all over the gelt. Yikes! Luckily for Latke, his family is very forgiving, and gives him his very own present on the eighth night. As Latke repeats throughout the book, he is “one lucky dog”. Latke the Lucky Dog has soft illustrations and changes in font color to note when Latke is narrating (blue) versus when someone else speaks (black). Anyone who has lived with a puppy will recognize Latke doing what dogs do; the forgiving family makes this a story of compassion and empathy while also giving kids a look into what life with a pet can be like. The story touches on the foods and activities that are part of the Hanukkah celebration.

 

Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah, by Sylvia A. Rouss/Illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn,
(Oct. 1993, Kar-Ben Publishing), $7.99, ISBN: 978-0929371467
Good for readers 4-7

Sammy Spider and his mom watch from their web as their family, the Shapiros, light their menorah on the first night of Hanukkah. Sammy is intrigued, and drops down a bit. He loves the way the menorah keeps his feet warm, and he enjoys hearing the story of Hanukkah, but what he really loves are the dreidels that Josh, the young boy, receives from his parents each night! He asks his mother if he can have a dreidel, but Mom tells him spiders spin webs, not dreidels… but on the last night of Hanukkah, Mom has a wonderful surprise for Sammy. I really enjoyed this book, because it provided a nice background on the holiday itself – the story of the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil – and incorporated family traditions. It’s also a concept book, with illustrations reinforcing numbers and colors. The artwork is reminiscent of Eric Carle, with a collage feel. There is a whole library of Sammy the Spider books, where he learns about different aspects of Jewish life, from holidays, to traveling to Israel.

Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf, by Greg Wolfe/Illustrated by Howard McWilliam,
(Sept. 2016, Bloomsbury), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1619635210
Good for readers 4-8

This story is adorable, and handles that whole Elf on the Shelf business (Shmelf on the Shelf, maybe?) while we’re at it. Shmelf is a new elf, working on Santa’s List, checking it twice, when he notices something really distressing: there are a whole bunch of kids that aren’t on the naughty list, yet they’re not receiving presents! When he asks the head elf what the deal is, he finds out that the kids on the list are Jewish, and have their own holiday, where they receive gifts from their parents. This still doesn’t sit right with Shmelf, who goes investigating and sees a family celebrating Hanukkah: they’re spinning dreidels, they’re snacking on gelt, and yes, they’re getting presents! One for each night! He hears the story of Hanukkah and is so excited, he races back to the North Pole, where Santa gives him a special task: he’s going to travel the world, spreading Hanukkah magic! He gets a snazzy blue and white outfit, a sleigh and reindeer of his own, and heads out every year – sometimes November, sometimes December – to make sure your latkes are crispy and think, your menorahs burn bright, and your dreidels win. You want to thank Shmelf and his reindeer, Asher? No cookies – they like gelt and kosher dill! How can you not love this story? It’s a great way to explain Hanukkah – I love how Mom’s story takes shape in word bubbles  – and adds a fun spin to the holiday.

That was my first foray into Hanukkah reading, and now I plan to request more!

Posted in Preschool Reads

Wanda’s Better Way – good STEM reading!

Wanda’s Better Way, by Laura Pedersen/Illustrated by Penny Weber, (July 2017, Fulcrum Publishing), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-68275-014-8

Recommended for readers 4-8

A young girl finds a better way to do things as she goes through her day. The grownups around her think she’s not interested in the task at hand, but she’s really at work observing problems and creating workarounds – and then goes on to engineer them. When Wanda’s dance teacher suggests she consider gymnastics because she doesn’t appear interested in dance, we discover that she’s engineering a solution to the cluttered and messy dressing room. When she offers to help her landscape designer mother, she finds a solution that will keep squirrels out of a bird feeder. When she helps her chef father in the kitchen, she finds an easier way to separate eggs – and makes that her science fair project!

With short, easy to read and understand sentences and realistic illustrations, Wanda’s Better Way is a nice way to introduce STEM concepts and the scientific method to younger budding scientists and readers. Wanda’s ideas come to her in step-by-step thought bubbles and she’s illustrated with a light bulb going off over her head when solutions to come her. It’s a time-honored and effective way to communicate ideas! Kids will see how Wanda works out the problem and can discuss how she implements her solutions. Wanda tries on different career ideas while talking to her mother and father; something many kids will be familiar with. We’re often our kids’ first exposure to careers, so why wouldn’t they consider doing what we do? Wanda ultimately decides that she wants to be a scientist, which offers a nice topic for discussion: Wanda wants to be a scientist because she realizes her strength in figuring out problems. What are you really good at, and what can you do with your talent?

Wanda and her brother are biracial, with an African-American mother and white father. It sends a positive message about girls of color taking an interest in STEM! There is a two-page, age-appropriate explanation of the scientific method.

I’d put this with my Andrea Beaty books – Ada Twist, Scientist, Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Iggy Peck, Architect – and my other STEM picture books, like Ashley Spires’ The Most Magnificent Thing and Kobi Yamada’s What Do You Do With a Problem? and What Do You Do With an Idea? Great for STEM storytimes, and if you have blocks or other maker goodies handy, you can let the kiddos play for a little while and work up their own engineering challenges.

Laura Pedersen is an author, humorist, and playwright. Her website offers more information about her books and theater projects. Illustrator Penny Weber’s website has a gallery of her artwork.

Posted in Humor, Preschool Reads

Fun with Food: The Great Pasta Escape

The Great Pasta Escape, by Miranda Paul/Illustrated by Javier Joaquin, (Aug. 2017, Little Bee/Bonnier), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0480-5

Recommended for readers 3-7

Different types of pasta learn the ugly truth about where they really go once they leave in those cute little packages, and take action in this hilarious story.  Pasta followed the rules: they stuck to their own kind; they stayed still in their packaging, and they NEVER spoke to humans. They thought they were bound for a better place; a happy, carefree existence, until the fettuccine overhears some factory workers talking about how hungry they are… *needle scratch* and what they plan to eat. Fettucine panics, and the rest of the pasta gets ready for action: Bow Tie tries to stay logical; Ramen is ready to rumble; elbow-shaped Mac just wants everyone to chill. Together, the different pasta types come together to carry out the greatest escape in pasta history.

This book is a current favorite at home because it’s so funny. The pastas have their own personalities, some of which tie into their shapes, like the professorial Bow Tie. My favorite is Mac, the elbow pasta who has a total New Age look on life and envisions himself by the water, doing some yoga. It’s a fun adventure story; pure escapism and laughs, with a Menu – sorry! I mean, Guide to Pasta Shapes – at the end. The art is vibrant and bright, and the endpapers sports different types of pasta in the front, and a boxed spaghetti-look at the back.

I pair this one with an oldie but goodie, Food Fight! by Carol Diggory Shields/Illustrated by Doreen Gay-Kassel, for a fun food storytime. You can read Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona for a story about pasta that gets out of control, and pasta necklaces are perfect for a craft pairing. Ask your kiddos what types of pasta they recognize in the book, and see what you’ve got in the house to identify.

Miranda Paul is an award-winning author who has a great author website where you can find resources, including downloadable teacher guides to her books (and a blobfish coloring sheet!!!) and videos. She’s also the chair of the We Need Diverse Books Mentorship Committee. You can find more of illustrator Javier Joaquin’s illustrations at his website, including a section of his children’s book work, where you can filter by subject or style to see everything from nonfiction to board books to classics and more.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Stocking stuffers, snuggle time stories: Christmas picture books!

Happy Black Friday! While you’re deep into your holiday shopping, here are a few picture book suggestions for stocking stuffers or Christmastime snuggling. I’ll have Hanukkah and Kwanzaa book rundowns shortly; I just need to read a few and get a better idea of the good stuff out there.

And away we go!

Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder, by Rebecca Colby/Illustrated by Rob McClurkan,
(Nov. 2017, Albert Whitman & Company), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0-8075-1063-6
Recommended for readers 4-8

Captain Bling and his crew are planning a big plundering trip, but their ship gets blown off course, landing them by the North Pole! Well, when they get a look at Santa’s elves loading all those toys and goodies up, they decide to steal everything for themselves – until Santa shows those buccaneers a little Christmas spirit! Rhyming text, cartoony art, and a sweet message about giving, plus a heck of a trip on Santa’s sleigh, make this a cute Christmas tale for pirate fans and Santa fans alike.

 

A Christmas for Bear, Bonny Becker/Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton,
(Sept. 2017, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763649234
Recommended for readers 5-10

Bear doesn’t have much interest in Christmas – pickles are far better. But Mouse does, and when he shows up at Bear’s house for a Christmas party, he discovers that his surly friend Bear may have a little Christmas spirit after all. I love Bonny Becker’s Bear series; he and Mouse are wonderful foils for one another, and Bear always comes around to embrace the fun side of life (and pickles. Always pickles). Bear deliciously keeps Mouse in suspense, feigning total disinterest in the very idea of the holiday; when he thinks Mouse has had enough, he starts “a long and difficult poem” – The Night Before Christmas – and drops hints for Mouse that the ruse is up and it’s time for presents. The watercolor, ink, and gouache art creates a soft, cuddly feel for a winter’s evening storytime. It’s a great add to holiday picture book collections. A Christmas for Bear received a starred review from Kirkus.

 

The Christmas Fairy, by Anne Booth/Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw,
(Sept. 2017, Nosy Crow/Candlewick), $15.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9629-0
Recommended for ages 3-7

Clara is a lively little fairy with dreams of being a “proper Christmas fairy on a sparkly Christmas tree”, but her teacher seems to think she isn’t Christmas fairylike at all: she’s always singing, dancing, or laughing! Luckily, Santa sees things differently when the Christmas Show is in trouble; he tells Clara that he needs a “special fairy who is full of life and fun”; who cheers people up, and is contagiously happy. Clara steps in to save the day, and her teacher – and the reader – learn that not every fairy has to be perfect to be wonderful. The Christmas fairy is all about embracing who you are and not accepting someone else’s idea of perfect. The mixed media illustrations are absolutely adorable; there are towering flowers, little bugs, and a diverse little group of fairy friends. The rhyming text provides a nice rhythm to a sweet Christmas story. Add this one to collections where you have fairy fans (I’ve got a bunch here), and maybe toss in a showing of the Rankin-Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer animated show, with a a similar “Santa asks for help” moment.

 

Elf in the House, by Ammi-Joan Paquette/Illustrated by Adam Record,
(Sept. 2017, Candlewick), $15.99, ISBN: 9780-7636-8132-6
Recommended for readers 3-7

Jingle Jingle! A young girl hears a noise in her house on a snowy Christmas Eve, and creeps down to investigate. The cumulative, rhyming story leaves readers in suspense as she discovers who else is in her home with each turn of the page. Each reveal leads to another noise, another search, another reveal; the lyrical storytelling and the use of suspense ratchets up the excitement for readers, and the digital artwork is cute, with big-eyed characters and goofy expressions that will make younger readers giggle. A fun addition to Christmas storytimes, for sure.

 

Pick a Pine Tree, by Patricia Toht/Illustrated by Jarvis,
(Sept. 2017, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9571-2
Recommended for readers 3-7

The perfect way to kick off the Christmas holiday season: pick a tree! Pick a Pine Tree chronicles a tree’s journey from lot to dazzling. The rhyming tale shows a family choosing a tree, bringing it home, and decorating it to get it ready for Christmas. The pencil, chalk, paint, digitally colored illustrations have a vintage feel to them and have fun visual references that we associate with the holiday: a cat in the tree, boxes of decorations coming out of storage, a tree-trimming party, with kids wearing garland boas. It’s all about the ritual of the season, and the greatest moment: when the tree isn’t a pine tree anymore, but a Christmas Tree, dazzling and bright, with awestruck observers peeking out from the page margins. Pick a Pine Tree may very well be a new Christmas classic. The book has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Red and Lulu, by Matt Tavares, (Sept. 2017, Candlewick),
$17.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-7733-6
Recommended for readers 5-10

Red and Lulu are a mated pair of cardinals living in a beautiful evergreen tree; one day, Red returns to the tree to discover it’s being taken away – with Lulu still inside! Red follows the truck carrying the tree as far as he can, but the truck is New York bound, and the city is too big for Red. Overwhelmed, he sweeps through the city, tired and hungry, desperate to find Lulu. One day, he hears the song he and Lulu shared so many times: “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, thy leaves are so unchanging…” and follows the singing to Times Square, where, as he soars over the Rockefeller Center tree and toward their favorite branch. This book is absolutely going to tug at your heartstrings. The watercolor and gouache art is just beautiful, and Red’s bright red feathers stand out on every spread. Matt Tavares beautifully captures New York City at Christmastime: the wreaths around the New York Public Library lions; the bright lights and nonstop action of Times Square, the resplendence of the Rockefeller Center Tree. The spread where Red circles the Empire State Building spire is just breathtaking. The story of unconditional love will resonate with older readers, and younger readers will enjoy the story of a bird who refuses to give up on a lost friend. Another Christmas classic for shelves. Red & Lulu has a starred review from Publishers Weekly. You can visit the Red & Lulu page on Matt Tavares’ website and view the book trailer and more art.

That’s it for now – more holiday books and shopping lists on the way!

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Size matters not… Small, by Gina Perry

Small, by Gina Perry, (Aug. 2017, Little Bee Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0401-0

Recommended for readers 3-7

Sometimes it’s a drag being small. It can be intimidating. In Small, a little girl goes through a day in the crowded city feeling small and overwhelmed. When ducks snatch her hot dog, she feels helpless… until a trip to a playground helps her turn it around by allowing her to embraces the positives in her life and how they make her feel big. The love of her family; her drawing ability; her fierce game – all of these and more make her big, brave, and loved.

Small is loaded with positivity. It’s a good book for preschoolers and kindergarteners on self-esteem, filled with moments kids recognize all too well: feeling like second banana to a younger sibling; fears about being lost in a crowd; of not being heard; of just feeling plain helpless. It also taps into positive moments that kids feel: the invincibility of being on a slide or the monkey bars; the power of sidewalk chalk, the power that comes from doing something for someone else. I read this to my toddler/preschooler storytime group, and they loved it! Two of my QH kiddos were captivated by the sidewalk chalk art, so we spent a couple of minutes letting everyone look at the spread and point to the different drawings. The story and the pictures resonated with them.

Author/Illustrator Gina Perry’s webpage has a free, downloadable butterfly craft and activity kit that I’ll definitely use – especially since I just saw a sidewalk art page! This is a great book for letting little ones know what a big space they take up in your life.