Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Ozzy the Ostrich teaches kids to stand up to bullies

Ozzy the Ostrich, by José Carlos Andrés/Illustrated by Bea Enríquez, (June 2017, NubeOCHO), $15.95, ISBN: 978-8494541599

Recommended for readers 3-6

Ozzy Ostrich and two friends trot across the plain, munching on flowers, until three lions threaten to eat them! Ozzy – who also has an egg to defend – stands up to the bullies, scaring the so badly that one loses his teeth, one loses all of his fur, and one turns completely white. The former bullies befriend the ostriches, but what happens when another pride of lions shows up to menace the group?

Ozzy the Ostrich is a good introduction to the concepts of bullying and standing up for oneself and others. When the first group of lions bullies Ozzy, she stands up for herself and the bullies back down. When the next group comes along, Ozzy sees that her actions resonate. The art is bright, vibrant, and bold; both lions and ostriches have exaggerated facial expressions that readers will enjoy and laugh at (especially when the chastised lions react).

Originally published in Spanish under the title Un avestruz con much luz (2016), Ozzy the Ostrich makes a good social issues read-aloud for storytime. Pair with Kathryn Otoshi’s One for an anti-bullying storytime message.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Attitudes of Gratitude: The Thank You Dish

The Thank You Dish, by Trace Balla, (March 2017, Kane Miller), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-644-1

Recommended for readers 3-8

Grace, a young girl, and her mother sit down to dinner. Mama thanks the rain, soil, and sunshine; Grace is thankful to the kangaroos. Why the kangaroos? For not eating the carrots! From there, Grace goes on to thank a multitude of people and animals that made Grace and her mother’s dinner possible, leading up to thanking Mom for making her such a yummy dinner. With a comfortable repetition – Grace is thankful, Mama asks why, Grace explains – The Thank You Dish is a sweet exploration of gratitude and of community. We don’t live in a vacuum; The Thank You Dish takes an amusing look at everyone and everything responsible for getting one family’s dinner on the table, from alpacas whose yarn went into the scarf that kept Uncle Fred warm while fishing, to a flower tree responsible for a fortuitous meeting. Grace and her mother eat dinner together at a dining table, emphasizing the family connection. Grace is a child of color; her mother is lighter-skinned.

I adore this book. This is a great storytime selection – see if kids can think of all the contributions made to their dinner tables! – and a great classroom circle time book. Remembering to say thank you when someone is directly interacting with you is one thing; being grateful for the unseen is just as important and essential to mindful living. A good book for classroom discussions!

Posted in Uncategorized

Babies Come From Airports!

Babies Come from Airports, by Erin Dealey/Illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell, (Jan. 2017, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-557-4

Recommended for readers 3-7

This rhyming story of a family growing through adoption is a sweet way to explain that sometimes, babies come from airports – but all babies come from love. Narrated by one of the children in the family awaiting a new sibling, readers enjoy a scrapbook and accompanying story of the adoption process.There are maps, drawings, and pictures of the current family, interspersed with Mom’s journey home and Dad and the boys’ trip to the airport to reunite their family. There are amusing moments, like Dad’s statement that all babies come from labor, a nice dual meaning for parents who know all too well about the work involved, from paperwork to pregnancy and delivery (which comes with its own set of paperwork), with becoming a parent; the narrating child refers to his airport friend, Security, who welcomed him to the country on his “Gotcha Day”. The boys welcome Mom and their new baby sister and add photos of her first car ride and room to the scrapbook. The family is multicultural: the new baby and Mom are en route from Beijing, and while we don’t have specific origins for the two older brothers, a chore sheet on a bulletin board provides the names Nico and Adar.

What a sweet addition to new baby/new sibling/adoption collections! The rhyming text keeps a nice rhythm through the story; the gentle artwork makes the adult sweet and soft, and the kids excited and enthusiastic. The scrapbook look and feel adds an element of fun to the story. This is a great book to give to kids who are adopted, whose families are in the process of adopting, or to explain international adoption in general to children. Hand this to families, along with a copy of Richard Van Camp’s We Sang You Home and Todd Parr’s We Belong Together.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Cuddle-worthy books for Mother’s Day

Sunday is Mother’s Day! Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, grandmothers, godmothers, and caregivers! I’ve come up with a short list of cuddle-worthy books to snuggle and read with your little ones.

 

Counting Kisses, by Karen Katz Baby is cranky and tired! Mom knows the way to soothe baby: with kisses! Ten little kisses on teeny, tiny toes, nine laughing kisses on busy, wriggly feet… leading all the way to the last sleepy kiss on baby’s head. Kiss along with this one and watch your little ones giggle and squirm, especially when you throw a tickle or two in for good measure.

Mama Mama, by Jean Marzollo/Illustrated by Laura Regan “Mama, Mama/Play with  me/Carry me/So I can see”.  One of the sweetest, beautifully illustrated baby books I’ve ever read, Mama Mama pairs animal babies and their loving mothers. This has been one of my favorites since my eldest was a baby; I can still feel my chin on his cheek as I’d read it to him.

Mummy’s Always Right, by Joe Mulvey Never let it be said that we don’t have a sense of humor in my home. I backed this Kickstarter last year and my youngest and I still read it all the time. A little mummy named Gaws (get it? Gauze!) plays with his monster friends while his Mummy provides rhyming advice about hygiene, nutrition, and safety always reminding her little lovey that Mummy’s always right. There are lots of laughs to be had here, especially when meeting some of Gaws’ friends: the cranky Frankenmine, the tentacular Cthu-Lou, and the ghostly Ghoulia. There’s nothing scary about this book – Sesame Street has monsters that are cute; so does Joe Mulvey.

Someday, by Alison McGhee/Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds It’s every mother’s dream for her little ones to live their life to the fullest; to have everything good come to them, to grow, explore, and live. I’m not going to promise you that you’ll finish this book dry-eyed, but you will hug your sweetie a bit longer than usual. The child in the story is female, but you can easily talk to your sons about their milestones they will reach, with you cheering them on every step of the way.

Mamasaurus, by Stephen Lomp Babysaurus and Mamasaurus are eating tender leaves in the jungle one day, when whoops! He slips off her back and finds himself alone. Similar to PD Eastman’s classic Are You My Mother, Babysaurus meets other dinosaurs on his search for Mamasaurus: Does she run fast? Does she have a long horn, or have wings? No, but she knows how to find her Babysaurus, and she’s the best Mamasaurus in the whole jungle. This is my little guy’s and my favorite cuddle book; it’s perfect for reading and snuggle time.

Runaway Mummy: A Petrifying Parody, by Michael Rex Margaret Wise Brown’s Runaway Bunny is (deservedly) on so many lists, I thought I’d give a little love to the equally sweet and very funny Runaway Mummy. A little monster tries on different monster personas to get away from Mummy, but just like the Bunny’s mother in Runaway Bunny, Mummy is never too far behind, even when he transforms into the unthinkable: A BOY. This book gets as much love during a Mother’s Day storytime as it does during a Halloween storytime; give it a shot.

 

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction

Clavis non-fiction picture book series: Want to Know

Clavis Books’ non-fiction picture book series, Want to Know, introduces non-fiction concepts for younger readers, providing information in a light-hearted, fiction-meets-non-fiction way. With cut-out pages, foldout illustrations, and facts and quizzes throughout each book, each topic provides opportunities to learn and do.

This season’s additions to the Want to Know series include The Romans, by Suzan Boshouwers and illustrated by Boshouwers and Veronica Nahmias, and Traveling by Train, by Pierre Winters and illustrated by Tineke Meirink.

The Romans, by Suzan Boshouwers/Illustrated by Boshouwers and Veronica Nahmias, (Apr. 2017, Clavis), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1605373195

Recommended for readers 6-8

The Romans falls under Want to Know’s History category. We meet Theo and his little sister, digging a deep hole in hopes of finding Roman artifacts. Suddenly, Theo, his sister, and we readers are transported back in time to the Low Countries – part of the Roman Empire, where we now call the Netherlands, Belgium, and the Rhine, Meuse, Scheldt, and Ems rivers. We learn where the Romans lived, how they celebrated, the story of Romulus and Remus, and about the Roman gods. Endpapers include a map of the Roman Empire un der Emperor Trajan, and a look at some Roman artifacts recovered near the Netherlands.

The book provides a wealth of information for younger readers, but while the author doesn’t shy away from slavery being a part of Roman life, the slaves are depicted more like servants; they’re pretty happy around their captors. There are other books available, like books by DK and the Step Into Reading series, but if you’re looking for a more picture book-based introduction to Ancient Rome, this is an additional add to collections.

 

Traveling by Train, by Pierre Winters and illustrated by Tineke Meirink, (Apr. 2017, Clavis), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1605373409

Recommended for readers 4-7

Traveling by Train, from Want to Know’s The World section, is a fun addition for transportation fans. From learning about the first trains to trains in other countries, this book is loaded with fun information, quizzes, activities, and rhymes for young readers. Wrapped around the story of a boy named Sam’s first train trip, readers journey through the book, learning fun facts and discovering the story behind how trains run: who works for the railroad, and who does what; what trains look like on the inside; what schedules and connections are, and what a modern train station looks like. Endpapers feature artwork depicting an overcrowded train in India. The artwork kid-friendly, fun, and nicely detailed for its age group. I’d gladly add this one to my train books, and introduce it during a vehicle storytime.

Make this one a centerpiece with Thomas the Tank Engine books, or a host of vehicle-related books, for your readers to love.

 

Posted in Preschool Reads

The Tooth Fairy’s Origins, Revealed!

The Untold Story of the Tooth Fairy, by José Carlos Andrés/Illustrated by Betania Zacarias, (May 2018, nubeOCHO), $16.95, ISBN: 978-84-944446-1-6

Recommended for readers 3-8

Related as a folktale, this take on the Tooth Fairy’s origins makes things more of a team effort. It all starts underwater, when Lady Oyster – depicted as a fabulous, brown-skinned diva – loses her pearl. She’s very, she means very, so very sad! Word goes out among Lady Oyster’s underwater friends: octopus tells French sardine; the sardine tells a crab, who relates the story to a mouse on land, who comes up with a solution that works for everyone.

Based on the French, Spanish, and South American version of the Tooth Fairy myth, where a small mouse – not a fairy – takes a newly dispatched tooth and leaves a gift, kids will love this original take on the tooth fairy – especially kids in the 5-8 age category who are getting visits from the Tooth Fairy. I love the idea of the Tooth Fairy’s assistants helping her, too – it makes sense! It sends a nice message about teamwork, too.

Betania Zacarias’ paint and cut-paper collage artwork is beautiful. I love her gorgeous, over the top Lady Oyster; she’s a diva of color, she’s got curves, and she’s dramatic! The texture of the artwork is beautiful, and her color choices are bright, most primary colors, and eye-catching. This is a story I could read to the kids in my Queens Library storytimes and have the kids say, “I see myself here.” The bright orange endpapers are filled with fish of all different colors, giving kids an idea of where this story is going to start.

This is a wonderful book to read to kids getting ready to – or in the process of – get visits from the Tooth Fairy. Originally published in Spanish (2016), the book is available in both Spanish and English. Add The Tooth Fairy Meets Ratón Perez by Rene Colato Lainez for a fun multicultural tooth fairy storytime or display, and Susan Hood’s The Tooth Mouse for a French take on the little mouse’s side of the story.

Posted in Fiction, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Size matters not: Just ask Little Captain Jack!

Little Captain Jack, by Alicia Acosta/Illustrated by Monica Carretero, (Apr. 2017, nubeOCHO), $15.95, ISBN: 978-84-945415-0-6

Recommended for readers 4-8

Once upon a time, there was a tiny pirate named Captain Jack. He was so tiny that he had to weigh himself down with a heavy sword in his belt, an iron telescope around his neck, and some rocks in his pockets, so he wouldn’t be blown away! Everyone called him Little Captain Jack. He was so little that his crew didn’t hear him when he yelled to them, and he was constantly in danger of being stepped on! One day, during a battle between Captain Jack’s crew and the bad pirate Badlock’s crew, Jack was taken prisoner and locked in a dark cellar. Although he was scared, he accepted an offer of help from a mouse… who got some help from a seagull… and Captain Jack learned, from that day forward, that “great things could come in all shapes and sizes, big or small!”

Captain Jack is fun reading and kids will appreciate the message that size doesn’t matter, especially when you work as a team! The tiny pirate still manages to command his own ship and crew (even if they don’t really hear him… or see him that often), and when he’s in trouble, his crew is frantic. He means a lot to his crew, whether he’s big or small – just like a family. Teamwork helps bring Jack back to his crew, sending a positive message about working together.

The cartoony art will appeal to readers, and the endpapers – drawn to look like a map of Penny Island, where we assume Captain Jack is spending time these days, has fun, eyecatching details like a giant squid, a whale, and a lake monster. A nicely detailed compass rose adds the opportunity to talk about directions. Plus, pirates are a home run with little ones: you can pick from any number of pirate adventure stories for little ones! You could pair these with any number of pirate books for little ones! Add a pirate hat craft to use up some old newspaper and you have a nice, environmentally friendly storytime activity.

Little Captain Jack was originally released in Spanish (Pequeño Pirata Serafin, ISBN: 978-4-945415-1-3), and is available in both Spanish and English.