Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd? We Are (NOT) Friends!

We Are (Not) Friends, by Anna Kang/Illustrated by Christopher Weyant, (May 2019, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-5420-4428-8

Ages 3-7

The duo from the We Are (Not) books are back; this time, they’re learning how to handle having a new friend in the picture. Brown bear and Purple bear are having a great time playing together, when a Blue bear shows up and asks to play. Brown exuberantly agrees, but Purple isn’t quite so sure. Sure enough, Purple and Brown hit it off immediately, and Purple finds himself left out, and proceeds to subtly enact measures that will get Blue away from his best buddy! Blue doesn’t get the hint, and when he returns, Brown suggests they all play together. But now Brown is on the outs, and he’s not happy about it at all. Can three friends find a way to play that makes everyone happy?

The thing I love about the We Are (Not) books is their genuine voice. If you’ve been around kids, this is how things play out; when there are three, someone’s going to end up mad, crying, breaking something, or all of the above. Kids are learning how to navigate relationships; so are Brown, Purple, and Blue. Kids and adults alike will recognize this situation; use that recognition to get them talking about what the three friends could have done differently from the start. Has t his ever happened to them at school? The playground? Home, with friends or family? (Adults can talk about it, too, because let’s be honest: we still haven’t figured it all the way out.) Anna Kang’s dialogue and the escalating frustration of trying to be included when you feel like you’re being left out is so honest, so adorably real, that your readers will giggle with recognition and empathy. And this is a great way to start discussions about inclusion and empathy.

Christopher Weyant’s art is just a joy to look at. It’s bold, bright, and uncomplicated. The bears are simply drawn, performing in their white space, with a chest full of hats and props to move the story forward. Facial expressions, paw gestures, and sound effects roll across the page and speak volumes. We Are (Not) Friends is essential picture book reading.

Anna Kang’s and Christopher Weyant’s You Are (Not) Small is a Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Winner (2015). Visit Anna Kang’s author website for free downloadable activity kits, coloring pages, and curriculum guides for You Are (Not) Small, which you can use to enhance a reading of We Are (Not) Friends.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

As I write this, it’s almost 70 degrees in New York. In November. So what’s left to do when you’ve unpacked all your Fall and Winter clothes? Think SNOW. So, join me in thinking chilly thoughts with some of these books.

How to Build an Elf Trap, by Larissa Juliano, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $9.99, ISBN: 9781492663904

Ages 4-8

This fun nonfiction companion to Adam Wallace & Andy Ellerton’s How to Catch an Elf (2016) is all about STEAM for the holidays! Learn how to build 12 elf traps this Christmas, and take your pick of 12 bonus Christmas activities! Projects tend to run fairly simple, with most of the materials being found around the house. The projects encourage you to experiment with materials, too: swap things out! Add things! Take each construction and make it your own! Difficulty is measured in candy canes (1 for easy, 2 for intermediate, 3 for difficult) and Elf Appeal (how it will appeal to the elves you’re trying to nab). Projects are laid out step by step, with photos to guide you along, and digital artwork adds a fun flavor to the festivities. There are STEAM connections that explain how each project connects to science, and Did You Know? facts boxes add some fun Christmas facts throughout. Make an Elf Door, stick some tea light snowmen on your fridge (or locker), and get to work on your Elf Snatcher 500 while you snack on a Reindeer Cupcake.

Librarians and educators: PROGRAM IN A BOOK. This, my friends, is your December STEAM programming, right here!

One Snowy Day, by Diana Murray/Illustrated by Diana Toledano, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492645863

Ages 3-7

Two siblings enjoy a snowy day in this rhyming counting story! The story begins, as the best ones do, with a snowfall, while two children of color sleep snug in their beds – until their ONE pup wakes them up! The kids rise and shine, play with the pup and eat their breakfast, then it’s time to go out and play, as sister and brother meet their SIX friends for some winter fun and games. The text is light and fun, counting everything from a pup to ten snowballs – and then we count backwards, from nine buttons on a snowman’s chest to one sleepy puppy at the end of the day. The children are a multicultural group, and the detail on their clothes and the scenery itself is breathtaking. The mixed media artwork brings winter scenery to life, from sweaters with intricate Fair Isle designs, and beautifully detailed snowflakes. One Snowy Day pairs up nicely with other snowy day books and makes a nice winter concept book for your shelves.

Holiday Heroes Save Christmas, by Adam Wallace/Illustrated by Shane Clester, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $10.99, ISBN: 9781492669708

Ages 4-7

Sourcebooks is rocking the Christmas picture books! This is the latest book by How to Catch… series author Adam Wallace, and this time, Santa needs help from his fellow holiday heroes! Santa’s too sick to deliver Christmas presents, so it’s up to the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Witch, and Leprechaun to save Christmas – but they’re not so great at this Christmas thing. The Tooth Fairy is hiding presents under pillows, and the Leprechaun is taking spare change from the houses they visit. Santa’s got to step in, but is it too late? Is Christmas done for? C’mon, you know it’s not. The gang gets their act together after a quick pep talk from Santa, and each hero plays to his or her strengths to make Christmas amazing! This is a fun story about teamwork, and a laugh out loud comedy of errors. (Psst… if you want to screen the movie, Rise of the Guardians, you can compare the heroes in the book versus the ones in the movie.) The digital art is bright, kid-friendly, and cartoony; end papers offer brief character descriptions of Santa and the gang. The book is set up with graphic novel-type panels and word balloons, so you can offer this one to your fledgling graphic novel readers to get them in the holiday spirit. This one’s a fun take on the “Santa needs help!” story theme, and should go over pretty well in libraries (and as a stocking stuffer).

Once Upon a Snowstorm, by Richard Johnson, (Nov. 2018, Faber & Faber), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0-5713-3928-0

Ages 2-7

A boy and his father go into the woods to hunt, and are separated during a snowstorm. The boy is rescued by a group of animals, who care for him and befriend him. When the bear in the group takes the boy back through the snow to find his father, Dad is grateful, and befriends the animals, too.

The art says it all in this stunning, wordless story. As father and son head into the woods, the snow comes down in the shapes of woodland animals: deer, foxes, hares, ethereal in their delicacy and beauty. Lost, the boy sleeps, shivering, under velvet skies with constellations creating animal shapes around him. When the animals accept the boy into their group, they dance, feast, and paint on cave walls; at that moment, the boy remembers his father and how desperately he misses him (Mom is present only in old family photos hanging in the home), signaling to his new friend, Bear, that it’s time to find Dad. At the story’s end, father and son enjoy a spring day, sitting on a hill with their animal friends.

The artwork alternates between panels and full bleed pages and is dreamlike in its subdued beauty. The endpapers bookend the story, with driving snow on the front papers, and a cave painting of the boy, his father, and the animals, playing together, on the back papers. The artwork is soft, and goes from the cold outdoor artwork to warm interiors both in the family home and in the company of the animals.

I love this book, and can’t wait to share it with my little readers, so I can hear their stories. This one’s a wonderful add to your winter collections – booktalk this one with Raymond Briggs’ wordless classic, The Snowman.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Get ready for the season with First Snow with a giveaway!

First Snow, by Nancy Viau/Illustrated by Talitha Shipman,, (Sept. 2018, Albert Whitman), $16.99, ISBN: 9780807524404

Ages 2-6

A brother and sister join their friends for a day of fun when the first snow falls.

This rhyming story stars a brother and sister, both children of color, who wake up to discover that it’s snowing! With mostly two- and three-word rhyming sentences, we follow them as they get dressed and meet their friends for a day of sledding and snowplay. Their pup follows along, adding to the fun and games, and at the end of the day, the siblings and their dog head home to enjoy hot chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, and a story before bedtime.

A lovely companion to Ezra Jack Keats’ A Snowy Day, First Snow takes place in a more suburban settting than Peter’s famous city backdrop. The kids’ bright winter clothes stand out against the soft, white snow. The watercolor artwork is soft, lending a comfortable, hazy, snowy-day feel to the scenery. Brightly colored kids’ hats and mittens set the tone on the endpapers.

Perfect for snowy day reading, preferably with some hot chocolate and a warm blanket and stuffed animal. Great for toddlers and easy readers alike!

Nancy Viau is the author of five picture books, including City Street Beat, Storm Song, and Look What I Can Do!  Her middle-grade novels include her new release, Beauty and Bernice, along with Just One Thing! (2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Gold Award Winner), Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head (to be reissued in the spring of 2019), and Something is Bugging Samantha Hansen (fall 2019). As a member of the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature, Nancy volunteers with other council members to produce the Rutgers One-on-One Plus Conference every year. She works as an assistant librarian, and when not reading or writing, she hikes, bikes, and travels wherever her frequent flyer miles take her. To learn more, and to download a free Story Hour kit for First Snow, visit her website, NancyViau.com.

 

Talitha Shipman graduated with an MFA in illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2008. She’s illustrated several books, including You Are My Little Pumpkin Pie, Everybody Says Shalom, and Applesauce Day. Talitha lives in Indiana with her husband, daughter, and dog. She can be found at talithashipman.com.

 

Praise for First Snow:

“A sweet suburban/rural contrast to the snowy day enjoyed by Peter in the city.”  — Kirkus Reviews

Relive the joy of the season’s first snow in this sweet trailer!

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of First Snow, courtesy of Albert  Whitman & Co (U.S. addresses). Just enter this Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance!

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

It’s all in how you see it… Do You Believe in Unicorns?

Do You Believe in Unicorns?, by Bethanie Deeney Murguia, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $14.99, ISBN: 9780763694685

Ages 3-7

Do You Believe in Unicorns is fun and absolutely magical. It’s a visual wink that starts out with the horse on the cover: a white horse in a top hat. The story that follows is a conversation between the narrator and the reader, who we think must be a unicorn. But that’s crazy, right? It’s just a horse in a hat! Or is it? The narrator comes up with excuses as to why the horse can’t be a unicorn – his hair is a mess; he’s trying to keep dry in the rain – while our cartoony friend, sporting a knowing smile, prances through the book, eventually joined by other unicorns – HORSES! – wearing hats. But wait! The horses left their hats behind! And here’s where the joke is just perfect: the horses appear in front of spires, mountain peaks, and blades of grass. So, are those unicorns, or just expertly placed visual puns? Like the story says: “Maybe you can only see unicorns if you believe in them.”

What a way to bring magic into someone’s day. The cartoony art makes the unicorn/horse instantly kid-friendly, and its knowing smirk lets on that there may be more than meets the eye at play here. The facial expressions are an outright hoot, as our horse side-eyes other hat-wearing horses and admires himself in a mirror. It’s a lovely way to let kids know that there may be magical moments all around them, and a wonderful way to remind adults of the days when we believed in unicorns, too (and may still). And keep your eye on the lizard at the end of the story: he may be more than he appears, too. An absolute must-add to collections and great gift choice.

Do You Believe in Unicorns has starred reviews from Kirkus and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and is a Junior Library Guild selection. I think I’m adding this to my Caldecott longlist.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Board Books for everyone!

I’ve been on a board book kick the last couple of months. I’ve mentioned before that I’m always on the lookout for fun, new board books that tell a story or teach concepts in a fun way. These are a few I’ve come across on my recent wanderings.

10, 9, 8… Owls Up Late!, by Georgiana Deutsch & Ekaterina Trukhan, (Feb. 2018, Silver Dolphin), $9.99, ISBN: 9781684121847

Recommended for 3-6

This rhyming, counting book is just too  much fun. Ten little owls are playing in a tree, when Mama Owl calls, “It’s time for you to rest!” One by one, each of the birds listen to Mama and flies down to the nest, but it’s a lot of fun while they take their time! Each spread is die-cut, as is the cover, to highlight different owls, hanging out in the tree. Each number appears in a star on the upper left hand side of the spread, easily letting readers know which number they’re on; owls and other inhabitants of the tree are cartoony and colorful, with little individual touches like a pair of earmuffs here, a nightcap there. The repetitive text assures that you’ll have company reciting this fun bedtime countdown in no time, and a spread numbering 1-10, counting up with the owls, finishes off this adorable board book. This book invites readers to really explore and have fun with the book, turning pages and wiggling fingers through die cuts.

 

You’re My Little Cuddle Bug, by Nicola Edwards/Illustrated by Natalie Marshall, (Feb. 2018, Silver Dolphin), $8.99, ISBN: 9781684122585

Recommended for readers 0-5

Books like this are my weakness. I love, love, LOVE books about snuggling and cuddling, and I’ve been known to refer to my little one as my “snuggle buggy” and “cuddle buggy”. I love reading these books in storytime, because it gives my caregivers kissy-huggy-snuggly time with their little ones. Rhyming text and die-cut/raised bug caregivers and little ones lead readers through a story that’s just about loving and being loved: “You’re my little ladybug, You brighten up my day/With rosy cheeks you smile at me, And chase my blues away”. Bumblebees, caterpillars, butterflies, and beetles are all here, with cartoony, sweet, expressively large eyes and bright colors. You have to have this book on your shelves and in your gift cart. Add some Joyce Wan books (You Are My Cupcake, You Are My Pumpkin, We Belong Together) and you are set!

 

Black Bird, Yellow Sun, by Steve Light, (March 2018, Candlewick Press), $7.99, ISBN: 9780763690670

Recommended for 0-3

I love Steve Light’s books! This is a departure from his “Have You Seen My…” series, and I’m excited to see him introduce concepts. In Black Bird, Yellow Sun, we meet a black bird as he goes through his day, set off against the colors he interacts with: yellow sun, orange leaves, purple grapes, green grass, red snake, gray rocks, pink flowers, and finally, a blue moon. The repetition of the black bird on each spread makes for nice continuity for the kids, who will pick up that the bird is there each time; explain that the bird goes through its day in terms of colors, and ask kids what colors they meet throughout their days. A perfect concept board book for storytimes, gifts, and collections. Black Bird Yellow Sun has a starred review from School Library Journal.

 

In the Rain, by Elizabeth Spurr/Illustrated by Manelle Oliphant, (March 2018, Peachtree Publishers), $6.95, ISBN: 978-1-56145-853-0

Recommended for 0-4

Some kids may be disappointed when the rain begins, but not this little girl! She puts on her slicker and heads outdoors to sail a boat, stomp in puddles, and make mud pies! This fun exploration of weather and play stars a child of color, illustrated joyfully and realistically by Manelle Oliphant. I was excited to find out that author Elizabeth Spurr and Manelle Oliphant have a whole series of “In the…” and “At the…” board books that explore weather, nature, and play! I’ll be adding these to my next purchase cart for sure; the rhyming text, short sentences, and beautiful illustrations make these a great storytime read!

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Feed your brain with picture book nonfiction!

There is so much good nonfiction out for younger readers this Fall!

Refugees & Migrants (Children in Our World), by Ceri Roberts/Illustrated by Hanane Kai
(August 2017, Barron’s Educational Series), $9.99, ISBN: 9781438050201
Recommended for readers 6-10

A hot-button topic today, Refugees & Migrants answers the tough questions that children ask: “Why would people leave their homes?” “What is a migrant – or a refugee?” Illustrations and concise text offer explanations that seek to foster empathy and empower kids to make a difference in the world around them. Barron’s Children in Our World series addresses difficulties that too many children in our world face today, and sensitively explain these issues to readers while giving them the power to make changes. Additional titles look at Poverty & Hunger, Racism & Intolerance (2018), and Global Conflict (2018). These books are a strong addition to elementary nonfiction shelves and provide a great opportunity to talk to your kids about what they see on the news, how they feel about it, and what we can all do, together, to make the world a better place.

 

Where’s Your Hat, Abe Lincoln? (Young Historians), by Misti Kenison,
(Sept. 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $9.99, ISBN: 9781492652502
Recommended for readers 2-5

Poor Abe Lincoln can’t find his hat, and he needs it in time to read the Gettysburg Address! Harriet Tubman is leading slaves to freedom, and Frederick Douglass is writing a book. Can any of his friends help him? This is the second in Misti Kenison’s Young Historians board book series (the first, being Cheer Up, Ben Franklin!). Each book features historical figures from periods in American History, with cartoony expressions and simple, one-sentence character actions that lay the groundwork for future learning. Everything ends on a happy note, and the end of the book includes historical figure profiles and a timeline. Fun for every historian’s library, no matter what your age.

 

Dangerous Jane, by Suzanne Slade/Illustrated by Alice Ratterree,
(Sept. 2017, Peachtree Publishers), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-56145-913-1
Recommended for readers 4-8

Jane Addams was an activist for the poor and for peace. She founded Hull House, a settlement house in Chicago, where she took care of her neighbors by providing food, childcare, English lessons – anything anyone needed to live their lives with dignity. When World War I broke out in Europe, Jane organized the Women’s Peace Party, and led the International Congress of Women, to talk about ways to bring the war and suffering to an end. She endured angry press from those who would call her a traitor; that she cared more for people overseas than in her own home – she was even named The Most Dangerous Woman in America by the FBI! Ultimately, Dangerous Jane was the first American woman to receive the Nobel peace prize. Through all the press, good and bad, Jane maintained her dignity and continued caring for others until the end of her life. Dangerous Jane is an inspiring story rendered in washed-out watercolors that communicate quiet strength, like the book’s subject. Jane stands out in her green dresses and skirts, against the bleak landscape of war and poverty. A biography, timeline, and selected bibliography completes this book.

 

Baby Animals Playing, by Suzi Eszterhas
(Oct. 2017, OwlKids Books), $14.95, ISBN: 9781771472975
Recommended for readers 0-6

Wildlife photographer and advocate Suzi Eszterhaus put together one of the cutest books ever. It’s all right in the title: Baby. Animals. Playing. Who wouldn’t squeal at just the expectation of what’s to come? Full-color photos of baby animals (and their parents) at play will make anyone fall in love, instantly. Brief nonfiction text gives some background information on how Momma bears teach their cubs to fish for salmon, or how jackal pups fight over who gets to play with a ball of elephant poop. Which will, doubtless, be most kids’ favorite part of this book (it was for my 5 year-old). Eszterhas invites readers to connect with animals and nature by looking at photos, reading books, and going outside and immersing themselves in nature, just like baby animals do; it’s a nice call to get the kids outside and away from TV and electronics.

 

Bugs From Head to Tail, by Stacey Roderick/Illustrated by Kwanchai Moriya,
(Oct. 2017, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771387293
Recommended for readers 3-7

The third book in the “From Head to Tail” series gives readers an up-close look at bugs. We get rhinoceros beetle horns and luna moth antennae; tarantula hair (eeeek) and millipede legs, and a trick question! There are more facts to discover (tarantulas flick hair from their bellies at attackers… I know it would make me run screaming), with cute, wide-eyed bugs to attract readers. Kwanchai Moriya’s paper collage art continues to be visually exciting, popping off the pages. Additional bugs profiled at the end, plus a note about arthropods – the bugs profiled in this book – make this a great addition to bug books in primary collections. And if you have a kid like this young lady, whose love of bugs got her published in a scientific journal at 8 years old, you definitely want this book around to foster them!

 

Animals at Night, by Anne Jankéliowitch/Illustrated by Delphine Chedru
(Oct. 2017,Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $19.99, ISBN: 9781492653196
Recommended for readers 6-10

This is a fun look at nocturnal animals in 12 different habitats, from the forest to more urban settings. You know when you see a museum display, with information about each animal in the display? That’s how nocturnals are presented here; each spread shows animals interacting in their environment, with a descriptive paragraph about each creature in the margins. Glow in the dark adds some more fun to the mix: a question is presented in each spread, answerable when readers turn off the lights to reveal the answers (answers are also at the back of the book, for any party poopers). With bright, bold animals that stand out against their night time backgrounds and glow in the dark challenges to find answers, it’s a fun addition to nonfiction collections for intermediate readers. Originally published in French in 2016. Pair this one with Tracey Hecht’s Nocturnals books for a nice fiction/nonfiction display.

 

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Preschool Reads

Surreal graphic novel fun for little ones: Adele in Sandland

Adele in Sandland, by Claude Ponti, (June 2017, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1-943145-16-4

Recommended for readers 3-7

Little Adele’s mother takes her to the park. While Mama chats with a friend, Adele begins to dig and sets off on an adventure with her doll, Stuffy, and Sandy – a creature from her sand pail – where they’re eaten by a sand dragon, she meets a tree of hot dogs, a king who likes to walk, barefoot, on his subjects’ heads, and ventures forth to a tasty dessert island.

Adele in Sand Land is surreal fun for readers who’ve become more comfortable with slightly longer sentences than those introduced in early readers. The book is TOON Level 1, which is about a Kindergarten reading level and corresponds to Guided Reading Levels E-J. TOON includes all of this information in the back of each book, and on their website, which is a great resources for parents and educators alike. The story is a fun storytime selection for younger audiences, too: kids will easily envision themselves on a magical adventure while playing at the park.

The surreal art makes this a great choice when introducing young readers to graphic novels, too. While the overall story is sequential, the dreamlike quality of the art allows kids to let their imaginations run wild. Let your kids draw their own surreal adventure for a fun accompanying activity, or introduce stories like Alice in Wonderland or Harold and the Purple Crayon for more adventures with a touch of the surrealistic. Teacher’s Resources are forthcoming for this title.

Adele in Sand Land received a starred review from Kirkus. An early Adele story, Adele’s Album (1988), is out of print but can be found for varying prices through third party sellers online.