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

Trains and tracks love to play in Old Tracks, New Tricks

oldtracks_1Old Tracks, New Tricks, by Jessica Peterson, (March 2017, The Innovation Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1943147243

Recommended for ages 3-6

Trixie, Tracky, and Tinker are three wooden toy tracks that are excited when a little boy brings them home. They’ve been waiting to join a train set of their own! Things are a little different than they expected, though, when they arrive.  The trains are bossy and mean, and the old tracks just snore on the floor. These tracks aren’t about to just snooze their days, away, though – they get to work and show the old tracks (and trains) some new tricks – and then share them with readers!

This is such a fun little rhyming story full of adorable photo and digital art! The facial expressions digitized onto the toys give a fun feel to the story and little additions, like stickers, paint, and crayon, personalize the characters, really making the toys look and feel like they’ve come from a child’s room. Younger audiences will love the rhyming cadence, and the bright colors really catch a reader’s attention.



The book includes instructions for the track tricks used in the story. Tips offer ideas for experimenting and suggest adult help where necessary. A website dedicated to the book (maybe it will become a series?) is coming in January, and further resources, like printables and educator resources, may be on the way in the future.


This is a fun go-to for storytime, especially if you’ve got room for a couple of trains and tracks to keep out so the kids can play and explore with parents after storytime. If space or budget is an issue, there are fun paper trains you can make as a post-storytime craft. You can hand out some paper track printables, if time permits, and have parents and kids fit together their own train routes. This is one of those books that will be a great resource for preschoolers and school-age kids alike; you can discuss ideas like teamwork, bullying, and welcoming a new friend.




Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Maggie McGillicuddy’s got an eye for trouble… do you?

maggie mcgillicuddyMaggie McGillicuddy’s Eye for Trouble, by Susan Hughes/Illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan, (Oct. 2016, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771382915

Recommended for ages 4-8

This fun look at imagination appeals to a kid’s sense of play, but also teaches them to be aware of their surroundings. Maggie McGillicuddy sits on her porch, knitting away, and sees things a little differently. When she sees a shadow on the wall, she just knows it’s a hungry tiger! She clacks her knitting needles and scares that wildcat away. That’s no tree branch behind the pizza delivery girl’s bike, it’s a snake! She whacks her walking stick and scares that slippery snake right off. But when Charlie, her next door neighbor, is about to run into the street while chasing a ball, Maggie springs into action – this is no figment of her imagination!

This is such a great story about imagination and playing little games with yourself, but it makes a point about being aware, too. When Maggie sees that Charlie’s in danger, there’s no clacking of knitting needles or whacking a walking stick, she yells and gets Charlie’s attention – she makes him very aware of his surroundings! And playing games with your imagination is a fun way of being aware of what’s around you, too. Charlie and Maggie bond over their active imaginations, and invite the reader in, with repeated wink and nudge phrases like, “you see it there, don’t you?”

The artwork is rendered in watercolor, pencil crayon, gouache and collage, all coming together to give a light, fun tone to the book. Kids will recognize the places where Maggie’s and Charlie’s imaginations take root: tree roots that become snakes, shadows that become wild animals, herds of elephants out on the horizon and a dinosaur lurking behind a bush. I love the movement in illustrator Brooke Kerrigan’s work, too; Maggie’s scarf sways gently until she jumps to action: then, it swings outward, almost at attention. When all is well, the scarf gently relaxes at Maggie’s feet. Throughout the book, the scarf gets longer until both Maggie and Charlie are wearing it, looped around their necks.

Read this and talk to kids about being safe: from looking both ways before crossing a street to knowing street signs and where you are. Maybe even link this story to a book on community helpers, so kids know who to turn to if they need assistance. Have kids draw pictures of what they see in their imaginations when they look outside and make up a story of their own about what’s in the hallway!

Very good for Pre-K and elementary collections. The fun of imagination is contagious.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate

Ape and Armadillo TAKE OVER THE WORLD… Maybe.

ape-arm_1Ape and Armadillo Take Over the World, by James Sturm (Sept. 2016, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1-943145-09-6

Recommended for ages 6-8

Ape and Armadillo want to take over the world, but the whole plan seems a lot more fun for Armadillo – the ringleader, naturally – than it will be for Ape. While Armadillo gets to sneak in and get all the work done, Ape is stuck fighting spitting serpents, an army of robots, and escape through sewer tunnels – YUCK! Armadillo needs to learn how to compromise, or he may lose a friend and fellow Agent of Evil.

Kids will love this graphic novel that touches on a situation very familiar to kids: the bossy friend who wants everything done his or her way. Ape decides that he’s not going to be the flunky any more, and Armadillo has to adjust his own point of view and work – together with Ape – on a game that they can both play and enjoy equally. It’s a fun resolution, loaded with armor, magic wands, magical creatures, and butter pecan ice cream. Secondary Ape and Armadillo comics run at the bottom of each page, providing more insight into these characters and leaving me hoping we’ll meet this dynamic duo in more adventures to come.


This is a good book to use when talking about feelings and playing nicely with others; the dialogue and art treats the audience respectfully and examines a potentially frustrating situation with honesty and humor. It’s a TOON Level 3 book, considered a chapter book comic for advanced beginners, so ages 6 and up will dig right in. TOON includes parent resources at the end of each book, including tips on reading comics with your kids, and levels breakdown: Lexile, Guided Reading, and Reading Recovery, and appropriate grades. There’s a Teacher’s Guide in progress, so check the Ape & Armadillo page on the TOON site to get yours when it’s ready.

I love James Sturm’s books. He just knows how to create great stories for kids, and get his messages across in a fun, bold way. He’s also written the Little Knight books with his fellow Adventures in Cartooning compatriots, and he’s written Birdsong: A Story in Pictures for TOON.

Here’s some more Ape and Armadillo:


Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Lucy and Company tells three sweet stories of friendship

lucyLucy and Company, by Marianne Dubuc, (Sept. 2016, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771386623

Recommended for ages 2-5

A young girl spends time in a forest with her animal friends, where they share food, celebrate a birthday, and help a bunch of baby chicks in three separate stories by author and illustrator Marianne Dubuc.

Marianne Dubuc’s books are loaded with special little elements for readers with a sharp eye. Here, it’s more an attention to detail rather than little winks here and there. The animals’ tiny playing cards are clear; the map in the beginning of the book matches up with a map detail in The Treasure Hunt. The animal companions are adorable and fun to spend time with, as is their human friend, Lucy. The stories are sweet and beginning readers and parents will love cuddling up together at storytime. Display this one with Little Bear and Winnie the Pooh to attract readers who love animal and human adventures. The shorter stories make this easy to split up for shorter storytimes and mix-and-match themes.

Posted in Toddler Reads

The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds: A Book About Not Going to Sleep.

The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds, by Marisabina Russo (Dragonfly, 2013), ISBN: 978-0307981264
Recommended for ages 3 – 7

bunnies It’s bedtime for three bunny siblings. Mama and Daddy put them to bed, and settle in to have some relaxing time together, when all sorts of noises erupt from the baby bunnies’ room! Mama and Daddy go up to check and discover that the bunnies are not in their beds – they’re playing! Will Mama and Daddy ever get the bunnies to go to sleep for the night?

The book is perfect for a preschool age group, who will identify with the young bunnies. Parents and caregivers will see themselves in the tired, near-exasperated parents, who hear a ruckus every time they put the bunnies to bed and start to relax. The story itself is perfect for a fun read-aloud; there is repetition and fun noises that make the story interactive: the parents saying, “good night, good night, sleep tight”, and the bunnies playful chaos: clips and clops, zooms and vrooms, and clashes and smashes give listeners a chance to jump up and act out the post-bedtime play.

The soft, gouache art lends itself to a relaxing atmosphere that allows the children to focus on the characters – a quiet bedtime read – and bold, big text for the bunnies play allows the reader to punch up the story for a more playful reading. Ms. Russo’s use of collage adds another dimension of fun to the artwork.

The author’s website offers contact information and information about her books.

This would be a great addition to a read-aloud about bedtime; I can see it being paired with a book like Jane Yolen’s How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? or Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter story, Just Go to Sleep. Allow listeners to jump around until they get themselves ready for nap time (and the caregivers will likely be grateful!). There are many songs and fingerplays about bedtime available online.

Posted in Fantasy, Preschool Reads

Book Review: Doug Unplugged, by Dan Yaccarino (Knopf, 2013)

Recommended for ages 4-8

Doug Unplugged!-1

This fun, retro story by Dan Yaccarino tells the story of a little robot boy who decides to “unplug” one day and explore the world. Little Doug is a robot boy whose parents plug him in every day so that he can learn while they head to work. One day, while learning about the city, Doug spies a pigeon at his window, and he’s fascinated. He unplugs himself and heads off on a day of exploration where he rides the train, scales a skyscraper, and makes a friend. After reuniting his friend with his parents, Doug decides to head home and tell his parents about his exciting day.

The story is sweet and packs a powerful message in our highly technological society. When most of our kids spend their days behind their iPads and computer screens, this simple message – unplug and learn by getting outside and doing – is a welcome sigh of relief. Packed with Yaccarino’s fun, adorable retro-futuristic artwork, Doug is a little boy on a big adventure that kids will enjoy living through vicariously. He may be a robot, but he’s easily distracted – there are many kids who can relate to the excitement of a pigeon landing on the windowsill at school or while doing homework at home. He spends a day exploring the city, yet manages to find a friend, and knows that he must go home at the end of the day. The art consists primarily of blues, greens and yellows, with other colors showing up to punch up the landscape. I read the digital version of this book, but encourage adult readers to use the physical storybook, which has smaller black font (it’s a great read-aloud book), usually at the bottom of the page or individual pictures so as not to detract from the artwork.  There are whole spreads and chunked panels throughout the book, giving a fully-fleshed-out feeling to this story. 

This would be a fun addition to a storytime on robots and would provide a more human perspective on a robot read-aloud. There are many robot printables and crafts online, and the author’s website offers information about his books, blog, social media, and speaking engagements.