Posted in Preschool Reads

Sam Usher’s Rain explores patience and celebrates imagination

Rain, Sam Usher, (March 2017, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9296-4

Recommended for readers 3-7

It’s raining out – and the young boy sitting inside can’t wait to go outside and have an adventure! Grandpa suggests they wait for the rain to stop, and putters around the home while the boy fidgets and waits for the weather to let up. When the rain finally lets up, Grandpa and grandson go out to mail a letter, and have their own adventure together.

I adore the quiet adventure of Rain: it’s got a soothing repetition while pulsing with the excited impatience a child knows all too well when waiting for an adult to give him or her the go-ahead to do something fun. The boy tries to talk his grandfather into heading outside by talking about things one can do in the rain (catch raindrops splash in puddles) and expressing a desire to go on adventures, like voyaging with sea monsters or visit a floating city. Grandpa, unruffled, continues to tell the boy to wait for the rain to stop. We feel the boy’s impatience when he repeats, “But did the rain stop? NO!” When it’s finally time to venture out, the excursion is every bit as exhilarating as the boy expected. When they return home, grandfather and grandson sit together, with warm socks and hot chocolate, sharing a perfect moment together, complete with the dispensing of grandfatherly wisdom: “…the very best things are always worth waiting for”.

Sam Usher’s art reminds me of some of my favorite British illustrators, Tony Ross and Quentin Blake. His use of watercolor makes grandfather’s home warm and cozy, and the rain outside looks almost dewy and real as seen from the boy’s window. His rainy scene spreads are properly gray and stormy, with sparks of imagination wandering into the picture to prepare readers for what’s coming: a prow of a boat here, an upturned umbrella there. The endpapers extend the story, with puddles and birds, and a cameo by the penguin from Usher’s previous book, Snow.

This is the second in a four-part celebration of the seasons. Snow (2015) saw the boy trying to get Grandpa out of bed to adventure in the snow. I can’t wait to see what Mr. Usher has in store for the next two seasons.

This is a great read-aloud for toddlers and preschoolers alike, and a wonderful companion to nonfiction books about weather and the seasons. Ask the kids what their adventure in the rain would look like; talk about what to wear in the rain (raincoats, boots), and let them decorate their own umbrellas. I really like this one from MamaJenn that incorporates glue raindrops.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Duck and Hippo brave the rain together!

Duck and Hippo In the Rainstorm, by Jonathan London/Illustrated by Andrew Joyner, (March 2017, Two Lions/Amazon), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-5039-3723-9

Duck and Hippo are the best of friends, and want to go for a walk in the rain. But the umbrella isn’t big enough for them both! Luckily, the two friends find a solution and go off on a rainy day walk, filled with adventures, until a strong gust of wind sends one of them up in the air!

Jonathan London is best known for his Froggy series, most of which end up on my library kids’ summer reading lists every year. Booktalking Duck and Hippo will be a breeze – the author already has a tremendous fanbase. Then, we have Andrew Joyner’s brush and ink illustration, with wash and pencil, then digitally colored; which it makes me happy just looking at it. It’s classic illustration; hearkening to timeless books like Frog and Toad and Danny and the Dinosaur. colors are soothing with bright touches, like Duck’s red jacket and yellow umbrella, which matches Hippo’s yellow rain boots. The definitive outlines make each piece, each character, step off the page. Sound effects are in playful font sizes and colors, swirling along like the water in a creek or coming down with the rain.

This book is a fun read-aloud about friendship and sharing. Read and display with Frog and Toad, James Marshall’s George and Martha, or Sue Gallion’s Pug Meets Pig. Hand out a Duck and Hippo coloring sheet, courtesy of Andrew Joyner’s website – and give your bigger readers Joyner’s How to Draw Duck and Hippo instructions!

About the Author and Illustrator

Jonathan London is the author of more than one hundred children’s books, including the bestselling Froggy series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. Many of his books explore nature, among them Flamingo Sunset, illustrated by Kristina Rodanas, and Little Penguin: The Emperor of Antarctica, illustrated by Julie Olson. He is currently writing a middle-grade series, which started with Desolation Canyon, illustrated by his son Sean London. Jonathan lives in Graton, California. Learn more online at www.jonathan-london.net.

Andrew Joyner is an illustrator, author, and cartoonist based in South Australia. He has illustrated a number of picture books, and he wrote and illustrated a chapter book series about a warthog named Boris. He has also illustrated for newspapers and magazines, including the Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, and Rolling Stone magazine, among others. Learn more online at www.andrewjoyner.com.au.

Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win your own copy of Duck and Hippo in the Rainstorm!

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Imagination steers one boy past The Storm

stormThe Storm, by Akiko Miyakoshi (Apr. 2016, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771385596

Recommended for ages 3-7

A young boy is planning on a weekend trip to the beach with his parents, but a storm threatens otherwise. When the storm arrives, the boy tries not to be scared, imagining himself on a ship that’s strong enough to drive the storm away. When he wakes up the next day, will his dream of smooth sailing come true?

This is a perfect rainy day read. The gray charcoal illustrations with bright spots of blue (the boy’s shirt, the rain puddles) communicate the overall mood of the coming storm and the hope that it will pass in time to enjoy a trip to the beach. When the storm arrives in all its fury, the boy finds a safe place for himself: curled up in his bed, covers over his head, so he can’t hear the rain. He waits out the storm by imagining himself on a ship with propellers powerful enough to blow the storm away. He faces his fears by finding a safe place and through visualization.

The book provides a great opportunity to talk to young readers about overcoming fear and using positive imagery to steer them past any storms – negative thoughts or fears – in their own lives.

Read this one with Mercer Mayer’s There’s a Nightmare in My Closet or Lemony Snicket’s The Dark to talk about overcoming fear. Or just curl up on a rainy day with The Storm and a copy of Taro Yashima’s Caldecott Honor book, Umbrella, for a rainy day read.

The Storm has received a starred review from Kirkus. The Storm is writer and illustrator Akiko Miyakoshi’s first picture book, and won the Nissan Children’s Storybook and Picture Book Grand Prix. Her book, The Tea Party in the Woods, was published by Kids Can Press in 2015.

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

Marianne Dubuc retells the story of Noah in The Animal’s Ark

animals arkThe Animal’s Ark, by Marianne Dubuc (Apr. 2016, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771386234

Recommended for ages 3-6

It’s raining! The animals huddle together to try and stay dry, but the rain keeps coming and the land is filling up. Thank goodness, a nice man named Mr. Noah shows up with his boat and lets the animals on, two by two, to stay warm, dry and safe. At first, the animals cuddle together and sleep, play games, and get along, but the rain keeps falling and things start to get a little cramped. When are they going to find dry land?  When is this rain going to stop?

This is an adorable retelling of the story of Noah’s Ark by an illustrator with a gift for telling entire stories within her art. Marianne Dubuc is wonderful with putting little winks and nudges to readers in her illustrations: she told us the story of Little Red Riding Hood in The Bus Ride, where we saw a little girl riding a bus to her grandmother’s house; in Mr. Postmouse’s Rounds, she told us the story of a postmouse making his mail delivery rounds, while her illustrations told us the stories of all the animals who lived in the forest. Here, we see little touches that tell us volumes about life aboard the ark; predator and prey all living together and having fun at first, grateful to be out of the rain. We see a chameleon blending into a tiger, attached to his hind quarters while the tiger naps; snails draw mazes with their snail slime; the elephant helps bail out the ark when a leak springs up. We also see what happens when a hedgehog’s prickles get… prickly, and a cat sharpens her claws in a very inconvenient spot. The animals’ postures go from relaxed to combative, and a crocodile is ready to snap! Ms. Dubuc’s pencils and crayons provide a soft, colorful story that kids will love to read and have read to them, over and over again.

While The Animal’s Ark is a retelling of the biblical story, this is a book that can be read to all audiences. Noah is a kind man with a boat, offering to shepherd the animals through the storm. The rain and flood are just a heavy storm. It’s a good introduction to the story for Christian readers; parents and teachers can lead children into a deeper discussion at their leisure. This makes the book work well for public storytimes with diverse audiences; kids love animals stories, and that’s exactly what this is.

Get out your stuffed animals and make your own story arc around the carpet or the bed. Talk about what animals you’d let board the ark – would you let an alien board the ark? What about animals like the dodo bird, or a dinosaur? And what other things did the animals do on the ark? Did the chickens lay eggs and the bees make honey to help feed everyone? Get creative, and let the kids get creative; you can turn this into a lesson on animals or you can turn it into a wacky storytime. It’s up to you.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Book Review: Rain Romp, by Jane Kurtz/Illus. by Diana Wolcott (Greenwillow Books, 2002)

RainRompRecommended for ages 3-6

Preschoolers often deal with moods that they don’t know how to control; many will associate with this young girl who wakes up in a bad mood on a rainy day. Her parents try to boost her mood, but she wants none of it, until she decides to stomp her bad mood away in the rain. Her parents join her, and the bad mood goes away. The watercolor and gouache art is perfect to convey the both the weather and the girl’s moods, going from angry and gray, like the rain, to happy and content, as the sun peeks through the clouds. The text curves around the art and gets larger for emphasis when the girl vents her anger.  As she and her family hug, mood lifted, the text curves underneath them, allowing the reader to join in the hug.

This would be a good addition to a read-aloud on moods. There could be a discussion on what preschoolers do when they are angry, or sad, or happy. If they feel sad or mad, what makes them feel better? A good storytime craft would allow the children to draw a picture of how they deal with a bad mood, and they could receive a smiley face handstamp at the end of the storytime.