Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Last Laughs: Prehistoric Epitaphs is laugh out loud, slightly macabre, fun!

Last Laughs: Prehistoric Epitaphs, by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen/Illustrated by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins, (Oct. 2012, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-58089-706-8

Recommended for readers 5-10

*step up to podium, adjust microphone*

Ahem.” *adjusts index cards*

Iguanodon, Alas Long Gone
Iguano dawned,
Iguano dined,
Iguano done,
Iguano gone.”

This is all you need to know in order to understand how much I love Last Laughs: Prehistoric Epitaphs. I would beg my kids (both my own and my library kids) to have a poetry slam, be it in my living room or in my library, where they would read nothing but selections from this book while I giggled and played bongos in the back for them. This book is that hilarious and that much fun. It’s a morbidly hysterical tribute to the dinosaurs that came and went so long ago, organized by era (Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic) and further, by period, with fun facts about each dinosaur (because learning can be fun, you see?). Some creatures get a full 2-page spread, some a single page, but every single one gets a silly Photoshop illustration of paleontologist Professor M. Piltdown and the prehistoric pals he imagines as they run from predators, try to fly (poor Terror bird), or meet their demise in a Scottish loch. Eras and periods mark the margins of each page, reinforcing the timeline for readers as they go. The wordplay is spectacular – so many fun new words for kids to learn, and put together with wit and a wink. What can you expect from a team that includes the How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight author and a children’s Poet Laureate?  An author note at the end invites kids to write some of their own epitaphs – there are plenty of dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures to go around!

This is a follow-up to the authors/illustrator team’s Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs, so now I have two more books to order for my library. I’m adding some of these epitaphs to a dinosaur storytime, because they are perfect. Display with Jane Yolen’s How Do Dinosaurs… series, get out your Laurie Berkner We Are the Dinosaurs book and crank up a video, just have fun with this one!

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

See the animal mommies, count the baby animals!

Count the Baby Animals, by Guido van Genechten, (March 2017, Clavis Publishing), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1605-37324-9

Recommended for readers 2-5

This fun die-cut book shows a pregnant animal mommy; with a flip of the page, she’s surrounded by her babies! Sweet rhyming text throughout invites readers to count each group of animals while offering descriptive details.

This is an adorable book to introduce to toddlers, who can point to and name animals as you read along. Encourage them to make animals sounds for each one to extend the fun. There are oodles of fun animal coloring sheets and activities available online; matching games with moms and babies would be a great choice for older toddlers and early preschoolers. You can pair this with books like P.D. Eastman’s classic, Are You My Mother?, or Nancy Tafuri’s All Kinds of Kisses (one of my personal faves).

Originally published in 2016, this is the English translation of Guido van Genechten’s original Dutch. His artwork is child-friendly, with gentle, cartoony faces and smiles. Endpapers with frolicking baby animals bring the reader right into the fun, and the sturdy paper stock will hold up to exploring little hands, who will love turning the half pages back and forth to see each mommy animal with a round belly, and later, surrounded by her babies.

How Many Baby Animals is a fun addition to toddler bookshelves and would make a fun sibling-to-be gift, too.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

A bedtime story that you can Whisper

whisperWhisper, by Joe Fitzpatrick/Illustrated by Marco Furlotti, (Sept. 2016, Flowerpot Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781486709465

Recommended for readers 4-7

A parent and child bear read a special bedtime story together; the little bear lovingly asks for its parent to whisper the story so he’ll listen close, cuddle in, and have more fun. This rhyming story has a quiet cadence to the text that makes for a soothing bedtime read; the little bear’s requests are great for getting little ones corralled and ready for bed. The story encourages a bedtime routine through words and loving illustrations of a caregiver and child cuddling and settling in for the night.

My 4 year-old is normally a wild man by bedtime – especially if there was no nap earlier in the day – and this helped wind him down when I read it. It’s by no means a sleep guarantee, though – we read about 4 books after this one – but it’s a nice way to introduce a nighttime routine. The illustrations are largely close-ups of the bears, heads together, snuggling, making the reader feel like they’re part of the story. Neither grownup nor child is gendered, allowing any child, any caregiver, to identify with the characters. Have your little ones whisper along with you – the word is emphasized with smaller text throughout the book – for a shared reading experience. A sweet bedtime selection.

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

Ladybug’s Garden Blog Tour!

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(Ladybug’s Garden, by Anabella and Sofia Schofield, Jan. 2017, Pink Umbrella Books, $9.99, ISBN: 9780998516202)

Sixteen year-old sisters Anabella and Sofia Schofield have written a sweet story about a ladybug who takes time out to help friends in need, even as she’s on her way to a picnic. With hand-created illustrations and sweet rhyming text, little ones will enjoy the story about friendship, sharing, and helping others.

This is a project the Schofield sisters began when they were 13. The text shows a gift for rhyme and flow that makes for fun storytime reading and listening. The art is very sweet, and will inspire little ones to make their own ladybugs – help them along with a fun ladybug storytime craft like this paper plate craft, from My Mommy Style. For preschoolers and kindergarteners, pair this with Eric Carle’s The Very Grouchy Ladybug and ask your listeners to point out the differences and similarities between the two ladybugs.

Support this budding author and illustrator and take a look at Ladybug’s Garden!

Ladybug’s Garden Blog Tour:

February 8: Mom Read It

February 9: Beach Bound Books

February 10: Book Review Mama

February 11: I Heart Reading Pre-launch Party

February 12: The Reader’s Salon

Books Direct Review and Giveaway

Pop’s Blog Author Interview

February 13: Little Fox Reads Author Interview

February 14: Life with A

SolaFide Publishing Blog

February 15: Katie’s Clean Book Collection

February 16: Cranial Hiccups, Two Heartbeats

February 17: Sarah Boucher

February 18: The Resistance

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.

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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.

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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.

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Posted in Preschool Reads

Book Review: Food Fight, by Carol Diggory Shields/Illus. by Doreen Gay-Kassel (Handprint Books, 2002)

food fightRecommended for ages 3-8

Late at night, when we are fast asleep, who knows what goes on in our refrigerators? In Food Fight, it’s the cat who bears witness to this story about what happens when the food in a kitchen decides to throw a late-night party. The story, told in rhyme, escalates when tuna fish tells the garlic, “You stink”, angering the chili pepper, and the rumble is on. The artwork, done in modeling clay, brings life to the food, creating a wide variety of facial expressions and movements. The multicolored text, in different sized, exaggerated font, swirls and flows around the artwork and stands out against the brightly colored backgrounds, adding more fun to the book and for the reader. The endpapers offer a cursory look into the refrigerator, showing assorted groceries on shelves.

This would be part of a fun, food-related read-aloud for preschoolers and kindergarteners. It could fit in with other fun food books, like Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, and can also lead to a discussion about healthy eating. Putting out plastic food for children to play with will provide a fun playtime, as will singing songs like “On Top of Spaghetti”.

Food Fight has received numerous awards and accolades, including designation as an ALA Notable Children’s Book (2012), Colorado: Children’s Book Award Nominees (2013), Horn Book Fanfare (2011), Indies Choice Book Award for Picture Book (2012), Irma S. & James H. Black Picture Book Honor (2012), NY Times Best Illustrated Books (2011), NY Times Notable Children’s Books (2011), Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Books (2011), Texas: 2×2 Reading List (2012), Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor (2012), Virginia: Readers’ Choice Award Nominees (2013).

Posted in Preschool Reads

Book Review: The Spooky Hour, by Tony Mitton/illus. by Guy Parker-Rees (Orchard Books, 2004)

spooky hourRecommended for ages 3-7

Spooky Hour is a counting story – counting down, rather than a counting up – about a dog and a cat who witness spooky creatures on their way to a party at the strike of twelve. The dog and cat follow the creatures: eleven witches, ten ghosts, nine skeletons, and more, all the way to the spooky castle doors, where Mitch and Titch, the witchy twins, are waiting to welcome them to the big, spooky party, where they feast on one gigantic pumpkin pie. The cartoon illustrations are fun, even silly, but never scary, and younger audiences will enjoy the anticipation of counting down to the party. The full-bleed images have a great deal of action going on in the frames: flying ghosts, a  line of skeletons dancing into a forest, observed by owls, trolls tromping through a forest as the cat and dog hide behind a log. The font is black or yellow – whatever needs to pop on the page’s background – and looks similar to a typewriter font.

The book has interactive elements that make it a good candidate for a Halloween read-aloud. The story itself is written in rhyme, and each creature has a sound attached to its action that audiences can mimic and act out: the witches shriek, the ghosts swirl,whirl, and say, “whoooo”, the skeletons dance and go clickety-clack. Attendees can come in costume and receive a trick or treat bag with some candy and a small toy, and there can be a jack-o-lantern craft for children to color. Time permitting, they can cut out shapes for jack-o-lantern faces and glue them on. Perpetual Preschool has Halloween songs that the children can sing after the story, and there are CDs with Halloween music, like Kids Bop Halloween, which can play during the craft time, and children can receive a Halloween hand stamp before they go home.