Posted in Animal Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Get down with Bear Moves!

Bear Moves, by Ben Bailey Smith/Illustrated by Sav Akyüz, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick), $15.99, ISBN: 9780763698317

Ages 3-7

This companion to I Am Bear (2016) gets kids up and dancing along with our favorite big, purple bear. Bear has some moves to tell you about, and this rhyming story has a beat that invites you to slip right into a rap/read. Bear – at first appearing in a white skinny tank and tidy whities – is here to dance. His squirrel and bunny assistants don’t seem too excited about the situation, but Bear won’t be denied. Hit the music and watch him bust a move; whether he’s Furry Breaking, holding a stance, doing the Running Bear, or the Robot. He finds a lady partner to tear up the floor with, but before too long, Bear is tuckered out, to the chagrin of his lady.

Big, bold colors and thick black lines make this an instant eye catcher, and the infectious rhyme makes this a storytime must. I just read this at a Saturday storytime, and the kids shrieked and giggled. You can’t sit still reading this book! Get the kiddos up and dancing; show them how to do a robot, and get them to pose in their best stance. Hilarious moments abound, including a quick snack break that takes Squirrel by surprise, and a trio of shaking booties twisting to the beat. This book is a workout and a storytime hit in one volume. An irresistible add to storytime and picture book collections.

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Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Celebrating Happy Papas!

Happy Papas, by Kathleen T. Pelley/Illustrated by Mariya Prytula, (July 2018, CWLA Press), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1587601682

Ages 3-6

A companion to Happy Mamas (2016), Happy Papas celebrates dads in both the animal and human world, taking readers through a Happy Papas kind of day: as the sun pops up; as the sun sails high; as the clouds and sun play peek-a-boo; as the shadows gather, and finally, as the moon blooms. Otter dads, meerkat dads, tiger dads, and all sorts of human dads celebrate the day-to-day joys of fatherhood as they play, protect, cook for, and cuddle their little ones.

Written in verse, the storytelling moves along at a soothing cadence, with sound effect words like “screech and squawk”, “giggly wiggly”, “wade and wallow”, and “slide and pop”, using both alliteration and rhyme to play with language. There are all kinds of Happy Papas, and all kinds of Happy Babies and Kids. Perfect for storytime, the soft colors and realistic illustrations will attract readers’ attention, and the simple black font lets the artwork take center stage.

This is a sweet tribute to dads, and a lovely read-along with Happy Mamas for a Mom and Dad tandem bedtime reading, or a Family Storytime.

Author Kathleen Pelley has a podcast and literacy resources on her website. You can find more of Mariya Prytula’s watercolor artwork at her website.

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 Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Get your cute on with Animal Babies!

Animal Babies, by Charles Fuge, (March 2018, MoonDance Press), $8.95, ISBN: 9781633225480

Recommended for readers 0-3

This adorable board book features squeal-worthy menagerie of baby animals, including ducklings, platypuses, koals, sloths, and meerkats. Rhyming text provides some factual info about the animals: baby ducks following the first thing they see; father seahorses having babies, and a perplexed snake, surrounded by playful meerkats who aren’t the slightest bit afraid of it. The illustrations are adorably realistic, and the text is just right for babies and toddler storytimes.

I’m always on the lookout for board books that give me a little something more than the basics, to use in my storytimes; Animal Babies will fit in nicely, letting me add some interactivity, like animal sounds, movements, and some teaching moments, while giving kids a nice cadence to follow along, thanks to rhyme. Too much cuteness! Pair with animal board books with animal sounds (I like this list from Inspiration Laboratories), and make it fun by adding some Sandra Boynton; I love Moo, Baa, La La La.  I also really enjoy Douglas Florian and Barbara Bakos’s Animals Play board book series, including Once I Was a Polliwog, Flamingos Fly, Leap, Frog, Leap, and Bears are Big.

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!

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.