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

Night Creepers: nonfiction that goes from toddler to school-age

Night Creepers, by Linda Stanek/Illustrated by Shennen Bersani, (Sept. 2017, Arbordale Publishing), $9.95, ISBN: 978-1-607-183235

Recommended for readers 3-7

Night Creepers is both a rhyming tale about night time animals for toddlers and preschoolers and a nonfiction text on nocturnal animals for first and second graders. Each spread introduces a new nocturnal animal: foxes and wolves, bats and flying squirrels, skunks, possums, and more. On the left hand side of the spread, we have short, rhyming text about animals who wake up when the rest of the world starts getting ready for bed. On the right hand side, we have short paragraphs, constructed with simple sentences, containing information about each animal. Shennen Bersani’s realistic illustrations are beautiful, with vibrant and deep colors coming together to give readers an exciting reading experience. As with all Arbordale books, there is a “Creative Minds” section at the end, with activities and resources for further learning; they are free to photocopy and hand out for educational, non-commercial use.

I read Night Creepers in my toddler storytime this past week, and the little ones enjoyed it. One of my QH Kids excited pointed out animals she knew, and we all repeated the names of the animals on each spread. The rhyming, brief text was just the right length for a short story.

I was able to see author Linda Stanek speak at a non-fiction panel at KidLitCon, and look forward to adding more of her books – particularly, award-winner Once Upon an Elephant. Arbordale has a great website, releasing Spanish editions concurrently with English editions of their books, e-book access (and one free read-aloud e-book a month), and free resources for educators. Linda Stanek’s author website has more info about her books, and about school and library visits.

I’m always on the lookout for good nonfiction – my library’s collection needs constant updating, and animal books are big here. Night Creepers‘ appeal to different age groups means I can get this book in front of a larger group of kids, getting more bang for my budget’s buck. A nice add to primary nonfiction/easy nonfiction collections.

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Posted in Preschool Reads

Ned the Knitting Pirate helped me get my knitting mojo back!

I used to be an obsessive knitter. Day and night, commuting, sitting at home, I’d have something on the needles, until… my mojo ran dry. I just couldn’t finish a project. I could start a project. If you love doing something and suddenly, one day, hit a rough patch, you know how much this stinks. It’s really been getting under my skin, really letting it get to me… and then, I saw a Tweet for a book giveaway.

Ned the Knitting Pirate, by Diana Murray/Illustrated by Leslie Lammle,
(Aug. 2016, Roaring Brook Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1596438903
Recommended for readers 4-10

 

You know how sometimes, it’s the craziest thing that gets you back on track? Well, that was seeing this cover. First off, pirates. I love pirates. And Ned is a knitting pirate! I retweeted the cover to my knitting friends (all in various stages of mojo and lack thereof), and the response was just as enthusiastic as mine was! When author Diana Murray contacted me to offer me a review copy, I jumped at the opportunity, and I’m so glad I did.

First of all, look at this art. It’s simply adorable. The endpapers start the fun, introducing us to a sea monster and a mermaid. The rhyming tale kicks right in, as we meet the crew of the Rusty Heap. They’re a scurvy bunch of pirates, “tougher than gristle and barnacle grit”… they brag about their pirate-y roughness time and again, only to have Ned cheerfully chime in that he knits every single time. The captain is not thrilled with this. Pirates don’t knit! Oh, really? He sure changes his tune when a sea monster attacks them, and the only thing that stands between the crew and Davy Jones’ Locker is Ned and his knitting prowess: he fires a blanket at the monster, which curls sweetly around him and sends him off to sleep. Like the best knits do!

I read this to my kiddo in full pirate voice (my throat felt like it died the death of a thousand cheese graters, but it was all worth it), roaring and singing seafaring songs and pointing to my guy to chime in, “KNIT!” when Ned piped up. We had a blast with this book! The only thing I can’t believe is that it’s been out for a year and I wasn’t aware of it until now.

The cartoony art is adorable, and the rhyming pirate tale is complete with seafaring terms that every buccaneer-in-training will take to heart and love. And let’s take a moment to adore the fact that Ned is a GUY WHO KNITS. And he’s proud of it! More power to you, Ned! Bust gender roles – knitting is not just for girls! – and use your smarts to save your crew, thus getting everyone (literally) on board with the sticks! There is nothing like the soft feel of a homemade blanket to immediately put you to sleep, unless you’re one of my kids in infancy; nothing worked then. (But at least they were warm and wrapped in love.)

Bottom line: Ned the Knitting Pirate is SO GOOD. The words are fun and catchy; you want to speak like a pirate when you read this book. It’s perfect for a read-aloud, whether you read about pirates (may I suggest How I Became a Pirate and Pirates Don’t Change Diapers, by Melinda Long) or about knitting (I love Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski and Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett), and it’s perfect for a feel-good read; you cannot be in a bad mood after sitting with this adorable book.

So, my knitting mojo? Well, after reading this book for the third or fourth time, Kiddo turned to me and said, “When are you going to knit me something?” And I felt awful, because I haven’t knit this kid anything. One single thing. And it’s time to remedy that. So I pulled together all my yarn, tracked down as many of my needles as I could, and together, he and I picked a dinosaur hat and a Grumpasaurus stuffy that I’m going to make for him. For the hat, I’m going to use the Antler Toque pattern from Tin Can Knits, because it’s cool and the cable pattern looks kind of like dinosaur plates; from there, I’ll knit up spikes to sew onto the hat, so he can be a Stegosaurus.

If you’re not a knitter, Ned the Knitting Pirate may just make you one. Enjoy. Check out Diana Murray’s author website for more info on her books (including the super-adorable Doris the Bookasaurus), news, and fun facts.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Kisses for Kindergarten starts them off right

Kisses for Kindergarten, by Livingstone Crouse/Illustrated by  Macky Pamintuan, (June 2017, Silver Dolphin Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-62686-703-1

Recommended for readers 4-6

Stella Isabella Harden declares that she doesn’t have to go to kindergarten: her puppy told her so! A girl and her pup spend the days together, reimagining kindergarten by chasing squirrels, having fun on the swings, having tea parties, making pillow forts, and having pillow fights. Things change at storytime, though, when Stella realizes that she can’t read a storybook to her dog. Looks like it’s time for kindergarten after all!

With protagonists inspired by the artist’s daughter and golden retriever, Kisses for Kindergarten is a fun way to ease kids into a new school year. Kids will love Stella Isabella Harden’s assertion that she can learn far more from her puppy than she can from school, and the dynamic duo’s exciting day at the park. Caregivers can explain that she can learn so much from her dog, sure, but when it comes to reading, even her wise pup understands that she’s got to go to school. It’s a gentle easing of fears, and having her dog begin and end the day with her gives her something to look forward to. Ask kids what they want to come home to: a favorite toy? Storytime with family? Stella’s day ends with a family storytime and kisses: it’s a pretty good rule of thumb. Endpapers illustrate Stella and pup’s day together.

Posted in Uncategorized

Babies Come From Airports!

Babies Come from Airports, by Erin Dealey/Illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell, (Jan. 2017, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-557-4

Recommended for readers 3-7

This rhyming story of a family growing through adoption is a sweet way to explain that sometimes, babies come from airports – but all babies come from love. Narrated by one of the children in the family awaiting a new sibling, readers enjoy a scrapbook and accompanying story of the adoption process.There are maps, drawings, and pictures of the current family, interspersed with Mom’s journey home and Dad and the boys’ trip to the airport to reunite their family. There are amusing moments, like Dad’s statement that all babies come from labor, a nice dual meaning for parents who know all too well about the work involved, from paperwork to pregnancy and delivery (which comes with its own set of paperwork), with becoming a parent; the narrating child refers to his airport friend, Security, who welcomed him to the country on his “Gotcha Day”. The boys welcome Mom and their new baby sister and add photos of her first car ride and room to the scrapbook. The family is multicultural: the new baby and Mom are en route from Beijing, and while we don’t have specific origins for the two older brothers, a chore sheet on a bulletin board provides the names Nico and Adar.

What a sweet addition to new baby/new sibling/adoption collections! The rhyming text keeps a nice rhythm through the story; the gentle artwork makes the adult sweet and soft, and the kids excited and enthusiastic. The scrapbook look and feel adds an element of fun to the story. This is a great book to give to kids who are adopted, whose families are in the process of adopting, or to explain international adoption in general to children. Hand this to families, along with a copy of Richard Van Camp’s We Sang You Home and Todd Parr’s We Belong Together.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Preschool Reads

On Duck Pond, there is chaos… and then peace.

On Duck Pond, by Jane Yolen/Illustrated by Bob Marstall, (Apr. 2017, Cornell Lab Publishing Group), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1-943645-22-0

Recommended for readers 3-7

A boy and his dog walk by a duck pond in the morning, when nature is at peace; when a quack of ducks appear, they splash, they chitter and chatter, and the pond’s inhabitants scramble in the momentary chaos. The boy notes that even his reflection looks different in the disturbed water. When the ducks move on, the pond returns to its peaceful setting, the pond life resumes, and the boy, contemplative, heads home.

This rhyming tale is a sequel to On Bird Hill, but it’s not necessary to have read it to enjoy this quiet nature tale. Award-winning author Jane Yolen gives readers a wonderful rhyming tale of quiet and chaos, coming up with fun, descriptive terms like “a quack of ducks”, and evocative phrases like, “Old Duck Pond, once still and quiet/Now seemed battered by the riot”, and, of the boy’s reflection, “Every part of me was changed/I looked like I’d been re-arranged”. She captures the riot of noise and blunder of movement that disturbs the quiet  morning, and the gradual pace with which nature recovers when the ducks move on, all witnessed by the boy and his dog. We meet some of the pond’s inhabitants – turtles, herons, frogs, and tadpoles – during the course of the story; the realistic illustrations introduce us to even more wildlife. There are lovely, detailed drawing of the pond from various angles, from close-ups of lily pads to sweeping vistas. The ducks’ descent is beautifully rendered, with wings spread, water splashing, beaks open, communicating the movement and noise they bring to the scene. A section on pond habitats and birds, and information about the ducks and other birds and animals featured in the story, adds a nice non-fiction section to the book.

This is a great read-aloud for storytimes – the rhyming text provides a nice cadence for readers to listen to – and for introductions to habitats for younger readers. Kirkus captures the spirit of the narration by referring to it as a “sense of wonder” book.

Pair this with some of Jane Yolen’s  more nature-oriented books, like On Bird Hill or Owl Moon for an author study, or display with books like Denise Fleming’s In the Small, Small Pond and Henry Cole’s I Took a Walk.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Blog Tour: Share, Big Bear, Share! And Giveaway!

Big Bear has a big pail of yummy blueberries! His friends would like some, too, but Big Bear seems to be a bit clueless. The old oak tree tells him to SHARE, BIG BEAR, SHARE!, but Bear is so enamored of his blueberries, he’s not really listening – and hears something different each time! Will he finally realize that a good friend shares, and invite his pals to have some berries?

Share, Big Bear, Share!, by Maureen Wright/Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, (Apr. 2017, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1503951006. Recommended for readers 3-7

Share, Big Bear, Share! is a great story for preschoolers and kindergarteners, who are developing social skills and learning to share and work together. Big Bear is a nice bear, he’s just a little unaware; when the Old Oak Tree tells him – multiple times – to share, Big Bear – who’s not really listening; he’s got an entire bucket of blueberries! – half-hears the message, with hilarious results. The message for readers is twofold: sharing is important, but so is paying attention! I think a round of the old game, Telephone is a perfect accompaniment to this story: a teacher, parent, or educator whispers something into one child’s ear and has the message go around the group, until the last player states what he or she heard, which is usually something very different from the original statement!

The story makes it point in a sweet, funny way that appeals to young readers. Will Hillenbrand’s graphite pencil artwork, fleshed out with digital media, gives Bear and his woodland friends a cuddly quality that kids will love. Old Oak Tree looks wonderfully wise and his facial expressions are perfect and accurate. Kids will have seen that face on their caregivers many times!

Share, Big Bear, Share! is the third Big Bear book by Maureen Wright and Will Hillenbrand (Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep! and Sneeze, Big Bear, Sneeze!) Display this one with books like Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama, Time to Share and Leo Lionni’s It’s Mine! for readalikes; build a social skills library by adding Beth Ferry’s Stick and Stone, Rowboat Watkins’ Rude Cakes, and Julie Gassman’s You Get What You Get.

There’s a Help Big Bear SHARE Game, available through illustrator Will Hillenbrand’s website, for you to download, print, and hand out.

GIVEAWAY! Want a chance to win your own copy of Share, Big Bear, Share? Enter here!

WILL HILLENBRAND has written and/or illustrated over 60 books for young readers including Down by the Barn, Mother Goose Picture Puzzles and the Bear and Mole series. He has lived almost all of his life in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he grew up as the youngest of four boys. He now lives in Terrace Park and was recently honored as Author/Illustrator in Residence at Kent State University.

Information about his books, selected readings, art process videos and activity ideas can be viewed at www.willhillenbrand.com. Connect with Will at www.facebook.com/willhillenbrandbooks.

 

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate

Dragons pop off the page – for real! – in Dragon Hunters!

31409133The Dragon Hunters (The Dragon Brothers Trilogy, #1), by James Russell/Illustrated by Link Choi, (Apr. 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-4861-1

Recommended for readers 5-10

Brothers Flynn and Paddy are on a rescue mission: their dog has been kidnapped by a dragon! Mom thinks it’s all part of their goofing around, but the boys are determined and set off to rescue poor Coco from the dragon’s clutches – hope they can get out unsinged!

The Dragon Hunters – originally published in New Zealand in 2012 – is a fun, rhyming fantasy tale for grade school level kids, but preschoolers will also appreciate the rhyming tale and the cartoony art. The dragon is bold, red, and mean, gorgeous in its sinister ferocity. Pages alternate with full color art and sketches (I’ve got an ARC – this may not be the case with the finished version), and the longer length of the tale gives it an old-school, epic poem feeling.

The best part of this book? The augmented reality! Download a free app for your tablet or smartphone, hold it over the map endpapers of the book, and see the map come to life! There’s a little bit of sound, but the real thrill is seeing the landscape come to life, complete with little dragon flying over the mountains and the steaming Putrid Plains. My little guy went nuts for it, and so did my coworker’s tween daughter. I tried to capture it using my phone camera, but the Dragon Hunters site does this far better justice than my overworked Samsung. Take a look:

The site also offers free coloring sheets, which makes my passive programmer’s heart SING.

The Dragon Hunters is the first in a trilogy, all of which are publishing this year. The Dragon Tamers hits shelves in June, and The Dragon Riders arrives in August. James Russell has a chapter book series called The Dragon Defenders coming out this year – let’s hope it reaches American shores, so middle graders can enjoy Paddy, Flynn, and Coco.

Artist Link Choi’s work on The Dragon Hunters was a finalist for New Zealand’s Russell Clark Medal for Illustration. See more of his illustration at his website.