Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books for your Spring radar!

Spring always brings some good books to read. In April and May, there’s a little something for everyone – come and see!

April Books

Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest, by Sarah Hampson/Illustrated by Kass Reich,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771383615
Recommended for readers 4-8
Dr. Archibald Coo is a sophisticated pigeon who’s tired of the way he and his fellow pigeons are treated by humans. They’re shooed at, swatted, and treated like a general menace. Dr. Coo remembers when pigeons enjoyed a higher profile in history: in ancient Greece, they delivered news about the Olympic Games; during World War I, they carried messages across battlefields. Now? pfft. So Dr. Coo and his pigeon friends organize and decide to strike: they disappear from every public space, leaving a confused public wondering what happened. Dr. Coo heads over to the mayor’s office a history of the pigeon and a note, asking for tolerance, opening the door to a new era of pigeon-human relations. It’s a cute urban story with a wink to New York and other urban spaces, and has a nice thread about inclusivity and diversity running through the book. Gouache paint and colored pencil art makes for a soft illustration, with attention to the different types of pigeons – there are! – in the cityscape. This would be cute to booktalk with James Sage’s Stop Feedin’ Da Boids!

My Teacher’s Not Here!, by Lana Button/Illustrated by Christine Battuz,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771383561
Recommended for readers 4-6
Kitty gets to school and knows something’s up when her teacher, Miss Seabrooke, isn’t there to meet her. What’s going on? There’s another teacher there today! How does school even work when your teacher is absent? This sweet rhyming tale about a student’s first substitute teacher is great for younger kids who are just getting into the swing of school routines and provides some fun advice for coping with and adjusting to unexpected change. Kitty teaches readers some coping strategies, including helping out her friends and the teacher by contributing to class and modeling good behavior using cues she learned from her teacher, that the substitute may not be aware of. This is an animal story, so kids will enjoy seeing the “ginormously tall” teacher, a giraffe named Mr. Omar; pigs, elephants, bears, a whole menagerie of students. Hand-drawn artwork and digital collage come together to create colorful, textured, cartoony fun. This one’s a good addition to preschool and primary collections.

Tinkle, Tinkle Little Star, by Chris Tougas,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $9.99, ISBN: 9781771388399
Recommended for readers 1-3
One of my favorite books coming out this season is this adorable board book! Set to the tune of everybody’s favorite classic song, this sweet and funny version is all about where not to go: not in a plane, not on Grandpa’s knee, not at a puppet show. Luckily, the poor Little Star gets relief by the story’s end, and sits on a potty to… “Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Star”. It’s adorable with the cutest digital art. Little Star is beyond cute, and gender neutral! Sing along at storytime – I know I’ll be throwing plenty of voice inflection (“Did you just pee on this page?”) and leg-crossing as I read this one. Absolutely adorable, must-add, must-give for collections and toddlers everywhere.

May Books

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book, by Alice Kuipers/Illustrated by Diana Toledano,
(May 2018, Chronicle), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452152325
Recommended for readers 7-9
Polly Diamond is an aspiring, biracial young writer who discovers a magic book on her doorstep one day. Not only does the book write back to her when she writes in it, Everything she writes in the book happens in real life! At first, Polly is psyched: who wouldn’t be, right? But you know how it goes… for every magic journal action, there’s a pretty wild reaction! Written in the first person, with excerpts from Polly’s book, including a pretty great intermediate-level book list for awesome display purposes (“Read Polly Diamond’s favorite books HERE!”). Chapter book readers who love books like Juana and Lucas (on Polly’s favorites list), Jasmine Toguchi, and Katie Woo will thoroughly enjoy Polly’s adventures. There are short, descriptive sentences and a nice amount of new words – Polly is an aspiring writer, after all! Lots of fun for chapter book readers; I’d have kids create their own aquariums as a related craft.

Old Misery, by James Sage/Illustrated by Russell Ayto,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781771388238
Recommended for readers 5-10
Readers with a darker sense of humor (and parents who are Gorey fans) will get a chuckle out of Old Misery, the story of a cranky old woman named – you got it – Old Misery, and her old cat, Rutterkin. She’s broke, and the apples keep disappearing from her apple tree! Lucky for Old Misery, she’s not completely heartless and feeds a wandering visitor, who grants her one wish: she wants all the apple thieves to be caught in the tree until she lets them go! Old Misery decides to play a little risky game when Death himself shows up at her door – and she sends him to the apple tree. Be careful what you wish for! The black and white, pen and ink artwork has a creepy, quirky feel to it, which will appeal to kids who like Lemony Snicket’s work, but may go over some kids’ heads. Old Misery narrates the story, offering an opportunity for a fun read-aloud.

Binky fans, Gordon’s got his own adventure! For readers who love Ashley Spires’ Binky the Space Cat graphic novels will love Gordon, fellow member of PURST (Pets of the Universe Ready for Space Travel) and Binky’s house-mate, as he finds himself traveling through time to stop an alien invasion. But Gordon travels back too far – before PURST even exists! He’s got to get back to his normal time and set things right! This is fun reading for graphic novel fans, and a nice addition to a popular series. There’s time-travel, problem-solving, aliens, and humor, along with fun art.

See How We Move!: A First Book of Health and Well-Being, by Scot Ritchie,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781771389679

Recommended for readers 5-8
Author Scot Ritchie’s multicultural group of friends are back together again. Last time we save them, they visited a farm to learn how to grow grains and vegetables in See How We Eat!; this time, Pedro, Yulee, Nick, Sally, and Martin are training as their swim team, The Flying Sharks, prepares to compete. They learn about using proper equipment for different activities, warming up before beginning your activity, teamwork and encouragement, goal-setting, nutrition, the mind-body connection, and more. There are suggestions for fun activities and words to know, all coming together to give kids a fun story about a group of friends staying strong and having fun together while encouraging kids to create lifelong habits of health, nutrition, and physical fitness. I like this See How! series; it offers a wealth of information on healthy living, made accessible to younger readers. I can easily read this in a storytime and get the kids talking about the different ways they play, how they eat, and good habits to get into.

The Bagel King, by Andrew Larsen/Illustrated by Sandy Nichols,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN; 978-1-77138-574-9
Recommended for readers 4-8

Zaida, Eli’s grandfather, gets bagels from Merv’s Bakery every Sunday morning. One morning, when no bagels show up, Eli gets a phone call: Zaida’s fallen on his tuchus and can’t get the bagels! Eli and his family aren’t the only ones waiting on bagels, either – Eli visits Zaida, only to discover that Zaida’s friends are verklempt, too. No bagels! What a shanda, as my stepdad would say! Eli helps care for his zaida and keep him company, but he knows the best way to cheer Zaida up, and heads to the bagel store on his own the very next Sunday. This story is the most charming book about grandparents and grandchildren, loaded with compassion, a wink and nudge type of humor, and loads of fun, new Yiddish terminology. If you’re an urban dweller, like me, these words are kind of a second language: Zaida is grandfather, and tuchus is your bottom; there’s a little glossary of other Yiddish words that show up in the story, too. (Verklempt is overwhelmed with emotion, and shanda is a shame – you won’t find them in the story, but all I could hear was my stepdad when I read this, so there you go.) I loved the sweet storytelling, the compassion and the decision to act on Eli’s part, and Zaida and his group of friends were wonderful. It’s got an urban flavor that everyone will enjoy, and is good storytelling. Use this story as an opportunity to get your kids talking about relationships with their grandparents: what do you call your grandparents? Do they cook, bake, or shop for food? Do you go with them? (I’d love to get some bagels to hand out with my group… hmmm…) The acrylic artwork has a soft, almost retro feel, but really emphasizes the relationship story with colors, gentle expressions, and soft lines.

The Golden Glow, by Benjamin Flouw,
(May 2018, Tundra/Penguin Random House), $17.99, ISBN: 9780735264120

Recommended for readers 4-8
A fox who loves nature and botany goes on a quest for a rare plant to add to his collection. The Golden Glow is a plant from the Wellhidden family, and only grows high in the mountains. There’s not even a picture of it; it’s never been described. Fox packs his supplies and heads off to the mountains, meeting different animals and noting different plants and trees along the way. When Fox finally reaches the mountaintop, he waits… and discovers the Golden Glow! It’s stunning! It’s breathtaking! And Fox realizes that “the golden glow is more beautiful here on the mountaintop than it ever would be in a vase in his living room”. Part story and part nature journal, The Golden Glow is just gorgeous and teaches a respect for nature. The angular art draws the eye in; there’s so much to see on every page, every spread. Flouw creates detailed lists of Fox’s hiking pack, plus trees and flowers that he encounters on his way, and a map of different zones on the way up to the mountain, from the foothill to snow zones, all in beautiful detail for younger readers to enjoy. Fox’s decision to leave the flower where it is presents a love of and respect for nature that can lead to a great discussion on conservation. Bright red endpapers with angular design could be a topographic map of the area – talk about how different areas look from above! I know it’s way early, but I’ll quietly whisper this one now: Caldecott contender.
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Posted in picture books

Welcome to Seed School!

Seed School: Growing Up Amazing, by Joan Holub/Illustrated by Sakshi Mangal, (Feb. 2018, Seagrass Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781633223745

Recommended for readers 5-8

An acorn gets blown from his tree and lands in the middle of Seed School, meeting seeds that will grow up to be sunflowers, vegetables, even weeds. The acorn is a kind of cool new kid with a funny cap, and doesn’t know what it’ll be when it grows up, but has some ideas as the seeds all learn what goes into growing from seed to plant: what to do during the different seasons (love those long winter naps), the important stuff they’ll need to grow (soil, sun, water, and air), and visit the Leaf Librarian to learn about photosynthesis. They even learn a cute song about growing. When it’s graduation time, the seeds all travel – by bird, squirrel, or wind – to get ready to grow. It may take the lost little seed with the cool hat to figure out what he’s going to be, but it’ll be worth the wait.

I love just about everything Joan Holub writes, from her board books to her middle grade novels, and my library kids do, too. Her Mini-Myths series (with Leslie Patricelli) is aces with my toddlers (and was with my own toddler), and I can’t keep her series novels, like the Grimm-tastic Girls, Goddess Girls, and Heroes in Training on my shelves. A picture book about seeds growing into flowers, that’s kind of like Science Comics for early readers is going to fly! Putting nonfiction text into a cute, storytelling format guarantees that kids will learn and enjoy. Sakshi Mangal’s illustrations are just too adorable, with bold, black outlines, adorable little faces, and brightly colored nature against a stark white page. I would hang art from this book all over my nonfiction area, and I’m incorporating this book into a Science Storytime on seeds and gardens in the spring.

Seed School is a fun add to picture book collections, and can be a fun read-aloud or a one-on-one. Pair it with Eric Carle’s The Tiny Seed or Eve Bunting’s Flower Garden, or Lois Ehlert’s Planting a Rainbow and Growing Vegetable Soup. Get out some flower coloring sheets, and you’re set!

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 Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Preschool Reads

Have visual vocabulary fun with Wordplay!

Wordplay, by Ivan Brunetti, (May 2017, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1-943145-17-1

Recommended for readers 3-8

Kids learn about compound words – two words that come together to form a whole new word, like housework – in this visual feast for the eyes. Ever see a house vaccuming? A moon in an easy chair, reading under a bright light? You will here, as the kids in the story think up and visualize compound words that will make kids (and you) laugh and think.

This book is made for classrooms and programs. Ask your kids what compound words they can come up with – then draw it! Make a bookmark for one of the easiest compound words: Bookworm! The fun, bold art leaps off the page, and bright white word balloons make for dialogue that you can ask kids to read out loud, turning the book into a performance. Display Wordplay with other fun word books, like Lynne Truss’ younger readers’ version of Eats, Shoots and Leaves and Patricia Byers’ One Sheep, Two Sheep: A Book of Collective Nouns. Wordplay is a TOON Level 1; Levels E-J in Guided Reading. Teachers’ Resources are forthcoming.

Wordplay received a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Posted in Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Fairy Tale Reform School’s seeing some changes in Tricked

Tricked, by Jen Calonita, (March 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $15.99, ISBN: 9781492637950

Recommended for ages 8-13

Gilly and friends return in Tricked, the third installment of Fairy Tale Reform School, but things are very, very different now. Gilly’s in school to be a cobbler, like her dad, but she really isn’t into it. Her sister, Anna, is falling in with a bad crowd: Hansel and Gretel are jerks, causing trouble all over town. They go too far with one prank that lands the three of them in – you guessed it – Fairy Tale Reform School, but the school has been through some big changes: Flora, Cinderella’s formerly wicked stepmother, is no longer headmistress; instead, the master dealmaker, Rumpelstiltskin, is in charge now, and the classes seem to encourage the kids to be more villain than hero. Gilly, Jax, and Maxine need to get back on the inside to find out what’s going on in those hallowed halls, get to the bottom of Rump’s treachery, and save Anna while Gilly’s at it: if Anna even wants to be saved.

I’ve been a Fairy Tale Reform School fan from the beginning, and Tricked is every bit as good as the first two. I love the way Jen also manages to address some of the very real things going on in the news today through FTRS, with a trickster who excels in the art of the deal (ahem) pulling the strings and making everyone in that school either blindly follow him or disappear. When things came together for me as I read, I realized how brilliant Tricked is in every respect, and I admire Jen Calonita for taking such a timely message on and communicating it to the kids who need to understand that when something doesn’t seem normal, it really isn’t.

There are strong subplots, addressing the frustration of being in a sibling’s shadow, making your own dreams happen versus living up to others’ expectations.

Tricked is all-around fun reading with big messages for young readers.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Isabella’s for Real – Honest!

isabellaIsabella for Real, by Margie Palatini/Illustrated by LeUyen Pham, (Oct. 2016, HMH Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 9780544148468

Recommended for ages 9-13

Isabella Antonelli has a BIG problem. Her cousin made a documentary about her real, slightly wacky, New Jersey Italian-American family for a class. He uploaded it to YouTube, and it’s become a viral sensation. The problem? Isabella’s friends at her new school have heard a very different story, and she’s about to be exposed, BIG TIME.

The book goes back and forth between past and present to give readers the full story, narrated by Isabella. It’s a quick read, a fun, often cackle-worthy, comedy of errors with family members you’ll love as much as your own crazy family. LeUyen Pham’s black and white graphic novel-type interludes take the story off the page, giving us visuals for some of the most hilarious interactions between Isabella, her friends, and family.

This one’s a fun read for middle graders who love some good, humorous writing, and who enjoy a gentle, loving poke at our quirky families. I’d booktalk this with Emma Shevah’s books, Dara Palmer’s Major Drama and Dream On, Amber, which also have fun, dramatic main characters and their multigenerational, multicultural families.

Margie Palatini’s got a fun author website with information about her books, some activities, and contact info.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

A boy tries to find his defining talent in Just One Thing!

just-one-thingJust One Thing!, by N. Viau/Illustrated by Timothy Young, (Sept. 2016, Schiffer Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764351624

Recommended for ages 8-12

Anthony Pantaloni has GOT to get a better nickname. The class bully christened him with Antsy Pant, and he needs to get rid of that name before they start middle school, or he’ll be stuck with it for the rest of his LIFE. He needs to find his One Thing – the thing that will define him. His buddy Marcus is Mr. Athletic; Alexis is really smart; Bethany is obsessed with horses, and Cory – the bully – is the toughest kid in school. Every time he tries to develop a new talent, it just doesn’t stick. What’s a kid to do? He can’t be Antsy Pantsy forever, he just can’t! To make matters worse, his cousin, who’s living with them while her parents are deployed, drives him crazy, and his dad is dating one of his teachers! Anthony doesn’t want THAT to be what he’s known for, either! This kid needs help!

I got a kick out of Just One Thing. It’s a fun book about growing up and self-exploration; trying to figure out what you’re good at, and trying to define yourself. Anthony is funny and genuine; he’s frustrated by things around him, but tries to be sensitive to everyone around him at the same time. It’s a nice balance to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Pages at the end of each chapter let kids journal, doodle, or draw; a nice added touch that makes the book more personal for kids trying to figure out their One Thing. The book is told in the first person from Anthony’s point of view, and various words get fun font treatment for emphasis, and it works – you hear the tone as you read. There are doodles – Anthony’s doodles – and lists, so the journal feel is there.just-one-thing_2

just-one-thing_3

I would absolutely give this as a gift, but it would be wrecked in circulation. Yes, the text says to doodle or draw if it’s YOUR copy of Just One Thing, but that’s not going to fly in my library. I do have an extra copy to give as a prize in my upcoming Winter Reading Challenge, and I am going to feature this book in a Read-Aloud book club that I’m starting this month. More on that in a future post.

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Just One Thing! is a lot of fun for middle graders who love Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, and Lenore Look’s Alvin Ho series. I may write a discussion guide for this book if I can get my group talking about it – if I do, I’ll post it here.