Posted in Preschool Reads

Turtle’s First Winter is great for ALL seasons!

Turtle’s First Winter, by Sara Beth Videtto, (Aug. 2017, Hill House Press, LLC), $18.95, ISBN: 978-0-692-87516-2

Recommended for readers 4-7

I’ve been holding onto this one for too long, and I need to tell more people about this book. I met Sara Beth Videtto at KidLitCon this past November, and snapped this book up ASAP. Just looking at the cover, it looks like it’s a perfect readalike for our Eric Carle fans, right? It is! It’s a sweet story about a turtle and his friend, Bear, who experience the four seasons and all they have to offer. But it’s Turtle’s first go-round, so Bear lets him know what to expect from each one. We learn the duo’s favorite parts of the seasons, like the soft, ticklish green grass in the summer and the crisp fall air; we learn how turtles hibernate, and we are happy when the friends reunite in the spring. It’s a sweet story about the seasons and friendship.

This is a great read for preschoolers to Grade 1; it would fit into a storytime on the seasons as easily as it would hibernation. I’d read this with Denise Fleming’s In the Small, Small Pond as easily as I’d read it with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? for the pre-k to kindergarteners, and with Kate Messner’s Over and Under the Snow, and Nancy Elizabeth Wallace’s Pond Walk for kindergartners to first graders.

But the best part about this book is the art. Sara Beth Videtto creates layered artwork that gives the book such a unique look and feel. She prints up pictures from nature – dirt, grass, bark, leaves – cuts them into strips and shapes, and glues them together; then, she scans them into her computer to type the words onto the pictures (more on that in a second).

This is a Read and Find Storybook, so it’s loaded with things for kids to read and find! If you look at the bear and the turtle, you’ll notice each animal has its name, cleverly included within the artwork. Identifying words for the nature around them crop up here and there, too. The words for Bear, Turtle, and the parts of nature within the story text map to the textured artwork, too! I’ve taken some photos from my copy of the book to show off the artwork a little better.

See the text? Turtle maps to the textured artwork for Turtle; Bear, leaves, grass – it creates a relationship between the reader and the artwork!

Textured artwork, beautiful layers. Have a good nap, Turtle!

Do you see Bear’s name?

How about Turtle’s?

I know I’m gushing, but this is such a great book and my Kindergartner loves it. Which makes sense, since Ms. Videtto is a former K-3 teacher. She is the nicest person, taking the time to talk with me about her book and answer any questions I had, but even better? Once my kiddo read the book with me, HE had questions. A lot of them; all about the artwork. He never asks questions like that! So I took to The Twitter and asked Sara Beth all of his questions, and she got back to me ASAP, with a full explanation (with pictures!) of how she creates her artwork. My little guy was so excited to get a response from an author; she’s helped create a lifelong fan and a lifelong reader. And for that, I’m grateful.

Sara Beth Videtto has a website with extra information and activity sheets to accompany Turtle’s First Winter, along with links to her blog and info about school visits. Most importantly, you can buy a copy of her book straight from the website! She’s got some teasing info about her next two books, which I’m very excited about (there’s an octopus!), and links to Turtle’s fan club page on Facebook. I’m so happy to have met her, and thrilled to talk this book up.

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

Do Fairies Bring the Spring? Let’s find out!

Do Fairies Bring the Spring?, by Liza Gardner Walsh/Illustrated by Hazel Mitchell, (Feb. 2017, Down East Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-60893-633-5

Recommended for readers 3-7

Do fairies bring the spring? This adorable picture book poses the question while infusing nature with a little bit of magic, as Liza Gardner Walsh’s rhyming text suggests that fairies are behind the scenes, working to bring spring to the world. Suggestions for attracting fairies to your own gardens in the spring, at the end of the book, encourage you to dig into nature with your little ones and take care of your little corner of the world.

Hazel Mitchell’s illustrations of diverse, adorable little fairies and their woodland friends infuse this Spring story with all the charm and wonder that makes a preschool/Kindergartner story a success.

Invite some magic into your life this spring with this sweet springtime story! Little ones will love the soothing rhyme and the adorable pictures. Encourage parents to get outside with their little ones and enjoy nature while respecting it –  no littering, please! This is a great story to read and follow up with a planting activity, whether it’s going out in the yard with your little one, or planting some seeds in recyclable egg cartons and bringing them home to start a container garden. Hand out fairy coloring sheets, or print small fairy pictures out on card stock, let the kids color them in, and mount them on popsicle sticks to give your new  plants extra fairy protection!

Liza Gardner Walsh is a former librarian (whoo hoo!) and has a companion book, Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows? (2015). Her website, Moss & Grove, encourages parents and kids to get outside and embrace nature. See more of illustrator Hazel Mitchell’s work at her website.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction

Celebrate Spring with Mary Lindeen’s latest!

springSpring, by Mary Lindeen (July 2015, Norwood House Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781599536798

Recommended for ages 3-6

Seasonal books are great for young readers. Preschool teachers always request them, they’re great nonfiction picks for storytime, they pair really well with a related fiction choice, and you can tie super-fun crafts in with them.

Prolific children’s author Mary Lindeen’s newest seasonal book, Spring, is a great choice for school and public libraries alike. There are beautiful, bright pictures of springtime images and multicultural children enjoying the season, easy to read text, loaded with sight words for new readers, and parent/teacher resources in the back, including a list of the 85 words included in the book, plus discussion questions. This book is already on my to-order list for my libraries, because I can’t keep seasonal books on the shelf long enough – like I said, everyone loves them.

You can find more books on Spring from Norwood House at their website, and a partial list of Mary Lindeen’s work on Goodreads.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Book Review: All You Need for a Snowman, by Alice Schertle/illus. by Barbara LaVallee (Harcourt, 2002)

all-you-need-for-snowmanRecommended for ages 3-5

A group of children list all the important materials you need to create a snowman, beginning with the first snowflake.

The process of building a snowman takes on a life of its own in cadence and rhyme in this story, which builds excitement as it goes along, teasing the reader with each spread. “One small snowflake/fluttering down—/that’s all you need/for a snowman” begins the first spread, but the word EXCEPT on the lower right hand corner of the page tells the reader there’s more to come. The next spread brings the next adds more snowflakes: “two more snowflakes…/three flakes… four…/five… six… seven thousand…/eight million more…”, followed by the rolling of the snow into a ball, then two smaller balls, then choosing a hat, until the snowman stands,  towering over the group. The word EXCEPT shows up on every other spread, pushing the reader to continue the story and building anticipation in the listener. The artwork brings an interesting look at a multicultural group of children by emphasizing the children’s profiles and shadowing one half of each face as if the children possess both light and dark skin. Ms. Lavallee’s watercolor and gouache paintings use light blue snowflakes as a background to the children’s snowman building activity, and  she  changes perspective from close-ups to full scenes that work with the pace of the text. The plain black font plays with the space, never interfering with the story and yet becoming part of it as it stacks to the side of the artwork or teases at the bottom of a page.

This would be a great story to read during a winter/snow read-aloud. The rhyme and cadence of the text would be soothing to listeners even as they became excited to learn what comes next in the snowman-building process. There are many printables and fingerplays available featuring snowmen, and a fun craft would allow children to create their own snowmen with cutout shapes that mirror some of those mentioned in the story: big snowballs, smaller snowballs, hats, “bottle caps” for eyes, “carrots” for noses, scarves, earmuffs, boots and belts. The Perry Public Library has many suggestions for Winter read-alouds.

The Children’s Literature Network offers an author webpage for Ms. Schertle with a biography and featured covers of some of her works.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Book Review: In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming (Henry Holt & Company, 1993)

In-the-Small-Small-Pond-9780805059830Recommended for ages 2-4

Denise Fleming’s In the Small, Small Pond gives readers get a glimpse of life among the animals living in a small pond as the seasons change. A child – who could be either a boy or a girl – watches life in a small pond change throughout the seasons. Beginning in the spring, tadpoles wiggle and jiggle and baby geese waddle and wade; as the seasons progress, we see turtles doze, minnows scatter, muskrats stack, and finally, a frog – a presence throughout the book – burrow under the mud as winter sets in, waiting for spring.

The artwork uses color to take readers through the seasons: the bright greens and yellows of spring, the blue and green laziness of a hot summer day, the brown and yellow of fall setting in,  and the cool blues and whites of the winter. Ms. Fleming gives life to her story by using collages created by poured cotton pulp through hand-cut stencils onto handmade paper, giving her illustrations a beautiful, handmade feel that will attract the attention of children and adult audiences. The rhythm of the rhyming text will appeal to young readers. The text is bold and black, with few words to a page; more often than not, the text blends with the background, but this is a book meant to be read-aloud; this will not be a distraction to participants. This is a companion book to the author’s In The Tall, Tall Grass, which uses the same type of artwork and storytelling.

In the Small, Small Pond received Caldecott Honors in 1994 and a Child Study Children’s Book Committee award in 1995.

The book would be a great addition to a read-aloud on seasons or it can be part of a read-aloud on pond life: frogs, birds, fish, or turtles, for instance. There are many ideas on seasonal read-alouds and read-alouds related to pond animals on the Web that can be used for free. The author’s website offers a printable “finish the picture” coloring page where children can create their own pond scene, and there is also a match-up game for older audiences where the children match the animal with the verb (i.e., geese waddle, turtles doze).

Posted in Toddler Reads

Book Review: We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt, by Steve Metzger/illus. by Miki Sakamoto (Scholastic, 2008)

leaf huntRecommended for ages 2-5

A group of friends goes on a leaf hunt, which leads them on adventures over a mountain, through a forest, around a waterfall, and across a lake.

I have a special place in my heart for this book; it was one of my son’s favorite books, because of its repetitive interactivity. The story follows a group of friends on a leaf hunt. They state their beginning intention – “We’re going on a leaf hunt. We’re going right away. Let’s find colorful leaves. It’s a wonderful day!”. The group’s arrival at each point – a mountain, a forest, a waterfall, and a lake – comes is accompanied by a repetitive phrase (“climb, climb, huff puff. We made it!”). They collect leaves from a different tree at each spot, and when they return, they revisit these areas, arriving home ready to jump and play. It makes for a fun read-aloud, where children can echo the repeated phrase and act out the group’s actions (climbing a mountain, crossing a lake).

The artwork appears to be watercolor, with lively reds, browns and yellows to create a beautiful fall day. The story font is mostly brown and bold, but words with emphasis receive a different treatment: the world “colorful” is spelled out with different fall colors; the names of the trees are bright orange, and water-related words are blue.

There are many websites available that offer printouts of different leaves that children can color for a fun, seasonal craft. There are also many seasonal and Fall-related songs and fingerplays.

The author’s website offers links to all of his books, with printables related to some of his books.