Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A grand expedition awaits in your backyard

The Grand Expedition, by Emma Adbåge/Illustrated by Anne Prime, (Apr. 2018, Enchanted Lion), $16.95, ISBN: 9781592702459

Recommended for readers 3-7

Two siblings head to their backyard for an adventure! They take the time to prepare food (coffee and pickles) and provisions (blankets, tent, jump rope). They head out, set up camp, and… eat all the pickles. And sit. And then the mosquitoes come out. And then one sibling has to poop, which seals the deal: they’re heading back inside. They end the evening cozy, with their dad, indoors.

This is the stuff of childhood. Originally published in Sweden, this is the kind of story that appeals to kids of all kinds: the campout. I grew up in an apartment, and my kids spent their early years in one, so living room campouts were the answer (who doesn’t love a sturdy blanket and pillow fort?) The kids pack like kids – minus the snacks, because they’ve only got pickles, but you get the point – and head out to an adventure that is greater in the imagination than in actuality. Once they get out there, there’s not a whole lot to do, and the lack of indoor plumbing is a dilemma. The adventure continues into the home, where the boys end the evening still on an adventure, this time, in the comfort of home. This is a fun story for a pajama readaloud – can you build blanket forts in your library, classroom, or living room? Bring the stuffed animals, sit in your PJs, and enjoy a comfy campout. The illustrations lend to the imaginary feel, with muted watercolor and line drawings giving a hazy, dreamlike feel to the story.

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Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Mama’s Belly has a sister growing in it!

Mama’s Belly, by Kate Hosford/Illustrated by Abigail Halpin, (Apr. 2018, Abrams), $16.99, ISBN: 9781419728419

Recommended for readers 3-7

A young girl feels excitement and trepidation at the upcoming arrival of her new baby sister. The text’s language is just beautiful, beginning with the sentence, “Mama has a belly rising up, like a wave. Inside is my sister, waiting to meet me.” The girl talks to Mama’s belly, sings to it, hugs it; she dreams of holding and caring for her baby sister, but she’s also nervous: does she have to share her blanket? Will Mommy ever have a lap again, and will she still have space for her? Will Mama have enough love for both siblings? With gentle text and soft, illustrations, Mama’s Belly is an empathetic, loving story that assuages children’s concerns and warmly welcomes a new family addition.

I love that Mama gets some storytime here, too: as her pregnancy progresses, we learn that it’s not easy carrying a baby! “Mama’s belly is making her grumpy. I haven’t seen my toes in weeks!” Mama’s also tired and achy, laying down on the couch with a tender back while the girl draws for her. It helps explain why pregnant moms and caregivers may not always be able to play as baby gets closer to being born, and it models wonderful behavior: when Mama can’t see her toes, the girl counts them for her, letting her know that she still has 10. When tired Mama asks for a picture, the girl draws a multi-page “magic energy machine” to invigorate her. Papa and Mama love their little girl, and let her know that she’s an important part of their family, and that’s the most important part of getting a new sibling-to-be ready for baby. This is a nice addition to new baby collections, and a great baby shower/big sibling gift idea.

 

Want to see a little more? Enjoy the book trailer.


Kate Hosford is the author of several picture books, including Infinity and Me, which was a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book award winner and named an ALA Notable Children’s Book. Her books have been translated into Chinese, Korean, French, and Romanian. Kate lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York. You can visit her author website and follow her on Instagram @katelhosford.

Abigail Halpin is the illustrator of many children’s books, including Finding Wild. She lives in Southern Maine. Visit her on the web or on Instagram @abigailhalpin.

 

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Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Little Brothers and Little Sisters just want to play!

Little Brothers & Little Sisters, by Monica Arnaldo, (Apr. 2018, OwlKids Books), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771472951

Recommended for readers 3-7

Little brothers and sisters all want the same things: a turn at the wheel, the secret password, a place on the team… they also want a bodyguard, a partner in crime, and a best friend. Monica Arnaldo’s picture book looks at the ups and downs of being a younger sibling, through the eyes of a diverse group of children living in and around an apartment building.

The first half of the book illustrates a group of younger siblings waiting for their older siblings to make space for them as they hog the TV, monopolize play time, or keep them out of the fun; the second half looks at the upsides of having a loving sibling who will be a protector, a teacher, a friend. Four pairs of siblings from varying cultural backgrounds will appeal to kids with older (or younger) siblings, sure, but it’s also great to read to kids in a classroom setting, comparing what it’s like to be in lower grades versus upper grades. It’s a lesson in empathy for older children, and a gently encouraging story for younger kids who may feel like the older kids get to do everything. Invite kids to talk about the great parts about being older versus younger; invite them to talk about the ups and downs in their own lives. Many older siblings are responsible for watching over their younger siblings; this story gives kids a chance to talk about their experiences and may help frustrated readers see the benefits of being a positive role model.

Muted but colorful artwork and expressively illustrated characters, paired with simple text make this a nice choice for storytime and individual reading. Definitely a great big brother/big sister gift. Little Brothers & Little Sisters received a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Mother’s Day book ideas!

Mother’s Day isn’t that far away. Wouldn’t a sweet picture book or three make for a nice cuddle time?

Little Owl’s Egg, by Debi Gliori/Illustrated by Alison Brown, (Nov. 2017, Bloomsbury USA), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-68119-324-3

Recommended for readers 3-6

Mommy Owl has exciting news for Little Owl: she’s laid a beautiful egg with a new baby owl inside! Little Owl isn’t too thrilled with this turn of events, though: he’s the baby owl – she doesn’t need a new one! Because Moms are well-practiced in the art of deflection, Mommy Owl agrees. It’s so quiet, maybe it’s a baby worm inside the egg! Or is it a chocolate egg? Little Owl and Mommy Owl go back and forth, guessing who could be in the egg, with reactions going from “YUCK” (worms) to horror (dragons!), all adorably illustrated in acrylic paint and color pencil. Little Owl finally comes around to the idea of a new, little owl in the nest, and his role as a big brother owl… and Mommy has more than enough love for them both.

What a sweet way to introduce a sibling to a preschooler, especially one who may be a little resistant to the whole “new baby in the nest” idea. Little Owl takes his mother’s little guessing game and runs with it, coming up with outlandish ideas of his own. When he sees animal siblings play together, he finds himself warming to the idea of having a playmate, and Mommy Owl assures him that she will always love him. It’s a story that parents, caregivers, and kids can cuddle up and read together, talk about the new baby(ies), and how everyone feels about the baby. Let kids know it’s okay to be nervous about a new baby! This is a good gift for a sibling-to-be; pair with Émile Jadoul’s No Room for Baby! for more surly sibling fun.

 

What Mommies Like, by Judy Carey Nevin/Illustrated by Stephanie Six, (Apr. 2018, little bee books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781499805284

Recommended for readers 2-5

Mommies like a whole bunch of things, especially when they’re with their little ones! Mommy Bear and her cub spend a day together doing all sorts of things that mommies like, end up at the library for storytime, and continue on to sing, play kazoo, and share an “I love you” at bedtime. Each page has a short sentence stating what mommies like, with a soft illustration. It’s a loving story about the bond between mother and child and a fun story about daily routines. Mother and baby bear share loving glances as they go throughout their daily activities; they’re out and about, doing super-healthy things like yoga and cycling; she’s an active part of storytime, taking part in the stomping and general hullabaloo; she’s even in a blanket fort. Mommies are pretty darn fun, aren’t we? This is an absolutely adorable book for toddlers and preschoolers; I think I’ll be using this one in a Mother’s Day storytime. Pair this one with Our Love Grows by Anna Pignataro for an extra-cuddly storytime.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

What memories does YOUR door hold?

Beyond the Doors, by David Neilsen, (Aug. 2017, Crown), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-101-93582-8

Recommended for readers 8-13

Four siblings have the weirdest, worst day of their lives when they’re pulled out of class to learn that their father is in a coma after a fire consumed their home. As their mother disappeared years ago, there’s a sobbing social worker, ready to split them up to horrors unknown, until a mystery aunt is located. Janice, Zack, Sydney, and Alexa Rothbaum are quickly shuttled off to this mysterious, scatterbrained aunt. Once the kids start exploring and settling in, they learn the bizarre secret behind their aunt’s fortress home: she’s got a machine that allows her to use doors to access the memories contained within them, and she’s searching for her father: their grandfather.

Remember Monsters, Inc? How the Monsters would go through different doors to reach different kids’ rooms? Think of it like that, but instead of using the doors to get into kids’ rooms, you stepped into the memories of the person most identified with the door. If you stepped through the door to my room from 1986, for instance, you’d see me, sprawled on my bed reading a copy of Bop! Magazine, in a room papered with Duran Duran posters, and talking to my best friend on the phone. The memories are sepia-tinged, and while you can interact to a degree with the memories, too much interaction has… consequences.

It’s a madcap adventure, with a wacky aunt, an off-the-walls social worker with a penchant for the melodramatic, and loads of family secrets to discover, but character development and world-building aren’t as rich as I’d have enjoyed. There’s quite a bit of humor and a climactic battle that’s both gruesome and thrilling, and readers will never look at a bowl of Cheerios without groaning again. Black and white illustrations keep readers invested in the story. Beyond the Doors will appeal to Series of Unfortunate Events and Mysterious Benedict Society fans; display and booktalk with The Problim Children for some fun discussions about weird siblings and families. Ask kids what doors they would like to wander into – or what their doors would have to say. It’s a great creative writing or art exercise!

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

The Problim Children: Seven kids, seven days of the week, and an age-old mystery

The Problim Children, by Natalie Lloyd/Illustrated by Julia Sarda, (Jan. 2018, Katherine Tegen Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062428202

Recommended for readers 8-12

The Problim Children is the first in a new middle grade series about seven… different siblings, each born on a different day of the week, and their adventures. We have Mona, Monday’s child, who may be fair of face, but she’s a bit macabre… Toot, Tuesday’s toddler, who has a catalog of farts for all occasions; Wendell and Thea, twins born on Wednesday and Thursday, who spend all of their time together; Friday’s child, Frida, speaks in rhyme; Sal, Saturday’s child, loves to work in his garden; and Sundae is the eternal optimist. Their parents are away, and the Problims manage to blow up their bungalow in the Swampy Woods, necessitating a move to their Grandpa Problim’s abandoned mansion in Lost Cove. The only problem? The Problims have a history with Lost Cove, and neighborhood busybody Desdemona O’pinion is determined to keep them out at all costs.

Are the Problims magic? Maybe. Are they a family with secrets? Definitely! There’s a history between the O’pinions and the Problims, and the kids get caught up in the shenanigans – while planning plenty of their own. The Problim Children is funny enough – Toot’s ability to communicate solely by fart will make this a home-run with some readers – and readers will love the idea of being left to their own devices as their parents travel the world for work. There are circus spiders, a pet pig, an intriguing mystery, and a villainess who’s right up there with the best of the mustache-twirlers. It’s a little over the top at times, but it’s fun and silly and readers who like a lighter Lemony Snicket will like this one. The Problim Children received a starred review from Booklist.

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

It’s a good day for activism… and climbing trees!

A Good Day for Climbing Trees, by Jaco Jacobs, Translated from Afrikaans by Kobus Geldenhuys/Illustrated by Jim Tierney, (Apr. 2018, One World Publications), $11.99, ISBN: 978-1-78607-317-4

Recommended for readers 9-13

Marnus is a 13-year-old boy who’s tired of falling through the cracks in his family’s life. He’s not an athlete like his brother, and he’s not a financial wizard-slash-loan shark like his little brother, to whom he owes big bucks. A girl named Leila shows up at Marnus’ door, asking for signatures for a petition to save a local tree, and before Marnus realizes what he’s doing, he’s up in the tree next to Leila. Over the next few days, the two manage to gather a viral following, attract sponsors, and build the foundations to a new friendship.

Jaco Jacobs is a prolific South African author, with over 120 books to his credit. This latest novel, released in 2015 in Afrikaans, will resonate with readers here in the U.S., where young people are discovering activism at a younger age. Jacobs hits on the two-edged sword of activism: the empowerment of seeing kids take matters into their own hands when something is important to them, and the trap of viral popularity and its fleeting nature, paired with the frustration of having one’s passion seen as a “novelty” cause. The reason behind Leila’s activism are moving, and Marnus emerges as a sensitive, upbeat EveryKid. The characters have depth and are identifiable, from the two main characters to the parents who mean well but don’t always do well; the Rent-a-Cause college students; the developers who want to tear down the tree, and more. This is a solid addition to bookshelves – it would make a strong summer reading choice for middle schoolers, particularly with the wave of activism firing up this generation. There’s a wealth of book discussion topics to explore with this book, for adults as well as for tweens, from environmentalism to sibling relationships to divorced families.