Tuesday, July 1, 2014

June Round-Up

Image from SkyPonyPress.com
Father’s Chinese Opera by Rich Lo
Sky Pony Press, 2014

Loosely based on the author’s childhood in China, this story features the son of a Chinese opera composer who longs to be an acrobat in the opera. Through his studies with the choreographer Gai Chui and his father’s encouraging words the young boy learns the value of hard work and dedication. The vibrant colors and swirling movement bring to life the drama of Chinese opera in this heartfelt story. The illustrations and text provide just enough background to set the stage, however the focus of the story stays on the characters. An author’s note provides information on the traditions of Chinese opera and the author’s father Lo Tok who really was an opera composer in China. Suggestions for further reading are included, however because there aren’t many children’s books on the subject the list provides mostly adult titles. Nonetheless, this is a great way to introduce elementary aged students to this beautiful and unique art form.

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Hooray for Hat! By Brian Won
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014

Elephant is having a grumpy day, but all that changes when he finds a present on his doorstep. “Hooray for hat!” He shows Zebra, but Zebra is grumpy, too. Good thing there are hats to share, “Hooray for hat!” Soon hat fever has spread to all the animals, “Hooray for friends!” This short, but entirely delightful romp has a straight forward narrative punctuated by the joyful title refrain. The moral – that doing something nice for someone else also makes you feel good – is delivered in a fun and friendly manner. The colorful digital illustrations are set against a white, uncluttered background making this a great book to share with toddlers at storytime. The font is large and easy to read and the movement of the animals naturally pushes the story forward from left to right. Check out the nice printables from the activity kit and the book trailer, both from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  

Image from Bloomsbury.com
I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison, Illustrated by Frank Morrison
Bloomsbury, 2014

As she walks down the street and through the park with her mother, a little girl revels in the rhythms of her neighborhood. A simple walk becomes a feast for the senses as she hears the rhythm with her ears, looks at it with her eyes, catches it with her hands, and shakes it with her hips. The catchy beat of the rhyming text make this a great book for a toddler or preschool storytime. Using a sunny palate of colors the oil on canvas illustrations feature a cast of diverse children as they are drawn into the rhythm of the city. The movement and music in the text and illustrations are an enticing invitation for readers to get up to get the rhythm, too.

Image from DavidLaRochelle.com
Moo! by David LaRochelle, Illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
Walker Books for Young Readers, 2013

Using just one word, “Moo!”, LaRochelle tells the story of a mischievous cow’s joy-riding adventure on the day he steals the farmer's red convertible. The cartoonish and colorful gouache paint illustrations and large text of this hilarious book will delight toddlers and preschoolers. Winner of the 2014 CLEL Bell Award for Talking, this is a fun book to share one-on-one or with a group at storytime.


Sunday, June 8, 2014

May Round-Up

Image from PenguinGroup.com
The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014

It seems like a normal morning for this young black haired boy, but then his parents tell him there’s a baby coming. He tries to figure out exactly where babies come from, but he gets conflicting information from his teenage sister, teacher, Grandpa, and Roberto the mailman. Luckily, his parents are able to answer all of his questions. Written in first person from the boy’s point of view, this humorous story will be helpful for caregivers looking to answer their child’s questions about babies. The parents in this book have a short, but informative explanation of how a baby is made accompanied by preschool appropriate illustrations (a sperm and egg meeting in a red circle, a baby inside the womb, and a newborn baby). The back matter includes suggestions for answering the question – where do babies come from? – for children who are curious about the details. Blackall's answers are scientifically correct without being graphic. The illustrations are whimsical and fun, especially the images that the boy conjures up as he hears different explanations of the origin of babies.

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Have You Seen My NewBlue Socks? by Eve Bunting, Illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
Clarion Books, 2013

Can you help the poor duck find his new blue socks? He’s very sure he put them somewhere nearby. Better ask all his friends, maybe they can help. Using short, rhyming sentences and lots of questions, this animal-filled romp is fun to share at a toddler storytime. Ruzzier’s illustrations are pen and ink on watercolor paper. The setting is an amusing surrealistic twist on a storybook landscape of ponds, towers, and clinging vines set against craggy cliffs and sparse trees. Try this story for a clothing/getting dressed or color themed storytime.

Image from HouseofAnansi.com
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino, Illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant
Groundwood Books, 2014

Morris Micklewhite lives with his mother and a cat named Moo. He’s a happy kid. He loves pancakes on Sundays. And school on Mondays. In fact, school is pretty wonderful. He gets to do puzzles, paint, and have apple juice at snack time. But the best part about school is the tangerine dress. It’s the color of “tigers, the sun, and his mother’s hair.” Morris loves the swish, crinkle, and click of wearing it. But the other kids at school don’t understand. How can Morris make the other children tease him? Will he have to give up his beloved tangerine dress?
Using a combination of straightforward realistic text and wonderful imagery Baldacchino creates the incredibly endearing story of a boy who just wants to be happy. The mixed media illustrations employ charcoal, watercolor, pastels, and Photoshop to create an atmosphere that compliments the realistic/fantastical style of writing. Most notably, the tangerine dress, soft and swirly, stands out against the black lines and definite shapes of the rest of Morris’ world.  This book celebrates being true to yourself, especially because you can think outside the lines. Share this story with preschoolers to start an age appropriate discussion on gender roles and appearance.

Image from JoreyHurley.com
Nest by Jorey Hurley
Simon and Schuster, 2014

This charming non-fiction book follows a year in the lives of a family of American Robins as they build a nest, have a baby, search for food, greet the morning with a song, and finally watch their offspring build a nest of its own. The illustrations, rendered in Photoshop, use clean lines and solid, soft colors. With just one word for each two page spread, this is a great book for a baby storytime. Encourage parents to talk about what’s going on in each illustration, as well as continuing the discussion beyond the book when they see birds outside.


Friday, May 9, 2014

April Round-Up

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Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood, Illustrated by Jonathan Bean
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014

Follow the journey of a young boy and his family as they move to a new house in a new town. The bold lines and shapes of the illustrations, along with strong color choices, reflect the changing mood of the boy. First, the weather is stormy with great big puddles and slicing rain. As the boy becomes more positive about the move the images become sunnier and clearer. The rhyming text is simple and brief, making this a good recommendation for a caregiver looking for a way to introduce the concept of moving to a toddler.

Image from BarbaraKerley.com
A Home for Mr. Emerson by Barbara Kerley, Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
Scholastic Press, 2014

This picture book biography about Ralph Waldo Emerson focuses on the American writer’s role as father, husband, and community member as he crafts a life full of the things he loves. The end papers are covered with famous quotes by Emerson and Kerley continues this concept by weaving quotes into the narrative. The vibrant colors and black lines of the digital media illustrations are energetic and help to push the story along. The author’s note includes more information about Emerson’s life, his legacy as a writer, and a photograph of his family in front of their home in Concord. Writing suggestions inspired by Emerson and detailed quotation and resource information conclude the book. This is a great book for elementary school aged students; it provides basic information meant to introduce and inspire young readers to find out more about Emerson.

Image from SterlingPublishing.com
How to Lose a Lemur by Frann Preston-Cannon
Sterling Children’s Books, 2014

“Everyone knows that once a lemur takes a liking to you, there is not much that can be done about it.” And indeed, the young boy in this story has a lemur problem. It starts with one lemur and multiplies. The boy does everything he can think of to get away from the furry creatures. He travels by train and hot air balloon. He crosses lakes and deserts. In fact, he travels so far and so fast that he gets lost! Good thing there are some lemurs to show him the way home! Featuring a playful cast of diverse lemurs (hair color, markings, size), the mixed media illustrations have a left-to-right flow that builds anticipation for each page turn. Written from the boy’s perspective, the narrative is short and action packed. Turn the travel portion of this book into a flannel board so that kids can help you reverse the boy’s trip. This whimsical book will amuse toddlers, preschoolers, and their parents at storytime.

Image from Books.SimonandSchuster.com
Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward, Illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Beach Lane Books, 2014

This bold and beautiful non-fiction picture book highlights the many different nests created by birds. Jenkins’ precise paper collages bring to life a variety of birds, from hummingbirds to eagles, flamingos to swiftlets. The repetitive rhyming text is printed in a large, bold font making it easy to read aloud, while a smaller font is used for additional information about each species.  The text also includes the fascinating building materials and methods used by the birds. An author’s note reveals the inspiration for this book about avian architects. It also includes online resources for further exploration. Use this book as part of a unit on birds, houses/shelter, or as a non-fiction addition to a preschool storytime.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

March Round-Up

Image from hbook.com
Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Candlewick Press, 2014

This wonderful and thought provoking collection includes over 30 poems, organized by season, from spring to winter. As the subtitle dictates each poem is just a few lines. They’re bits of poetry to read aloud, small appetizers that whet the appetite with the delicious way the words roll around the mouth. The poems, from a variety of poets (Robert Frost, Joyce Sidman, Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandburg, and more), flow from one to the next in a continuous stream, building and drawing on one another. Poems are thoughtfully arranged one per page. The text is bold and easy to read and the illustrations provide seasonal atmosphere. Sweet’s illustrations also prompt the reader to think about the mental images the words conjure, suggesting just enough, but never overpowering the words. The book begins with a table of contents and ends with detailed attribution notes.

Image from RukhsanaKhan.com
King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan, Illustrated by Christiane Krömer
Lee & Low Books, 2013

Today is a special day in Lahore, Pakistan! It’s Basant, the spring festival that is celebrated with parties, food, and best of all, kite-flying battles! With the help of his younger brother and sister, Malik expertly guides his beloved homemade kite Falcon to swoop, soar, and snip the strings of other colorful kites. At first Falcon is threatened by a cruel bully’s gigantic kite, but Malik’s deft maneuvering skills triumph! This story not only introduces readers to Basant, but also features a protagonist who never lets his wheelchair get in his way. Written from Malik’s perspective, the narrative is concise, yet descriptive. Although there is a small conflict between the bully and Malik, the story really serves to open a window to another culture. The vibrantly colored mixed media illustrations pair 2D drawn/painted elements with 3D collage elements that pop from the page. The author’s note following the story includes information on the origins, traditions, and modern day celebrations of Basant. A brief glossary and pronunciation guide is also included. Read this book as part of a discussion on spring festivals around the world.

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Monday, Wednesday,and Every Other Weekend by Karen Stanton
Feiwel and Friends, 2014

Henry used to live in one house with his mother, father, and his dog Pomegranate. But now he and Pomegranate live in two houses.  On Mondays, Wednesdays, and every other weekend he lives with his mother in her house full of hanging mobiles. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and the other weekends he lives in his father’s house and together they read and play music. Unfortunately, this is terribly confusing to Pomegranate and one day he escapes to find their old house. Set in a multicultural city environment, red-haired Henry is surrounded by neighbors of many cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The straight forward text focuses on actions, rather than emotions, but allows plenty of room for discussion for the readers. The mixed media illustrations, a combination of acrylics and paper collage, are bright and colorful featuring bold brush strokes and striking patterns. Overall, this is a positive depiction of separated/divorced parents that shows how families can be different, but still loving and caring. Check out the peppy book trailer for a look at the illustrations.

Image from BarbRosenstock.com
The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock, Illustrated by Mary GrandPré
Alfred A. Knopf, 2014

This picture book biography focuses on the paintings of Vasily Kandinsky, one of the pioneers of abstract art.  Kandinsky spent his childhood in Russia and it was there that his aunt gave him his first paint box. Young Vasya loved to paint – he heard music in the colors and that’s what he painted – but his family was confused. What was his art supposed to be? As an adult Vasya continued to struggle with the idea that a painting should be something even as he heard “Thundering arches of aqua and ebony, with shrill points of cobalt and saffron.” And then one day, Vasya decided to listen to the colors and this lead him to create some of the first abstract art. The lush acrylic and paper collage illustrations are energetic, painterly, and flowing. GrandPré uses her own style infused with Kandinsky’s color palate to demonstrate how sound and color were connected in Vasya’s mind. The text, great for reading aloud, is a combination of third person narrative and dialogue. Rosenstock includes a note that the dialogue is completely from her own imagination. The author's note also includes information on Kandinsky’s childhood, his art, and the possibility that he experienced colors as sounds because of synesthesia. Print and online sources are listed, as well. Pair this nonfiction title with Daniel Pinkwater’s Bear’s Picture to introduce the topic, “what is art?”


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

February Round-Up

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Duck, Duck, Moose! By Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones
Disney-Hyperion, 2014

This hilarious twist on the childhood game is brought to you by three roommates – two tidy and precise ducks and one enthusiastically klutzy moose! Using just two words, “duck” and “moose”, the text lays the foundation for the repeated visual punch line of a moose who seems to bring chaos wherever he goes. Play duck, duck, goose and follow up with this book. It’s especially fun for independent readers who can read along during a dramatic group sharing.

Image from KateHindley.com
How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth by Michelle Robinson, Illustrated by Kate Hindley
Henry Holt and Co, 2014

Learn to wash your woolly mammoth in 10 easy (well, mostly easy) steps! Starting with a bath tub and ending with some mammoth snuggling, this playful how-to book will have kindergarteners giggling. Hindley’s mixed media illustrations feature colorful washes, fine line work, and great use of eyes to communicate emotions. Well placed page turns and simple, yet fun, text makes this a great read aloud for a group. 

Image from RandomHouse.com
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch by Anne Isaacs, Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Schwartz & Wade, 2014

In 1870 the widow Tulip Jones inherits millions of dollars and a ranch. So she moves from England to By-Golly Gully. She quickly learns that everything is bigger in Texas, including her garden vegetables and her beloved pet tortoises. But her blissful peace is broken when word gets around about her rich and unmarried status. Hilarity ensues as the widow comes up with a variety of ways to get rid of the 1,000 suitors that line up at her door. Exaggeration is the name of the game from text to illustrations. Isaacs excels at writing tall tales and readers will not be disappointed by her newest yarn. Hawkes’ painterly illustrations, rendered with acrylic and pencil on Bristol Board, feature vast blue skies, fluffy white clouds, and sundrenched landscapes that firmly establish the setting. At its best when read aloud, this story will also appeal to elementary school kids who will want to read and explore on their own.

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When Elephant Met Giraffe by Paul Gude
Disney-Hyperion, 2014

A chatty elephant and a silent giraffe are unlikely best friends, but that’s exactly what happens by the end of this humorous book. This book is divided into three short episodes, each with a funny twist and a subtle message about the give and take of friendship. With just a few sentences per page the text reads much like a beginning reader, but without the repetition of sight words. Bright colors and thick outlines are a perfect match for Gude’s excellent sense of visual and textual pacing and comedic timing. Although the bright and cartoonish digital illustrations are simple, they do a good job of conveying facial expressions and emotions. Similar to the Elephant and Piggy stories by Mo Willems, this book is great for independent or group reading.