Monday, December 11, 2017

Picture Book Roundup - 2017 Christmas Edition

I can’t believe it is the Christmas season again. It seems to begin earlier and earlier each year, but it is still an exciting time and I always look forward to the new books that come out celebrating this time of year. Below are some of our favorite picture books this year, and it include to oldies, but goodies.

Red & Lulu written and illustrated by Matt Tavares
2017, Candlewick Press, 40 pages, age 4+
I’m a New Yorker, so I love a good New York story, and this has become an instant favorite. Two cardinals, Red and Lulu, have been living in a tall evergreen in the suburbs for a while now. It was perfect, warm in winter, cool in summer. One day, after looks for food himself and Lulu, Red returns home to find that the tree has been cut done and is lying on a truck. Hearing Lulu still in the tree, Red tries to follow the truck as it goes down the highway, but soon loses it. Red finds himself in New York City, where he continues to look for Lulu. Finally, she is found, still on their favorite branch. Red and Lulu are happy to be together in their tree, watching all the people and excitement around them, until one day, their tree is again taken down. Maybe it’s time for Red and Lulu to find a new, more permanent home in the park. Christmas is the season of miracles and faith, and that is exactly what this story demonstrates. Red never gave up looking for Lulu, and he found her, and it is kind of a miracle when I think about how crowded and confusing New York can be at the holidays. Interestingly, Tavares never mentions Rockefeller Center, except in the back matter where he gives a brief history of the Christmas tree there, but readers will most likely recognize it from the illustrations.  The realistic watercolor and gouache illustrations, done mostly from Red point of view, are knock your socks off beautiful, done in soft colors so the red of the two cardinals stand out. The family that donated the tree are shown at the beginning in warmer weather, later ice skating at Rock Center during the holidays, and finally on the very last page, once again in warmer weather and with a small evergreen where the old one used to stand, bringing the story back full circle. This story really may me and my now grown up Kiddo happy because there is a holly tree outside my kitchen window and there is at least one cardinal living in it, now is now called Red.    

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht
2017, Candlewick Press, 40 pages, 4+
The anticipatory excitement of picking out a Christmas tree, buying it, and taking it home to decorate is captured perfectly in this story about a family of four as they set off on their tree buying day. At home, the furniture is moved around, the trunk of the tree is trimmed to fit the stand, and the decorations are brought down from the attic. When everything is ready, the family hosts a decorating party, inviting all their friends to help trim the tree with bright lights, jolly Santas, dancing elves, paper dolls, all kinds of ornaments. Finally, it’s time for the crowning touch - a shiny golden star at the very top. The story is told in rhyme with spot on four line stanzas on each page describing every task that needs to be done for the spectacular finished tree that can be seen on a two page spread at the end. Jarvis’s simple pencil, chalk, and paint illustrations are done in a wintery palette outside, and a warm, cozy palette inside the house, and include diverse characters throughout. Pick a Pine Tree did make me a little nostalgic for my own childhood days a tree decorating, and for the days when my Kiddo was growing up and how she loved having a Christmas tree, but it was a good nostalgia. This is sure to become a yearly classic for many families.

A Christmas for Bear by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
2017, Candlewick Press, 48 pages, age 4+
When Mouse shows up a Bear’s door ready to celebrate Christmas, he’s a little surprised and perturbed that Bear doesn’t have a holly, jolly party planned. Bear, who is naturally grumpy, has never has a Christmas party before, but he’s pretty sure it involved pickles and poems, while Mouse is expecting presents. Finding none under the tree, Mouse searches the house with Bear following behind telling him no presents, just pickles and a poem. As Bear begins to recite The Night Before Christmas, Mouse gives up looking for presents, until Bear gets to the part about carefully hung up stockings…umm. could Bear have a present for Mouse after all? By now, most kids are familiar with grumpy Bear and optimistic Mouse and their friendship that proves that opposites really do attract. A Christmas for Bear is every bit as delightful as we have come to expect from Bonny Becker and her charming characters. Denton’s watercolor, ink, and gouache illustration capture Mouse emotions as he gets sadder and sadder, and Bear sly smile when Mouse discovers the stocking hanging on the mantel. This is a nice story celebrating friendship.

Strega Nona’s Gift written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola
2011, Nancy Paulsen Books, 32 pages, age 4+
The Christmas season has arrived in Strega Nona’s village of Calabria, and everyone is ready to celebrate. Strega Nona is busy preparing traditional foods for all the Feast days - the Feast of San Nicola (Saint Nicholas) on December 6th, the Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy) on December 13th, the Feast of La Vigilia, Christmas Eve, everyone eats fish for the Feast of the Seven Fishes. On the Feast of San Silvestro, New Year’s Eve, everyone wears red underwear for lucky in the new year, and finally, on January 5, the Epiphany and the Feast of the Three Kings arrives. Strega Nona is busy preparing special food for her animals, but it all smells so good that when she asks Big Anthony to take Signora Goat her treats, he can’t resist tasting them - all of them. Annoyed, Signora Goat teaches Big Anthony a very valuable lesson. This is a story that is chockablock with fun, information about Italian holiday customs, and delicious sounding food. But like all of the Strega Nona stories, there is a lesson to be learned.

Was That Christmas? by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Amanda Harvey
2001, Margaret McElderry Books, 32 pages, age 3+
Bella is finally old enough to go to preschool, where she learns all about Christmas. There’s a story, a play, and even a visit from Santa. But something’s wrong. Santa didn’t come in a sleigh, and he forgot a present for Black Jack, her pet cat. Was that Christmas, she wants to know, clearly disappointed. No, mom tells Bella, it’s just the beginning. Then, Mom, Dad and Gran each tell Bella different things that need to be done in order to have the jolliest of Christmas celebrations. With charming spot pencil and watercolor illustrations, this is a book for the younger set who are just beginning to understand the whole idea of Christmas, but may still be confused and overwhelmed. Not all families will do all the same things, but that’s OK, personal traditions can easily be inserted. 

Merry Christmas from the Very Hungry Caterpillar written and illustrated by Eric Carle
2017, Grosset & Dunlap, 32 pages, age 3+
This is the perfect book for kids who are old enough to finally get into the festive Christmas spirit. While there are illustrations with lots of presents, including the front and back flyleafs, the simple text reminds readers of the other wonderful aspects about the holiday season - love, giving sharing, joy, playing in the snow, and of course, eating tasty seasonal delights. Carle has captured all this in simple illustrations done in his signature collage style of layering brightly colored hand-painted papers, so that each color is really saturated with brightness. Kids already familiar with the very hungry caterpillar will enjoy being guided though this book by a favorite, familiar friend.

The Christmas Fairy by Anne Booth, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
2017, Nosy Crow (imprint of Candlewick Press), 32 pages, age 4+
More than anything, Clara wants to be the fairy who sits at the top of the Christmas tree. The only problem is that Clara can’t learn to sit still as a statue and quiet as a mouse, while standing on her tippy toes, she is just too excited taking and thinking her happy thoughts. When her teacher takes the class of would be Christmas fairies to see a Christmas show, something goes terribly wrong and next thing Clara knows, Santa is asking her to help out. Will Clara save the Christmas show and become a Christmas tree fairy despite or because of her exuberance? This rhyming story, as you might have guess, is a play on the Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer story (Clara even has red hair). At first, I was like, wait, don’t break that happy girl’s spirit, but I have a feeling that thanks for Santa’s recognition, and despite standing straight and tall as the fairy on the top of the Christmas tree, that’s a job that will never be done the same way again (I hope). The mixed media illustrations are fun and Beardshaw has give her fairies sweet, angelic faces. perfect for a Christmas story.

Make & Play Nativity illustrated by Joey Chou
2017, Nosy Crow (imprint of Candlewick Press), 26 pages, age 4+ 

Anticipating Christmas can be a frustrating time for young kids sometimes, so it helps to have activities that will keep them busy. Baking cookies and decorating the Christmas tree are fun for them, but with this press-out, easy to assemble nativity book, kids can put not only be kept busy, but also be reminded of the reason for the season. Not only are their 20 pieces to this nativity, but at the back of the book, you will find a section called “Time for Christmas Fun!” There is the Nativity Story to read, the word to four of the most popular Christmas hymns, and instructions for making three additional crafts - a Christmas star, a Christmas angel, and an Advent Calendar.  You might want to consider pairing this with Make & Play Christmas to round out the Christmas season.

This is a picture book for older readers
Love, Santa by Martha Brockenbrough, illustrated by Lee White
2017, Scholastic Press, 32 pages, age 9+

Every year, since the age of five, Lucy has written Santa a letter, and every year, Santa brought Lucy a present and left a letter of his own. This ritual repeats itself for the next year, when Lucy is six. But when she is seven, her letters begin to question Santa about how he gets down chimneys, how he delivers gifts if people don’t have chimney, and why does his handwriting look so much like her mom’s, but she decided not to send it and wrote a different letter. But the letter she writes on her eight Christmas is different. Instead of being addressed to Santa, it is addressed to her Mom, and asks straight out “Are you Santa?” The next morning, an envelope that looks just like the envelopes she had previously received from Santa, was left for Lucy in the usual spot. Inside is a letter from her mom, explaining who brings her presents to her, but also telling her that the spirit of Santa is real and lives on in all of us. The letter is long and heartfelt, a copy of the letter author Martha Brockenbrough wrote to her daughter Lucy in 2009 when she was confronted with the same question. The letter may carry the truth, but it also carries the magic of Christmas that sometimes gets lost once we are in the know. White’s watercolor and mixed media illustrations capture Lucy as she matures each year, and as her emotions change and mature. On some of the right facing pages an envelope in glued on and contains the letters that Lucy writes, so readers can pull them out and read what is written, and the also reflect Lucy as she grows from year to year. This is a book I would have liked to have when that day came and my Kiddo began to question things. This is a real coming of age story, that may conjure up sentimental and nostalgic feelings for older readers.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Santa Calls written and illustrated by William Joyce

It's 1908, and orphaned inventor and jack-of-all-trades Art Atchinson lives in Abilene, Texas with his aunt and uncle, and his younger sister Esther, to whom he is pretty mean. Along with his best friend Spaulding, Art is a pretty brave guy, who loves adventure and smashing crime, but who, deep down, feels a sadness and loneliness that never leaves him since the loss of his parents.

Then, a few days before Christmas, a mysterious package arrives that turns out to be an invitation from Santa Claus to come to the North Pole. Inside the box is a flying machine, which they christen the Yuletide Flyer, since it is now Christmas Eve when they finally leave for the North Pole. At first, Art wants to leave Esther behind, but gives in at the last minute and the three immediately head north.

Landing in the North Pole, Art, Spaulding, and Esther are picked up by Ali Aku, captain of the Santarian Guard, who warns them that they must get to their destination before nightfall, when the Dark Elves and their evil Queen come out. Too late, they are pelted with snowballs by the Elves, but fight back, and Esther even manages a direct hit on the Dark Queen, who threatens that Esther has not seen the last of her.

Amid all the fanfare of their arrival, Art asks Santa just why they were called to the North Pole. Santa's answer: "Some mysteries are best left unsolved." As they take off in Santa's sleigh to make the night's deliveries, the Evil Queen manages to snatch Esther from the sleigh and take her to her castle. Art insists that he must save her, after all, she's his sister. So Art, Spaulding, and Ali Aku sneak in and rescue Esther, while pelting the Dark Elves with candy bombs and licorice as they make their getaway, back to Santa's sleigh.

Arriving back in Abilene after all their Christmas Eve excitement, Art once again asks Santa why he was summoned to the North Pole, and once again Art is told: "Some mysteries are best left unsolved."

The next morning, Art and Spaulding find splendid new gifts from Santa. For Art, it is a puppy from Santa's Canine Brigade, for Spaulding a new canoe with Yuletide Flyer II painted on it, but for Esther there are only two letters. Does Esther get what she wanted for Christmas? In the end, and I mean that literally, only Esther, Santa, and the reader know the answer to that. For Art, "Some mysteries [remain] best left unsolved."

I thought this would be a fun book to start off the holiday season. My kids love it. The first two times we read it, I didn't tell them about Esther's letters from Santa (which are pasted onto the back flyleaf), just let them speculate on why Santa had summoned Art to the North Pole. When we finally read the letters, they were surprised, but that led to discussions about importance of siblings and getting along.

Then we talked about the illustrations. The stylized art deco illustration on the cover was the first thing that attracted me to Santa Calls when it was first issued in 1993.  It is not your typical warm-and-fuzzy Christmas cover, but it totally works, in part, because of the story that accompanies the illustrations throughout the book. Art deco flourished in the 1920s and 1930s and the story in Santa Calls definitely carries a kind of Perils of Pauline feel to it (no, Esther in no Pauline, trust me).

I personally loved Joyce's rendering of the North Pole, so different from the quiet busy Santa's workshop full of elves making toys. Joyce has turned it into a city that may remind fans of Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz film. But, that's where the resemblance ends, since Joyce has kept the figure of Santa the same kind, caring, generous figure he has always been.

Santa Calls is an imaginative Christmas adventure with some surprising twists that make it an annual family/classroom favorite.

This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was purchased for my personal library

Friday, December 1, 2017

Poetry Friday: 125, a poem by Jaime Adoff from Lee Bennett Hopkins book Amazing Places

Today's poem comes from one of my favorite poetry anthologies, Amazing Places, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Christy Hale and Chris Soentpiet. When I reviewed it, I wrote that it "is a collection of 11 original poems, each on about an American landmark..."  

Not long ago, I reviewed a book called The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore. It's a coming of age story about a boy named Lolly living in the St. Nicholas projects in Harlem. It opens with him walking along 125th Street on Christmas Even, heading home and being followed by two older boys who intend to teach him a lesson about crossing crew boundary lines. 

Someone pointed out that the book is a very one-sided view of Harlem, and while it doesn't diminish the credibility of Lolly's story, it is true. Harlem is a beautiful and exciting place, an area with a personality of its own, a diverse population, a wide variety of shops and restaurants, beautiful architecture, a long storied history, and a center for African American arts and letters (if you are ever in NYC, do visit the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, you will appreciate Carole Boston Weatherford's book Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library that much more).  
As the following shows, for one young boy, Harlem is a walk across 125th Street with Grandma for an afternoon at the movies:
It's Poetry Friday and Mary Lee at A Year of Reading has this week's poetry roundup

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind (Amanda Travels #6) by Darlene Foster

Sixth-grader Amanda Ross is a girl who loves to travel, so she’s pretty excited about her class trip from Calgary, Canada to Taos, New Mexico. But no sooner does their plane land in the Albuquerque airport than Amanda’s friend Cleo begins to tremble, wishing she were home, and asking if Amanda believes in ghosts. 

Staying at a famous Taos hotel, the Mable Dodge Luhan House, Amanda and Cleo share a room, but Cleo is still anxious. Even their room feels spooky to her, and she believes she saw someone when she opened the closet. Nevertheless, Amanda is determined to make the most of this trip and enjoy their short stay, learning as much about the history of the area as possible and recording her impressions and stories on the school's Kidblog. 

As the class visits sights such as the Governor Bent Museum, the Hacienda de los Martinezthe Taos Pueblo, where they also stopped to try some wonderful Fry Bread, the *Rio Grande Gorge and Bridge, the Ojo Caliente hot springs, Palisade Sills, the St. James Hotel, and the Enchanted Circle Pottery,  and ending with a Day of the Dead celebration, Amanda and Cleo hook up with another classmate to go exploring together. Cleo, however, is still anxious about ghosts, insisting she keeps seeing the ghost of young girl in a white dress, and it seems that everyplace they visit is haunted. After a while, even Amanda begins to feel unsettled and begins to question her own believes about ghosts and the supernatural.

Then, on a visit to the historic Ranchos de Taos Plaza and the church of Saint Francis of Assisi, Amanda, Caleb, and Cleo run into a very angry man named Jim, when Cleo gets injured in an empty building, where once again she thought she saw a ghost.

And indeed, strange things to seem to be happening to Cleo on this trip. It seems everywhere she goes, she sees the ghost of the same young girl who appears to be trying to tell her something. But who might this girl be? Is she really a ghost or just Cleo’s imagination playing tricks on her? And what does angry Jim, whom they run into more than once, have to do with it all? Can Amanda solve the mystery of Cleo’s ghostly companion.

Ghosts in the Wind is the second Amanda Travels book I've read, and I found it just as interesting as Amanda on the Danube: The Sounds of Music. Everywhere Amanda travels to seems to have a mystery just right for a curious 12 year-old to solve. And Ghosts in the Wind is no different. I lived in the southwest for four years and there is a certain kind of atmosphere there that does carry a bit of a supernatural feel to it, and Darlene Foster has captured that feeling and infused it throughout the places Amanda and her school mates visit. 

I have to admit that I did find Amanda a little annoying, going off and doing what she wants even when told by the adults around her not to. She's also a little impatient with Cleo, a relatively new girl in school and one that Amanda doesn't really know much about. She really upsets Cleo when she posts a story about Cleo's ghost in the closet for everyone to read on Kidblog. Cleo has her own backstory that eventually does help Amanda understand her better when she finally talks about her life. Cleo likes to draw and records everything she sees by illustrating it, including the ghost in one of her scenes. Caleb is very much fun character. He carries a camera everywhere he goes and records his adventures that way. He also provides some comic relief when things get serious and some help when Amanda needs it. 

The Amanda Travels series is a really nice way of introducing young readers to different places around the world through the eyes of girl around their age and it's perfect for kids who like a good mystery. Each mystery surrounding each story is build around the particular place that Amanda is visiting so readers learn about the history, the food, famous sights, celebrations, and the geography, including the landscape.

Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind has a lot of offer readers and just might wake up the wanderlust in some.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

*Rio Grande Gorge is one of 10 National Parks the present administration has targeted for possible oil and gas exploration, mining, timber harvesting, and commercial fishing. This will ruin the natural beauty of these parks. You can find out more about the 10 parks on the NPCA (National Parks Conservation Association) website. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

It's Monday! What are you reading? We Read 12 Picture Books

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It’s Monday! What are you reading? - from Picture Books to YA is a kid lit focused meme just like the original and is hosted weekly by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers. The purpose is the same: to recap what you have read and/or reviewed and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. Twitter: #IMWAYR 
Everyone is getting excited about the upcoming holidays and I'll be posting some book gift suggestions for young readers soon.  Meantime, since last week was a short school week and we didn't do much work but we did reread some of our favorite picture books. Here are my mini reviews of them: 

I Wrote You A Note written and illustrated by Lizi Boyd
Chronicle Books, 2017, 36 pages
A young girl lying in a meadow writes a note and leaves it to be found. And it is found by all kinds of small animals and birds who each use it according to their needs and then abandon it.  Eventually though, it is found by its intended recipient and the contents revealed. Boyd’s sparse stylized gouache illustrations done in a limited palette of green, blue, yellow and dusty pink on a beige background add a bit of whimsy to the note’s journey. The text, including the refrain of “I wrote you a note. Did you find it?” looks just like the block lettering of a young child. Readers will have fun spotting the different critters in the background, many of whom will find a use for the note.  A fun, thought-provoking story.

Say Zoop! written and illustrated by Hervé Tullet
Chronicle Books, 2017, 64 pages
Say Zoop! is the fourth simple interactive concept book by HervĂ© Tullet that includes Press Here!, Mix It Up!, and Let’s Play!. Even in the age of flashy, noisy games for kids on iPads and iPhones, Tullet makes simple red, blue, and yellow dots and simple sounds together with simple suggestions for amping up the action fun and appealing to young readers as they create and follow the dot adventures. And don’t be surprised at just what dots can lead to as the ideas get progressively more complex. 

Small written and illustrated by Gina Perry
Little Bee Books, 2017, 40 pages
When  you are young and must look up to see most things, the world can make you feel very small. And that is exactly why Gina Perry wrote this charming picture book. Told from the perspective of a little girl, readers spend a day in the city with her, where everything, from tall buildings, speeding bikes, noisy cars, to the long line at the hot dog stand, makes her feel small…Until she slides down the slide and feels big, or plays a fierce game of basketball. In fact, she discovers a whole host of reasons to feel big in the world. Perry’s playful illustrations and her serious message will help kids realize that they are really as big as their heart and dreams are.

Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli, illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio
Chronicle Books, 2017, 32 pages
I didn’t really get this book at first, but the surprise ending had me laughing out loud. A crocodile get up in the morning, does all the usual things one does to get ready for work, and leaves the house impeccably dressed for business. He commutes on public transportation, reading the morning paper, stopping to look at things that catch his attention, even getting splashed by a passing car, eventually arriving at his job. And what a job! The end may be unexpected, but this wordless picture book, with beautifully detailed illustrations, has lots to explore on each page before the crocodile gets to work.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Dial Books, 2016, 40 pages
The Uncorker of ocean bottles lives alone by the ocean, looking for bottles to open, so he can deliver the notes and letters inside them. Sadly, the Uncorker had no name himself, so he never received a note or letter, but wished he would. When he finds a seashore party invitation with no address, and tries to deliver it, no one can help him find out who it is for. The Uncorker, who never failed to deliver before, decides to go to the party an apologize to the writer of the note. But what a surprise he finds when he arrives at the party. This is a touching story that teaches us about the importance of friendship and connection, that no man is an island, and that everyone has value in this world. The illustrations, done in woodblock prints, oils and pastels, have a ethereal feeling to them, which perfectly suits this beautifully done picture book.

Under the Silver Moon: Lullabies, Night Songs & Poems illustrated by Pamela Dalton 
Chronicle Books, 2017, 48 pages
Using cut paper and watercolors give these old lullabies and poems new life. There is a wide range of poems, from traditional nursery rhymes like Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star to lesser known songs like Evening Prayer by Englebert Humperdinck (the German composer, not the pop singer). But the real standout in this collection are the incredibly detailed, brightly painted cut paper illustrations. Scherenschnitte (meaning scissor cuts) is a 16th century German art form, and Dalton has truly mastered it. Most of the illustrations are two page spreads, and each is placed against a black background, which simulates night, but which also really highlights the different subjects of Dalton’s cut papers. A lovely addition to any child’s bedtime bookshelf.

Little Elliot Fall Friends (Little Elliot #4) written and illustrated by Mike Curato
Henry Holt & Co BYR, 2017, 40 pages 
It’s fall and Little Elliot and his best friend Mouse decide they need a little time away from the big city and take a bus to the country. The country is big, beautiful in its fall colors, and there is lots to do. But when the friends play hide and seek, and Elliot hides among the corn stalks, he waits and waits, but Mouse doesn’t find him and it’s starting to get dark. Suddenly, Elliot notices an really yummy smell and follows his nose to a freshly baked pie. Sure enough, Mouse has found Elliot, but the fun doesn’t end here. This is the fourth Little Elliot and the pastel polka-dot elephant’s adventures are still fresh and fun. Curators mixed media illustrations detail the rich colors of autumn, but never over shadow the friendship between Little Elliot and Mouse. A gently quiet story that will surely please young readers.

Nothing Rhymes with Orange written and illustrated by Adam Rex
Chronicle Books, 2017, 48 pages
I never thought I would ever read a book about fruit that is so wildly funny and silly that I was laughing out loud from start to finish, and where, in the middle of a children’s book, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and his work Thus Spoke Zarathustra would make an appearance, as well. Well, that all happens here, and apparently I found this book much more amusing that the poor orange that could find nothing to rhyme itself with. Apples, pears, grapes, peaches, cherries, even kiwi and quince are all included and seem to be able to be rhymed about how good they are. But poor orange is feeling really dejected and left out. But wait, it seems the other fruit have noticed orange. Will orange finally find a rhyme, too? This is an off the wall but powerful parable about difference and inclusion, with equally zany illustrations that still manage to convey orange’s feelings. I loved this book.

I Know Numbers! written and illustrated by Taro Gomi
Chronicle Books, 2017, 40 pages
Using vividly colored, simple illustrations that are Taro Gomi’s trademark, this concept book is not a counting book, as you might expect, so much as it is one that demonstrates for young readers just how useful numbers are in helping us navigate the world. After all, the world is full of things that rely on our understanding their use of numbers - clocks, calendars, prices, telephone numbers, the numbers on seats and sport jerseys, even the numbers on the pages of I Know Numbers!  But while it might not be a counting book per se, as you read it with your young readers, they can certainly practice lots of number recognition on each page. Numbers are really such an abstract concept that a book giving them real life context is truly welcomed.

The Curious Cares of Bears written by Douglas Florian, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez
Little Bee Books, 2017, 32 pages
Travel through the seasons with this energetic sleuth of bears as the play their way to their winter’s nap. In spring, there’s honey to find and enjoy, games to play with siblings. When summer comes, there’s swimming in the creek, feasting on berries with the relatives, and time to party. Fall brings its own fun, and then, winter rolls round again. Young readers will discover that the curious cares of bears are sometimes not so very different than their own, at least in terms of fun, friends, and family. The simple rhyming text moves the story along season by season enhanced the lively whimsical illustrations. This book is a great read aloud, and my young readers certainly loved reading it - over and over and over (I loved the expressions on the faces of the bears, but then again, I love a good bear book).

 Mighty, Mighty Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Chronicle Books, 2017, 40 pages
Living in an area that always seems to have massive amounts of construction happening, it never ceases to amaze me how much people like to stop and watch it happening, adults as much as kids. And yes, there are all those construction vehicles. My kids are no different, I’ve read Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site so many times to them, I almost have it memorized. The same five vehicles as in the first book wake up to a day of work, and Rinker deftly shows how teamwork and cooperation among the different vehicles of the construction team can work together to make a job fun and get it done fast. The rhyming text is spot on, that reading this book aloud, the words just flow smoothly, even when there is lots of alliteration, and each page of the detailed colorful illustrations kept my young readers talking and exploring. Now we all know the names of this construction vehicles that we keep seeing. The last page of this book is almost exactly like the final page of the first book, so they together can be read in an endless loop, much to the delight of young fans.

Owl Bat Bat Owl written by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
Candlewick Press, 2017, 32 pages
This wordless book is such a charming story about difference and acceptance. An owl family, a mom and three kids, are perched on a tree limb sleeping when along comes a bat family, also a mom and three kids, who decide to hang from the same tree limb. Owl mom moves her kids away from the new neighbors, but soon one of the kids gets curious, and decides to check out the bats, but is soon pulled away. Along comes a gust of wind that knocks everyone off the tree limb and there is a mad scramble to save bat and owl kids. And yes, soon owl is saving bat and bat is saving owl, and in the end, there is harmony and friendship. Kids exploring the pictures closely will notice what each of these nocturnal creatures are thinking through body language and facial expressions. The digitally created illustrations, done is shades of blue and green, with yellow owls and black bats, are cleverly done so the book can be read right side up or up side down, so young readers can see things from both perspectives. I gave this book to my kids so they could go through it without any input from me, and it was interesting how easily they picked up the idea of friendship and acceptance. 

What are you reading?

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