Friday, November 8, 2019

☃️Picture Books to Curl Up With On Cold Winter Days☃️

The calendar may say winter doesn't officially begin until December 21st, but cold days and nights have certainly arrived. And what could be better that curling up with a blanket, a cup of hot cocoa, and a good book to share. Here is a roundup of kid-friendly, kid-tested books that can take the chill out of any day.

Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog 
written and illustrated by Lisa Papp
Peachtree Publishers, 2019, 32 pages
Papp's follow-up book to Madeline Finn and the Library Dog is just as pleasing and informative and my young readers loved it. Bonnie, the library dog that helped Madeline gain confidence as a reader, has given birth to the litter of puppies, and Madeline is told she may have one. Well, the time has come and the smallest puppy chooses Madeline as her perfect person. Madeline also learns about shelter dogs, and after visiting a shelter, she notices how unhappy the dogs, cats, bunnies, and birds look with no one to love them. Seeing how much her new puppy like to be read to, Madeline comes up with an idea for the people in her neighborhood to help the shelter animals feel cared about and maybe even find a forever home - just bring blankets and books. But will volunteer readers show up? This is a sweet, heartwarming story with wonderful mixed-media illustrations. A bonus - you can download a great activity kit full of things that kids can do courtesy of the publisher, Peachtree, HERE 

Penguin Flies Home, a Flight School Story
written and illustrated by Lita Judge
Atheneum BFYR, 2019, 40 pages
In this sequel to Flight School, Penguin still loves flying. After all, he has the soul of an eagle, and loves the feel of the wind beneath his wings as he soars high into the sky - of course, with a little technical help from his friends in Flight School. But when Penguin thinks of his friends back home in the South Pole, he wishes they too could soar like an eagle. Teacher thinks Penguin is home sick and arranges for a field trip to visit Penguin's friends and family. And as happy as the other penguins are to see him, and as hard as he tries to get them interested in flying, they still prefer soaring through the cold Antarctic waters to flying. Now, Penguin is convinced his friends and family think he's "ridiculous" and afraid they won't like him anymore, but he's in for quite a supportive surprise just before the field trip heads home. This book is packed with heart and carries a nice message about the importance of following one's own dream, no matter what, and the value of having a strong support system behind you. Judge did the pencil and watercolor illustrations in sky blues and icy whites and lots of whimsey. This book, like the first book, has been a big hit with my young readers who just love Penguin. And I hear there might be a third Penguin book in the works.

Bikes for Sale by Carter Higgins,
illustrated by Zachariah O'Hora
Chronicle Books, 2019, 40 pages
Maurice rides his bike all over town, selling lemonade from it, and he always has plenty of customers. Lotta collects sticks all over town on her bike, because everyone loves sticks and they are so versatile - they can become anything you can imagine while you play. But one day, Maurice and Lotta both have accidents that leaves their bikes broken. Abandoning them, the bike are found by Sid, who knows just what to do with the broken bikes in his repair shop. Maurice and Lotta each see the sign "Bikes for Sale" in Sid's window, and go in. Sure enough, there are their old bikes, fused together to form a tandem bike, which they buy. And wouldn't you know, it is the beginning of a new friendship. The first time we read this together, my young readers loved it because, even though they made predictions of what would happen next, it didn't end the way they had expected it to. And they continued to like it even after repeated readings. The illustrations are simple and expressive, done in acrylics, with very appealing anthropomorphized animal characters. There is a map of the routes Maurice and Lotta take on their bikes, and it led to a nice lesson on drawing a map of the park nearby, one they are all familiar with, and its playground, esplanade, lots of walking paths, and the river running by it.  

What Are You Doing, Benny? by Cary Fagan,
illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
Tundra Books, 2019, 36 pages
Benny is a busy older brother. He builds forts, makes potions, folds paper airplanes, but each time his younger sibling asks if he can do these activities with Benny, even after he offers good suggestions for improving on Benny's activity, he's told no. Benny just doesn't want to play with his younger brother. The dejected little cub decides to play with some puppets, instead. But later, he begins to ask Benny if they could do other things together again. When Benny still says NO! over and over, the unnamed sibling returns to playing with the puppets, and begins to have some fun putting on a show with them. So when Benny asks if he can play puppets, too, carrying a sandwich as a peace offering, the young cub, knowing how hurtful no can be to be excluded, agrees to their playing puppets together. And what fun they have! It's clear all the way though this story that the younger sibling really looks up to Benny, even if Benny treats him like an annoyance. The story is a realistic depiction of not uncommon sibling behavior that comes to the same conclusion that most sibling relationships come to - discovering each other as friends and playmates. The soft gouache and watercolor illustrations done in a pastel palette really capture the younger cubs frustration whenever Benny rejects him. Most of my young readers have older siblings and really related to the young cub's relationship with Benny. I think it gave them some hope for their future with their siblings.    

Hibernate with Me by Benjamin Scheuer,
illustrated by Jemima Williams
Simon & Schuster, 2019, 40 pages
Told in rhyme and based on a song of the same name written by Benjamin Scheuer, Hibernate with Me makes a perfect bedtime story. Sometimes all kids feel small, shy, scared or lost and need reassurance and a reminder that they are loved and not alone. A mama bear sings to her cub words of reassurance: "Sometimes things can feel confusing/Sometimes things feel gray./But if you're ever feeling...lost,/I'll help you find your way," and ending most stanzas with a wonderful refrain "Darling you can hibernate with me." Mama bear's comforting words remind baby bear that there's a warm, cozy safe place for the cub to be. Jemima Williams' watercolor and digitally rendered illustrations are warm and friendly, and really capture the strong bond between the mother/child relationship and all its emotions. I've read this book a number of times to my young readers and they never get tired of hearing it and exploring the illustrations. The words and music for the song "Hibernate with Me" are included on the back endpapers and we did have a musician visit and teach us the song, which was a lot of fun.  

Love by Stacy McAnulty,
illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Running Press Kids, 2018, 32 pages
Stacy McAnulty has been one of my young readers' favorite authors and they were happy to see this book about love and add it to our ever growing picture book library. Each two page spread answers the question what is love. Kids quickly learn that love isn't just one thing, but can take many forms, and for each form, there are different ways of expressing love. For example: one page says "Love needs special presents" and the four spot illustrations show one young girl with cancer getting a flower wreath to wear on her head, a boy delivering a book to another boy, a girls bringing cookies to an older woman, and a boy giving his teacher a drawing he made. One of the really special aspects of the is book is the wonderfully diverse kids and adults that are found on page after page. One of the things we learned reading this book is how easy it is to show other love and kindness and that for most people, receiving something that is homemade is best because it comes right from the heart. I loved the whimsical illustrations that harmonize so perfectly with the words about love. My kids tried doing some of the things shown in the book and giving their creations to people they cared about and guess what? Their reactions bore out the message of this book. 

But the Bear Came Back by Tammi Sauer,
illustrated by Dan Taylor
Sterling Children's Books, 2018, 32 pages
A young boy sits in his house reading a book called 101 Activities to Do Alone when there's a knock on the door and a big, roly-poly bear is standing there. Go home, the boy tells the bear. But bear keeps coming back, until one day he doesn't and the boy begins to really miss him. After a few days, he begins to look for bear everywhere, even putting up signs. Well, the bear comes back and there's a new book "101 Activities to Do With Bears." When I read this book to my young readers, I thought about all the times, when I was growing up, I would push away the very thing that I wanted either because I was feeling frustrated, I was just in a contrary mood, or I was afraid to opening myself up too much to someone else. When I asked my kids if they ever acted like the boy or like I had as a girl, surprisingly, they actually said that they did and could remember behaving like that but did not know why. This generated conversation made this book well worth reading. And the playful, colorful illustrations helped to alleviate some of the seriousness that could easily overwhelm this book. I mean, seriously, a big round bear with a tiny suitcase knocking on the front door? See what I mean.

Door written and illustrated by JiHyeon Lee
Chronicle Books, 2018, 56 pages 
You never know what you are going to find behind a door. In this wordless picture book, a young boy walking through a gray land populated with gray, unhappy, angry people finds a key and is led to the door it fits by a small, vibrantly colored flying creature. Behind the door, the boy finds a colorful land and various welcoming beings. He is is invited to join what appears to be a family picnic, where he enjoys their company, eating and have fun with them. Later, the boy goes with them to a place of windows and doors and other beings, all happy, friendly and welcoming. The longer the boy stays in this magical land, the more he loses his grayness. Finally, he ends up at a wedding, followed by a joyful celebration. As he leaves this land, he looks at the key in his hand - and yes, it's the key to happiness and even as he returns to the gray world he lives in, readers know he will be using that key often. This is a wonderful allegory about enjoying life and celebrating our differences in a world that accepts you for who you are. I loved the minimalist illustrations that manage to say so much and the fact that even though the boy and the beings don't speak the same language, they understand each other perfectly. This book generated a lot of conversation among my young readers, and although I believe some of the story went over their heads, they did get the gist of it, and we will be revisiting this book again in the near future.
A New Home written and illustrated by
Tania de Regil
Candlewick Press, 2019, 32 pages
Moving can be traumatic when you are a child, but here is a book that might help ease some of the anxiety kids might feel about moving. A boy living in New York City and a girl living in Mexico City are about to move - he to Mexico City, she to NYC, but both have fear and trepidation. Neither wants to move because they are afraid they will miss a lot of things that they love about the city they already live in - things like going to a ball game, playing in the park, visiting a museum, or heading out the the beach in summer. But as young readers see as they turn the pages, NYC and Mexico City are more alike than different. Each two page spread show the boy doing the things he loves in NYC, and on the opposite page, the girl is doing a similar thing in Mexico City. But not knowing what to expect, each child hopes their life won't be so different in their new home. The mix-media illustrations depict well known places in each city, and there is additional information about them in the back matter. This is a pretty straight forward book and by the end, young readers are certain each child will soon learn to love their new home as much as their old one. A story that celebrates differences within similarities. 

A big thank you from me and my young readers to all the wonderful publishers who provided me with copies of these books.


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