Friday, December 12, 2014

November Round-Up

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Goodnight Already! by Jory John, Illustrated by Benji Davies
HarperCollins, 2014
Bear is sleepy, incredibly sleepy. He could sleep for months! He's just about to settle into bed when his neighbor Duck knocks on the door. Duck is definitely not sleepy. Will Bear ever get to sleep? The humorous all dialogue text has a distinctive font for Bear and another for Duck, making this a fun preschool read aloud. The cartoonish illustrations are animated with exaggerated facial and body expressions that heighten the humor.

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The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan, Illustrated by Hadley Hooper
Roaring Brook Press, 2014
 This vividly colored book invites the reader to imagine what it would be like to grow up like the painter Henri Matisse did. He grew up in a small, grey industrial town in France, but that didn't mean he wasn't surrounded by color. The simple "what if?" text combined with the relief printmaking and digital illustrations create a wonderful introduction and tribute to an important artist. An author's/illustrator's note at the end of the book include more information about Matisse, the inspirations for this book, and further reading suggestions. 

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The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
 Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014
 Beginning with his birth in 1779, this picture book biography looks at the life of Peter Mark Roget-better known as the man who created Roget's thesaurus. The mixed media illustrations incorporate Roget's notebooks and original thesaurus. Synonyms seem to sprout all over the pages and the endpapers are especially intriguing. The straight forward text provides just enough -- but not an overwhelming amount -- of detail for young readers. Excellent back matter includes, a timeline of important events, an author's and illustrator's notes, as well as a selected bibliography, further reading, and sources. This is a great title for elementary aged kids, who will want to start a few lists of their own after reading this book. 

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The World According to Musk Ox by Erin Cabatingan, Illustrated by Matthew Myers 
Roaring Press Books, 2014
 The dynamic duo of zebra and musk ox from "A is for Musk Ox" and "Musk Ox Counts" are back for their third installment. This time their hilarious, pun-tastic adventures take them globe-trotting to all seven continents. The painterly illustrations match the humor of the back-and-forth banter between the two friends. Facts about each continents climate, landmarks, animals, and geography are woven into the story. Fun for independent or group reading, especially for elementary aged kids who are learning about their continents.

Friday, November 7, 2014

October Round-Up

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The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water by Gemma Merino
NorthSouth Books, 2014

“Once upon a time, there was a little crocodile. And this little crocodile didn’t like water.” And that makes him so sad because his brothers and sisters love water so much. He tries really hard to like it, but each attempt is a failure. What’s a little crocodile to do? The soft colors and cartoonish lines of the illustrations compliment the concise, yet compelling text. Several sets of sequential panels allow for more detail and expression and the page turns are strategically placed for maximum effect. Read this book for a preschool storytime and enjoy the moment when the kids figure out the plot twist. 

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Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki, Illustrated by Qin Ling
Kids Can Press, 2014

Little Hana Hashimoto longs to play the violin like her Ojiichan (grandfather). Hana is just a beginner, but she practices and practices for the upcoming school talent show. Her brother’s worry she will be an embarrassment, but Hana surprises them. Instead of playing classical music, she plucks out the sound of rain on a paper umbrella, lowing cows, squeaking mice, and croaking frogs. Set in Japan, the soft pencil and digital illustrations quietly compliment the descriptive, humble text. Use this book with elementary aged students to start a discussion about the musical sounds we hear in our everyday world.

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Rex Wrecks It by Ben Clanton
Candlewick, 2014

Gizmo, Sprinkles, and Wild love to build towers out of blocks, but their friend Rex just loves to wreck them! No matter how big, strong or awesomerific the towers, Rex wrecks them all. What are the friends to do? With colorful and dynamic illustrations done in ink, pencil, watercolor, and “digital magic”, this story is great for a preschool or toddler storytime. The concise text is just the right length for a read aloud and it’s fun to get the audience to “RAWR!” along with Rex.

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Telephone by Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Jen Corace
Chronicle Books, 2014

Peter’s mom wants him to come home for dinner. So she passes the message down the bird covered telephone wire. Unfortunately, the birds get the message a little confused. Will Peter understand it when it finally gets to him? The playfully humorous all dialogue text is perfect for an elementary aged audience. Corace’s watercolor, ink, gouache, and pencil illustrations feature soft colors, precise edges, and visual humor galore. Follow up with your own game of telephone.


Friday, October 3, 2014

September Round-Up

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Mix It Up by Hervé Tullet
Chronicle Books, 2014

In the spirit of his wildly popular Press Here, Tullet tackles colors in a highly interactive and playful manner. The cheerful text provides instructions that encourages readers to explore color mixing and to make predictions. The painted illustrations are vivid and textured as the colors splash and spatter about the pages. This is a great book for an all ages storytime or for one-on-one sharing. It also supports the ECRR2 practice of play.  

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Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo
Clarion Books, 2014

Nana lives in New York City. A place her small grandson finds busy, loud, and full of scary things. But then Nana makes him a cape to keep him brave and shows him all the things she loves about her city. Simple text paired with vibrant colors and bold black outlines give the illustrations a playful, cartoonish tone. Castillo has created wonderfully modern and vivacious grandmother. Share this with a child before visiting the city or visiting a grandparent.

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Quest by Aaron Becker
Candlewick, 2014

The sequel to last year’s Journey, this wordless adventure turns a rainy day at the city park into a magical quest. The two friends from Journey, armed with their red and purple chalk sticks, use their imagination to follow the clues on a map and save the hidden kingdom. The detailed watercolor, pen and ink illustrations draw the reader into the story, searching for clues and anticipating the adventure on the next page. This book is fascinating and enjoyable as a standalone title, as well as a sequel. Try giving this book to a child on a rainy afternoon. Check out the tantalizing book trailer

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Tiny Creatures: TheWorld of Microbes by Nicola Davies, Illustrated by Emily Sutton
Candlewick, 2014

This non-fiction title celebrates the microscopic, yet vitally important, world of microbes! Engaging and concise, the text compares and contrasts the size and number of microbes in an easily relatable fashion. The watercolor illustrations feature a red-headed pair of children and their cat who explore the world of microbes along with the reader. A vast variety of microbes are presented in visually stunning ways using the large trim size well. Although more indepth information on microbes would have been a nice addition to the back matter, this is still a wonderful title to recommend for an elementary classroom read aloud. It is a great introduction to microbes and it has a solid STEM connection.


Monday, September 1, 2014

August Round-Up

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Hermelin: The Detective Mouse as told to Mini Grey
Alfred A. Knopf, 2013

There’s a lot of mysterious stuff happening on Offley Street. Good thing Hermelin’s around to use his mouse-y detective skills. He solves the mystery of the Lost Glasses of Dr. Parker and the Dramatic Rescue of Baby McMumbo. But how will the neighbors react when they realize their celebrated sleuth is a rodent?  This romp of a mystery is chockfull of humorous narration by Hermelin and delicious visuals clues hidden in the mixed media illustrations. Try leaving it lying around and let elementary school aged kids pour over the illustrations. Offley Street is populated by a whimsical set of neighbors and  Hermelin is a curious, goodhearted protagonist, much like Eve Titus’s Anatole. Although the ending is satisfying, Grey leaves the reader clues that could very well led to more adventures for Hermelin and his new friend Emily.

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Hug Machine by Scott Campbell
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014

Look out! Here comes the Hug Machine! Ready to give everyone a hug – young or old, short or tall! He might look like a boy, but he’s actually a Hug Machine that runs on pizza! No matter what the Hug Machine is always open for business! This expressive read aloud is a fun book for a Valentine’s Day themed toddler storytime. Written from the boy’s point of view, the text is energetic and humorous. The watercolor illustrations feature exaggerated characters, especially the long-armed Hug Machine. Don’t miss the whimsical endpapers!

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I Feel Five! By Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Candlewick Press, 2014

Fritz wakes up knowing that today he’ll feel different because today he’s five! Except he doesn’t feel different. He still can’t tie his shoelaces and none of his teeth are even the tiniest bit loose! Will he ever feel five? The easy to read font plus bright, cartoonish pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations make this a fun title for preschool storytime. Try using it for a birthday themed storytime along with A Letter for Amy by Ezra Jack Keats.

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Nancy Knows by Cybèle Young
Tundra Books, 2014

They say an elephant never forgets…but Nancy might have forgotten something important. So she tries to remember things she knows – things that are the same and things that are different, things with wheels, and places to relax. She remembers them backwards and forwards, this way and that. What is it that Nancy can’t remember? The highlight of this delightful book is the loose, yet precise artwork created with graphite pencil and sculptures made with Japanese papers. Simple text and delicate illustrations pair perfectly to illustrate concepts (messy vs. clean, backwards vs. forwards). The short text and the happy ending make this a great book for storytime.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

July Round-Up

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At the Same Moment,Around the World by Clotilde Perrin
Chronicle Books, 2014

Flying from one time zone to the next the same moment around the world is examined. So many things are happening! Diego has just been born in Lima, Peru. In Anadyr, Russia Ivan is walking his dog. And Samantha is driving a train through the night in the dessert of Arizona. The pencil and digital illustrations are full of swirling movement that pushes the page turns. The cartoon style uses fine outlines to add detail. Originally published in France, the back matter includes information on the history of telling time and time zones. A map of the world, showing all the people featured, folds out from the last page of the book.

Balzer + Bray, 2014
(Galley reviewed)

Louise is an artist and she’s very excited to be creating her masterpiece. She can’t wait to display this pièce de résistance on the Gallery du Fridge! Her little brother Art is excited about his work, too. Unfortunately, his favorite material to use is Louise’s art! Using a palate of mostly red and black, Light looks at a close sibling relationship and the joy of creating art for those we love. The black pencil and Photoshop illustrations pair nicely with the concise narration by Louise. A great book for storytime or to use one-on-one to discuss the good intentions of a younger sibling to an older sibling.

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Remy and Lulu by Kevin Hawkes (with miniatures by Hannah E. Harrison)
Alfred A. Knopf, 2014

Remy and Lulu met one day in the countryside. They shared lunch and then Lulu the dog happily wagged her tail and followed Remy to his next portrait painting job. Remy tells Lulu that his eyes are bad, so instead he paints the essence of a person. Unfortunately, essences don’t make customers happy. But the tiny portraits Lulu paints of portrait posers pets become a sensation! Using a sunny palate, this story celebrates the joy of creating art that speaks to the artist. Hawkes rich brush strokes balance the crisp, slick details of Harrison’s miniatures. The longer length of the text and complexity of the illustrations makes this an excellent title to share with elementary aged children.

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Sparky by Jenny Offill, Illustrated by Chris Appelhans
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2014

Like many children, the girl in this book wants a pet, but her mother insists the only kind of pet she can get is one that doesn’t need to be walked or fed or bathed. So the girl gets a sloth and she names him Sparky. She loves him completely and devotes lots of time to training him and feeding him, but no matter what she does he falls asleep! What’s a girl to do? Expressive pencil illustrations punctuated with soft watercolor washes bring this humorous story to life. The first person narration from the girl’s point of view is funny in a straight forward manner that will make kids, as well as adults, laugh. A wonderful book for preschool-lower elementary aged children who long for a pet of their own.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

June Round-Up

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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.  

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.


Monday, February 3, 2014

January Round-Up

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A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream by Kristy Dempsey, Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Penguin Books, 2014

Full of beautiful and inspiring imagery, Dempsey’s poetic text is written from the perspective of a young African-American girl in the 1950’s. A girl who hardly dares to hope that her dream of becoming a ballerina could ever come true. But then she sees Janet Collins, the first “colored” prima ballerina, perform at the Met and she can feel hope rising around her. The dreamy mixed media illustrations, soft-edged and sepia toned, pair nicely with Dempsey’s precisely worded text, full of hope and longing. Dempsey writes in her author’s note that although the girl in this story is fictional, Janet Collins was a real person. This is a great book to share one-on-one or in a classroom setting for elementary aged kids.

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Don’t Play with Your Food by Bob Shea
Disney Hyperion, 2014

Buddy the monster is all set to eat the fluffy white bunnies, “Hey, guys! Hop in my mouth so I can eat you!” But then they offer him cupcakes. And take him to the carnival. And they go swimming. And they even create the Stripey-Stripe Club in his honor! Buddy played with his food and now he's confused! Are the bunnies food or are they friends? What’s a monster to do? The neon colors and the bold lines compliment Shea’s hilarious text that just begs to be read aloud to preschool and elementary aged kids.

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Mr. Flux by Kyo Maclear, Illustrated by Matte Stephens
Kids Can Press, 2013

Martin is just fine with his routine life in his unchanging neighborhood with predictable family and neighbors. It’s not that he doesn’t like change, it’s just that he doesn’t know change. But all that changes the day Mr. Flux moves in next door. He calls himself an artist, but he doesn’t make anything “art-like.” Soon, Martin is not only trying new things, but he’s enjoying them! In this wonderfully quirky book very loosely based on the Fluxus artist, George Maciunas, the beauty and joy of change is celebrated. The clever and philosophical text will make readers think. The flat gouache illustrations whimsically play with perception and space as Mr. Flux introduces Martin to all sorts of new experiences, like playing tennis while riding turtles and spinning toy rabbits on record players. This is a fun book to share one-on-one or to read aloud to an elementary aged group.Try pairing it with Pinkwater's The Big Orange Splot.

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Yellow is My Color Star by Judy Horacek
Beach Lane Books, 2014

Using fun rhymes and questions that invite young readers to participate, the child in this book (wonderfully gender neutral) extols the virtues of the color yellow. Large, bold text stands out against white pages complimented by Horacek’s watercolor illustrations. The book boasts an energetic cast of children of all skin and hair colors joyfully moving through a colorful landscape. Use this short and playful book for toddler storytime.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

December Round-Up

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Fraidyzoo by Thyra Heder
Harry N. Abrams, 2013
Unlike the rest of her family, Little T is not excited to go to the zoo. She can’t remember why, so her family begins an A-to-Z guessing game of make-believe to figure it out. After thinking about all the animals in the zoo, from alligator to zebra, camel to xantis, Little T decides she’s not afraid of the zoo at all. The energetic and understanding family in this book demonstrate the power of play and imagination as they create zoo animals from household items. With a funny twist of an ending, this book is great for kindergarten and lower elementary aged kids who know their alphabet.

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Rutherford B. Who Was He?: Poems about Our Presidents by Marilyn Singer, Illustrated by John Hendrix
Disney-Hyperion, 2013
This collection of sometimes funny, sometimes rhyming, always thought provoking poetry covers all the U.S. presidents from Washington to Obama. Arranged in chronological order, Singers poems celebrates the victories, laments the failures, mourns the lost, and puzzles over the mysteries of the many men who have lead our country. Some presidents get a poem all to themselves, while other poems read like dialogue between two or more commanders in chief. Hendrix’s detailed and humorous illustrations feature recognizable caricatures of the presidents. In addition, many quotes are incorporated into the illustrations as hand-drawn text. Back matter includes a brief explanation of presidential duties, as well as biographies about each president. Check out the end papers at the back of the book for a visual presidential timeline. The catchy book trailer is a fun way to get a sample of the flavor of the book. This is a great book to support a unit on American history.

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Up! Tall! And High! by Ethan Long
Putnam Juvenile, 2012
In this fun, flap-filled picture book the concepts of up, tall, and high are explored in three episodic stories. Each concept is humorously acted out by a cast of colorful birds who speak in speech bubbles. The cartoon-like illustrations use bright colors and thick black outlines to convey the concepts, as well as the reactions of the birds. This is a fun book to read to preschoolers or a great choice for independent early reading.

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The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli 
Disney-Hyperion, 2013
Isn’t watermelon tasty? The crocodile (or alligator?) in this book sure thinks so. Watermelon is great for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Chomp! Slurp! Chomp! Until a watermelon seed is swallowed! Gulp! What if a watermelon starts growing inside the crocodile’s body and vines twist out of the crocodile’s ears? This might put the crocodile off watermelon forever (but probably not).  The illustrations, a combination of hand printing and Photoshop techniques, use a three color watermelon palatte of green, red, and black to futher highlight the main character’s love of this amazing food. The text is one long, dramatic, crocodile monologue that makes for an animated read aloud. I like to read this book to elementary school kids. It's also notable that the crocodile is nameless and gender neutral.