Wednesday, January 18, 2017

In Plain Sight

In Plain Sight by Richard Jackson and Jerry Pinkney (2016) #ownvoices
Sophie lives with her parents and wheelchair bound grandfather. Every day she visits him after school and he just happens to have lost some small object that he needs Sophie to search for until—in plain sight!—there it is. On morning Sophie is about to burst into his room, but is stopped by Mama because he’s still sleeping. Sophie hatches a plan to surprise Grandpa by hiding herself in his room. The adoring relationship between the two is the heart of this wonderful story, and Grandpa’s cat is an additional element for reader’s to observe throughout the story.
Themes/topics: Grandparents, searching/looking/lost, hide and seek, days of the week, games
Sample text from two spreads
And after school each day, Sophie looks in. “Here I am, Grandpa,” she says. “How was the morning?”
“Surprising,” he says. “I had me a paperclip, you know? Nice and shiny. Now it’s vanished. Help me find it, will you, with your bright eyes?”
“Where?” says Sophie.
“That’s just it, honey. You have to look.”
If you lean in close you might hear Sophie say, “Oh.” And eventually, you might hear her say, “There!”
“Good, says Grandpa. “Thanks honey.” 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Chirri and Chirra

Chirri and Chirra by Kaya Doi, Translated from the Japanese by Yuki Kaneko (2016) #ownvoices

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a book that charmed me more than this delightful confection. Chirri and Chirra wake up one day ready for an adventure, so they set off into the woods for a bicycle ride. They stop at the forest café for tea, the forest bakery for bread and jam, and spend the night at the forest hotel—where they join the forest sing-along from the balcony of their room. Pure delight.  It’s a tiny book with tiny details, so probably best for small to medium-sized groups.

Themes/topics: bikes, adventures, fantasy, tea, size

Sample text from two and a half spreads:
After a while, they arrive at the forest hotel. They go inside and ask for a room for the night. One the wall they see keys of all different sizes.

The doors are different sizes too. The hotel clerk takes them to a door that is just right for them.

The beds are just the right size too! Perfect for a good night’s sleep. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T. Smith (2015, UK; 2016 US)
Little Red provides a fun, sassy, and fashionable take on the Little Red Riding Hood story. Little Red immediately recognizes that it’s a lion in her auntie’s bed, and decides to teach the beast a lesson. After taming his wild mane with twists and braids, making him clean his teeth and upgrade his wardrobe, Little Red scolds the fed-up lion, with an admonishment to simply ask for some food if he’s hungry!

Themes/topics: fairy tales, red, tricksters, manners, sickness/illness

Sample text from one spread:
“Oh, hello,” purred the Lion. “Where are you going?”
“To visit my auntie who is covered in spots,” said Little Red.
In the time it took for his tummy to rumble, the Very Hungry Lion had cooked up a very naughty plan.
[illustration shows a map of his plan, which concludes, ‘Well done! You are a VERY clever Lion!’]
And off he rushed to put his plan into action.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

December '16 Round Up: Six New Racially Diverse Books for Storytime

All the book/title/author information is also listed at the end. Enjoy!

Can One Balloon Make and Elephant Fly? by Dan Richards and Jeff Newman (2016)
Visiting the zoo with his mother, Evan keeps asking if x amount of balloons will make each animal fly. Mom, thinking he’s referring to toys, confirms yes to each question—and doesn’t notice Evan handing balloons to the animals in the cages as she ties balloons to the small plastic toys. As mom releases the small plastic toys, Evan looks over her shoulder at the real life animals serenely taking flight as well. Both agree that it’s amazing, although mom is none the wiser.

Themes/topics: zoos, imagination, balloons, miscommunication, fantasy, flying

Sample text:
“Can two balloons make a hippopotamus fly?”
“For you, Evan, two balloons should be plenty to make a hippopotamus fly.”

Look Up! By Jung Jin-Ho (2016 US copyright) #ownvoices

A lonely young girl in a wheelchair looks down on the tiny people in the street below, wishing for someone to look up. Eventually, another child does look up, and after a shouted conversation he lays in the street so she can see more than the top of his head. Others follow suit, and the two new friends are shown in the end on street level, looking up with giant smiles. While this mostly wordless book is best suited for very small groups, it has so much potential for art programs, particularly when talking about perspective and seeing things differently. I think it would pair well with Wenzel’s They All Saw a Cat.

Themes/topics: friendship, perspective, seeing

Sample text from three spreads:
Come down! You can’t see well from up there.
You’re right! I can only see the tops of people’s heads!
[wordless spread with boy laying down]
[another person walks up to the boy] Why are you lying on the sidewalk?
So the girl up there can see me.

Marta! Big & Small by Jen Arena Illustrated by Angela Dominguez (2016) #ownvoices
Marta just might be the cutest human character of 2016. She’s open, delightful, and authentically childlike. The repetitive language and simple storyline teaches opposites while still providing dramatic tension, making this an excellent storytime choice. With her backpack and adventurous spirit, she may remind readers of another Latina explorer, but Marta stands tall on her own merits. Top notch!
Themes/topics: opposites, animals, snakes, exploring
Sample text from two spreads; the Spanish words are in a different color and font.
To a bug, Marta is grande. Big, very big.
To an elephant, Marta is pequeña. Small, very small.

A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen and Mike Lowery (2016)
This one might be hard to pull off in storytime, but it’s SUCH a delightful exploration and visual representation of the process of marks turning into letters turning into words turning into a story. There just has be a program in this book! The story is mostly told through dialogue, which can be difficult to pull off as a read aloud—but again, it’s just so clever, delightful and inspiring!
Themes/topics: writing, stories, siblings, imagination, reading

Sample text from one spread, which switches between text and dialogue bubbles.
“What are you doing?” I ask one day while we’re sitting at the kitchen table.
“I’m writing a story.” [answers his sister]
“I wish I could write a story”
“You CAN. It’s easy.”
“How? I know my letters but I don’t know man words.”
“Write what you know. Every story starts with a single word, and every word starts with a single letter. Why don’t you start there, with a letter?”

The Class by Boni Ashburn and Kimberly Gee (2016)
This rhyming text compares and contrasts the experiences of a group of kids as they get ready for school. Fun, funny, and poignant, this is a great fit for any “first day of school” storytime. The kids are both racially and economically diverse, and the illustrations avoid stereotypes between the two. Fun to read in a group, but extra rewarding to close readers who can track individual children throughout the book and follow their individual stories, this one is worth putting on your radar.
Themes/topics: school, getting dressed/getting ready, growing up
Sample text:
Ten have bed head. Nine use combs. One tries brushes…sprays…and foams…
Two put ribbons in their hair

Four wear day-old underwear. Five can’t find a matching sock.
One yells, “Don’t you ever knock?!” [baby sis opens bathroom door]

When Penny Met POTUS by Rachel Ruiz illustrated by Melissa Manwill (2016) #ownvoices?
Penny’s mother works at the White House. Penny hears the term “POTUS” a lot, and imagines that POTUS is a kind of monster—which leads to much confusion when she comes face-to-face with the real POTUS—who turns out to be a woman. Penny and her mother have dark hair and eyes, and may read as “white” to most viewers, but close readers will note that while Penny and the POTUS’ skin is a similar shade, Penny’s skin tone is more brown than the President’s, and considerably darker than some of the other White House staff, particularly the gardener.
Themes/topics: Presidents, The White House, voting, elections, women, empowerment, monsters

Sample text from three spreads:
“Penny looks at the woman. “You’re POTUS?”
The woman nods, smiling. “POTUS is a nickname people use for me,” she says. “It stands for President of the United States.”

“You’re the president?” Penny asks. “But you’re a—“
[the president is shown in a power pose with a word bubble that reads, “That’s right, I’m a—“]

“Human,” Penny says.
She feels a little disappointed.

Can One Balloon Make and Elephant Fly? by Dan Richards and Jeff Newman (2016)
Look Up! By Jung Jin-Ho (2016 US copyright) #ownvoices
Marta! Big & Small by Jen Arena Illustrated by Angela Dominguez (2016) #ownvoices
A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen and Mike Lowery (2016)
The Class by Boni Ashburn and Kimberly Gee (2016)
When Penny Met POTUS by Rachel Ruiz illustrated by Melissa Manwill (2016) #ownvoices?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

November '16 Round Up: Six New Racially Diverse Books for Storytime

All titles are listed at the end of this post—enjoy!

The Girl with the Parrot on her Head by Daisy Hirst (US ed 2016)

Isabel, the girl with a parrot on her head, has a best friend who moves away. She rages and pouts, and decides to rely on herself—she doesn’t need friends. She and the parrot come up with a SYSTEM to organize things in cardboard boxes, but there’s a wolf too big to fit. One day she finds a large box, perfect for the wolf, but there’s already someone inside. Chester helps Isabel solve her wolf problem, and the two become friends. Quirky, but would work in storytime.

Themes/Topics: friendship, moving, imagination, boxes, wolves

Sample text on two spreads:
....So when she found the biggest box she’d ever seen, the girl with the parrot onher head called out, “Aha! This box is perfect for the wolf.”
However, SOMETHING was already inside. “Oh,”said Isabel. “Is this your box?”

A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts illustrated by Hyewon Yum (2016) #ownvoices

I can never get enough of Hyewon Yum’s expressive, endearing illustrations—they just burst with humor and warmth, and this book is no exception. Watt’s story of a family’s journey to emigrate from Korea is tender and satisfying. Even readers who haven’t experienced living in a different country will be able to relate to the universal feelings of loneliness, longing, and isolation—as well as the joy, pride, and camaraderie evinced through this story.  With longer text and a more in-depth story, this might not work for every storytime, but is one you shouldn’t miss.

Themes/Topics: belonging, home, friendship, family, fitting in

Sample text:
Days become weeks, and weeks become months. I learn “Bathroom” and “Please.” I am surprised that I can form words that make their meaning clear, though they still feel like stones, heavy in my mouth.

They work, though.
“Play with me,” like in Korea
“Pass it back,” like in Korea.

I Hear a Pickle (and Smell, See, Touch, and Taste it, Too!) by Rachel Isadora (2016) #ownvoices

 This is a longer book, separated into five sections—one for each of the senses. For each sense, there are three spreads with multiple examples. The examples include scenarios where you don’t experience the sense being highlighted—such as pointing out things that are too quiet to hear, or how you don’t smell anything with a stuffy nose. While there’s no story, the examples are thoughtfully chosen to evoke emotional connections. While the illustrations include children of a variety of races, the cover features a dark-skinned child with very curly hair. I would use this one in a shortened way, looking at one spread for each sense, or just focusing a whole storytime on one sense and including this title in my selection.

Themes/Topics: senses, opposites, sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch

Sample text from one spread, spot illustrations accompany each example, but the overall trim size is large:

I hear the rain.
[boom] I hear thunder.
I don’t hear the snow falling.
[Whack! Hooray! Yay!] I hear my hit. I hear cheering!

Mitzi Tulane Preschool Detective in: What’s that Smell? by Lauren McLaughlin illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi (2016)

Mitzi is a dark skinned preschooler with curly brown hair. She and her white doll try to solve the mystery of the strange smell emanating from the kitchen. She spies on mama in the kitchen, discusses her findings with Baby Kevin, and discovers more clues. She cracks the case at the last second, and realizes that it’s her own birthday that everyone is gathered to celebrate, and the smell was her cake. Mitzi is clearly adopted into her all-white family, but the party scene shows a diverse cast of friends and family.

Themes/Topics: Mysteries, birthdays, cake, parties

Sample text from two spreads:
“Baby Kev,” she said, “Mommy’s up to something and it sure smells funny”
Baby Kev had suspected as much.
“It’s not breakfast or lunch,” said Mitzi. “And dinner’s a long way off. So what do you think is going on in that kitchen?”
Baby Kev didn’t say much, but he had a lot of time to think.

So Mitzi left him to mull the facts of the case white she want out to search for more clues.

Princess Cupcake Jones and the Queen’s Closet by Ylleya Fields illustrated by Michael LaDuca (2015) #ownvoices

 Princess Cupcake Jones and the Queen’s Closet is one of a series of books starring the title character. Cupcake, a girl whose fashion flair rivals Fancy Nancy, starts pulling out all the shoe boxes in her mother’s closet, trying them on and imagining stories for each shoe until she’s barricaded into the closet and must call for help. This one is a little longer, with rhyming text that mostly scans well, but Cupcake’s extravagant style and the Queen’s myriad lovely shoes will cause readers to happily overlook any slight flaws.

Themes/Topics: Clothing, shoes, dress up, growing up

Sample text from one page; typically six lines per spread.
The Queen’s closet was Cupcake’s favorite place,
Stacked high with shoes within each case.
Those shoes were amazing—the stories they told!—
A rainbow of colors from purple to gold.

Hiccups! By Holly Sterling (2016) #ownvoices

Who doesn’t love a good hiccup book in storytime? In this simple and sweet story, Ruby and her dog, Oscar, are playing a game when Oscar starts hiccupping. Ruby proposes several cures to no avail, but while they don’t cure Oscar’s hiccups, they provide the perfect opportunity for interaction in storytime—from jumpity jumping to waving a magic wand, little ones will stay engaged with this story that is the perfect blend of predictable and surprising.

Themes/Topics: pets, dogs, cats, games, bodies, health

Sample text--all the pages have about the same amount of text, here’s one spread:

“I know, why don’t we try dancy—dancing like this?” said Ruby. [hic!]
Oscar danced just like Ruby, but the hiccups did not stop.

“How about if we jumpity—jump like this?” said Ruby.
Oscar jumped just like Ruby, but the hiccups were still there. [hic!]

The Girl with the Parrot on her Head by Daisy Hirst (US ed 2016)
A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts illustrated by Hyewon Yum (2016) #ownvoices
I Hear a Pickle (and Smell, See, Touch, and Taste it, Too!) by Rachel Isadora (2016) #ownvoices
Mitzi Tulane Preschool Detective in: What’s that Smell? by Lauren McLaughlin illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi (2016)
Princess Cupcake Jones and the Queen’s Closet by Ylleya Fields illustrated by Michael LaDuca (2015) #ownvoices
Hiccups! By Holly Sterling (2016) #ownvoices

Friday, October 21, 2016

October 2016: Spotlight on Julie Flett

We Sang you Home by Richard Van Camp illustrations by Julie Flett (2016) #ownvoices (board book)

I was overjoyed to get my hands on this much-anticipated new board book. Julie Flett is one of my favorite illustrators these days, and I loved this duo's previous collaboration, Little You. After getting my copy of We Sang You Home in the mail, I literally just ordered five more copies, because this is going to be my go-to baby gift book for the rest of my life. There are so few picture books by or with Native characters to begin with, and even fewer authentic/non-problematic ones, it can be really really hard to find anything to share in storytime. I will definitely share this one in my baby storytimes, and if I had smaller family storytimes I would share it there too.

We Sang You Home, like On the Night You Were Born (Tillman) before it, captures that mysterious juxtaposition we feel when we're celebrating a new life--the world is the same, the world is different.  The mundane occurrence of birth alongside the primal miracle of new life entering the world. One of my favorite things about this book is the respect and agency that the child is given. We Sang You Home celebrates the way that a family belongs to and has responsibility to and for each other.

We sang you from a wish. We sang you from a prayer / We sang you home and you sang back / 

My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith illustrations by Julie Flett (2016) #ownvoices (board book)

I reviewed this on for SLJ pre-publication*, and fell completely in love. I recently ordered a set of 16 copies "My Heart Fills with Happiness" to add to my library's selection of books to share during baby storytime, since we follow a one-to-one model of book sharing with babies. If you have a smaller storytime, this would definitely work with older ages as well.

 *You can read my review on Amazon here.

When We Were Alone by David Robertson illustrated by Julie Flett (2017) #ownvoices

Watch out for Flett's March 2017 collaboration with David Robertson, When We Were Alone. Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature has seen it and reviewed it well, so I'm really looking forward to taking a closer look when it comes


Saturday, October 1, 2016

September Round Up

All titles are listed at the end of this post--enjoy!

The Storm by Akiko Hiyakoshi (2016, English ed.) #ownvoices

This is a first person story about a child who is looking forward to a day at the beach with their family. Unfortunately, an impending storm threatens their plans. As the grownups prepare for the storm, the child mopes and complains, and their feelings turn to worry and fear as the storm hits. Safe in bed, the child begins to imagine/dream that they have a ship with big propellers to drive the storm away.  They navigate safely through the darkness of the storm, waking to face a bright beautiful day--perfect for the beach. The dark charcoal illustrations and and first person narrative make this title better suited to intimate storytimes or a classroom setting, but it's definitely a title to make available in your collection or available for browsing after a related storytime.

Themes/Topics: weather, patience, dreams, beach, worry

Sample text--all the pages have about the same amount of text:

I just mope. 
"If we can't go tomorrow, we'll go next week," my mother says. 
I don't want to go next week. I want to go tomorrow. 

I Want a Monster! by Elise Gravel (2016)

Winnie wants a monster more than anything. All her friends have monsters! She finally convinces Dad to take her to the Monsterium to pick out a monster-it's the best day of her LIFE!  Unsurprisingly, raising a baby monster is a bit more complicated than Winnie anticipated, but she's up to the task. This title is a super fun, energetic read, with lots of little asides that can be read or skipped depending on your audience (similar style to Bob Shea's Buddy and the Bunnies). Too long and detailed for toddler storytime, but a great fit for school visits and storytime groups that skew a little older. The silly monster names and zany illustrations combined with the tongue-in-cheek serious text really make this one a winner

Themes/Topics: monsters, pets, dads,

Sample text:

Papa has a crush on this little guy. Isn't he absolutely adorable? He's a baby Oogly-Wump. [illustration shows monster waving and saying, 'arf.'] 
According to my book, Oogly-Wumps are cuddly with red hair, and they smell a bit like pirate feet. 
"We'll name him Gus," says Papa. 

Kangaroo Kisses by Nandana Dev Sen illustrated by Pippa Curnick (2016) #ownvoices

'Can a frog stand on its head?' wonders the pig-tailed child standing on her head in her bedroom, stuffed frog on the floor nearby.  Mom comes in with news of bedtime, and "not yet" becomes the refrain as mom guides her through the nightly routine. Each new request from mom sparks rhyming flights of fancy taking the girl to the habitats of the animals seen in her home. This one is made for storytime, and is a welcome and natural addition to the bedtime book shelves.

Themes/Topics: bedtime, animals, imagination

Sample text from two spreads:
"See the clock? Hear it chime? You know it's bedtime!"
"But I must hug my pup!"
"And I must tuck you up!"
"I will kiss kangaroo!"
"NO, now I'll kiss you!
"Will you turn out the light, and hug me good night?"
"YES! I love you, I do!" 
"And I love you too! Night night!"

Leo Can Swim by Anna McQuinn illustrated by Ruth Hearson (2016)

The Leo books are all so perfect for baby and toddler storytimes, and this new one is no different.  First Leo is shown in the bathtub, and we're told that he loves water, like a little fish. Tomorrow Leo is going to swim class with Daddy. Simple text and endearing illustrations show children what to expect when they go swimming at a pool or to a swim class. I love the emphasis on family relationships these books always have, and although the text is straightforward,  it is still very warm, sweet, and useful.

Themes/Topics: swimming, water, dads, exercise

Sample text from two spreads describing the end of swim class:

Then Daddy is Daddy Fish, and Leo is Baby Fish. Leo loves that. /
Next it is off to the shower. They use sloshy soap...and sloppy lotion. 

Don't Call Me Grandma by Vaunda Micheaux Neson, illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon (2016) #ownvoices

A young girl tells readers about her relationship with her Great Grandmother Nell--never 'grandma'--who doesn't hug or kiss, and expects her granddaughter to behave just so. The girl loves her elegant and fierce relative and is fascinated by her despite her rather prickly demeanor. The girl tells readers all about her great-grandmother, and as we learn about her, we can't help but be charmed as the girl finds ways to relate to and love Great-Grandmother Nell on her own terms.

Themes/Topics: Grandparents, family,

Sample text:

"Here," she says and dabs me with something that smells like vanilla. Then she sniffs me hard and loud with her wide nostrils. 

Great-Grandmother Nell is stern, but she is glamourous. Her skin is chocolaty brown, and her lips are painted ruby red. After she puts on lipstick, she presses her mouth to a tissue. She colors my lips too, then shows me her tissue trick. "To make sure you are wearing just enough, but not too much," she explains. I pucker my lips and kiss the air. 

Great-Grandmother Nell never kisses. 

Mary Had a Little Glam by Tammi Sauer illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (2016)

Move over, Fancy Nancy, Mary has arrived! Following the cadence of the familiar rhyme, this Mary shepherds fashion rather than sheep. On her first day of school she is alarmed to find her nursery-rhyme classmates to be a fairly drab bunch, but jumps right in to educating her whole school in the art of natty dressing. But at recess, Mary and her elegant crew are faced with the realization that they are dressed all wrong for fun in the muddy playground. Never fear, Mary and her classmates waste no time abandoning their fancy dress for some good clean (messy!) fun. Ultimately, the message that Mary imparts on readers is that we can be complex people with many interests--even if those interests seem to be counter to each other.

Themes/Topics: clothing, first day of school, getting dressed, fancy, princess

 Sample text:

Mary had a little glam that grew into a LOT. And everywhere that Mary went, she wasn't hard to spot. 

But on the day she started school, she caught some by surprise. Sweet Mary shrugged and hugged her mom. I must accessorize!"

The Storm by Akiko Miyakoshi (2016, English ed.) #ownvoices
I Want a Monster! by Elise Gravel (2016)
Kangaroo Kisses by Nandana Dev Sen illustrated by Pippa Curnick (2016) #ownvoices
Leo Can Swim by Anna McQuinn illustrated by Ruth Hearson (2016)
Don't Call Me Grandma by Vaunda Micheaux Neson, illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon (2016) #ownvoices
Mary Had a Little Glam by Tammi Sauer illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (2016)