Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Reading Roundup: November 2015

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 28
Early Readers: 1

Library: 29

Writing: This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
You'd think filming a nature documentary about moose woudln't lend itself to drama, hijinks, and laughter, but you would be wrong. The titular animal decides that he wants to do anything but moosey things, and ends up dragging the rest of the production along with him.
Illustration: Beautiful Hands by Kathryn Otoshi and Bret Baumgarten
With art made up completely of fingerprints and handprints, this is a feast for the eyes that might inspire some little artists. Though hopefully not on their walls.
Overall: Please, Open This Book! by Adam Lehrhaupt, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
Poor little monkeys! When the last person closed the book, everything went splat. Finally you've come along to open it so tehy can set things right. But - uhoh. What happens when YOU come to the end? This one rises to the top of my mental list of interactive books.

Because I Want To Awards
I Never Would Have Thought of Making a Picture Book About This: What in the World? Numbers in Nature by Nancy Raines Day, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus
More than just numbers, this is about number sets, groups of distinct objects that are all similar. With the focus on early math literacy, it's an introduction to a concept that also works as a lovely picture books.
For That One Kid, You Know That One Kid: Steve, Raised by Wolves by Jared Chapman
Awww, poor Steve! He makes a great wolf, but a less-successful student. He crashes and burns at school until he finds a way to make his wolfy instincts work for his classmates. It's pretty funny, but it's also about finding a balance between fitting in and being yourself.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Reading Roundup: October 2015

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 28
Early Readers: 1

Library: 29

Writing: Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob Shea and Lane Smith
When the outlaws come riding into town, you really need a sheriff. On a tortoise. Who knows his paleontology. I roared with laughter all the way through this sideways, quirky romp of a book.
Illustration: A Perfectly Messed Up Story by Patrick McDonnell
In media ranging from peanut butter to crayon, McDonnell tells the story of this perfectly imperfect book and makes us love it for its imperfections.
Overall: Pirate, Viking, and Scientist by Jared Chapman
Life in general, and your birthday party in particular, is tough when your two best friends (the pirate and the viking) don't get along. But luckily, you have the scientific method to figure out how to bring them together.

Because I Want To Awards
Oh Please Please Let This Be a Series: Shark Detective! by Jessica Olien
Because I really just need more Shark Detective and his feline pal. I just do.
Almost the Writing Standout: My Teacher is a Monster! (No I am not) by Peter Brown
Is there anything more disconcerting than meeting a despised teacher in public? Maybe becoming friends with them. Yikes.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Reading Roundup: September 2015

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 37

Library: all

Writing: The Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat
Oh, the pain of never being picked! An imaginary friend gets tired of waiting to be dreamed into existence and goes to find his child. I really enjoyed that she wasn't precisely what he imagined in the beginning but wound up being perfect.
Illustration: Following Papa's Song by Gianna Marino
Luminous underwater scenes, with glowing fish and graceful whales, make this a book that I'd love to see as a mural.
Overall: The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach
The unseen narrator spins a long and ever-more-unlikely story of a sandwich stealing bear. This would stand out just for the incredibly expressive bear, but lucky us, the story is delightful as well.

Because I Want To Awards
Best Parents Ever: Jacob's New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case
Even better because they're not entirely sure about this business of their son wearing a dress to school, but they come through with support and love for their non-conforming son.
The Glamorous Creative Life: The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
A kid struggles to bring her notions to life, but finds it's not so easy. Plus, maybe what she ends up with isn't precisely what she imagined but it's wonderful anyway.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Reading Roundup: August 2015

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 28
Early Readers: 2

Library: 30

Writing: The New Small Person by Lauren Child
Has it been done before? Yes, of course. Is it still relevant? Totally. Lauren Child brings her sympathetic realism to the timeless story of a big brother who really would rather NOT be a big brother, thank you very much, until he starts to see some of the advantages of having another small person around.
Illustration: Help! We Need a Title! by Herve Tullet
Another wildly imaginative story with interactive illustrations from my favorite French picture-book author.
Overall: One Family by George Shannon
With a multiplicity of races, ages, and genders shown in the pictures and a repeating refrain that we are all one family, this is a book I'm going to keep on display.

Because I Want To Awards
Brought Me to Tears: I'm New Here by Anne Sibley O'Brien
Three kids from different parts of the world all arrive in the same classroom, feeling silenced and lonely with the language barrier. Sharp eyes will catch Fatima's sorrowful backstory in the illustrations, but you needn't share it with kids who aren't quite ready.
It's Not All Satin: I Want to Be a Ballerina by Anna Membrino, illustrated by Smiljana Coh
Longing to be just like big sis, a little girl learns that you have to master certain skills in order to do the tutu justice. I loved that she is shown struggling to master these skills in order to be ready for class, a familiar feeling for many young kids trying to master their bodies.
Just Made Me Laugh Out Loud: Nuts in Space by Elys Dolan
This may become my go-to guy for sly, kooky, tongue-in-cheek picture books.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Reading Roundup: July 2015

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 16
Early Readers: 1

Library: 17

Writing: Building Our House by Jonathan Bean
A family builds their house together, in the process making it a home. Based on the author's own childhood experience of the same.
Illustration: Henri's Scissors by Jeannette Winter
This story of Henri Matisse creating art right up until the end of his life made me tear up.
Overall: Blue on Blue by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes
A summer thunderstorm, illuminated by Krommes' woodcuts, makes this a delicious and evocative story for one or a group.

Because I Want To Awards

Here, Have a Little Taxonomy with Your Zoo Animals: Xander's Panda Party by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Matt Phelan
It's a tough choice, deciding who to invite to your birthday. Should you invite all the mammals? All the invertebrates?  Decisions, decisions.
Some Things Can't Be Tamed: Wild by Emily Hughes
A wild little girl gets brought to civilization, but civilization isn't going to succeed in coming to her. The end is tremendously satisfying.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Reading Roundup: June 2015

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 21
Early Readers: 2

Library: 23

Writing: Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes
Penny finds a marble in a neighbor's yard and steals it, but the guilt proves too much. I love a book that respects a child's capacity for sheer inner turmoil, and Kevin Henkes always delivers, particularly with his "Penny" series.
Illustration: Don't Spill the Milk!, illustrated by Christopher Corr, written by Stephen Davies
More than just the bright and colorful pictures, this compelled me because it's a glimpse into a very different world than mine. Penda's journey through the landscape of Burkina Faso (a small country along the Niger River) will take kids away.
Overall: Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh
This book pulls no punches when it comes to the experience of migration to El Norte. From riding on top of trains to having to bribe border guards, this little bunny has to do it all in order to find his Papa and bring him home.

Because I Want To Awards
Man, I Always Knew They Were Up to Something: Weasels by Elys Dolan
It would be the most adorable world domination ever, if they can figure out what's wrong with the machine. The readout that stated, "Machine Status: Broken" made me howl with laughter.
Perfect for Little Hands: Tap to Play by Salina Yoon
Like "Press Here" and "Don't Push the Button," you should use this one with kids who want to put their hands all over the book anyway. Which, to be fair, is all of them.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Book Review: Open Very Carefully by Nicola O'Byrne, illustrated by Nick Bromley

Book: Open Very Carefully
Author: Nicola Byrne
Illustrator: Nick Bromley
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library

Are you all ready to hear the story of the Ugly Duckling? You'll have to avoid that crocodile first, though! He likes to chomp things, like letters, and whole sentences. How will you ever get this crocodile out of the book?

There's been a spate of books lately that encourage interaction and engagement with the book as an object, playing with characters that tear pages, eat words, etc. Open This Book Very Carefully shows why that can be such fun.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Book Review: Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Joy Ang

Book: Mustache Baby
Author: Bridget Heos
Illustrator: Joy Ang
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library

When little baby Billy is born with a mustache, his parents anxiously wait to see whether it will be a good-guy mustache . . . or a bad-guy mustache. At first, he seems like a law-abiding child, even a law-enforcing one. But one day his mustache begins to curl up at the ends . . .

This book made me laugh so hard. Ang's plump baby and toddler with the thick, bushy mustache just tickles the funny bone, and Heos adds to the fun with melodramatic, tongue-in-cheek narration, often playfully contrasting with the illustrations. (Keep an eye on the always-unimpressed cat, who has to have been inspired by Grumpy Cat's expressions.)

Under the absurdity and the wordplay lies a story about human behavior (particularly small humans) and how you don't need to be defined as one thing or another. You can have a bad-mustache day and still be a good kid.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Book Review: Bunnies!!! by Kevan Atteberry

Book: Bunnies!!!
Author: Kevan Atteberry
Illustrator: Kevan Atteberry
Published: 2015
Source: Local Library

A little monster greets everything he sees in the forest. When he catches a glimpse of bunnies (!!!), his excitement knows no bounds. But they keep running away from him! Woe. With every rebuffed attempt, his mood droops lower and lower. Poor little monster. Will the bunnies ever play with him?

We all know that kid who gambols after everybody in hopes of making friends.We also know the kids who get scared off by all that energy. Both will find something to sympathize with, along with a new idea. The text is made up wholly of the little monster's speech, so I really want to read this aloud, with the accompanying changes in his mood. With candy-colored bunnies and a friendly butterfly, this is nothing but sweet and fun.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Reading Roundup: May 2015

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 23
Early Readers: 1

Library: 24

Writing: The Nowhere Box by Sam Zuppardi
Having lost all patience with his obnoxious little brothers, the main character gets in his box and goes the one place he can be alone: Nowhere. Except that Nowhere is starting to get awful lonesome . . . A familiar situation for anyone with siblings.
Illustration: The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman
Fish is an adventurer, and Snail is a homebody who likes to hear his friend's tales. Will he be able to brave the wilds of the next book over? With delicate, expressive illustrations, the adorability is off the charts.
Overall: Hello, My Name is Ruby by Philip Stead
A friendly little bird collects friends wherever she goes, but even so, she can get her feelings hurt when somebody turns her down. But when she finds her flock, she brings all her friends along. This is a trademark P.Stead book, with its gentleness and its sweetness and its theme of community.

Because I Want To Awards
If You Don't Laugh at This, You Have No Soul: Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Joy Ang

A baby born with a mustache presents his parents with a conundrum: will it be a good-guy mustache or a bad-guy mustache? With giggles and wordplay (two words: "cat burglar") and of course, lots of visual puns about mustaches, the adults might laugh louder than the kids.
I Feel Ya, Betty: Betty Goes Bananas by Steve Antony
Betty is a very large gorilla with a very small stock of patience for the difficulties of banana-extraction. Gosh, I want to read this aloud.
Might Be Dangerous in Storytime: Here Comes Destructo-Saurus! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard
With Destructo-Saurus stomping everywhere and the narrator addressing him like a parent scolding a naughty child, kids might get so into this that they begin their own adorable rampage.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Book Review: Supertruck by Stephen Savage

Book: Supertruck
Author: Stephen Savage
Illustrator: Stephen Savage
Published: 2015
Source: Local Library

Every truck in the city has its own job, some more glamorous than others. The firetruck, the tow truck, these are heroic trucks! The meek, quiet garbage truck is . . . not. But when a massive snowstorm hits the city, none of the other trucks can help. Only the mysterious Supertruck can save the day! Although, interestingly enough, that meek, quiet garbage truck is nowhere to be seen . . .

Stephen Savage's books never fail to make me smile.This one, with its mashup of trucks (yay!) and superheroes (yaaaaaaaaaaay!) has enormous appeal, and its simple text make it a great read-aloud. I read this to a group of children from age two up to about eight at least, and they all loved it. Genre-savvy young readers will probably figure out the garbage truck's secret early on (especially with the giant clue of the big Clark Kent glasses) but that will just up the enjoyment.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Reading Roundup: April 2015

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 21
Early Readers: 1

Library: 21

Writing: The New Arrival by Vanya Nastanlieva
There are a lot of books about a person being wary of their new surroundings. What about those surroundings being wary of the new person? This folded both in, with bonus hedgehogs and bunnies.
Illustration: Roger is Reading a Book by Koen Van Biesen, trans. Laura Watkinson
I love the collage effect of these illustrations, which take on most of the storytelling load about poor Roger driven to distraction by his neighbor's noisy ways. Also, keep your eye on the dog.
Overall: Supertruck by Stephen Savage
Trucks as superheroes? It's a combination guaranteed to make your average three year old's head explode with glee.

Because I Want To Awards
Begs to be Performed: Monkey and Duck Quack Up! by Jennifer Hamburg, ill. Ed Fotheringham
Note I said "performed," not just "read aloud." With its specific call-and-response rhythms, this needs to be performed by a pair that really gets how to do it, and that would be awesome.
Poor Monster!: Bunnies!!! by Kevan Atteberry
An overenthusiastic monster keeps frightening the bunnies away. But all he wants to do is play! Awwww.
Do We Ever Get to See the Monkeys?: Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett, ill. Kevin Cornell
Page after page, we are denied simian antics because some other critter interfered. When will we see monkeys? When?!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Reading Roundup: March 2015

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 34
Early Readers: 1

Library: 34

Writing: Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall
Not gonna lie, this made my lip wobble just a little bit. A crayon in a red wrapper does his best to be red (even though everything comes out blue). It's only when someone recognizes the beauty of his blue-ness that he can really access his full potential. Works on so many levels.
Illustration: The Tortoise and the Hare by Jerry Pinkney
Of course, the setting gave this book a leg up in my desert southwest heart. But the arid, brown-and-gold beauty of this book won it over completely.
Overall: Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
Poor buttoned-up Mr. Tiger really needs to cut loose. When he does, though, he finds himself just the teensiest bit . . . lonely. I loved seeing Mr. Tiger's unruly fur even when he's in his high collars, and the shock on the faces of his proper neighbors.

Because I Want To Awards
Argh argh argh I want to read this in storytime: Open Very Carefully by Nick Bromley, ill. Nicola Byrne
And why should you open it carefully? Because the crocodile might get out, of course. Another one to add to my collection of books with teeth.
So Nearly Got the Overall Prize: I'm Going to Catch My Tail! by Jimbo Matison
A kitty wakes up determined to catch his tail, which (somehow being a separate intelligence) is just as determined that this will not happen. A romp all over the pages ensues, until the reason why comes out. And what is that? Because kitty wanted a hug. Awwww.
Alien-Earth Relations Should All Go This Well: Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner
The master of the weird wordless is back with a story of tiny aliens banding together with tiny Earthen ants and mice to escape the predations of the household cat. Loved how the languages were rendered, and how the aliens' visit was remembered in ant-lore ever after.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Book Review: Cute and Cuter by Michael Townsend

Book: Cute and Cuter
Author: Michael Townsend
Illustrator: Michael Townsend
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library

A little girl gets a puppy for her birthday (promptly named Sir Yips-a-lot). Cuteness abounds. All is adorability and rainbows, until the next birthday, when she gets The World’s Cutest Kitty, and Sir Yips-a-lot feels replaced. He comes up with a cunning plan to get Lady Meow-Meow out of the picture and himself back on top. But it doesn’t work out quite the way he’d pictured.

For a book that purports to overflow with cuteness, this book has some surprising teeth. (Literally; in one spread, Sir Yips-a-Lot imagines Lady Meow-Meow eaten by a large, befanged dog and meowing from within its stomach.) Anybody who’s ever been supplanted by a new baby or a new friend will recognize Sir Yips-a-Lot’s dilemma, and knows the pitfalls of his plan.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Reading Roundup: February 2015

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 33
Early Readers: 4

Library: 36

Writing: Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell
For kids struggling to get along with all sorts of different people for the first time in their lives, this story is instantly recognizable. I especially loved (is that the word?) Rabbit's dramatic meltdown.
Illustration: Inside Outside by Lizi Boyd
This wordless book explores the title concept with flaps that take you from inside to outside and back again.
Overall: H.O.R.S.E. a game of basketball and imagination by Christopher Myers
Anybody who's ever watched a couple of kids one-upping each other will laugh with recognition.

Because I Want To Awards
Worst Kid Ever: The Santa Trap by Jonathan Emmett, illustrated by Poly Bernatene
I laughed so hard at this unrepentantly awful child, setting traps for Santa Claus and completely failing to learn any flavor of lesson. Nice.
Struck a Chord: Love Monster by Rachel Bright (link leads to my review)
Oh, Love Monster. I know your pain.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Book Review: The Storm Whale by Benji Davies

Book: The Storm Whale
Author: Benji Davies
Illustrator: Benji Davies
Published: 2014
Source: Local Library

Noi is lonely. His dad, a fisherman, leaves him on his lonesome all day long. When he finds a baby whale washed up on shore after a storm, Noi knows he has to work fast. he takes the whale back to his empty house and puts it in the bathtub (it is a very small whale). Now he has a friend, but how long can this last?

I admit, I had to read this book a few times to really get it. At first, I was indignant that the whale was simply released back to the sea and Noi’s loneliness wasn’t addressed. Then on the second read-through, I realized that the illustrations had taken up that part of the story. While the text simply tells us that Noi looks forward to seeing his whale-friend again, you see a companionable, midday father-son picnic - and far out to sea, two whale flukes, one large and one small.

A quiet and sweet meditation on fathers and sons.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Book Review: Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light

Book: Have You Seen My Dragon?
Author: Steve Light
Illustrator: Steve Light
Published: 2014
Source: Local Library

A small boy roams all over New York City, seeking his dragon, and juuuuuust missing him every time. What he does find is a city teeming with life and energy, with lots of counting fun for the reader.

While he works mostly in black pen lines, Light picks one thing on each page to illustrate in color, and those are part of the counting element of this book. 1 green dragon, for instance, or 11 purple manhole covers. I wanted to pore over this book for hours, finding all the little details that make up life in the city.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Book Review: Love Monster by Rachel Bright

Book: Love Monster
Author: Rachel Bright
Illustrator: Rachel Bright
Published: 2014
Source: Local Library

A monster in a world of cute and cuddly things despairs of ever finding someone who will love his unconventional self. Next to the cuteness that surrounds him, the monster is a little scary, a little hairy, and a little funny-looking. He sets off on a quest to find love, and finds only disappointment. Will he give up or will it find him at the last minute?

When picking books for a Valentine's Day storytime, I tend to avoid books that talk about romantic love. While preschoolers can certainly get crushes and such, they're more experienced with platonic and familial love. This book is an exception to that rule. The titular (and nameless) monster is just so sweet and cuddly-looking, how could anyone not love him? With text that's gently quirky ("He looked high. He looked low. He looked middle-ish.") and colorful, emotive illustrations (dare you not to "awwww" at the page with the monster and all his possessions being rained on as his search continues fruitless), his quest to be loved just as he is will resonate with adults and children alike.

And yes, love does find the monster, in the very last place he looks. Spoiler.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Reading Roundup: January 2015

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 33 (!!!)
Early Readers: 1

Library: 34

Writing: Dangerously Ever After by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Valeria Docampo
We all know the kid who likes a little edge to their world. A couple of teeth, a few thorns. Slater takes that kid and puts her in a situation that forces her to realize that danger is only fun when it's basically safe.
Illustration: Mix it Up by Herve Tullet
The same interactive style as my beloved Press Here encourages children to get crazy with color. I love how it all looks like finger paint, down to the hand prints that must have been contributed by a little friend.
Overall: It's an Orange Aardvark by Michael Hall
An ant overreacts (or does he?!) to glimpses of the world outside his ant hill, which are actual holes in the page. Kids will love guessing what the colors revealed might portend.

Because I Want To Awards
Best Glimpse into a Toddler's Head Ever: Must. Push. Buttons! by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
A little one careens through his day, treating us to stream-of-very-young-consciousness. It's like Krosoczka read a toddler mind and transcribed it for us.
Most Adventurous Penguin Ever: Salina Yoon's Penguin books
Due to a penguin-themed storytime, I read three of these books this month, and that penguin goes everywhere.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Reading Roundup: 2014

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 107
Early Readers: 13

Library: 115

Writing: Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match/Marisol McDonald No Combina by Monica Brown (chosen in March)
"As a kid who "didn't match" myself, I really appreciated this story of a little girl nimbly balancing between two cultures."
Illustration: Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light (chosen in May)
"The intricacy of the pages (there are so many details to pore over!) are balanced by the simple pen-and-ink style, with one element that pops out in color. A visual treat of New York City, and all the places a dragon can hide therein."
Overall: Gravity by Jason Chin (chosen in October)
"A picture book about one of the forces holding the universe together? Why yes, I've got one right here! In simple, accessible prose suitable for storytime (!), Chin explains gravity, how it works, and how it affects us, with bonus stunning visuals."

My resolution last year was to find more early readers. From 3 up to 13 is definitely more, but I still feel like I'm missing a lot. So that resolution will carry over.

And now my admission. These numbers, much as I love them, are not entirely accurate.

I do an average of two storytimes a week, and my staff puts on two more. We share books with each other on a constant basis, and I'm always grabbing one from the shelf right before the start of storytime "just to see if it will work." Upshot? I read a lot of picture books that I don't record here.

That affects me in more ways than being able to present a total at the end of the year. I use my LibraryThing database to find books to order for storytimes, to do readers' advisory, even just to figure out, "Ooooh, there was that one book, with the mice, and the umbrellas, and ARGH!" Having it as up to date as possible can only help me.
So my other resolution for this year is to actually record everything I read. Wish me luck.