…storytime, books, apps, and ideas

This week, I’m sharing a handful of comforting books. I’ve noticed a trend– books that promote peace, diversity, and comfort. The news of the world is not always pretty, and there’s a spate of books that can be shared with young children as a sort of bilbiotherapy. ALSC has made a list, Books of Comfort for Children, that has even more suggestions.

First up, there’s Salam Alaikum by Harris J. The subtitle, “A Message of Peace” is telling. The text is based on a song by a young British Muslim artist who is using music to spread the word of peace. Bright digital art accompanies the rhymed story.

I am Peace by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds is like a primer for mindfulness. Meant as a book to help teach children how to calm, it could also be a good reminder for adults. Reynolds’ line art is simple and calm, matching the tone of the text perfectly.

In your Hands, by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Brian Pinkney is a mother’s love song to her son. It is part prayer that he will be safe, and part instructional life lessons. This book will be sure to generate conversation, especially when the end page of “Black lives matter, Your life matters” is read. Useful for classroom discussion and one-on-one sharing. The idea that the world is “in your hands” is seen in the fluid india ink and watercolour illustrations.

In What’s the Difference?, by Doyin Richards.  Friendship, diversity, and acceptance are portrayed through clear, engaging photographs. The book’s subtitle, “Being Different is Amazing” is fitting: the book leads us through simple questions about differences and repeats the refrain, What’s the difference? A good choice to share in classrooms or at home.

Even though it was written by the woman who ran for president of the US, It Takes a Village avoids becoming political. It is a comforting message to children and adults, that ideas can be shared, work can be shared, and together we can build something wonderful for everyone. Marla Frazee’s fine images show us a diverse world where kids and adults make a difference, together.

 

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Happy Picture Book Month! Throughout the month of November AVRL will celebrate picture books.  We’ve got two Picture Book Paloozas scheduled, in Middleton and in Hantsport, so come to one of those to see a huge pile of great books. Our branches will be displaying picture books all month long. Our Book Club 150 featured storyteller is Sydney Smith, and you can enter to win a copy of his fabulous book, Town is by the Sea. Each week, I will publish a new post on this blog featuring some of my favourite new picture books. Let’s start off with a little piece of brilliance from Dan Santat.

cover of After the FallSantat’s latest book, After the Fall, is about a famous egg who fell off a wall. As we can expect, Mr. Santat takes it further, and twists the story into a tale of resilience, transformation, and getting back up to face your fears or anxieties.

First off, this a a masterful bit of bookmaking. On the case cover, it is all white space with Humpty falling, his binoculars tumbling along. The opening end pages show the egg sitting on the wall, in bright sunlight. The back end pages show the same scene, at dusk, with a bird flying away. The end pages give the whole story a big hug, and give the observant reader a clue to the story. Look here for the Asian coin standing atop a building: in fact, there are several images throughout the book that give a nod to Mr. Santat’s heritage. There are hidden, dare I say “Easter Eggs” for those who know more about Santat, who has been very open about sharing the story of how he wrote this book for his wife, who suffered from extreme anxiety.

Next, the Wall. Climbing up the wall are vines which remind me of the shapes oHumput Dumpty egg laying on the floorf mountains in Chinese watercolour scrolls. The wall is dark, and near the bottom we see those binoculars, hurtling down after our hero. Turn the page, and there he is, strolling out of Kings County Hospital. The king’s men! I love these little details.

One of my favourite pages is next — the image of our egg, lying on the floor below his bed, because he is too mentally broken to climb up the ladder to his bunk. His eyes guide the viewer up to that height he dare not climb, to the comfort he is afraid to seek. It is a heartbreaking scene and gives us a huge hint to the rest of the story.

Humpty Egg stands by boxes of cerealThe next page is just brilliant. Standing in front of a wall of cereal, Humpty is still frightened of heights— and the best cereals, of course, are up a ladder. This image does a few things: it shows us how his life is hampered by his fears. It shows us the bright glory of sugar on top, fading to grey at the bottom: visual metaphor for taking the dull, unwanted thing because the bright feels unattainable. And it shows us the clever sense of humour that Santat puts in for careful readers.

The book visually guides us through the story: page after page is expertly designed to show the eye where to go, to show isolation, to show triumph. In the image below, the big diagonal lines cut the page and show us what is important. Look for these sweeping diagonals throughout the book – they imply motion and tension and move the story along. flying paper airplane

As you can see, I am quite taken with this book. I would venture to say that it might even be a better book than Santat’s Caldecott winner, The Adventures of Beekle: the Unimaginary Friend. And if you read this blog or know me, you’ll know I have a big love for that book. So I’m going out on a limb, or shall I say, up a ladder, and saying this is my choice for the Caldecott this year. Now, I’ve not looked at the books the way the committee has, and I have not seen hundreds of books in the way they have. But so far, this is my choice. You heard it here, folks.

See you back here next week for more picture books!

Ok #PictureBookPile fans, here we go!Book Cover: In the middle of the fall

In the Middle of the Fall by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek , Greenwillow Books

I always think of Kevin Henkes as an illustrator first, but then I remind myself that he is a fine writer as well.  His fiction books, such as Junonia  and Bird Lake Moon are well worth reading. So when I see a picture book written by Henkes and illustrated by someone else, my first thought is Why? This companion to When Spring Comes, also illustrated by Dronzek, makes perfect sense. The illustrations work so well, pacing the spare text and framing the season. Henkes has a way with words, and Dronzek has a way with illustrating those words.

Lines by Suzy Lee, Chronicle Books

A lone skater slides across the page, in straight, then loopy, then thick lines. She flies into the air, she twirls. She is perfection, until she falls, erasing her lines, and the artist crumples the page. But the page gets smoothed back out, and we realize that perfection is not necessary, that there are more kinds of lines, and Book cover: Linessometimes, the lines are more fun with others. A beautiful wordless book rendered in pencil, with signature Suzy Lee style.

Me and you and the red canoe by Jean E. Pendziwol, pictures by Phil . Groundwood Press

A poetic love-song to a morning on the lake is illustrated with paintings that feel like old postcards. Everything about this book shouts sentimental, yet it comes off feeling fresh. This would make a good mentor text for describing an event, and a lovely gift book that belongs in every cabin in Canada.Book cover: I wait

nipehon: I wait by Caitlin Dale Nicholson with Leona Morin Neilson, Groundwood Press

Three generations are ready to harvest herbs for winter tea. In Cree (two forms) and English, the simple text tells a story of tradition, working together, and respect. Illustrated with textured paintings, this is a book to share with many generations. Back matter includes a recipe for yarrow tea.

 On a magical do-nothing day by Beatrice Alemagna, Harper

A child accompanies Mom to a cabin n the forest. It is raining, there’s nothing to do other than play with an electronic alien game. Finally, Mom has had enough and insists the child go outside. When the game falls into the water, something occurs: a transformation. Now the child begins to be interested in the world around. Snails, mushrooms, and mud become interesting. The transformation is symbolic as well, it seems as though the child matures as nature becomes noticed. Mom looks prettier, and the child sees Dad in the mirror. Sometimes the child seems to look like a girl, sometimes like a boy, which adds another level to the story. The illustrations, done in dark colors, are detailed and lovely. A touch of the brightest orange draws our eye continually to the child. This is a beauty of a book, and it smells nice, too.Book cover: Smoot

Smoot: A rebellious shadow by Michelle Cuevas, illustrated by Sydney Smith. Tundra

Smoot the Shadow is really tired of his boring boy. He wants adventures. And so he removes himself and off he sets. Through Smith’s expert pen, ink, and watercolour illustrations, we see Smoot exploring and unwittingly encouraging other Shadow adventures, all the while being followed by the boy he belongs to. This is a nice story, and would make an interesting discussion book for older readers. Sydney Smith tuns it into a beautiful adventure: make sure you take a look at that central spread of Smoot racing across a wordless page of abstract watercolour flowers. Just fantastic.

Starring Carmen! By Anika Denise, illustrated by Lorena Alvarez Gomez. Abrams

Carmen is a one-girl sensation, what some might call “a handful”. She puts on plays, and her little brother gets to be… a rock. Or maybe a lamp. But when the family tires of Carmen’s always-on antics, she gets everyone involved and discovers her true calling- writing and directing. Illustrated in eye-catching colors, kids will be drawn to Carmen.

When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illustrated by Matt James. Tundra.

A group of kids wait for the moon to be full so they can go play hockey on the pond in the woods. The ice is magic, the moon gives them light. This slice of life gives us a reason to love winter, to remember the beauty of it. Rich acrylic and India ink on board illustrBook cover: Where Oliver Fitsation moves the story along through light and shadow.

Where Oliver Fits by Cale Atkinson,Tundra.

A little puzzle piece can’t figure out where he fits. He tries several things, including changing himself to try to fit in. This does not work so well. Finally, he finds where he fits, which is just right for the story: he fits in the place where many different areas come together. Such a simple story with a big message that kids will get without being knocked over the head with a heavy lesson. The bright acrylic-looking art was actually created with puzzle pieces, glue, space unicorns, and Photoshop. Kids will love it.

For teachers

Tukuk Tundra Tale by Robin Currie, illustrated by Phyllis Saroff. Arbordale Publishing

Teachers looking for an easy book to share when teaching about the Arctic should make note of this one. With a simple story, plenty of information about Arctic weather, animals, and geology can be learned. There’s also Inuit vocabulary, and a short glossary at the end will help define any unfamiliar terms. “Animal Fun Facts” wrap up this useful book.

Picture This

book cover for "Picture This"Generally, I share a big pile of picture books, and that will be coming soon, I promise. But I want to talk about one of the best books ever written for people who love picture books. It is Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang.

In the book, Molly Bang explains how artists create tension and emotion in visual images. Not only does she explain it, she SHOWS it by using simple construction paper shapes. For instance, a little red triangle represents Little Red Riding Hood. Thin black rectangles represent the trees. A big black triangle is the wolf. I was lucky enough to take a workshop from Molly Bang based on this book. It is just brilliant.

What I love about this book is that it works on so many levels. Teachers could use this book for art classes, and someone who is working on making a picture book could use it to get a better understanding of their images. Bang takes us step-by-step through images and demonstrates how a picture works. When I was on the Caldecott Committee, I looked at this book over and over. I kept a copy on my desk, to refer to. I looked at picture books with a deeper understanding because of this book.

One reason I am bringing this book to your attention is that there’s a revised and expanded 25th anniversary edition, which is great because the original edition was smaller and had been lost in the shuffle of older books on the shelf. This new edition contains the added bonus of Molly Bang using these principles of how pictures work by showing us some images from her book, When Sophie Gets Angry- Very, very angry.

So: teachers, grab this book for your next art class, because there are even some exercises at the end to lead you through the concepts of using construction paper to show feelings in pictures. Artists and art critics, grab this book and refresh your ideas on how pictures work. It is, as Brian Selznick says on the cover of the book, “The Strunk and White of visual literacy.”

Rodzilla by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Dan Santat, Margaret K. McElderry Books rodzilla

Look out! Rodzilla is crashing through the town, shooting stink rays, dripping slime, and hurling… and the only ones who can save the world are… his parents! Toddler Rod(zilla) in his playroom becomes a wild, smash-up ride through a cartoon-like world in the capable hands of Dan Santat. A fun read aloud, especially if you have a child who is currently obsessed with bodily functions. Santat pulls of a couple of wild full-page spreads that make the reader feel like they’ve stepped into a Saturday morning show. Hilarious, irreverent, and sure to be a hit.

There might be lobsters by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Laurel Molk, Candlewick Press

There are lots of things to be scared of at the beach, especially if you are a small dog. There are big waves, beach balls, big stairs, loud people, and of course, there might be lobsters. The fears of a small dog may sound familiar to an anxious child, and how Sukie the dog overcomes those fears can be reassuring. Ink & watercolour illustrations set the tone, and looking for those ubiquitous lobsters is fun!

Blue Ethel by Jennifer Black Reinhardt, Margaet Ferguson Books

Ethel, a cat, is old. And fat. She was black, and she was white, and very set in her ways. One day, when Ethel rolls on her favourite bit of sidewalk, she discovers that she has become BLUE (due to a child’s chalk drawings). She feels sad about this until a younger friend rolls in the art and becomes pink. The delightful ink & watercolour illustrations show us a personable cat in a colourful, detailed world. Reinhardt uses line and colour expertly to depictblue ethel mood, and the pacing of this story is spot-on. If I were a member of the Caldecott committee, I’d be keeping this in my look-again pile, top shelf.

Jack and the Beanstalk and the French Fries by Mark Teague, Orchard Books/Scholastic

As you might expect, this Jack trades his cow for beans. And his mother cooks the beans. So many beans. Breaded beans, bean dip, bean soup, pickled beans. The whole town is eating beans and they are tired of it. When Jack goes up to see what is at the top of the stalk, he finds a Giant who is really tired of beans as well. When they decide what they truly crave is french fries, it is Mrs. Giant who comes up with the solution, which is to plant a vegetable garden that includes potatoes.

I like the resolution here, perhaps because it has a tiny bit of a feminist leaning (Jack and Giant are lazy, Mother & Mrs. Giant are making the best of the situation). The illustrations are pure Teague: fun, cartoonish realism, and loads of colour. Pair it with Kate and the Beanstalk for a couple of viewpoints on this old story.

Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Tale by Gloria Kester, illustrated by Sue Eastland, Albert Whitman and Company

Carrying a basket of sour cream and applesauce into the woods to Bubbe Basha’s house, Little Ruthie (in her red coat and boots) meets up with a wolf. Trying to be brave as the Maccabees, she outwits the wolf. He heads to Bubbe’s house, finds she’s not home, and he dresses in one of her outfits. Ruthie arrives, is not fooled, and when the wolf determines to eat her, she serves him a big pile of latkes. No one dies in this new version of Little Red Riding Hood, which makes a great addition to any collection. The inclusion of the story of the Maccabees is seamless, making this an easy one to recommend to anyone who wants to know more about the Hanukkah holiday.  Colorful illustrations and a wolf who tries to be ferocious but ends up being fairly silly make this an easy one for younger listeners.

what eats that

For teachers:

What Eats That? By Ryan Jacobson, photographs by Stan Tekiela, AdventureKeen Publications   (seen as review copy from publisher) ISBN 978-1591937494

Explore the food chain in this easy to read  (and understand) book, filled with clear photographs. Starting with the sun, we page through the food chain– flowers “eat” the sun, but what eats flowers? Each page has a hint of what is to come, with picture-bubbles featuring the links in the food chain. An explanation of food chains, some suggested activities, and extra information on each animal shown add to the usefulness of this book. It is very readable, and you might learn something new. I did!  Watch for other books by this publisher for easy nonfiction – such as Whose Butt? 

Bad GuyThere’s a huge pile of picture books on my desk. Here are a few of them I think you’ll enjoy. Follow me on Twitter @annavalley for #PictureBookPile; I share even more books there!

Bad Guy by Hannah Barnaby, illustrated by Mike Yamada, Simon & Schuster

Older brother thinks he is a Bad Guy.. a pirate, a mad inventor, a capturer of superheroes… until younger sister Alice finds a book at the library and foils his plans. Fun Girl Power twist at the end turns the story on its head. Digital retro-style artwork captures the sibling adventures in a bright, fun presentation which includes panels and wordless spreads.

Zebra on the go by Jill Nogales, illustrated by Lorraine Rocha, Peachtree

In this rhymed story, a zebra accidentally steps on the lion’s toes, and mayhem ensues. Lion chases zebra all over town, and when lion needs zebra’s help, it is given. The illustrations are detailed watercolor and gouache, and kids will enjoy watching for bears in tutus, finding the zebra, and spotting the antics of monkeys. Makes a fun read-aloud with the lilting text.

If you were the moon by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Jaime Kim, Millbrook Press If you were the moon

Oh, the moon just sits there in the sky doing nothing, right? Wrong! This book has simple text accompanied by a paragraph of moon facts. For instance: If you were the moon you would: “Hover near your mother” – this page has a short paragraph of how the moon was once part of Earth. Jaime Kim’s acrylic and digital paintings keep the story moving along, and will engage young readers. What a great way to add some science into your storytime.

Shawn Loves Sharks by Curtis Manley, illustrated by Tracy Subisak, Roaring Brook Press

Shawn is obsessed with sharks. He owns 127 books about sharks, watches shark videos, wears a shark costume, and chases kids at school with his chomping shark mouth. When the class is assigned predator repoShawn loves sharksrts, Shawn is quite dismayed to get seal, while the girl he’s been annoying gets shark. Nice tension is set up with this story, and the ending is satisfying. Subisak’s cartoon-inspired pencil artwork is just right for the story, with a variety of spreads featuring full-bleed, then white space, then cartoon-like panels. Shawn in his shark suit and his cat in a fish suit are delightful details to add to this story.

The Forever Garden by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Smamantha Cotterill, Schwartz & Wade

This story is loosely based on a Talmudic story of planting trees for future generations. In this one, a young girl’s neighbour, Honey, is a gardener, and the girl enjoys watching and helping. When Honey moves away, the girl wants to plant an apple tree, and does so with the help of Honey. The new family that moves in needs a bit of gardening help, and so the girl steps in.  The pen, ink, and watercolour illustrations are sunny and have a nice fluid line. Nice addition to summer garden storytimes.

 

For Teachers:

Water’s Children by  Angele Delaunois, illustrated by Gerard Frischeteau, Pajama Press

Travel the world in this book about water – each page takes us to a different country, where we learn what water means. A brief description of how water is seen by a child ends in a poetic line, such as “For me, water is a perfect crystal of snow”.  Excellent resource book for grades 1-3, perfect discussion starter for talking about one of the world’s most important resources, one that keeps us all alive, water.

My pictures after the storm by Eric Veille, Gecko Press

Grab this one for writing prompts or drawing lessons. Each spread shows a set of pictures, then the same drawings, after… a stoMy pictures after the stormrm, lunch, the hairdresser, and more. Kids will love spotting the differences, and will likely be inspired to create their own before and after.  You could also use this one to develop science skills such as observation and prediction. NOTE: There is a Santa Claus in the book (after the surprise), so if that is verboten at school, you could perhaps skip that page in class.

Summer books

While summer seems to come and go here in Nova Scotia, I’ve found a pile of picture books to share with you. It is always sunny when we get new books! Here’s a few I think you might like. Where are you?

Where are You? by Sarah Williamson,  Alfred A. Knopf, 2017

The youngest in your crowd will enjoy looking for this pair of snakes — one green, one pink. Cleverly hidden in uncomplicated illustrations, each page is not only a seek and find, but also a mini-lesson in directional prepositions. (Where are you? In the grass. On a boat.) Fun for toddler or baby storytimes.

Little Plane Learns to Write by Stephen Savage, Roaring Brook Press, 2017

Up in the air, Little Plane does fine with his arcs and dives, but the loopity-loops gLittle Planeive him troubles. Just like any child learning to write, Little Plane practises until it becomes easier and finally he gets it! Child-friendly digital illustration pair well with this early writing lesson. Perfect for pre-school and primary classrooms, and should work well in storytime, too.

Firefighter Duckies by Frank W. Dormer, Atheneum, 2017

I am completely enamored with this book – – it has a fun secret cover (wee-ooo wee-ooo wee-ooo), its smells nice, and it has just the right amount of silliness for a great storytime book. These firefighting duckies rescue all sorts of cfirefighter duckiesritters, including gorillas in chef hats and rampaging centipedes. The book has loads of charm, good vocabulary, and fun illustration. It pays tribute to the strength and bravery of firefighters, and will sit just right on the Firefighter storytime shelf. But you really need to practise Wee-Ooing before you share it. Go ahead, try it.

This book will not be fun. by Cirocco Dunlap, illustrated by Olivier Tallec, Random House, 2017

You can kind of tell from the title what this book is all about. Not fun, that’s for sure. An odd little mouse insists that no fun will be had. Of course, how can you resist a Giant Zero-Gravity Dance Party FThis book will not be funilled With Impossible Creatures? You can’t. So get up and tap your toes, shake your bottom. But try not to have fun.

 

Out! by Arree Chung, Henry Holt and Co., 2017

A baby, imprisoned in a crib at night, is assisted by the family dog for a night-time jailbreak. Plenty of action occurs in this nearly wordless book, and kids will enjoy making up the story as you go along. While wordless books may be tricky at storytime, they are great for family sharing. Here’s a blog post to help if you want to try thiOut!s one at your next storytime, thanks to Melissa over at Mel’s Desk.

 

This is a ball by Beck & Matt Stanton, Little, Brown & Co., 2017

From the series called “Books that drive kids crazy”, This is a Ball could be a really fun read. You’ll have This is a ballto amp it up, though, and channel your best class-clown impersonation. It would pair well with the no-fun book above, and with The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak. So,why not make some kids shout in the library. It’s fun.