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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Preschool, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 162
1. LumiKids Snow app review

lumikids snow title screenIt’s rainy, not snowy, in Boston right now, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to explore the winter wonderland that is LumiKids Snow (Lumosity Labs, December 2015).

Opening the app, you’re taken to a landscape of white and icy teals, where a friendly seal waits on a small ice floe. Tap to access a game starring the seal, or swipe either direction to play any of five other winter-themed activities alongside cute kids and critters. Three of these — ice fishing, toasting and sharing marshmallows, and having a snowball fight — are more silly winter fun than educational activities. But the other three are the type of “brain training” game found in Lumosity’s app for adults. (It’s challenging and fun; I recommend it for grownups!)

In the first of these brain games, the seal and his friends play hide-and-seek. The challenge? To remember where each seal is hiding, even when their ice floes start to move.

lumikids snow seals

Another game invites you to create increasingly complex systems of ramps, bouncy castles, and catapults for penguins to reach floating balloons (so they can fly, natch).

lumikids snow penguin

Both of these start off simple, but get incrementally more difficult as you proceed through them and return for subsequent visits. In the last brain game, you practice writing capital letters (letter names and sounds provided) by directing kids’ sleds. There is no text to read or directions of any sort, but figuring out what to do is part of the process. A locked parents’ section offers some usage tips.

Bright colors against the wintry background, cheerful music and silly sound effects, and visual humor (for instance, the ski-jumping penguins wear safety goggles) make this an engaging way to practice a variety of skills. Fun for an indoor snow day activity. There are several other LumiKids apps — Park, Beach, and Backyard — and I’m looking forward to giving them a spin as well.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 7.0 or later) and Android devices; free. Recommended for preschool users.

The post LumiKids Snow app review appeared first on The Horn Book.

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2. Sago Mini Music Box app review

music box titleI’ve been singing Sago Mini’s praises for some time (see my reviews of Ocean Swimmer, Road Trip, Friends, and Fairy Tales, as well as Shoshana’s review of Monsters), and now I have musical accompaniment! Sago Mini Music Box (2014) invites users to join cheerful animal characters to play three familiar tunes.

First things first: choose a character and thus the song you’ll be performing. Select the orange cat to drift over a meadow, through mountains, and into space in a hot air balloon, to the strains of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Hop in a sled with the blue bunny to dash through the snow as you play “Jingle Bells.” Or “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” through a tropical paradise with the brown dog.

music box menu

Regardless of which character/song combination you choose, tap your device to both play the appropriate musical notes and accelerate your vehicle — you set the tempo of your song and the speed of travel.

Tapping different items or locations on your screen produces different instrumentation and a wide range of humorous visual surprises. For instance, in “Twinkle, Twinkle,” tapping the meadow as the kitty floats over in the balloon plays a low guitar note (and might produce a tree, flower, or mountain goat), while tapping the night sky plays a higher keyboard tone (as a star, comet, or rocket appears). When you drift past the moon, alien groundhogs pop out to greet you. Tap the same item twice in a row, and you might get a brief animation. If you’re lucky, you may spot paper airplanes soaring through the sky, or even a UFO beaming up one of the goats. Throughout, the kitty oohs and ahhs at the sights. Both the music and the landscapes are seamlessly looped, allowing for unhurried exploration.

music box moon

The visual surprises and various instrument sounds add considerable variety to the otherwise similar tunes. Bright colors; simple, rounded shapes; and a sense of joyful wonder enhance the experience. A locked parents’ section offers some usage tips.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 5.1.1 or later; free) and Android devices ($2.99). Recommended for preschool users.

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3. Review of Murphy in the City

provensen_murphy in the cityMurphy in the City
by Alice Provensen; 
illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary   Simon   32 pp.
11/15   978-1-4424-1971-1   $17.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4814-1832-4   $10.99

The small, busy, curious, noisy farm terrier from A Day in the Life of Murphy (rev. 7/03) is on his way to the big city with his family for a day of adventures (visits to a dog park and a doggie boutique) and misadventures (wandering off and a resultant brief stay at the animal shelter). Murphy’s unbounded energy is reflected in bustling city scenes that often include multiple images of Murphy; one particularly effective 
double-page spread contains three stacked horizontal panels in which a progression of Murphys explores a crowded and fascinating sidewalk — humans seen only from the knees down — after his accidental escape out the back door of the doggie boutique. This sense of motion and energy is 
reinforced in the all-caps typeface and in the endpapers — a riot of paw prints going every which way — not to mention Murphy’s own spiky fur, hyper-alert gazes, and many BARK BARK BARKs. The arc of the story, from early-morning enthusiasm to late-night exhaustion, will be both satisfying and familiar to children, who often follow that same arc in their own lives. After such a hectic and exciting day full of new sights, sounds, and experiences, everyone will be happy that Murphy ends up back home, curled up in the hay in the barn with his familiar toys: “Dear sock, good old bone, good old stick. / Sigh. / Good night.”

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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4. Winter Wonderland sketches - preschool book that celebrates the wonder of winter for young and old....

Sketches from "Winter Wonderland"  written by Debbie Estrem.
This is the third book in a nostalgic series for parents and 
grandparents to share with little ones, celebrating 
the best memories of every season. 

The first two books in the series are now available!

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5. The Wunderglasses app review

wunderglasses menuAs The Wunderglasses app (Gentle Troll, December 2015) opens, a little boy named Max is playing in the park. He notices a strange pair of glasses on the ground; when he puts them on, everything ordinary now looks extraordinary. Users swipe down from the top-right corner of the screen to see what Max sees: a rose garden becomes an array of lollipops, two ducks appear as a giant blue frog, an older couple on a bench transforms into two turtles. You can swipe back up to see the scene as normal; it’s fun to swipe up and down to see exactly what has changed.

Max goes by an ice-cream stand (there he sees a red sun, a couple with ice-cream-scoop heads, and a businessman wearing a tutu), then walks home past a construction site (two workers playing wheelbarrow, a woman walking an ostrich), the outdoor market, the lake, the downtown, and his street — usually “rather boring,” but not today.

wunderglasses street

The story itself, narrated gently and with a touch of wonder (the narration can also be turned off), is a little kooky: “He feels like eating some candy. But of course, you cannot eat the roses or the grass, and butterflies are not made of sugar.” The visuals are great — hand-painted watercolor scenes are very child-friendly as they are, and they become even more so once kids start to swipe and the silliness kicks in. There’s a map of the town on the home screen, along with some great jazzy sax music. With some light sound effects and over one hundred animations, this should keep kids entertained, occupied — and giggling.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 6.0 or later); $2.99. Recommended for preschool and primary users.

The post The Wunderglasses app review appeared first on The Horn Book.

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6. Review of On the Ball

pinkney_on the ballOn the Ball
by Brian Pinkney; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary   Disney-Hyperion   32 pp.
9/15   978-1-4847-2329-6   $17.99

Pinkney’s latest picture-book offering begins on a soccer field, then takes flight as a young boy’s imagination soars. The opening text reads, “Owen loved playing ball,” and the accompanying illustrations show a boy first dribbling and then tripping over a soccer ball, because “playing ball…didn’t always love Owen.” Pinkney employs loose black ink brushstrokes accented with swabs of color that recall the style of his contemporary Chris Raschka to visually convey movement. This sense of motion is crucial to the success of the story, which has the intrepid Owen “chase down” the ball when it gets away from him. Fantastical scenarios show the ball floating away through the water, as Owen transforms into a merman; next rolling into “tangled bushes” with a now tiger-shaped Owen pursuing it. When the ball bounces off a cliff, Owen sprouts wings and flies after it, then finally brings it (and himself) back down to earth on the soccer field. Triumphant, a “fierce” and loose Owen now floats and flies through the game, having learned a lesson about focus and determination through a story that also offers an artful, subtle message about the importance of perseverance in life.

From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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7. Read Out Loud | Hervé Tullet’s PRESS HERE !

Read Out Loud Herve Tullet


Follow along with Best Selling author Hervé Tullet’s spirited reading of Press Here!

Press Here From Chronicle Books:
Press here. That’s right. Just press the yellow dot, and turn the page. The single touch of a finger sparks a whimsical dance of color and motion in this joyful celebration of the power of imagination.


—School Library Journal, starred review

star“An interactive book that gives the iPad a licking.”
—The Horn Book, starred review

Click here for your Press Here Activities GUIDE!
Study Guide and Activites for PRESS HERE
Watch Hervé Tullet’s FULL interview with Rocco on STORYMAKERS!

Host: Rocco Staino @RoccoA
Executive Producer: Julie Gribble @JulieGribbleNYC

Join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/KidLitTV
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Get Your Backstage Pass to view interview EXTRAS from Hervé Tullet: http://kidlit.tv/newsletter

Backstage at KidLit TVKidLit TV is TulletedHervé creates original art for Rocco and Julie GribbleCastAndCrewPressHERE

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8. Review of I Hear a Pickle (and Smell, See, Touch, 
and Taste It, Too!)

isadora_i hear a pickle2I Hear a Pickle (and Smell, See, Touch, and Taste It, Too!)
by Rachel Isadora; illus. by the author
Preschool   Paulsen/Penguin   32 pp.
1/16   978-0-399-16049-3   $16.99   g

Starting with a clever, attention-grabbing title, Isadora’s book about the five senses is aimed perfectly at another sense — kids’ sense of humor. Separate sections, beginning with sound and ending with taste, visit each sense in double-page spreads that contain small vignettes of children exploring their world, both indoors and out. Brief sentences describe what each child hears, smells, sees, touches, or tastes. Frequent statements about what the child doesn’t sense add levity: “I see the turtle’s shell but I don’t see the turtle”; “I don’t smell. I have a cold.” Interjections throughout, printed in italics, add read-aloud pleasure: “I touch my brother’s foot. Hee-hee. / I don’t touch my boo-boo. Ouch! / I don’t touch the plug. No-no!” Certain items are revisited in different sections: “I don’t hear the snow falling…I see the snow. I don’t see my mitten.” Delicate ink and watercolor illustrations on white backgrounds nicely elicit a young child’s point of view, such as when a girl peering over a counter can just barely see the pizza she smells. The final page wraps things up by going back to the titular pickle in all its sensory glory: “I taste the pickle. / It’s sour,” and so on until “I hear the pickle…CRUNCH!” Be sure to have a jar of baby dills on hand for this one.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of I Hear a Pickle (and Smell, See, Touch, 
and Taste It, Too!) appeared first on The Horn Book.

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9. Five questions for Barbara McClintock

Barbara McClintockEach of author/illustrator Barbara McClintock’s picture books provides a glimpse into a jewel-box of a world, from bustling early-twentieth-century Paris (Adèle & Simon; Farrar, 4–7 years) to a cozy 1970s mouse-house (Where’s Mommy?, written by Beverly Donofrio; Schwartz & Wade, 4–7 years). Her latest, Emma and Julia Love Ballet (Scholastic, 4–7 years), does the same for the vibrant world of ballet, giving readers a look at the daily routines of two dancers: one a student just starting out, the other a professional in her prime. A dancer myself, I jumped at the chance to talk to Barbara about how she translates movement to the page.

1. How did you decide on this day-in-the-life, compare-and-contrast format for showcasing a dancer’s reality?

BM: I blame two of my favorite books for putting the idea in my head: The Borrowers by Mary Norton and The Philharmonic Gets Dressed by Karla Kuskin, illustrated by Marc Simont. The parallel world of The Borrowers fascinated me as a child. And I fell in love — hard! — with the behind-the-scenes showering, sock-pulling-on, hair-combing, and beard-trimming preparations of orchestral musicians before their evening performance in The Philharmonic Gets Dressed.

My older sister Kathleen lived, breathed, ate, and slept ballet when she was little, and I’d wanted to make a book honoring her for a long time. She took me to my first professional dance performance, which proved to have a profound influence on my creative life. Her passion for dance inspired me to believe in myself as an artist.

2. Many of your books are set in bygone eras, with richly evoked historical settings full of texture and detail. How does your process differ when you’re portraying a contemporary setting rather than recreating a historical one?

BM: I tend to use slightly bolder, brushlike line work, little or no crosshatching, and brighter colors when working with a contemporary setting. Modern surfaces are shinier, glossier, brighter, harder. Metal and glass predominate. I find it’s easier to depict those hard, shiny surfaces with gradated watercolor washes. Textural ink crosshatching seems appropriate for older stone, wood, and plaster surfaces.

Modern forms call for fluid lines, less encumbered by lots of line work. There’s detail in contemporary buildings and clothing, but forms are more nuanced, freer, with open patterns and simplified shapes compared to historical structures and fashion.

Shapes of contemporary things that move — cars, airplanes, trains — are smooth and somewhat egg-shaped, reflecting aerodynamic design considerations. Carriages, carts, and buggies are boxy, with lots of angles, which makes for different compositional elements in pictures.

mcclintock_emma and julia love ballet23. The format of Emma and Julia Love Ballet is almost graphic novel–like, with the illustrations changing sizes and shapes to accelerate the pacing. How do you know what size illustration to use when?

BM: The size and shape of the illustrations is all about creating a sense of time, movement, emotion, and place.

Vignettes isolate characters to form a sense of intimacy between the reader and the character, like a spotlighted actor on stage. There can be a powerful emotional component to vignettes. Toward the end of the book as Emma prepares to go to the ballet performance, we see her in her fancy coat, with no background, nothing else in the image. Her facial expression alone tells us this is an important time for her. Anything else in the scene would impede the immediacy of her excitement.

Vignettes can also signify rapid movement and the passage of time. Several small vignettes on a page require only short amounts of time to look at. This visual device works well to depict Emma and Julia stretching, jumping, and spinning. Viewing several small images in quick succession can be like looking at a flip-book that gives the impression of fast, fluid motion.

Broad, dramatic scenes create a sense of mood and establish place; and fuller, detailed pictures slow the reader down at significant moments by creating an environment that invites investigation. That lingering pause can give majesty to a scene or narrative concept.

At the very end of the book, I wanted to go back to a vignette approach. We see Emma and Julia connected by their shared love of ballet. I wanted Emma and Julia to dominate and fill up the entire page with no external stuff to clutter up their emotional connection. This is their story, and they tell us absolutely and directly how they feel about ballet and each other.

4. You observed the Connecticut Concert Ballet as models for the illustrations, and took some ballet classes yourself for research. How did your perspective — or your illustrations — change after these experiences?

BM: I have a much better idea of just how hard a plié in fifth position is on your inner thighs!

Watching people in motion is a much different experience than simply studying photographs. Semi-realistic drawing has so much to do with gesture, and the best way to understand how an arm or leg really moves through space is to observe someone in the act of moving. As I draw the sweep of an arm, I get inside that motion. I’m not entirely sure how to express this, but I feel the movement in my head as a physical motion and visualize where that arm is going, then translate that motion as well as I can in a two-dimensional way on paper.

Ballet has its own regimented structure of movement. I just dipped into the surface of knowledge of ballet training, but hopefully enough to give some authenticity to the way the dancers in my book move.

Barbara loves ballet

Barbara in the ballet studio

5. The book is dedicated in part to the wonderful Judith Jamison, dancer and Artistic Director Emerita of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Is there a particular role of Ms. Jamison’s that resonates most with you?

BM: In the early 1970s my sister took me to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Minneapolis. Judith Jamison was the featured soloist. This was the first professional dance performance I’d ever seen. I had no idea what to expect, and was almost afraid to go. Any hesitation vanished the moment Judith stepped on stage. She dominated space and time, creating vivid shapes and patterns.

Judith performed Cry, a sixteen-minute solo homage to black women, choreographed by Alvin Ailey for his mother with Judith in mind. Judith expressed grief, depression, loss, redemption, and joy as eloquently as any novelist. I loved dance from that evening on.

Judith’s presence, authority, and grace inspired me in my work. I admired her, and looked up to Judith as a role model — a woman who was in command of her talent and a force almost bigger than life.

From the January 2016 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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10. Toca Nature app review

toca nature title screenSiân ♥s Toca Band. While Toca Nature (Toca Boca, 2014) is more contemplative — no sunglasses-sporting emcee hollering “We rockin’ it!” here — it provides a similarly satisfying experience of experimental play.

As the app opens, you are presented with a square chunk of landscape, floating in pleasantly dreamy, starry space. A few trees and some shallow dips and low hills dot the landscape, but it’s your job to make this somewhat sterile bit of land into a thriving ecosystem. Create mountain ranges and bodies of water, and select from five kinds of trees to plant forests. Once these habitats are large enough, animals move in. One specific species is associated with each landmass or forest type: wolves in the mountains, beavers in the lakes, deer in the oak forests, etc. Mix and match, overlapping habitats, for a world that’s all your own.

toca nature start

toca nature lake

Tap the magnifying glass to zoom in and watch the animals up-close as they go about their days and nights, eating, sleeping (adorably, they snore), and interacting with their environment.

toca nature bear

As in the real world, different animals are active at different times. Gather food, such as berries and acorns, as you make your way around your mini-world and offer it to the critters; thought balloons with images of their preferred snack inside provide guidance. You can even take “photos” of the wildlife and save them to your iPad’s camera roll.

Modify your environment at any time by adding more mountains/lakes/trees, or by cutting down trees (although this may cause animals to vacate). Rotate your landscape for a different perspective by tapping a globe icon in the lower right corner. Unfortunately, there’s no way to save your current creation once you exit the session.

The cute animals and their habitats are rendered in geometric, origami-like shapes and in a palette primarily consisting of warm pastels. During daytime, tinkly instrumental music plays; nighttime features a quiet soundscape of crickets and the occasional bird sound.

I found exploring Toca Nature to be meditative, somewhat like having a mini Zen garden. But for its intended audience of preschool and primary users, I imagine it’s very exciting to build a world and then watch it in action — especially given that each new environment will have its own unique mix of inhabitants and nuances. A parents’ section offers some usage hints and suggestions for discussion.

Available for iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone, and iPod Touch (requires iOS 5.0 or later); $2.99. Recommended for preschool and primary users.

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11. Friendshape, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld -- upbeat and funny, but with a thoughtful message (ages 4-8)

With plenty of visual puns and word play, this upbeat and funny picture book is a great place to start a conversation about friendship. Rosenthal and Lichtenheld are two of my favorite picture book creators--I adore sharing their Duck! Rabbit! with kids. Their newest creation is full of their trademark humor and definitely worth seeking out.

by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Scholastic, 2015
Your local library
ages 4-8
As the Kirkus Review points out, you almost hope that the titles is what inspired the creators from the beginning. What shape does friendship take? Can people who are as different as a circle and a square still be friends? 

Although there is no real plot, there is plenty of humor and thoughtful messages in this picture book. I really like how they show the characters as shapes. For me, this helps young children see some of the metaphors but it also helps them see themselves in the book. By having just basic outlines of the shapes, with funny cartoonish expressions, Lichtenheld invites readers to seem themselves as characters in the book.
"Friends welcome others to join in."
The puns keep rolling along, inviting kids to figure them out and invent their own. "Friends are always there to lean on," as the shapes all lean in together. "Friends play fair and [insert the yellow square]."

Friendship isn't always easy. When conflict happens, friends never "stay bent out of shape for long." Kids would enjoy coming up with some of their own observations about friendship, adding on to the book as they go.

The review was kindly sent by the publisher, Scholastic. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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12. Review of Waiting

henkes_waitingstar2 Waiting
by Kevin Henkes; illus. by the author
Preschool   Greenwillow   32 pp.
9/15   978-0-06-236843-0   $17.99
Library ed. 978-0-06-236844-7   $18.99   g

Waiting is a huge part of every child’s life, and Henkes uses a light touch to address the topic. Five toys wait on a windowsill. An owl waits for the moon; a pig holding an umbrella waits for rain; a bear with a kite waits for wind; and a puppy on a sled waits for snow. The fifth toy, a rabbit head on a spring, “wasn’t waiting for anything in particular. He just liked to look out the window and wait.” Henkes’s five friends are drawn with confident brown outlines filled in with a muted palette of light greens, blues, and pinks in colored-pencil and watercolor. A straightforward text sets up predictable patterns, while the design is varied, with horizontal and oval vignettes and full pages showing the entire window — including an especially striking sequence of four wordless pages. Time passes slowly, day to night, through wind, rain, and seasons, while small changes in the characters’ body positions and eyes show a range of emotions, from dismay (at lightning) to curiosity (at small trinkets added to the sill). Near the end, a large, rounded toy cat joins the quintet and waits for — what? Suddenly, we see that she has four smaller nesting cats inside. The book ends as quietly as it began, with welcoming acceptance of the five new inhabitants on the now-crowded windowsill. Henkes provides no deep meanings and sends no messages; he’s just showing what waiting can be like. Perhaps listeners will find a model for making long waits seem less tiresome: be still and notice what’s around you.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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13. Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret, by Bob Shea -- a favorite new friend for beginning readers (ages 4-8)

If you have kids who love Elephant and Piggie or Frog and Toad, laughing at the way these friends play together, bicker and work through their conflicts, then you're going to love Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret. It sparkles with humor, but underlying it is a real understanding of friendship.

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret
by Bob Shea
Disney Hyperion, 2015
Your local library
ages 4-8
*best new book*
Ballet Cat’s best friend Sparkle Pony is getting a bit tired of always playing ballet -- but what’s a BFF supposed to do? Sparkle Pony tries to suggest other things. He tries to go along and dance. But then he realizes that he's holding onto a big secret.
"I will always be your friend, Sparkle Pony! No secret can ever change that."
"Yes, I'm listening."
New readers (and little siblings) will delight in how Bob Shea builds this story, with expressive illustrations and large speech bubbles. They can laugh at the exaggeration, but also relate to how Sparkle Pony feels. I love this climax:
This would make a great book to act out as readers' theater, but it would also make a great one to talk about at home. I can even see bringing it up in the car the next day:
"You know, I was thinking about Ballet Cat and her friend. I wonder why it was hard for Sparkle Pony to tell her that he didn't like ballet?"
Friends need to accept differences--adults know that, but often it's hard to put into practice. This is a great story about just that: loving each other even more than we love our individual interests.

Illustrations ©2015 Bob Shea. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Disney Hyperion. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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14. Tricks and treats

Spiders, trolls, mummified cats, and monsters with three heads. Oh, my! Perfect for Halloween story hours, here are four new picture books that will give young audiences something to be (not too) frightened about. For more new recommended Halloween picture books, see 2015 Horn Boo!

seeger_i used to be afraidI Used to Be Afraid by Laura Vaccaro Seeger is a great courage booster for kids with pre-Halloween jitters. “I used to be afraid of SPIDERS,” a young girl begins. Turn the page — which features a die-cut arachnid — and the spider shows up against a large, beautiful web. “But not anymore,” the girl declares. She also used to be afraid of the dark, being alone, etc., and with each page-turn we see how she overcame that fear. The book’s thick, glossy pages offer enticing colors and simple images with open spaces. Change, shadows, a brother in a monster mask — each die-cut works effectively to turn something-to-fear into something-not-so-scary. (Roaring Brook/Porter, 3–6 years)

jenkins_fun book of scary stuffIn Emily Jenkins’s The Fun Book of Scary Stuff, a boy shares with his two dogs the many things that scare him (e.g., monsters, witches, trolls, the school crossing guard). While the pug seems sympathetic, the self-proclaimed “bravest dog ever” bull terrier is unimpressed by the child’s fears. When it comes to the dark, though, the bull terrier freaks out, and his terror pushes the boy to take charge. Hyewon Yum’s expressive pictures show scary things that aren’t that scary — and illustrate the reassuring fact that everyone gets the willies. (Farrar/Foster, 5–8 years)

ewert_mummy cat“Deep within this maze of stone, / a creature wakes up, all alone.” This creature is the feline star of Mummy Cat by Marcus Ewert, set in ancient Egypt among the sphinx and the pyramids. As he does every one hundred years, the mummy cat emerges from a small coffin to search for his mistress-in-life, “the girl-queen, Hat-shup-set.” He prowls the pyramid, looking wistfully at paintings on the wall that depict their happy life together. Lisa Brown’s cleverly composed illustrations enhance the eerie ancient atmosphere. Information on Egyptian burial customs and a key to hieroglyphic messages in the pictures are appended. (Clarion, 5–8 years)

liniers_written and drawn by henriettaIn Written and Drawn by Henrietta (really written and drawn by cartoonist Liniers), young Henrietta uses her brand-new colored pencils to create a nail-bitingly thrilling story about a girl named Emily and the three-headed monster that emerges from her wardrobe one night. The adventure — in which Emily joins the scary-looking but actually friendly monster in the Narnia-like wardrobe and braves another, truly terrifying monster—is depicted in brightly colored, messy, dramatic scrawls. Neat panels, meanwhile, show Henrietta drawing the story — and cleverly commenting on its progress. A Spanish version, Escrito y dibujado por Enriqueta, is also available. (TOON, 6–9 years)

From the October 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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15. Writing in Preschool — Part of #TWTBlog’s Throwback Week

Betsy Hubbard wrote a series of posts on writing in preschool last year. Her preschool series was not only informative about the ways to teach writing to three- and four-year-olds, but it conveyed a deep and genuine respect for our youngest learners. Let's take a look back at what Betsy had to say about these emerging writers.

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16. Halloween picture books: 5 new favorites (ages 4-9)

Do your little ones love scary stories, or are you looking for gentle tales with silly ghosts? Here are five new favorite picture books with plenty of ghosts, mummies and monsters to satisfy all sorts of little beasts.

Mummy Cat
by Marcus Ewert
illustrated by Lisa Brown
Clarion, 2015
Your local library
ages 5-9
As the graceful mummy cat emerges from his tomb, he searches for “his loving friend,” the girl-queen Hat-shup-set. Bay Area team Ewert and Brown create a tender friendship story, deftly weaving together a creepy murder-mystery, hieroglyph clues, and Ancient Egyptian practices. My students are loving this story, especially the detailed illustrations and the hidden clues. Enchanting.
Fright Club
by Ethan Long
Bloomsbury, 2015
Your local library
ages 4-8
Only the truly scary can be members of the Fright Club. But when a cute little bunny tries to join their fun, he's outraged when they tell him he can't join. Returning with his lawyer and friends, he launches a protest: “HISS, MOAN, BOO! WE CAN SCARE TOO!” chant a butterfly, ladybug, turtle, and squirrel. I love the way Ethan Long turns kids' (and monsters') expectations upside down, showing how things are not always the way you assume they'll be. Plus, this story is a lot of fun to read aloud, and isn't actually too scary for new readers.
The Fun Book of Scary Stuff
by Emily Jenkins
illustrated by Hyewon Yum
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015
Your local library
ages 4-8
A young boy makes a list of all the things that scare him. Monsters top his list (“Mom says they eat anyone who doesn’t stay in his own bed”) but his dog calmly refuses to admit that he’s afraid of anything. The pair’s hilarious back-and-forth dialog continues, until the tables turn. Jenkins and Yum perfectly capture the pair’s worry and false bravado.
Leo: A Ghost Story
by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Christian Robinson
Chronicle, 2015
Your local library
ages 3-7
*best new book*
Leo has a hard time making friends: no one can see him. But when he meet Jane, she invites him to play, thinking he’s one of her imaginary friends. Leo is delighted but nervous that she will be scared when she finds out he’s a ghost. I love how accepting Jane is, how open she is not only to Leo but also to her own imagination. This gentle ghost story is more about finding friendship and acceptance than a Halloween story, but it’s utterly delightful. For more, see my full review here.
The Little Shop of Monsters
by R.L. Stine
illustrated by Marc Brown
Little, Brown, 2015
Your local library
ages 4-8
Blending creepy descriptions with goofy illustrations, this picture book strikes just the right balance for a mock-horror picture book. “Pssssst…HEY, YOU! Are you afraid of MONSTERS? Do they make you SHIVER and SHAKE?” As the text amps up the fright, the illustrations put the emphasis on the laughs, making this right for those who like to giggle and squirm at the same time.

You might also enjoy seeing these other Halloween recommendations:
The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers: Chronicle Books, Macmillan, Houghton Mifflin, Bloomsbury and Little, Brown. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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17. Review of Tiptoe Tapirs

kim_tiptoe tapirsstar2 Tiptoe Tapirs
by Hanmin Kim; illus. by the author; trans. from the Korean by Sera Lee
Preschool, Primary   Holiday   40 pp.
8/15   978-0-8234-3395-7   $16.95
e-book ed. 978-0-8234-3495-4   $16.95

First published in South Korea in 2013, this pourquoi tale explaining why animals move stealthily begins in the jungle long ago when animals were all quite noisy (“The elephant went BOOM-BOOM! The rhinoceros went BAM-BAM!”), except for quiet Tapir and Little Tapir. The tapirs tiptoe through their lives, enjoying themselves, sharing the jungle, and bothering none of the other animals — until one day a leopard attacks. The leopard’s noisy pursuit of the tapirs attracts a hunter with his loaded shotgun: “BANG! BANG! BANG!” Little Tapir, risking her own life, helps rescue the frightened leopard by teaching him to use quiet steps to escape the hunter. Impressionistic paintings created in watercolor, drawing ink, and marker pen provide a scenic and imaginative jungle setting with amusing details to notice throughout. The characters’ expressive faces and their body language bring to life pleasure, fear, and compassion, while the spare text generates momentum with repetition and opportunities for audience participation. Together, words and pictures provide excellent pacing, heightening humor, drama, and wonder to create an outstanding tale for sharing aloud.

From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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18. Sharing family time this Thanksgiving: four picture books to share (ages 3-8)

As the world is rocked again by horrific events, Americans are getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving--a holiday marked in my mind by spending time together as a family in the kitchen. Here are four picture books to share that celebrate cooking together. My goal in pulling together this set is to share books that show different perspectives from different ages. Snuggle up and enjoy!

Sharing the Bread:
An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story
by Pat Zietlow Miller
illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Schwartz & Wade / Penguin Random House, 2015
Your local library
ages 4-8
With gentle rhymes and old-fashioned pictures, this book celebrates a family coming together to prepare a Thanksgiving meal. "Sister, knead the rising dough. / Punch it down, then watch it grow. / Line your loaves up in a row. / Sister, knead the dough." I love how each family member contributes and kids will like all the ways they're involved. As the kitchen fills with family members sharing the cooking tasks and anticipating the feast, readers see the dinner coming together—and may be surprised at how familiar it feels. The old-fashioned illustrations don't appeal to me as much as they might to others, but I suspect that's because I don't connect to the Victoriana setting.
Too Many Tamales
by Gary Soto
illustrated by Ed Martinez
Puffin / Putnam, 1996
Your local library
ages 4-8
Maria is so excited to help her mother make tamales for their family Christmas celebration. Maria feels so grown-up helping. When she sees her mother's diamond ring sparkling on the counter, she just has to try it on. A few hours later, when she realizes that the ring is no longer on her finger, Maria panics--convinced that the diamond got lost in the tamales. So she does what any worried kid would do: persuade her cousins that they have to eat ALL the tamales, looking carefully for the ring.

My students love this holiday story. They can relate to how Maria's anxious worry and laugh at the thought of eating all those tamales. I love the family warmth and love that shines through each page.
A Fine Dessert
Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat
by Emily Jenkins
illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Schwartz & Wade / Penguin Random House, 2015
Your local library
ages 5-8
This is a warm and sweet book about how parents and children have made blackberry fool together throughout the ages. Jenkins and Blackall take readers to 1710 Lyme, England, as a mother and daughter pick wild blackberries; 1810 Charleston, South Carolina, where an enslaved mother and daughter gather them from the plantation garden; 1910 Boston, where a mother and daughter go to the market and then prepare a Sunday dinner; and finally 2010 San Diego, where a boy and his father use store-bought berries to make a feast for family and friends.

Probe a little deeper, and it's a book that can lead to many conversations with children. Some families will want to talk about who is making the food and serving it--the role of women and slaves. Others will notice the way preparing and storing food has changed. There has been much debate about the depiction of the 19th century slave family this book (see this NY Times article), but each reader will need to judge for herself. As Emily Jenkins wrote in her author's note,
"The story includes characters who are slaves, even though there is by no means space to explore the topic of slavery fully. I wanted to represent American life in 1810 without ignoring that part of our history. I wrote about people finding joy in craftsmanship and dessert within lives of great hardship and injustice--because finding that joy shows something powerful about the human spirit."
As we come together as families, I believe we must find ways to talk about the hard subjects while still acknowledging our community and support for one another. I accept Jenkin's decision, especially since she and Blackall explain their thinking in endnotes, although my strongest belief is that we must share a wide range of views of the past with children. No one book can present all views.
Feast for 10
by Cathryn Falwell
Clarion / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1993
Your local library
ages 3-6
This counting book follows an African-American family going to the grocery story and then home to make dinner together. Simple rhymes are easy to read aloud: "Two pumpkins for pie / Three chickens to fry." The illustrations celebrate the children's role throughout and are full of warm family love. A delightful, modern story that rounds out this set nicely.

The review copies came from our school library, as well as from the publishers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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19. Review of Lost. Found.

arnold_lost foundLost. Found.
by Marsha Diane Arnold; 
illus. by Matthew Cordell
Preschool   Porter/Roaring Brook   32 pp.
11/15   978-1-62672-017-6   $16.99

A bear’s red wool scarf is carried off by a strong gust of wind (“Lost”). Two quarrelsome raccoons spy the scarf lying in the snow (“Found”); they get into a tiff and run off squabbling, leaving the scarf behind (“Lost”). Next, a beaver finds it and dons the scarf as headgear…until it’s snagged by a low-hanging branch and lost again. With one of the two title words on most pages (there are also some well-placed wordless pages), this effectively paced story plays out in Cordell’s lively but spare pen-and-ink and watercolor pictures (occasional silly sound effects included). The book invites participation, and young listeners will quickly catch on to the narrative pattern. The scarf is found and lost five more times by various woodland creatures who tug, pull, squeeze, swing on, jump on, and brawl over it. It’s at this point that the rightful owner re-enters the story: the bear finds the scarf completely unraveled but doesn’t lose hope. Along with some contrite-looking critters, the bear gathers the yarn and knits a new scarf, one that brings everyone together — in friendship. The final cozy, color-drenched scene (a departure from the preceding white-dominated pages) shows the characters sitting companionably around a nighttime campfire connected by the scarf, which fits everyone perfectly. Pair this with Kasza’s Finders Keepers (rev. 9/15) for more lost-and-found accessory fun.

From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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20. The Plan, by Alison Paul & Barbara Lehman -- story taking flight with just a few words (ages 3-8)

New readers and pre-readers are so often frustrated that their imaginations take flight far ahead of their reading skills. They want complex, interesting stories -- and they'll be delighted with The Plan. With just one or two words on each page, Alison Paul & Barbara Lehman tell a story full of imagination through the interplay between pictures, characters and words.

The Plan
by Alison Paul
illustrated by Barbara Lehman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
Google Books preview
Your local library
ages 3-8
*best new book*
A young child dreams of flying to Saturn, and so it all begins with a plan. A plane, a map of the solar system, her trusty dog. Soaring up to the planets. By the third page in (maybe I'm slower than your typical kid?), I realized that each word just changes by one letter: plan becomes plane, then plane becomes planet. Here are the first two spreads:
It all begins with a "plan"
Look outside to see the "plane"
You can't read the story without spending time investigating the pictures. What is happening? What is the girl thinking about? Whose plane is outside? Why is a plane sitting outside at a farm? But the words help move the story along, too. The word game adds intrigue and humor, as readers try to figure out the rules of the game.

What's magical is how the story has depth and feeling far beyond the words. As the young girl discovers a key to a photo album, we realize that her mother used to fly the plane but that she is no longer here. As the story unfolds, the father and daughter together plan to launch the plane--honoring the girl's mother.

I've been wondering about the age range for this book. While I think it sings particularly well for new readers in kindergarten or 1st grade, I think the story will resonate with older and younger children. Pre-readers will love being able to read the story developing through the pictures. And the story will resonate with older children who will understand the emotional depth, as well as have fun with the very clever word play. In my ideal world, I'd love to have 2nd and 3rd graders create new stories that change word by word, one letter at a time--and see where it takes them!

Illustrations ©2015 Barbara Lehman, used with permission of the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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21. Goldilocks and Little Bear app review

goldilocks title screenIt’s not exactly news that I love Nosy Crow’s apps, particularly their fairy-tale series (see our reviews of The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Snow White). The latest in the series, Goldilocks and Little Bear (November 2015), makes the most of the app format.

Choose from “Read and Play” and “Read by Myself” options to begin. In this retelling, Goldilocks’s story is fairly standard, except for her biracial family (yay!) and a few embellishing details. She goes into the bears’ home, helps herself to their porridge, chairs, and beds, gets discovered, and is chased away.

But Little Bear also gets his own plot here, parallel to Goldilocks’s. His parents make porridge for breakfast, but it’s too hot, so they head into the woods for a game of hide ‘n’ seek while they wait for it to cool down. Little Bear wanders off and finds himself at Goldilocks’s house, where he samples her family’s pancakes (“too sweet,” “too salty,” just right), wardrobes (“too scruffy,” “too fancy,” just right), and reading material (“too boring” with “not enough pictures,” “too scary,” just right).

golidlocks pancakes

little bear with pancakes

What’s really innovative about this app — compared both to previous apps in the series and to other children’s apps I’ve seen — is the way it relates the two interconnected stories in tandem. Hold the device one way for a scene in Goldilocks’s tale, then flip it upside down for a complementary scene in Little Bear’s. The stories converge when Goldilocks and Little Bear, fleeing one another’s parents, run smack into each other and strike up a friendship.

Subtly pulsing blue dots indicate where to tap for interactive moments that advance the plot. In addition to interactive opportunities throughout, simple activities such as collecting berries, playing hide-and-seek, jumping on the bed, and playing dress-up are naturally integrated into the storyline(s). A few screens allow you to incorporate your own audio or visuals from the device’s camera.

Tap a bookmark at the right-hand side of every screen to access two maps of scene thumbnails (one for each character’s arc) and revisit favorite moments. A parents’ section offers some tips for using the app.

goldilocks map

All the Nosy Crow production hallmarks — a two-dimensional (with a somewhat cut-paper look) illustration and animation style, engaging narration supplemented with dialogue by a cast of charming child voice actors, plenty of visual and textual humor, and upbeat music — round out the app. Another winner.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 7.0 or later); $4.99. Recommended for preschool and early primary users.

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22. Daddy's Back-to-School Shopping Adventure, by Alan Lawrence Sitomer (ages 4-7)

I have to be honest: I feel torn about back-to-school shopping. I love getting my kids organized, but I hate the pleading for useless knick-knacks or trendy decorations. But one thing's for sure: it's all part of getting ready for school. Alan Lawrence Sitomer, California's Teacher of the Year in 2007, celebrates this tradition with a silly, heart-warming story: Daddy's Back-to-School Shopping Adventure.

Daddy's Back-to-School Shopping Adventure
by Alan Lawrence Sitomer
illustrated by Abby Carter
Disney Hyperion, 2015
Your local library
ages 4-7
It's time for back-to-school shopping, and siblings Jenny and Jake know that the number-one rule is "We only buy what's on the list." But that doesn't mean shopping can't be a little fun. This family knows how to be goofy. The illustrations are giggle-inducing, full of exaggerated movement and lots of details for kids to enjoy.
"Look at us," Jenny called out.
When Daddy finds a lunchbox that's just like the one he had when he was a boy, he just has to have it. In a humorous role reversal, now it's the kids' turn to say, "Uh daddy... Is it on the list?" I loved how the dad then turned to a softie, trying to negotiate and wheedle his way to get his coveted lunchbox. Sitomer balances the humor with a heartwarming ending.

Want more back-to-school books? This week I'm reviewing these new favorites:
Illustrations ©2015 Abby Carter; used with permission from the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Disney Hyperion. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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23. Inspire interest in STEM with science biography picture books

With all of the push to get young children more interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) topics, many schools, libraries, and after school programs are integrating these topics into their activities. And, with so many great picture book biographies of scientists available, there is no reason that storytime activities and at-home reading time can’t also complement these activities and help to inspire young children to pursue their interest in STEM topics. Check out some of these books to bring out the inner scientist in your preschool through third grade students.

on a beam of lightOn a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky
This book starts with Einstein’s childhood and introduces readers to a boy who didn’t talk, but did look with wonder at the world around him. As it progresses through to his later life, the book focuses on the way that Einstein thought and how this led to his contributions to science. The illustrations fit well with this focus as they have a decidedly dreamy quality to them. Perfect for younger readers.

LookUpLook Up!: Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Raúl Colón
Though Henrietta Leavitt may not be a name that is familiar to most, she made key contributions to the field of astronomy during her time at the Harvard College Observatory during the late 1800s. This biography brings her work to life through a combination of beautiful artwork and a compelling story. Leavitt’s story and the included information about astronomy will inspire young children to study the stars.

TheWatcherThe Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter
Jane Goodall remains one of the most famous primatologists ever and this book tells her life story starting during her childhood in England through to her time working among the chimpanzees in Tanzania with the scientist Louis Leakey. The book also includes Goodall’s important work as an advocate and activist for chimpanzees and, as such, will introduce children who love animals to the world of activism as well.

sisson_star stuffStar Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson
Another great book for children who are interested in stars and the field of astronomy, this book offers an insight into Carl Sagan’s life and inspiration. Starting with a trip to the New York World’s Fair in 1939 and his nights spent looking out his window to stare at the stars, this book follows Sagan throughout his life and career as a renowned astronomer who worked with NASA. This is a wonderful addition to any collection of science picture books.

ABoyAndAJaguarA Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by Catia Chien
The only book on this list written by its subject, this book tells the story of Alan Rabinowitz, a biologist and conservationist whose love of animals helped him to overcome his stuttering when he found that he could talk to animals without any problem. This winner of the 2015 Schneider Family Book Award will inspire all students to pursue their passions.

This list offers a few suggestions for great science biographies, but there are plenty more to choose from. Let me know in the comments if your favorites didn’t make my list. I also love learning about new science biography picture books!



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24. ABC School's For Me!, by Susan B. Katz: delightful celebration of school (ages 3-6)

As your little ones come home from their first few days of school, do they talk much about it? Or do you have to poke and prod to find out about their school day? In either case, Susan Katz's newest picture book is a delightful way to celebrate and talk about the school day for preschoolers and kindergartners.

ABC School's For Me!by Susan B. Katzillustrated by Lynn Munsinger
Scholastic, 2015
Your local libraryAmazonages 3-6
With delightful rhyming couplets, Katz celebrates playful school activities from a typical preschool or kindergarten day. She uses the alphabet to guide the story, starting each line with a different letter which is highlighted in bold block print. But the real delight comes from the adorable bears parading through their day.
"Books that are just right for me.
Crayons for coloring, in my hand,
Dump trucks, playing in the sand.”
Children will love looking at the pictures, noticing the details in each scene. Munsinger not only captures the bears' expressions but also their busy activity throughout the day. Katz moves easily from dump trucks to jumping rope, building letter block towers, playing with paper puppets and waiting in line. Her rhymes have grace and rhythm that are lovely to read aloud and never overwhelm the pictures. The best description of this book came from my 11 year old:
"It's a first-day-of-school stress reliever."
I couldn't have said it better myself. Enjoy and delight in seeing what your little one talks about or notices. Want more back-to-school books? This week I've reviewed these new favorites:

Illustrations ©2015 Lynn Munsinger; used with permission from the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Scholastic. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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25. Review of Flutter & Hum / 
Aleteo y Zumbido

paschkis_flutter and humFlutter & Hum / 
Aleteo y Zumbido: Animal Poems / Poemas de Animales
by Julie Paschkis; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary   Holt   32 pp.
8/15   978-1-62779-103-8   $17.99

A turtle hides treasures in its shell. Whales dance with the ocean. A cat sleeps on a map and wakes to stretch across the world, from Arequipa to Zanzibar. These are just a few of the creatures that populate Paschkis’s animal poems. Written first in Spanish then translated into English by the (non-native Spanish speaker) author, each poem is intricately connected to its corresponding painting, with additional, thematic words found throughout the pictures. For example, the snake in “Snake / La Serpiente” slithers through blades of grass imprinted with English and Spanish words that begin with the letter S: serpentine, swerve; sombra, sorpresa. In “Fish / El Pez,” a boy sleeps on a boat that floats above fish swimming in a sea of lulling words: linger, flow; luna, burbuja. The colors and line-work of each gouache illustration vary somewhat according to the subject: the playful dog is all bright colors and curving, bouncy balls, while the crow is dark with sharp edges and straight lines. Readers will find themselves carefully studying every little detail of the illustrations while being charmed by the poems.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Aleteo y Zumbido appeared first on The Horn Book.

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Aleteo y Zumbido as of 1/1/1900
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