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1. Review of Flora and the Penguin

idle flora and the penguin Review of Flora and the PenguinFlora and the Penguin
by Molly Idle; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Chronicle    48 pp.
9/14    978-1-4521-2891-7    $16.99

Having mastered the art of the dahhnce in Flora and the Flamingo (rev. 7/13), the same little-girl protagonist takes up figure skating. While lacing up her skates, she spies an orange beak peeking out of a hole in the ice. It’s a penguin, and Flora reaches out her hand in friendship. At first there’s no friction; the two glide across the ice, Torvill and Dean–style, skating backwards and on one foot and performing synchronized leaps. When her partner plunges back down under the ice, though, Flora is disappointed and a little put out. The penguin produces a fish for her, but Flora, still feeling miffed, throws the fish back…then thinks of a creative way to make amends. Just as in the previous wordless book, dynamic flaps (this time they’re horizontal and two-sided) help set a graceful, rhythmic pace. The limited color palette, too, recalls Flamingo, though here — befitting the wintry scene — the pictures are all in pale blues, with yellow pops of color (Flora’s hat looks like her Flamingo bathing cap but with a puffball tassel on top), some pink (her peaches-and-cream complexion), and the white of the page. The main action is on land, but underwater there’s another playful story starring those sleek little fish. A gatefold near the end provides the tale’s acrobatic climax before the warm-hearted pair skates off the copyright page.

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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2. Visiting grandparents: three picture books to share (ages 3-8)

As the holidays approach, many children are excited about visiting grandparents. I wanted to share three different picture books that show different small moments as children spend time with their grandparents.

Hot Hot Roti for Dada-Ji
by F. Zia
illustrated by Ken Min
Lee and Low, 2011
Your local library
Amazon
ages 5-8
Young Aneel’s grandfather Dada-ji has great fun telling how he got “the power of a tiger” when he was a boy by eating the best roti in town. Aneel is so excited that he races to the kitchen to make this Indian flatbread.

Kids love the way that Dad-ji exaggerates the story from his childhood. Zia's writes with verve and gusto. She is "a writer and an elementary school teacher who grew up in Hyderabad, India." As Aneel starts gathering ingredients to make his roti, the fun really begins. Kids can relate to how food brings people together and will love the way Aneel takes charge.
Max and the Tag-Along Moon
by Floyd Cooper
Philomel / Penguin, 2013
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-7
Saying goodbye can be particularly hard for young kids. When young Max must say goodbye to his grandpa, the young boy points to the full moon shining above. Grandpa promises him that “that ol’ moon will always shine for you...on and on!”

As Max drives home, he keeps watch of that same moon and is reassured by its presence. This quiet warm book glows softly with the love between African American grandfather and grandson. It's a wonderful read-aloud that helps talk about how the people we love stay with us in our hearts long after we have to say goodbye.
Nana in the City
by Lauren Castillo
Clarion / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 3-6
What do we do when our children are afraid? You'd never know it by looking at the cover, but this young boy is scared by all the noises and commotion in the bustling city. He's excited to see his Nana and her new apartment, but oh how the city noises are just too much.

I love how this wonderful Nana listens, understands and helps the young boy overcome his fears. She never dismisses his fears, but she shows him how he can be brave and she'll be right there with him. I also love how Castillo shows a grandmother who lives in the city and loves exploring. Below you can see how the little boy slowly changes his mind, with his Nana right by his side:
"But Nana was right. The city was not filled with scary things..."
Do you have a favorite book that reminds your children of times they spend with their grandparents? Or maybe after the holidays, you and your child could write a story together about a day they spent with their grandparents.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Lee & Low, Penguin and Clarion. 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.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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3. Storytime: Thanksgiving Roundup

   10 Fat Turkeys by Tony Johnston & illustrated by Rich Deas “Looky!” says a silly turkey swinging from a vine. Gobble gobble wibble wobble. Whoops! Now there are nine.” Girls and boys will gobble up this hilarious counting story about ten goofy turkeys roller-skating on a fence, doing a noodle dance, and more! Give …

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4. My Bus

barton my bus My BusIn my opinion, My Bus (a companion book to Byron Barton’s My Car) is a perfect preschool book. But is it too simple to get a Caldecott award?

First we meet Joe, the bus driver. “I am Joe. This is my car. This is my bus.” As he drives his bus into town, five dogs and five cats board the bus one, two, three, and four at a time. Then they get off in threes (one dog and two cats, two dogs and one cat) to board other vehicles until just one dog is left. “I drive one dog home. My dog! Bow wow.” The solidly built characters and settings invite pointing and participating. Each animal is a different color for easy identification, and each is visible enough to count, whether on or off the bus. There’s no need to even mention the words “addition” and “subtraction.” The only lesson here is to understand what happens when something is taken away from a group.

Now about the art.

When My Car came out back in 2001, I was dismayed at first to see visible pixels around the edges of some of the computer-drawn shapes. Later, I decided that I was being a digital artist snob. We all think visible brushstrokes add character in analog art, so why smooth out the digital medium with super-high resolutions and pretend it’s something else?

Medium aside, there’s plenty more to look at in this art. Barton could have given his characters smiling faces, but he smartly chose not to. The bus driver and each animal looks serious, and the cats look just a little scared — as well they might riding around with all those dogs. And anyway, who smiles while riding a bus? No one outside of ads and children’s illustrations. These animals are all busy going about their days, just as the child being read to is busy counting and naming animals and vehicles.

Barton has such a fine-tuned feel for his audience. He knows how much detail is enough to keep interest and how much might be too much. This kind of book is all about composition and color choices. The bus, however simply drawn, works. It sits on its wheels in just the right way to give it real mass, and the perspective changes accurately in each scene. The colors are bright and cheerful without crossing the line into garish. This is so difficult to accomplish. Give it a try and you’ll see.

So. Do I think this has a chance at the Caldecott Medal? Not really, but I would stand up and applaud the committee if they gave it an honor. It begs the question: can a book’s art be too simple to win the award? The year I served on the committee we gave the medal to Kitten’s First Full Moon, Kevin Henkes’s first foray into preschool books. In some ways, that book was simpler than this one, but it also had a bit more going on, including some thematic nods to a more mature audience, such as a recurring circle motif.

I fear My Bus will appear too simple for the Caldecott, but I think it has a strong chance at a Geisel. What do you think?

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5. Review of Circle, Square, Moose

bingham circle square moose Review of Circle, Square, MooseCircle, Square, Moose
by Kelly Bingham; 
illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky
Preschool, Primary    Greenwillow    48 pp.
10/14    978-0-06-229003-8    $17.99    g

Irrepressible Moose (Z Is for Moose, rev. 3/12) is up to his old tricks, trying to force his way into another concept book. This time the subject is shapes, and at first we seem to be reading an old-school shape book (“that sandwich you had for lunch? That is a…square”). The fun begins on the third page, when Moose appears and takes a bite of the sandwich. An offstage narrator addresses Moose directly — “Hey! Don’t eat that!” — in bold-type text. When Moose proves intransigent and ever more disruptive, his old friend Zebra comes to try to save the day. Things grow more and more chaotic until Zebra ends up tangled in the ribbons that illustrate curves; loyal Moose rescues him by turning the sun’s shadow (representing circles) into a hole that takes them clear out of the book. As in the first volume, Zelinsky expertly juxtaposes the expected orderliness of a book with the chaos caused by Moose’s interruption, but this time he steps up the meta elements. The ending is far from pat, but just as true to the characters as that of the first book. On the back endpapers, we see the same exchange that concluded their previous adventure, but the characters have switched places: “Can we do that again?” asks Zebra. “Yes, Zebra. We can do that again.” Adults should be prepared to share this book again and again, as well.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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6. Review – Hurry Up Alfie by Anna Walker

Here comes Alfie! Bursting onto the scene. So much to do, so little time. Alfie is plenty busy… too busy to get ready to go out. With classics including the I Love series, I Don’t Believe in Dragons and Peggy, and her beautiful illustrations for Jane Godwin’s All Through the Year, Starting School and Today We Have […]

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7. Counting the days 'till Halloween: two books to share (ages 3-8)

Young kids love Halloween, but some find scary costumes and stories too frightening. So I'm always on the lookout for books that are a little bit creepy, but are still playful and fun. Two new favorites have lots of kid appeal and throw in practice with counting that's just right for preschoolers and kindergartners.

Ten Orange Pumpkins
A Counting Book
by Stephen Savage
Dial / Penguin, 2013
Your local library
Amazon
ages 3-6
Ten pumpkins start the night neatly stacked outside a farmer's house, but they disappear one by one as they night progresses. Savage combines bold illustrations with rhythmic rhyming text, giving young readers just enough clues so they can figure out what happens to each pumpkin. I especially love his striking use of silhouettes--they are creepy and dramatic, yet also simple and straightforward.

Look how effectively Savage uses the page turn to hook young readers (see the first two pages below). Children will love counting the pumpkins and figuring out where the missing one went. Here's a great example of a book that has so many details in the illustrations that kids can add many layers to the story beyond the text--use this to talk with kids as you read, with prompts like "So what do you notice?" and "Oh, so what happened here?"
"Ten orange pumpkins,
fresh off the vine.
Tonight will be a spooky night."
"Yikes! There are 9."
from Ten Orange Pumpkins, by Stephen Savage
Another new favorite with our kindergarten teachers is Not Very Scary. They love this cumulative story not only for its counting practice, but also for its message. While we all might get a little bit scared at Halloween, it's really just all our friends having fun.
Not Very Scary
by Carol Brendler
illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
Farrar Straus Giroux / Macmillan, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
Melly, a cute litte monster, is excited to walk over to her cousin Malberta's house for a Halloween party. Sure it's a gloomy night, but Melly isn't scared--even when she sees "a coal-black cat with an itchy-twitchy tail." She tells herself how brave she is, but readers can tell that she's actually getting scared. Turn the page, and Melly sees "two skittish skeletons" dancing along after the cat.
from Not Very Scary, by Carol Brendler & Greg Pizzoli
Young children know just how Melly feels, getting more and more frightened as each ghoulish creature turns up. This makes the final resolution all the more enjoyable, as Melly realizes that they are all just Malberta's friends coming along to the Halloween party.

Brendler uses wonderfully descriptive language, full of alliteration (grimy goblins, spindly spiders) that makes reading it aloud a joy. Pizzoli's illustrations strike just the right balance, emphasizing the silly fun each creature brings, but never making them too scary. I had a great time reading about his illustration process on his blog and over at his interview at Seven Impossible Things.

The review copy of Not Very Scary was kindly sent by the publishers, Macmillan Books. The review copy of Ten Orange Pumpkins came from our school library. 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.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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8. Review of Bow-Wow’s Nightmare 
Neighbors

newgarden bow wows nightmare neighbors Review of Bow Wow’s Nightmare 
Neighborsstar2 Review of Bow Wow’s Nightmare 
Neighbors Bow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors
by Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash; illus. by the authors
Preschool    Porter/Roaring Brook    64 pp.
9/14    978-1-59643-640-4    $17.99    g

Bow-Wow is back in this fanciful wordless follow-up to Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug (rev. 7/07). This time, the stalwart canine sets out to retrieve his stolen doggy bed from the ornery ghost cats and kittens who live across the street in a haunted mansion — complete with loose floorboards, secret passageways, and moving-eye portraits. Around every corner, it seems as though the pup may have found his purloined cushion at last, but each time, he’s mistaken. With beady-eyed specters peering out from various nooks and crannies ready to nip the tip of his tail, Bow-Wow finally makes his way through the house — only to come face-to-face with the mother of all ghost cats in an absurdly funny (and cuddly) denouement. In a strange house with the lights out, the predominantly grayscale palette captures the eerie confusion of eyes playing tricks with the shadows, while carefully placed flourishes of color amp up the humor at just the right moments. Through expert use of comic-book panels, Newgarden and Cash play with perspective and timing, giving a sense of immediacy and light suspense to each increasingly silly scene. A fresh look at things that go bump in the night.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Neighbors

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Neighbors appeared first on The Horn Book.

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Neighbors as of 1/1/1900
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9. Review of The Farmer and the Clown

frazee farmer and the clown Review of The Farmer and the Clownstar2 Review of The Farmer and the Clown The Farmer and the Clown
by Marla Frazee; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Beach Lane/Simon    32 pp.
10/14    978-1-4424-9744-3    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4424-9745-0    $10.99

Appearances can be deceiving in this superb wordless book from two-time Caldecott Honor recipient Frazee. At sunset, a grim-faced, pitchfork-wielding farmer comes to the rescue when a circus train hits a bump and ejects a jolly-looking toddler clown. The contrast is almost comical: a tall elderly man wearing a frown and a flat black hat holding hands with a miniature clown wearing a painted-on grin and a pointy red hat. At bedtime, the two wash their faces, and off comes the clown makeup, revealing a scared and vulnerable child and wiping away any hint of humor from our tale — for the moment. In Frazee’s pencil and gouache illustration the characters are arrestingly transformed: the child now clearly unhappy and the farmer’s softened features registering concern. The next morning, the farmer reveals a playful side as he essentially makes a clown of himself to get a real smile from his young guest. When the circus train returns later that day, the body language of the new friends expresses a powerful clash of emotions: the child’s ebullience brings both his feet off the ground, while the farmer, earthbound, stands stock-still and stoic. The two exchange hugs, wave goodbye, and…how the heck can Frazee break readers’ hearts like this? Never fear: as the farmer walks pensively away, viewers see that he’s being followed by a circus monkey, who gestures to us not to tell — surely a tip of the hat to Rathmann’s classic (and also wordless) Good Night, Gorilla (rev. 7/94). Using only pictures, Frazee’s book — both spare and astonishingly rich — offers a riveting narrative, characters to care deeply about, and an impressive range of emotion.

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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10. To sleep, perchance to dream

A lyrical bedtime reverie; an open-only-at-night library run by a little librarian; a toddler’s pre-dawn escapades; and a kooky bedtime cruise: four new picture books help smooth the way from daytime activity to bedtime quiet.

zoboli big book of slumber To sleep, perchance to dreamSimona Mulazzani’s lush folk art in cozy nighttime colors lends a magical, drowsy atmosphere to Giovanna Zoboli’s The Big Book of Slumber, a large-format ode to the joys of dreamland. Translated from the Italian, soothing rhyming couplets are full of rhythm and repetition: “Mouse ate her apple and read her nice book. / Who else is sleeping? Just take a good look.” Appealingly drawn sleeping arrangements include some captivatingly out of the ordinary: Hippo sleeps on a sofa, giraffes in sleeping bags, and seals in armchairs propped up in the trees. (Eerdmans, 2–5 years)

kohara midnight library To sleep, perchance to dreamWelcome to The Midnight Library, written and illustrated by Kazuno Kohara, a friendly spot for animals from “all over the town” to “find a perfect book.” A little-girl librarian and her three owl assistants cheerfully bustle around the packed bookshelves, where small dramas are happily resolved alongside library business-as-usual. This dream of a library is designed with lots of reading nooks, comfy chairs, lanterns, and trees. The gentle story and vibrant compositions have an old-fashioned sensibility and simplicity that capture the enchantment of the middle-of-the-night goings on. (Roaring Brook, 2–5 years)

sakai hannahs night To sleep, perchance to dreamHannah’s Night by Komako Sakai begins enticingly: “One day when Hannah woke up, she was surprised to find that it was still dark.” Hannah’s day holds all sorts of surprises — because it’s still the middle of the night. Everyone else is asleep, so she eats cherries from the refrigerator; then, emboldened, Hannah gleefully borrows all her sound-asleep sister’s best stuff and takes it back to her own bed to play with. Sakai is a master at capturing toddlers’ body language and expressions, and her brief text clearly telegraphs the freedom Hannah feels on this toddler-sized adventure. (Gecko, 2–5 years)

farrell thank you octopus To sleep, perchance to dreamFor those who’d rather embark on silly bedtime adventures, Thank You, Octopus by Darren Farrell is a hilarious nautical comedy of errors. “Bedtime, ahoy,” Octopus declares. His young shipmate isn’t thrilled. Doting Octopus knows that a warm bath, jammies, and a favorite story can help make the transition easier, and he’s prepared — in theory. He talks the bedtime talk, but his best intentions wildly miss their mark. A “nice warm bath” sounds lovely (“Thank you, Octopus”), but a page-turn shows Octopus and boy headed into a huge vat of egg salad. “Gross! No thank you, Octopus.” Farrell’s detailed cartoon illustrations cleverly foreshadow the antics. (Dial, 3–6 years)

From the June 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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11. preschool camp

This was an adorable group of 5, most of them around the age of 3. We explored collage, charcoal, paint and sculpture projects and had some crazy times. To be honest, the water bucket was the most popular item, along with chalk paint and storytime projects.




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12. Review of Hi, Koo!

muth hi koo Review of Hi, Koo!Hi, Koo!:
A Year of Seasons

by Jon J Muth; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Scholastic    32 pp.
3/14    978-0-545-16668-3    $17.99

Twenty-six haiku are presented by young panda Koo, whom fans of Muth’s Zen Ties will recognize as the haiku-spouting nephew of Stillwater, the Zen Buddhist panda from Zen Shorts and Zen Ghosts. Here, Koo is on his own, eventually joined by two human children who appear on his doorstep to play. The story told through the haiku follows the cycle of the seasons, from fall (“Autumn, / are you dreaming / of new clothes?”) to winter (“snowfall / Gathers my footprints / I do a powdery stomp”) to spring (“New leaves / new grass new sky / spring!”) to summer (“Tiny lights / garden full of blinking stars / fireflies”). Muth’s watercolors are as clear and translucent as the child-friendly, easily understood haiku, the gentle mood of his paintings perfectly matching the tranquil emotion of the poems. In an author’s note at the front Muth explains his choice to forego the traditional five-seven-five syllable pattern and states that “a haiku embodies a moment of emotion that reminds us that our own human nature is not separate from all of nature.” Each haiku contains just one capital letter, in order from A to Z; although the randomly capitalized words can look awkward, young readers may enjoy tracking the “alphabetical path” through the book.

From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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13. Review of The Midnight Library

kohara midnight library Review of The Midnight LibraryThe Midnight Library
by Kazuno Kohara; illus. by the author
Preschool    Roaring Brook    32 pp.
6/14    978-1-59643-985-6    $16.99

Welcome to the Midnight Library, where a little-girl librarian and her three owl assistants provide a friendly spot for animals from “all over the town” to “find a perfect book.” Outside the windows, stars twinkle in a black sky; inside, the library glows with a warm golden light. The little librarian, braids flying, cheerfully bustles around the packed bookshelves, where small dramas are happily resolved alongside library business-as-usual. Kohara’s (Ghosts in the House!, rev. 9/08) gentle story and vibrant compositions have an old-fashioned sensibility and simplicity. The illustrations, which look like wood-block prints, feature just three colors: black, gold, and blue. With this limited (but not limiting) palette and strong, energetic lines, Kohara captures the magic of the middle-of-the-night goings on. This is a dream of a library, too, designed with lots of reading nooks (including top-of-bookshelf perches), comfy chairs, lanterns, and trees with ornaments on the branches, adding to the enchantment. There’s a lot to linger over on the pages, and the art varies from full- and double-page spreads to smaller panel illustrations. When the sky begins to lighten, it’s time for the library to close and for the little librarian and the owls to “find one last book.” Of course, that last book is a bedtime story, which is the perfect way to end this beguiling library visit.

From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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14. Review of Pom and Pim

landstrom pom and pim Review of Pom and Pimstar2 Review of Pom and PimPom and Pim
by Lena Landström; illus. by 
Olof Landström; trans. from 
the Swedish by Julia Marshall
Preschool    Gecko    32 pp.
3/14    978-1-877579-66-0    $16.95

Pom is a small child with sparse orange curls, clad in a long purple sweater; Pim is Pom’s inanimate sidekick of indeterminate species: a dirty pink, with two eyes and four floppy appendages, the better to be dragged around by. “Pom and Pim are going out. It’s warm. The sun is shining. What luck!” But ahead, lying in wait, are a rock and a piece of paper. Pom trips over the rock (“Ouch! Bad luck”) and does a face-plant on the paper — which turns out to be “Money! What luck!” Small adventures ensue, alternating good and bad luck. Eating a huge ice-cream cone leads to a tummy ache — but lying down to recover leads to spying a pink balloon above the bed; taking the balloon outside for a walk (“The balloon bounces beautifully”) leads to it popping on a thorn bush. Pom is downcast but then, indomitable, comes up with the ideal use for the limp leftovers: “A raincoat for Pim!” And what luck: it’s now raining. In matching pink coats the two friends splash through a spare but joyful double-page spread of raindrops and puddles. The brief text and droll ink and watercolor illustrations keep the focus tightly on Pom and Pim, working together brilliantly to bring out the considerable situational humor; Pom’s facial expressions telegraph every fluctuating emotion. The good luck/bad luck progression will let readers predict events — and then allow them to (perhaps) be happily surprised by the closing twist. Quirkier and much smaller in scope than classics such as Remy Charlip’s Fortunately and Margery Cuyler’s That’s Good! That’s Bad! — but just as entrancing.

From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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15. Number One Sam, by Greg Pizzoli (ages 3-6)

Kids love racing against each other -- but how do we help them learn to have fun racing without hurting their friendships? It's a delicate line that kids, especially competitive ones, need to learn. Here's a book you'll love sharing with your kids, because it will make them laugh, but it will also help them think.
Number One Sam
Disney Hyperion, 2014
ages 3-6
Sam is the number one racer, always coming in first place. Just look how happy he is racing around the curves -- he's a guy that kids will love cheering on. I love Greg Pizzoli's artwork, full of dramatic lines and curves, but imbued with such bright, happy colors.


But one race day Sam's friend Maggie comes in first place, and Sam is devastated. "The night before the next race, Sam didn't sleep one wink." Little kids will know just how nervous he is. Sam works hard not to be a sore loser, and to do his best to win the next day.


Pizzoli throws a delightfully unexpected twist in the story--Sam is driving his best, passing all his friends and confident that he will win the race again. But, oh no!!!, he sees five adorable little chicks crossing the road.
"Sam could steer around the chicks,
but would the other racers see them in time?"
I can't wait to read this to little kids and see how they react to Sam's dilemma! Pizzoli creates a situation that kids will be able to relate to: how they can be competitive but also good friends. What makes this book so great is that it will help families share an experience and create conversations. And Pizzoli does this while keeping the story trimmed down to its essence: dynamic yet spare, easy to read yet captivating.

Just take a look at the Kirkus starred review of Number One Sam:
"No. 1 takes on a whole new meaning. Pizzoli’s story is a simple class act. Do the right thing—you can’t lose, ever. And most of the time, the right thing is no great philosophical conundrum but as clear as the checkered flag.
A polished work, from the words to the finish on the race cars."
Number one in my book. I'll be sharing this with our kindergarteners as we talk about what it means to be a friend.

If you like this story, you might enjoy checking out:


The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Disney Hyperion Books. 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.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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16. The Racecar Alphabet, by Brian Floca (ages 4-8)

Wow-oh-wow. The Racecar Alphabet, by Brian Floca, is absolutely brilliant -- perfect for young speed racers (and their parents, too!). Kids will be drawn in by his dynamic illustrations, but they'll come back again and again for the layers of information they discover with each reading.

The Racecar Alphabet
by Brian Floca
Atheneum / Simon & Schuster, 2003
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
You can just about feel the wind and hear the roar as you see the 1934 Mercedes-Benz thundering across the cover, can't you? But this is no ordinary alphabet book. Floca combines alliteration, rhythm and rhymes to pull readers right in. Here are the opening stanzas:
Automobiles--
machines on wheels.//

Belts turning,
  fuel burning,
the buzz and bark of engines.
   The flap of a flag--
     a race begins!
But there's more! Look closely at the endpapers as you open the book, and you'll notice that the cars are arranged in chronological order. Read the text again and you'll notice that each letter of the alphabet progresses through automobile history, from the 1906 Renault (emblazoned with a number 1, because it's on the A page) to a 1934 Mercedes-Benz (number 9, "instruments / indicating speed") to a 2001 Ferrari F1 (number 26, "zipping, zigzagging, with zeal and zing").
The Racecar Alphabet, by Brian Floca
Brian Floca, winner of this year's Caldecott Award for the mightily impressive Locamotive, brings readers right into the race, shifting perspective at each turn. Just look above as the BMW barrels down on you, or below as you sit in the driver's seat:
The Racecar Alphabet, by Brian Floca
Floca writes in his blog about his inspiration for writing The Racecar Alphabet:
When I came across an image of one of those cars a few years ago, a switch went off in my head. I had never been much of a racing fan, but suddenly I appreciated how extraordinarily beautiful these cars could be. Here was sculpture, nothing less. It just happened to be sculpture you could drive through scenic European settings at extraordinary speeds.
I truly believe that picture books are an essential way we can introduce our children to art. I'm guessing many parents will never take their children to a museum. But here, they can get a feel for the importance of perspective, colors, lines, and composition. And make tons of zooming, churning, speeding noises at the same time!

The review copy came from our home library. 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.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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17. Back to School Fun: Silly and Sweet (ages 3-6)

Summer is ending and soon kids will head back to school. Some are excited for new adventures, but many will be sad to see summer over. Help your kids talk about the changes that are coming with two new books that take a silly and sweet look at the new school year. These are both perfect for little kids starting preschool or kindergarten.

Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2014
ages 4-6
Lola is one cute little kitty, ready to pounce, play and explore. When she finds pink glasses, a stylish outfit and a backpack, she decides to join the rest of the kids on the school bus. "Hooray! Lola is going to school!" Lola has fun doing all sorts of activities at school -- writing, reading, painting, singing, and more. "Lola loved it all!" The story might be slight (dare I say fluffy like a kitty?), but it will help bring smiles to any little kid who's anxious about what happens at school. Lola's positive attitude is sure to rub off on them.
Monsters Love School
by Mike Austin
HarperCollins, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 3-6
Mike Austin's monsters bring even more silliness to the scene, while still helping kids who are feeling nervous about starting a new school year. Summer fun is ending and all the little monster head to school. Most are excited to see their friends-- “Oh Yeah! Monster School!!” But one little blue monster is worried: “School?! Gulp.”
Blue is sure that he already knows his “ABGs and 413s and XYDs,” so why does he need to go to school? Sure enough, once Blue gets to school he starts having fun. Just look at how great art class can be:
Austin’s playful monsters are sure to bring laughs, with their bright colors and googly eyes. Check out what Kirkus Reviews had to say about Monsters Love School:
"Austin has masterfully folded some valuable information about the first day of school into his funny tale, but the monsters are the big draw. Not the least bit scary, their simple shapes and accessories and scrawled style will likely have kids reaching for their own 'monster pencils, monster crayons, monster ink and brushes.'"
Looking for more Back to School book ideas? Check out this article in School Library Journal: Backpacks, Lunch Boxes, and Giggles Galore: Back-to-School Adventures, by Joy Fleishhacker.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, HarperCollins. 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.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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18. Back to school: easing your kindergarten worries (ages 4-7)

Are you getting nervous about the beginning of the school year? Will your child be able to make the transition to a new school, new teacher, new friends? There's nothing like the nervous excitement of the first day of school. Some kids are raring to go, while others are tentatively clinging to their parents. Whatever the case, try out these two new favorites to add some humor as you read about the first day of school.

Planet Kindergarten
by Sue Ganz-Schmitt
illustrated by Shane Prigmore
Chronicle, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-7
“The countdown started. Dad and I checked the plans for my next big mission… I am ready to explore: Planet Kindergarten!”
Planet Kindergarten, click to enlarge
Starting school is certainly exciting, but it can also be nerve-wracking. One imaginative little kid knows it might be just like blasting off into outer space. There are strange routines, new crewmembers, and you might even get a bit homesick.

Bold colors and a retro-style amp up the humor in this fun twist on getting used to a new school. You can definitely tell that Shane Prigmore has an animator's background -- check out his blog to see some of the fun inspiration he used in developing the artwork for this.
Planet Kindergarten, click to enlarge
I just love the way Ganz-Schmitt captures the joyful chaos of kindergarten. Share this with any kindergarten teacher, and she/he will love the line, "Gravity works differently here. We have to try hard to stay in our seats. And our hands go up a lot."
Mom, It's My First Day of Kindergarten!
by Hyewon Yum
Farrar Straus Giroux / Macmillan, 2012
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-7
In a delightful turning of the tables, a five-year old boy can’t wait to start kindergarten and his mom is anxious about his going to a new school.
“Will you be okay in the big kids’ school? You’re still so little,” she frets.
“Mom, don’t worry. I’ll be fine, I am already five!” he declares as he dashes off to school. 
The boy is full of confidence -- I just love the way that Hyewon Yum shows this visually, with the kindergartner big and bold, and his mom small and blue. Until he peeks inside the classroom door ... and the roles reverse again.

Enjoy this video to get a sense of this delightful story and artwork:


I hope your little ones come home declaring, "Kindergarten is awesome!!!" The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Chronicle Books and Macmillan. 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.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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19. Review of I’m My Own Dog

stein im my own dog Review of I’m My Own DogI’m My Own Dog
by David Ezra Stein; 
illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Candlewick    32 pp.
8/14    978-0-7636-6139-7    $15.99

“I’m my own dog. Nobody owns me. I own myself.” This independent, self-starter narrator looks down on ordinary pups, the ones owned by people. This dog will not sit for anyone, even if a bone is the reward. But one day, when his legs prove to be too short to reach an itchy spot in the middle of his back, our canine actually lets someone scratch it. That someone is a mustachioed man who scratches the dog’s back and then follows him home. Soon the dog is taking his “good boy” on walks, teaching him about chasing squirrels, and showing him how to throw sticks. Stein’s gestural watercolors are the perfect foil for the droll text. As the story unfolds, young readers will begin to understand the humorous tension between what the text says and what the pictures show (and what they know to be true about dogs and their owners). When the dog complains about having to “clean up after them,” one can imagine a child laughing at the scene of spilled ice cream. Dog-loving parents will be reading this one over and over — and will never tire of it.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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20. Review of Jack

depaola jack Review of JackJack
by Tomie dePaola; illus. by the author
Preschool Paulsen/Penguin 32 pp.
9/14     978-0-399-16154-4     $17.99     g

Farm boy Jack wants to make new friends and live in the city, which is exactly what he does in this minimally plotted book. On his way to ask the king for a house, Jack picks up a chick, a duck, a goose, a dog, etc., each one declaring its own interest in city digs, thus providing Jack with a community of ten new friends upon whom the king is happy to bestow a nice fixer-upper. While the lack of any conflict or obstacles means we aren’t that invested in Jack’s fate, young children will like the simple pattern of the story as well as the cumulating sound effects offered for each animal as it joins the merry band. DePaola dresses the journey in his most sumptuous colors, the carrot-topped hero and his ever-growing group of friends traversing a landscape of deep greens and grays and purple farmhouses to their new home, bright pink in the heart of the city. Storytime audiences will enjoy the trip as well as the sly cameo appearances by nursery-rhyme favorites such as Jack and Jill and Miss Muffet’s eight-legged friend.

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21. Review of Very Little Red Riding Hood

heapy very little red riding hood Review of Very Little Red Riding HoodVery Little Red Riding Hood
by Teresa Heapy; illus. by Sue Heap
Preschool    Houghton    32 pp.
9/14    978-0-544-28000-7    $16.99

In this re-imagining, Little Red is a toddler. She’s affectionate, stubborn, imperious, and has no time for the intimidation techniques of the wolf. “No touch my cakes!” She hugs him, calls him Foxie, and proceeds to order him around. Grandmama has her doubts, but Little Red insists that Foxie be invited inside for tea and an exhausting round of preschooler activities. When Little Red succumbs to homesickness, the wolf demonstrates unexpected child-minder skills. Was he ever really a threat or did he just come with a bad rap and a sweet tooth? The sprightly, scribbly watercolor illustrations particularize the characters: Red with her every emotion front and center; game Grandmama in her yoga pants; and the wolf, stylish in a mohair overcoat and polka-dot scarf and increasingly confused by kindness. Varied type sizes give the reader-aloud lots of performance hints. Tantalizing red endpaper maps, locating the houses of Very Little Goldilocks and Very Little Cinderella, expand our knowledge of this fairy-tale world.

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22. Look Who is Moving & Shaking

Bee Movers and Shakers 041614

 

We are so proud of our children’s book, The Bee Bully.  He is being featured currently on Bookbub.com through April 17th and he is being very well received.  He is currently #4 on Amazon’s Movers and Shakers List for kindle and he is #1 in the Children’s Ebook category.  He has been reduced to $.99 during this promotion period and has over 80 five-star reviews.  Be sure to get a copy today and see what all the buzz is about!

 

beecover

 

 


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23. Zoe's Jungle: Bethanie Deeney Murguia

Book: Zoe's Jungle
Author: Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-5

My daughter and I both enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) Bethanie Murguia's two previous picture books about Zoe (Zoe Gets Ready and Zoe's Room: No Sister's Allowed). In this third installment, the irrepressible Zoe and her younger sister Addie pretend that a playground is a jungle. Some tension is added to the story by the fact that Mama has decreed that they'll be leaving the park in five minutes. But as it turns out, five minutes is enough time for a jungle adventure, if you have sufficient imagination.

Alternating page spreads show the jungle that Zoe is picturing, vs. the playground as it actually looks. This may be a bit confusing for the youngest readers (my four-year-old wasn't sure what was going on, the first time we read this). But once they understand the device that Murguia is using, I think that kids will enjoy it. For instance, Zoe crosses over an alligator-filled river on a fallen log. The "log" is revealed on the next page to be a wooden bench, passing near some kids playing in a puddle. Not until the final endpages do we see the full view of the park. (And I must say, it's a very nice park!)

Although this is still clearly Zoe's story, it's nice to see her sister growing a bit bigger, and more able to actively take part in things (this is clear from just looking at the cover). The "Addiebeast" runs away and hides, and the brave explorer Zoe must track her down. Addie's polka-dotted dress is echoed in the Addiebeast's spotted tail. 

I also, as a parent, enjoyed the by-play between Zoe and her Mama over when they would leave the park. Zoe goes on a huge rant over how five more minutes is "NOT" enough time. At the end of the rant, Mama just says: "Four minutes!". Zoe slumps over, saying: "Is there no respect for the explorer and her quest?" But then Addie distracts her, and the game is on. 

I love the green jungle palette of Zoe's Jungle, and the images of kids climbing trees and riding wild beasts, as well as the images of kids just playing in a playground. Mostly I love that Zoe's Jungle is a celebration of imaginative play, as well as a celebration of sibling bonds. Recommended, and sure to become a Baby Bookworm favorite!

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (@Scholastic
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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24. The Very Fairy Princess: Graduation Girl -- Blog Tour & Giveaway (ages 4-7)

Change is in the air all around my school, as children look forward to summer vacation. But change isn't always easy. What if you absolutely adore your teacher? Will next year's teacher ever be as wonderful? Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton show that this is a familiar feeling, in this delightful installment of their Very Fairy Princess series.
The Very Fairy Princess: Graduation Girl
by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton
illustrated by Christine Davenier
Little, Brown, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-7
Gerry is getting ready for the end of the school year and celebrating her graduation! She's excited to celebrate, but the end of the year always feels a little sad. Students clean their desks, empty their cubbies, take home all their art projects. But Gerry is also a little nervous about leaving her teacher Miss Pym, who always knows just what this very fairy princess needs.

This story has gotten lots of giggles from my students. One loved Gerry's "exuberance"; others could connect to how change really can be hard. Others found it delightfully silly -- Gerry even worries that her teacher might be a grumpy witch with a wart on her nose! It's definitely the right fit for kids who like their stories sweet, with lots of pluck and sparkle.

Thanks to the publishers Little, Brown, one lucky reader (with a US mailing address) has the chance to win a copy of The Very Fairy Princess: Graduation Girl, just in time for the end of the school year. Please complete the Rafflecopter below to enter the giveaway -- entries due May 15th by 9pm PST:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The review copies was kindly sent by the publishers, 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.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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25. Book Review: 'Beth's Birds,' by Deanna K. Klingel

This book review is part of a 5-day virtual tour sponsored by the National Writing for Children Center, a showcase for children's book authors and illustrators.

Title: Beth’s Birds
Genre: Education, Preschool & Kindergarten, picture
Author: Deanna K. Klingel
Publisher: Peak City Publishing, LLC

Book description
Little Beth romps through her personal playground showing how she learns the proper names and characteristics of her bird friends. Her antics come alive in the delightful illustrations.

My thoughts...

Join our young narrator, little Beth, in a journey of discovery and she describes the birds around her house, from the moment she wakes up to later in the day. First is Jenny Wren, the little brown bird that wakes her up with its bright, cheery song. Then it's the woodpecker who loves to join her when she's having her oatmeal breakfast, and so on throughout the day as she feeds them and even gives them a party. 

Beth's Birds is a charming educational story with gorgeous bird illustrations. The language is simple and very appropriate for young minds. Children will not only learn about the different birds, but also ways to care for them and even how to make them a peanut butter cone. The story brings attention to the beauty of nature and how soothing it can be to interact with it. Recommended!

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About the Author
Deanna lives in the mountains of western North Carolina with her husband Dave and their golden retriever Buddy. Their seven children, spouses and eleven grandchildren are scattered around the southeast. Deanna enjoys traveling with her books and visiting friends and family along the way.

Connect with Deanna on the Web:

@deannakklingel

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