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1. Sharing wordless books with children: tips & favorite books (all ages)

Do you enjoy reading wordless books with your child? Do you like the freedom to make up your words and stories, or does it leave you a little lost? Wordless picture books tell the stories only through the illustrations, and they put much more of the storytelling role onto the reader.

Wordless books can be a delight and a challenge to read with children -- here are a few of my tips:

1. Encourage children to make up the story. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to read these books.

2. Spend time looking at the cover and talking about the book's title. What do you think this story is going to be about? What do you notice?

3. Take a "picture walk" through the pages, looking at the pictures and talking together about what you see.

4. Slow down and notice the details together. Talk about the characters' expressions, the setting, the use of color. What does the illustrator want us to notice?

5. Encourage your child to use different voices, add sound effects and use interesting words as they tell the story. Have fun!

These conversations will enrich your child's storytelling, bringing joy and meaning to the experience.
Here is a collection of my favorite wordless books, new and old, with a brief description (based on the publisher's description).
  • 10 Minutes till Bedtime, by Peggy Rathmann -- A boy's hamster leads an increasingly large group of hamsters on a tour of the boy's house, while his father counts down the minutes to bedtime.
  • A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka -- A dog has fun with her ball, until it is lost. This story is about what it is like to lose something special, and find a friend.
  • Draw!, by Raúl Colón -- A boy who is confined to his room fills his sketch pad with lions and elephants, then imagines himself on a safari.
  • The Farmer and the Clown, by Marla Frazee -- A farmer rescues a baby clown who has bounced off the circus train, and takes very good care of him until he can reunite the tot with his clown family.
  • Flora and the Flamingo, by Molly Idle -- In this wordless book with interactive flaps, a friendship develops between a girl named Flora and a graceful flamingo, as they learn to dance together.
  • Float, by Daniel Miyares -- A boy loses his paper boat in the rain, and goes on an adventure to retrieve it.
  • Good Night, Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann -- An unobservant zookeeper is followed home by all the animals he thinks he has left behind in the zoo.
  • Journey, by Aaron Becker -- A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey.
  • The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney -- In this wordless retelling of an Aesop fable set in the African Serengeti, an adventuresome mouse proves that even small creatures are capable of great deeds when she rescues the King of the Jungle.
  • Mr. Wuffles!, by David Wiesner -- Mr. Wuffles ignores all his cat toys but one, which turns out to be a spaceship piloted by small green aliens. 
  • Pool, by JiHyeon Lee -- Two shy children meet at a noisy pool and dive beneath the crowd into a magical undersea land, where they explore a fantastical landscape and meet various creatures.
  • Spot the Cat, by Henry Cole -- A cat named Spot ventures out an open window and through a city on a journey, while his owner (and the reader!) try to find him.
  • Tall, by Jez Alborough -- All the jungle animals help a very little monkey to feel that he is tall.
  • The Typewriter, by Bill Thomson -- Three children find a typewriter on a carousel, and begin an adventure that helps them discover the wonder of words.
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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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2. Good Night Baddies & Fairy Tales for Mr. Barker: Two new delightful twists on fairytale favorites (ages 4-7)

My students love sharing fairy tales and they have so much fun reading new twists on old favorites. Two new favorites emphasize humor and downplay the traditional tales' darker sides, making them perfect for preschoolers and kindergartners.

Good Night, Baddies
by Deborah Underwood
illustrated by Juli Kangas
Beach Lane / Simon & Schuster, 2016
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-7
With charming rhymes, Underwood creates a scene where fairytale villains come together at the end of a long day to share dinner and bedtime stories. The baddies really shine when given a chance.
Baddies sit politely dining,
no one throwing food or whining.
All day long they must be vile;
now, at night, they chat and smile.
The evil queen puts on pajamas, while the wolves brush their teeth (well, their fangs). The sweet rhymes and soft illustrations contrast perfectly with baddies' reputation--who would think that the troll enjoys a bubble bath after a hard day waiting for the three billy goats gruff?
"Evil queen, take off your crown;
trade pajamas for your gown.
Tuck your poisoned fruit away.
Find Snow White another day."
Children will enjoy recognizing favorite tales and spotting details from each in the illustrations. I absolutely agree with the BookDragon's review: "Deborah Underwood and Juli Kangas are a delightfully subversive team, proving even the meanest baddies need time to relax and recharge."
Fairy Tales for Mr. Barker: A Peek-Through Story
by Jessica Ahlberg
Candlewick, 2016
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-7
Young Lucy chases her dog through fairy tale lands, dodging bad guys along the way. Even before you get to the title page, young Lucy asks her dog, "Do you want to hear a story, Mr. Barker?" But the pup is distracted by a butterfly, and takes off out of the open window. When Lucy follows him, she enters one new fairytale world after another -- and readers must guess (along with Lucy) where she is.
"Where are we?" asked Lucy. She saw a broken chair, three bowls of porridge, and a little golden-haired girl."
Just as the villain enters the scene, Lucy knows that it's time to leave and invites her new friends to join her. Soon she's followed by Goldilocks, the three little pigs and Jack, with the three bears, the wolf and the giant all chasing them. Ahlberg uses the cutouts very effectively, engaging young readers and prompting them to wonder what's on the other side.

In each new scene, she provides just enough clues for readers to guess which tale Lucy has entered. This encourages young readers to take part in the story, actively engaging with the text. Jessica Ahlberg is the daughter of Allan and Janet Ahlberg, whose classic The Jolly Postman is one of my all-time favorite fairytale mashups. Jessica told Publisher Weekly,
“I think fairy tales are a great shared knowledge, and so if you assume prior knowledge you can play with expectations or make it into a guessing game, as I did in Mr. Barker. I think the fact that the tales are ‘universal’ gives the child reader power. I think it can be fun for them to spot changes, or mistakes, or to know what’s going to happen next. It gives them a bit of control, perhaps. Similarly, my protagonist is able to help the fairy tale people she meets, because she knows their stories and knows what’s going to happen before they do.”
It is interesting that both books draw only from European folktales and fairytales. The illustrations show mainly white characters, although Ahlberg draws both Lucy and Sleeping Beauty with brown hair and slightly darker skin tones.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Time, Inc. (via BlueSlip Media) and Capstone 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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3. The Airport Book, by Lisa Brown: Full of things to see and talk about! (ages 2-8)

I love traveling, going to see new places and experience new things. But traveling with kids, well that takes a special sort of patience, humor and--above all else--preparation. I adore, adore, adore Lisa Brown's newest picture book, The Airport Book, precisely because she celebrates the adventure of traveling by airplane with kids, full of so many things to look at and so many stories within the main story.

The Airport Book
by Lisa Brown
Roaring Brook / Macmillan, 2016
Your local library
Amazon
ages 2-8
*best new book*
"Don't forget monkey!" a mom reminds her family, as they are finishing their packing. "Of course I won't forget monkey!" the dad replies, and kids will smile as the little girl announces proudly, "I pack monkey!" Right from the beginning, Brown engages readers with the story, encouraging readers to predict just what's going to happen when monkey goes missing.
"Monkey monkey monkey!"
"Did you forget to pack monkey?"
Young readers will start by following the toddler's cry for her beloved monkey. With an adult or older reader, they will then read the cool, composed voice explaining the experience. I like to think of this as the big brother coaching the little sister through the experience.
"Inside the airport you stand in lines. You stand in lines to get your ticket. you stand in lines to check your bags. There are lines for the restrooms. There are lines to go through security."
Linger on the page for a while, and you'll notice that there are all sorts of little stories within the central story. Readers will have a great time choosing a character and seeing what's happening to them in the next scene.
"You squeeze into your seat. Some bags go up top. Some bags go underneath."
Brown captures the busy nature of airplane travel without leaving the reader overwhelmed. Part of this is the reassuring, matter-of-fact tone of the main narrator and of the parents on the journey. Partly it's the satisfying story arc, both for the main character and the smaller stories. She balances detailed illustrations with a few large, open spreads of the airplane flying in blue sky.

I especially love how diverse Brown's airplane travelers are--in so many ways. The main family is multiracial, with a black dad, white mom, two brown kids. There are people of different ethnic and racial groups. There is a working mom, constantly on her cell phone. A dad is traveling alone with a little baby. A woman is traveling independently in a wheelchair. And yet none of this diversity draws attention to itself--it seems effortless and natural, and yet Brown carefully, thoughtfully includes in so many ways.

Check out these stellar reviews:
Illustration copyright © Lisa Brown, 2016, shared with permission of the publisher. The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Roaring Brook / 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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4. 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
Amazon
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
Amazon
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
Amazon
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
Amazon
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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5. 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
Amazon
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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6. #PB Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters has arrived at Amazon


For Kindergarteners they sure do get around!

Dee and Deb have been busy traveling from the east coast to the west coast. Where do they get their energy?

Their latest stop is Amazon and feedback of their adventures are available for your review.

Be sure to stop back in the coming days and weeks to see where their adventures take them!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Multi Award-winning Children's Author

Ignite curiosity in your child through reading!

Connect with

Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters ~ December 2015 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Historical Fiction 1st Place, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Honorable Mention Picture Books 6+, New England Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist

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7. Around the world--sharing with children a sense of global community (ages 4-9)

As our news is filled with global and local conflict, I wonder about how to share a sense of our global community with our young children. Their experiences are rooted in their immediate surroundings. So how do we share a sense that things are similar for children in other parts of the world?


Two beautiful picture books help young children think about how our experiences are similar but different, without being didactic. Instead, they draw children into observing and reflecting other family's moments in the same day.
How the Sun Got to Coco's House
by Bob Graham
Candlewick, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
The moon peeks in through Coco's window as her parents tuck her into bed, but on the other side of the world the sun is rising over a polar bear family. The sun is busy already, lighting the way for a fishing boat, catching the eye of a great whale, "making shadows on the snow and in Jung Su's footsteps." 
"It balanced out on the wing--just for young Lovejoy, off to visit his grandma."

Readers follow the sun from one brief moment to another, watching the rising sun crest over a yurt and bounce off the tip of an airplane. As readers wonder what has happened to Coco, they turn the page and "the winter sun barged straight through Coco's window!" 
"It followed her down the hall,
made itself quite at home on her mom and dad's bed,
and joined them for breakfast."
Throughout, Bob Graham varies the perspective--taking readers close up to some children's lives and looking down from up high at others. The story ends by gradually pulling back on the view of Coco playing outside on a winter's day with her friends, helping readers see her small, immediate world in a larger context of her factory town.

French artist and author Clotilde Perrin follows one point in time across different time zones across the globe, in the striking picture book At the Same Moment, Around the World.
At the Same Moment, Around the World
by Clotilde Perrin
Chronicle, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 5-9
This story begins in Dakar, Senegal at six o'clock in the morning, as Keita helps his father count the fish caught during night. Following eastward, Perrin moves around the globe. “At the same moment,” it is 7 a.m. in Paris and Benedict is drinking his hot chocolate before school--while it is 8 a.m. in Bulgaria and Mitko is chasing the school bus. Each spread shows two time zones, emphasizing the point that these are happening at the same moment.
"At the same moment, in Hanoi, Vietnam, it is one o'clock in the afternoon, and Khahn takes a nap despite the noise outside.
At the same moment, in Shanghai, China, it is two o'clock in the afternoon, and Chen practices for the Lunar New Year parade."
Perrin's artwork is full of small details and drama, including some darker moments--lending complexity to the simple prose. A foldout world map in the end helps readers locate each place and names all these children.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Candlewick and Chronicle. 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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8. Daniel Finds a Poem, by Micha Archer -- exploring nature, finding wonder everywhere (ages 5-9)

As we launch into National Poetry Month, I want to start by sharing Daniel Finds a Poem--an absolutely beautiful new picture book that celebrates finding poetry all around us. I adore watching spring burst forth--and this book inspires me to stop, pause and take note of all the wonder around me.

Daniel Finds a Poem
by Micha Archer
Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin, 2016
Preview on Google Books
Your local library
Amazon
ages 5-9
"What is poetry?" Daniel wonders as he sees a sign announcing a poetry performance in his local park. In this picture book, Micha Archer helps children see that poetry can be a moment of stopping to notice what's around you--just catching that moment in time, that spot in a place you know.
"On Monday morning, Daniel sees something new on the park gate: POETRY IN THE PARK...
'What is poetry?' Daniel says."
As he wanders through his local park and neighborhood, Daniel watches and asks different animals for their views on what poetry is. With his dark curly hair and eyes full of wonder, Daniel soaks each detail. Notice how Archer keeps the child part of each moment, even though the story is really about poetry and nature. This helps keep the child reader part of the story each step of the way.
"He looks up in surprise when he hears Spider say,
'To me, poetry is when morning dew glistens.'"
"'Poetry is when crisp leaves crunch,' Squirrel tells him."
Archer's illustrations are so lush, pulling readers into each scene, inviting them to linger and soak up the beauty just as Daniel does. I especially like the ending, as Daniel takes the small details each of the animals shares and creates his own found poem--and then performs it for a small audience in the park.

Share this delightful story and stop to notice the small details all around us. A wonderful introduction for poetry in the classroom or at home--best suited for kindergarten through 3rd graders as they start writing their own poems.

Illustrations ©2016 Micha Archer, used with permission of the publisher. The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Nancy Paulsen Books, and we have also purchased additional copies for 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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9. Poetry for the Birds: Woodpecker Wham and Every Day Birds (ages 3-8)

Poetry can be a terrific way to explore different topics kids might want to learn more about. In particular, poetry and science make a great pair. Above all else, poets and scientists ask us to stop and notice the world around us.  I love these two picture books that celebrate our fine feathered friends, and do it with terrific word play and illustrations.

Woodpecker Wham
by April Pulley Sayre
illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Henry Holt / Macmillan, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
Sayre’s dynamic verse brings alive the sound and movement of six different woodpecker species as they chop, bonk, tap, and slam, doing serious work.
"Swoop and land.
Hitch and hop.
Shred a tree stump.
Chop, chip, chop!"
The bouncing, rhythmic verse and the bold illustrations make this a great read-aloud. As you read, ask kids which words they think have real pizzaz--notice Sayre's word choices. Whether she's showing how the birds fly or how their tapping sounds, Sayre chooses dramatic words. Encourage your kids to try using words like this on your next walk outside.
Every Day Birds
by  Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
illustrated by Dylan Metrano
Orchard/Scholastic, 2016
Your local library
Amazon
ages 3-6
Short simple verses and cut-paper collage illustrations introduce young readers to common North American birds. Choosing birds that preschoolers like to notice, VanDerwater displays one bird on each page, highlighting a memorable characteristic for each.
"Chickadee wears a wee black cap."
"Owl swoops soundlessly late at night."
The bold illustrations focus young readers on each bird, setting each bird against a simple background helps highlight the species and the poetry. I especially like how VanDerwater focuses on one key feature of each bird, highlighting it with strong language. The endnotes provide more detail on each species for adults to share, as kids as more quesitons.

Together, the cumulative effect leads to a rhythm and rhyming scheme that makes for a lovely read-aloud for preschoolers. "Heron fishes with his bill./ Sparrow hops in brown./ Mockingbird has many voices./ Pigeon lives in town." Perfect for budding naturalists.

Illustrations from Woodpecker Wham copyright ©2015 Steve Jenkins, used with permission of the publisher. Text from Every Day Birds written by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater. Illustrations copyright 2016 by Dylan Metrano. Used with permission from Orchard Books/Scholastic. The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Macmillan and 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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10. A Piece of Cake, by LeUyen Pham -- Birthday fun with friends (ages 3-8)

Hooray! Today is my birthday, and I want to share a slice of cake with every one of my friends. This cake below, from 1976, should be large enough for everyone to have a slice!

4th of July 1976 stars & stripes cake
A trip down memory lane! I can still remember the feeling of growing tall enough to look at the oven knobs straight on, instead of having to stand on tip toe.
For a birthday treat, I'd like to share a favorite book: A Piece of Cake, by LeUyen Pham. It will bring lots of smiles, as kids laugh at the unexpected twists at each page turn.
A Piece of Cake
by LeUyen Pham
Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 3-8
Kind little Mouse has made a birthday cake for his friend Little Bird. He sets off to deliver the cake, but meets other friends who ask for a piece. Pham sets up readers to expect that Mouse will gather the expected ingredients along the way: eggs, milk, honey. But with each page turn, Mouse's friends offer something completely unexpected in return.

A Piece of Cake was honored as a finalist in the Northern California Book Awards this year. I was honored to be part of the children's award committee. Here is part of their description of this delightful story:
Piece by piece, Mouse trades away the cake until he has none left, arriving at Little Bird’s house only with an odd assortment of things... As they walk back to Mouse’s house to make another cake, they find each friend surrounded by trouble. Once again, Pham expertly manages page turns to surprise readers with the solutions that Little Bird cleverly suggests. 
I adore the retro feel of Pham's artwork and the story is so much fun to read aloud. Little kids will love the patterned surprises, and older kids will have fun with the clever twists and enjoy the message about teamwork and creative thinking. I hope this web sampler from HarperCollins lets you glimpse part of this story--make sure to turn the pages to see how the story starts off:

The review copy was 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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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11. the last half day

Due to a curious solution to the problem of too many snow days, our school year ended at 12:30 on Monday.  We finished everything important on Friday, and I had hoped just a little that maybe no one would come on Monday--but they did, and we found lots of nice ways to fill that last few hours (including giving everyone one last chance to count to 100, an assessment I had forgotten to squeeze in--just as well they all came!).

And then they were gone.


Sometimes a meager harvest

The last half day--
walls stripped, treasure bags packed,
Jim Joe jumped one last time;
gifts given and received,
farewell hugs ceremoniously
hugged, fast and earnest,
because we'd run out of time again
one last time.

Now the room  is hollow, dead--
nothing living but the teacher and
a single valiant sugar snap vine,
three feet high and climbing
a string up the Weather Window.
On the one vine, at the top, hangs
a single beautifully formed,
pleasingly plump green pod.

Teacher steps out of her sandals
onto a low chair and up onto
the radiator, plucks the fat pod
full of peas she forgot to share
and eats it, all by herself--
one last sweet crunchy mouthful
swallowed alone in the classroom
on the last half day.

HM 2015
all rights reserved

***********************
Mary Lee herself is rounding up remotely at A Year of Reading today.  Go get yourself some farmyard fun and lots of poetry goodness from around the Kidlitosphere!


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12. Kindergarten Luck by Louise Borden



I have been looking forward to the release of Kindergarten Luck by Louise Borden for a long time.  I received a review copy in the mail from the publisher last week.I love all of Louise's books and we love that she is an Ohio author.

Kindergarten Luck is about a boy named Theodore and his lucky day.  On a gloomy day, Theodore finds a shiny new penny face up and his day goes from gloomy to lucky.  The book follows Theodore through his day in Kindergarten where lucky things happen!  From having great pancakes for breakfast to being line leader at school, Theodore has a great day!  At the end of the book, Theodore pays his luck forward so that his friend can have a lucky day too.

This is a happy book with lots for readers to talk and think about.  It seems like a book that should be in every Kindergarten classroom. It is also great for older kids too when talking about paying things forward and finding those positive things throughout the day.  The illustrations are fun and happy and the end pages are an added piece of fun!

This would be a great gift for any kids in your life who are getting ready to start Kindergarten!

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13. Monkey Not Ready for Kindergarten: easing transitions (ages 3-6)

Are you getting nervous about the beginning of the school year? Who gets more nervous, kids or parents?? 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.

This week, I'll share five of my favorite back-to-school picture books, starting with Monkey Not Ready for Kindergarten by Marc Brown, creator of the Arthur books and TV show.
Monkey Not Ready for Kindergarten
by Marc Brown
Alfred A. Knopf / Random House, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 3-6
As the start of kindergarten gets closer and closer, Monkey's worries grow. "What if his teacher doesn't like him? What if he gets on the wrong bus?...What if he doesn't make new friends?" His parents try to help ease his worry, and kids will relate to the back-to-school rituals: getting a lunchbox, playing school at home, having a playdate to meet new friends.
"It's almost time for kindergarten!"
"What if his teacher doesn't like him?
What if he gets on the wrong bus?"
Marc Brown's illustrations are both funny and reassuring. The handwritten text adds a colorful, child-friendly feel to the story. This is a lovely story to read to ease back-to-school worries. My favorite page? The night before kindergarten, when Monkey helps get everything ready: making his lunch, putting his favorite book all about bugs inside his backpack so he has "something to remind him of home."

Enjoy this book either before the first day, or a few weeks into school, and talk about how your own family is coping with the transition of going back to school. And hope that Monkey comes back for more!

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf/Random House. 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. The First Day of School: a beginning reader in the Robin Hill School series (ages 4-7)

Transitions are not easy, especially going back to school. This beginning reader captures these transitions in a very relatable way. I was especially looking for a book with a character of color, and love how Gordon creates this diverse classroom.

The First Day of School
Robin Hill School early readers series
by Margaret McNamara
illustrated by Mike Gordon
Aladdin / Simon & Schuster, 2005
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-7
Michael is excited for the first day of first grade. But what's he going to do when he realizes that his puppy Cookie can't join him? He's spent all summer playing with Cookie -- they're best friends. When his teacher says that she'd love for Cookie to come, but that she would belong to everyone in the class. Michael realizes that if Cookie stays at home, he'll be there waiting just for him when he gets home.As the Booklist review states,
"Kids starting school will recognize the truth about how big the change will be--how hard it is to let go of old routines as well as the joy of returning home to a loving welcome."
This beginning reader works well, both as a read aloud for kids entering kindergarten and as a level 1 beginning reader for children who can read simple sentences with short words. I was especially looking for a back-to-school book featuring a character of color, and the illustrations are perfect--both funny and full of feeling.

Want more back-to-school books? This week I'm reviewing these new favorites:
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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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15. Maple & Willow Apart, by Lori Nichols -- back-to-school transitions for two sisters (ages 2-6)

Back-to-school stories usually focus on what it's like to start school, but what happens to sibling's relationships when kids head off to the classroom? Lori Nichols' newest book provides a tender and charming look at how two sisters cope with the transitions when one of them heads off to school.

Maple & Willow Apart
by Lori Nichols
Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 2-6
*best new book*
Maple and Willow have loved playing together all summer, but when it's time for big sister Maple to start school the transition is especially hard for Willow. "Home wasn't the same without Maple." And when she came home, Maple couldn't stop talking about her new friends. I adore how Nichols shows Willow's perspective, how she tells about her new friend Pip -- an acorn-topped sprite she finds under a tree -- how she explores and finds things to do when Maple is away.
"I had fun too," said Willow. "I played with Pip."
I especially love how Nichols uses her delightful illustrations to develop the story, keeping the language spare. Each picture focuses on the children and their world, but there's enough space to let the reader imagine themselves as being there too.
"And we have loud horns!"
Nichols develops the relationship between Maple and Willow in perfect balance, moving back and forth from each sister's perspective, helping children empathize with both sister. You can see just how excited Maple is to start school, but also how much she misses her sister. And the ending still has me smiling, as the sisters come up with just the right solution.
The next morning, Willow had a surprise for Maple.
"Maple, Pip wants to go to school with you today."
Want more back-to-school books? This week I'm reviewing these new favorites:
Illustrations ©2015 Lori Nichols; used with permission from the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin. 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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16. 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
Amazon
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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17. 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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18. 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.

Friendshape
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Scholastic, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
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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19. 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
Amazon
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."
"Sometimes..."
"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:
"SOMETIMES I DON'T WANT TO PLAY BALLET!"
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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20. 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
Amazon
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
Amazon
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
Amazon
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
Amazon
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
Amazon
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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21. #pblitreview - Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindegarten First Day Jitters


I'm delighted to share an early #pblitreview...

Picture Book Review by Susan J. Berger

“What a delightful book! The first sentence, Dee and Deb, twin sisters, were always together – Crib mates to playmates is great! The exploration of the awful "I'm alone in Kindergarten" feeling makes this a great book for pre-schoolers and about-to-be kindergarten kids.

<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE <![endif]-->
Jack Foster's colorful illustrations are a perfect compliment to the text.” Susan J. Berger, children’s author of Earthquake

Visit Susan at:

Susan J. Berger or Susan B. James

Thanks a bunch Susan for your heartfelt review of my latest children's book, Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters!!!!!


Wishing you daily inspiration!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Multi Award-winning Children's Author

Ignite curiosity in your child through reading!

Connect with

Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters ~ December 2015 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Historical Fiction 1st Place, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Honorable Mention Picture Books 6+, New England Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist

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22. For the birds: Poetry that celebrates our fine feather friends (ages 4-9)

Every spring, I love hearing birds chirping outside as we wake in the morning--a sure sign that daylight is coming earlier each day. As we enjoy our last week of National Poetry Month, I would like to share two new books that celebrate the beauty of birds in nature, prompting us to marvel at birds in nature.

Sweep Up the Sun
by Helen Frost
illustrated by Rick Lieder
Candlewick, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-9
Poet Helen Frost reunites with photographer Rick Lieder to explore the wonders of the natural world. I adored their previous collaboration, Step Gently Out, and this new book is equally as delightful. Frost's poem encourages young readers to watch birds in flight playing in the sky, learning to fly and trusting the sky to hold them aloft. But she also encourages children to do the same: 
"Spread your feathers,
sweep up the sun,
ride the wind and explore."
We can read this as a direct encouragement for children to take off and soar on their own. Lieder's amazing photography captures birds in mid-flight, freezing a moment in time. The final two pages provide brief information about each of the species photographed, ranging from house sparrows to Northern Cardinals.
The Sky Painter:
Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist
by Margarita Engle
illustrated by Aliona Bereghici
Two Lions, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 6-9
Margarita Engle captivated me with her biography of Louis Fuertes, the artist who is known as the "father of modern bird art" because of the way he painted birds in flight in their natural environments. Fuertes loved watching birds as a young boy. As he began his career, he realized that revered artists such as James Audubon painted birds they had shot and killed, so that they could study their anatomy in detail.Fuertes decided that he wanted to let birds live, so he developed the skills to paint them, quickly capturing their flight and grace:
"painting quickly, while wings
swoop
and race
across
wild
blue
sky,
so swift,
and so alive!"
Pair these two books together and talk with children about the power of art and the call of nature. Why did these artists decide to focus on birds? What drew them to capture their flight? What do they want their audiences to think about? How do the poets words capture the birds' flight in a different way?

The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Candlewick Press and Two Lions. 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. Celebrating all types of families: 3 new picture books (ages 3-9)

Three new picture books celebrate all types of families with joy and love. Share these with preschoolers or kindergartners, especially as Mother's Day approaches--helping kids recognize that families take many shapes and forms.

Families, Families, Families
by Suzanne Lang
illustrated by Max Lang
Random House, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 3-6
This book is sure to bring giggles as you read it with young children. Lang shares a medley of silly cartoon animal families showing all kinds of nontraditional families.  Each cartoon portrait is framed, hanging on a wall -- the realistic elements adding to the humor.
"Some children have lots of siblings"
"Some children have none."
Gently rhyming lines accompany the family portraits: "Some children live with their grandparents/ and some live with an aunt./ Some children have many pets/ and some just have a plant." As the SLJ review clearly states, "The loud-and-clear message is that 'if you love each other, then you are a family.' And imagine the many children who will be reassured because they have found a portrait of a family they will recognize as their own." A delightful celebration of diversity, treated with loving humor.
My Family Tree and Me
by Dušan Petričić
Kids Can Press, 2015
Book trailer
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-9
Beginning with his great-great-grandparents on his father’s side, a young boy introduces his family, leading to a current family portrait at the book's center. This provides a wonderful way to help children really understand and visualize what a family tree means. The second-half traces his mother’s family, back to his great-great-grandparents on her side. A delightful celebration of multicultural, multigenerational family.
The back cover of My Family Tree and Me
I especially love how easily Petričić integrates diversity into this picture book. The young boy's family is biracial, and each side of his family tree celebrates different heritage. Careful readers will notice how family traits carry on from one generation to the next. Best of all, I think this will help children start wondering about their own extended families.
Stella Brings the Family
by Miriam B. Schiffer
illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
Chronicle, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
When Stella’s teacher announces their class is going to have a celebration for Mother’s day, everyone is excited, everyone except for Stella. What should she do? She has two dads and no mom.
"We're going to have a celebration for Mother's Day"
"Stella would be the only one without a mother at the Mother's Day party."
Schiffer tells the story through Stella’s eyes, perfectly capturing a child’s perspective -- sharing her worries, her classmates’ questions and the solution that Stella and her family come up with. This helps kids connect to Stella, empathizing with how she feels. When the big day arrives, Stella brings her whole extended family and feels surrounded by love and happiness.

I hope you enjoy seeking out these books as you celebrate all kinds of families with children. Picture books are both mirrors of our own worlds, helping us see ourselves a little more clearly, and windows into other people's worlds.

Illustrations ©2015 by Max Lang and Holly Clifton-Brown; used with permission from the publishers. The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Random House, Kids Can Press and Chronicle 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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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24. Courage to Be Yourself: 3 new favorite picture books (ages 3-9)

As kids enter school, their peer groups start having a strong influence over them--with that comes pressure to fit in. So that's why I love books that give the message that we want lots of different types of friends, that we all need the courage to be ourselves. Here are three new favorite picture books that sing that song.

Wild About Us
by Karen Beaumont
illustrated by Janet Stevens
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 3-7
Warty Warthog has warts, Rhino has wrinkly skin, and Crocodile sports a toothy grin--but they all love who they are. With snappy rhythm and rhymes that are a joy to read aloud, Beaumont celebrates what makes each animal unique.
"Elephant is confident that nothing is wrong.
He knows that his nose is supposed to be long."
Janet Stevens is one of my favorite illustrators of animals--I adore her Help Me, Mr. Mutt! Here, her animals are full of personality and pizzazz. Kids will love the cartoony appeal, but also connect to how each proudly declares how they love themselves just the way they are.
Tommy Can't Stop
by Tim Federle
illustrated by Mark Fearing
Disney Hyperion, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
Young Tommy is in perpetual motion, bouncing like a pogo-stick, hollering while he hurdles and clomping like an elephant. He's driving his family crazy ("'He's an animal,' his sister pouts to their parents.") but you can tell from the illustrations that this is a little guy who's just got to move. When his mom drags him to tap class, he's really not sure it's for him. But when the teacher begins bouncing, he's hooked!
"The tap teacher begins bouncing. (Wait! She twirls like... Tommy!)
'You're a ... pogo stick!' he whispers as he watches.
'I call this a hop'"
I love the way this book shows Tommy discovering a joyful, positive way to channel his energy. When the tap teacher kicks, he's amazed that she kicks like a bulldozer -- but she says, "I call this a brush! (Everyone brushes, but Tommy brushes boldest.)" Kids--quiet ones and rambunctious ones--will feel this joy coming through both the illustrations and the words, as Tommy discovers how being true to himself helps him be a star.
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music
by Margarita Engle
illustrated by Rafael López
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 6-9
*best new book*
Cuba is an island full of wonderful music, but this beautiful picture book shows how hard one girl had to work to be true to her musical self. Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, who was of Chinese, African, and Cuban descent, dreamed of "pounding tall conga drums / tapping small bongó drums, and boom boom booming / with long loud sticks." But in 1930s Cuba, drumming was taboo for girls.
“But everyone / on the island of music / in the city of drumbeats /
believed that only boys / should play drums …”
Millo was not deterred, playing her drums every chance she can, even if it was in her own head. Finally, her father softened and brought a teacher to listen to Millo's drumming--a teacher who was so impressed that he allowed her father to have courage to break the social taboo. I just love how Millo's joy comes through in the illustrations. López captures a visual rhythm, the way that Engle does in her poetic text.
“When she walked under / wind-wavy palm trees / in a flower-bright park / she heard the whir of parrot wings ...
the dancing tap / of her own footsteps / and the comforting pat / of her own heartbeat.”
This beautiful, poetic picture book will inspire children today to follow their own dreams, even if society around them scorns them. To see more of these wonderful illustrations, head over to Seven Impossible Things; to learn more about Engle and Lopez's creative process, definitely read Julie Danielson's article in Kirkus: Beating the Drum for Women's Rights.

I hope you enjoy these new picture books. Whether it's humorous animals, bouncing little boys or girls who feel music thrumming in their souls, these stories can speak to kids, helping them have the courage to be themselves.

Illustrations ©2015 by Janet Stevens, Mark Fearing and Rafael López; used with permission from the publishers. The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and 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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25. I Don't Want to Be a Frog, by Dev Petty & Mike Boldt (ages 3-8)

There are times my kids seem dissatisfied with everything, but I'm also sure that there are times when all I say is NO. This hilarious book takes that situation and produces laughs in all the right places--the perfect medicine for crabby kids and peevish parents.
I Don't Want to Be a Frog
by Dev Petty
illustrated by Mike Boldt
Doubleday / Random House, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 3-8
*best new book*
Little frog is sure he doesn't want to be a frog. As he sits reading a book about cats, he decides that would be the perfect animal to be. "I want to be a cat," he declares to his father. Nope, his father says, you're a frog. Back and forth the dialog goes, in easy to read expressive short sentences--perfect for reading aloud together.
"I want to be a cat."
"You can't be a cat."
"Why not?"
"Because you're a frog."
"I don't like being a frog. It's too wet."
"Well, you can't be a cat."
Hey--little frog can hop! He should be a rabbit, he tells his father. "You can't be a rabbit," his father calmly replies. No long ears, right? "I don't like being a Frog. It's too slimy," little frog whines. Little frog isn't easily persuaded. And his father's wise words don't sink in at all.

Kids are loving Mike Boldt's illustrations, especially how expressive little frog is. They love knowing that the dad is right, but I think they're rooting for little frog too. And the conclusion leads to giggles from everyone who's read it in our library.

Along comes a hungry wolf who tells how much he likes to eat all those animals. But does he like to eat frogs? No, not one bit. They're much too wet, too slimy, too full of bugs. Ahh, little frog finally realizes that--you know what, being who you are can be a pretty good thing after all.

For more of a taste, check out this adorable trailer:

Illustrations ©2015 by Mike Boldt; used with permission from the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Random House. 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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