Showing posts with label picture books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label picture books. Show all posts

Sunday, March 17, 2019

In the Middle of the Night: An interview with Laura Purdie Salas about her writing process (ages 3-8)

I'm delighted to celebrate a new poetry book In the Middle of the Night: Poems from a Wide-Awake House, by Laura Purdie Salas. This delightful collection of poems captured my imagination as they describe the adventures of everyday inanimate objects found at night.
In the Middle of the Night: Poems from a Wide-Awake House
by Laura Purdie Salas
Wordsong / Highlights, 2019
Amazon / your local library
ages 3-8
As part of the blog tour celebrating her new book, Laura was kind enough to share about her writing process with me.

Mary Ann: I'd love to share with readers a little bit about your writing process.

Laura: Thanks so much for being part of the blog tour! Unless I’m writing while traveling, I write on my laptop. I might write individual poems on napkins or my phone, but with a big project like a poetry collection, I do less of that. I write most freely when my fingers can move fast, and I can type much faster than I can write longhand. On July 24, 2012, I wrote in my journal:
I spent 30 minutes, finally, on Nobody's Looking (my original name for this idea) last night right before bed. I don't know why I keep procrastinating. Maybe because I don't have a super-clear image of the finished project in my head.
Mary Ann: I can relate to that so much! Procrastination is really difficult to deal with. What did you do when you felt stuck?

Laura: One thing that helped me was reading lots of poetry books I love, that were in a style I was trying to capture. That day, I wrote this blog post about using mentor texts: Finding My Writing GPS. Reading these books gave me a new sense of enthusiasm.
"Animals on the Go"
Mary Ann: I love your use of words. "Lion flips. / Monkey snips. Dolphin drums. / Dragon strums." Your poems are so much fun to read aloud as each word takes shape first on my tongue and then in our minds. How do you gather words for a poem?

Laura: I collect words on a project by project basis. For example, for a draft of a project I'm currently working on, I wrote in my journal:
Also want to brainstorm some words, synonyms and phrases for belonging, accepted, trust, valued...things like that. Not to mention, just...good. Enough.

belong, fit, like a puzzle piece, believed, traditional, standard, agreed, shouldered, believed, faith, belief, hope, rely, trust, expect, care, protect, guard, depend on, count on, be sure about, worth, price, cost, importance.
Those are all just synonyms, but I often make lists of specifically juicy words I come across in my research that I think, Oooh, I want to use that word somehow in my draft.

Mary Ann: Our students and teachers use a word wall. Do you have a word wall at home? What is your writing space like?

Laura: I love so many words. If I had a word wall, I think our townhome would sag under the weight of it! I love walking while I write, so this is my writing space:
Laura Purdie Salas walking and writing
Mary Ann: I love the way stuffed animals come to life in this! Do you have a story about a stuffie from her own childhood?

Laura: What a great question. I have hardly anything from my childhood. Six or seven books, about a dozen photos, and no toys. But I do have Tommy the Turtle. I may originally have “borrowed” him from my big sister, Patty (don’t tell). He has come with me everywhere I’ve ever lived, and I think Tommy would love to have Octopus teach him how to skate!
Laura Purdie Salas and Tommy the Turtle
Thank you so much, Laura! Many congratulations on a wonderful book. Here are all of the stops on the blog tour:
The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Highlights Press. 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.

©2019 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Roots of Rap: Hip Hop & Childhood Meet, by Carole Boston Weatherford (ages 4-14)

"Bro!
This is actually kinda cool -- all about the artists who shaped hip hop.
Oh, it rhymes!
Is this supposed to be a song? a rap?
Bro, that's hecka cool!"
   -- Aya, 9th grade, reading The Roots of Rap
My high school students have loved reading The Roots of Rap. Frank Morrison's dynamic illustrations pull them in, and then Carole Boston Weatherford's text lays down the knowledge. This is a terrific new picture book to share with young readers all the way through high schoolers. I'm honored to have Carole share a little about how rap has inspired her.
The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip Hop
by Carole Boston Weatherford
illustrated by Frank Morrison
Simon & Schuster / Little Bee, 2019
Amazon / Your local library
ages 4-14
“Hip-hop and rap aren’t often featured in children’s books,” Swizz Beatz writes in his introduction. And yet, this music speaks to our children, fills their lives. With this picture book, Weatherford helps children see that their music springs from a long tradition of poetry and music. As Weatherford writes, "hip-hop is poetry at its most powerful."

I am honored to have Carole Boston Weatherford here to share a little about how hip-hop and rap have inspired her, and what planted the seeds for this picture book.

THE ROOTS OF RAP: HIP HOP & CHILDHOOD MEET
reflection by Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrator Frank Morrison’s oil paintings in the book have a vibrancy and vitality that borders on virtuosity. He honors hip hop legends and luminaries and shows the four pillars of graffiti, b-boying/breakdancing, emceeing and deejaying. I linger over the spreads showing youthful expression through hip hop, a culture young people are inventing.
Just as my son and daughter (now young adults) reintroduced me in the 1990s to children’s books, they also hipped me to the hip hop of the day on BET and urban radio. At Super Jam, my first rap concert, I tagged along as chaperone to my daughter and her friend. Was I in for a shock!? Unlike the jazz and R&B concerts that I attended, there were no bands at Super Jam--only a deejay scratching and the emcees spitting rhymes.

Then, there were the CDs that son and daughter bought. They’d mute explicit lyrics, so as not to offend their mother. Although their censorship meant that I rarely heard entire songs, I found much to like—especially cuts featuring choruses of children. Some of those pulsate with positivity. Here are a few of my favorites:
Enjoy this trailer for Roots of Rap:
Thank you, Carole, for sharing a little peek into what led to this book. Illustrations copyright ©2019 Frank Morrison, shared by permission of the publishers. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Simon & Schuster / Little Bee. 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.

©2019 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Carter Reads the Newspaper, by Deborah Hopkinson -- important and timely picture book biography (ages 6-10)

It is essential that we teach Black History throughout the year, especially celebrating Black History Month in February. And yet, do we stop to ask who had the idea to create this special celebration? I highly recommend sharing Carter Reads the Newspaper with your children, and beginning a conversation about why it is so important to honor and learn about Black history.
Carter Reads the Newspaper
by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Don Tate
Peachtree, 2019
Amazon / Your local library
ages 6-10
*best new book*
Carter Woodson is known as the “father of Black history,” tirelessly encouraging others to study the history of Blacks in America. He was the second black American to receive a PhD in history from Harvard, after W.E.B. DuBois. In February 1926, Woodson created Negro History Week in Washington, D.C.

Deborah Hopkinson helps young readers see Carter Woodson's journey, helping them relate to his passion for learning. Carter was born on a small farm, and his parents had both been born into slavery. His father made sure Carter went to school and believed in staying informed about the world. Because his father couldn't read, he asked Carter to read the newspaper to him.
"Carter was born on a small farm in Virginia in 1875,
ten years after the end of the Civil War."
When Carter took a coal mining job at age 16, he was inspired by a Civil War Veteran he met there, Oliver Jones, who invited the other workers to come to his home as a reading room. Once again, Carter read aloud to others, informing them what was in the paper. He saw that Oliver was an educated man, even though he could not read or write. And he saw the power of the men's commitment to freedom, equality and knowledge.

After three years working in the mines, Carter returned home to complete high school, go to college and become a teacher. At the age of 37, he earned a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University. "Carter was the first and only Black American whose parents had been slaves to receive a doctorate in history."
Deborah Hopkinson helps young readers see the power of knowledge and the importance of sharing that knowledge, and she makes Carter a relatable character. I especially appreciate how she focuses on the challenges Woodson faced as a young boy, and what he learned from his family and mentors.

Don Tate's illustrations use warm earth-tones tones and the stylized characters convey the humanity of the situations without making the frightening moments overwhelming.

I highly recommend adding this book to your school or home library. It helps begin the conversation about why we celebrate Black History Month. For adults, I also found the following essay very informative: Knowing the Past Opens the Door to the Future The Continuing Importance of Black History Month, from the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Illustrations copyright ©2019 Don Tate, shared by permission of the publishers. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Peachtree. 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.

©2019 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Ten favorite picture books (ages 3-10)

Picture books are truly for everybody. Read them together with young children, sharing a story together, savoring the joy of discovery. Encourage older children to take a break with picture books and savor the story. Here's a selection of old and new picture books I love.

Alma and How She Got Her Name, by Juana Martinez-Neal: Oh how I love this book. As one young reader told me, “it makes me want to learn more about my own name.” Alma helps us all feel like we are special for being unique. Alma Sofia Esperanza Josi Pura Candela worries about her long name until her father tells her family stories, one for each person she's named after. The illustrations are soft and gently sweet, showing the distinctive essence of each ancestor and the affections between Alma and her family. (ages 4-8)

Drawn Together, by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat: When a young boy visits his grandfather, they struggle to communicate because the grandson only speaks English and his grandfather only speaks Thai. After an uncomfortable dinner where the cultural divides are palpably painful, the boy pulls out a sketch he's made of a superhero. He's surprised when his grandfather starts drawing a Thai warrior. As they start drawing together, they build a new world layered and complex with both cultures. Not only is this a beautiful story, it is full of universal emotions: connecting across generations and cultures, relating to each other through art and storytelling, and discovering shared passions. (ages 4-9)

Duck! Rabbit!, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld: Is it a duck? Or a rabbit? What do you think? Turn it upside down - do you see anything different? The off-stage narrators argue back and forth, trying to convince each other that their perspective is right. Lichtenheld's illustrations, with absolute clearness and utter ambiguity, are perfect for encouraging your own kids to join the debate. (ages 4-9)

Firebird, by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers: A young African American girl looks up to Copeland saying, "the space between you and me is longer than forever"--how could I ever become as beautiful and graceful as you? Copeland turns to the young girl, reassuring her that she was once just as small, just as shy--and the magic comes when you pursue your dreams. (ages 6-10)

Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson: One night, Harold decided to go for a walk. Bringing only his giant purple crayon, Harold draws himself a world full of wonder and imagination, from a sailboat on a stormy sea to a picnic with a moose with nine kinds of pie! This classic picture book has inspired young children since 1955, but it captivates children still, showing them how far their imagination can take them. (ages 3-7)

Hello Hello, by Brendan Wenzel: This picture book will delight young readers, saying hello to different animals. Read the spare rhymes slowly, encouraging readers to notice how the animals are similar and different. "Hello Stripes. Hello Spots." Sure, tigers have stripes and cheetahs have spots, but what about fish and lizards? Which they have stripes and spots, too! I especially love the way Wenzel gives clues on each page of what's coming next--the whale shark's spotted tail, leads into: "Hello Giant. Hello Not." Wenzel's animals are full of life, and a key in the back will help eager readers to learn all of their names. (ages 3-8)

Julián Is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love: After Julián, a young Afro-Latinx child, sees three fabulous people dressed as mermaids, he creates his own costume. When Abuela discovers this, will she support him or chastise him? In this delightful story, Julian's grandmother embraces his creativity, helping him complete the outfit, and then proudly taking him to a parade. This story delights readers and never becomes too preachy, staying rooted in the joy of imagination and the importance of being seen and recognized. (ages 4-8)

Niño Wrestles the World, by Yuyi Morales: With a huge imagination and a love of luche libre, the popular Mexican wrestling sport, little Niño battles his own make-believe monsters. Whether he’s defeating the Guanajuato mummy or exploding the giant Olmec Head, this is one confident little kid. Morales brings humor, dynamic energy and vivid artwork to this terrific picture book. (ages 4-8)

Press Here, Hervé Tullet: This ingenious interactive book invites readers right into the action of this story, pressing dots to multiply them, blowing on them to scatter them across the page, clapping to make them blow up like a balloon. It is utterly simple and yet completely engrossing, showing readers that they are truly part of making any story come alive and leap off the pages of a book. (ages 3-7)

Rain, by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Christian Robinson: Have you ever noticed that a good mood can be contagious? One a rain day, a grumpy old man complains about his "nasty galoshes" and the "dang puddle." But not everyone feels that way. A little boy is so excited to put on his froggy hat and rain boots. When they bump into each other, the little guy's mood eventually rubs off on the old man. A delightful story, perfect for spreading a smile. (ages 4-8)

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.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, September 24, 2018

Celebrating the Harvest Moon with two beautiful picture books (ages 3-8)

Cultures around the world celebrate the harvest every autumn, and many involve tribute to the glorious harvest moon. Two of my favorite new picture books honor both the magic of the moon and the importance of family. Both books connect to Asian traditions, and they also reflect North American families celebrating both their American and Asian identities.
A Big Mooncake for Little Star
by Grace Lin
Little Brown, 2018
Amazon / Your local library / Book chat with Grace Lin
ages 3-8
*best new book*
Little Star and her mother bake an enormous mooncake, sharing the joy of baking together. Mama tells Little Star she mustn't eat any yet. Little Star does her best and goes to bed, but when she wakes up in the middle of the night it's just too hard to resist a tiny nibble.
Would her mama notice if she took a tiny nibble? Little Star didn't think so. Mmmm, yum!
As each night passes, Little Star wakes in the middle of the night thinking only of the Big Mooncake. Just one more little bite, and she'll race back to bed. Young readers will smile as the mooncake slowly disappears, recognizing the phases of the moon.
"Night after night,
Little Star took tiny nibble
after tiny nibble
of the Big Mooncake."
Grace Lin creates a story filled with delight and love. In her author's note, she describes how this story celebrates the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, yet she is creating a new story here, one that reflects her experience as a mother.

I especially appreciate her video book chat, in which she describes the importance of using her work to explore the American side of her identity. I hadn't noticed the explicit nods to Blueberries for Sal before Lin pointed them out, but I certainly felt kinship toward this mother-daughter delighting in baking together.

Ocean Meets Sky, the beautiful, dreamlike new picture book from The Fan Brothers, also blends Asian and North American storytelling heritage. You'll notice nods to Sendak, Peter Pan and more.
Ocean Meets Sky
by Eric Fan and Terry Fan
Simon & Schuster, 2018
Amazon / Your local library / preview art
ages 4-8
*best new book*
In honor of his grandfather who has passed away, young Finn builds a boat for the journey they always wanted to take. Finn then crawls inside to sleep and dreams of a "great golden fish" who takes him on a journey, in search of the magical land of his grandfather’s stories.
"Finn remembered Grandpa's voice
Telling him stories about a place far away where ocean meets sky."
Finn follows the golden fish into his dreamlike world, searching for where the ocean meets the sky. He sees wondrous scenes, with whales swimming among the stars, bookish birds roosting on the Library Islands, and moon jellies dancing in the sea.
"'I didn't think the open sea would feel so lonely,'
Finn said after some time.
This caught the attention of a great golden fish."
Soon Finn's boat lifts out of the water and sails into the night sky, drifting toward the great full moon. As the golden fish swims toward the moon, readers realize that his grandfather's spirit fills both the wise fish and the luminous moon.

Filled with atmospheric blend of Asian imagery and dreamlike fantasy worlds, this beautiful, magical picture book immerses readers into a young boy’s search for healing.

It strikes me how central storytelling is to both of these picture books, as a way for families to connect and pass down their heritage. In both, building and baking serve as a way for generations to connect, to share time and to create something together. My friends, please seek out these truly special books and share them with your families.

Illustrations copyright ©2018 Grace Lin and ©2018 Terry Fan & Eric Fan, shared by permission of the publishers. The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Little Brown and Simon & Schuster. 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.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, September 9, 2018

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, edited by Wade Hudson & Cheryl Willis Hudson -- inspiring, beautiful & uplifting (ages 8-13)

As the news inundates us with the harm caused by divisive politics, institutional racism and prejudice, and angry civic discourse, what do we tell our children? How do we help give them hope, help empower them during these difficult times? We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices is an inspiring new anthology that asks 50 of the foremost children's authors and illustrators to share their love, concern and experience with the next generation.
We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices
edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson
Crown Books, 2018
Amazon / Local library / Google Books preview
ages 8-13
*best new book*
Dedicated to "those who advocate for and pursue a just society and basic human rights for all people," this anthology presents an inspiring collection of poetry, essays, short stories and art designed to give children hope during difficult times, especially children from traditionally marginalized communities. As Ashley Bryan writes in the forward:
"Having a safe space to imagine and dream and (re)invent yourself is the first step to being happy and successful, whatever road you choose to pursue."
This beautiful collection provides children (and the adults in their lives) this safe space. Authors ask questions, share wisdom and provide support. By doing so, they open the window to talking about these difficult times. In the opening poem, Wade Hudson asks:
"What shall we tell you when our world sometimes seems dark and uninviting?
What shall we tell you when hateful words that wound and bully are thrown like bricks against a wall, shattering into debris?"
Other authors share their fears, their worries. Kwame Alexander, in his poem "A Thousand Winters," writes about when his daughter worried that the police would take him away if he was driving too fast. Our youngest children hear the news, see the reaction of adults around them, and they have questions. We must be honest with them, and yet we must also find ways to protect our children and give them hope -- for, as Kwame writes, "if we can't survive this storm, how will our children?"
"A Thousand Winters," by Kwame Alexander, illustration by Eukua Holmes
I especially appreciate the variety in this collection. These are heavy topics, and yet readers turn the pages and find so many different approaches. Jacqueline Woodson writes a letter to her children, reminding them to be safe and be kind as they walk in the world. Joseph Bruchac gives advice about choosing a friend who "sees how beautiful you are, even on days when you're sad." Zetta Elliott reminds children that "You Too Can Fly." The illustrations move from painting with deep hues, to drawings with soft warm touch, to photographs showing children of different races and ethnicities.

Above all, this collection leave me with the feeling that there are caring adults who truly see children, who know how difficult these times can be, and who admire all the ways that our children walk in this world. I'd like to leave you with a bit of Sharon Flake's letter:
"How are you, my love? Well, I hope. I've been thinking about you lately. So, I wanted to check in, to make sure you're okay. I see you...draped in confidence, walking like you own the world, looking fine, skateboarding, protesting injustice, helping out friends. My heart sings at the thought of what is possible for us here on earth because you exist."
I definitely recommend this collection for every elementary and middle school library. I'll be bringing it to my new high school library to see what our students think of it. I purchased the review copy from my local independent bookstore, Mrs. Dalloway's. 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.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers : Celebrating animal underdogs, by Melissa Stewart (ages 4-8)

Young readers delight in learning about new animals. If you have animal lovers in your house or classroom, definitely seek out Melissa Stewart's newest picture book: Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating animal underdogs. She takes a fresh look at what makes an animal noteworthy--do we really want to focus only on the fastest animals? Or do we want to find out how animals survive and thrive?
Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating animal underdogs
by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis
Peachtree, 2018
Amazon / Public library / Teachers guide
ages 4-8
Stewart's lively, playful voice draws readers right into her text. We start off looking at a pair of tiny critters, the Etruscan pygmy shrew and the Amau frog. I appreciate how Stewart and Laberis help readers envision just how small these animals are by comparing them to everyday objects.
"Let's start with this little critter--the Etruscan pygmy shrew.
It's a real pipsqueak. Look, it's name is longer than its body."
But the real question, as Stewart asks, is "How can these puny peewees survive?" Turn the page, and readers will see dramatic examples of how being tiny can actually help you hide from predators.
"Believe it or not,
size is on their side."
Stewart presents an engaging look at a range of animals, helping young children think about what characteristics might help animals survive. The backmatter includes more information, but she keeps it quite brief. Instead, she focuses on encouraging children to think about different animals. This would be a terrific discussion-starter for talking about habitats and animal characteristics.

I especially appreciate the gentle message Stewart provides throughout, that every animal has “its own special way of surviving" and we need to recognize the strengths each has just the way they are. Take special note of the dedication at the end of the book:
"For any child who is being bullied right now---
what others see as a weakness may actually be your strength.

Don’t give up."
I have long admired Melissa Stewart's nonfiction books for children and appreciated her thoughtful writing about the craft of writing nonfiction. She helpfully examines different types of nonfiction writing (see her recent article Understanding—and Teaching—the Five Kinds of Nonfiction, published in the School Library Journal). I encourage you to explore her helpful blog, Celebrate Science.

Illustrations copyright ©2018 Stephanie Laberis, shared by permission of the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Peachtree 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.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson -- giving voice and honoring identity (all ages)

"There will be times when you walk into a room
and no one there is quite like you."
Jacqueline Woodson begins her newest picture book--The Day You Begin--by giving voice to children who feel alone. She speaks directly to readers, honoring their individual stories while creating a book that speaks universal truths.
The Day You Begin
by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López
Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin, 2018
Amazon / Local library / Audiobook preview
all ages
*best new book*
Woodson and López directly address readers, honoring their worries and difficulties as they begin a new school year and feel alone. Perhaps no one looks like them or no one understands them.
"There will be times when the words don't come..."
"What did you do last summer?" can be a loaded question, as children share about summer travels. Angelina remembers the days spent at home caring for her little sister, but cannot find the words to describe them.

Woodson gracefully turns the story to talk to different children. Perhaps they are new to the school, or new to the country. Or maybe they want to start the year with a new beginning, a new group of friends.
"There will be times when the world feels like a place
that you're standing all the way
outside of..."
And yet...and yet, Woodson shows us that we can find our voice if we begin to share our stories. When Angelina tells her class about her summer, her voice becomes stronger. Her classmates listen. And notice.
"And all at once, in the room where no one else is quite like you.
the world opens itself up a little wider
to make space for you."
López's illustrations bring a tenderness to Woodson's text, helping young readers see themselves and their classmates in these stories. I especially appreciate the range of children's racial and ethnic backgrounds. The warm colors throughout create a reassuring tone to this lovely story.

Beginnings are not always easy. I so appreciate Woodson noticing this and naming it. With her grace and wisdom, she encourages all of us to find friends who will listen to our stories, a new friend who "has something a little like you--and something else so fabulously not quite like you at all."

I am beginning at a new school this year, as the librarian at Albany High School, and I can relate to many of my students who feel excited and anxious to begin a new year. This is a perfect way to begin the year, and is a book that belongs in every classroom for all ages. I will be sharing this with my high school students as we begin school this week.

Illustrations copyright ©2018 Rafael López, shared by permission of the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Nancy Paulsen / Penguin Young Readers Group. 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.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, August 19, 2018

We Don't Eat Our Classmates, by Ryan T. Higgins -- back-to-school fun, with a dollop of empathy (ages 4-8)

Each fall brings a bevy of back-to-school books--helping young children get used to new classrooms, make new friends, learn new routines. Earnest advice might appeal to parents, but kids love stories combine humor, empathy and advice. If you're looking for a heartfelt back-to-school book, check out We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins.
We Don't Eat Our Classmates
by Ryan T. Higgins
Disney-Hyperion, 2018
Amazon / Public library
ages 4-8
As the first day of school approaches, Penelope worries about making friends. The cuddly cute little T. Rex wonders what her classmates are going to be like, whether they will be nice.

When the first day arrives, Penelope "was very surprised to find out that all of her classmates were... CHILDREN!"

Penelope is so surprised, she ate all the children. "Because children are delicious." The teacher is not impressed, and instructs Penelope to spit them out immediately. Penelope's classmates are covered in slimy spit--you can imagine the giggles that will erupt from young readers.

Phe tries really hard at school, but she keeps eating her classmates. After this, Penelope's classmates don't want to be her friends. They're worried about sitting next to her at lunch.
"It was lonely."
Penelope can't understand why her classmates are reluctant to play with her. It isn't until a goldfish chomps on her finger that she understands just how much this can hurt. When she changes her ways, Penelope starts making friends.

Young students know just how difficult it is to control themselves. Higgins creates a very likable main character--readers will identify with her fears, worries and lack of self-control. With gentle humor, Higgins reminds us to think about how your actions might impact others.
"Now, even when children look especially delicious, she peeks at Walter (the goldfish) and remembers what it's like when someone tries to eat you."
Ryan T. Higgins is the author of one of our favorite read-alouds: Mother Bruce. He is a masterful storyteller, knowing just how humor can help resolve important issues. I appreciated reading this interview on Publisher's Weekly about his process creating this story.

Check out more back-to-school favorites on my Goodreads shelf. Illustrations copyright ©2018 Ryan T. Higgins, shared by permission of the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, 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.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Stop, Go, Yes, No!: A Story of Opposites by Mike Twohy -- terrific fun for youngest readers (ages 3-6)

As a school librarian, I delight in sharing books that make kids laugh and want to read more. Stop, Go, Yes, No! is just this sort of book -- our youngest kids will love reading this together again and again. It's funny, full of energy and utterly relatable. The icing on top is that it helps little ones learn about opposites and develop early reading skills.
Stop, Go, Yes, No! -- A Story of Opposites
by Mike Twohy
Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins, 2018
Amazon / Public library / preview
ages 3-6
*best new book*
A grey cat peacefully sleeps on the opening page, and the word "Asleep" is written in large, clear letters. Turn the page, and the joyful dog from the cover shouts "Awake!" jolting the cat from its nap.
Twohy keeps a steady rhythm of paired opposites, as the dog chases the cat and tries to convince it to play. Happy-go-lucky dog just wants to play, but the cat clearly wants to be left alone.
With just 28 words, Twohy builds a story that pulls readers in, makes them laugh and want to find out what happens next.
I appreciate the way Twohy keeps plenty of space around each word, encouraging young readers to look at the picture and then the word. Using these picture clues is an important part of reading development.

Twohy masterfully creates two distinct characters. Try asking young readers how the cat and dog are feeling at different moments. Then have fun role-playing these two characters, or making up your own pairs of opposites. Also be sure to check out Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run! Twohy's previous book with this lovable dog.

Illustrations copyright ©2018 Mike Twohy, shared by permission of the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Balzer + Bray / 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.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

#SummerReading 2018 for 1st & 2nd graders

First and second graders have made monumental leaps in their reading this year. Keep those reading muscles strong by feeding them a steady diet of fun books to read!

Here are some of my favorite beginning readers, chapter books, graphic novels and picture books for kids just finishing 1st and 2nd grade. Each day this week, I'll be sharing a post to help families read over the summer, organized by grade levels.
#SummerReading: 1st & 2nd grade
click for full 2018 summer reading lists
Note: Our schools use the Fountas & Pinnell reading levels to help indicate "just right books" for students. I like to band these levels together, to look at a group of similar books.

Beginning to Read (levels G-H-I)
Block Party, by Gwendolyn Hooks
It's Shoe Time!, by Bryan Collier
My Toothbrush Is Missing!, by Jan Thomas

Developing Readers (levels J-K)
Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy, by Laurel Snyder
Pedro's Big Goal, by Fran Manushkin
Zelda & Ivy, by Laura Kvasnosky

New Picture Books We're Loving
After the Fall, by Dan Santat
Harriet Gets Carried Away, by Jessie Sima
Mommy's Khimar, by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
No Kimchi For Me!, by Aram Kim

Beginning with Chapter Books (levels L-M)
Ashley Small & Ashlee Tall series, by Michele Jakubowski
Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon
Fergus & Zeke, by Kate Messner
King & Kayla series, by Dori Hillestad Butler

Graphic Novel Series We Love!
Dog Man, by Dav Pilkey
Hilo, by Judd Winick
Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea, by Ben Clayton

Having Fun with Chapter Book Series (levels N-O-P)
Bad Guys, by Aaron Blabey
DATA Set series, by Ada Hopper
Zoey & Sassafras series, by Asia Citro

Fascinating Nonfiction
Give Bees a Chance, by Bethany Barton
Her Right Foot, by Dave Eggers
Malala's Magic Pencil, by Malala Yousafzai

Picture Books Full of Imagination
Little Red Writing, by Joan Holub
Maybe Something Beautiful, by F. Isabel Campoy
Take Away the A, by Michael Escoffier

CLICK HERE for all of the 2018 summer reading lists, grades K - 5.

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.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Humor Hooks Readers: book recommendations from the Bay Area Book Fest (ages 6-10)

We had a terrific time at the Bay Area Book Fest this weekend, and I want to share the book recommendations for funny books. Megan McDonald, Travis Nichols and LeUyen Pham were all so funny, thoughtful and kind. I was honored to facilitate this conversation.
Putting the FUN in Reading (downloadable PDF)
Funny picture books
The Bear Who Wasn't There, by LeUyen Pham
Betty's Burgled Bakery, by Travis Nichols
Disgusting Critters series, by Elise Gravel
Niño Wrestles the World, by Yuyi Morales

Funny chapter books
Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon
Judy Moody Was In a Mood, by Megan McDonald
Princess in Black, by Shannon Hale & LeUyen Pham
Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid, by Megan McDonald
Unicorn Rescue Society, by Adam Gidwitz

Funny graphic novels
Astronaut Academy, by Dave Roman
Babymouse, by Jennifer Holm
Bird & Squirrel, by James Burks
Phoebe & Her Unicorn, by Dana Simpson
Travis and Uyen both started drawing from a very early age, using pictures to tell stories. Drawing was really important to both of them as they tried to find their place in the world. Uyen talked about how she was very shy and realized that her classmates really liked the drawings she could do. She even started selling her drawings of popular movie characters to classmates!

I especially loved how Megan talked about the humor in Judy Moody stemming from how readers can relate to Judy. Megan read aloud the very beginning of Judy Moody Was In a Mood, and talked about how everyone knows how awful it is to be in a bad mood. But we can also laugh at how grumpy Judy gets. So while we're empathizing with her, we're also laughing at ourselves in a safe and gentle way.

A large part of humor is in the timing. With picture books, illustrators really work at using the page turn to create tension and set up the punchline. They also really play with kids' expectations and then turning the tables. We had a blast listening to some of the kids' jokes!
Listening to kids tell jokes.
Cracking up with the punchline!
(photo credit: Armin Arethna)
I also loved how they all agreed on the importance of pictures in creating the humor that hooks kids. Uyen emphasized how reading the pictures and seeing the funny setups there was just as important as reading the words. She read some of The Itchy Book!, her newest book that's part of the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series. That's a really important message to share with young kids who are struggling with decoding. They bring so much to the story by figuring out what's happening in the pictures!

Travis talked about how his newest book Betty's Burgled Bakery started from a failure. He was struggling with the followup to Foul Play, trying to focus the story on idioms, when it came to him how alliteration might be funnier and easier for kids to get. This makes me think about the way Uyen described incorporating her mistakes in artwork. She really likes doing artwork by hand and not just the computer, because the mistakes make her more creative and bring even more out of her drawings.

Many thanks to Travis, Uyen and Megan for their time, humor and kind spirits. Many thanks to the publishers for sponsoring their time, and to the Bay Area Book Festival for inviting us all to speak with kids and families. And many thanks to my friends and family who came out to support me! 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.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Putting the FUN in Reading! at the Bay Area Book Festival, April 28th (ages 7-10)

We all like doing the things we have fun with. Psychoanalysts might call this the "Pleasure Principle," but I call it common sense. So how do we help our kids discover the fun in reading? Come join me in conversation with four terrific authors/illustrators at the Bay Area Book Festival this weekend.
Join me in hearing from LeUyen Pham, Megan McDonald, Travis Nichols and Judd Winnick about how they make reading fun for kids. It's sure to be a great session, with stories about Judy Moody, Hilo, crime-fighting princesses and wordplay in the bakery.
These authors and illustrators bring their sense of fun to picture books, short chapter books, and graphic novels. I'm looking forward to asking them about how they focus on the fun in reading. Comedy is truly an art form! Come enjoy a laugh with us and learn about the magic ingredients in their storytelling.
Putting the FUN in Reading! 
with LeUyen Pham, Megan McDonald, Travis Nichols
Bay Area Book Festival
The Marsh Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA
Sunday, April 29, 11:45am - 1:00 pm
LeUyen Pham illustrates the Princess in Black series with Shannon Hale, as well as the terrific graphic novel Real Friends. She's also the author of several picture books. Megan McDonald writes the Judy Moody and Stink books, bringing shenanigans and hijinks, along with real life struggles, to every chapter. Travis Nichols combines word play, comic book panels and crisp, clever capers into punchy picture books like Betty's Burgled Bakery. And Judd Winick is the author of our favorite Hilo graphic novels.

Everyone loves a good joke. We're going to put them to the test and ask each of them to share a joke. And then we'll turn the tables, to ask the audience to come up with a few jokes.

We'll also look at why visual comedy is so important for kids. You'll notice that all of these books use pictures to pack a punch. How do illustrations add to the reading experience for kids?

Finally, we'll brainstorm together ways to keep reading fun. Bring your kids and let them join the creative fun we'll have together! Hope to see you on Sunday in Berkeley!

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books