The Ultimate Staring Contest

Don’t Blink written and illustrated by Tom Booth captures the excitement young children experience playing a game as simple as a staring contest. An adventurous and enthusiastic young girl climbs and balances on rocks, then sits down on an almost blank page and invites the reader to Go! Her eyes are wide open and she has a sweet smirk on her face.

One by one different, very well mannered, creatures join in on the staring contest them against you, the reader.

Young readers can guess what other animals will join in as the contest continues. They enter the scene from all directions, including a monkey who drops down from above.

The illustrations are delightful and colorful. Each animal and the young girl have a designated color text that indicates that they are speaking. The directions in of the animals’ eyes once the contest is over helps the reader determine to whom each one is speaking.

Finally a round of the contest ends and a winner is declared. The animals scurry off, all but the turtle who was slowly walking toward the young girl throughout the entire story. Even though many of the other animals passed the turtle to play the game, it did not give up. It maintained it’s slow and steady pace and even shouts out encouraging words to the others as they struggle to keep their eyes open.

Don’t Blink is a fun, interactive picture book that takes a simple childhood game and teaches the reader how to play together while including others. There are many different layers to this story that can be uncovered as you read and reread one.

Click here to purchase a copy of Don’t Blink! (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of Don’t Blink in exchange for my honest review.

A Fantastic Spin on a Childhood Classic

The Giant of Jum by Elli Woollard is a clever twist on the classic childhood tale Jack and the Beanstalk. The Giant of Jum is hungry. He sets out in search of a legendary snack, a boy named Jack. This storyline reminds me of one of my favorite books, The BFG by Roald Dahl, which I love reading to my upper elementary-aged students each year.

The Giant of Jum is presented as a horrific creature. He is grumpy and grouchy. He stomps all about and dreams about eating young children. Each time the Giant of Jum encounters young children, he ends up helping them rather than feasting on them. From fetching a ball from the top of a tall fountain to rescuing a skeptical looking cat.

When The Giant of Jum finally meets a young boy named Jack, will he fulfill his destiny or start to see himself in a different light?

The Giant of Jum is a funny and engaging book about a giant who sees himself one way and ends up learning a lot about himself on his journey to find the elusive snack, a boy named Jack. The story is beautifully written with hilarious rhymes woven throughout. The illustrations by Benji Davies complement the tone of the story perfectly. The Giant is large in comparison to the characters and objects that surround him, yet his features are exaggerated in a way that make him odd looking rather than scary.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Giant of Jum (affiliate link).

I received a complimentary copy of The Giant of Jum in exchange for my honest review.

 

An Autobiographical Account of a Penny

One of my most memorable experiences as a student teacher came from a regular math routine early in the school year in a second grade classroom. Each day the class came together for a morning meeting and part of that routine included tracking the number of days we’ve been in school. They kept track of this number by writing the number, collecting colored dots on the tens frame and also by collecting coins that equaled the total number of days. On the first day the teachers put a penny underneath the document camera for the class to see. They asked the students, “What do you notice about this coin?” A young boy named Jack raised his hand and instead of describing the shape of the coin or the color of the coin, as we’d all expected, he gave the lengthy history of the coin. This experience was so important to me as a future teacher, you never know what to expect from kids and what knowledge they bring with them into the classroom if you don’t ask.

One Proud Penny by Randy Siegel is an awesome picture book that presents historically accurate information about the penny. It is narrated as an autobiographical account by a penny. It begins with information about when this penny was “born” and where, in 1983 in Philadelphia. Then continues on to explore the different uses of a penny, from providing exact change to spinning and flipping out of boredom or for fun.

One Proud Penny hints at the argument of whether pennies should be banned, one we explore in my 4th grade classroom during our argument and persuasive writing unit. It also highlights some important change over time (pun intended). For example, a penny used to be enough to buy ice cream or a newspaper, but that’s no longer the case.

One Proud Penny even details the difference in the composition of pennies when they were originally minted and today.

One Proud Penny is a wonderful tribute to the penny. A small yet durable coin that at times is a nuisance in our pockets or taking up lots of space in our wallet, and other times, helping us make exact change. The illustrations by Serge Bloch blend simple line drawings with actual images of pennies, in a way that adds to the comedic tone of the text. Together they create an informative and exciting informational book.

This is a must have book for any classroom and school library as well as any home collection of a kid who loves facts and information about money and coins. Click here to purchase a copy of One Proud Penny (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Mr. Tweed and the Band in Need

Mr. Tweed is back! This time he is at the zoo to see his favorite 10-piece band perform, but Wollo the walrus and band leader, can’t seem to find any of his band members.

Join Mr. Tweed and Wollo as they explore the different animal exhibits for their friends. The illustrations are bright, colorful and super detailed. For example, can you find the banjo playing jellyfish?

Mr. Tweed and the Band in Need is more than an amazing hidden images picture book. It incorporates counting, colors, and animal and instrument recognition. Each creature is hidden in its habitat, for example Jimmy Toots the toucan is hidden in the tall trees. Readers can use different clues on each page to help them find the missing band member. This book teaches children to look carefully at illustrations as they hunt for the tiniest of details.

Mr. Tweed and the Band in Need written and illustrated by Jim Stoten is an engaging and fun read. It teaches about the importance of collaboration and helping others in need. This book is making it on my go to list of books to give young readers as a gift.

Click here to purchase a copy of Mr. Tweed and the Band in Need (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

What George Forgot

What George Forgot by Kathy Wolff is a fantastically hilarious book about a young boy who is great at remembering things, but he can’t seem to shake the feeling that there is something important he’s forgotten. He replays his day, retracing all his steps in order to ensure that he’s remembered everything.

For example, he didn’t forget to eat breakfast. He also remembered to eat his pre-breakfast and post-breakfast snacks. Don’t worry, he also remembered to shave. Just kidding! He only shaves on Tuesdays.

As George prepares to leave his house, he still can’t seem to remember what he is forgetting. Can you help him figure this out?

What George Forgot has a overall tone of seriousness with so many funny lines tucked in that make this book a delight to read for kids and adults. The illustrations complement the story perfectly, helping the reader visualize each part of George’s morning routine. This book is an awesome addition to any home library and will undoubtedly be requested over and over again for story time.

Click here to purchase a copy of What George Forgot (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

An Appreciation For Personal Space

My Very Own Space by Pippa Goodhart is about a young rabbit who is looking for a quiet place to read. He is frustrated by all the commotion and noise around him. He decides to create his own personal space by drawing a large red oval and declaring that “nothing is allowed over this line.”

At first he has to remind the other rabbits that his his his own space. Finally, he has some quiet time to read his book Space Bunny.

Rebecca Crane’s charming illustrations show an overwhelmed rabbit surrounded by busy bunnies engaged in a variety of activities from playing instruments to ballet dancing and flying paper airplanes. When the rabbit draws his own personal space, there is more empty space on each page which creates a sense of peace and quiet.

Rabbit spends some time quietly reading his book and imagining himself as an astronaut traveling in space. After some time has passed, he begins to reengage with the real world and yearn for interactions with the other rabbits. He needed this alone time, and now he’s ready to interact with the other rabbits again.

My Very Own Space is the perfect book for introducing personal space and alone time to kids. Every year I have a handful of students who exhibit introvert tendencies and a book like this would help them better understand their need to disengage from time to time and recharge. It’s an important aspect of one’s personality to recognize and to be able to identify when this alone time is needed. In addition, it helps more extroverted personalities understand that not everyone is always outgoing or feels the same way about social interactions all the time.

Click here to purchase a copy of My Very Own Space (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

The Perfect Picture Book About Friendship

Big and Little are a great team. They have a lot in common, but they are also different in their own, special ways.

One day, out of the blue, Big hides. Hence the title, Big Hid. He retreats into his tortoise shell and he does not want to come out. Little tries everything to coax Big out so they can play together, but much to his dismay nothing works.

All out of ideas, Little give Big a hug. Which ends up being just what Big needed.

Big Hid by Roisin Swales may be one of my favorite books about friendship that I’ve read in a really long time. The story is simple, but impactful. When Big has a bad day, feeling out of sorts, he just needs a simple gesture from a friend to make him feel better. The illustrations are bright and colorful, adding comical elements to the story.

Big Hid creates a great opportunity to normalize feeling down or sad and open conversations with young kids about what might make them feel that way and what are some things to do to help them feel better. It also encourages the reader to consider that just because we feel a certain way in a moment, that doesn’t mean we will always feel that way. This is a challenging concept for young kids who often feel emotions with such intensity, they have a hard time imagining that they will feel happy again in the near future.

Click here to purchase a copy of Big Hid (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

An Awesome Book About Friendship and Acceptance

Zombelina: School Days by Kristyn Crow is an awesome picture book about celebrating differences and being welcoming of a new student. Zombelina is an enthusiastic, friendly and quirky protagonist. She loves to dance and share her talent with her classmates.

One day a new student named Morty joins Zomeblina’s class. At first he has some trouble fitting in. Zombelina and her best friend Lizzie do their best to make him feel welcome and included.

 

There are so many things I love about Zomeblina as a character. She is an extrovert and confident. She embraces her weirdness and doesn’t allow her differences to bring her down. This allows her to make real friends and make the most out of each experience. Not to mention that Zombelina is a zombie and she is constantly chasing after different body parts and struggling to keep herself physically together, which adds the perfect comical element to the story.

The story is written using a fun end rhyme scheme and there are lots of clever puns throughout. Click here to purchase a copy of Zomeblina: School Days (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

Finding the Perfect Spot to Read

A Place to Read by Leigh Hodgkinson is a special picture book about a boy looking for just the right place to read. It should be comfy, but not itchy, fuzzy or even stinky. The young boy is very excited to read his book. Somewhere free of distraction, where he can become fully immersed in reading. On each page, he describes the ideal reading location and gathers another friend who is also interested in hearing the story.

Ultimately the boy learns that it doesn’t matter where he reads, the best book is a story that is shared with others.

A Place to Read is a fantastic picture book for children ages 2-6. The main character loves reading and is so excited about settling down with his book. The illustrations are whimsical and imaginative. They capture the worlds that we are ofter transported to by a good book. It is reminiscent of The Good Little Book by Kyo Maclear and A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers.

Click here to purchase a copy of A Place to Read (affiliate link).

For more books that promote a love of the act of reading click here!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

Dare to Imagine

In the last year or so there has been an explosion of picture books that encourage young readers to imagine and dream. This is a niche that I just can’t get enough of. As an upper elementary school teacher, I work with students ages 9-11, who are experts at being in school and knowing how to navigate the day and what is expected of them. It is only now that I have a one-year old daughter, and I see how much she learns through hands-on exploration and being genuinely wonder about things, that I start to ask, “How do we hold on to imagination and curiosity in kids as they get older and begin to navigate school and the education system?”

Imagine That! by Yasmeen Ismail is a terrific book about the imagination of childhood. Lila’s mother is preparing for a visit to Grandpa’s house. Little Lila seems very distracted, in reality she is very busy quietly imagining the different adventures.

For example, instead of putting on her shoes, she’s struggling to tame the fearsome octopus so that it will become her faithful pet. The contrast between what the mother bear sees, and what Lila imagines is portrayed by flawless watercolors. In the everyday version, the story is set in realistic setting, and Lila fumbles with her shoes under a table. The text consists of simple dialogue and short answers. In the pages that represent Lila’s imagination, color is everywhere, the text is written in delightful rhyme, and even the font dances across the pages.

The mother bear remains unaware of what Lila is actually doing. She is focused on getting her daughter safely to meet Grandpa.

It is Grandpa who takes the time to notice and ask Lila what she is doing. Though imagining alone is fun, having opportunities to be creative and involve others is even better.Will she find a companion to imagine along with?

Imagine That! is a great picture book for encouraging young children to imagine and playful. The energy and excitement are contagious. It teaches grown ups to also be aware of the power of imagination and to leave room for it despite our tendencies to want to remain on a schedule.

Click here to purchase a copy of Imagine That! (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.