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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Invisible Bill

Bill is a young boy, who also happens to be the middle child, who is tired of feeling invisible. His mom is a busy woman with an important job. She is always checking her whatchamacallit for messages. His dad is an important man with a busy job who is constantly answering his thingamajiggy. His big brother is a brainiac who is always reading and spewing out facts. His sister is very athletic. Each member of his family is consumed by their own lives and ideas that nobody stops to pay attention to Bill.

The final straw is when Bill asks somebody to pass him to potatoes at dinner and nobody does. Then all of a sudden, Bill turns invisible!

The next morning Bill’s mother does what any mother whose child has turned invisible does, she takes him to the doctor. Instead of having a conversation with Bill to figure out what is going on or why he might have turned invisible, he receives a treatment plan of, “A strong dose of permanent markers.” Then life for his family returns to normal for his mother, father, sister and brother, and Bill continues to feel invisible.

He decides to wipe off the permanent marker, write a letter to his family to say that he is leaving, and watch what happens.

InvisiBill by Maureen Fergus is an honest story that explores how sometimes kids can feel unappreciated or unnoticed. It encourages readers and families to take time to really enjoy one another’s company and be present in the moment. It also provides an opportunities to talk about frustrations kids may experience when they feel unheard.

The illustrations by Dusan Petricic are perfect. Each character occupies his own rectangle, which shows how disjointed they are.

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

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

 

Free Rain!

Free Rain written by Daniel Wentzel and illustrated by Jose Lucio invites a conversation about the treatment of farm animals and what free range actually means.

The story starts out with 6 chickens, each a different color from which its name is derived, living in cages. Rumors begin to circulate and somehow the cages disappear and the chickens are allowed to roam free. Each chicken responds differently to this change, from excitement to fear and anxiety. It forces the reader to ask, is it natural for a chicken to be pent up in a cage?

Free Rain follows the journey as each chicken musters the courage to venture outside of the cages that once held them prisoner. They learn to enjoy their freedom and time spent outside.

Free Rain is an impactful story with a powerful message. I love that Daniel Wentzel and Jose Lucio want to engage kids in a dialogue about the treatment of animals and where food comes from, whether that’s the chickens themselves or their eggs.

Click here to purchase a copy of Free Rain (affiliate link).

I received a complimentary copy of Free Rain in exchange for my honest review.

Picture Books about Waiting

For kids and for adults waiting can sometimes be a challenge. I love picture books that teach the importance of slowing down and being patient. Check out these two new books that teach this important life skill to even the youngest of readers.

Tractor Mac: Worth the Wait by Billy Steers is the latest in this wonderful farm-themes series for kids. Farmer Bill is examining the garden at Stony Meadow Farm and admiring this watermelons. He thinks aloud, that with any luck one of the watermelons will be good enough to enter in the annual Fruit and Vegetable Show. Tractor Mac and the pigs Pete and Paul are determined to help Farmer Bill by speeding along the process.

Though their intentions are good, they learn the hard way that the best way to grow a watermelon is to give it time. This is a wonderful story that kids will relate to easily. Not to mention there is an entire website dedicated to this fun series with great activities for young readers (http://www.tractormac.com/index.html).

What Are You Waiting For? by Scott Menchin is an adorable picture book about good friends badger and rabbit on the quest for something special. Badger encounters Rabbit early one morning and asks what he is waiting for. Rabbit remains intentionally vague and inquisitive Badger asks a ton of questions to try to figure out what he is waiting for.

The illustrations by Matt Phelan are fun and dynamic and compliment the text beautifully. Overall, What Are You Waiting For? is a terrific book about friends spending the day together and sharing some pretty special moments together as they wait.

Click here to purchase a copy of Tractor Mac: Worth the Wait and What Are You Waiting For?

*I received complimentary copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.

 

Interactive Picture Books for Young Readers

I discovered Fly! by Xavier Deneux in the recent arrival section of our local public library branch. It is a stunning board book with movable pieces that complements the story perfectly. Bird arrives at the foot of a tree after a long journey. Time passes and a friend arrives and joins her in the tree. Together they build a nest and raise two baby chicks. Fly! is a sweet story perfect for the youngest of readers. The smallest of hands will enjoy manipulative and maneuvering the pieces from one page to the next in order to help the story develop.

 

Press Here by Herve Tullet is another delightful read. Follow the directions presented on each page to embark an adventure of fun and imagination. Begin by pressing a single yellow dot and on the next page discover two yellow dots. Press the dot again and now there are three! Press Here is a great read. Even as an adult I enjoyed reading it and seeing the cause and effect relationships that spanned the pages. Let’s Play! is the third book of the series and captures the same whimsy as the first two books with even more movement and unexpected outcomes.

Click here to purchase copies of Fly!, Press Here and Let’s Play! (affiliate links).