A Unique and Imaginative Picture Book

Two damselflies discover a tiny green shoot one day and wonder du iz tak? What is that? The shoot begins to grow little by little and a pair of beetles arrive. Together they climb the stem and the budding leaves and decide they’d love to build a fort!

The different creatures work together to build the tree fort of their dreams. But, as in all great stories, they face their share of obstacles.

Du Iz Tak?* is written in a completely invented language, but the illustrations and repetition of words makes it easy to follow along. The body language of the characters along with the different punctuation and capital letters, helps convey the emotional setting. After rereading the story and pay close attention to the details, young readers may begin to solve the meaning of some of the different words.

Carson Ellis’ Du Iz Tak? is a must-have for every home library. It is beyond imaginative, it opens the door to a world filled with magic and wonder in the most simple of places, a backyard. His use of space in the illustrations is amazing, preserving the small scale of the different insect-like creatures, while allowing ample room for the plant to grow.

Du Iz Tak? won a Caldecott Honor and this book is perfect for readers age 3-8. This book would also be fantastic for students who are English Language Learners as well as struggling readers as it has multiple points of access and support. 

Click here to purchase a copy of Du Iz Tak? (affiliate link)

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

Humorous Valentine’s Day Reads

XO, OX A Love Story* is a hilarious story about an ox who is in love with a gazelle. It consists of a series of back and forth correspondence between the two characters, revealing Ox’s complete devotion and admiration of Gazelle and Gazelle’s gradual but undeniably growing fondness for Ox.

The story begins with Ox penning a letter to Gazelle declaring his love for her. Ox receives a standard response letter with his name hand written in. When he responds to that letter, he receives the exact same letter once again. Ox writes back pointing this out to Gazelle, which elicits a real response from Gazelle.

XO, OX is a hilarious picture book, which will have young readers laughing in no time!

 

Hug It Out!* by Louis Thomas is a must have for parents with two or more children. Woody and Annie are experts when it comes to fighting with one another. Mother grows tired of constantly reminding them to share or to be kind to one another, so she comes up with a new strategy, every time they argue, they will have to hug.

At first, Woody and Annie have a hard time remembering the punishment, but after hugging so many times they grow tired of hugging and want to avoid having to do it anymore.

The story along with the illustrations, which includes a sneaky cat, capture the tension that may arise in a typical sibling relationship on a daily basis.

XO, OX is a great book for kids ages 4-8. Click here to purchase a copy of XO, OX (affiliate link).

Hug it Out! is perfect for readers ages 3-7. Click here to purchase a copy of Hug it Out! (affiliate link).

*I received complimentary copies of XO, OX and Hug it Out! in exchange for my honest review.

 

The Perfect Picture Book for Adjusting to a New Sibling

Alphonse, That is Not Ok to Do by Daisy Hirst is the perfect picture book for an older sibling. Natalie remembers when she used to be an only child. Then, one day, Alphonse arrived. For the most part Natalie didn’t mind. They enjoyed a lot of the same activities, including naming the pigeons!

But siblings don’t always get along. From time to time they are bound to get on one another’s nerves. For example, sometimes Alphonse draws on Natalie’s things. Other times he eats them.

Natalie and Alphonse each have their own ways of overcoming their feelings of frustration and guilt respectively. They both take the time they need to think things through before acting.

Daisy Hirst captures beautifully the current of a sibling relationship in this picture book. The simple illustrations are prefect, including only details that are crucial to each scene. The use of empty white space makes the characters the central focus of each page.

Alphonse, That is Not Ok to Do! is great for readers ages 2-6. Readers on the younger side of this range will enjoy looking at the pictures and the silliness of the story.

Click here to purchase a copy of Alphonse, That is Not Ok to Do! (affiliate link).

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

Picture Books About Groundhog Day

Growing up in Southern California, Groundhog Day never had any real significance in our lives. What would the weather be like in February? The same as in January and November, mild and sunny, windy on a bad day. Groundhog Day could come and go, and quite frankly it made no difference to us.

Over a decade ago, I made the move the New York City, and all I can say is by the time Groundhog Day arrives I hope there is no shadow in sight for Staten Island Chuck. If I can’t watch the news live, I’ll keep refreshing my phone or computer hoping for word that spring is coming.

Groundhog Weather School by Joan Holub is such a funny kid’s book. It begins with a rabbit watching the news in its pajamas on Groundhog Day. He finds out that it is spring, so he gets dressed accordingly and pokes his head out of his rabbit hole to discover that it is snowing. Distraught, he writes a letter to the Weather Groundhog advising him to recruit additional groundhogs so that they can report accurate weather forecasts for multiple locations. Weather Groundhog agrees, so he takes out an ad in the local paper. (See below).

The advertisement alone is bound to have young readers giggling. The rest of the story follows the class of groundhogs, and one distinct “exchange student” as they attend weather school and prepare for their first official Groundhog Day.

Throughout the story Joan Holub includes details about Groundhog Day, from the science behind changing of the seasons and shadows, it to famous Groundhogs around the country. The illustrations by Kristin Sorra are comical and make even the information rich pages interesting and easy to follow. The use of diagrams breaks it down in a clear way that makes it accessible to readers.

Groundhog Weather School is great for kids ages 5-9.

Gretchen Groundhog, It’s Your Day! by Abby Levine is a very sweet story about a young, shy groundhog who is given the great responsibility of predicting the weather. For years and years, Great-Uncle Gus searched for his shadow, but now it’s time for him to retire and for Gretchen to take over. Gretchen is overwhelmed and decides that there is no way she will go out in front of the crowd.

It’s only when Hester, the town historian’s daughter, brings Gretchen a special box filled with letters from her groundhog predecessors also expressing their anxiety and nervousness leading up to their first Groundhog Day that she realizes that how she is feeling is normal and she works up the courage to face her fears.

Gretchen Groundhog, It’s Your Day is a wonderful book because it also teaches an importance about overcoming obstacles. It provides an opportunity for young learners to talk about feelings and healthy ways to express them. This book is terrific for readers ages 5-8.

Click here to purchase copies of Groundhog Weather School and Gretchen Groundhog, It’s Your Day! (affiliate links).

 

 

 

A Must-Have Non-Fiction Chapter Book

As an upper elementary school teacher, it’s hard to find interesting and well-written non-fiction texts for kids ages 8-12. Non-fiction books for younger readers are easy to find, with amazing authors like Seymour Simon and Gail Gibbons. For middle-school-aged students, there are plenty of narrative non-fiction chapter books that are engaging. But for the middle-level reader, there seems to be an absence of rich, substantive non-fiction books for them to grow their skills as readers of this genre.

That’s why I get SO very excited when I discover a non-fiction book that is not only interesting and well-written, but perfect for this age group. Kid Artists: True Tales of Childhood From Creative Legends is one of these books.

Kid Artists… by David Stabler focuses on the childhoods of the most well-known artists, their lives before they became famous. The reader does not even need to know who the artist is in order to appreciate their experiences growing up. This book humanizes the legends, from Dr. Seuss to Keith Haring.

Each chapter features a different artist and the book is organized into three different sections: Call of the Wild, It’s a Hard-Knock Life, and Practice Makes Perfect.

For example, Georgia O’Keefe’s chapter is in the section Call of the Wild because she grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and drew so much of her inspiration from nature and the world around her. In her childhood, Georgia O’Keefe challenged gender norms, from her favorite pastimes to her preferred clothing. Readers can easily relate to the competitive dynamic among siblings as well as receiving and responding to academic criticism. For Georgia O’Keefe, art became a way of expressing herself and communicating with others.

 

Kids will be delighted to read the chapter about Ted Geisel, more commonly known as Dr. Seuss. Ted Geisel grew up near a zoo and he spent a lot of time as a child studying and drawing animals, though his drawings did not resemble the real living ones. His animals were imaginary and wonderful. Word-play was also a big part of his upbringing, which contributed to his interest in language.

When the U.S. went to war with Germany, Ted Geisel became the target of teasing for being a German-American. He stood up to the bullying and became determined to demonstrate his patriotism. Kids will learn about the importance of advocating for social justice and how Ted Geisel’s own experiences with discrimination and intolerance influenced his work as a children’s book creator.

There are so many aspects of Kid Artists that make it a strong non-fiction book. It is ideal in that it is organized into sections and chapters. Kids can examine why the author made the decision to arrange the book this way and how each chapter connects to the greater section. Within each chapter, readers can be challenged to examine the cause and effect relationships, how events or experiences in each artist’s childhood impacted his/her later work. Not to mention, readers do not have to read this book from beginning to end, they can use the table of contents to decide what chapters are interesting to them and read just those sections.

Doogie Horner’s illustrations are peppered throughout each chapter. They support the text, helping the reader envision elements of the text, while adding elements of humor to keep the reader engaged.

*I received a complimentary copy of Kid Artists: True Tales of Childhood From Creative Legends in exchange for my honest review.

 

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

 

 

Friend or Foe?

If you are like me and sad that Jon Klassen’s hat trilogy has come to a close, then you must check out Friend or Foe? by John Sobol! A lonely, little mouse lives in a small house beside a great palace. In the great palace there lives a cat. Night after night, the mouse peers up at the cat sitting in the highest window and the cat peers down at the mouse.

The mouse is determined to find a friend and he cannot help but wonder, is the cat a friend or a foe? He musters up all of his courage and decides to find out once and for all. Mouse carefully sneaks into the well guarded castle and approaches the cat, asking bravely, “Are you friend or foe?”

John Sobol creates a great air of suspense and leaves the reader wondering “What just happened?” with a hilarious and definitely unexpected ending to the story. Dasha Tolstikova’s illustrations employee a muted palette of greys, white and black that complement the story in a wonderful way.

Friend or Foe? is a delightful read for kids ages 4-8. Readers will enjoy drawing their own conclusions and talking about the ending of this highly engaging picture book.

Click here to purchase a copy of Friend or Foe? (affiliate link).

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

 

The Perfect Book for Dog Lovers

Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess* written and illustrated by Janet Hill is a collection of life lessons Miss Moon learns from her experience taking care of 67 dogs in France. This is a cheeky book that tucks in that the lessons are key to raising well-mannered dogs (and humans). The text is simple and accompanied by vivid and highly-detailed paintings. Upon closer examination, the reader will see humorous details infused in each.

Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess is perfect for kids ages 3-8. Young readers will absolutely love studying the artwork throughout and considering how it conveys, or contradicts, the lessons. The lesson from the page above is to “make the most of any weather,” whereas the lesson from the page below is to “practice the art of conversation: list more than you speak.”

Click here to purchase a copy of Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess in exchange for my honest review.

 

The Perfect Chapter Book for Friday the 13th

Warren the 13th is a peculiar 12-year-old boy and heir to the Warren Hotel. Saying he is hardworking is an understatement as he is the hotel’s bellhop, waiter, groundskeeper, and chimney sweep, among his huge list of other responsibilities. His father, Warren the 12th, passed away years ago and since he was too young to be in charge his uncle Rupert came to run things. Sadly for Warren, his uncle is rather lazy and at times exhibits evidence of narcolepsy, which led the hotel to fall quickly into disrepair.

One day a mysterious and unexpected guest arrives. His face is wrapped in bandages and he communicates by using a deck of picture cards. Despite how overwhelmingly strange this guest is, Warren does his best to be a great bellhop, welcoming him even though he seems unappreciative and impatient. Warren gives him the not so original nickname of Paleface.

When Warren’s wicked step-aunt Annaconda learns of the new guest’s arrival, she becomes irritated and paranoid. She asks many many questions and then starts asking if he mentioned the All-Seeing Eye, a mysterious treasure that is rumored to be hidden inside the hotel. We quickly learn that Annaconda is cruel, reminiscent of many of Roald Dahl’s evil characters, including the Twit and Miss Trunchbull. And thus begins the search for the All-Seeing Eye, each character trying to find it faster than the other.

Warren the 13th* is a clever and quirky book that fuses adventure and humor. The reader must pay close attention to small clues and keep track of details throughout this fast-paced chapter book. The Edward Gorey-esque illustrations by Will Staehle are really captivating and add to the emotion of the text.

Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye is perfect for kids ages 8-14. This book would be a huge hit in my 4th grade class as a read aloud, and my 5th graders would have loved to read it independently. Click here to purchase a copy of the book (affiliate link). 

*I received a complimentary copy of Warren the 13th in exchange for my honest review.

 

Another Terrific Lane Smith Picture Book

  

There is so much that I absolutely love about Madam President by Lane Smith. First of all the main character is a young girl imagining that she is president. Secondly, it features many real responsibilities of the president but in real life contexts that are easily relatable for kids. or example, the executive orders include requesting additional waffles and daily briefs include negotiating treaties before class and lunch.

In addition to all these important responsibilities, the President must choose a capable cabinet. This illustration says everything that needs to be said.

Madam President is a fantastic picture book that infuses information with humor. Though this book doesn’t follow a story arc, it is a fun read for young and grown up readers alike. This book is perfect for readers ages 5-8.

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

 

Over-Scheduled Andrew

 In my class every year I’d come across students who are definitely over-scheduled. Soccer practice, gymnastics, religious classes, tutors, playdates, the list goes on and on. I have no idea how their parents keep up with the extracurricular activities of kids who aren’t even 10! So when I saw Over-Scheduled Andrew by Ashley Spires I knew that there was definitely an audience for this book and an important lesson to be learned.

Andrew is a very busy chickadee. His true passion is acting and dressing up so he joins the drama club. He joins the debate club to work on his public speaking. He then joins ballet and karate classes to improve his coordination. Andrew has so many interests and talents he joins more and more activities. His schedule becomes busier and his days become longer. Pretty soon, it becomes hard to stay up let alone keep up.

 Andrew is so exhausted it ends up impacting his drama club performance. He realizes that he has spread himself too thin and he decides to only commit himself to the activities he’s really interested in.

Over-Scheduled Andrew is a wonderful book for kids ages 4-8. The readers watches as Andrew learns to prioritize his interests. The story is fast paced but funny. The illustrations include comical details that are great to look at. This is yet another fantastic book by Ashley Spires.

Click here to purchase a copy of Over-Scheduled Andrew (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of Over-Scheduled Andrew in exchange for my honest review.