The Magic of Friendship

The Magic Rabbit* written and illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate is a wonderful story about the friendship between a magician named Ray and his rabbit Bunny. Partners in business and life, Ray and Bunny have a very special friendship. They enjoy doing everything together from preparing for magic shows to watching television and sharing a favorite snack (popcorn).

One busy Saturday afternoon, Ray and Bunny are performing their usual magic show when things go terribly wrong. In all the confusion, Bunny finds himself lost in a big, busy and unfamiliar city.

Just when all hope is almost lost, Bunny comes across some spilled popcorn and while enjoying this delectable snack, he notices something that might just lead him back to his best friend, Ray.

The Magic Rabbit is the perfect picture books for kids ages 3-8. The black and white drawings are punctuated with small pops of gold. The illustrations evoke strong emotions and capture the feel of a large, busy city perfectly. The story is told through a series of panels that resemble a comic and support the simple text perfectly.

Young readers will enjoy taking a closer look at the illustrations and talking about what they notice. The first few pages that are set in Ray and Bunny’s home is packed with details of their lives together. There are plenty of opportunities to consider how the characters are feeling and what the reader can learn about them as characters, for example Bunny is persistent and doesn’t give up on finding his friend Ray.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Magic Rabbit (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of The Magic Rabbit in exchange for my honest review.

The Challenge of Sounding it Out

I was immediately drawn to Phoebe Sounds It Out by Julie Zwillich when I read the synopsis. This is the perfect book for any child whose name isn’t easy to pronounce or to spell. My husband’s last name is 13-letters long and contains several silent Hs. It’s very rare for someone to pronounce it correctly. I cannot help but worry how our daughter will respond when posed with the challenge of spelling her last name when that time comes. I think Phoebe Sounds It Out will be the perfect addition to her library to encourage her to try her best.

When Phoebe’s teachers announce that the class will be practicing writing their names, Phoebe does her best to avoid the task. She sees her name which has been stitched onto her backpack by her mom, but that name starts with a P and she knows her name starts with the “Fff” sound. She figures that her mom made a mistake.

Phoebe’s teachers encourage her to try her best and to sound it out. The classroom environment is one that allows her to take risks and to try her best as she stretches out the letter sounds and slowly writes each letter. Her efforts are celebrated and her work goes up on display along with all her classmates’.

Phoebe Sounds It Out is a wonderful picture book for reluctant writers. It encourages kids to take risks and to take pride in their work. The illustrations by Denise Holmes perfectly capture the mood of the story, from Phoebe’s nervousness to the calm energy in the classroom. This book is relatable and accessible to readers of all ages.

The Caterpillar Corner and Owlkids Books have partnered in a very special giveaway of Phoebe Sounds It Out. For additional details please click here.

Click here to purchase a copy of Phoebe Sounds It Out (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of Phoebe Sounds It Out in exchange for my honest review.

When Small Gestures Become Great Gifts

Sidewalk Flowers was conceived by Jon Arno Lawson and beautifully illustrated by Sydney Smith. This picture book is a wordless wonder. A young girl dressed in a red is walking along the busy sidewalks with her distracted father.

The young girl is curious. While those around her are focused on where they are going, she notices the smallest of details. She suddenly she discovers two small yellow dandelions growing in between the cracks of the sidewalk and so she picks them. As they continue walking together she picks many different types of weeds and wildflowers, creating a beautiful bouquet in her hands. On their way through the park, the father and daughter pass a dead bird. She is compelled to leave some flowers to honor the small creature. Then slowly, she gives away the rest of the flowers. From a man sleeping on a bench to a neighborhood dog.

Sydney Smith’s pen and ink illustrations are composed primarily of white, black and grays. At first the girl’s jacket and the flowers are simple splashes of color, but each time she gives her flowers away, more color is added to the world around her. The story is told using a series of panels with varied perspectives.

Sidewalk Flowers is a stunning book that invites the reader on a journey along with a humble and empathetic protagonist. We are encouraged to slow down and notice our surroundings. We are inspired to be intentional in our actions and kind to others.

This picture book is perfect readers ages 3-10. Younger readers will enjoy looking at the beautiful illustrations and talking about what is happening in the story. Older readers can explore the more complex social issues that arise across the pages as well as the author and illustrator’s craft moves. What I love about wordless books like Sidewalk Flowers is that they are accessible to all learners.

 

 

The Moon and Me

The Moon and Me is based on a song by Rush Cumming and produced into a board book by his family as a special tribute to him. The story is about adventure and companionship between a fox and the moon. The Moon and Me explores transitions and loss in a subtle yet moving way. It shows the reader that wherever he or she may go, the moon will always be there shining down on him or her.

The tone of this book is quiet and somber at times, though it ends on an optimistic and playful note.

Though the underlying message of The Moon and Me is complex and explores important life issues, this story also makes a gentle story as part of a bedtime routine. It may also be a great book to accompany a child who is preparing to spend time away from home, at a sleep over or with family.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Moon and Me (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of The Moon and Me in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

A Perfectly Moving Book About Loss

 

  My Yellow Balloon by Tiffany Papageorge is a wonderful and touching picture book about loss, portrayed through the experience of a young boy losing his beloved yellow balloon. The story is set in the 1930s, a carnival comes to town and young Joey sees a balloon man selling balloons. The beautiful mass of balloons hover in the air, mesmerizing the young boy. Unable to select one, the balloon man picks a yellow balloon for the young boy and ties it to his wrist.

The yellow balloon becomes Joey’s companion, joining him on his various adventures. Then one day, the unexpected happens. The balloon slips off of Joey’s wrist. He has no choice but to watch helplessly as his friend and companion floats up and up, away from the young boy. He is devastated. All color drains from the illustrations to help convey the intensity of his sadness.

Across the following pages, he experiences a range of emotions from anger to sadness. But in his dreams, Joey and his balloon are reunited.

Time passes slowly and Joey goes from missing his balloon all of the time to a lot of the time and some of the time. The ending of the story is precious and powerful. Though Joey is never reunited with his yellow balloon, he learns an invaluable lesson about transition and loss.

My Yellow Balloon is an incredible picture book that tackles such an important social issue in a way that is accessible for kids. There are not many books that deal with loss in a way that is easy for all young readers to relate to.

The Caterpillar Corner had the opportunity to speak with Tiffany Papageorge about her book My Yellow Balloon, a conversation which left us in complete awe of a book we already fell in love with. Each detail of the illustrations is carefully crafted, and plays as important of a role in the story as the text itself. For example, the change in the color palette of the illustrations reflect Joey’s innocence at the beginning of the story and later validate the importance of his experience toward the end. Another example includes all of the toys in his dream are found in different scenes of the book, with the exception of the pink unicorn.

In speaking with Tiffany Papageorge, we talk a lot about the power of loss to transform us as individuals. This lesson comes across in such a sophisticated way through the pages of My Yellow Balloon.

Click here to purchase a copy of My Yellow Balloon (affiliate link).

For more information about Tiffany Papageorge, including her in-school programs, please visit her website.

Safe & Sound

Safe & Sound is an amazing picture book about many different baby animals who are protected by their parents. Some are big, like elephants and rhino calves, while others are small, like chipmunks and chicks.

Jean Roussen’s text is simple and rhymes to engage the reader across the pages of the book. Loris Lora’s beautiful illustrations are vibrant and sweet, depicting the connection between the parent animals and their babies.

Safe & Sound is a wonderful picture book for kids ages 2-5. The illustrations closely support the text and will help young readers follow along. The content is scientifically factual and will engage young animal enthusiasts.

Safe & Sound is available for purchase in May 2017. Click here to pre-order a copy of Safe & Sound (affiliate link).

I received a complimentary copy of Safe & Sound in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

The Perfect Book About Winter for Young Readers

Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant is the perfect book for young readers, excited about winter and snow. The five little penguins spy snowflakes drifting down from the sky. They announce excitedly, “Winter is coming!” Then quickly scurry around their igloo preparing to venture outside.

Mittens? Check. Scarves? Check. Socks and boots? Check and check.

This book captures the energy and enthusiasm young ones have for playing in the snow. The text is short and simple, making it accessible for the youngest of readers. Christian Robinson’s stunning pictures include cut paper and acrylic paint. They convey the emotions across the pages perfectly, from excitement to exhaustion.

For example, many grown ups can related to the illustration below that captures exactly what happens when kids return home after playing in the snow.

Little Penguins is the perfect picture book for readers ages 2-6. Younger readers will enjoy pointing at and naming the different items on the pages. Older readers will enjoy reading along and talking about what they notice in the different illustrations. This book is great for comparing and contrasting the seasons and would be a perfect addition to any home library.

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

*I received a complimentary copy of Little Penguins in exchange for my honest review.

A Beautiful, Multicultural Coloring Book

Careers for Little Sisters is a very special coloring book that features realistic and inspirational career possibilities for young girls. It encourages young children to imagine their ideal jobs, from video game designers to doctors. Each page includes a short description that introduces the different job in an enthusiastic and accessible way. The pages reflect minority women in important, powerful roles, bringing multiculturalism to coloring books.

The Caterpillar Corner had a chance to chat with Melissa Del Toro Schaffner, creator of Careers for Little Sisters. Check out her answers to some of our questions below:

How did you come up with the idea for Careers for Little Sisters?

“Careers for Little Sisters” was born from a conversation I had with my mother back in 2015. Mom and I were marveling about the fact that many young girls spend their time coloring books about princesses, and pretending to be something that they most likely could not be as an adult. We were also amazed by the scarcity of realistic materials advertised for little girls (especially minority children) to color and dream about their futures. When we color, our imaginations take over and we dream about possibilities.

How did your own experiences growing up influence your decision to create Careers for Little Sisters?

Growing up a little Puerto Rican child in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA, I had no idea what possibilities were out there for me when I “grew up”. The only role models I truly looked up to in my life were my mom and dad. When faced with the decision to choose a college and a major at seventeen years old, I felt I only had two options – be a teacher like mom or an engineer like dad. I choose electrical engineering.

Why was it so important to you to create Careers for Little Sisters?
I created this series to explain a wide variety of careers children can consider when they grow up, and what kinds of people might like that particular kind of work. I also wanted to feature beautiful minority women in various occupations not normally held by women, let alone women of color. I believe it’s important for our future as humanity to encourage children to become exactly who they came here to be, and give them permission to dream BIG goals for themselves.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t see anyone else like you doing something you want to do. I’m so grateful for having parents and friends who supported my vision to enter a field (engineering) that still, in 1991, was predominantly white and male. I enjoyed a long career in a field I never could have dreamed I was capable of doing because I was not naturally good at math.
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Careers for Little Sisters in Spanish is also now available in Spanish.

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

 

A Hilarious St. Patrick’s Day Read

How to Catch a Leprechaun by Adam Wallace is a hysterical St. Patrick’s Day read. St. Patrick’s Day is near and the Leprechaun is ready to cause maximum trouble, from dumping glitter in your hair to turning your toilet green!

The Leprechaun visits many different homes causing lots of mischief, and escaping booby traps them left and right. He’s quick. He’s crafty. He’s merciless.

How to Catch a Leprechaun is a fun read for kids of all ages. The illustrations by Andy Elkerton highlight the mess the Leprechaun leaves behind as well as the intricacies of the plans to finally trap him.

How to Catch a Leprechaun is great for readers ages 3-7. Click here to purchase a copy of this book (affiliate link).

 

 

The Perfect St. Patrick’s Day Story

The holiday section of our local library may be my favorite. It is organized chronologically and features so many fantastic books for the different holidays throughout the year.

A Fine St. Patrick’s Day by Susan Wojciechowski is a fantastic story about community and being kind to others. It’s nearly St. Patrick’s Day and two rival towns, Tralah and Tralee, are preparing for their annual decorating contest. Tralah wins each year. This year, Tralee comes up with the perfect idea.

Both towns are hard at work, when a little man arrives seeking help. His cows are stuck in the mud. The residents of Tralah are too busy cutting out and glittering shamrocks to help. He crosses into Tralee and though they are reluctant at first, the townspeople come together and do the right thing.

A Fine St. Patrick’s Day is a simple story with an important message. The illustrations by Tom Curry have a folk art element, the characters have exaggerated features and the colors are earthy and natural. This is the perfect St. Patrick’s Day read.

Click here to purchase a copy of A Fine St. Patrick’s Day (affiliate link).