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 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.

 

 

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.

 

A Sentimental Read

Little Blue Chair by Cary Fagan is reminiscent of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  A young boy named Boo has a special relationship with his little blue chair. When he outgrows the little blue chair, his mother places it on the lawn along with a sign that reads Please Take Me.

 Just like that begins the journey of the chair from one place to the next, serving a specific purpose until the user no longer needs it and places it out for someone else to take. The little blue chair becomes a stool for a potted plant to sit upon and a seat for children to take rides on an elephant.

Wherever the little blue chair goes it solves a problem, encourages imagination, and brings people together. One imaginative little boy ties a bunch of balloons to the chair so that it may carry him up into the sky, but before he sits down it flies away. Landing in the yard of a long lost friend who has the perfect use for it.

 Little Blue Chair is a beautiful story that pays homage to a simple household item that plays an important role in one’s life. When the person no longer has a use for the item, it is passed along to someone else who can repurpose it and treasure it in his own way.

Madeline Kloepper’s gorgeous illustrations include minute, hidden details and multiple scenes on a page which compliment the text perfectly. At times the movement from left to right across the page captures the passage of time in a subtle and thoughtful way.

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

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

 

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.

Building a Community Garden

Green Green: A Community Gardening Story by Marie Lamba and Baldev Lamba is a wonderful picture book for promoting environmental awareness for young readers ages 2-6. Written in simple, poetic form and accompanied by vibrant, dynamic illustrations, Green Green follows the transformation of the land and the way a group of community members work together to restore some elements of nature.

The story starts with a group of kids playing in an expansive field, filled with beautiful flowers and butterflies.

Gradually, the natural landscape evolves into a cityscape and the green and brown are replaced by browns and grays of digging and construction. The green in each scene is reduced to a small potted plant here and there or a solitary tree.

The members of the community see the potential for creating a community garden on a small plot of land. They work hard to remove litter and garbage to restore a small piece of nature among the hustle and bustle of the busy city.

Green Green is the perfect picture book for exposing young children to the concept of environmentalism and showing them some simple ways that they can feel empowered to make a difference. The illustrations by Sonia Sanchez are breathtakingly beautiful, subtle yet powerful. They bring the simple yet impactful text to life and give readers a lot to talk about.

Click here to purchase a copy of Green Green A Community Gardening Story (affiliate link).

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

The Special Relationship Between Mom and Child

Bloom is a lovely picture book about a mother and daughter who plant tulip bulbs together one day. They take turns digging holes and planting the bulbs one by one while laughing along the way. Deborah Diesen, author of the Pout-Pout Fish series, captures the tactile experience of planting, from handling the dirt to carefully examining the bulbs. Each character wonders silently how bulbs could possibly bloom into something big and tall.

 Time passes. Celebrations. A big trip. So much happens that the mother and daughter both almost forget that they’d planted the bulbs. Mary Lundquist’s illustrations are beautiful and capture not only the emotional setting but the passing of time perfectly.

But, day by day they grow. As does the relationship and love between mother and daughter. Bloom is a wonderful ode to the special connection between mom and child. The love blossoms as do the tulips at the end of the story, slow yet strong. Bloom celebrates spending time together and making memories that will last a lifetime.

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

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