Published by Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Summary: The Democratic nominees for President and Vice President are profiled in these two picture books. Each one traces the candidate’s life from childhood, emphasizing their hard work, integrity, and quest for justice. Biden’s is a straightforward account of his life, while Harris’s is narrated by a mother to her young daughter who has been told that girls can’t grow up to be President. Published before she was chosen as Biden’s running mate, Harris’s story ends with her dropping out of the primary. Joey includes photos, sources for quotations, a timeline, a bibliography, and a list of “Bidenisms”; Kamala Harris includes a timeline and list of sources. 48 pp. and 40 pp.; grades K-5.
Pros: These books may come in handy as November 3 approaches and students are looking for more information on the candidates (I did try, in the interest of being nonpartisan, to find Trump and Pence picture book biographies, but was unsuccessful). Readers will get ample biographical information, as well as some insights into both Joe Biden’s and Kamala Harris’s characters.
Cons: One might expect a book written by the candidate’s wife (Biden) to read like a piece of campaign literature, and one would be right. I wish the editors had worked a little harder to tone down the fawning rhetoric, letting Biden’s life speak for itself. Also, the device of having the mother tell her daughter the story of Harris’s life seemed unnecessary, particularly the last page, where the girl tells her mother she’s going to call the kid who said she can’t be President a doofus.
Summary: In January, 2002, an orca calf was discovered by herself near Seattle. Scientists could tell from her dialect that she was from a pod that lives near Vancouver Island. Using photos from that pod, they identified her as Springer, a two-year-old female. Springer was too malnourished to be transported that distance, so scientists began a program of rehabilitation, trying to interact with her as little as possible so she could be reintroduced to her pod. Six months later, she was healthy enough to travel, and made the trip to Dong Chong Bay in Canada, where she was welcomed by a group of First Nations people and two bald eagles. It took awhile, but Springer eventually reconnected with her pod and was adopted by a female cousin. Fourteen years later, in 2016, Springer was spotted again, this time with a calf of her own, whom scientists named Spirit. 48 pages; grades 2-5.
Pros: Kids will fall in love with Springer and root for her to get back to her family. They’ll also learn about the painstaking work scientists do to learn about orcas. This would make a nice companion to A Whale of the Wild, the new book by Rosanne Parry.
Cons: While I liked the illustrations, the predominantly blue, black, and white palette didn’t make for a very eye-catching cover.
We can never have enough books about nature and plants. The more we read about this topic, the more we love. If you’re looking for a storybook for your little nature lover, “Plant The Tiny Seed” could be a wonderful read for you. It is a cute, beautiful story by Christie Matheson about the journey of a plant, from seed to flower.
The book follows the seed through its entire life cycle, as it grows into a zinnia in a garden full of buzzing bees, curious hummingbirds, and colorful butterflies. Children engage with the book as they wiggle their fingers to water the seeds, clap to make the sunshine after rain, and shoo away a hungry snail. And for curious young nature lovers, a page of facts about seeds, flowers, and the insects and animals featured in the book is included at the end.
Apart from the central theme of nature-love, the story highlights two other important things:
Big or small, when it comes to nature, there is magic in everything.Our environment is a beautiful gift to us that needs nurture and care from us. Even a tiny seed can grow to become a gorgeous flower when nurtured properly.
To do something big, all we need to do is take the first step. To grow a garden, we need to start with the seed.
Stark illustrations, easy to read language, this one would make a wonderful read for kindergarten and preschoolers.
And as we have been doing it since the lockdown, we are recommending books mostly that also have read aloud or online versions available. This one is available as a wonderful read-aloud directly by the author Christie Matheson at Harper Kids here. Enjoy the story and sow that tiny seed in your garden today. Let your little one take care of that plant and nurture it with love :).
Because we are discussing seeds and blooms here and if your little one loves doodling, you may check our recent Dandelion doodlehere :).
Summary: Rock climbers call boulders problems. They also call problems problems. Rock-climbing champion Ashima Shiraishi shows readers how she figures out a boulder problem, using techniques that can be used by any kind of problem-solver. She maps out a plan before starting. She doesn’t get it right the first time, which means falls…lots of falls. But she learns from each fall, adjusting her plan. Finally, she makes it to the top: “I waved hello at the memory of how hard the problem was. And looked for one problem more.” Includes a letter from publisher Christopher Myers about Ashima Shiraishi and a timeline of Ashima’s accomplishments to date (she’s 15 years old). 40 pages; ages 4-8.
Pros: This would make an excellent introduction to problem-solving, giving kids the opportunity to brainstorm ways to solve their own problems using Ashima’s techniques. Readers will connect with Ashima, whose climbing career began at age 6. The illustrations are gorgeous and may inspire future climbers.
Cons: I would have loved more information on rock climbing with maybe a photo or two.
Eleven-year-old Casey Grimes is stubbornly friendly, but he’s eternally the new kid at Vintage Woods Middle School. Students look right through him—and they’re not faking. Casey doesn’t know why he’s mostly invisible, but when he scales a colossal oak, he discovers a fortress in its branches. The forgotten sentry tree marks the border between his safe, suburban life and a fierce frontier.
Casey and his little sister Gloria infiltrate Sylvan Woods, a secret forest society devoted to ancient, wild things. Sky-high footpaths. Survival sewing. Monster control. Shockingly, people here actually see Casey—but being seen isn’t enough. He wants to belong. Posing as a Sylvan girl’s cousins, he and Gloria enter Trickery School—an academy where classes have surprise endings, battles are as common as breakfast, and magic is so last century. For the first time in his life, Casey makes friends…but kids at Trickery have lost touch with the people they’re sworn to defend. If anyone finds out he’s an imposter, he’ll be blacklisted for life—or worse, thrown in the sewers with the tiger rats.
Keeping his identity hidden—while struggling to prove he fits—is hard enough, but butcher beasts have returned to Sylvan Woods after a hundred years. Trickery is under siege. As the monsters close in, and the fearsome Sylvan Watch hunts Casey down, he and his newfound friends must unearth abandoned magic, buried at the forest’s roots…or be devoured along with everyone else, Sylvans and civilians alike.
Packed with imagination and magical adventure, this is a book to cuddle up with under the blankets and get lost in an exciting world.
Casey is eleven-years-old, would love to have some friends, but has a very strange problem. He’s almost always invisible. At home, he’s completely visible. When his parents win a sudden trip, he takes off into the forest to climb a tree, and what an odd tree it is! But other strange things are popping up, too. The babysitter isn’t all that she seems, monsters are suddenly lurking in the forest shadows and a strange girl from another world speaks to him in his head. Soon, he finds himself in a magical world with dangerous monsters and an even more threatening war. There might be a way to save everyone, but only if he and his friends aren’t captured first.
This is such a fun, exciting read. While it starts out with a very strange surmise, Casey’s invisibility is only the beginning of the imagination in these pages. The author has understood what a thrilling adventure for kids should look like and created a very rich and enticing world. It starts out with something most kids love to do (or dream of)—climbing trees. But already here, things take off in wondrous directions as Casey discovers the most amazing platform with tons of secret closets…in the tree. The magic expands from there as another world opens up and the danger comes right along with it.
Many kids will understand how it is to feel invisible, sometimes, and what it’s like not to be understood or accepted. Casey not only has problems at school and with his parents, but even in the magical world, isn’t greeted with open arms. And yet, he stumbles on the magic of friendship and there’s even the warming relationship of sisterly/brotherly love. He learns to trust himself and step past his own comfort zone. In other words, Casey is a character who is easy to relate to.
Not only was the imagination and fantasy in this book a real treat, but the author never talks down to the reader. This tale allows Casey to head into a true adventure, where the stakes are high, the danger real, and his goal is almost impossible to reach. It’s the kind of read which will keep kids on the edge of their seat and dream of battling monsters and saving the world themselves.
And here he is…
AJ and his wife live in a woodsy house with their proteges and a ridiculous number of pets, including a turtle with a taste for human toes. This makes AJ an expert on wild, dangerous things—invisibility spells, butcher beasts, hungry kids, you get the idea. Visit him online at ajvanderhorst.com.
It’s the summer of 1974, and the Watergate scandal is all the news. But for Nell Sanders, 12, there are other worries. Five months ago, her mother had walked out, leaving Nell to care for her depressed father Ronnie, a short order cook, three brothers, and the house. Mom may be gone, but her father’s dream of taking his family to see Mt. Rushmore isn’t. It”s such an important monument to him that he named his three sons after the presidents carved there. Well, all except Abe Lincoln. That should have been Nell, instead she was named after Susan B. Anthony.
But when her father discovers that the money he worked so hard to save is gone for their trip, he’s sure their mother took it when she left. Depressed and angry, Ronnie takes to his bed. Left to fend for herself, the house and her brothers George, 15, Tom, 10 and Teddy, 6, Nell is determined to replace the missing money so that everything will once again be A-okay, as her dad would say.
And as if she hasn’t enough to do, Nell and Teddy rescue a dog that is being abused, even though their father has made it clear – no dogs allowed. Naturally, they name the dog Abe. As if George becoming surlier, Tom withdrawing more into the basement to build models, and Teddy becomes needier isn’t enough, Nell’s best friend has become boy-crazy, causing a rift between them. But not before Nell comes up with a brilliant way to make some replacement Mt. Rushmore money with Maya’s help.
To top all this off, Nell finds out that it was George who took the money in the first place and gave it to their mother for her new apartment in Boston. Then, when their dad finds this out, the rupture in the Sanders family just keeps widening, to the point where even Nell begins to lose hope.
The Sanders family is certainly dysfunctional, but not because mom left. She has always made it clear she did not want to be there, did not want kids, did not want to be married. But while she was often mean and insulting to her family, her presence is still missed.
Now, Nell is thrown into the role her mom should have fulfilled, because, as she says, “Mom had ducked out on cleaning and cooking and kid watching and I got stuck with it because I was the girl.” Yet, Nell is extraordinarily kind to Teddy, giving him the motherly care and attention she so desperately needs herself. The clearest example of that is when her body begins to change, and there is no mom there to help and support her.
Kalmar includes a number of important themes in Stealing Mt. Rushmore. It is interesting that she chose to tell Nell’s story against the backdrop of Watergate. Both involve disillusionment, Nell in her mother, the country in Nixon; relinquishment, mother and family relinquishing each other, Nixon relinquishing the presidency; and both of these things result in change for the family and the country.
But there are also themes of neglect, a father who sleeps his depression away, and racism directed at Nell’s friend Maya, whose family was from the Azores and whom Nell’s neighbor refers to as “that foreign girl,” but neither of these themes were explored with any depth. I also found that some of the language and some of the topics had a more modern sensibility – for example, a hippie telling Nell about how Mt Rushmore was stolen from the Native Americans living there. On the other hand, I loved all the period details, and there were plenty giving the setting a real feeling of authenticity, making this a good choice for anyone interested in historical fiction.
Another gorgeous publication from Gecko Press, The Stone Giant is a tale that reflects the determination, cunning and courage of a child to save the person she loves.
Presented as a gift book, its fantastic front and back cover, plus the extraordinary end pages, herald the beautifully told story.
With stunning illustrations, translated by Julia Marshall and based on a Swedish fairytale by Elsa Beskow, the tale is a winding road the protagonist takes to reach her destination, regardless of the obstacle she encounters along the way.
A knight goes out to fight a giant who has turned everyone and everything into stone.
He must leave behind, alone, his young daughter, with a promise to return.
Time passes, then more time. The child waits with her mirror as company and with which she bids herself goodnight.
Too much time has passed so the girl sets out to find her father. Nothing deters her; not darkness, not the black sea through which she swims, nor the forest through which she travels that leads her to a light, and an old woman living alone.
While the child eats and rests, they talk about her father, and the stone giant.
Leaving the next day with an umbrella given to her by the old woman, the child reaches the ruins created by the stone giant.
Can what she brought with her, and her guile, revive the barren landscape and give back her father?
Summary: When Mario asks his mom why we cry, he gets a poetic answer describing different scenarios that might make a person cry: sadness, frustration, anger, and loneliness to name a few. The most important reason for crying, she concludes, is because you feel like crying. Mario notices his mom is crying, and she tells him that people also cry sometimes when they are happy. Includes scientific information about tears, as well as two activities. 34 pages; ages 4-8.
Pros: The lyrical text and illustrations of a young girl experiencing different emotions will help kids name their feelings and be okay with crying, whether it’s their own or someone else’s.
Cons: I thought this was a science book and was looking forward to a little more scientific information than this delivered.
Today’s read belongs to a series, My Crazy Stories. And that’s exactly what these are. Crazy. Silly. Loony. Goofy…and yet, they hold a valuable lesson inside. But don’t think of these as preachy because they aren’t.
THE GOOD FOR NOTHING FROGS
My Crazy Stories
by Daniel Georges
ages 4 to 8
The wildly hilarious new book from MY CRAZY STORIES Series is here!
It was a very bad night to be a frog!
The frogs made the terrible mistake of disturbing King Grouchel’s precious sleep. Along with Krockel, his crocodile chef, the two are up for the unthinkable… A forest free of those pesky creatures!
A laugh-out-loud picture book with two wicked characters that deliver a comedy punch to crack up both kids and adults. What’s the take? Don’t mess with frogs!
What will children learn from this book?Raising the kids’ sensitivity towards nature and wild life has never been more important. Behind the example of frogs, this children’s book inspires awareness and respect for all creatures that contribute to the balance of our wonderful natural environment. No matter how small, they are all good for something!
BOOK 7 from the quirky series MY CRAZY STORIES – Children’s book Age 3-8
What makes My Crazy Stories series quite special is that it focuses on kids’ character building by encouraging young readers to develop a deeper awareness of themselves and cultivate emotional confidence as they grow up. Enjoy reading!
“For anyone who has read one of Daniel’s stories, this set of books is the gold at the end of the treasure hunt! … Strongly recommended” – Grady Harp / Amazon Top Reviewer for Children’s Books.
Seriousness is more of a side-dish in this deliciously funny tale about a very sleepy king, a chef, and some super noisy frogs.
King Grouchel loves to sleep, which considering nothing really goes on in his dark forest, isn’t a problem. He also has a crocodile to take care of cleaning, cooking and the such. But when a strange noise interrupts the king’s much prized slumber, things are about to change. Good ideas might not be so good after all, and the frogs are in for an adventure.
I love silly, ridiculous children books, and this one fits the bill. And then some. The tale flows with the finesse of a fairy tale, and yet, packs a few quirks which are sure to gain more than a smirk or two. Still, it’s the writing which really makes this book shine. The author dances between telling the story and speaking to the listener, adding little comments to grab and entice. It pulls the reader right into the middle of the situation. And what a situation it is.
It’s clear that this king has some issues and probably isn’t a great king. And the crocodile has his own desires. And yet, they aren’t so over the top characters that they become too strange. There’s a wonderful balance between ‘normal’ and ridiculous that keeps the reader in a true story, while catering to nonsense.
It’s a lovely mix, one that kids will adore, and something that I wish would be found in kidlit more often.
And here he is… Daniel Georges discovered his flair for storytelling and Illustration at a young age. He passionately creates picture books that resonate with his understanding of the complexity of growing up. His fun series My Crazy Stories goes beyond cultivating imagination to supporting young readers in developing a deeper emotional awareness and self-confidence to better deal with the intimidating world surrounding them while growing up.
Daniel’s books won the attention and endorsement of juvenile literature supporting organizations among which the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation. www.mycrazystories.com
If I eat jelly and I eat fish, can I eat jellyfish?
These and many more funny questions and answers, that’s what “Can I Eat That” is loaded with. Fussy eater or adventurous with food, this book by Joshua David Stein is sure to bring a smile on your face.
Interesting, informative, and playful, it is a wonderful book that discusses food with wordplay and encourages the little reader to try out new food.
In this book, food critic Joshua David Stein whets the appetite of young readers with a wondrous and informative approach to talking about food. This humorous, stylized and entirely unexpected set of food facts will engage both good eaters and resisters alike. Food and textile illustrator Julia Rothman brings an authenticity to the text that Stein has written from the heart, for his own three-year-old and for pre-schoolers everywhere.
It’s best suited for young readers below 5 years age group but for a one time read, it can be a fun read-aloud for little elder kids too. The pun around the words makes it an interesting treat for language skills.
The read-aloud version of it is available with “The Story Time Family” here.
Summary: Victoria (Tory) lives with her parents and younger brother, Jacob, in Providence, RI, where she chafes under the expectations of her parents and strict Aunt Lavinia. When her father loses his job and proposes going west with Jacob to seek gold, Tory sneaks on board their boat, revealing herself only when it’s too late to turn back. The three of them are dismayed by the primitive living conditions, filth, and lawlessness of San Francisco. Determined to improve their fortunes, Father leaves Jacob and Tory in a temporary tent home and heads out to the gold fields. Tory starts dressing as a boy and finding carpentry work to support her and her brother, while Jacob grows more and more despondent about their situation. One day, Tory gets delayed working; when she returns after midnight, Jacob is gone. She learns that he may have been kidnapped to be used as a cabin boy on a ship heading back east. Hundreds of abandoned ships, called Rotten Row, sit in San Francisco Bay. It’s up to Tory and her new friends Thad and Sam to figure out which ship Jacob is on and rescue him before it’s too late. Includes an author’s note and a map showing where ships from Rotten Row have been discovered in San Francisco. 320 pages; grades 4-7.
Pros: You can always count on Avi for exciting, well-researched historical fiction, and this book really brings the California gold rush to life with lots of adventures and a winning heroine/narrator. The end definitely leaves open the possibility of a sequel.
Cons: Fond as I am of Avi’s The True Adventures of Charlotte Doyle, I was expecting more plot twists and edge-of-your-seat suspense than I found here.
Summary: Little Crab and Very Big Crab live in a tiny tide pool, but today they’re off to visit the ocean. It’s a long journey, and when they get there, Little Crab is scared. As one big wave after another washes over them, Little Crab is ready to turn around and go home. But with encouragement from Very Big Crab, he manages to slowly make his way into the water. When they see an enormous wave coming, the two crabs dive down, where they find beautifully colored coral and fish who welcome them to the ocean. Of course, by the end of the day, Little Crab has fallen in love with the ocean and doesn’t want to leave. They take the long way home, with Very Big Crab assuring Little Crab that he is now brave enough to go wherever he wants. 48 pages; ages 3-6.
Pros: The interactions between Very Big Crab and Little Crab are spot on for anyone who has ever tried to encourage a reluctant child to attempt something new. The artwork, especially the undersea scenes, is beautiful.
Cons: How do those crabs not get washed out to sea?