Shaw, Hannah. Adventures in Fosterland. Aladdin, 2022. $17.99 ea. $44.95 set of 3. Grades 1-3.
Super Spinach. 978-665-90125-3. Emmett and Jez. 978-1-665-90119-2. Baby Badger. 978-1-665-92555-6. (Expected in February 2023)
Adventures in Fosterland is a new series written by Hannah Shaw, who is involved with kitten rescue. Each volume is inspired by an actual animal rescue story. Emmett and Jez tells the story of a tiny piglet named Emmett who falls off a truck and is wandering on the side of the road when he is rescued and taken to “Fosterland.” Fosterland the home of a nice lady who fosters animals until they are adopted. There, Emmett soon becomes fast friends with Jez, a kitten who is healing after surgery to remove an injured leg. As time passes, Emmett realizes that he and Jez are different in many ways from one another, and this means they might go in separate directions once they leave Fosterland. Will they find their forever homes? In Super Spinach, readers are introduced to Spinach, a kitten at an animal shelter. Spinach needs to have surgery on her ribs and is quite scared. An older cat tells her she will have to have superpowers to recover from the surgery. So when Spinach wakes up wearing a hard chest plate that will protect her while she recovers, she decides she must be a superhero with armor! Sent to Fosterland to recover, Spinach teams up with Chickpea, another kitten in Fosterland, and they soon are gaining confidence and taking on challenges they never would have dreamed of previously. When it’s time for Spinach’s chest plate to come off, she is worried that it means the end of her superpowers. But she soon discovers that you don’t need armor or a costume to be brave.
THOUGHTS: Hand this series to fans of animal stories, particularly cat lovers (each book in the series thus far features a kitten as one of the protagonists). Readers will enjoy these stories of friendship and will also learn important lessons about kindness and bravery. Each title contains a closing chapter where Shaw shares the real stories of the animals who inspired the series and the back cover features photos of the real Emmett, Jez, Spinach, and Chickpea. Recommended.
Ruzzier, Sergio. Up and Down and Other Stories. Chronicle, 2022. 978-1-452-18339-8. 46 p. $14.99. Grades K-2.
Fox and Chick have returned in this volume featuring three short stories. While Fox and Chick may not seem like obvious friends, they compliment each other–Chick with his enthusiasm and impulsiveness and Fox with his patience and logic. In “Up and Down,” Chick excitedly climbs a tree, only to become too frightened to climb down–will he be there forever or will the always steady Fox be able to figure out a way for him to get down? In “Seventeen Snowflakes” Chick can’t wait for it to snow so he can use his sled. He understandably is disappointed when Fox informs him that it will take more than just a few snowflakes to fall so there is enough snow to sled. In “The New Bookcase,” Fox presents Chick with a present – a book! When Chick laments that he has nowhere to store the book, Fox suggests he build a bookcase. Of course, Chick decides to build one that minute. Each story is told in graphic novel style panels, although the number of panels varies per page–some pages have one panel, others contain as many as four panels.
THOUGHTS: This collection will no doubt hold appeal for early readers who are sure to enjoy the humorous situations Chick seems to get into. Fox and Chick show readers you can be friends with people who are different from you. These stories easily could be included in lessons on friendship and accepting others.
Virjan, Emma J. Captain Cat Goes to Mars. Simon Spotlight, 2022. 978-5-344-9574-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-1.
Captain Cat (last seen in Captain Cat and the Pirate Lunch) is back for a new adventure. This time he is working with Pilot Matt (a dog) to build a spaceship with the goal of traveling to Mars. When their ship is built, they put on their spacesuits and blast off, heading straight for the Red Planet. After landing, they encounter Zoof, Zeff, and Zatt, three green aliens who reside on the planet. Together, they explore the planet, make angels in the dust of Mars, and explore craters and more. When a storm moves in, the spaceship is damaged when it is blown over. Will Cat and Matt become permanently stranded? Perhaps with some help from their new friends, they will be able to find a way home.
THOUGHTS: Part of the Ready to Read series, this volume is designed for beginning readers. The text features simple words in rhyming couplets written in large font. The title is sure to hold appeal for early readers, especially those who enjoy humor, animals, and/or aliens. Recommended for libraries serving primary age students.
John, Jory. This Book Will Get You to Sleep. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2022. 978-0-374-31130-8. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades PreK-2.
A charismatic, orange kangaroo narrates this story with one goal in mind: to get the reader to sleep. He tries many different tactics, most of which are outrageous and hilarious. For instance, he suggests that rumbling monster trucks, blaring car alarms, or screaming electric guitars might make the reader tired. He tries chants, magic tricks, and other strategies until he finally resorts to suggesting that the reader count sheep. There is a problem; however, these sheep are being chased by dragons! When all of the excitement fails to put the reader to sleep, the narrator suggests reading something less fun instead. Bold illustrations and colorful text add to the rowdiness of the story. A humorous tale with a refreshing take on bedtime drama, this book is sure to elicit plenty of laughs from young children.
THOUGHTS: I love how interactive this book is, inviting readers to answer questions posed by the kangaroo (“You tired yet???” “You asleep yet???” “You dreaming yet???”). The audience is also encouraged to participate in various chants throughout the story. Pair this with other stories about falling asleep, such as Drew Daywalt’sSleepy, the Goodnight Buddy (2018) or Dev Petty’s I Don’t Want to Go to Sleep (2018). This book quickly will become a bedtime favorite!
Smith, Lane. A Gift for Nana. Random House Studio, 2022. 978-0-593-43033-0. Unpaged. $18.99. PreK-2.
Rabbit is on a quest to find the perfect gift for his Nana. He travels through the forest, across a lake, onto rocky shores, and up a mountain. Along the way, he meets other creatures who make suggestions for a perfect gift, all of which Rabbit turns down with reasons why Nana wouldn’t like them. The journey is long and arduous, but Rabbit eventually discovers the perfect gift and returns to his Nana’s house with it. An endearing story that showcases the unconditional love between grandchildren and their grandparents, this book would be perfect for a read-aloud or a heartwarming bedtime story.
THOUGHTS: I adored this sweet story! The mixed media illustrations by award-winning illustrator Lane Smith manage to evoke a variety of feelings and emotions throughout the story. More muted tones at the beginning of Rabbit’s long journey give way to brighter, more comforting tones by the time he returns home to Nana. An element of humor is also embedded in the story, as Rabbit eats some of his gift before he even makes it back to Nana. Any library that serves young children would not be disappointed with this title.
Windness, Kaz. Swim, Jim! Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022. 978-1-534-48343-9. $18.99. Grades K-3
Jim is a crocodile who cannot swim! Well, as he states, it is that he is scared… not scared of swimming, but scared of sinking. After his sisters make fun of him, Jim decides to leave to find a small swamp, one that isn’t too dark and deep like his own, to learn how to swim. Jim leaves and is able to find the perfect little swamp full of floaties to help him learn how to swim!
THOUGHTS: An adorable book about overcoming fear to learn something important… swimming! This book is full of encouragement that young readers will enjoy as Jim learns to swim.
Wutaryoo is a creature that is unlike any other. Being small with a fluffy tail, long ears, and tiny horns, Wutaryoo has always been asked what she is. Wutaryoo does not know what she is, though, or where she came from. She loves listening and learning about all of her friends’ stories, but she wishes she has her own story of where she came from and who her ancestors are. Wutaryoo decides to set off on her own adventure to find out who she is and what her story tells the world.
THOUGHTS: A thoughtful story that highlights the importance of figuring out who you are and what your story is, even if it is different from all of the rest.
Alexander, Rilla. The New Rooster. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022. 978-1-534-49345-2. $18.99. 48 p. Grades PK-2.
When Rooster parachutes into town, he is eager to start his new job in his new country. Rooster quickly runs into trouble when no one understands his Pig Latin wake up call. Confident that he is good at his job, he tries again, crowing louder and louder at his new apartment building until the neighboring animals are annoyed. Shouting back in a variety of languages, the neighbors make it clear that they do not understand Rooster. In a last ditch attempt to begin the day, Rooster stuffs posters into apartment doors. His neighbors do not understand what the posters say. By this time it is well into the afternoon, and the sun still has not risen in the sky. Dejected, Rooster makes plans to return to his home country. First, though, he will need a good breakfast. Cooking makes Rooster happy. As he whips up a huge spread of different foods, the smells of the delicious meal waft down the hall waking Rooster’s new neighbors. One by one they join in a feast. Rooster happily shares his breakfast with his new community. Though each new friend speaks a different language, all understand that food brings people together.
THOUGHTS: Children are often surprised to learn that animal sounds are pronounced differently in different languages. Bright and bold illustrations highlight the amusing tone of this cute picture book. A wonderful invitation to discuss immigration, community, languages, and sharing.
Forsythe, Matthew. Mina. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022. Unpaged. 978-1-481-48041-3. $17.99. Grades K-2.
Mina is a young mouse who loves solitary pursuits like reading and drawing. She and her father live in a comfortable mouse hole in a “piece of wood.” He likes to surprise her by bringing home guests, which causes Mina some anxiety. After all, the last visitors were stick insects who stole all her books. This time her dad brings home an unusual looking squirrel, and his daughter has her own idea about the identity of the animal. He tells her not to worry, but does become concerned when the creature stops eating. His solution is to bring home two more “squirrels” to keep it company. When this does not help, they call the doctor who quickly figures out that the problem is that “…these squirrels are definitely cats.” This diagnosis leads to panic and a chase. Will the assistance from a surprising source be enough to allow the trio to survive? The author also has created the whimsical drawings done in watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil. Mina is simply adorable, and the illustrations are a joy to see.
THOUGHTS: Children will enjoy this story, which is a perfect read aloud. There surely will be a lot of laughs and a chorus of “Oh, no’s” as young readers listen to this tale of a smart little mouse and her hapless father. Elementary librarians will not want to miss this one.
Volpe, Giorgio. The Friendship Surprise. Red Comet Press, 2022. 978-1-636-55028-2. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.
As spring draws near, Little Red the fox can’t wait for his friend Hazel the dormouse to wake up from hibernation. He’s missed her over the long winter, but Little Red also has a secret. While Hazel has been hibernating, he’s become close friends with a badger named Brock. Little Red isn’t sure how to tell Hazel about his new friendship with Brock, so he keeps it secret. Hazel eventually notices that Little Red is acting differently, and she secretly follows him into the woods one day. She confronts Little Red about his friendship with Brock and reassures him that she’s not mad that he has a new friend; rather, she believes that all three of them can have fun together. Beautiful, nature-centered illustrations ground this story that explores the complexity of friendships in a child-friendly way.
THOUGHTS: This title will be valuable for discussing the ideas that having more than one friend is okay and that friendships come in all shapes and sizes. It will also be useful for reinforcing the idea that just because someone makes a new friend, that doesn’t mean old friendships must end. Share this one with guidance counselors to assist with SEL lessons.
Picture Book Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD