Picture Books – Chengdu Can Do; Pick a Pine Tree

Saltzberg, Barney.  Chengdu Can Do.  Disney-Hyperion, 2017. Unpaged. 9781484758472.  $16.99. Gr. PreK-1.

This is the latest book in the series about an adorable young panda named Chengdu.  In this volume, Saltzberg tells the story of what Chengdu can do on his own when he realizes he is hungry.  He finds a tasty bamboo plant, and the reader sees how Chengdu can jump, climb and swing on the shoots.  One thing he cannot do is reach the leaves until he gets help from two other pandas.  Although we are not told, we assume it is his parents who pull the tall bamboo plant down so Chengdu can munch on the leaves.  This book will appeal to young readers, who will see themselves in Chengdu as they realize what they can do on their own and when they may need help. The illustrations are done in pencil and watercolor with digital enhancement and are full bleed with a soft color palette.  Saltzberg uses foldout pages to show the length of the bamboo plant that the panda has climbed.  The panda swings back and forth on the bamboo shoot only to be catapulted off onto the ground.  The illustrator creatively shows this action sequence through the use of a foldout page followed by one-quarter and one-half size pages, which makes this part of the story appear to be almost animated.  Thoughts: Young children will enjoy reading the adventures of this young panda bear.  This book would be a good read aloud for preschoolers and primary grade students.

Picture Book         Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District

 

Toht, Patricia. Pick a Pine Tree. Candlewick Press, 2017. 978-0-7636-957102. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

Looking for a fresh book to add to your holiday collection? Choose this jolly new offering from Patricia Toht. Pick a Pine Tree follows a family through their day as they find a tree at the Christmas tree lot, take it home and set it up, and host a decorating day with friends and family to trim the tree. Toht’s simple rhyming text evokes true holiday joy at all the simple traditions that families value during this season, such as setting up a Christmas tree. “Find the trimmings stored within bulging boxes, rusty tins, paper bags, a wood case. Bring them to that special place, there, beside your tree.” Illustrations by Jarvis are done with pencil, chalk, and paint. The colorful, cozy-looking pictures pair perfectly with Toht’s secular story. This is my favorite new holiday book that I purchase this year! THOUGHTS: Perfect for storytime or one-on-one sharing, read this little gem to children eager to begin the holiday season and trim their own trees.

Picture book         Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin School District

Picture Books – Lost Gift; Hensel & Gretel; Wonderfall

lostgift

George, Kallie. The Lost Gift. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016. 978-0-553-52481-p. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr PreK-2.

It’s Christmas Eve and four forest friends are happy to catch a glimpse of Santa and his sleigh. A gust of wind drops a package nearby and Deer, Bird, Rabbit, and Squirrel realize that it’s meant for the New Baby at a nearby farm. The friends decide to deliver the package for Santa and spend a long, cold, hungry night delivering the gift. While they have second thoughts (especially grumpy Squirrel), they realize that it was worth the effort when they see New Baby’s delight at her new rattle. The animals trudge home and find a gift from Santa waiting in the snow—a delicious treat to fill their empty bellies. When Squirrel wonders “But how did he know?” Rabbit replies “Santa always knows.” Stephanie Graegin’s simple and colorful illustrations create a real feeling of the season. THOUGHTS: This sweet, simple holiday story will be enjoyed by little kids and big kids alike.

Picture Book     Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

 

ninjachicks

Schwartz, Corey Rosen, and Rebecca J. Gomez. Hensel and Gretel: Ninja Chicks. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2016. 978-0399176265. 40pp. $17.99.  Gr. K – 3.

A companion book to The Three Ninja Pigs and Ninja Red Riding Hood, this book is just as action packed and fun! Their mother is missing, so these smart sisters decide to get some proactive ninja training at the 3 Pigs Dojo, where the motto is “Get Empowered, Not Devoured.” When their father goes missing, they follow, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs behind. Bad idea, but they persevere. When suddenly a tempting cornbread house is found, will Hensel and Gretel be able to escape temptation? Fortunately one of these fowls keeps their head and is able to sneak in, distracting the fox to rescue Ma. The other, after a momentary lapse of judgement picks the lock and joins the fray!  THOUGHTS: The fast pace and perfect rhymes in this book match the success of the other two books by these fabulous collaborators. Girls and boys alike will get a kick out of these powerful poultry.

Picture Book      Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

wonderfall

Hall, Michael. Wonderfall. New York: Greenwillow, 2016. 978-0-06-238298-6. Uppaged. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

“In this book you will discover 1 colorful tree, 2 scurrying squirrels, and 15 blended words created to celebrate the wonder of fall!” This is the description in the inside jacket, and it sets the stage for the contents that follows. With short, simple, and touching poems that are accessible to younger readers, Hall has created a very attractive autumn book. The colorful collage illustrations will call Ehlert and Carle to mind, and closer exploration shows several continuing mini-stories with the squirrels. The titles of each poem replace the suffix -ful/full with the seasonal -fall, and it makes the words more meaningful… I mean, meaningfall! Enjoy this seasonal sensation – you’ll be thankfall that you did.  THOUGHTS: This would be a fun lesson on playing with words, studying suffixes, or creating short poems. The end of the book also connects back to animals who appear in the book and describes how they survive the coming winter. Plus, there’s a page about those pesky squirrels and their protective oak tree.

Picture Book      Dustin Brackbill, State College Area

Picture Books – Before I Leave; The Squiggly Story; The Christmas Boot

beforeileave

Bagley, Jessixa. Before I Leave. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. 978-1-62672-040-4. $17.99 PreK-2nd Grade.

By the author of Boats for Papa comes another gentle book to help children. Little hedgehog’s family is moving away, but she doesn’t want to leave her best friend. Refusing to go doesn’t work, so her friend tries to help her pack. Instead of concentration on their task, these two friends end up doing all their favorite things. When little hedgehog moves into her new house and goes to unpack she discovers pictures and letters from her anteater best friend. THOUGHTS: A heart-warming way to express to children that change does not mean the end of friendships.

Picture Book       Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

squiggly

Larsen, Andrew. A Squiggly Story. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2016. 978-1-77138-016-4. Unpaged. $16.95. Gr. PreK-2.

A young boy wants to write a story, but he doesn’t know many words.  After receiving some encouragement from his sister, he begins by writing down letters and shapes that he does know, and before long, he has crafted a creative tale in which he and his sister are playing soccer on the beach.  When he shares his story with his class for show-and-tell, they suggest several creative endings for the story, but the protagonist has his own ending in mind.  Graphic novel-like illustrations, complete with speech bubbles and boxes on some pages, add to the book’s accessibility and appeal.  THOUGHTS: This playful tale is a great resource for young students learning about the parts of a story (beginning, middle, and end) and anyone looking for strategies for overcoming writer’s block.  It can also encourage brainstorming and creative thinking, as students can be prompted to come up with endings of their own for the boy’s story.  The varied skin colors of the children in the protagonist’s class give this book a multicultural dimension.

Picture Book     Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

 

christmasboot

Wheeler, Lisa. The Christmas Boot. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016. 978-0-8037-4134-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

Hannah, an old woman who lives in a cabin in the woods, is gathering firewood when she spots a single boot laying in the snow. When she puts it on to warm her cold foot, it magically becomes a perfect fit for her, and she takes it home where she wishes for its mate. The next morning, she finds a pair of boots next to her bed, and later on she wishes for a pair of warm mittens and a fancy house and feast. She loves the boots and mittens but feels that the house doesn’t quite “fit” the way she’d hoped. Santa comes calling, looking for his missing boot, and Hannah offers it up at once, saying that it doesn’t belong to her anyway. Immediately the other boot, mittens, and house are no more. Santa offers Hannah whatever she truly desires. She replies that she really wants someone to talk to but warm boots and mittens would be fine. Suddenly, Hannah is rewarded with fine new boots and mittens…and a small puppy hiding in one of the boots, ready to be Hannah’s new friend. THOUGHTS: A beautiful story of gratitude and kindness that works well for the holidays and is highlighted by Jerry Pinkney’s gorgeous illustrations.

Picture book Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

Picture Books – I Used to be Afraid; Christmas Wish; Click, Clack Surprise!; Goodbye Summer…

afraid

Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. I Used To Be Afraid. New York: Roaring Brook, 2016. 978-1-59643-631-2. $17.99. Gr. PreK-1st.

Laura Vaccaro Seeger touches on a topic that is common throughout childhood: finding ways to overcome fear. This can be a big deal to kids. The main character goes from scary animals (like spiders) to larger, more abstract fears like being alone or moving. Using bold images and creative cut-outs, Seeger gives examples of how not to be afraid. A humorous ending about brothers will make readers smile. Perfect for the youngest audience, for whom hearing unexplained noises in the dark is a daily occurrence.  Thoughts: This book is perfect for PreKindergarten and Kindergarten! I use it as a fun read aloud, and recommend it to parents who are struggling with fearful children.

Picture Book       Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

christmaswish

Yoon, Salina. Penguin’s Christmas Wish. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016. 978-1-68119-155-3. Unpaged. $14.95. Gr. PreK-2.

Penguin and his family are ready to celebrate Christmas, but when Pumpkin longs for a Christmas tree, Penguin decides to lead his family into the forest to find an old friend. They find Pinecone, now a beautiful evergreen tree (read Penguin and Pinecone, 2012), and decorate him with ornaments and presents under the tree. That night they all dream of something different while a blizzard rages in the forest and takes away all the decorations and ornaments. While they are disappointed, Grandpa reminds them that celebrating Christmas is “…about being with the ones you love.” They make the best of the day and all their wishes come true when Penguin makes them perfect gifts from sticks and twigs. Penguin’s wish doesn’t come true until the end of the story when the sun melts the snow and the family discovers that the blizzard spread the ornaments and gifts throughout the forest so they can celebrate with new forest friends. THOUGHTS: Salina Yoon’s sweet Penguin is sure to delight fans of the series or new readers in this simple holiday tale.

Picture book      Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

 

clickclack

Cronin, Doreen and Betsy Lewin. Click, Clack, Surprise! New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016. 978-1-4814-7031-5. 32pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

In the latest addition to the Click, Clack, Moo series, it’s Little Duck’s first birthday, and the whole farm is preparing for the celebration. Little Duck has never gotten ready for a party, though, and she doesn’t know quite what to do. So, she tries copying everyone else! She takes a long, hot bubble bath like Duck, shears her feathers like the sheep, licks herself like the cat, takes a dust bath like the chickens, and takes a mud bath like the pigs. By the time she ends up at her party, she’s wet, has spiky feathers, and is covered in dust and mud; it’s truly a birthday surprise for everyone! Betsy Lewin’s loose pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations perfectly capture the lighthearted spirit of the day, and young readers will enjoy seeing their favorite farm animals- and Farmer Brown too – getting ready for the party. This is a fun addition for elementary collections. THOUGHTS: This book will be a hit where other titles in the series are popular. It will also be useful as a read-aloud to complement a unit about farms and farm animals.

Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

 

goodbyesummer

Pak, Kenard. Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016. 978-1-62779-415-2. 32pp. $15.34. Gr K-3.

This gentle nature story perfectly captures the transition from summer to autumn. One late summer morning, a girl leaves her house and begins walking through the forest to town. On her way, she greets the trees, animals, insects, flowers, and wind she encounters. Each time, her greeting is returned, and information about the changing season is shared. For example, when she calls, “Hello, beavers. Hello, chipmunks,” they reply, “Hello! We have no time to play because we’re making cozy nests and dens. It will be cold soon, and we want to get ready.” As she walks, the little girl is accompanied by a giant Great Dane, a blue jay, and a butterfly, and readers will enjoy spotting them on each double-page spread. On each spread, the vibrant watercolor and pencil illustrations perfectly capture the transition between seasons. As the story progresses, the colors slowly transition from mostly greens to browns, reds, and burnt oranges. Careful readers will notice subtle details in the illustrations such as animals tucking into their burrows, leaves changing color, and the girl distributing a fistful of wildflowers she’s plucked along her walk. This is a book that warrants repeated readings to fully appreciate all the subtle details. THOUGHTS: This title is a perfect addition to fall-themed story times. My kindergarten teachers were excited to add it to their units about autumn and how animals prepare for winter.

Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

New Holiday Picture Books

christmasmouse

Buehner, Caralyn. Merry Christmas Mr. Mouse. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015. 978-0-8037-4010-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

Mr. Mouse and his family are new to their apartment under the kitchen stove when Christmas time arrives. The people in their home string lights on an evergreen tree, gather with friends and family, and celebrate His birth many years ago. Mr. Mouse and his wife like the idea that “…Christmas means joy, and love,” and decide to celebrate Christmas with their seventeen children. They borrow bits of this and that to make their own tree and gifts, and Mr. Mouse shares the story of the first Christmas night. They also get a surprise visit from Santa! The whole family is filled with love and cheer on their first Christmas in nook number twenty-four. THOUGHTS: This story nicely incorporates the origins of Christmas, a visit from Santa, and the joy of the season in one small package.

Easy Fiction/Picture Book     Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

Carolyn and Mark Buehner, creators of Snowmen at Night and Snowmen at Christmas, created another festive winner with Mr. Mouse and his family. The story is an enjoyable combination of holiday elements as seen through the eyes of tiny creatures unaware of the Christmas season. Mark Buehner’s illustrations are the best part of the book. The back flap shows photographs of models that he created for Mr. Mouse’s nook. Illustrations show a fireplace made of a chili powder can with a tiny candle for a flame and pretty matchbooks hung as art on the walls. The dust jacket also has pictures of objects hidden in the illustrations. Children will delight in looking at all the details while searching for the hidden pictures.

 

homemadechristmas

Cocca-Leffler, Maryann. A Homemade Together Christmas. New York: Albert Whitman & Co, 2015. 978-0-8075-3366-6. 32 p. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

Luca has a problem. His family decided to have a homemade Christmas, but he can’t decide on a homemade gift for his family. Mom, Dad, and sister Rosie are all hard at work on their gifts, but Luca’s many attempts all seem to fall short. On Christmas Eve, Mom gently reminds him that “…the best part of Christmas is spending time together.” Luca suddenly has a homemade gift idea for his family that will bring joy for an entire year, starting on Christmas Day. THOUGHTS: This family of pigs will bring joy to many families around the holidays in this simple but sweet story.

Easy Fiction/Picture Book  Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

This is my favorite new Christmas book in 2015. Maryann Cocca-Leffler’s colorful illustrations pop on white backgrounds and Luca and his family are a refreshing throwback to simpler, old-fashioned holidays. This story might inspire your children and students to think of their own homemade gifts.