Thursday, September 3, 2015

Board Book Reviews: Jane Foster's ABC and Jane Foster's 123

It's an exciting day in our house when new titles from Little Bee Books arrive on the doorstep! Today's post is the first of several I will be sharing over the next few months featuring board books from Little Bee's fall list.

Jane Foster's ABC by Jane Foster (ISBN: 9781499800746)

This boldly illustrated alphabet book is great for infants and toddlers. The high contrast of each image against its background and the thick lines which outline every figure make it easy for young babies to engage with the illustrations, while the simple text is perfect for newly verbal toddlers. Even children who do not yet understand the alphabet can take joy in calling out the names for the animals and objects they recognize. The book also provides opportunities for toddlers to learn new words, such as armadillo, nest, and queen, that are not often used in everyday conversation. Miss Muffet has enjoyed multiple readings of this book since it arrived, and though other alphabet books don't seem to interest her, this one is one of her most requested at the moment.

Jane Foster's 123 by Jane Foster (ISBN: 9781499800739)

Jane Foster's 123 is illustrated in the same style as the ABC book above, and just like the ABC book, it is a more traditional concept book, which focuses on learning to count without a lot of extra gimmicks or ploys to get kids interested. Some of the illustrations repeat images from the ABC book, which makes both books feel a little more manufactured and a bit less personal, but it is nice to see that straightforward counting books geared at the interests of very young children still exist! Miss Muffet's favorite part of this book is the last page, where there are ten fish. I'm not sure if it's her fascination with the fish or just a coincidence, but this was the first book where I counted to ten and actually heard her saying, "Eight, nine, ten!" along with me at the end. She doesn't love this book quite as much as Jane Foster's ABC, but we'll be hanging onto it to share with her new sibling when he or she arrives later this month! 

I received review copies of Jane Foster's ABC and Jane Foster's 123 from Little Bee Books.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

6 Multicultural Easy Reader Series

Expand your beginning readers' cultural horizons with these multicultural easy reader series.

Katie Woo

by Fran Manushkin

Katie Woo is a Chinese-American girl based on the author's great-niece, Katherine Anne. Her stories involve everyday activities and adventures, including caring for a class pet, losing a tooth, and dealing with teasing. Each book is illustrated in full color by Tammie Lyon and divided into short chapters for easier reading. The Katie Woo books are listed below: 

  • Best Season Ever
  • The Big Lie 
  • Boo, Katie Woo!
  • Boss of the World
  • Cartwheel Katie
  • Cowgirl Katie
  • Don't Be Blue
  • Every Day's an Adventure
  • Fly High, Katie
  • Goodbye to Goldie
  • A Happy Day
  • It Doesn't Need to Rhyme, Katie
  • Katie and the Class Pet
  • Katie and the Fancy Substitute
  • Katie Finds a Job
  • Katie Goes Camping
  • Katie in the Kitchen
  • Katie Saves Thanksgiving
  • Katie Saves the Earth
  • Katie Woo and Her Big Ideas
  • Katie Woo Celebrates
  • Katie Woo Has the Flu
  • Katie Woo Loves School
  • Katie Woo Rules the School
  • Katie Woo Tries Something New
  • Katie Woo, Super Scout
  • Katie Woo, Where Are You?
  • Katie's Happy Mother's Day
  • Katie's Lucky Birthday
  • Katie's New Shoes
  • Katie's Noisy Music
  • Keep Dancing, Katie
  • Look at You, Katie Woo!
  • Make-Believe Class
  • Moo, Katie Woo!
  • Moving Day
  • A Nervous Night
  • No More Teasing
  • No Valentines for Katie
  • Piggy Bank Problems
  • Red, White, and Blue and Katie Woo!
  • Star of the Show
  • Stick to the Facts, Katie
  • Too Much Rain
  • The Tricky Tooth
  • What Do You Think, Katie?
  • What Happens Next, Katie?
  • What's in Your Heart, Katie?
  • Who Needs Glasses?

Little Bill 

by Bill Cosby

Little Bill is an African-American boy who, in each book, learns an important lesson about the difference between right and wrong. There are a dozen books in the series, and the stories deal with everything from bullying to finding valuable treasure.

  • The Best Way to Play
  • The Day I Saw My Father Cry
  • The Day I Was Rich
  • Hooray for the Dandelion Warriors!
  • The Meanest Thing to Say
  • Money Troubles
  • My Big Lie
  • One Dark and Scary Night
  • Shipwreck Saturday
  • Super-Fine Valentine
  • Treasure Hunt
  • The Worst Day of My Life

Robin Hill School 

by Margaret McNamara

A culturally diverse group of children experience each season of the year in their classroom at Robin Hill School. There are over two dozen books in the series, and they cover everyday experiences as well as celebrations like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Earth Day.

  • All Year Round 
  • The Class Mom
  • Counting Race
  • Dad Goes to School
  • Earth Day
  • Election Day
  • Fall Leaf Project
  • The First Day of School
  • First-Grade Bunny
  • The Garden Project
  • Groundhog Day
  • Halloween Fun
  • Happy Graduation!
  • Happy Thanksgiving
  • The Luck of the Irish
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • One Hundred Days (Plus One)
  • Picking Apples
  • The Playground Problem
  • President's Day 
  • The Pumpkin Patch
  • Smile! It's Picture Day
  • Snow Day
  • Too Many Valentines
  • A Tooth Story
  • Wash Your Hands!

Life of Max 

by Adria F. Klein

In this series, Max, a young black boy, celebrates various holidays with his friends, including Chinese New Year, Ramadan, Cinco de Mayo, Martin Luther King Day, and even one friend's Adoption Day. He also has everyday experiences, such as getting his haircut, visiting the doctor, and staying overnight at a friend's house.
  • Max and Buddy Go to the Vet
  • Max and the Adoption Day Party
  • Max Celebrates Chinese New Year
  • Max Celebrates Cinco de Mayo
  • Max Celebrates Groundhog Day 
  • Max Celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 
  • Max Celebrates Ramadan 
  • Max Goes on the Bus
  • Max Goes Shopping
  • Max Goes to a Cookout
  • Max Goes to School
  • Max Goes to the Barber
  • Max Goes to the Dentist
  • Max Goes to the Doctor
  • Max Goes to the Farm
  • Max Goes to the Farmers' Market
  • Max Goes to the Fire Station
  • Max Goes to the Grocery Store
  • Max Goes to the Nature Center
  • Max Goes to the Playground
  • Max Goes to the Recycling Center
  • Max Goes to the Zoo
  • Max Learns Sign Language
  • Max Stays Overnight
  • Max's Fun Day

Ling and Ting 

by Grace Lin

Chinese-American twins Ling and Ting might look a lot alike, but at heart, they are very different. In three books, these two girls celebrate their differences while also highlighting what makes each girl unique. (The stories are inspired in part by real-life twins Blossom and Fern.) A fourth book is due out in November.

  • Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same 
  • Ling and Ting Share a Birthday 
  • Ling and Ting Twice as Silly 
  • Ling and Ting: Together in All Weather 

Ezra Jack Keats Series 

by Anastasia Suen

These books use characters created by Ezra Jack Keats in his popular picture books to tell new stories appropriate for newly independent readers. Peter and his friends deal with a loose tooth, build a clubhouse from a pile of wood, and chase down a runaway hamster in these four books:

  • The Clubhouse 
  • Hamster Chase 
  • Loose Tooth
  • Willie's Birthday

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Easy Reader Review: Written and Drawn by Henrietta by Liniers (ARC)

Written and Drawn
by Henrietta
by Liniers
2015. TOON Books.
ISBN: 9781935179900
An imaginative little girl named Henrietta loves to create her own stories. In this level 3 easy reader published by TOON books, she sets out her brand-new box of colored pencils and gets to work telling the story of a brave little girl, a stuffed rabbit named My Favorite, a three-headed monster, and two hats. With her cat Fellini by her side to provide moral support and constructive criticism, Henrietta rides the emotional roller coaster of her own story, struggling to fill in the perfect details until she finally reaches just the right happy ending.

Many books sing the praises of reading and writing, but Written and Drawn by Henrietta is one of the few that allows the reader to truly experience the joy of creativity. Because Henrietta is a child who writes and draws like a real child, she is the perfect role model for young beginners. Her confidence that she is able to tell a story, and her perseverance when her story runs into occasional problems help young readers to see that writing well is hard work, but that kids are more than capable of completing stories on their own. In a common core world, where writing seems to be very regimented and fact-oriented, this book is also a wonderful reminder of the fun kids can have with language, and the joys of writing without rules.

Also notable in this book are the comic panels depicting Henrietta's real life that are interspersed with the scenes from the story she makes up. Henrietta and Fellini are very reminiscent of Calvin and Hobbes in their philosophical discussions over what should happen next in the story, and their exchanges help to bring Henrietta to life as a character, even when most of the book is focused away from Henrietta, and instead on the character she has created. For a book with so few words, it is really very well-written, and a credit to the graphic novel format.

Any teacher, librarian, or other educator who works with young writers should own a copy of this book, as should library collections with a high demand for easy readers in graphic format. Like Sadie and Ratz and Dory Fantasmagory, this book completely understands what is to be a child, and because of this, it is likely to draw in many readers, even those who may not yet realize their own desire to tell stories.

I received a digital ARC of Written and Drawn by Henrietta from TOON Books via Edelweiss. It will be published on September 29, 2015.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Chapter Book Review: The Friendship Garden: Green Thumbs-Up! by Jenny Meyerhoff (ARC)

Green Thumbs-Up! 
by Jenny Meyerhoff
2015. Aladdin.
ISBN: 9781481439046
Soon after she moves from upstate New York to downtown Chicago, third grader Anna is assigned to work with classmates Kaya and Reed on a persuasive essay. After discovering that they all enjoy gardening, the three decide that encouraging their classmates to join a gardening club would be the perfect topic for their assignment. As they try to find the required adult sponsor that would make it possible for them to adopt a plot in the local community garden, Anna hopes desperately that Kaya and Reed will become her new friends.

Though the subject matter in this book - moving and making new friends -  has been covered again and again at this reading level, this book is a fresh, pleasant addition to the shelf of available stories on these themes. Anna is a sympathetic character, and though she is not the most exuberant child, her unique personality comes through in small details, such as her habit of giving nicknames to things (True-Blue Besties for herself and her old friends, the Outfit-Outfit for the popular girls in her class, etc.) and her quiet desire to make a new friend. (Her hope that, while none of her classmates seems to need a new friend, they might "bump into friendship by accident," is just so endearing!) The way Anna, Kaya, and Reed interact with another is also very true to the way third graders act when they first meet one another, and the growth of their friendship as they bond over their essay assignment feels very natural and not at all forced or overly sentimental.

Green Thumbs-Up! is the perfect book for kids who are ready to start transitioning to novels, but who do not yet have an interest in the romance and mean girl plot lines of many books for tweens. Anna is not quite as memorable as a spunky character like Clementine, but for kids who are themselves quieter and more introspective, this might be a welcome change. Other friendship stories that remind me of this book include The Curious Cat Spy Club, Quinny and Hopper, and The Year of the Book.

I received a digital ARC of Green Thumbs-Up! from Aladdin via Edelweiss.
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