Kat and Juju
Author: Kataneh Vahani
Published July 1st, 2020 by Two Lions
Summary: An unlikely duo star in a charming story about being different, finding courage, and the importance of friendship in the first book in a new series from an award-winning animation director.
Kat likes doing things her very own way, but sometimes she doubts herself. So when a bird named Juju arrives, Kat hopes he’ll be the best friend she’s always wanted. He’s outgoing and silly and doesn’t worry about what others think—the opposite of who she is. Bit by bit, with Juju’s help, Kat discovers her strength, and how to have a friend and be one—while still being true to herself.
Praise: “This debut gently encourages personal growth while reinforcing the value of being different.” —Kirkus Reviews
About the Author: Kataneh Vahdani is a children’s book author and illustrator. Kat and Juju is her first picture book series. She is currently directing her original feature animation movie. Kataneh has been a professor for over seventeen years and she also saves fallen baby birds and rescues them. Together with her students, they have raised over 13 fallen injured baby birds and set them free once they were ready to fly away. Sometimes in her classes, birds fly from the head of one student to the other.
Visit Kataneh on Instagram: @KatandJuju.
Kellee’s Review: Kat feels like she doesn’t fit in with her peers: she worries, follows the rules, and doesn’t know how to let go and have fun, so she hopes and hopes that her birthday animal best friend will finally give her someone to play with and feel included; however, the problem is Juju, her new animal friend, is nothing like her. But it is through their time together that Kat realizes that her and Juju can be friends even if different and Kat even finds it in herself to do her own happy dance!
I do hope that the message that comes across to readers is that everyone should be whomever they are and others will accept you. I could see some reading it as Kat needing Juju to change her to get others to like her, but I didn’t see it that way. I saw it as Juju just showing and helping Kat see what an amazing person she is.
One of my favorite things about this book is the illustrations–the way that color is used so intentionally and are just so fun!
Ricki’s Review: I think we all have this yearning to be more ____ or more ____. As an adult, I really identified with Kat. As I always work to improve myself, I try to be more like other people I admire. This made for a phenomenal conversation with my children. We talked about people who we admire and how we can take slivers of these people to be better versions of ourselves, but we don’t need to (and shouldn’t) be these people. We are individuals with our own strengths.
This book is beautifully written and it is clear to readers the care and precision the author took to characterize Kat and Juju. I felt like the author was deeply connected to and understanding of the emotions that kids face. The friendship between these two characters is quite magical. I am looking forward to and excited about reading other books by this author.
Please Note: Together, we did find one aspect of the text that we wanted to comment about. We were concerned with an image of the characters wearing sombreros and playing instruments traditionally attached to mariachi music. For us, this felt like cultural appropriation. We would encourage all authors to avoid images where characters dress up in costume like this (see, for instance, the Clifford the Big Red Dog Halloween book where Clifford dresses up like a Native American). We write this not as a critical attack of the book but instead, as a way that we think all of us (authors, illustrators, teachers, publishers, etc.) can work together to think carefully about the images we portray. This does not take away from our desire to read more adventures of Kat and Juju.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Along with a read aloud of this book, great discussions could happen focusing on self-esteem, worrying, and friendship. It could also offer opportunities for critical thinking about the concept of cultural appropriation.
- If you were going to have an animal best friend, what type of animal would you want? What would its personality be like?
- Why was Kat so worried that others wouldn’t like her? Should anyone ever feel that way?
- Were there times in the book that Kat’s peers could have been more interactive to make Kat feel more accepted?
- Why is it important to have all sorts of different types of people in the world?
- Is it okay to worry? If you are worrying too much, what should you do?
- How are Kat and Juju like other two-character, opposite friends books like Elephant and Piggie or Frog and Toad?
Read This If You Love: Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival, I’m Bored series by Michael Ian Black, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, The Invisible Boy by Patrice Barton
**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review and giveaway!**
What Did the Good Night Monster Do?
Author: Ruth Austin
Illustrator: Katie Harnett
Published May, 2020 by Compendium
Summary: Bedtime can stir up all kinds of emotions for a child. Good Night Monster is your child’s very own nighttime guardian, a friend for building confidence at bedtime.
Get to know Monster and read about its evening adventures in the playful storybook. When it’s time for bed, tuck Monster in with your child for added comfort. Or pose Monster under the bed, near a closet, or anywhere your child wants a trusted lookout while they sleep.
-A reassuring friend for kids
-Share your monster’s adventures and discover the adventures of others using #goodnightmonster
-Includes a plush, a storybook, a letter to your child, and tips for grown-ups on how to use Monster to manage emotions
Kellee’s Review: This storybook kit is going to do so much for so many kids! It is being advertised for kids who are afraid of monsters, but Trent is not afraid of monsters, but he loves the idea of his monster, Moony, guarding his room. All kids are going to love the reassurance that their monster can bring to their room.
And in addition to that super cute stuffed monster, the book that comes with it introduces the reader to their monster and how he takes charge at night and explores their room and is just so much fun to read.
Moony has quick become a favorite stuffed animal for Trent. Like the book and the instructions, Trent made a bed for him that he goes in during the day, and then at night he takes him out and puts him at the end of his bed to stand guard.
There is so much that can be done with Monster and its book, and my family is loving the addition of Moony.
Ricki’s Review: When we first got this book, my boys were really excited to share it with our 1-year-old. And then we opened the box, and my 3-year-old and 6-year-old were green with envy. They learned the magic of the goodnight monster, and everyone wanted a part of it.
The goodnight monster is a creature that comes with its own box bed, a set of instructions for kids and parents, and a story. At night, children whisper fears to the goodnight monster, and the monster protects them in their sleep. The goodnight monster also has a blast doing it. It tries on clothes from the drawers, plays with toys in the room, etc. as it waits for the child to get up. Here’s my favorite part for one of my children who wakes up grumpy—in the morning, the child can hold the monster if they are feeling crabby (we’ve utilized this quite frequently).
Initially, I thought the goodnight monster would rest with my 1-year-old, but after receiving the kit and knowing its purpose, it is with my 3-year-old, and my goodness—it does a great job protecting him. If I had more time on my hands, I might position it in the mornings like some people do with elves on shelves.
We named our goodnight monster Giggles because the one year old giggles every time he holds it. Below, I include a picture of the 6-year-old talking with Kellee’s 6-year-old while sharing their goodnight monsters.
Teachers’ & Parents’ Tools for Navigation: Forget monster spray and lovies without a purpose. This monster is very specific to needs that almost every parent or guardian experiences: night fears and morning grumpiness. We will recommend this kit again and again and again. It is truly magical.
- What did you name your goodnight monster and why?
- What fears do you have? How can your goodnight monster protect you?
- What does the goodnight monster do at night? Which of your toys might it play with? Which outfit of yours do you think the goodnight monster will enjoy wearing the most?
Read This If You Love: M
**Thank you to Compendium for providing copies for review!!**
The Blue Giant
Author & Illustrator: Katie Cottle
Published May 26th, 2020 by Pavilion Books Ltd.
Summary: A poignant and timely picture book introducing children to the issue of ocean pollution, with ideas to help the world become a better, cleaner place.
Coral and her mom are enjoying a break at the seaside. Until a creature emerges from the waves! It’s a giant. A blue giant. It is made of water, fish, and sea plants and has a stirring plea to help clean up the ocean.
Coral and her mom agree to help, donning their scuba-diving outfits and setting off to sea. But they can’t do it alone…can they?
This stunning follow-up to Katie Cottle’s debut picture book The Green Giant is another entertaining and beautiful eco-tale from the 2017 winner of the Batsford Prize. It introduces children to the issues of pollution, waste management, and the oceans, with suggestions of lifestyle changes to help clean up our seas.
About the Author: Katie Cottle is an illustrator and printmaker living and working in Bristol, U.K. Her work is often informed by the marks and colors created through traditional lithography. She also works digitally, using an iPad, and occasionally paints with gouache. The Blue Giant is her second book, following on from The Green Giant.
Review: Katie Cottle has caught onto something big with the format of this and her Green Giant book: it truly brings our environment to life and shows the harm that we are doing to it. The anthropomorphism of the ocean makes it even easier to connect to it as an entity as it shows how we are hurting it, and it shows what Meera DOES to try to reverse the effects we’ve caused.
In addition to the theme and story, I also really liked the illustrations. The author’s use of line is used expertly to show movement, and I loved all of the colors to really bring the story to life.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is perfect for any discussion of water pollution and the environment. It shows a problem, a potential soultion, and hope for the future. It also specifically talks about single-use plastics which may be a new topic for many students.
- What is something you can do to help the ocean?
- What does Meera do to help the ocean?
- How does our actions effect the ocean?
- What is an animal that is effected by our pollution?
- What is a single-use plastic that you use that you could replace?
- What was the author’s purpose in writing this book?
- Why did the author give the ocean a voice in the book?
Read This If You Love: Learning about the environment
**Thank you to Media Master Publicity for providing a copy for review!**
Don’t Stop, song lyrics by Christine McVie, illustrations by Nusha Ashjaee
Good Vibrations, song lyrics by Mike Love and Brian Wilson, illustrations by Paul Hoppe
We’re Not Gonna Take It, song lyrics by Dee Snider, illustrations by Margaret McCartney
African, song lyrics by Peter Tosh, illustrations by Rachel MossAuthor:
Published June 2, 2020 by Akashic Books
LyricPop Summary: LyricPop presents your favorite song lyrics by renowned songwriters as illustrated picture books, instilling a love of music and song among young readers.
“LyricPop represents two things I’m passionate about—music, and books for children,” said Johnny Temple, publisher of Akashic Books. “As both a musician and a publisher, I hope LyricPop will inspire parents, grandparents, and others to read (and even sing!) these books aloud with the children in their lives.”
After these four initial books are released, October 6th We Got the Beat, Respect, and Move the Crowd will be published. Then March 2, 2021 will bring us (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay, Humble and Kind, and These Boots are Made for Walkin’.
Don’t Stop Summary: Don’t Stop is a beautifully illustrated picture book based on Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac’s enduring anthem to optimism and patience. The song was one of the singles on Fleetwood Mac’s megahit album Rumours, which spent thirty-one weeks at number one on the Billboard charts and went on to sell over forty million copies worldwide.
With lyrics by Christine McVie and illustrations by Nusha Ashjaee, this touching picture book imagines a rabbit willing her hibernating friends out of a long and dark winter and into joyous spring. Don’t Stop is a great opportunity for fans of Christine McVie and Fleetwood Mac to introduce their favorite band to their young children, and for parents looking to share a bright message in song.
• Debuting in 1977, this song is one of the most identifiable of that decade
• A classic rock radio staple
• A top-five single in the US, and one of the band’s most enduring hits
• Written by band keyboardist and vocalist Christine McVie
• Sung as duet between Christine McVie and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham
• Appears on the Grammy-winning album Rumours, which as of 2019 is the RIAA-certified tenth all-time best-selling album in the US
• It was the theme song for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign
Good Vibrations Summary: Good Vibrations is a lively picture book based on Mike Love and Brian Wilson’s number one hit about absorbing positive energy from the people around them. Often praised as one of the most important compositions in rock, the Beach Boys’ original version of this song was their third number one Billboard hit. With lyrics by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, and illustrations by Paul Hoppe, this picture book follows a girl and her dog as they make their way down to the beach, sharing good vibrations all along the way. Parents and children alike can share and enjoy one of rock’s greatest hits through the colorful pages of Good Vibrations.
• Released in 1966, this is one of the defining and iconic songs of the era
• The recording involved the then-revolutionary process of tape-splicing, cutting up and editing pieces of the master tape together
• The musicians used in the recording of the song included members of the Wrecking Crew, the legendary set of Los Angeles session studio players
• Beach Boys publicist Derek Taylor described the song as a “pocket symphony” (Derek was the former press officer for the Beatles and the Beach Boys, and worked with the Byrds and the Mamas & the Papas, among others)
• The unusual sound featured in the song’s chorus was produced by an electrotheremin
• The song was a transatlantic number one, reaching the top spot in both the US and the UK
• The song was the last US number one the Beach Boys achieved in the 1960s
• Inducted into both the GRAMMY and Rock & Roll Halls of Fame
• Rolling Stone ranked the song at number six on its 2010 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
• In 2001, the RIAA and the National Endowment for the Arts published their Songs of the Century list, with “Good Vibrations” at number 24
• The song is part of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s permanent exhibition, 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll
We’re Not Gonna Take It Summary: We’re Not Gonna Take It is a playful picture book echoing 1980s hair band Twisted Sister’s most popular antiestablishment anthem. As part of their triple-platinum album Stay Hungry, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” spent fifteen weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, reaching number twenty-one. With lyrics by Dee Snider and illustrations by Margaret McCartney, this picture book follows three toddlers on a mission to defy their parents, whether it be lunchtime, bath time, or bedtime. We’re Not Gonna Take It is a story both parents and children can relate to, and a song they can enjoy together.
• Released in 1984, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is a signature rock anthem of the 1980s
• The song was a Hot 100 top forty hit and reached the top ten on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart
• The album it appeared on, Stay Hungry, was the band’s breakthrough and a US top twenty hit
• Its anthemic quality has propelled the song to become a US pop culture touchstone
• The song has an iconic music video
African Summary: African is a children’s book featuring lyrics by Peter Tosh and illustrations by Jamaican artist Rachel Moss. The song “African” by Peter Tosh was originally released in 1977 on his second solo record, Equal Rights. He wrote the song during a time of civil unrest in Jamaica as a reminder to all black people that they were part of the same community.
The album is considered one of the most influential reggae works of all time.
• A key song from the classic 1970s era of reggae
• Peter Tosh was one of the founding members of the iconic reggae group the Wailers
Review: All four of these classic songs are ones that as soon as you hear the title you start humming the melody or reciting the lyrics and LyricPop books is a great way to introduce these to a new generation of kids. All four are very different songs and illustrations which shows the extension of this new picture book series.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In the classroom, I would have so much fun with these. I would love to group my students in four different groups (or more if it is after more LyricPop books have come out), have them listen to the songs these books are based on, and create their own picture book. Then, after they do so, they can read the LyricPop books and compare and contrast. This would be a great way to discuss interpretation, figurative language, illustrator choices, etc.
There’s another option too: Have students read the lyrics first without listening to the song and create a book. Then, after listening to the song, ask how they would change their book.
When done with the songs from LyricPop, students could then pick their own songs and make their own books!
- Why do you think the illustrator interpreted the lyrics the way they did?
- Do you think of the lyrics the same or different?
- What is the main theme of the song?
- (Before hearing the song) How do you imagine the song is going to sound?
- (After hearing the song) Does the book fit the sound of the song?
Read This If You Love: Music
**Thank you to Akashic Books for providing copies for review**
Yoga Animals: A Wild Introduction to Kid-Friendly Poses
Author: Paige Towler
Foreword Author: Tara Stiles
Published May 19th, 2020 by National Geographic Kids
Summary: Adorable animal photos and lyrical text guide kids step-by-step through easy animal-inspired yoga poses.
Yoga Animals: A Wild Introduction to Kid-Friendly Poses
Author: Paige Towler
Foreword Author: Tara Stiles
Published May 19th, 2020 by National Geographic Kids
Summary: Adorable animal photos and lyrical text guide kids step-by-step through easy animal-inspired yoga poses.
Roar like a lion! Arch like a kitten! Stretch like a cobra! Did you know that many yoga poses were inspired by animals? Let these creatures inspire your young ones to get moving, practice mindfulness, or calm down after a long day. Simple step-by-step instructions explain the kid-friendly moves. Kids will get a kick out of the accompanying photos of animals that mimic each pose, and the sweet poem is sure to delight.
The foreword by Tara Stiles, founder of Strala Yoga, reminds us that we’re never too young to start enjoying the health benefits of yoga and mindfulness. Animal Yoga is the perfect intro to this ancient practice–great for engaging (and quieting!) a class, reading aloud one-on-one, or helping restless little ones fall asleep at bedtime or naptime.
Review: Trent and I love doing Yoga together. We have family yoga mats, and he’s done mommy & me yoga with me though is favorite is Cosmic Yoga on You Tube. I wanted to make yoga part of Trent’s life because not only is it a wonderful form of exercise that he and I can do together, but it is also beneficial for mindset. Yoga Animals is a wonderful introduction to both aspects. I like that it makes the yoga poses accessible for so many ages. For example, it could be for a mom to do with a very young child as an introduction. Or older kids who may have done yoga in the past can use it independently. Here is Trent practicing his poses:
The book structure is also fun. The majority includes the animal photos with a connection to the yoga pose then a photo of the pose with instructions. In the back it goes more in depth about the pose and the animal taking the information to a whole other level.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: As the push for a healthy mindset has become more front and center recently as we realize that the current educational system is adding extra stress on kids, this book is a perfect addition to a classroom to have brain breaks. During the brain breaks, a new yoga pose can be introduced and the animal can be talked about as well. Then past yoga poses can be practiced as well.
- What other animals have yoga poses?
- How is the ____ pose like a ____ animal?
- How does yoga help you physically and mentally?
- Come up with your own stretch that resembles an animal.
Also, go to https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/books/yoga-animals/ to see videos of Tara Stiles sharing poses from the book.
Read This If You Love: Yoga, Animals, Brain Breaks
**Thank you to Karen at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!!**
Author: Sandra Le Guen
Translator: Daniel Hahn
Illustrator: Stéphane Nicolet
Published June 1, 2020 by Amazon Crossing Kids
Summary: “There’s a new girl at school. She never stops looking up at the sky! She likes the stars and comets.”
Jeannette tells her mom about her new classmate, who also loves astronomy but seems sad. She realizes it’s not easy to move to a new place. So the next day, at recess, Jeannette asks Iliana to play.
At first, it’s a little hard to communicate because Iliana is learning a new language. The girls have to use their hands and their drawings. But they keep trying, and, soon, Iliana tells Jeannette about her difficult journey as a refugee who had to leave her country. Then their families meet, and Iliana’s parents share their story too. The girls’ friendship blooms, as limitless as the sky and their imaginations.
Originally published in France and brought to life with wonderfully expressive artwork, this is a book about sharing stories and finding refuge in friendship, family, and a new home.
Kellee’s Review: This book is beautiful. It shows pure empathy for a young girl, and her family, who needs all love in the scary new situation she is in. Their journey was harrowing and being in a new place where they do not speak the language must be completely overwhelming; however, this was something they felt no choice in doing because of the horrors of war back at their home. But sadly, refugees have been villainized–once again fear winning over empathy. However, The Refuge puts a narrative to the journey that many children and families face just to stay safe. And it is such a well-crafted narrative with beautiful illustrations–just an overall excellent book. A must read for ALL ages.
Ricki’s Review: Magnificent. This book is truly and utterly magnificent. I am quite hopeful it will win some of the major literary awards. Whew! The writing depicts the myriad emotions that Iliana might have experienced on her journey, and Jeannette has such deep empathy for her classmate. The illustrations take the book to the next level. I would purchase a spread of this book and frame it for the wall in my office—the illustrations are that captivating. We share some of the illustrations below. There’s one illustration in which Iliana is carrying a giant boat on her back, and a star hangs from a string on the front. Two small children walk up the top of the steep boat. The words match the illustrations, and yet the illustrations have deeper, metaphoric meaning. This would be a terrific book to study at the high school and college level. It would sustain several classes of discussion. I plan to purchase a copy to use in my Teaching Reading class. If you haven’t read this book, I recommend it highly.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Metaphor is powerfully used in this text (both in the writing and illustrations). This would be a magnificent text to use as a mentor text for the instruction of metaphor. Students might select a written metaphor to illustrate and an illustrated metaphor to write in words to consider the flexibility and power of the use of metaphor. Then, they might craft their own metaphors related to the story.
- Choose one illustration that you like. What is the surface level meaning? What is the deeper meaning attached to the image?
- How does Jeannette demonstrate empathy for Iliana?
- What did you learn about refugees?
- Why do you believe the author titled the book The Refuge instead of Refugee?
- How do the illustrations and writing work together?
- What creative techniques does the author use?
- What creative techniques does the illustrator use?
Read This If You Love: The Arrival by Shaun Tan, Refugee by Alan Gratz, Dreamers by Yuyi Morales, The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
**Thank you, Barbara at Blue Slip Media, for providing copies for review!**
It Is (Not) Perfect
Author: Anna Kang
Illustrator: Christopher Weyant
Expected publication: May 12th, 2020
Summary: Two fuzzy creatures are happily putting the finishing touches on their sandcastle when each of them thinks of something that would make it even better. As they work furiously to incorporate each new change, their tiny sandcastle becomes an over-the-top palace…but is it really perfect?
This latest book in the beloved series featuring the pals from Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small reminds us that perfection is in the eye—and heart—of the beholder.
“Colorful cartoon illustrations add a lightheartedness to what could be a stressful real-life situation for kids. Another life lesson neatly packaged in child centric humor.” —Kirkus Reviews
“This award-winning duo have created a lovely tribute to the old adage that perfect is the enemy of good. Recommended for purchase for all collections.” —School Library Journal
About the Creators: Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant are the creators of Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small as well as series titles That’s (Not) Mine, I Am (Not) Scared, and We Are (Not) Friends. They also wrote and illustrated Eraser, Can I Tell You a Secret?, and Will You Help Me Fall Asleep? Christopher’s work can also be seen in The New Yorker, and his cartoons are syndicated worldwide. This husband-and-wife team lives in New Jersey with their two daughters and their rescue dog. Visit them at www.annakang.com and www.
Review: This series is one of my favorites. Although the simplicity of the texts makes the books seem straightforward, they are actually multi-tiered and can be used for so many different ages to discuss illustrations as part of the narrative, moral issues, friendship, perspective, and much more. All while following the stories for two super cute monster friends!
- What ended up actually being perfect?
- What did trying to please all cause?
- Who gets to decide what is perfect?
- Does everything you do need to be perfect?
- How did trying to make it perfect ruin the fun?
Read This If You Love: Not series by Kang and Weyant including You Are (Not) Small, That’s (Not) Mine, I Am (Not) Scared, and We Are (Not) Friends; How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk, Dexter series by Lindsay Ward including Don’t Forget Dexter and It’s Show and Tell, Dexter
**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**
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