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Have You Seen Gordon?
Author and Illustrator: Adam Jay Epstein and Ruth Chan
Published: September 28, 2021 by Simon & Schuster

Summary: Packed with vibrant and dizzying artwork, this hilarious story cleverly riffs on classic seek-and-find books and will have young ones laughing out loud as the narrator struggles to get the characters to play along.

Have you seen Gordon? Oh. There he is. Gordon isn’t very good at hiding, is he?

The narrator wants to play hide and seek with Gordon and the reader, but Gordon just wants to stand out. This madcap, fourth wall–breaking picture book is packed with humor and full, zany spreads with details kids will return to again and again.

Review: This book is very funny, and my kids loved it. It is a more humorous, more accessible Where’s Waldo? but for younger children. That said, all of my children (ages 2-8) loved it. Readers are finding Gordon (and others) across the pages, and they are also listening to a very clever tale about him. As an underling theme, Gordon doesn’t want to hide anymore. I adored this charming book and will enjoy reading it again and again.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Students could be inspired to reimagine their own favorite picture books, and they need not be hide-and-seek texts!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why doesn’t Gordon want to cooperate in the text?
  • What did you learn about him?
  • How is this text creatively imagined?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Funny stories, Hide-and-seek stories, Where’s Waldo? books, I Spy books

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RickiSig

**Thank you to Chantal at Simon & Schuster for providing a copy for review!**

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Inside Cat
Author: Brendan Wenzel
Published: October 12, 2021 by Chronicle Books

GoodReads Summary: Told in rhyming text, Inside Cat views the world through many windows, watching the birds, squirrels, and people go by—but when the door opens it discovers a whole new view.

Review: Brendan Wenzel regularly impresses me. I use his They All Saw a Cat to teach about perspective, and it reminds us of the value of picture books at all levels of class instruction. I was really excited to read Inside Cat because I knew it would be just as compelling—and it was! Inside Cat can see the world in so many ways. It travels around the house and sees so much. I don’t want to give a spoiler, but the last page of this book will make you gasp.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book should be paired with They All Saw a Cat to teach perspective. Both offer different angles to questions of perspective. I think it could also be used to teach about authorship (as in authority and authenticity). Teachers might ask students to think critically about what perspectives we do or do not hold.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What does Inside Cat do?
  • What does Inside Cat see?
  • How do the images on the page work together?
  • What does the surprise ending teach you?

Read This If You Love: They All Saw the Cat by Brendan Wenzel, The Journey Trilogy by Aaron Becker

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RickiSig

**Thank you to Eva at Chronicle for providing a copy for review!**

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Mr. Watson’s Chickens
Author: Jarrett Dapier
Illustrator: Andrea Tsurumi
Published: October 5, 2021 by Chronicle Books

GoodReads Summary: Interrupting Chicken meets Click, Clack, Moo in this zany classic-in-the-making!

With rollicking rhythms, nonsensical refrains, and too many chickens to count, this modern classic will inspire unstoppable giggles and endless rereads. Bawka-bawka!

Mr. Watson has 456 chickens in the sink, on the bed, in the bread box. When his partner, Mr. Nelson, threatens to leave, Mr. Watson takes his chickens to town to sell only for them to escape! Young readers will follow Mr. Watson all around town as he gathers up his chickens. But, when they’re all rounded up, does he have the heart to sell them? Does a different fate await these chickens?

This quirky, irresistible book is full of read-aloud fun with its onomatopoeia, rollicking rhythm, and familiar refrains and ends with a touch of sweetness. It has all the makings of a classic, with a farm theme, hilarious refrains, and a familiar narrative structure that unfolds in threes. Librarians, teachers, and parents looking for a new book that feels traditional will love sharing this book with children.

A JOY TO REREAD: This is a very classic-feeling storybook. Paired with its funny farm setting and hilarious refrains, this book is sure to inspire countless rereads and endless giggles.

PERFECT READ-ALOUD: This book is full of nonsensical sounds and repetition that make it fun to read out loud and invite audience participation. It’s a perfect choice for classroom events and laptime reads.

LIKE CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM, WITH CHICKENS!: With its bouncy refrains and rollicking rhythms, this book will remind readers of classic bestsellers like Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

REALISTIC RELATIONSHIP UNUSUAL IN PICTURE BOOKS: This book features a gay couple at its center, but doesn’t call specific attention to it. It simply portrays a healthy relationship between two men (and their chickens!).

WRITTEN BY A NEW TALENT WHO REALLY UNDERSTANDS KIDS: This is Jarret Dapier’s first book! He’s a popular, award-winning teen librarian who works with kids, knows what they like, and is well-versed in the rhythms of the classic children’s book—and he has many more stories up his sleeves.

DELIGHTFUL, DETAILED DRAWINGS OF OVER 400 CHICKENS!: With hundreds of chickens to find and scenes crammed with action and detail, the pages of this book are chock-full of things to look at. Young readers will spend hours poring over each spread.

Perfect for: parents, families looking for LGBTQIA+ stories, fans of funny books.

Ricki’s Review: This book is hysterical. The chickens cracked me up. Teachers will love reading this book aloud. Mr. Watson’s partner Mr. Nelson is threatening to leave because they have TOO MANY CHICKENS (456, actually). So they take their chickens into town to give them away to chicken homes, but all does not go as planned. There is so much care and thought in this book–from the writing to the illustrations of all of the chickens. Kids will love it.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book takes a twist on typical counting books and adds a delightful story. Kids might consider the numbers used in this book and how this may be intentional and create their own counting books.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What are some of the reasons that Mr. Nelson got frustrated with the chickens? Do you think he had a valid reason to be frustrated? How does Mr. Watson respond?
  • Where was Aunt Agnes? How does this enhance your reading of the story?
  • How does the story end? What do you think a sequel might look like?

Read This If You Love: Funny stories; counting stories; animal stories

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RickiSig

**Thank you to Eva at Chronicle for providing copies for review!**

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It Fell From the Sky
By the Fan Brothers
Published: September 28, 2021 by Simon & Schuster

Summary: From the creators of the critically acclaimed The Night Gardener and Ocean Meets Sky comes a whimsical and elegantly illustrated picture book about community, art, the importance of giving back—and the wonder that fell from the sky.

It fell from the sky on a Thursday.

None of the insects know where it came from, or what it is. Some say it’s an egg. Others, a gumdrop. But whatever it is, it fell near Spider’s house, so he’s convinced it belongs to him.

Spider builds a wonderous display so that insects from far and wide can come look at the marvel. Spider has their best interests at heart. So what if he has to charge a small fee? So what if the lines are long? So what if no one can even see the wonder anymore?

But what will Spider do after everyone stops showing up?

Review: I cannot get enough of this book. I just want to hug it every time I see it. The story and illustrations work in a way that is simply magical. Their talent is simply remarkable. When an object falls from the sky (“A marble!” -My 7-year-old), the insects are convinced it must be from another world. Spider decides to develop a display and invites the insects far and wide. They merely need to pay a leaf to see the object. But spider learns an important lesson—one that serves as a good reminder to all of us. I loved this book and expect it to see some awards. It dazzled me.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might to ask students to choose an object to examine from a different perspective than their own. They could write their own picture books.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do the creators of the book use color to enhance their story?
  • How do the creators of the story use personification to teach a lesson?
  • What do we learn from this story? What does the spider teach us?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers; What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada; What Do You Do With a Chance? by Kobi Yamada; What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada; Magic Candies by Heena Baek; The Caiman by María Eugenia Manrique; Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett; Hug Machine by Scott Campbell

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**Thank you to Beth from Simon & Schuster for Providing a Copy for Review!**

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Geraldine Pu and Her Lunch Box, Too!
Author: Maggie P. Chang
Published: June 29, 2021 by Simon Spotlight

Summary: Meet spunky, funny, and friendly Geraldine Pu as she takes on a bully and makes a new friend in this first book in a new Level 3 Ready-to-Read Graphics series!

Geraldine Pu’s favorite part of school is lunch. She loves her lunch box, which she calls Biandang. She can’t wait to see what her grandmother, Amah, has packed inside it each day. Then one day, Geraldine gets stinky tofu…and an unexpected surprise. What will she do?

Ready-to-Read Graphics books give readers the perfect introduction to the graphic novel format with easy-to-follow panels, speech bubbles with accessible vocabulary, and sequential storytelling that is spot-on for beginning readers. There’s even a how-to guide for reading graphic novels at the beginning of each book.

Review: The highest form of praise: My 4-year-old son wanted to read this book again two nights in a row. We went camping on the third night, and he was allowed to pick one book to bring, and he picked this one. He really liked learning about all of the different foods, and he liked discussing bullying. The book is structured like a graphic novel, which is a really clever way to structure an early reader. All of the pictures really appealed to him, and he loved reading the progression of the story. The book is divided into chapters, but we read it from start to finish each night. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Reading this entire book in one sitting will be difficult for an early reader, so my son and I structured it that he read all of the left pages and I read all of the right pages. The next night, he wanted to switch. The third night, he read the entire thing by himself. Readers could also take it chapter by chapter (a chapter or two each night). This book offers great discussions about our practices that seem “different” than those of our peers and how these make us uniquely wonderful. It is also a great book to teach about bullying. I love how the lunch box is personified! It made the book even more fun to read! Those who know me know that I don’t like reading levels. In our house, we read books at all levels, and I just support as needed. That said, this book would be great in the early elementary school grades. Don’t limit it just there, though. My 4-year-old really enjoyed it!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does Geraldine feel about the different foods she eats at lunch? How does this change?
  • How does Biandang feel? How does he act as a support?
  • What changes Geraldine’s mind at the end of the story?
  • How can you celebrate your own friends’ lunches, no matter how different they may seem?

Flagged Spread:

Read This If You Love: Graphic novels, books about feeling different, books about family

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**Thank you, Cassie, from Simon and Schuster, for sending a copy for review!**

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Clap When You Land
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Published March 5, 2020 by HarperTeen

Summary: In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Ricki’s Review: I was so happy to see that this book won the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award. It is one of the most beautifully written books that I have ever read. It made me laugh, it made me weep, and it filled me with so many emotions and so many wonderings. The book is beautifully lyrical, and the voices are so strong. There’s a scene in the book that simply took my breath away. If you haven’t read this book yet, I recommend you head out and purchase it now. It’s absolutely magnificent.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do the two perspectives of the story work together? How did it enhance your reading of the story?
  • How does place function in the story?
  • Where is home for the characters?
  • How do the characters in the story grieve? What understandings did it offer about grief and loss?
  • How do the characters in this book show strength in many different ways?

Flagged Passage: 

“Can you be from a place
you have never been?

You can find the island stamped all over me,
but what would the island find if I was there?

Can you claim a home that does not know you,
much less claim you as its own?”

Read This If You Love: Books. Seriously, it would be very difficult not to see the beauty of this book. Elizabeth Acevedo is one of the greatest writers of our time.

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Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides
Author: Anna Kang; Illustrator: Christopher Weyant
Published: May 1, 2021 by Two Lions

Goodreads Summary: A tale about a cat and a dog who discover that even though they don’t look at things the same way, they can still be friends.

Hudson and Tallulah may be neighbors, but the fence between their yards isn’t the only thing that divides them. They can’t see eye to eye on anything. One day they venture out, and after nonstop disagreement, they realize something surprising: they don’t always have to agree to be on each other’s side.

About the Author and Illustrator: 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, Hudson, the inspiration behind the character in this book. Visit them at www.annakang.com and www.christopherweyant.com.

Twitter: @annakang27 @ChristophWeyant

Instagram: annakangbookschristopherweyant 

Facebook: Anna Kang – AuthorChristopher Weyant

★“New Yorker cartoonist Weyant’s illustrations, which use gouache, graphite, and lots of white space, carry the day, filling the dog’s and cat’s reactions to what they encounter with plenty of comic details (like the bold lettering conveying the dog-park dogs’ frantic barking at the cat). Madcap fun.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Charming cartoons convey the nearly wordless story augmented with dialogue between the two rivals…An amusing exploration of how opposite personalities can learn to appreciate their unique relationship.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Aptly captured by married team Kang and Weyant (You Are (Not) Small), the unlikely friends’ comic path to camaraderie unfolds nearly wordlessly, with expressive gouache and graphite scenes that burst with physical humor, showing that even those who fight like cats and dogs can be friends.” —Publishers Weekly

Review: I was really excited to received this book because I love Kang and Weyant’s work. But there was a 4-year-old thief in my house. He stole the book from right under me and loved it so much that he hid it in his room. I still had a week until the review, so I was casually looking for it from time to time. One night, I heard uproarious giggles. Curious what was making my son laugh so hard, I peeked in his room. There it was! Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides!

Me: Buddy, I need to review that book!

4yo: But I love it so much. Look! The dog slides under the fence and says “SEE YA!” [Lots of giggling.]

Me: Okay, well can you leave it outside your door tonight when you are done with it?

4yo: Only if you put it back in my room after YOU are done.

Needless to say, this book is very well loved in my house. I will admit that I can’t read it from start to finish without giggling myself. The facial expressions of Hudson and Tallulah are so funny. The words are spread across the page in a way that they invite my 4yo to read them. Kang and Weyant are masterful in their ability to capture character, and their characters are so accessible to early readers. This book is simply fantastic, and I recommend it highly.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:  This belongs in every Pre-K, K, and 1st grade classroom (at a minimum!). Readers of all ages will love it, but specifically, it is a book that encourages kids to read. The personification of the animals is magnificent, and it would offer a good case study on figurative language and humor.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How are Hudson and Tallulah different? How are they similar?
  • How do the author and illustrator each use personification to enhance the story?
  • Why do you take sides? When might it be valuable to avoid taking sides?
  • What makes a good friend? Are Hudson and Tallulah good friends? Are you a good friend?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Loved: You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant; That’s (Not) Mine by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant; It’s (Not) Perfect by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant; We Are (Not) Friends by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant; Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall

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RickiSig

**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

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