Nonfiction Picture Book Round Up!: The Universe in You by Jason Chin; Of Walden Pond by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by Ashley Benham-Yazdani; Polar Bear by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann; We’re Not Weird by Michael Garland; & The Science of Light by Margaret Peot

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The Universe in You: A Microscopic Journey
Author & Illustrator: Jason Chin
Published October 18th, 2022

Summary: Caldecott Medalist Jason Chin’s companion book to the award-winning Your Place in the Universe explores the world of the very small, delving deep into the microscopic world just beneath our skin.

From Jason Chin, Caldecott Medalist for Watercress and Cook Prize winning author and illustrator of Your Place in the Universe comes The Universe in You: A Microscopic Journey, a companion book about the very small, from the tiniest mammals to the intricate structures of microscopic organisms and subatomic particles that make up every human body. This deep dive into an unseen world explores the building blocks of all matter and life, demonstrating how much we have in common with everything around us.

Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
Horn Book Fanfare Title
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

Review & Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Jason Chin does it again: combining impeccable illustrations with science to take the reader into the microscopic world within our universe. Chin is such a master at bringing the reader into whatever world he has decided to explore and share with us. His writing is thorough and interesting, his illustrations are detailed and labeled, and the book together is definitely the journey he promises.

Educator Guide Available HERE!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is so special about the structure of the book? Why do you think the author set the structure up this way?
  • What is the smallest thing in the universe? How do these small particles impact us?
  • How does the author make this nonfiction book like a journey?

Flagged Passages: 

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Of Walden Pond: Henry David Thoreau, Frederic Tudor, and the Pond Between
Author: Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrator: Ashley Benham-Yazdani
Published November 15th, 2022 by Holiday House

Summary: From the award-winning author of Before She Was Harriet comes another work of lyrical beauty, the story of Henry David Thoreau and businessman Frederic Tudor–and a changing world.

Thoreau and Tudor could not have been more different from each other. Yet both shared the bounties of Walden Pond and would change the course of history through their writings and innovations.

This study in opposites contrasts the austere philosopher with the consummate capitalist (whose innovations would change commercial ice harvesting and home refrigerators) to show how two seemingly conflicting American legacies could be built side by side.

Oddball/ tax dodger/ nature lover/ dreamer/ That’s what they called/ Thoreau.
Bankrupt/ disgrace/ good for nothing/ dreamer/ That’s what they called/ Tudor.

Celebrated author Lesa Cline-Ransome takes her magnificent talent for research and detail to plumb the depths of these two history-makers. The graceful text is paired with Ashley Benham-Yazdani’s period accurate watercolor and pencil artwork. In winter, readers see Tudor’s men sawing through the ice, the workhorses dragging the ice, and Thoreau observing it all; in spring, summer, and fall, the ice continues its journey across the globe with Thoreau and Tudor writing and reflecting in their respective diaries.

An Author’s Note, which explores how Thoreau’s writings influenced such figures as Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Frost, and Mohandas Gandhi, is included.

Review & Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Lesa Cline-Ransome introduces us to another aspect of Walden Pond that Thoreau fans may not know about: Tudor’s industrial side of the pond. Cline Ransome’s verse shows us the contrast between the two lives that are tied together by the pond that they both loved, for very different reasons. Beautifully written with rhythm that yells for it to be read aloud.

Benham-Yazdani’s “period accurate watercolor” reminds me of Grandma Moses which is perfect for this story!

Educator Guide Available HERE!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What does the different fascinations with the pond show you about the two men?
  • Why do you think the author chose to write the book in verse separated by seasons?
  • What did you learn about the past of ice that surprised you?

Flagged Passages:

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Polar Bear
Author: Candace Fleming
Illustrator: Eric Rohmann
Published November 22nd, 2022 by Holiday House

Summary: This companion book to the authors’ Sibert award-winning Honeybee explores the life and habitat of a majestic endangered species through dramatic text and sumptuous illustration.

April in the Arctic . . .
Cold winds send snow clouds scuttling across the sky.
Temperatures barely nudge above freezing.
But every now and again,
The cloud cover parts,
The sun shines down,
And the frozen world stretches awake.

As spring approaches in the Arctic, a mother polar bear and her two cubs tentatively emerge from hibernation to explore the changing landscape. When it is time, she takes her cubs on a forty-mile journey, back to their home on the ice. Along the way, she fends off wolves, hunts for food, and swims miles and miles.

This companion book to Honeybee and Giant Squid features the unique talents of Fleming and Rohmann on a perennially popular subject. Eric Rohmann’s magnificent oil paintings feature (as in Honeybee) a spectacular gatefold of the polar landscape.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

Review & Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Candace Fleming’s beautiful verse introduces us to the polar bear and all of the trials and tribulations she faces with her cubs in the Arctic. Within the narrative, we learn so much information about them and their habitat. The verse adds an extra poetic element to the book that just brings it to the next leve.

Add to that Rohmann’s illustrations, and this stunning picture book sucks in the reader through word and pictures. Backmatter adds even more information through shared research and fun facts.

Educator Guide Available HERE!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why do you think that author chose to write the book in verse?
  • What does the gatefold add to the experience of reading Polar Bear?
  • What are the biggest threats to polar bears?
  • Why does the back matter include the statement “I’s All About the Ice?”

Flagged Passages: 

Recommended For: 

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We’re Not Weird: Structure and Function in the Animal Kingdom
Author & Illustrator: Michael Garland
Published January 3rd, 2023 by Holiday House

Summary: Meet nature’s most extraordinary looking creatures. But they aren’t weird!

Birds with blue feet, fish that walk, unicorns in the sea, and more! Learn how these animals’ quirks help them survive. Perfect for budding naturalists who are always ready to share a cool (or gross) animal fact.

Very hard scales protect me, and my long tongue is perfect for eating ants. When I feel threatened, I roll myself into a ball. I am a Pangolin.

See these animals’ amazing body parts in vibrant and detailed woodcut illustrations, from the thorny dragon’s spiky skin to the star-nosed mole’s twenty-two feelers. Read how these creatures’ unique traits help them thrive and survive in their environments. Learn where they live, what they eat, how they protect themselves, and more.

With easy-to-read text vetted by an expert, this book aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards on adaptation, structure, and function for kindergarten through 3rd grade. With supplementary information on each animal’s habitat and diet.

Review: This book introduces the reader to so many different unique animals (20 of them!), featuring what makes them different than others. The text in the book is written in 1st person with interesting facts and an introduction to the animal. Additional info on each animal is on in the back matter giving even more information about the animal including their habitat and diet.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which of the animals would you like to learn more about? Why?
  • Choose your own animal to research and write an introduction, in 1st person, highlighting the animal’s uniqueness and interesting facts.
  • What is similar about all of the animals’ unique features?

Flagged Passages: 

Recommended For: 

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The Science of Light: Things that Shine, Flash, and Glow
Author & Illustrator: Margaret Peot
Published December 6th, 2022 by Holiday House

Summary: With a striking glow-in-the-dark cover, this intriguing science book invites young readers to find light all around.

Sun shines.
Stars twinkle.
Aurora borealis glimmers.

Dramatic paintings of lightning, fire, fireworks and more introduces the sources of light–both natural and manmade–and encourage children to look around and observe.

Kids will gasp in surprise at the beautiful glow-in-the-dark cover, and the bold spreads within. Margaret Peot’s distinctive art style captures the elusive nature of light. Bioluminescent squid, fireflies and phytoplankton reveal light sources in living things. Fireworks and light bubbles sparkle on the page.

This foundational science book will kindle curiosity in physical science and the natural world. The simple text makes science accessible to all ages.

Toddlers will delight in the colorful art at storytime. As they grow, kids will return to this nonfiction favorite and discover new ideas each time. Science vocabulary and definitions are included in the back of the book.

An Orbis Pictus Honor Book

Review: This beautifully illustrated book with sparse text gives an introduction to light in science including natural sources of light, bioluminescence, and artificial light. All of the animals, nature, and items in the book are tied together by the light that they make.

The author’s backmatter adds even more depth to the text by sharing more information on the different types of light, a bibliography, and websites to learn more.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What are the differences between the three types of light shared in the book?
  • Which of the types fascinates you the most?
  • How does bioluminescence work?

Flagged Passages: 

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Sara at Holiday House for providing copies for review!**

You So Black by Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D., Illustrated by London Ladd

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You So Black
Author: Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D.
Illustrator: London Ladd
Published January 10, 2023 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Summary: Based on Theresa Wilson’s (a.k.a. Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D.’s) beautiful, viral spoken word poem of the same name, You So Black is a picture book celebration of the richness, the nuance, and the joy of Blackness.

Black is everywhere, and in everything, and in everyone—in the night sky and the fertile soil below. It’s in familial connections and invention, in hands lifted in praise and voices lifted in protest, and in hearts wide open and filled with love. Black is good.

Accompanied by powerful yet tender illustrations by award-winning illustrator London Ladd, Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D. has adapted her poem, full of gorgeous lyricism and imagery, to show readers the love, joy, resilience, and universality in the beauty of Blackness.

About the Creators: 

Theresa Wilson a.k.a. Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D. is a musical, lyrical and theatrical alchemist, sprinkling magic like hot sauce. She is best known for her appearance on the 2019 Trumpet Awards on Bounce TV, and the now viral recitation of “You So Black.” Theresa is from the south suburbs of Chicago but calls Atlanta home. She holds a degree in commercial music from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois.

London Ladd is a graduate of Syracuse University with an MFA in illustration. He uses a unique mixed media approach, combining cut paper textured with acrylic paint, tissue paper and colored pencil to bring his diverse subjects to life. London’s artwork is steeped in intensity and emotion, a reflection of the artist himself. His hope is that You So Black will be passed down through generations, reaffirming African Americans’ strength, beauty, power and love. His goal is to open a visual arts community center where lower-income families can create their own art. London lives in Syracuse, New York.

Review: This celebration of blackness is beautifully written and is made to be read out loud. The verse, combined with London Ladd’s dynamic yet warm collages, come together to create a book that shows the beauty, resilience, and brilliance of blackness. The author takes a “historically charged insult” and takes back the ownership and shows how “You So Black” is something to be proud of and in love with.

Essential reading: The interview with the creators at KidLit in Color!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This beautiful picture book definitely belongs on the shelves of everywhere that students who need it can find it.

However, I also picture it being used to introduce spoken word poetry. The picture book in conjunction with the original spoken word poem can be used together and start conversations about rhythm, rhyme, articulation, prosody, etc. as well as other poetic elements like figurative language, specifically similes, and imagery.

Also, in conjunction with the interview linked below, it would lend itself to a great conversation about author’s purpose with evidence from the interview.

Flagged Passages: 

Original Spoken Word Poem: 


Read This If You Love: Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o & Vashti Harrison, Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut and I am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes & Gordon C. James, The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson & Rafael López, All Because You Matter and We Are Here by Tami Charles & Bryan Collier, I am Enough and I Believe I Can by Grace Byers & Keturah A. Bobo

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

Dark on Light by Dianne White, Illustrated by Felicita Sala

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Dark on Light
Author: Dianne White
Illustrator: Felicita Sala
Publishing December 6, 2022 by Beach Lane Books

Summary: As the sun sets, three siblings discover nature’s nighttime beauty in this soothingly rhythmic and gorgeously illustrated bedtime picture book from the acclaimed author-illustrator team behind Green on Green.

Gentle the evening. Sweeping the skies.
Dark the shadows as twilight arrives.
Rose the horizon, gleaming and bright.
Twilight and evening and dark on light.

When the family dog trots away from the house at sunset, three siblings tumble out the door to go find him. Soon they find themselves immersed in the luminous colors, shades, and shadows of nature at night—both dark and light. They wander through moonlit lavender meadows, past a timid fawn, beneath a snowy white owl, and much, much more as the night deepens until, at last, they find their sneaky pup.

With beautiful illustrations by Felicita Sala and lyrical text by Dianne White that’s perfect for reading aloud, this book invites young readers to step into the wondrous, colorful nighttime natural world.

Praise: 

“A bedtime chant capable of transforming anyone into a night owl. Sumptuous watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil illustrations show a day shifting from sunshine to twilight to a deepening night sky. Meanwhile, three children are pulling on their boots, grabbing their flashlights, and heading out into a nighttime world as alive as it is welcoming. As the children search and explore, the text repeats the words dark on light through mesmeric rhymes. “Orange the moon, burnished and bright. / Meadow and owl and dark on light.” At last the children peek into a burrow and find their dog, the object of their search. The nighttime is welcoming here, and the children return home to the cozy arms of their parents. Truly the entire enterprise feels similar in tone to Janice May Udry’s Moon Jumpers (1959), illustrated by Maurice Sendak, as when the children ramble through fields of fragrant lavender beneath a brilliant sky. This is a book capable of banishing nighttime fears, showing the night to be a time of wonder, exploration, and even comfort. Sala’s art matches the cadences of the text beat for beat, offering consistently beautiful images of this undiscovered nighttime world…. Lilting, haunting, rhyming, and as unforgettable as a dream the daylight just can’t quite erase.” – Kirkus Reviews, *STARRED REVIEW*, 9/15/2022

“The creators of Green on Green follow that seasonal work with one focused on shadow and light, centering lulling, mesmerizing sensate verse accompanied by artwork in warm, saturated hues…. Closing bedtime scenes in a shared bedroom embody warmth and security… in this quiet celebration of chiaroscuro in the natural world.” – Publishers Weekly, *STARRED REVIEW*, 10/24/2022

About the Creators: 

Dianne White lives in Gilbert, Arizona, with her family. She is the author of Who Eats Orange?Blue on BlueGreen on Green, and Dark on Light.

Felicita Sala is a self-taught illustrator and painter. She has a degree in philosophy from the University of Western Australia. She now lives and works in Rome. She draws inspiration from nature, children, mid-century illustration, folk art, and architecture.

Review: Dianne White’s verse with Felicita Sala’s illustrations makes this book an instant read aloud need! The verse is so rhythmic and rolls off the tongue in a way that will make the book fun to read and listen to. The illustrations add another dimension to the words taking a beautiful poem and turning it into a narrative also. This book will make any reader want to go on a nighttime hike to investigate the beauty of the night.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Here’s an author-provided activity kit!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did the illustrator use colors to add to the mood of the book?
  • Pick a spread. What words in the stanza stands out to you? Why?
  • The reviews mention that Dark on Light is a book that is meant to read aloud. What about the verse written by White makes it so much fun to read aloud?
  • What fun things do you see in the illustrations as the kids venture outdoors?
  • Why do you think the creators chose to have the book end in daylight instead of nighttime?
  • With an adult, go on a nighttime walk and write a journal about what you saw.

Flagged Passages: 

“Gentle the evening. Sweeping the skies. Dark the shadows as twilight arrives.”

Rose the horizon, gleaming and bright. Twilight and evening and dark on light.

Smooth the stones. Crisp the air. Dark the garden, trimmed with care.

Green the sage, nubby and bright. Garden and stones and dark on light.”

Read This If You Love: Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine; Night Animals by Gianna Marino; Noisy Night by Mac Barnett; The Night Gardener by Terry Fan; Goodnight, Butterfly by Ross Burach; Nighttime Symphony by Timbaland, Max at Night by Ed Vere

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

Endlessly Ever After: Pick Your Path to Countless Fairy Tale Endings! by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Dan Santat

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Endlessly Ever After: Pick Your Path to Countless Fairy Tale Endings!
Author: Laurel Snyder
Illustrator: Dan Santat
Published

Summary: This funny, original choose-your-path picture book of fractured fairy tales will charm any young fan of the genre, putting the power of storytelling right in the reader’s hands!

Grab your basket and your coat. Put on some walking shoes.
Turn the page and begin: Which story will you choose?

Award-winning creators Laurel Snyder and Dan Santat transform a crowd of classic tales into an ever-changing, fascinating, laugh-out-loud choose-your-path picture book, in which you may find a sleeping maiden, waste away in a sticky licorice cage, discover the gold at the end of a wild goose chase, or maybe (just maybe) save yourself―and the day!

GIVES YOUNG READERS THE POWER OF CHOICE: Where do you want to take the story next? Choice and autonomy are essential concepts for children to learn at a young age, and this choose-your-path picture book puts the decision-making power right in their hands.

FUNNY TWISTS ON CLASSIC FAIRY TALES: “The Three Little Pigs,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Snow White,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and more—characters and settings from these classic fairy tales take on hilarious new life in a brand-new story, just right for the youngest fairy tale fans.

TEACHES STORYTELLING BY EXAMPLE: This playful picture book offers young readers the chance to build their own narratives out of the decisions they make each step of the way, powerfully illustrating how a story is created and how it proceeds from beginning to middle to end. Both a teaching tool and an exciting adventure in its own right, this book is a great resource for learning storytelling.

FABULOUS AUTHOR-ILLUSTRATOR TEAM: Laurel Snyder is the author of the Geisel Award–winning Charlie & Mouse early chapter book series. Her books have earned numerous starred reviews and Best Book designations, and her middle grade novel Orphan Island was longlisted for the National Book Award. Acclaimed artist Dan Santat has illustrated over 50 books for children, earning a Caldecott Medal for his picture book The Adventures of Beekle and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature for Drawn Together.

Perfect for:

  • Teachers and librarians
  • Lovers of fairy tales and fairy tale retellings
  • Readers who enjoy choose-your-path stories
  • Parents and caregivers seeking a story that will continue to surprise and delight, even after the 100th time through
  • Gift-givers looking for a beautiful present that can be read again and again
  • Anyone who appreciates clever, hilarious takes on classic fairy tales

Praise:

“Invoking myriad fairy tale scenarios throughout a cascading choose-one’s-path format, Snyder (the Charlie and Mouse series) builds a fairy story with logic gates. . . . Santat (The Aquanaut) romps lushly through this fairy tale universe, giving the folklore mainstays . . . an exaggerated, kinetic quality. . . . Readers accustomed to video game–style endings won’t be bothered by Rosie’s many demises; turning the page resumes the action and leads to more choices, and employing frenetic action right through to the end—er, ends.”
Publishers Weekly

“Grab your favorite outerwear (cozy coat or riding hood?) and your sense of adventure because Snyder and Santat have created a fun-filled fairy-tale mashup that puts kids in the driver’s seat. . . . [Endlessly Ever After’s] interactive nature, large trim size, and bold, full-bleed illustrations make it an excellent candidate for group sharing. There is also a fractured-fairy tale aspect to the stories featured, which ensures there are surprises around every corner. A highly entertaining read, full of possibilities.”
Booklist Reviews

“Multiple reader options give the woodsy road to Grandma’s house any number of surprise twists and diversions. . . . Some choices are hard but not this one: Pick it up!”
Kirkus Reviews

“[G]et comfortable; kids will insist on multiple readings . . . The humorously grim text is well matched with amusing illustrations that keep even the darker story elements lighthearted . . . Both text and art are endlessly clever.”
The Horn Book Magazine

About the Creators: 

Laurel Snyder is the author of many children’s books, including Swan, Hungry Jim, and Charlie & Mouse, which won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. A graduate of the Iowa Writers? Workshop, Laurel teaches creative writing at Hamline University and lives with her family in Atlanta, GA.

Dan Santat is a Caldecott-Medal-winning author-illustrator of many children’s books. An honors graduate of ArtCenter College of Design, in Pasadena, he is also the creator of the Disney animated hit The Replacements. Dan lives in Southern California with his wife, two kids, and various pets.

Review: Jim and I were just telling Trent about Choose Your Own Adventure books when this arrived, so I was very excited to see this book arrive, and it does not disappoint. If anything, it blew my description of the original series out of the water because of its cleverness, humor, suspense, fairy tale fracturing, and brilliant illustrations.

Snyder and Santat were the perfect team for this book! Snyder’s writing is lyrical and has amazing rhythm which makes the book a delight to read aloud. She also adds perfect twists to well known stories, giving them a new life! I was always so impressed at an author who can craft a book with multiple paths because the actual text structure must be so complicated, and there is no room for flaws; Snyder shows that she has the chops for this! Santat’s art brings it to life through modernized illustrations of our favorite fairy tale characters as well as some new characters, and as always his art is brilliantly crafted and just so much fun to look at!

All in all, a must pick up for any person who reads aloud to students–these 85 pages of adventure will reel them in!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to some reading analyses that will work perfectly with the text (prediction, cause/effect relationships, etc.), I would also love to see students work to create their own choose your own adventure stories. It gives them a chance to problem solve how to structure the story in addition to write the story. Chronicle’s activity kit has a great start for this activity.

Activity Kit: 

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does Endlessly Ever After compare to the original fairy tales?
  • What other fairy tale would you have liked to see get twisted in?
  • Were there any indications of the effects of your decisions before you chose what Rosie should do?
  • Before choosing the next page, predict what you think is going to happen.
  • How did the choice of illustrator add to the experience of reading the book?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Choose Your Own Adventure books, Fractured Fairy Tales

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**Thank you to Chronicle Books for providing a copy for review!!**

Looking for a Jumbie by Tracey Baptiste, Ilustrated Amber Ren

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Looking for a Jumbie
Author: Tracey Baptiste
Illustrator: Amber Ren
Published September 21st, 2021 by Balzer + Bray

Summary: New York Times bestselling author Tracey Baptiste and acclaimed illustrator Amber Ren take readers on a fun, creepy, storytime-ready romp through a forest filled with creatures from Caribbean folklore.

I’m looking for a jumbie, I’m going to find a scary one.

But Mama says jumbies exist only in stories. So Naya sets out on a nighttime adventure to find out for herself.

No such thing, say the friends she makes along the way.

But Naya is sure that jumbies are real. Some have big mouths. Or thick fur. Or glowing skin. Or sharp teeth. Kind of like her new friends….

Looking for a Jumbie is a gentle, bouncy, and creepily fun read-aloud inspired by traditional Caribbean tales.

Praise:

“A vibrant and entertaining tale filled with mythical creatures from Caribbean stories that is perfect for Halloween and year-round.” -School Library Journal

“The illustrations are colorful and dreamlike, and Ren pays special attention to accentuating the features of characters. A nice addition to offerings on being afraid of the dark, monsters, or nighttime adventures.” –Booklist

About the Author: Tracey Baptiste is the New York Times bestselling author of the middle grade novels Minecraft: The CrashThe JumbiesRise of the Jumbies, and The Jumbie God’s Revenge. A former elementary school teacher, Tracey is now on the faculty at Lesley University’s creative writing MFA program. Raised in Trinidad until she was fifteen, she now lives with her family in New Jersey. You can visit her online at www.traceybaptiste.com.

About the Illustrator: Amber Ren is the illustrator of Because by Mo Willems, a New York Times bestseller. She is also a visual development artist, and her work has been featured in the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art’s first online exhibition, “ART in PLACE: Social Distancing in the Studio.” You can find her online at www.amber-ren.com.

Kellee’s Review: This book is equally compelling, spooky, and fun! Trent and I had a great time chanting the “I’m looking for a jumbie…” part of the story (great repetition & rhythm!) and meeting all of the jumbies that Naya meets along the way. The illustrations were also perfect for the story! I loved the way that Ren was able to bring such beautiful coloring in even in a story happening at night. After we were done, we went on a Google hunt to learn more about jumbies, and I introduced Trent to Baptiste’s middle grade Jumbies books too–he says he can’t wait to read them when he is older!

Ricki’s Review: This book feels like an instant classic to me—it is one that I will read and enjoy with my kids again and again. There are so many different ways to approach this text for kids, and it offers so much potential for classrooms. I love the ways in which the jumbies are made approachable for kids. It offered wonderful conversations in my family about fears and bedtime scary things. This is a book that belongs in every home. I think it will find a place in all readers’ hearts.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: What a great addition to lessons about mythology/folklore for young readers! Looking for a Jumbie is a perfect introduction to Caribbean folklore and can start a delve into more stories.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which Jumbie would you like to meet?
  • Why was Naya never scared of the Jumbies?
  • Was Mama right or wrong about the Jumbies?
  • How did the illustrator leave clues about the upcoming Jumbie?
  • What is the mood of the book? How did the illustrations add to the mood of the book?

Flagged Passages: 

Activity Guide:

Read This If You Love: Folklore & Mythology; Magical Stories

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**Thank you to SparkPoint Studio for providing copies for review!!**

Review and Giveaway!: Chickens on the Loose by Jane Kurtz, Illustrated by John Joseph

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Chickens on the Loose
Author: Jane Kurtz
Illustrator: John Joseph
Published May 11, 2021 by West Margin Press

Summary: A happy-go-plucky rhyme adventure of chickens frolicking in an urban environment as they run rampant all around town!

Chickens on the loose.
Chickens on the lam.
Zipping from the yard,
As quickly as they can.

Chickens don’t just live on farms—they’re in the city too! In the store, on the street, they bring mayhem and excitement to all the surprised people. See where these mischievous chickens go in this brightly illustrated picture book told in verse. Also included at the back are fun facts and tips for the urban chicken farmer.

About the Creators: 

Jane Kurtz is an award-winning children’s book author, speaker, educator, and she is on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Children’s and YA Literature. She is a co-founder of the nonprofit Ethiopia Reads, an organization that brings books and literacy to the children in Ethiopia, where Jane grew up. She also heads the creative team of Ready Set Go Books, a project of Open Hearts Big Dreams to create fun, colorful, local language books for people in Ethiopia. She is the author of many books for children, including River Friendly River Wild, winner of the SCBWI Golden Kite award for picture book text, and What Do They Do With All That Poo?, a finalist to the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Excellence in Science Books list; it has also been named to several state reading lists, voted on by children.

Author website

Instagram: @writerjanie

Twitter: @janekurtz

John Joseph is an artist, illustrator, elementary school teacher, avid gardener, and community leader. He earned a degree in visual arts from Colorado State University and a Masters from Lesley University, and has won the ACP Excellence in Publishing Award for Best Picture Book. He lives in Colorado with his wife, two sons, and a German shepherd.

Artist website

Meet Jane Kurtz and learn more about Chickens on the Loose

Praise: 

“Urban backyard chickens go on a madcap tour of the city in this rhyming romp. . . the narrative bounces off the tongue. The marker-bright illustrations are frenetic and filled with humorous details.” ~ Kirkus Reviews

“In jaunty pitch-perfect rhyme and splendiferous, chaotic color, Jane Kurtz and John Joseph combine forces to tell the story of recalcitrant urban chickens who burst forth from forced chicken coopery to explore a lively, diverse neighborhood rich with thrift shops, yoga studios, food carts, pet shops, and street art–all free for the pecking. At the end of an energetic day, the chickens-on-the-loose return to their henhouse, bedraggled but with plans for a rerun! Prepare for a rambunctious reading experience.” ~ Toni Buzzeo, Author of 28 picture books for children, including the 2013 Caldecott Honor Book, ONE COOL FRIEND

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I love urban chickens! We have a town nearby (Oviedo) which has chickens that roam in their downtown, Jim has a cousin with chickens, and I have a past student with chickens. I love the idea of mixing farm animals and cities because it adds a bit of whimsy and quietness to the bustle and hustle.

Though in Chickens on the Loose the chickens definitely add whimsy but are not quiet–instead they add a bit of chaos. 😂

Reading this out loud was so much fun! The rhyming and rhythm added a musical element to reading the book. And within the rhymes there are great vocabulary moments, too! For example, some words Trent and I got to talk about were lam, peckish, and plucky.

Also while reading, Trent definitely saw that the book alludes to the gingerbread man story. It was fun listening to him share how the book is similar and different to The Gingerbread Man. There’s also a chicken Mona Lisa at the end that cracked him up! Great way to introduce allusion!

Additionally, the backmatter of the book gives information about keeping urban chickens and some fun chicken facts. It is a great way to connect the story to science.

The publisher also has an activity kit available for the book:

Discussion Questions: 

  • What would you name the painting the chick painted at the end?
  • Where do you think chickens would run to in your town?
  • Write your own rhyme that starts with “Chickens on the loose,…”
  • What new words did you see in the book?

Flagged Passages: 

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Love: The Gingerbread Man by various; Other chicken picture books like Chicken Butt by Erica S. Perl, Chicken Dance by Tammi Sauer, Little Chicken’s Big Day by Jerry Davis, Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman, Chicken Story Time by Sandy Asher, Pirate Chicken by Brian Yanish, Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein, Chicken Little by Sam Wedelich; Follow that Frog! by Philip C. Stead; Nibbles series by Emma Yarlett

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review and giveaway!**

Once Upon Another Time by Charles Ghigna & Matt Forrest Esenwine, Illustrated by Andrés F. Landazábal

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Once Upon Another Time
Author: Charles Ghigna & Matt Forrest Esenwine
Illustrator: Andrés F. Landazábal
Published March 2nd, 2021 by Beaming Books

Summary: Illustrations and easy-to-read, rhyming text introduce the reader to the world as it was before humans made their mark, then propose going outdoors–without electronic devices–to connect with that ancient beauty.

Once upon another time,
the world was young and new.
If you want to know this world,
there’s something you can do…

With sweeping landscapes and up-close details of the natural world, Once Upon Another Time takes readers through a lyrical exploration of the world as it was before humans made their mark. Contrasting the past with the present, this expansive picture book serves as a warm invitation for children–and all people–to appreciate, explore, and protect the magic and wonder of this planet we call home.

Written by award-winning authors Charles Ghigna and Matt Forrest Esenwine, and illustrated by Andrés F. Landazábal, Once Upon Another Time is a stunning portrait of a world that used to exist, and can still be found–if you just know where to look.

Endorsements: 

“Ghigna and Esenwine provide a vehicle to ferry young readers back to a time when the wonders of nature called to them more powerfully than any computer screen ever could. Once Upon Another Time‘s glorious poetry and paintings are a perfect pairing.” –Nikki Grimes, author of One Last Word and Garvey’s Choice

Once Upon Another Time is timely and playfully crafted–a beautiful book that I can’t wait to read to the grandkids.” –Eileen Spinelli, author of Love You Always and Thankful

“Vivid colors and gorgeous landscapes interweave with poetic prose as we all yearn for the wild, fresh freedom of another time.” –Fred Koehler, illustrator of Flashlight Night; What If, Then We; and Garbage Island

“In Once Upon Another Time, the reader is transported to a world where we can “breathe the air that once was shared by monstrous dinosaurs!” With lyrical language and fresh images, Ghigna and Esenwine invite the reader to imagine — and then go out and experience — that natural world full of ‘canyon walls,’ ‘sunny fields,’ and ‘passing clouds’ –timeless wonders of our planet.” –Dr. Sylvia Vardell, professor, Texas Woman’s University and poetry anthologist, A World Full of Poems

About the Creators: 

Matt Forrest Esenwine is an author and poet from Warner, New Hampshire. His debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), was selected by the New York Public Library as one of the Best Picture Books for Kids of 2017. His poetry can be found in numerous anthologies, including The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2015), I Am Someone Else (Charlesbridge, 2019), and Highlights for Children.

Charles Ghigna, aka Father Goose®, lives in a treehouse in the middle of Alabama. He is the author of more than one hundred books from Random House, Simon & Schuster, Time Inc., Disney, Hyperion, Scholastic, Abrams, Boyds Mills Press, Charlesbridge, Capstone, Orca, and other publishers. He has written more than five thousand poems for children and adults that have appeared in anthologies, newspapers and magazines ranging from The New Yorker and Harper’s to Highlights and Cricket magazines. He served as poet in residence and chair of creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, instructor of creative writing at Samford University, poetry editor of English Journal for the National Council of Teachers of English, and as a nationally syndicated poetry feature writer for Tribune Media Services. He speaks at schools, conferences, libraries, and literary events throughout the US and overseas, and has read his poems at the Library of Congress, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the American Library in Paris, the American School in Paris, and the International Schools of South America.

Andrés F. Landazábal is an illustrator and art-director based in Armenia, Colombia. His work has appeared in film, television, and print for companies such as Sesame Street, Discovery Kids, and Fox. Landazábal’s love for drawing and painting was instilled at a young age as he read classic illustrated children’s books.

Review: The authors use their impeccable rhythm to invite the readers to join them in the journey first back in time then to modern day with hints on how to enjoy the world today without the distractions of screens.  As soon as I was done reading, I knew this book was meant to be read aloud (and I wanted to HEAR the rhythm and rhyme), and I was right–it is a joy to read out loud.

You are also going to be blown away by the illustrations. You open it up and are transported into the past where only nature was at its finest. The illustrator says that he was inspired to draw and paint at a young age from classic children’s books, and you can see it in the work as it is filled with wistfulness, lots of colors, and brightness.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: As noted by the publisher on Amazon, this book definitely:

  • Encourages kids to unplug from digital devices and appreciate nature.
  • Teaches children about the wonder and magic of our world before civilization and industrialization
  • Invites readers to think about ways they can preserve the beauty of the natural world

And that it teaches about:

  • Conservation
  • Nature
  • History of our planet

And lets not forget that the history of our planet does include human inventions and successes because although the theme of the book is to get away from screens, it also points out some amazing accomplishments like building sky scrapers, dams, and planes.

I also think that it can help delve into animals and habitats! Throughout the book, different animals are found on the pages.

Additionally, the text itself could be read as a poem, looking for rhyme, rhythm, and figurative language, specifically personification.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is something we use often that without it our life would change drastically?
  • What is something you do for fun that lets you know the world of another time?
  • What are some differences/similarities between the another time and now?
  • Why do you think the illustrator ended with two spreads in the same location?
  • What is the theme of this book?
    • Why do you think the authors felt it was necessary to write a book with this theme?
  • How have humans impacted the nature of Earth?
    • How has it affected animals?
  • The setting is never explicitly stated, but there are clues throughout the book. Where do you think the book takes place?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Old Rock (is Not Boring) by Deb PiluttiHike by Pete Oswald, Grand Canyon by Jason Chin, The Blue Giant by Katie Cottle, We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers

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Visit the other blog tour stops: 

2/25:      Ellen Leventhal:  https://www.ellenleventhal.com/#blog
3/1:        Maria Marshall: https://www.mariacmarshall.com/blog
3/2:        Matt Forrest Esenwine: https://mattforrest.wordpress.com
3/3:        Bookseed Studio: https://bookseedstudio.wordpress.com/
3/4:        Celebrate Picture Books: https://celebratepicturebooks.com/
3/5:        Maria Marshall #PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday): https://www.mariacmarshall.com/blog
3/5:        KidLit411 – Charles Ghigna interview: http://www.kidlit411.com/
3/5:       Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook: http://mrsknottsbooknook.blogspot.com/
3/9:      Erin Dealey https://www.erindealey.com/blog/
3/10:     Melissa Stoller: https://www.melissastoller.com/blog
3/16:     Kellee Moye at Unleashing Readers: https://www.unleashingreaders.com/
5/5:       Andrew Hackett: https://www.andrewhacket.com/blog

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