Everybody Counts! by Matt Forrest Esenwine, Illustrated by Emma Graham

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Everybody Counts!
Author: Matt Forrest Esenwine
Illustrator: Emma Graham
Published January 1st, 2023 by Little Fig

Summary: “Everyone is helpful, in large and small amounts. Everybody matters. Everybody counts!”

So begins Everybody Counts!, a creative foreign-language counting picture book. Get a taste of diversity as you explore this far-reaching festival of food and count your way to a full plate of fun.

 Everybody Counts! makes learning numbers fun as young ones discover new foods and languages from around the world. Explore favorite foods from twelve countries. Illustrations highlight the animals and numerical symbols that represent each country.

Review: Esenwine’s Everybody Counts shows the ties between us all as it counts through 12 different languages along with animals from that country sharing now only the language with us but also food and culture of each country. Each spread is so thoughtfully created with colorful illustrations of each animal and their favorite food fill the spread.

Learn more about the book and its creation at Matt Forrest Esenwine’s Cover Reveal Blog Post.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Everybody Counts is created for the classroom with opportunities to learn different languages as well as a guide to share each students’ favorite food and more!

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Counting books, Books about food, Books about different countries

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to the author for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!!**

K is for Kindness by Rina Horiuchi, Illustrated by Risa Horiuchi

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K is for Kindness
Author: Rina Horiuchi
Illustrator: Risa Horiuchi
Published: April 26, 2022 by Viking Books

Goodreads Summary: Debut author/illustrator and sister duo have crafted a sweet ABC book that expresses how kindness can be found anywhere.

Ape picks an apple for Aardvark below.
Bat puts a bandage on Brown Bear’s big toe.

From aardvark to zebra, this delightful cast of animal characters illustrates the many ways to show kindness to others, while teaching the youngest readers their ABCs.

Debut author/illustrator and sister duo Rina Horiuchi and Risa Horiuchi have crafted a warm and tender gift that affirms kindness can be found anywhere.

Ricki’s Review: This book is just so charming. It is a great way to learn the alphabet along with all of the ways that we can be kind. The book doesn’t feel didactic, and it was enjoyable for me, as an adult reader. There aren’t just simple animal names on each page, but instead, they read like this: ““Narwhal takes Newt, his new neighbor, to lunch.” The repetition is really helpful for young readers. I’ve been having my 6-year-old read it to my 3-year-old, and it makes my heart swell. I love the ending, in which readers are asked how they are kind—this allowed for some great discussions in our house.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book inspires me to want to choose an emotion or an abstract concept to make my own alphabet book! Kids would have a lot of fun making a shared book together!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which page was your favorite, and why?
  • How do you demonstrate kindness?
  • How do the pictures and words work together to create a vivid representation of kindness?

Flagged Spread: 

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Rina and Risa for this phenomenal book! It is a great addition to children’s literature!**

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

Recommended For: 

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

Review and Giveaway!: A Dream of Birds by Shenaz Patel, Illustrated by Emmanuelle Tchoukriel, Translated by Edwige-Renée Dro

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A Dream of Birds
Author: Shenaz Patel
Illustrator: Emmanuelle Tchoukriel; Translator: Edwige-Renée Dro
Published August 16, 2022 by Amazon Crossing

Summary: Sara has a thing for birds. They remind her of her grandfather, who loved birds, and the wonderful show the creatures would put on in his yard each day―like a cloud of colorful flowers carried by the wind.

As Sara walks to school in her island town, she longs for the freedom of those birds. Then she spots a new birdhouse full of parakeets in someone’s yard. Sara feels drawn to them and unable to forget them. So what happens the next time, when she finds the door to the birdhouse unlocked?

With poetic language and beautiful art, this story set on the African island of Mauritius brings to life a little girl’s deep love of nature, her brash but well-meaning choice, and ultimately, her redemption and dream for a better world.

About the Creators:

Shenaz Patel was born and lives on Mauritius Island. She has several jobs: journalist, playwright, novelist, and translator, and she is also a comics and children’s book author. She has written nine books for children, including A Dream of Birdswhich was first published in French and English in Mauritius and France. She was named Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 2013, a high honor given by the French minister of culture.

Emmanuelle Tchoukriel was born and lives in France. Passionate about nature, she studied visual communication before entering the Estienne School in Paris. She specialized in scientific drawing, and she excels in illustrating flora and fauna. On Instagram: @emanuelle_tchoukriel

Edwige-Renée Dro is a writer, translator, and literary activist from the Ivory Coast, in Africa. Her writings have been published in anthologies such as New Daughters of Africa and Africa39, among others. She has judged many literary prizes, including the PEN International New Voices Award and the Etisalat Prize for Literature. She was awarded the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2018 and is a 2021 resident of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Learn more at edwigedro.wordpress.com. Twitter: @DroEdwige; Facebook: Renée Edwige Dro

Ricki’s Review: For me, this beautiful translation is about freedom and preservation. It reminds readers to pause and pay attention to the world around them and to act. It allows readers opportunities to evaluate the decisions they have made in their lives and the impact they have. It also allows readers to consider the lessons they have learned throughout their lives. A Dream of Birds celebrates the diversity of birds in Mauritius, an African island in the Indian Ocean, and it celebrates the passion and commitment of a child.

I loved how the backmatter gave more background of the story. This book is a translation, and there are more words on the page than stories I’d typically find in US households. Yet my kids (ages 8, 5, and 3) sat and listened to the story without breaking their gaze. They were drawn in by the onomatopoeias, the engaging story, and the bright illustrations. We need more international literature in our schools and homes, and this book shines brightly.

Kellee’s Review: Sara’s story is multi-faceted. It is a story of captivity and longing and family and memories. It is a story of beauty and nature and freedom and dreams. It is also a story of reality and consequences.

The story looks at Sara who meets a man with pet birds which reminds her of feeding wild flocks of birds with her grandfather. She hates seeing the captured books, all wings and beauty, not allowed to be free, so she makes a rash decision and frees the birds. Although her motives are made clear, her mother also explains to her that it was wrong to let domesticated birds go–this is a good lesson because it distinguishes between a well meaning action and a well thought out positive action. The book ends with a celebration of the diverse birds on Mauritius, an African Island in the Indian Ocean, and a reminder to celebrate animals’ wildness.

Although the narrative was a bit wordy for me at some points, the beautiful illustrations make the reader want to savor each page which helps move you through Sara’s story.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Students might use this book as a jumping off point to learn more about Mauritius, Africa, and the Indian Ocean. They could pick a specific topic of exploration related to their interests.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What does Sara learn? Do you agree with the decisions she made?
  • What did you learn about Mauritius, Africa, and/or the Indian Ocean?
  • What lessons have you learned in your life?
  • What birds do you observe around your home?
  • Why was it wrong for Sara to let the birds go? Were her intentions good or bad?
  • Why is it important to leave wild animals wild?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Birds, Animals, Environment

Giveaway:

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

Instagram: @blue_slip_media; Facebook: Blue Slip Media

Guest Review: Why? by Nikolai Popov

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Guest Reviewer: Heather, UCF Elementary Education Student

Why?
Author & Illustrator: Nikolai Popov
Published 1996 by North-South Books

Summary: A frog sits peacefully in a meadow. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, he is attacked by an umbrella-wielding mouse in a confrontation that quickly turns into a full-scale war.

About the Author: Nikolai Popov is a well-known Russian visual artist and illustrator. He has won multiple gold medals and Grand Prix at international exhibitions of children’s book illustration. Popov has had personal exhibitions in many cities of the world, including Moscow, Tokyo, Rome and Venice. He is an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Arts.

Review: I found this book to be a beautiful way to describe the trials and tribulations of war without using words or realistic art depicting the violence war contributes to. It is a E-rated way to show that war is seemingly senseless and can be an endless cycle, where ultimately no one wins. I think on top of that, the artwork of watercolor and animals was really beautiful, and seemed very fairytale-like. I liked that the frog found a pretty flower and that the mouse is shown to be jealous even though he is surrounded by similar florals. I think this is a good way to show (not only a war aspect) but just a way to describe how we may not know what we have available to us because we are so focused on what others have instead. The fact that this book has no words and the story is completely implied by the images is also an important thing to note here because it can be up for debate as to what the actual goal of the story is – is it war? Or could it be selfishness, jealousy, or some could even think maybe the mouse doesn’t like frogs (micro-aggressions?). This availability for interpretation is a good way to get a multitude of ideas started without given any hints as to the authors key goals (if not getting author/book background information before reading).

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be supplemental in unison with history lessons revolving around a time-period of another war scenario, like WWI or WWII. It would be a good way to help students navigate how easily wars can start and how hard it is to find a real reason for violence when the outcome is unclear. This book would also be good to use when discussing the problem with bullying or isolating others, it would be a good way to give students an idea of why it is crucial to be kind and think of others because in the end, you end up asking WHY did we even do this in the first place? Students can learn about needless fighting and apply this mindset/theory to their own lives, from how they treat others, to family and school environments as well.

And the last page! Looking at it I get that “throat swelling” feeling right before you cry. Its a painful image. The flowers are gone, the animals are sad, everything is ruined – the worst part is, no one got to enjoy what an entire field had to offer.

Discussion Questions: 

  • On page 4, the mouse looks around after coming up from the ground, what do you think he is looking at?
  • On page 5, we see the mouse looking at the frog – what is he thinking?
  • On page 7, the frog looks upset, and on the next page, more frogs come into the picture – do you think the frog called for them? What if the frogs didn’t come?
  • What kind of weapons are the animals using? Why do you think the illustrator chose these items?
  • In the end, how do the frog and mouse appear to be feeling?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Concepts of peace, unity, discussing the issues with our world and problems with humanity

Recommended For: 

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Thank you, Heather, for your review!

Pigeon & Cat by Edward Hemingway

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Pigeon & Cat
Author & Illustrator: Edward Hemingway
Published June 21st, 2022 from Christy Ottaviano Books

Summary: Pigeon and Cat form a lasting bond in this poignant picture book about compassion and friendship.

In an abandoned city lot, Cat lives alone in a cardboard box. He leaves only to find food. One day, Cat discovers an unbroken egg too beautiful to eat. Soon, out pecks Pigeon, and they become fast friends. Cat is happy to share his box with Pigeon. But when Pigeon flies far away from where they live, Cat must brave the city in order to rescue his friend. This journey will forever transform his understanding of home.

This heartwarming story explores unlikely friendships, the creative spark within us, and how to give comfort and kindness in small, impactful gestures. It is also a celebration of urban community.

About the Author: Edward Hemingway is the acclaimed creator of many popular books: Tough Cookie: A Christmas Story, Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus, and Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship. His writing and artwork have been published in the New York Times and GQ Magazine, among others. The youngest grandson of Ernest Hemingway, he lives in Bozeman, Montana. He invites you to visit him at edwardhemingway.com, on Twitter @EdwardHemingway, and  Instagram: @edwardhemingway.

Review: This book is special both in message and in art.

First, I loved that the book not only showed that one act of kindness can change a lot and that a friendship can change people, but it also showed that there are people out there that it is worth not giving up hope on. Cat, at the beginning, is hard to like and it seems he would be okay with that. Then he saves Pigeon and changes. Although, it is HIS act of kindness that changes the trajectory of the story, it is Pigeon that helps him see that that kindness isn’t a fluke; that Cat can be more than he’s been.

Second, Hemingway’s art is just so beautifully done. It is hard for me to explain, but just looking at the style of his painting, I find myself being sucked into the story. It is just a fantastic addition to the story and brings it all to life in a way that is so perfect. I can definitely see Hemingway’s love in the art (see below for what he said about the art).

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Edward Hemingway created a video sharing his inspiration behind the book (https://vimeo.com/626765984) which would be a wonderful start of a discussion about kindness and friendship and how it can change someone’s life and even the world. Students could also write their own stories with an act of kindness changing a character just like Cat changed.

Also, I received the book with an amazing letter from the author which is a call for action. I want to share it with you because it has so much to talk about as well as a perfect After Reading activity in the classroom:

Dear Reader,

I am very proud to be sending you my latest work, Pigeon & Cat. This book is so special to me. At its heart it is a story about kindness and compassion, and also about the gifts that art provides.

I hand painted all the artwork for the book during the height of the pandemic, so I was either isolating in my studio or at home with my fiancé. In a way, the book became one of my friends, and I looked forward to seeing it and working on it every day. I’m so happy to be sharing it with you now, and I hope that reading it touches you in some small way.

Pigeon & Cat begins with one small act of kindness. When Cat finds Pigeon’s abandoned egg on the ground, he cares for it instead of eating it. I firmly believe that such small acts of kindness can shine a bright light in dark times and open the pathway to a more positive future.

In the spirit of envisioning such a future, I have a small favor to ask of you. Pigeon opens Cat’s eyes to the beauty in the world around him, and when Pigeon goes missing, Cat creates beautiful messages in chalk that dot the city streets, walls, and avenues in an effort to reach his friend. He leaves these messages for all to see… Won’t you leave some beautiful messages on a wall or street or chalk board for your friends and community just like Cat? It would be wonderful to see the beautiful things you create.

If you post your creations, please tag me so I can see what you do!
🤗🙂❤️🌈
Sincerely yours,
Eddie Hemingway

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did Pigeon do to change how Cat viewed the world?
  • How did this change Cat’s character traits?
  • Why was Cat the way he was at the beginning?
  • Cat thought he was happy in the beginning of the book. Do you think he was happier at the beginning or end?
  • What types of messages did Cat draw around the city for Pigeon to find?
  • How does the transformation of Cat’s shelter represent Cat’s change as a character?
  • Why do you think the creator had illustrations change from full color to black silhouetted sometimes?
  • What kindness messages would you put around your community for others?
  • What was something during the pandemic that you did to help keep yourself preoccupied?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Edward HemingwayNegative Cat by Sophie Blackall; Inside Cat by Brendan Wenzel; A Cat is Better by Linda Joy SingletonAll Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

Recommended For: 

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

Odd Birds: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Flock by Laura Gehl, Illustrated by Gareth Lucas

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Odd Birds: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Flock
Author: Laura Gehl
Illustrator: Gareth Lucas
Published June 14th, 2022 by Abrams Appleseed

Summary: Meet nature’s oddballs in this charming board book about some of the most unique birds in the world!

Backyard birds—move over! Odd Birds introduces babies and toddlers to unusual bird species, including the magnificent frigatebird with a bright red throat pouch and the California condor—the largest flying birds in North America! Gentle rhyming verses provide the comforting repetition that little ones crave, even as their minds are opened to new and fascinating creatures from around the world. At the end of the book, readers will find photographs of each bird, along with more detailed factual information. The eight birds featured are the magnificent frigatebird, blue-footed booby, shoebill stork, ostrich, hoatzin, oilbird, California condor, and burrowing owl.

About the Creators: 

Laura Gehl is a former science teacher who still loves getting kids excited about science and nature . . . now through her books. Ever since reading about a poop-shooting caterpillar many years ago, Gehl has spent time researching and writing about interesting creatures and their behaviors. She is the author of more than two dozen books for young readers, including the Baby Scientist board book series, Odd Beasts, Happy Llamakkah!, Apple and Magnolia, and Happy Owl-Oween!. Gehl lives with her husband and four kids in Chevy Chase, Maryland, where she enjoys observing and exploring in the woods near her home.  Visit Laura at lauragehl.com.

Twitter: @AuthorLauraGehl
Instagram: @authorlauragehl
Facebook: @AuthorLauraGehl

Gareth Lucas is an illustrator and designer living in Essex, England, with his wife and five children. After studying at the University of Brighton School of Art and Central Saint Martins, he has worked on a variety of projects but enjoys nothing more than illustrating animals, birds, and the natural world. When he is not working, he can be heard indulging his other love—the banjo!

Twitter: @GarethLucas
Instagram: @garethlucasart

Review: When I first read about Odd Birds, I had no idea it was a board book. Based on the illustrations I saw and the summary, I assumed it was going to be a longer nonfiction book, but instead it is everything you’d find in nonfiction picture book but put in a small package.

First, scroll down a little bit. LOOK AT THOSE ILLUSTRATIONS! They are beautiful! Lucas has stepped away form the cartoon-ish style of many board books and focused on the realistic beautify of each of these odd birds.

Second, THIS BOARD BOOK HAS BACKMATTER! This is going to add some super longevity to it because it will allow it to be a fun read aloud to the youngest of kids and a learning tool for older kids. And Gehl has not held back in the inclusion of information in the back matter; it is so informative and interesting.

Third, the text is so catchy with great rhythm and rhyme sequence that makes it a wonderful read aloud and will make it a quick into the read aloud rotation.

Check out Betsy Bird’s Fuse 8 post for an amazing in-depth review!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Use this book to lead you and your reader into learning about more odd animals!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which of the odd birds are your favorite?
  • What did you learn from this book?
  • What do you wish you’d learned about the birds?
  • Which illustration was your favorite?
  • How are some of the birds the same? Different?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Nonfiction books, Birds

Recommended For: 

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