Marta’s Top 10 of 2019

Marta’s Top 10 of 2019

 

10. Dandy

by Ame Dyckeman

 

This book came out relatively early in the year and became a go-to for me with my Pre-K friends.   It has that perfect blend of sweet and silly.  The humor is also layered in a way that even gets the adults in the room to chuckle.  Sweetie has become completely enamored with the lone dandelion on Daddy’s otherwise perfect lawn.  She has even given it a name!  Daddy and his friends keep looking for opportunities to get rid of Charlotte the dandelion, but each time Daddy is thwarted.  This book has plenty of laughs to share but a sweet ending that will make anyone smile.

 

9.  The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown

by Mac Barnett

A good picture book biography will win me over every time, but this one stood out above the rest.  Through Barnett’s word choice and delivery, it feels like reading a book by the famous author herself.  Of course, he adds his own subtle humor but the heartfelt narrative and deep respect for the struggles the children’s author went through come through beautifully.  Coupled with the beautiful illustrations by Sarah Jacoby, this book gave me a whole new appreciation for Margaret Wise Brown.

 

8.   Stargazing 

by Jen Wang

Christine and Moon are unlikely best friends.  Christine is very studious and somewhat reserved.  Moon is an artistic free-spirit… who sometimes beats people up.  Despite their differences, these two neighbors soon become best friends and serve as the Yin to the others Yang.  So when jealousy, pressure from parents and friends, celestial beings, and illness try to come between them, can their friendship stand strong?

Not only does this book have an awesome story line that makes me think of books like Smile and Sunny Side Up, but the art is fantastic.

 

7.  Where Are You From?

by Yamile Saied Méndez

The sweet pictures in this story drew me in but Méndez’ words captured me.  This story is about a little girl who is asked by classmates and peers where she is from.  She says from here but that isn’t enough for them and they continue to push asking where she is really from.  The child turns to her abuelo who answers her question with an answer that is unexpected but absolutely perfect.  A sweet story that is great for one on one reads or a group read aloud.

 

6. Share This Book!

by John Hutton

Board books are sometimes an overlooked category on the Top 10 but this one was a stand out this year!  Not only are the illustrations charming, they are also wonderfully inclusive and diverse.  The simple story speaks to the grown-ups of the very young who struggle to share books with their babies the “right” way.  This book reinforces the fact that there is NO right way.  The important thing is to sit down together and spend time not just with each other but with the book.  Whether it is looking at the pictures and pointing out things you see, reading a page here and there as your little one will sit for it, or graduating to reading the whole book (and then reading it again!) this book encourages kids and parents to keep opening the books together and making those memories.

 

5. The Bridge Home

by Padma Venkatraman

Dealing with heavy hitting subjects like abuse, neglect and homelessness, this book is heartbreaking but also incredibly uplifting.  Through tragic circumstances Viji, Rukku, Muthi and Arul find themselves homeless on the streets on Chennai in India.  The sisters Viji and Rukku are new to life on the streets, but quickly find a home with Muthi and Arul, who are able to show them how to survive.  With a stray dog in the mix too, these four quickly form a familial bond.  Though there is tension and heartbreak in this story there is also humor and so much hope.  The author has created a vivid world for these characters and doesn’t shy away from tough topics while also not being too graphic for the age it is intended.  The chapters are short but pack a punch so this book would be an awesome read aloud.

 

4. My Papí Has a Motorcycle

by Isabel Quintero

Daisy loves getting to zoom through her neighborhood on the back of her father’s motorcycle.  As they ride, she is excited to see people and places that make this her home.  She can’t help but noticing that some things in her neighborhood are changing though.  Despite these changes, he knows she can count on the love of her dad and family and the memories of her neighborhood as she knew it.  The illustrations in this book

 

3.  Some Places More than Others

by Renée Watson

Amara is excited for the opportunity to travel to New York to meet her father’s family and see where he grew up.  Sadly, New York isn’t quite what she imagined.  Her father and grandfather don’t speak to each other.  Amara is trying to figure out this new found family and how she fits in and why things are the way they are.  Filled with heart, this  story is about a young girl trying to connect to her roots and find out who she really is.

 

2.  Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers

by Celia C. Pérez

I knew the second I saw this book’s epigraph was from the novella The Body, which the movie Stand By Me was based on, that it was going to be amazing, and it didn’t disappoint!  The four protagonists all come together after a mysterious invitiation to join a new secret group, bringing their own secrets with them.  Though they seem almost too different, they soon form friendships and find a cause: fighting an out-dated and unethical tradition held by another group in their town.  This book combines mystery, humor, adventure, and the ups and downs that come with new friendships.  It reads pretty fast with short chapters that often rotate through the perspectives of the different characters.

 

And tied for first…

Dear Sweet Pea

by Julie Murphy

If you have read any of Murphy’s previous YA titles (Dumplin’, Puddin), you know her writing is warm, with a lot of heart and the right dose of humor.  Dear Sweet Pea is her middle grade debut that offers all of those same qualities I’ve come to love about this author’s voice.  Sweet Pea is dealing with a lot.  On the home front, her parents are divorcing.  At school, there are social issues with her ex best friend and the fact that, well, Sweet Pea isn’t exactly the smallest person in her class.  Things take an interesting turn for Sweet Pea when the reclusive advise columnist who lives next door asks Sweet Pea to forward her mail to her, but instead she starts responding to the letters herself!  This sweet, spunky, warm protagonist had me rooting for her from the get go.

 

 

With the Fire On High

by Elizabeth Acevedo

Talk about outside my comfort zone!  When I dive into YA fiction I usually gravitate towards fantasy.  This book created such a buzz in the book world though, I had to read it even though it is realistic fiction.  Emoni is not your typical Senior.  Emoni has a a two-year old daughter at home to think about and an abuela who needs her.  She works, gets good grades, is an excellent mom and granddaughter, and is also an AMAZING cook.  It’s almost like magic.  She knows just what to add to make a recipe pop, creating a one-of-a-kind experience for whoever is eating it. When she is given the opportunity to take a culinary arts class that includes a chance to study abroad, she is eager but also weary.  Money on a trip means less money at home and time away from her baby girl, but it also means the chance to be a “normal” teenager, even if only for two weeks.  Emoni is always having to make decisions and take on responsibilities well beyond her years based on the needs of the ones she loves.  She takes her responsibilities seriously and this trip breaks all the rules she has set for herself, but breaking free could be exactly what she needs to find herself where she is meant to be. This book is beautifully written, authentic, and includes recipes.

Miss Marta

New Playaway Launchpads!

20200106_095353.jpg

We have added nearly 2 dozen new Launchpads to the collection! If you haven’t checked them out before, they are pre-loaded tablets with educational games, stories, and activities that are all age-appropriate for kids. And they’re fun, too! Each Launchpad has 10 different apps and has a rubber protective case so you can rest easy using them with little ones. We have 4 different age categories: those meant for ages 3-5, 5-7, 8-10, and 10+ and are available for a variety of different subjects. It’s tricky for parents who are not gamers themselves to find video games that are both fun and appropriate for their child, and harder still if they want something educational. But with Launchpads you can set your mind at ease, knowing that your kids are learning and having a good time. Launchpads check out for 3 weeks and are perfect for car rides, yucky winter weather, or vacations! You can find the Launchpads in the Children’s department behind the computers between the kits and easy readers.

Miss Jessica

 

What We Did in Storytime

Copy of SET LIST (2)

OPENING SONG: If You’re Ready for a Story 

WINTER IS HERE.jpg

BOOK: WINTER IS HERE by KEVIN HENKES

I absolutely love this book and its springtime companion When Spring Comes. While winter is my least favorite season, the text does describe all of the good aspects of it and the illustrations are stunning.

SONG: FIVE LITTLE SNOWMEN

A wintertime counting fingerplay.

UP UP.jpg

BOOK: UP, UP, UP, DOWN! by KIMBERLY GEE

A sweet opposites book about all the contradictions in a baby’s life (I particularly like the “hurry, hurry, hurry…slow down!” page where the dad rushes the baby out the door and baby takes off!)

SONG: ZOOM, ZOOM, ZOOM

Zoom, zoom, zoom We’re going to the moon.
 Zoom, zoom, zoom We’re going to the moon.
 If you want to take a trip climb aboard my rocket ship.
Zoom, zoom, zoom We’re going to the moon.
In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Blast off!

WHAT I DIDN’T USE: 

SAFFY AND OLLIE

THIS IS BIG, BIG, BIG

Instead of a typical take-home craft, today I covered the table in butcher paper and drew different shapes for the kids to cover with stickers. This is a super simple activity you can also do at home that helps develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and pincer muscles. You can also use it to work on learning colors, letters, numbers, their name – all kinds of possibilities!

Before…

20200113_085749.jpg

and after!

20200113_101320

And that’s what we did in storytime today! If you’d like to see what we did in past weeks, click on the “What We Did in Storytime” tag. Be sure to check back next week to see what Miss Marta did!

Miss Jessica

Jessica’s Best Books of 2019

Jessica’s Top 10 of 2019

10. Field Trip

by Molly Brooks

The sequel to one of my favorite middle grade graphic novels, Sanity and Tallulah. This time, Sanity and Tallulah are on a class field trip from their spaceship to an actual planet that goes horrendously wrong. Field Trip has everything you could want: exploding planets, space bees, pirates, and plucky kids working together to save the day. The world-building is expanded on from the previous book and we get to meet Sanity’s awesome older sister, Prudence. I love the energy, humor, and curiosity of this series and can’t wait to see more of it in the future.

 

9. Give Me Back My Bones!

by Kim Norman

A pirate buried at the bottom of the ocean needs help gathering back up his bones! This fun, rhyming picture book uses the correct terms for bones (scapula, clavicle, humerus, etc.) but explains what the bones are used for in silly pirate speak, so it informs while it entertains. A great STEM-themed picture book that would be a hit with any young pirate lover.

 

8. The Scarecrow

by Beth Ferry

Ferry’s story of a lonesome scarecrow rescuing and befriending a baby crow is fine on its own, but it’s the Fan brothers’ illustrations that make this book truly outstanding. They make the scarecrow’s simple burlap face seem expressive and full of life and are equally skilled at capturing the changing seasons. A beautiful, moving story of friendship.

 

7. The Night Flower

by Lara Hawthorne

This nonfiction picture book depicts the flora and fauna of the Sonoran desert, particularly the titular flower of the saguaro cactus which blooms only one night a year. The rhyming prose paired with the lovely, simple illustrations show a softer, thriving side of the desert. It also includes the life cycle and parts of the saguaro, desert creatures, and glossary.

 

6. Skulls!

by Blair Thornburgh

An adorable picture book about – you guessed it – skulls! Thornburgh’s cheery, light-hearted picture book looks at an often scary subject and shows how useful skulls can be. The cool skull facts included at the end was pretty informative as well.

 

 

5. The Happy Book

by Andy Rash

This picture book about feelings stands out to me from the crowd of similar books because it not only identifies feelings and what may cause them, but that it is okay to not be happy all of the time. Even some pretty complex emotions (“I’m angry that I can’t make you happy and scared we won’t be friends anymore!” “I’m scared you won’t like me if I’m not happy.”) are presented but in a way that’s understandable to young children. And best of all, Rash has managed to create a book that is not only fun for kids, but adults will get a laugh out of reading as well.

 

4. The Absence of Sparrows

by Kurt Kirchmeier

This book is an odd duck, which I mean in the best way. The premise – spooky clouds roll in and cause people to randomly turn into glass statues – was strange and unique enough to capture my interest, but I was surprised by the sensitive portrayal of the main character’s grief, confusion, and struggle to keep his family together in the midst of a bizarre apocalypse.

 

 

3. Scary Stories for Young Foxes

by Christian McKay Heidicker

One of the best scary stories for kids that manages to be genuinely spooky but is still age-appropriate. Though some sensitive readers bothered by animal death/harm may want to pass on this one, any young middle grade horror fan eager for something truly spooky will fly through this like I did. You can read my full review here.

 

 

2. Pick a Pumpkin

by Patricia Toht

Anyone who has spent more than five minutes in my presence knows that Halloween is my favorite holiday, so it’s probably no surprise that a Halloween picture book would make it to my top ten. However, Toht’s lovely book, beautifully illustrated by Jarvis, would win me over even if I wasn’t already Halloween’s biggest fan. It captures the feeling of picking out a pumpkin and carving it into a jack o’lantern. Gorgeous, charming, and atmospheric.

 

 

1. Sal and Gabi Break the Universe

by Carlos Hernandez

Hands down, not only my favorite book of this year, but probably one of my favorites ever. Part of the excellent Rick Riordan Presents publishing imprint, the science fiction aspect of the story isn’t as significant to the plot as the summary makes it sound, but Sal is a wonderful protagonist and I could happily have spent an entire book of him narrating going grocery shopping or something equally mundane. I’ve got the release date of the sequel marked on my calendar, and you should too. You can check out my full review here.

 

Miss Jessica

Tess’ Best Books of 2019

 

Tess’ Top 10 of 2019

10. The Frog Book

by Steven Jenkins and Robin Page

Everything you’d want to know about frogs with full-color, gorgeous illustrations.  According to the book, there are 6,000 species of frogs.  Several are represented here, along with snippets on how they protect their eggs, their diet, and their defense mechanisms.  Kids who enjoy learning facts and dropping knowledge will love this book.  Even adults can amaze friends with obscure frog facts.  Like, did you know a group of frogs is called an army? Or that the desert rain frog lives in sand dunes and gets all its water from fog? There is also a table in the back listing all the frogs in the book, their diet, size, and range, which is handy for fact-loving readers.

 

9. Does It Fart?: A Kid’s Guide to the Gas Animals Pass

by Nick Caruso and Dani Rabaiotti and illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths

This book teaches about the ins and outs of the digestive system.  And it is HILARIOUS.  One of our regular moms here told me her kids were LOL’ing so much at bedtime while reading this book, and she highly recommended it!    Each page features a different animal, and asks the age-old question, “Does it fart?”  Answers are on the back.  My favorite “Does it Fart?” question is a tie between the Spider and the Unicorn, but I won’t spoil the answers!

 

8. A Boy Like You

by Frank Murphy and illustrated by Kayla Harren

This story encourages boys to celebrate all facets of their personalities and love themselves.  In the author’s note, Murphy wrote that as a youth basketball coach he saw boys struggling with society’s confusing messages on masculinity.  He wanted to show boys that being strong also means being thoughtful, kind, attentive, and helpful.  Some of my favorite lines are, “Fear and bravery are partners.  You can’t be brave without first being afraid.” Great book to share with all the kiddos in your life.

 

7. When Aidan Became a Brother

by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

“When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl…But Aidan didn’t feel like any kind of girl.  He was really another kind of boy.”  Aidan learns he will be a big brother, and he is worried about making his new sibling feel welcome right from the start.  The story follows Aidan and his family while they prepare for the new baby.  Great story about welcoming a new sibling with thoughtful transgender representation.  I really enjoyed the illustrations and Aidan’s loving family!  Lukoff himself is Trans and this book is part of the #OwnVoices movement that recognizes books written by a member of a community represented in the work.  Be sure to read his touching author’s note in the back of the book too!

 

6. Skulls!

by Blair Thornburgh and illustrated by Scott Campbell

This book is fantastic!  It looks like a graphic novel with the chunky, fun illustrations.  The text is pretty simple, which makes it a fun read-aloud too, but the back matter contains lots of great info for those who want to dig a little deeper into the subject.

 

 

5. Our Favorite Day by Joowon Oh and Saturday by Oge Mora

I love both of these picture books so much, and I just could not decide between the two.  Since they both focus of spending time with loved ones, I am including them together but not to diminish the specialness of either in any way.

 

In Saturday, a child and her mother intend to spend the day together doing their favorite Saturday activities.  Mom only has one day off a week, so Saturdays are their day!  But, as so often happens, things just don’t go according to plan.  I appreciated the parenting realness Mora shows when Mom starts to melt down (because, as a parent, who hasn’t been there?) and also the super-sweet conclusion.

 

Our Favorite Day is a lovely, gently paced book about a grandfather’s daily routine compared to his routine on Thursday, the day his granddaughter visits.  I love the water-color collage illustrations and the simple, beautiful story.  Great representation of the special relationship between grandparent and grandchild.

 

 

 

4. August Isle

by Ali Standish

This book had me hooked!  It reminded me a lot of Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech.  Miranda has grown up seeing postcards from August Isle, where her mom spent summers as a child.  She soon travels there to and begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding the seemingly perfect town and her mom’s life.   Mysterious and emotional story of loss and friendship.

 

 

 

3. Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando

by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Kana Urbanowicz

This book really surprised me!  I thought the story of ramen noodles would be pretty dry (ha ha!), but this book was anything but.  It tells the story of Momofuku Ando and his drive to create a nutritious, affordable, easy-to-prepare meal in post-WWW II Japan.  Lots of lessons in perseverance and helping others.  The illustrations are fantastic and bring the story to life.

 

 

2. New Kid

by Jerry Craft

Seventh grade is tough.  It is even tougher to be the new kid.  Jordan Banks, a gifted student and artist, is not only the new kid at his fancy prep school, but one of the few students of color.  This graphic deals with some complex issues on race and socioeconomics while being totally enjoyable, relatable, and funny!  As Jordan’s school year progresses, he tries new activities and makes friends, and we see his unique perspective on the situations in his drawings that are interspersed with the action of the story.

 


1. The Undefeated

by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

This ode to African-American resiliency was originally performed as a video poem for ESPN’s The Undefeated website and was made into this superb children’s book.  Nelson’s oil-painted figures are incredible and so life-like.  Alexander’s poem is powerful, and the book’s pacing with the accompanying images are just perfect here.  My favorite picture book of the year.  You can see the original video poem and read more about it here.

 

Miss Tess