First KidLit Book Round Up of 2018

Friends, I honestly don’t remember December. I know I had a lot of meetings, there were some basketball tournaments and concerts, I was sick for half of it and the kids (and dogs) were sick the other half, there was a holiday in there, etc. Suffice to say that I didn’t do a December Picture Book Round Up post. But I’m making up for it now!

Here are my thoughts on some of the picture books (and an early chapter book and biography collection!) I received from publishers/authors/publicists for review!

Note: Usually I put in release dates, but due to all my author-advice-giving lately I do NOT have the time – click on the titles and the release date is there!

Don't Forget Dexter!Don’t Forget Dexter! by Lindsay Ward

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cute picture book for the preschool crowd! With a stuffed dinosaur as the narrator, we experience the anguish of a favorite toy when he is left behind. I look forward to sharing this with my 4K classes – I think they will love the little song/chant and all of the different dramatic declarations Dexter makes as he worries about his boy never coming back. The illustrations are all in variations of blue and orange and there is great use of different fonts and word size/emphasis for a storytime setting.

Earth! My First 4.54 Billion YearsEarth! My First 4.54 Billion Years by Stacy McAnulty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

EARTH! is a fabulous look at our complex and fascinating planet that will be sure to entertain and educate young readers/listeners. I plan to purchase this for my elementary library, and will be sharing it in read alouds for various age groups with a “quick read” for the youngers and a more thorough read for the older groups. This would be an excellent title to pair with Oliver Jeffers new title HERE WE ARE for gifts or storytimes.

Duck and Hippo Lost and Found (Duck and Hippo, #2)Duck and Hippo Lost and Found by Jonathan London

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A relatively simple account of friends on a picnic in the woods, this story could be a fun read aloud, although it does not have a clear theme. The illustrations are vivid and the text has a lot of differentiation in font and emphasis.

A secondary purchase for school libraries, but perhaps a good choice for a bedtime story at home.

Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth CottenLibba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten by Laura Veirs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a beautifully illustrated account of the life of a musician I did not know of. However, I found the author’s note to be so much more useful than the main text in actually learning about Elizabeth Cotton, and probably wouldn’t choose this as a read aloud because of this. The back matter is extensive, which is wonderful, but one thing bothers me a little – the author notes that she took artistic liberties in stating that Libba played in Rome (in the main text), which to me confuses the genre of the book. I tell students that they can use picture book biographies for research purposes, but in this case, the book would have given incorrect information that was then corrected in the author’s note. In my opinion, that could have easily been eliminated.

A worthy attempt, but I would recommend this only as a secondary purchase for school libraries.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy of this title!

This Is Not a ValentineThis Is Not a Valentine by Carter Higgins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A sweet demonstration of friendship that lasts all year long, not just on February 14th. And also a cute story around the theme of “thou doth protest too much”! This is a perfect story for reading any time, but especially around the Valentine Day holiday to help show that we can show we care in so many different ways, and that a “typical” mushy gushy Valentine isn’t the only acceptable format. The poetic text coupled with the simple but charming illustrations make this a great read aloud selection.

A worthy addition for all elementary library collections!

The Gingerbread Man and the Leprechaun Loose at SchoolThe Gingerbread Man and the Leprechaun Loose at School by Laura Murray

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A seasonal addition to this series that will please those parents and teachers looking for a St. Patrick’s Day title to add to their collection. There tends to be a shortage of “March” and St. P’s Day titles for those teachers who like reading on themes, so this might be a nice way to round out a storytime. Lots of rhyming and a good way to expand on the traditional Gingerbread Man story as well.

The Saint Nicholas Day SnowThe Saint Nicholas Day Snow by Charlotte Riggle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A deeply educational story about Saint Nicholas in the Greek Orthodox religion.

Anyone who follows my reviews knows that I rarely review overtly religious books, with the exception of books that use religion to teach about culture in a broader sense. I use the phrase, “teach not preach” to describe how I accept or reject religious books for review. This comes about not because of my own religious beliefs, but because of my role as a school librarian.

In this story, much as in Riggle’s earlier title CATHERINE’S PASCHA, a Greek Orthodox tradition is taught in a child-friendly way featuring a girl (Catherine) and her family. There is a rich historical theme throughout the book with images of different Greek Orthodox churches shown on on each page spread in an inset. In this story, this also a concurrent story being told in an opposite inset revolving around Catherine’s friend Elizabeth’s grandmother in the hospital.

What I appreciate most about this book is the historical information given about a figure that features so prominently in current culture, a figure that has seeped so far into culture as to almost transcend religion. The additional back matter in this book taught me a great deal about how the story of Saint Nicholas and how this morphed into current traditions throughout the world, including a rich history of 1800’s America.

I would consider this an optional purchase for school libraries, but an appropriate one for religious collections as it does not attempt conversion or preaching. For Christian and Greek Orthodox families and churches, this would be a beautiful story to share in December every year. It is rather wordy, and includes intricate illustrations, so I would see this best used in a smaller group reading setting.

FloFlo by Kyo Maclear

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It might be possible that I would love this one just as much if it were wordless – the illustrations are ADORABLE! A very cute story for the preschool crowd about slowing down and enjoying life. Anyone who has ever tried to rush a child to get somewhere will relate, as will the child who just wants to BE for once. And like I said, the illustrations are so, so sweet.

Little Iffy Learns to FlyLittle Iffy Learns to Fly by Aaron Zenz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A cute picture book for the younger set about overcoming fears. Not one I would use for a library read aloud except perhaps for 4K.

Baby Monkey, Private EyeBaby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As an elementary school librarian, reading teacher, and a parent of a 6-year-old (and several older kids who were once 6), I’ll tell you why this book is fabulous: because ALL kindergarten and first graders want in the whole entire world is to be able to check out and read a BIG BOOK. They want one just like the big kids get. The thick ones. With chapters. That’s why Selznick’s other books are so hot – BIG THICK BOOKS that all kids can experience.

BUT. We keep talking Good Fit Books this and Good Fit Books that. Blah blah blah. WELL, this is it. It’s big. It’s thick. It has tons of pages. BUT. THEY CAN READ IT! I field tested it with my 6 yo daughter last night and she LOVED it. She figured out all the picture clues and was able to read multiple sections to me. And as an adult, it’s just plain adorable. The majority of “early readers” are either 1) incredibly little/skinny or 2) not actually for the earliest readers. So many of the new early chapter books are actually written at an upper 2nd/3rd grade reading level…….fine for them, but not for actual beginning readers!

I will be buying multiple copies of this book for my library and anticipate it never being on the shelf.

Heroes of Black History (A TIME for Kids Book): Biographies of Four Great AmericansHeroes of Black History (A TIME for Kids Book): Biographies of Four Great Americans by The Editors of TIME for Kids

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This volume is a great addition to any elementary and middle school library. As with almost any other book published by TIME for Kids, it presents factual information in a clear and attractive manner, with high quality pictures and accessible text. I would recommend this for grades 4-8.

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2 thoughts on “First KidLit Book Round Up of 2018

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