Friday, December 19, 2014

friday's five- Cybils nominees, part 15, the finale

And here we are.

Today marks the last of my thoughts on the 2014 Cybils Award nominated picture books. Until New Year's Day, of course, when I'll be squealing over the announcements of all the finalists. But, as far as me sharing my opinions on the books I've been reading from the nominations, this is it. Major props to my library system and the state-wide inter-library loan program that allowed me to get my hands on 200 of the nominated books. There were many that stood out, so I know that those round one folks have their work cut out for them. As you probably can imagine, I have some particular hopes for books that I'll see on the finalist list. *fingers crossed*

Okay, I've saved a special theme for last. It's the time of holidays and with that often comes a whole lot of family time. However I may be feeling as I stand at the precipice of SIXTEEN STRAIGHT DAYS of my children at home, I know that there will be some fabulous times, especially when we can all have time to actually relax. For this final group of books, let's go with this theme: family is family is family. In these six books-- yup, there's a bonus because I couldn't bear to exclude any of these titles-- familial love is evident and beautiful.

1. Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light -- A spunky, confident Louise shares her enthusiasm for creating artwork. She's careful and thoughtful about her work, and she takes much pride in displaying her work around her home. As she works, her little brother Art tries to get her attention, but she's much too focused to pay him any mind. Well, that is until he does something to her pièce de résistance just before she's ready to hang it up in the perfect spot. Yes, Louise is upset... super upset, actually. But when she sees Art's devastation at her first reaction, she takes a moment to think about what he was trying to do. Louise chooses to respond the way one should with family-- with love and understanding.

2. Maple by Lori Nichols -- What's not to love about Maple's family? Before she was even born, her expecting parents planted a sapling in her honor and she carries its name. She and the tree grow up together, and throughout the seasons, Maple loves spending time outside by her tree. Observant readers will notice a clue in the illustrations before it's revealed that a new tree has been planted, not too far from Maple's tree. Soon Maple's family is welcoming a new member, and she gets to demonstrate her kindness and thoughtfulness in her role as a new big sister... and the final page's reveal of the sister's name is delightful.

3. Hands & Hearts by Donna Jo Napoli and illustrated by Amy Bates -- A mom and daughter spending the day at the beach is an experience that many families can relate to, and it's presented in a beautiful and fun manner in this book. Their actions and adventures are described in lyrical text accompanied by pale watercolors perfectly fitting for the sand and sea. What I love best is that the book also serves as an introduction to some simple words in American Sign Language, with one word on each two-page spread printed in red with an illustration in a side box demonstrating how to say the word in ASL, and even showing the characters signing the words in some illustrations. Beautiful and gentle exposure to a way of communicating that may be unknown to some children.

4. Madame Martine by Sarah S. Brannen -- Who's to say what constitutes a family? Though Madame Martine goes about her days in a regular routine and seems satisfied with her Parisian lifestyle, when she sees a small dog huddled under a bush, she realizes that she might like taking him in. She and the now-named Max quickly become fond of each other, and as family members do, they share experiences together. Madame Martine, who has always eschewed touristy experiences, gets a new view of her beautiful city as a result of Max's feisty behavior.

5. The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett -- This is a wordless book that you just have to see to truly understand the beauty in its messages. There's familial love between the girl and her younger brother on the cover, and the way it is selflessly expressed is quite touching. Additionally, a relationship between the girl and a neighbor is depicted in a way that honors a positive work ethic, responsibility, and respect, and it helps to underscore how communities can function as families, too. While all wordless books tell stories, this one has rich layers and a subtle beauty to it.

6. Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo -- When a young boy visits Nana to stay at her new apartment in the city. The problem lies in the fact that for as much as he loves his nana, he dislikes the city. The noise, the crowds, the entire environment is overwhelming and scary to him, but Nana hopes to help him see the city the way she does- exciting and interesting. Her solution is a delightfully Nana-like thing to do, involving knitting and a loving touch. Castillo's watercolor illustrations convey emotions as fabulously as ever, and readers of all ages just might find themselves wishing they had a nana in the city.

That's it! Finish line! So many wonderful books have crossed my path as a result of this year's Cybils Award nominations, and I can't wait to share the finalists with you all.

May there be a wrapped book in your near future, and happy reading,

Thursday, December 18, 2014

friday's five- Cybils nominees, part 14

I'm not quite sure what to say in this little intro today. You've got to know by now that I'm sharing picture books that were nominated for the 2014 Cybils Award, and that the end of the first round panelists' time together is coming up quickly. They're likely chatting up a storm together to determine which books will be moved on to the list of finalists, the five to seven titles that my group of second round judges will have to discuss in order to name one worthy recipient. After tomorrow's final friday's five, which once again will appear on its appropriate day of the week, you won't hear me talk any more about the Cybils... until January 1st, of course, when those finalists are announced. But then I'll go into radio silence about the Cybils altogether until February 14th, when I'll be happy to share in the love theme of the day with the announcement of the winner!

But let's not get too ahead of ourselves just yet. There are still a couple handfuls of books to recommend. For today's round-up, the connecting theme I see in these five books is: be true to yourself. Recognizing emotions and being aware of one's interests and strengths can be tough work, which is acknowledged by the stories gathered here, but they also provide encouragement to children to keep at it. Be you, you're pretty cool!

1. In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek and illustrated by Christine Roussey -- The cover, featuring a series of heart cut-outs that get smaller and smaller as they go toward the middle, definitely calls out to children, and the tactile experience has been appealing to my toddler pals. Luckily, they enjoy listening to the book read aloud, too, and the manner in which the feelings are described and depicted through illustrations of a young girl is quite accessible even for the two-year-olds. Books about feelings are perfectly suited for extended conversations during or after the reading experience. I like that this book includes a wide variety of feelings beyond happy, sad, and mad. Hopeful, brave, calm, and silly are all feelings that children can universally understand.

2. Two by Kathryn Otoshi -- Otoshi has a knack for imbuing numerals with personalities and unique voices so that they become full-fledged characters. Their movements are represented in the slight changes of shape in their paint stroke depictions, and even without faces of any sort, they can emote. In her latest, the number Two is best friends with One, but Three becomes jealous and squeezes in between them. Two feels left out, and doesn't know what to do. The other numbers counsel her, but it's Zero whose wisdom helps her realize that she has the power to make herself happy, and that she can do that by being honest about her feelings and opening herself up to a variety of friends.

3. Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance by Birgitta Sif -- Frances is a girl with music in her heart, and she is moved to dance... but only when no one is around. Her self-consciousness prevents her from dancing, and she fears she has forgotten how to dance as a result. A younger girl singing from the heart inspires Frances, and she takes small steps to try to get her groove back, as it were, as well as to build up the courage to dance in front of others. Encouraging children to find their passions is part of every parent's job, and this book does a lovely job of depicting a child with self-motivation to be unafraid to do what she loves to do.

4. Jacob's New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman and illustrated by Chris Case -- While  my younger son has not ever expressed any desire to wear dresses or other clothing usually categorized for girls, he has experienced teasing for having his toenails painted in the summer, wearing his favorite pink striped shirt, or singing along to "Let It Go" during music class. I was curious to see how he and his sister would react to this book, as well as the next one on the list, which present young boys who enjoy wearing dresses and get backlash from their peers. This book does a good job at depicting parental uncertainty at a son's request to wear a dress to school, which can be the source of a great struggle, as well as the boy's feelings that this is an important thing to him, even if he can't particularly articulate the reasons why. I was also pleased with the ending of this book, which doesn't make all of Jacob's problems with teasing go away, but does show him gaining strength in expressing himself to those who would question his clothing choices.

5. Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino and illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant -- My daughter read this one to her brother, and they both immediately said that it was just like Jacob's New Dress, Beyond the theme, they both do a wonderful job developing the main characters' full personalities, effectively showing that they are more than just boys who want to wear dresses. Morris is like other kids who love to do art, put together puzzles, and pretend to be astronauts. His love of the swishy orange dress in the class dress-up corner draws taunts and exclusion from his classmates, but Morris finds the strength to continue being himself, and he begins to find a bit of acceptance in the process.

Regardless of who your children are, try to see them for who they really are, and these books are wonderful examples of ways to send that message to them.

Happy reading,

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

friday's five- Cybils nominees, part 13

Here we go barreling toward the finish line of my time sharing Cybils nominated picture books. I've been so excited every week to go to my local library and pick up the big piles of holds. Eventually, the number of books ready for me began to dwindle, and as of right now, there are six titles that I'm still awaiting. Some have been tougher to get a hold of than others, and I certainly didn't get a bunch that were by pretty small publishing houses that are just not carried by any public library system in my state. Ah well.

Anyway, onto today's books. It's a theme that runs through a significant portion of all of children's literature, and rightfully so, since it's such a big part of children's lives. We're talking about friendship, of course. In the five books on tap today, the friendships shared between characters might not look exactly the same, but they share some commonalities, especially in the way that friends care for each other. Friendships must take into account the feelings of both people (or creatures, as it may be), and these picks are full of compassion and kindess. These lovely books hit all the right notes.

1. Paul Meets Bernadette by Rosy Lamb -- Paul is a goldfish content to swim around his bowl. He mixes up the direction in which he swims sometimes for a change of pace, but he's happy with his small world. And then Bernadette enters his life. Their friendship builds as Bernadette opens Paul's eyes to the world just outside their bowl. Suddenly, he's noticing objects out there he had never seen before. Bernadette appears to be more world wise than Paul, though for the children listening to the story, the way she identifies many of the objects on the kitchen table will certainly be amusing. The swirly colors in the oil painting illustrations are perfectly suited to the inside of the fishbowl and the fish's watery view of the world outside it.

2. The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee -- I've long been a fan of Frazee's illustrative style. I'm not sure I can explain why they appeal to me so much... there's something about the faces of the characters and the many feelings the illustrations evoke. This wordless picture book tells the story of a baby clown fallen from a circus train and the farmer who sees it happen and comes to his aid. Though his painted face wears a smile, the farmer soon sees that the baby is not happy once the face paint washes off. The farmer tries his best to give the baby what he needs, and the tenderness shown by the old man is touching. All's well that ends well, and soon the train returns and the baby is reunited with his clown family. Though short-lived, the friendship formed between the farmer and the baby is a compassionate one, and they are both better for it.

3. The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc -- In a similar vein as the last book, the friendship between Lion and the small bird begins as the result of one needing the assistance of the other. The bird is injured and is unable to join his fellow migrating birds. Instead, Lion provides the care and shelter that the bird needs, and they spend the winter together, engaged in quiet activities and enjoying the company of each other. When spring arrives, so does the bird's flock, and the two friends must part ways. Lion continues about his solitary life until fall, when he begins looking to the skies for any sign of his old friend. This book's format is slightly different with a more compact page size but a higher page count than a typical picture book. Many of the pages are wordless, yet full of emotion in the warm illustrations.

4. The Adventures of Beekle, The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat -- Who says that all friends must be real? I've been told stories of my own childhood time with an imaginary friend, so I may be somewhat biased toward the presence of them in children's literature, but this story is more from the perspective of the potential imaginary friend, and it is simply delightful. The small, crowned creature awaits his choosing in the land of the imaginary friends, but when he doesn't get imagined, he takes fate into his own hands. He travels far and wide, searching for the friend who will pick him, thinking the whole time of the adventures and joys they will share together. The real world isn't quite what he expected, but he begins to feel more comfortable when he discovers his old pals from the imaginary land, now paired up with their children. Will he ever find his? This book made my 7 and 8 year old kids get both quiet and excited at different times, and we talked a bit about how new friendships can be a little tricky. They both loved this one.

5. Two Speckled Eggs by Jennifer K. Mann -- Ginger's birthday is coming up, and her mother tells her that she must include all of the girls in her class for her party. And that means even Lyla Browning. Lyla's a little odd, and the other girls in the class aren't terribly kind to her. Lyla, however, is comfortable in who she is and what she is interested in. When the time for the party comes, Ginger is worried that Lyla's oddness will mess up her party. What she discovers is that perhaps she wasn't being fair in her assessment of any of her classmates, and that being kind and interesting make for more better friends. I think this book will be especially well suited for my daughter, who is entering into a stage of awareness of "popularity" among her peers and trying to figure out who she wants to spend time with. I've especially encouraged her to focus on people's behaviors when figuring this out, not necessarily who is deemed "cool." A tricky subject indeed, but this book handles it in a quite lovely manner.

Hopefully some of these will be just the right fit for the kids in your life!

Happy reading,

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

friday's five- Cybils nominees, part 12

It's the third non-Friday friday's five post in a row, so I think you get the gist of it by now, right? The pile is gradually decreasing, but there were just so many wonderful books nominated in the picture book category of this year's Cybils Awards that I really want to talk about tons of them. By the end of this, I'll have posted mini-reviews here or full-length reviews over on 5 Minutes for Books of almost 100 nominated titles. That's a ton of picture books that are worth your reading time with the little ones in your lives!

For today's post, I've pulled together five books that all seem to understand that when you're looking to entertain young kids, silly is the way to go. Though they all carry out that theme in different ways, the laughter that is a result of reading these is quite similar. And loud. Seriously. These have been red hot in my house lately, and I have to admit to doing my own share of giggling, too.

1. The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak -- Up front, I'll be honest... celebrity-authored children's books usually irk me. I wasn't expecting much from this one, but I had heard that it was a huge hit with group story times. I overheard my daughter reading it out loud to herself the other day, and it was totally a performance, and she said that she loved it. I also recently read it with my 2.5 year old pal, who cracked up at all the right places and even said, "'Dis book is so funny!" Yes, it's funny and clever, even if it's not particularly original. (See Mo Willems' We Are in a Book! for the same humorous effect with actual characters.) Overall, it relies heavily on the adult reading it to be sure to play up the silly sounds and goofy words, and I'm willing to bet most kids won't be able to stop themselves from laughing. Silly fun, for sure.

2. Help! We Need a Title! by Hervé Tullet -- In another meta example, the characters in this book are completely aware that they are in a book, and this one begins almost exactly as the previously referenced Willems book with the characters taking notice of the reader holding their book. But the problem is that their book isn't quite complete just yet, so they try to think on their feet and add in the elements that they know make up a good book. But when it comes to the actual story, they realize they're in need of the author's help, and that's where this book becomes quite unique- with the inclusion of Tullet himself into the illustrations, in a super cool mix of illustrated body and photographed head. When the characters explain the situation, he's a bit taken off guard, because he hasn't actually finished the book! Grab the book to see how he handles this surprise.

3. Take Away the A by Michaël Escoffier and illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo --  Alphabet books are a dime a dozen, one could argue, so I love when a new one comes out that puts a unique stamp on the genre. This one definitely does that. Rather than introducing each letter with a word that it necessarily begins, each letter is featured within a word. The clever twist is that the original word can also be transformed into a different word when the focus letter is removed. Get it? As in beast becomes best, and scarf turns into scar, and farm switches to far. The illustrations blend the words into creative and humorous pictures, and the word play will likely appeal most to slightly older children. This one has been a huge hit with my elementary school aged children.

4. President Taft is Stuck in the Bath by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen -- Whether or not you believe the old story about the very hefty President Tafft getting stuck in the White House bathtub, you won't be able to deny the funny appeal of this version of the story. Taft is loud and blustery, even in his vulnerable position, and he uses his presidential clout to order a parade of Cabinet members to come help solve his problem. Their ideas range from absurd to even more absurd, with some of the suggestions ridiculously relating to their positions. (I couldn't quite explain what the Secretary of the Interior actually does, though...) There's one person who Taft should have listened to early on, and in the end it's that person who finally helps un-stick the poor guy. Don't skip the notes at the end of the book for some fun info about the real Taft, and some unverified, but even more entertaining, stories about the gigantic tubs he had installed in his various homes.

5. Hug Me by Simona Ciraolo -- It's tough to be the different one in the family, and Felipe sure knows it. His cacti family are prickly, in both the literal and figurative senses, and they have no awareness of his biggest wish. All Felipe wants is a hug. Tough sell for a cactus, I know. After he has an incident with a balloon and brings shame to the family, Felipe strikes out on his own. Will he ever find a friend to share a hug? The ending couldn't be better, and even my toddler friend whooped with delight at how much sense it made. I've been impressed with a few picture books coming out of Flying Eye Books lately, often with an "indie" kidlit vibe. This one is up high on that list.

Halfway there for the week of six Fridays!

Happy reading,

Monday, December 15, 2014

friday's five- Cybils nominees, part 11

Yes, it's Monday, but let's do a little pretending again and say that it's Friday, 'mkay? Any day that ends in Y is a good one to talk about kids' books in my opinion, so a little break from the norm is just fine by me. Remember, I've got to make sure that I get through my final pile of Cybils nominated picture books that just must be shared with you. So, every day this week will see a handful of books in the spotlight.

For this Monday morning, I've saved five books that have one simply unifying theme-- cute and cuddly. I can tell you that every single one of these books has been approved with giggles and requests for repeated readings by my toddler and preschooler pals. If you've got some little ones in your life, these books will likely make them smile, so I'd recommend adding them to your reading rotation this week.

1. Flight School by Lita Judge -- A penguin with "the soul of an eagle" pilots a small boat all the way to a tropical flight school run by some birds who could be called  more natural flyers. Sure, his wings aren't quite like the other birds', but he has a can-do spirit and he's ready to give it a try. Penguin puts in his best effort, but the results aren't what he hoped for. Devastated, he decides to head home in his boat as he watches his fellow classmates all fly off, but wouldn't you know it, those other birds get an idea to help Penguin realize his dream to fly before he leaves. The ending brings a funny little twist when Penguin returns... you gotta check this one out for some fun laughs.

2. Puddle Pug by Kim Norman and illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi -- This one has been a frequent read in the last week or so, and I can see why all the kids love pulling it off our shelf of library books. Pugs are so cute in real life, and Yamaguchi's rendering of Percy, the puddle-loving pug, is as cute as he is endearing. His love of puddles runs deep (ha!), and he loves exploring all the puddles he knows around his neighborhood. One day, though, he finds the puddle to beat all puddles... but unfortunately, the puddle is taken by a family of pigs whose mama isn't open to a new inhabitant. You gotta predict that Percy will win her over, and the way he does it will certainly touch the hearts of the mothers reading this book with their little ones. Let's just hope our own little ones won't want to act this one out!

3. I am Otter by Sam Garton -- Otter has a personality that is much bigger than his little body, and he loves living with his pals Otter Keeper and Teddy. From the looks of it, Otter really makes life exciting for Otter Keeper, and (stuffed) Teddy really has no choice but to go along with Otter's wacky ideas. But Otter really doesn't like when Otter Keeper has to go back to work after the fun-filled weekends. In his absence, Otter creates some wild scenarios at home, much to the readers' amusement. One such adventure goes a bit awry, however, when he gets angry at Teddy and then can't find him! The silly factor is high with this one, which is why I think my four-year-old friend has pulled this one off the shelf a few times. It is not, however, a good advertisement for otters as pets. :)

4. Nancy Knows by Cybèle Young -- Elephants never forget... except when they do. Nancy is an elephant who knows a lot of things, including knowing that she has forgotten something important. The more she tries to think of what it could be, the more random thoughts pop into her mind, a phenomenon that I would imagine most adults reading this book will be able to relate to! What I love best about this book is the illustrations, for two reasons. First, there's a sketch of Nancy on each page, just a sketchy outline of her, and the abstract and realistic representations of all her thoughts fill the empty space inside her outline. Secondly, those 'thoughts' are interesting little paper sculptures that really draw the eye. So what looks like minimal illustrations at first, since there is so much white space on each page, actually has a ton of detail to really look at. Just beautiful! Oh, and don't you fret, we've all come to learn that if you wait long enough, those things we've forgotten will soon reveal themselves.

5. Penguin and Pumpkin by Salina Yoon -- It's undeniable, penguins are simply adorable. In this book, Penguin is a kid with a younger fledgling brother named Pumpkin, When Penguin declares he wants to discover what fall looks like off the ice, he and some friends jump on a piece of ice (apparently the preferred method of travel from the poles), and Pumpkin is sad to be left behind because he's too young. Thankfully, the group of penguins arrive at their destination just before their piece of ice melts completely away, and they visit a farm with a wonderful pumpkin patch. Being a great big brother, Penguin figures out a way to bring fall back to Pumpkin. This book is perfectly suited toward the younger set of picture book readers with its smaller, square format, and its chunky-lined illustrations.

What a way to start the week off- a friday on a Monday!

Happy reading,

Sunday, December 14, 2014

friday's five- Cybils nominees, part 10

What is this? A friday's five post on a Sunday? That doesn't even make sense! Okay, okay, just roll with me on this one. Here's the thing. I've got a big old stack of books that I don't want to go unshared in this forum, and when I looked at the calendar, I realized that I do NOT have six additional Fridays before the January 1st announcement of the Cybils finalists. Can you believe it? All I could think to do was pretend that Friday is occurring six times this week. Brilliant, right?

So starting today, and continuing through the end of the week, I'll be sharing a new round of five nominated titles each day, loosely connected by a general theme. Consider it my holiday gift for you!

For this group of books, let's call the theme... you've got to believe. Whether it's believing in yourself or in something that everyone else claims doesn't exist, these books and characters push aside all those unbelievers and stay true to themselves.

1. Tumbleweed Baby by Anna Myers and illustrated by Charles Vess -- Okay, I've got to say that I have mixed feelings about this book. I'm just not quite sure yet what my final assessment will be, but I have to say that this is undeniably a unique picture book. A fantastical story line about a mysterious baby who shows up one day in a tumbleweed, and the large family who finds her react in different ways to this wild mess of a child. The illustration style is oddly interesting... and the overall oddness is what intrigues me, actually, but I haven't yet showed this one to my kids, and I'm not sure how to predict their reactions. I would think it would be better suited to slightly older children, so I won't be reading it with my toddlers, but I do want to hear my 1st and 3rd graders' opinions on it. Let me know if you've read it-- what did you think?

2. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires -- A little girl, a solid plan, a bunch of parts, and a strong tinkering inclination all make for a delightful story that encourages children to persevere. (Which just happens to be a word that I believe should be introduced to all children as early as the toddler years-- a time in one's life when the ability to persevere is highly needed!) I love the honesty of this book, because keeping at something in the face of repeated challenges is HARD. It is frustrating. It is understandable to want to scrap it all in the face of anger. But guess what? Taking a break and coming back to something just might give you a new outlook. There's everything to love about this book about a little girl intent on creating the object that she can see in her mind. Get it for all your tinkering little ones.

3. The Mermaid and the Shoe by K. G. Campbell -- I've never been quiet about my extreme dislike for the Disney version of the tale of The Little Mermaid. I could go on and on about how disturbing I find it, and how the messages it sends about female subservience make me gag, but instead, I'll bask in the loveliness that is this beautiful picture book that captures the curiosity of that other mermaid, but depicts it in a story of a strong-spirited young mermaid who explores for the sake of exploration and doesn't give up on her quest to discover more information about the funny object that she finds. This is my favorite mermaid story ever, and it doesn't hurt that the illustrations are wispy and beautiful, depicting the watery world of the deep sea.

4. The Hula-Hoopin' Queen by Thelma Lynne Godin and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton -- Talk about not giving up on yourself! Kameeka is determined to be named the Hula-Hoopin' Queen of 139th Street, and all she has to do is beat Jamara in one last contest. She knows she can do it; she adores the hula hoop, and when she sees one, she can't help but start swinging her hips. Just when she's supposed to meet up with Jamara, she's reminded of other responsibilities she has that day by her mother. Because she can't stop thinking about the hula hoop contest, she distractedly messes up the cake she and her mother are baking for Miz Adeline. Can she fix her mistake, or will she only make it worse by her inability to think of anything else? Kids make mistakes, that's for sure, and Kameeka does here, too. She tries her best to make amends, and in the end, she learns that she's not the only one who gets that itch, The Hula-Hoopin' itch. Brantley-Newton's illustrations always convey the spirit of the characters so well, and it's no exception here.

5. Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Brigette Barrager -- In a technicolor-bright land of unicorns, Uni is a sparkly, golden-hoofed incredible creature. But unlike her unicorn peers, Uni truly believes that the little girls she sees in picture books are actually real. Her friends and parents try to convince her that they are simply make-believe, but she doesn't give up her belief. She paints pictures of them and imagines what it would be like to spend time with a little girl. Obviously, the flipped nature of this story will be humorous and appealing to young children, especially those fascinated with unicorns themselves. The illustrations jump off the page with their dazzling array of colors and magical scenes, as well. Such a fun story of acceptance for believing children to read.

Whew! My pile of books will get smaller and smaller each day, and I hope you find some books to match the reading delights of a child in your life. Until tomorrow!

Happy reading,

Friday, December 12, 2014

friday's five- Cybils nominees, part 9

The holidays will soon be upon us, and another year will come to a close. After the champagne glasses have been cleared away, and the first Advil of the year has been consumed, I'll be watching the web anxiously on January 1st for the Cybils finalist lists! C'mon kid lit enthusiasts, are you with me? As the posts roll out with the 5-7 books that have been declared finalists in each category by those indefatigable round one judges, we round two folks start to get pumped! It looks like I'll have been able to get my hands on about 88% of the nominated books by that time, a number I'm pretty pleased with. Among those over 200 books, I've found some real gems that just might have slipped by me otherwise.

For this week's round-up, we're going to get think a bit about bedtime... and maybe even a wee little bit about wake up time, too. Some of these books are quiet and help transition a child to the quiet time of slumber, while one kind of does the exact opposite, but will certainly make parents shake their heads in understanding. And one book gives a slightly different meaning to an old phrase... with a nice way to introduce it to the very young. Onto the books!

1. Hannah's Night by Komako Sakai -- When young Hannah wakes in the middle of the night, she finds a whole new world in the quiet of the night. While her sister and parents snooze, she and her cat explore and play, getting to do some things that are normally not sanctioned, like snacking without asking and using some of her sister's toys. It's a quiet book, and even Hannah's mischief is innocent and harmless. The illustrations retain a lovely blue tone throughout that fits perfectly with the night's darkness. Gather your little one onto your lap and read this one before bed.

2. Sleepytime Me by Edith Hope Fine and illustrated by Christopher Denise -- As the sun begins to set, the sleepytime sky comes out. A little girl collects fireflies in her yard, but on a nearby farm, the way the night is welcomed looks a little differently, just as it is when the city is described, too. It really hits close to home when the sleepytime house is described, with parents and a child cleaning up at the end of the evening before bath, books, and bedtime. The rhyming text is simple and doesn't stretch itself too much for the sake of the rhyme. Another gentle, quiet bedtime book option.

3. May the Stars Drip Down by Jeremy Chatelain and illustrated by Nikki McClure -- A lyrical bedtime wish from parent to child, this book is just full of beautiful love. McClure's signature illustrations contribute greatly to the allure of this gentle book, with just three colors in the mix. The wishes expressed by the mother to her child convey gorgeous imagery, with elements of nature invoked in fantastical descriptions. While very young children may not understand all the words or images this book employs, the tone will be evident, especially when read by a loving caregiver.

4. Max and the Won't Go to Bed Show by Mark Sperring and illustrated by Sarah Warburton -- Okay, shift gears a little, because this one isn't a quiet pre-bedtime read. Instead, it parodies that familiar routine of pushing bedtime back and back as much as possible that little ones seem to be so good at completing. Max pulls out all the stops for this story, and the presentation of all his tricks will surely make both parent and child giggle, especially if the parent reading it can conjure up a funny announcer voice to narrate. Maybe this one isn't the best choice right before bedtime, but it would make for a fun midday story... as long as it's not too close to nap time.

5. Early Bird by Toni Yuly -- Of course, after a good night's rest, a new morning comes, and we all know what they say about the proverbial early bird, right? Well, maybe you have a toddler in your life who hasn't yet been introduced to that mantra of competitiveness. This little book could give you the opportunity to introduce a slightly different take on the virtues of being an early bird. The bold colors and lines in the illustrations are especially engaging for babies and toddlers, and the short text uses ideas and images familiar to little ones. The ending makes it a sweet alternative to the old phrase, and make this a wonderful book to read in the early morning together.

May your evening (and morning!) reading time be relaxing and joyful!

Happy reading,