Do you have a reluctant reader? Learning to read is a challenge for many children, but reading with or to a friend can make it a bit easier. If you missed the New York Times bestseller, How Rocket Learned to Read, Rocket the lovable pup is back and learning new things in Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills.
Rocket loves books and new words. Working with his teacher, the little yellow bird, Rocket heads off to sniff out new words and bring them back to the classroom to hang on the word tree. When he gets an idea to write a story, Rocket discovers writing is hard and he needs inspiration. Sitting beneath a tall pine tree, Rocket decides writing about the tree and its nest would be a great story. The next day he finds a new word scratched beneath the tree - owl - a gift from the little owl at the top of the tree. Rocket adds this wonderful word to his growing list and from there a story and a friendship blossom as Rocket reads to his new, shy friend. Parents and kids will be inspired by the gentle story and charming, softly colored illustrations in oil and colored pencil.
They say dogs are man’s best friend. Turns out they’re great listeners too. Shy or reluctant readers can find out by registering to read with one of the specially trained Karma Dogs from the H.E.A.R.T.S. program offered throughout the year at participating library branches. How can Karma Dogs help your child learn to read? These dogs are friendly, nonjudgmental, and skilled listeners. By reading in a safe, comfortable environment, children can increase their confidence and vocabulary and become better readers. H.E.A.R.T.S. sessions work best for school age children 6-12 years old who can read or are learning to read. To find out more about the Karma Dogs or find a participating branch near you, check out Karma Dogs, pick up a DateLines calendar of events, or visit our website.
Pass it On! by Marilyn Sadler recalls the classic children’s game known as 'Telephone' or 'Pass the Message'. Hilarity ensues when a message is misheard and passed from friend to friend with ridiculous results, and that’s just what happens when cow gets stuck in the fence. "Cow put a duck in a tent? Pass it on!" The silly combinations will have both children and adults chuckling as the animal friends continue to fracture the story.
The whimsical illustrations by Michael Slack make this story all the more fun. Brightly colored characters and scenes have a real retro look, with a Miró meets Fractured Fairy Tale feel. The clever story and artwork make this a book to look at again and again, and might inspire you to start a game of pass it on yourself!
In Flabbersmashed About You, by Rachel Vail, Katie Honors describes her hurt feelings when her “best friend in the whole entire world” plays with someone else at recess. Illustrator Yumi Heo’s bright childlike pictures capture Katie’s loneliness and bruised feelings perfectly. She’s “Flabbersmashed” about her best friend, but learns that playing with other children can be fun, too.
Bullying and loyalty are the two issues tackled in Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship. Mac was a good apple. One day, he fell asleep in the rain and Will the Worm got into his head (literally!) Will and Mac become fast friends. They have fun together flying kites, swimming and reading; but when Mac and Will return to the orchard, the other apples tease them and call Mac “rotten.” Even the crab apples won’t play with them. Will leaves the orchard in hopes that it will stop the teasing, but Mac is sad without his new friend. As an added conversation starter, the author tucks a bystander into the story in the form of a Yellow Apple. Yellow Apple doesn’t bully the friends, but doesn’t stick up for them either. The illustrations were done in oils on canvas. It is written and illustrated by Edward Hemingway (Ernest’s grandson), whose beautiful artwork enhances Bad Apple’s message of ignoring bullies and staying true to your friends.
Horsefly and Honeybee by Randy Cecil tells a tale of enemies who must work together to defeat a common foe. Honeybee tries to take a nap in the same flower as Horsefly and a terrible fight ensues, leaving each with just one wing. Left vulnerable, they are both caught by a hungry bullfrog and must work together to escape. The new friends soon realize that there is room enough for both of them in the flower. Cecil also illustrates the book. Using oil on paper, he cleverly manages to show a myriad of expressions on the simply illustrated, bug-eyed characters, which is sure to delight the reader.
Traditional children’s songs and nursery rhymes get a modern twist in two new picture books. I Know a Wee Piggy, by Kim Norman, follows the familiar cumulative rhyming style of that childhood favorite, "I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly". Instead of swallowing creatures of ever greater size, this little piggy wallows in the kaleidoscope palette of a colorful country fair. Illustrator Henry Cole uses acrylic paints and colored pencil on hot press watercolor paper to create the brightly colored, action-packed artwork. Piggy leads his boy on a merry chase as he samples red tomatoes, green grass, pink cotton candy, black paint, gray clay, and more. All that madcap action results in a perfectly piggy abstract body painting which ends up winning first place in the fair’s art show. If it hasn’t already, the song is guaranteed to stick all day long!
"Hey Diddle Diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon". After hearing the old nursery rhyme one night, the cows in the barnyard debate whether it is indeed possible for a cow to jump over the moon. Cindy Moo by Lori Mortensen, illustrated by Jeff Mack, explores that age-old question. Even though the other cows scoff, Cindy Moo is of the mind that if the cow in the rhyme can jump the moon, by golly, she can too, and sets out to prove it can be done. After her first attempt fails – she gets no farther than over a prickly weed – the other cows say “I told you so” and suggest she give up her quest. But Cindy Moo has made a vow, and being a very determined cow, she continues to give it a go, alas, with no better results. Crestfallen, she thinks perhaps the herd was right, until she spies the moon’s reflection in a large puddle. Will Cindy Moo finally jump the moon? Colorful pencil illustrations fill the pages with bustling bovines, but Cindy Moo, whose brown and white coat is topped by a pink bow, stands apart from the crowd in looks and determination.
Everyone has a bad day now and again, but Bella is having a very bad day. My No, No, No Day! to be exact. Beleaguered parents everywhere can relate to bad days and tantrums in this charming, too-true picture book by Rebecca Patterson.
It starts when Bella wakes up to find her baby brother in her room – licking her jewelry! And if that’s not enough there’s a terrible egg incident at breakfast, followed by shoes! Everything is too itchy, too wet, too hot, too much! And bedtime is the worst.
Simple, yet expressive line drawings aptly convey Bella’s funny frustrations and upsets, as well others’ frayed nerves throughout the day. Who likes itchy tights anyway? After a long day of endless NO’s comes the yawn and the dawning, reluctant realization that Bella is really sleepy and really sorry for her very bad day. Mommy understands and suggests that there’s always the possibility of a cheerful day tomorrow. And there is!
British author/illustrator Mini Grey’s beloved superhero action figure and his pet, Scrubbing Brush, are back in the all new summer adventure Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey. A trip to the shore brings new exploration possibilities, new friends, and a new nemesis, Grandma’s overly friendly dog, Truffles.
Traction Man’s landscape is populated by an assortment of googly-eyed sea creatures like anemones and whelks, as well as similarly anthropomorphized picnic foods like sandwich halves and a slice of quiche. Reminiscent of Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear, Traction Man’s heroic feats take place in the world of his owner, an unnamed young boy. Grey’s humorous illustrations are full of witty details, making this a book that demands multiple reads. The accompanying words tell only part of the larger story.
When Traction Man and Scrubbing Brush are swept down the beach by an errant wave, they find themselves at the sandcastle of Beach Time Brenda and her fashion doll friends. How will Traction Man ever escape the embarrassment of being subjected to a seaweed beard, shell hat, and worst of all, a floral sarong? Help arrives in an unlikely manner, and new alliances are formed. Like the previous titles, Traction Man is Here! and Traction Man Meets Turbo Dog, this new picture book is a paean to the power of old-fashioned imaginative play.
Want to help your child relax, sleep better, and achieve calm and focus? You are a Lion!: and Other Fun Yoga Poses by Taeeun Yoo, is a fun, playful picture book introduction to yoga for the younger set. Yoga for babies and kids has really taken off as more and more folks are discovering the benefits of yoga for the whole family.
Bright, cheerful artwork created with linoleum block prints, pencil drawing, and Photoshop, illustrate easy, fun poses children can relate to. These are accompanied by simple, rhyming instructions. Kids become lions, snakes, butterflies, frogs, dogs and cats as they imitate the gentle poses and movements of familiar creatures. And, unlike eating vegetables, kids will love pretending to leap like a frog and stretch like a dog. Namaste.
The most prolific and talented illustrator in children’s books this year has to be Dan Santat. Known for his comically expressive animals and humans, Santat uses Photoshop to produce illustrations with a graphic designer’s sensibility.
Dog in Charge by K. L. Going features an English bulldog charged with keeping the cats out of trouble while the family is at the store. Five mischievous felines prove too much for our poor hero, who immediately exhausts himself trying to keep up. Retro wallpaper, furnishings, and a muted color palette lend a gentle tone to this madcap tale, full of onomatopoeia like "splash, swish and fwomp". How can this canine ever retain his status as Good, Smart, and Very Best Dog? Santat’s illustrations elevate a good story to an excellent picture book.
Rockin’ heartthrob rooster Elvis Poultry is back in Tammi Sauer’s inspired Bawk & Roll. Marge and Lola, the tailfeather-shakin’ hens from Chicken Dance, have been recruited as Elvis’ backup dancers. But the poor hens haven’t performed anywhere but their home barnyard. Overcome by nerves, they faint! How will they ever overcome their stage fright? Bawk & Roll shows off Santat’s talent when it comes to perspective. On one page it’s as if the reader is part of the packed audience, on another you’re onstage behind Elvis and the girls. And if there were ever an award for best use of light and shadow in a picture book, Bawk & Roll would be a shoo-in.
Fire! ¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos gives the illustrator a chance to play with fire, literally. To illustrate Susan Middleton Elya's rhyming, bilingual story of dedicated firefighters, Santat turned to some traditional ink and watercolor to enhance his usual Photoshop illustrations. He actually set some pages on fire, scanning the images in order to incorporate them into his work. You can visit Santat's blog for photos and a description of the process. Fire! ¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos is a must-read for young fans of firehouse tales.
Ducks have always entertained us, and in these three new books featuring our avian friends, the reader encounters more feathers, more webbed feet, and even more quacking! Duck Sock Hop, by Jane Kohuth, illustrated by Jane Porter, is a musical, rhyming cacophony. The ducks of various colors and varieties (fancifully patterned in ways never seen in the wild) come together in their love of fancy socks and energetic dancing. When their socks begin to unravel from overuse, it’s not a problem, as the Duck Sock Shop is just down the road to obtain new footwear. This will soon become a story time favorite.
For children just starting to read, the Katy Duck series is a good place to begin. Her latest adventure, Katy Duck Makes a Friend, features Katy needing a new partner to dance with when it’s time for her little brother to nap. Fortunately Katy’s new dog neighbor Ralph soon appears, but his interests don’t initially match Katy’s. Henry Cole’s sweet illustrations of duck and dog in motion make this entry in the series likely to be as popular as the previous installments.
A newly popular concept is the hybrid fiction/nonfiction picture book. Not all are successful, but Nicola Davies’ Just Ducks! works beautifully. Mallards, often the first wild ducks children recognize, are featured. The story of a young girl viewing and noting the habits of a duck pair is counterpointed (in a different font) with notable facts about mallards and ducks in general. Salvatore Rubbino’s soft watercolors portray the ducks accessibly and accurately. Particularly well-illustrated and amusing are the renderings of the mallards in a favorite position: heads underwater, tails up!
In addition to being man’s best friend, dogs make natural picture book protagonists. A number of newly published works explore the comic side of canine life.
Irish designer and illustrator Chris Haughton’s Oh No, George! follows a long-schnozzed pup as he comes face to face with temptations (like an uncovered cake and the dirt in the flower pot) when his owner goes out for the day. George hopes he’ll be good, but can he overcome his instincts? Rendered in charmingly simple, boldly colored digital and pencil illustrations with the repeating question “What will George do?” and the refrain “Oh No, George!”, this humorous tale has the makings of a favorite read aloud.
Zorro Gets an Outfit marks the return of a favorite picture book pug. Here Zorro’s owner comes home with a hooded cape for him to wear. Wearing the outfit makes him resemble his heroic masked namesake, Zorro. The poor pug is embarrassed by this get-up, and sadly all the dogs in the neighborhood taunt him on his afternoon walk. However, a new outfit-wearing dog soon arrives at the park, causing Zorro to have a change of heart. Author-illustrator Carter Goodrich’s talent with watercolor brings personality and humor galore to all characters involved, especially Zorro and his housemate Mr. Bud. Fans of their introductory adventure, Say Hello to Zorro! will be thrilled to welcome them back.
Little Lily has always wanted a dog. Imagine her joy when she spies a four-legged, wet-nosed furry creature digging through the garbage can in her back yard. She christens him Doggy, throwing her scarf around his neck to act as a leash. Expect youngest readers to squeal with delight as the pages turn in Silly Doggy!, and Lily continues to treat the big brown bear as if he were a dog. Adam Stower does a superb job matching humorous illustrations with simple text as the story winds down to a poignant conclusion. A surprise twist at the very end may find you laughing out loud.