Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Phoebe and Digger by Tricia Springstubb

It's no secret that I have a vehicle-obsessed kiddo - if you've read this blog at all, you'll know already that Sprout is a hardcore fan of trains, trucks, cars, planes, boats, etc. etc. No trip to the library is complete without a stop by the "Things that Go" section, where we can generally find some favorites to check out yet again. And Sprout is absolutely nutty for books like the Richard Scarry Busytown titles, where vehicles veer toward the wild and crazy; just the sight of the pickle car is enough to send him into fits of laughter.

While it's pretty mainstream to find books about cars and such with male protagonists, though, it's somewhat harder to find books about girls who share this obsession. I think that would be a huge point of frustration from me, were I the parent of a daughter. After all, many of us work hard to override the all-too-prevalent messages connecting gender and playthings (ever strolled the aisles of Toys R Us and felt weighed down by the flood of pink and blue?). So when a book comes along that shakes up the mold, I think it's absolutely cause to celebrate.

Tricia Springstubb is just the author to create such a book, having already written some fantastic stories about strong girls (What Happened on Fox Street is one of our favorites!). And Phoebe and Digger, her newest picture book is a worthy addition to her body of work -- no surprise to me to find out that Springstubb is a former children's librarian, she knows what kids want, and need, to read. Plus this is a title that kids will be drawn to right off the bat, with its colorful, large format illustrations that balance realism and cartoonishness to the perfect degree. You can bet I'll be seeking out other examples of illustrator Jeff Newman's work after looking at this one!

With Phoebe, Springstubb gives us a girl who loves her digger fiercely and single-mindedly, much like Sprout loves his collection of engines. Phoebe got Digger under interesting circumstances: "(w)hen Mama got a new baby," we learn, "Phoebe got a new digger". Digger keeps Phoebe company while Mama deals with all the escapades of the baby, many of which Phoebe finds completely terrible. One day, Mama and the baby get on with their boring stuff at the park while Phoebe and Digger start getting some work done. But after an encounter with a "crybaby boy" (he's afraid of the worm Digger found) Phoebe runs into even more trouble, in the form of a bully who snatches Digger away. And Phoebe, who thought she could deal with absolutely everything on her own, suddenly discovers it's pretty great to have family on her side when she needs it (oh, and maybe the baby isn't so bad after all).

I love this title for its humor and its realistic depiction of the sibling struggle. It's pretty natural for a big sister to be a little nonplussed by a new baby, and I appreciate that Springstubb willingly tackles that emotion. And I also like that we have an honest look at how kids feel when a bully comes along - overwhelmed, dwarfed, frustrated and not always ready to ask for help (love that Mama jumps in just at the right moment). This is a terrific springboard to talking about lots of complex topics, feelings and reactions, as well as helping kids discuss what Phoebe could do next time the same kind of kid comes along.

Got a young truck fan at home? Check out this engaging story, because no matter if your kiddo is boy or girl, Phoebe will strike a chord with everyone!

Phoebe & Digger by Tricia Springstubb, published by Candlewick Press
Ages 4-8
Source: Library
Sample: "Both Phoebe and Digger loved the park. The park had trees and swings and a kindly man who sold frozen treats. But best of all, the park had. . . real dirt."

Bonus: Phoebe & Digger Story Hour Kit from the author's website!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

Whew, lots going on around here at the moment! In addition to the Multicultural Kid Blogs Pinterest Scavenger Hunt we are participating in (are you pinning along?), I've recently been promoted to a librarian position at the regional library system where I work. That's a dream come true for me, frankly, and though it isn't a children's services position, I'll still be doing acquisitions for our children's department, so no shortage of new books any time soon. But while I've been adjusting to all of this, the blog has taken a back seat of sorts, and I do apologize for the lack of new content. Fear not, more is coming!

Of all the books I've recently read, though, one is so unique that I couldn't take it back to the library unblogged. In his debut novel for middle graders, Better Nate Than Ever, Tim Federle gives us a fast, funny and oh-so-relatable tale of a fish out of water who may just have finally found his true calling. Nate Foster hasn't always known he wanted to be on Broadway, but he has always felt he didn't quite fit in his hometown of Jankburg, Pennsylvania. With the help of best friend Libby, Nate's finally figuring out that he was born for the stage - and he may be getting his big break, when Libby helps him hatch a plot to sneak off to New York for a Broadway audition. It's for the stage version of Nate's favorite film -- E.T.: The Musical -- and Nate just feels in his bones that he's meant to play Elliott. So Nate screws up all his courage and takes the city by storm. But with every twist and turn, it seems it's not going to be an easy road to stardom. Should Nate give up and head for home, or keep on keeping on to make his big dreams a reality?

This one isn't going to strike a chord with every kid, but for those to whom it rings true, this one may just be a lifesaver. Federle's frank about Nate's struggles to figure out his place in the world; this is an especially good choice for young teens who are gay or questioning. There are lots of other weighty issues as well, including religion, happiness at home, sibling rivalry, bullying and the drama of not fitting in. But lest you think this is a heavy book, far from it. Parts of this warm and witty novel had me laughing out loud, and every single page had me rooting for Nate that he'd find his place in the world, now or later.

Federle's mined his own experiences for the story of Nate, and the truth of his writing shines through on every page. You can't help but smile at a kid who uses failed musicals as curse words, and who's almost single-minded about getting to eat at the Times Square Applebee's. There's the perfect pitch here between adulthood and childhood, between a kid who is dazzled by the white lights of Broadway and one who just wants to, once and for all, find the place he's meant to be. For all of us who've ever felt there was a version of life out there with kindred spirits, and who suffered through some years of being odd one out before finding it, Better Nate Than Ever says it all.

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle, published by Simon and Schuster
Ages 9-13+
Source: Library
Sample: "And now I'm staring out the window at a familiar world zooming past, colors bleeding from grey (Pittsburgh) to bright red and blue (a car accident) to brown (somewhere thirty minutes out of town). Libby shared a really good technique that is thus far working beautifully: Crumple up a bunch of Kleenex and put them on the seat next to yours, and nobody will sit next to you on long bus trips. Try it sometime, guys."

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pinterest Scavenger Hunt - It's Clue Time!

Multicultural Kid Blogs Pinterest Scavenger Hunt

It's time for the Sprout's Bookshelf clue!

Get ready to start exploring!

This contest is sponsored by Multicultural Kid Blogs to celebrate the official launch of our website.
The Scavenger Hunt will run from July 15 to July 28. Participants have until July 31 to submit their entries, and the drawing will take place on August 1.
You could win one of four fabulous prize packages!
Details about the Scavenger Hunt can be found below.

Today's Clue:

This isn't Pixar's Story.

Now take a look around on this site and try to find the post that fits the clue. Once you think you've found it, pin it to the Pinterest Board you've created just for this contest.

Be sure to pop over to Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns for the other clue for today. A full schedule and rules of the game can be found below. Don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter at the bottom for more chances to win!

Here's the scoop:

Create a Pinterest board specifically for the contest and name the board "Multicultural Kid Blogs Pinterest Scavenger Hunt."

Each day a new clue (or two!) will be revealed. Follow the clue to the blog of the day and pin the post described in the clue. (Any image from the post is fine).

In the Rafflecopter below, enter the link to the Pinterest board you created for this contest. The Rafflecopter will also have lots of other ways to earn extra entries. The only required entry is the link to your Pinterest board.

Please note: You can enter the Rafflecopter at any point during the contest. Obviously your board won't be complete until the end of the contest, but you can enter the link in the Rafflecopter before then. If your name is drawn at the end of the contest, we will check your board at that time.

The final clue will be given July 28. Participants will have until midnight Pacific time on July 31 to finalize their boards. The drawing will take place on August 1. Winners must have pinned all of the correct posts to their board.

Winners will be notified via email and must respond within 48 hours or another name will be drawn. Good luck, explorers!

Our Fabulous Prizes

GRAND PRIZE PACKAGE (Total Value $128.74)
Language Learning Box Set (3 DVDs) from Little Pim ($49.95): The Little Pim Spanish Box Set Volume I is a great way to introduce young learners to over 180 Spanish words and phrases related to daily routines, food, and playtime! Winner can choose the language of the prize from among those available from Little Pim. (US Shipping Only. If the grand prize winner is located outside the US, the Language Learning Box Set will become part of the 1st prize package).
Little Pim Spanish Box Set Vol. I
3 Month Subscription from Little Passports ($41.85): Little Passports is a unique subscription based service that can take your family on an adventure to learn about culture and history from all 50 states and across the world. With this educational, monthly package, kids will become excited about geography, history, and culture by following the world travels of characters Sam and Sofia on their magic scooter! Winner chooses between World and USA editions.
LP World Explorer Kit

Luke's Beach Day storybook from Kids Yoga Stories ($15.95): Yoga-inspired story set on an Australian beach

The Skin You Live In book from Squishable Baby ($16): A book that celebrates the beauty in all of us.
The Skin You Live In_Large
One copy of Be Bilingual: Practical Ideas for Multilingual Families (eBook) from Be Bilingual ($4.99): A well-researched yet highly readable book on raising bilingual children.

1st PRIZE PACKAGE (Total Value: $79.89) US shipping only

Two books from Lee & Low ($29.90):
Rainbow Stew by Cathryn Falwell: Released in May 2013, Rainbow Stew follows three African American children and their grandfather as they pick fresh vegetables in his garden to cook up a lunch on a rainy afternoon.

How Far Do You Love Me? by Lulu Delacre: From the Swiss Alps Mountain Range to the Great Barrier Reef, How Far Do You Love Me? takes readers across the seven continents in a new take on the "I love you" game.

Spanish language bundle from Spanish Playground ($20): traditional wooden toys and digital downloads. Wooden chicken paddle toy and wooden top (una pirinola) to play "toma todo." Digital downloads of Spanish language story-coloring book Los pollitos and animal activity cards.Los Pollitos - Spanish Playground

One copy of the Bamboo Dance and one passport ($14.99) from Hartlyn Kids: An illustrated children's book about the day in the life of a child in the Philippines. The book contains a mock passport sticker. Also included is an accompanying mock passport.

Phillipines Story - Hartlyn Kids

Caxixi Woven Rattle From Africa from World Music with Daria ($10): Awesome fair trade woven rattle from Ghana
Caxixi Rattle

One copy of Be Bilingual: Practical Ideas for Multilingual Families (eBook) from Be Bilingual ($4.99) See details above

2nd PRIZE PACKAGE (Total Value: $36.99)
Fire and Gold digital download from Nightingale Creations ($10): A CD on the theme of tests and difficulties

2 sets of postcards and a notepad from Paper Papel Papier ($22): eco & multilingual-friendly paper goods
Paper Papel Papier

One copy of Be Bilingual: Practical Ideas for Multilingual Families (eBook) from Be Bilingual ($4.99) See details above

3rd PRIZE PACKAGE (Total Value: $29.95)

One copy of Ramadan Cookbook and Meal Plan (eBooks) from MarocMama ($18): Two ebooks featuring traditional (and some less traditional!) Ramadan recipes and meal ideas
Ramadan Nights

One copy of Coconut Oil For Your Skin (eBook) from Hybrid Rasta Mama ($11.95): an eBook filled with nourishing and simple recipes for skin care and hair care products featuring coconut oil as the main ingredient.
Cooking Oil For Your Skin_Ecover1000px

Scavenger Hunt Schedule

(Visit the Scavenger Hunt main page for a full list of clues as they are revealed).
July 15
July 16
July 17
July 18
July 19
July 20
July 21
July 22
July 23
July 24
July 25
July 26
July 27
July 28
Final day to enter the contest is July 31, 2013, at midnight PDT. Drawing will take place on August 1, 2013.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Picture a Tree by Barbara Reid

Last summer our next-door neighbor cut down a couple of old apple trees in her yard. It was a sad experience for us because we loved to watch the squirrels and birds in those trees, plus we really enjoyed the shade they provided. It's been a year and while our own trees are flourishing now that the bigger ones aren't blocking the sun, we still miss those old trees. Sprout asks about them at least once a week, as in his comment this morning that, "You know, I can't tell why someone would just cut a tree down for nothing." (Me either, kid.)

Fortunately we had a little treasure hiding in the library basket that helped us talk through our thoughts about trees. Barbara Reid's Picture a Tree is a lovely, lyrical celebration of trees and all the ways we can see them. Reid describes how we encounter trees and how we might view them, as though they are characters in our personal stage-play of life. There are some really clever juxtapositions of illustration and phrase, resulting in a lot of subtle humor. The prose is spare, each sentence carefully constructed to relay Reid's message with no unnecessary words. As we read this one, we often had to stop and take in the meaning Reid was trying to impart, a trait of the best picture books, in my opinion.

I love the emphasis on diversity here - not only does Reid show us trees of all varieties and stages, but she also includes a multi-ethnic population as varied as the trees themselves. That's a great bonus for books like these, where race isn't the driver of the story and people are just people, unique to themselves. Plus the illustrations here are just marvelous. Reid uses a technique where she molds Plasticine to make her scenes, and blends in paint for effect. The result is really tremendous to see - it reminds me somewhat of those old clay-mation films of my childhood, because you honestly feel like Reid's characters are going to jump off the page, they're that expressive. That just adds so much depth to the overall message of Picture a Tree, broadening the kid-appeal even more.

This is a nice title to share with even the youngest children, to include in units about the seasons or nature, or just to browse through yourself. Adults will get the shades of meaning and humor, but kids will love this title too (Sprout definitely did, enough that we've had to keep renewing our library copy). Colorful and thoughtful, warm and expressive, Picture a Tree is just the thing to help young explorers understand all that trees are and can be - and to get them thinking about how we see things in very different ways.

Picture a Tree by Barbara Reid, published by Albert Whitman & Company
Ages 4-7
Source: Library
Sample: "There is more than one way to picture a tree. / You may see a drawing on the sky. / A game of dress-up. / The first drops of color. . . then all the art supplies at once."

Monday, July 15, 2013

Multicultural Kid Blogs - the Pinterest Scavenger Hunt!

Summertime is just meant for kids, isn't it? School's out, days are long, there's lots of fun to be had outdoors and ice cream is a staple food. What's not to love? I'll admit that as an adult I sometimes miss the carefree fun of childhood summers. And while I can't recreate that for you (sorry, think I'd need a time machine for most of us!), I can provide you with an opportunity to have your own summer fun.

Multicultural Kid Blogs Pinterest Scavenger Hunt

Today is the kickoff for an awesome summer contest - the Pinterest Scavenger Hunt sponsored by Multicultural Kid Blogs. This is a super fun opportunity to visit some new blogs, pin some terrific content AND win fantastic prizes, including a bunch of books that you will definitely want to share with your little ones! (I told you it would be awesome, didn't I?).

The contest runs from July 15-July 28, and you can find all the details at the Multicultural Kid Blogs site. So get those Pinterest boards set up and stay tuned for our very own Sprout's Bookshelf clue, coming your way in just a few days!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Night Light by Nicholas Blechman

Concept books are critical, as most teachers and librarians will tell you. They present the building blocks of learning in the context of various subjects, designed to appeal to all the interests young children can dream up. But let's be honest here: most concept books are mind-numbingly boring for the adult, and sometimes even for the child. I mean, how many ways can you present the ABCs or colors or opposites and still make them engaging? Most of us grit our teeth and suffer through even the most dull concept book, because we know the subjects are important for our emerging readers.

But every once in a while you find an author who's taken a familiar concept and reimagined it in a whole new way. These are the concept books librarians dream of, due to the likelihood that they are going to stick in a young child's brain and reinforce the message more strongly than their more mundane counterparts. Think of Eric Carle's 1,2,3 to the Zoo, for example - if you read this one as a child, I'll bet the images of animals and the zoo train are etched in your memory. For my money, a book like that beats a simple count-the-flowers book any day.

And such is the new book by designer and artist Nicholas Blechman, Night Light. The premise is familiar -- seeing vehicles performing their jobs -- but here it's united with the concepts of counting and opposites to add a layer of learning to the reading experience. Overlaying each object with a completely black spread interrupted only by a few diecut holes allows the author to conduct a guessing game with kids, each answer being another vehicle. For the first spread, readers are asked, "1 light, shining bright?", and given a glimpse of the answer through one strategically placed peek-a-boo hole. The answer comes on the following page - train, which is illustrated through bold colors and the use of stylized graphics that are both vintage and fresh. Each new number gives a new opportunity to guess, and kids will love not only trying to deduce the answer, but also seeing how the peek holes are put to use in the reverse (for that first spread, the hole becomes the train tunnel - clever, no?).

Like the best concept books, Night Light is deceptively simple, and that's why I think it's effective. Kids who love things that go will be especially charmed by Blechman's work, so don't limit this one to just the youngest readers. Sprout's obviously beyond the need for counting books, but he was still quite taken by the conceit here, and loved figuring out the answers, most of which were a total surprise. And, in a nice touch, the book comes full circle at the very end, where we see that the boy reading the book is picturing himself in the driver's seat of each vehicle. Very meta!

Add this one to your library list, or pick up a copy for a baby shower or birthday gift. Because -- trust me on this -- here's a concept book even adults will enjoy looking at again and again.

Night Light by Nicholas Blechman, published by Orchard Books
Ages 1-3
Source: Library

(For more fresh and retro concept books, check out authors like Laura Vaccaro SeegerMichael Hall and Lois Ehlert.)