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Monday, February 22, 2016

Storytime: New & Notable Picture Books (34)

This week's Storytime features two very different ideas of "fun," animal opposites, a tree's story, a tender celebration of life, and a hapless superhero!

The Almost Terrible Playdate
Written & Illustrated by Richard Torrey
Ages 3-7, Available Now

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Here is the story of two young children with VERY different ideas of what they want to play. What starts with an innocent question (“What do you want to play?”) soon veers hilariously toward chaos, as two children engage in the age-old struggle of princesses, ponies, and ballet vs. dinosaurs, dragons, and race cars. Which child will win? Or will both find a way to play nicely together?
The Almost Terrible Playdate is a great pick for lessons about compromise and the power of imagination. While some might be a big put off by the very stereotypical interests of the two main characters (the little girl wants to be a queen, a ballet instructor, etc and the boy wants to be a dinosaur, race car, etc), I wasn't particularly bothered. While it would have been great to see a bit more originality in that regard, the book's message and illustrations were strong. I especially enjoyed how the illustrations really held their own without the text. Worth checking out!

Spread from The Almost Terrible Playdate (2016).
The Almost Terrible Playdate (2016) endpapers.
The Opposite Zoo
Written & Illustrated by Il Sung Na
Ages 2-5, Available 3/8/2016

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The sky is dark and the Opposite Zoo is CLOSED. But the monkey's cage is OPEN! Time to explore. . .

Follow the monkey as he visits all the animals in the zoo: fast and slow, big and small, noisy and quiet, soft and prickly! Filled with energetic illustrations, friendly animals, and a clear, simple text—all wrapped up in a gorgeous package—The Opposite Zoo is a fun and lively introduction to animals and opposites for the youngest picture-book audience.
Hurrah for a new book from the talented Il Sung Na! Na is one of my favorite artists and this newest book is just as visually stunning as his previous projects. One of my favorite elements of this book is the monkey, the animal leading this exploration of opposites, can be found in every spread! Can you find him in the spread below?

Spread from The Opposite Zoo (2016).
Back cover of The Opposite Zoo (2016).

The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank's Window
Written by Jeff Gottesfeld; Illustrated by Peter McCarty
Ages 5-8, Available 3/8/2016

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Told from the perspective of the tree outside Anne Frank's window—this book introduces her story to a young audience.

The tree in the courtyard was a horse chestnut. Her leaves were green stars; her flowers foaming cones of white and pink. Seagulls flocked to her shade. She spread roots and reached skyward in peace.

The tree watched a little girl, who played and laughed and wrote in a diary. When strangers invaded the city and warplanes roared overhead, the tree watched the girl peek out of the curtained window of the annex. It watched as she and her family were taken away—and when her father returned after the war, alone.

The tree died the summer Anne Frank would have turned eighty-one, but its seeds and saplings have been planted around the world as a symbol of peace.
I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting from this book - a look at Anne Frank's time in the annex from the point of view of the chestnut tree outside the attic window - but I certainly wasn't expecting to turn into a sniffling mess while reading. While I wouldn't use this as a text to introduce Anne Frank and her story, it is a beautifully done addition to spark conversation and further connection. Peter McCarty's illustrations are (unsurprisingly) gorgeous and moving.

Spread from The Tree in the Courtyard (2016).
The Tree in the Courtyard (2016) endpapers.

Always Remember
Written by Cece Meng; Illustrated by Jago
Ages 3-7, Available Now

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A lyrically told, beautifully illustrated book that brings comfort to children--and adults--who have lost someone they love

After Old Turtle swims his last swim and breathes his last breath, and the waves gently take him away, his friends lovingly remember how he impacted each and every one of them. As the sea animals think back on how much better Old Turtle made their lives and their world, they realize that he is not truly gone, because his memory and legacy will last forever.

Jago's gorgeous illustrations accompany Cece Meng's serene text in a book that will help chidren understand and cope with the death of a loved one.

Always Remember from Cece Meng and Jago is a quiet, thoughtful book about life, death, and legacy. No matter your age, the loss of a loved one is difficult to process and accept. I've been asked on multiple occasions for picture books to help explain the death of a family member or pet to a child, but I don't think I've found one I love quite as much as Always Remember. Highly recommended.

Spread from Always Remember (2016).

Super Jumbo
Written & Illustrated by Fred Koehler
Ages 3-5, Available Now

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The charmingly oblivious elephant Little Jumbo "saves the day" in a superhero story that’s perfect for fans of Ian Falconer’s Olivia.
Being a superhero isn’t easy. All Little Jumbo wants to do is fight crime and defend the weak, by doing things like halting traffic for snails to cross the street and stopping Dad from sneaking cookies. It’s not his fault grown-ups don’t appreciate his heroic deeds! Luckily, Little Jumbo doesn't give up easily. He even powerfully resists cake (his greatest weakness!) to help a new friend in need!
I love this little elephant who's determined to save the day (even when it doesn't need saving)! The reactions and expressions of the everyone who encounters Super Jumbo and his hijinks are especially funny.

Spread from Super Jumbo (2016).
Back cover of Super Jumbo (2016).

Love any of the books featured this week? Let me know in the comments!


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