Picture Book Review ~ Books for a Rainy Day

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

April is notorious for being wet and dreary (April Showers, sound familiar?!) But it’s also on the cusp of the season changes so things begin to warm up and bloom and it’s definitely an invitation to head outside and soak up the moments of sunshine when they appear. But the rain has a beauty of its own, especially when you’ve got littles to entertain. So pull on the wellies and see who can make the biggest puddle splash! Then warm up some cocoa and enjoy a few of these rainy day stories. (And by the way, littles are not a pre-requisite for this day of fun! 😉 )

Raccoon isn’t eager to be alone on such a stormy night so he heads out into the forest, splish-splashing his way to seek shelter with one of his friends. But alas, he’s too big to join any of them in their homes. His last hope is Rabbit’s den, full to overflowing with ten little rabbits all hopping and bopping off the walls. But Rabbit welcomes him warmly and he feels cozy and safe. Soon the other friends appear at the door and they are all welcomed in as well because there’s always room for friends! A fun read aloud for pre-school age.
May I Come In book review
Written by: Marsha Diane Arnold
Illustrated by: Jennie Poh
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press, 2018
Number of Pages: 32
Age Range: 2-5
Rating: 3/5
One of my absolute all-time favorite rain books, this was always a hit in my pre-school/kindergarten read-alouds. This builds in a “House That Jack Built” sort of way with each character succumbing to the gloomy spirit of the rainy day and falling asleep on the big bed. Until a pesky flea sets off a chain reaction that finds everyone awake and laughing. Take a look at the progress of the stormy skies outside the window as you read, and see if you can read it without giggling.
The Napping House book review
Written by: Audrey Wood
Illustrated by: Don Wood
Publisher: Harcourt Publishing, 1984
Number of Pages: 32
Age Range: 2-6
Rating: 5/5
After a rainstorm Ava is eager to look for the rainbow and quickly wishes that the one she finds could stay around forever. Magically, it does! Night and day the rainbow soars above the town and becomes the center of attention…until he becomes so commonplace that the townspeople forget he’s even there. Ava despairs that they could ignore something so special and he vanishes. Thankfully he returns again after another storm and both he and Ava realize the importance of appreciating the beauty of the fleeting and temporary.
Ava and the Rainbow book review
Written and Illustrated by: Ged Adamson
Number of Pages: 32
Publisher: Harper Collins, 2018
Age Range: 4-9
Rating: 4/5
By the door is a big, friendly umbrella. When it ventures out during a rainstorm it invites all to take shelter and it’s miraculously always big enough for everyone, no matter who you are. Told in simple, spare text it’s a beautiful little metaphor for older readers of the way our world can work. And for younger, more literal readers it’s a cheerful tale to brighten a rainy day.
Big Umbrella book review
Written and Illustrated by: Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates
Number of Pages: 40
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2018
Age Range: 3-8
Rating: 4/5
Need more rainy day books? Here are a few favorites both old and new:
Did I miss any of your favorites? Please share them in the comments!

Picture Book Review ~ They Say Blue

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

Concept books were always a hot commodity when I worked at the library. And there was a plethora to choose from, though the quality could be vastly different. Alphabet, counting, shape and color books are essential for helping children learn and while those that go prosaically through the basics have their place it’s always great to find one that goes above and beyond.

This one is sort of an anti-color book, the text moves beyond the simple response of ‘what color is the sky?’ to explore how colors and other things in life can shift subtly (or not so subtly) when our perspective shifts. The ocean is not only blue but clear and sparkling like diamonds. Fields of grass can look like golden oceans or plain old grass. And the greatest shift of all comes when the girl making the observations  not only looks but stretches, listens, and feels.

The text is poetic but simple and the watercolor illustrations are vibrant and playful, pulling you in alongside the girl to experience everything she does. It makes for a connective reading experience for kids of all ages (and the adults doing the reading!)

They Say Blue book review2

They Say Blue

Written and illustrated by: Jillian Tamaki

Number of Pages: 40

Publisher: Abrams Books, 2018

Age Range: 4-9

Rating: 4/5

They Say Blue book review

Picture Book Review ~ Astronaut Annie

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

With the weather warming up its the perfect time to head outside and look up at the stars. And if you’ve got a budding astronomer/astronaut in your midst then this book is for you!

Career Day is coming up but Annie is keeping her dream a secret until the big day. Everyone in Annie’s family has a guess as to what she’d like to be. They’re each sure she wants to be what they were (reporters, cooks, explorers etc.) and give her something to help out with her costume. She counters each response with gratitude but keeps everything under her hat until the big day. Once up on stage she reveals her choice, honoring her family members and the traits she inherited and learned from each of them. This spunky girl uses the things she’s been given to dream big.

This book packs a two-for-one punch with some non-fiction facts along with Annie’s inspiring story. The rhyming text is perfect for a read-aloud and will inspire listeners to dream their own dreams. There’s some fantastic back matter including mini-bios and photos of some of the best-known women from the space program, some information on the moon’s orbit and phases, and additional resources.

Astronaut Annie book review

Astronaut Annie

Written by: Suzanne Slade

Illustrated by: Nicole Tadgell

Publisher: Tilbury House, 2018

Number of Pages: 36

Age Range: 4-8

Rating: 4/5

 

 

Picture Book Review ~ Books About Music

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

April is National Poetry Month. As a teacher I always pulled out the anthologies and did poet profiles and had my students create poems of their own based on popular styles and forms. But it wasn’t until I was working as a librarian that I made the connection between poetry and music (I know, duh!) So, when April rolls around now I try to make an effort to at least point out the connection especially since so many people think of poetry as being either indecipherable or too academic or in some other way un-relatable. So, here are a few books about music (some with lyrics that can be appreciated as poetry and one without lyrics at all.) And I’d love for you to share your favorites with me in the comments below!

When The Rite of Spring ballet was first presented to audiences in 1913 it was so different from anything people had heard or seen an actual riot broke out in the theater. Some people loved it and some people hated it and it continues to be divisive to this day. This book tells the story of how it all came to be.

Igor Stravinsky was a successful composer who had already revolutionized music with his unusual uses of rhythms and dissonance. Vaslav Nijinsky was a highly celebrated ballet dancer. But when the two met, their individual talents seemed to expand. Nijinsky choreographed the dancing to Stravinsky’s music, both using heavy Russian influences in honor of their home country.

I’ve never been a huge fan of The Rite of Spring though I love some of Stravinsky’s other work and I can only imagine what it must have been like to hear it (and see it) all for the first time. I loved learning about these two men and can definitely appreciate their influence on musical history. There’s some great back matter here too including photos of the men and the dancers in their costumes. There’s also a great note on the illustrations which are bright and a little unconventional, a perfect fit for the text.

 

When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky: Two Artists, Their Ballet and One Extraordinary Riot

Written and Illustrated by: Lauren Stringer

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books, 2013

Age Range: 7-11

Rating: 4/5

 

Simon and Garfunkel have long been one of my musical inspirations. I grew up listening to my parent’s vinyl copies of Sounds of Silence and Bridge Over Troubled Waters over and over, watching their Central Park concert on TV and even seeing them in concert in person when they toured a few years ago. So I was beyond thrilled to hear about this book and wasn’t disappointed.

Each spread gives the reader a rich illustration accompanying a free verse mini-chapter titled after one of their songs. Starting with the Central Park concert it then flashes back thirty years to when the boys’ childhoods growing up in the same neighborhood in Queens. Their paths don’t really cross until Artie (Garfunkel) sings at a school talent show and Paul (Simon) is struck by the hypnotic voice and decides he’s going to learn to sing like that too.  They become friends who spend the bulk of their time studying music, imitating the sounds of new comers like Elvis, and honing their own sounds after a few misses.

As they grow they become increasingly influenced by the folk music scene and Bob Dylan in particular who not only sings but spreads messages of change and revolution with his music. They spend time away from music, time apart and eventually join forces again, this time finding success. And the rest is history.

There’s a lot of depth here, a lot of information covered. And tons of great back matter including a discography, afterword and bibliography detailing the writing process, a list of musical connections and influences…in essence, something for everyone.

When Paul Met Artie

Written by: G. Neri

Illustrated by: David Litchfield

Number of Pages: 48

Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2018

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Clive was born in Jamaica but moved to NYC when he was thirteen.  He loved all kinds of music and imagined himself a DJ creating sounds and experiences for the people who showed up at the clubs and house parties to dance. He soon started hosting his own parties in their Bronx housing project and when they got too big and crowded to be contained inside they spilled out into the streets. He revolutionized the music world and influenced the rappers, break dancers, and other DJs that were just starting to find their footing in the late 70s and early 80s.

I know absolutely nothing about hip hop music so everything in this book was a revelation for me. Filled with vibrant colors, tons of information and fantastic back matter (including an author’s note, timeline, and bibliography). This is a fabulous resource for music lovers and those, like me, who might have little knowledge of the evolution of an entire subculture.

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop

Written by: Laban Carrick Hill

Illustrated by: Theodore Taylor III

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Roaring Book Press, 2013

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 4/5

 

Happy reading/listening!

Picture Book Review ~ Nature Lovers

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

Spring is in the air (finally!) and with the warmer weather all I want to do is ditch all of my responsibilities and go outside to enjoy the blossoms and buds and freshly sprouting grass. But I have to do things like dishes and go to work and so mostly I’m enjoying things vicariously. Today I’m featuring two books that celebrate nature and its advocates in an urban setting.

Jane Jacobs spent her whole life struggling and against conventions and exploring the great outdoors. She wanted to know how things worked, she found patterns in seemingly ordinary places and discovered that cities have their own ecosystems. Parks, sidewalks, buildings, stores, people are all part of what makes a city tick and when they work together everything is healthier and happier.

When her favorite parks and neighborhoods came under attack from city planners looking to build expressways and skyscrapers she used her love of the ecosystem and her journalism background to rally the neighbors and bring about changes to all the places she lived (including NYC and Toronto). She worked until her death to encourage people to get out and walk around their city streets learning about their neighborhoods and being a part of the great “sidewalk ballet.”

Walking in the City with Jane Book Review

Walking in the City with Jane

Written by: Susan Hughes

Illustrated by: Valerie Boivin

Number of Pages: 36

Publisher: Kids Can Press

Age Range: 6-10

Rating: 3/5

 

Bob Redman grew up in NYC but didn’t love the bustle, busyness and endless concrete. He spent as much of his time as possible in Central Park climbing the trees and enjoying the cool and quiet. He began building tree houses out of scavenged wood and spending hours watching the city from above. As he grew, his tree houses grew with him becoming larger and more elaborate but the city eventually intervened. Bob wasn’t allowed to live in the trees but he was offered a job to take care of the trees he loved so much.

Up in the Leaves Book Review

 

Up In The Leaves

Written by: Shira Boss

Illustrated by:  Jamey Christoph

Number of Pages: 40

Publisher: Stirling Children’s Books

Age Range: 6-10

Rating: 4/5

Both books are fascinating looks at what people can accomplish when they put their minds to something. Each has a bit of back matter talking about the real people behind the stories but I would have loved just a little more information. (You can never give me too much back matter!) But if you’re looking to inspire some future naturalists, give these books a look!

Middle Grade Favorites ~ Book Reviews

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

I have a great love of middle grade books. (Ok, ok, I have a great love of all books!) But seriously, middle grade books are fantastic. They make me feel super accomplished cause I can plow through them pretty quickly, but they often have great messages, heart, and depth. Here are a few I’ve particularly loved lately.

 

Mustaches for Maddie

Written by: Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Number of Pages: 245

Age Range: 7-11

Rating: 3.5/5

Maddie has an overactive imagination and some trouble with the other girls in her class. As she tries to navigate the mean girl situation and figure out her feelings about boys, things get even more complicated when she learns she has a brain tumor and will have to go through surgery. Full of heart and humor readers will fall in love with Maddie and cheer for her success. Based on a true story.

 

Walking With Miss Millie

Written by: Tamara Bundy

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Number of Pages: 227

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 4.5/5

This one is my favorite of the lot. Alice and her family have moved in with her Grandma who’s begun suffering from dementia. She is not happy to be there and even less happy to have to walk the next-door neighbor’s dog as penance for listening in on her conversation on the party line. Clarence is having none of it so Miss Millie is forced to go too and she and Alice strike up a multi-generational, inter-racial friendship that changes their whole town. This one had all the feels and made me want to hand it to everyone who keeps showing up on the news lobbing slurs and spouting intolerance.

 

Gertie’s Leap to Greatness

Written by: Kate Beasley

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

Number of Pages: 250

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 4/5

Gertie’s mom abandoned her when she was a baby and now the home she lives in across town is for sale. Gertie is determined to become the best, most awesome fifth-grader in the universe to convince her mom to stay. But the new girl in class is going to ruin everything with her seat stealing and movie star friends. Gertie is spunky and a tad awkward, like my childhood favorite Ramona Quimby. She deals with some tough stuff in a realistic and charming way. Another favorite.

Here are a few more pretty recent releases worth tracking down:

Heartwood Hotel: A True Home

Nightmares!

The League of Beastly Dreadfuls

Wishtree

The Van Gogh Deception

And if you aren’t already following me on Instagram, hop on over and check out the two other MG reads I’ve shared today.

What have you been reading recently? Tell me in the comments below!