How Santa Changed

Written by Karl Steam
Illustrated by Maksym Stasiuk

Do you think Santa Claus suddenly appeared one day just the way kids see him today? Is it possible he was once a skinny young man with a brown beard? Did he insist on making all the toys himself? Was his sleigh pulled by the largest moose, which fought for the privilege of pulling the sleigh? Was Mrs. Claus a terrible cook? Steam says all of this is possible in this charming, rhyming story. As Santa grew older, his beard whitened. As the world’s population grew, his sleigh got too heavy for one belligerent moose and the toys too numerous to make on Santa’s own. And Mrs. Claus learned to make delicious cookies as she read tips about baking, adding to Santa’s round belly.

Illustrated in rich colors, this is a wonderful read aloud for this time of the year, or actually for any time, as kids learn about working together and about how things become the way they are. Each spread shows details for kids to spot, such as a family portrait or the title of the book Mrs. Claus is reading. Steam’s website (https://www.karlsteam.com/) includes classroom resources.  

Order on Amazon

  • how-santa-changedTitle: How Santa Changed                                   
  • Author: Karl Steam
  • Illustrator: Maksym Stasiuk
  • Published: Amazon Digital Services, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Kindle Edition, 38 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Picture Book, Christmas
  • ISBN: 978-163578-002-4
  • Extras: Classroom Resources (Discussion and Activities), Online Resources

Mr. Cookie Baker

Written and Illustrated by Monica Wellington

Wellington has a real talent for drawing kids into activities that also have a fun end-product. In this re-issued classic, kids learn all about cookies and where they come from. The lively illustrations make the process that much more fun.  Simple, bright pictures contain many, many details to spot and remember.

Behind a sign that tells the reader the bakery opens at 9 am, Mr. Baker is hard at work using his flour, sugar, butter, milk, eggs, and salt. With his big bowl and spoon, measuring spoons and cups, mixer, and spatulas, he mixes his dough. He rolls, cuts, and shapes. He bakes the cookies in a bog oven. They smell delicious. With care, he decorates the cookies. A crowd of customers buy the fresh product. He hangs the closed sign and has a cookie himself.

From this, and books like it, kids will learn about the processes that affect the world around them. Most will delight in helping adults try the recipes in the book, decorating the cookies, and giving them the taste test.

The presented are: sugar cookies, chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal.

Buy on Amazon

  • mr-cookie-bakerTitle: Mr. Cookie Baker                           
  • Author/Illustrator: Monica Wellington
  • Published: Dutton Children’s Books, 2011
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 1
  • Genre: Picture Book, Baking
  • ISBN: 978-0-525-47763-1
  • Extras: Four standard cookie recipes

Dinosaurs Don’t Have Bedtimes!

Written by Timothy Knapman
Illustrated by Nikki Dyson

Maybe dinosaurs don’t have bedtimes, but little boys do. And what are you going to do when your little one wants to pretend he’s a dinosaur and can do everything a dinosaur can? This adorable new book helps answer that question and more.

Dinosaurs don’t have dinnertimes, so they must get hungry. Dinosaurs love to make a terrible mess. They don’t have bath times, so they must have dirty ears. Dinosaurs don’t wear pajamas, so they must get very cold. Dinosaurs don’t play nicely. Dinosaurs don’t drink their milk. They don’t have bedtimes, but they do close their eyes and curl up and get a good-night kiss.

Sticking close to the dinosaur theme, Dyson packs a lot of action into the beautiful illustrations. Mo, the little boy, always wears dinosaur-themed clothes plus, often, dinosaur heads and paws. He’s always followed by his dog Rex and plenty of dinosaur toys. He even has a bandage on his knee.

Best as a read aloud, this can also be used by first graders for independent reading and increasing literacy skills.  

Buy on Amazon

  • dinosaurs-bedtimesTitle: Dinosaurs Don’t Have Bedtimes!               
  • Author: Timothy Knapman
  • Illustrator: Nikki Dyson
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Picture book, Bedtimes
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8927-8

We Found a Hat

Written by Jon Klassen

As usual, Klassen says a little in very few words. Two turtles find a hat. They find it together. It looks great on each of them, but there’s still only one hat. One hat. Two turtles. Not right. One turtle realizes the fair thing to do is leave the hat and forget about it. They walk away. The other turtle looks back with longing. Together, they enjoy a sunset. The first turtle claims to be thinking about the sunset. The second turtle says it’s thinking about nothing, but still looks back at the hat. It’s time to go to sleep. They discuss their dreams. The first turtle has a dream where each of them has a hat. The second turtle goes to sleep and dreams the same dream.

The stark nature of Klassen’s illustration gets the point across that this is a very simple message. Kids will probably note right away that one turtle has square markings, while the other has triangular markings. Simple, but different. They will see that friends share everything, possibly even dreams.

This would make a great read aloud to stimulate discussion of friendship and sharing. Independent reading would certainly reinforce literacy skills. There is a lot to love in this book.

 Buy on Amazon

  • we-found-a-hatTitle: We Found a Hat
  • Author: Jon Klassen
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 56 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Fiction, Picture book, Sharing, Friendship
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-5600-3

 

 

Apple Farmer Annie

Written and Illustrated by Monica Wellington

October is the best time of the year for apples, and the farmer in this cute new book seems to know it.

Annie has a large orchard with many apple varieties. She picks them, then sorts and organizes them. During the organization phase, the illustrator includes a quick counting motif. Annie makes sweet apple cider, smooth applesauce, muffins, cakes, and pies.   For each project, all the equipment used is shown in amazing detail, given the simple design used for the illustrations. After all the preparation, Annie loads up the uncooked apples and many of the cooked projects. She heads to market in the city with them. She has a busy day. The author lists several apple varieties and even gets in a joke with a book about The Big Apple.

The simple language and illustrations make this easily an independent reading possibility, but, as a read aloud, all the many details in the illustrations can be discussed. Of course, the recipes will require adult participation anyway. This opens the door for many more reading activities.

 Buy on Amazon

  • apple-farmer-annieTitle: Apple Farmer Annie
  • Author/Illustrator: Monica Wellington
  • Published: Puffin Books/Penguin, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 1
  • Genre: Picture Book, Food, Counting, Baking
  • ISBN: 978-0-14-240124-8
  • Extras: Recipes

Toby

Written and Illustrated by Hazel Mitchell

Fall in love with this heartwarming tale almost as quickly as the boy falls in love with his new dog.

When a young boy and his father move into a new home, the boy asks for a dog. At the local animal shelter, they disagree briefly on which dog is right for them, but the dad lets the son choose, since it will be his responsibility. The first days with Toby are rough, as he is afraid of everything and does not know his doggie manners. But, gradually, as Toby and his boy learn from each other and form a bond, life gets better. They play together, go on walks, and even hunt for shoes. They learn to sit and stay and make friends.

Mitchell’s beautiful illustrations capture the emotions of all three characters. She shows all the actions involved in adjusting to their new life together. The end pages are especially delightful.

The author’s note about the Toby who inspired this story should encourage people to visit shelters and be as loving as the boy in the story. Parents and teachers should be prepared to discuss puppy mills and how they affect different animals differently. Also, discussions about responsibility and training animals may be incorporated.

 Buy on Amazon

  • tobyTitle: Toby
  • Author/Illustrator: Hazel Mitchell
  • Published: Candlewick, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 1
  • Genre: Fiction, Animals
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8093-0

 

Fiona’s Little Lie (Felix and Fiona)

Written and Illustrated by Rosemary Wells

Six-year-old Fiona’s heart is in the right place, but she’s so easily distracted. She is so excited when she is chosen by Miss B to be her best friend Felix’s Birthday Elf. This means she can make a fuss over him and provide the treats to celebrate his birthday the next day. Miss B writes her a nice note for her mother to ask for cupcakes, but she loses the note in the car when she sees a caterpillar. Naturally, there are no cupcakes. To cover her blunder, Fiona makes up a story about being robbed of the treats. Quickly caught in her lie, Fiona must apologize not only to Felix, but to Miss B, the class, and those accused of stealing. Fiona feels even worse when Felix describes how much he was looking forward to the cupcakes. Having found the note in the car, Fiona’s mom saves the birthday party. Anything but bran bars!

This sweet little book has a lot to say not only about the consequences of lying, but also about the true roles of friendship. Lessons taught, lessons learned.

The cute, fuzzy creatures that are Fiona, Felix, and the others add to the fun.

 Buy on Amazon

  • fionas-little-lieTitle: Fiona’s Little Lie (Felix and Fiona)
  • Author/Illustrator: Rosemary Wells
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Friendship
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7312-3

 

 

Octopus Escapes Again!

Written and Illustrated by Laurie Ellen Angus

How talented is an octopus? As talented as it needs to be to survive all the predators that would love to eat it. In this informative picture book, the author follows an unnamed octopus as she works to find a meal of her own. First, her quest for shrimp is interrupted by a sea turtle. She hides inside an empty shell. When she spots some small fish, an eel is on the prowl. She escapes due to her ink. Next, a shark closes in, and she shoots away quickly. A large fish grabs one arm. The arm breaks off, and the octopus escapes again. The arm will grow back. A gull tries to get her. She uses her natural camouflage. Finally, she catches some clams for dinner.

The many animals highlighted in this tale are discussed in much more detail in the Explore More sections. In addition, the author suggests several interesting activities where kids can learn more – both about the octopus and the other animals present. Some great online videos are also mentioned.

The writing is fun and the illustrations give the “being there” feel for underwater adventures. Recommended as the focus for a stand-alone unit or as further exploration related to food chains or sea creatures.

 Buy on Amazon

  • octopus-escapes-againTitle: Octopus Escapes Again!
  • Author/Illustrator: Laurie Ellen Angus
  • Publisher: Dawn Publishers, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Nature, Animals
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-578-3
  • Extras: Explore More – For Kids, Explore More – For Teachers and Parents

Stanley’s Colors

Written and Illustrated by William Bee

Stanley continues his adventures by exploring the world of color. Again, Stanley’s latest exploits are meant mostly for younger children, but the concepts are can also important for children old enough to read the simple text on their own. The theme centers around modes of transportation this time. Each two-page spread highlights one color and where it might appear in the real world. Stanley fixes his red car. He delivers flowers in an orange truck. He rides on his yellow motorcycle. Stanley and Little Woo ride in a green airplane. Stanley fishes from a blue motorboat. His choo choo train is purple. Their hot air balloon is pink. His earth-flattening steamroller is brown. The last very colorful spread combines all the colors, encouraging the reader to explore for colors and combinations. The simple illustrations help make it easier to look for the colors.
Order on Amazon

  • Stanleys ColorsTitle: Stanley’s Color
  • Author/Illustrator: William Bee
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, September 1, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Board Book, 20 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 1
  • Genre: Basic concepts
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-948-3

Stanley’s Shapes

Written and Illustrated by William Bee

Stanley has been many places and done many jobs, but now he’s getting down to the nitty gritty. Although Stanley’s exploration of shapes is wonderful for younger children, he can also reinforce concepts for children old enough to read the simple text on their own. Each two-page spread highlights one shape and shows how it’s represented in the real world. Stanley and Little Woo’s suitcases are rectangles. Their tent is a triangle. Hattie’s window is a square. Bicycle wheels are circles. Kites are diamonds. Watermelons are ovals. A starfish is shaped like a star. Cars on a ride are semicircles. The last spread encourages the reader to find the jumbled shapes, which could easily extend to finding those shapes in the world around the reader. Bee’s simple illustrations provide a great and non-distracting backdrop to the idea of exploring simple shapes.

Order on Amazon

  • Stanleys ShapesTitle: Stanley’s Shapes
  • Author/Illustrator: William Bee
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, September 1, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Board Book, 20 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 1
  • Genre: Basic concepts
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-949-0
« Older Entries