Best Kids Picture Books for Valentine’s Day

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HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY 2015!
❤️A ROUNDUP TO SHARE THE LOVE ❤️

In-My-Heart-cvr.jpgThis book is great for Valentine’s Day, but is not limited to the holiday.

Even as an adult, feelings are hard to pinpoint, much less express. Written by Jo Witek, with illustrations by Christine Roussey, IN MY HEART: A Book of Feelings, (AbramsAppleseed, $16.95, Ages 2-4), may be a book intended for toddlers, but its universal theme will appeal to all ages.

This beautiful die-cut board book uses colors, shapes, and symbolism to help children identify and verbalize what they are feeling. Witek’s lyrical writing and masterful use of vocabulary are awe-worthy, and are complemented perfectly by Roussey’s fanciful illustrations.

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Interior spread from In My Heart by Jo Witek with illustrations by Christine Roussey, Abrams Appleseed ©2014.

 

When I get really angry, my heart feels as if it’s going to explode!
Don’t come near me!
My heart is yelling, hot and loud.
This is when my heart is mad.

But other times, my heart is cool.
I bob along gently like a balloon on a string.
My heart feels lazy and slow, as quiet as snowfall.
This is when my heart is calm.

Sad, afraid, and shy are emotions which are explored by this perfect pairing of author and illustrator, along with hopeful, brave, and proud, to name a few. Witek ends the book with an open-ended question for the reader, sure to encourage a heart-felt discussion. She asks:

How does your heart feel?

Both Witek and Roussey live in France, and originally published their book in French under the title Dans Mon Petit Coeur, (Editions de La Martiniere/2013). Nothing has been lost in the translation to English, proving the heart speaks a language all its own. – Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

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Guess-How-Much-cvr.jpgIt must have been twenty years ago when I first read the touching tale of Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare, and teared up. Then, when my oldest daughter was in high school, her boyfriend gave her a copy of the book for Valentine’s Day. I got choked up again when she let me read it. GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU, written by Sam McBratney, and illustrated by Anita Jeram, (Candlewick Press, $9.99, Ages 4-8), is now available in a 4″x4″ special foldout, pop-up book format, and after all of these years, still makes me misty.

A timeless tale of love, this beloved book comes to life with Jeram’s ink and watercolor illustrations of Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare. In this most recent edition, the characters pop off the pages as they try to outdo one another while expressing their love.

“I love you as high as I can hop!” laughed Little Nutbrown Hare, bouncing up and down.
“But I love you as high as I can hop,” smiled Big Nutbrown Hare — and he hopped so high that his ears touched the branches above.

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Interior artwork from Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney with illustrations by Anita Jeram, Candlewick Press, ©2014.

 

McBratney’s text expands upon the phrase, “I love you this much,” so often heard between parent and child, with his creative prose. The sentiment is appropriate any time, but tucked away in a beautiful red sleeve with a decorative gold title, Guess How Much I Love You  makes the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for loved ones of any age. – Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

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Love-Monster-cvr.jpgThis little Love Monster was a nice little monster living in a land called Cutesville. LOVE MONSTER, written and illustrated by Rachel Bright (Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, $16.99, Ages 2-4), is another terrific Valentine’s Day picture book to add to your gift list. Living in a world full of everything cute and fluffy can be hard when you’re a funny looking monster of bright red hue, and googly eyes. Or so it felt that way for our main character who was seeking someone to love him “just the way he was.”

NOTE: Make sure to point out the sign that reads BIG, WIDE WORLD as Love Monster sets off on his search.

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Interior artwork from LOVE MONSTER by Rachel Bright, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ©2014.

Monster looked high, low and he even looked “middle-ish,” one of my favorite words in the story. At the Fancy Dress Shop (costume store) he was almost fooled by a monster mask, then again by his shadow, and finally by his reflection. Was there no one for him?  It almost seemed as if he had a dark cloud hanging over his head. But in a moment of pure storybook serendipity, as Love Monster was almost running out of places to look for love, his luck changed.

“You see, sometimes when you least expect it … love finds you.”

Bright’s message is not a new one, but it’s an oh so important one to share with children. How many times have we said something similar to our kids?  This simple tale is one of hope and reassurance for any child feeling they don’t quite fit in.

Bright’s artwork is not only bold and colorful, reflecting Little Monster’s various moods, but unique. Bright’s created her illustrations with solar etching according to jacket copy.  She uses ultraviolet light to create printing plates, a truly illuminating technique!
– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Other New & Noteworthy Picture Books

Zombie in Love 2 + 1 by Kelly DiPucchio with illustrations by Scott Campbell (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
A Crankenstein Valentine by Samantha Berger with illustrations by Dan Santat (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)


I Wonder Who? Surprises on Every Page!

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From England comes I Wonder Who? by Anton Poitier with illustrations by Sophia Touliatou (Kane Miller, $12.99, Ages 3-7).

I-Wonder-Who-cvr-spread.jpgPart lift-the-flap, part pop-up and part die cut, this colorful interactive animal concept book will engage your youngsters and be just as enjoyable for you to share with them.

The playful depiction of animals from caterpillars to whales complements the questions:

 

 

“I wonder who has eaten the page?”

“I wonder who has made a big splash?”

Though little ones may not be able to read the replies, they’ll use the clues and discuss with parents who could possibly be hiding behind each flap and not even realize the pre-literacy and language skills they’ll be developing. Being a cat owner, my favorite scene is the one with a ripped page. Which one will be your child’s favorite?

Another treat: In every scene there are some cute birds to be found, adding yet another activity to this fun busy book.

NOTE: Since the book is from England, in one scene with an elephant, “currant buns” are mentioned, so it would be helpful for parents/caregivers to know that a currant bun is sweet and full of raisin-like berries.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 


Interactive Farm Fun

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Playbook Farm by Corina Fletcher and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup ($24.00, Nosy Crow, ages 3 and up) is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

Playbook Farm is a multi-faceted treat that has engaged my three-year old daughter for hours. It is a combination of a pop-up book and a 3-D play mat that comes in an 8.5” box with an inner flap to store the stand-up animals and farm vehicles. The bottom side of the mat is the book. Children can read about the important work that farm animals do in simple, straight-forward language written by Corina Fletcher.  All the animals on the farm have jobs to do. Can you guess what they are? What do farm cats do? Farms cats keep the mice away and stop them from eating the wheat. What do sheep do? Sheep give us wool to keep us warm.

The sturdy 3-D mat opens up to roughly 24”x32”. There is a path that winds through the farm and takes us through the fields and pastures past the windmill, chicken coop, and more. Along the path is text that explains what we are passing: “Moo, moo, moo!” The cows are ready for morning milking. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whirs the windmill, grinding the grains of corn. The pop-up buildings have movable parts, such as doors and gates that open and windmill blades that turn.

The stand-up animals and vehicles are easy for little fingers to move across the mat. Move the tractor driven by the female farmer across the corn fields. Drive the truck through the farm to pick up supplies. Have the sheep dog guide the sheep and goat into their pen. Set the rooster high on the roof to announce the dawn. This tactile introduction to farm life is a treat.

The illustrations by Britta Teckentrup are delightful and present the images of an idyllic farm that children so enjoy.  Beyond the farm and its environs, there are duck ponds, trees, flowers, insects and various birds that dot the landscape. Details abound! Find the mother cat and her kittens. Count how many chicks are following the hen. What’s hiding near the flour sacks by the windmill? Who’s peeking at the horses through the wheat field? The illustrations alone provide great fun for youngsters who will eagerly look for the cleverly placed details.

Playbook Farm is play and learning stored nicely in a box.


Yucky and Great At the Same Time!

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Rita Zobayan reviews Icky Sticky Monster: A Super Yucky Pop-Up Book! by Jo Lodge ($12.99, Nosy Crow, ages 3 and up).

At a certain age, youngsters are fascinated with gross words and actions, especially the kind that adults try to avoid talking about in public. My three-year old daughter thinks that poop, pee, boogers and fart are the funniest words imaginable. Just the mention of a first syllable or sound will send her into delighted bursts of giggles. At about that same age, many little ones also become convinced of the existence of monsters. Currently, my daughter refuses to walk into a dark room because of suspected monsters hiding under tables, behind curtains, in corners and so on.

To see how she’d react to a book that combines her current favorite topic and her current fear, I left Icky Sticky Monster: A Super Yucky Pop-Up Book! on our coffee table and didn’t mention it. Within seconds of the first sighting, she brought the book over to me and promptly demanded that I read it to her. What followed was 10 pages of ewww and yuck, and one disgusted but thrilled kid.

Icky Sticky Monster, a friendly fellow, is busy being gross, and we get to witness his yucky habits through pop-up fun. Turn the page and see Icky Sticky Monster pick his nose— “That stinky little monster pulls out some snotty goo, and because he’s feeling very kind, he’s giving some to you!” —and drink down one nasty concoction—“Icky Sticky Monster guzzles down a jug of stinky, wormy cabbage juice with added chunks of slug!” The simple rhyme scheme works well with young children, who respond well to sing-song style text.

Pop-up books are engaging, especially when moving parts are included, as they are in this one. The pages are filled with bright (and I mean almost fluorescently-colored) art work and a cool font. The pages are thick enough to handle the wear and tear of little fingers.

Jo Lodge has written and illustrated a great, fun read for young children. If Icky Sticky Monster replaces the imagined boogeymen hiding at every turn, then my daughter (and, therefore, I) will sleep well tonight.


Picture Book Review & Giveaway Day 3

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LET’S GET KIDS READING!

Today is Day 3 of our picture book giveaway worth over $130, and the theme we’ve chosen is Learning.

Monday, September 10, through Wednesday, September 12, 2012 of this week we’ll be reviewing and/or briefly mentioning picture books that we’ve read recently then giving them away! And guess what? If  you LIKE us on Facebook and also send us your name and contact info in an email to Ronna.L.Mandel@gmail.com by Monday, September 24, 2012 you’ll be entered to win a prize package of all books covered!! Remember to write Picture Book Giveaway in the subject line.  **YOU MUST LIST ALL BOOKS COVERED ALL 3 DAYS as part of your entry eligibility so be sure to read the blog every day!! One lucky winner will receive eight hardcover books worth a total retail value of $136.88!  We’re making it SO easy for you to get your kids reading again this back-to-school season. And isn’t that priceless?  The giveaway opportunity ends at midnight on Monday, September 24, 2012 and a winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. Click here now for rules. Good luck!

Green ($16.99, A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press, ages  2-6) written and illustrated by Caldecott Honor Book and Geisel Honor Book awardee, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, will make you and your children think about green in a whole exciting new way. I’m in the process of repainting both the interior and exterior of my home and since green is one of my two favorite colors (the other is purple), I just knew I would be wild about this book. And speaking of wild, of course there’s jungle green, forest green, sea green, lime green and pea green covered. But what really works so well is how there’s a deliberate die cut on every spread which little ones will love looking through. Add to that how they’ll enjoy talking about a certain surprise they may notice when peering through to a different page to find moths flitting near a fern or the delicious looking red apples on a tree, or the word khaki hidden in tall grass.  Here’s a great book of discovery for youngsters that is ideal to use as inspiration for creating their own picture book or work of art.

My Pop-Up World Atlas ( $18.99, Templar Books, ages 5-8) by Anita Ganeri and Stephen Waterhouse is a book right up reviewer Debbie Glade’s alley. She’d loves promoting geography to kids and here’s a book that would make doing so all the more fun. Who doesn’t love a pop-up book?  Travel around the globe from the comfort of your sofa as you learn facts, check out maps, lift flaps, pull tabs, spin wheels. There are so many thing to do on every page to keep a child glued to this book. 

**Recap – To be eligible for the giveaway: 

1. Read our blog this week
2. Like us on Facebook
3. Send us an email to Ronna.L.Mandel@gmail.com by Monday, September 24, 2012. Write “Picture Book Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, write:
a. The names of all the books mentioned in our blog posts from Monday September 10 through Wednesday September 12, 2012.
b. Your name
c. Phone number
d. Address
A winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday, September 25, 2012.

See London and Get Ready for the Olympics With Candlewick Press

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Today’s review, by Rita Zobayan, arrives in time for us all to get psyched for the London 2012 Olympics. 

I spent my childhood in London’s East End borough of Hackney, a working-class community full of blocks of flats, pubs and the vast Victoria Park.  Every so often, my parents would take my sisters and me into “the City,” the heart of London itself. There, we would mingle with the tourists and admire the hundreds of offerings that London bestows.  There was always something new to discover, whether it was a historical landmark, a museum, a park, a stately home or a new borough to explore. London is immense, vibrant and alive. It has something for everyone.  There is good reason, after all, that the father of the modern dictionary, Samuel Johnson noted, “If a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” If you’re one of the lucky ones, you will get to experience the magnificence of London for yourself in July and August when the city plays host to the thirtieth Olympic Games.  If you’re like the rest of us, you’ll be living vicariously and watching the games and the city on television. To help your young ones “explore” a few of London’s most distinct sites, Candlewick Press has two fun books that children will enjoy.

The first is London: A 3D Keepsakeillustrated by Sarah McMenemy, ($8.99, Candlewick, ages 5 and up). Presented in a handy and sturdy cardboard sleeve that is small enough to fit into a day bag, this clever novelty features twelve of London’s most famous sites in an accordion-style 3D pull out. We begin our vicarious tour with an introduction to London, and gamely move on to some of the most historic and cultured landmarks in the city’s vicinity, including Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square.

Each location has a retro-feel illustration reminiscent of children’s books from the 1960s. Although sparsely drawn, the illustrations do not spare important details such as flags, guards, and so on. The pop-up feature adds to the fun. Children will love opening up the book and spreading open its pages. (It spans approximately 5 feet.)  Accompanying each illustration are fun facts and information for each location. For example, who knew that one could purchase an ambulance from possibly the world’s most famous department store, Harrods, or that the London Eye has become the city’s number one tourist attraction? The book also has a neat, little map of inner London that highlights the twelve hot spots, tube (metro) stations and neighboring boroughs.

This book is an enjoyable way for young children to learn more about London. My daughters, ages 3 and 7, both wanted to look at it, albeit for different reasons. My younger daughter greatly enjoyed playing with the pop-up illustrations and looking at the details. My older daughter was interested in the text and in trying to point out the locations on the map. All in all, it was a good time exploring the book with them. When we’re ready to take them to London, they’ll have a reference that’s right for them.

 

Candlewick Press’ second offering is A Walk in London by London native, Salvatore Rubbino ($16.99, Candlewick, ages 5 and up). Over the course of 40 pages, we journey with a young girl and her mother as they tour the sites. We experience the Tower of London, the Bank of England and St. James’s Palace and park to name a few of the stops. Information is woven into the narrative, which is told mostly through the girl’s point of view: “Around the corner, we find the bank’s museum. In the display cases, there’s lots of money! Coins…paper money…and even a bar of gold! Ooooooof! I try to lift it, but I’m not strong enough.” In addition to the narrative, the book is chock full of facts. We learn that the St. Paul’s Cathedral dome weighs about 64,000 tons and that a “whisper against the wall on one side of the dome can be heard 105 feet away on the other.” There are three more facts for this venue alone! In fact, the book is so full of information that a child could almost use this as a reference for a report.

Rubbino’s artwork with muted palette and pen-and-ink style illustrations is reminiscent of famed author-illustrator Miroslav Sasek. They are whimsical cartoonish sketches that young readers will appreciate for their energy. You can almost see Rubbino’s hand freely sketching the city, capturing the details, shapes and movement of the bustling metropolis. Multiple fonts capture the reader’s eye and are playfully placed on the pages to complement the illustrations. For example with the narrative, “There’s a Whispering Gallery inside. We climb around and around and around, until we’re in the dome,” the text is spread around the illustrations of our duo climbing steps. 

A couple of fun bonuses are the River Thames panorama and a game to spot the royal family’s car appearing throughout the book. Opening to four pages, the panorama outlines additional venues and provides more facts about the city in general. Additionally, the inside front and back covers have maps with the featured venues, bridges and main streets of inner London.  Both the panorama and maps give a feel for the vast expanse of the city.

If you’re viewing London from the comfort of your couch, A Walk in London is a great introduction for children old enough to appreciate the information and narrative style