A ROUNDUP OF OUR FAVORITE
NEW BACK-TO-SCHOOL BOOKS
With Labor Day kicking off the traditional start of a new school year,
what better way to ease little ones into the classroom
than with a great selection of back-to-school books to read as they settle into a new routine?
Here Comes Teacher Cat
Written by Deborah Underwood
Illustrated by Claudia Rueda
(Dial BYR; $16.99, Ages 3-5)
Underwood sure knows how to make parents and children laugh out loud. Here Comes Teacher Cat is full of sight gags that never fail to surprise and delight. So as not to spoil it for you, I’ll just say that once again Cat has outdone himself in cattitude. Whether you love the narrator having a one-sided dialogue with a cat who uses signs to communicate, or the laziness of this feline forever yearning to nap, Underwood’s got it all here when Cat is called in to substitute for Ms. Melba at Kitty School. The only problem is that Cat hasn’t a clue what to do first. When he approaches teaching with his own Cat brand of humor and zeal, there’s no holding him or the kitties back causing quite a bit of chaos in the classroom. What will Ms. Melba find upon her return from the doctor? Why, a very clean classroom, a confident Cat and happy kitties of course. Just don’t open the closet Ms. Melba! Fans of Underwood’s humor and Rueda’s low-key spot on artwork will not be disappointed in this Publishers Weekly starred picture book. Oh and don’t miss the opening illustrations before the title page.
Written by Nikki Ehrlich
Illustrated by Zoey Abbott
(HarperCollins; $15.99, Ages 4-8)
Starting Kindergarten can be scary for most kids, but what happens if you’re a twin? In Twindergarten, author Ehrlich, a mom of twins, tackles the topic gently and thoughtfully, touching on the many issues twins might experience being separated at school for the first time. Though Zoe and Dax are as close as peanut butter and jelly at home, they wonder how they’ll cope being in different classes during the day. They soon learn that Kindergarten is not only fun, it’s a place where they can make new friends, try new things and still see each other during recess. In other words, it’s the best of both worlds. Debut illustrator Abbott puts the emphasis on the main characters clothed in darker outfits in her illustrations making it easy to zoom in how Zoe and Dax are interacting with their environment. Not only for twins, Twindergarten shows the rewards of attending school and how children can be separated from siblings or friends and still thrive.
Don’t Go to School!
Written by Máire Zepf
Illustrated by Tarsila Krüse
(Sterling Children’s Books; $14.95, Ages 4+)
How enjoyable it was to read this clever spin on a back-to-school book. In Don’t Go to School, it’s young Benno who’s excited to leave while his mom wants him to remain at home. “Don’t go to school!” she wailed. And I laughed! The humor was not lost on me since I could relate to the mother in this lovingly illustrated picture book. I think there are lots of parents, like me, who have experienced separation anxiety when sending their child off on the new adventure and life stage that is attending school. Mommy is encouraged by Benno using language much like a parent would to reassure their new student. “Don’t worry, Mommy,” said Benno. “You’ll get to know the other parents in no time. They seem really nice!” Zepf is clearly familiar with first day jitters and her tantrum scene may ring a bell with others, only this time it’s Mommy who’s lost it. My favorite part of the story is when Benno takes some of his own kisses and tucks them in his mother’s pocket so she can feel his love even when they’re apart. This comforting story will empower youngsters while also providing tips on adjusting to the big change in their lives.
BEST VALENTINE’S DAY BOOKS FOR CHILDREN
Happy Valentine’s Day!! We all know that love comes in all shapes and sizes. There’s the love of a child, a parent, a sibling or a spouse. There’s also the love of a pet, and the love of a best friend. Then of course there’s the love of one’s country or birthplace, and a love of Mother Nature’s gifts on Earth. There’s even the love of a film, a TV show or a book, although I’ve never sent a Valentine’s Day card to a book. In this Valentine’s Day Books Roundup we’re celebrating the myriad things we love and the ways we express our love on Valentine’s Day and every day.
I LOVE YOU ALREADY!
Written by Jory Jon and illustrated by Benji Davies
(Harper; $17.99, Ages 4-8)
Sure to be a hit with youngsters, this follow up to Goodnight Already! has everything you’d want in a good read aloud or bedtime story. There’s a duck and his next door neighbor, a bear. There’s humor and great artwork. But best of all, there’s an undeniably adorable premise – duck won’t let Bear have a day of rest because he just does not feel confident he is loved, or even liked by Bear. Duck, in true duck form, insists that two go out together. “You don’t look busy! Besides, we’re going for a walk, friend. No arguments., Chop-chop!” Hard as he tries, Duck eventually learns that he doesn’t really have to do much because by the end of this entertaining tale, it’s obvious that Duck is loved very much by Bear. I got such a kick out of these two totally opposite characters who share the bond of friendship in such a special way.
LOVE IS MY FAVORITE THING
Written and illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark
(Nancy Paulsen Books; $16.99, Ages 3-5)
Fans of Emma Chichester Clark and dog lovers everywhere will not be disappointed with her latest picture book, Love is My Favorite Thing, based on her own dog and celebrating “unconditional love.” We’re treated to plucky Plum’s (aka Plummie) point of view right from the get go and what we learn endears her to us instantly. Brimming with genuine affection, Plummie professes love for everyone and everything, from the sun to sticks, from little Sam and Gracie, the next door neighbors’ kids to owners Emma and Rupert. Very British sounding names, right, but that just adds to the charm. In fact, when we first moved to London, my daughter had a classmate whose parents called her Plummie and she wasn’t even a pooch!!
Here’s my favorite sentence: “I love it when Emma says, ‘Good girl, Plummie!’ when I do a poo, as if it’s so, so clever.” The repetition of Plum saying “LOVE is my favorite thing” is really one of the clever thing going on in this story. As are Chichester Clark’s illustrations which give readers a real sense of what Plum’s all about. Even if she sometimes gets up to no good, her intentions are never bad. That is until she ran off with a child’s bag that had an ice cream cone dropped in it. Then Plummie just could not resist. Poor Plummie! Would her owners still love her after her big mistake? Plum ponders this question that children also often wonder, “Does being naughty make people stop loving you?” And the answer is a resounding no, they absolutely still love you as long as you’ve taken some time to think about what you’ve done. That’s why, Plum reminds us, and I am certain, too, that “LOVE IS MY FAVORITE THING!”
WORM LOVES WORM
Written by J.J. Austrian
Illustrated by Mike Curato
(Balzer & Bray; $17.99, Ages 4-8)
Here’s a super new story that turns the idea of what invertebrate marriage is right on its head, if worms had heads! And so begins this gender bending tale of two worms who want to tie the knot, only their friends expect them to go the traditional route. With same-sex marriage now the law of the land, it’s an ideal time to gently and thoughtfully introduce this subject and Worm Loves Worm does it beautifully with humor and tenderness.
When the pair of worms express their love for each other, the next step feels right. “Let’s be married,” says Worm to Worm. With Cricket performing the ceremony, Beetle on hand to be best beetle and the Bees eager to be the bride’s bees, the worms wonder, “Now can we be married?” Of course the answer isn’t so simple as they’re told they need to have rings, ( despite having NO fingers), a band and all the other accoutrements of a wedding. When ultimately asked who is the bride and who is the groom, the worms explain that they are both, clearly a break from the norm in the eyes of the worms’ friends. “Wait,” says Cricket. “That isn’t how it’s been done.” The reply is powerful and appropriate. “Then we’ll just change how it’s done,” says Worm because, in the end, what does tradition have to do with it? It’s love that matters.
CHICK ‘N’ PUG: THE LOVE PUG
Written and illustrated by Jennifer Sattler
(Bloomsbury Children’s Books; $16.99, Ages 0-5)
Chick ‘n’ Pug are certain to garner new fans from this latest installment, the fourth in Sattler’s popular series. BFFs Chick ‘n’ Pug are introduced to Daisy who falls hard and fast for Pug and attempts to win his love. The catch is Pug would prefer to continue napping. Much like in the friendship of Duck and Bear, Chick’s the energetic one, eager to help show Daisy that her wooing of his pal is worthwhile. Daisy tries and tries to use her feminine wiles to get Pug’s attention by hinting how she adores flowers, can’t find her favorite bow or is being chased by a bully. It’s not until a bee, first observed when Daisy wished for flowers, begins buzzing around sleepy Pug that the pooch is stirred annoyingly awake. Daisy and Chick get into the act as the three ward off the intolerable insect. Soon, it’s not just Chick ‘n’ Pug who are exhausted and in need of nap. Love can sure tire you out in the best possible way.
Other Valentine’s Day Books We Recommend:
Here Comes Valentine Cat
Written by Deborah Underwood
Illustrated by Claudia Rueda
(Dial BYR; $16.99, Ages 3-5)
Ollie’s Valentine (A Gossie & Friends Book)
Written and illustrated by Oliver Dunrea
(HMH; $6.99, Board Book)
Plant a Kiss
Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
(Harper; $7.99, Board Book)
WIN WONDERFUL PICTURE BOOKS!
*We’re so thankful to you, our readers. You care about sharing the best books with your children and we do, too. So as promised, after reaching 2000 Twitter followers, we are now celebrating with a “We’re Grateful for You Gargantuan Giveaway” worth over $200 just in time for the holidays. Click the links to read our reviews of the books because you’ll see we’ve included lots of our faves.
To enter the Rafflecopter please scroll down, read the instructions, remember to subscribe to our site, and leave a comment on this post below about what you’d do with this bevy of beautiful books should you have the good fortune to win. We’d also love it if you LIKED the blog on Facebook, though it’s not mandatory to enter. Good luck!
*We = Ronna, Hilary, Rita, MaryAnne, Cathy, Dornel, Mary, Rina & Krista
The 13 books you can win are:
Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Jonathan Bean – Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox with illustrations by Brian Floca – Published by Schwartz & Wade Books
Elsa and the Night by Jöns Mellgren -Published by Little Gestalten
Frank! by Connah Brecon – Published by Running Press
Goatilocks and the Three Bears by Erica S. Perl with illustrations by Arthur Howard – Published by Beach Lane Books
Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light – Published by Candlewick Press
Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper with illustrations by Raúl The Third – Published by Chronicle Books
Me First by Max Kornell – Published by Nancy Paulsen Books
Mix It Up! by Hervé Tullet – Published by Chronicle Books
Penguin and Pumpkin by Salina Yoon – Published by Bloomsbury
Robots, Robots Everywhere! by Sue Fliess with illustrations by Bob Staake – Published by Golden Books
Tippy and the Night Parade by Lilli Carré – Published by Toon Books
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Jigsaw Puzzle Book by Michael Rosen with illustrations by Helen Oxenbury – Published by Candlewick Press
It’s easy to enter our “We’re Grateful for You Gargantuan Giveaway.” Just follow the Rafflecopter instructions in the widget below. There’s one mandatory entry and a few optional entries. Feel free to enter more than once to increase your chances of winning!
Remember to enter by December 15th. Rafflecopter widget will randomly select a winner whose name will be announced on the Good Reads With Ronna Facebook page, on Twitter, and on the Rafflecopter widget right here. – make sure you’re following us so you don’t miss a thing!
Good luck – We hope you win!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
HERE COMES THE EASTER CAT
BY DEBORAH UNDERWOOD WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY CLAUDIA RUEDA
& REVIEWED BY MARYANNE LOCHER.
Here Comes The Easter Cat by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Claudia Rueda, Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014.
Just in time for Easter, a sweet picture book with a salty twist. Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail … Oh! Wait! That’s not a bunny, it’s a cat, and he’s not hopping, he’s … riding a motorcycle?
In Here Comes the Easter Cat by Deborah Underwood with artwork by Claudia Rueda, (Dial Books for Young Readers, $16.99, Ages 3-5), a clever cat plots to take over Easter. Cat decides he’ll give out chocolate bunnies, gets a sparkly outfit, and a fast motorcycle. Now all he wants, more than anything, is a nap. When he finds out that the Easter Bunny doesn’t get a nap, he’s questioning if he can handle the job. But when a tired Easter Bunny delivers a chocolate egg to Cat himself, Cat has his most brilliant idea of all.
From page one, Claudia Rueda easily pulled me in with her delightful drawings of the fat cat who communicates (using picket signs and his ever-changing facial expressions) with Underwood’s unseen narrator. Cat owners will love this book whether they have a child or not. Parents will appreciate this book if they have a child who is dealing with jealousy issues. Most of all, though, children will simply adore the humorous ideas and antics of the cat. I won’t spoil the book for you, but Underwood’s fantastic ending left me thinking there might be another book on the way. Well, at least I can hope to see more of Cat.
Bad Bye, Good Bye written by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Jonathan Bean, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.
Bad Bye, Good Bye (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, $16.99, Ages 4-8) is such a great title. Even my almost 13-year-old who hasn’t read picture books for quite some time remarked about how clever the title was and how he instantly knew what the book would be about.
Families move. It happens all the time. Moms or Dads get new jobs and whammo, it’s time to pack up, head to another city (or country as it was in our case) and start all over again. It’s never easy to move and leave behind all we know and love, but having a picture book like Bad Bye, Good Bye to share with kids when relocating can really help parents broach the topic gently and also help kids open up about their hopes and fears.
As I mentioned earlier, Bad Bye, Good Bye is such a terrific title that I’m surprised no one thought of it sooner. Having moved three times with my children because of my husband’s job, I know firsthand how unsettling and sad it can be for youngsters. If the change is hard and stressful for an adult, imagine how overwhelming it is for little ones who don’t have all the coping skills yet in place for dealing with these kinds of major life events. Underwood wastes no time in setting the scene by beginning the picture book with moving men loading a family’s belongings onto a moving van while two red-faced children cry. In fact the little boy even clings to a mover’s leg in an attempt to stop him. Everything is rotten.
What can go right for this brother and sister who do not want to leave their home and their friends? Even their car journey to their new home is filled with anxiety. The sparse rhyming text manages to convey the reluctance of the kids even as the artwork begins to show more positive parts of moving.
As the jacket flap copy reads: “Bad Bye, Good Bye is perfect for moving day or any of life’s tough transitions.” What parents can do is have this book on hand to read when there are no big moves planned so children can see that not all aspects of a move or a change are sad. For example, one of the two child characters in the story meets a neighborhood boy he spies from upstairs while he’s checking out his new bedroom and soon they’re watching fireflies light up the night together.
Bean’s illustrations work beautifully with the text. His paintings combine both the deep darker colors of the mood everyone is feeling as well as less prominent sketches on the same page to indicate movement and progression of time. I cannot picture this book with anything but these illustrations because they’re so full of the emotion and local color that Underwood’s story has set up so well. As someone who has experienced the sadness and apprehension of moving multiple times with my young children, I would not hesitate to recommend reading Bad Bye, Good Bye as a way to make any move or change acceptable and perhaps even looked forward to!
And for a bonus – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s provided a page of moving tips for families you can find by clicking here.