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Our Fave New Children’s Books We Love for Father’s Day

 

FATHER’S DAY BOOKS

∼ A Roundup ∼

 

 

REVIEWS:

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You're The Coolest Dad in the Box cover shaped book with dad and kid hammers.YOU’RE THE COOLEST DAD IN THE BOX
Written by Rose Rossner
Illustrated by Gareth Williams 
(Sourcebooks Wonderland; $9.99, Ages 0-3)

This fun new addition to the USA Today bestselling Punderland series of board books is perfect for Father’s Day. Little DIYers may not grasp some of the puns but they will be able to grasp the die-cut handle to carry around the book like a pro. Parents or caregivers can easily explain the wordplay while trying to make up their own. The illustrations help demonstrate the pun. The below stanza depicts a level sitting on a shelf.

You’re on another level,
how you balance sweet and cool.
No one else measures up
to the ways you rock and rule.

The pleasing personified tools in the art reinforce the message of love and admiration a child has for their dad, and the rhyming test makes this an ideal read-aloud to celebrate fathers year round. You’re The Coolest Dad in The Box also makes a great new dad gift.

 

Boxer Baby Battles Bedtime! cover baby wearing boxing gloves in crib.BOXER BABY BATTLES BEDTIME!
Written by Mia Wenjen
Illustrated by Kai Gietzen
(Eifrig Publishing; $18.99 HC, $12.99 Paperback, Ages 3 and up)

This baby is not going down easily and puts up an impressive fight (a kid-friendly boxing match that is) to avoid taking a nap in this adorable picture book. Wenjen’s created a relatable tale with a twist ending that will delight children and parents alike.

Inspired by her own experience boxing, the author cleverly infuses the sport’s popular terminology to tell this funny story conveyed in three rounds. Readers can find the spot-on idioms in a glossary in the back matter along with Wenjen’s author note.

I didn’t notice the pup carrying the round cards until halfway through my first read and appreciated how the story is broken down that way. I don’t want to give away too much by saying what each round consisted of, but suffice it to say, Boxer Baby gives it her all and then some! She is determined to be the last baby standing which means Dad will face a challenging nap time.

The artwork by debut picture book illustrator, Gietzen, brings energy to the story and contrasts the child’s raging emotions against those of her calm and accommodating father. While there’s no referee, there’s the humorous voice of the narrator describing the battle that Boxer Baby undertakes when her mom goes out. This homage to the endurance of the stay-at-home dad reminds me of my husband. While he held down a job, he always remained a hands-on father at home, never shirking his parenting responsibilities just like Boxer Baby’s father. I admire this exhausted dad’s fortitude. So who do you think will be the winner?

 

Daddy Tell Me a Story cover girl asking father for bedtime story.DADDY, TELL ME A STORY
Written by Kathleen Long Bostrom
Illustrated by Ela Smietanka
(WorthyKids; $18.99, Ages 4-7)

Kathy Bostrom is a storytelling pro. She is adept at capturing a child’s perspective and her latest picture book is no exception. In this charming story, readers meet a dad and his daughter at bedtime. When she asks for a story and he replies which one, she tells him he can make it up. “You always tell the best stories!”

And so the tale weaving begins. The father makes up a story about a queen and Sophie, the little girl, says, “Make her a princess.” He invents a pink unicorn as a character, but Sophie envisions a purple dragon with orange strips and golden wings. As the constantly revised bedtime story progresses, Daddy pretends to be scared eliciting warm reassurances from his spunky daughter. Together the pair work collaboratively as Sophie builds on what her father shares. He of course is amenable to helping in whatever way he can as the story evolves.

When the tale ends, Sophie decides that being a princess is boring. That’s when she comes up with a new ending sure to please everyone. Bostrom bookends this tale by having Sophie once again compliment her father’s storytelling ability before falling asleep. I’m glad Bostrom brought readers back to the beginning emphasizing the sweet daddy-daughter relationship and their storytime routine.

The engaging text marries nicely with Smietanka’s digital art. Colors are dazzling where they should be and become more muted as Sophie moves closer to drifting off. She’s incorporated upbeat elements into many of the spreads that children will enjoy noting. Bostrom encourages parents and caregivers to invite children to create their own story together.

 

Back Home: Story Time with My Father cover dad telling daughter a story.BACK HOME: Story Time with My Father
Written by Arlène Elizabeth Casimir
Illustrated by Ken Daley
(Candlewick Press; $18.99, Ages 4-8)

This is one of those books that invites multiple readings not only because of the engaging and touching lyrical text but also because the art reaches out and wraps you in its arms. I was pulled into this picture book about a young Haitian American girl, Lune, whose father’s stories are about his birthplace, his homeland or “lakay” a Haitian word meaning back home.

In the rich colorful stories of his childhood, the father recounts episodes from growing up in Haiti. They include humor like the boy falling on his bottom after attempting to get mangoes off a tree. “Sometimes the stories are memories … colored with joy and sorrow.” Such is the memory of his fierce and charming mother who did whatever it took to provide for her family. The medicine man story tells of how a family’s love and community can help an ill child as much or even more “than the medicine in his pouch.”

One particular spread stayed with me, lush with jewel tones depicting the girl imagining what “lackay” was like for her father. It was an unfamiliar land for her though it was brought to life by her father’s recollections. Golden light shines on her Mommy saying  it’s late and time to go to sleep but Lune is “going to wait for Daddy.” Her father holds multiple jobs, saving up for a house while also sending money home to his parents in Haiti. Yet, no matter how long he’s worked or how tired he is, Lune’s dad makes time to tell her stories, stories of “lackay.” Lune’s father’s tales have such a positive impact on her. The magic of a place she does not know but has experienced through her father’s stories has found its way to her heart and soon she will begin sharing stories of her own.

There is a Haitian glossary in the back matter as well as a page of Author’s Notes, one for Caregivers and Teachers and the other for kids. The first encourages “modeling and sharing our narratives.” The rewards are plentiful. Even though my parents grew up in the Bronx of the 1930s and 1940s and not the “lackay” of this story, I felt Casimir’s story spoke to me. I am grateful to know my parents’ stories and will continue to share them along with my own. The second note lets kids know they all have stories to tell. I hope this meaningful picture book will speak to all readers who can help their children understand how important stories are in our lives. Casimir’s motivating and caring words will hopefully prompt a new generation of storytellers.

 

WITH DADWith Dad cover boy and dad walking with fishing rods.
Written by Richard Jackson
Illustrated by Brian Floca
(Neal Porter Books/Holiday House, for ages 4–8)

Starred Reviews – Booklist, Kirkus, The Horn Book
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

Brian Floca, Caldecott Medalist, and Sibert Honoree shares his interpretation of With Dad, a story written by the late editor and author Richard Jackson. Floca and Jackson had been making books together for over 25 years, but sadly Jackson passed away before the artwork had begun. That left many questions unanswered but ultimately it was decided to set the story in the early 1950s and I’m so glad about that decision. Not that it would not have worked set in the present, but the nostalgic quality of the art representing the era following WWII adds to the carefree ambiance and closeness of the main characters.

The picture opens with a boy on his dad’s lap helping to drive their Jeep through a small road in the woods. That illustration beautifully captures the special father-son relationship. The pair are heading towards a campsite where they’ll experience the great outdoors by setting up camp, digging a fire pit, fishing, and catching their dinner. The excitement the dad exhibits when his son reels in a fish is exhilarating. I love how that is contrasted with how the lad feels grossed out as he learns to gut the fish before frying it. His father adds, “You’ll see,” he said, “an owl might come for those tonight.” Naturally, we want to see that so Floca skillfully shows us the owl swooping in at the end of the story.

Throughout the book, readers see how the young boy looks up to his father. The father loves spending time with his son too. That’s especially evident in the scene where the dad says they’ll sleep back to back to stay warm. What a tender moment. The story then fast-forwards to the dead of winter. Readers learn the dad is serving in the war. The child fondly thinks back to that “famous fishing trip.” All he wants is for his father to return home safely so they can pick up where they left off that memorable last summer. While this story focuses on a boy whose father is in the military, children with a parent away for myriad reasons would find this heartfelt read rewarding and reassuring.

 

If You Run Out of Words cover dad in spaceship waving to daughter below.IF YOU RUN OUT OF WORDS
Written and illustrated by Felicita Sala
(Abrams BYR; $18.99, Ages 4-8)

Starred Reviews – Booklist, Kirkus

On the dedication page of this picture book, author-illustrator Sala writes: “To Nina, my dear girl, whose question inspired this book.” The question that the curious child in this story asks her father is a clever and interesting one.

“What happens if you run out of words? Will you have any left for me?” It makes sense that when a kid constantly sees their parent blah, blah, blahing away like the daughter in this story sees her father doing, she’d worry he might not have enough words left for her.

Needing reassurance just like the bunny gets from his mother in the classic The Runaway Bunny, the little girl in this story poses questions to her father that range from logical in the beginning to whimsical as the tale continues. This zaniness is matched by the colorfully saturated fantastical art that is a delight to explore. Sala’s illustrations for this book were made with gouache, ink, watercolor, colored pencils, and oil pastels and are full of emotion. Sometimes the body language and expressions on the father’s face cracked me up.

Funny scenarios ensue based on the questions the girl asks. Some children might love it when the dad visits Elves’ Word Factory determined to show his daughter the lengths to which he’d go to replenish his word supply. Others might like when the father is under the sea and a rescue boat run by pirate mice captures him and ties him up on their vessel. Following her father’s high-sea adventure, the girl wonders if her dad will have forgotten her. That’s when he tells her that no matter the length of the journey to return to her, forgetting her would simply be impossible. He shows her that he owns an infinite amount of words. In fact, it’s the three most important ones that he whispers in her ear to meaningfully end this captivating tale of devotion.

 

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READS:

LIKE FATHER LIKE SON

HOW TO CATCH A DADDYSAURUS

MY DADDY IS A COWBOY

SUPERDADS! Animal Heroes

ALWAYS YOUR STEPDAD

THE I CAN SAY DADA BOOK

MERDADDY

 

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Kids Picture Book Review – Little Sock by Kia Heise and Christopher D. Park

LITTLE SOCK

Written by Kia Heise and Christopher D. Park

Illustrated by Christopher D. Park

(Sleeping Bear Press; $14.99, Ages 4-6)

 

Little Sock book cover art

 

Have you ever walked outside with one blue striped sock and one green striped sock hoping no one will notice the mismatch because you have no idea where their mates have gone? In Little Sock, sociology professor Kia Heise’s debut picture book with her husband, illustrator and writer, Christopher D. Park, the reader discovers how the sock feels when it has gone missing!

Little Sock, with his big black eye and line for a mouth, lives in a dark drawer with all the other yellow striped matched socks. While the other socks are sleeping soundly, Little Sock gets an inquisitive look drawn on his face (otherwise known as the heel). His life seems mundane. “Little Sock gets worn. Little Sock gets dirty. And Little Sock gets washed.”

Park’s adorable sock drawings show the other socks reading books while in the wash, or just relaxing in the heat of the suds and water while Little Sock’s mouth is opened wide as if screaming.

 

LittleSock 10 11 interior
Interior artwork from Little Sock, written by Kia Heise and Christopher D. Park and illustrated by Christopher D. Park, Sleeping Bear Press ©2019.

 

“All the other socks seem happy, but Little Sock dreams of something different.” But then he learns of a magical city called Sock City and his adventure begins. The pages turn from white to black as Little Sock makes his way through a secret tunnel in the back of the dryer. We feel Little Sock’s emotions as he bravely sets out to find this new place. When our brave friend finds the light at the end of the tunnel, the pages turn from black to yellow, and bright colors of round shaped buildings, green mountains and boats gliding in the sea loom ahead. Little Sock sees “so many different socks doing different things. Everyday is a NEW ADVENTURE.”

 

LittleSock 24 25 interior
Interior artwork from Little Sock, written by Kia Heise and Christopher D. Park and illustrated by Christopher D. Park, Sleeping Bear Press ©2019.

 

This sweet picture book got me thinking about where my missing socks have been hiding out and allows kids to think outside the box (or drawer). A book that spurs the imagination of both kids and adults can easily be a great source for starting a conversation with your children about trying new things. The creativity of this story made me laugh, but the deeper meaning of being brave and exploring life outside our own little bubble is a great message that all kids need to hear. Heise spends her days teaching students about the world around them, and she’s taken what she’s learned to teach all children to be brave. The lesson I took from this book was that until we step outside our own path, or dryer in the case of Little Sock, we have no way of knowing what wonderful experiences the world has to offer. Little Sock reminds us to do something today that we didn’t do yesterday.

  • Reviewed by Ronda Einbinder

Read another review by Ronda here.

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Best Back-to-School Books 2019 Part Two

BEST BACK-TO-SCHOOL BOOKS 2019

∼ A ROUNDUP ∼

PART TWO

 

Back-to-school free clipart of backpack

 

The King of Kindergarten cvrTHE KING OF KINDERGARTEN
Written by Derrick Barnes
Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
(Nancy Paulsen Books; $17.99, Ages 3-6)

Starred Reviews – Kirkus, Publishers Weekly

The King of Kindergarten written by Newberry honoree Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, transforms the average day at kindergarten into an extraordinary, royal adventure.

It’s fun to read Barnes’ regal language. As Mom says, “today” her little boy is going to be the “King” and, with this encouragement, he prepares to venture out confidently. Brushing his “Royal Chiclets,” he dresses himself and “wolf[s] down a tower of pancakes.” I love the emphasis here on growth, maturity, and independence. Being “deliver[ed] … to a grand fortress” (a.k.a. school), he joins the “round table” where he cheerfully exchanges greetings with his classmates. The royal theme continues during circle time, recess, lunchtime, and beyond, each opportunity allowing him to exercise his noble code of honor by braving playground politics, sharing his royal bounty (in the form of an extra cup of chocolate pudding), and showing kindness to his friends. Vibrant colors invite us readers to participate in the little boy’s “Kindergarten Kingdom;” flowing shapes excite us with anticipation of what’s next on his adventure.

A great way to introduce the school day to budding kindergartners, The King of Kindergarten shows us how a little change of perspective can rewrite a potentially scary event into a magical tale.

See Derrick Barnes on August 31 at Little Shop of Stories, LLC in Decatur, GA

 

Truman book coverTRUMAN
Written by Jean Reidy
Illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins
(Atheneum Books for Young Readers; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

Starred Reviews – Kirkus, School Library Journal

Written by Jean Reidy and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins, Truman is a heartwarming story of the loving relationship between a pet and his owner. But it can also be read as a tale about the challenges a younger sibling faces as his older sister starts school.

There is no doubt readers of all ages will fall in love with Truman. How could you not? He’s “the size of a donuta small donutand every bit as sweet.” In simple yet powerful ways, Reidy and Cummins express the affection Truman and Sarah share. Sarah isn’t merely Truman’s owner; she’s “his Sarah” (my emphasis)  who shares the same “peaceful and pensive” personality as her adorable tortoise. Humble shapes and bursts of yellow throughout paint a happy home with decor that brings back memories of my own childhood, notably, the Felix the Cat look-a-like clock on the wall.

This particular day, though, is “truly unsettling” because Sarah is acting different. She eats a “big banana” at breakfast, “clip[s] on a blue bow in her hair,” “strap[s] on a backpack SOOOOOO big thirty-two tortoises [can] ride along in it,” and leaves extra food for Truman. Most shockingly, she boards the number 11 bus, that mysterious bus he can see from his window riding in the “honking,” “growling” city below. Truman spends the day in worrisome wonder as to where Sarah could possibly be and why it’s taking her so long to return.

Through Reidy’s funny tone and Cummins’ artistic perspective, Truman’s journey out of the safety of his tank, and his determination to find his beloved owner is as endearing as it is humorous. Of all the challenges Truman faces, my favorite is his crossing of the living room rug“That glorious … ENDLESS rug” made all the more imposing by the mean looking toys along his path we see through Truman’s eyes. When he hears the number 11 bus, he’s ready to cross the threshold, but Sarah is back in time to reunite with her pet and congratulate him on his bravery.

Truman encourages all of us facing a seemingly insurmountable challenge with the message cleverly written on city bus #11:  See New Sights! Hear New Sounds! Think New Thoughts!

Pirates-Dont-Go-To-Kindergarten-cvrPIRATES DON’T GO TO KINDERGARTEN!
Written by Lisa Robinson
Illustrated by Eda Kaban
(Two Lions/Amazon Children’s Publishing; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

Can an honorable pirate be loyal to more than one captain? This is the question posed in Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten! written by Lisa Robinson and illustrated by Eda Kaban.

Equipped with the pirate basics (treasure map, spyglass, and cutlass), Emma storms into school, this first day of kindergarten, determined to set sail once again in last year’s ship commanded by “the roughest, toughest, awesomest preschool pirate cap’n ever”Cap’n Chu. Yet, it’s a new year and, as Ms. Chu gently reminds Emma, Cap’n Chu has “‘a new band of pirates” to lead. Despite attempts by Cap’ns Chu and Hayes (Emma’s new teacher) to interest Emma in her outer-space-themed kindergarten classroom, Emma sails back to Cap’n Chu’s ship, fiercely allegiant to her pirate roots.

When Ms. Hayes’ class pet needs feeding, Emma shows interest and discovers all the fun activities in the kindergarten class:  a nature center, an art studio, a reading nook, and science station. What’s the one thing missing? “NO CAP’N CHU!” Back in Ms. Chu’s classroom, everything blows out into a full mutiny. This is where the book provides a great opportunity for caregivers to talk about just how confusing and conflicting emotions can be. At the heart of Emma’s protest is feelings of fear and loss at having to accept this major childhood transition and perhaps, even, feelings of guilt as devotion to one person may feel like betraying another. With heartwarming affirmation from Ms. Chu, Emma is ready to “‘open the shuttle hatch’” of her new classroom, bringing her own pirate spin to the kindergarten space station.

A great picture book for talking about transitions, Pirates Don’t Go To Kindergarten! will draw in seafarers and landlubbers alike.

  • Reviewed by Armineh Manookian

Read more back-to-school book reviews here.

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Epic 18 Twofer Tuesday: Penguin & Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime! and Iver & Ellsworth

Unlikely friends have delightfully different,
unexpected adventures in two new picture books
from debut, Epic 18 authors.

PENGUIN & TINY SHRIMP DON’T DO BEDTIME!
Written by Cate Berry
Illustrated by Charles Santoso
(Balzer + Bray; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

&

IVER & ELLSWORTH
Written by Casey W. Robinson
Illustrated by Melissa Larson
(Ripple Grove Press, $17.99, Ages 4-8)

are reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

Penguin & Tiny Shrimp Don't Do Bedtime! cover imageWhat do a penguin and a shrimp have in common? It’s their dogged insistence that PENGUIN & TINY SHRIMP DON’T DO BEDTIME!, no matter what sleep aids and comfy settings surround them. Author Berry poises the pair in the midst of a typical toddler bedtime routine. With toothbrushing over and jammies on, Penguin and Shrimp remain positive that they are not heading to bed. Their anti-bedtime speech bubbles pop in counterpoint across the page, tracking their sleep evasion tactics despite big soft beds, cozy covers, or squishy soft pillows.

The story quickly ramps up as the pair celebrate colorful fireworks, escape from lions, swing on rainforest vines and ride hot air balloons. Minute by minute, they grow zanier and more out-of-control as their desperate-but-denied need for sleep escalates. Song, jokes, and the arrival of a uni-hippo aside, the pair confidently assert that,  “One thing this book will never do is make you tired … This book will never make you yawn.”

Santoso’s comic digital art contradicts and amplifies the duo’s predicament in bright, strong colors and crisp outlines. Penguin and Tiny Shrimp gush personality with big eyes and expressive mouths which eventually–inevitably–transition to droopy eyelids and gigantic yawns. The fun and games draw to an appropriately snoozy conclusion that will ring true with all parents who must wrangle not-sleepy kids and toddlers to bed.

 

Iver & Ellsworth cover illustration Another unlikely pair, a solitary senior factory worker and an immense, inflatable polar bear, star in IVER & ELLSWORTH, a sweet story about steadfast friendship and devotion. Iver, a trim, mustachioed gentleman with square rimmed spectacles, packs his lunch and heads to work in an urban factory. Ellsworth, a chubby and observant bear, remains tethered to the factory roof. High above the city, the stationary bear watches the world rushing by. Iver visits at lunchtime, offering commentary on the view and bustling traffic.

Robinson makes it clear that the two share a bond built over many years. Iver tenderly cares for Ellsworth season after season. He dries away spring rain, sweeps away autumn leaves, and clears snow before his daily final check to make certain the anchor ropes are secure. But one day, the day Iver is retiring from his factory job, he is slow to perform his tasks and say farewell to his faithful, inflatable friend.

Illustrator Larson employ several wordless spreads to show us the separate adventures that unfold next. Iver begins to embrace retirement, and Ellsworth becomes unmoored from the factory roof. Her delicate pencil and watercolor images are restrained and subtle, ranging from muted gray greens to glorious rosy sunsets. The peaceful landscapes pair beautifully with Robinson’s spare, understated text, leaving ample room for readers to absorb and appreciate this unique friendship tale that ends with joyful reunification. IVER & ELLSWORTH is a cozy book perfect for reassuring readers that true friendship endures.

  • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

 

Where obtained:  I reviewed either an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher or a library edition and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Read another of Cathy’s recent Epic 18 reviews here

 

Trailer for PENGUIN & TINY SHRIMP DON’T DO BEDTIME! here:  

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The Song of the Quarkbeast: The Chronicles of Kazam, Book 2 by Jasper FForde

Kazam and Quarkbeasts: a Survival Guide

The Song of the Quarkbeast: The Chronicles of Kazam, Book 2 by Jasper FForde (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99, ages 10 and up), is reviewed today by Hilary Taber.

“I work in the magic industry. I think you’ll agree it’s a pretty glamorous: a life of spells, potions, and whispered enchantments…if only. No, magic these days is simply useful…” –Jennifer Strange

The Song of the Quarkbeast

The second in the Last of the Dragonslayer series finds us once again at Kazam, an employment agency/living quarters for wizards. Our hero, Jennifer, is once again back home at Kazam, filling in for the mysteriously missing Great Zambini. Her job is to find employment for the strange, but strangely loveable group of wizards under her care. At sixteen, she’s more than competent at dealing with wizards in the fictional setting of the “Ununited Kingdom” who need work, but are not all that well acquainted with a watch. She finds them jobs, but not in “Big Magic” as it was called in the good old days. Although in the last book there was a surge of magic, since then magic or “crackle” as it is referred to in the book is again in short supply. A real energy crisis is taking place, and wizards have been reduced to using magic for very prosaic reasons. Finding jobs for wizards in pizza delivery, bridge building, finding lost things, and so on are what fill Jennifer’s day. Then there is always the official government paper work to fill out after each use of magic. Practical Jennifer and her replacement-in-training, Tiger, are back at Kazam after a particular incident that involved a Dragon, a Quarkbeast, and really, you should read the first book, The Last of the Dragonslayers for more on that adventure! It was a great read!

While life at Kazam is seeming a bit humdrum, suddenly a mysterious woman appears with an offer of a great deal of money in return for a favor. She’s looking for a ring, and not just any ring, but one that doesn’t want to be found. Full of negative magic, the ring resists those who would pursue it, but Lady Mawgon, one of the better and scarier wizards at Kazam, insists on finding it. Kazam is in needs of funds, and no one at Kazam can argue with that.

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