Pied Piper Pics
Sally and the Purple Socks by Lisze Bechtold was a big hit at my recent sock-themed school-age storytime. The audience, which was mostly kindergarteners, found the book’s humor very appealing. Also, several of them told me they were excited to hear the story because they love the color purple. After I read Sally and the Purple Socks, one of the kindergarten teachers in attendance jotted down the title so she can read the book to her class again soon. At the beginning of the story, Sally (a duck) opens a package containing a pair of tiny purple socks and a note indicating that the socks will “grow to the size ordered.” The socks soon expand to fit Sally’s feet, but instead of stopping there they just keep growing. Sally is very resourceful, so each time the socks get bigger she finds a new use for them. When they no longer fit her feet, she wears them as a hat and scarf. Later they serve as curtains, blankets, a carpet, and even a giant circus tent. Will Sally’s purple socks ever stop growing?
In her illustrations, Bechtold uses a limited color palette that makes the purple socks stand out on every page. Even when they are huge, the socks retain their shape, with rounded toes, turned heels, and ribbing on the cuffs. On some pages, the illustrations tell parts of the story that are left out of the text. For example, Sally turning the socks into curtains is only shown in the pictures and not described with words. Readers will want to be sure that all their audience members have a good view of the book, and may want to ask listeners to explain what’s happening on the pages where the plot occurs only in the pictures. Text is also absent on the spread where Sally and her friends are putting on a circus performance. At storytime, I asked my audience to describe the different acts that are part of the circus. Readers may also want to fill out the sparse text with their own words. For example, the purple background of the circus scenes may not be sufficient for all audience members to understand that the circus is taking place beneath a tent made from Sally’s socks. Since Sally and the Purple Socks worked so well with the kindergarteners, I’m eager to also share it with preschoolers and early elementary-aged kids this fall. Since my listeners were so excited about the purple in this story, I’m planning a color-themed storytime where I’ll read this book and others that prominently feature different colors.
Check the WRL catalog for Sally and the Purple Socks.
In Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock, Eric A. Kimmel retells a folktale that originated in West Africa. This is just one of the many trickster tales about Anansi the Spider that are part of the oral storytelling tradition in West Africa, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. Tricksters like Anansi are mischievous characters that are often clever or foolish. Other well-known tricksters in folklore include Brer Rabbit and Coyote. In Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock, Anansi comes across an unusual-looking, magical rock in the forest. He soon discovers that whenever someone says the magic words (“Isn’t this a strange moss-covered rock”), the speaker falls down unconscious and wakes up an hour later. Always the trickster, Anansi decides to use his knowledge of the rock’s magic to fool all the other animals in the forest. One by one, Anansi leads the other animals to the rock and waits for them to say the magic words. While they are unconscious, Anansi goes back to their houses and steals their yams, bananas, and other food. However, Anansi gets a taste of his own medicine when he tries to trick Little Bush Deer. She has been quietly watching him fool the other animals and planning a way to teach him a lesson.
A storyteller himself, Kimmel has done an excellent job of infusing the text of Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock with the flavor of oral storytelling. The book’s first sentence reads, “Once upon a time Anansi the Spider was walking, walking, walking through the forest when something caught his eye.” The storyteller’s voice echoes in the repetition of the word “walking” and in the use of the stock phrase “once upon a time,” which signals to the listener that it’s time to settle in for a story. Tales from the oral storytelling tradition are often filled with repetition to aid in memorization, and this Anansi story is no exception. I’ve found that since Kimmel repeats many phrases throughout the story, listeners can easily follow along and participate in the reading experience. For example, when I share this book, I like to ask my audience to shout out “KPOM!” each time one of the animals falls down unconscious. The audience knows when to shout because every “KPOM!” is preceded by the magic words, “Isn’t this a strange moss-covered rock.” Janet Stevens’s artwork features expressive animal faces and interesting textures. She has made the moss on the rock and the fur on the lion look soft, while the elephant is very wrinkly. Readers may enjoy searching for Little Bush Deer hidden in the background on many pages early in the story. Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock is a fun read-aloud for school-age children, or for older preschoolers who are ready to listen to a longer story. Those who enjoy this book may be interested in Kimmel’s other Anansi picture books, including Anansi and the Talking Melon, Anansi and the Magic Stick, and Anansi Goes Fishing.
Check the WRL catalog for Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock.
Whatever by William Bee is charming and very funny. This spring, several of the librarians in my department passed this book around, taking turns sharing it at elementary schools. The book tells the story of Billy, a boy who is not easily impressed. No matter what his dad shows him (a giraffe, the world’s bounciest castle, or even the edge of outer space), Billy just responds with a bored expression and the word, “Whatever.” When I read this book aloud, I encourage my audience join in on the refrain of “Whatever,” and to say it with plenty of attitude. Near the end of the story, Billy’s dad tries to impress his son by introducing him to the world’s hungriest tiger. This fateful meeting leads to a surprise ending that makes many children and adults laugh out loud.
Though William Bee’s illustrations were created digitally, they look old-fashioned. Details in the illustrations hint that the story is set many decades ago. Billy’s dad wears a fedora, and at one point in the story he and his son ride on a steam-powered train. Some of the illustrations feature unusual patterns and designs. For example, a giraffe’s long neck is patterned with lines and numbers like a yardstick. Though the pictures are colorful and often busy, they are not overwhelming because they have plenty of white space surrounding them. I have enjoyed sharing Whatever with groups of students at elementary and middle schools. Although the book looks quite simple, its concept and humor appeal most to older children. This very short story makes for a nice break between longer books, or is a great way to end a read-aloud session with laughter.
Check the WRL catalog for Whatever.
Rabbit takes refuge in his rabbit home after being chased by a fox in the dark. Little does he know that he will have a stream of visitors also running from the fox. First to arrive is Duck, who is followed by Mouse, and then Lamb. They are all squeezed in together in Rabbit’s very small bed when there is another knock at the door. Duck opens it to find Baby Fox on the doorstep. Expecting to be eaten, the animals are surprised that Baby Fox also needs shelter because he lost his mom. Readers will not be surprised that the next knock at the door is indeed Mother Fox searching for her baby. They will be pleased at the nice ending when Mother Fox offers up her soft and snuggly body as a bed for all of the animals. Young readers will enjoy looking in the pictures at the beginning of the book to find the fox lurking in the dark background. The mixed media illustrations will certainly put readers at ease throughout this satisfying story.
Check the WRL catalog for The Fox in the Dark.
This book is sure to appeal to picky eaters. It starts out by telling the reader about all of the things that Little Pea likes to do. He enjoys things like rolling down hills, hanging out with his pea pals, and snuggling with mom and dad. However, one thing that poor Little Pea cannot stand is being forced to eat candy for dinner. In case you didn’t know, it is what you have to eat for dinner every day when you are a pea! It doesn’t matter that each day is a different kind of candy – it is still candy, candy, and more candy day after day. Mom and Dad insist that Little Pea eat all of his candy or there will be no dessert. Of course, dessert just happens to be spinach, which Little Pea loves. Will Little Pea find a way to choke down the candy in order to get dessert? The ink and watercolor illustrations are charming, and children and adults alike will relate to this humorous tale of picky eating. Readers will never look at peas in the same way after reading this fun tale. Candy for dinner, hmmmmm is that a new diet fad?
Check the WRL catalog for Little Pea.
The Little Red Pen is a modern day version of the story The Little Red Hen. In this story The Little Red Pen needs help grading a mountain of homework so the students will learn. She calls on her school supply friends stapler, scissors, eraser, pushpin, and highlighter to help her with this task. “Not I!” they all reply. The Little Red Pen is left to work alone. Exhausted from all her hard work she rolls off the desk into the trash can aka “The Pit of No Return.” Her school supply friends organize a rescue to save her. Will the Little Red Pen be lost forever? Read this entertaining story to find out if they succeed. The cartoon style drawings and humor will delight elementary children. This is a great book for teaching the importance of hard work and teamwork.
Check the WRL catalog for The Little Red Pen.
Pete the Cat is one cool blue cat and a favorite with young children. In Pete’s latest adventure he is wearing his favorite shirt with four, big, round, groovy buttons. Pete loves his shirt so much he sings a song about it. But one by one his buttons fall off his shirt. “Did Pete cry? Goodness, no! Buttons come and buttons go.” Count down with Pete as he discovers a very special button at the end of the story. As with many of Eric Litwin’s books, the repetitive text and bright, colorful illustrations will delight beginning readers. This book is a good educational tool for teaching rhythm, rhyme, and number concepts. Great read aloud or sing aloud for a large group reading.
Check the WRL catalog for Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons.
Chu is a panda bear whose sneezes cause bad things to happen. His parents are worried he is going to sneeze so they keep asking him if he will. Chu keeps saying no as his parents take him to a library and then to a diner. Finally Chu and his parents arrive at the circus, but they don’t ask him if he is going to sneeze. Chu’s sneeze blows down the circus tent and sends everything in the library and the diner flying!
The text is fairly simple and minimal, and as such is best suited for younger children ages 2-6. What truly makes this book special, however, are the illustrations by Adam Rex. They are absolutely gorgeous, extremely detailed, and light up every page. Children will especially enjoy being able to pick out the various animals that are the patrons of each establishment that Chu visits, and they will surely laugh when Chu finally sneezes. Chu’s Day is also a great storytime pick because kids love predicting whether they think Chu is actually going to sneeze or not.
Check the WRL catalog for Chu’s Day.
A man with an unwieldy mane of hair is noticed by a curious young girl named Bonnie who proclaims that he has “got crazy hair.” The man is very proud of his hair and he tells Bonnie that birds, gorillas, tigers and an entire menagerie of animals live in his hair. He goes on to describe that people live and go on expeditions, play music, fly, go to fairs, and sail ships in his hair. Bonnie recommends that he comb his hair to calm it down and the man says she can try so she does. But the man’s hair pulls Bonnie inside and she has grand adventures with all the people and animals inside the crazy hair!
Crazy Hair has a theme which may be unsuitable for really young kids along with a significant amount of text so I recommend this book for ages 4-8. This is a book kids will relate to because nearly all children have had experiences with trying to tame their messy hair! Crazy Hair is a great book to read aloud at storytime because the story is written in rhyming stanzas, so it has a great rhythm to it. The kids will also exclaim at the more fantastical elements of the story and the twist ending will keep everyone on their toes. Last but not least, Dave McKean’s abstract and quirky illustrations immerse you in the story and will create an excellent base for kids’ imaginations to run wild.
Check the WRL catalog for Crazy Hair.
A Walk in London tells the story of a mother-daughter day-trip spent exploring the historic city of London. They wander from Westminster to Buckingham Palace to the Tower of London, visiting all the most famous and well-known London attractions. They see the Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace, the bronze lions in Trafalgar Square, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the crown jewels in the Tower of London.
Each double-page spread features trivia in different, smaller fonts which can help to hold the attention of older children, enabling this book to be read and enjoyed by multiple ages at the same time. I learned that Norway sends a huge Christmas tree to London every year to stand in Trafalgar Square; there has been a cathedral on the site of St. Paul’s for more than 1.400 years; and the crown jewels have never been stolen, although Thomas Blood did try in 1671.
The book is full of lovely illustrations that are somewhat reminiscent of Quentin Blake’s style. The author is a graduate of the Royal College of Art in London. A Walk in New York was his first picture book, which began as a series of paintings that were short-listed for the Victoria and Albert Museum Illustration Awards. A Walk in London ends with a beautiful fold-out panorama of the Thames and the location of major sites on the river.
Without doubt this book would serve as a great introduction if your family ever plans a trip to London. The tour is rich with commentary about sites throughout the city, and so it’s also a wonderful way to explore a new city without ever leaving the comfort of your home.
Check the WRL catalog for A Walk in London.
Science Verse is the story of a young student, who’s been struck with the curse of Science Verse! His science teacher, Mr. Newton, tells him that if he listens closely enough he will be able to hear “the poetry of science in everything.” And the next day, everything suddenly and inexplicably begins to rhyme!
The book is composed of a series of twenty-three poems that are intended to help children learn about and remember a whole variety of important scientific concepts. The author uses the rhythmic patterns of several famous poems with all-new content, ranging from dinosaurs, to evolution, the stars, and even scientific method. They vary in length from a few lines to several stanzas.
I’m a big fan of witty, well-written children’s books with plays on words and linguistic ingenuity. A few of my favorite poems in the book include: the water cycle (to “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring”), the food chain (to “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”), atoms (to “The Song of Hiawatha”), the five senses (to “The Ride of Paul Revere”), and the Big Bang (to “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas”).
‘Twas the night before Any Thing, and all through deep space,
Nothing existed – time, matter, or place.
No stockings, no chimneys. It was hotter than hot,
Everything was compressed in one very dense dot.
Using the rhythms of familiar poems or nursery rhymes is a brilliant mnemonic device and the book comes with a CD to play that features all the poems in the book. Scieszka (“rhymes with ‘Fresca’ ”) includes a list at the end of the book, describing which well-known poems served as inspiration, for those intrinsically curious individuals who may wish to read the originals. But don’t worry: children do not have to be familiar with the original works in order to enjoy the humor. Lane Smith’s distinctive collage artwork compliments the text perfectly, incorporating drawings, paintings, and printed materials.
In addition to being a great read, this interesting, intelligent and irreverent picture book would be a great addition to any elementary teacher’s library. And if Science Verse is a hit, they’ve also written Math Curse, which is in the library’s collection.
Check the WRL catalog for Science Verse.
The Legend of El Dorado was written and illustrated by Beatriz Vidal. The story was adapted by Nancy Van Laan for this book. Born in Argentina, Beatriz Vidal gives a fresh look at an ancient myth told by her father when she was a child. The native Chibchas people live near a magical lake called Lake Guatavita. In this beautiful land, ruled by the King, his wife, and his daughter, there are boundless treasures; the waters literally flow gold with the precious metal. But one day the princess disturbs the magical lake and awakens an emerald serpent. Tthe lives of everyone in the village are forever altered. So begins the legend of El Dorado, which translates to “the Gilded Man,” for the King must cover himself with gold powder before he can dive into the lake to save his young daughter. The illustrations in this book truly bring the magic of this story to life. The gold and the jewels nearly shine off the page, and the deep blues and greens of the water and landscape are simply enchanting. One could find themself wondering where such a country could be discovered, or if perhaps it is already there under their nose. Van Laan does an excellent job of adapting this story from its native language into English in such a poetic manner. It is hard to believe it was not originally told this way. This book is perfect for late elementary school students who are comfortable reading on their own. However, it is also highly appropriate for story times or group readings, or even for someone who wishes to read it to a younger child, especially because it is so visually appealing.
Check the WRL catalog for The Legend of El Dorado: A Latin American Tale.
Chalk & Cheese, written and illustrated by Tim Warnes, is a sweet and fun story of two unlikely friends. In this book the protagonists are Cheese, a British mouse, and Chalk, a dog living in New York City. Chalk and Cheese have been corresponding via postcards for quite a while, so one day Cheese decides he is going to visit his friend. However, the Big Apple is a lot bigger than this tiny country mouse expected. Both friends learn that they are very different from each other, especially in their upbringing, but by learning about these differences they are able to finally become even closer than before. This leads them to realizing that perhaps they are not too different from one another.
This cute story is set up much like a comic book, using the style of multiple panels per page. It is a great book for early elementary-aged children to read to themselves. The pictures and speech bubbles also make it a book that could be fun to read aloud in pairs. Warnes’ quirky writing style and original artwork make this a book that seamlessly blends picture book and comic book, something that is sure to appeal to any child who has a love for animals and travel.
Check the WRL catalog for Chalk & Cheese.
Is your toddler or preschooler learning about colors? Does he or she love trains? If so, Freight Train is a must read! It is a classic, Caldecott award winning, concept book written and illustrated by Donald Crews. With only a few simple words to a page and vibrant primary colors, Crews tells the story of a train from the beginning to the end. Crews also labeled the train cars to help children learn more about the different components that make up trains. Lastly, Crews does an incredible job blending the colors of each car together to represent the rapid movement of the train, which provides vibrant, bright illustrations for the children and parents!
If you have not read this classic book, check it out. I guarantee you and your child will be reading it time and time again.
Check the WRL catalog for Freight Train.
Benjamin Franklin, Dragons, and Pigs, oh my! Read All About It! by Laura and Jenna Bush is a great book for school-aged kids and younger children who enjoy listening to a longer story. Tyrone Brown, the main character, rules the school at Good Day Elementary. He is great at math, science, the monkey bars, and he enjoys just about everything about school except reading. However, his teacher tells him, “You never know who you are going to meet in a good book.” Tyrone does not believe his teacher, until one day, characters start appearing in his classroom! One of the characters eventually goes missing, and Tyrone and his friends go on a search in the school to find the missing character! Read Read All About It! to find out which character goes missing, if they find the character, and where they find the character.
Denise Brunkus does wonderful, colorful illustrations. For those not familiar with her work, she has illustrated many books including the popular Junie B. Jones series.
Check the WRL catalog for Read All About It!
Yawn, stretch, snore, run, slide, slip, slap are just some of the many action words in Snore Dinosaur Snore, written and illustrated by John Bendall-Brunello! This fun book is perfect for younger children, toddlers, and preschoolers with the colorful pictures, big easy to read words, and action words. Not only is this a great book to read, but it also is a great book to act out. It is sure to leave both parents and children laughing, especially if your family can relate to these persistent baby dinosaurs that try and try to wake their mommy up! It seems as if the baby dinosaurs have tried everything…will these baby dinos succeed? Be sure to read Snore Dinosaur Snore to find out!
Check the WRL catalog for Snore Dinosaur Snore.
Is your child learning to tell time, count or understand rhyme? If so, Hickory Dickory Dock, written and illustrated by Keith Baker, is the book to read! While based on the familiar nursery rhyme titled, “Hickory Dickory Dock,” Baker creates his own version of the nursery rhyme with one busy mouse and lots of crazy animals. Be sure to read Hickory Dickory Dock to have fun counting, singing, rhyming, and of course to see what keeps the teeny tiny mouse busy every hour!
Toddlers and younger elementary school students will enjoy this colorful and easy to read book.
Check the WRL catalog for Hickory, Dickory, Dock.
Once your little one starts growing, nothing is more exciting than turning another year older. Then once your little one is a year older, what is more exciting than growing a half year older and celebrating being 2 and a half or 3 and a half? Growing up can lead to excitement, questions, and maybe even a little nervousness. If your little one is growing older, asking questions, or feeling a little nervous, he or she will easily be able to relate to Pomelo, the growing, pink little elephant in this story. Pomelo realizes that he has started growing. He is bigger than his dandelion plant, strawberries, and even a teeny tiny potato! Woo hoo – he is very excited that he is taller and maybe even stronger. But then, he starts asking questions such as, “Will I grow equally all over?”. Growing up is making him a little nervous! Be sure to read Pomelo Begins to Grow to find out what Pomelo thinks of growing up in the end!
In addition to the fun, relatable storyline written by Badescu, Benjamin Chaud does some beautiful illustrations with bright drawings. It is truly a great book for your growing toddlers.
Check the WRL catalog for Pomelo Begins to Grow.
Jake is a delightful character who is not interested in a varied diet, quite
the opposite. He turns down everything except peanut butter. As a true peanut butter lover I fell in love with this book! This story is engaging as you follow his parents’ frustration. Then they hatch an ingenious plan to solve Jake’s finicky eating habits. The rhyming storyline will keep young children listening and wondering what Jake will eat next. Adults will be
entertained by the phenomenal pictures in this book. The layers of humor in the pictures are a definite highlight in Jake Goes Peanuts.
Check the WRL catalog for Jake Goes Peanuts.
The importance of family order has been proven. Who we become has its
origins in our birth order. This sweet, funny and oh so telling story will
ring true for the reader. As we follow Gladys, Hilda and Rose we will
relate to them as they live their days together. One favorite page for me
is when the two younger sisters are in bed and they watch big sister in her
own room staying up late at night, laughing and being important. Of course,
the younger sisters become tired of bossy big sister Gladys. The plan they
make is beyond anything you would expect and the silliness of it makes this
a fun story to share with your family.
Check the WRL catalog for Eating up Gladys.