Monday, January 17, 2022

Hot Cocoa Calm: Kira Willey


Cozy up this winter with Hot Cocoa Calm and your beloved readertotz. Author Kira Willey walks the reader through mindfulness exercises to help us regulate our emotions. What a perfect joining of winter chill; friendly, stylized animals illustrated by Anni Betts; and instructions nested around a warm, sweet drink that needs a little time to cool.  

Maybe we could all use a cup of cocoa and calm at the start of our new year. Happy reading in 2022 with peace and joy to you and yours!

Mindfulness Moments for Kids Series
by Kira Willey
illustrations by Anni Betts
Rodale Kids, 2021

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Change Starts With Us: Sophie Beer


Beginning our new year, it's good to be reminded Change Starts With Us! With straightforward text, author/illustrator Sophie Beer illustrates how even the smallest hands can create change. We all can save water, pick up litter, and plant trees. We can recycle, save power, and shop local. 

Adorable, flat, vibrant illustrations bring youthfulness to the imagery as children assist adults and each other in affecting change. Together we can care for our beloved world. 

Happy new year to you and your readertotz! Happy reading and learning! 

by Sophie Beer
Dial Books, 2021

Sunday, November 14, 2021

More, more, more: On Wings of Words

On Wings of Words, the Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson is a beautiful presentation of the poet's life and words. Jennifer Berne captures Emily's experiences, and Becca Stadtlander's art sets a perfect tone for the setting. At times, illustrations are historically accurate, but the work flies even farther when she is free to render Emily's thoughts and emotions. 

The weaving of portions of poems with the author's text is organic and well-weighted: 

"But everywhere she looked,
she was told to obey without asking,
to believe without knowing why. 
        So she began to put her faith in
        what she could see and understand.

                    In the name of the Bee-
                    And of the Butterfly-
                    And of the Breeze-Amen!"

Add this tribute to our beloved poet to your library for your totz. 

"The World is sleeping...we must
be crowing cocks, and singing larks,
and a rising sun to awake her." 

by Jennifer Berne
illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
Chronicle Books, 2020

Monday, October 25, 2021

Readertotz Read Aloud: The Beatryce Prophecy

For the older siblings of your readertotz, you might read aloud Kate DiCamillo's latest work: The Beatryce Prophecy. Every time I begin a work of Kate's, I get first-page chills. You know you are taking her hand and journeying into a narrative, lyrical circle which will weave a community together through the eyes of an endearing, strong protagonist. You and yours will love Beatryce, Answelica the goat, Brother Edik, and Jack Dory. 

Sophie Blackall's pencil drawings illuminate the text throughout. She brings half-page images, flourishes, and spot illustrations to the reader. The two time Caldecott Medalist dedicates her work to Kate, herself.  

Listen in to NPR's Talking Volumes, 2021, interview of Kate about this new classic taking its place on our shelves and in our hearts. 

"That is not a book I would care to read. 
As if she could read.
As if such a thing were possible.
Which, of course, it was not.
But still, a shiver of wonder and fear went through him at the possibility of a girl who could read." 

by Kate DiCamillo
illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Candlewick Press, 2021

Monday, October 11, 2021

More, more, more: When We Say Black Lives Matter

Here is a must find, must purchase, must share! When We Say Black Lives Matter is the poetic, spot-on answer for our readertotz when they ask, "What does Black Lives Matter mean?" 

Maxine Beneba Clarke's direct, compassionate beauty fills this picture book as black parents speak to their black child. Clarke's watercolor pencil and collage resembles chalk drawings which glow like stained glass over the large format. Verbs illuminate what this powerful statement means, whether it is screamed, danced, or laughed. 

"When we smile
Black Lives Matter,
we're raising our spirits high.
We're saying
we are here,
and we are enough.
my child."

Let Clarke, who is speaking to her own beloved family around the world, fill your home with affirmations of truth and joy. Black Lives Matter. 

by Maxine Beneba Clarke
Candlewick Press, 2021

Friday, October 8, 2021

Happy Halloween from The Very Busy Spider: Eric Carle

Get Halloween ready with the Very Busy Spider who is looking for all of her friends. Your totz can solve riddles and lift the flaps to help her. 

"Who does she see
smiling up at the moon
hoping to join his friends
very soon? 

A kind fox!"

Of course she has to find the Very Hungry Caterpillar munching inside a pumpkin. Once everyone is gathered, it's time for fun. Trick or treat! 

Thank you, Eric Carle.  We miss you dearly! <3

by Eric Carle
World of Eric Carle, Illustrated Edition, 2020

Monday, October 4, 2021

The Wheels on the Bus at Halloween: Sarah Kieley

Just in time for Halloween, your totz can sing "The Wheels on the Bus" for magical creatures who happen to need a ride. Beginning with a map of the upcoming journey, Sarah Kieley's vivid illustration pops across the board book double spread as we anticipate who will ride the bus on Halloween. 

Riders include witches, bats, ghosts, candies, and more. 

The pumpkins on the bus go "Trick or treat!
Trick or treat! 
Trick or treat!"
The pumpkins on the bus go, "Trick or treat!"
on a spooky Halloween!

When everyone's gathered on the bus, of course the next stop is your house! Enjoy this joy-packed take on "The Wheels on the Bus!" 

by Sarah Kieley
Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2021

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

More, more, more: Goodnight Ganesha


There is so much beauty in this work from Nadia Salomon, illustrated by Poonam Mistry. With a nod to Goodnight Moon, two children say goodnight to Ganesha, as they visit their grandparents in India. The evening includes stories and rituals which set a beautiful tone. 

Mistry's tapestry style artwork brings mystery, warmth, and awe. You can look long at the intricate patterns and stylizations which accompany Salomon's rhyming text. 

Goodnight, thali.
Goodnight, kumkum. 
Goodnight, deepam--and wafts of perfume. 

Visit this beauty with your totz before they drift to sleep. 

by Nadia Salomon
illustrated by Poonam Mistry
Philomel Books, 2021

Sunday, September 19, 2021

More, more, more: ABC of Feelings

How many of us could benefit from this new picture book? I can! Author/illustrator Bonnie Lui brings a range of emotions to young readers by walking through the alphabet. Short definitions and expressive illustrations aid in the teaching. A background painter for Dreamworks and WB, Lui has created beauty in another format for all to enjoy. 

A is for anxious. Anxious is feeling really worried about something. 

B is for brave. Brave is being nervous about something...and doing it anyway!


N is for needy. Needy is wanting someone you love to pay attention to you. 

O is for overwhelmed. Overwhelmed is having too many thoughts and feelings all at once. 

I can imagine reaching for this book over and over as your readertotz gain self-awareness and learn to identify emotions. Get ready to spot those feelings!

by Bonnie Lui
Philomel, 2021

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Celebrations: Margaret Wise Brown Board Book Award


It's official! Bank Street College of Education has decided to begin acknowledging and awarding board books! My editor just zipped me the press release as she and I talked about this need in 2010. The award will be named: the Margaret Wise Brown Board Book Award for excellence in literature for very young children. Wonderful!

Here is a press release excerpt: 

The first prize will be awarded in the spring of 2023 for board books published or picture books adapted to board book format in 2021 and 2022. The award will be given every two years to a board book for infants and toddlers (ages 0-3).

“Criteria for selection will include books that promote interplay and engagement, incorporate rich
language, demonstrate a consideration for childhood development, and are constructed to withstand multiple encounters with little hands,” said Dr. Cynthia Weill, Director, Center for Children’s Literature, Bank Street College of Education.

Joan Holub and I, both board book author/illustrators, have been calling for a recognition of the board book format since 2009. Our aim at the readertotz blog has always been to raise the profile of board books for our first readers. We make a call to authors, illustrators, and publishers to create the best possible works as they introduce reading to our youngest ones. 

We have envisioned the American Library Association creating the Dorothy Kunhardt Award for the Outstanding Board or Novelty Book. Click here to see our facebook page. We would love to see Dorothy named as the creator of the beloved, first novelty book still in print: Pat the Bunny

Joan and I are thrilled Bank Street College is lifting this important format for all to see! Here's to future award recipients, the wee ones who will hold the works, and Bank Street College for their efforts. Bravo! 

What is Fall? Genie Espinosa


What is Fall? gives a cut-out, shaped experience of the season nearly upon us. 

"The days are shorter. Summer is done.
Now FALL is here....
Let's have

Rhymes continue to accompany author/illustrator Genie Espinosa's rounded illustrations created with a soft fall palette. You might need a scarf, or want an apple, or enjoy a bright sunflower this season. Readertotz can explore the cut shapes, be introduced to autumn, and anticipate the coming rhyme. This is a delightful addition to season books for first readers. 

What is Fall?
by Genie Espinosa
Random House, 2021