Monday, December 12, 2022

Farewell for Now, Totz!

illustration by Lorie Ann Grover

Hello beloved readertotz, first readers, older sibs of totz, parents, and educators!

After fourteen years of posting recommends for the most excellent board books and an occasional exceptional picture book, I believe it is time to end our effort for now. Thankfully, the esteem for and quality of board books has risen in the industry. We still hope that ALA will begin to award the Dorothy Kunhardt Award yearly to the very best in the novelty/board book format.   

Joan and I continue to write our own books. You can follow the links below to keep up on our news and releases if you like. Thanks so much for your interest, encouragement, and support over the years. Yay for the books we have gathered around! I hope you have discovered joy and fun from authors, illustrators, and publishers. 

For now, farewell! May your next snuggled book be a rich delight for you and yours. Love to each,

and Joan Holub 

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

More, more, more: A Bear Far from Home: Susan Fletcher

A Bear Far From Home
is an historical incident, plus beautiful writing filled with wonder, and illustrations inspired by medieval tapestries. For the older siblings of your readertotz, Susan Fletcher's imagined recounting of a white bear finding itself relocated in England is a beautiful tribute to beginning again. As well, the door will be opened to discuss oppression, zoos, slavery, and the rights of all. The bear finds a new home; yet, it is chained and in a foreign environment. Fletcher brings the readers' empathy alongside the bear, as she imagines how it feels throughout the entire experience. 

how strange and loud and lonely
the world must have seemed 
to the bear--" 

Rebecca Green's illustrations pay homage to the time and space. The Tower of London, the King's Menagerie and King Henry III are featured. Layouts and perspectives vary and increase the emotional impact of the work. 

This exquisitely rendered book will provoke thoughts and emotions in readers. Just imagine. Let the connections rise and discussions begin!

by Susan Fletcher
illustrated by Rebecca Green
Anne Schwartz Books, 9/27/2022

Monday, July 18, 2022

Drum City: Thea Guidone

In the universal language of drumming, children gather and impact their community by drumming on anything at hand. They influence each other, everyone on Main Street, and down on the docks. Whether you are drumming happily or sadly, there's room for your sound around the world. "Together we drum," says author Thea Guidone.

People in traffic keeping the beat
on the hood and the trunk
and the bicycle seat.

Mamas in rollers
rock babies in strollers,
clapping and stomping and
stamping their feet to the 

Vanessa Brantley-Newton's illustrations have a satirical line and retro rendering. Compositions convey the gathering, infectious drumbeats. Strong diagonals contrast with horizontals. 

Get a drumbeat rolling with your readertotz. Rat-a-tat-tat! 

by Thea Guidone
illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Knopf, 2022

Monday, July 11, 2022

Tarot for Baby: Abigail Samoun

How? How would you bring the 22 mystical archetypes to readertotz? Author Abigail Samoun has done so with her beautiful affirmations for every child. 

"Fear not, brave one--
you have everything you need!

You have wisdom behind you.
You are cared for. 
You are safe."

Each statement is connected to a numbered archetype. The above is: The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, and The Emperor. 

Illustrator Kelly Anne Dalton's single page images capture the sentiment of the archetype and text in a child-centric way. A trusted friend, for The Lovers, is a stuffed lion with the toddler. The quiet place to hear your inner voice, The Hermit, is the child potty training. 

If you'd like to introduce your first readers to the tarot, and affirm who they are, Tarot for Baby is a lovely place to begin. 

by Abigail Samoun
illustrated by Kelly Anne Dalton
Rodale Kids, 2022

Monday, July 4, 2022

Let's Look at Opposites: Marion Deuchars

My go-to-favorites for readertotz are concept books. That foundational teaching can always be brought with energy and freshness from gifted creators. Best-selling author/illustrator Marion Deuchars offers her take in a series from Laurence King Publishing: Let's Look At. Here's an opportunity to see the world through Marion's hand, with a bit of wry humor. 

Let's Look at Nature presents flowers, leaves, the sun, and more. Little creatures accompany the featured item on each page, and everyone seems to be curious or friendly. The bold, painterly shapes and text are eye-catching for the youngest readers. 

Let's Look at Opposites is adorable in its creative license. A mouse climbs a ladder beside a giraffe: tall and short. An empty fish tank sits beside a content cat with fish bones on his lap: empty and full. 

Often, white backgrounds in both books support the featured concepts. Each book also ends with all the representations on the last spread for review. 

This series is fresh and fun. Enjoy introducing these concepts to your first readers. 

by Marion Deuchars
Laurence King Publishing, 2022

Thursday, June 30, 2022

More, more, more: Most Perfect You


What if your mother asked God specifically for each of your physical characteristics? What if she chose your skin color, your spectacular hair, and the exact shape of your sparkling eyes? Jazmyn Simon's Most Perfect You creates that setting for a young girl to accept and love the body she's been given. Including her big, kind heart. 

Tamisha Anthony's imaginative, sweeping illustrations carry us from the child's home into the atmosphere of possibility and back home again. A reader gains an additional appreciation for the multitude of beautiful options through Anthony's beautiful paintings. 

Help your child to look in the mirror and see their most perfect self. Find many to share this picture book with to appreciate the beauty we've each been given. 

by Jazmyn Simon
illustrated by Tamisha Anthony
Random House, 2022

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

I Just Want to Say Good Night: Rachel Isadora

In a small village on the African veld, it's time for Lala to go to bed. But before she does, she must say goodnight to so many. There is the goat, the dog, the monkey, the ants, and more. All must be wished well by Lala before she goes to sleep.

The sun sets in Rachel Isadora's sweeping, painterly illustrations, and the spreads shift from warm to cool. The book is full of atmosphere. My personal favorite is the dedication page. 

In a sweet homage to Margaret Wise Brown, Lala says goodnight to her book and the full moon out of her window. Add this beautiful, bedtime book to your goodnight ritual. After saying goodnight to all. 

Rachel Isadora
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2022

Saturday, June 18, 2022

More, more, more: Heckadeck, Travis Nichols

How about instead of 52 cards, you have 160 to play with? Imagine being able to play Go Fish with your totz and then maybe Hearts with your older children, with the same deck of cards. Heckadeck offers you 8 suits of 16 cards. You can also anticipate new ranks, visual shapes, and more. What might your family create with Clouds, Zeroes, Beasts, and Travelers? 

An accompanying game booklet offers up the rules for old games and new. There's even a section for reading cards, if you're interested. The power is yours as you and your loved ones sit down for some fun card playing.  

Creator, illustrator Travis Nichols' imagery is both adorable and intriguing. The palette is softly muted. The box says for ages 6 and up, but I see you might use the Heckadeck with younger children in many ways. They might match cards, learn colors and numbers, spot imagery, and play memory games. 

With an opportunity to invent your own games, and the extra cards for further creativity, this deck is fun for all. Shuffle away! 

by Travis Nichols
Chronicle Books, 2022

Sunday, May 29, 2022

More, more, more: Out of a Jar, Deborah Marcero

As feelings are strong, and we search for answers, meaning, and peace, Out of a Jar by Deborah Marcero might be a perfect place to begin with your readertotz. Llewellyn the bunny likes all things scary, but he does not like to be scared. Other feelings, too, can't be ignored and continue to come around, but all is well when Llewellyn discovers they can be tucked inside jars. Even pleasant feelings can be bottled. It's not until they are all released that he is able to finally feel relieved. 

This adorable bunny with long ears, who lives in a subtly patterned world, will win hearts. The fresh exploration may help your first readers to identify emotions and assist them in witnessing and expressing their feelings in healthy ways. 

by Deborah Marcero
G. P. Putnam, 2022

Sunday, May 15, 2022

My First Book of Beards, My First Book of Tattoos: Robyn Wall

Here we go with two fresh books in a series titled My Cool Family from Doubleday's author Robyn Wall and illustrator Lydia Nichols: My First Book of Beards and My First Book of Tattoos. Quick rhyme accompanies clean illustrations with a subdued palette and beautiful black, varied and expressive lines. 

My First Book of Beards describes beards via the tasks the characters are doing and transitions to physical descriptions of beards:

Merry beard
Share-y beard
Glitter princess fairy beard

My First Book of Tattoos describes the tattoo imagery and the physical expression of that choice:

Rock it tat 
Chalk it tat
Catch it, pass it, block it tat 

Both of the best beards and tats come with love for the child. What a fun addition to our shelves for first readers. Brava! 

by Robyn Wall
illustrated by Lydia Nichols
Doubleday, 2022

Monday, March 28, 2022

I Want to Be...a Ballerina: Becky Davies

Our first readers can dream big, and the I Want to Be series from Random House can help visualize the accomplishment. I Want to be...a Ballerina illustrates and labels the journey of a young girl from getting ready for her first lesson to performing onstage as an adult. Vocabulary is rich and identifies clothing, steps, and parts of the studio and stage. 

Text is tight and Richard Merritt's flat, colorful illustrations pop but don't overwhelm. They carry the information in a creative way, even turning the layout for impact. 

You can help your own first reader into ballet with this board book. Whether a career ensues or not, they can dance with joy. 

For your teen readers, I, of course, recommend my own novel, On Pointe. 

by Becky Davies
illustrated by Richard Merritt
Random House, Little Tiger Press Ltd 2022 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Black Heroes, a Go Fish Card Game: Magali Attiogbé

Happy Black History Month! I ran across this most excellent Go Fish card game titled Black Heroes. It features 44 inspirational black figures throughout time. Your totz can group explorers, sports players, stars, activists, politicians, and artists. An accompanying booklet elaborates on each hero featured in the game. From Kamala Harris to Abu Bakr II, Queen Anna Nzinga to Chadwick Boseman, there is much to learn. So much inspiration awaits! 

Paintings by Magali Attiogbé are bold and bright. Text in the booklet is by Dr. Kimberly Brown Pellum. The game is recommended for 8 and up, but the cards could be used educationally for younger totz.  

Find this little gem and celebrate our Black Heroes. Go Fish!   

text by Dr. Kimberly Brown Pellum
illustrations by Magali Attiogbé
Lawence King, Orion Publishing Group Ltd.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Women in Art: Rachel Ignotofsky


Yay for each board book added in an effort to balance the shelves. Women in Art does so for our first readers, and it's now in a board book format. Diverse women through time are featured and celebrated.  

New York Times bestseller, Rachel Ignotofsky's stylized imagery of artists and their variety of mediums inspires along with its simple text. Find Maya Lin, Faith Ringgold, Yayoi Kusama and more.

As Ignotofsky says in the introduction: "Art is more than something beautiful. With each brushstroke, chisel of stone, and line drawn, these women artists used their talents to tell truths, to talk about injustice, and even to heal. Today, we celebrate their art and their stories."

Let's fill our shelves with quality board books such as those created by Rachel Ignotofsky. Brava! 

by Rachel Ignotofsky
Crown Books

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