Category Archives: Grades K-2

Super Happy Magic Forest

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Super Happy Magic Forest, written and illustrated by Matty Long, tells the story of five brave heroes from the Super Happy Magic Forest who must go on a quest to recover the Magic Crystals of Life after they are stolen. These crystals are the source of the forest’s happiness, so they must be returned as quickly as possible.

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The heroes’ epic quest to save the Magical Crystals of Life takes them through all sorts of treacherous terrains filled with spooky and dangerous creatures, until they reach the “the very doorstep of evil”: the Goblin Tower. It is there that they believe they will find their crystals.

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However, after discovering that their Magical Crystals of Life are not in fact in the Goblin Tower, they return to the Super Happy Magic Forest, where they find that the true evil force who stole their crystals was there the whole time. They must banish him to the Super Creepy Haunted Forest, where he belongs. Finally, they can celebrate knowing that their forest and its crystals are safe from the forces of evil, and that they will always be happy.

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The story itself is very simple, with only one or two sentences of text on each page. The real fun part of reading this book lies in the illustrations; they are bright and reminiscent of comic books, with silly speech and thought bubbles housing the characters’ dialogue and thoughts. Much of the action of the story is told through these illustrations, and there are tons of small details on each page that make each picture almost like a story in itself.

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Even the end papers are illustrated like a map that shows different locations within the story, mirroring the style of illustration used throughout the book.

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This book is a wonderful take on the classic hero’s quest that removes some of the drama sometimes associated with these types of stories, and replaces it with pure fun. It had me laughing out loud at some of the characters’ thoughts and dialogue, and I found myself lingering on each page, trying to find all the hidden details within the illustrations. I would recommend this book as a fun, silly story to read to kids of all ages; I think that the story is appropriate for younger audiences, while older kids may enjoy finding all the small details within the pictures, almost like a game of “I Spy.” The story is one that celebrates teamwork and fighting the evil in the world, while also reminding readers not to take things too seriously, and to find the fun and humor in all of life’s epic quests and everyday adventures.

– Maya Creamer

 

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I Just Want To Say Good Night

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I Just Want To Say Good Night

This colorful and entertaining picture book is a perfect bedtime story for all ages.  I Just Want To Say Goodnight incorporates the universal story of a child procrastinating their bedtime through a multicultural lens.  The bright and vibrant colors of the illustrations capture the setting in the African village beautifully, while demonstrating sentiment and emotion through the characters as well.  In addition, this book is notably a Caldecott Honor winner.

The book begins with the young girl Lala greeting her father and asking about his day.  The illustrations use the coloring of the sky to indicate that the sun is setting and it is almost the end of the day.  When Lala’s father tells her it is time for bed, she explains that she wants to say good night to a few animals in the village.  She says good night to the fish, the cat, the ants, etc.

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My favorite illustration throughout the book is the double page spread where Lala is saying good night to the monkey.  She kindly bends down to the little monkey’s level and offers him a flower.  The illustration is set with a bright pink and purple sky, and the sun close to the horizon.

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The concept of time passing, and night-time approaching, is wonderfully represented through the illustrations.  As the reader delves deeper into the story, the illustrated sky goes from sunset, to dusk, and then night.  Not only does the sky get darker, but the lighting and contrast in the rest of the illustration develops too.  Lala becomes more of a silhouette as the sky darkens, and shadows begin to appear.

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As time goes on, Lala has difficulty finding anything left to say good night too.  She finally says good nigh to a rock before following her Mama into the house.  Once in bed, she grabs her bed time book, in which the illustration and text both allude to the famous, and classic, bed time board book, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.

Author and Illustrator, Rachel Isadora is well-known for her wonderful children’s books in which she seamlessly incorporates playful and relatable stories in African settings and backgrounds.  She truly does a remarkable job of creating books with multicultural themes that children of all ages and ethnicities can thoroughly enjoy.  I absolutely loved this book, for its child-like humor and magnificent pictures, and would recommend it to any parent, family member, or caretaker that is looking for a fun and new book to read during bed time.

 

Casey Quinn

Pattan’s Pumpkin: A Traditional Flood Story from Southern India

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Pattan’s Pumpkin: A Traditional Flood Story from Southern India

Chitra Soundar and Frané Lessac have adapted a traditional Irula story to make it more accessible: turning the traditional churraka into a pumpkin and highlighting the story’s universal themes.

The story does, not, however, abandon its cultural roots. It is authentic in its language, retaining the Indian names Pattan and Kanni and placing the tale at the base not of any old mountain range but of the Sahyadri Mountains. Pattan and Kanni are illustrated with the characteristic dark skin of the Irula people and are dressed in traditional garb. Soundar also does not shy away from describing the details of Pattan and Kanni’s way of life as they grow pepper, rice, nutmeg, and bananas; ride elephants; and nurture animals in the foothills of South India’s mountains. As any culturally diverse book should, Pattan’s Pumpkin presents its characters positively: clever, resourceful, grateful for what they have, kind, and willing to share. These characteristics not only help children understand cultures beyond their own as positive but also model values for the children themselves!

Lessac’s pictures are as bright as the spirit of Pattan himself. The colors – oranges, yellows, reds, greens – pop off the page and bring the story to life. The use of full-page spreads accentuates the size of the pumpkin, sure to make any child shriek with shock and delight, and the landscapes are rich and vivid in their scope.

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Lessac’s spread toward the end of the story is lush green and deep black, dotted with every color in between. A picture does not do these colors justice!

Pattan’s Pumpkin comes together to tell not only an entertaining, engaging story but one that is valuable in any lesson on geography, history, culture, or even religion.

-Addison

If You Take a Mouse to the Movies

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     The 1985 classic If You Give A Mouse A Cookie stole the hearts of readers the world over with its cheerful illustrations and simple and memorable circle story. If You Take a Mouse to the Movies, the fifth book in the “If You Give” series, is also a circle story. This means that its plot creates a cycle where the first line is the same as the final line, implying that the tale will begin again with a loop of the same actions. In this story, the circular line is again the title phrase. It follows the same young boy buying movie theater popcorn for the same tiny mouse, where they find a popcorn string kit and eventually perform all sorts of holiday activities. These include building snowmen, singing carols, and decorating a Christmas tree.
New Doc 2017-10-20_8     While the simple story line helps children understand that a book’s plot is fluid and connected, the illustrations are an equal factor in helping the book shine. Drawn in the same crisp, thinly outlined cartoon style of the classic original, but with more deep blues and greens and hints of red, this is clearly a wintry tale. There are still wide expanses of white instead of detailed backgrounds, as there were in the original, which draw the reader’s attention to the two main characters. It is interesting that the mouse, much smaller than the boy, has more detail in his representation, with intricately shaded ears, a detailed mouth, and the teeniest pink nose. His companion has only a few lines representing his entire face, which often leads to a profile shot of a nose a single dot for an eye. In this way, the mouse is almost more personified than the little boy, making him the focus of the story.

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     Part of the magic of the original book lies in seeing the experiences of everyday life from the perspective of the mouse. Witnessing the unique way he must interact with his environment: tiny jelly-bean sized snowballs, for instance, or singing into the boombox microphone that is almost his height, are amusing and warm. New Doc 2017-10-20_3new-doc-2017-10-20_4.jpg     When reading this book to a preschooler this week, we both stopped in awe of one particular page. The little boy shared a sweet little smile as he said, “That mouse sure looks comfy!” The warm light cascading on the pristine blanket that envelops the little mouse makes the scene look heavenly.

New Doc 2017-10-20_5     There are an abundance of small details in addition the the gorgeous whole illustrations that are just as eye-catching and enthralling. The mouse’s hat with ears, the glitter on the young boy’s nose after the whirlwind ornament-making, and the minuscule snowballs stuck to the boy’s back after the snowball fort fight are a perfect opportunity to ask children to make inferences about purpose and cause-and-effect relationships.

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   This book offers a twist on a classic, and successfully fulfills this promise by providing the same comforting patterns with an added holiday glow.

 

Tacky the Penguin

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Tacky the Penguin written by Helen Lester and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger is truly a children’s literature classic. How is being different a good thing? Let Tacky share his story with you…

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Tacky the Penguin is an odd bird, he doesn’t do things like his companions Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly, and Perfect do. Tacky greets his friends with a “hearty slap on the back” and always does “splashy cannonballs” off the iceberg. His companions always march 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, but Tacky has his own way of marching.

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Because Tacky does things differently, his friends don’t pay much attention to him or include him in their activities like singing. Everything changes when one day the penguins of the iceberg hear the “thump…thump…thump” of Hunters in the distance.

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All of the penguins run and hide in fear, leaving Tacky to face the Hunters by himself. The Hunters say that they’ve come to catch some pretty penguins, so Tacky decides to show the Hunter what kind of penguins live on this iceberg. Tacky marches for the Hunters… 1-2-3, 4-2, 3-6-0, 2 1/2, 0, and they are very confused. He does a big cannonball for the Hunters and gets them all wet. Finally, Tacky starts to sing with his not so lovely singing voice and soon enough his companions join in! They all sing as loudly and as horribly as they can until the Hunters run away as fast as possible because these were not the penguins they came looking for.

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All of the companions hug Tacky and are grateful that he scared the Hunters away and saved them all. The penguins realize that “Tacky was an odd bird but a very nice bird to have around.”

This story is one of my all-time personal favorites because I think it does a fantastic job of showing how being a unique individual is a beautiful thing. It’s a message that can be tricky to teach young children, but Tacky’s story makes it fun and relatable. The illustrations done by Lynn Munsinger in this book are all hand painted watercolor pieces. The images have been praised for their vibrant colors and vivid facial expressions that contribute to an all around classic feel. The text itself conveys a humorous attitude, but Munsinger’s illustrations bring to life the character of Tacky the odd bird and highlight the fun he has while being himself. Attention to details is one of the key elements of this story, from the hairs that stick up on Tacky’s head to the way he slouches when he walks – every aspect of Tacky reflects his daring, unique personality. Overall, a fun family story, Tacky the Penguin teachers its reader the lifelong lesson that even though someone might be different, they can still be a great friend.

 

Josie Mark

His Royal Highness, King Baby: A Terrible True Story

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His Royal Highness, King Baby by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by David Roberts is a royal twist on the classic tale of sibling jealousy. The main character, the sister, imagines herself as “the most beautifulest, cleverest, ever-so-kindest Princess with long, flowing wondrous hair,” whose ENTIRE LIFE is ruined by the birth of her baby brother, His Royal Highness, King Baby. The sister complains that the baby takes all of her parents’ time as they celebrate each of his ridiculous milestones. The innocent sister is (in her words) left to completely fend for herself, even though the illustrations don’t quite back up her dramatic viewpoint. The baby is constantly shown as an angelic, pudgy figure surrounded by unicorns and rainbows. The sister glares from the background, her jealousy apparent throughout the text. The illustrations include the Princess’ doodles, which depict her little brother in the way that she sees him – an annoying, smelly monster. For his first birthday, the entire family pours in to celebrate, leaving the Princess alone. She finally plans to dress up as a fairy and break the spell of King Baby. However, just as she enters his palace, he starts crying inconsolably. After everyone else in the family gives up on comforting him, she is able to quiet her brother immediately. They finally bond, and the Princess includes King Baby in all of her royal decrees and adventures. She still sees herself as Princess Big Sister at the conclusion of the book, but she’s definitively okay with having a brother.

My favorite part of this story is that the sister does not have to give up her princess identity in order to accept her brother. Instead, she includes him in her royal escapades. I think this is a good lesson for children that may have trouble adjusting to a new sibling. It shows that they don’t have to change themselves in order to be similar to, or stand out from, the new baby. They will be loved and appreciated regardless. The illustrations in this book highlight several interesting perspectives. The mother is drawn much like a queen, with a fancy dress and curly hair, while the father is typically shown in normal, casual clothing. I think this reflects the mother’s role as Queen of the Household and mother of the royal sister and brother. Additionally, the mismatch between the sister’s drawings/narrative and the illustrations is a fascinating difference to point out to readers. While the sister claims that she is left to make her own breakfast, the illustration shows her being handed a plate of eggs and fruit. Later on in the book, her drawing of the breakfast scenario appears. She is crying, holding a plate with a single egg that she supposedly was forced to make by herself. A cute detail throughout the story is the sister’s pet gerbil, who appears on most pages. This element contrasts the lavish royal lifestyle with the normalcy of having a pet like a gerbil. This mix of moods makes the illustrations more complex and visually appealing. Overall, I would recommend this book to any parent whose child is having trouble adjusting after the birth of a new baby.

Maddie Geller

Marvelous New Picture Books: School’s First Day of School

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School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson, is exactly what it sounds like: the story of the first day of school, from the perspective of the school himself. In the story, Frederick Douglass Elementary is nervous for the first day of school, when he will be filled with children. Janitor assures him he’ll like them, but the school isn’t so sure. Although at first the school really doesn’t like the children, by the end of the day he learns lots of new things and decides that maybe they aren’t so bad. He starts to love being a school, and can’t wait for the kids to return the next day.

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The story begins with the construction of the school, Frederick Douglass Elementary. The school likes his name, and he likes when Janitor comes to clean him up. But he’s nervous to be filled with children.

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When the children arrive, the school feels overwhelmed. They climb all over his playground, open all his doors and lockers, and some even say mean things about him. The school feels awful about himself, because the children don’t like him; one little girl doesn’t even want to come in his front doors.

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The school listens to one of his kindergarten classes and learns all their names as they start the day. But just as they start to settle in, his fire alarm goes off. At lunch, a kid tells a joke that makes his friend squirt nose milk all over the school’s table. The joke was pretty funny, so the school isn’t really mad.

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For the rest of the day, the school listens in on the kindergarten class, and learns lots of new things. He feels great when the teacher hangs up a little girl’s picture of him on his wall. By the time the children leave, the school can’t wait to tell Janitor all about his day. He even asks Janitor if the kids can come back tomorrow. The school has finally learned to love being what he is; he knows he’s pretty lucky to get to be a school.

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I think this book is incredibly cute, and a great variation on the first day of kindergarten books that many of us read as young children. It would be great book to read to a child who is nervous or expressing doubts about the first day of school; because the main character is the school rather than a kid, it shows that the first day of school can be fun and exciting without making the lesson too obvious. Also, the unusual main character makes the book novel for kids, and makes them relate their own feelings about school to both the feelings of their classmates and the potential feelings of the school itself. Who knows, maybe their elementary school is thinking and feeling the same things as the school in the book!

This book has a good mix of words that kids will know and new words. This gives the parent/teacher an opportunity to discuss the unfamiliar words with kids, and really engage them in the reading of the book. This book could also be used as a way to introduce some of the school-related words that children may need to know before they start school for the first time, such as lockers, water fountain, and fire alarm. By introducing these words in the context of a school setting, the book helps children to connect the words and their meanings.

Finally, I love the simplicity of the illustrations in this book. They were made using paint and collage techniques, which gives them a rough, child-like appearance. They almost look as if a child created them. However, although they are simple, the illustrations show the diversity of the students at the school, as well as the variety of activities they engage in throughout the school day. The bright images are engaging and fun to look at, but don’t draw too much focus away from the text of the story. Also, setting the images against a white background really makes them stand out.

I love School’s First Day of School, and I think it would be a great book to read to any child about to enter school for the first time. It truly is a marvelous new picture book!

by Maya Creamer