Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant

Published by Two Lions

Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides by Anna Kang
Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant Discuss Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides

Summary:  Hudson the dog and Tallulah the cat may be neighbors, but they could not be more different.  Hudson loves to dig, eat garbage, and play with other dogs at the dog park, while Tallulah prefers keeping clean and keeping to herself.  But when the two of them spot a puddle full of birds, the chance to chase and play is irresistible for both animals.  Soon they discover a few more pastimes they both enjoy, and by the end of the book, a friendship has been born.  40 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  The team that produced the Geisel Award winning You Are (Not) Small has created a new book for early readers told through the illustrations and simple dialogue.  Kids will recognize and appreciate the dog-cat differences and enjoy being able to try out their new reading skills.

Cons:  This felt like it would have worked better in the traditional early reader format rather than as a picture book.

How Old Am I? 1-100 Faces From Around the World by Julie Pugeat

Published by Phaidon Press (released May 12)

How Old Am I?: 1-100 Faces From Around The World by Julie Pugeat, Hardcover  | Barnes & Noble®
All you need to know about JR's new book How Old Am I? | design | Phaidon

Summary:  The first two pages in the book show the questions asked of each person: What is your name? How old are you? Where do you live? What makes you happy?  People from all over the world from ages 1 to 100 are pictured with the answers to the questions.  The last several pages give additional information about artist JR and his Inside Out Project that inspired this book.  216 pages; ages 1-100.

Pros:  A fascinating look at how people appear at different ages and what makes them happy.  Any child or adult will enjoy poring over this book and finding out more about the Inside Out Project.

Cons:  The people all seemed so interesting, and there was only a little information about each one.
 

Clarinet & Trumpet by Melanie Ellsworth, illustrated by John Herzog

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

Clarinet and Trumpet (book with shaker): Ellsworth, Melanie, Herzog, John:  9780358107477: Amazon.com: Books
Clarinet and Trumpet Archives -

Summary:  Clarinet and Trumpet are best friends until Oboe comes along, and the two woodwinds start hanging out.  Trumpet is sad and lonely until he befriends Trombone.  Then it’s woodwinds versus brass, with each group adding more members, until cool Saxophone comes along.  With his reed AND brass exterior, he has everyone wondering: which group will he join?  Instead of siding with one or the other, he starts playing music; before long, everyone is united in one happy band.  The spine of this book is filled with small beads, so it can be used as a rhythmic shaker.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A fun friendship story which also could serve as an introduction to band instruments.

Cons:  Whoever thought the shaker was a good idea has clearly not spent a lot of time with young children.

We Laugh Alike/Juntos Nos Reímos by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez

Published by Charlesbridge

We Laugh Alike / Juntos nos reímos by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand:  9781623540968 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books
We Laugh Alike / Juntos nos reímos – Charlesbridge

Summary:  Two groups of kids meet on the playground: three speak English and three speak Spanish.  At first, the groups watch and listen to each other, unable to speak the others’ language.  Gradually, they find things in common: jumping rope, dancing, and enjoying the playground equipment.  By the end of the day, they’re playing together and learning words from a new language.  Then it’s “¡Hasta mañana!” and “See you tomorrow!” as each group heads off in a different direction.  Includes a glossary of Spanish and English words and an author’s note about the importance of learning languages, written in both English and Spanish.  32 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  A cute story about overcoming language barriers to friendship.  The text is written in English and Spanish, which could help kids learn a few words in a new language.

Cons:  There were a few pages of text around the jump rope scene that weren’t translated, or the translation was a little confusing.

A Day in the Life of a Poo, a Gnu, and You: A Laugh-Out Loud Guide to Life on Earth by Mike Barfield, illustrated by Jess Bradley

Published by Aladdin

A Day in the Life of a Poo, a Gnu and You: Barfield, Mike: 9781780556468:  Amazon.com: Books
A Day in the Life of a Poo, a Gnu, and You: Barfield, Mike, Bradley, Jess:  9781534467217: Amazon.com: Books

Summary:  Divided into three sections–human body, animal kingdom, and earth and science–this book investigates life on earth through comic book-style stories about a day in the life of various things.  From the profound (brain, blue whale, moon) to the profane (fart, pimple, dung beetle), these stories will educate and entertain many different types of kids.  Includes a glossary.  128 pages; grades 2-6.  

Pros:  Both the format and the wide range of topics make this a very appealing book that is perfect for browsing.

Cons:  There’s a little information on a lot of topics, so probably not the best for research. 

We Became Jaguars by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Woodrow White

Published by Chronicle Books

We Became Jaguars: Eggers, Dave, White, Woodrow: 9781452183930: Amazon.com:  Books
We Became Jaguars: Eggers, Dave, White, Woodrow: 9781452183930: Amazon.com:  Books

Summary:  “My grandmother came to visit.  I had met her once before.  She lived far away.  Her hair was very white and very, very long.”  This somewhat mysterious grandmother proposes that she and her grandchild play jaguars.  And suddenly, they ARE jaguars, heading out into the night, where they hunt (“I didn’t want to eat a raw rabbit so I said I was allergic”), run, and travel to the Himalayas.  Suddenly remembering school, the narrator says he has to get back soon.  The grandmother gives him a long look with her jaguar eyes, but then they run back to the school.  “Who knew how much school I had missed?  But it was okay…my grandmother wrote me a note.”  The final illustration shows the silhouette of a jaguar sitting in class and a teacher holding a piece of paper with a paw print on it.  44 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  This ambiguous tale is beautifully written and illustrated, leaving open the question of whether the jaguar adventures were real or imagined.  As an aside, I only recently realized that Dave Eggers is a big deal in the world of adult literature as well as children’s (a line from April Ludgate in a Parks and Recreation episode tipped me off).  This story would make a good mentor text for teaching similes and other figurative language.

Cons:  Some kids (and adults) might not like the ambiguity.

Simon B. Rhymin’ by Dwayne Reed, illustrated by Robert Paul, Jr.

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Simon B. Rhymin': Reed, Dwayne: 9780316538978: Amazon.com: Books

Summary:  When Simon’s new fifth grade teacher begins the first day of school by jumping on his desk and rapping about being a scholar, Simon is excited.  An aspiring rapper himself, he sometimes struggles with being brave enough to speak or rap publicly.  When Mr. James announces a class project that involves a presentation and picks Simon to go first, school suddenly doesn’t seem so exciting anymore.  Simon decides to research homelessness, and his dad introduces him to Sunny, a homeless man who helps keep their street clean.  As Simon gets to know Sunny better, he learns that there’s a lot more to him than being homeless.  Sunny helps Simon find his voice and the courage to do his presentation, which in turn leads to new ways for Simon to help Sunny and other homeless people in his community.  240 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  Debut author Dwayne Reed is also a rapping teacher who seems to have a good understanding of the kids from his Chicago community.  Simon’s raps, interspersed through the text, are a fun addition that also help move the story along.  Although the tone is light, some serious issues are addressed at a level that is just right for the intended audience.

Cons:  It was clear that Bobby, the class bully and Simon’s nemesis, was having a tough time at home, but there weren’t enough details given to make him a more sympathetic character.

Ten books to read on Zoom

Like many of you, I’ve been reading to kids on Zoom this year. I discovered that my favorite way to share books is by turning them into Google slideshows. I’ve done about 200 books, so I’ve had a chance to perfect the process! There’s been a lot of trial and error, but I’m happy to share what I’ve learned if you want to contact me (jkdawson115@gmail.com). It’s a strange feeling to read this way, though, as often the kids are muted, and I can’t see all–or sometimes any–of their faces.

I’ve found that the books that the kids and I have enjoyed the most are the ones that are most interactive. There’s a bit of a learning curve to figure out how to read the book and also be able to see the kids, but it’s worth it to be able to have a conversation with your students. (I know many teachers use more than one screen to facilitate this, but so far I’ve just been on my laptop.) I’ve put together this list of the ten books that have worked the best for me and have brought me some much-needed joy in this crazy year of remote education.

Journey by Aaron Becker

Published by Candlewick

Amazon.com: Journey (Aaron Becker's Wordless Trilogy) (9780763660536):  Becker, Aaron, Becker, Aaron: Books

I’m starting with the one book I haven’t actually tried on Zoom yet. I have it in my plans to do in a couple of weeks. Creating a story for this amazing wordless book has always been a popular activity. I start by having the kids come up with names for the girl, the boy, and the bird. I’m hoping to either write or type the story as the kids make it up, then go back and read it again with their words. I’ll be trying this out with second grade.

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

Published by Candlewick

Du Iz Tak? (E. B. White Read-Aloud Award. Picture Books): Ellis, Carson,  Ellis, Carson: 9780763665302: Amazon.com: Books

I’ve never felt an inclination to read this book in person, but it was perfect for Zoom. Together we puzzled out the insects’ language, and Zoom made it easier to see the illustrations up close and to flip back to past pages to see how different words had been used. Second grade.

Take Away the A by Michal Escoffier

Published by Enchanted Lion Press

Take Away the A: Escoffier, Michaël, Di Giacomo, Kris: 9781592701568: Amazon.com:  Books

I inserted my own slides to have the kids guess before showing the illustrations. So before the first page, I had a slide that said “Take the A away from BEAST” with all the letters in black except for two red A’s. The kids would figure out that it would be “best”, then I’d go to the next slide which had the word and the illustration. I got some positive teacher feedback on this one. Second grade.

Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do by by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, illustrated by Andy Robert Davies

Published by Charlesbridge

Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do: Heling, Kathryn, Hembrook, Deborah,  Davies, Andy Robert: 9781580892520: Amazon.com: Books

This cute book has rhyming text and a picture of different workers’ clothes on a clothesline. Kids guess who those clothes belong to, then you turn the page to see if they’re right. This team has also created similar books about sports and the first day of school. Kindergarten.

A Children’s Zoo by Tana Hoban

Published by Greenwillow Books

A Children's Zoo: Hoban, Tana, Hoban, Tana: 9780688052027: Amazon.com: Books

An oldie but a goodie that I’ve used for years. Each page has a photo of a zoo animal and three words that describe it. I give the three words and the kids have to guess the animal before I show the picture. I didn’t use Google Slides for this one, just held up the book to the camera, but if I had it to do again, I would. You could insert slides with the three word between the illustrations. If you have time, kids can make up their own when you’re done reading. First and second grades.

Biggest, Strongest, Fastest by Steve Jenkins

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

Biggest, Strongest, Fastest: Jenkins, Steve: 0046442861366: Amazon.com:  Books

One of my all-time favorites, this book also required me to insert slides with the record for each animal (e.g., the strongest animal for its size), then have the kids guess before going to the slide with the book page (ant). Kids and teachers loved this; my assistant principal observed this lesson and said she was shouting the answers to her computer screen (fortunately, she was muted). First and second grades.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Published by Candlewick

Amazon.com: I Want My Hat Back (9780763655983): Klassen, Jon, Klassen, Jon:  Books

I’m happy to report that yes, readers’ theater is possible on Zoom. I typed up a script from this book and color-coded the different parts to help kids recognize their lines, then shared my screen so everyone could read from it. The book also has color-coded lines, and I read it before we did the play. It was a big hit with second graders!

Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons by Sara Levine, illustrated by T. S. Spookytooth

Published by Millbrook Press

Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons: Levine, Sara, Spookytooth, T.S:  9780761384649: Amazon.com: Books

Another book that allows kids to guess before you turn the page. What kind of animal would you be if you had extra long leg bones and short arm bones? (A kangaroo or a rabbit). I got some positive teacher feedback on this one, as they had just completed a science unit on animal body parts. First grade.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Published by HarperCollins

Amazon.com: Sideways Stories from Wayside School: Louis Sachar, Adam  McCauley, Julie Brincklo: Books

One of my readers’ theater go-to books. I got the scripts from Aaron Shepard long ago, which I have edited and added to over the years Again, I created a color-coded script, and did four of the chapters with third grade enrichment groups.

Small in the City by Sydney Smith

Published by Neal Porter Books

Small in the City: Smith, Sydney: 9780823442614: Amazon.com: Books

This is a great book for inferencing and predicting. Zoom allowed the kids to get a close look at the illustrations which are key to figuring out what is going on in the story. First and second grades.

I still have seven more weeks of school, so I could use some more ideas! Feel free to share your best Zoom books in the comments.

Hear My Voice/Escucha Mi Voz: The Testimonies of Children Detained at the Southern Border of the United States compiled by Warren Binford for Project Amplify

Published by Workman Publishing

Amazon.com: Hear My Voice/Escucha mi voz: The Testimonies of Children  Detained at the Southern Border of the United States (English and Spanish  Edition) (9781523513482): Binford, Warren, Bochenek, Michael Garcia: Books
Amazon.com: Hear My Voice/Escucha mi voz: The Testimonies of Children  Detained at the Southern Border of the United States (English and Spanish  Edition) (9781523513482): Binford, Warren, Bochenek, Michael Garcia: Books

Summary:  International children’s advocate Warren Binford was shocked by his 2019 visit to  the Clint Border Patrol Station in Texas where he found over 350 children locked in a warehouse, a loading dock, and overcrowded cells.  After Donald Trump and Mike Pence refused to acknowledge the truth about Clint, Warren and his colleagues went on social media to ask artists, writers, faith leaders, and anyone else to help these children tell their stories.  Project Amplify has resulted in songs, plays, billboards, works of art, and now this book, which is a collection of the children’s stories in their own words.  Illustrated by 17 Latinx artists, the text is in both English and Spanish, and lets the kids tell why they left their countries for the U.S. and the deplorable conditions they experienced once they got here.  Includes a foreword by Michael Garcia Bochenek of Human Rights Watch and several pages about Project Amplify and the book, including thumbnail portraits of each artist and questions to ask children about the text.  96 pages; ages 8 and up.

Pros:  An incredibly powerful book, made more so by the amazing illustrations (some realistic and some more fantastic), and the back matter.  

Cons:  It’s hard to recommend an age group for this book.  While I think there are plenty of elementary kids who would learn a lot from it, it should definitely be read with some adult guidance.

The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom by Lita Judge

Published by Roaring Brook Press

The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom:  Judge, Lita: 9781250237071: Amazon.com: Books
The Wisdom of Trees | Lita Judge | Macmillan

Summary:  Each two-page spread has a watercolor illustration of the tree in its natural habitat with animals that live in or near it, a free-verse poem, and several paragraphs of information about the tree.  The “wisdom” aspect of trees is emphasized, showing the remarkable ways trees defend themselves, maintain Earth’s balance, and even communicate with each other.  Includes an author’s note; additional information about each tree in the book and the future of forests; how to help forests; glossary; and sources.  48 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  This gorgeous science book has some pretty mind-blowing information about trees that scientists are just beginning to discover.  It certainly gave me a new appreciation for trees, and it will undoubtedly have the same effect on younger readers.

Cons:  It will take a pretty dedicated tree enthusiast to get through the entire book. But the good news is, if this tree book doesn’t grab you, there are a couple dozen more to choose from this year.