Why? by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Published by Neal Porter Books

Image result for why laura seeger

Summary:  “Why?” a curious rabbit asks his friend the bear.  “Because flowers need water to grow,” answers the bear as he waters his flowers.  “Because they are very far away,” he responds as the two look through a telescope.  “Wind” is the simple answer as the rabbit hangs on to a branch, and “Gravity” as he is blown off and falls into Bear’s arms.  When Rabbit asks about a dead bird, Bear says, “I don’t know why. Sometimes I just don’t know why!” As he heads for his den, Rabbit begs him to stay.  Now it’s Bear’s turn to ask “Why?” To which Rabbit responds, “Because then I would miss my friend. That’s why.” 32 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  You can’t really go wrong with a Laura Vaccaro Seeger book.  This one is an ode to friendship and also parent-child relationships with adorable animal illustrations.

Cons:  All those “why’s” can get a little pesky.

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I Got Next by Daria Peoples-Riley

Published by Greenwillow Books

Image result for i got next daria amazon

Image result for i got next daria peoples-riley

Summary:  A young boy’s shadow comes to life and becomes his coach as a basketball game is about to begin.  “Show me your game face!” he says, and after a few tries, the boy finds the right face, going from scared to ferociously confident.  With ten seconds left in the game, the shadow tells the boy to show what he knows. Using his skills, he slowly closes the five-point gap to win the game.  “Work hard”, “Don’t quit”, and “Never give up” are the final words of wisdom as the boy gets ready for another game. The endpapers include a mural with pictures of famous African-Americans along the bottom of the pages. 40 pages; ages 4-9.  

Pros:  A beautiful, empowering book for sports fans with collage illustrations that the Caldecott committee might want to take a closer look at.

Cons:  I might have appreciated the story more if I knew one thing about basketball.

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Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! By Cori Doerrfeld

Published by Dial Books

Image result for goodbye friend hello friend amazon

Image result for goodbye friend hello friend amazon

Summary:  Every cloud has a silver lining in this book that traces a friendship between two girls, Stella and Charlie.  Stella says a teary goodbye to her mom as she gets on the school bus, but the goodbye leads to a hello from new friend Charlie at school.  Goodbye to snowmen means hello to puddles; goodbye to the sun means hello to the stars. The final goodbye, as Charlie moves away, seems insurmountable (“goodbye to holding tight is hello to letting go”), but by the last page a new girl has moved in, and Stella is saying “hello” just like Charlie did to her.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This would be a great book for anyone going through a transition, whether it’s starting a new school, moving, or even losing a pet (“goodbye to an empty [fish]bowl is hello to a full heart”).  Kids could enjoy brainstorming hellos and goodbyes.

Cons:  A few of the transitions, like the dead fish example above, seemed a little contrived.  Sometimes it’s okay to just be sad and not have to find that silver lining, at least not right away.

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As Warm As the Sun by Kate and Jim McMullan

Published by Neal Porter Books

Image result for as warm as the sun mcmullan

Image result for as warm as the sun mcmullan

Summary:  Toby loves the warmth of the sun, a friendly lap, and the rug in front of the fireplace.  But sometimes the warmth goes away, and Toby wishes he could keep it with him always. One day, Pinkie shows up.  She steals his place in the sun and on the lap. Dejected, Toby heads down to the basement where he curls up in a cold corner.  But who should follow him down there but Pinkie, who snuggles up right next to him. And suddenly Toby realizes that the warmth he’s been looking for is with his new friend.  32 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  What’s not to like when two dogs become buddies?  This would also make a great book for a child dealing with a new sibling.

Cons:  Toby seems like a bit of a martyr, banishing himself to the basement when the going gets rough.

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You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood by Aimee Reid, illustrated by Matt Phelan

Published by Harry N. Abrams

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Summary:  For those familiar with Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, this book explains how Freddie Rogers’ childhood created the adult Fred Rogers that millions loved to watch on his TV show.  Freddie was a sickly child who had to learn to entertain himself during long periods indoors. He loved surrounding himself with puppets and telling them how he was feeling.  Bullied at school, Freddie appreciated the love and safety of his Grandfather McFeeley, who assured him he was special just being himself. When Fred grew up, he saw people fighting on TV and wanted to create a program that showed people helping each other.  The result was his own neighborhood where both people and puppets could express their feelings and learn how to care for one another. Includes additional biographical information, notes from both the author and the illustrator, and a bibliography. 40 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  With the new Tom Hanks movie coming out this fall, this provides an excellent introduction to Fred Rogers and all he stood for, and will serve to introduce a new generation to the neighborhood.  Matt Phelan’s gently muted illustrations provide a perfect complement to the text.

Cons:  I’m pretty sure it’s a federal offense to say anything negative about Mister Rogers.

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Image result for you are my friend matt phelan

One Dark Bird by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon

Published by Beach Lane Books

Image result for one dark bird liz garton scanlon

Image result for one dark bird liz garton scanlon

Summary:  On the title page, we learn that if starlings are threatened, they will sometimes form what’s called a murmurration: a huge flock that can fly in a coordinated mass, almost like a dance.  The book goes on to count starlings from 1 to 10; when they are startled by a bird of prey, hundreds come together to move in a flock through the sky. When danger passes, they go their separate ways, and the countdown goes from 10 to 1.  The last one falls asleep in a tree as a full moon is rising. 40 pages; ages 2 -7.

Pros:  Readers will learn a little bit about starlings and counting as they enjoy the gorgeous illustrations.  The single starlings are a medley of jewel-toned colors, and the murmurration against the evening sky is quite spectacular.

Cons:  I would have liked a little more information or additional resources about starlings.

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Ultrabot’s First Playdate by Josh Schneider

Published by Clarion Books

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Image result for ultrabot's first playdate schneider

Summary:  Ultrabot lives with its professor in a top secret lab…which happens to be right next door to the home of a girl named Becky.   When the professor tells Ultrabot that she’s arranged for the robot to have a playdate with Becky, Ultrabot is worried, imagining Becky as a giant hairy monster.  But when Becky shows up the next day, the two enjoy playing with a ball and drawing. At lunchtime, they discover that they both like having the crusts cut off of their sandwiches…even if Ultrabot’s sandwich happens to be made of diesel fuel and requires a welder to trim off the crusts.  The two friends can hardly wait for their next playdate, and the last picture shows Becky opening her front door to see Ultrabot’s giant eye peering inside. 32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Kids will love Ultrabot and get a laugh out of his giant toys that correspond to their own stuff.  The message that it’s okay to feel anxious about a new situation and that it usually works out just fine is delivered with lots of humor and sympathy.  

Cons:  Ultrabot is roughly the size of Becky’s house, so it’s not clear how that second playdate will work out.

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