Love by Matt de la Pena


Love by Matt de la Pena; illustrated by Loren Long. 2018. Collaged monotype prints, acrylic paint and pencil. Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Brief summary: The book begins with two parents looking straight at the reader but are actually peering into a crib. They are the beginning of love. You, for a moment, are the baby seeing his/her parents for the first time.  Readers journey through the book relating and recalling the various types of loves we have(or will if the reader is a child) in life through the quiet poem and illustrations.

Comments: (My resource for reviewing picture books are from my public library, so it took a while for my name to come up in the long reserve list for this book that released in January). The illustrations are diverse and multicultural with scenes from various families’ lives and times when love is displayed and shared. The concepts may be a bit mature for very young children. Older elementary students will understand and relate to those times they experienced love.

I feel this is one of those picture books adults will enjoy too, as they can relate and experience all of those situations when love was experienced–in good times and bad. I believe this will be a good “going-off-to-college” or graduation gift as the ending talks about leaving the family but having love on the new journey.

I am including this book trailer where both author and illustrator beautifully share their ideas for this book.

Warbler Wave by April Pulley Sayre

Warbler Wave

Warbler Wave by April Pulley Sayre and Jeff Sayre. 2018. Photography. Published by Beach Lane Books.

Brief summary: Warblers migrate back up north in the spring stopping along the way to eat and continue the journey each night. Readers will learn what type of food they eat, other animals in their habitat, characteristics of various types of warblers, and other facts about these precious migratory birds.

Comments: This husband and wife team created another beautiful nature book. April Pulley Sayre books are the examples I use when teaching about the various mediums used to illustrate picture books.  I can just imagine how quiet and still one would have to be to get these top-notch photos that spread across each oversized page. Lyrical prose.

There is a complete write-up in the back of the book about these birds and their amazing migration. I had no idea that there are fifty different species of these songbirds. The author and her husband set aside the first two weeks of May to enjoy the warbler migration. Live near Toledo, Ohio? Don’t miss The Biggest Week in American Birding, a festival celebrating the warblers’ migration.

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All That Trash: The Story of the 1987 Garbage Barge and Our Problem with Stuff by Meghan McCarthy

All That Trash: The Story of the 1987 Garbage Barge and Our Problem with Stuff by Meghan McCarthy; illustrated by Meghan McCarthy. 2018. Illustrated with acrylic paint. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Brief summary: In 1987, New York’s landfill was almost out of room.  Lowell Harrelson, owner of National Waste Contractors in Alabama, suggested to get rid of the 3, 186 tons of trash from New York City and Long Island by renting a barge(Mobro 4000) and a tugboat(Break of Dawn) and haul it to North Carolina where it would decompose creating methane gas to be used for energy. It was refused in North Carolina. The story goes on about the traveling story of this barge and tugboat being rejected everywhere.  It made national news and brought the need to recycle even clearer. Finally, a judge ruled for it to be burned.

Comments: What a great book to share at the beginning of a recycling unit. So many questions could be asked to get the students thinking. What would you have done with all that trash? Would could be done to prevent this from happening again? What would have happened to the sea if a storm came and dumped all of it into the water?

This book has several informational text features such as captions, diagrams, maps, and speech bubbles. The back of the book has an excellent bibliography and sections such as: Come Aboard the Break of Dawn, Garbage Barge Facts, Recycling Facts, Garbage Facts, and Ocean Facts.

Truck Full of Ducks by Ross Burach

Truck Full of Ducks

Truck Full of Ducks by Ross Burach, illustrated by Ross Burach. 2018. Published by Scholastic Press.

Brief summary: The story begins right away on the end pages with ducks sitting, eating, and reading in an office when Bernie receives a phone call for a truck full of ducks. Everyone piles into a truck and is on their way when one of the ducks eats the directions. Bernie drives around town asking people if they called for a truck full of ducks. We hilariously learn about other trucks that are called and finally get to the right address as it starts to get dark.

Comments: Ross Burach’s humor in his books have my students laughing and joking even when I’m finished reading. His light and fast-moving duck story is no different. The story is told using dialogue. “Did you call for a truck full of ducks?”  The two-page spreads are full of silliness with the cartoon illustrations, signs, and speech bubbles.  I can’t wait to share this book next week with my kindergarteners and then share the book trailer below which is narrated by Ross Burach.

Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer

Winter Dance

Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer; illustrated by Richard Jones. 2017.Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Brief summary: A beautiful fox sees that winter is coming and asks the forest animals what to do. He learns that the woolly caterpillar will wrap itself in a chrysalis. The turtle tells him to bury himself in the mud. The fox continues asking the forest animals and realizes that he cannot do what they do. He comes across another fox as the snow begins to fall and learns what foxes do.

Comments: This is a beautiful, softly illustrated story that explains how the forest prepares for winter. This is a great addition for those season book collections teachers request.

Brave Jane Austen: Reader, Writer, Author, Rebel by Lisa Pliscou

Brave Jane Austen

Brave Jane Austen: Reader, Writer, Author, Rebel by Lisa Pliscou; illustrated by Jen Corace. 2018. Gouache, ink, acrylic, and pencil. Published by Henry Holt and Company.

Brief summary: Readers learn about Jane’s childhood in the 18th century including how children lived during that time; what they did; and the limitations of career choices especially with girls. Jane did not have the same dreams and did not follow the usual footsteps of women during that time period.  Although she lived in a large house with many brothers and sister and students of her father’s, the family does have periods of poverty. We learn how difficult it was for Ms. Austen to have her stories published and how she was inspired to keep writing despite the odds against her.

Comments: This narrative nonfiction book does not have a glossary or index in the back. It does have these back sections: From the Pen of Jane Austen, Jane’s Admirers, and Learning More About Jane Austen.  The biography does not go into deep detail of her life but does give readers an idea of what it was like to be raised as a female and the limited career options women had in the 18th/19th centuries. Students will learn that it was rebellious of Jane to not marry and write instead. It was not common for women to earn their own money.

The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds


The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds; illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. 2018. Published by Orchard Books.

Brief summary: Jerome collects words like other children collect items for their hobbies. He collects words he hears, sees around him, or reads in a book. He writes them down on pieces of paper and puts them in scrapbooks. One day, he is carrying a huge stack of scrapbooks when they all fall to the ground emptying into themselves; creating words that string together like never before. Jerome starts to create poems and songs using the new combinations. He goes to the top of a hill and throws them into the wind where children in the valley below collect them.

Comments: This book could be read and compared to word walls that are in the classroom. How can we classify these words? By the first letter? By syllable count? By meaning? What if we put these three words together?

When Sophie Thinks She Can’t…by Molly Bang


When Sophie Thinks She Can’t…by Molly Bang; illustrated by Molly Bang. 2018. Published by The Blue Sky Press.

Brief summary: Sophie is home trying to put puzzle pieces together to make a square, her sister walks by and quickly arranges them. The sister exists the rooms saying, “Too bad you’re not smart.” Sophie goes to school the next day where they learn what smart means and how they must exercise their brains to become stronger just like their muscles. Their teacher gives them a math problem to solve together in small groups. Sophie becomes frustrated and can’t figure it out.  The teacher then teaches them another word–yet.  She encourages her students to keep working on the problem. The students eventually get the correct answers.  The teacher then adds “er” to smart.

Comments: Super example of fixed mindset and growth mindset. Teachers could use this book to demonstrate those mindsets but also the word “yet”.  We have not found the answer YET.

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

Be Kind

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller; illustrated by Jen Hill. 2018. Published by Roaring Brook Press.

Brief summary: Tanisha spills grape juice on her dress during lunch. Everyone laughs except for one girl who remembers her mother telling her to be kind. So, she walks over to Tanisha and say, “Purple is my favorite color,” hoping the Tanisha would smile but she runs away instead. The young girl wonders what it means to be kind. What could she have done? She thinks about ways she has been kind to others and figures out how to make Tanisha feel better.

Comments: I like that this book examines HOW to be kind.  Children are often told to be kind but may not necessarily know examples to follow.

Waltz of the Snowflakes by Elly Mackay

Waltz of the Snowflakes

Waltz of the Snowflakes by Elly Mackay; illustrated by Elly Mackay. 2017. Published by RP Kids.

Brief summary: A young girl and her grandmother get ready to go in the cold and blustery December weather to the ballet. Once inside, the girl sees a boy sticking out his tongue to her. Coincidentally, they end up sitting next to one another in the balcony section. Once the orchestra starts, her attention goes to the stage where she experiences many emotions as she sees the story unfold. The shared aesthetic experience brings the two children closer together with her even offering him a candy.

Comments: This story without words captures the first time a young girl see The Nutcracker. The illustrations are dark and cold to match the mood of winter and the darkness of the auditorium. The colors are brilliant and full on the stage. The story is easy to follow with the paneling and action of the illustrations.