Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham; illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2021. Digitally illustrated. Published by Roaring Brook Press.
Brief summary: It was Spring 2020 when almost everyone all around the world went inside and stayed to be safe. Those who had to be outside were needed elsewhere. Outside had more animals coming out while the cars stayed away. What families did on the inside and outside changed.
Comments: Loved the two paged fold out at the end showing everyone outside again.
A light COVID-19 pandemic book that could be shared with elementary students and not frighten them.
Author’s Note in the back about sharing views on what the pandemic meant to her.
A New Dayby Brad Meltzer; illustrated by Dan Santat. 2021. Watercolor, color pencil, crayon and digitally in Adobe Photoshop. Published by Dial Books.
Brief summary: Sunday does not want to be a day anymore. The other days are surprised. They decide to put up posters to get a new day. Tryouts are full of a variety of new day ideas–Dog Day, Fun Day, Caturday, and many more. A young girl comes up with the best day. Can you guess what it is?
Comments: These hilarious fully colored illustrations are on all of the pages…even the end pages. (I always appreciate illustrations on the end pages instead of just white!) Many speech bubbles. A graphic novel vibe at times. A fun book to share. I would suggest sharing with intermediate elementary students in order for them to get all of the humor.
I am Not a Dog Toy by Ethan T. Berlin; illustrated by Jared Chapman. 2021. Published by Random House.
Brief summary: A little girl on her birthday opens a large yellow box where a talkative teddy bear pops out pledging that they are going to be best friends. She tosses him into the dog’s water bowl, waking the sleeping dog who excitedly goes over to the soaked bear. The dog is very pleased with his new toy and tells the bear how much fun they are going to have together. The bear tells him that he is not a dog’s toy but a kids’ toy. The dog picks him up in his mouth and runs throughout the house playing with him and having the most fun ever. The bear tells him again that he is not a dog’s toy and sees that the little girl is coming into her room where he believes she will rescue him from the dog. Instead, she tosses him into the wedge between her bed and the wall where all of the other toys ended up that she did not like.
The dog tells the teddy bear that he would never treat him like that. “I am a kids’ toy!” the bear exclaims again and tries to get the little girl to play with him but sadly without success. He realizes that the dog is the one who will treat him right and love him. “I am a dog toy, and it is glorious!”
Comments: This could be used in a perspective unit of how others may perceive something differently. There could be a discussion of what is the point of view the bear has of himself, how the dog views him, and how the little girl sees him. There could even be a discussion of friendship and how it needs to be reciprocated.
The Power of Yet by Maryann Cocca-Leffler; illustrated by Maryann Cocca-Leffler. 2021. Pen and ink, watercolors. Published by Abrams Appleseed.
Brief summary: A piglet tries different things and fails each time. Piglet is unable to ride a bike–yet. Piglet is not old enough to play baseball–yet. Piglet is unable to play the violin–yet. After failing, the young pig learns to get better by practicing and learning from mistakes. The piglet grows over time, sometimes by working and learning with others who do it better. The piglet is sad and angry but does not give up. With patience and grit, the young pig improves and experiences success. “Yet” is reached!
Comments: This book has such a good message of learning from mistakes by practicing and staying focus until “yet” is obtained.It would make a superb book to read to an all-school assembly at the beginning of the school year.
This book could also be shared with schools doing a “power of yet”/growth mindset philosophy.
*The author purposely wanted gender-neutral so did not assign the pig as being he or she.
Windows by Patrick Guest; illustrated by Jonathan Bentley. 2020. Published by Starry Forest Books.
Brief summary: Various children from different countries look out their window as the world goes by during the pandemic waiting for when they can once again go out and visit and hug love ones again.
Comments: All of those various grandpas standing underneath their grandchild’s window pulls at my heart. This is a bright and positive book about staying inside during the pandemic until given the okay to come out.
It is based on the author’s experience as a medical worker who was forced to isolate from his family to keep them safe.
Ten Beautiful Thingsby Molly Beth Griffin; illustrated by Maribel Lechuga. 2021. Photoshop and Clip Studio Paint with watercolor textures in traditional mediums. Published by Charlesbridge.
Brief summary: Lily is in the back seat driving with her Gram to Iowa where she will now live. The young girl tries to fold up the map while her Gram suggest they find ten beautiful things on the their long car ride. LIly does not see anything beautiful until the sun rises over the horizon. Number 1. They continue to play this game throughout the journey slowly filling Lily’s empty heart with beautiful things.
Comments: I was thinking of so many activities this book could go with in an elementary school setting. I would share this book with young readers to help them look for positive things around them when things are not so great. Keeping in mind that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” may need to be explained before sharing this as a read-aloud. I would then have students/children share what is beautiful to them in the room, in their home, in their school, and so on. Great way to lead to positive thinking.
A Sled for Gaboby Emma Otheguy; illustrated by Ana Ramirez Gonzalez. 2021. Illustrations were created digitally. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Brief summary: Gabo wakes to a snow covered world and children playing outside on a sled. He wants to go out and join them but he does not have wool socks to keep his feet warm or boots to keep them waterproofed. He just moved from a hot climate and has not played in the snow before now. Mami comes up with substitutes of several layers of cotton socks and plastic bags tied over his shoes.
Gabo goes next door to ask Senor Ramos if he has a sled he could borrow. He does not but his granddaughter, Isa, is visiting and encourages Gabo to play since they are the same age. Gabo is too shy and goes to play with Misifu, a cat.
Gabo’s tia arrives with a plastic cafeteria tray for him to use as a sled. Isa comes over now and they slide up and down the snowy hill until dusk when they go inside and share dulce de leche together.
Comments: Such a sweet story about a shy boy who learned to adapt and have fun while making a new friend. Gabo is bilingual and can speak to many neighbors and is one of those people who can play with animals as well as other kids. Gabo is able to adjust to a new habitat and culture, intertwining both worlds.
*Although this book was released in early January, I did not receive it from the public library until March. I still want to share this even though the season has passed, as I think it is a touching and important story that teaches how to stay positive and move forward.
Rectangle Time by Pamela Paul; illustrated by Becky Cameron. 2021. Published by Philomel Books.
Brief summary: A thoughtful cat enjoys rectangle time with his boy and father and helps in any way he can to make it superb. He always sits in someone’s lap and scratches his face on the rectangle. Soon, he notices that there are two voices at rectangle time and decides to add his. As time goes by, he hears that rectangle time is now silent and only with the boy. The cat decides he will break the quietness.
Years pass. The cat sees how rectangle time is now with two again, but they are sitting in silence at opposite sides of the room. The cat pokes the boy to let him know he is still contributing with this special ritual. The cat believes it is an accident when the boy removes his helpful paw.
More time passes and the cat concludes the boy is not enjoying his rectangle time by himself on his bed, so the supportive cat sits on the rectangle. He gets dumped on the floor and realizes it was not an accident. The caring cat decides to re-position himself. Will this persistent feline ever find the right way again to share rectangle time?
Comments: Whenever we have story time in elementary school, we call it “circle time” when the children would gather around in sort of a circle and listen/participate with a read aloud. “Rectangle time” is such a cute name showing that story time is through the cat’s perspective and how it changes over the years as the boy grows older.
Definitely a good choice for library media specialists and teachers to share.
I Talk Like a Riverby Jordan Scoot; illustrated by Sydney Smith. 2020. Watercolor, ink and gouache. Published by Neal Porter Books.
Brief summary: A young boy wakes up and notices all of the words around him as he gets ready to go to school where he does not have a good day. His father picks him up after school noticing that his son is having a bad speech day. He takes the boy to the river where they walk in silence along the bank. His father hugs him and says, “See how that water moves? That’s how you speak.”
The boy looks at the river and sees how the water in the river goes slowly, quickly, bubbling, and in many other ways. He realizes how the river can go smoothly at times and also choppy just like how he sometimes speaks. He is able to understand the stuttering simile and goes to school the next day sharing with the class about his favorite place in the world…the river.
Comments: Speech teachers! Here is a superb book for you to share with a student who stutters. Lovely simile that could help students understand how they speak as well as their classmates’.
Touching explanation in the back from the author sharing his stuttering speech as a child and how he wrote this book based on his own life.
Peter Easter Frogby Erin Dealey; illustrated by G. Brian Karas. 2021. Mixed media. Published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books.
Brief summary: Peter Easter Frog hops along the forest’s trail placing colored eggs in the grass and runs into a turtle with her Easter hat on. He invites her along his journey and comes across a cow. She joins the frog and turtle as they pass out more eggs and collect a dog and chipmunk to join them. They come across the Easter Bunny who is not happy with them doing his job. Peter Easter Frog gives the Easter Bunny an egg; the first time anyone ever gave the rabbit one. He decides they could all help him deliver the colored eggs.
Comments: This is sweet book with nice pastel illustrations.
This book reminds me of the Easter song we sang in elementary school (“Here Comes Peter Cottontail”) probably because the first line in the book and in the song are very similar. Here is one version of the song: