How to Be an Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild by Katherine Roy

How to Be an Elephant

How to Be an Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild by Katherine Roy; illustrated by Katherine Roy. 2017. Watercolors. Published by Roaring Brook Press.

Brief summary: An infant elephant is born into a loving herd that raises her to adulthood teaching all of the skills an elephant must learn to live.

Comments: Although my description is short, the book is actually quite detailed and covered many facts about elephants I did not know about earlier. The diagrams help explain how the elephant smells, hears, communicates and other skills needed to be an elephant. The author/illustrator went to Kenya to research elephants and her love of them is felt in the beautiful illustrations. This book is a must for all elephant lovers.

Buy here.

Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart

Can an Aardvark Bark

Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart; illustrated by Steve Jenkins. 2017. Cut and torn paper collage. Published by Beach Lane Books.

Brief Summary: Readers explore the sounds many animals make and why.

Comments: Most animal books identify animals by categories like reptiles, mammals, birds and so forth. Sometime the animals are identified by habitats like pond, farm, forest and so forth  This books identifies animals by the sounds they make.  I remember as a girl growing up in the country of first learning about some of the animals by sound.  I heard them first like the screech owl, cricket, frog and so forth.  This was a refreshing way to teach animals first by the sounds they make.  I’d love to see this as an audio-book with the various animals sounds included.

Buy here.

Robinson by Peter Sis


Robinson by Peter Sis; illustrated by Peter Sis. 2017. Pen, ink, and watercolor. Published by Scholastic Press.

Brief summary: As a boy, Peter Sis does not dress up like a pirate for the school costume party as all of his friends but instead, dresses up as  his favorite adventurer, Robinson Crusoe. Excited to show everyone his great costume, he is let down by his friends’ teasing. He goes home to bed where he dreams of himself as Robinson stranded on an island. He awakens to his friends visiting with apologies and wanting to know more about Crusoe.

Comments: Good metaphor of the boy dreaming of being on an island alone without his friends just like Robinson.  There is an author’s note in the back where Peter Sis shares his childhood story of him actually going to school dressed as Robinson Crusoe like the boy in his book.

The watercolors during his dream vibrantly  fill the pages with several two-paged spreads.

There is  a photo of Peter Sis dressed up as his favorite adventurer.

Buy here.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes


Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes; illustrated by Gordon C. James. 2017. Published by Agate Bolden.

Brief summary: A young boy goes to the barber shop to get his hair cut. The barber is the man who will transform him to his highest potential of handsomeness.  The barber puts the cape on and starts his magical transformation of the boy that will enable him to do wondrous feats and be admired by all. The boy notices all the other men in the chairs imagining what greatness they behold. The finishing touch of the stinging alcohol completes the feat. The boy admires his sweet self in the mirror. The barber takes off his cape and brushes off any strays. The boy gives him the money and leaves the shop feeling invincible.

Comments: Derrick Barnes truly captures the feel of a great haircut with the humor and metaphorical descriptions of each step of the hair cut. Although this book is through the perspective of a young boy, both boys and girls could relate and understand that magic that happens in the shop; the before and after feeling; the magical surge of self-esteem at the end.

There is note from the author where Derrick Barnes shares his barber shop story when he was in sixth grade.

I love the illustrations and how they capture the energy and excitement of the barber shop. Combined with Derrick Barnes’ ode? A true homage to the barbershop culture. This is one of those books to add to your library.

Buy here.

This is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids From Around the World by Matt Lamothe

This is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from Around the World

This is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids From Around the World by Matt Lamothe; illustrated by Matt Lamothe. 2017. Illustrations are digitally. Published by Chronicle Books, LLC.

Brief summary: Seven kids from around the world(Russia, Peru, Japan, Uganda, Iran, Italy and India) share what their lives are like in an average weekday including meals, school, family, and home life.

Comments: Love this book!  It is set up to show the timeline of the day and then with each country’s traditional home, family, breakfast, school clothing, schools, meals, play, activities, and so forth.  The back has a photo of each family featured in the book. Glossary in the back. Front and back pages have a map with each child’s country pointed out.  This would be a great book to share and then  to  have students write and illustrate those same activities in their lives. Dewey is 305.23 but not a narrative nonfiction. This is a book that will help students understand others around the world and how we do things the same or differently.

Buy here.

Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds

Creepy Pair of Underwear!

Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds; illustrated by Peter Brown. 2017. Pencil on paper and digitally composited and colored. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Brief summary: Jasper Rabbit is in the underwear store with his mother and is about to buy three packages of Plain White when he notices a display of green creepy underwear. He begs his mother to buy them. She agrees to one pair. Jasper excitedly puts them on for the night and notices the creepy green glow. He keeps getting rid of them but they return. Jasper’s hate-love relationship results with hilarious situations and a surprising ending.

Comments: I read this to my students reminding them of Jasper Rabbit’s first appearance in Creepy Carrots!. They loved the creepy green glowing underwear just as much as the creepy orange carrots.   The white, gray, and black illustrations with only green as the color for the underwear worked just as well in the sequel as the orange carrots did in the first.  The end papers of white undies with a green creepy underwear start the mood of the picture book right away.

This book was able to relay a spooky tone which had my students sitting frozen as I read some of the pages and then laughing out loud the next during the humorous situations that Jasper Rabbit experienced. They loved the ending and had several conversations of what it would be like to do that in their bedroom.

Buy here.

Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt

Why am I Me?

Why Am I Me?  by Paige Britt; illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. 2017. Acrylic paint, colored pencil, and collage. Published by Scholastic Press.

Brief summary: A young boy and girl boarding a train separately ask the same questions along the train ride as they see all the different people of various cultures, ages, and genders. Why am I Me? 

Comments: Sparse words as the boy and girl notice all the different types of people along the train ride.  There is a Venn diagram feel at the conclusion with his head and the girl’s which could spark what things we all have in common and what we have that are just unique to ourselves.

Buy here.

Windows by Julia Denos


Windows by Julia Denos; illustrated by E.B. Goodale. 2017. Ink, watercolor, letterpress, and digital collage. Published by Candlewick Press.

Brief summary: A boy takes his dog for a walk at dusk watching all of his neighbors through their windows.  Each window gives a glimpse into a person’s life at that moment. When he arrives back to his house, he sees his mom standing in their picture window waving at him.

Comments: I believe most young readers will be able to relate to this story of how the boy learns about his different neighbors just by looking in their windows as he walks his dog.  We surmise that he walks the dog each night at the same time and gets to see their stories unfold over weeks, months, and years.

I drive through my neighborhood to work  just as a few people are getting up and have learned some of their stories.  I am always surprised how no one closes the blinds in the city. I think when I read this to my students, it will be remembered and have more meaning when they walk at dusk or dawn through their neighborhoods looking at the lit windows.

Buy here.

Walk With Me by Jairo Buitrago

Walk With Me

Walk With Me by Jairo Buitrago; illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. English translation–2017(originally printed in 2008). Pencil, scanned and redrawn/colored digitally. Published by Groundwood Books.

Brief summary: A girl requests a lion to keep her company while she walks through the city on her way home from school to pick her brother up from daycare and to the store where she buys food that she will  make for dinner to be ready when her mother returns from working in a factory. The lion leaves to go back up in the hills at bedtime when all three sleep in the same bed next to a photo of the family minus the father.

Comments: This book’s illustrations tell so much of the story. We wonder what happened to the father in the photo shown at the end. He has a lot of yellow hair that looks similar to the lion’s mane. Is she imagining the lion as her father? This little girl must take on responsibilities beyond her age and maneuver through a busy and poor area of the city.

To help her mentally get through all of this, she imagines the lion walking with her. The store won’t give them any more credit. The lion is roaring in the background as the little brother crawls on the store’s floor. We see that the family is living in poverty by the cracks and deteriorating buildings. I want to know more about this story. What happened to the father?

Although this is a sad story, it is a necessary one that should be shared in order to remind us what some children go though once they leave school. We are reminded why they are unable to get their homework finished. No play dates. No soccer practice. They are too busy just getting by each day.

Buy here.

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s(the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABCs(the Hard Way)

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s(the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell; illustrated by Patrick McDonnell. 2017. Pen and ink, pencil, watercolor and spot digital color. Published by Little, Brown and Company.

Brief summary:  A cat ran out the door of a house and encounters an alligator. The alligator joins the cat to meet a bear. The cat, alligator and the bear come across a chicken. The chicken joins the trio and soon there is a dragon.  The story continues with the five of them. The adventurous  story is wordless with only the capital letter and small letter of the alphabet on the page along with something that begins with the letter. Aa Bb Cc

Comments:  Story without words. There is a list in the back of all of the letters and corresponding  words. I like that this ABC book is different by not telling the reader what the letter is about on the page.  Surprise: It may not be a noun.

Sidenote: I was thrown by the ‘s of ABC’s when I first saw the title of the book. ABCs was taught to me as being plural. I did some research online and found that sometimes ‘s is used to mean a plural to avoid confusion.

Buy here.