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.
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.
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:
Moose, Goose, and Mouse by Mordicai Gerstein; illustrated by Jeff Mack. 2021 Ink, pencil and watercolor on paper and digital collage. Published by Holiday House.
Brief summary: Moose, Goose, and Mouse live in a wet, old, and cold house with mold. They take a train to look for a nicer home. They are in the caboose when it becomes loose going backwards up and down hills. It derails and crashes into a large palm tree by the sea. Will they find a new house?
Summary: Beautiful and heartfelt story in the back page of how this book was created. Jeff Mack and Mordicai met with four other author friends every month for about ten years to talk about their books. Jeff and Mordicai develop a work relationship. And, I’ll stop there, so I do not spoil how and why the book was created.
Rhyming book. Fun and hilarious read aloud for little ones.
My Creepy Valentineby Arthur Howard; illustrated by Arthur Howard. Oct. 2020. Mixed media. Published by Beach Lane Books.
Brief summary: Mitzi loves all of the holidays except Valentine’s Day. Witches like creepy stuff while Valentine’s Day is lovey. She has never made a valentine until she meets Spencer who can spurt milk out of his nose during lunch and wiggle his ears while hanging upside down at recess. Mitzi tries coming up with a perfect poem to give to him. She and her cat, Hoodwink, jump on her broom and secretly deliver it. Spencer does not respond the next day which causes her to be depressed. Will she cheer up? Will she ever receive a Valentine?
Comments: Cute story of finding someone who likes you just as much as you like them.
Sticks and Stones by Patricia Polacco; illustrated by Patricia Polacco. 2020. Two and six B pencils and acetone markers. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Younger Readers.
Brief summary: Trish is going to spend a year of junior high with her father in Michigan instead of with her mother in California. Unfortunately, she breaks out with a red rash all over her face on her first day and is given the name “Cootie” by one of the bullies. As the school year progresses, she befriends two kind and gifted students the bullies have nicknamed “Sissy Boy” who is a remarkable dancer and “Her Ugliness” who is a talented artist. They become best friends and conquer the cruel remarks together.
Comments: It was wonderful to read the author’s letter in the back telling the young readers how the three friends in the story are actually real friends and have prospered with their gifts despite the unkind words of Billy.
The Barnabus Project by the Fan Brothers. 2020. Graphite and colored digitally. Published by Penguin Random House.
Brief summary: Barnabus is a combo of a mouse and an elephant. He lives in a secret lab underneath the Perfect Pets store. Barnabus is one of many failed projects living in bell jars dreaming of the world above thanks to the descriptions of it by a cockroach named Pip. One day Green Rubber Suits come down poking and talking about each creature in a bell jar while putting red stamps on all of the jars…FAIL. Before, they had no idea they were failed lab projects until Pip tells them that they indeed are and that there are better versions of themselves above. The creatures are going to be recycled. Barnabus decides he wants to go up now and see that wonderful world the cockroach tells everyone. All the creatures decide to join Barnabus and their adventures begin with figuring out how to get above. What will they discover?
Comments: I love the imagination and creativity of this book. The Perfect Pets Store is hilarious. Young readers can empathize with the failed projects and the desire of the creatures wanting to escape to live freely in a new world.
The Fan Brothers never fail to share a unique and creative story.
Cozy by Jan Brett; illustrated by Jan Brett. 2020. Watercolor and gouache with airbrush backgrounds. Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Brief summary: Cozy, a large musk ox, is separated from the herd in the cold Alaskan tundra. A lemming and her pups come across him standing in the snow and decide to warm themselves next to his foot being very quiet so they are not noticed. A snowshoe hare comes up to Cozy and asks if he could seek shelter under his fur from the snow storm. Cozy agrees asking him to please keep the noise down.
More Alaskan creatures take sanctuary under Cozy all trying very hard to get along so they are not thrown out into the cold. The snow begins to melt. A large hunk of the ox’s fur comes off meaning that spring has come. The animals leave saying they should get together again next winter.
Cozy is happy to find his herd family again.
Comments: Cute story of how to get along. Great story to share when doing the tundra unit with primary students.
Bunheads by Misty Copeland; illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey. 2020. Sketch and painted digitally. Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Brief summary: During Misty’s first ballet class, her teacher, Miss Bradley, told the story of Coppelia explaining it would be what they would dance for their first recital. Misty loves the story of the toy maker that created a life-size doll called Coppelia that a boy named Franz fell in love with to the dismay of his sweetheart, Swanilda. The toy maker decides to use the love of Franz to turn the doll into a real girl, but Swanilda becomes aware of the plan and changes her clothes and self to look like the doll. Franz realizes what is happening and marries Swanilda.
Cat is a new friend of Misty’s, and they grow closer competing with the various dance movements. They audition and Cat gets the role of Coppelia, and Misty will be Swanilda. The girls are excited and encourage each other for the recital.
Comments: Misty Copeland is the principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre. She also wrote Firebird. I look forward to more ballet books from her.
Nice story of how competition did not make the girls jealous or catty with one another, but instead, supportive.
Rain Boy by Dylan Glynn; illustrated by Dylan Glynn. Watercolor, pastels, cut paper, and colored pencils. Published by Chronicle Books.
Brief summary: Wherever he goes, Rain Boy, a cloud that brings “wet,” cannot get anyone to like him. His classmate, Sun Kidd, is popular because wherever she goes, she brings sunshine. She has a birthday party and invites Rain Boy who makes everything wet. “Rain, Rain, go away,” the classmates shout. Rain Boy sadly causes a storm. He stays inside for months causing everything to be dark and rainy.
Sun Kidd was so upset, that she too stayed away from school. After a bit, the classmates began to see how the rain is actually beneficial. The flowers and trees grow. They play in the puddles. Rain Boy decides to go outside, and after awhile, Sun Kidd joins him showing they could coexist.
Comments: I like how the watercolors used to represent rain and sun helped set the mood of the story. The children changed their minds about their classmates by having more information that helped them see the benefits of both.