My Creepy Valentine by Arthur Howard

My Creepy Valentine by 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.

Sugar in Milk by Thrity Umrigar

Sugar in Milk by Thrity Umrigar; illustrated by Khoa Le. Oct. 2020. Published by Running Press Kids.

Brief summary: A young girl misses her family, friends, and cats as she tries to accumulate to being a new immigrant in America. Her aunt and uncle provide their niece with her own bedroom filled with toys and books, but she is still depressed. Her aunt takes her on a walk where she shares an old Persian myth that encourages her niece to go outside and get to know the new country with a different viewpoint.

An Indian king is not sure about opening his land to a group of refugees from Persia, as his land is already crowded. The Persians are unable to understand the rejection of the king, so he pours a glass of milk all the way to the very rim. He tells them that his land is too crowded and cannot take any more people just like this glass cannot take another drop of milk. The people begin to leave until their leader says for everyone to wait. Their leader takes out some sugar from his pocket and slowly stirs it into the milk carefully not spilling any milk and gives it to the king. “And just like sugar in milk, we will sweeten your lives with our presence.”

The king understands even though they do not speak the same language. He hugs the leader and laughs while welcoming the people to India.

Comments: Touching story. I tried rephrasing it, but reading it yourself will be better.

The illustrations are beautifully done. I appreciate that the end pages are not stark white but with an ornate style of a fancy cup of milk in a pattern.

Thrity Umrigar Shares Persian Folk Tale Of Immigration In ‘Sugar In Milk’

Ducks on the Road: A Counting Adventure by Anita Lobel

Ducks on the Road: A Counting Adventure by Anita Lobel; illustrated by Anita Lobel. Gouache, colored pencil with felt-tip pen. Published by  Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books.

Brief summary: Mama and Papa Duck go on a walk with their ten ducklings in tow. As the parents continue walking down the road, the last duckling in line stops and quacks with a farm animal. Soon, Mama and Papa duck realize that all of their babies are gone. They go to find them and somehow end up with an extra.

Comments: An adorable counting backwards book of ducks. Fun read aloud with young readers.

Khalil and Mr. Hagerty and the Backyard Treasures by Tricia Springstubb

Khalil and Mr. Hagerty and the Backyard Treasures by Tricia Springstubb; illustrate by Elaheh Taherian. 2021. Collage with oil and colored pencil. Published by Candlewick Press.

Brief summary: Khalil lives in the upper level of an apartment with his family while Mr. Hagerty lives alone in the level underneath. Mr. Hagerty loves to work in his garden, and Khalil enjoys looking for bugs, rocks, and reading his library books in the back yard. The elderly man helps the young boy read some of the more difficult words in the books. The young boy helps the elderly man remember some of the words now forgotten.

They both start digging in the yard one hot day hoping to find treasures. Disappointed, they go inside where Mr. Hagerty offers him chocolate cake and milk while deciding to go out again tomorrow. The two both secretly plan to give the other a treasure to find in the morning.

A friendship begins.

Comments: What a lovely story of an inter-generational friendship.

Crying is Like the Rain: A Story of Mindfulness and Feelings by Heather Hawk Feinberg

Crying is Like the Rain: A Story of Mindfulness and Feelings by Heather Hawk Feinberg; illustrated by Chamisa Kellogg. 2020. Published by Tilbury House Publishers.

Brief summary: A young boy overhears a grownup comparing feelings to weather and how both change. The boy concludes that crying is like the rain. He shares the different perspectives people have about crying and then relates how the weather can become imbalanced. He learns how feelings can be expressed and mindfully shared with others.

Comments: This book could be shared with students and young ones to help them be aware of the difference types of crying and how people may feel differently about the emotions that go with it.

Sections in the back are: Crying Really is Like the Rain, Weather Reports: A Mindfulness Game, Go to Deeper, and Words Have Power.

It should be noted that the author is a counselor and founder of Mindful Kids.

The Bookstore Cat by Cylin Busby

The Bookstore Cat by Cylin Busby; illustrated by Charles Santoso. 2020. Adobe Photoshop. Published by Balzer & Bray.

Brief summary: This adorable bookstore’s ginger cat is described using various adjectives about his life in a bookstore. Young readers will have fun learning about this cute cat’s story.

Comments: This book could be used in so many ways. First, as a book to be read for entertainment. Second, a great book to use for teaching adjectives for an English language lesson

Third, this may be a good book to use in music class too. There is a note from Cylin Busby on the front pages explaining that this story was inspired by a Victorian parlor game that she played with her family as a child. Players sit in a circle clap a rhythm while taking turns finishing the sentence. “The minster’s cat is an (adjective) cat.” The next person has to say an adjective describing the cat with the next letter of the alphabet.

Follow the funny antics of The Bookstore Cat from A to Z through his bustling, book-filled shop in this fun storytime read aloud with author Cylin Busby!

Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow; illustrated by Luisa Uribe. 2020. Published by The Innovation Press.

Brief summary: A girl has a bad first day because no one could say her name correctly. On the walk home from school, her mother explains to her daughter that names can be said like songs. She sings various names so her little girl hears them. The mother taps out the rhythm of a name as well as emphasizing where the accent goes by tapping it louder than the others. Soon, the girl becomes confident with her name and can’t wait to go back to school to share her song.

When it is time for Ms. Anderson to do the roll call, the teacher stalls trying to make sure she says the girl’s name correctly. The little girl takes the opportunity to teach her teacher and fellow classmates the song of each of their names before saying her own: Kora-Jalimuso. Soon each child sings her name back to her. “KO-rah DJAAAA-lee-MOOOO-so

Comments: This is the book I would have read to my students at the beginning of the school year when we were getting to know each other if I weren’t already retired. What a great opening to share each other’s names like Kora-Jalimuso did!

I always appreciated it when the ESL teacher gave each of us “special” teachers a list of new students including how their names were phonetically said. Many students had a hard time at first saying my name correctly until I made a poster with my name with the phonetics underneath and two red photos of Ferraris.

Author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow shares the pronunciations of the names featured in her story, Your Name is a Song.

The Barnabus Project by The Fan Brothers

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.

Ellie’s Dragon by Bob Graham

Ellie’s Dragon by Bob Graham; illustrated by Bob Graham. 2020. Watercolor and ink. Published by Candlewick Press.

Brief summary: Ellie finds a baby dragon and calls him Scratch. She makes a bed for him. When she asks her mother for some matches for him to eat, her mother can only see an empty matchbox and cotton balls. Ellie places Scratch in her dollhouse and cares for him by feeding him hot related foods. She takes him to preschool and shares him with everyone. When she attends kindergarten, she forgets to take him to school with her and misses Scratch’s first flight. As Ellie grows older, she spends less time with her dragon, missing his growing and important days until one day, he leaves. Once in a while, Ellie thinks she sees him. Does Scratch really exist?

Comments: Love the end pages that begin and end the story. So much better than blank white ones. Clever way of explaining how we outgrow things as we get older.