Category Archives: books

New Picture Book Recommendations For April

I’m grateful to have the chance to preview upcoming picture book titles in digital format via Netgalley. There are a lot of great titles coming out this Spring and Summer. These are my recommendations for April. All links are Amazon affiliate links, meaning that if you purchase the book using this link I will receive a small financial incentive.

Blossom and Bud by Frank J Sileo

Blossom and Bud, live in a flower shop amongst the most beautiful flowers but they feel that they are not beautiful enough. The flower shop owner has the perfect job for them and they quickly learn that however they look, there is a special place for everyone. I was prepared for this book to be a little preachy but it isn’t at all. It is a simple beautifully illustrated story which shows the value in us all, without laying it on too thick. The brevity of the words and illustrations showing parings of people who are different from one another, but bring each other joy, complement each other perfectly. There are also useful tips in the back of the book for helping support children in learning about and valuing their body image.

Amazon US link

Amazon UK link

Arthur and the Forgetful Elephant by Maria Giron

Arthur meets an elephant, but the elephant is sad because he cannot remember anything. Playing together, Arthur helps the elephant to find happiness again and eventually to remember his family and be reunited. This is a sweet story about the bond between young and old and would be a good story to share with a young child who has a grandparent with memory loss. Beautifully illustrated, it shares the themes of love, joy, friendship and family.

Amazon US link

Amazon UK link

My Dad by Susan Quinn

In My Dad, a boy tells all the great things about his dad. He isn’t a super hero or a busy run around dad but he bakes, gardens and joins his son in lots of fun activities. The simple text and captivating illustrations show the loving, relationship between father and son. This one would make a special gift for a new dad or for Father’s day.

Amazon US link

Amazon UK link

The Grumpy Fairies by Bethan Stevens

I didn’t expect to like this one but it is a lot of fun and I think young children will really identify with the grumpy fairies. The fairies are grumpy because they keep getting asked to do chores, the moan and stomp around in a way that parents and young children will recognize. They are so busy being grumpy that they forget to heed the message of the woodland animals to look out for the troll. This repetitive part of the book will work great as a read aloud as the children call out the warning each time. When the troll arrives looking for a grumpy fairy snack, they soon change their mood – for now at least. I think this one would be a firm favourite with my preschoolers. As an added bonus for UK readers, the paperback is currently available for under five pounds.

Amazon US link

Amazon UK link

Enjoy the recommendations. I’m looking forward to sharing some great new titles for May.

It will be OK – A Picture book about Anxiety and Empathy

During the Pandemic – we are finding more and more that our children are anxious and worried. I feel is is very important that young children know that this is a normal response to these uncertain times, we can help them but also it is okay to be anxious.

Finding a book with this message, that suitable for the preschool children I teach is a challenge. There are plenty of books about worry, some are a little wordy, others have slightly scary characters and many by the end show a character who is no longer worried.

For the times we are in ‘ It Will be Okay’ ticked all the boxes for what I was looking for. I will, without a doubt, be adding this book to my social/emotional collection in my preschool classroom.

The story follows Giraffe, who can’t go out with his friend because he is worried about a spider. He knows his fear is irrational, but hides in the tree regardless and can’t bring himself to come down. His friend Zebra, listens to his fears and waits until giraffe is ready to come down. Zebra tells Giraffe that his fear ‘isn’t silly if it bothered him’ (my favourite line from the book), he shows empathy and understanding and shares a message that friends can help us with our fears, but most importantly it is okay to be worried by things. I love the resolution of the story. Instead of ‘curing’ Giraffes fear, it shows the comfort of an understanding friend and the message that being afraid is perfectly normal. Bravo for this modern take on worry, anxiety and friendship!

This is an affiliate link – I will receive a small financial incentive if you purchase this book using the link.

Amazon UK Link

Amazon US link

Picture Books to Add to Your Valentine’s Day Collection.

Do you share Valentine themed books with your class or kids at home? Some of the old favourites like Guess how much I Love You are great, but it’s always good to refresh your collection with new titles.

Have I Ever Told You by Shani Kin would make a perfect Valentine’s gift for a younger child. My children read it and said ‘ this is really lovely’. The book is full of the important messages a parent should share with their child;  messages of love, acceptance, tolerance and joy. I can imagine snuggling with my girls, reading the book together and talking about the messages within. Each message end with the phrase, ‘Have I ever told you that?’. Some of the messages are recognizable as things we say to our children, and some may be things we ought to say, but sometimes forget.

book for valentines day

The illustrations by Anna Horvath, are built around hands; multiracial hands, hands doing things, holding things and helping each other. Intertwined with the hands are objects and thoughts to represent each thing the parent tells their child. There is something strikingly beautiful about this; love expressed through hands as they create, bond, help, heal and touch. Holding and touching hands is perhaps the most sincere and secure expression of love there is.

If Have I Ever Told You were read in a classroom, it could inspire a Valentine themed writing project. The children could choose someone they love – a parent, sibling, friend or grandparent, and write something they want to tell them, ending with, ‘have I ever told you that?’ You could scribe for pre-writers and they could draw a picture or write it inside a hand print. Advanced writers could make a small book following the theme. Asking the children why they think hands were used in the illustrations, would also spark an interesting discussion.

Have I ever Told You would make a perfect Valentine’s gift.

Love Big by Kat Kronenberg follows a different theme, one of kindness and community.  In Love Big, Baboon watches the other animals being mean to one another and teaches them that through smiles, kindness, sharing and listening, we can build a happy community. 

I liked the message of the book and think it would be a good starting point for talking about classroom community.  I feel like it would be more effective if it were simplified, as in places it was a little wordy, especially in the parts where Baboon shares his message, which seem a little complex for small children. The book has a nice structure as it moves through a scenario where the animals behave in an unfriendly way and then are taught that they can be happier if they behave differently.  I personally disliked the repetitive Whoosh! Wham! In a flash of light before the phrases ‘We can be kind’, ‘We can share’, ‘We can listen’ and ‘We can care’  as they felt unnecessary and showy, but that is simply a personal preference. In some places, it felt like it was trying to do too much, for example it includes a song to the tune of twinkle, twinkle little star which felt a little out of place to me.

The illustrations by David Miles are bright, bold and cheerful. As the animals learn their lessons, the illustrations are placed in small vignettes and this makes a nice contrast with the bright, full page illustrations in the other parts of the book.

In the back of the book there are ideas for classroom activities to explore the books themes further and additional activities, fact sheets and videos can be found on Katkronenberg.com.

Disclaimer – this post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Book Review for Multicultural Book Day: Farmer Falgu goes to the Kumbh Mela

Multicultural book day was the brainchild of reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen, to share awareness of multicultural books and to get more of them in libraries, homes and schools. As an advisor, I was often asked to suggest multicultural books for schools and it was difficult to find quality books about diverse cultures. A key part of the initiative is to send out books for review to build a huge database of multicultural books with reviews. The website also includes lots of free resources for teachers with booklists, activities and posters.

The book I received is Farmer Falgu Goes to the Kumbh Mela by Chitra Soundar and Kanika Nair. 

multicultural picture books

This is the 3rd book in the Farmer Falgu series. Farmer Falgu, visits Allahabad for the Kumbh Mela festival and has a list of things he wants to see and do. Along the way he helps people, but each time he misses the events he hoped to see. Farmer Falgu. though disappointed, shrugs it off with the repeated phrase ‘maybe next time’. In the end, a turn of fate leads him to experience all of the things on his list and he has an ‘unbelievable ‘ time.

The Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela wasn’t familiar to me or my children so we really enjoyed reading about it. It feels very authentic, as if you are looking into the heart of another culture, rather than a superficial book about a festival. The book follows a clear structure and has repetitive phrases that will appeal to young readers, making it a perfect introduction to this lesser known festival. The illustrations are full of vibrant colours and bold designs and I love the simple way the illustrator shows facial expression and character.

multicultural picture book

A description of the origins of Kumbh Mela can be found at the back of the book. This could be a springboard to further research on the festival. Sometimes, I feel picture books are overlooked as a springboard for learning with older elementary children. This book could spark a wonderful project for older children too.

Suggested activities

  • Find the story of Kumbh Mela in Hindu mythology. Read it, act it out, draw pictures. Read other Hindu Myths – older children could write their own story in the style of a Hindu myth.
  • Find Allahabad on a map. Research what Allahabad looks like. Find the other locations of Kumbh Mela on a map.
  • Watch videos of the Kumbh Mela celebrations. Talk about celebrations in their own culture that may be similar.
  • Taste and/or make jalebis and lassis.
  • Think about the video and the book – why did farmer Falgu stop to help people? What happens in crowded places? Have you ever been lost? What did it feel like? What should we do when we are lost? This could also be the basis of a story.
  • Role play area – a train and role play a crowded train journey, a festival stand selling jalebis.

The 4th book in the Farmer Falgu series, Farmer Falgu goes Kite Flying, is available in April.