animals, illustration, mystery, spotlight

Spotlight: Dakota Crumb and the Secret Bookshop/The Mouse Who Carried a House on His Back

Dakota Crumb and the Secret Bookshop: A Tiny Treasure Hunt (Candlewick)
Written by Jamie Michalak
Illustrated by Kelly Murphy

For ages: 3-7
Dakota Crumb is a treasure-hunting mouse who gets a request from her cousin to come to Paris and help find a priceless book. Dakota arrives and finds the store, bearing a magnifying glass icon on its door, and proceeds to follow a series of clues. This scavenger hunt leads her through detailed illustrations of the bookstore and eventually into danger when the store has a watchdog. However, this mystery is not what Dakota thought; her discovery at the end signals a celebration of friends and reading.

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author spotlight, family, illustration

Author Spotlight: Christopher Denise

While born in Massachusetts, Christopher Denise actually grew up in Ireland. However, he would return to the States and eventually attend (you guessed it) the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). At RISD, he honed his illustrative and design skills, working on textbooks and newspapers by providing illustrations. His debut book was The Fool of the World and The Flying Ship, an adaptation of a Russian fairytale. The book was greeted with effusive praise and hailed as a “stunning debut.” It won’t surprise anyone who sees his work to know Denise works in animation. His designs are a perfect fit for that venue.

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Nonfiction Corner: Water/How Old Is a Whale?

Water: How We Can Protect Our Freshwater (Candlewick)
Written by Catherine Barr
Illustrated by Christiane Engel

For ages: 5-9
We live in an age of great uncertainty, especially where our planet is concerned. Summer 2021 was the hottest & driest on record globally, and 2022 increased that, with 2023 looking to top the record again. Vast swaths of the Southwestern United States are experiencing significant droughts, and the rationing of water is something on the table. To remedy this & more importantly, to prepare our children, we need them to have a greater depth of knowledge than our generation on these things. This excellent book on water will give any elementary student a detailed yet comprehensive view of our water systems and their importance to the continuation of life on Earth.

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social-emotional, asian-american

Spotlight: My Friend, Loonie/Sari Sari Summer

My Friend, Loonie (Candlewick)
Written by Nina LaCour
Illustrated by Ashling Lindsay

For ages: 4-8
The narrator, a little girl, finds a great friend in a big yellow balloon. Loonie, as she names it, becomes an integral part of her life. They walk around the neighborhood together; she reads aloud to Loonie, and has dance parties together. Then one day, something terrible happens. The girl loses her hold, and Loonie floats away into the sky. That loss weighs heavily on the little girl. Yet, there comes a day when the same yellow that made her balloon so special starts to show up in other places. A beautiful yellow flower emerges from the family garden and reminds her precisely of her old friend.

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black history, nonfiction corner, social studies

Nonfiction Corner: From Here to There/How Do You Spell Unfair?

From Here to There: A Book of First Maps (Candlewick)
Written by Vivian French
Illustrated by Ya-Ling Huang

For ages: 3-7
Anna lives in the suburbs. Her friend Zane lives in an apartment building. Zane sends Anna an invite to play and includes a hand-drawn map. However, Anna finds Zane’s map “wrong” because he put his house in the middle. So she decides to make her map based on the locations significant to her, including Grandma, who lives far away. In this lesson, Anna learns about scale and perspective. Her dad explains how maps can be scaled to show greater or smaller regions. She also learns about labels on maps and that maps can serve different purposes.

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humor, middle grade

Middle Grade Must-Read: The Book That No One Wanted To Read

The Book That No One Wanted To Read (Candlewick)
Written by Richard Ayoade
Illustrated by Tor Freeman

I first saw Richard Ayoade as Moss on the British sitcom The IT Crowd and immediately knew this guy’s sense of humor was in my wheelhouse. Since then, I’ve followed him across multiple projects, from television acting to hosting and even writing & directing feature films. However, I was unaware he had penned a children’s book until I came across this title in the Candlewick catalog, and I had to read it. This book met all my expectations, but I can also understand if it is not every young reader’s cup of tea. Ayoade has a very dry, British sense of humor, and this book is less about a cohesive narrative than the wit of the writing. The child that will love this book will adore it, and the ones who don’t like it will abhor it.

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book list, social-emotional, summer

List: Summer Vacation

And Then Comes Summer (Candlewick)
Written by Tom Brenner
Illustrated by Jaime Kim

For ages: 4-8
Few days are as bubbling over with the potential for fun & adventure as the first day of summer break. This book, part of the “And Then Comes…” series, starts with a little boy’s final day of class. That’s followed by games of hide-and-seek, fireworks, parades, camping, and swimming in the lake. The boy and his friends leap from one activity to the next, allowing that free-wheeling summer feeling to exude from these pages. Jaime Kim does an excellent job of making those joyful emotions contagious through her beautiful illustrations.

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author spotlight, illustration, nature, read-aloud

Author Spotlight: Chuck Groenink

Chuck Groenink grew up in The Netherlands. Like all Dutch children, he experienced one of the best childhoods in the Western world, a time spent exploring & playing & learning through experience. Books and drawing were, of course, a big part of his life. Groenink graduated from the Artez Institute in Kampen, east of Amsterdam. He moved to the United States in 2010 and now resides in Portland, Oregon. He lives there with his wife, dog, cats, and chickens.

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book list, humor, illustration

List: More Silly Books

The Panda Problem (Dial Books)
Written by Deborah Underwood
Illustrated by Hannah Marks

For ages: 3-7
Oh, this is a great one, taking a chance to parody the strict way children are taught about fictional narratives. The narrator tells us the panda has a big problem, but the character on the page responds that they are okay. But the narrator insists that every main character in a story has to have a problem for there to be a story. The panda decides to become the problem and does several things to irritate and drive the narrator crazy. I’m always a sucker for good metafiction, and this one is perfect in that regard. It does an excellent job of showing the skill of voice in writing.

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fairy tales, indigenous, spotlight

Spotlight: Berry Song/Endlessly Ever After

Berry Song (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Written & Illustrated by Michaela Goade

For ages: 4-8
The Earth is a generous planet full of food for all the life that lives on it. In Berry Song, we follow a grandmother and her granddaughter foraging on an island near their home in Alaska. Nature is also dangerous, so grandmother teaches her little one the Berry Song, which is meant to alert any bears nearby and scare them off. It also introduces the girl to the names of the berries they pick: “Salmonberry, Cloudberry, Blueberry, Nagoonberry. Huckleberry, Soapberry, Strawberry, Crowberry.” The lesson from grandmother is one of communication and balance with the planet. The pair take in every detail they can: the sound of insect wings, the feel of moss on the branches, the scent of the cedar trees.

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