With a palette of black, white and yellow, Nikki McClure portrays intricate and varied ways to stay “in”, until halfway through the book, our main character wants to go “out”. But this character doesn’t want to go out in the regular ways–she wants to go out in the rain and at 23167716night. A gorgeous fold-out page spread shows “every kind of owl” and in the back matter, McClure gives a detailed guide of thirty-five owls, which she admits are not “every kind of owl”; rather they are her favorites.

In by Nikke McClure is a book to read again and again.

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Animal Facts to Make You Smile!

l_9781629707310_fcEach page in Grace Hansen‘s Animal Facts to Make You Smile! has one unique and strange fact about an animal with a close-up photograph to match. Some of the facts are laugh-out-loud; all are true and will boost any child’s trivia knowledge, and may spark an interest to research that animal further. I’m looking forward to reading more in this series by ABDO Kids.

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Half a Man

When Michael’s grandfather comes to visit, he is told not to look at him and not to ask questions. All he knew was that Grandpa had been burned while serving in the merchant navy during World War II. When Michael grows older, he spends summer holidays with his grandfather where he lives: on an island with about 80 residents, in the Scilly Isles. He becomes one of the few people who looks at Grandpa, and in time, Grandpa tells the story 51PoFuRkRrL._AA160_of what happened.

The beauty in this story–although it is a sad and painful story–is that Michael waits for Grandpa, never pushing or trying to get at the story for his own curiosity; Michael waits and listens to Grandpa, and by doing so, builds trust.

Because it is a family story that a grandparent holds inside until a caring grandchild listens, Half a Man reminds me of Hidden. Beautifully illustrated by Gemma O’Callaghan and written by Michael MorpurgoHalf a Man is a book to contemplate long after the reading is done.

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14 Cows for America

14 Cows For America is about Kimeli’s journey back home to Kenya after being in New York City on September 11, 2001. He speaks to his Maasai elders and they choose to give 14cowsfourteen cows, the symbol of life, to America to bring healing: “Because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort.”

14 Cows For America, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez and written by Carmen Agra Deedy in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah is an important, peaceful book about compassion and healing. The note in the back from Kimeli gives more background on what this gift of cows means, and how the herd continues to multiply, perpetuating the symbol of hope.

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Rad American Women A – Z

This nonfiction picture book has twenty-five page long biographies (X is a unique tribute radto all those “women whose names we don’t know”) about historic women, including many less often lauded historical figures such as Dolores Huerta, The Grimke Sisters, Patti Smith and Ursula LeGuin. The biographies span two centuries, and some of those profiled are still living.

Read Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl, in one sitting, or read it out loud in a classroom or at home, one page a day.

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Martina the Beautiful Cockroach

364_0A lovely Cuban folktale about spilling coffee on a suitor’s toes to reveal their true nature is retold by Carmen Agra Deedy in lively and interesting prose. Although the story is about finding a husband, it dispells other myths of finding a mate among the rich, handsome or gregarious. Instead, our beautiful green cockroach chooses a quiet, shy mouse in a slight twist. The jacket flap gives a little information about the real Cuban Cockroach, Panclora nivea, and Michael Austin‘s illustrations enable me to root for a cockroach heroine.

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Kate and Pippin: An Unlikely Friendship

Kate and Pippin: An Unlikely Friendship1250055695.1.detail by Martin Springett and photographed by Isobel Springett is the true story of a rescued fawn the mutual caring that developed with a Great Dane. Sweet and unlikely, yes, but even more interesting is what happens after Pippin grows to be about the same height as Kate (the dog): Pippin goes back into the forest and lives as her wild genes dictate, returning every so often to play with Kate, until one day, she returns with her own fawns. Kate and the humans living in the house never entice Pippin’s fawns, allowing them to stay wild and untouched, merely bystanders to their mother’s friendship with another species.

A picture book about the same story is out there also, but this early reader gives the whole story.

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123 Versus ABC

If a book about numbers and a book about letters meshed, and then the numbers and the 1405623036576letters fought about whose book it was, well, you’d have 123 Versus ABC by Mike Boldt. The letter A and the number 1 host a growing parade of animals and items that fit their perspectives on the book:  sixteen pigs and twenty-two violins–every letter has a number that can keep up. By the end, our hosts and our readers know that both can share the limelight.

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The Black Book of Colors

24477e9bddd73a0209f98b60d802ea9e-w204@1xEvery page of The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin, illustrated by Rosana Faria and translated by Elisa Amado, is black with a short line of white print. Each line is also in Braille, and the pictures are raised like Braille in order for the reader to touch and imagine, using all of the senses but sight to envision a colour.

Use this book to start a conversation on the senses and visual impairment.

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Books that have a limited vocabulary for early readers are usually rather drab. Smick, by UnknownDoreen Cronin and expertly illustrated by Juana Medina, entertains us with expressive illustrations, unexpected textures (it looks like Smick’s stick is a photo of a real stick, and Smick’s unlikely friend is an enhanced feather) and lots of energy (all in under 40 words–most of which end in -ick).

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