Music, Drawing, and Anthropology!

Two picture books in the past couple of years have explored the possible ways that humans first discovered music and drawing. These titles would make a great starting point for students studying early humans and their world or just a fun read aloud for families.

First DrawingThe First Drawing by Mordecai Gerstein; Little, Brown; 17.00; Ages 3-7

Mordecai Gerstein sends the reader back in time with his first images and sentences in The First Drawing, about a boy living “…thirty thousand years ago.”  In present tense sentences that give a sense of immediacy, Gerstein sketches the reader’s life back then: “You live in a cave with your parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers…and your wolf Shadow.” “You love to watch animals.” Illustrations with bright color and scratchy line quality show how the protagonist (you) looks at clouds and stones and sees animals there, that no one else in the family can see. After an encounter with a woolly mammoth, while sitting by the fire, the young artist finally finds a way to show the rest of the family these visions–in drawings on the cave wall. After initial panic (the father throws a spear at the wall, expecting the drawing of the mammoth to charge) everyone agrees that “It’s MAGIC!” which, of course it was. And still is. In his author’s note, Gerstein points out that children are much more likely to draw than adults…so it makes sense that the first person to invent drawing was probably a child. Read this book and then do some drawing, of woolly mammoths or whatever you like!

Kalis SongKali’s Song by Jeanette Winter; Random House; 16.99; Ages 3-7

Jeanette Winter imagines a somewhat similar tale about discovering music in Kali’s Song (complete with another woolly mammoth on the cover.) Kali is familiar with drawing, as his mother paints animals on their cave wall and tells him “soon you’ll hunt and kill animals like those.” Kali’s father gives him a bow so that he can practice shooting, but Kali soon discovers another use for the weapon: plucking the string to make music. As in Gerstein’s book, family members are astonished by this new idea and honor Kali for his talents. This book would be fun read aloud for young musicians, kids interested in history or anyone interested in wondering a little about the past.





We’re having a giveaway!  Jenny Han is releasing her new YA book, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, on April 15th.  To celebrate, we’re giving away a special prize.  The first person to preorder To All the Boys will receive the pink notebook you see on the right.  Call or email us to preorder the book!

About To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before:

When Lara Jean needs to get over a boy, she writes them letters she’ll never send, full of cathartic ranting and soul-baring emotional dumps. But when the letters are mysteriously mailed to their unintended recipients, all the boys she’s loved before are back in her life, demanding explanations or opening long-closed doors.  This is Jenny Han at her best. A fun, fast-paced YA romance, with a quirky and loveable protagonist.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han; 17.99; Ages 12+

List Books to Love

It is a truth universally acknowledged that kids in elementary school like to look at lists. Lists of animals and plants, dinosaurs, and famous people….I could go on and on. For reluctant readers, list books provide structure and have a more manageable word count than other books. The visuals are engaging and fit with the sense of competition that lots of young readers have at that age. Which mountain is the highest? Which animal is the most dangerous? Do you know? If you have a reader who loves lists, here are some titles to look for this holiday season:
Top 5 of Everything by Time for Kids; 11.99; Ages 7+
From Time magazine comes this book with the top five in every category imaginable: ice cream flavors, fastest animals, backyard birds, peppermint producers. Kids can quiz their parents and friends, learn cool facts about animals and geography and prepare for future trivia contests.
100 Most series by Scholastic; 7.99; Ages 8+
These are the books for a kid who picks up worms, spiders or other creepy crawlies. From feared creatures, to disgusting things, these books have lists of creatures, their stats and photographs to look at. The perfect way to gross out your friends!
Weird But True series by National Geographic; 7.95; Ages 6+
Did you know that in Ancient Egypt only royalty was allowed to eat mushrooms? Or that baby eels are called elvers? All these weird facts and more can be found in the Weird but True books. Printed with eye-catching graphics on each page, these are great books to page through and see what catches your eye. For All Ages.
The Top 10 of Everything in Sports by Sports Illustrated Books; 19.95; Ages 7+
It doesn’t matter if you love football, soccer, gymnastics or hockey. There’s something cool for everyone to find in this book of sports lists. Prodigies, Rivalries, Unbelievable Moments, and Coaches—all get face time in this big format book with great photographs. This book will make any young sports fan happy this holiday.

Holiday Books to Treasure

We’re getting to a time of year when seasonal books are flying off the shelves. People are coming in asking for holiday books and new versions of old classics and holiday tales starring familiar characters. But when picking gifts for older readers, sometimes it’s nice to give a book with beautiful illustrations and words that resonate beyond winter. Here are two books suited to older readers or perhaps a family to whom you want to give something special.

What the Heart KnowsWhat the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms and Blessings by Joyce Sidman, illus. by Pamela Zagarenski; Houghton Mifflin; 16.99; Ages 12 and up

Sidman’s latest book of poetry tackles some of the harder moments in a lifetime: heartache, illness, and loss. In four different sections, Sidman celebrates the idea of words as magical. The section headings (Chants, Charms, Spells, etc.) reinforce this idea, that words can smooth over hurt places and help us heal. Beautiful mixed-media illustrations by Zagarenski, twice a Caldecott Honor winner, capture the essence of each selection. This is a wonderful choice for a loved one, a teen getting ready for new experiences, or anyone facing change in their life.

Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks by Katherine Paterson, illus. by Pamela Dalton; Chronicle Books; 18.99; Ages 6-10

Celebrated author Katherine Paterson brings a calm wisdom to this collection of poems, prayers and praise songs, just in time for Thanksgiving. If you are looking for a new reading to share with family at your dinner table or just to read in quiet moments, this is a wonderful choice. Paterson includes prayers and poetry from different cultures, Bible selections alongside Native American blessings, lyrics to spirituals, and “Amazing Grace.” Dalton’s illustrations are  traditional scherenschnitte paper cuttings. Elaborate borders and page edgings are in white and some pieces are painted with watercolors, creating a nice contrast. This beautifully designed book would be a special addition to any family collection.


Hanukkah Story That’s Great for 3-6 Year Olds

Book Cover for Maccabee! The Story of HanukkahWhile this may look like some kind of crazy, action hero version of the Hanukkah story, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Tilda Balsley does an amazing job of distilling the Hanukkah story for the 3 to 6 set. With rhyming text, we learn the story behind the Festival of Lights. Antiochus, Mattathias and his five sons, and the re-dedication of the temple are all part of the story. Though it does get a little hokey in places, this is the first story that I’ve seen that gives a good background to why Hanukkah is celebrated and the history behind it. Balsley’s approach and Harrington’s illustrations are less lesson or lecture style and much more storytelling.

Maccabee! The Story of Hanukkah by Tilda Balsley, illus. by David Harrington; Kar-Ben Publishing; 7.95; Ages 3-6

Tiptoe Joe by Ginger Foglesong Gibson

TiptoeJoeHaving hosted our Friday morning Wee Ones Storytime for the better part of five years, I can attest to the fact that toddlers don’t like to sit still. They really, really don’t. Really. Any time they can get on their feet and moving, they’re happy campers! And this book provides the perfect opportunity.

Tiptoe Joe greets his animal friends and urges them to follow him on tiptoe to see a fantastic surprise. Each animal has a signature sound (which can easily be accompanied by a simple movement of your choice) that is repeated through the story. All this action is punctuated by the refrain, “Tiptoe, tiptoe, quiet please. Tiptoe underneath the trees.” It’s an awesome way to get kids moving in a controlled (read: not flailing!) way.

Repetitive stories are so helpful for getting little children involved, and author Ginger Foglesong Gibson is clearly clued in to that!

Read on, readers!
Miss Megan

Tiptoe Joe by Ginger Foglesong Gibson, illus. by Laura Rankin; Greenwillow (HarperCollins); 17.99; Ages 2-6

Pirates Love Underpants by Claire Freedman

piratesloveunderpantsLooking for a rhyming read-aloud book that your pre-schooler will love? Check out Pirates Love Underpants. I’ve had a lot of luck reading books about underpants to pre-schoolers, so I have no doubt that this one will be a hit! Join these pirates as they make their way through Big Knickers Bay, Three Pants Ridge, and the Long-John Bridge to search for the Pants of Gold.

And, if you enjoy this tale, you’ll have to check out Aliens in Underpants Save the World by the same duo.


Pirates Love Underpants by Claire Freedman, illus. by Ben Cort; Simon & Schuster; 15.99; Ages 3-6