Arial the Secret Santa Book Review

This week I shared a blog post about the 15 Best Children’s Books for Christmas, which features some incredible indie authors. With Christmas quickly approaching, I wanted to personally dive into some of the books on the list.

I’m drawn to children’s books that I can read with my three year old, Molly, that have incredible quality. Mary Nhin never fails when it comes to crafting a quality text, especially when it comes to Arial. In the past I have reviewed Arial the Chef, and Arial the Youtuber, and today I’m incredibly happy to share Arial the Secret Santa.

Arial the Secret Santa, by Mary Nhin, is a heartwarming picture book that teaches young readers the true spirit of Christmas through acts of kindness.

The story begins with Arial’s mom planning to donate a bag of her daughter’s old toys. Arial proceeds to tell her friends that once she donates her old toys, she will be replacing them with new ones. Her mom teaches her a life lesson about acts of kindness, and that they can be done in many different ways. Right after this, in the drive thru coffee line, someone pays it forward and buys Arial’s mom coffee, which clearly demonstrates the lesson.

The family then decides to change up their secret Santa Christmas tradition, and will instead perform daily acts of kindness. For each deed completed, the family will add an ornament to the tree. Nhin includes some examples of these types of ornaments on the pages before the story begins, which is a fabulous pre-reading point to make with young readers.

Arial then spends time thinking about ways she can be kind to others, and creates a solid list. She can give a sandwich to someone in need, provide a smile to someone who is having a bad day, donate her time to nature by planting trees, and give back to the community by volunteering. I truly love that this list has SOOO many options of ways to give show kindness that individuals of all ages can do.

Arial reminds readers that the true meaning of Christmas is showing kindness, which can be done in so many different ways. It’s not just about giving one another presents, but about making an impact in the lives of others.

And, as always, one of my favorite parts of a Mary Nhin book is the after reading activity. In this book, Nhin provides directions on how to create ornaments to record acts of kindness just like Arial’s family used. Nhin took it a step further and provides instructions on how to download the free printable, making this a super teacher-friendly activity.

I would recommend this book for kids in preschool through second grade.

To purchase this adorable book click here .

And Pip Too Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

I LOVE when I get to work with authors multiple times. When I started to get back into blogging again in March, I connected with a fabulous author, Colleen Brunetti, who wrote a picture book about food allergies (click here to see the original post). Today, I’m so excited to share her new book with all of you.

And Pip too, by Colleen Brunetti, is an adorable picture book about a little sister and big brother’s sibling love.

Right away one feature that popped out at me was the font. I really like how the font was a little bolder than I usually see in a picture book, and how the author played with it. For instance when Big Guy stretched, the word is literally stretched on the page.

Pip is Big Guy’s little sister who wants to do everything her big brother does. From reading a book to building a tower, Pip is right behind him to trying join in the fun. While readers can infer that Big Guy isn’t always thrilled about this, he never actually says anything negative to Pip, which I really liked. Big Guy shows older siblings that even though younger brothers and sisters can be a lot to handle at times, it’s all part of being siblings.

The more we get to see some of the silly things that Pip does, my favorite is pouring the milk, the more she reminds me of the Cat from The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. Pip is just trying to join in with her older brother, and sometimes she doesn’t do something the right way, but she does it all out of love. Pip is only trying to include herself in tower building, and resting underneath the oak tree, just like the Cat was trying to make that rainy day fun.

I think this book would be great to use with preschool and kindergarten kids.

To purchase the book click here.

I Like Me and I Love Me Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

As a middle school language arts teacher, I would use picture books here and there in my lessons to teach reading skills. However, it wasn’t until I started reading books to Molly that I developed a whole new appreciation for picture books. It’s incredible what pictures and simple sentences can convey to young readers.

I Like Me and I Love Me, by Abby Zaitley, is a charming picture book that teaches children the importance of self love.

I was instantly drawn to the simplicity of this text. Each page consists of a simple sentence with easy vocabulary for kids. The end rhyme allows the sentences to flow nicely and avoid choppiness, especially when reading it aloud. The pictures also add a lovely touch, especially the water color feel. They provide a very calm feeling that aligns really well with the text.

While I was reading this book, I have to say that I felt very zen, as though I was taking a yoga class. The affirmations are supportive and reassure young readers that not only is it acceptable to love yourself for who you are, but to embrace the quirks. The story in fact opens with the lines, “I like me when I feel perky. I love me when I’m quirky.” We live in a very judgmental world sometimes, so being able to tell young children that it’s okay to be different is a very powerful message.

My favorite pair of pages is when the main character is at school. “I like when I trust in me. I love me when we are we.” The picture shows the little girl holding hands in a circle with friends and it just evoked such a safe feeling. When kids are around their friends they should be able to be themselves and enjoy their friendships. The wording reminded me a little bit of Winnie the Pooh, which also adds to the warm and fuzzy zen feeling of the story.

This is a great book to use with young readers at home or in school settings. I could see it being used by a guidance counselor to do some self-esteem/confidence building skills when working with preschool, kindergarten and elementary aged students.

For more information about this book check out the author’s blog here.

To purchase the book click here. 

Natalya Loves Candy Book Review

I’ve been on a quest for some super cute Halloween books for Miss Molly recently. Today’s book popped up in my Facebook newsfeed and I had a feeling it was just what I was looking for.

Natalya Loves Candy, by Rebecca Yee, is an adorable picture book about a little girl’s adventure on Halloween night.

From a structure standpoint, I love how there isn’t a lot of text on the pages. The illustrations are so cute, so the little bit of text keeps everything balanced. The colors pop and have a nice fall/Halloween feel. I truly LOVE the rhyme scheme of this book. My voice naturally changed in all the right places, which made the story more engaging and enjoyable.

Natalya is a little girl who is excited to go trick or treating with her friends. She is dressed up as a witch, and has a great time getting candy with her friends. While she’s out, a black cat crosses her path, and she falls in love with him. She takes the cat home, names him Candy, and hopes that her mommy will let her keep him.

I love how this book has some of the traditional aspects of Halloween (witch costume, black cat), but I really enjoyed the play on candy. Yes, Natalya collected candy trick or treating, but the addition of Candy made the story even sweeter. The creativity of this element was unpredictable in a good way, and made the text more memorable.

I think this would be a great read loud for parents and teachers of preschool and early elementary children.

To purchase the book click here.

Ben’s Adventures: A Day at the Beach Book Review

I’m taking a little break from YA and diving back into some picture books. As I’ve mentioned before, I LOVE being part of such a phenomenal book community on social media. Today’s author shared her book in a Facebook group that we are both in, and I instantly knew I wanted to share this title.

Ben’s Adventures: A Day at the Beach by Elizabeth Gerlach, is a heartwarming story about a little boy with Cerebral Palsy who dreams about a day at the beach with his family.

I have to be honest, I had tears in my eyes while I read this picture book. I fell in love with Ben instantly. His positive outlook on life and use of imagination melted my heart. In the first few pages, Ben introduces us to his family (he’s a triplet!), mentions that he has Cerebral Palsy, and explains that he can’t walk or talk. However, that doesn’t stop this little boy from enjoying his family and life.

Ben’s imagination is inspiring. He does not let his limitations keep him from experiencing the sand on his toes or the wind in his hair. One of my favorite pages is when Ben is building a sandcastle with a friend. Ben accidentally kicks one of the towers, and his friend’s reaction is spot on. His friend laughs off the tower destruction and mentions they will come up with a new plan. I love the powerful message of friendship that comes through this page, which encourages readers to be easy going and accomodating.

I also really enjoyed that Ben’s imagination has him spending time with members of his family. He does not spend the day alone, but rather bonds with his immediate family. He flies a kite with his daddy and looks for shells with Ava and Colin. The most touching moment of the story was when Ben’s mommy tucks him in at night. I think little details like this demonstrate to young readers the importance of spending time with family, and the fun and memories that can be had.

I think this book would be a phenomenal addition to a home library and a classroom library for preschool and kindergarten. I love that it promotes acceptance, hope, and diversity. I’m so excited for Ben’s next adventure.

For more information about Ben and the book, please click here.

 

Meet Prank Book Review

As a reader, I tend to gravitate towards unique characters who have a lot of personality. It’s truly an art when an author can capture and communicate this to readers.

Meet Prank by K.C. Light and illustrated by Elena Mogi is about a cat who gets into mischief. The text is meant for kids ages 3-8, with younger ones listening and older ones practicing their reading. Fun fact: this book made it to the #1 bestseller spot in New Release in Toddler and Baby Poetry Category last week!!

Before the story even starts, Light has a letter to parents on the first page. This quick note provides parents with some great information about the text, including the structure of the story. I honestly don’t know any other book for this age group that provides this extra guidance for families, but the mom and Reading Specialist in me is LOVING it.

Light also includes a little background on our main character. This extra bit of pre-reading made my teacher heart jump for joy. Right away readers get a sense of Prank’s personality. “He thinks he is Siamese, because it sounds cool and boosts his confidence.” The humor is spot on and allows kids to relate to Prank.

The structure of the text is easy to follow, complete with rhyming, figurative language and sight words. The amount of text on the page is not overwhelming for younger readers, and does not make the text feel “babyish” to kids in first or second grade.

I have a tendency to focus on making inferences when I teach, probably because of my years in middle school. As a reader, I noticed myself making inferences on the second page of the story based on the picture of Prank on the bed. This added an additional level of humor that actually made me smile.

One other feature that this book has that I have never seen before is outtakes at the end of the story. In looking at these pictures, kids can practice their inference making skills and characterization.

This book would be a great addition to a classroom and home library. I can’t wait to read about Prank’s next adventure!

You can purchase this book on Amazon as an e-book (free with Kindle Unlimited right now) and in paperback. Check it out here: https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Prank-Cat-Meet-ebook/dp/B07R7WXGWK/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=prank+the+cat&qid=1559325990&s=gateway&sr=8-1

For more information check out these social media sites:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/prank.the.cat2019/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/prankthecat/

Website: http://www.kcdelights.com

 

 

Rice & Rocks Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way. Rice & Books by Sandra L. Richards and illustrated by Megan Kayleigh Sullivan is a phenomenal book about culture and tradition.

Giovanni is a little boy who has friends coming over for dinner. His grandmother is making rice and rocks (rice and beans) and he is afraid his friends won’t like the traditional Jamaican dish. He goes on a magical ride with his parrot, Jasper, his Auntie and her dogs, and discovers how the same dish is a tradition in multiple parts of the world. The illustrations are creative with realistic facial expressions. The attention to detail and the colors are breathtaking and help the text come alive. Rice & Rocks

As a reading teacher I have discovered the lack of diverse texts in classrooms. I have worked with students from all different cultures and it’s important to have books that reflect the background of every classroom. Rice & Rocks is a book that should be in elementary classrooms and libraries because it addresses important themes that impact all children.

Friendship

Kids of all ages always worry about what their friends will think about them. Giovanni demonstrates this by worrying if his friends won’t like his grandmother’s Jamaican dish because it is different. Children experience this every day and can connect to Giovanni on multiple levels.

Rice & Rocks last pageFamily Traditions and Culture

Every family has their own way of doing things. Whether it’s a special morning routine or having Sunday dinner to catch up. For many children the only family traditions they know are their own, so it’s important to expose kids to other ways whenever possible. Tradition often includes cultural foods and customs, especially if it is a celebration. Rice & Rocks does a beautiful job of introducing children to Jamaican, Puerto Rican, Japan, and southern American culture and cuisine.

I personally loved how Richards intertwined various traditions in an easy to understand manner that was fun and imaginative. By doing so, children learn about other parts of the world, languages, traditions, and food all in a beautiful picture book. The text is easy for young children to understand (Richards provides great explanations) and the illustrations also provide children with great visuals to help with comprehension. This book could be used for so many different concepts at home and at school.