„Beauregard in a box“ by Jessica Lee Hutchings

Beauregard is a curious kid. His biggest dream: Travelling the world! Reading, drawing, writing and thinking about his big aspiration even keeps him up at night. Beauregard would be a great adventurer. Unfortunately, there is one problem: Beauregard is afraid of flying or taking big ships to make his dreams come true…

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Until he has an awesome idea! Beauregard sneaks into the post office, crawls into a huge box full of mittens – and arrives in Finland! After exploring the cold country with his new friend Aleksi Beauregard is sure: He want to continue with his world travels. A box full of Sarongs brings him to Bali, from there on he travels in a box full of swimsuits and find himself in Australia. His new friend Jack is as adventurous as Beauregard – until he sees the Box our little traveler plans to crawl in next: “It’s dark, it’s noisy, and the ride can’t be that great!” Beauregard realizes that he already flew an airplane and boarded a ship, just hidden in his box. After all the cool things he did he will now be brave enough to fly on a plane…

Jessica Lee Hutching wrote a cute picture book with a main character children and adults can instantly relate to. We all have dreams, but often fears or worries hold us back… Beauregard’s story shows that we are often braver than we think. Beauregard travels in a box to avoid airplanes and ships. After reaching his final destination it takes him some time to realize that postboxes are transported by air or sea as well. He already did what he feared the most, he’s braver than he ever thought he could be! The descriptions of Finland, Bali and Australia are relatively short, but capture the most important values and have exactly the right length to hold a young reader’s attention. After all, this is not a book about foreign countries, but about a boy discovering his own strength!

The illustrations by Srimalie Bassani are colorful and charming. I especially loved Beauregard’s facial expressions – he seemed so confused at times, then utterly happy and (finally) proud of himself.

Beauregard in a box” is a fun picture book for preschool and elementary aged adventurer. A book will be available on April 17 – just in time for summer vacation!

Author Jessica Lee Hutchings is a world traveler herself. The trained chef with a degree from Johnson & Wales University was born and raised in Alabama but now lives in California. She enjoys traveling to new places; revisiting old favorites, like Spain, Australia, and Hawaii; and eating doughnuts. “Beauregard in a box” is her debut children’s book.

Illustrator Srimalie Bassani lives and works in Mantova, Italy. According to her own words she always tries to diversify her style based on every story she illustrates.

More information:
„Beauregard in a box“
Written by Jessica Lee Hutchings
Illustrated by Srimalie Bassani
Publisher: Flowerpot Press (17. April 2018)
ISBN: 978-1486713844

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“DIY ABC” by Eleonora Marton

Finja will start Kindergarten in September. She is a really active child, who loves to discover, but is not a fun of “boring” stuff – and I am dreading that she has to start tracing letters and numbers soon to get ready for school!

I purchased a few Alphabet activity books in the last months. They maybe get five minutes of attention and soon collect dust in the room corner or on the living room table… Because: Tracing…

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“DIY ABC” by Eleonora Marton is an interactive activity book that goes along with “my” kind of learning: Every page features one letter of the alphabet with an accompanying word. Fun activities give children the opportunity to discover the alphabet and the sound of every letter without any memorizing or tracing.

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No page is like the other, activities range from drawing to cutting over writing a recipe for your favorite cake. Flaps and stickers give sensory impulses. Sturdy pages make “DIY ABC” perfect for on the go or keeping the little ones busy during longer car rides!

We loved this book so much that we did our first video review – see for yourself! 🙂

Cicada Books is a independent, small publishing house based in London. The publisher specializes in in highly illustrated books for adults and children “with a focus on emerging talent, beautiful packaging and fresh content”.

More information:

“DIY ABC” by Eleonora Marton
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 3
Paperback: 56 pages
Publisher: Cicada Books
ISBN-13: 978-1908714374

„Every girl is a princess“ by Mylo Freeman

Every girl dreams of being a princess at least once. But how does a princess look like? Which color does her hair have, is she small or big? And what does she like? Does she love unicorns, cats or maybe alligators?

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„Every girl is a princess“ by Mylo Freeman confirms that every girl is a princess in her own way! The book delights with colorful illustrations. Flaps on each page and simple questions engage young readers and support logical thinking: “Princess Naomi loves turtles. On her crown is a rainbow. Could this be her crown?” The delightful illustrations show girls of every part of the worlds: Princess Ushi, Princess Adinda, Princess Rosalina, Princess Isabel and her friends introduce little girls to a colorful “princess world” and show, that every princess has her own way to shine.

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Each princess is wearing her own crown. But who does the last golden tiara belong to? A mirror on the last page reveals that every girl is a princess – and every boy is a prince. “Look and see for yourself if you don’t believe it!”

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Mylo Freeman’s book is clearly a typical “girl” book – little readers will love the pink title and background, the friendly princesses with their vibrant dresses and the sparkling crowns on every page. The book is a great way to introduce kids to a more diverse world! While recommended for age 3 up, simple questions and easy to lift flaps make this book a great title to enjoy with toddlers or even read to younger infants. Just be careful: This is not a board book; the exciting pages might not respond well to chewing… 🙂

„Every girl is a princess“ was published by Cassava Republic, a small publisher based in Abuja, Nigeria. Cassava Republic would like to promote writers from all over Africa: “Our mission is to change the way we all think about African writing.  We think that contemporary African prose should be rooted in African experience in all its diversity.”

Author and illustrator Mylo Freeman grew up in The Hague and lives in Amsterdam. She has been a full-time writer-illustrator since 1993 and has published over 50 picture books.

More information:

„Every girl is a princess“

written and illustrated by Mylo Freeman

Hardcover: 28 pages

Publisher: Cassava Republic Press

ISBN-13: 978-1911115380

“BUGS!” by Nick Forshaw and William Exley

Our daughter loves nature. And she’s extremely curious and rarely satisfied with quick explanations. Last week we discussed why snails are slimy for about one hour, only to switch topics, debating why hummingbirds only eat nectar and can’t digest seeds. Her interest in everything is one of the reasons why preschool-age is so much fun! I finally got to share all the cool non-fiction books and have an excuse to expand our book collection further. 🙂

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But: Explaining science to children and adults without scientific background sometimes actually is rocket science. I should know – I had to edit my articles for a popularly science magazine a zillion time until our editor-in-chief was convinced they didn’t contain “too much science as not to confuse anyone”. What was really tough, when genetics was your passion, but you didn’t want to make the topic to bothersome. 🙂 What might sound silly is actually true. You don’t want to make science too confusing, boring and annoying – but at the same time you want to keep to the facts, too, and not leave too many details out. There are lots of great nonfiction books for children out there, that hit the mark – and others that we didn’t like as much.

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“BUGS!” is one of the scientific books for children that is head-on. The book was published in cooperation with the Natural History Museum in London, so it packs a lot of information into a little over 30 pages. Readers accompany “Agent Eagle”, the senior librarian of the “Eagle-Eyed Explorer Club”, on his latest mission: Filing a report on the history of bugs. Agent Eagle goes back millions of years in time! His journal contains detailed information about bugs, their history and their life. The report doesn’t leave lots of questions – thorough explanations will satisfy even the most curious mind. The illustrations are not too colorful, they could have been from a museum collection – but maybe this is what Agent Eagle had in mind? And the expandable 6-feet timeline, prominent feature of the “What on Earth”-books, makes definitely up for it! A little quiz on the last pages helps young readers to check their knowledge.

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“BUGS!” makes a complex topic attractive. The Indiana Jones lookalike Agent Eagle and his exploration keeps young readers involved. And this is the key, when it comes to complex topics that could become overwhelming. Taxonomy of bug ancestry, fossils, sacred bugs and past bug scientists: These matters might not sound too interesting, but middle school and high school aged readers with an interest in biology will learn a lot about bugs and their history.

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When it comes to science books for children, the target age range defines into how much details you can go. That being said, the complex topic makes “BUGS!” more appropriate for middle school age and was a great read for me as adult with science background. Our five-year-old daughter loved to look at the pictures and had lots of questions. The text was a little bit complex for her, but this was not surprising as this book is written for a different age range.

Publishing house “What on earth” brought another great non-fiction book into our house. “Bugs!” is a keepsake book that will hold the interest of a wide age range from Kindergarten to High School! The book is part of four titles exploring the world of dinosaurs, bugs, plants and mammals with super-sleuth Agent Eagle as guide.

More information:
“BUGS!” Explorer
by Nick Forshaw and William Exley
Age Range: 7 – 11 years
Publisher: What on Earth Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-0995577060

“Esme’s Wish” by Elizabeth Foster

Are you excited about spring? I am. At least I’m looking forward to doing some planting – Finja and I already selected some veggies and fruits and will start our raised garden beds and edible garden within the next weeks. Luckily, our five-year-old is an avid gardener. With a new job and a new book project coming up I somehow find myself behind the computer more than I planned on… But please, don’t get too excited. I would love to write some great fiction, but after writing textbooks and working in public relations, my writing-stamina seems to have suffered. As a teenager I would spend days on my computer, lost in the pages of my writing program, dreaming up new worlds and imagining new characters. Years of non-fiction-writing made it harder to use my imagination – but maybe growing up is part of this, too…

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Luckily Elizabeth Foster, author of “Esme’s wish”, overcame the same condition – and her book is proof of that! According to her own words, Elizabeth sees daydreaming as central part of her life. She used to enjoy writing as a child, but then grew up and was sadly waylaid by more serious pursuits. “Reading to my own kids reminded me of how much I missed getting lost in other worlds, and once I started writing again, I couldn’t stop.”

The book cover of “Esme’s wish” promises a coming-of-age-story with fantastic elements. Dragons flying over the Mediterranean Sea, a magical island and flying book pages – does it take more to make you curious?

Years after her mother’s disappearance, Esme’s family seemed to have moved on. Her father is getting married. Everybody is keeping silent about the tragedy that happened seven years ago. Each day is a reminder that Esme is utterly alone with her wish to find out what really happened to her mother. The world around her isn’t as it should be. By accident, Esme find an old letter by her great-grandmother – a clue, which leads her to a gateway into the world of Aeolia. Here, Esme will find out what really happened to her mother…

Esme’s story is aimed towards teenagers, but will be loved by adult readers, too – especially those who love mythology, strong characters and female role models. While younger readers will identify themselves with the curious, strong willed and sometimes too trusting Esme, I couldn’t stop reflecting about the mother-daughter-relationship.

Elizabeth Foster describes a vibrant world full of magic, a world that will not let go of you when you turn the last page… A book for everyone that loves foreign worlds and would love to start dreaming again!

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Curious about an author’s life? Follow Elizabeth Foster on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

More information:
“Esme’s Wish”
Written by Elizabeth Foster
Paperback: 252 pages
Publisher: Odyssey Books
ISBN-13: 978-1925652246

“Malala’s pencil” by Malala Yousafzai

As you know, our family absolutely adores books. And so sometimes, when I only plan on buying some groceries, I can’t resist the urge to purchase another one… Usually I don’t by books at Target, but today, “Malala’s magic pencil” miraculously landed in my shopping cart. And I still am not sure if I purchased the book for our daughter or for me :).

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You probably already heard about human rights advocate and the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai. I had her picture book on my wish list for quite some time, but I didn’t borrow or purchase it – until today.

I read the book in the car before arriving home and then again during bedtime. I knew that this would be a unique book and a difficult topic, so I wasn’t sure how our 5-year-old would like it. And I sure wasn’t prepared for “Malala’s pencil” to be THAT extraordinary while age-appropriate for young kids at the same time!

As young girl, Malala wished for a magic pencil to draw a lock on her door or give her one more hour of sleep each night. But growing up her dreams become bigger – she hopes for a world in which boys and girls are equal and children can go to school instead of having to work to be able to feed their families. When the Taliban take over Malala’s hometown in Pakistan, Malala speaks up for what is right – even when the powerful men try to silence her…

We read a lot of multicultural books and Finja loves to read about strong girls. But “Malala’s pencil” was something different. The gentle written text is a joy to read, and it illustrates everyday life as a child in Pakistan. The artwork in pastel and gold perfectly goes with Malala’s story, including the black page saying “”My voice became so powerful that the dangerous men tried to silence me. But they failed.”

The main difference: “Malala’s pencil” gave me goosebumps. The combination of impressive artwork, a wonderfully written text and a strong topic is something you don’t find every day… And it seems our five-year-old felt the same way. She wouldn’t stop asking why anyone could think a girl should not learn and grow up to be strong… No better time for strong female role models!

More information:

Written by Malala Yousafzai

Illustrated by Kerascoet Kerascoet

Age Range: 5 – 8 years

Hardcover: 48 pages

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

ISBN-13: 978-0316319577

 

 

“Most people” by Michael Leannah and Jennifer E. Morris

Do recent political events sometimes make you feel hopeless? Has reading the newspaper become a „damage report”, rather than enjoyment? Did you stop believing in the good of people?

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But: No matter how it seems, not everyone is a bad person! On the contrary, most people are good… This is the topic of the picture book “Most people” by Michael Leannah. Young readers accompany various diverse family and persons during their day, see them interact, assist each other and ask for help. The author shows that there are bad things happening in the world, some people might behave badly – but most people love to smile and laugh. They like to see other people smile and make them happy. The world isn’t just glitter and sunshine, but there are multiple ways to do good and make the world a better place! A person who is frowning or mean can change as soon as you show them a little bit of kindness.

“Most people” is easy to understand for preschoolers and kindergarteners and a wonderful conversation starter for families and classrooms. We can tell our children about intolerance and biases, but challenging our own tolerance demonstrates is a big part of truly getting to the bottom of it. That’s why I especially loved one of the first pages of the book, showing all the important book characters in overview: A mother going for a walk with her two children, an elderly lady trying to cross the street, a service dog with his human, a homeless lady, pushing her belongings in a shopping cart, the baker, a child hurting herself when crashing her bike and several more. Finja’s first assessment after a few minutes of contemplating: “The big man looks like a pirate, pirates are bad.” Luckily exactly this big tattooed guy helps an elderly lady into the bus on the next page… Impressions can be misleading and there is no better way to teach your child about prejudice!

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“Most people” doesn’t tell young readers how to behave or how to be good. It’s not a map to Santa’s nice list. But it gives examples of how to do good: Letting an elderly lady going first on the bus, sharing food with a homeless person. Laughing when you see a young child on the sidewalk instead of complaining about the noise. And what about the boy stealing an apple from a market cart? What might be his motivation? Is he right or wrong? We especially loved the diverse characters in this book. “Most people” includes people of every age, color and lifestyle, from the tourist asking a policeman for help over a street musician, the housewife, a punk to a bus driver lady. Every one of these people is able to do good, no matter their appearance.  When talking about “good” and “bad” it’s hard not to fall into a stereotypical mentality. Michael Leanna does a good job, he shows that people sometimes make bad decisions, but in general most people are friendly and helpful – no matter where they come from or how they look like.

The illustrations by Jennifer E. Morris are rich in detail and expression and go perfectly with the tender told story. Morris works out individual characters and family situations, young reader will find something to discover on every page.

Sometimes people surprise you when you just see the good in them!

“Most people” offers a positive perspective on the world and is a wonderful read for children and adults alike. While not everyone is good and children surely need to be careful of strangers, most people are worth a second chance. A wonderful book for preschool and kindergarten aged children!

More information:

“Most people”
written by Michael Leannah
illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris
Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers
ISBN-13: 978-0884485544

Magical new book releases

If you read my review of “Dragonfly Song” by Wendy Orr you know that I adore YA fiction. My all time favorite is the “His Dark Materials” trilogy by Philip Pulman. After I used to re-read the complete series around Christmas time, last weekend brought a wonderful surprise: I discovered “The Book of Dust”, a prequel to the story of my favorite heroine of all times – Lyra. To be completely honest, the book is out since a few months now. It’s kind of embarrassing, but between family life, work, running and reviewing I totally missed one of the (for me) most magical releases…

This week brought another surprise: Elizabeth Foster contacted me some weeks ago with the offer to review her first novel “Esme’s wish“. Her description of the book blew me away: “A city of sea dragons, songspells and glittering canals. A city where waters whisper of enchantment. A place sewn into the fabric of her dreams…” Yes, definitely my kind of book! 🙂 Today, the book arrived after a long flight from Australia. I can’t wait to read and review Esme’s story and will keep you posted!

Wendy Orr is a fan already: “A fresh new fantasy, of an enchanting world.” If you want to check out Elizabeth Foster’s new book before my review, visit her homepage, her publisher Odyssey Books oder goodreads!

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…all I wish for Christmas is more time to read. And new running shoes maybe 🙂 What is on your list?

„My friend robot“ by Sunny Scribens

Childhood and education today is different from our upbringing in the 70s, 80s and 90s. But is this a bad thing? Definitely not! Society changes, and so do the requirements for preparing children for today’s world. One example is the growing importance of STEM: Today, science, technology, engineering and mathematics are essential skills for everyone. But STEM doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, even seemingly complex machines like robots are based upon basic principles every preschooler can understand and practice…

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“My friend robot” by Sunny Scribens, published by Barefoot Books, is one of the few STEM books for toddlers and preschoolers. Scribens doesn’t start with complicated programming questions or even mentions computers. On the contrary, the story begins with a situation every child can relate to: Who can us help build a tree house? Luckily, a friendly robot joins the diverse group of friends and helps using simple tools like a wedge, a wagon, screws, a ladder, hammer and pulley. Together the team follows simple steps to make their dream of a house come true. Every child helps in their own way, from carrying wood blocks to pushing a wagon. The situation grows with complexity, until the tree house finally stands. There is just one thing to do: Comfort the shy dog on his way up into the tree house…

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Scribens shows that technology and empathy aren’t exclusive to one another. To finish a project you need skills, heart and passion! Easy to repeat rhymes and an accompanying CD make the book adequate for younger children.

The for us really fascinating part of the book was the appendix: Several pages of information about programming and robotics teach children about simple machines and ignite interest in STEM. Engines, printer and computer might be hard concepts for young readers to grasp – that’s why Sunny Scribens starts with “simple machines”, basic devices to make work easier. She then goes on to everyday robotics most children know and shares he fascination of programming robots. A simple play “Scientist says” teaches children the basic principles of programming code.

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We absolutely love the colorful illustrations by Hui Skipp, an illustrator born and raised in Taiwan. The bold colors will catch every toddler’s and preschooler’s eye and perfectly fit the STEM topic. Finja loved to “read” the book with help of the easily to understand pictures: “Who will help us use this nail? My friend robot, my friend robot!”

You see: “My friend robot” is a great book to ignite your toddlers or preschoolers interest in science and technology. Have fun reading, singing and learning!

More information
„My friend robot“
published by Barefoot Books
written by Sunny Scribens
illustrated by Hui Skipp
CD sung by Norma Jean Wright

“Yokki and the Parno Gry“ by Richard O’Neill and Katharine Quarmby

I love fall! This is the time to cuddle up with a good read, to re-live favorite stories and find new ones. We enjoy reading fairy and folk tales and discovered some great retellings of old fables.

On one of these nights, we fell in love with “Yokki and the Parno Gry” by Richard O’Neill and Katharine Quarmby, published by Child’s Play. Inspired by a traditional Romanian folk tale, “Yokki and the Parno Gry“ tells the story of a travelling family.

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Yokki and his family are travelers. They take their canvas tents over the country. In the winter, they are selling what they made with their own hands, before picking fruits and vegetables and working for local farmers during harvest season. Telling stories is a big part of everyday life: In the evening, the whole family gathers around the fire to share fables and experiences. Little Yokki is telling the best tales, retelling what he heard from other people, mixing it up and adding bits of his own.

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Yokki’s creativity and talent becomes more and more important when the family goes through hard times. After a wet summer and a poor harvest, he shares the story of the Parno Gry, a powerful white horse who would fly into camp and bring them away to a foreign land with plenty to work, harvest and eat. Dreams alone don’t fill stomachs, but Yokki’s wise grandmother supports his love for storytelling. “Sometimes all we have are our dreams”, she says. “They keep us going until the next opportunity appears.”

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Indeed, after one especially cold night, Yokki’s dream seems to become reality. A huge white horse appears to take the family and all their belongings, soar high in the night sky and bring them into a land full of wonder: Cold air, fruit trees, a clear stream, wild gardens and vegetables growing in the rich soil promise a better future. To this day, Yokki’s family believe and value children’s dreams and imaginations. Especially in their darkest hours, when they need them to find inspiration and strength.

Like every folk tale, “Yokki and the Parno Gry” leaves a lot to the imagination. This makes the book perfect for readers every age: Our five-year-old loved the idea of dreams becoming reality. As a parent, I like to inspire her believe in the importance of her dreams and stories. Finja loves to spin her own fables and Yokki’s story strengthened the need make up and tell stories on her own! Older readers are invited to dive deeper into the world of Romani folk tales, maybe develop an interpretation of their own. The book also gives us a glimpse into a culture, that is not well known in the US and therefore barely understood.

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“Yokki and the Parno Gry“ was written in cooperation of Richard O’Neill, a Romani storyteller raised in North England, and Katharine Quarmby, an award-winning journalist and writer. Richard O’Neill knows about the traveler’s life of his forefathers: Born into a large family in small a mining community in the North East of England he travelled with the seasons all over the country. According to his own words, he is “taking his storytelling skills around the country, winter will find him in Manchester, the rest of the year telling tales and performing anywhere from Cumbria to Cornwall, Skegness to Southport.” Best known for storytelling, Richard is also the author of a number of children’s books, and award-winning plays for adult audiences, a number of which have been broadcast on national radio.

We can thank Marieke Nelissen for the eye-catching drawings in this book: Made with ink and watercolors they are full of expression, but not distracting. Marieke Nelissen’s images are the perfect illustration for a folk tale about the power of imagination.

“Yokki and the Parno Gry” is the perfect read for a rainy weekend or a stormy night. Enjoy!

More information:

“Yokki and the Parno Gry”
written by Richard O’Neill and Katharine Quarmby
illustrated by Marieke Nelissen
Publisher: Child’s Play International
ISBN-13: 978-1846439278