„The snowflake mistake“ by Lou Treleaven

Are you excited about fall? We are enjoying red maple trees and the last warm late summer days here in Seattle. Finja is thinking ahead though and can’t wait for the first sled rides… Well, as it’s almost time to thinking of the Christmas packages that have to be send towards Germany we should better start getting into Christmas mood sooner than later!

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Luckily, our stack of review copies included a sweet story that just didn’t feel right for summer but is the perfect companion for this time of the year: “The snowflake mistake” by Lou Trelaven, published by the UK publishing house Maverick Books.

Did you know that the Snow Queen is a real perfectionist? Every snowflake has to be perfect. The glittery white flakes are created by the snow machine but will go through a quality control by the queen herself. Princess Ellie is way different. The spunky girl likes to race with the birds, to ride storm clouds and sliding over rainbows. Ellie loves adventure. She is excited when the Queen has to go on an errant and leaves Ellie in charge of the snowflake machine. But the adventure is soon turning serious when the machine fails, and Ellie has to find an alternative solution to create snow in winter… Luckily, Ellie has the situation under control with thinking out of the box and creating her own unique snowflakes.

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“The snowflake mistake” is a sweet story about creative thinking and problem-solving skills. Most children will be able to see themselves in Ellie, who might not meet her mother’s perfectionism, but has the ability to think out of the box. As parents, it reminds us to appreciate children’s creativeness and not fall into cookie-cutter-thinking. Finja especially loved the craft idea about how to make your own, unique snowflake at the end of the book!

“The snowflake mistake” was illustrated by Maddie Frost. Her bright illustrations make the book a fun read for younger children, too!

More information:
The snowflake mistake
Written by Lou Treleaven
Illustrated by Maddie Frost
Publisher: Maverick Arts Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-1848862180

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„A Tangle of Brungles“ by Shobha Viswanath

…and just like that, it’s October… When other people start stocking up Halloween candy, it’s our time to read season-inspired stories. Over the years, “Room on the broom” has become our favorite. Besides from a story about a skeleton here and a book about pumpkins there, no Halloween book was funny enough, lyrical enough and scary enough to live up to Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s classic. Until now…

In “A Tangle of Brungles”, a coven of mighty scary looking witches decides to summon the Brungle for one of them to marry. To conjure the dark, wicked and grotesque creature, they first must brew a special brew. The ingredients: A quiver of cobras, a lounge of lizard, a mischief of mice, a mess of iguanas and a knot of toads are just a few examples of the twisted ingredients the witches have to collect. Soon, the brew is bubbling, a bevy of swans and a banner of knights appear – but where is the Brungle?

Children will love discovering the different ingredients of the witch’s brew and learn some new collective nouns on the go. This definitely was a learning experience for me as a non-native-speaker, too!

The story by author Shobha Viswanath was published by Karadi Tales, an independent children’s publishing house based in Chennai, India. The autumnal illustrations by Culpeo Fox are a perfect mix of scary, autumnal and inspired by Indian culture. The character faces of the witches and the almost human appearance of different animals support the comical direction of the story. According to the publishing house, “A Tangle of Brungles” is perfect for children age 7-9. Depending on the child, I would recommend it for age 4 and up.

A Tangle of Brungles” is a fun Halloween story, that also familiarizes children with new collective nouns and can be a starting point for a discussion about India. This exciting book will definitely find a permanent place in our book shelf!

More information:
„A Tangle of Brungles“
Written by Shobha Viswanath
Illustrated by Culpeo Fox
Publisher: Karadi Tales Picturebooks
ISBN-13: 978-8181903600

„The truly brave princesses“, by Dolores Brown and Sonja Wimmer

„The truly brave princesses“ is a book that celebrates diversity and teaches little girls that princesses don’t just belong into fairytales.

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Author Dolores Brown shows that very few women resemble the perfect picture of a princess tales and movies represent. Eeal-life-princesses come in all shape and sizes, colors and sexual orientations: The girl in a wheelchair, the child with down syndrome, the elderly widow, the working mother and the lawyer helping to make the world a better place are just a few example of every day princesses around us. Some of them even don’t want to be called a princess – like astronaut Zoe, who retired her princess some time ago and now travels through distant space.

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The artwork by German illustrator Sonja Wimmer is truly amazing. She gives every princess a unique personality by using colorful watercolor images on a slightly structured background. I am not one for ripping pages out of a book, but I almost thought about framing her images!

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„The truly brave princesses“ was published by NubeOcho, a Spanish publishing house. The Egalité series of NubeOcho promotes equality with stories, “in which gender, race, sexual orientation or being different in anyway is part of the richness of our societies.” Almost all NubeOcho books were published in Spanish and English.

We really enjoyed reading a story of everyday princesses! After a few family tragedies and a long downtime from reviewing, “The truly brave princesses” was a great motivation to start writing reviews again. Also, we discovered that a soon-to-be-Kindergartener and a newly single mom are princesses in their own way!

“The truly brave princesses”
by Dolores Brown and Sonja Wimmer
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: NubeOcho
Series: Egalité
Hardcover: 44 pages
ISBN-10: 8417123385

„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

“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

“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

„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

“Henry and Boo” by Megan Brewis

It’s Halloween time! And, like every year, we binge-read our favorite book of the season: „Room on the broom“. Reading Julia Donaldson’s classic definitely changed in the last five years. While we could barely make it through all pages with a three-week-old infant in 2012, Finja memorized every page last year and now “reads” the book by herself. “Room on the broom” is a wonderful story about friendship and compassion being repaid in kindness.

“Henry and Boo”, a new release published by Child’s Play, might be totally different from our favorite Halloween read. It picks up the friendship-topic in a similar manner though: The book, written and illustrated by Megan Brewis, tells the story of an unlikely friendship. It all starts when dog Henry’s afternoon tea is interrupted by a purple rabbit sitting next to his tea pot, shouting “Boo!”.

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“Henry and Boo”, published by Child’s Play
“Boo!” seems to be the only word the unwelcome newcomer is able to pronounce, and so Henry soon tires of his new companion. But no matter how often the tries to get rid of “Boo”, “Boo” follows him everywhere and does whatever Henry does. “Boo” is not the only one, though: Attentive readers soon spot a dangerous, hungry bear stalking Henry… And just as Henry made the final decision to mail the annoying Boo far, far away, “Boo” jumps out of the mailing box, shouting his famous “Booo!” – scaring the attacking bear away and saving Henry’s life.

Megan Brewis has a wonderful illustration style: Her watercolor images with warm, stark colors are a pure eye catcher. And although I was getting a little wary of Finja shouting “Boo” over and over again, she loved the tale of an unlikely friendship. Henry and Boo’s story is written in an uncomplicated manner, perfect for toddlers and preschoolers eager to interact with a story.

One question remains though: Where did “Boo” come from? According to our five-year-old, “Boo” is a magical being. Or is he a stray rabbit, searching for a new home? No matter where “Boo” comes from: He might not have been welcomed at first, but he now makes Henry’s life a little brighter.

More information:
“Henry and Boo”
written and illustrated by: Megan Brewis
published by: Child’s Play
ISBN-13: 9781846439995