“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

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„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

“All about cats” by Monika Filipina

Besides reading, there is one big passion in our family: Cats. Currently, there is just one feline living with us: Fleckli is part of our family for over 12 years now. She moved in as a frightened shelter-kitten when Immo and I were still studying. She and her friend Sakura, a stray from Austria, relocated to the US with us. Unfortunately, we had to let Sakura go shortly after Finja was born… By now, Fleckli is a healthy, confident cat lady. She’s definitely the head of the household – at least in her opinion… 🙂

Cats also are my professional passion. I’m founder and former chief editor of Germany’s first independent magazine for cats, Pfotenhieb, and work for a charity pet food line. As an avid reader, my biggest dream came true when a German publisher asked me to write a few books about cat care, cat health and cat nutrition…

So, it’s no surprise, that “All About Cats” from Monika Filipina immediately caught our eye! Another reason: The beautiful, funny book cover with multiple Felines peeking at us.IMG_9065

Finja and I couldn’t wait to start reading (and reviewing) the book!

Turning the first page, you see multiple cats looking at you through windows: Feeding cats, dreaming cats, angry cats, tranquil cats, sleeping cats, lurking cats and cat families. They are relaxing, waiting for their humans to return – or aren’t they? When you live with cats you probably know that the myth of cats sleeping the whole day is just that: A myth. But what exactly are cats up to as soon as we leave the house?

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Monika Filipina has some ideas… Do cats play, maybe even Tennis? Do they read? Do they bake? Or do they just curl up and sleep – just to wake up and make a big mess? Every page teems with wild, colorful cats doing “their” thing. Cupcake anyone? At least that would explain why the kitchen looks like a tornado just went through it after the cat’s “wild five minutes”. And what did the cat do with the wool – trying to knit a cozy sweater for the cold season? Every page causes chuckles. Finja loved to tell me what cats do and what they don’t – or do they? We burst out laughing a couple of times.

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Not all of the author’s suggestions might be serious. They show that cats are up to more than sleeping though! I lived and worked with cats long enough to know: No cat is like the other. Monika Filipina did a wonderful job giving each of her four-legged heroes a real personality: With just a few pencil strokes she captured proud black cats, tinkerer cats exploring any nook, long-haired beauties and calmer cat characters. Her colorful illustrations also show, that cats need more than a cozy pillow for a nap. What about a scratching post, so the angry black feline doesn’t need to rasp her claws over the bookshelf? What about hide treats through the house, so your cat can go searching for her personal pirate treasure while you are at school or work?

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“All about cats” is a fun, colorful book for preschool aged children and their parents. Child’s Play, a small independent publisher, did a great job bringing out this exciting book with extraordinary illustrations and an unconventional look at cat behavior! Open-ended questions provide lots of room for conversations. And the illustrations by the London based artist are just magical… I wish the publisher would offer art prints of these Felines:

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A guaranteed hit at story time!

More information:
“All about Cats”
written and illustrated by Monika Filipina
Grade Level: Preschool – 2
Publisher: Child’s Play International
ISBN-13: 978-1846439339

„That’s not a Hippopotamus“ by Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis

Which child doesn’t like the zoo? Finja loves visiting her favorite animals – and she always knows which to visit first. The jaguar always is number one – and then come the goats, the bungees or the lemurs, depending on her mood. The tree kangaroo always has to be part of our tour, too. I’m always in awe of the teachers who are handling a whole group of children without one of them wandering of!

„That’s not a Hippopotamus“ is fun to read and easy to love.
„That’s not a Hippopotamus“ is fun to read and easy to love.

That’s not a Hippopotamus“ by Juliette MacIver is a story about a school class visiting a wildlife park. “Don’s Safari” declares to have “every creature in the land, roaming wild, safe and free”. Looking at the list of animals the children soon realize that one animal is missing: The Hippopotamus. Don is sure the wild park is home to a hippo – and so the search begins. The hippo is really good at staying hidden among the other animals, and so the resolution to “fetch him in no time at all” end in lots of confusion. The self-declared hippo-hunters catch a giraffe, an elephant and even a skunk, but the hippopotamus stays just out of reach – always in the picture, newer spotted by the class. Only the shy Liam seems to be able to uncover the mammal’s disguise…

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„That’s not a Hippopotamus“ is fun to read and easy to love. A book for rainy days, snowy days, sunny days and whenever you or your child need some excitement in your life. The humor of the story is irresistible, the rhyme makes reading aloud extremely entertaining and Finja loved to scream “That’s NOT a hippopotamus!” after every mix-up. The illustrations by Sarah Davis are colorful and show real emotions. You can easily spot the anxious child in the diverse class, the more outgoing one, the loud one, the quiet one and the child that always is more careful than is classmates… Last but not least: Who doesn’t love a “search and find”-theme? Reading „That’s not a Hippopotamus“ can become a game: Who can spot the hippo first – you or your child? I have to be honest: Finja is way better at this than I am! 😉

„That’s not a Hippopotamus“ is a fun picture book for kids in pre- and elementary-school. Our daughter wanted to read it again and again and again and again (…) and will take it to preschool tomorrow. That’s definitely a ribbon of excellence from this little reader!

The book was published by “Gecko Press”, an independent publisher from New Zeeland. According to Gecko Press, the publishers aims to encourage children to love to read, because “one good book can spark a lifetime of reading”. Books like „That’s not a Hippopotamus“ definitely make it easy for kids to find their love for literature!

More information:
„That’s not a Hippopotamus“
written by Juliette MacIver
illustrated Sarah Davis
Publisher: Gecko Press (August 2016)
ISBN-13: 978-1927271964

“Getting ready”, illustrated by Cocoretto

Sometimes it feels like getting an almost-five-year old ready in the morning takes more time and patience than simply putting clothes on a newborn… Selecting “the right dress” and discussing about wearing or not wearing a rain jacket takes ages each morning!

The board book “Getting ready”, published by Child’s Play, was perfect for Finja’s current phase! It might be recommended for younger children, but is a wonderful book for independent little readers who want to discover a book without mom’s or dad’s help. Finja loved it so much that she decided to review it herself 🙂

Child’s Play is an independent publisher specialized in whole child development, focused play, life skills and values. “Getting ready” indeed is a fun little book for all ages! The author/illustrator team behind “Cocoretto” created a wonderful board book. Finja especially loved the tactile elements, which enabled her to discover and read it herself.

More information:
“Getting ready”, illustrated by Cocoretto
Age Range: 2 – 5 years
Series: Tactile Books
Board book: 12 pages
Publisher: Child’s Play International
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1846438868

“A year in our new garden” by Gerda Muller

After my last postings and the longer downtime you might have realized that we just moved. Our new home does not only have more rooms than the previous townhome (including an office!), but also a big yard. Almost an acre, to be honest – an acre, that has to be mowed and cared for, but also promises lots of fun for Finja and us. Finja jumped in right away: Armed with kid-sized garden utensils she started to seed, plant and organize right away. She loves to feed the squirrels and already set up an insect hotel with rooms for hibernating lady bugs, butterflies and bees. And sure, we got tons of kids gardening books as presents from family and purchased some ourselves.

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While unpacking the moving boxes I also discovered a wonderful book in my review copy box – „A year in our new garden“ seems to be written especially for Finja! So we finally read the book tonight after watering the recently planted herbs.

A year in our new garden” by Gerda Muller was published by Floris Books. Floris books is the largest children’s book publisher in Scotland, producing international picture books, activity books and the Kelpies and Picture Kelpies ranges of Scottish children’s books. You might remember our review of „Thistle games“, „Harris the hero“, „Otto and the secret light of Christmas“ and „Little fairy makes a wish“. “A year in our new garden” was first published in 1988 under the German title “Ein Garten für die Kinder aus der Stadt” – “A yard for the children from the city”.

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The story: Anna and Benjamin just moved into a new home with their family. Although in the middle of a busy town, the house featured a beautiful, big garden. Although the garden is “a mess”, the family has plans to make the place beautiful: Their mom wants a patio, Benjamin wishes for little plot with lots of flowers and a pond, Anna dreams of a vegetable patch. Soon the family starts mowing, seeding, pulling weeds and planting. With some helpful hints from neighbors and friends Anna and Benjamin’s yard starts to grow and flourish. The family has a busy, interesting and motivating year in the new garden!

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“A year in our new garden” is not just a goodnight story. It offers children and adults the opportunity to learn about plans, gardening and the different kinds of flowers and gives practical tips how to sow seeds, planting flowers in the right season, crafting with chestnuts and acorns and spotting wildlife. And did you know that you can make a crown from leaves? The book is the perfect companion for children who love to discover nature year around. I can’t imagine a child who wouldn’t be ready for gardening after reading the delightful story!

Finja already loves “A year in our new garden”, recognized lots of plants, can’t wait for collecting acorns in fall and has plans for a little pond, too. It seems Gerda Muller’s book is just the right fit for her! In general I would recommend the book for preschool- and elementary aged children. With lots of things happening on every page Gerda Muller’s book is great for toddlers, too!

The timeless illustrations of “A year in our new garden” are just like the book designs I remember from my childhood. They are gentle, but full of detail – different from today’s picture books, but in a good way!

More information:
A year in our new garden
Written by Gerda Muller
Publisher: Floris Books
ISBN-13: 978-1782502593

“Will you help Doug find his dog” by Jane Caston

I really must apologize for being offline for such a long time. Our move into a bigger home didn’t go as planned and we are still battling with a huge water damage. But: The books are safe and I can’t wait to get started on some new reviews!

The last three weeks were a little crazy for Finja. Reading helped her to keep her schedule and calm down after another exciting (and loud – think about fans, de-humidifier and air filter…) day. Look at this picture – do I need to tell more?

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One of the books she’s totally into is “Will you help Doug find his dog?” from one of my favorite publishers, Barefoot Books. “Will you help Doug find his dog” is a little different from the Barefoot books I selected so far. It’s not about diversity, it’s not about cultural literacy, but it’s about sharing the love of reading with your child and offering them a book they can discover by themselves.

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The story: Doug is devastated, he lost his dog… Luckily, Doug can count on the help of the young reader enjoying his story at this very moment. Together with Doug kids can sort through all the different dogs on the pages of the lovingly illustrated volume. Is Doug’s dog scruffy? Can you give all spotted dogs a pat? And tickle all small dogs? Finally, there is Doug’s dog!

“Will you help Doug find his dog” combines the idea of a search-and-find-book with interactive, sensory books like “Tickle my ears”. Lots of things are happening on the colorful pages, sorting and counting keeps children entertained and helps them to rediscover the story every time they pull “Will you help Doug find his dog” out of the bookshelf.

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The book from Jane Caston was illustrated by Carmen Saldana and is one of the books that keeps kids smiling and motivates them to “read” a book all by themselves. The publisher recommends “Will you help Doug find his dog?” for children between 1 and 5 years of age. Helping Doug find his dog is a fun way for preschoolers to practice early math skills, sort and spot similarities and differences! With lot of action on every page it’s a page turner for younger children as well.

“Will you help Doug find his dog?”
written by Jane Caston
illustrated by Carmen Saldana
Publisher: Barefoot Books
ISBN-13: 978-1782853206

„Gus’s garage“ by Leo Timmers

There are some books we don’t read once or twice, but three of four times – per evening. „Gus’s garage” by Leo Timmers is one of them.

Guss-Garage-cover-LROne of the reasons: Main character Gus is instantly likeable. The friends pig stores lots of curious things in his garage. Curious children will discover metal bins, an old fridge, a goldfish glass, a bathtub, some old piping, an old grandpa chair. What will he use them for? The next page brings the answer: Rhino Rico is complaining about the too small seat of his scooter. Gus has the answer: “Let’s see. I have some bits and bobs. This goes with that. There. Just the job!” Soon a happy Rhino leaves Gus’s garage on a completely remodeled scooter, sitting comfortable on his newly designed grandpa-chair-seat.

Will Gus find a way to help his other customers? Giraffe Gina is freezing her long neck off in the chilly air, while penguin Mrs. P “needs refrigeration”. Walrus Walter on the other hand is suffering what is, in his opinion, a too dry car… When the last customer of the day, rabbit Henry, is speeding away in his newly tuned up car, there is nothing more to do for Gus. Except: Inventing something for his own comfort…

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Leo Timmer’s story about going out of your way to help others features friendly Gus, who creates unique gismos to help his customers. Gus uses old garbage to invent something new, tailored to his friends’ needs. The colorful pictures by the author show how the pile of square parts in front of Gus’s garage slowly shrinks with each customer. Curious children will re-discover the abandoned parts in the newly renovated cars of Gus’s friends! The rhyming text is catching and Finja loved to read it with me: “Let’s see. I have some bits and bobs. This goes with that. There. Just the job!” Although the book is recommended for children age 5 to 7, it is a fun read for younger children, too.

Leo Timmers is one of Belgium’s most popular children books authors and we are glad Gecko Press brought „Gus’s garage“ to the US!

More information:
“Gus’s garage”
written and illustrated by Leo Timmers
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Gecko Press
ISBN-13: 978-1776570928

„The Beeman“ by Laurie Krebs

Did you know that I was an official Barefoot Book Ambassador in 2016? As someone who constantly has her nose in a book, promoting literacy and working with the great Barefoot community was the perfect fit! Well, that being said – I quickly discovered that direct marketing isn’t for me. A year later I still love Barefoot books and miss the discounts I got as an Ambassador. That doesn’t change that I’m not a seller, so I keep on reading and reviewing.

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Imagine my delight when I was offered review copies of the newest Barefoot books by one of the literacy agencies I’m working with! Sure, I said yes – and quickly re-discovered my love for Barefoot Books. Is there something better than unconventional, diverse children’s literature? Finja chose the first two books to read and review. One of them: “The Beeman” by Laurie Krebs, illustrated by Valeria Cis. “The Beeman” is one of the wonderful non-fiction books that teaches children about the real world and score with delightful pictures, an attention-grabbing storyline and rhymes.

Do you know where our honey comes from? Bees not only provide us with honey, their work as pollinator is important for our environment – but bees are critically endangered. “The Beeman” teaches little ones about bees, a bee man’s everyday life and why bees are neither scary nor dangerous, but important for our environment.

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The story: Grandpa, the bee-man, teaches his young grandson the basics of beekeeping. His relationships to his bees is one of friendship and respect. They are family. We discover the boxes where bees live and sleep – the “beehive”. We learn about different kinds of bees and their duties: What are worker bees for, how do you recognize drone bees and why is the queen so important for a bee colony? Did you know that the house bees dry up the nectar brought by worker bees to make honey? How will the bees survive in winter and how does the honey get from the honey comb into the bottle? Author Laurie Krebs wrote her rhyming story easy to understand, several pages of endnotes full of essential facts about bees and beekeeping are perfect for children and parents that have more questions. The recipe for “Grandma’s Apple and Honey Muffins” is a tasty activity for hungry readers.

I re-discovered my love for non-fiction when Finja started to ask questions about our world. “The Beeman” is one of the books I love for my preschool-aged daughter: Easy to understand and awakening curiosity. She’s able to discover “The Beeman” by herself, even if she’s not able to read yet. The illustrations by Valeria Cis are colorful and grasp her attention, but they are also true to fact. The publisher recommends “The Beeman” for age 5 to 9, in my opinion the book is already perfect for preschool aged children.

A wonderful book for curious children (and parents)!

“The Beeman”
Written By: Laurie Krebs
Illustrated By: Valeria Cis
Publisher: Barefoot Books
ISBN-13: 978-1846862601