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baby radarThe unrhymed poem that comprises the text of this book makes it unusual and refreshing. It is a toddler’s stream of consciousness narration of an outing in the stroller. It cleverly evokes toddlers’ energy, curiosity, and distractibility: “Mama unstraps my belt/I climb out/run behind/Mine/Mine!/My wheels pushing/Mama calls me/but I won’t bump/a baby/Hey baby!/Hi baby!” The watercolor and ink illustrations are appropriately imprecise. Many pictures are done from the toddler’s perspective. In one, grownup faces loom down toward the stroller. In the foreground, a pudgy hand reaches up: “I want to pinch their noses.” The toddler’s antics recall Little Mister and the Max and Ruby books. This is a must for toddler and preschool story times. The author is known primarily for her poetry for adults. The illustrator has said that she tries to sneak her cat into every book she illustrates. Can you find it in Baby Radar?

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friendAlthough the limited number of colors used in the illustrations gives this title a dated look, it is a delightful story with distinctively stylized, amusing pictures done in heavy pen and ink. The equally amusing rhyming text describes the activities of a little boy who is good friends with the king and queen. The royal couple is constantly inviting him to join them for special occasions. His first response each time is to ask if he may bring a friend. The king and queen always graciously assure him that his friends are welcome, and so are called upon to entertain a giraffe, monkeys, lions, and other zoo animals. A similar story is Rod Campbell’s Dear Zoo. For a silly story time about animals in unusual situations for preschool children, pair this with Mercer Mayer’s There’s an Alligator Under My Bed and sing “Down by the Bay.” The illustrator, Beni Montresor, was a renowned Italian artist who received a knighthood for his work.

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wombatIn this tale of trickery in the Outback, Dingo catches a wombat to put in a stew. Other animals (including a platypus, an emu, and a kookaburra) hear him exulting over his prize and set out to ruin the stew before the wombat can be put in. Dingo, gleeful and clueless, readily agrees to all the suggestions for ingredients: mud, flies, gumnuts, etc. The illustrations depict these animals (who are rarely seen in picture books) fairly realistically, except for their anthropomorphized facial expressions and body language, Platypus’ hat, and Emu’s long, curly eyelashes. For storytime teach the song that Dingo repeats throughout the story: “Wombat stew,/ Wombat stew,/Gooey, brewy,/Yummy, chewy,/Wombat stew!” The simple tune is included on the final page of the book. It’s a crowd pleaser for ages four to eight and could be used with a large group. Marcia Vaughan lives on an island in Puget Sound (Washington). Pamela Lofts, an Australian author and illustrator, lived in Alice Springs, in the midst of the Australian Outback.

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vanThe family car; one day it’s clean and the next, the sparkle is gone. But isn’t that part of the fun? Ernst has created an entertaining tale about the family car and all that it experiences. The story starts with the father who has just finished cleaning the family van. And each following page introduces a new dynamic to the car and to the travels it takes. All too soon, the car is once again ready to be cleaned. Though, this time it is the kids turn to help.
The story is framed in a rhyme that builds on itself making each page a fun memory game. Children will be able to follow the story and repeat everything that has already happened. This allows for the reading dynamic to change into a fun sing-song activity. Those reading the story aloud are able to create a game out of the book to see what the listeners can remember, which means this book is perfect for large group reading. In a smaller setting, this book is wonderful as well. Families can read the book and enjoy parallels to their own lives and family car. Even better, children can learn how important it is to help clean up messes they make, the importance of working as a group, and most importantly how fun it can be to accomplish a goal and help their parents!
This is the Van that Dad Cleaned is great for lower elementary and preschool students who are ready for a humorous, charming, and very relatable rhyming tale.

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happy This classic tale, brought to life by husband-wife duo, was inspired by a true story from the 1950s. The happy lion of the story has been a part of children’s literature for more than 50 years and it is clear why. This is an endearing tale of a lion that has many friends when he is in his home at the zoo, yet finds his friends react differently when he takes an adventure outside of the comfort of his zoo home. Children will enjoy the wonderful images of story that feature a simple color palette and wonderful style of sketch illustrations.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the story is the great lesson children can take away from the story; to not be afraid of those who are different. The town learns to not fear the lion when a little boy approaches him and shows that the furry creature was simply looking for company and friendship. Happiness can come from the most curiously different situations and Fatio has created a story that will show readers just that.
This book is wonderful for lower and middle elementary school students. The story is simple and easy to understand with great big illustrations that are good for large or small group reading. Children will have a roaring good time with The Happy Lion!

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whatWe all have those moments when we wonder “what would happen, if…” Delphine Chedru has done a wonderful job of illustrating the after effect of silly situations in which kids find themselves and those that families experience in everyday life. From balloons floating away from a hand and a lonely bucket left on a beach, to what a teacher does for summer vacation, this book provides entertaining answers.
One wonderful quality about this book is the opportunity it provides for interaction. The pages are cleverly designed to conceal Chedru’s answer to her “What If…” questions until the reader flips open the opposite page’s fold-out. Readers can create their own solutions and fantastic tales to answer the questions the author poses before or after seeing the solution the author provides herself. The scenarios are all so relatable and even provide comfort for children who have experienced things like losing a balloon or leaving a toy behind.
This book is ideal for a group setting because it can spark wonderful, creative discussions among children listening and can easily be used for lower elementary and preschool groups who are learning to stretch their imaginations. Similarly, this book is great for one-on-one or personal reading where the same kind of imagination and creativity can be used.

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mud 2 Dianne Wolfer walked the Kokoda Track in 2002 and was inspired to write this picture book exploration of the complications of war after interviewing veterans. This book is recommended for older children and adults as it deals with violent and difficult themes. Photographs in the Mud follows the lives of both an Australian and Japanese solider during World War II during battles in Papua New Guinea. Wolfer and Brian Harrison-Lever balance both sides by giving the reader information about Jack, the Australian solider, and Hoshi, the Japanese soldier, and their families back home. Eventually, both men are injured in battle and lay beside each other. They share their photographs, but will they both be able to make it through the night?
The delicate, realistic pencil drawings contrast the horrors of the tale while giving life to the characters. Red paint splatters the page when both men are injured. This book is a chilling dedication to the men who fought in World War II along the Kokoda Track. Wolfer and Harrison-Lever finish the book with an inscription that can now be found along the track, “They are not dead; not even broken; Only their dust has gone back home to earth/For they; the essential they, shall have rebirth/Whenever a word of them is spoken.”

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