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Messner, Kate.
Over and Under the Pond. Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. Chronicle, 2017. 40 pages (978–1–4521–4542–6)

Ages 4-8

The activity above and beneath the water of a pond on which a boy and his mother are paddling a canoe as sunset approaches is distinct yet parallel in this lyrical account. Over the pond a blackbird flies with grass for her nest, a moose eats water lilies, a young goldfish is ready to fly. Under the pond, caddisfly larva makes a home in pebbles and sand, a beaver eats roots, tadpoles begin to transform into frogs. Each over/under pairing emphasizes both what the boy can see and what his mother knows about the natural world. End matter provides more information about pond ecosystems and the behavior of animals mentioned. The mixed-media illustrations on matte paper capture life above and beneath the water in strikingly composed scenes from a variety of perspectives. The boy and his mother are Black. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Lamba, Marie, and Baldev Lamba.
Green Green: A Community Gardening Story. Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017.  32 pages (978–0–374–32797–2)

Ages 3-7

“Green green / fresh and clean. Brown brown / dig the ground,” begins this story as a group of children play in a grassy meadow and tend to a sprawling backyard garden. Soon, though, “brown brown / dig the ground” takes on  a less pleasant meaning, as bulldozers and trucks begin clearing the land to make way for new buildings. Grass and flowers become stone and metal as the city expands. In the midst of the concrete jungle, what was once a grassy lot becomes a makeshift junkyard. Gardens are reduced to planters on balconies. Then one day, a little girl with a shovel turns the book’s familiar refrain into a question. “Brown brown / dig the ground?” An affirming “Brown brown / dig the ground!” sounds as a diverse group of neighbors gathers in a large lot to remove the litter, till the earth, and plant seeds. The garden they create grows into a colorful, verdant, once-again-sprawling place of beauty in the midst of the city. Sánchez’s illustrations are as vibrant as the community garden that blooms in these pages. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Smith, Monique Gray. You Hold Me Up. Illustrated by Danielle Daniel. Orca, 2017. 32 pages (978–1–4598–1447–9)

Ages 3-8

What does it mean to hold someone up? To give and receive support? A series of simple, declarative statements offers answers to those questions for young children. “You hold me up when you share with me.” Or play, or learn, or laugh, or sing, or listen with me. “You hold me up when you comfort me.” Or respect me. Each action statement is accompanied by a full-page image of individuals engaged in the stated behavior in a book that creates space for children to talk about what each action means, and/or to think about how it might look in their own life. The author is Cree and Lakota and the full-page gouache, acrylic, and pencil illustrations show Indigenous children and adults in images that are stylized but have the warm emotional weight of scenes from real life in a picture book that affirms the importance and power of acts of kindness and connection. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Fleming, Candace. Go Sleep in Your Own Bed! Illustrated by Lori Nichols. Schwartz & Wade, 2017. 32 pages (978–0–375–86648–7)

Ages 2-4

A pleasingly circular barnyard story in which each animal, asleep in the wrong bed, is awakened in turn by the animal who belongs there with the repeated command: “Go sleep in your own bed!” But each one finds an interloper, who is given the same command. In the end the last creature, a cat, is picked up from his spot on the porch and carried inside by a little girl who happily shares her bed with him. With the strong pattern and repetition, as well as the funny species-specific interjections and onomatopoeia, this will make a terrific read-aloud for young children. The amusing acrylic illustrations give added personalities to each of the animals.  ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Hest, Amy. Buster and the Baby. Illustrated by Polly Dunbar. Candlewick Press, 2017. 32 pages (978–0–7636–8787–8)

Ages 2-4

Buster is a scruffy little white dog who delights in hiding from an active toddler. Thump, thump, thump goes his heart as he waits to be found under the table, behind an arm chair, behind a large teddy bear. Each time baby is equal to the task, finding Buster with squealing and whirling as the two play throughout the day. Hest’s patterned text and Dunbar’s lively illustrations capture the anticipation and excitement of waiting to be found in the classic game of hide-and-seek, one that has a playful reversal and cozy conclusion as the day draws to a close.  ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Sidman, Joyce. Round. Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. 32 pages (978–0–544–38761–4)

Ages 3-6

“I love round things,” says the young child narrator of this picture book, who goes on to give examples of round things found in nature, from the obvious (oranges, seeds) to the harder-to-find (rings on a tree stump, small butterfly eggs). Some things that don’t start out round become round with time (a mushroom grows into its curves; once-jagged rocks smooth over many years). Round can be ephemeral (bubbles, ripples in a pond) or forever (the moon and stars). “I can be round, too,” the girl says, “in a circle of friends” or curled up alone. Intimate yet expansive, the simply stated observations are childlike even as they suggest a deep, visceral human response to roundness: the desire to touch, the feeling of being secure. Brief examples at story’s end reference both science and aesthetics in discussing why so many things in nature are round. Ample curves in the flat, naïve-style illustrations featuring bright colors with a muted, slightly retro feel complement the quiet narrative.  ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Oikawa, Kenji, and Mayuko Takeuchi.
Circle, Triangle, Elephant! A Book of Shapes & Surprises. Translated from the Japanese. U.S. edition: Phaidon, 2017. 20 pages. (978–0–7148–7411–1)

Ages 1-3

In this delightful board book featuring three stacked objects on each page, the expectation of a simple pattern of geometric shapes (“Triangle, circle, square / Circle, rectangle, triangle”) is interrupted when an elephant makes a sudden appearance on page three (“Triangle, elephant ?!, circle”). After that all bets are off as each flip of the page throws an unexpected object into the mix. Expertly playing on the concept of humor through incongruity, this silly book would make an excellent read-aloud with a group or one-on-one. Clear illustrations also invite children to participate in a point-and-say reading experience. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Kvasnosky, Laura McGee. Little Wolf’s First Howling. Illustrated by Laura McGee Kvasnosky and Kate Harvey McGee. Candlewick Press, 2017.  24 pages (978–0–7636–8971–1)

Ages 3-7

Little Wolf is eager to go out at night with his father, Big Wolf, to learn how to howl. As the moon begins to rise, Big Wolf demonstrates a howl that ends with a lengthy “ooooooooooo.” Little Wolf’s first attempt starts strong but his enthusiasm gets the better of him as he brings it to a close: “I’m hoooowling, ’oooowling, ’ooooowling!” Which isn’t, Big Wolf notes, “proper howling form.” Big Wolf demonstrates. Little Wolf tries again. This time, his howl starts strong and ends with a jazzy “dibbity dobbity skibbity skobbity skooo-wooooo-woooooooooooo.” Big Wolf praises Little Wolf for many things. “But your howling. It is not proper howling form.” So they try again. This time, Little Wolf ’s ending is even more unrestrained. And Big Wolf can’t help it: he starts tail-wagging and ear-twitching and paw-tapping along. Distinctive digitally rendered paintings reminiscent of colored block prints create an inviting backdrop for a story begging to be howled aloud. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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by Irene Dickson. U.S. edition: Nosy Crow / Candlewick, 2016

Ages 2-4


Two kids. Two sets of blocks. Two separate building projects. When Benji, who is building with blue blocks, wants one of Ruby’s red blocks, he takes it. She grabs it back. In the ensuing push and pull of “Mine!” they stumble and both of their towers come crashing down. “Uh-oh.” Momentary regret becomes shared opportunity as Ruby and Benji begin building with both red and blue blocks—together. A square, slightly oversized picture book unfolds in clean-lined, uncluttered, inviting mixed-media illustrations. A handful of well-chosen words pair with images that have much to notice, like the fact that Ruby’s clothes match the red blocks and Benji’s match the blue. At volume’s end they are joined by Gus, whose shirt and blocks are green. “What will they do now?” The answer in this picture book showing three racially diverse children is suggested on the closing endpapers. Isn’t cooperation grand? © 2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Baby Goes to Market 
by Atinuke. Illustrated by Angela Brooksbank. U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2017

Ages 2-4

A busy mama at a traditional Nigerian market carries a large basket on her head and a small baby on her back. As she goes from stall to stall making her purchases, she doesn’t notice that Baby is on a shopping expedition of his own. Each place Mama stops, Baby attracts the attention of a shopkeeper who gives him something to eat—six bananas, five oranges, four chin-chin biscuits, three roasted sweet corns, and two pieces of coconut. Baby eats one of each and puts the rest into the basket on top of his mother’s head. She is completely oblivious to it all until she realizes how heavy her basket has gotten and is surprised to see it filled with things she didn’t buy. Even once the shopkeepers explain, she doesn’t realize Baby has been eating all along and is eager to get home and feed her (presumably) hungry child. The humorous patterned text is filled with specific cultural references, which are reinforced in the detailed multimedia illustrations by an artist who grew up in Ghana and Nigeria. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center



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Owl Bat Bat Owl
by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick. U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2017

Ages 2-5


A family of owls is sound asleep on the top of a branch when a family of bats arrives and hangs from the bottom. The startled owls all awaken, but soon doze off again. The bats do the same. All except the smallest owl and the smallest bat, who are curious about each other. The two adults awaken and admonish them. They all fall asleep. Then it begins to blow, a fierce, strong wind that knocks owls and bats off the branch and in every direction. The two frantic adults begin swooping after their youngsters and returning them to safety, quickly going from saving their own young one to saving the nearest young one they reach. Is it any wonder a beautiful family friendship is the result? The warmth of this wordless story is trumped only by its charm. The visual narrative is easy to follow and yet there is so much to notice, from the ever-changing expressions— those eyes!—of the owls and bats to the small, secondary story of a spider on the tree, to the marvelous palette, and the pattern of symmetry and its disruption. Everything is intentional and perfect in a story sure to be requested again and again. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Hooray for Birds! 
by Lucy Cousins. U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2017

Ages 2-4


With her signature bold black outlines and flat colors, Cousins engages the picture-book set from page one, encouraging young children to imagine themselves as birds, waking up and shouting, “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” Each page focuses on a sound or movement that will be easy for children to imitate or act out (“Scratch the ground with your feet / Catch a fly with your beak.”) and each one offers a picture clue showing a brightly colored bird. The uncluttered pages and large format of the book both make it easy for children to see, and they will all be flapping, hopping, and pecking along until it’s time to—“Whoo! Whoo!” —say good-bye. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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