My First Day by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Steve Jenkins is remarkably prolific, both as an illustrator and an author. In fact, The Beetle Book is on the The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books list this year and he and his wife and frequent collaborator Robin Page won a Caldecott Honor for their book What Do you Do with a Tail Like This? Remarkably, sadly, I have never reviewed any of his books - until now!

Jenkins is known for his stunning illustrations, crisp-edged, brightly colored collages as much as he is known for his presentation of information in a way that speaks directly to young readers. In his acceptance speech for the Boston Globe Horn Book Award (Top of the World, 2000) Steve said of his work, in my books, I try to present straightforward information in a context that makes sense to children. Children don't need anyone to give them a sense of wonder; they already have that. But they do need a way to incorporate the various bits and pieces of knowledge they acquire into some logical picture of the world. For me, science provides the most elegant and satisfying way to construct this picture." This comes through in all of his books which are as visually appealing as they are compellingly written. There are scores of books about baby animals out there, but with My First Day Jenkins and Page are the first to hone in on the experience of the first day of life which, for so many animals, is akin to hitting the ground running, either literally or figuratively. The book begins by asking, "What did you do on your first day - the day you were born? Probably not much." From there, every page features an animal, sometimes alone, sometimes with a mother, saying, "On my first day..." The animals featured range from the common (giraffe, tiger, otter, sea lion) to the uncommon (sifaka, capybara, tapir, parent bug, Darwin's frog.) The animals are chosen for the wide range of experiences they have on their first day of life,  from being pushed out of a nest, racing to the water and, in the case of the Darwin's frog, crawling out of his father's mouth where he lived as a tadpole in a special pouch in dad's throat. 

While I couldn't find any images from My First Day at the time of writing this review, I included a few from other books by Jenkins to give you an idea of his illustrative and graphic style. Along with zoologist and children's book author Nicola Davies, Jenkins and Page are doing wonders to open up the world of animals and make nonfiction interesting to young readers in new and innovative ways. I hope you will be inspired to look for Jenkins next time you are at a bookstore or library - his books are definitely worth buying and reading over and over!

More books by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page:

Bees, Snails, and Peacock Tails: Patterns and Shapes...NaturallyHello Baby!Time to EatTime for a BathTime to SleepMove! big bookJust a Second: A Different Way to Look at TimeHottest, Coldest, Highest, DeepestBiggest, Strongest, FastestThe Beetle BookHow Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly?What Do You Do When Something Wants To Eat You?Animals in FlightWhat Do You Do with a Tail Like This? PBPrehistoric Actual SizeNever Smile at a Monkey: And 17 Other Important Things to RememberDown, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the SeaActual SizeBones: Skeletons & How They WorkDogs and Cats (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)The Top of the World: Climbing Mount EverestLiving ColorLooking DownBig and Little

What Happens Next? and Who Lives Here? by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Marc Boutavant

Nicola Davies is a zoologist and, fortunately for kids and parents, a fantastic kid's book author. From poetry (Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature) to very funny non-fiction books about animals (Talk, Talk Squawk and four others in the series) to the wonderful Flip the Flap and Find Out series, to which she has just added two new books. Earlier this year the series, illustrated by Marc Boutavant, kicked off with What Will I Be? and Who's Like Me?

Geared toward toddlers with good attention spans, these books have thick, sturdy pages and are a stepping stone between board books and traditional picture books, both in format and content. Davies has a way with presenting her information and making it palatable to even the littlest listeners. In What Happens Next? we take a trip through the animal kingdom and learn different behaviors. One page reads, "Here are two chimps who want some food. Here's a mound full of tasty termites - but it's hard as a rock." A 3/4 page on the right hand side flips to reveal the picture below.

Beavers, chameleons, peacocks and honey bees also get a closer look. The final page of the Flip the Flap and Find Out series is always a recap of the information in the book, asking readers to match up animals and habits with a final flap that features a child doing something that humans do.

Who Lives Here? returns to the format of the first two books. A full page illustration takes up the left hand side of the page while the right features four colorful flaps to lift and answer the question. The jungle, a pond, a grassland, the ocean and the Arctic are visited in this book. The final page shows all the animals and habitats with a flap that looks like a house to lift and answer the question, "Who lives here?"

Source: Review Copy



I can't believe that I didn't know that  Take Your Child to a Bookstore was a thing! It is! And, it's very well organized! There are over 400 bookstores participating this year with special story times and other events worth checking out. Click HERE to see a fantastic map of the US locating all the bookstores who will have fun things going on this Saturday. Click on the book on the map for the name of the store AND a link to their website so you can get all the details.

And while you are at the bookstore having fun with your kids, taking a look at all the fantastic new books out there, maybe even sitting down and reading a few, I have one thing to ask of you:  PLEASE BUY A BOOK OR TWO. It won't kill you to pay full price for a book once in a while. Think of it this way, independent bookstores are like public radio - they are a great, entertaining and free. Depending on where you live these days, you can go into a bookstore and browse. You can feel the books, smell the books and talk to someone who is equally, if not more, enthusiastic about books in the form of a bookseller or another customer. You can't do that online. But, like public radio, bookstores can't exist without our support. If we use bookstores as a showroom and continue to shop online for lower prices, we will lose our showroom. It's that simple.

So, please treat your child to a visit to a bookstore and buy a book while you are there!

A few amazing children's bookstores that might be near you, and a link to Delightful Children's Books, which has an even better list of bookstores, links and lovely pictures of kids and parents having a ball...

Books of Wonder, NYC

Hicklebee's, San Jose, CA

A Children's Place, Portland, OR

Green Bean Books, Portland, OR

Porter Square Books, Boston, MA

Wild Rumpus Books, Minneapolis, MN 

One More Page Books, Arlington, VA

How to Be a Detective by Dan Waddell, illustrated by Jim Smith

How to Be a Detective by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Jim Smith, is yet another fantastically fun interactive book from the superb Candlewick Press, the fine publisher who brought us the excellent Ologies as well as a series of amazing interactive non fiction books featuring Marco Polo, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens and Cleopatra.

How to Be a Detective is definitely for starter-sleuths and is a very basic introduction to searching for clues, analyzing evidence and solving the case. Kids over the age of nine or ten might be a bit disappointed with How to Be a Detective and are probably better off with Spyology, which is more complex and detailed. How to Be a Detective comes with a kit that includes a tiny ink pad, a periscope and other goodies to help when the game is afoot. Waddell begins by introducing readers to Sherlock Holmes, including a letter to the reader from this great detective, and promises to help the reader "find out what it takes to be a sleuth and solve baffling cases." There are snippets from Holmes's casebook, instructions on how to analyze a crime scene and how to take fingerprints as well as tips on how to track and trace. Each page has flaps to lift and things to discover and ideas on how to use the tools that have been included with the book. Waddell takes his book to the next level with rules of surveillance, methods for observing people, how to make a "wanted" poster, how to collect the truth and weed out the lies when interviewing suspects, including a page on reading body language, and even a spread on handwriting analysis!

Speaking as someone who, after reading Harriet the Spy as a kid, ran out and bought a marbled composition book to write my observations in, a book like How to Be a Detective would have been right up my alley and definitely made my parents even edgier than they already were...

Dan Waddell is also the author of the fantastic book on another kind of detective work, Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are? Be a Family Tree Detective by Dan Waddell, illustrated by Warwick Johnson Caldwell

Before I begin this review, I need to say that I did not realize Who Do You Think You Are is a television show featuring celebrities looking into their family trees... When Who Do You Think You Are : Be a Family Tree Detective hit the shelves of the bookstore where I was working, it seemed like a coo way for kids to delving into their family history. Especially around the holidays when families get together and kids have the chance to ask questions and listen to stories. So, my apologies for inadvertently promoting a television show here, however peripherally.

An interactive book, Who Do You Think You Are : Be a Family Tree Detective comes with all sorts flaps, envelops and goodies that are best discovered by watching the book trailer below. There is an actual family tree poster to be filled in along with a book tucked into the back of the book called "My Treasures" that allows the reader to fill in facts about herself/himself that will help the next generation in filling out the family tree. The book begins by explaining genealogy and includes a "jargon buster" every few pages that is a glossary of terms related to the subject. Next, readers are given tips on how to trace their own family origins, including an explanation of genes. There are interview tips, including a great list of questions to ask. There is a spread that talks about names and how to decode a surname as well as tips on how to use the internet to research family history. Readers learn how to look at photos and examine clothes to determine the time period as well as how to follow a paper trail from birth, marriage and death certificates to reading the census. Waddell uses the final pages of the book to help readers assemble facts about themselves, how to best fill out the treasure book and how to put together a time capsule for future generations!

Cinderella : A Three-Dimensional Fairy-Tale Theater by Jane Ray

I adore the illustrations of Jane Ray. She has had a long and prolific career and I have reviewed her books The Dollhouse Fairy, The Twelve Days of Christmas and Classic Fairy Tales Told by Bertie Doherty, which she illustrated. Her illustrations are detailed, colorful and magical. But, above all else, they are diverse. And by that I mean not everybody is white. Along with the wonderful Marla Frazee (and a few others I apologize for forgetting here...) she is probably the most consistent with her representation of a range of cultures in her illustrations.
All of this combines to make her the perfect artist to bring us a three-dimensional fairy-tale theater edition of this classic story, which is divided into six acts. The text of the story appears on either side of the stage/page with the illustration itself telling much of the story. This is the kind of book that you pore over, the kind of book you prop open then lay on the floor and gaze into. The kind of book you give as a gift! 

For a better view of the interior of the book, watch this brief book trailer- then find a little girl to give it to!

3D Expanding Pocket Guides from Candlewick Press


Once again, the amazing Candlewick Press is behind books that are beautiful, fun and even educational. And, in this case, relatively inexpensive! Stunning artist Sarah McMeney is the creator of these fantastic, pocket size guides that make traveling with a kid so much easier. I am of the belief that any trip can be made more exiting (or tolerable) when kids are given books that will inform and guide them on their adventure. These 3D Expanding Pocket Guides are ideal because they are small, light and inexpensive ($8.99!!!!) and have the added attraction for kids of being interactive. The newest book in the series features the Metropolitan Museum of Art, highlighting twelve galleries, rooms and courts that will appeal most to young visitors and including a map on the last two folds. McMeney illustrates her subjects with a bright, colorful palette, paper engineering giving each spread an in depth perspective. A brief descriptive paragraph accompanies each feature as well. This is the first book in the series to feature a museum rather than a city (see below) and I hope that McMeney continues to create these fantastic 3D Expanding Pocket Guides to other great museums around the world!