November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Series Nonfiction Publishers Try Their Hands at Early Learning

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Young learners are inquisitive in nature, focusing on both large- and small-scale learning—often at the same time. The world is literally their classroom. They are fascinated by their own sense of self, where they live, their families, pets, and everyday objects. They express interest in letter and number recognition and identifying animals, shapes, colors, and virtually anything else they can find in their own world. More and more series are focusing on introducing these basic concepts and areas to toddlers and preschoolers. The best will have simple text, inclusive photographs and illustrations, and a cohesive and repetitive structure. The series below represent solid starting points for this nonfiction trend.

Abbott, Victoria. What I Want to Be. illus. by Brett Curzon. ISBN 9781683427414; ISBN 9781683427933.

Ko, Hannah. Johnny’s Neighborhood. illus. by Nina de Polonia. ISBN 9781683427261; ISBN 9781683427780.

Nino, Carl. My Routine. illus. by Brett Curzon. ISBN 9781683427056; ISBN 9781683427575.

Rosen, Robert. It’s Too Noisy! illus. by Marcin Piworski. ISBN 9781683427186; ISBN 9781683427704.

Shah, Summer. My Great Body. illus. by Nina de Polonia. ISBN 9781683427001; ISBN 9781683427520.

––––. What Is This? illus. by Chiara Fiorentino. ISBN 9781683427025; ISBN 9781683427544.

ea vol: 24p. (All About Me). Rourke. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $29.93. pap. $8.95.

PreS-K –Covering a wide variety of topics (morning routines, transportation and safety vehicles, etc.), this series is of relevance to new learners interested in the larger world around them. Each title opens with a “Words to Know Before You Read” page that allows caregivers to have conversations with little ones before reading the actual text. Using emergent literacy techniques, such as picture walks, is also encouraged. It’s Too Noisy! is the strongest in that it presents a timely topic (noise pollution) in an easy-to-understand picture book format. Softly hued illustrations depict kids and their families; however, the artwork is a bit generic, as most of the characters resemble one another across volumes with only differences in skin tone and hair. ­VERDICT Consider for school and public libraries looking to incorporate nonfiction about everyday experiences for preschoolers.

Clark, Rosalyn. Feeling Angry. ISBN 9781 512433708.

––––. Feeling Happy. ISBN 9781512433685.

––––. Feeling Sad. ISBN 9781512433678.

––––. Feeling Scared. ISBN 9781512433692.

ea vol: 24p. (Bumba Books: Feelings Matter). further reading. index. photos. Lerner. Nov. 2017. lib. ed. $25.32.

Toddler-PreS –This series aims to introduce various emotions to young listeners as they learn not only what it means to feel such a way, but also how to effectively and simply process their experience. The texts follow a question-and-answer format and are loaded with full-color photographs that keenly display the type of feeling each child is emoting, making it easy for readers/listeners to identify the various emotions. The photographs also include differently abled children. VERDICT An essential purchase for early learning collections needing materials for toddlers and preschoolers that effectively introduce basic emotions.

Dinmont, Kerry. Alex Eats the Rainbow: A Book About Healthy Eating. ISBN 9781503820203.

––––. Amanda’s Fire Drill: A Book About Fire Safety. ISBN 9781503820364.

––––. Clara Is Left Out: A Book About Bullying and Kindness. ISBN 9781503820241.

––––. Dan’s First Day of School: A Book About Emotions. ISBN 9781503820197.

––––. David’s New Bike: A Book About Being Active. ISBN 9781503820234.

––––. Emily Goes to the Park: A Book About Healthy Habits. ISBN 9781503820210.

––––. Pearl’s New Tooth: A Book About Caring for Your Teeth. ISBN 9781503820227.

––––. Peter’s Bus Ride: A Book About Bus Safety. ISBN 9781503820357.

ea vol: 24p. (My Day Learning Health and Safety). further reading. glossary. photos. websites. The Child’s World. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $27.07.

PreS –The average preschooler’s learning day incorporates a vast amount of basic information, such as healthy eating, ­being a good friend, bus and fire safety, and more. This series introduces some of these conversations to young learners by using a brief word count, color photographs that offer visual cues, and definitions that are clear and easy to understand. A simple narrative guides readers through the topic experience while also imparting valuable lessons that tots can incorporate into their own routines. For example, in Pearl’s New Tooth, a new tooth sets off a discussion on brushing and flossing teeth, ­visiting the dentist, and how to avoid cavities. ­VERDICT A solid choice for early learning collections.

Donner, Erica. Big and Little. ISBN 9781620317501; ISBN 9781620317709.

––––. Fast and Slow. ISBN 9781620317518; ISBN 9781620317716.

––––. Hot and Cold. ISBN 9781620317525; ISBN 9781620317723.

––––. Light and Dark. ISBN 9781620317532; ISBN 9781620317730.

––––. Loud and Soft. ISBN 9781620317549; ISBN 9781620317747.

––––. Wet and Dry. ISBN 9781620317556; ISBN 9781620317754.

ea vol: 16p. (Opposites). index. photos. Jump!/Tadpole. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $24.21. pap. $6.99.

PreS –A clever look at opposites that often provides examples of the same object or person in divergent situations to clearly explain the concepts to young learners. A car or a river might go fast or slow, for example. The full-color photographs in each title offer strong visual clues for kids to recognize the differences between each object. This is especially important in Loud and Soft where interesting juxtapositions are presented: “A girl yells. It is a loud sound. A bee buzzes. It is a soft sound.” The accompanying photographs offer clear examples for little learners to decipher. Each title ends with a question asking for other examples of the opposites being presented, allowing for additional conversation and vocabulary building. VERDICT An accessible series on opposites, and a solid addition for early nonfiction collections.

Ghigna, Charles. Dial 911! ISBN 9781684100194; ISBN 9781684100729.

––––. Get Out, Stay Out! ISBN 9781684100293; ISBN 9781684100736.

––––. Plan and Prepare! ISBN 9781684100453; ISBN 9781684100743.

––––. Stop, Drop, and Roll! ISBN 9781684100514; ISBN 9781684100941.

ea vol: illus. by Glenn Thomas. 24p. (Fire Safety). further reading. glossary. w/CD. Cantata Learning. Sept. 2017. lib. ed. $33.99. pap. $7.95.

PreS-K –Fire safety is always a timely topic. This series blends music (CD included) with a catchy rhyming text to provide an upbeat and proactive look at being safe during a fire emergency. Each title stands alone, focusing on one important fire safety rule, such as calling 911 or planning and preparing an exit strategy at home. The entire series offers a cohesive, full-bodied look at fire safety without scaring young learners. The cartoon artwork has a vintage vibe. The music is also downloadable via a QR code. VERDICT A strong contender to update fire safety protocol in public and school collections.

James, Emily. How To Be a Good Citizen: A Question and Answer Book About Citizenship. ISBN 9781515771951.

––––. How To Be Respectful: A Question and Answer Book About Respect. ISBN 9781515772002.

––––. How To Be Responsible: A Question and Answer Book About Responsibility. ISBN 9781515772019.

––––. How To Be Tolerant: A Question and Answer Book About Tolerance. ISBN 9781515772026.

ea vol: 32p. (Character Matters). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $27.32.

K-Gr 1 –This series aims to tackle big topics such as being respectful and tolerant of others. A basic definition is provided at the start of each title. In How To Be a Good Citizen, for instance, readers learn that “being a good citizen means working to make your community a better place.” Examples include helping others and volunteering. The color photographs depict actions appropriate for young readers to follow and take, such as recycling materials. In How To Be Tolerant, one example features a boy who wants to join two girls in a “girls only” club. They decide to change the rules of their club to allow him to join. VERDICT A useful series for inspiring character building or teaching social emotional learning.

Jiménez, Vita. Happy to Be Me!: A Song About Friendship. ISBN 9781632907776.

––––. Making New Friends!: A Song About Friendship. ISBN 9781632907783.

––––. We Can Be Friends!: A Song About Friendship. ISBN 9781632907790.

––––. What Hands Can Do!: A Song About Friendship. ISBN 9781632907806.

ea vol: illus. by Janet Cheeseman. 24p. (Me, My Friends, My Community: Friendship). further reading. glossary. w/CD. Cantata Learning. Sept. 2017. lib. ed. $33.99.

PreS-K –Guided reading questions and texts set to music explore the various elements of friendship and being a good friend. Topics such as making new friends, being a respectful partner, celebrating individuality, and recognizing and accepting differences among peers are the main themes explored. Cartoonish and often exuberant illustrations effectively clarify the text and offer visual clues for primary aged readers. Children with different abilities are shown in the school-set artwork. The catchiness of the rhymes will make this most effective with young students in a classroom setting. VERDICT Consider for medium to large school libraries.

Murray, Julie. April. ISBN 9781532100185.

––––. August. ISBN 9781532100222.

––––. December. ISBN 9781532100260.

––––. February. ISBN 9781532100161.

––––. January. ISBN 9781532100154.

––––. July. ISBN 9781532100215.

––––. June. ISBN 9781532100208.

––––. March. ISBN 9781532100178.

––––. May. ISBN 9781532100192.

––––. November. ISBN 9781532100253.

––––. October. ISBN 9781532100246.

––––. September. ISBN 9781532100239.

ea vol: 24p. (Months). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $27.07.

Toddler-PreS –This set, intended for the smallest of readers, is a month-by-month walk through a year. Each book’s small trim size, white backgrounds, and crisp photographs are all designed to cater to little learners. Full-color photographs match the short texts well. However, the majority of children depicted appear to be white. Each title starts the same way, telling readers how many months there are in a year, how many days there are in the specific month, and highlights special events and general activities children and families might do during that time period. Definitions for certain words or famous people who are mentioned in each month are located on the back pages. VERDICT Consider for early learning collections and for preschools.

O’Connor, Stephen. Birds Can Fly and a Fly Goes Buzz!: Tricky, Sticky Words. ISBN 9781632907950.

––––. Brush Your Gums and Chew Some Gum: Tricky, Sticky Words. ISBN 9781632907967.

––––. An Exciting Tale and an Animal’s Tail: Tricky, Sticky Words. ISBN 9781632907981.

––––. Put on Your Glasses and Drink from a Glass: Tricky, Sticky Words. ISBN 9781632907974.

ea vol: illus. by Annabel Tempest. 24p. (Read, Sing, Learn: Homophones!). further reading. glossary. w/CD. Cantata Learning. Sept. 2017. lib. ed. $33.99.

PreS-Gr 1 –Homophones and homonyms are delightfully challenging, as this simple series attests. The refrain “Words can be tricky, words can be sticky” is repeated throughout this musical, rhyming set. A note to parents and teachers begins each title, explaining why daily reading and singing is vital to young learners. Three titles feature homonyms, while An Exciting Tale and an Animal’s Tail focuses solely on homophones. Clear and colorful illustrations and upbeat lyrics keep the texts from getting clunky. The rhymes will grow on young listeners as they follow along and understand the distinctions between words that sound the same but have different meanings. ­VERDICT Strongly consider for collections that need to update existing titles on homonyms and homophones.

Pettiford, Rebecca. Different Abilities. ISBN 9781620316672; ISBN 9781620317204.

––––. Different Appearances. ISBN 9781620316689; ISBN 9781620317211.

––––. Different Cultures. ISBN 9781620316696; ISBN 9781620317228.

––––. Different Families. ISBN 9781620316702; ISBN 9781620317235.

––––. Different Interests. ISBN 9781620316719; ISBN 9781620317242.

ea vol: 24p. (Celebrating Differences). diag. glossary. photos. websites. Jump!/Bullfrog. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $25.65. pap. $6.99.

PreS-Gr 1 –Five strong titles designed to show tiny learners that anything is possible, as seen in Different Abilities, or that not all families look alike, as evidenced in Families. Each title opens with suggestions for adults as they guide young readers through the text using picture walks, discussing the cover photos, and studying the picture glossary in the back. Sharp, detailed color photographs easily tie into the short and factual text, encouraging students to talk about the illustrations and what they show. Families attempts in its small format to include a wide variety of households; for example, foster children, grandparents as primary caretakers, same-sex parents, and biracial families. Each title in the series ends with a question designed to keep the conversation going. VERDICT A well-thought-out series and a first purchase for early learning collections in school and public libraries.

Raatma, Lucia. Brothers Are Part of a Family. ISBN 9781515774617; ISBN 9781515774716.

––––. Fathers Are Part of a Family. ISBN 9781515774631; ISBN 9781515774723.

––––. Grandfathers Are Part of a Family. ISBN 9781515774587; ISBN 9781515774693.

––––. Grandmothers Are Part of a Family. ISBN 9781515774549; ISBN 9781515774679.

––––. Mothers Are Part of a Family. ISBN 9781515774655; ISBN 9781515774730.

––––. Sisters Are Part of a Family. ISBN 9781515774600; ISBN 9781515774709.

ea vol: 24p. (Our Families). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $21.99. pap. $6.95.

Toddlers-PreS –Full-color photographs feature young children and their families in this set that explores the members of an immediate family. Each starts with a simple definition of what that person (brother, father, grandmother) might do, such as a grandmother who is a doctor, one who goes for walks on the beach with a grandchild, or another who helps her granddaughter bake. Fathers and Mothers both include photos of same-sex families. However, the cumulative effect of reading this series is that in order to make a family one needs to fill these roles, which may dismay kids who don’t have brothers, sisters, etc. VERDICT A solid beginning point for larger libraries that serve toddlers and preschoolers.

Schuh, Mari. Crayola Fall Colors. ISBN 9781512432916.

––––. Crayola Summer Colors. ISBN 9781512432909.

Shepherd, Jodie. Crayola Spring Colors. ISBN 9781512432923.

––––. Crayola Winter Colors. ISBN 9781 512432930.

ea vol: 24p. (Crayola Seasons). photos. Lerner. Sept. 2017. lib. ed. $26.65.

PreS-K –Besides introducing popular seasonal activities, this series also spotlights drawing techniques such as shadowing, texture, lines, and shapes. A question-and-answer format inspires young readers to comment and expand upon the text. Vivid vocabulary is sprinkled throughout to engage students and introduce new words, such as nectar, checkered, and harvest. Winter explores how bright colors stand out from dull ones and asks readers to identify and sort different squares of color into bright and dull. Each title in the series ends with a Crayola color guide that labels the colors in each book with some of the uniquely named colors found in a Crayola box of crayons, such as “dandelion,” “timberwolf,” and “cornflower.” VERDICT A fine choice that encourages readers to both explore their creativity and learn about artistic terms and colors in nature. Useful for primary elementary collections and medium to large public libraries.


This season’s look at early learning series will help caregivers, librarians, and teachers introduce both simple and complex topics. Many use picture walks, guided questions and discussions, and other critical thinking techniques to encourage young learners to talk more about the stories and ideas presented and to increase vocabulary and language gains. Preschoolers will identify with the emotions explored in Lerner’s “Bumba Books: Feelings Matter” and in Jump!’s “Celebrating Differences.” Early elementary school students will sing along as they get to know words that sound or look alike in Cantata Learning’s “Read, Sing, Learn: Homophones!” series, while their artistic side will be inspired in Lerner’s “Crayola Seasons.” Young learners will certainly enjoy developing their social emotional skills throughout these series.

Lisa G. Kropp, Lindenhurst Memorial Library, NY

This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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