Early Childhood

When Andy Met Sandy, by Tomie dePaola

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When Andy Met Sandy_web.jpgALSC Notable Book 2017. In this first Andy and Sandy book, geared toward emerging independent readers, Andy arrives at the playground thinking, “Today I have the place to myself!” Meanwhile, someone new appears—Sandy, who’s thinking, “I’ve never been to this playground before.” Initially, they each play separately but, gradually, they both realize that certain activities, like kicking the ball and swinging, might be more fun together. It’s when they spy the seesaw, however, that those thoughts become spoken words, and after enjoying their seesaw ride, they announce simultaneously, “We are friends!” Spare, uncomplicated text makes this easy to read for little ones starting out on their own, and dePaola’s ever-appealing multimedia illustrations subtly reinforce the concept through Andy’s and Sandy’s varying perspectives. The scenario and supportive, insightful approach will likely resonate with many kids, especially shyer ones, highlighting how reaching out can bring rewards like fun and friendship.

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson

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schools first day of school_web.jpgALSC Notable Book 2017. First-day jitters are a frequent picture-book topic, but this one has a surprising twist: the nervous one is the school building. Frederick Douglass Elementary is a brand-new school, and so far, he only knows the janitor. The first day is coming, however, and School is worried that the kids won’t like him. First, he overhears some older kids say they hate school; then a freckled girl doesn’t even want to come inside. “I must be awful,” School thinks to himself. But soon, the day picks up. He hears a funny joke at lunchtime, he learns about shapes, and the freckled girl paints a lovely picture of him that the teacher pins to the wall (it hurts a little, but School doesn’t mind). Robinson’s blocky, naive-style paintings set just the right tone, and the subtle faces on all the buildings hint that School’s not the only building with feelings. Meanwhile, Rex doesn’t play the gag only for laughs; rather, he seamlessly weaves School’s dialogue into the tale, as if he’s just another student in the classroom. With bold illustrations featuring a diverse array of children and text that’s ideal for reading aloud, this charming reversal of first-day-of-school nerves will delight little ones and help put their own anxieties at bay.

A Hungry Lion; or, A Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins

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a hungry lion_web.jpgALSC Notable Book 2017. Animals disappear one by one, except for a hungry lion. Perhaps the lion is to blame, but could there be another explanation for these rapidly disappearing critters? Cummins’ enjoyably repetitive text and droll illustrations give each animal a personality, despite their pending departure, from the stand-out sauciness of the lion to the affable nature of the ever-present turtle. The stark backgrounds play this up and allow each character to stand out. They reappear at a surprise party, but the tables turn–again (and again)–until ultimately one unexpected survivor remains. All the carnage (both real and assumed) takes place off-page, potentially furthering confusion caused by the story’s many twists. Illustrations in brush marker, gouache, graphite, colored pencil, and charcoal playfully contrast with the macabre undertones.

Horrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman illustrated by Zachariah Ohora

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horrible bear_web.jpgALSC Notable Book 2017. Hoping to retrieve her kite, a girl reaches into sleeping Bear’s cave just as he rolls over, inadvertently crushing it beneath him. “Horrible Bear!” she shrieks and then stomps home to scribble, kick, and (accidentally) rip the ear off her stuffed bunny. Meanwhile, Bear is indignant over being so rudely awakened, and he is bent on revenge. He practices barging and making a ruckus, eventually stomping down the mountain to the girl’s house. When the two meet, however, the girl (who now realizes accidents just happen) immediately apologizes, draining all the horrible out of Bear. He becomes Sweet Bear, dedicated to patching up toys and friendships. The creators of Wolfie the Bunny (2015) explore the common childhood experiences of accidents and misunderstandings with sensitivity and humor. A perfectly over-the-top look at tantrums, friendship, and forgiveness that is sure to resonate with preschoolers and parents alike.

On One Foot by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Nuria Balaguer

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on one foot_web.jpgAJL Notable Book 2017. This is the famous Jewish fable of a young man who challenges the great sage Rabbi Hillel to teach him the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel cleverly responds, “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you. That is the whole Torah—the rest is commentary.” This picture book, while not crediting its Talmudic source, is an expansion of that incident, offering motivation for the odd request and showing the student experiencing reciprocal behaviors during his quest for the perfect teacher. The collage illustrations are filled with clever and even irreverent touches; all the characters’ noses are made from Hebrew texts, and the elders’ beards are fashioned from materials that range from torn brown paper to snippets of mesh.

Not This Turkey! by Jessica Steinberg, illustrated by Amanda Pike

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not this turkey.jpgAJL Notable Book 2017. Although Mel and his family have lived in America for several years, they have never celebrated Thanksgiving, just the Jewish holidays. But this year, after papa wins a turkey at work, Mama invites all their relatives to their Brooklyn tenement for dinner. But, after finding out that the old turkey is too tough to eat, the family solves the problem by asking all the guests bring their country’s own special traditional food to the meal. The new immigrants are thankful to be celebrating their first Thanksgiving together, with or without the traditional turkey.

Chicken Soup, Chicken Soup by Pamela Mayer, illustraed by Deborah Melmon

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chicken soup_webAJL Notable Book 2017. “Two Grandmas. Two delicious recipes. And one granddaughter caught in the middle. Sophie loves Bubbe’s Jewish chicken soup made with kreplach. She also loves Nai Nai’s Chinese chicken soup, with wonton. But don’t tell Bubbe and Nai Nai that their soups are the same. The grandmothers are miffed when Sophie calls the dumplings in their soups by the wrong terminology. The grandmothers are quick to point out the differences between kreplach and wonton, but Sophie has a plan to show her elders how good a mixture of “a little Jewish, a little Chinese—a lot like me” can be.