2018 Mid-Year Round Up: ABC’s & 123’s

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What’s the latest and greatest and not so good in 2018 concept picture books so far (in my humble opinion)? Read on to find out!

Did I miss a great book? Have you tried one of these titles yet? Was it a smashing success or a flop? Please share!

⭐️= favorite

👎= nope

Math Concepts

⭐️Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets by Hena Khan

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Hello beautifully illustrated exploration of shapes and Muslim traditions! The rhymes in this book flow so naturally as we follow a family’s day, starting with the call to prayer and ending with the crescent moon. This book goes far beyond the mere circle or square and features many more unique shapes and lines, such as arches and octagons. A glossary at the end is included to help readers understand perhaps unfamiliar terminology. Be sure to also check out Hena Khan’s earlier work, Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors!

⭐️Circle Rolls by Barbara J. Kanninen

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Speaking of shapes, this rhyming romp subtly introduces readers to shape attributes while following the story of Circle. Everything is rolling along just fine, until Circle lands on Triangle’s point… and POPS, setting off a nearly catastrophic chain reaction! I can’t wait to read this in storytime.

Sweet Shapes by Juana Medina Rosas

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Medina brings new meaning to the word collage in this delightfully delicious trip through the forest! From Brownie Bears to Strawberry Foxes, animals of all shapes and sizes have been carefully recreated using tasty treats. What a fun way to learn about shapes and lines!

⭐️Square by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

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The Dynamic Duo returns to deliver another ironic and funny story about shapes in this sequel to Triangle! When Circle notices Square’s “talent” for working with sculptures, she asks Square to make one of her. Square tries his best, but fails… or does he? I was expecting more tricks and edgier humor, but this is actually a very sweet story. Would make a great read-aloud for older preschoolers and up!

⭐️Bigger! Bigger! by Leslie Patricelli

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What can you build with a box full of blocks? The sky’s the limit in this imaginative new adventure! Get your hard hats and safety goggles and be ready to look at the bold illustrations, because this book is nearly wordless. The best part? A destructive surprise appearance by Baby from Patricelli’s other works! There’s a lot of great stuff happening in the illustrations with perspective and distance, a rarely highlighted math concept in picture books. Also, I love how the story ends with Baby and Big Sister working together to make a stronger city. A great toddler storytime title!

⭐️Ducks Away by Mem Fox

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In this new twist on the classic nursery rhyme, five little ducks are crossing a bridge with their momma… until suddenly one falls into the pond! As each little duck looks over and topples into the water, Mother Duck frets over what to do. I LOVE the many math talk opportunities this book provides. This book abounds with great vocabulary in general (such as waddled, swept, toppled), but especially spatial vocab (such as behind, below, down, forward). It’s a fun, gentle introduction to addition and subtraction besides being a great storytime read. The repetition makes it really easy for kids and families to join in. Plus it would make a super fun math flannel!

Everybunny Count! by Ellie Sandall

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This one didn’t capture me as much as Everybunny Dance, but it’s still a solid counting and rhyming romp through the forest. Rather than reading straight through, I would pause after “Everybunny count…” and model one-to-one correspondence while counting the objects. Good for the classroom or smaller storytime groups so they can see the illustrations and count along.

👎Ten Magic Butterflies by Danica McKellar

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Ten flowers harbor a secret wish to fly, and this night one fairy is going to make their dreams come true! This book has had an overwhelmingly positive reception on Amazon, but boy did that forced rhyme scheme make it fall flat for me. I’m all for a math book showing different ways to group numbers… just not this one.

👎Five Busy Beavers by Stella Partheniou Grasso

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A book you can sing! I like the facts in the back about life and animals in a beaver pond. The text itself didn’t do much for me. It’s your average rhyming, counting down/subtraction story. Five beavers are working hard to build a dam… but one by one, the beavers slip away to play, leaving one hardworking beaver to finish the job. There’s just enough repetition in the refrain when the beavers swim away to make me pause and consider it for a read aloud… but most likely not. I might adapt the text a bit and make it into a flannel, though.

Every Color Soup by Jorey Hurley

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Another great toddler storytime title from Hurley this year in a delicious exploration of edible colors! I’m so excited because I love to do a soup storytime, but toddler titles are tough to come by for this theme.

Language Concepts

⭐️Rhyme Crime by Jon Burgerman

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One of my all-time favorites from this year! Nothing is safe from this thief who can swap anything, anywhere with a rhyme in its place… or at least, until he tries to take an orange! This silly story was a big storytime hit with my storytime crowds, from kiddos ages four to eight. The kindergarten teachers loved it when I took it on a school visit, too!

⭐️A Busy Creature’s Day Eating by Mo Willems

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Alphabet books are usually a dime a dozen, but not this fantastically fun feeding frenzy! At first it seems nothing can discourage this voracious eater… but by the time letter Q rolls around, our little creature is more than a little Queasy.  A great read-aloud and perfect for helping kids build narrative skills.

Let’s Go ABC! Things that Go from A to Z by Rhonda Gowler Greene

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This rhyming romp through the alphabet is full of riddles for readers to decipher and guess the thing that goes. This would make a fun read-aloud, but there’s also lots of detail in the illustrations that would make this a delightful one-on-one read. For example, the Kayak is paddled by a Koala and Kangaroo; the Taxi holds a Tiger and a Turkey; and so on. I like all of the infrequently heard transportation words, such as Unicycle, Limousine, and Gondola Lift. However, this book gets an unnecessary Santa Citation, so I won’t be reading it in storytime. I will borrow the rhymes to make a fun guessing flannel though!

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👎Alphabet Boats by Samantha Vamos

Speaking of same old, same old alphabet books with forced rhyme schemes… here’s one! Aside from the good hardly-heard vocabulary, this book really did not do much for me. I would be much more likely to read it in the classroom during an alphabet book genre reading or writing workshop unit of study than I would in storytime.

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How Do Dinosaurs Learn to Read? by Jane Yolen & Mark Teague

A new silly dinosaur adventure sure to get the giggles going! Do we jump on books? Do we use books as a bat? NO! I have really conflicted feelings about this book. I could definitely see myself using it for reading workshop in the classroom and setting up Daily 5 at the beginning of the year, but I also don’t like the oversimplification of the reading process. Reading is much more than sounding out letters! Skipping tricky words and coming back, using picture and context clues to figure out what word would make sense… these are all legitimate reading strategies.

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⭐️The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s the Hard Way by Patrick McDonnell

It takes a lot for an ABC book to impress me these days. I’m SO TIRED of the same old of rhyming romps through the alphabet. This nearly wordless alphabet adventure is such a breath of fresh air! Things start going south for Little Red Cat as soon as he steps out of house and meets an… Alligator! Soon a Bear, Chicken, Dragon, and even an Egg join the chase. This is a FANTASTIC and funny read aloud for older preschoolers and kindergartners. It’s a great opportunity for kiddos to help tell the story and build their narrative skills. (Also, I’m technically cheating by putting it on this list, since it was published last year. But it’s AMAZING and I love it and I didn’t discover it until this year, so I’m counting it).

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