Touch the Brightest Star by Christie Matheson

Thank you to @christiemath @GreenwillowBook for my review copy

My two cents: Touch the Brightest Star is a lovely picture book for both pre-readers and beginning readers. Told in flowing cadence and rhyme, it tells the story of day's end turning to night and then ends with the closing of eyes to darkness, only to open again to morning. This is a great vehicle for foreshadowing and inference (what happened while the eyes were closed?). Because the vocabulary is limited, and there are numerous spelling repetitions due to the rhyme scheme, it also makes a good book for beginning readers (though the topic might be a bit young, the idea that they can actually read the words usually supersedes that!). Information on various creatures and objects of the night is given on the last page, making for further discussion and future investigations.

The most unique thing about this book, aside from the great writing, is the use of terminology usually reserved for digital reading. The author invites young readers to "swipe" and "tap" various scenes of serene watercolor-like mixed-media illustrations on big bold pages of blue and darkening sky. The change in the shadowing of the apple tree lends further discussion opportunities. I think this one is definitely a Caldecott contender!

This is a truly stellar learning tool and should be purchased for all pre-school and kindergarten libraries.

Edgar and the Treehouse of Usher by Jennifer Adams

(Thank you to @ericsmithrocks & @GibbsSmithBooks) for my first BabyLit copy!

My two cents: I had heard of the BabyLit series, but had not held one in my hands. They sure sounded great, but I am a middle school reading specialist so they were honestly kind of low on the TBR stack. When I got an email to take a look at Edgar and the Tree House of Usher, I thought that I would probably like it. I mean, any bibliophile has to at least like the idea of putting classical readings in children's hands as young as possible, right? And who doesn't love Poe? I mean, c'mon now!

So... if I said that I liked it, no one would really be surprised. 

BUT... if you look over at my "highest recommendation" tag, you will see that I am very sparing with that tag. Most of the books in that category have won big prizes or accolades. I stake my reading reputation on that tag.  

Max the Brave by Ed Vere

(Thank you @Sourcebooks) 

My two cents: A spunky cat has to figure out what a mouse looks like so that he can chase it. Children and adults alike will gasp when Max finally encounters the "mouse." This is a sweet and funny tale that should not be missed. The funny and surprising ending make this title a must buy for preschool and kindergarten classrooms. 

Fun Vocabulary-Building Books for the Earliest Readers

(Thank you @ChronicleKids)

I am always excited to find  beginner books from @ChronicleKids because as a reading specialist (and soon to be school media specialist), I really understand just how important it is for parents to read good, exciting and fun books to their babies and toddlers. There is much research backing what those of us who have been in the struggling reader trenches know by living it.

Nest by Esther Ehrlich

 (Thank you @randomhousekids)

Publisher's Synopsis: "A heartfelt and unforgettable middle-grade novel about an irresistible girl and her family, tragic change, and the healing power of love and friendship. In 1972 home is a cozy nest on Cape Cod for eleven-year-old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein, her older sister, Rachel; her psychiatrist father; and her dancer mother. But then Chirp’s mom develops symptoms of a serious disease, and everything changes.
   Chirp finds comfort in watching her beloved wild birds. She also finds a true friend in Joey, the mysterious boy who lives across the street. Together they create their own private world and come up with the perfect plan: Escape. Adventure. Discovery.
   Nest is Esther Ehrlich’s stunning debut novel. Her lyrical writing is honest, humorous, and deeply affecting. Chirp and Joey will steal your heart. Long after you finish Nest, the spirit of Chirp and her loving family will stay with you."

My two cents: I am not certain what else to say about Nest. Everyone loves it; there are glowing reviews all over the internet. The atmospheric prose is lovely and well-written, and means the title was probably lingering on Newbery award lips this past season. 

But, I also thought it was awfully heavy for a general read. I was especially concerned for the protagonist's friend who appears to be suffering from child abuse. The fact that his story is never developed doesn't end my concern. It is certainly a title to give to students who are having difficult family issues with death, suicide and mental illness of family members, but handing this one over to just any middle grade reader is tricky. The publisher lists 10 and up and I would certainly stay true to that designation as 10 seems awfully young to bear the worries of child abuse, suicide, and mental illness.