Today we’re talking about a couple of our picture book selections, to give you a little taste of what Book Bears has to offer! This is the first in a series of posts in which we share the “why” behind our picks. Let us know what you think!
Our background editing children’s books definitely comes in handy when we’re evaluating books to include in the Book Bears program. The holy grail for us is to find titles that are chockful of kid appeal and have strong literary merit, and that’s what we seek to do each month. Because our service centers around the joy of story, we place a special focus on engaging storytelling and strong characters that kids will connect with. With our first selections, we think we have done just that. Read on to learn a bit more about our selections and why we chose them.
NIGHTTIME NINJA by Barbara DaCosta, illustrated by Ed Young
From the publisher: Late at night, when all is quiet and everyone is asleep, a ninja creeps silently through the house in search of treasure. Soon he reaches his ultimate goal…and gets a big surprise! Will the nighttime ninja complete his mission? With spare text and lush illustrations, Nighttime Ninja is a fun, adventure-filled story about the power of play and imagination.
Our take: There’s a strong build-up of tension in the story, and we love how the reader isn’t quite sure what’s going to happen next. Plus, there are fun perspectives, including an opening that encourages little bears to physically turn the book.
We also love that during the whole beginning of the book, the nighttime ninja appears as a silhouette, allowing any kid to picture him or herself in the story.
Even better, when the nighttime ninja is finally revealed, his skin is brown. (There’s a post in here for another day, but let’s just say #WeNeedDiverseBooks.) Kudos to the publisher for pairing a Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator with a debut author—we think the story feels fresh because of it. That collage-style artwork is just the perfect inspiration for the book activity we’ve included in the monthly Book Bears package! And of course, many little bears will relate to the nighttime ninja’s goal—a nighttime snack!
The text is (c) Barbara DaCosta, and the illustrations are (c) Ed Young.
SUBSTITUTE CREACHER by Chris Gall
From the publisher: The troublemaking students of Ms. Jenkins’ class arrive at school one day to discover a substitute creacher has come to put a stop to their monkey business! He regales them with mind-boggling stories about his former students who didn’t follow the rules: Keith the glue-eater, Zach the daydreamer, and Hank the prankster, to name a few. But even this multi-tentacled, yellow-spotted, one-eyed monster’s cautionary tales about the consequences of mischief-making can’t seem to change the students’ wicked ways until he reveals the spookiest and most surprising story of all: his own. Chris Gall’s vibrant artwork leaps off the page with a dynamic comic book aesthetic that will grab both parents and monster-loving kids!
Our take: We think kids will be blown away by this book’s design. There’s so much to feast over! Let’s start with the cover: metallic green ink makes the substitute’s skin shimmery green. We don’t know a kid on the planet who won’t spend some time running their fingers over that and moving the book around in the light.
The interior spreads are even more engaging with the substitute’s speech in green slime and lots of interesting comic panels.
Since the dawn of time, kids have taken advantage of their substitute teachers (sorry to our teaching friends!), and kids will relish in the story’s fun setup. We think kids will enjoy hearing each “case” about the various kids who have misbehaved in the past— these stories also inspired the book activity in the monthly Book Bears package. There’s a nice twist at the end, too, which definitely humanizes the sub!
The sub’s speech throughout the book is written in rhyme, which is fun for reading aloud with little bears. There’s plenty of text, too, which is a great challenge for developing readers—and we love how it’s packaged in a way that kids won’t even notice. We’re not surprised this book received a couple starred reviews when it first published. Bonus: this book can also work for Halloween. What’s not to love?
The art and text are (c) Chris Gall
We’ve got more books on the way and can’t wait to tell you all about them. Happy reading, bears!