Thursday, December 1, 2011


Buildings are like books with stories that last

They tell us our present and also our past!

The outside of a building says quite a lot.

About setting, about character, and even about plot.

Beloved Children’s Author Gives Advice to Parents of Budding Architects

National Building Museum Online sat down with Isabel to discuss her work and her advice for the parents of budding architects.

National Building Museum Online (NBM Online): As an urban planner and architectural historian, what motivated you to create books for young children?

Isabel Hill: Quite honestly, I was inspired to write my first children's book, Urban Animals, by my own daughter, Anna. When Anna was younger we used to take walks in Brooklyn where we live and I would always point out architectural details. One day, as we were wandering around our own neighborhood, I stopped to point out an interesting floral detail on a building and Anna interrupted me saying, "Mama, there is a dog on that building!" So my wonderfully-observant 5-year old daughter gave me the idea to create books for young children about architecture.

NBM Online: What was the inspiration behind your latest book, Building Stories?

Isabel Hill: For many years I worked as an urban planner in an old industrial neighborhood in New York. I walked by a building with spectacular, yellow, terra-cotta pencils on the outside and just had to find out why they were there. I researched the building and discovered that it was the Eberhard Faber Pencil Factory, famous for making those yellow, Number Two pencils that were used for generations all across America. Fast forward to two years ago: as I began to brainstorm about a second children’s book on architecture, the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company Building came to mind and inspired the book.

NBM Online: In Building Stories you look at the details of a building as being the characters, plot, and setting of a story. Have you always thought of buildings in this way?

Isabel Hill: No, this was a new concept for me but I think it works extremely well. Buildings do have stories and, when you think about it, what goes on inside can be mysterious as well as educational. Sometimes a building can have many plots and characters depending on what goes on inside and who is involved with the building.

NBM Online: What advice do you have for the young readers who enjoy your books?

Isabel Hill: I am so excited about these books and want them to be the catalyst for walking around one’s own neighborhood and observing all the interesting architecture that surrounds us. My advice would be to go out, walk the streets, take the books as your guides, but find your own architectural treasures. Photograph them, draw them, write about them, and share what you find with other children and adults.

NBM Online: What advice do you have for parents of budding architects?

Isabel Hill: I think it’s great for parents to read the books out loud, to help their children tackle some of the harder words, and to ask their children what they see in the books that relates to what they see in their own neighborhoods.

NBM Online: As an architectural photographer, what is your favorite city to photograph?

Isabel Hill: I must admit I love the city I now call home—New York—because it is so vast and has so many different kinds of buildings, architectural styles, and fantastic details. But Washington, D.C. is the place I used to call home, and I have a huge affection for the beautiful choreography of scale, material, and ornament that characterizes that city. Many years ago I worked in the Pension Building, now the National Building Museum’s home, for a part of the National Park Service that documents historic, industrial sites throughout the country. I loved working in this incredibly beautiful building where the architecture was alive with meaning and power! The National Building Museum, with its descriptive ornamental frieze, is actually a perfect place to start “reading a building.”

Language arts, rhyme, vocabulary, appreciating history, neighborhood awareness, photographs, perspective, visual discrimination, informative text, social studies

ISBN 978-1-59572-279-9
40 pages, 10"x8"
All Ages
Hardback, $17.95
Paperback, $7.95
This title is available in:

To Purchase:, or your local book store

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Giveaway- Janet Halfmann


Janet Halfmann author of "Good Night, Little Sea Otter" will be giving 5 of her books away (including Little Sea Otter) during the Holidays. Follow the link to find out how to enter!

Little Sea Otter is ready to go to bed, snug in his Mamma's lap, head against her chest, floating on the ocean's surface. Still, he fights his drooping eyes and mother's urgings, by saying good night to every animal he can see or hear, in and out of the ocean's calm blue waters.

32 pages,
10"x8 3/4"
ages 3-6
Paperback, $5.95

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Anna and Natalie

Star Bright Books is pleased to announce that Anna and Natalie, by Barbara H. Cole, has been selected to be included in the 2011 RIF Multi Cultural Collection.
RIF's Multicultural Book Collection, a set of 45 high-quality children's books curated by RIF's Literacy Advisory Board and Multicultural Advisory Committee. Nearly 600 collections will be distributed annually to select RIF programs across the country. The 2011/2012 collection features myriad cultures through the theme "celebration" and has accompanying activities aligned with the Common Core State Standards. A full list of titles is available at .

The first collection was presented on Nov. 3rd at Rif's 45th birthday party at the Library of Congress. 64 collections are being readied to go to DC Rif schools. 69 more collections will be going out to Macy's -related RIF programs between now and Christmas. About 400 will go out in the spring and about 60 during the first 8 months of next year. Activities will be online by 1/1. They are wonderful and will be available for free to anybody who goes to the RIF website.

Anna and Natalie
Winner, 2007 ASPCA® Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award
Every year a group of students from Mrs. Randall’s class
gets to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
This year, the lucky students will be those who write the
best letter pleading their case. Anna and Natalie are determined
to win, and they submit a convincing letter inspired
by the role Natalie’s great-great-grandfather played in
World War II.

This story, with a surprising twist at the ending will teach
young children the power of believing in your own talents
despite disabilities and that we should recognize the unsung
heroes in our everyday lives.

Curriculum Guide:

For additional information about RIF:

To Purchase:
ISBN-10: 1595721053
ISBN-13: 978-1595721051
$16.95 Hardcover
$6.95 Paperback

Cradle Me

Introducing A New Title just in time for Native American Heritage Month!

"Cradle Me"
By Debby Slier
The rich Native American tradition of carrying babies safely, comfortably and close to their mothers in cradle boards endures to this day. Cradle Me celebrates Native American families and shows how they carry their babies and, with a fill-in-the-line feature, enables readers to translate the words to write their own language.

A portion of profit from this book will be donated to the National Indian Child Care Association

To order: (718) 784-9112 • fax: (718) 784-9012 •

Cradle Me
Board Book
$6.95 Retail

Friday, October 14, 2011

Star Bright Photoflaps Books: Cheryl Christian

A Great Review from Jen Robinsons Book Page

Star Bright Photoflaps Books: Cheryl Christian
Books: Where Does It Go?, Where's the Baby?, and How Many?
Author: Cheryl Christian (with photos in Where's the Baby by Laura Dwight)
Pages: 12 per book
Age Range: 0 to 3
Star Bright Books sent me three board books from their Photoflaps series (Where Does It Go?, Where's the Baby?, and How Many? ). These books have been around for a while, but I just discovered them. In my mind, these are perfect for toddlers. They have photos of children, ordinary objects, and animals. And they have easy to lift flaps on every page-spread.

Where Does It Go? shows a baby and an object (diaper, shoe, etc.) on each page, and asks repeatedly "Where does it go?" The photo below the flap shows the answer (e.g. baby wearing diaper). The babies are all rather white-skinned in this one (which is not typical of Star Bright's books), but I like that one of the babies shown appears to be developmentally disabled. I like the quiet inclusion of this, without comment.
Where's the Baby? shows an item (toy, etc) and a location (high chair, playpen, etc.) on each page spread. Each pair is introduced ("Here's the baby's apple. Here's the high chair.") and then we have the common refrain, familiar to parents everywhere: "Where's the baby?" Below the flap, of course, we see the baby in the high chair holding the apple, and so on. This one is a bit more multi-ethnic than Where Does It Go, and certainly features universal themes.

How Many? is the most of fun, and the most educational, of the three, featuring both animals and counting. On each page we have some number of animals, plus, on the facing page, one more of the same animal. The text asks the child how many there are total. Then below the flap we see the animals together, and the number (e.g. "3 Three puppies!") The animals are all charming and kid-friendly (rabbits, ducks, kittens). Baby Bookworm turned again and again to the page with four bunnies, plus one more bunny. She especially seemed to like that some of the rabbits were white and some dark-colored.

There's not a lot of text to these books. You're not going to read them aloud to lull your child to sleep. But they are nice for interactive, educational play for toddlers. They have photos. They have babies, toys, and animals. And they have flaps. What more could anyone ask? Well, ok, I could maybe ask for the pages to be a bit thicker. The flaps are not as sturdy as, say, those in the DK Peekaboo series, and I foresee the need for scotch tape. But that's in part because I see this series getting a lot of use around our house. The Photoflaps books would make a great first or second birthday gift. Recommended.
Note: versions of these books are also available in other languages (Chinese, Russian, Haitian Creole, etc.)

Publisher: Star Bright Books
Publication Date: 2001
Source of Book: Review copies from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Great Books for Great Kids (and parents!)

The past week or so has been remarkably slower hereabouts - a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the past few weeks, though it's left everyone slightly restless (well, me at least!). However, you readers have been kept very busy with our books, so I thought I would dedicate today's entry to reviews from real people. Great books for great kids is our motto, and that's because we believe that kids deserve books that they will truly enjoy and that parents will want to read to their children. It is wonderful to hear that libraries and Publisher's Weekly enjoy our titles, but the best - and most meaningful - praise comes from those who are just like you - readers who like great books!

So, let's take a look. What have you been saying about our books?


"What a delightful book! One of the best Halloween picture books I have seen. The illustrations were awesome and all inclusive. Having a special needs child this was a pleasant surprise. I really appreciated that the illustrator included special needs children and portrayed them accurately as "normal" children. The text was fun...the author and illustrator were able to capture all the magic and fun of Halloween night without the scary side you often see in Halloween books. The book is a keeper!" - F. Cristina Gutierrez

"Halloween is still 2-1/2 months away but I couldn't resist this whimsical Halloween book...I love the illustrations. Perfect for preschool aged children." - Kathy Habel

"The illustrations are vividly colored, and writing rhythmical. You will enjoy reading this with your child or any child...this is a great book for children, and fun and entertaining for everyone - especially around Halloween. Overall rating: A." - Laura Koehler


"This is an entertaining introduction to architecture for young looking at the different decorations adorning buildings, Hill shows kids that they can tell a good deal about a building, just by looking at the outside." - M. Scout Johnson


"Bright, colorful illustrations definitely captivate young readers as they are introduced to the wonderful characters of Small Medium Large. With minimal words children can grasp the math concept of bigger and smaller...a great way to introduce or reinforce early math skills. After reading this my little one, age 3, began gathering and sorting her toys, attempting to find her own versions of Enormous and Miniscule. Definitely sparks an interest!" - Ginny Blankenship

We love making books that people love. Nothing makes us happier!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rata Pata Scata Fata!

Yesterday started out as another sunny day, so yours truly did not think to check the weather forecast in the morning - which proved to be a very bad idea indeed. Midway through the day it stared pouring sheets and sheets - and I didn't even have a jacket with a hood! Luckily for me it let up just in time for the end of the workday, so I didn't get drenched on my commute home, but I've made a mental note to always keep a small umbrella on hand just in case - and to check the weather report every day!

Little Junjun doesn't want to do any work. He's a dreamer and would rather spend the day sitting outside watching the lizards in the yard, feeling the warm sun on his face, and savoring tasty tamarind jam. He wishes his chores would just do themselves! So he sits and makes wishes while saying rata-pata-scata-fata, and his chores somehow do complete themselves! But when everyone is tired at the end of the day and wants rain so that they don't have to fetch water, will rata-pata-scata-fata work?

Rata-pata-scata-fata is a fun book for kids to read. Silly phrases and pleasing repetition make this book by Phillis Gershator ideal for reading aloud to young children. Holly Meade's illustrations are colorful and bright, drawing readers in and adding a magic feel to this fun story while bringing the spirit of the Caribbean to life!

Grab your copy of Rata-pata-scata-fata today!

Available in hardcover & paperback editions.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Donkey Reads does it again!

As you may know, A Donkey Reads has been a hit sensation. A Junior Library Guild selection, just last month it was chosen as a featured title in the Midwest Book Review's July issue of Children's Bookwatch. Popular with reviewers across the board, it came as no surprise to us when we received notice from the Society of Illustrators that the artwork from A Donkey Reads has been selected to appear in this year's exhibit and catalog! This is truly an honor - only the best of the best artwork is selected for presentation at the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators. For those of you interested in seeing the exhibit, exhibition dates are from Wednesday, October 26th to Thursday, December 29th. We can't wait!

A Donkey Reads is available in both hardcover and paperback editions.
Find out more about A Donkey Reads at our website!

Learn more about the Society of Illustrators at their website.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Too Many Pears!

Boy oh boy, is it hot out! After exiting the clinically cool office of my doctor this morning, I was blasted by an unrelenting wave of heat. Though the Star Bright offices are always so very chilled, from the windows you can see the world outside very literally melting away.

The only solution to this withering weather is to stay very, very hydrated. And in addition to tons and tons of water, I like to eat plenty of fruits.

You know who loves fruit? Pamela the cow. And one fruit in particular: pears. Lots of them. Pounds and pounds and pounds of them! Amy loves pears, too, but Pamela keeps eating them before anyone else can. Amy's family tries everything to keep Pamela away from their pears, but she always finds a way to get to her favorite food - even climbing through a wombat hole! But Amy devises a plan to get rid of Pamela's obsession for pears once and for all.

Too Many Pears! is my favorite Star Bright Books title. It is hilarious and charming, and adults will truly enjoy reading this book to their kids and laughing along. Readers have nothing but good things to say about Too Many Pears!:

"An enjoyable summer read, and a perfectly respectable inclusion on the well-read child's summer reading log!" wrote Lynne Ann Cutler, teacher. "This book is a fun, simple read for young children. The repetition makes it easy to pick out the oft-repeated words for the new reader, but it also offers some more difficult words—like wombat—for the emerging reader. This makes a great book to read out loud to children or for the beginning reader to tackle themselves," says yet another educator, Amie Gaudioso. School Library Journal raves that Too Many Pears! is "a real winner."

Get your copy today!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Down in the Subway

This morning's commute was nightmarish. Subway delays, broken air conditioning, and cranky passengers made for a highly unpleasant trip. Hot and crowded, I would have given anything to have just the hint of a breeze to relieve my discomfort. Alas, no dice. Instead we were trapped in the tunnel for what seemed like eons. In an attempt to distract myself I studied a series of advertisements along the top of the subway car, which were enticing commuters to cast aside their suits, ties, and heels and fly off to a beautiful tropical island getaway. The white sand beaches, the hammocks strung between palm trees, the beautiful turquoise ocean beckoning. . .what I wouldn't give to be there instead of in the stifling heat!

Instantly I was reminded of Miriam Cohen's Down in the Subway. For Oscar and his mama, a hot subway ride leads into a magical adventure - thanks to the Island Lady. While the passengers fan themselves, Oscar twirls around a pole, sneaking peeks at the Island Lady. Finally she smiles and asks if he would like to see what is in her bag. When she reaches in, she pulls out first a cool blue Island breeze, then everything from the Caribbean Sea to delicious foods and even a whole Island town! The entire train has a party, enjoying the wonderful treat that the Island Lady has given them in lieu of their regular commute. Never has a subway ride been so exciting!

While this is certainly an exception from the norm, children will love reading Cohen's book over and over. Surprise adventure is always fun to read about, and who knows? Maybe on your next subway ride, you too will encounter the magical Island Lady! Pick up a copy of Down in the Subway today.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pinwheel Days!

It's a pleasant day here in the city. Today we found an injured baby bird in the warehouse and it's been in our office this morning, recuperating, so that's been really exciting!

Though it's still July, school is just around the corner. Sadly, August will be upon us and behind us in almost no time, and then it will be autumn. What better time to brush up your young one's reading skills? Reintroduce them to the wonderful world of reading with Ellen Tarlow's Pinwheel Days, a whimsical and fun early reader for young children. Featuring the lovable donkey Pinwheel, each of these four stories will draw children in with their fun and adventure. Children will love meeting Pinwheel's new friends, laugh at his mishaps, and immerse themselves in his playful world. Wrote School Library Journal of Pinwheel Days, "this early chapter book has charm and broad child appeal." Early Childhood News said that "this is a delightful collection of four easy-to-read short stories." Children's Literature praised the artwork of illustrator Gretel Parker, saying that her "breezy illustrations offer the perfect mix of color." Children and their grown-ups alike will enjoy spending time with Pinwheel and his friends Squirrel, Rabbit, and Owl. Don't miss out. Pick up a copy of Pinwheel Days today!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Come see Isabel Hill talk about Building Stories!

Isabel Hill, author, illustrator, and photographer of Urban Animals, will be giving presentations on the following dates in support of her new book, Building Stories. Be sure to check it out - they're events you won't want to miss!

September 10th, 2011
Reading and Project, 11 AM - 1 PM & 2 PM - 4 PM
AIA Center for Architecture Foundation
536 LaGuardia Place, New York, NY

September 20th, 2011
Book Launch, 7 PM - 9 PM
The Old Stone House
336 3rd Street, Brooklyn, NY

September 24th, 2011
Reading and Project, 10:30 AM - 11:45 AM
The Skyscraper Museum
39 Battery Place, New York, NY

October 16th, 2011
Reading and Signing, time TBA
Book Court
163 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY

November 13th, 2011
Reading and Project, time TBA
National Building Museum
401 F Street Northwest, Washington, D.C.

November 19th, 2011
Book Signing, 12 PM - 4 PM
Children's Book Fair
Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY

December 4th, 2011
Reading and Project, time TBA
Children's Museum of Manhattan
212 West 83rd Street, New York, NY


A Donkey Reads is featured in July 2011's Children's Bookwatch!

Star Bright Books is pleased to announce that the Midwest Book Review has selected A Donkey Reads as a featured title in their July issue of Children's Bookwatch! The lushly illustrated, fanciful adaptation of a Turkish folktale tells the story of a poor villager named Mustafo, who must give a gift of tribute to his tyrannical Mongol ruler. Writes the MBR, "charming color illustrations bring the tale to vibrant life on the pages." Since its release, A Donkey Reads has been the recipient of much praise: The New York Journal of Books says "the book is a welcome addition to the relatively scanty supply of Turkish folktales for children." Publisher's Weekly agrees - "Mandell's (the No-Sweat Science series) retelling is a fine introduction to the dozens of tales about Nasreddin, the legendary 13th-century wise man." A sure hit with kids and adults alike, A Donkey Reads is wowing readers with its delightful illustrations and fun storyline.
A Donkey Reads is available in both hardcover and paperback editions.
A Donkey Reads is a Junior Library Guild selection.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hip Hop is Happenin'!

As many of you may know, Hip, Hop, Catherine Hnatov's hit board book, has been getting rave reviews. Writes Pamela Kramer of, "It's simple and yet elegant. It's eye catching and...just feels right." Says librarian Paula Phillips, "it is the perfect book to read to your baby and toddler." Crowding the Book Truck writes "It's never to early to be reading with children, and this looks like another great board book that will help children learn words, sounds, and letters." Hip, Hop was recently named as one of the Best Books for Babies in 2011 by the Fred Rogers Company. And the good news keeps piling in! Be sure to get your copy today. For more about Hip, Hop, please visit our website to get a sneak peek inside. Hip, Hop is available in English, Portuguese/English, and Spanish/English.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Star Bright Books Fall 2011 list!

The happy rumpus of a school playground is fading out, as its little patrons are jumping into summer vacation. For some toddlers, this summer will mark their first beach walking, for some preschoolers, it will be their first camping trip. But wait. Before we start off the summer, let’s peek at delicious stories and pictures that Star Bright Books offers this fall. Remember the end of the summer last year? We all wanted to go back to books and bury our faces into pages when exhausted (though happily) after summer excursions. Toddlers and Babies, Children and Parents, I am very pleased to introduce Star Bright Books Fall 2011 list!

Urban Animals’ author, architectural historian and photographer, Isabel Hill takes us to the buildings we carelessly pass by. Young readers (and grown-ups) learn that buildings have settings, characters and plot just like the storybooks they love. Buildings Stories tells stories of their past, people who lived and worked there, what was made inside, if we look at them a little more closely—was it a pencil factory or a sailor’s house or a milk house? As it is in Urban Animals, the photo illustrations in the book will enchant children and adult alike.

The façade of buildings are not alone that tell “stories.” As My Face Book shows, the faces of babies absolute, remarkable, and adorable communicator of “stories.” Their faces totally lack elf-consciousness, being free to express their very emotions. Babies love looking at other faces, first, at their mothers! If you smile at them, they smile back at you. That’s how they communicate, right? Each spread page has an opposite expression, for example, silly and serious; frowning and smiling; laughing and crying; awake and sleepy. . . Looking at these adorable faces, we do feel responsible for making a better world for them, don’t we? Check out Crowing the Book Truck’s review.

After facial expression and babble stage, babies and toddlers begin to learn “words.” My First Words introduces words for every day things that surround babies and toddlers. From their bedroom to sunny summer back yards. They will explore everything by its name.

After learning their first “words,” they might realize the semiotic aspect of this world; they might have an enlightening experience as they find/learn new words they didn’t know before. When do children learn that English words are delightfully playful, like teeny weeny, itsy bitsy? Perhaps, from a lot of storybooks their parents read to them. Small Medium Large engages early readers to learn about all sizes of things and words for them through delightful illustrations. Ability to compare things and to relate one to another is an important development for children. Learning new words that sound awesome like “colossal” make curious kids want to learn more new words. Check out Fun with Little Mouse’s review.

If they learn enough words, they might try to learn even witch’s words and pass a spell on us. . . With Wish Williams’ magical colored illustrations, and Cheryl Christian’s rhyming words, in Witches, children embark on adventures as witches in real life—yes, Halloween.

Stories that generation after generation love, Lorna Balian’s A Garden for a Groundhog, and Lephechauns Never Lie will be out in paperback this fall, as will Lonek’s Journey, a boy’s courageous two-year journey in search of freedom during WWII.

Check out our website, and don’t miss what Star Bright Books offers even before the summer ends.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Book of the Day: Tim and the Iceberg

It's summertime in the city and it's HOT out! I don't know that I've ever been this appreciative of how intensely air conditioned the Star Bright Books offices are...after being stuck in the cramped, suffocating subway and trekking through the heat from station to office, I had to take a moment upon arrival to simply bask in the glory that is AC. But even so, I'm excited for the weekend - it's finally time to shed those winter duds for good and get some sun!

It's a hot summer day for Tim and his grandpa, too. In Tim and the Iceberg, young Tim listens to Grandpa tell tales of the North Pole, where "it's so cold that the land is made of ice." Tim thinks that sounds wonderful, and his sense of adventure is piqued when he hears about icebergs - "huge mountains of frozen water." Tim decides to make a journey in his sailboat to the North Pole to bring back one of these fantastic icebergs for his grandpa, and along the way he meets all sorts of people and animals. But the return journey to warmer waters does not bode all that well for his surprise for Grandpa...

Tim and the Iceberg is sure to be a hit with kids. Paul Coates' fun story comes to life with Ian P. Benfold Haywood's colorful, bright, and beautiful illustrations. Children will enjoy revisiting this book again and again, regardless of the season. They will love letting their imagination set sail with Tim as he embarks on his journey to the north - and maybe they'll be inspired to one day take a trip of their own!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

In the Dark Cave

Did I mention that my little friend has turned four in May? Unlike me, he is so excited about growing old, on his fourth birthday, exuberantly shouting, “I am going to be five!” (Well, he has to wait quite a bit of time to be five…). I wonder what he perceives of that ever-growing number. Stronger, bigger, freer? Or a better understanding of the world he lives in, including different species that reside on earth with him?

For the last year, his interest in animals has exploded. Of course he has always loved animals and animal stories—even more so, when animals do silly things. But it was more like immediate, unconscious fascination with other creatures rather than human. Now, on top of that, animal ecology, animal habitat, and animal behavior become a great interest for him. He frequently uses the word “species.” He is particularly excited at animals that camouflage, animals that migrate, animals that employ tools, and animals that hibernate. He enthusiastically explains to me the visual and behavioral differences between meat-eating dinosaurs and plant-eating ones. While walking home from school, we encounter earthworms, caterpillars, robins, sparrows, and squirrels. He observes, he analyzes, he makes associations from one species to another. Yes, he is so into “zoology,” as are many kids around his age.

No wonder why In the Dark Cave –a story of a cricket, a rat, and a bat that live happily in a dark cave—caught his attention. In the depths of the cave, it is always night. Wait, how do they see in a dark cave; how do they find food, a place to sleep, and avoid bumping into walls? How do they navigate without any light? There, the story begins.

The cricket has super long feelers, the bat sings and navigates through the echoes of his songs, and the rat is the master of smelling things. Each one has a unique way of navigating without light. But one day, Alexander the explorer, who has a lamp on his helmet, enters the cave, leading the dark cave’s dwellers into amusing encounters with “light.”

A venerate, yet unconventional philosopher, writer, and a cave explorer himself (he is co-author of The Longest Cave) Richard Watson wrote a delicious and informative story about cave dwellers, with jolly rhyming. Renowned cartoonist Dean Norman’s black and white illustrations are simple, yet full of humor. They effectively convey the darkness of the deep cave, and its curious residents.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Read to Me

April was National Poetry Reading Month. Belatedly, I am reading Judi Moreillon's Read to Me again and again, and recite it (privately). The book is a single poem— a simple rhyme, yet with wisdom-full verses that encourage and inspire parents to discover the joy and value of sharing stories with their children. Its gentle, yet joyous lines celebrate the time and memory of reading as a family. "Read to me," your little one will bring a book to you, babbling, smiling, or talking, you can almost hear it. More than anything, when reading a book together, parents and children dream together. Kyra Teis' illustrations are colorful and lively. Loving grandma, grandpa, moms and dads read with their little ones in the park, by the water, on the bed. Children read with their siblings, sitting on the stairs or lying on their tummies. The smiling faces of babies and families are from all different ethnicities.

Read to Me is a poem Judi wrote for Pima County Public Library's Project L.I.F.T. (Literary Involves Families Together), "to help young mothers learn that literacy is an important part of nurturing their babies."

The most enduring heritage that we can leave for our children is to guide them to learn the joy of reading. Here are the first few lines from Read to Me. Enjoy.

Read to me

and watch me grow.

Tell me all

the tales you know.

For in this life,

I’ll need a map.

Let it begin

upon your lap-

Visit Judi Moreillon's Website here. Read to Me is also available in Spanish, Vietnamese, and Spanish/English.

Friday, April 22, 2011

All about Eggs (and the Easter Bunny)

Spring comes with Easter. Close to Easter, each day we witness the spring’s dominant presence in our backyard, streets, and neighboring parks. Easter is the day that we celebrate every thing that comes back to life after the long winter (literally and metaphorically). For children, it is about eggs, egg hunting, a bunny that lays eggs, and family gatherings, all of which carry out Easter’s spirit, and yes, fun. So here we have electrifying eggs and Easter bunny stories, Susan Glass’ The Great Eggscape and Lorna Balian’s Humbug Rabbit.

In The Great Eggscape, two villain protagonists, Benedict, aka “Benny,” a mean soul, and Aggie, a “hard-boiled type,” decided to escape their fate of becoming colored Easter eggs (“They ain’t got nuttin’ on me”), and wanted to have some fun. Cracking out of the carton, they roughed up everyone in the fridge and went on to the pantry. "They mashed the potatoes, stalked the celery, and tossed the salad.” Those peace loving foods are horrified, but helpless. Chocolate Chip was watching his favorite TV show, when interrupted by this gang. Unintentionally, Chip carries out the mission to beat the “rotten eggs,” while other food neighbors are watching and cheering (Ketchup says, “We’ll catchup soon” and Sugar bowl and Honey bottle exchange remarks, “Isn’t this eggs-citing, honey?” “Eggs-tremely, sugar!”). With clever word play and humorous comic-book style illustrations, this book delivers a delightfully action-packed story with an unexpected ending that kids will love.
Publishers Weekly calls The Great Eggscape “bad food pun extravaganza. . . The Bonnie and Clyde of the refrigerator set,” and praises Cornelius Van Wright's illustration, “ [his] lighthearted paintings kick this already entertaining entry up a notch. His vision of life in the rough-and-tumble world of egg crime features skillful drafting, believable textures, unexpected points of view, and dynamic use of space.”

As many people would agree, I think Lorna Balian is one of the best children’s book authors America has. She is a natural storyteller for children: whimsy, yet warm, sweet yet, with a twist, her stories and illustrations resonate with children’s imaginations so keenly and brighten their faces with smiles. Humbug Rabbit is as delightful as her other works, yet all the charms of her work is illuminated even more.

Granny lives with Gracie, the hen who lays one egg every day, Otto, the rooster, and a devilish cat, Barnaby (you will see why she is devilish!). It is spring now and Easter is coming. Granny has invited her grandchildren for an Easter egg hunt, but Granny can’t find Gracie’s eggs. Granny was worried about Gracie. Meanwhile, the rabbit children who live in the burrow right below Granny’s house, just heard all about Easter from the mouse that lives in the next burrow. They are convinced that their father is the Easter Bunny (the mouse told them so!), and ask him when he is going to start laying Easter eggs. “There is no Easter Bunny!” “Rabbits do not lay eggs!” Father Rabbit exclaims to his children. But, well, the mouse’s story is more convincing. In the mean time, the devilish cat Barnaby helps Granny find her eggs (Gracie has hidden them), and Granny colors and hides them for the Easter egg hunt. It is Easter morning now. Will Father Rabbit really lay eggs?

Each spread page of the book is divided into two worlds: on top is above ground with Granny, and on the bottom is the rabbit family burrow. The two different worlds meet happily on Easter day with colorful surprises that bring joy to everyone, and big smile to readers.

Friday, April 8, 2011

PW’s review of A Donkey Reads

PW has published a review of A Donkey Reads, calling it “a fine introduction [for children] to the dozens of tales about Nasreddin, the legendary 13th-century wise man.” Indeed, the protagonist of the story, Nasreddin Hoca, an imam, a teacher, a judge who lived in the 13th century in Anatolia (now Turkey) is a celebrated historical figure, tales about him are widely read/told in Turkey and the Middle East. He is a sage, yet full of wit. In A Donkey Reads, Nasreddin teaches a donkey to read to save a poor villager, Mustafo from the tyrannic Mongol ruler. Muriel Mandell’s retelling of this tale is engaging: readers will learn the secret of a donkey reading, and therefore, “thoroughly enjoy watching the Mongol leader get his comeuppance”(PW). PW also praises the artwork: “Portuguese artist Letria paints figures in a naïf, folk-art style nicely suited to this traditional story; their movements are puppet-like, yet their expressions are convincing, even moving. Full-bleed spreads alternate with entertaining spot illustrations of rows of villagers or miniatures of their offerings to the Mongol leaders.”

To read the full review from PW, click here, to read our blog posting click here.

A Donkey Reads is also Junior Library selection.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Good Night, Little Sea Otter’s author Janet Halfmann talks about her works and life as a children’s book writer with VS Grenier, editor of Stories for Children’s Magazine on Blog Talk Radio. Award-winning author of more than 30 children’s books, Janet’s new books include Star Bright Books’ Good Night, Little Sea Otter, which has been very well-received by children’s literature blogosphere, as well as by readers. Learn more about Janet, and her works, visit the magazine’s April issue that features Janet, and listen to her talk! (did you know that before being a full time children’s book writer, she had been a waitress, grocery store checker, daily newspaper reporter, editor of a national children’s magazine, and a creator of coloring and activity books? And did you know that she writes “in an upstairs office that overlooks a huge old maple tree?”)

Big Box for Ben

I am often amazed at wonderful toys and craft tools today (iPad included), many of which certainly spark and cultivate children’s imagination, creativity, and critical thinking. On the other hand, I wonder if children’s imagination is somewhat manufactured or confined by those educational/fun/creativity boosting toys and crafts. In an abundance of toys and crafts (and yes, iPad included), children may not have a chance to exercise their full capacity of creativity and imagination.

My not-yet-four year old friend loves playing with twigs and sticks as much as he loves playing with Lego toys. Out of twigs, we make a ladder, a flag pole, and a mast for a boat. Of course, empty cardboard boxes are always one of his favorites. It turns into a cave where his miniature dinosaurs have lived(hidden) for many years, into simply a hide-and-seek place, or into a firetruck that he is in charge of. He even made a space shuttle out of packaging foam. Nothing goes to waste; everything is recycled into fun toys. With cardboard boxes, my friend's world expands as far as he wants it to, constructing his own adventurous narrative. So does our little friend Ben.

Deborah Bruss's Big Box for Ben is simple, yet adorable story that young children will immediately identify with, even be inspired by! Ben has a big box. It’s a simple, ordinary cardboard box. But as Ben and his dog, Wags unfold their journey, the box become as many things as Ben imagines: it turns into a race car; a boat that he can paddle; a top of a mountain where he almost reaches the sky; the back of an elephant he is proudly riding on. And at the end, it turns into a cozy place where Ben and Wags fall asleep hugging each other after their extraordinary adventure. A simple, rhythmical text fits perfectly to read aloud with a young child, and Tomek Bogacki's illustrations creates Ben's dog, Wags as a silly companion that brings smiles to young readers. Big Box for Ben cheerfully articulates that children create their own amazement out of ordinary things only geared by their powerful imagination. Toys and craft tools may be wonderful, but cardboard boxes are inspiring. Join Deborah Bruss for a reading, signing, and play-date at Barnes and Noble in Manchester, NH, on May 7th (from 11 to 1:00). Of course, there will be plenty of boxes for the kids to play in (and with).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Down in the Subway

For many children, riding the subway is not a mere means to travel from one point to another. The sheer sound of a train coming and going; getting on, getting off; the conductor’s calling, “Next stop... ;” looking at the seemingly tangled, yet, colorful subway maps, these are all little things grown-ups find indifferent if not annoying, but children are fascinated with. If the subway is the New York City subway, the excitement (or annoyance) would be tripled!The local, express, uptown, downtown, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or A, B, C, N, Q, R, S. You would be riding with a huge crowd of people wherever you go, all different faces, colors, dresses, and a babble of languages. Then there, if you are very lucky, you would encounter the Island Lady, as little boy Oscar did. She has a “fine islands smile,” a broad, and welcoming smile that invites shy Oscar to somewhere beyond the subway.

In Miriam Cohen’s Down in the Subway, Oscar was riding the # 1 train with his mother and baby brother. It is a hot day. Peeking at the Island Lady, Oscar is wondering what is in her big Island bag? She smiles, and pulls out things(!) she carries in her colorful straw bag- a cool blue Island breeze; Ackee rice, guava, coconut tarts, soursop soup, a delicious Caribbean meal that everyone in the subway has plenty of; and Calypso Man and a steel band. Then the Island lady pulls out a Caribbean town, where people start doing the jump-up. So do the reserved New Yorkers in the subway. Down in the subway, where it might not be a very pleasant place on a hot summer day, there, Oscar gets the tropical vacation.

Miriam Cohen’s vivacious story becomes even more lively and enchanting by Melanie Hope Greenberg’s colorful, rich, and creative illustrations (click here to learn more about Greenberg’s fabulous art). Exciting news for all of us: On April 14, Melanie Hope Greenberg will be at the 2011 Texas Librarian Association Conference (April 12-15, Austin, Texas) doing a book signing of Down in the Subway ( from 1pm to 3pm). Come and join us at Star Bright Books booth #1428 if you are in Austin. Greenberg has donated original picture book art for the 2011 TLA Disaster Relief Fund raffle. The raffle will take place at 4pm on April 14. Good luck to all, and to all good luck!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Cats of Mrs.Calamari

Growing up in a developing country (1970s South Korea), I rarely got my hands on picture books. Sure, there were many children’s books, and from the age of 5 or 6, I was an avid reader. But not picture books, let alone silly, mischievous, whimsical, yet adorable characters’ adventures with their sillier companions (cats, pigs, dogs, and monkeys) or those whimsical animals’ larger than life adventures. Certainly nothing like lots and lots of cats dressed in air force uniforms, or Texas rancher outfits, or a cat resembling Captain Ahab (you should really look for it!) as in John Stadler’s The Cats of Mrs.Calamari. So I take much pleasure reading picture books for this blog, particularly the silliness and whimsy of this story, delivered in pictures page after page. With the inspiring silliness, The Cats of Mrs.Calamari is also a visual festivity for me. So is for my not-yet-four-year-old friend, whose eye for detail is remarkable. Watching him intensely studying the pictures, I wish I would have grown up knowing those books. But nothing is ever too late.

On Monday morning, Mrs. Calamari is moving into her fine apartment, with her many, many cats. On Tuesday, the new landlord, Mr. Gangplank, informs her of a no-cats policy in the building, starting the coming Sunday. Fortunately for Mrs.Calamari, Mr.Gangplank has lost his glasses, so can’t clearly see whether the cats in Mrs. Calamari’s apartment are real, or just statues of cats as Mrs. Calamari assures him. But he has his doubts. So Mr. Gangplank and his dog, Potato, keep their eyes on Mrs. Calamari’s apartment and all her "relatives" coming and going, who look exactly like cats (but he can’t say for sure). Meantime, the gentle Mrs.Calamari and her very nice cat-like relatives save Mr. Gangplank from fire and getting stuck in the window. Now it’s Saturday, Mr. Gangplank invites Mrs. Calamari and her "relatives" to the beach for a celebration of his soon-to-be cat-free life. Then, at the beach, he finds his long-lost glasses. Oh, what will happen to Mrs. Calamari’s cats?

This charming book was a Booklist Editor's Choice, Best of the Best selection by the Chicago Public Library and selected for Read Aloud America. If you happen to be in New Hampshire, visit the Children's Museum of New Hampshire, where you will “Step into a Story” of The Cats of Mrs.Calamari, a permanent life-size exhibit of Mrs. Calamari and her cats.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Welcome to a world of color, and to “Yum, Yum”

For moms and dads (and grannies), watching their children eat fills their hearts with joy. Watching their tiny mouths munch food is just irresistible. For babies and toddlers, watching their parents eat is not so interesting. However, watching animals eating (pets, farm animals, or zoo animals, anything not human) fascinates them. They understand that animals are different from humans, so when animals act just like them, it is something truly special. Eating, strangely, becomes an adorable thing to watch. Animals get excited when they see their favorite food, which in turn excites babies and toddlers. When a sheep gently licks their little palms, when a donkey munches on an apple so close they can hear the crunch, the world is filled with magic.

In Catherine Hnatov’s Yum, Yum, friendly animals munch on their favorite foods, making a happy (and familiar) noise: “yum, yum.” The foods are in bright colors, with the animals in contrasting bold black and white. Yum, Yum combines two eye-catching components for babies: animals eating and the world of color (donkey eats a red apple; sheep eats yellow flowers, and so on). In every other page, featuring the same bright color as the food, appears simple text. Babies and toddlers, welcome to the world of color and to “Yum, Yum.”

Friday, February 18, 2011

Star Bright books is happy to announce that the winner of the raffle at ALA Midwinter for the basket of books is Patty Carleton of the St Louis Public Library!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A sage full of clever wit and tricks

Folktales are a unique way to discover, explore, thus appreciate other cultures beyond time and space. Their narratives are usually simple, often accompanying moral lessons. Yet, they observe acutely the very core of human conflicts, but always bring resolutions through wit, humor, and clever tricks. And such a humour never fails to radiate in human hearts. Although not well-known to Western readers, Nasreddin Hoca, an imam, a teacher, a judge who lived in the 13th century in Anatolia (now Turkey) is a widely celebrated historical figure. The tales of him are widely read in Turkey and the Middle East. He is a sage, yet full of wit, a down-to-earth figure who brings justice (or compromise) with laughs and giggles. In A Donkey Reads, Muriel Mandell retells a story of this witty sage for children from preschool to early graders. This time, Nasreddin teaches a donkey to read to save a poor villager, Mustafo.
During the Mongol rule in Turkey, there lives a poor villager named Mustafo, who must give a gift of tribute to his tyrannical Mongol ruler. The only thing he can offer to the ruler is his old donkey. But when he presents it to the Mongol, the Mongol is furious and threatens him with death. Then, Nasreddin Hoca, the wise village man, assures the Mongol that this donkey is not ordinary, and he will soon teach it to read. A month later, indeed, the donkey reads a thick book by turning pages so quickly. What is Nasreddin’s trick to teach a donkey to read?

A Donkey Reads is lushly decorated with Andre Letria’s illustrations that are deep and rich in acrylic color, and detailed in every expression, even in the mice, that young readers find it fascinating. The Junior Library Guild’s pick.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Sweetheart for Valentine

Does anyone really know the real, original, and truthful origin of Valentine’s Day? If you are not certain, here is the very palpable, sweet as your little ones, witty as your first love in junior high, and thoughtful as your significant other: A Sweetheart for Valentine by wonderful Lorna Balian. My not yet four years old friend liked it, shimmering sweet smiles as I read it to him. I doubt, though, he understood it fully as much as I did. I think this is more my cup of tea than his.

One morning, people in the peaceful small village of St. Valentine find a giant baby girl. She doesn't belong to anyone, so the villagers decide to raise her all together (true, it takes a whole village to raise a child!). Unlike anyone, she has one great-grandfather (he has a long, long white beard), three great-grandmothers, six grandfathers, seven grandmothers, eleven mothers and fathers, and many more sisters and brothers. They name her Valentine and find ways to care for her as she grows. Whenever there seems an issue for her well-being, Great -grandfather calls for a special meeting to find a solution collectively, and they always do (they even build a house that grows with her. How? With vines and sunflowers!). Then one early morning, they find a very large young man stuck in the mud. Is he a sweetheart for Valentine?

It’s a lost-in-time fascination to look at Balian’s illustrations, as much as her playful and rhythmical words. Whenever they hold a special meeting, responses from villagers are so distinguished and livelyㅡthe loving nature of mothers, wisdom-full nature of grandmothers, logic-driven, yet caring nature of fathers, supporting and fun nature of grandfathers, and we-can-help nature of sisters and brothers. Every time I read it aloud, it leaves a I-am-happy smile on my face. I can’t help it.
*Another spoiler: Valentine and the big young man were not in “love at first sight” (as it doesn’t often happen in real life), but became so fond of each other as they learned more about each other (as it happens in real life).

Sunday, February 6, 2011

George didn’t get enough Valentine’s Day Cards. What can we do for him?

“The kids LOVE Valentine's Day,” said my friend Aiko, a 3rd grader teacher. “Each student makes a mailbox (usually out of a shoe box or big envelop decorated in pink and red with their names on it)....They are still young, so they don't understand the 'boy+girl" love per say, but it is a fun day when they get thoughtful notes from the classmates!” With that excitement and happiness, their cheeks would turn red, and lively chatters, laughs and giggles would fill the classroom. But if, someone doesn’t get many cards, and feel sad? (as it always happens in real life!). In Bee My Valentine, Miriam Cohen lively and warmly depicts the first graders’ Valentine’s Day, accompanied by Ronald Himler’s gentle illustrations.

Valentine’s Day is coming, and the first graders are excited about choosing/making Valentine’s cards; what they would write and to whom; and of course, the cards they will receive. The teacher tells everyone to send a card to everyone else in the class so nobody will feel left out. On Valentine’s Day, however, George gets fewer cards than everyone else. George runs away and hides in the coat room, crying. All the first graders think hard about how to cheer him up, and altogether, they find a way.

Bee My Valentine is part of Star Bright Books’ Social & Emotional Development Story Series, books that engage children to think, understand and find a solution to problems they encounter at school, home and on playgrounds. In a report published recently, researchers found that students who took part in social and emotional learning programs improved in grades and standardized-test scores by 11 % compared with nonparticipating students. Written by Miriam Cohen and illustrated by Ronald Himler, the series also includes titles such as Will I Have a Friend; Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire; Layla’s Head Scarf ; and others. “We Love First Grade!™” series.