Children’s books are notoriously hard to get published. Everyone has an idea for a children’s book, and almost all of them will never see a contract. More than 21,000 children’s titles are published every year in the US, by a number of publishers, which is only a dent in the number of actual submissions. Scholastic, the one who haunts school kids with that monthly flier, publishes just 600 books a year, from board books through High School. So when a children’s book is self-published, sells 7,000 copies in its first ten months and is then signed on by major publisher Harper Collins, you know there’s something really good there. And in this case, the really good is Pete the Cat .
If you haven’t read him, Pete the Cat is a groovy large-eyed, laid-back blue/black cat who lives with his mom and dad and his tuxedo-patterned brother Bob. He has a host of friends (Grumpy Toad, Gus the Platypus, Callie, Squirrel, etc) and he loves bananas and surfing. His stories are mostly easy-readers that play to the 2-7 year old crowd, but he is infinitely more interesting than that. Pete is the kind of story you want your child to like, because you want to read more of his stories.
Pete is the creation of James Dean, whose early illustrations wound up as musically or rhythmically-oriented stories by storyteller/musician Eric Litwin. Litwin wrote four of Pete’s adventures (Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons, Rockin in my School Shoes, I Love My White Shoes, and Pete the Cat Saves Christmas). I have to admit, these early volumes are my favorites, and I cannot help but read Pete stories as if he’s a surfer dude. Groovy, man. While Litwin and Dean split in 2011, Dean and his wife Kimberly have written more than 60 Pete adventures, with more on the way. Pete’s adventures range from curing hiccups (Mom knows best!) to sleepover friends who won’t sleep, to shopping in the grocery store and scuba diving.
Being an artist was not Dean’s plan. His father was an artist, and he didn’t relish reliving the struggle. While being an electrical engineer paid bills, art crept into his life more and more, until he began to pursue art full-time. When he adopted a tiny black kitten he named Pete, Pete’s antics crept into his artwork , and a legend was born.
Dean’s success is an author’s dream – self-published, picked up by a real publisher just two years later, a runaway success (more than 7 million copies sold), merchandise deals, and now a TV series on Amazon Prime, with voices by no one less than jazz singers Jason Mraz and Diana Krall (which totally fits, because Pete gives off that groovy chill of a cool jazz cat). They say self-publishing doesn’t pay, but Dean is one of those handful of lucky authors who won that lottery.
While I find some of the titles to be uneven and lacking the lyrical qualities of the bigger titles such as Groovy Buttons, Pete remains one of my current favorite preschool titles, stories you don’t mind reading over and over again, with subtle morals (family, keeping your cool, how to be a friend, sharing, learning, etc) that won’t make you roll your eyes with saccharine. Rock on, Pete!
Cheshire Library has more than thirty Pete titles! Here are some of them:
Pete the Cat: Rockin in My School Shoes
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes
Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons
Pete at the Beach
Pete’s Big Lunch
Pete the Cat: Scuba Cat
Pete the Cat: Snow Daze
A Pet for Pete
Pete the Cat and his Magic Sunglasses
Pete the Cat and the Missing Cupcakes
Pete the Cat and the Bedtime Blues
Pete the Cat Goes Camping
Pete the Cat and the Perfect Pizza Party
Pete the Cat and the New Guy
June is here and so is Pride month! The library has a great selection of kid’s books featuring all different kinds of families, relationships, and love! Here’s a list of picture books and chapter books available at the library for you and your family to enjoy during Pride Month, and beyond!
First up, let’s talk about picture books. Here are some great titles available at CPL:
When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff; illustrated by Kaylani Juanita – This new publication is a beautifully illustrated and touching story about Aidan, who, after realizing he was a trans boy, with the help of his parents fixed the parts of life that didn’t fit anymore. When Aiden becomes a big brother, he wants to make sure everything is perfect, and panics when it isn’t. With his parents help, Aidan comes to understand that mistakes can be fixed with honesty and communication and that he already knows the most important thing about being a big brother: how to love with his whole self. This book is perfect for kids who are becoming older siblings, and for those struggling with trying to be “perfect”. It has great characters and an even greater heart.
Stonewall : a building, an uprising, a revolution by Rob Sanders; illustrated by Jamey Christoph – Take a look into the history of the Stonewall Uprising in this picture books, which was released on the 50th anniversary of this movement, which led to important changes in LGBTQ+ rights and representation. This can be an important history lesson for you, and your child to learn the true reason we celebrate Pride, and why we have the right to celebrate it safely today.
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell; illustrated by Henry Cole – This picture book tells the true story of two male penguins raising a baby at the Central Park Zoo. While the other boy and girl penguins at the zoo find each other and become couples when the time is right, Roy and Silo (two boys) do everything together. They even build a nest together like the other penguin couples. When another penguin lays two eggs and can’t care for both, a zookeeper decides to let Roy and Silo care for the egg. They take turns lovingly keeping the egg warm, until one day little Tango is born. This book shows that family is family, no matter what.
Next, how about some great middle-grade titles? These are all available in our juvenile fiction section at CPL:
Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender – Being born during a hurricane is unlucky, and twelve-year-old Caroline has had her share of bad luck lately. But when a new student named Kalinda arrives, Caroline’s luck begins to turn around. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados with a special smile for everyone, becomes Caroline’s first and only friend — and the person for whom Caroline has begun to develop a crush. Together, Caroline and Kalinda must set out in a hurricane to find Caroline’s missing mother — before Caroline loses her forever. This story is packed with adventure, as well as things that every kid has to deal with, including bullies, new schools, and new friends.
To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer – A laugh-out-loud tale of friendship and family, told entirely in emails and letters, follows the experiences of two 12-year-old girls–one bookish and fearful, the other fearless and adventuresome–who are sent to a camp to bond when their fathers fall in love. This is a great summer reading book and showcases how different friendships can thrive and develop.
Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill; edited by Ari Yarwood; designed by Fred Chao – When the heroic princess Amira rescues the kind-hearted princess Sadie from her tower prison, neither expects to find a true friend in the bargain. Yet as they adventure across the kingdom, they discover that they bring out the very best in the other person. They’ll need to join forces and use all the know-how, kindness, and bravery they have in order to defeat their greatest foe yet: a jealous sorceress, who wants to get rid of Sadie once and for all. Join Sadie and Amira, two very different princesses with very different strengths, on their journey to figure out what “happily ever after” really means—and how they can find it with each other.
These titles and more are available from the library for you to celebrate pride with you and your children.
Did you know that June is Audiobook Month? There’s no denying the increasing popularity of audiobooks. And within the format, there are many different styles of narration to be had. To use a food analogy, while the author creates the original recipe, the narrator is responsible for presenting the finished meal in the most appetizing way possible. Most often, a single narrator takes on the task of bringing a story to life, but occasionally a story lends itself to a more theatrical telling, and that’s when a full cast narration can be so much fun.
Full cast recordings can often take on the feel of an old-fashioned radio show, and the best ones are like listening to a Broadway play. If you’re missing the experience of attending the theater, try one of these full-cast audiobooks that are almost as good as a trip to the theater. They’re available for Cheshire Library cardholders from RBdigital.
1. The His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, starting with The Golden Compass. The author, himself an excellent narrator, anchors these stories, with a full cast assuming all the speaking roles. It’s outstanding, and the full cast makes it easy to distinguish between the many characters that populate this series.
2. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. The original American full dramatization as broadcast on National Public Radio, this really is the recording of a radio show. Bilbo Baggins, a gentle hobbit who loves the comforts of home, reluctantly joins a company of dwarves on a journey to recover plundered gold from a fierce dragon.
3. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. The author acts as narrator, with an all-star supporting cast. Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, David Sedaris, Susan Sarandon, Bill Hader, and 160 more cast members breath life into the story of President Lincoln spending a night of mourning at the crypt of his eleven-year-old son.
4. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Gallant. This sci-fi/thriller/fantasy/historical/mystery about a shadowy government agency–the Department of Diachronic Operations – and the discovery that magic was once real and could be again, comes alive with a “magical’ cast of narrators.
5. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. Fans of the true-crime genre will devour this fictional tale that explores the events and characters surrounding by the 1976 attempted assassination of Bob Marley. The cast of characters are vividly portrayed by a terrific group of narrators.
6. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This audiobook chronicles the rise and fall of a fictional rock band in the 1970s, and boasts an impressive cast of narrators, including Jennifer Beals, Benjamin Bratt, and Judy Greer, among others.
7. Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce. Narrated by the author and fleshed out by a talented cast of character actors, the first book in Pierce’s wonderful Circle of Magic series introduces the listener to four young misfits with a talent for magic, and is a treat for all ages.
People of color have historically been under-represented in children’s literature. Thankfully, that has been changing in recent years. If you’re a black child, it’s important to see yourself represented positively in books. Equally important, it is important for white children to see positive representation of people of color. Here’s a list of books written by black authors that are available at your local library. These stories center, reflect and affirm the lived experiences of black children.
Sam Brown, writer for Bookstr summed it up perfectly, stating “Children’s books are powerful tools that help instill a sense of empathy in young readers. They are testing grounds for new ideas and exercises in ethics. Reading, at any age, teaches us that the experiences of other people are not only valid, but influential to our own lives. It’s for this reason that representation in children’s books matters”
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry ; illustrated by Vashti Harrison – Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it’s beautiful. When Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn. But he LOVES his Zuri, and he’ll do anything to make her — and her hair — happy.
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson ; illustrated by Rafael López – There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it. Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.
My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera – After a day of being taunted by classmates about her unruly hair, Mackenzie cant take any more and she seeks guidance from her wise and comforting neighbor, Miss Tillie. Using the beautiful garden in the backyard as a metaphor, Miss Tillie shows Mackenzie that maintaining healthy hair is not a chore nor is it something to fear. Most importantly, Mackenzie learns that natural black hair is beautiful.
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina & 13 artists – These short, vibrant tanka poems about young men of color depict thirteen views of everyday life: young boys dressed in their Sunday best, running to catch a bus, and growing up to be teachers, and much more. Each of Tony Medina’s tanka is matched with a different artist―including recent Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Award recipients.
Radiant Child : the story of young artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe – Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art world had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat’s own introduce young readers to the powerful message that art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean–and definitely not inside the lines–to be beautiful.
The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes ; illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton – Starting kindergarten is a big milestone–and the hero of this story is ready to make his mark! He’s dressed himself, eaten a pile of pancakes, and can’t wait to be part of a whole new kingdom of kids. The day will be jam-packed, but he’s up to the challenge, taking new experiences in stride with his infectious enthusiasm! And afterward, he can’t wait to tell his proud parents all about his achievements–and then wake up to start another day.
Woke Baby by Mahogany L. Browne ; illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, and Woke : a young poet’s call to justice by Mahogany L. Browne, with Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood ; illustrated by Theodore Taylor III. Woke Baby is a lyrical and empowering book for all the littlest progressives, waking up to seize a new day of justice and activism, Woke is a collection of poems by women that reflects the joy and passion in the fight for social justice, tackling topics from discrimination to empathy, and acceptance to speaking out.
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o ; illustrated by Vashti Harrison – Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.
I am Enough by Grace Byers ; pictures by Keturah A. Bobo -This gorgeous, lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another comes from Empire actor and activist Grace Byers and talented newcomer artist Keturah A. Bobo. We are all here for a purpose. We are more than enough. We just need to believe it.
Now more than ever is the time to promote and share stories of all kinds. Know that the library is a place that welcomes everyone, following Cheshire Public Libraries mission statement “The Cheshire Public Library transforms lives and strengthens the community”.
Looking for more? Here are some other titles available from the Cheshire Library:
- The Book Itch : freedom, truth & Harlem’s greatest bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson ; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
- Chicken-chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice Harrington
- Crown : an ode to the fresh cut by Derrick Barnes ; illustrated by Gordon C. James
- Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio ; pictures to LeUyen Pham
- Trombone Shorty by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews ; pictures by Bryan Collier
- Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty ; illustrated by David Roberts
- Leo Can Swim by Anna McQuinn ; illustrated by Ruth Hearson
- Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin ; illustrated by Lauren Tobia
- The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul