Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books | Tagged antarctica, beach vacations, blue whales, boats, book reviews, children's literature, counting books, curiosity, ducks, entomology, family, friendship, grandmothers, insects, jean-henri fabre, nature, nighttime, picture books, wonder | Leave a Comment »
Bonkers, sci-fi read-aloud
Cakes in Space, by Philip Reeve, illustrated by Sarah McIntrye
published in 2014 by Random House
A Poglite named Ploodle and ferocious frosted cupcakes! One slickery Nameless Horror and our champion of bravery, a little girl named Astra.
Take a ride on a spaceship headed 199 years out into the universe, that accidentally becomes infested with marauding cakes and overrun with Poglites intent on salvaging spoons, spoons, spoons! Philip Reeve writes smashing, zany sci-fi for kids, some of which I’ve reviewed before (see Larklight’s review here.) This one’s pitched for even younger readers. Its pages explode with energetic comic-style illustrations. A thoroughly engaging read-aloud for ages 6 or 7 and up; sturdy, independent readers ages 8-10.
Summery, ice-cream confection
Ice Cream Summer, written and illustrated by Peter Sís
published in 2015 by Scholastic Press
Just to warn you: prepare to buy your kids ice cream cones after reading this book!
Every page is saturated with ice cream cone fantasies. Enjoy reading this clever letter to Grandpa, while learning fascinating tidbits of ice cream history. Dripping with deliciousness for ages 4 and up.
A creative wail of jazz
Bird & Diz, by Gary Golio, art by Ed Young
published in 2015 by Candlewick Press
Four artists at work here: Charlie “Bird” Parker on his sax and Dizzy “Diz” Gillespie on his trumpet toss rhythmic notes “back and forth like jugglers.”
Gary Golio paints a picture of their collaboration with zesty words. Ed Young portrays sound through color and line. The whole fantastic story spills onto one, long, accordion-pleated, jazz-saturated page. A burst of creativity for ages 4 and up.
Encouragement for new brothers and sisters
The New Small Person, written and illustrated by Lauren Child
published in the UK in 2014; first U.S. edition in 2015 by Candlewick Press
Elmore Green is about to discover the downside of having a new, small, person enter his household. Like, this little person actually licking his jelly-beans, including the orange ones, and not getting in trouble because he is “only small.”
Soon enough, though, Elmore finds the flip side of the coin. Turns out, that little person’s pretty great. Lauren Child’s contagious warm humor shines, for ages 3 and up.
Of NYC Subways and the Empire State Building
Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure, by Nadja Spiegelman, illustrated by Sergio Garcia Sánchez
published in 2015 by TOON Graphics
Come along on a field-trip to the Empire State Building. The teacher promises we’ll learn about the NYC subway system along the way. Pablo and Alicia learn more than they bargain for when they take the wrong train. Will they ever catch up with their classmates?
An intriguing mix of information is presented in this stylish, graphic format. I was blown away with the approach to illustration Sánchez took. Brilliant. Extra pages of information are crammed with info. Ages 8 and up.
Just look into my eyes….
Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France, by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno
published in 2015 by Candlewick Press
Read this little gem and you will discover the origins of the word “mesmerized.” Fascinating!
The colorful, charged-up pages will sweep you into this glimpse of 1700s France, Ben Franklin’s scientific world, a tricky fellow named Dr. Mesmer, and a little something we call the placebo effect. The friendliest dose of science you’ll get all summer. Ages 7 and up.
Because what the world needs now is love, sweet love…
One Family, by George Shannon, illustrated by Blanca Gómez
published in 2015 by Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus Giroux
Who makes up your family? Ours includes two parents, four children, and an uncle. Some households include grandparents. Some are a mixture of races and ethnicities.
All the diverse families in this book love one another. That’s the best kind of family. A cheery catalogue of families and a bit of counting to boot flood the pages of this sunny, warmhearted book for ages 2 and up.
Tour a bayou, but prepare for rain…
Over in the Wetlands: A Hurricane-on-the-Bayou Story, by Caroline Starr Rose, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey
published in 2015 by Schwartz & Wade Books
Feel the beads of moisture cling to your face. Smell the salty tang of seawater. Watch mossy curtains silently sway in the breeze.
Then hunker down in a gale-force wind. Hear the thunderous surf. Spy egrets sheltering among cattails. This gorgeous, sensory visit to a Louisiana bayou in a hurricane grips us with strange beauty, powerful storms, and fascinating wildlife. Great for ages 3 and up. Appears on shelves July 14th.
History as seen by a tree…
As an Oak Tree Grows, written and illustrated by G. Brian Karas
published in 2014 by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Young Readers
Watch a Native child plant an acorn on a hill overlooking an Atlantic bay. What world surrounds that tiny sprout? How does the world change around it as it grows?
Witness the passing of time, the immense changes in the countryside, and the growth of the mighty oak. What purposes does it fill over the course of its long life? Beautiful, meaningful, intriguing, for ages 4 and up.
What makes someone a true winner?
Number One Sam, written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
published in 2014 by Disney Hyperion
Sam the dog is number one. He’s a spunky, zippy driver that always comes in first place…until the unthinkable happens: his friend Maggie wins.
Sam is determined to beat Maggie in the next race, but something momentous happens, forcing Sam to choose between being one sort of winner, and another. Greg Pizzoli’s bold, winning illustrations rocket this simple story to a truly winning spot! Ages 2 and up.
Posted in early readers, fiction, graphic novels, non-fiction, picture books | Tagged bayous, benjamin franklin, book reviews, Charlie Parker, children's literature, diversity, Dizzy Gillespie, empire state building, family, Franz Mesmer, history, hurricanes, ice cream, jazz, New York City, picture books, placebo effect, science fiction for children, scientific method, sibling rivalry, subways, summer, wetlands | Leave a Comment »
Because it’s pool time!
Swimming, Swimming, lyrics from an old song, illustrated by Gary Clement
published in 2015 by Groundwood Books
Big, bold, sunny-day illustrations carry us along an energetic run-through of this classic children’s song.
If you don’t know the actions and the take-away-a-line-at-a-time part, I believe you can find them at groundwoodbooks.com/swimalong. Your kids will be singing it all summer long. Ages 2 and up.
Brand new and jazzy for beginning readers
What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig, written and illustrated by Emma J. Virján
published in 2015 by Harper
If your child can read the title, he’s proficient enough to read this snappy new story featuring…a pig in a wig.
Sonic-boom colors. Mo Willem-esque illustrations. Friendly, happy story. A watery winner!
For fans and non-fans of creepy-crawlies
Some Bugs, written by Angela DiTerlizzi, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel
published in 2014 by Beach Lane Books
Let’s face it: summer is a buggy time.
This upbeat catalogue of bugs is just the ticket to make them seem intriguing instead of irritating. Minimal words. Bold-as-brass pictures. Colorful and catchy…plus you learn the names of lots of exciting insects. Ages 2 and up.
A curious blast of poetry
Beastly Verse, various poets, illustrated by JooHee Yoon
published in 2015 by Enchanted Lion Books
Yoon’s cheerful, playful illustrations completely dominate these pages, some of which fold out to accommodate her weirdly-wonderful, capacious creatures.
Unconventional art, paired with classic animal-poems from the likes of Lewis Carroll, William Blake, and Christina Rossetti. A smashing success to share with ages 3 to 100.
Tea and crumpets, anyone?
London Calls!, by Gabby Dawnay, illustrated by Alex Barrow
published in 2014 by Tate Publishing
Dash along with Pearl and Granny Rose on a whirlwind tour of London.
The rhyming text merrily skips along, zigging and zagging among charming illustrations of everything from the London Eye to the Tube to Kensington Gardens. If you love London, I promise you will like this little book. Ages 4 and up.
Completely clever way-more-than-an-alphabet book
Take Away the A: An Alphabeast of a Book!, written by Michaël Escoffier, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
published in 2014 by Enchanted Lion Books
What happens when letters up and go missing?
Well, without the D, the dice are ice!
Without the C, a chair has hair!
26 extremely clever pages, especially fun for newish readers.
Where’s the Pair?: A Spotting Book, written and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup
published in 2015 by Big Picture Press
Can you spot which two are precisely a pair?
That’s the game on every page of this tricky, tantalizing book. These puzzlers are not for amateur sleuths! Try them with ages 5 and up, with maybe a bit of help to get started.
Classic Scandinavian lore
The Terrible Troll-Bird, written and illustrated by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire
originally published in 1976; reissued by The New York Review Children’s Collection in 2007
I could write a whole post on this one.
The glorious troll-ish landscape of Scandinavian folklore, combined with the d’Aulaires magic touch at retelling and illustrating. Find out how Ola, Lina, Sina and Trina cope with the immense Troll Bird! Ages 6 and up.
Because it’s simply the best to sleep in a tent
Eddie’s Tent and How to Go Camping, written and illustrated by Sarah Garland
published in 2015 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Coming from one of my favorite UK author/illustrators, this charming story about a family camping trip.
Tents. Hot Chocolate. Starry Skies. Snug Sleeping Bags. Roasted chocolate-stuffed bananas. Really, does it get any better?! Rev up for your camping trip or start dreaming of one when you read this gem. Ages 3 and up.
Of Bicycles and Neighborliness
The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle, written by Jude Isabella, illustrated by Simone Shin
published in 2015 by Citizen Kid/Kids Can Press
Another winner coming out of the Canadian Citizen Kid line. This time, we see how the donation of a bicycle changes the lives of people across the world.
Follow the bike as it changes hands and see the kind of good you can do when you act like a good neighbor to people you never even meet. A lengthy account for ages 5 or 6 and up, that could be read in installments if necessary.
Posted in early readers, fiction, picture books, poetry | Tagged alphabet books, bicycles, book reviews, camping, charity, children's literature, children's poetry, d'aulaires, easy readers, humanitarian kids books, insects, london, picture books, puzzle books, scandinavian folklore, summer, swimming, trolls | Leave a Comment »
Today, I finished reading a novel, translated from Norwegian, that stole my heart.
Along the way I laughed, I gasped, I felt my heart break, and I fell in love with a couple of foolhardy children, a glorious grandfather, and a grandma as loving and sheltering as the very hills.
It’s a debut novel, written 10 years ago and published in English for the first time this year. I highly recommend it for ages 8 and up.
Adventures with Waffles, by Maria Parr, translated by Guy Puzey
originally published 2003; first U.S. edition published in 2015 by Candlewick Press
Along a glistening fjord, among steep fields that climb into sky-skimming hills and wooded mountainsides, a handful of farms are scattered about. One belongs to nine-year-old Trille Yttergård, his parents, brother, sisters, and Grandpa. Next door, in their small house live his best friend, Lena, and her mom.
Lena is Trille’s best friend, that is. But Trille is uncertain whether he is Lena’s best friend. It would be nice to know that. It gives a person such a steady, good feeling to know such a thing for certain.
One thing everyone in the area knows, is what a pair of hooligans Lena and Trille are. These two can get into mischief and mayhem faster than lightning strikes, and inevitably their shenanigans wind up with one of them getting hurt. Often badly. Or sprayed with cow muck. You never know what it will be.
The idyllic setting with ferries motoring across the fjord, sugar-topped waffles cooked up by the best Auntie-Grandma in the world, Midsummer bonfires, and sheep roundups in the high pastures, careens with one disaster after another in episodes that made me laugh out loud. A lot. Lena is a spitfire, and Trille is easily raked into every noodle-headed plan she comes up with.
At the next moment, though, author Maria Parr swings us
around, plunging us into such deep waters we are left reeling. The gasping pain of a loved one’s unexpected death; the ache and boulder-in-your-stomach sensation of grief and loneliness; the futile anger over sweeping changes in life that can’t be stopped — Parr stunningly conveys these strong emotions. She does this by creating characters we fiercely love, and letting them feel and voice their emotions in keen, yet age-appropriate ways, within the comforting arms of a warm family and community. Absolutely brilliant.
As Lena participates in Trille’s large, warmhearted family, there’s one thing she sets her heart on: a dad of her own. She and Trille have difficulty at times articulating just what it is that dad’s are for; nonetheless, she is determined to get one. To her mom’s consternation, Lena’s methods in this venture are as unpredictable as everything else she does. One of the tenderest, most bittersweet moments in the story is when Trille understands with his whole being just what it is that a dad is for. It’s just not something that can be put into words.
Friendship. Family. Community. Belonging. Themes common to lots of great literature, delivered here with charm and zest, concussions and fish breakfasts. There’s enough danger and pain and loss that despite the zaniness of many episodes, you might take care with younger, sensitive listeners or readers. For most, it would be a superb read-aloud or independent read, for ages 8 and up.
One of my new favorites.
Again today, I’ve got ten marvelous books, my favorites from what I read this week. Loads of goodness here…
A treasure of a treasury from my all-time favorite:
A Year of Stories and Things to Do, written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes
published in Great Britain in 2014 by The Bodley Head
Shirley Hughes is a treasure, pure and simple. Her books are golden favorites in our family.
This collection exudes all that we love about Shirley in one hefty, beautiful volume.
A selection of her stories correlate with the seasons. Alfie’s Feet, with all his sploshing about, comes in April; Alfie Goes Camping lands in August. There are a few stories I’ve not seen before starring Jonadab and Bobbo, which were a special treat. Several poems are also included.
Each month begins with a little chat from Shirley, and ends with two pages of her creative suggestions for seasonal outdoor activities, games, crafts, recipes — old-fashioned, non-electronic, juicy stuff for children ages 3 and up.
Almost 300 gorgeous pages. A lovely gift for a lucky someone!
Jazzy toddler fare from Byron Barton:
My Bike, written and illustrated by Byron Barton
published in 2015 by Greenwillow Books
Byron Barton is a genius author/illustrator for the animal-cracker crowd, and here is his newest title.
Stoplight-bright colors, bold designs, and a clever journey on a bike with a jolly surprise ending.
Perfection for little squirts, 18 months and up.
Just in time for Father’s Day:
Audrey’s Tree House, by Jenny Hughes, illustrated by Jonathan Bentley
published in Australia in 2014; first published in the U.S. in 2015 by Scholastic Press
Plucky young Audrey thinks she’s outgrown the family home so she’s on the look-out for a new place to accommodate her very grown-up self. A tree house should do the trick.
Good-natured Dad builds quite the elaborate place, all according to Audrey’s specifications, curling banisters, suspended bathtub and all. But after everything is in place, doubts begin to niggle their way in.
A warmhearted, tender tale for daughters and dads, ages 4 and up.
Generations of family love:
Mama Seeton’s Whistle, by Jerry Spinelli, art by LeUyen Pham
published in 2015 by Little, Brown and Company
I had an uncle whose come-to-dinner whistle could be heard all across the neighborhoods of their small Minnesota mining town, summoning my cousins from games of baseball and kick-the-can.
Jerry Spinelli had a neighbor with the same talent, the basis for this delightful story. Watch Mama Seeton’s children grow up, venture into the world, have children of their own, but never forget their mama’s keen whistle.
LeUyen Pham’s charming illustrations blanket this story in warmth. Outstanding collaboration, for ages 5 and up.
A book about…Underwear?!?!
Vegetables in Underwear, written and illustrated by Jared Chapman
published in 2015 by Abrams Appleseed
If there’s one thing guaranteed to be scandalously funny to preschoolers…it’s underwear.
For those graduating to undies, it’s also quite a source of pride and excitement! That’s the crowd who will giggle and grin over this small catalog of underwear. Modeled by…vegetables.
Because if underwear is not funny enough on its own…just let a potato or a turnip try some on and see how hysterical that is!
Crazy, Kool-aid bright, ridiculousness. But not for babies. Because babies don’t wear underwear! (Sorry, Babies.) Snicker over this one with your newly-out-of-diapers child.
Vintage charm for doll-lovers:
A Doll for Marie, by Louise Fatio, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin
originally published in 1957; republished by Alfred A. Knopf in 2015
This vintage charmer for little girls and their dolls has been reprinted this year.
In an antique shop in Paris, a beautiful doll languishes. She longs to be owned by a little girl who will take her to tea parties and read to her. And Marie longs to be that little girl, but she is too poor to buy her.
These two are eventually united, but the pathway is full of alarming twists! Duvoisin’s beloved illustrations bring 1950s Paris to life. And — there’s a miniature edition of this book tucked inside, just right for reading to your doll! Pure sugar and spice for little girls ages 4 and older.
Toddler cheeriness from the We’re Going on a Bear Hunt guy!:
The Bus is For Us!, by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Gillian Tyler
first U.S. edition 2015 by Candlewick Press
Here is another blast of catchy cheer from UK writer/poet Michael Rosen.
These children have lots of ideas about ways to get from here to there. Some are ordinary; some extraordinary.
But the best? The best is the bus, because the bus is for us! Sing out together about the delights of riding a double-decker bus crammed with friends. Gillian Tyler’s lovely artwork shines here. Brilliant for ages 18 months and up.
So clever and tricksy!
Wild About Shapes, created by Jérémie Fischer
published in 2014 by Flying Eye Books
…transform to this,
with the flip of a colored, acetate page. It’s like magic! Can you guess what animal will emerge before you flip the page? The riddles will give you a clue.
Mesmerizing fun for ages 3 and up.
Sugary and delicious American history:
Gingerbread for Liberty!: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution, by Mara Rockliff, pictures by Vincent X. Kirsch
published in 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
I’ve read a fair bit about the American Revolution, but I’ve never heard this story about Christopher Ludwick.
And his bountiful bakery.
And his tantalizing gingerbread.
And how he helped the Yankees win the war.
Read this exceptional, upbeat account to get ready for Independence Day. Comes with a recipe for gingerbread so you can make some mouthwatering confections of your own! Ideal for ages 5 and older.
Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books, recipes | Tagged american history, american revolution, bicycles, book reviews, children's books, Christopher Ludwick, dolls, family, fathers and daughters, gingerbread, non-electronic fun, picture books, seasons, Shirley Hughes, tree houses, vintage books | 2 Comments »
It’s full-on summer. Time once again for me to change-up my blogging for a few months so I can soak up all this green-ness and daylight…and enjoy time with a couple of my children home from college.
This summer I’m planning to share my absolute top, favorite, cream of the crop picks from the stacks of books I look at each week. No themed lists. Just whatever I find astonishingly good.
I could write an entire post on every one of this week’s picture books. I loved them all. I think you will, too!
Especially for big and little sisters:
Tell Me What to Dream About, written and illustrated by Giselle Potter
published in 2015 by Schwartz & Wade Books
An exceptionally-imaginative older sister tries to come up with ideas for her little sister to dream about so she can go to sleep.
This big sister has Seriously Awesome Ideas for dreamland, such as the “furry world” pictured above, yet has a dickens of a time coming up with something that suits her younger sibling. Gloriously imaginative and colorful! Ages 3 and up.
Humor for dog-lovers:
The Bear Ate Your Sandwich, written and illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach
published in 2015 by Alfred A. Knopf
A clever dog offers an extraordinarily convoluted tale to explain the disappearance of his little girl’s sandwich.
It’s all down to a bear, you see, who was lured from his den by the smell of some ripe strawberries…and off we go. Funny, with a most charming bear and dog. Ages 3 and up.
Exquisite and Wordless for Children and Their Grown-ups:
Sidewalk Flowers, conceived by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Sydney Smith
published in 2015 by Groundwood Books
This gorgeous, wordless book follows a little girl and her father as they walk through the city to their home.
As she trots along, she sees snippets of beauty scattered through the concrete landscape which all the adults around her overlook, and she sweetly, generously shares that beauty with a variety of others. Incredible book. Hopefully it will garner some awards. Ages 6 and up.
Stylish Diversity to Ponder:
The World in a Second, by Isabel Minhós Martins, illustrated by Bernardo P. Carvalho, translated by Lyn Miller-Lachman
originally published in Portugal in 2008; first American edition published in 2015 by Enchanted Lion Books
Jaw-dropping gorgeous design/illustration in this fascinating book about all the things that might be happening at the same second all over the world.
Includes a world map showing all the places referenced. Fantastic and thought-provoking. Ages 5 and up.
Sweet Scandinavian Delight for Wee Ones:
Where is Pim? by Lena and Olof Landström, translated by Julia Marshall
originally published in Sweden in 2013; first American edition published in 2015 by Gecko Press
This is the darling sequel to Pim and Pom which I reviewed here. Pim is the little pink bunny. He is Pom’s special lovey. And egads! He goes missing!
Simple and dear for the very youngest — 18 months and older.
Poignant, Thought-Provoking, with Family Love at the Core:
Yard Sale, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
published in 2015 by Candlewick Press
If you’ve held a yard sale, you know how tough it can be for kids to part with their stuff, no matter how much dust has gathered on it since they last realized it existed.
For the child in this story, Callie, it’s a different matter. Her family has to drastically downsize due to money troubles, and nearly everything familiar is being sold.
That’s a heavy premise for a picture book, and this one’s got some raw emotions in it. Still, there’s a warm recognition of family sticking together come what may. Plus, Lauren Castillo’s illustrations are as heartwarming and lovely as always, providing the needed embrace of comfort.
If I were reading this with a child, I would definitely help them distinguish between the average yard sale which is sheerly a decluttering of excess stuff, and a situation as heart-heavy as this one. Ages 5 and up.
A Dream of a Tale for Introverts:
Pool, a wordless book by JiHyeon Lee
originally published in South Korea in 2013; first published in the U.S. in 2015 by Chronicle Books
This soft-as-a whisper story tenderly and imaginatively leads us through a chance meeting of two quiet children.
They’re at a public swimming pool, nearly overwhelmed by the brash, noisy, rambunctious crowds of kids, when with a dive and a swish, these two strangers meet and explore an imaginative, watery world together. Elegant and meaningful, especially for the quieter ones in this raucous world. Ages 5 and up.
Eccentric and Delightful:
Crabtree, by Jon & Tucker Nichols
published in 2013 by McSweeney’s McMullens
Alfred Crabtree has lost his false teeth. Uh-oh. He’s searching through all his belongings to find them, and it’s quite a task.
Marvelously absurd. Drily humorous. It’s a total lark to comb through these groupings of Crabtree’s possessions, from his Hat & Helmet collection to his Small Yapping Dogs collection. It’s all here, laid out and labeled. Ages 7 and up.
Subversive Humor Guaranteed to Make Kids Smile:
Meet the Dullards, by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri
published in 2015 by Balzer & Bray
Mr. & Mrs Dullard run an exceedingly gray, bland ship, which is just how they think things should be. Books, outdoor play, even chunky applesauce, are all verboten.
Laugh together at the boring-est parents ever, and watch the Dullard children conspire to grab some excitement. Over-the-top silliness for ages 5 and up.
Do Try This At Home:
The Secret Life of Squirrels, written and photographed by Nancy Rose
published in 2014 by Megan Tingley Books/Little, Brown and Company
The photographs in this book are not photoshopped!
They’re taken by Canadian photographer Nancy Rose, who builds tiny sets for these fuzzy fellows, adds some peanuts to lure them in, and then stands at the ready to snap the charming, unbelievable photos. These will tickle the fancy of you and your kids and maybe beckon you into some wildlife photography. Q&A with Nancy is included. Ages 4 and up.
Posted in fiction, picture books, wordless books | Tagged beauty, best kids books, book reviews, books for preschoolers, children's literature, family, friendship, geography, humorous stories, imported children's books, moving, picture books, squirrels, wildlife photography, wordless books, yard sales | 8 Comments »