I’ve got three gems today, and then I’m checking out for awhile. On my way to Scandinavia for a few weeks!!

This is Sadie, by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Julie Morstad
published in 2015 by Tundra Books

this is sadie cover image

This author-illustrator team from Canada creates quiet beauty with every collaboration. I am over the moon with this latest story of dear little Sadie and her splendid imagination.

this is sadie o'leary and morstad interior

Meet her in this charming book, swimming in the freshness of simplicity, the elegance of innocence, the expansiveness of imagination. 

this is sadie illustration julie morstad

Everything you want to express about children engaged in real play is here, in brief, pleasant lines, and delicious illustrations. Ages 2 and up.

The Kind-hearted Monster: Two Classic Stories written and illustrated by Max Velthuijs
first published in Switzerland in 1973; this edition published in 2015 by NorthSouth Books

the kindhearted monster cover image

Max Velthuijs was one of the Netherland’s most illustrious children’s illustrators and if you have never met his work, just take a peek at this re-issued set of monstrously-wonderful stories. You’ll understand the love in about a second.


                                                          (sorry for the poor quality of this image)

You see, the illustrations do not reside on the pages! They burst out of them! They reach out and grab you and pull you, quite happily, right into the story! So bold and disarming and magnificent!

the kind hearted monster illustration velthuijs

Mervyn is a kind-hearted monster who is initially feared by the townspeople. Watch how misperceptions are set aright, and how peace and kindness win out over violence and fear. Rugged, rambunctious action full of tenderhearted kindness. A complete delight for ages 4 and up.

The Golden Plate, written and illustrated by Bernadette Watts
published in 2014 by NorthSouth Books

the golden plate cover image

And now — one of the loveliest of British illustrators with a new treat for us.

Bernadette Watts is known for her fairy tale illustrations and she brings the same qualities of delicacy and warmth, charm and softness, to this thoughtful story of wrongdoing and restoration.

the golden plate illustration detail bernadette watts

Isobel and Elisabeth are close friends. Both have doll’s houses, but Elisabeth’s is ever so much grander than Isobel’s. 

One day as Isobel plays with Elisabeth’s dolls, a worm of envy creeps into her heart. A tiny golden plate decorating the dolls’ kitchen shines so temptingly, and in a wink, Isobel slips it into her pocket. 

the golden plate illustration detail2 bernadette watts

Such a bitsy thing, yet it weighs on Isobel like a rhinoceros necklace. Read her story, watch her regain her footing and soak up the joy of a clear conscience and a loving friend. Ages 4 and up.

Hope you find your way to all three of these gems!

1bd63fc95529bac559e88d62667311a3My household is quieter today after two of my daughters returned to college.

How about you? Has school begun in some form for you or your kids? I find it interesting that our calendars seem to revolve around education schedules more than the seasons…something to ponder.

Anyway, here are five lovely books celebrating learning and life:

When the little one is left at home…

maple and willow apart cover image

Maple & Willow Apart, written and illustrated by Lori Nichols
published in 2015 by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin

When big sister Maple starts school, Willow, the younger, is left behind. Normally these two are peas in a pod, so …what will become of Willow?

Maple lands home each day overflowing with enthusiastic stories about her day and her new friends.

maple and willow apart illustration lori nichols

But what is this? Willow has also made a new friend: Pip. He’s such an interesting fellow, and Willow and Pip have such intriguing playtimes, that it is Maple that feels the left-out blues.

There’s a sweet resolution to this warm story. Sisterly love and Willow’s magnificent imagination are the stars here, tenderly told and illustrated with beauty and charm. Ages 2 and up.

When your family doesn’t do school the usual way…

the year i didn't go to school cover image

The Year I Didn’t Go to School, written and illustrated by Giselle Potter
published in 2002 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

When Giselle Potter was seven years old, instead of going to school, she and her family launched off on a marvelously unconventional year: touring Italy with their Mystic Paper Beasts puppet theater.

the year i didn't go to school illustration2 giselle potter

Giselle’s childish journal illustrations engage us immediately on the end papers in this creative account of that almost-fantastical time in her life — setting up on the streets of Florence, donning monkey and panda costumes, sleeping in the big caravan truck, meeting new people, eating new things, speaking a new language.

the year i didn't go to school illustration giselle potter

It’s a thoroughly enjoyable narrative of what we might learn by plunging into a new, impossible adventure, illustrated in Potter’s quaint paintings that remind me a bit of Maira Kalman’s work. Read and chat together about this one, with ages 4 and up.

When your skin color bars you from school…

with books and bricks cover image

With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School, written by Suzanne Slade, pictures by Nicole Tadgell
published in 2014 by Albert Whitman & Company

When Booker Washington was a young slave child, he first glimpsed the “strange lines on the blackboard” that the white children were somehow learning to read, and he fell in love with learning.

with books and bricks illustration3 nicole tadgell

But it was against the law for Booker to learn to read. This is still mind-blowing, people. 

Even after the American Civil War ended, when Booker was 9 years old, he still had to work backbreaking hours to help his family survive and the local schools still would not admit any non-white students.

with books and bricks illustration2 nicole tadgell

Booker T. Washington was a determined person if ever there was one, though, and this story tells how he persevered to achieve his own education, then made the enormous efforts necessary to provide quality education for others. A fabulous piece of our history, well told, with handsome, evocative watercolor illustrations, for ages 5 and up.

When the craziest things conspire to make you late for school!

a funny thing happend on the way to school cover image

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School, by Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud
published in 2015 by Chronicle Books

If you’ve ever been attacked by evil ninjas on the way to the bus stop, or sidetracked by Little Red Riding Hood who needed help finding her grandmother’s house…

a funny thing happened on the way to school illustration chaud and cali

…or if Bigfoot stopped you and asked you to snap a photo of him…

a funny thing happened on the way to school illustration cali and chaud

and thus were late to school…and had to explain these things, then you will sincerely sympathize with the young lad in this book. Preposterous and sunny and funny, for ages 4 and up. The brainchild of two French illustrators, this follows their other equally crazy title, I Didn’t Do My Homework Because

When you have to build your own school…

Rain School cover image

Rain School, written and illustrated by James Rumford
published in 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Journey to Chad in this vibrant story as the children of one village and their indomitable teacher begin the school year by building their school.

rain school illustration james rumford

Making mud bricks, building mud desks, drying them in the hot sun, thatching the roof, until finally, finally it’s time to take their seats and begin learning.

rain school illustration2 james rumford

The school year is over when the rains begin again, making the gardens grow, yes, but also washing away roof and walls and desks…until the next school year, when they will begin again.

A fantastic glimpse of life for children elsewhere, briefly told and richly illustrated in hot desert colors. Ages 4 and up.

I know, I know. School days approach.

But while summer lasts, lets soak up some more hammock-in-the-shade reading, blanket-on-the-lawn reading, campfire-under-the-stars reading about…

…what’s wondrous at nighttime

sun and moon cover image

Sun and Moon, written and illustrated by Lindsey Yankey
published in 2015 by Simply Read Books

Lindsey Yankey is a dream of an illustrator (check out her website here) and her recent work in Sun and Moon will enchant you!

sun and moon interior lindsey yankey

When Moon tires of his “lifetime in darkness” and wishes to swap places with Sun, Sun wisely challenges him to take one, last, close look at all things night-ish before making such an irrevocable step. Turns out, nighttime is pretty darn cool. It’s a gorgeous book to share with ages 2 and up.

…weirdly wonderful ocean dwellers

the most amazing creature in the sea cover image

The Most Amazing Creature in the Sea, by Brenda Z. Guiberson, illustrated by Gennady Spirin
published in 2015 by Henry Holt and Company

Just who is the most amazing creature in the sea? That’s for you to judge after being introduced to this fascinating set of contestants.

the most amazing creature in the sea guiberson and spirin

From the Box Jellyfish — a brainless creature with 24 eyes and millions of highly toxic stingers — to the Ocean Sunfish — a fish as heavy as a rhinoceros! Plus creatures with names like Wolffish and Vampire Squid! Every one of these fellows offers plenty of reasons to recommend itself for your vote. Brief, vivid descriptions combined with Spirin’s amazing artwork tantalize readers age 4 or 5 and up.

…an unfortunate incident between Beatrix Potter and a guinea pig

beatrix potter and the unfortunate tale of a borrowed guinea pig cover image

Beatrix Potter & the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig, by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Charlotte Voake
Available Feb. 2016 from Schwartz & Wade Books

This one’s not available yet, but put it on your Valentine’s wish lists.

It seems that while young Beatrix loved animals, and loved to paint animals, she did not necessarily have a green thumb when it came to caring for them. When she borrows a neighbor’s guinea pig, disaster strikes.

beatrix potter and the unfortunate tale of a borrowed guinea pig interior hopkinson and voake

Read this charming tale, based on a true incident, and you will learn something new about Miss Potter and get some golden advice to boot. A lovely, informative Author’s Note is included, and the illustrations are by Charlotte Voake. Enough said. A gem for Potter-lovers, ages 4 and up.

…Jane Addams’ compassionate work

the house that jane built cover image

The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams, by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Kathryn Brown
published in 2015 by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt and Company

I have been missing a good children’s bio of Jane Addams, and here comes this gem.

the house that jane built interior stone and brown

From childhood, Addams was determined to live “right in the midst of horrid little houses” in order to better care for those in need. In 1889, her dream began in earnest when she purchased Hull House in Chicago. This beautifully-written introduction to a woman of compassion begs to be shared with kids ages 5 and up. Friendly, warm illustrations embrace us on every page. Highly recommended.

…about magic words

please mr. panda cover image

Please, Mr. Panda, written and illustrated by Steve Antony
originally published in the UK in 2014; first American edition published in 2015 by Scholastic Press

Panda has a trayful of scrumptious, tantalizing doughnuts. He’s offering them to folks he meets, one after another.

please mr. panda interior steve antony

But when they respond with, “Give me the pink one!” or “I want them all!” Panda changes his mind. What’s the magic word Panda is looking for? I bet you can guess. A simple, bright, and funny politeness exercise for ages 2 and up.

…about the happiness of sharing

bernice gets carried away cover image

Bernice Gets Carried Away, written and illustrated by Hannah E. Harrison
published in 2015 by Dial Books for Young Readers

Bernice is having a miserable day. She’s at a festive party, but everything’s going wrong. She’s the only one with no frosting rose on her piece of cake. The only one to get prune-grapefruit soda rather than strawberry-melon.

bernice gets carried away interior hannah e harrison

When Bernice decides to grab some happiness for herself, she gets way more than she bargained for! Her clever and kind solution wins the day for all her friends, as well as herself. Delightful story, with Hannah Harrison’s trademark darling animals and brrring!-bright colors.

…about a hermit of a bear and his pesky neighbors

those pesky rabbits cover image

Those Pesky Rabbits, written and illustrated by Ciara Flood
published in 2015 by little bee books

Bear is quite happy living a quiet life on his own.

those pesky rabbits interior ciara flood

When a perky family of rabbits moves in next door, though, his serenity is over! Will Bear be able to resist the intrusions of his sociable neighbors? Or will they win his heart? It’s a similar flavor to the Bear and Mouse stories from Bonny Becker  — charming, funny, and heartwarming. Just right for ages 2 and up.

…about  a poet named e.e. cummings

enormous smallness cover image

Enormous Smallness: A Story of E.E. Cummings, by Matthew Burgess, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
published in 2015 by Enchanted Lion Book

So…do you know what the e.e. stands for?!

Or when and how he got his start in poetry?

Did you know young Cummings had a snug treehouse or that he started his freshman year at Harvard before he turned 17?!

enormous smallness interior burgess and kris di giacomo

Check out this snappy, vivid, brief biography leading us from Cummings’ rich childhood, through his experiences during World War I, his connections with the avant-garde, and the groundbreaking experimentation he brought to poetry. Strikingly illustrated by the talented Kris DiGiacomo, this one’s for ages 7 or 8 and up. I hope it garners some awards.

…about animals and counting and the number 8

8 an animal alphabet cover image

8, An Animal Alphabet, written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper
published in 2015 by Orchard Books

I love Elisha Cooper’s watercolor work.

Here he turns his talents to an alphabet-counting mashup. Each letter gets a pageful of animals, and on every page, one of those animal appears eight times.

8 an animal alphabet interior elisha cooper

Why 8? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out! Lots of fun plus gobs of new animals to meet and interesting facts about them in the back pages. Ages 2 and up.

…about a search for the right underwear

polar bear's underwear cover image

Polar Bear’s Underwear, by Tupera Tupera
originally published in Japan in 2012; first American edition in 2015 by Chronicle Books

Oh dear! Polar Bear can’t find his underwear! Never fear, Mouse will help him.

Is it this snazzy, stripey pair?

polar bear's underwear interior by tupera

Nope. Those belong to zebra.

polar bear's underwear interior1 tupera

Cheerful, die-cut pages reveal quite a zingy batch of undies as this duo search for the missing pair. Where will it be?! Would you like to wear a pair of jolly undies, too?! Which are your favorite?

It’s quite the summer for underwear books, I guess. If you have small fry in the Graduating From Diapers stage, perhaps this funny, sunny Japanese import will suit you to a tee!

ruby-on-the-outside-9781442485037_hrRuby on the Outside, by Nora Raleigh Baskin
published in 2015 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

The children we glimpse at the park, pass anonymously at the grocery store, sit next to on the subway — inhabit profoundly varied life stories.

Here is one of them, that of Ruby Danes, age 11, whose mom is in prison.


Ruby cannot remember the life she shared with her mom before prison. She was just 5 when her mother was arrested in a confusion of spotlights and shouting voices. All Ruby knows is the tumultuous mix of fierce devotion to that mother, and silent shame from having an incarcerated mom; the normalcy of weekly prison visits, and the code of silence on the subject she has developed to keep anyone from knowing her terrible secret.


When Margalit walks into her life, however, and Ruby has a chance at having a best friend for the first time ever, she slams into an unyielding wall of scary questions:

Can you have a best friend if you don’t share the most important piece of your life?

Would anyone truly accept her, if they knew her mom was in jail?

Can she love her mom, yet hate her for the pain-soaked life she has handed her?

Is she just like her mom on the inside, as well as the outside?

m4_13052012Nora Raleigh Baskin has written an honest, sensitive story, ushering us into the experience of millions of children who have an incarcerated parent. She dives into the emotional chaos of Ruby’s heart while keeping this short novel within the comfort zone of children ages 10 and up. And she provides an excellent starting a5371459-75b5-4545-b1b9-89bcf1ffb9dcpoint for conversations about loss, shame, anger, abandonment…and true, life-changing, friendship. It would make a great book club read for a group ages 10-13.

Oddly, this book is surprisingly poorly proofread. There are many mistakes in the text. At first I wondered if the author was creating an unusual “voice”, but no, there are just words missing in quite a number of places. If you hand this to a child, you might want to let them know that to ease any confusion.

mollisoncoveraperturePlayground, by James Mollison
published in 2015 by Aperture

James Mollison is an amazing photojournalist — insightful, talented, persevering, with a rich, global perspective. 

His latest offering, Playground, is a work he has pursued since at least 2009, and as with his title Where Children Sleep, although children aren’t his primary audience, they can enjoy, appreciate, and respond to it as well as adults. I found it fascinating.

Mollison has photographed the school playgrounds of almost 60 schools around the world, from private London schools to schools of refugees on the West Bank, and from Norwegian island communities to Sierra Leonean slums. 

Playground 2 by James mollison

In them, we observe many elements, from the varying landscapes and settings in which children attend school, to the striking similarities and differences in the ways children interact with one another during their free play time. 

Mollison/Playground - PB

These are large, full-color, two-page spreads in a coffee-table sized book, and each one rivets our attention and piques our curiosity: What are they playing at? Is this child lonely? What are the kids wearing? What does this terrain and weather feel like? Would I like to be a part of this group? So much fascination and diversity.

For each scene, a small black-and-white line drawing of one figure in the photo is set apart, creating a clever seek-and-find game as well.

playground by james mollison

The whole, beautiful compendium engages us in the wide world, expands our boundaries, and fosters excellent conversation and reflection.


In the end-pages, Mollison tells us a little bit about each school and sometimes what he witnessed as he sat poised to photograph the scene. Some of these bits could be shared with young children. The book’s Foreword, by Jon Ronson, is of interest to teens and older.

Exceptional and highly recommended.

Book-Scavenger-coverBook Scavenger, by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, with illustrations by Sarah Watts
published in 2015 by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt and Company

Garrison Griswold is the Willy Wonka of the literary world.

He’s created the enormously popular game of Book Scavenger — featuring hidden books, secret ciphers, and tantalizing codes.

Emily, age 12, is a Book Scavenger devotee. She’s just moved to San Francisco, made a new friend in James — codebreaker extraordinaire — and stumbled upon Griswold’s top-secret new treasure hunt. So far, so good.


But Griswold has been ambushed and shot. Sinister guys are on the trail of the treasure, which means they’re after Emily and James!gold bug pendant

Hair-raising adventure, copious codes, lessons in friendship, mortal danger, Edgar Allan Poe, Jack Kerouac, San Francisco landmarks, and loads of book love in this enjoyable, fast-paced novel for ages 10 and up.

This week — ten gracefully-aging books celebrating summer at the beach.

a beloved Frank Asch favorite

sand cake cover image

Sand Cake, written and illustrated by Frank Asch
originally published in 1978; this edition 2015 by Aladdin

One of my favorites from when my kids were small, this story shines with imagination and warmth.

sand cake interior by frank asch

Baby Bear and Papa Bear concoct one clever, make-believe Sand Cake, while Mama Bear provides a scrumptious alternative. Soooo imaginative and affectionate. A bunch of Frank Asch’s old titles are being republished. My advice: Scoop them up! Ages 2 and up.

a pleasant Swedish beach story

will goes to the beach cover image

Will Goes to the Beach, by Olof and Lena Landström
originally published in Sweden in 1992; English edition 1995 by R&S Books

Will and Mama are heading to the beach in this carefree, comfortable tale from the team giving us the Pim stories.

will goes to the beach interior by olof and lena landstrom

After a long bike ride, they finally arrive just in time for the rain to start. But does that stop Will and Mama? Not a bit! A briefly told, calm & happy story of seashores and swimming and picnics. Ages 2 and up.

heading down under for an Aussie holiday

greetings from sandy beach cover image

Greetings from Sandy Beach, written and illustrated by Bob Graham
published in Australia in 1990; first U.S. edition 1992 by Kane/Miller Book Publishers

Quintessential Bob Graham goodness here, with this  marvelously-average family jaunting off to the beach for a couple of days.

greetings from sandy beach illustration bob graham

Carsickness. A motorcycle gang. A busload of schoolkids. Difficulties with tent set-up. Graham excels at making the mundane feel as endearing as it truly is. Enjoy this sweet, funny glimpse of real family life, with ages 4 and up.

off to the Oregon coast with Grandma

grandma summer cover image

Grandma Summer, written and illustrated by Harley Jessup
published in 1999 by Viking

Young Ben is being whisked off to spend time with his grandma at her old cottage on the shore. Ben is not a fan of this plan.

grandma summer illustration harley jessup

It doesn’t take long, though, for the simplicity and beauty of this place, and the moxie and joy of his most excellent grandma, to capture Ben’s heart. A delightful, warm, and refreshing read for ages 4 and up.

British beach superheroes, up next

traction man and the beach odyssey cover image

Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey, written and illustrated by Mini Grey
published in the UK in 2011; first U.S. edition 2012 by Alfred A. Knopf

If you haven’t met Traction Man yet, you’ll want to make his acquaintance. He’s a small action figure whose best pal is his pet Scrubbing Brush. Together, these two have some mighty adventures.

traction man and the beach odyssey interior by mini grey

This time it’s off for a holiday at the beach where they encounter underwater creatures, accidentally wash out to sea, and meet some dollies named Beach-Time Brenda! Funny and action-packed, with a bit of a Toy Story feel, for ages 5 and up.

a tender toddler tale from Helen Oxenbury

tom and pippo on the beach cover image

Tom and Pippo on the Beach, written and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
published in the UK in 1992; first U.S. edition 1993 by Candlewick Press

Tom and Pippo are some of Helen Oxenbury’s most enduring and endearing characters. If you have toddlers, you should seek out some of these little books; they’ll be loved to death.

tom and pippo on the beach illustration helen oxenbury

In this episode, Tom and Pippo (his snuggly monkey) spend a day with Dad at the beach and have some interesting encounters with hats. Extremely simple and simply perfect, for ages 1 and up.

sheer craziness, along the coast of Maine

down to the sea with mr. magee cover image

Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee, written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
published in 2000 by Chronicle Books

Chris Van Dusen’s electric-bright illustrations, bursting with vigor, sunshine, and pandemonium will draw anyone into this wild tale.

down to the sea with mr. magee interior by chris van dusen

Magee and his faithful dog Dee are heading out to sea for a pleasure ride when they run amok with a pod of whales and Whoa Nellie! — does the day ever turn out unexpectedly! A blast of crazy adventure and humor, for ages 4 and up.

one helpful chicken at the beach

lottie's new beach towel cover image

Lottie’s New Beach Towel, written and illustrated by Petra Mathers
first published 1998; this edition 2001 by Aladdin Paperbacks

Lottie the chicken receives a cheerful new beach towel — cherry red with white polka-dots — just in time for her beach picnic with her pal, Herbie.

lottie's new beach towel interior by petra mathers

And what a handy towel it turns out to be! Find out all its fortuitous uses  including saving the day for a beach wedding, in this perky little story, for ages 2 and up.

town mouse and the country mouse — the beach sequel

charlie and tyler at the seashore cover iamge

Charlie and Tyler at the Seashore, written and illustrated by Helen Craig
published in 1995 by Candlewick Press

From the illustrator of the darling Angelina Ballerina books comes this second episode in the lives of Charlie, the country mouse and his cousin, Tyler, the town mouse.

charlie and tyler at the seashore interior helen craig

This time they’re off to the beach and what a lot of adventures await them! Far too many for Charlie’s tastes. Boat rides, toy theaters, and a peckish spell in a seagull nest! Home sweet home never felt so good. Ages 4 and up.

an epic adventure for some kittens, courtesy of John Goodall

the surprise picnic cover image

The Surprise Picnic, a wordless book by John Goodall
published in 1977 by Atheneum

No one does wordless quite like John Goodall.  With his half-page turns that change the scene and advance the story, and his adorable small creatures in their charming English environs. Fantastic.

the surprise picnic interior by john goodall

It’s a beautiful day and Mama Cat is taking her kittens on a picnic. Off they row across the bay to a secluded beach where they spread out the tea and tarts. That’s when the surprises begin however, as the most extraordinary sequence of adventures unfolds! Will this trio ever return to their comfy home? A treat for ages 2 and up.

More beach and summer titles are listed in the Subject Index under Seasons — Summer.
Why not beat the heat with some lemonade and a good book!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 506 other followers

%d bloggers like this: