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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

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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

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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

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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!

what?! it’s a Dylan and Arnosky collaboration

man gave names to all the animals cover image

Man Gave Names to All the Animals, lyrics by Bob Dylan, illustrations by Jim Arnosky
published in 2015 by Sterling Children’s Books

Bob Dylan’s 70’s folk song about the naming of the animals “in the beginning, in the beginning” is a catchy choice for young children. Upbeat. Rhythmic. Nice touches of humor.

man gave names to all the animals bob dylan and jim arnosky

Now the grandpapa of naturalist children’s lit, Jim Arnosky, has illustrated it with color-saturated pages depicting a multitude of animals and plants from around the world. More than 170 creatures crowd onto these few pages. A list of their names is included so you can work at identifying them all, with a link for clues if you need them.

Awesome collaboration, celebrating nature, and allowing you to introduce your kids to two exceptional artists. Ages 2 and up.

welcome back, Dory!!!

Dory and the Real True Friend cover image

Dory and the Real True Friend, written and illustrated by Abby Hanlon
published in 2015 by Dial Books for Young Readers

I fell in love with Dory when Abby Hanlon introduced her to us last year. (Read my review of Dory Fantasmagory here.)

Now she’s back! In all her irrepressible, imagination-up-the-wazoo, no-filter self. Do you know a child like Dory? I know several, and I love their slightly out-of-control, fly’s-eye way of seeing the universe.

Dory and the Real True Friend interior Abby Hanlon

Find out what happens when Dory’s new school year starts and she meets a wondrous girl named Rosabelle! Never fear, Mrs. Gobble Gracker, Mr. Nuggy, and Mary are all back in this sequel, just right for stout, independent readers or for reading aloud to ages 5 and up. It does make more sense if you read the titles in order.

summertime…when the fish are jumping

Bear and Hare go Fishing cover image

Bear & Hare Go Fishing, written and illustrated by Emily Gravett
published in 2014 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Emily Gravett is one of my favorite British author/illustrators. I prepare to smile any time I see her name on a book.

Bear and Hare go Fishing interior Emily Gravett

Bear and Hare are great friends. They’re off on a superb picnic and fishing outing. But crazy catches, mishaps and surprises are in store for these two! Loads of fun accompanied by warm, charming illustrations, for ages 2 and up.

because my grandparents were Swede-Finns!

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The Best Part of a Sauna, by Sheryl Peterson, illustrated by Kelly Dupre
published in 2013 by Raven Publications

Finnish immigrants brought their sauna traditions with them to northern Minnesota, igniting a passion held by many; thousands of small saunas perch on the shores of our gorgeous, rocky lakes.

the best part of a sauna interior sheryl peterson and kelly dupre

Coming from a small publishing house in Ely, Minnesota, this story gives a glimpse of the whole north woods sauna experience through the eyes of a little boy. Minnesota artist Kelly Dupre’s gorgeous, bold artwork accompanies this lovely, thoroughly Minnesotan story. Ages 3 and up.

a fascinating catalog of people

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Extraordinary People: A Semi-Comprehensive Guide to Some of the World’s Most Fascinating Individuals, written by Michael Hearst, illustrated by Aaron Scamihorn
published in 2015 by Chronicle Books

The woman who gave us Tollhouse Cookies, and an inspirational Canadian marathoner. A famous Japanese collector — of slime molds! And a medieval woman who was an extraordinary composer.

extraordinary people interior1 hearst and scamihorn

Michael Hearst introduces 50 fascinating people from around the world, across time, spanning an incredible range of achievements, including a few whose “achievements” were extraordinarily bad. Each gets an inviting, stylish, two-page spread courtesy of designer Aaron Scamihorn. An outstanding, diverse book to peruse with kids ages 8 and up-up-up.

because you shouldn’t put off until tomorrow what you could do today…according to Aesop

the grasshopper and the ants cover image

The Grasshopper & the Ants, retold and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
published in 2015 by Little, Brown and Company

Award-winning illustrator Jerry Pinkney has tackled several of Aesop’s fables now, and each one is a masterpiece.

the grasshopper and the ants interior jerry pinkney

Enjoy this ancient tale of the busy ants and the procrastinating, live-for-the-moment grasshopper, while feasting your eyes on Jerry’s absolutely amazing artwork. Plus — don’t miss his intriguing Author’s Note, in which he directs your attention to one last piece of the story you might otherwise overlook. A beauty, for ages 2 and up.

an explosion of sound from someone I’d never heard of

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Jubilee!: One Man’s Big, Bold, and Very, Very Loud Celebration of Peace, by Alicia Potter, illustrated by Matt Tavares
published in 2014 by Candlewick Press

I am betting that, like me, you have never heard of Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore, a man John Philip Sousa hailed as “the Father of the American Band.”

jubilee by alicia potter and matt taveres

As a bandleader, Gilmore was extremely fond of the huge sound he could get from amassing more than the usual number of instruments. He was also a fellow who dreamed huge dreams — and pulled them off. Read about an almost unbelievable musical spectacle that took place in Boston in 1869. A fascinating slice of American history for ages 6 and up. Handsomely illustrated, and including lengthy additional notes.

the surprising residents of nests

whose nest cover image

Whose Nest?: A Lift-the-Flap Book by Victoria Cochrane, illustrated by Guy Troughton
first published in the U.K.; published in the U.S. in 2013 by Insight Kids

Gorgeous watercolor paintings of eight nests, set in their natural surroundings, dominate the pages of this superb book for young children, ages 2 and up.

whose nest interior cochrane and troughton

Each nest comes with a riddle, introducing its resident. Who could live here? Whose nest is it? Peek into the nest by opening the flaps and meet small creatures such as a dormouse or bumblebee, and others as massive as an eagle. Beautiful language, a welcome beckoning into the curiosities and delights of nature, and exceptional artwork.

so it’s adventure you want, eh?

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Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey, written and illustrated by Alex Milway
first U.S. edition published in 2014 by Candlewick Press

Pigsticks is itching for adventure, and promptly seizes on a plan to travel to the Ends of the Earth. His first task is to hire a handy assistant to tote all the heavy baggage and prepare tasty meals. That turns out to be Harold the Hamster.

pigsticks and harold interior alex milway

Together these two trek through jungles, cross deserts, climb mountains, meeting unexpected and formidable obstacles at every turn. Will they survive the journey? Will they locate the Ends of the Earth? And will Harold ever get to eat his favorite cake? Brilliant first chapter book, heavily illustrated in Milway’s snappy, humorous style. A blast for ages 5 and up.

A second Pigsticks installment is due out in the U.S. this Fall.

a lovely message from some truly wise owls

the happy owls cover image

The Happy Owls, written and illustrated by Celestino Piatti
first English translation 1963, renewed in 1993 and 2013 by NorthSouth Books

Why are these two small owls so happy? Other birds want to know –the greedy ones and the vain ones who scrabble and preen.

the happy owls illustration celestino piatti

Find out what brings such deep contentment to these little owlets  — a simple and beautiful word for us all.

the happy owls illustration2 celestino piatti

This story originated in 1895 with Dutch author/artist Theo van Hoijtema. It was translated into German, and then illustrated in 1963 by Swiss designer Piatti, with his gorgeous, bold lines, patterns, and colors. I wish I could show you every image! A striking book with a lovely message for ages 3 and up.

be fascinated by a bee

bee dance cover image

Bee Dance, written and illustrated by Rick Chrustowski
published in 2015 by Henry Holt and Company

Minnesota author/illustrator alert!

Rick Chrustowski’s bold, colorful cut paper collage will magnetize young children to these pages, while his energetic text draws them into the world of the hive.

bee dance interior rick chrustowski

Discover how bees dance messages to one another, telling them just where to find a honey jackpot. Flabbergasting stuff, for ages 2 and up.

in honor of the Great Minnesota Get-Together — the State Fair!

billy and goat at the state fair cover image

Billy and Goat at the State Fair, written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
published in 2015 by Alfred A. Knopf

There’s nothing like the State Fair! Billy and his rambunctious best friend Goat are certainly keen to go.

billy and goat at the state fair interior dan yaccarino

Billy plans to enter his goat in the Best Goat Contest, while Goat is siren-drawn to wild adventures. Ride the roller coaster, munch corn dogs, and find out if this pair ever makes it to the livestock arena. Jolly antics for ages 2 and up.

a cute collection of stories for independent readers

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Sprout Street Neighbors: Five Stories, written and illustrated by Anna Alter
published in 2015 by Alfred A. Knopf

Henry Mouse, Wilbur Cat, Violet Hen, Emma Squirrel, and Fernando Rabbit are friendly neighbors, living in an apartment building on Sprout Street.

sprout street neighbors illustration anna alter

Join them in five sweet tales that take us through a year of acorn dilemmas, birthday parties, Daffodil Parades, secret gardens, and tenderhearted solutions to pesky problems. 100 illustrated pages, for sturdy readers ready for a chapter book or to read aloud to ages 4 and up.

a good old-fashioned road trip

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Drive: A Look at Roadside Opposites by Kellen Hatanaka
published in 2015 by Groundwood Books

Coming to us from Canada — take a stylish road trip in this loaded-down station wagon and spy high and low things, above and below things, by gazing out your window.

drive a look at roadside opposites interior kellen hatanaka

Hatanaka’s stunning graphic design will please young and old. Simply gorgeous, for ages 18 months and up.

a charming year of poetry

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Changes: A Child’s First Poetry Collection, poems by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrations by Tiphanie Beeke
published in 2015 by Sourcebooks

Charlotte Zolotow is one of the grand dames of children’s literature who died at age 98, in 2013. Here is a dear collection of 28 of her poems, arranged by season.

Changes by Charlotte Zolotow and Tiphanie Beeke

Almost entirely devoted to the experiences of young children in the natural world, these short, sparkling gems are accompanied by Beeke’s lovely, sunny illustrations. Beautiful, timeless, captivating, for ages 2 and up.

hold on to your doughnuts!

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Jampires, written and illustrated by Sarah McIntyre and David O’Connell
published in the UK in 2014; first U.S. edition 2015 by Scholastic, Inc.

Sam has encountered an abysmally shocking situation: the jam filling in his doughnut has been sucked out by…Something!

Turns out it’s a case of Jampires!

jampires interior sarah mcintyre and david o'connell

Jampires, if you don’t know, are relentlessly in search of jammy goodness! Sam voyages to The Land of the Jampires — a confectionary fairyland — and forges a delectable alliance! Unwrap a pack of Jammie Dodgers and dig into this toothsome delight with ages 3 and up.

a cautionary tale about pets

melissa's octopus and other unsuitable pets cover image

Melissa’s Octopus and Other Unsuitable Pets, written and illustrated by Charlotte Voake
published in the UK in 2014; first U.S. edition 2015 by Candlewick Press

Melissa has an Octopus…who makes quite a sloshy mess in the bathtub.

And Arthur’s warthog is quite boorish about pushing his weight around.

melissa's octopus and other unsuitable pets interior charlotte voake

But one pet is clearly the most unsuitable of them all! What can it be?!

Charming and funny…with a gulping shock at the end! Beware: children are consumed in this story! If your child, age 4 and older, is up for that sort of humor, this morsel will tickle her fancy. By the wonderful Charlotte Voake.

trouble with a night owl duck

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Goodnight Already! by Jory John, illustrated by Benji Davies
published in 2015 by Harper

Bear is exhausted. He can hardly wait to snuggle down in his bed and sleep.

Duck is bright eyed and caffeinated. He’s ready to hang out with his good buddy, Bear.

goodnight already interior jory john and benji davies

These two are on a collision course. How will it end? For any bedraggled parent of everready-energy-bunny children, this humorous tale will ring true. Benji Davies’ brilliant illustrations pack in oodles of personality. A big winner for ages 3 and up.

how to win friends and influence people

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One Word from Sophia, by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail
published in 2015 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

I picked this up because of my adoration for Yasmeen Ismail’s illustration work. Love, love, love her!

one word from sophia interior jim averbeck and yasmeen ismail

It’s the clever and unusual account of young Sophia whose One True Desire is a pet giraffe. Her mom, dad, uncle and grand-mama need serious convincing, however, giving Sophia quite a task — navigating each person’s unique sense of logic and discovering the best approach ever. A splendid and original book for ages 4 or 5 and up.

introducing a pioneering painter of birds — and it’s not Audubon

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The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist, by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Aliona Bereghici
published in 2015 by Two Lions

Louis Agassiz Fuertes was born in New York in 1874 and went on to pioneer the painting of living birds in natural habitats rather than kill, taxidermy, and stylize them for their portraits.

sky painter interior margarita engle and aliona bereghici

This lyrical, brief biography of him sings with beauty, while the watercolor illustrations saturate the pages with vivid color. An enormously appealing window on birds, art, and a wonderful man. Share this with children ages 3 and up. An informative Historical Note will fill in some blanks for older readers.

magnificent, tiny sparks of wonder

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Small Wonders: Jean-Henri Fabre & His World of Insects, by Matthew Clark Smith, illustrated by Giuliano Ferri
published in 2015 by Two Lions

My clear favorite for this week is this fascinating biography of a wonderful entomologist. This Frenchman was a keen observer who took time to wonder and look and discover.

And he was an excellent writer with a passion to lure all of us “to see the world through fresh, patient eyes — to appreciate the mystery and wonder of even the smallest creatures.” For his beautiful writing about nature, he was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature.

small wonders illustration giuliano ferri

Matthew Clark Smith has the background and heart of a naturalist, and communicates the beauty of Fabre’s pursuits in his captivating text. Ferri’s watercolor and pencil illustrations are radiant and lovely. Highly recommended for ages 5 and up.

darling and bursting with helpfulness

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Whose Shoe? by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
published in 2015 by Clarion Books

This brilliant author-illustrator team have concocted an immensely satisfying tale of a conscientious little mouse who finds one, lone, shoe. 

whose shoe illustration sergio ruzzier

He is determined to find its owner, who must be missing it dreadfully. When his task is accomplished, his reward is sweet indeed! Charming to the nth degree, for ages 2 and up.

a lovely ode to the annual beach vacation

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See You Next Year, by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Todd Stewart
published in 2015 by Owlkids Books

Coming to us from Canada, here is the quintessential family week at the beach. From the long drive to the coast, to the ever-present seagulls, beach umbrellas, and soothing rhythms of the days. Nothing changes, and that is why this little girl likes it. 

see you next year interior larsen and stewart

This year, though, she makes a new friend. Together they share the familiar, and when they leave, they know they can count on one more common thread to their beach vacations — seeing one another the next year. Great little beach read, with striking illustrations, for ages 2 and up.

a magical glimpse of nighttime

the night world cover image

The Night World, written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein
published in 2015 by Little, Brown and Company

Award-winning author/illustrator Gerstein artistically, creatively explores nighttime in his latest book. One little boy and his cat, Sylvie, are the only ones awake and creepity-creep, out they step into the mesmerizingly-different back yard night world.

the night world interior mordicai gerstein

Chalky-black illustrations, sinuous and mysterious and fabulous,  hold so much to discover! Then, the star-studded sky slowly brightens and swooosh! — daylight spreads with color galore. Fantastic book full of wonder and discovery for ages 2 and up.

gorgeous look at the fascination and elegance of a whale

the blue whale cover image

The Blue Whale, written and illustrated by Jenni Desmond
published in 2015 by Enchanted Lion Books

British artist Jenni Desmond has taken a marvelously creative approach to simply telling us all about blue whales.

the blue whale interior jenni desmond

Gorgeous artwork cleverly communicates an outstanding amount of interesting information about these intelligent, graceful giants. This is science that tastes like chocolate fudge ice cream. Brilliant work, for ages 5 and up. Here’s hoping she tackles more books that get published in the U.S. Thank you, Jenni and Enchanted Lion!

outstanding story bubbling with warmth and contentment

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Sunday Shopping, by Sally Derby, illustrated by Shadra Strickland
published in 2015 by Lee & Low Books Inc.

This exceptional story is based on Sally Derby’s childhood memories. Evie and her grandma have a Sunday night tradition that’s delightful and heartwarming, and Evie is here to tell us all about it.

sunday shopping interior derby and strickland

It involves dressing in nighties and fancy hats, gathering scissors, tape, and the Sunday newspaper, and “going shopping.” But the real ingredients of this memorable routine are love, companionship, strength, contentment, optimism — profound treasures that belong to this dear pair. Shadra Strickland’s brilliant illustration work exudes imagination and vitality. I love this offering, for ages 4 and up.

ridiculous and seaworthy

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Yak and Gnu, by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Cat Chapman
published in 2015 by Candlewick Press

Yak in his kayak and Gnu with his canoe, are out for a paddle.

yak and gnu interior maciver and chapman

Along the way they encounter a host of other sailors and their various craft. Goats in boats! Flotillas of gorillas! Join the nautical party and enjoy a crazy splash of humor, lilting rhyme, and the friendliest yak and gnu you’ll ever meet. Great fun for ages 2 and up.

jaunty crows in a peppy rhyme

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Counting Crows, by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey
published in 2015 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

One, Two, Three…crows in a tree!

counting crows interior appelt and dunlavey

Flap on over and join the rollicking rhythm of this snazzy flock of crows. Kathi Appelt’s rhyme is marvelously contagious, toe-tapping, sunny…all of that. Plus you get to count up to twelve…eventually. Love the jaunty red, white and black artwork here. It fits the text smashingly! Delightful, for ages 2 and up.

all aboard for Antarctica

sophie scott goes south cover image

Sophie Scott Goes South, written and illustrated by Alison Lester
published in 2012 in Australia; first U.S. edition in 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Alison Lester is a favorite Aussie author/illustrator of ours. Probably one of our all-time favorite books is her The Journey Home.

sophie scott goes south interior alison lester

Lester went on a real journey to Antarctica, then fictionalized it in this fascinating, upbeat, travelogue by nine-year-old Sophie Scott. Find out about life on board a massive icebreaker, witness iceberg and penguin sightings, explore Antarctica in a special snowmachine, get caught in a blizzard, enjoy a King Neptune party — and much more. Photos and Lester’s charming drawings accompany Sophie’s 30 days of entries. Fantastic read for ages 7 and up. 

simply ducky

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Just Ducks, by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino
first U.S. edition 2012 by Candlewick Press

Here’s a title I’ve been meaning to fit in to my blog for years. It’s Nicola Davies’ vivid, child-friendly introduction to all things ducky, masterfully tailored to preschoolers.

just ducks illustration salvatore rubbino

And the amazing Salvatore Rubbino’s equally friendly, exceptionally-striking illustrations. Ducks are one of those parts of nature that so many of us have access to, making them a perfect starting point for observation and learning.

Bonkers, sci-fi read-aloud

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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.

cakes in space illustration sarah mcintyre

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

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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!

ice cream summer interior peter sis

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 cover image

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.”

bird & diz interior golio and young

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 cover image

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.”

the new small person interior lauren child

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

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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?

lost in nyc spiegelman and sanchez

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….

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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!

mesmerized interior rockliff and bruno

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…

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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.

one family illustration george shannon

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…

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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.

over in the wetlands interior rose and dunlavey

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…

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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?

as an oak tree grows illustration g. brian karas

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?

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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. 

number one sam interior greg pizzoli

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. 

Because it’s pool time!

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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.

swimming swimming illustration gary clements

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

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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.

what this story needs is a pig in a wig illustration virjan

Sonic-boom colors. Mo Willem-esque illustrations. Friendly, happy story. A watery winner!

For fans and non-fans of creepy-crawlies

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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. 

some bugs interior diterlizzi and wenzel

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

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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.

This is a Spangled Pandemonium

This is a Spangled Pandemonium

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?

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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.

london calls interior dawnay and barrow

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

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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!

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Without the C, a chair has hair!

take away the a interior escoffier and digiacomo

26 extremely clever pages, especially fun for newish readers.

Calling Sherlock!

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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?

where's the pair illustration britta teckentrup

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

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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 terrible troll bird illustration d'aulaire

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 

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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.

eddie's tent illustration sarah garland

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

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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.

the red bicycle interior jude isabella and simone shin

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.

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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 cover imageAdventures 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.091021-01-norway-fjords-traveler-destinations_big

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.

midsummer-fire-nikolai-astrupThe 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

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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.

sjark-2As 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 to098f7a2856afc72c5b645f1eae712b23 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.

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