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My annual non-electronic gift guides are idea-sparking resources for parents and grandparents…

…featuring gifts that inspire creativity, imagination, outdoor adventures, wonder, investigation.

Watch for the first one this Friday.
In tandem with REI’s awesome #OptOutside movement, that will be an Outdoor Adventures list.

Our family’s favorite memories are outdoor adventures.

This year I’ve got a couple great give-aways of items on my lists. The first one is in that Outdoor Adventures list, so don’t miss it!

Meanwhile, may I draw your attention to my new tip jar?

The thousands of hours I spend researching, reading, writing, editing Orange Marmalade are a labor of love.
The ads you see make revenue for WordPress, not for me.
In fact, it costs me to run my blog and as I consider upgrading for a better reader experience, those costs will rise.

All of that has led me to add a tip jar which you can see along the margin.
If you benefit from Orange Marmalade, you now have a way of making a donation.

My gift guides also have some Amazon affiliate links. I don’t usually add those to my posts, but if at this time of year you do some shopping at Amazon, linking through to their site from my list gives me a small dab back. Thanks to those who do!

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ten-word reviews

You’re busy.
I get that.
Holidays approach.
Voila!
10-word teasers to tempt you towards books I adore!
Guaranteed to make your day better.

Fort-building Time, written by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Abigail Halpin
published in 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf

Orange Marmalade gold! Charming forts, outdoor fun, every season. Jubilant!

City Moon, written by Rachael Cole, illustrated by Blanca Gómez
published in 2017 by Schwartz & Wade Books

Gorgeous jaunt to spy peek-a-boo moon. Sweet togetherness. Preschool brilliance.

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day, written and illustrated by Beatrice Alemagna
originally published in France, 2016; first U.S. edition 2017 by Harper

Explore outdoors! Ditch electronic games. Doing “nothing” can be spectacular!

No One Else Like You, written by Siska Goeminne, illustrated by Merel Eyckerman
originally published in Belgium, 2016; first U.S. edition 2017 by Westminster John Knox Press

Diverse people make a captivating world. You make it lovely.

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way), written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell
published in 2017 by Little, Brown and Company

Clever, funny, surprising, hair-raising alphabetical adventures!  Jolly, surefire pleaser!

Hilda and the Runaway Baby, written and illustrated by Daisy Hirst
first U.S. edition 2017 by Candlewick Press

Rapscallion baby rescued by indefatigable, racing pig! Sweet, happy friendship. 

Wee Sister Strange, written by Holly Grant, illustrated by K.G. Campbell
published in 2017 by Schwartz & Wade Books

Enchanted nighttime woodsy ramble…searching for what? Lush, hushed, magical.

But I Don’t Eat Ants, written by Dan Marvin, illustrated by Kelly Fry
published in 2017 by POW!

Loquacious anteater gourmand, plainly peeved at ant-eating expectations! Wowzer!

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse, written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

Quackily-quirky! Howlingly-ingenuous! Home is where the wolf is?!

Terrific, written and illustrated by Jon Agee
published in 2017 by Dial Books for Young Readers

Curmudgeonly Eugene + plucky parrot = crack Caribbean sailing team! So droll!

The Wonderling, written and illustrated by Mira Bartók
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

Arthur is a groundling, a curious part-animal, part-human creature whose dear fox face and lovely chestnut eyes speak volumes of the sensitive, kind heart within. 

His quiet tenderness does him no favors, however, in the dismal, dank Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures where he lives along with scores of other raggedy, pitiful youngsters. Miss Carbunkle, a woman with a dreadfully pinched heart, rules there without mercy. Not a morsel of celebration, not a squidgeon of beauty, and certainly not a single drop of music is tolerated.

One day Arthur bravely protects a little bird named Trinket from some schoolyard bullies and in so doing earns a true and valiant friend. These two not only stage an epic break-out, but wend their way into extraordinarily strange places, meet a gamut of characters — some wise, some cunning, some downright villainous. What they overhear, stumble upon, and seek, turns into an adventure with vast repercussions for their world, and Arthur’s destiny as the Wonderling is at the center of it. 

Mira Bartók’s voice is sumptuous. Her fantasy gushes with richly descriptive passages, inventive cityscapes, and highly-imaginative elements, and she’s chosen to give a starring role to Music, weaving it throughout the account. That alone makes this a more thought-provoking fantasy than many others.

  Arthur himself is a bit of an antihero. He is no swarthy, swashbuckling captain figure, but a timid soul who gradually, bravely, blossoms into all he is meant to be.

The book as a whole is not as lightning-paced and action-packed as some fantasies, yet don’t let these charming fox-drawings fool you — it is similar in many ways to Oliver Twist with its settings, intensity, and sinister figures. 

All that, and the final moments take place on Christmas Eve, making it a perfect holiday read for ages 10 and up. I thoroughly enjoyed it. This story is already in the process of becoming a movie, so do yourself a big favor and Read. The. Book. First!

Coming up a week from today, Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving.

Carl Larsson “Potato Harvest”

A fitting response to gratitude is generosity towards others, and Thanksgiving finds cooks everywhere preparing ample, artistic feasts for gatherings of family, friends, neighbors and strangers…

… while a myriad churches and community groups work to fill up food banks and dish up meals for the homeless.

I love the connection between giving thanks and goodwill. Today I’ve got three grand picture books that link these for us beautifully. Starting with one that’s brand new:

Thanksgiving in the Woods, written by Phyllis Alsdurf, illustrated by Jenny Løvlie
published in 2017 by Sparkhouse Family

Author Phyllis Alsdurf based this book on an incredible, 20-year tradition for one family in upstate New York who annually host an outdoor, woodland, Thanksgiving feast attended by a couple hundred relatives, friends, and newcomers. 

Experience the whole day through the eyes of one young boy, from gathering kindling for the bonfire, to watching the throngs come bearing pots and platters of food, to listening to the fiddling and singing under the stars.  It’s a lovely tribute to community, common ground, sharing, and celebrating the simple gifts of life together. Ages 2 and up.

And a couple older favorites:

The Thanksgiving Door, written and illustrated by Debby Atwell
published in 2003 by Houghton Mifflin

Here’s another story of welcoming.

Ed and Ann are alone for Thanksgiving this year and unfortunately, Ann has just the thanksgiving door illustration debby atwellmajorly burned their dinner. 

As black smoke curls from the oven, Ed suggests they try the little restaurant down the street. The doors are open, and a long Thanksgiving-looking table has been set, so all seems well.

What they don’t see is the ruckus they’ve caused in the back kitchen as the restaurant owners — an extended family of Russian immigrants — debate what to do about these folks who have wandered into their private family gathering.

the thanksgiving door illustration debby atwell

Leave it to Grandmother to step up and extend an Old World welcome.  3 and up.

How Many Days to America?: A Thanksgiving Story, written by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Beth Peck
published in 1988 by Clarion Books

This ever-relevant story traces the harrowing flight of a group of refugees towards peace.

Fleeing from an ominous threat of soldiers, a family of four hurries out in the night. Secrecy, fear, an overcrowded boat, a miserable journey are all part of the ordeal. Finally they arrive to the welcome arms of strangers, and it just happens to be Thanksgiving Day. Clearly the giving of thanks for safety in a new land has double meaning for this particular dinner party.

how many days to america illustration beth peck

Beth Peck’s beautiful illustrations portray these seekers handsomely, with dignity, throughout their plight. Ages 4 and up.

 

2017 has been quite the banner year for picture books about authors.

I love learning about these creators and seeing how fragments of their lives are woven into the fabric of their stories.

I’ll refrain from making lengthy remarks today and try to woo you with images! I’ve also listed a few more author bios from the Orange Marmalade archives you won’t want to miss.

Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton, written by Sheri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by John Rocco
published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

 

Read about the creator of beloved figures like Mike Mulligan and Katy the snowplow while you watch her at work! A total delight for ages 4 and up.

A Boy, A Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E.B. White, written by Barbara Herkert, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
published in 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.

 

Illustrated with warmth and tenderness by Lauren Castillo, this brief account of the creator of Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan suits ages 5 and up. Especially relevant for those who have already heard those stories read aloud.

John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of J.R.R. Tolkien, written by Caroline McAlister, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
published in 2017 by Roaring Brook Press

 

Meet young J.R.R. and hear the earliest rumblings that led to Smaug’s appearance in The Hobbit. A lush beauty for ages 4 and up.

Agatha Christie, written by Mª Isabel Sánchez Vegara, illustrated by Elisa Munsó
first published in Spain in 2016; first U.S. edition 2017 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

 

Visually arresting, this peek at the grand dame of mystery will tickle the fancies of folks age 5 and up, even if they haven’t met Hercule and Miss Marple yet.

Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote, written by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Raúl Colón
published in 2017 by Peachtree Publishers

 

Engle’s fascinating free verse provides intriguing insights and Raúl Colón’s masterful illustrations bring medieval Spain to life. Fabulous extras make this a gem for ages 6 through much older.

Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books, written by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
published in 2017 by Chronicle Books

 

You may not recognize Newbery’s name unless you track the prestigious Newbery Award in American children’s literature, but trust me — this guy is the father of children’s literature and this delightful book will make you wish there were a national holiday on his birthday! Fascinating and joyous!

Here are a few more author bios you won’t want to miss, linked to my earlier reviews.

Beatrix Potter & the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig

A Boy Called Dickens

The Journey that Saved Curious George

Lost Boy: The Story of the Man who Created Peter Pan

The Perfect Wizard: Hans Christian Anderson

A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day

The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White

Wanda Gag: The Girl who Lived to Draw

I don’t know about you, but lately my heart feels as though someone has been scouring it with steel wool.

Raw. Abraded. Grieving over violence and suffering, abuse of power and abuse of Earth, caustic tongues and acrimony, overwhelmingly loud day after day.  

As we move towards a series of holidays celebrating gratitude, light, and love, I want to share some powerful titles that console me with their messages of generosity, kindness, and working to alleviate suffering.

These books suit ages 2 through teens. Pick one or two, read them together, and dream of ways you can help mend the brokenness in our world.

At the end of the post, I have links to a couple of non-profits where your gifts can make a difference to people in extreme need.

You Hold Me Up, written by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Danielle Daniel
published in 2017 by Orca Books

Page through this gem and feel your heart glow with the warmth, strength, and richness of community, family, togetherness. 

You hold me up. I hold you up. That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? Monique Gray Smith quietly illuminates humanity’s best self with her minimal, just-right words.

Daniel’s striking palette and touching scenes mean each page delivers a wallop of goodness, all with that beautiful First Nation’s flavor. A total delight from our good neighbors in Canada that’ll woo readers of all ages toward being holder-uppers.

 

Love the World, written and illustrated by Todd Parr
published in 2017 by Little, Brown and Company

Todd Parr’s jubilant colors and relentless optimism radiate from every page in this simple call to love for the very young.

Love yourself! Love the world! Mix and repeat. What a great recipe! A warm-as-a-hug book for ages 18 months and up that fills minds and imaginations with smiles, welcome, and kindness. 

 

Can We Help? Kids Volunteering to Help Their Communities, by George Ancona
published in 2015 by Candlewick Press

Children engaged in knitting hats for homeless families, harvesting vegetables for soup kitchens, delivering meals to the elderly, training assistance dogs, skiing down mountains with physically-disabled kids, picking up trash along highways, and more, briefly describe their activities…

…all accompanied by copious color photographs. No glitz. Just ordinary kids pitching in to help their neighbors. Heartening and inspiring. Ages 3 and up. What can you think of to do together?

It Takes a Village, written by Hillary Rodham Clinton, illustrated by Marla Frazee
published in 2017 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

In her Author’s Note, Clinton says “this book is meant to spark a conversation with our youngest about what children can do to help make the world what they hope it will be.”

Short phrases comprise the text, some more meaningful than others. The main theme is almost completely borne out by Frazee’s ever-tender, inclusive illustrations… 

… a sequence of vignettes showing folks banding together to build a prime playground. A neighborhood gathering place. You can’t miss the vibe of hope, collaboration, and warm community shining through here, a lovely antidote to weariness and cynicism. Ages 3 and up.

Letters to a Prisoner, by Jacques Goldstyn
published in Canada in 2015 as Le prisonnier sans frontiéres; English edition 2017 by Owlkids Books

A powerful, wordless story unfolds when one man and his young daughter (could be a son) set off to protest a powerful regime. Soldiers attack and the father is thrown into prison. 

As his hope dwindles, a little bird flies through the prison window and delivers a letter. So cheering! But it’s confiscated by an angry guard. More letters come, only to be burned. The plight of this prisoner becomes known around the world, however, and all manner of individuals write letters — fortress-loads of letters. What is the result?

It’s a wordless story, vibrant, poignant, triumphant, taking its inspiration from Amnesty International’s letter-writing marathon and seeking to inspire participation in this annual event. What a wonderful movement to take part in! Ages 4 and up.

The Happy Prince: A Tale by Oscar Wilde, illustrated and adapted by Maisie Paradise Shearring
original edition 2016; published in 2017 by Thames & Hudson

Shearring retells Oscar Wilde’s famous short story featuring the ornate, bejewelled statue of a happy prince and a swallow who alights on it. 

The prince, so oblivious of others’ needs throughout his life of opulent wealth, sorrows now from his heights as a statue, for he can see the ugliness and misery of the world from this new vantage point. Both the prince and the swallow are thus moved to sacrifice themselves for the good of the destitute in this fairy tale-esque story.

Shearring’s masterful artwork won the prestigious Bologna International Award for Illustration and you will easily understand why. Her emotive color palette and stunning compositions are utterly captivating. Wherein does true happiness lie — in hoarding or in laying down one’s life for others? Compelling ideas for ages 5 and up.

Manjhi Moves a Mountain, written by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Danny Popovici
published in 2017 by Creston Books

As I read this story, I found myself thinking the author might have toned down the preposterously-inhuman task she relates — that of one poor Indian man digging, spadeful by spadeful, a gap through an actual mountain — if she wanted it to be at all believable.

Then, I turned to the back of the book and discovered that the story is true! Oh! 

Dashrath Manjhi lived in a small, impoverished village in India, separated by a mountain from a village equipped with “running water, doctors, a school, and jobs.” Manjhi keenly felt that if only a roadway could be opened up between these two communities, his own neighbors would be so much better off. Thus, with chisel and hammer, he spent 22 years (!) cutting a road through the mountain.

Read this astonishing story of perseverance with children ages 4 or 5 and up, then ask as Churnin does in her Author’s Note: What kind of “mountain” can you move to make things better in your community? 

Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank, written by Paula Yoo, illustrated by Jamel Akib
published in 2014 by Lee & Low Books

In 2006, Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for demonstrating that “even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development.”

This is the story of Yunus’ life, from his childhood in India when he was awakened to the distress of poverty, to his encounter with a woman named Sufiya who needed just twenty-two cents for bamboo to build the stools she sold for a living. Forced to borrow these small sums from lenders who took unfair advantage, Sufiya and thousands of women like her could never escape grinding poverty.

Yunus dedicated his life to re-thinking money, banking, and lending, and in 1977 launched the first of his village banks which give microcredit to groups of women. His story and the fruits of his work for millions of women around the world are encouraging and inspiring to say the least. This bio is accessible to children ages 9 and up.

Philanthroparites!: A Party-Planning Guide for Kids Who Want to Give Back, by Lulu Cerone
published in 2017 by Aladdin and Beyond Words, Simon & Schuster

I believe there are tens of thousands of middle-grade and high-school kids whose heartbeat is to make a positive difference in the world. Sometimes, though, it’s really hard to figure out just how to do that.

Then, there are the born organizers of the world, God bless them. Lulu Cerone is one of them. As a ten year old, hearing the news of the 2010 Haitian earthquake, she organized lemonade stand wars with kids from her school who wound up raising thousands of dollars for charity. 

This book is a solid collection of 36 great party ideas whose purpose is to raise money for charity or directly infuse kindness into communities. Organized by month to correlate with nationally observed days, Lulu’s creative, fun party plans include tips for success, decorations, themed food ideas, and more. She also includes planning-ahead checklists for a smooth, successful philanthroparty, and lists of organizations she supports in case you need a place to start.

I can easily see how this book would have inspired and instigated my kids to host philanthroparties. Do you know anyone ages 10 and up who would love to be a changemaker? Check out this book!

Inspired to help but don’t know where to start? I have two funds I’d love to see Orange Marmalade readers support:

 

 

To help provide fresh fruits and vegetables to malnourished Syrian and Iraqi refugees sheltering in a neighboring country, click here.

Just $25 provides enough fresh produce for one family for one month. This is a faith-based program in great need of donations to continue this feeding program, and I can vouch for the integrity of those administering it.

For those who prefer to donate to a non faith-based fund, I suggest Save the Children’s fund for Rohingya refugees, which you can access here.  These children have fled horrific violence and need water, food, shelter, and protection in Bangladesh.

 

Thanks for spreading kindness! 

Looking for some great reads for those little shavers, say 15 months and up? Bold, jolly books, short in length but long in painstakingly-crafted ideas and artwork, coming right up!

Truck, Truck, Goose, written by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Zoe Waring
published in 2017 by Harper

One oblivious duck goes on a picnic. How much trouble could that cause?

Plenty and more! Jazzy bright color, gobs of jolly trucks, great humor, and a sweet ending. Fabulous.

Goodnight World, written and illustrated by Debi Gliori
published in 2016 by Bloomsbury

Debi Gliori’s chalky, curving, comforting images spill across the pages in this lovely book…

… simply saying goodnight to all kinds of good things in the world. A creamy dreamy treat that’ll end your day with a warm glow.

Round — written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

An impeccably gorgeous book with a deceptively simple premise — exploring the round bits in our world.

One of my favorite books of the year. Warm, full of wonder, and beautiful.

Which Way? written by Marthe Jocelyn, illustrated by Tom Slaughter
published in 2010 by Tundra Books

Slaughter’s bold-as-brass graphic design and bright primary colors will arrest a child’s attention as you ponder together all the ways to get around and reach your destination.

Simple. Classy. Intelligent. This same team has several other cool titles for toddlers as well.

Stack the Cats, written and illustrated by Susie Ghahremani
published in 2017 by Abrams Appleseed

So stylish.

Beginning with one cat sleeping, we count up by cats. When enough of them arrive, we can stack ’em. But too many cats in a stack teeters and totters. Add a few more, and we can stack cats in a couple of equal, smaller stacks. Effortlessly mind-stretching number awareness on tap here with a side of wit.

I Know Numbers! written and illustrated by Taro Gomi
published in Japan in 1985; first U.S. edition 2017 by Chronicle Books

Taro Gomi’s genius explores the numerous places numbers show up in our world from thermometers to bus stops, team jerseys to dice…

… all delivered with aplomb and massive child-appeal.

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