It’s difficult for me to review board books — which I know many of you are looking for — as my library does not let me request them and they land higgledy-piggledy in branch libraries across the metro area. Sigh. Not a good system for folks looking for specific titles to share with their smallests.

However, I managed to nab a few recently, and thought I’d share with you what I liked best.

First category — books that say “I love you,” and “The world is a beautiful place!”

my heart fills with happiness cover image

My Heart Fills With Happiness, by Monique Gray Smith, illustrations by Julie Flett
published in 2016 by Orca Book Publishers

This book is one of my favorites on the list today. Featuring Julie Flett’s gorgeous artwork (if you see her name on a book, just grab it!) the text simply narrates the gems in a small child’s world that fill his or her heart with happiness.

my heart fills with happiness illustration by julie flett

The special joy of this is that it’s written and illustrated from a Native American/First Nation’s perspective. It’s a lovely combination of widely-human thoughts — seeing the face of someone I love, singing — and specifically Native elements — bannock in the oven, drumming. Exceptional! Highest recommendation!

little you cover image

Little You, by Richard Van Camp, illustrated by Julie Flett
published in 2013 by Orca Book Publishers

Again from Julie Flett, this time accompanying the tender, sweet words of love whispered to a baby by his/her parents. “You are life/and breath adored. You are us/ and so much more.”

little you illustration by julie flett

Sophisticated design, rich colors and patterns, make this a great choice for those who can’t handle cute animals in pastel pinks and blues in their baby books!

we belong together cover image

We Belong Together, written and illustrated by Joyce Wan
published in 2011 by Cartwheel Books

Joyce Wan’s bold designs with her distinct contemporary-Japanese influences, rocket this book to exuberance as we discover that we belong together “like smitten little mittens” and like “peanut butter and jelly.”

we belong together interior by joyce wan

There is so much cheer packed into this small book! I’d say it’s one to buy, fully prepared to wear it completely out with re-readings!

two long ears cover image

Two Long Ears, written and illustrated by Jacob A. Boehne
published in 2016 by Schiffer Publishing Inc.

Here’s one that some of you will roll your eyes at and some will immediately fall for!

two long ears interior by jacob boehne

Count from 1 to 10 while you introduce your baby to the spectrum of folks they’ll meet in any Western urban center — folks with plugs and studs and tattoos and green hair. Embrace the differences! Apparently if you purchase this book it comes with a wall poster and color-it-yourself poster.

Moving on to concept books. This is what I think board books are mainly for — a way to interact with your child over a book. Flip the pages any which way. Read the same page 10 times. It does not matter. There is no particular story line to follow. Just ideas to talk about together.

colors and counting cover images

Counting,created by Aino-Maija Metsola, published in 2015
Colors, published in 2016
both from Wide Eyed Editions

Let’s hear it for this Finnish illustrator/designer and her Marimekko-style designwork in these two brilliant books.

counting interior by aino maija metsola

Besides the riveting illustrations, these books feature flaps to lift revealing tiny puzzles for little ones to solve. One blackbird. Lift the flap to read, “The blackbird flies away to find its dinner. Can you spot 3 acorns?” Now we’ve got to glance around the page to locate those three acorns. In the Colors volume, we have to spot the odd one out.

colors interior by aino maija metsola

Great art, clever brainwork, loads of potential here.

pattern-tastic treasure hunt cover image

Pattern-tastic Treasure Hunt: Spot the Odd One Out with Nature, by Hvass and Hannibal
published in 2016 by Wide Eyed Editions

Another spot the odd one out book, this time with patterns to distinguish — spots, spirals, stripes.

pattern-tastic treasure hunt interior by hvass and hannaibal

Lots of great vocabulary to acquire and clever puzzlers to pore over.

brown bear color book cover image

Jane Foster’s Brown Bear Color Book
coming soon: October 2016, published by little bee books

Line up for textile-designer Jane Foster’s Color Book, coming out this fall. It’s a darling choice for people too young for the ideas required by the previous few titles.

brown bear color book interior by jane foster

Yet there’s great space for interaction and learning as we try to name all the red, orange, yellow objects on the page and also spy that beautiful fellow, Brown Bear. Charming.

rhymoceros cover imagehippopposites cover image

Rhymoceros and Hippopposites, by Janik Coat
published in 2015 and 2012 respectively, by Harry N. Abrams

Concepts of rhyming and opposites are playfully introduced in these two runaway favorites.

rhymoceros interior by janik coat

Check out the “stinky” and “inky” rhinos or the “clear” and “blurry” hippos, and discover a whole new world of word-fun. Extremely clever images stand strikingly alone on white pages, leaving us to fully engage with these good sports!

Moving On. I am of the mind that if a child is old enough to be working on her alphabet, she is probably ready to not be reading board books! Yet there are so, so many ABC board books! Here are a couple which I find so beautiful artistically, that it really does not matter whether elephant starts with an E or not!

A B See Cover image

A B See, by Elizabeth Doyle
published in 2015 by Little Simon

Intricate, lovely artwork here, with each letter made up of objects that begin with it. There are hundreds of beautiful particulars to name in this book.

A B See interior by Elizabeth Doyle

Lists in the back will help you search for or identify even more items than you originally spotted. Did you find that anchovy in the A? How about the Kimono in the K? As you can see, the level of sophistication makes this a book that will suit a wide age range. Bring it along on a car ride to while away the hours.

Charley Harper's Animal Alphabet cover image

Charley Harper’s Animal Alphabet, text by Zoe Burke, illustrations by Charley Harper
published in 2015 by Pomegranate

Charley Harper needs no introduction. If you want your kids to interact with sizzling design, you might let them meet more than 45 animals, introduced alphabetically, in this handsome book.

charley harper's animal alphabet interior by harper and burke

Zoe Burke provides brief rhyming text if you want something to read. Otherwise, you can just ooh and ah and name and wonder and chat together about these magnificent creatures.

Language acquisition is at its peak right now. Capitalize on that with these books introducing foreign languages. I’ve mentioned this series of books before. Now there are a couple more titles:

how monkey says my name is cover image

How Monkey Says “My Name Is!” and How Iguana Says “I Love You!” by Abigail Samoun, illustrated by Sarah Watts
both published in 2016 by Sterling Children’s Books

Find out how monkey says “My name is Monkey” in eight different languages or how Iguana says “I love you!” as they travel around the world.

how monkey says my name is interior samoun and watts

The same languages are used in each book: French, Russian, Arabic, Hindi, Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, and English. Pronunciation guides are included. We will still mangle the sounds of these beautiful languages, but hey, it’s fun to hear the 2-year-old tell Grandma “I love you” in Japanese, right?

If vehicles are your toddler’s bread-and-butter, these should do the trick:

whose truck cover image

Whose Truck? by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Jim Datz
published in 2015 by Harry N. Abrams

Six trucks. Six riddle-icious questions. Which truck is needed for which job? What do they use it for? What are the special parts on it?

whose truck interior buzzeo and datz

Gatefolds open to reveal the answers. Great, bold design with just the right amount of detail for curious kids. Included is a firetruck, snowplow, ambulance, broadcasting truck, utility truck and crane. Exciting stuff!

trucks cover image

Trucks, by Roger Priddy
published in 2013 by Priddy Books

Roger Priddy’s trademark black-line and riveting, bold illustrations open up the world of trucks to small fry. Lift the flaps and learn about diggers and dump trucks and fire engines and more.

trucks interior by roger priddy

This is just one in the line of Priddy’s lift-the-flap books that will transfix your kids over and over and over again.

yellow copter cover image

Yellow Copter, by Kersten Hamilton, illustrated by Valeria Petrone
published in 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers

This is the book with the most storyline today. But trust me — there’s just a few jazzy lines to help you dive into this breathtaking adventure! The yellow rescue copter is on a mission! He’s got to rescue the teacher who is stuck on the ferris wheel! Watch him get the call and zoop into action!

yellow copter interior by hamilton and petrone

This is the third in a series of suspenseful, vehicle superhero tales! If you like, track down Blue Boat and Red Truck as well. Much imaginative play will result from these storylines I’m guessing!

cityblock cover image

Cityblock, by Christopher Franceschelli, illustrated by Peskimo
coming soon, in September 2016, from Abrams Appleseed

This is the fourth book in this dynamite series which began with Alphablock. These tremendously-hefty books are illustrated with pizzazz, their pages flooded with booming color, and are conceptually brilliant, with enticing die-cuts revealing just a little something, a hint for us as we guess what we’ll find when we…

cityblock interior by franceschelli and peskimo

…flip it and discover the entire picture.

cityblock interior2 by franceschelli and peskimo

Explore the city from the heights of a skyscraper to the depths of the subway in this volume. Great little item to have in mind for Christmas, perhaps.

Finally, I’m sure you’re all aware of the Scanimation book series but on the off-chance that you aren’t, these are a blast to share with small children. The one I have at home is:

waddle cover image

Waddle, by Rufus Butler Seder
published in 2009 by Workman Publishing Co.

Unless you see these, they are terrifically difficult to explain. Using a method of overlaying images and striped acetate, Seder has created mesmerizing MOVING pictures in his books. So yes, you can watch a penguin waddle and a frog hop by turning the pages. And then you can try it, too — can you waddle like a penguin? Can you hop like a frog?

waddle interior by Rufus Butler Seder

Other books in the series include Gallop!, Swing!, and ABC Animals. Great fun for a wide age range.

Hope you find something you love to “read” with your wee ones!

Bouquet of Peace 1958 by Pablo Picasso

Bouquet of Peace 1958 by Pablo Picasso

Last week was brutal. Here in the U.S. where tragedies are fresh, and of course around the world in places that hardly get a nod of acknowledgement from us over the violence that relentlessly engulfs them.

 Wherever you are, I hope that turning to the beauty, love, gentility, and wonder that children’s literature offers, can bring a respite of peace and healing and hope to you as you share these shards of goodness with the children in your life. 

you belong here cover image

You Belong Here, by M.H. Clark, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
published in 2016 by Compendium

Isabelle Arsenault’s gorgeous, whisper-lovely illustrations envelop us in beauty and hush in this quiet ode to love and belonging.

you belong here interior clark and arsenault

I can hear the gentle voice of a mother or father reading these reassuring, tender words to a beloved, drowsy child: The stars belong in the deep night sky/and the moon belongs there too,/and the winds belong in each place they blow by/and I belong here with you.

It’s a dream of a book to share with the little people you love, ages 2 and up, up, up.

hattie peck cover image

Hattie Peck, written and illustrated by Emma Levey
published in 2016 by Sky Pony Press (originally published 2015 by Top that Publishing Ltd)

Hattie Peck is a chicken with a hugely-nurturing heart! Eggs, eggs, and more eggs captivate her thoughts day and night. Yet Hattie  cannot lay a single egg of her own.

hattie peck interior by emma levey

Not to be thwarted, Hattie sets out to rescue every abandoned egg she can find. What a stupendous expedition it is! And what an eclectic household Hattie ends up with, to her great joy. Illustrated in energetic, jubilant strokes, this celebration of life, love, and family will thoroughly warm your heart. Ages 3 and up.

one hundred bones cover image

One Hundred Bones, written and illustrated by Yuval Zommer
first U.S. edition 2016 by Templar Books

I just discovered Yuval Zommer via his extraordinary book of bugs which I reviewed here. Now I’m scrambling to get ahold of his other titles held by my library.

one hundred bones interior by yuval zommer

First up is this upbeat tale of friendship, teamwork, and belonging. Scruff is a sweet, homeless dog, and an expert digger. When his excavation work unearths a treasure trove of bones, he coaxes the neighborhood dogs into helping him out. And what do they discover? One hundred bones! Find out where those bones belong and how Scruff also finds just the right place to belong. Loads of happiness. Read it again and again with ages 2 and up.

the storm cover image

The Storm, written and illustrated by Akiko Miyakoshi
published in Japan in 2009; English translation published 2016 by Kids Can Press

Akiko Miyakoshi swept in and won our hearts last year with her lovely Tea Party in the Woods. Here’s her stunning charcoal work again, with a story set in mid-summer.

the storm interior by akiko miyakoshi

A young boy has been promised a trip to the beach tomorrow, but just now a big storm looms. As he crawls into bed, wind lashes the trees and howls. Those beach plans are not looking good. Enter his ship-of-dreams as he steers for clear skies, and find out if the real weather cooperates, or not. Masterful illustration work and a story of hope against the odds for ages 3 and up.

professor astro cat's atomic adventure cover image

Professor Astro Cat’s Atomic Adventure: A Journey Through Physics, by Dr. Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books

If you can’t imagine a friendly, colorful, effervescent introduction to physics — I think you are in good company. But that’s exactly what this is!

professor astrocat interior walliman and newman

Tag along with Professor Astro Cat in this engaging, highly-readable text and learn about everything from the scientific method to mass, force, gravity, motion, electricity, nuclear physics, particle physics and gobs more. Zippy illustrations and snazzy graphic design will draw you in to this fascinating material like a magnet! For science nerds ages 5 and much older.

Clara cover image

Clara: The (Mostly) True Story of the Rhinoceros Who Dazzled Kings, Inspired Artists, and Won the Hearts of Everyone…While She Ate Her Way Up and Down a Continent!, written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
published in 2016 by Schwartz & Wade Books

Winner of the Biggest Mouthful-of-a-Title Award is this latest offering from the supremely-talented Emily Arnold McCully.

Clara the mostly true story of the rhinoceros interior by emily arnold mccully

It’s the account of a real rhino, brought from her home in India to Europe in the mid-1700s by a sea captain. Clara became the toast of Europe, the first rhino seen by peasant or king. With her gargantuan appetite and loving temperament, she won hearts everywhere. McCully’s vibrant watercolors masterfully display Clara’s girth and warmth as well as the look and feel of 18th-century Europe. A lengthy Author’s Note and maps add to historical understanding. It’s a terrific package for ages 5 and up.

violet the pilot cover image

Violet the Pilot, written and illustrated by Steve Breen
published in 2016 by Dial Books for Young Readers

Meet Violet Van Winkle, a smart gal who loves tools and tinkering, ideas and inventing, and most especially — flying!

Watch her rivet together a hockey stick here and a spatula there, an old pickling barrel and a souped-up weed whacker and come up with The Hornet, her fantastic flying machine. Sure to win the Air Show contest, Violet thinks.

violet the pilot interior by steve breen

Also meet the dreadful Mulrooney twins who are quite full of lip. And discover how wild rivers, tipped canoes, Violet Van Winkle, and some precision flight skills result in a rare rescue and a reward. Girl power, adventure, and thrills star in this zesty story for ages 4 and up.

ABZzzz cover image

ABZzz…: A Bedtime Alphabet, by Isabel Minhós Martins and Yara Kono
originally published in Portugal in 2014; first U.S. edition 2016 by Thames and Hudson

A quirky little volume, this, with musings and directions for ambling your way to sleep through the alphabet.

C is for Cat. Can you curl up and purr like a little cat? Isn’t it cosy? 

K is for Kiss. Have you kissed everyone goodnight yet? Is anyone still awake?

ABZzzz interior by martins and kono

With it’s contemporary vibe, jaunty design, and clever questions, methinks my children would not have been lulled to sleep by this book, despite the claim that “nearly everyone is snoring by the time they reach S.” However, it’s a delightful snuggle-up and think-sleepy-thoughts book to share with wide-eyed little ones, ages 2 and up.

the uncorker of ocean bottles cover image

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, by Michelle Cuevas, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
published in 2016 by Dial Books for Young Readers

An Uncorker of Ocean Bottles. Quite an unusual vocation, wouldn’t you say? This frowsy, unassuming fellow with his mild, homely countenance lives all alone, perched on a windswept hill overlooking the sea. From whence he keeps an eye peeled for the odd bottle bobbing on the water.

Then out he rows to fetch it, uncork it, and deliver its message, no matter the journey required.

the uncorker of ocean bottles illustration1 by erin e. stead

How he longs for a message for himself. That longing, the dearth of companionship, fairly aches out of these pages in both the spare text and Stead’s gorgeous, wistful artwork. One day a most unusual message comes, and a sliver of gladness pierces the Uncorker’s world. Such an elegant, deeply-affecting collaborative effort to share with children ages 4 and older. It’s an outstanding invitation to reflect together on ideas of welcome and community.

This one hits the shelves on August 23. Look for it then or get in line at your library.


Donkey Donkey, written and illustrated by Roger Duvoisin
originally published in 1940; republished in 2016 by The New York Review Children’s Collection

Despite Donkey Donkey’s many dear friends, and his kind master, and a whole patch of delicious thistles, he is an unhappy donkey. Why? It’s his ears. He really dislikes his ears. 

donkey donkey interior roger duvoisin

He sets out to reform his looks, taking advice from others in the barnyard, but it all just makes matters worse. What will cure Donkey Donkey of his immense sadness? This classic tale from the master, Roger Duvoisin, is bursting with vintage delight in its simplicity, its lovely, sophisticated vocabulary, and the charming 1940’s illustration work. A happy read for ages 2 and up.

Whether it’s wilting hot or summer-stormy, these brilliant new books are up to the challenge to entertain, tickle funny bones, provoke thought, spark imagination…

the airport book cover image

The Airport Book, written and illustrated by Lisa Brown
published in 2016, A Neal Porter Book from Roaring Brook Press

Here’s a book my kids would have completely worn out during their traveling childhood days. Tag along with this young family as they pack, move through all the steps at the airport, fly, and arrive at their happy destination.

the airport book interior lisa brown

Perfectly-pitched descriptions of air travel ins-and-outs will help kids gear up for their first flight or resonate with kids who have already logged thousands of air miles. Meanwhile, Brown’s charming illustrations fill the airport with a crowd of interesting fellow-travelers and track one Very Important Passenger’s journey. There are a few famous faces to spot and a mysterious package to wonder about. Supremely engaging for ages 2 and up. Don’t forget to peek behind the dust jacket for a look at the jazzy board illustrations.

this is my dollhouse cover image

This is My Dollhouse, written and illustrated by Giselle Potter
published in 2016 by Schwartz & Wade

I love Giselle Potter’s work and especially the fantastic imaginations of her characters.

The little girl in this book has created her own dollhouse, crafting the house and furnishings herself using cardboard, paint, glue and copious creativity and imaginativeness. Her good friend, Sophie, has a store-bought dollhouse in which every pristine thing matches. It makes hers seem a bit shabby.

this is my dollhouse interior giselle potter

Watch what happens, though, when these two girls attempt to play with each of the dollhouses. It’s a lovely story in which imaginative, creative play triumphs and that makes my heart glad!

If you purchase the book, you’ll find lots of clever instructions on the flip side of the dust jacket for getting started with your own fabrications. As Potter has discovered, it’s often more fun to make it yourself! Ages 2 and up.

the not so faraway adventure cover image

The Not-So-Faraway Adventure, by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Irene Luxbacher
published in 2016 by Kids Can Press

Theodora loves her Poppa, a kind, elderly man who has racked up a life time of adventurous travel, the memorabilia of which he stows in an entrancing green trunk. Theo finds his trinkets and maps fascinating and longs to be an adventurer as well, when she’s grown.

the not so faraway adventure illustration irene luxbacher

For Poppa’s birthday, Theo decides the two of them should go on a new adventure. One that’s not so faraway as those he and Nana have taken, but a delicious delight nonetheless. It’s a sweet grandfather-granddaughter story, popping with joy, gazpacho, and cupcakes, for ages 3 and up.

the zoomers' handbook cover image

The Zoomers’ Handbook, by Ana & Thiago de Moraes
first published in Great Britain in 2015; first American edition 2016 by Andersen Press USA

This isn’t a handbook for zookeepers. Nor for farmers. But for Zoomers, who look after the most extraordinary kinds of beasts!

the zoomers' handbook ana and thiago de moraes

For example, the goatrilla, who swings from trees and eats 10 cans of bananas a day — he especially loves to eat the cans. There’s also the shiger, the horsodile, the girafooster, and many more. Sheer, imaginative delight, coolly-stylish illustrations, awesome Zoomer Field Notes on the endpapers — all will propel your kids to add more entries to this fetching catalog! Ages 3 and up.

flying frogs and walking fish cover image

Flying Frogs and Walking Fish, by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
published in 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

I’ve reviewed so many titles by this husband-wife team, yet each new offering of theirs is as marvelous as ever.

This time they’re exploring the surprising ways animals move. They walk, leap, climb…sure. But animals also roll, somersault, glide, or  blast off via a jet propulsion system!

flying frogs and walking fish interior jenkins and page

And also — the ones you’d think would swim, like the common octopus, like to walk. And the ones you’d assume would slither, like a snake, might choose to fly! Egads!

Enjoy Jenkins’ gorgeous paper collage and be surprised and amazed at the mobility of dozens of cool creatures. Ages 4 and up.

bear and hare where's bear cover image

Bear & Hare: Where’s Bear?, written and illustrated by Emily Gravett
originally published in Great Britain in 2014; first U.S. edition 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Emily Gravett’s another of my No-Brainer authors; that’s to say, you don’t even have to wonder if you should try her new books. Just pick them up! Her Bear & Hare series is a 100% No Brainer for toddlers and up.

bear and hare where's bear interior emily gravett

This time the two pals are playing Hide and Seek. Bear, being rather ample, finds it quite challenging to find an actually-hidden hiding spot. When the tables are turned, though, and Hare hides, things take a bit of a surprising and alarming turn! Gobs of loving friendship…Gravett’s warm-as-toast illustrations…perfect for ages 18 months and older.

good night baddies cover image

Good Night Baddies, by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Juli Kangas
published in 2016 by Beach Lane Books

It’s evening in FairyTale Land and all the witches, wolves, and giants, evil queens, trolls and gnomes, are plum tuckered out from a hard day’s work being baddies.

What — you think it’s easy lurking in the mud and snarking at those three gruff billy goats?! It’s a tough job, no doubt about it! So, after a day of mucky-lurking, there’s nothing a troll likes better than a nice long scrub in a bubbly tub.

good night baddies interior underwood and kangas

Find out how all these dear baddies relax at the end of the day and feel your heart warm towards these much-maligned folk! Kangas’ warm, friendly, monstrously-clever illustrations will draw kids ages 2 and up into this big, bad world.

how much does a ladybug weigh cover image

How Much Does a Ladybug Weigh?, written and illustrated by Alison Limentani
first published in North America in 2016 by Boxer Books

Here’s another astonishing, clever look at the world of animals, sure to open new avenues of thought for you and your children.

Take a guess — how much does a ladybug weigh? But calculate your measurement, not in micrograms, but in ants. How many ants weigh the same as one ladybug? And how many of those ladybugs even out the scales with one grasshopper?

how much does a ladybug weigh interior alison limentani

Brilliant color, smart graphic design, and a cunning concept for ages 2 and up. The end papers tell you these weights in pounds and ounces, in case you’re curious!

excellent ed cover image

Excellent Ed, by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach
published in 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf

Dear Ed is such a good dog. He just can’t understand why the other members of his household are allowed to eat at the table, ride in the van, sit on the sofa, and use the indoor plumbing, while he is not.

excellent ed interior McAnulty and Sarcone-Roach

Ed decides it’s because he has nothing at which he truly excels, while Elaine, Edna, Elmer, Edith, and Ernie all have some top-notch talents. Thus begins Ed’s quest to discover his forté. He gets off to a rather poor start, but eventually makes some delightful discoveries about his areas of expertise!

 Julie Sarcone-Roach certainly excels at portraying Ed’s winning personality in her energetic, warm illustrations. Ages 3 and up.

the girl with the parrot on her head cover image

The Girl with the Parrot on her Head, written and illustrated by Daisy Hirst
published in the UK in 2015; first U.S. edition 2016 by Candlewick Press

Isabel and Simon are best friends. Squoze full of imagination, these two busily draw treasure maps, play lively games, and even collect newts. But then, Simon moves away.

the girl with the parrot on her head interior daisy hirst

Isabel is dejected, and manages her fury and loneliness by isolating herself and trying to seize control of life. It takes the arrival of Chester for Isabel to rediscover her spunk.

This charming, simple story has hidden depths which older or sensitive readers will appreciate, such as the role of the parrot and the wolf, the one representing joyful, carefree imagination and the other a snarl of fear and anger. Everyone will enjoy the vitality of Isabel and her cohorts and cheer for new friendships. Ages 3 and up.

Independence Day celebrations are about to blast off across the U.S.A. Here’s a star-spangled set of books to celebrate with!

The Fourth of July by Childe Hassam

The Fourth of July by Childe Hassam

I’ll begin with a pair of titles on the rich gift of immigrants to our nation as I feel so strongly about maintaining a posture of open arms.

My grandparents immigrated at the outset of the 20th century, seeking refuge from militaristic overlords and a chance at a better life. My dad was a first-generation American who fought in WWII alongside guys hailing from many ethnic backgrounds. That’s America, and that’s the vision presented by beloved Harlem artist Faith Ringgold in her newest book:

we came to america cover image

We Came To America, written and illustrated by Faith Ringgold
published in 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf

The vivid, pulsing beauty of diversity courses through this small catalog of peoples who make up America from “every color, race, and religion, from every country in the world.”

we came to america interior by faith ringgold

Some were here to begin with. Some came in chains. Some fled here. All have contributed to the glorious medley of ideas and strengths that make us who we are. Ringgold’s vigorous, brilliant color and primitive line rivet us to the array of faces and styles of these lovely humans. A joy to contemplate with ages 2 and up.

their great gift cover image

Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land, by John Coy, photographs by Wing Young Huie
published in 2016 by Carolrhoda Books

I’m so pleased to call your attention to this book by two Minnesotans, from a Minnesota publishing house. The Twin Cities are home to an abundance of immigrants and refugees, so this is a most fitting collaboration.

their great gift interior coy and huie

It’s a lovely, thought-provoking photo-essay. Page after page of faces and simple phrases invite us to revel in beauty, appreciate diversity, wonder over a host of life-stories, enter homes, empathize with newness. The arrival stories of John Coy’s European family and Wing Young Huie’s Asian family are, happily, included. It’s a treasure to meander through with ages 2 to 100.

Moving on to a trio of Revolutionary history titles…

the founding fathers cover image

The Founding Fathers: Those Horse-Ridin’, Fiddle-Playin’, Book-Readin’, Gun-Totin’, Gentlemen Who Started America, by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Barry Blitt
published in 2015 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Jonah Winter has written eminently-readable introductions to 14 Founding Fathers — “some of the most tremendously smart people who ever lived.” And what a diverse bunch!

the founding fathers interior winter and blitt

Each of these guys gets a hefty paragraph describing their contributions, personalities, and uniquenesses, as well as a fascinating little section of stats and some famous quotes. As you’d expect from Winter, he strikes a great balance between a casual tone and intelligent style.

All of this is illustrated with lighthearted, ink and watercolor portraits and vignettes, with some added hand-lettering touches. Putter your way through this fascinating, slim volume with kids ages 8 and up and learn a LOT effortlessly.


The Journey of the One and Only Declaration of Independence, by Judith St. George, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
published in 2005 by Philomel Books

Follow the ins and outs and ups and downs of one of the most famous documents in human history which “has had more homes than a traveling circus.” 

the journey of the one and only declaration of independence illustration will hillenbrand

From Jefferson’s quill it began it’s course by horse courier and wagon, by ship and rail. Hidden, harassed, hustled! Signed, singed, shrunk! Read it’s careening life story, masterfully told by Judith St. George. I hope you’ve discovered her other work by now — she’s a national treasure herself! And warmly, humorously, brilliantly illustrated by the talented Will Hillenbrand. It’s lengthier than your average picture book. Enjoy it with ages 6 and up.

those rebels john and tom cover image

Those Rebels, John and Tom, by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
published in 2012 by Scholastic Press

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Utterly unalike. Best of friends. Bitter enemies. Two of the most important men in the history of our country.


Take a look at the overlap of their lives in this most-pleasant account. Kerley writes with elegance and polish and then dapples the whole business with charm. Fotheringham’s fabulous illustrations combine period styling and clever wit. A winning combination that will satisfy ages 6 and up.

And now for the fireworks and picnic!

the explosive story of fireworks cover image

The Explosive Story of Fireworks, by Kama Einhorn, illustrated by Daniel Guidera
published in 2015 by Simon Spotlight

This is an early reader in a great series called History of Fun Stuff, geared to the upper level of independent readers. 

Begin back in 200BC in ancient China and learn how fireworks were invented, how they’ve been used and improved over the centuries, and why they’ve come to be so inextricably associated with the Fourth of July.

the explosive story of fireworks interior einhorn and guidera

Engaging pages with plenty of full-color illustrations make this a good read-aloud for curious folks ages 5 and up; independent readers need to be up for vocabulary such as lithium, strontium, and pyrotechnicians! Extras inform us about bamboo, independence celebrations around the world, and the color wheel.

mcduff saves the day cover image

McDuff Saves the Day, by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Susan Jeffers
published in 2002 by Hyperion Books for Children

There are a number of charming stories about the lovable Westie, McDuff, and his dear family — Lucy and Fred, and The Baby. If you haven’t found your way to them, you ought to.

mcduff saves the day interior wells and jeffers

In this episode the crew is on their way to Lake Ocarina for a Fourth of July picnic. The car ride is a bit of a bother for McDuff, but worse trouble is ahead in the form of Marauding Ants. Enjoy this delightful story and discover how McDuff winds up saving the day. Packed with 1920s-era charm and ready to be loved by ages 2 and up.

We’re coming up on the longest days of the year here in the northern hemisphere. Plenty of time for extra bedtime stories. These are all full of joy, starting with:

miles of smiles cover image

Miles of Smiles, by Karen Kaufman Orloff, illustrations by Luciano Lozano
published in 2016 by Sterling Publishing

Baby starts the smiles off in this charming, happy story. She gives her mom a smile, and mom passes that smile along to Mrs. Glass, who shares it with Sebastian…and on it goes…

miles of smiles interior orloff and lozano

…until it comes around full circle. By now, the whole community is a happier, smilier place! Sunny, rhyming lines are paired with stylish, vibrant illustrations. It’s a day-brightener for ages 2 and up.

the big book of bugs cover image

The Big Book of Bugs, written and illustrated by Yuval Zommer
published in 2016 by Thames & Hudson

Wall-to-wall, phenomenal illustrations greet us on every page of this guide to all sorts of bugs.

the big book of bugs interior yuval zommer

Spreads devoted to dragonflies, pond bugs, baby bugs, night-time bugs contain interesting tidbits of information, questions to help us wonder, critters to find, and a feast of beauty. Maybe bugs don’t appeal to you in general, but I guarantee you will find them glorious here. Ages 2 and up.

secret tree fort cover image

Secret Tree Fort, written and illustrated by Brianne Farley
published in 2016 by Candlewick Press

Two sisters are relegated by their smart mom to play outside. The older one is content to read her book while leaning up against a tree. The younger one wants to play…with her sister. Of course.

secret tree fort interior brianne farley

So, she invents a lavish tree fort, complete with a “marshmallow and chocolate storage compartment,” a crow’s nest, and a whale of a lot more! Can she entice that big sister to join her? Sparkling, buoyant, imaginative in text and illustration, this is a delight for ages 3 and up.

stanley's plan cover image (1)

Stanley’s Plan, written and illustrated by Ruth Green
first published in 2015 by Tate Publishing; distributed in the U.S. by Abrams

“Stanley the dog is always hungry.” This means he has something in common with my dog! Yours, too?

stanley's plan interior ruth green

Stanley has caught a whiff of a delicious meat pie cooling quite tantalizingly on a high shelf. He tries to enlist his friends to help him nab that pie, but finds them most uncooperative. What’s a dog to do? Great fun with a lip-smacking, surprise ending. Ruth Green’s smart, retro design style will rock your socks off. Ages 2 and up.

there is a tribe of kids cover image

There is a Tribe of Kids, written and illustrated by Lane Smith
published in 2016 by Roaring Brook Press

As usual, Lane Smith’s work here contains phenomenal artwork, thought-provoking cleverness, and sophisticated story-telling. 

there is a tribe of kids inteior lane smith

Journey along with a child through mountainscapes and polar reaches, rocky outcroppings and leafy jungles, meeting troops and herds, smacks and pods, ever moving on to locate his own tribe. So much to absorb and such a warm final homecoming. Ages 4 and up.

ada's violin cover image

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, by Susan Hood, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
published in 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Fantastic nonfiction makes me glad! Here’s a moving story about a population of children who live among the trash heaps in Cateura, Paraguay. Surrounded by garbage, noise, and stink, these kids and their parents still love the beauty of music.

ada's violin illustration sally wern comport

Discover how kindness, ingenuity, resourcefulness, and hard work resulted in remarkable musical opportunities for them in this extraordinary account. Comport’s striking illustrations are a joyful, strong pairing for the story. An Author’s Note tells more of the details, and further exploration can be done via listed websites and videos. Inspirational, for ages 5 through adult.

chimpanzees for tea cover image

Chimpanzees for Tea!, written and illustrated by Jo Empson
published in the U.S. in 2016 by Philomel Books

Vincent is sent to the shops with a short list of items to pick up for his mum in this breezy, warmhearted, funny tale.

chimpanzees for tea interiorf jo empson

He’s meant to pick up carrots, rice, cheese, peas, and a pear and beat it on home in time for tea. But wait’ll you see what a rash of forgetfulness and some crrraazzzy happenstances result in! Wonderfully silly! Artwork that sings and ripples with glee. Love it! Ages 2 and up.

i won a what? cover image

I Won a What?, by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Robert Neubecker
published in 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf

One little boy is off to the fair, heading straight for that booth with the rows and rows of goldfish in bowls and his penny to pitch. He wants one of those goldfish with his whole, entire heart. And! You won’t believe it! He wins!!

i won a what illustration robert neubecker

But he doesn’t win a goldfish. Nope. He wins Nuncio! What is Nuncio? You won’t believe that either! Ride along on this blast of a tall tale. Bold, bright, vigorous illustrations, a riot through and through for ages 3 and up.

whoosh cover image

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions, by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate
published in 2016 by Charlesbridge

Do your kids have a super-soaker? I think we had at least 5 floating around here when my kids were small. Who but Chris Barton would think to tell us the story of how they came to be invented?!

whoosh interior barton and tate

It’s a wonderful story about a super-smart, super-creative, super-determined guy. Enjoy finding out about him and get motivated to pursue your own dreams. Illustrated in Don Tate’s friendly, welcoming style. Ages 6 and up.

thunder boy jr cover image

Thunder Boy Jr., by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales
published in 2016 by Little, Brown and Company

Talk about a power team! Alexie and Morales have teamed up to bring us an unusual story — of course! — exploding in powerful emotion and wrapped up in warm, father-son bonds.

Thunder Boy Jr. has a complaint. What is the problem? It’s his name. Inside him, the beasts of anger are a-howlin’ over the junior at the end of his name. Listen up and he’ll explain why. Then watch and see what his dad does about that.

thunder boy jr interior alexie and morales

Based on Sherman Alexie’s own experience of being named after his father, this covers new ground for sure. Naming is a complex and important part of many cultures, and the significance to this particular Native family could be better spelled out for the reader. Nevertheless, I imagine that the opportunity this story brings to talk about the reasoning behind your child’s name could open some intriguing discussions.

As ever, Morales tackles her illustration assignment with determined inventiveness and unfettered vigor. Be sure to read her note about how the artwork was made. Ages 4 and up.

Hope you’re enjoying some leisurely moments this summer. Here are 10 awesome 2016 books to while away the hours.

tell me a tattoo story cover image

Tell Me a Tattoo Story, by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
published in 2016 by Chronicle Books

This warm story has to be one of the first that stars a parent’s tattoos. In affectionate conversation, Dad tells his son the special significance of a number of his inkings.

tell me a tattoo story interior mcghee and wheeler

And no wonder his little boy never tires of hearing these stories! They are brimming with love for the special people in his life. Illustrated with buttermilk-fresh beauty by the talented Eliza Wheeler. This charmer will be the perfect fit for many, and a delightfully warm family tale for all, ages 2 and up.

on the farm at the market cover image

On the Farm, At the Market, written and illustrated by G. Brian Karas
published in 2016, Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company

Impeccably timed for the farmer’s market season, this marvelous book tracks the gorgeous, farm-fresh produce from the field to the market stalls.

on the farm at the market interior g. brian karas

Vegetables, cheeses, mushrooms — the hard work of raising and preparing them for us is a glory to witness, as is the joy of putting these goods into our hands and the delicious meal made from them all at the Busy Bee Cafe. Written and illustrated with joy and friendliness, this is a treat for ages 3 and up!

treat cover image

Treat, words and pictures by Mary Sullivan
published in 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

And speaking of treats, any of you who are dog-lovers will snicker mightily over this little dog’s passionate pursuit of a dog treat!

treat interior mary sullivan

Only one word is used in this story, and it’s music — at times tortuous music! — to this little dog’s ears. Treat!! Laugh along at his frantic obsession in this funny, oh-so-fetching story. Ages 3 and up.

crossing niagara cover image

Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin, written and illustrated by Matt Tavares
published in 2016 by Candlewick Press

This is the absolutely stunning story of a tightrope walker in the 1800s who crossed the Niagara Falls gorge not just once, not just with his slender balancing pole for company, but more than a dozen times with increasingly-impossible added burdens and twists.

crossing niagara illustration detail by matt tavares

To put this in perspective, the Twin Tower walk was 140 feet; Blondin walked 1100 feet. Your jaw will drop when you read this incredible story, masterfully told and illustrated by Matt Tavares. Ages 5 and up.

buddy and earl go exploring cover image

Buddy and Earl Go Exploring, by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Carey Sookocheff
published in 2016 by Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press

Second dog story of the day, and this one is so funny and charming. Buddy the dog and Earl the hedgehog are pets in the same household and very good friends.

buddy and earl go exploring interior fergus and sookocheff

When Earl wants to go a-roving in the nighttime, however, his slightly-dim wits and ignorance of the household rules are quite alarming to Buddy! Watch the disaster unfold and fall in love with that good dog, Buddy. Illustrated with imagination, humor, and buckets of personality. Ages 3 and up.

can i eat that cover image

Can I Eat That? by Joshua David Stein, illustrated by Julia Rothman
published in 2016 Phaidon Press Inc.

I’ve never seen anything quite like this exuberant, off-beat exploration of food! Curious questions and surprising answers. Ways to eat a sea urchin and maybe-possibly something that at least sounds like a tornado.

can i eat that? interior stein and rothman

Do eggs grow on eggplants? And where does one go to pick pickles? Have a blast wandering and wondering through this book, illustrated with blasts of lively color and cool design. Ages 2 and up.

Groundwood Logos Spine

Tokyo Digs a Garden, by Jon-Erik Lappano, illustrated by Kellen Hatanaka
published in 2016 by Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press

A whimsical, fantastical, eco-friendly story awaits you in this gorgeous book coming to us from our good neighbors in Canada.

tokyo digs a garden illustration kellen hatanaka

Tokyo’s grandfather remembers when the vast city they live in was a place of “hills and forest and meadows and streams.” Now it’s a concrete jungle. Until a mysterious old woman appears, on a bicycle, hauling some earth, and handing out seeds to Tokyo. Crazy things ensue in this strikingly-handsome story for dreamers ages 3 and up-up-up.

hannah and sugar cover image

Hannah and Sugar, written and illustrated by Kate Berube
published in 2016 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

Third and final dog story for the day. (Can you tell I love dogs?!)

Hannah is quite shy of dogs. Timid of their teeth perhaps. Alarmed by their bold wagging and playfulness. So every day when the rest of the kids get off the school bus and happily greet Sugar (as sweet a dog as her name suggests), Hannah walks the other way. Quickly.

hannah and sugar interior kate berube

One day, though, Sugar is lost and as it turns out, Hannah is the only one who can save her. Watch what happens in this tender, warm story. I love it. Ages 2 and up.


Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs, by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
published in 2016 by Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Language that’s ticklishly playful. Fascinating pairings to ponder for children who revel in the wonders of words.

yaks yak interior park and reinhardt

Humorous, spectacular illustrations of yaks yakking, bugs bugging bugs, ducks ducking, and oodles more. Brain-fizzing, imagination-sparking cleverness galore spills forth on every page of this ingenuous book. Great fun for ages 4 or 5 and up.

my book of birds cover image

My Book of Birds, written and illustrated by Geraldo Valério
published in 2016 by Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press

This oversized beauty is a cover-to-cover gorgeous sampling of birds, impeccably presented by Groundwood Books.

my book of birds interior geraldo valerio

Brazilian artist Valério has always been fascinated by birds. When he moved to Canada he met a whole new group of them who reside in the northern hemisphere. Here he presents his favorites via his stunning collages.

my book of birds interior 2 geraldo valerio

Revel in the shape of the Great Blue Heron, the vivid red of the Northern Cardinal, the streamlined swoop of the swallow family. And read snippets of information that sparkle with the wonders of each bird. Visually-sumptuous — a bit of a Charley Harper feel — for ages 2 to 100.

I’ve got three books today, all short on pages yet long on interest.

Any of them could be read aloud to children ages 4-5 and up, or handed to an independent reader looking for something to finish in a sitting or two.

hippopotamister cover imageHippopotamister, a graphic novel by John Patrick Green
published in 2016 by First Second

Opening this jolly graphic novel is like opening a new pan of watercolors — colorful and anticipatory!

The City Zoo is in quite a sad state of disrepair, so Red Panda and Hippo set off  to find jobs and make new lives among the humans. Red Panda exudes confidence, though he leaves disaster in his wake, getting fired from one job after another. Hippo’s the trusting sidekick, oblivious to his mammoth talents in every assigned task.

Hippopotamister interior John Patrick Green

Eventually Hippo tires of the job hunt and returns to the zoo where his newly-acquired skills bear some surprising fruit!

hippopotamister interior2 John Patrick Green

The shortest word count on today’s list, plus cheerful illustration work and a warmly humorous story line combine to make this a breezy treat.  Grab it for reluctant readers, too!

wendel and the robots cover imageWendel and the Robots, written and illustrated by Chris Riddell
published in 2015 by Macmillan Children’s Books

This short adventure is sort of a disguised picture book. Its trim size — about 6″x7″ — makes it look like a Slightly-More-Important, tiny chapter book, just the ticket for a sturdy new reader, perhaps.

Chris Riddell is the master of the fantastical for youngsters. Unusual stories of quirky oddities seem to pour from his pen.

This one’s about an inventive mouse named Wendel who designs a couple of robots to help him keep his workshop clean and all manner of chaos results!

wendel and the robots interior chris riddell

Scrumptious language, with endearing and crazed illustrations that woo us effortlessly onward make this a winner.

saluki hound of the bedouin cover imageSaluki, Hound of the Bedouin, by Julia Johnson, illustrations by Susan Keeble
published in 2005 by Stacey International

By far the longest of today’s stories at 55 pages, this jewel comes from the UK, from the hand of an exceptional storyteller with extensive time spent in the Middle East. It reminds me quite a lot of the short, international stories created by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham such as Cloud Tea Monkeys.

That’s because the setting — the Sahara Desert — and its Bedouin cast of characters are gorgeously embroidered upon the fabric of the storyline, as it were, while silky-smooth language effortlessly unreels a fascinating tale.

saluki hound of the bedouin illustration susan keeble

Hamad is a Bedouin boy, eager to join the men hunting with their Saluki hounds and hooded falcons. Join him as he awaits a new litter of pups, discovers which is to be his, learns the patience necessary to train her, and encounters serious testings for both himself and his devoted dog, Sougha.

Copious cultural details are masterfully woven into the story. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Hamad and learning about this vanishing way of life. Keeble’s gorgeous watercolors gleam with sunlight and heat and further our understanding of these people and their homeland.

saluki hound of the bedouin illustration2 susan keeble

Read this one to ages 5 and up in installments, or hand it to a reader undaunted by the sprinkle of Arabic vocabulary. A glossary is included.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 601 other followers

%d bloggers like this: