My Dog’s a Chicken, by Susan McElroy Montanari, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
published in 2016 by Schwartz & Wade Books
Lula Mae’s life on her family’s hardscrabble farm would be ever so much better if she could have a puppy, but as it’s “just another mouth to feed” she’s got to make do with the only available option — a chicken. Plenty of those to choose from.
After some consideration, Lulu nabs the chicken with the spunkiest attitude, names it Pookie, and announces to one and all that “it ain’t a chicken.” It’s her dog. Turns out, Pookie is many dogs, all rolled into one squawking, bawking, feathered figure. She’ll win your heart as quickly as she conquers Lulu Mae’s in this vivacious adventure.
Anne Wilsdorf’s vibrant, energetic illustrations add a wonderful splash of mayhem. A happy read for ages 3 and up.
Who Wants a Tortoise? by Dave Keane, illustrated by K.G. Campbell
published in 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf
Just like Lula Mae, the little gal in this story desperately wants a puppy. In fact, it’s “the ONLY thing” on her birthday wish list. Alas, Dad is allergic to dogs, so her birthday present turns out to be…
…a tortoise. “WHO WANTS A TORTOISE?!” she rages. They don’t fetch. Don’t beg. Don’t greet you with excited waggings and lickings when you come home. What’s the good of them, anyway?
Hold on, though, because tortoises do have some excellent qualities. Unfortunately just as Little Miss Feisty begins to appreciate him, Mr. Tortoise displays one of his most exemplary abilities: hiding. Uh-oh.
Dave Keane nails the roller coaster of emotions and viewpoints of a passionate child and creates a hero from one trusty tortoise. K.G. Campbell’s exquisite illustrations capture all the postures and attitudes with zing and charm. A juicy read for ages 3 or 4 and up.
Hare and Tortoise, retold and illustrated by Alison Murray
published in Great Britain, 2015; first U.S. edition by Candlewick in 2016
Speaking of tortoises, here’s the Most Famous Tortoise of All Time in his epic race against that hotshot hare.
Scottish illustrator Alison Murray has pared down Aesop’s fable to this nutshell version that’s perfect for toddlers. Using direct, bold narration in a storyteller’s voice, sprinkling in a healthy dash of humor and caprice, she whooshes us into one breezy, fast-paced race.
Vigorous, sunny illustrations flood the tall pages with color and verve. It’s a joyful version to share with ages 2 and up, with an added dose of kindness to soothe Hare’s ruffled feelings when the race is done. Champion fare!
How to Catch a Mouse, written and illustrated by Philippa Leathers
published in 2015 by Candlewick Press
A different sort of chase is going down in this book. Clemmie, a darling orange kitten, self-identifies as “a fearsome mouse catcher.” So brave, patient, and well-informed, that nary a mouse dares enter her house, says Clemmie.
Truth be told — Clemmie is being fooled by a very clever little mouse with a penchant for disguise.
Young children will giggle with glee as they discover the mouse-that-Clemmie-overlooks on page after page of this warmly funny story. A nail-biting ending is the cherry on top! Ages 2 and up.
Next to You: A Book of Adorableness, by Lori Haskins Houran, illustrated by Sydney Hanson
published in 2016 by Albert Whitman & Company
Finally, this small valentine to be shared between a doting grandparent or affectionate dad, and a favorite little squirt.
You think cute puppies and kittens are adorable?
You think this “squirrel eating a doughnut with his tiny hands” is dear?
Well, they’ve got nothing on you, dear! Because you’re the most adorable, irresistible one, ever! The casual, conversational tone of the text here keeps this book from becoming the saccharine mess you might fear. It’s got just the right touches of good humor and laid-back ease.
Meanwhile the illustrations have that whole Margaret Keane thing going on with those giant doe-eyes on every creature. Snuggle up with the wee apples-of-your-eye and let them feel 100% adored. Ages 15 months and up.
It’s National Dog Day, and as a dog-lover I’m good with that!
Give your dog an extra treat, then treat yourself with one of these tail-wagging titles. From vintage to 2016, all of them are linked to my original review.
And a couple pieces of dog-gone good fiction:
Some of you have already begun the new school year; some are just gearing up; There are many rich ways for each of us to learn and grow, an untold variety of approaches to education spanning the centuries and regions of our world. I hope something within this smattering of titles is just the ticket for you.
School’s First Day of School, by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson
published in 2016, a Neal Porter Book from Roaring Brook Press
Looking at the world from upside down and inside out angles is a great way to see old things anew, tickle funny bones, spark ideas. This brilliant picture book team has done just that, twisting the kaleidoscope a turn or two, making a brand-new school building into the new kid on the block.
The charming, new Frederick Douglass Elementary school is feeling a bit nervous about its upcoming First Day of School. Understandable, right? Soon scads of unknown children will throng its hallways, play on its playground, sit in classrooms, eat lunches. Some may not like it. Some may make rude comments about it. Blaring fire drills might go off!
With the encouragement of a friendly janitor, School copes with all this newness, one step at a time, and emerges from the first day on an overall upbeat note. Besides the lovely space within this text to step back and take a look at first-day jitters from a secure vantage point, Christian Robinson’s irrepressibly cheery illustrations exude comfort and friendliness with a genius vibe that somehow combines old-fashioned simplicity with contemporary diversity. It’s basically the perfect First Day of School book for ages 4-6.
Ages ago, Karla Kuskin and Marc Simont teamed up to produce one of our favorite books, a survey of all the members of the Philharmonic Orchestra preparing for an evening performance.
This book happily reminds me of their approach. It’s a collection of classmates this time, twenty children from various households all around town, getting ready to become one wonderful class. Some are eager-beavers. Some are over-sleepers. Three eat pancakes for breakfast while two nibble toast. Eight get kisses at the bus stop. Two can’t seem to find their socks.
Charming, lighthearted illustrations spotlight this diverse group of kindergarteners. It’s a tremendously inviting book, great approach to the marvelous differences within commonalities that make up a group. Ages 3-7.
Steamboat School, by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Ron Husband
published in 2016 by Disney Hyperion
The encouraging depictions of diversity in the previous two titles are, of course, not a given in our society.
Based on a true story, this book bears witness to the immense struggle to be schooled experienced by African Americans. It takes place in St. Louis in 1847, just as a shameful new Missouri law forbade education to “negroes or mulattoes.”
Through the testimony of one fictional boy, Hopkinson relays the courageous, ingenious actions of Reverend John Berry Meachum whose determination resulted in a highly-unusual method of schooling these children, taking advantage of a most unexpected loophole in the law.
Striking, atmospheric illustrations ratchet up the story’s tension and emotion while bringing the period to life. Includes a lengthy Author’s Note and recommendations for exploring this history further. Ages 5 and up.
Frank and Lucky Get Schooled, written and illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins
published in 2016 by Greenwillow Books
I’m a firm believer in all the vivid learning that takes place outside of a formal classroom setting. It’s unusual to find a book that captures so well the spirit of a whole world out there to investigate, the one hundred ideas sparkling in a pond, the windows-upon-windows of ideas opening onto more ideas all lying in wait in the most surprising places.
Lynne Rae Perkins dives into that sense in this remarkable look at a boy named Frank, his dog, Lucky, and the immense amount of learning and idea-sparking these two encounter in their life together. From Entomology to Art, Math to Foreign Language — careen along with these two and be amazed at how they both accumulate a vast array of knowledge. Unschoolers — this is your book. Innovative reading, for ages 6 and up.
Just a reminder here, if you are looking for the Gold Standard in picture books about the homeschooling experience, look no further than Jonathan Bean’s masterpiece, This is My Home, This is My School. I am a huge fan of Jonathan’s work, and love the fact that he has allowed millions of homeschoolers to see themselves in a book about school for the first time. Kudos to him and his publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
School Days Around the World, by Margriet Ruurs, illustrated by Alice Feagan
published in 2015 by Kids Can Press
I love introducing children to the intriguing cultures around our globe, the clever, beautiful, enticing ways people construct their lives. School is one of the things that looks different around the world, and this cheery catalog is a great way to explore that.
Visit 13 children from a wide variety of countries and types of schools. From the South Pacific to Alaska. Homeschools, public schools, international schools. School in an orphanage. School in an old castle. Immense schools and tiny schools. Fascinating at every turn!
Colorful, happy cut-paper illustrations will make you want to travel and visit each one of these extraordinary places. Broaden your world and find out ways you can help children in places where school is less available. This one’s a delight for ages 4 and up.
For a more in-depth treatment of different kinds of schools around the world for older children, check my reviews of:
A School Like Mine
Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World
And one more reminder — some children from other cultures may well be joining your children in their classes. Anne Sibley O’Brien’s book I’m New Here, offers a superb, lovely introduction to what it’s like to be oh-so-new in America. Highly recommended for ages 4 and up.
Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books | Tagged African American education, book reviews, children's literature, cultures, education, first day of school, homeschooling, immigrants, picture books, school, slavery, unschooling | 4 Comments »
Mango and Bambang: The Not-a-Pig, by Polly Faber, illustrated by Clara Vulliamy
first U.S. edition published in 2016 by Candlewick Press
Mango Allsorts is a charming new heroine. With her love of chess and karate, and a knack for making yummy buttered noodles, you can see immediately that she’s an interesting, lively person. Yet Mango defies the categories young girls are often squeezed into in contemporary fiction which makes her extra-compelling. She charmed the socks off of me in a very few moments.
She’s got spunk, but it’s quieter spunk. She’s got pluck, but it’s exceedingly polite pluck. She’s brave, but not brash, with an empathetic heart and a willingness to move as slowly and patiently as required to set Nervous Individuals at ease.
The Nervous Individual in this case is a small, slightly-disoriented, tapir. A lost tapir named Bambang who finds himself caught up in the noise and bustle of a strange city. Rescued by Mango, lured to her home with a promise of banana pancakes, Bambang becomes Mango’s dear friend.
Making a Malaysian tapir at home in her neighborhood is tricky business. There’s a bit of a Paddington Bear feel to the small scrapes Bambang gets into. But Mango’s gentle, smart supervision is just what’s needed.
The illustrations by Clara Vulliamy and overall packaging of the book are scrumptious. This is the first in a series of Mango and Bambang books which are making their way across the pond to U.S. markets. Marvelous treats to hand a sturdy new reader or to use as a read-aloud with children ages 4 and up. My girls would have adored this series! Highly recommended. 135 heavily-illustrated pages.
We are Olympics-junkies in our household so in keeping with the Olympic spirit, I thought I’d share some sure-fire winners this week that take the cake in some unusual categories!
A Winner for Swallows and Amazons Fans and All Skippers
Alpha, Bravo, Charlie: The Complete Book of Nautical Codes, written and illustrated by Sara Gillingham
published in 2016 by Phaidon Press
If you have any Swallows and Amazons fans in your household, let me just say that this is The Perfect Companion to Nancy Blackett and company. If you have no idea who the Swallows and Amazons are, you’ll still love this snappy, exceedingly-clever, perfectly-designed book about nautical codes.
The magnetic intrigue of signal flags, semaphore code, morse code, and the alpha-bravo-charlie international radio alphabet — well, it’s universal, isn’t it?! Sara Gillingham has masterfully combined them all in an incredibly accessible book. I am telling you, if we’d had this when my kids were small it would be dog-eared and battered with use.
From A to Z, discover what the flags look like and the intriguing messages each conveys, such as “I have a diver down; keep well clear at low speed.” Learn how to create a letter in semaphore and morse, and what the corresponding word is in the radio alphabet, as you pick up juicy tidbits about the many, many kinds of boats out there.
Then explore more with the links to nautical history, codes, decorating with flags, and boats. Avast, you homeschoolers out there — this could take you for a l-o-n-g ride! Splendid, for ages 5 to adult!
A Winner for Friendly Folks
Strictly No Elephants, by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
published in 2016, a Paula Wiseman Book from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Taeeun Yoo’s illustration magic will lasso your heart from the first page of this warm ode to friendliness and welcome. Gah! I love her work!
This little fellow has a tiny elephant for a pet. The boy adores his elephant, treating him with the thoughtful lovingkindness that’s part and parcel of true friendship. However, other pet-owners are not so welcoming of such an unusual creature. The sign on the clubhouse door, in fact, reads, “Strictly No Elephants.” Slump.
The brave, hospitable solution to this predicament will warm the cockles of your heart. An ever-timely tale about the power of welcome, this one gets all my love. Ages 2 and up.
A Winner for Older Siblings
How to Share with a Bear, by Eric Pinder, pictures by Stephanie Graegin
published in 2015 by Farrar Straus Giroux
What do you do when you’ve just built a super-cozy-pillow fort-cave, all set for some cozy reading, only to discover it’s been abruptly taken over by …a bear! Or when you create a blueberry trail leading that bear away from your cave, only to find he’s doubled back and settled right in again!
That’s the situation time after time for Thomas, an inventive, responsible, clever kid who’s just looking for a little space of his own. Try as he might, that little bear keeps snookering him out of his sweet cave. Where did it come from? And what kindhearted solution will Thomas finally arrive at to satisfy them both?
Patience, love, imagination, all in huge supply in this dear story about big and little brothers. Charming illustrations. A lovely read for ages 3 and up.
A Winner for Cool Dads and Their Lucky Kids
My Dad Used to Be So Cool, written and illustrated by Keith Negley
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books
This little boy’s tattooed dad seems to have had a rock-star past — the drum kit stuffed into the closet is a big clue. But when he tries to imagine his dad wailing on an electric guitar in front of a hip audience — it just doesn’t match up with the laundry-folding, rug-vacuuming, shoelace-tying dad who inhabits his life.
Why would someone so, so cool, give that all up?! Why?!
I am in love with this striking depiction of fatherhood and father-son relationships. Cool, contemporary design, flooded with sacrificial love, real questions, and peaceful security. Brilliant, for ages 3 and up.
A Winner for Moose-lovers and Gigglers
Too Many Moose! by Lisa M. Bakos, pictures by Mark Chambers
published in 2016 by Sourcebooks
Speaking of unusual pets, Martha mulls and marvels and comes up with one humdinger of an odd pet — a moose.
In my experience, whenever an author pops a moose into a story, it’s sure to descend into utter mayhem!
That’s certainly the case for Martha as she decides, in typical American fashion, that More Is Always Better. More moose, in this case. And more. And more.
Magnificently merry pandemonium in text that lithely, humorously skippets about amongst the most energetic moose you’ll ever meet. Bright, lively illustrations happily capture the many moosey personalities. Jolly humor for ages 3 and up.
A Winner for Snail-Mail Fans and Kindhearted Persons
It Came in the Mail, written and illustrated by Ben Clanton
published in 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
I am old enough to remember when looking in the mailbox was fun. Birthday cards. Airmail forms. Leisurely jottings from a grandmother. Rather than the avalanche of junkmail and the drought of longhand-letters that’s our lot today. Anyone else miss that?
Liam does. He loves getting mail. But his mailbox is as devoid of the good stuff as mine. Liam thinks up a surprising solution to this, and thanks to an epic, magical mailbox, he’s soon the happy recipient of some top-notch deliveries!
With an accumulating pile of Cool Stuff, though, Liam has to do some recalibrating. Sparkling with surprise and good humor, heartwarming with kindness and unselfishness, this happy account might inspire some new snail-mail writers. Ages 3 and up.
A Winner for Curious-Minded Ones
Glow: Animals with Their Own Night-Lights, written by W.H. Beck, numerous photographers credited
published in 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The dramatic, inky-black pages of this book portray the mysterious dark depths of the ocean, far, far below the reach of any sunlight, the ebony depths of a cave, and the shrouded dark of the forest at night.
Set against them are fantastical photographs of a group of creatures who have one thing in common: bioluminescence — the ability of living things to make their own light. Breathtaking, strange, beautiful, they glow like aliens, twinkle like so many fairies, gleam as though made from radioactive glass.
Learn just a smidgeon about how and why and where these special animals light up the night. Spectacular photography and highly-accessible writing make this a treat for ages 3 or 4 and up.
A Winner for Sly Foxes and Even-smarter Chickens
Outfoxed, written and illustrated by Claudia Boldt
published in 2015 by Tate Publishing and distributed in the U.S. by Abrams
Harold the fox has one, big dream: to become a detective.
His father, however, has other plans for him. He declares that it’s high time Harold grow up and take on some foxy responsibility. In other words, Harold, it’s time you catch a chicken.
As a detective-wannabe, Harold thinks this should be a snap. But Harold is not figuring on such a supremely smart chicken. Laugh along as sneaky-but-outfoxed Harold gets led on a wild-chicken chase by one savvy bird. Illustrated brilliantly with color, humor, and snazz! Great fun for ages 4 and up.
A Winner for Wee Nature-lovers
The River: An Epic Journey to the Sea,
written and illustrated by Hanako Clulow (correction: written by Patricia Hegarty)
first published in England; first American edition 2016 by Kane Miller
Experience the wonder of migration in this beautiful book by Japanese illustrator Hanako Clulow, beautifully packaged to tantalize the hungry minds of toddlers.
Follow the migratory path of one little fish from the icy waters of the north, through the waterways leading to the ocean. Just a little bit of lyrical text accompanies these pretty scenes of varied habitats along the way. Extra magic is thrown in via a peek-hole tunneling through the whole account, revealing a holographic image of a dipping, diving little orange fish. A beauty for ages 15 months and up. Available in September 2016 through Usborne — order by using the link here.
A Winner for Tricky Monsters
The Big Monster Snorey Book, written and illustrated by Leigh Hodgkinson
published in England, 2015; first U.S. edition 2016 by Nosy Crow
Anytime you see Leigh Hodgkinson’s name on a book you know you’re in for a raucous good time and this new blast is right on track.
Meet Little Monster, a clever, conniving little shaver who’s surrounded by the most galumptious, hideous snorers of all sleepdom. Good gracious but they do make a racket!
But that’s not the worst of it! When those hairy brutes wake up, they’re ravenous. And what do they like best to eat?! Little monsters!!
Fear not, though, because Little Monster has a stupendous plan! Meet some crazy beasts and cheer for the little shaggy green guy in this energetic story for ages 3 and up.
Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books | Tagged bioluminescence, boats, book reviews, children's literature, fatherhood, friendship, humorous stories, migration, morse code, nautical code, picture books, semaphore, siblings, signal flags | Leave a Comment »