I think we could all use a smile, and today’s books are overflowing with good cheer, simple pleasures, yummy goodies, and even a wish or three.
So break out the jam tarts and peppermint tea, cuddle up together, and journey towards joy.
The Littlest Family’s Big Day, written and illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin
published in 2016 by Random House
Pure, tender charm spills from this book like blueberries from my grandmother’s pie!
This little family of bears reminds me quite a lot of Margaret Wise Brown and Garth Williams’ Little Fur Family. Does anyone remember that book?
We’re paying a visit to these bears on quite an eventful day. They’re settling into a new home. Meeting their creaturely neighbors. Then exploring the outdoors, feasting upon strawberries, and returning to a snug home after a wee bit of an adventure.
Like a spoonful of sugar for your day, this is a sweet story to share again and again with ages 2 and up. Love it!
Paul and Antoinette, written and illustrated by Kerascoët, translated from the French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick
published in 2016 by Enchanted Lion Books
Paul and his sister Antoinette are as different as plum cake and salsa.
Antoinette goes at life with reckless abandon, piling jam and chocolate on her toast like nobody’s business, exulting in worms, galloping through mud puddles.
Paul, on the other hand, is a deliberate, sensitive, quieter soul who feasts on new knowledge sponged up slowly, enjoys tidiness, tinkering, and thinking.
Life with one another, then, has its challenges, but at the end of the day, with patience and love, they manage. Antoinette’s jolly Everything Tart definitely helps matters along! Whipped cream mountains of good cheer, here, for ages 3 and up.
Hedgehugs and the Hattiepillar, written by Steve Wilson, illustrated by Lucy Tapper
published in 2015 by Henry Holt and Co.
Horace and Hattie Hedgehug are back, these two dear friends. This time they’re out and about exploring the beauty of the great outdoors when they spy something oh-so-interesting. Small. Shiny. Smooth.
This interesting little pea turns out to be an egg, and out crawls a “wriggly, stripy thing” that proceeds to eat. A lot! And then spin itself a “soft, silky bed.” And then make a grand entrance as something terribly exciting, “something beautiful, colorful, and wonderful.”
Horace and Hattie decide that eating a great lot, then curling up to sleep in a lovely, soft, silky bed sounds like a terrific idea. They hope they’ll emerge from this just as colorful and wonderful!
I’ll let you see what comes of their grand experiment. I think you’ll agree that it sounds like a hypothesis any number of us would be pleased to test out! Darling, cheerful fun for ages 2 and up.
Pug Man’s 3 Wishes, written and illustrated by Sebastian Meschenmoser, translated from the German by David Henry Wilson
first published in Germany in 2008; English version published in 2016 by NorthSouth Books
For dry, droll humor, you just can’t beat Sebastian Meschenmoser. This book will tickle the funny bones of young children and adults alike.
Pug Man is a curmudgeonly fellow at best, but this morning everything is going wrong. Groggy and unmotivated after oversleeping, Pug Man goes through the motions of getting ready for the day only to find no milk in the fridge, no coffee in the cup, and a soggy, dripping newspaper.
Seriously bad day.
Much to Pug Man’s consternation a bippety-boppety-boo chipper little fairy appears at that moment, determined to Cheer Him Up!!! With saccharine glee she offers him three marvelous wishes!
Pug Man makes use of those wishes. You’ll have to see just what he wishes for! A funny tale for ages 3 and up, and especially well-suited to any anti-morning persons!
Motor Miles, written and illustrated by John Burningham
published in 2016 by Candlewick
Coming from one of the most beloved children’s lit author/illustrators, this story brought me cheer at the first glimpse of the cover.
Burningham’s carefree line, scribbly hair, smart auto, and sunny fields bring back memories of reading the Mr. Gumpy books umpteen times with my children, and loving them just as much every time.
This book is not about Mr. Gumpy, despite those visual similarities. It’s about a dog named Miles. Miles “was a very difficult dog.” Have you experienced one of those??
Here is John Burningham with the real, difficult, Miles!
Doesn’t bother to come when called. Balks on the leash. Barks unnecessarily. Turns up his nose at his food. His owners, Alice Trudge and her son Norman, are fond of dear Miles, but a bit at their wits end until Mr. Huddy from next door offers to build Miles his own little car.
Miles loveloveloves his little roadster. In a jiffy, his attitude clears up, his appetite returns, and he and Norman carry off a bundle of jolly adventures to boot!
This is a lark of a story, guaranteed to spark imaginations and put a big smile on the face of readers ages 2 and up.
Posted in fiction, picture books | Tagged bad dogs, book reviews, children's literature, family, happiness, harmony, humorous stories, picture books | 4 Comments »
Several weeks ago I came across an article on the BBC highlighting a new book of photography by Steve McCurry. The theme of McCurry’s project, displayed in this stunning book, is reading. Readers, to be more precise.
I immediately requested it through my library and have thoroughly enjoyed meandering through it.
On Reading, by Steve McCurry
published in 2016 by Phaidon Press
Even if you don’t know the name Steve McCurry, you know his photography. One of National Geographic’s most heralded photographers, McCurry’s most famous shot is probably Afghan Girl, taken in 1984.
On Reading is the result of his personal interest in capturing the faces, postures, environments of people around the world caught up in the act of reading. For forty years as he’s globe-trotted, he’s had his eye out for these images.
Paul Theroux, in his foreword, comments that “readers are seldom lonely or bored, because reading is a refuge and an enlightenment…It seems to me that there is always something luminous in the face of a person in the act of reading.”
Indeed, McCurry wondrously captures the focused absorption of readers old and young, rich and poor, from widely disparate cultures in this collection. It is gorgeous, immensely satisfying, and heartening.
McCurry himself was inspired by the earlier work of Hungarian-born photographer André Kertész who spent over 50 years observing and photographing readers. His work was likewise published in a book entitled On Reading, published in 1971 by Grossman Publishers. I checked that one out from my library, too!
The compelling, black-and-white photographs in this small book span the years 1915-1970. About half of them are from the 1960’s and most were shot in New York City and Paris.
The differences in the worlds and perspectives of these two books, despite their common theme, is remarkable. The work of Kertész has a much more spur of the moment, snapshot sense, whereas McCurry’s are bold, immersive, with subjects generally much closer to us.
Venice (young man reading on canal side), September 10, 1963
I love seeing the small dramas taking place on all these tiny stages in the world. On a particular day now long gone, an anonymous person was caught up in reading during one unscheduled moment, now frozen in time for us to contemplate.
Esztergam, Hungary, 1915
McCurry and Kertész both saw so much in this ordinary, transportive, monumental act. I love the way photographers help me see, and particularly how these two have helped me see the magic of reading woven through time and across cultures.
Posted in non-fiction | Tagged Andre Kertesz, book reviews, cultures, photography, reading, Steve McCurry | Leave a Comment »
Wolf in the Snow, by Matthew Cordell
published in 2017 by Feiwel and Friends
My top pick for Valentine’s Day might seem unusual at first glance, but believe me — this is a book about love! Love within a family — anchoring, steadfast — and sacrificial love for the stranger. It touched my heart deeply.
Cordell’s wordless story features a little girl living in a northerly home where wolves dwell and blizzards swirl. On her way home from school one day, snow begins falling so fast and furious that she becomes utterly enveloped in it. Lost.
She’s not the only one. One frowsy wolf pup gets separated from its pack. As the little girl plods her way along, she comes across it, shivering, scared, whimpering. From far across the snow-covered hills she hears the mournful howling of the pack.
What to do?
The safe thing, of course, is to apologize to the pup and keep on her homeward journey! She’s cold and forlorn herself. Fatigued from pushing through that deep snow. Night falls early. Wolves are toothy! It’s certainly much more sensible to worry about her own self rather than that scruffy pup.
But scooping him up in her arms, she sets off across the snowy wasteland. It’s quite a journey and Cordell’s masterful pacing and artwork sweep us right into it. Not only do we experience the physical exertion, but also a powerful range of emotions.
I was stunned by all that is stuffed into this small tale — beauty, heroism, courage, kindness, gorgeous wolves, the warmth of home, and above all one little girl’s willingness to put another’s needs ahead of her own. Brilliant, for ages 3 and up.
The Lines on Nana’s Face, written and illustrated by Simona Ciraolo
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books
This is truly one of the dearest books I’ve seen in a long time.
It’s Nana’s birthday and her granddaughter is excited to celebrate with her. She knows how much Nana loves to have her family all together. Yet this little girl has a niggling concern.
Sometimes it’s hard to read Nana’s face and know if she’s entirely, completely happy because of all the lines wrinkling across it.
Nana assures her that those lines don’t bother her a bit, because “it is in these lines that I keep all my memories!” Doubtful, her granddaughter quizzes her on each wrinkle. Which memory is tucked in that one, Nana? And in this one?
Nana easily relates the happy — and one sad — memories creased into her beautiful face. That includes one of the most precious memories of all.
Ciraolo’s palette of luscious pinks, sunshine yellow, warm biscuit browns, and glowing spring greens washes through this book like a glad smile. The rounded baby shapes of granddaughter and dignified angles of grandmother fit together, hand-in-glove, while life swirls and curls happily around them. A treasure of grandmotherly love to share with ages 2 and up.
Love You, Too, written by Alastair Heim, illustrated by Alisa Coburn
published in 2016 by little bee books
Mama pig and her little porker move through a merry day together in this charmer. From morning wake-up and pancake breakfast, to jolly outings, baths, jammies and stories at day’s end, these two thoroughly enjoy one another’s company.
It’s the call-and-response text in this book that separates it from the rest, and it’s an absolute blast! “When I say ‘I love,’ you say ‘you.’ I love…YOU! I love…YOU!
Passing the words back and forth with young children in this singy, swingy rhythm can’t help but bring out the smiles!
Alisa Coburn’s pigs are hugely endearing. Her delicate line and candy-colored palette fill the pages with breeziness and jovial energy. Great fun for ages 2 and up.
Delivery, by Aaron Meshon
published in 2017 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Grandma looks at her calendar at the start of this almost-wordless story and spots a big red heart on it marking a very special day. It’s coming up quick! She’d better hurry!
Bustling away in the kitchen, Grandma zips together trays full of lipstick-red, heart-shaped cookies, then packs them tenderly in a box and seals it with love. The delivery man takes it from her doorstep, and we’re off!
Off on the wildest, craziest, most exciting delivery route ever! By truck and ship, train and helicopter! Even by whale-spout and dog-sled! The package must go on! Hand it off! Hold on tight! Move it along!
Meshon’s exuberant imagination and bold, stylish designs will utterly entrance young children. At story’s end is perhaps the most surprising picture of all! Don’t miss it — it’s on the endpapers.
Packed with smiles and love, for ages 2 and up.
I Heart You, written by Meg Fleming, illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright
published in 2016 by Beach Lane Books
This sweet book is flush with tenderness, as soft and gentle as a lullaby.
Animal mamas and babies snuggle in burrows, romp in grassy patches, gather in nests, while a quietly-rhyming text describes all the ways those babies are loved.
All this takes place near a bright red house with a large garden where another mama and her little girl are picking raspberries. In the dusky twilight, they enjoy loving one another, too.
It’s a mellow, sweet refrain to share with little ones 18 months and up.
There are more Valentine’s-oriented titles in the Subject Index, if you like. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Posted in fiction, picture books, wordless books | Tagged book reviews, children's literature, families, grandmothers, love, parents and children, picture books, Valentine's Day | Leave a Comment »
I’ve drawn the winner of What Will Danny Do Today? It was lovely to read everyone’s wishes for what to do on a free day! If only I could grant each of those!
At any rate, the book winner is…my dear friend, Julie Steller! Julie, I guess we need to have coffee soon so I can get that to you!
I have books full of mother-love and grandmother-love and another gold-star winner from Matthew Cordell, all coming up on Monday, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Happy stories. Troll stories. Bonkers breakfast stories. And some gorgeous photography perfect for book-lovers. All coming in the next weeks. I love sharing these gems with you and being part of a wonderful, worldwide, reading community. How cool is that?!
Posted in fiction, picture books | Tagged book reviews, children's literature, picture books | 1 Comment »
February is Black History Month and I’m so happy to pass on these five excellent titles. The more we seek to understand others, the more we are enriched and the more harmonious and peaceful society can become. This is what we all want!
I love the breadth of contributions to society and our common history these stories introduce and represent. Although they are all picture books, today’s set seems best for ages 7 and up. You can find lots more Black History titles including those well-suited for younger readers, in my Subject Index.
A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day, written by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson
published in 2016 by Viking
I’ve always felt that The Snowy Day is one of the truly perfect picture books out there. Its art, understanding of the child, genius economy of words, continue to stand the test of time. With all the absolutely stunning work that’s been published since this book came out in 1962 — still, it’s at the top of my list of what to give a new baby upon entrance into our world.
And those aren’t the only elements that make Ezra Jack Keats’ book such a gem. It was unheard of at that time for a black child to be the main character of a story. Having his sweet brown face featured on the book’s cover was an important step forward in children’s literature and our society.
Read this lilting, expressionist, free-verse story to learn all about Keats and how his particular life led him to create that “brown-sugar boy” named Peter, to place an urban world in our hands and help us embrace the formerly-invisible . The illustration work in this book, incorporating Keats’ distinctive vibe and media, is fabulous.
This is a picture book best appreciated by those who have met Keats’ work. I’d hand it to kids ages 8 and up. Adults — it’s for you, too.
The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
published in 2015 by Carolrhoda Books
Lewis Henri Michaux was a feisty, independent-minded soul from the start, and he had something in common with me, and probably with you: He loved books.
All of which led him on a winding pathway to create something sadly unusual: a bookstore in Harlem. Michaux had a hard go of it. He was turned down for a loan on the premise that “Black people don’t read.” Good thing Michaux had the moxie to discard such ignorance and push ahead.
Michaux was full of pithy advice for all: “Knowledge is Power. You need it every hour. Read a book!” And his shop — the National Memorial African Bookstore — was full of books, conversation, ideas, and famous folk. Muhammad Ali. Langston Hughes. Malcolm X.
This biography, crackling with the same grit and gumption as Michaux, introduces readers ages 8 and up to a man who believed in the intellect of his fellow African Americans and challenged them to make their mark through knowledge and independent thinking. Christie’s robust, vigorous artwork easily bears the weight of his rugged subject.
Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph, written by Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Francis Vallejo
published in 2016 by Candlewick Press
In 1958, a fellow named Art Kane came up with a wild scheme to gather as many jazz greats as he could and take their picture.
The magazine he worked for was doing a jazz issue. It seemed like the perfect place for that kind of historic photo. But getting in touch with all these folks, finding a date when they could join up, all in the days before e-invitations — that was a challenge. Happily for Kane, and for us, a river of jazz musicians flowed into Harlem one hot summer day and cooperated — mostly — with the photo session.
Click. A moment, and an entire movement, preserved.
Roxane Orgill has ingenuously recreated the unfolding action from Kane’s initial idea to the arrival on the newsstands of a magazine with a crisp photo of 57 musicians: black and white; male and female. Plus 12 little neighborhood boys who just happened to be there, too.
She’s done this through a series of poems from the perspectives of a number of folks involved. Massive, delightful, effervescent personalities exude from her pieces which are accompanied by gorgeous, stylish portraits by artist Francis Vallejo. I love his work!
This is an outstanding picture book that older children and adults will thoroughly enjoy. Ages 8 through adult.
How to Build a Museum, by Tonya Bolden
published in 2016 by Viking and Smithsonian
Are you one of the lucky ones who has had a chance to visit the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture? I understand its popularity right now makes that a tricky ticket to get ahold of.
Historian Tonya Bolden is here to tell us how this museum came about and I’m telling you — it will whet your appetite to go!
If you can believe it, this is a 100-year-long dream-come-true. A vision that began in 1915 and persevered through lots of halts and left turns and snags until finally, on September 24, 2016, the museum was open for visitors.
Learn the history of this long process and go treasure hunting to find all manner of items. A beautiful gown designed by Ann Lowe and a plane flown by the Tuskegee Airmen. Satchmo’s trumpet and Michael Jackson’s fedora. Gabby Douglas’s leotard and a couple of Woolworth’s lunch-counter stools from Greensboro. Posters. Photos. Medals. Harriet Tubman’s hymnal.
Illustrated with photographs. If you are making a trip to D.C. and hope to visit the museum, you should definitely read this first. Ages 8 to adult.
Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn
published in 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Finally, a collection of bite-sized biographies of some persevering, courageous women. Chosen after long hours of reading, research, and conversation, these 10 women represent hundreds of others who have set aside their own comfort and security, who have gone out on a limb, to fight for freedom and equality.
In her preface, Pinkney discusses the breadth of freedoms she considered as she chose her subjects. What is striking is how basic these freedoms really are. Freedom to choose housing. Freedom to ride public transportation. I hope that by reading Black History, we can put to rest the simplistic notion that “all you have to do in America is work hard to change your future.” No, the cards have been stacked against certain populations. The opportunities have been made unavailable to some and granted to others. Women and men and children have been beaten and killed for trying to improve their lot in life.
In about five pages each, Pinkney tells the compelling stories of both famous and lesser-known women: Sojourner Truth, Biddy Mason, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Mary McLeod Bethune, Ella Josephine Baker, Dorothy Irene Height, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Shirley Chisholm.
Each bio is accompanied by one full-page and one small-sized painting, bursting with vibrancy and strength. These accounts make great additions to anyone’s grasp of American history. Ages 8 and up.
Posted in non-fiction, picture books | Tagged black history month, book reviews, children's literature, civil rights movement, Ezra Jack Keats, harlem, jazz, Lewis Henri Michaux, museums, picture books, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture | Leave a Comment »
Today I’ve got two books replete with the pleasures of the ordinary.
Both books draw children in by presenting them with an array of choices to make, always a favorite activity for my kids when they were young. Such interesting conversations open up this way.
One of the books I’m giving away — details at the end of the post.
Today, written and illustrated by Julie Morstad
published in 2016 by Simply Read Books
I am head-over-heels in love with Canadian artist Julie Morstad’s illustration work and her lovely portrayal of uncluttered, soothingly-simple childhoods. I’ve featured a number of her books over the years on Orange Marmalade. You can find them via the Search box if you please, or visit her website here.
This one meanders through one day in a style reminiscent of Gyo Fujikawa’s book Oh What a Busy Day — one of our all-time favorites.
Morstad’s pure, charming drawings fill the pages with clothes, hairstyles, breakfasts, outings, sweet treats, bits and bobs found in a child’s bedroom — and invite children to pick out what they like best. Where would you like to go today? And how will you get there? Which pajamas would you choose?
Oh, the expansiveness that arises in a two-year-old’s heart when presented with such delectable choices! And of course, with Morstad, they are all imaginative, creative, full-of-life choices.
I love this book. It’s one to enjoy again and again with children ages 2 and up.
What Will Danny Do Today? written by Pippa Goodhart, illustrated by Sam Usher
first American edition published in 2016 by Kane Miller
Coming to us from the UK, this book has a similar concept — a presentation of all kinds of choices Danny faces in his day. Clothes. Recess activities. Art projects. Bedtime stories. And for each, we are invited to help him choose.
The feel of this book is quite different however. Sam Usher has given it an immensely energetic vibe with his scribbly black line, crammed-in compositions, vibrant colors, and perspectives that plunge us right into the scenes. It’s perfect for busy bees!
In addition, the book is printed on heavy-duty, glossy, card stock pages, making it much less fragile when loved by toddlers and preschoolers.
Great fun and another book that I’d guess would become a well-worn favorite for ages 18 months and up.
And thanks to the generosity of the folks at Kane Miller — I have a copy to give away!
Enter by commenting below telling us what you would choose to do today if it was up to you! I’ll pick the winner out of a hat on Thursday, February 9.
U.S. shipping addresses only, please. Sorry!
Posted in fiction, picture books | Tagged book giveaways, book reviews, children's literature, imagination, nonelectronic play | 34 Comments »