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I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my quest for the best new nonfiction titles out there as I lovelovelove a good nonfiction picture book! Here are some of the juicy best I’ve seen thus far:

The Street Beneath My Feet, written by Charlotte Guillain, illustrated by Yuval Zommer
first published in the UK; published in the U.S. in 2017 by words and pictures, part of The Quarto Group

Truly, this is one of the most exciting nonfiction books I’ve seen!

The mysterious depths of the earth, nature’s unseen surprises and buried treasures, the murky pipes and wires of urban networks — all of this lurks beneath our feet, hidden from view. Perhaps so utterly unseen, it even evades our curiosity!

Until it’s unfolded in splendor by Yuval Zommer  — just look at the way this book opens up as we descend down, down, down, to the Earth’s inner core, then turn about and travel back to the surface. About 9 or 10 feet long when it’s all stretched out, with different illustrations on each side.  How cool is that?! Along the way, we get a guided tour of all the fascinations beneath our feet. Earthworms and storm drains, subways and stalactites, badger setts and precious gems.

Phenomenal illustration work. Just the right amount of information. An utterly inviting format. This comes with my highest recommendation! Grab a copy for kids ages 3 and up.

Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics, written by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López
published in 2017 by Henry Holt and Company

This rich sequence of poetic and visual portraits brims with promise, passion, courage, and LIFE!

Unreeled for us in chronological order, eighteen free-verse poems celebrate a tantalizing diversity of amazing Latinos. Meet Juan de Miralles who is said to have saved his friend George Washington’s troops from scurvy by delivering Cuban fruit to them. Botanist Ynés Mexia who explored Mexico and South America at the turn of the century identifying hundreds of new plant species. The well-known Roberto Clemente, and the lesser known, fascinating Fabiola Cabeza de Baca — what an amazing life she led!

Each brief poem is matched with a powerful, vibrant illustration in sizzling color. Wow, these pages pop!

Brief, prose sketches of each individual are included as well as a rhythmic listing of many more Latinos to learn about. What a fantastic fusion of history, culture, artistry for ages 6 and up!

Penguin Day: A Family Story, written and photographed by Nic Bishop
published in 2017 by Scholastic Press

Who can resist penguins? And who can top Nic Bishop’s outstanding nature photography?

There you have it — the perfect recipe for a charming photoessay. Witness a day in the life of a rockhopper penguin family as Mom and Dad care for their baby, guarding him and undertaking an extraordinary journey to collect food.

So much chub, fluff, drama, and cuteness! Dominated by Bishop’s crisp, stunning photographs with a minimal narration of events, this book will entrance children ages 2 and up. An Author’s Note provides scads more information about these Antarctic residents for parents or older siblings.

Karl, Get Out of the Garden!: Carolus Linnaeus and the Naming of Everything, written by Anita Sanchez, illustrated by Catherine Stock
published in 2017 by Charlesbridge

Karl Linné, or Carolus Linnaeus, is one of Sweden’s great figures, whose name is borne by a delicate pink wildflower found in the far north, the Linnaea borealis. My dear mother-in-law, Elsie Linnea, child of Swedish immigrants, is named after that Swedish beauty. I love that!

Linnaeus is famous for having developed the classification system for all living things which we take so for granted that most of us don’t pause to think how it originated. A man with insatiable curiosity and wonder who was devoted to botany, Linnaeus began by gathering and using plants for medicinal purposes. What he encountered was chaos due to no uniform method of naming and conversing about anything from a dog rose to a honeybee. So he set about creating order — an enormous task!

Catherine Stock’s gorgeous watercolors beautifully present Sweden in the 1700s and the world of plants in particular which Linnaeus loved. This little gem is accessible to children ages 5 and up.

Animal Journeys, written by Patricia Hegarty, illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle
first published in the UK; published in the U.S. in 2017 by 360 Degrees, an imprint of Tiger Tales

Such a beauty! Small but chunky, nature-sketchbook-sized, crammed with lovely illustrations and morsels of text about all manner of animals on the move, it’s a book that’ll lure you into discovering more.

Migratory animals, swimmers, animals coping with challenging environments, surprising animal antics. Wildebeest and pond skaters; wolf packs and dung beetles; echolocation and piggybacking. Dabble here and there in the animal kingdom and be amazed by the variety of travelers.

Graced by Jessica Courtney-Tickle’s captivating artistry, this one’s accessible to kids ages 3 to much older.

Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot, written by Matthew Clark Smith, illustrated by Matt Tavares
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

Just take a look at that lemon-chiffon light, soaring candy-striped balloon, impossibly-lithesome wings buoying Sophie and her wicker basket high above the French countryside. What a dreamy entryway to this fascinating story of the first woman pilot.

Sophie Blanchard lived in France in the 18th century when balloonomania had swept the nation. Having married a famous balloonist, Sophie thrilled to accompany him into the air, to watch villages turn miniature below her. Ascending alone, however, without a male pilot — that was unacceptable in her society. Did Sophie let that stop her? No, ma’am.

Matthew Clark Smith tells Blanchard’s compelling life story while Matt Tavares’ stunning illustrations evoke French elegance, ethereal thrills, and the brooding storms of Blanchard’s life. A fascinating foray into the world of ballooning and a woman I’d never heard of, for ages 5 and up. The author’s and illustrator’s notes are gems as well!

Lesser Spotted Animals: The Coolest Creatures You’ve Never Heard Of, written and illustrated by Martin Brown
first published in the UK in 2016; U.S. edition in 2017 by Scholastic by arrangement with David Fickling Books

If you’re a bit bored with bears, zzz-ed by zebras, deluged with dogs; if you seek a bit more exotic fare…well, look no further!

This catalog of uncommon creatures is just the ticket. It’ll wow you with splendidly-diverse populations that humbly inhabit Earth, yet never made it into a children’s picture book…until now.

Say hello to the Numbat, the Zorilla, and that darling, pink, Lesser Fairy Armadillo. No, these aren’s Seussian inventions — they are real animals. Martin Brown’s upbeat, folksy descriptions of these guys make for great reading, with a nice touch of humor and swell illustration work to boot. Even the glossary is a delight! Ramp up wonder with ages 5 and up.

I’ve just finished a highly-original adventure story narrated by a gorilla. Goes by the name of Sally Jones. Brilliant at chess. Also excellent with ships’ engines and the odd accordion in need of repair.

It comes to us from Sweden where it has already received several prestigious awards, and I’m recommending it for advanced readers ages 10 to adult.

The Murderer’s Ape, written and illustrated by Jakob Wegelius, translated from the Swedish by Peter Graves
originally published in Sweden in 2014; English translation published in 2017 by Delacorte Press
588 pages

I fell in love with it the moment I got my hands on it. This is a book that revels in its physicality and makes every non-digital reader coo with pleasure. Its stout, tome-like size and shape, exotic turquoise cover image, gorgeous end papers decorated with illustrated maps, stylish typography, swoon-worthy catalogue of key characters, and handsome illustrations heading every chapter all add up to one visual treat, a striking gateway to the world unfolding in its story.

One of the endpapers, in its original Swedish.

Plus, there are 80 chapters! 80! Most of them quite, quite short. Immensely satisfying, that is, to polish off 80 chapters, wouldn’t you say?

Of course, the main question is: Has a good yarn been spun? And the answer is: Absolutely.

The novel is framed as a typewritten account of a hair-raising, far-flung, nail-biter of an adventure, reported by its main participant, Sally Jones, a gorilla of most surprising capabilities.

As our story begins, Sally is happily working with her dear friend, a good-hearted sea captain, Henry Koskela, on his little tramp steamer, the Hudson Queen, running cargoes to ports far and wide. While in Lisbon, the two of them are hired by a fellow who turns out to be up to his neck in shady business dealings. Seriously murky stuff going on here. Two treacherous seconds later and Henry is in prison, falsely accused of murder. Sally, bereft, must navigate a world that certainly is unprepared for her while simultaneously following clues that will clear Henry’s name.

Those clues will take her to exotic locations, stunning new adventures, and life-threatening confrontations. She meets a huge cast of characters, some kind, some cruel; some loyal, some treacherous; a wealthy, petulant maharaja; an accordion repairman; an infectious disease specialist; an unscrupulous businessman. She travels in rickshaws, biplanes, and ships’ holds; dines in opulence and hides in cemeteries.

It’s a sweeping odyssey, a bit reminiscent of Jules Verne’s Around the World. In children’s literature, the most akin novel I can think of is Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, though it’s much more suspenseful and plot-driven than Hitty.

Wegelius does not pander to children’s vocabularies or life experiences, giving this book a more classic tone than many contemporary novels. The narrative is peppered with foreign proper nouns which may snooker novice readers but will add to the immersive experience for the savvy. Sally Jones appears to be a highly educated gorilla who writes her memoir in sophisticated, mature prose. And although this is an account of murder and mayhem, the narrative flows along unhurriedly, with lengthy descriptive passages and internal musings. For children who require a cliff hanger at the end of every chapter, this will be a new pace.

My squeamish alarms went off only one time in recommending this to children due to some oblique references to spousal abuse fairly early in the account. I’d have been happier without that element.

This book can’t win many of the big American awards, not being by an American author, but it can win the Batchelder Award for books originally published in a different language and subsequently translated into English and brought to the U.S. — and I hope it does!

It’s full-on May. Green swathes the earth, tulips paint gardens, socks and shoes lie discarded. Time for some fresh, glad picture books for hammock and lemonade time. Every one of these is guaranteed to be a juicy pleasure for thirsty, curious minds.

Everybunny Dance!, written and illustrated by Ellie Sandall
originally published in Great Britain; published in the U.S. in 2017 by Margaret K. McElderry Books, and imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Oh, these darling bunnies! Plump bottoms. Jovial splotchy fur. Cheerful capering. Just…irresistible.

How merrily they dance, play, and sing! UNTIL!! Egads! It’s a fox! Everybunny run!

When these worried-yet-sensitive bunnies see a tear trickle down that fox’s long nose, however, they respond with the sweetest bunnywarmth of all. There is so much gladness and good will in this book, you’ll feel your heart expand a couple of sizes. A gem for ages 18 months and up.

Under the Umbrella, written by Catherine Buquet, illustrated by Marion Arbona, translated by Erin Woods
originally published in French; English edition published in 2017 by Pajama Press

A sodden day brings out the grumpies for one curmudgeonly fellow, striding down the avenue under his black umbrella, scowling, dashing, spluttering…

Meanwhile, a lemon-yellow bakery window shining out upon the grey day attracts a little boy like a moth to lamplight, those mouthwatering mousses and razzledazzzle tarts beaming sunshine into his soul.

What happens when a gust of wind whooshes these two people together? A smile. A kind gesture. A spilling over of sweetness. This dynamic book will gladden you, not to mention precipitating a trip to the local patisserie! Striking illustration work emotes the changing moods of this story with tremendous pizzazz. A joy for ages 2 and up.

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

Roundness. Such a simple concept, carried out brilliantly by Minnesota poet Joyce Sidman, illustrated with tender warmth by the talented Taeeun Yoo.

This ambling exploration of round things gently unfolds in Sidman’s pristine text.  Words reflecting the incisive wonder of a child are pared down to those quiet, perfect few that resonate within the reader, stimulate more wonder.

Yoo’s print-like illustrations are impeccable, gracing every page with physical and emotional beauty that stops us in our tracks.

I adore this book — timeless, thoughtful, curious, warmhearted. Perfect for sharing with ages 18 months and up.

Mr. Postmouse Takes a Trip, written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc
originally published in French, 2016; English language edition 2017 by Kids Can Press

Mr. Postmouse stole my heart with his first round of deliveries, reviewed here.

Now he’s off for a whirlwind, ’round-the-world vacation with his family. Ever responsible, Mr. Postmouse brings along a cartful of parcels to deliver along the way.

Whether on a volcanic isle or at a desert oasis, the Postmouse family enjoys meeting new friends. What a jolly treat to visit these places with them! Best of all are the peeks into many, tiny, clever homes and shops along the way. Home in a cactus or a tiny yellow submarine. Home on a cloud or in a dragon’s lair. Darling wee furnishings and details make this a treasure to pour over with ages 2 and up.

Arthur and the Golden Rope, written and illustrated by Joe Todd Stanton
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books

Welcome to a fabulous Norse tale about young Arthur of Iceland, a lad destined for epic quests from his earliest days.

When the brutish wolf, Fenrir, blots out the town’s great cauldron of fire, plunging them into icy darkness forever, it’s Arthur who’s chosen to venture off to Valhalla, track down Thor, and urge him to use his thunderbolt to rekindle their flame.

But oh! this is much easier said than done! Incredibly appealing panels of illustrations carry us into a legendary Nordic world as Stanton spins this wildly adventurous tale. This appears to be the only title available in the Brownstone’s Mythical Collection. I’m definitely hoping for more. Fantastic storytelling for ages 5 and up.

This House, Once, written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman
published in 2017 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

The door in this house once was part of “a colossal oak tree about three hugs around and as high as the blue.”

Now there’s an intriguing thought. What about the foundation stones? The red bricks in the walls? Or these glass window panes?

What were all the things that make up this house, before they turned into our house?

Quietly thought-provoking, this dreamy book will spark ideas and questions and wonder about not only houses, but all manner of objects we take for granted. What were they once? How are they made? Who made them?

An immensely clever, ethereal prod towards wondering, for ages 4 and up.

Bob the Railway Dog: The True Story of an Adventurous Dog, written by Corinne Fenton, illustrated by Andrew McLean
published in 2015 in Australia; first U.S. edition 2016 by Candlewick Press

If you’re a dog lover, you’ll warm to this engaging story about a homeless dog adopted by a railway guard back in 1884 Australia.

It took no time at all for this shaggy dog named Bob to attach himself to Mr. Ferry, to learn how to hop aboard the caboose and ride the rails, to switch trains at will in order to see a sizable stretch of the Australian countryside.

Bob was welcomed everywhere, and you’ll welcome him into your hearts, too, as you steam along from Adelaide to Kalangadoo! Sweet story, handsomely illustrated with gentle watercolor illustrations that bring the era and the land to life. Ages 4 and up.

Tony, written by Ed Galing, illustrated by Erin Stead
published in 2017; a Neal Porter Book from Roaring Brook Press

If I handed you this book and you didn’t know it was new, you would likely guess it was a vintage picture book from, say, the 1940s. A velvet soft, yesteryear quietness breathes out from every ounce of it.

The poem which comprises the text was written by Ed Galing just prior to his death in 2013. It’s a reminiscing poem about a sweet-tempered white horse, Tony, who pulls the milk wagon for driver Tom on their early morning rounds. Straightforward, free of soppiness, rich with adoration for this beloved horse, Galing’s poem narrates the routine, cherished interactions between Tony, Tom, and a customer.

Erin Stead’s dove-soft pencil drawings sweep us into a sweet relationship with these three. Her palette of grey-green whispers, while patches of lamplight cast a welcoming glow in the cool dawn shadows. Every element is just so quiet.

I love quiet books, in a world too often dominated by loud, frenetic offerings for children. Soak in the beauty, the stillness, the human pace of Tony. A treat for ages 2 to 100.

Last year marked the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London. Those centuries saw London rebuild from tragic destruction…

…to the phenomenal city she is today.

A gorgeous book was published to commemorate the fire. That prompted me to scope out some other great titles available to those of us on this side of the pond, helping us explore the early history of our friends the Brits. The starting point of our journey today will be 1666 and we’ll travel farther back in time from there.

The Great Fire of London, written by Emma Adams, illustrated by James Weston Lewis
published in 2016 by Wayland

The striking illustrations in this book arrest our attention straight from the cover image to the final page. Phenomenal!

Walk through the streets of London during the terrifically hot summer of 1666, and witness the progress of the terrible conflagration that began in a baker’s oven and roared through the city over the next days.

Read excerpts from journals, meet Christopher Wren, discover the changes to firefighting that occurred as a result of the ruination, learn of the reconstruction to famous buildings — all in a concise, riveting narrative. History made eminently fascinating for ages 6 and up.

If this makes you hanker for a longer historical fiction account of the Great Fire, we enjoyed Master Cornhill by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. It’s a great read/read-aloud for ages 8 and older. Out of print, but you can find copies in some libraries or buy from third party sellers on Amazon.

The Queen’s Progress: An Elizabethan Alphabet, written by Celeste Davidson Mannis, illustrations by Bagraim Ibatoulline
published in 2003 by Viking

Elizabeth I, Good Queen Bess, reigned from 1558 to 1603, giving her name to a dazzling era of culture and prosperity. This fascinating book about her is structured as an alphabet book, but don’t be fooled! Its rich content suits readers ages 7 through much older.

Every summer Queen Elizabeth took a holiday known as the royal progress. The queen, her courtiers, and hundreds of attendants left London in a caravan that stretched as far as the eye could see.” What made up this spectacular procession? What festivities took place along the way? Where did she stay? How did they feast? Who were her courtiers?

Packed with glittering detail, illustrated by one of the masters who takes us by the hand and plumps us down in the middle of Elizabethan England, this is a gem of a history book.

The Tudors: Kings, Queens, Scribes and Ferrets!, written and illustrated by Marcia Williams
published in 2016 by Candlewick Press

Stepping farther back still…Elizabeth I was the last of the Tudors, a line of royalty whose rule began in 1485 with the crowning of Henry VII.

Marcia Williams’ jolly cartoon style makes the history of those 120 years most-appealing and accessible to young elementary children. Her colorful panels introduce all the Tudors plus a few extras such as Shakespeare and Sir Walter Raleigh.

Running along the bottom of the pages we witness the lives of the commoners. And a snappy little ferret named Smudge gives a running account from his point of view along the margins.

A jumble of fun that delivers a whole lot of information.

For more books specifically about Shakespeare, see my post: hey nonny nonny! ’tis Shakespeare’s birthday

Now let’s take a big leap back in time…

Beowulf: A Hero’s Tale Retold, written and illustrated by James Rumford
published in 2007 by Houghton Mifflin

Around the year 800, an epic poem about a hero named Beowulf was written down in the Anglo-Saxon language. A couple of centuries passed, England was conquered by the folks across the Channel, and the enormous changes to the Saxons’ language meant that soon very few could read that Olde English account.

Thankfully, some scholars delved into those decrepit manuscripts and brought Beowulf back to us in the early 1800s. This excellent retelling by James Rumford pays homage to its language of origin by using only words that can be traced back to ancient Anglo-Saxon. What a fabulous idea!  History and linguistics in one!

Rumford’s vigorous illustrations exude the warring spirit of this tumultuous, hair-raising struggle. A great introduction for brave children ages 7 and up.

The Secrets of Stonehenge, by Mick Manning and Brita Granström
published in 2013 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

With this final book, we carom all the way back to Stone-Age Britain, some 10,000 years in the past, as we trace the mysteries and secrets of Stonehenge.

What was happening on this piece of wild land we now call the Salisbury Plain all those ages ago? What gods and goddesses did those ancient people worship? What is a “henge” anyway? When did people start constructing this one, and why?

How did they transport such mammoth stones? How did they set them in position? What archaeological discoveries at Stonehenge are revealing the secrets to its past?

Brief, clear text,  juicy tidbits of information in side-bars, and breezy, full-page, colorful illustrations will draw children as young as 5 into these questions and curiosities about the past.

A Boy Called Bat, written by Elana K. Arnold, illustrated by Charles Santoso
published in 2017 by Walden Pond Press, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
192 pages

I thoroughly enjoyed this endearing story about a small boy with a huge heart, and one little, striped skunk.

Bat Tam is in third grade at Saw Whet School, chosen especially for him because the wonderful folks in charge accommodate Bat’s autism so well. In fact, Bat’s teacher, Mr. Grayson? You’ll all wish he lived next door!

Bat’s mom is a veterinarian and one day she winds up with a tiny, motherless skunk kit. Her plan is to care for it at home for about a month until the wildlife rescue center has a spot for it. Bat’s plan, within about a nanosecond of meeting this sweet little fella, is to keep it forever.

They are pretty cute, after all.

Earnestly attempting to grow into a capable skunk-owner while managing his autism plus the challenges of his parents’ separation is not an easy path for Bat, but with resourcefulness and immense heart, plus the support of some wise, empathetic adults, Bat succeeds. And wins our hearts in the process.

Excellent story, characters to love, and a great spotlight on autism. Read it aloud or hand it to ages 7 and up.

Cavern of Secrets, by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by James Madsen
published in 2017 by Harper
320 pages

This is the second page-turner in Linda Sue Park’s Wing & Claw trilogy. I reviewed the series’ opener  here.

Though it’s been a year since that first book came out, I was immediately swept back into the world of Obsidia, where a young boy named Raffa Santana has been raised to be an apothecary, scavenging the Forest of Wonders for botanicals he can pound and mix into tinctures and powders imbued with marvelous healing capabilities. Raffa has discovered one particular vine whose properties can be used for surprising good, or immense evil.

The Chancellor of Obsidia is secretly engaged in using it for evil. It’s up to Raffa, his cousin Garith, best friend Kuma, and a handful of trustworthy others to stop her. The stakes are high and the obstacles daunting. Assisting them is an amiable, immensely-charming bat named Echo. Who talks.

The adventure and tension are definitely ratcheted up in this volume which has a cliffhanger ending. How will we wait until next year for the conclusion?! Excellent fantasy for middle graders and up and a choice candidate for reading aloud as well.

It is Not Time for Sleeping: (A Bedtime Story), written by Lisa Graff, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
published in 2016 by Clarion Books

This darling gem is warm as a mug of cocoa, comfy as a pair of jammies, twinkling with good humor, and spot-on in its grasp of the ol’ bedtime routine!

Supper’s finished, the sky is darkening, bathtime has wrinkled this little fellow’s toes. Mom and Dad slyly suggest he is looking …perhaps…a bit drowsy? But no.  It is not time yet for sleeping, he replies.

There is an order to this business! No hurrying. No skipping steps. Every parent knows this, and the kids are definitely in on the secret, too! Move through the bedtime routine with this charming family until finally..finally… it is time for sleeping! Lauren Castillo’s illustration work is perfection here. Picture book perfection for ages 2 and up.

The Blue Hour, written and illustrated by Isabelle Simler
first published in France in 2015; first U.S. edition in 2017 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

This has to be the most stunning nighttime book I’ve seen. Every page is fit to be framed as a print for your walls.

The show starts on the endpapers with their catalogue of blues, from the palest porcelain through cyan and peacock and on to the darkest blues of all — Sèvres, navy, and midnight. The artistry and intrigue of this monochromatic display prepares us for Simler’s focus on the deepening blues of approaching night as found in nature all round the world.

Spectacular portraits of blue creatures — gorgeous birds, shimmering fish, eerie sea creatures — as well as flowers, blue milk mushrooms, and the blue shadows playing upon hillsides and fields of snow, make every turn of the page a jawdropping wave of beauty.

Brief, lyrical descriptions of each living thing contribute to the hushed effect of the entire piece. Simler gradually deepens and darkens her blues until we’re wrapped in a breathtaking starlit night. 

Endpapers at the close of the book show where in the world each of these creatures is located. A visual masterpiece for anyone from 2 to 100. Don’t miss it.

Beep Beep Beep: Time for Sleep!, written by Claire Freedman, illustrated by Richard Smythe
first published in the UK in 2016; American edition 2016 by Aladdin

Are there any kids out there who aren’t enamored with heavy machinery?! This bold, bright tale will snag ’em all without a doubt.

Uff da! Those backhoes and cement mixers, graders and cranes have been working mighty hard all day on the road! Time for them to put their drills to rest and “take the exit ramp off to bed.”

From the zooming, daylit beginning, Freedman and Smythe gradually turn off the motors, tidy things up, dim the sky, haul out the moon, and leave us in sweet dream land. I’m confident that this is a read-it-again-and-again book for kids 18 months and up.

Noisy Night, written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Brian Biggs
published in 2017 by Roaring Brook Press

Just look at that high rise apartment, every colorful floor full of busy people. How is anyone going to get any sleep?

The little guy on the bottom floor awakens to a “la la la” above his head. What can it be? And the dashing gentleman on the next floor up? He’s disturbed by a “ma ma ma” sound over his head! What in the world is it?

Climb up, page by page, and discover all the goings-on in this boisterous building! Plus find out if this garrulous group ever does get some shut-eye! Brian Biggs’ bold, stylized illustrations are the cat’s meow here. Great fun for ages 2 and up.

Mother Goose’s Pajama Party, written by Danna Smith, illustrated by Virginia Allyn
published in 2015 by Doubleday Books for Young Readers

Mother Goose is throwing a storytime pajama party at her place! And you’re invited!

Over hill and dale her flock of favorites spread the word. The cow jumping over the moon tells the dish who tells the spoon. Children will be delighted to spot characters they know well: blind mice, gingerbread boys, girls eating curds and whey, and many more as they hotfoot it to Mother Goose’s cottage.

Vivid, candy-colored illustrations are sure to scoop in young listeners. The last pages of the book are devoted to the rhymes which feature these characters, just in case you forget who Jack, Mary, or Bo Peep are. Jolly and sweet for ages 2 and up.

Pleasant dreams!

Just for you baseball fans out there, two stories about a couple of great players.

Growing up Pedro, written and illustrated by Matt Tavares
published in 2015 by Candlewick Press

Pedro Martinez grew up in the tropical heat of the Dominican Republic playing ball with his brothers, including big brother Ramón, the star player.

He watched with pride as Ramón left for America and turned heads with his blistering pitching for the L.A. Dodgers. But Pedro didn’t just watch. He practiced, worked hard, dreamed of joining his brother in the big leagues, even with his small stature.

That dream came true, and then some, with Pedro ultimately joining the Boston Red Sox in 1997, becoming a star pitcher, and even going to the World Series.

The story of these two brothers is inspiring, warmhearted, and joyous. Sunny, captivating, full-page illustrations dominate the pages. An Author’s Note with more details about Pedro, plus a page of his stats are included.

Mickey Mantle: The Commerce Comet, written by Jonah Winter, illustrated by C.F. Payne
published in 2017 by Schwartz & Wade Books

From the warm affection of the Martinez household to the rough, abusive childhood of Mickey Mantle — what a gulf in backgrounds! Wisely, author Jonah Winter confines commentary on Mantle’s family dysfunction to his Author’s Note, concentrating his story on Mickey’s enormous grit and success against the odds. But I found it a poignant contrast.

Mickey grew up in the rough and tumble of Oklahoma mining country. His father dreamt of his son making it big in baseball, escaping the dusty, dangerous life he led. Constant practice from toddlerhood on was his dad’s approach, yet Mickey’s sickly body did not seem capable of greatness in the early years.

Once he sprouted up, though, and bulked up — look out world! Mantle’s unmatched speed and fierce determination blasted him to the legendary status he holds.

It was never easy, though. You will be astonished at the physical hurdles Mantle had to overcome, right through the highest points in his career. Wow. Beyond impressive.

C.F. Payne’s nostalgic, slightly caricaturized portraits of all those Yankees bulge with muscle, spark with the crack of the bat,  and waft 1950s Americana our way.

There are a bunch more baseball books listed under Sports in my Subject Index. Grab some peanuts and Cracker Jacks, and read up!

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