summertime books of the week…full of mischief and surprise

Two new-in-2014 picture books by two of my dream illustrators — Lauren Castillo and Brian Floca. Just check out everything they do — that’s my motto. Hasn’t failed me yet.

the troublemaker cover imageThe Troublemaker, written and illustrated by Lauren Castillo
published in 2014 by Clarion Books

There are two troublemakers in this mischievous, surprising story.

The first is a little boy whose boredom propels him into hatchingthe troublemaker illustration2 lauren castillo a sneaky plan. The plan involves his sister (uh-oh) her favorite stuffed bunny, piracy, and tears. 

About the time this first troublemaker reforms, a second, even sneakier one appears on the scene. He wears a mask. His yellow eyes glow in the night. And he nabs all kinds of goods from the boy and the sister. Who can this troublemaker be? How can he be stopped?

the troublemaker illustration lauren castilloLauren Castillo’s artwork exudes friendliness. You open her books, and it’s like someone just wrapped you in a soft, hand-stitched quilt. Her shaggy, smudgy outlining;  comfy, solid,  figures; rich, warm colors of lipstick red and shoe polish black and moss green, all gently scuffed up a bit; even the tender, old-school font, work together to deliver a story full of summer haze and simplicity and family, with a zing of humor and surprise.

Share this charmer with children ages 2 and up.

elizabeth queen of the seas cover imageElizabeth, Queen of the Seas, by Lynne Cox, illustrated by Brian Floca
published in 2014 by schwartz & wade books

This book is also full of surprises, but in this case, the story is true.

Elizabeth is an elephant seal. Usually that would mean a life in the ocean, hunting for tasty squid, basking on rocky coastlines.

But Elizabeth prefers urban life. She’s found her way to Christchurch, New Zealand, where she happily swims in the river, lolls in a grassy park, and sprawls out smack in the middle of a sunny street!

elizabeth queen of the seas illustration brian floca from

Although it’s quite exhilerating to have a resident elephant seal, the folk of Christchurch believe Elizabeth would be safer off the road and in the ocean, so they lovingly move her. But Elizabeth moves back. They try again. But Elizabeth is not easily dissuaded.

Read for yourselves this happy, surprising, true story of  a 1,200 pound beauty with a mind of her own. Lynne Cox is a long-distance, open-water swimmer who stumbled on this elizabeth queen of the seas illustration2 brian flocaaccount while visiting New Zealand.

Brian Floca is a Caldecott-winning illustrator whose watercolor work is marvelously saturated with light and gorgeous color. As usual, his illustrations here sparkle with personality, life, and beauty, magically transporting us to this place and time. The images of the rotund, well-pleased Elizabeth are especially winning. What a  roly-poly one she is! And all the water! Lovely.

An afterword tells us an interesting bit more about elephant seals. It’s a warm, engaging story for ages 4 and up.