great, wide, beautiful, wonderful world…five outstanding celebrations of a big world!

home cover image carson ellisHome, written and illustrated by Carson Ellis
published in 2015 by Candlewick

This is one of my new favorites. I love reflections about home, and Carson Ellis has given us such a beauty.

So many kinds of home.

An old farmhouse amid peaceful fields.

A brick apartment, its windows giving glimpses onto tenants, cats, potted plants.

A palace. A space station. Perhaps a shoe — remember the old woman who lives there with all her many children?

home illustration carson ellis

Ellis has drawn quite an eclectic array of homes in her lovely, wide-ranging, imaginative, tribute. It’s a bit like leafing through a catalogue. Which home would you like, dear? I love her artwork — the earthy, calm palette with lively splashes of red, the blend of reality and fancy, her hand-lettering, the sense of being at ease. 

I was lucky enough to hear her read this book and talk about its illustrations at a visit to the Wild Rumpus here in Minneapolis recently. So, I’ll just tell you to note that mourning dove on the title page and see if you can spot him on every spread. A couple places are surprisingly tricky!

A quiet gem to share, talk about, and wonder over, with ages 2 and up.

by day by night cover imageBy Day, By Night, by Amy Gibson, illustrated by Meilo So
published in 2014 by Boyds Mill Press

Around the world, people are alike in deep ways that matter, while our cultures joyously differ.

By day, we awaken and go about our lives — dressing and eating, greeting and creating, working and singing. Our babies are cared for. Our seasons come and go. We grow, we love, we laugh and cry. By night, we sleep.

Amy Gibson’s brief, tender text describes similarities between all peoples of the earth. Such an important piece to remember.

by day by night amy gibson meilo so interior

Meanwhile, Meilo So’s gorgeous artwork displays the astounding, magnificent variations our cultures bring to these routines of life. Beautiful textiles and clothing, skin tones and hair styles, landscapes from snowbound cabins under dancing northern lights to Asian rice paddies and the hot, dusky plains in Africa. My word! Her work is stunning!

I adore this book. Plus, the author has dedicated her proceeds to The Global Orphan Project, one way to give a hand to the millions of children “who find themselves alone, whatever the cause.” A treat for ages 2 and up.

at the same moment around the world cover imageAt the Same Moment Around the World, written and illustrated by Clotilde Perrin
published originally in France; first published in the U.S. in 2014 by Chronicle Books

Freeze-frame one moment in time, and look at what is happening at that moment, all around the world.

What a spectacular lot of different places and people to check in on!

It’s 6 A.M. in Dakar, Senegal when we stop the clock. Keita is counting fish with his fisherman father, the colorful pirogues lining the beach behind them.

At that same moment, it’s 7 o’clock in Paris. Benedict is sipping some hot chocolate before school. And it’s 11 in the morning in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, where a brother and sister return from market on their trusty donkey.

Travel steadily eastward all around the world, stopping in 24 locations, to see what’s happening at that one, very same moment.

at the same moment around the world interior clotilde perrin

Each stop gets just one sentence of text telling us where we are and naming the people we’re peeking in on. The rest is up to these beautiful illustrations. The tall, thin format of the book, splendid artwork, and wonderful cultural detail, make this a book to pore over, enjoying the intriguing differences in our world.

In the end, there’s a big, colorful world map to unfold, showing us all the places we’ve traveled. Now if only we could actually arrange this trip! A fascinating, beautiful choice for ages 4 and up.

what a wonderful world cover imageWhat a Wonderful World, based on the song by Bob Thiele & George David Weiss and sung by Louis Armstrong, illustrated by Tim Hopgood
published in 2014 by Henry Holt and Company

I see trees of green
Red roses too.
I see them bloom
for me and you.
And I think to myself…
What a wonderful world.

You can hear Louis singing that in your head, can’t you? Ahhhhhhh…that gravelly-mellow voice. Nothing like it.

Armstrong first recorded that in 1967, and it’s still one of the best songs ever made, in my book.

what a wonderful world illustration tim hopgood

Tim Hopgood conveys all the joy, hope, and goodness bottled up in that music with his illustrations bursting with color and happiness, green meadows and sunshine, birdsong and blue skies.

This book will make you happy, even on a bad day. Sing it to your kids, chase the blues away, and plant a little kindness in your hearts towards the people that make up this wonderful world.

maps cover imageMaps, by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski
first published in Poland; published in the U.S. in 2013 by Big Picture Press

This award-winning, oversize book of illustrated maps will certainly smite you with the travel bug if by any chance you’ve avoided it thus far today.

Created by a Warsaw-based husband-and-wife — a dynamic artistic team — this is not an exhaustive world atlas. It’s a sampling of countries from every continent. Each gets one spread of pages whether it’s mongo-Russia or little-Fiji. So that’s the first pleasing aspect of the book.

Here is the map of Poland, as found in the original work in Polish. Never fear -- it has all been translated!

Here is the map of Poland, as found in the original work in Polish. Never fear — it has all been translated!

Dozens of items distinctive to a nation spread across its map — foods, sports, wildlife, famous buildings and people. Here’s a Moroccan woman making Argan oil; there’s a group of Croatians doing a Kolo folk dance. Oceans and seas swim with marine life. And a great view of the Arctic regions lets us gaze straight down at the Pole and see the lands fanning out from it. 

So, that’s the intriguing aspect of the book. So much to learn. So many places to investigate, people to know, food to try cooking. These are maps that spark more curiosity about a world brimming with interest. 

A detail of the map of Peru.

A detail of the map of Peru.

The beauty of the book comes from the lavish hand-drawn, hand-lettered artwork, and the handsome, subdued color palette — awash in warm earth tones and aquatic blue-greens, sprinkled with small, colorful figures. A visual stunner.

It’s an outstanding book for map lovers of any age, and a brilliant gateway to learning more about all these people and places…and more beyond.