outstanding outings…a list of five merry expeditions

special delivery cover imageSpecial Delivery, by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Matthew Cordell
published in 2015 by Roaring Brook Press (A Neal Porter Book)

Meet Sadie. She’s the one in the ace bomber helmet leading an elephant down the street with a bit of string.

Sadie is the coolest of cucumbers. Practical. Matter-of-fact. Unfazed by life’s little bumps. She’s got a plan, and nothing is going to stop her.

The plan is to post this elephant to Great-Aunt Josephine who lives, apparently, about half a world away.

special delivery philip c. stead and matthew cordell interior

When Jim at the Post Office tots up just how many stamps that’ll be, Sadie adroitly moves on to Other Means. These include a death-defying aeroplane flight, Amazonian-river maneuvers, one bandit-riddled train and a Good Humor truck.

When Sadie finally shows up at her aunty’s place, it’s obvious that the two of them are related! You have got to love Great-Aunt special delivery illustration matthew cordellJosephine!

This delightful, off-the-wall, travelogue is happily captured by Matthew Cordell with his loose, sketchy lines, buckets of personality, and humorous detail. The partnership of word and picture here is superb.

I have a soft spot for quirky people and their unconventional tales. This is a complete joy. Ages 4 and up.

And P.S. — Don’t neglect to peek under the book jacket and on the back cover for a bit of added razzamatazz.

the bear's sea escape cover imageThe Bear’s Sea Escape — written and illustrated by Benjamin Chaud
first published in France, 2012; published in the U.S. in 2014 by Chronicle Books

Benjamin Chaud cheered us with his first book about Papa and Little Bear — The Bear’s Song — and now he leads us on a second, wild escapade.

The snowy Opera House (where we last saw them) is no place for a cozy winter’s nap, so off these two go, looking for someplace more suitable.

And it’s quite easy! Arriving in a roomful of stuffed bears in a posh department store, the two are soon comfy and snoring. But when one small shopper mistakes Little Bear for a toy and heads out with his purchase, the chase is on.

the bear's sea escape benjamin chaud interior

By scooter, by train, by glamorous cruise ship; under sea, through jungle, on a tropical beach — Papa Bear pursues his Little until the two are happily reunited.

Again, Chaud’s minimal narration of their adventure is supplemental to his jam-packed, stylish, oversized illustrations. Eccentric fellow-travelers and a hubbub of activity cram the pages, challenging us to search along with Papa for that Little Bear. Great fun for ages 6 and up!

hunters of the great forest cover imageHunters of the Great Forest — a wordless book by Dennis Nolan
published in 2014 by Roaring Brook Press/A Neal Porter Book

Hoisting backpacks and sleeping rolls, gnarled walking sticks and an X-marks-the-spot map, an intrepid band sets forth from their quaint hamlet.

Where are they off to? What is their errand?

Scrambling over boulders, navigating around monstrous trees and giant toadstools, evading massive, warty toads and toothy, scolding chipmunks — this is no casual walkabout! It is high adventure!


What could be so important? Ha! You will never, never guess! But their success is sweet indeed.

This wordless story is a fantastical delight. Dennis Nolan’s polished, dramatically-lit artwork transports us easily into a miniature world of gnomish folks. His highly-imaginative story will captivate children ages 3 and up. Love this! Perfect for a backyard camp-out.

hurry down to derry fair cover imageHurry Down to Derry Fair — by Dori Chaconas, illustrated by Gillian Tyler
published in 2011 by Candlewick Press

All the delights of a day at the county fair are beckoning to Dinny Brown like the aroma of a sweets shop.

Hurry, hurry! he pleads with Mama and Daddy and Sister Lucy. It’s time we were off! Dinny doesn’t want to miss the giant swing, the perfectly groomed sheep and rabbits, cotton candy, talent show, and certainly not the Ferris wheel!

Yet no one can be rushed, it seems. Mama is busy with the lemon pies she’s entering. Dad’s chopping firewood to sell. Dinny gallantly helps wherever he can, but this molasses-slow pace is Highly Concerning!

hurry down to derry fair dori chaconas and gillian tyler interior

Leave it to Grandma Patty to understand the need for haste. “I’m taking Dinny to the fair!” she cries as the two happily scurry along the sunny, dusty road. Everyone joins them, then, tumbling towards the fairgrounds to take in the enchanting Derry Fair.

This sweetly, old-fashioned story is exquisitely illustrated by Gillian Tyler. Her tender, detailed watercolor-and-ink illustrations breathe with English country charm, summer nostalgia, and the warmth of community and family. Plus, when we finally arrive at the fair, there’s a wondrous fold-out of the entire fairgrounds! A truly sweet read for ages 2 and older.

it's a secret cover imageIt’s a Secret — written and illustrated by John Burningham
published in 2009 by Candlewick Press

Marie Elaine has a cat. His name is Malcolm.

Malcolm slips out through the cat flap every night, lounges back in every morning, and snoozes the day away.

All this makes Marie Elaine wonder: Where do cats go at night? 

One evening, Marie Elaine happens upon Malcolm just as he is about to leave. He is all decked out in a smart scarlet jacket, and  lime green fedora with a blushing pink plume. Quite dashing.

Malcolm tells Marie Elaine that his destination is a secret, but after she begs and wheedles to come along, Malcolm relents.

it's a secret john burningham interior

And what an extraordinary bunch of business ensues! It involves shrinking in size, fancy dress clothes, a lot of secrecy, a gang of snarly dogs, and an epic party. Honestly, it is the adventure of a lifetime.

I can’t tell you any more because — it’s a secret. But you can find it out for yourselves if you read this joyful, eccentric book. Blustering with the lively and amazing illustrations of John Burningham, this book feels a bit like a ride through someone’s feverish dreams! Whimsical fun for ages 3 and up.