We’re coming up on the longest days of the year here in the northern hemisphere. Plenty of time for extra bedtime stories. These are all full of joy, starting with:
Miles of Smiles, by Karen Kaufman Orloff, illustrations by Luciano Lozano published in 2016 by Sterling Publishing
Baby starts the smiles off in this charming, happy story. She gives her mom a smile, and mom passes that smile along to Mrs. Glass, who shares it with Sebastian…and on it goes…
…until it comes around full circle. By now, the whole community is a happier, smilier place! Sunny, rhyming lines are paired with stylish, vibrant illustrations. It’s a day-brightener for ages 2 and up.
The Big Book of Bugs, written and illustrated by Yuval Zommer published in 2016 by Thames & Hudson
Wall-to-wall, phenomenal illustrations greet us on every page of this guide to all sorts of bugs.
Spreads devoted to dragonflies, pond bugs, baby bugs, night-time bugs contain interesting tidbits of information, questions to help us wonder, critters to find, and a feast of beauty. Maybe bugs don’t appeal to you in general, but I guarantee you will find them glorious here. Ages 2 and up.
Secret Tree Fort, written and illustrated by Brianne Farley published in 2016 by Candlewick Press
Two sisters are relegated by their smart mom to play outside. The older one is content to read her book while leaning up against a tree. The younger one wants to play…with her sister. Of course.
So, she invents a lavish tree fort, complete with a “marshmallow and chocolate storage compartment,” a crow’s nest, and a whale of a lot more! Can she entice that big sister to join her? Sparkling, buoyant, imaginative in text and illustration, this is a delight for ages 3 and up.
Stanley’s Plan, written and illustrated by Ruth Green first published in 2015 by Tate Publishing; distributed in the U.S. by Abrams
“Stanley the dog is always hungry.” This means he has something in common with my dog! Yours, too?
Stanley has caught a whiff of a delicious meat pie cooling quite tantalizingly on a high shelf. He tries to enlist his friends to help him nab that pie, but finds them most uncooperative. What’s a dog to do? Great fun with a lip-smacking, surprise ending. Ruth Green’s smart, retro design style will rock your socks off. Ages 2 and up.
There is a Tribe of Kids, written and illustrated by Lane Smith published in 2016 by Roaring Brook Press
As usual, Lane Smith’s work here contains phenomenal artwork, thought-provoking cleverness, and sophisticated story-telling.
Journey along with a child through mountainscapes and polar reaches, rocky outcroppings and leafy jungles, meeting troops and herds, smacks and pods, ever moving on to locate his own tribe. So much to absorb and such a warm final homecoming. Ages 4 and up.
Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, by Susan Hood, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport published in 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Fantastic nonfiction makes me glad! Here’s a moving story about a population of children who live among the trash heaps in Cateura, Paraguay. Surrounded by garbage, noise, and stink, these kids and their parents still love the beauty of music.
Discover how kindness, ingenuity, resourcefulness, and hard work resulted in remarkable musical opportunities for them in this extraordinary account. Comport’s striking illustrations are a joyful, strong pairing for the story. An Author’s Note tells more of the details, and further exploration can be done via listed websites and videos. Inspirational, for ages 5 through adult.
Chimpanzees for Tea!, written and illustrated by Jo Empson published in the U.S. in 2016 by Philomel Books
Vincent is sent to the shops with a short list of items to pick up for his mum in this breezy, warmhearted, funny tale.
He’s meant to pick up carrots, rice, cheese, peas, and a pear and beat it on home in time for tea. But wait’ll you see what a rash of forgetfulness and some crrraazzzy happenstances result in! Wonderfully silly! Artwork that sings and ripples with glee. Love it! Ages 2 and up.
I Won a What?, by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Robert Neubecker published in 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf
One little boy is off to the fair, heading straight for that booth with the rows and rows of goldfish in bowls and his penny to pitch. He wants one of those goldfish with his whole, entire heart. And! You won’t believe it! He wins!!
But he doesn’t win a goldfish. Nope. He wins Nuncio! What is Nuncio? You won’t believe that either! Ride along on this blast of a tall tale. Bold, bright, vigorous illustrations, a riot through and through for ages 3 and up.
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions, by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate published in 2016 by Charlesbridge
Do your kids have a super-soaker? I think we had at least 5 floating around here when my kids were small. Who but Chris Barton would think to tell us the story of how they came to be invented?!
It’s a wonderful story about a super-smart, super-creative, super-determined guy. Enjoy finding out about him and get motivated to pursue your own dreams. Illustrated in Don Tate’s friendly, welcoming style. Ages 6 and up.
Thunder Boy Jr., by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales published in 2016 by Little, Brown and Company
Talk about a power team! Alexie and Morales have teamed up to bring us an unusual story — of course! — exploding in powerful emotion and wrapped up in warm, father-son bonds.
Thunder Boy Jr. has a complaint. What is the problem? It’s his name. Inside him, the beasts of anger are a-howlin’ over the junior at the end of his name. Listen up and he’ll explain why. Then watch and see what his dad does about that.
Based on Sherman Alexie’s own experience of being named after his father, this covers new ground for sure. Naming is a complex and important part of many cultures, and the significance to this particular Native family could be better spelled out for the reader. Nevertheless, I imagine that the opportunity this story brings to talk about the reasoning behind your child’s name could open some intriguing discussions.
As ever, Morales tackles her illustration assignment with determined inventiveness and unfettered vigor. Be sure to read her note about how the artwork was made. Ages 4 and up.