ten winning stories to enjoy as Rio rolls along

We are Olympics-junkies in our household so in keeping with the Olympic spirit, I thought I’d share some sure-fire winners this week that take the cake in some unusual categories!

A Winner for Swallows and Amazons Fans and All Skippers

alpha bravo charlie cover image

Alpha, Bravo, Charlie: The Complete Book of Nautical Codes, written and illustrated by Sara Gillingham
published in 2016 by Phaidon Press

If you have any Swallows and Amazons fans in your household, let me just say that this is The Perfect Companion to Nancy Blackett and company. If you have no idea who the Swallows and Amazons are, you’ll still love this snappy, exceedingly-clever, perfectly-designed book about nautical codes.

alpha bravo charlie interior by sara gillingham

The magnetic intrigue of signal flags, semaphore code, morse code, and the alpha-bravo-charlie international radio alphabet  — well, it’s universal, isn’t it?! Sara Gillingham has masterfully combined them all in an incredibly accessible book. I am telling you, if we’d had this when my kids were small it would be dog-eared and battered with use.

alpha bravo charlie interior 2 by sara gillingham

From A to Z,  discover what the flags look like and the intriguing messages each conveys, such as “I have a diver down; keep well clear at low speed.” Learn how to create a letter in semaphore  and morse, and what the corresponding word is in the radio alphabet, as you pick up juicy tidbits  about the many, many kinds of boats out there.

Then explore more with the links to nautical history, codes, decorating with flags, and boats. Avast, you homeschoolers out there — this could take you for a l-o-n-g ride! Splendid,  for ages 5 to adult!

A Winner for Friendly Folks

strictly no elephants cover image

Strictly No Elephants, by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
published in 2016, a Paula Wiseman Book from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Taeeun Yoo’s illustration magic will lasso your heart from the first page of this warm ode to friendliness and welcome. Gah! I love her work!

This little fellow has a tiny elephant for a pet. The boy adores his elephant, treating him with the thoughtful lovingkindness that’s part and parcel of true friendship. However, other pet-owners are not so welcoming of such an unusual creature. The sign on the clubhouse door, in fact, reads, “Strictly No Elephants.” Slump.

strictly no elephants interior mantchev and yoo

The brave, hospitable solution to this predicament will warm the cockles of your heart.  An ever-timely tale about the power of welcome, this one gets all my love. Ages 2 and up.

A Winner for Older Siblings

how to share with a bear cover image

How to Share with a Bear, by Eric Pinder, pictures by Stephanie Graegin
published in 2015 by Farrar Straus Giroux

What do you do when you’ve just built a super-cozy-pillow fort-cave, all set for some cozy reading, only to discover it’s been abruptly taken over by …a bear! Or when you create a blueberry trail leading that bear away from your cave, only to find he’s doubled back and settled right in again!

how to share with a bear interior pinder and graegin

That’s the situation time after time for Thomas, an inventive, responsible, clever kid who’s just looking for a little space of his own. Try as he might, that little bear keeps snookering him out of his sweet cave. Where did it come from? And what kindhearted solution will Thomas finally arrive at to satisfy them both?

Patience, love, imagination, all in huge supply in this dear story about big and little brothers. Charming illustrations. A lovely read for ages 3 and up.

A Winner for Cool Dads and Their Lucky Kids

my dad used to be so cool cover image

My Dad Used to Be So Cool, written and illustrated by Keith Negley
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books

This little boy’s tattooed dad seems to have had a rock-star past — the drum kit stuffed into the closet is a big clue. But when he tries to imagine his dad wailing on an electric guitar in front of a hip audience — it just doesn’t match up with the laundry-folding, rug-vacuuming, shoelace-tying dad who inhabits his life.

my dad used to be so cool interior keith negley

Why would someone so, so cool, give that all up?! Why?!

I am in love with this striking depiction of fatherhood and father-son relationships. Cool, contemporary design, flooded with sacrificial love, real questions, and peaceful security. Brilliant, for ages 3 and up.

A Winner for Moose-lovers and Gigglers

too many moose cover image

 Too Many Moose! by Lisa M. Bakos, pictures by Mark Chambers
published in 2016 by Sourcebooks

Speaking of unusual pets, Martha mulls and marvels and comes up with one humdinger of an odd pet — a moose.  

In my experience, whenever an author pops a moose into a story, it’s sure to descend into utter mayhem! 

That’s certainly  the case for Martha as she decides, in typical American fashion, that More Is Always Better. More moose, in this case. And more. And more.

too many moose interior by bakos and chambers

Magnificently merry pandemonium in text that lithely, humorously skippets about amongst the most energetic moose you’ll ever meet. Bright, lively illustrations happily capture the  many moosey personalities. Jolly humor for ages 3 and up.

A Winner for Snail-Mail Fans and Kindhearted Persons

it came in the mail cover image

It Came in the Mail, written and illustrated by Ben Clanton
published in 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

I am old enough to remember when looking in the mailbox was fun. Birthday cards. Airmail forms. Leisurely jottings from a grandmother. Rather than the avalanche of junkmail and the drought of longhand-letters that’s our lot today. Anyone else miss that?

it came in the mail interior ben clanton

Liam does. He loves getting mail. But his mailbox is as devoid of the good stuff as mine. Liam thinks up a surprising solution to this, and thanks to an epic, magical mailbox, he’s soon the happy recipient of some top-notch deliveries! 

With an accumulating pile of Cool Stuff, though, Liam has to do some recalibrating. Sparkling with surprise and good humor, heartwarming with kindness and unselfishness, this happy account might inspire some new snail-mail writers. Ages 3 and up.

A Winner for Curious-Minded Ones

glow cover image

Glow: Animals with Their Own Night-Lights, written by W.H. Beck, numerous photographers credited
published in 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The dramatic, inky-black pages of this book portray the mysterious dark depths of the ocean, far, far below the reach of any sunlight, the ebony depths of a cave, and the shrouded dark of the forest at night.

photo credit David Shale

photo credit David Shale

Set against them are fantastical photographs of a group of creatures who have one thing in common: bioluminescence — the ability of living things to make their own light. Breathtaking, strange, beautiful, they glow like aliens, twinkle like so many fairies, gleam as though made from radioactive glass. 

Learn just a smidgeon about how and why and where these special animals light up the night. Spectacular photography and highly-accessible writing make this a treat for ages 3 or 4 and up.

A Winner for Sly Foxes and Even-smarter Chickens

outfoxed cover image

Outfoxed, written and illustrated by Claudia Boldt
published in 2015 by Tate Publishing and distributed in the U.S. by Abrams

Harold the fox has one, big dream: to become a detective.

His father, however, has other plans for him. He declares that it’s high time Harold grow up and take on some foxy responsibility. In other words, Harold, it’s time you catch a chicken. 

outfoxed interior by claudia boldt

As a detective-wannabe, Harold thinks this should be a snap. But Harold is not figuring on such a supremely smart chicken. Laugh along as sneaky-but-outfoxed Harold gets led on a wild-chicken chase by one savvy bird. Illustrated brilliantly with color, humor, and snazz! Great fun for ages 4 and up.

A Winner for Wee Nature-lovers

the river cover image

The River: An Epic Journey to the Sea, written and illustrated by Hanako Clulow (correction: written by Patricia Hegarty)
first published in England; first American edition 2016 by Kane Miller

Experience the wonder of migration in this beautiful book by Japanese illustrator Hanako Clulow, beautifully packaged to tantalize the hungry minds of toddlers.

the river interior by hanako clulow

Follow the migratory path of one little fish from the icy waters of the north, through the waterways leading to the ocean. Just a little bit of lyrical text accompanies these pretty scenes of varied habitats along the way. Extra magic is thrown in via a peek-hole tunneling through the whole account, revealing a holographic image of a dipping, diving little orange fish. A beauty for ages 15 months and up. Available in September 2016 through Usborne — order by using the link here.

A Winner for Tricky Monsters

the big monster snorey book cover image

The Big Monster Snorey Book, written and illustrated by Leigh Hodgkinson
published in England, 2015; first U.S. edition 2016 by Nosy Crow

Anytime you see Leigh Hodgkinson’s name on a book you know you’re in for a raucous good time and this new blast is right on track.

Meet Little Monster, a clever, conniving little shaver who’s surrounded by the most galumptious, hideous snorers of all sleepdom. Good gracious but they do make a racket! 

the big monster snory book interior by leigh hodgkinson

But that’s not the worst of it! When those hairy brutes wake up, they’re ravenous. And what do they like best to eat?! Little monsters!!

Fear not, though, because Little Monster has a stupendous plan! Meet some crazy beasts and cheer for the little shaggy green guy in this energetic story for ages 3 and up.