Just looking at this stack of books today warms my heart. Lush illustrations and tenderhearted characters bring a palpable response of peace, security, belonging, and healing.
These days are filled with turmoil and conflict, and assuredly children pick up on that. It’s the perfect time to snuggle up together and read reassuring, beautiful picture books.
The Way Home in the Night, written and illustrated by Akiko Miyakoshi first published in Japan in 2015; English edition published by Kids Can Press in 2017
Akiko Miyakoshi is making a name for herself with her gorgeous, flannel-soft, rosebud-tender illustration work and the rich themes of imagination and belonging thrumming through her books. (See my review of The Tea Party in the Woods here.)
Here she explores the many varied life stories which surround us, the array of homes cocooning our neighbors, each holding an aroma of mystery, a tease of the unknown, and our common desire for repose.
As one little bunny goes for a quiet evening stroll with Mama, the glow of lamplight from within apartment windows gives glimpses of neighbors’ lives and piques curiosity. What are they talking about? What are they cooking up for supper? What happens next, after we lose sight of them? So many different narratives, yet ultimately bound together with deeply human needs — home, and a place to lay our heads to sleep.
Attuned to universal wondering, this hushed story will resonate deeply with young and old, ages 2 and up. Outstanding.
Little Fox in the Forest, a wordless book by Stephanie Graegin published in 2017 by Schwartz & Wade Books
My word! This book is flooded with wave upon wave of adorableness, kindness, and imagination, with one well-shot arrow of childhood angst piercing through to create pitch-perfect tension for preschoolers.
It’s the ol’ lovey-gone-missing plot, portrayed with panache. A little girl’s favorite stuffed fox accompanies her to the playground one day. While she’s enjoying a hearty swing, a real fox kit spies the toy, snatches it, and hot-foots it into the forest.
With determination borne of desperation, the little girl tracks her beloved fox, a host of darling woodland residents and one schoolmate assisting her. What they discover — a splendiferous woodland village that’ll set your heart a-flutter — plus one small, pathetic fox kit, leads to a resolution sweet as a butter cookie.
Could anyone not feel their heart flood with warmth upon reading this story? I think not. A perfect picture book for ages 2 and up.
Home and Dry, written and illustrated by Sarah L. Smith published in 2016 by Child’s Play Inc.
Coming to us from Australia, this quirky charmer features the Paddling family whose home on a rocky outcropping of an island looks mighty idyllic; plus a rainstorm to end all rainstorms; and dear Uncle Bastian, a lonely old fellow whose busy life has heretofore superceded pleasant holidays but who has decided to finally pay a long-overdue visit to his family.
The collision course of events here — picnics and paddlings and Paddlings and predicaments — makes for a rollicking series of near-misses and thorough wettings until all ends in coziness, hospitality, belonging, and everyone “home and dry.”
With a plot and illustrations crammed with affection and the humble joy of home and family, this is a delight for ages 3 and up.
The Giant Jumperee, written by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury originally published in the UK; first U.S. edition 2017 by Dial Books for Young Readers
Two UK childrens’ literature rock stars teamed up to create this sunny, funny, jolly tale, and what a joy it is!
Something is lurking in Rabbit’s burrow! It calls itself the Giant Jumperee! Good heavens! What can it be?
Rabbit is affrighted! And as each of his animal friends stoutly offers to help remove this unseen monster, they become just as alarmed! After all, it shouts out such dire warnings!
When even Elephant is left cowering, Mama Frog calmly steps up to the challenge and what do you know — that Giant Jumperee is heading home to tea in a merry minute. Timeless and happy, for young lapsitters, ages 18 months and up.
Time Now to Dream, written by Timothy Knapman, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury published in the UK in 2016; first U.S. edition 2017 by Candlewick Press
Here’s another book awash in the perfection of Helen Oxenbury’s art, with a story brilliantly balancing delicious ingredients: tingly mystery, tenderness, bravery, sibling camaraderie, and the warmth of home.
Alice and Jack are enjoying a fine day when, coming through the forest, a sound disrupts their playtime. It’s a weird sound. An uncanny howl. It goes something like this, “Ocka by hay beees unna da reees…”
Is it the Wicked Wolf?! Into the shadowy woods they go with a mixture of trepidation and curiosity, only to discover a most surprising scene! For at the height of tension, sunlight and warmth break through. Despite Jack’s worries, everything really is all right, and the dreams they dream tonight will be full of sweetness. Absolutely top notch for ages 18 months and up.
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