Still a few weeks of summer left. These books are full of warmth and joy. A perfect fit.
Dog on a Frog?, written by Kes & Claire Gray, illustrated by Jim Field
published in 2017 by Scholastic Press
Cats on mats and pigs in wigs are standard fare for kids’ books.
In this funny romp of a story, the dog prefers to sit on …a frog. Which is none too pleasant for the frog. This leads the frog to create a whole new list of Rules Pertaining to Where Animals Sit. Dogs, according to this very bossy frog, now sit on logs. Not frogs. So.
And what about cats? And bears? Or gnus? And even canaries? Yup, this frog has got everyone covered. Great fun and cram-jam with bouncy rhyming pairs that will have kids eagerly pitching in to the storytelling. And wait’ll you see where the frog ends up sitting. He is one smart cookie. A barrel of fun in bombastic colors for ages 2 and up.
Wet, written and illustrated by Carey Sookocheff
published in 2017 by Godwin Books
I love this book with its gentle exploration of a truly child-friendly subject — wetness. Its ambling pace, conversational tone, child’s perspective, quiet observations, are early childhood gold in my estimation.
There’s the wetness of a pool. The possibility of cannonballing in to get wet all at once, or of dipping in just a toe. There’s the wetness of paint on a park bench, and the wetness of tears damping a dad’s shoulder. Tender and joyful, accompanied by warm, minimalist drawings.
Brilliant for ages 2 and up.
Miss Jaster’s Garden, written and illustrated by N.M. Bodecker
originally published in 1972; reissued by Purple House Press
Dear Miss Jaster lives in a grand old house by the sea. In the gardens surrounding her home lives a small hedgehog named, obviously, Hedgie. The two are cordial friends, Miss Jaster setting out bowls of milk in the evening for Hedgie, Hedgie listening dreamily to Miss Jaster’s piano playing.
One day Miss Jaster, planting her flower gardens, accidentally showers Hedgie with seeds of Sweet William and Baby’s Breath. Waters him, too. (She is a bit near-sighted after all.) When Hedgie blooms, then breaks into rapturous cavorting about the lanes, Miss Jaster is convinced that a thief is absconding with bits of her garden!
In 1972, this was a New York Times Best Illustrated Book. It was the first story both written and illustrated by N.M. Bodecker, a Danish-American illustrator whose work graces many children’s books including the classic Edward Eager fantasy novels. Purple House Press is dedicated to bringing rare gems back into print, and this is indeed a gem. Ages 4 and up.
Little Sister Rabbit Gets Lost, written by Ulf Nilsson, illustrated by Eva Eriksson
first published in Sweden in 1987; English edition 2017 by Floris Books
The classic Swedish stories of Little Sister Rabbit are available in English now, and this one is a sweet starting spot.
Small and enthusiastic, Little Sister Rabbit is off today for an adventure All By Herself. It starts off swimmingly with puddle stomping and pebble plopping. Her heart swells with independence. But happiness ebbs swiftly when she discovers that she’s lost.
Peeping into one burrow after the next, Little Sister Rabbit wanders her way into many places a young rabbit does not belong. The night feels like a mighty lonely place until rescue arrives. Who could it be? Pure charm for ages 2 and up.
Chirri & Chirra In the Tall Grass, written and illustrated by Kaya Doi, translated from the Japanese by Yuki Kaneko
published in 2017 by Enchanted Lion Books
Chirri and Chirra are tiny sisters, so tiny the white clover in the lawn are towering trees and bumblebees make cunning companions.
Join them on a bicycle-and-tea adventure through the lawn-forest as they dine on honey sponge cake balls courtesy of the local hive, sip freshly squeezed juice flavored with yumberry fruit by the flower chafers, and in general have a fantasy-filled afternoon.
Miniature worlds delight us all, and this one is so beautifully drawn and realized by Kaya Doi. Pure charm for ages 3 and up. There are more Chirri & Chirra books to investigate if you love this one.
Garcia & Colette Go Exploring, written by Hannah Barnaby, illustrated by Andrew Joyner
published in 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Garcia and Colette are great friends but disagree on what the most enticing place is to explore — outer space or ocean depths. So they agree to disagree, build a rocket ship and submarine, and go their separate ways.
And they each discover realio coolio stuff about space and the ocean. But they also discover that venturing off is not quite as fun with no compatriot by your side. After a splashy reunion, they figure out how to have their cake and eat it, too! Singing language, a wonderfully-paced story, and Andrew Joyner’s brilliant illustrations combine to make this a thoroughly enjoyable story. Perfect for ages 4 and up.
King of the Sky, written by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press
Finally, this gorgeous, poignant story, a perfect example of why picture books are not only for young children. This beauty strikes a chord in the hearts of middle grade through adult readers perhaps even more so than the very young.
Our narrator is a school-age boy, a war refugee who has fled his beloved home in Italy, land of “sunlight, fountains, and the vanilla smell of ice cream in my nonna’s gelateria.” He now resides, apparently, in Wales. In this new place, his spirit is sodden as the ceaseless rain, lonely as the smoke from a hundred grey chimneys , hopeless as the smell of coal dust and mutton soup. Nothing about it feels like home.
A vital ray of light emanates from Mr. Evans, a kindhearted, retired coal miner who trains racing pigeons. Their growing friendship, the thrill of these home-coming birds, the distances spanned, and one champion racer, all touch the boy’s life with the modicum of belonging and miracle needed to heal his heart and make this contrary place — home.
Laura Carlin’s stunning illustrations are complex, emotive, deftly conveying both dreariness and camaraderie, doubt and joy. She is brilliant. Check this out for older-than-typical picture book readers, ages 7 and up.