Right about now you are likely in the thick of holiday busy-ness…
…and here I am raining down a torrent of splendid book suggestions.
Maybe one will jump out at you for that just-right gift! On the other hand, perhaps you have no bandwidth to fetch them from the library just now. That’s okay. But do bookmark them for later…
…because this slug of titles includes some absolute gems you won’t want to miss. Each one landed on me with unusual wonder, beauty, power, delight.
The Patchwork Bike, written by Maxine Beneba Clarke, illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd
first published in Australia and New Zealand in 2016; first U.S. edition 2018 by Candlewick Press
Wow. I love this book so much!
It’s the account — at once unadorned and lyrical — of one mighty girl, her two wild brothers, and their fed-up mom who live on the edge of a desert in less-than-luxurious circumstances.
This girl loves her home and family, that much is clear. But the best thing of all is the rad bike they’ve assembled from cast off this-and-that, the perfect ride for careening over sand hills and even streaming right through their mud-walled house. Yessssssss!
Stunning illustration work captures the grit and coarseness of materials, the dignity of this Muslim mother, and the vigorous speed of that bike. Do not miss the notes from both author and artist, particularly Ms. Clarke’s comments about poverty and the way imagination helps children find true joy in difficult conditions. It’s critical for advantaged children to engage the needs of the world, yet also see the strength, dignity, resourcefulness, and happiness of those whose material status does not match theirs. Brilliant picture-book making and highly recommended for ages 4 and up.
Imagine, written by Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
published in 2018 by Candlewick Press
This gorgeous, inspirational book is crammed with warmth and hope, encouragement to see beyond present obstacles to a possibility-laden future. It is just the beacon of resilience that many of us need just now.
In free verse, Herrera details some of the many hurdles he faced as a child of migrant farmworkers, a Spanish-speaker in an English world, on his road to becoming U.S. Poet Laureate. Imagine, he says, if this was what my life looked like, what you could do.
Castillo floods every page with her trademark tenderness, using a palette of warm, Southwest colors. Each moment is garbed in in beauty, affection, and the soft glow of promise. An artistic, quiet stunner for ages 6 through adult.
Door, by JiHyeon Lee
originally published in Korea in 2017; U.S. edition in 2018 by Chronicle Books
I so thoroughly loved JiHyeon’s first book, Pool, that I could not wait to get ahold of this second title of hers. And it is as lovely as her first, yet with quite a different vision.
Door is a an imaginative feast. One young boy is led by a wee snorkle-fly (this is my invented name for such a creature; feel free to invent your own), to a decrepit, secret door which, when unlocked, leads him into a charming, fantastical realm.
Explore it together, pour over this weird and wonderful world, soak up the joy of this place, charge up your imagination battery, and whet your appetite for your own adventure! Ages 4 and up.
Star in the Jar, written by Sam Hay, illustrated by Sarah Massini
published in 2018 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
What happens when a star loses its way?
This is the tale of one little star who somehow lands in the lap of a small boy, who asks around, hoping to find where it belongs, but comes up with squat. The boy makes a nice little jar-home for it and treasures it as his own, but the star languishes.
One night, a message in the skies alerts the boy to the star’s true home. How can he get the sparkly little fellow back to his family? Such a charming, tenderhearted story of true friendship, this will easily capture the hearts of kids ages 4 and up.
Night Job, written by Karen Hesse, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
published in 2018 by Candlewick Press
On Friday nights, one little boy straps on his helmet, swings onto the back of Dad’s motorcycle, and rides through the dusky city to school.
To the school, that is, where Dad works as a night janitor. While Dad sweeps and spritzes and mops, this little guy plays, helps out, and snoozes until dawn, when the two of them ride back home to rest together and dream.
Families and their circumstances vary so immensely and socio-economic variances are finally making their way into some extraordinary children’s books.
They provide a welcome window for children of means to understand others’ lives while maintaining the dignity of those with fewer resources. This one is an absolute beauty. The touching relationship between dad and son is priceless. An affectionate gem for ages 4 and up.