As the cold creeps in and the evenings start earlier and earlier, November is a nice time for longer and more leisurely story hours.
This collection is full of gems for a wide age range.
Hope you find something here that sounds perfect to add to your reading stack!
River, written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper
published in 2019 by Orchard Books
I’ve been waiting to get my hands on this book for a l-o-n-g time, and it does not disappoint.
Cooper’s masterful illustrations carry us on a solo canoe trip down the Hudson River from its source in the Adirondack Wilderness to the thrumming New York City harbor, and briefly into the heaving Atlantic before arriving home near the Sandy Hook lighthouse.
Impeccably researched, portrayed with empathy for the solitude, beauty, challenges, and perils of such a journey, it’s one of my favorites of 2019. As lovely for adults as for children ages 6 and up. Great Christmas gift for a wilderness adventurer.
Two for Me, One for You, written and illustrated by Jörg Mühle; English translation Catherine Chidgey
originally published in 2018 in Germany; English edition 2019 by Gecko Press
A hilarious fracas occurs when Bear and Weasel have to share three delectable mushrooms between their two selves.
Brilliant translation work makes this text sing, and Mühle’s bold, personality-laden, humorous illustrations rivet us straight from the first glimpse at the endpapers. Fantastic fun for ages 4 and up.
Arrivederci, Crocodile, or See You Later, Alligator, written and illustrated by Fred Marcellino and Eric Puybaret
published in 2019 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
This droll tale is narrated by a wry gourmand, a brawny adventurer, a sociable (and toothy!) fellow — namely, a crocodile, kidnapped from his native Egypt by that proud troublemaker, Napoleon. The nerve.
Not to worry, though. The croc sneaks onto Napoleon’s caravan to Italy and has quite a merry time, reveling in the food and festivities of Venice. It’s a clever, delightful romp, splendidly illustrated, that’ll please a wide age range, from 5 and up.
Spy Dad, written by Jukka Laajarinne, illustrated by Timo Mänttäri, translation by Anja Mannion
originally published in Finland in 2013; first American edition 2018 by Crocodile Books
This marvelous spy spoof comes to us out of Finland, crammed with mid-century style, James Bond action, and dry humor. It’s the bomb.
Olivia is oblivious to her dad’s hazardous life as a secret agent, even when she’s along for the perilous ride. Share this careening story with kids old enough to accurately read the pictures and catch the visual spy-references as a great deal of the plot is silently lurking there. Fantastic fun for ages approximately 7 and up.
A Life Made by Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa, written and illustrated by Andrea D’Aquino
published in 2019 by Princeton Architectural Press
Ruth Asawa was an American of Japanese descent who grew up in California and became a sculptor and art educator. Her elegant wire sculptures can be found in museums around the world.
This handsome, serene account of her life revels in the beauty she found in the natural world and the inventive ways she used wire to reflect what she saw. Loveliness and gracefulness weave through both word and illustration. An Author’s Note tells more about Asawa including her experience in internment camps during WWII, and gives instructions for crafting a simple paper dragonfly. Ages 5 and up.
All in a Drop: How Antony van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World, written by Lori Alexander, illustrated by Vivien Mildenberger
published in 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
77 pages + back matter
I am particularly drawn to all things microbial as my dear son is nearing the end of his doctoral degree in Microbiology. His passion for these tiny creatures has opened my eyes to a whole new world.
This heavily-illustrated, small biography of the man who, in the 1600s, was the first to see these critical organisms via his own, homemade, finely-constructed microscopes, is fascinating. Leeuwenhoek’s life inspires curiosity and persistence, and his discoveries evoke wonder and amazement as they revolutionize our understanding of the natural world. Read it aloud to curious kids ages 7 and up, or hand it to ages 10 and up.
Douglas, written and illustrated by Randy Cecil
published in 2019 by Candlewick
This is an extraordinarily clever book, a brilliant homage to silent films, a delightful and satisfying adventure story.
Told in cinematic style in Three Acts and numerous scenes via dozens and dozens of superb graphite images, it’s the adventurous tale of a mouse named Douglas Fairbanks, his unexpected friendship with young Iris Espinosa, and his several hair-raising escapades. Young children will thoroughly enjoy the story at face value; discerning older kids and adults will catch canny film references and the story’s fabulous, feminist role-reversal. Ages 5 and up.
Rabbit and the Motorbike, written by Kate Hoefler, art by Sarah Jacoby
published in 2019 by Chronicle Books
From time to time I discover a picture book that, while accessible to young children, seems to speak more profoundly to older kids and adults. This gorgeous book fits that category and I encourage you to seek it out for people who might not otherwise stumble across it.
Rabbit is a rather anxious person who manages life by drawing a fairly close circle around himself, living in “a quiet field of wheat,” soothed by sameness. His window to the outside world comes via his dear friend Dog who though hampered by old age now, has lived an adventurous life on his motorbike. He regales Rabbit with stories that thrill. Until one day, Dog dies and Rabbit’s world closes in a bit more.
Eventually Rabbit nudges himself away from his own doorstep, takes first one step and then another down the road. His discoveries, his companionable memories of Dog, his growing confidence, and his anchoring home all cause his soul to flourish. A poignant, profound read, impeccably illustrated, lyrically told, for a wide audience. Ages 5 to 100.
The Pirate Tree, written by Brigita Orel, illustrated by Jennie Poh
published in 2019 by Lantana Publishing
The title of this book did not prepare me for the wonderfully warm story of intercultural friendship contained within.
Sam loves playing fearless pirate captain in the scraggly branches of her old tree. When newcomer Agu approaches and asks to play, too, Sam is initially standoffish. But when she discovers that her pirate ship’s very destination — Nigeria — is Agu’s former home, a detente occurs and a sweet friendship begins. A heartwarming, imaginative pleasure from a Slovenian author, for ages 4 and up.
One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller, written and illustrated by Kate Read
published in 2019 by Peachtree Publishing
The fact that we’re counting items such as foxes, hens, fluttering feathers, and sharp teeth in this book gives you a little clue as to its thrilling story!
It’s the spiciest counting book you ever did see, with gorgeous, dramatic artwork, minimal text, and a humorous surprise ending. A rousing choice for ages 2 and up!
Alma and the Beast, written and illustrated by Esmé Shapiro
published in 2019 by Tundra Books
Definitely the wackiest story of the day so if you’re in the mood for something highly imaginative, untethered, and happy as chocolate cake, grab this book.
Alma’s day begins quite ordinarily as she feeds her “plumpooshkie butterfly,” braids the trees, combs the grass, and pets the roof, But Then!! Most unexpectedly! She spots a little beast in her garden! Her face is hairless! She has a prim little nose! How very strange! It turns out this little beast is lost, so Alma kindly helps her navigate her way home, and these two tremendously different folks find friendship along the way. 100% high-octane originality and heart, for ages 4 and up.
Dory Fantasmagory: Tiny Tough, written and illustrated by Abby Hanlon
published in 2019 by Dial Books for Young Readers
It’s always a good day when another Dory book emerges and we spin off into another zesty, funny adventure along with Mrs. Gobble Gracker, Mary, and Mr. Nuggy, Dory’s weird and wonderful imaginary friends.
Dory’s a good-hearted kid with a wild and wooly imagination that often gets her into trouble. This episode sees her earnest efforts to be a pirate, plus solve her sister Violet’s friendship woes. Dory quite innocently brings chaos and frenetic energy everywhere she goes and puts a huge smile on my face. For sturdy young readers or as a read-aloud for ages 5 and up, you can’t go wrong with Dory, but be sure to begin with the first book.