The books I’ve collected for today’s post are
warm, generous stories of friendship and community.
May they be both a balm and a beacon for you and yours
in these fractious days .
Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy, written by Tara Dairman, illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan
published in 2020 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Rich colors and a unique split-page viewpoint usher us into the worlds of two children — one young girl living a nomadic lifestyle in the Thar Desert of northwest India, and one young boy living in a village nearby.
When the seasonal rains come, both of these families move their households to the neighboring Aravalli hills, one family seeking the lushness emerging there due to the rainfall, the other family escaping the flooding resulting from the rains. The minimalist text and vivid artwork combine to beautifully introduce us to these disparate ways of life as well as celebrate the community they find when they land together in the end.
Author and illustrator notes fill in some of the details of the Rabari people on whom the story is based. An exceptional offering for ages 4 and up.
My Best Friend, written by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
published in 2020 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Happiness oozes from every pore of this fresh, exuberant, spot-on account of the friendship between two little girls.
Fogliano’s text captures the heart-expanding, lung-expanding, soul-tingling joy of all those ordinary bits that make a friend feel like an enormous Christmas package, a bakery window crammed with frosted confections, a firework bursting in the twilit sky. That awesome. Even if you just met one another a few short minutes ago!
I am in love with Jillian Tamaki’s artwork. Her book, They Say Blue, wowed me with its beauty. Here again her muscular line sweeps and dances, her solid, realistic figures prevent any sort of overly-saccharine girly mush, her limited but complex palette intrigues our eye while not distracting from the main focus of the story — these two vivid personalities. Massively sunny for ages 4 and up.
You Matter, by Christian Robinson
published in 2020 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
In a world full of big adults and big problems and rushy-rushy-rush-rush, it’s vital that we turn to our children, slow it way down, and tell them the important bits, reminding ourselves of them at the same time.
“You matter” is one of the important bits, and Christian Robinson simply, repeatedly pronounces this blessing upon children in this book, served up with his warm-as-July-sunshine, happy-as-an-ice-cream-cone, magnanimously-diverse artwork. A great read for a nice snuggly time with ages 2 and up.
Charlie & Mouse Outdoors, story by Laurel Snyder, illustrations by Emily Hughes
published in 2020 by Chronicle Books
This is book #4 in the charming early reader series starring two brothers, Charlie and Mouse. In this episode these guys and their parents head out on a camping expedition.
The car trip is a bit dull so Charlie attempts to alleviate the monotony by making up stories. This turns out to be trickier than he thinks, but he (and Dad) rise to the challenge. There’s also an adventurous hike, a raucous though well-meaning moment in the tent, and a sweet campfire complete with burnt marshmallows. Happy, brotherly stuff in the great outdoors for kids reading at the Mr. Putter and Tabby level, or to read to little ones ages 4 and up.
Down Under the Pier, written by Nell Cross Beckerman, illustrated by Rachell Sumpter
published in 2020 by Cameron Kids
The Santa Monica pier near L.A. is the scene for this delicious slice of summer, frolic of friends, and shimmer of nature’s wonders. Atop the pier are all the razzle-dazzle rides and sugary treats this place is famous for…
…but follow these kids as they venture beneath the pier at low tide for an even more spectacular show: the sounds of ocean waves churning and splashing, the scent and sense of cool mud and sea spray, and the sight of an array of sea and seaside creatures, from ticklish crabs to quavering anemones to skittering sanderlings. What a marvel!
Love this ode to summer spaces and the joys to be had outdoors, even in a weird summer like 2020. Ages 4 and up.
Natsumi’s Song of Summer, written by Robert Paul Weston, illustrated by Misa Saburi
published in 2020 by Tundra Books
Natsumi’s name means, “the sea in summer,” and at her home in Japan, Natsumi does indeed adore all things summery. She’s especially a fan of the myriad insects who chirr, flutter, buzz about, particularly the cicadas enlivening the air with their music.
This year Natsumi’s cousin, Jill, who lives across the ocean, is coming for a visit. It will be their first meeting. Natsumi feels a bit tentative, wondering if they will feel quickly like friends…or not. Happily, Jill genuinely enjoys all the sights and cultural experiences Natsumi plans, and the cherry on top of this new cousinly friendship is Jill’s fervent admiration for Natsumi’s beloved cicadas.
The story is written as a series of Japanese tanka poems. You might not even notice that as you read through it the first time, but an afterword describes this poetic form so you can go back and see how it works. We also learn more about the special place cicadas hold in Japanese summers and poetry. All together, it’s an upbeat, diverse, intriguing read for ages 4 and up.
Pokko and the Drum, written and illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
published in 2019 by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
“The biggest mistake Pokko’s parents ever made was giving her a drum.”
That is a fantastic first sentence, is it not? And it sets us up for the wit and wildness of the tale to come. Pokko’s folks have given her a series of gifts they later came to regret, but this noisy drum is definitely the one that creates the most mayhem. This mainly happens when Pokko’s dad suggests taking the instrument OUT OF THE HOUSE to play. And quietly, mind you!
Here, Pokko’s drumming attracts an increasingly long train of animal instrumentalists who bring great zest and merriment to the forest as well as upheaval in the once-unobtrusive lives of Pokko’s mom and dad.
This reminds me a bit of the classic story In the Forest by Marie Hall Ets. Bursting with quirkiness, humor, joy, art, and community, it’ll tickle the fancy of everyone ages 4 and up, up, up.
What Will These Hands Make?, by Nikki McClure
published in 2020 by Abrams Books for Young Readers
Despite the fact that 2020 has been an unusually messed up year, many beautiful expressions of kindness, community, and stout-hearted love have lifted my spirits.
Artist Nikki McClure focuses on that sort of beauty, namely all the ways people use their hands to create loveliness, from potters sculpting bowls, to gardeners planting flower beds, to engineers building bridges, to cake-bakers, guitar-strummers, haven-makers, and so much more.
Her intricate cut-paper illustration work is the star of the show, with just a few lines on each page offering responses to the question, “What will these hands make?”
Quiet, thought-provoking, lovely, flowing with craftsmanship and community. Ages 4 and up.
We Are Water Protectors, written by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade
published in 2020 by Roaring Brook Press
Friendship with the Earth is also on tap today. Indigenous people throughout the Americas are laying down their bodies and their lives — literally — to protect water, forests, and land from devastation by mining, fossil fuel, and logging industries. Their courageous stance and deep understanding of our need to respect and steward Earth’s resources are stunning and humbling.
This book is inspired by one of these environmental justice movements, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s on-going attempt to protect their lands from the Dakota Access Pipeline. It is also bathed in elements of the author’s Ojibwe heritage. Flowing through its liquid blue pages is a profound sense of honor, the sacred view this people holds of life-giving water. Layered atop that is their fiercely protective stance taken against threats from oil pipelines. It’s a unique and powerful window onto a critically important issue, for ages 4 and up. An Author’s Note provides background information.
My Friend Earth, written by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Francesca Sanna
published in 2020 by Chronicle Books
MacLachlan is well known to many of you for her classic book, Sarah Plain and Tall. Here she applies her poetic voice to a lush, lyrical ode to the beauty of the Earth, narrating Earth’s copious care for all who draw nourishment from her throughout the seasons.
Personifying Earth as an ample, luxuriously-comforting, cocoa-brown woman, Sanna fills each page with fruitfulness, abundance, and a deep sense of ease. This is a flourishing Earth, the one we all long for and must work towards. Additionally, die-cuts and sculpted page flaps are layered atop one another creating a delightful atmosphere of curiosity, an unfolding, peering, peeking into the splendors and surprises of Earth’s ever-changing landscapes. A restorative piece for ages 3 and up.
That’s it for today! Take care, friends!