My blogging has been sporadic these past months.
Life has been full for me with both happy events and challenges and the blog has had to take a seat on the back burner.
However I did want to pop on here and let you know about some gems I’ve read recently. It’s the cozy, curl-up-and-read time of year so I hope some of these will make their way into your homes and warm your hearts.
In a couple of weeks I’ll be back with a list of wintertime and holiday stories so be on the lookout for that.
Mouse’s Wood: A Year in Nature, illustrated by Alice Melvin, text by William Snow
published in 2022 by Thames & Hudson
Exquisite illustrations bring the beauties of the four seasons to vivid life in this dream of a book. The cherry on top is that each of the woodland creatures we meet lives in a darling home, and these snug abodes feature flaps to open so we can peek inside! So magical!
Thus the best of regal trees, blowsy blossoms, languid rivers, golden autumn leaves, and snowy wonderlands is combined with the charming coziness of overstuffed chairs, piles of colorful crockery, and tasty treats cooked up on wood stoves.
The text is a lilting poem; additional pages provide a morsel of factual information about the goings-on in the woods over the course of a year, flora and fauna to spot in the illustrations, and a tiny introduction to each of the creatures whose homes we’ve visited. My kids would have gobbled this up! It would make a dandy gift for ages 3 and up.
Sato the Rabbit: A Sea of Tea, written and illustrated by Yuki Ainoya, translated by Michael Blaskowsky
published in Japan in 2014; English edition published in 2022 by Enchanted Lion Books
I am utterly smitten with the Sato stories. This is the third (and final) book in the series that has been brought to us by the great folks at Enchanted Lion Books. (Find reviews of the first two here and here.)
Whimsical, fanciful, miniature stories fill the pages of each Sato collection with a raspberry-ripple blast of imagination, surprise, glorious color, and unhinged happiness. This is a world in which stars float down to slurp up sweet snow-cones and linger to illuminate magical woodland skating parties.
Or they are scooped up in giant, crystalline spoons and poured into wondrous waterfalls so Sato can swim in a pool of starlight. The books can be read in any order. Please do yourselves a favor and meet Sato with ages 3 and up.
Bedtime for Bo
written by Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold, illustrated by Mari Kanstad Johnsen, translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson
first English language edition 2022 by Enchanted Lion Books
A cacophony of color, a riot of form, and a tumble of line greet us on the cover and then envelop us on every page of this happy, warmhearted story coming to us from Norway.
The plot is timeless. It’s that of bedtime for a small busybody, and the patient, relentless, forward motion of his tired but loving mommy. Bo is lucky to have such a good sport as his mom with her heaps of imagination and good humor as the two of them navigate stalling tactics, a bedtime snack, washing up, and a final settling down to sleep.
Along the way, the two of them chat about other animals’ sleep habits, and do some fabulous pretending as well. It’s a gem of a bedtime tale, exploding with joyous color and careening energy, as honest as crumbs in the sofa cushion, and as endearing as a slobbery goodnight kiss. Winner of a NYT Award for Best Illustrated Books in 2022. Ages 3 and up.
Farmhouse, written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall
published in 2022 by Little, Brown and Company
Here’s another of the NYT Best Illustrated Books of 2022, created by an artist whose work I’ve loved over the years. It’s an extraordinary act of book-making, redolent with nostalgic charm.
The story itself is one, long, lyrical sentence, with phrase after phrase building, layering, circling back, extending forward, as we trace the lives of a family of twelve children, their parents, and the farmhouse which anchored and sheltered their love and growth. Within the span of that one sentence we move from the days of a big brood of young children, through the moment when the last of the twelve kids, now an elderly woman, leaves the house, on past years of the house falling into ruin, and finally to the moment with the artist herself discovers that rundown farmhouse and uses it to construct this very story.
A lengthy Author’s Note describes Blackall’s purchase of this old homestead, her discovery of the treasures inside it — everything from a parlor organ to a wedding dress — and the ways she was able to learn about the original owners. Included are some photos of the house and some of the remnants she found. Her gobsmacking artwork contains collages featuring her trademark, delicate, charming, paintings mixed with bits and pieces of the farmhouse itself — wallpaper, old newspaper, pieces of fabric. There is so much to take in, so much story of family life told in the illustrations themselves, as well as the story of discovery, restoration, and repurposing that runs parallel. Young children ages 3 and up will enjoy this, while adults up through your 100-year-old grandmother will connect with the lovely nostalgia and sense of time passing contained in it.
Telling Stories Wrong, text by Gianni Rodari, illustrations by Beatrice Alemagna
translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar
first English-language edition 2022 by Enchanted Lion Books
Shall we go for three of the NYT Best Illustrated Books of 2022? Why ever not?! This one is illustrated by another artist whose work I snatch up every time I see it. Her quirky figures and far-out colors never fail to delight as well as convey the wonderful homeliness of humanity, beckoning us to get comfy in her characters’ small worlds.
The story is taken from a collection I previously reviewed, Telephone Tales, which was written in 1962 by Italian author Gianni Rodari. Telephone Tales is an eccentric collection which Enchanted Lion brought to us in English just a couple of years ago.
This silly little tale was a winner for me in part because my own husband often played this little game with our kids when they were small, purposely telling a story incorrectly, bringing gales of laughter and eye-rolling and corrections from the children.
Here a grandpa tells the story of Little Red Riding Hood to his granddaughter, getting the details wildly wrong over and over again. His wacky rendition is marvelously echoed in Alemagna’s off-kilter, energetic artwork. Guaranteed giggles and happiness in a book for ages 3 and up.
The Song of the Nightingale, written by Tanya Landman, illustrated by Laura Carlin
published in the UK in 2020; first US edition 2022 by Candlewick Studio
I have loved Laura Carlin’s illustration work in two other books I’ve reviewed over the years (The Promise; The King of the Sky), and here once again her line and color and compositions dazzle and transport us to a mythical place.
This is a pourquoi tale, told in gorgeous, lyrical prose, explaining how the nightingale came to have such a lovely song.
I found it to be a mesmerizing, exceedingly clever, and delightful story. Luscious language and illustration combine to entrance ages 3 and up.
This Story is Not About a Kitten, written by Randall de Sève, illustrated by Carson Ellis
published in 2022 by Random House Studio
Even though the little furball with the big, plaintive eyes is front and center on the cover of this book, and even though her pitiful condition — hungry, frightened, and alone — sets off a long string of events encompassing a large number of people in the neighborhood plus a dog, and even though she becomes the focus of conversation in homes up and down the avenue …
…still, this story is not about a kitten. Which makes the obvious question — what could it be about?
Find out in this endearing, gracious tale, an ode to the community, neighborliness, and kindness we all long for. Carson Ellis’s unique ability to translate warmth, humanity, home-liness, and love into illustrations ratchets this sweet story up to the next level. Lovely for ages 3 and up.
Mr. Penguin and the Tomb of Doom, written and illustrated by Alex T. Smith
published in the UK in 2021; first US edition 2022 by Peachtree Publishing
Finally, I enjoyed the fourth book in this series which offers another fantastic lark with Mr. Penguin, Adventurer, and his trusty sidekick Colin as they embark on yet another Indiana-Jones-esque series of perilous escapades. As an added bonus, this story also features some coy references to Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.
Mr. Penguin and Colin are boomeranged into their latest thrilling, chilling, risk-laden quest when their dear friend and fellow detective Edith Hedge goes missing. By train and by camel, across deserts and through booby-trapped Egyptian crypts, these two and some unexpected cohorts seek to rescue their friend before some nefarious treasure seekers do them all in!
A blitz of high-octane adventure, well-spiced with both danger and humor, makes this and the previous episodes just the ticket for advanced young readers or family read-alouds. Ages 8 and up. (Find the first book in the series reviewed here.)
All these gems were among what I found at my library recently.
I am incredibly thankful for public libraries!! And librarians!!
I hope you’ll come back to discover the wintry gems I’m also discovering.
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