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Archive for the ‘picture books’ Category

I know all the harried preparations for Christmas are on the minds of so many of us. Maybe it will help to focus on something more mainstream? These great books should all go on your list for reading after that holiday rush is over.

There are a lot of children’s books that follow just a few general plot lines:
You are special.
Don’t be a bully.
It’s time for bed.

Then. Every once in a blue moon, a book comes along that’s straight up marching to its own drum beat, telling a story in an inventively new way, catching my funny bone completely off guard.

That’s what’s on the list today: fresh stories that put a big smile on my face. Starting with this gem from an author/illustrator I’ve raved about before…

Alfie: (The Turtle that Disappeared), written and illustrated by Thyra Heder
published in 2017 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

 Thyra Heder’s illustrations alone deserve major accolades. Every page glows with warmth, radiates a generous, creative, loving vibe. And her stories are wonderfully original. I was enchanted by both The Bear Report and this newest title. You do not want to miss her work!

Nia adores Alfie, the pet turtle she received for her sixth birthday. She lavishes attention on him but, yeah… he is a pretty quiet fellow so sometimes even Nia rather forgets about him until he up and disappears the morning she turns seven! Massive searching ensues.

At this juncture in the story we rewind to the beginning and see things unfold from Alfie’s point of view, witnessing his lengthy adventures which bring us to a delightful surprise ending. So much love for this one. Share it with ages 3 and up.

Yak and Dove, written by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Esmé Shapiro
published in 2017 by Tundra Books

A picture book with three chapters is a great premise right from the get-go!

It’s the masterful illustration work, though, that initially pulls us into this story. Such a beautiful palette!  Warmth and humor pour from the physiques of Yak and Dove as well as a bevy of friends. And an unusual sense of place, popping with onion domes, sprawling with taiga and looming mountains, plays its own, atmospheric role.

Yak and Dove are super friends. So much so they even daydream about how great it would be if they were twins! Just think of the Always-Together Samey-Same Things They Could Do!

Enthusiasm wears thin, though, as they make those matchy-matchy plans. In fact — they discover a pile of ways they out-and-out bug each other! Before you know it, Yak and Dove have yakked their way into a downright squabble!

Watch the lamenting Yak hold auditions for a new best friend,  then see how these two mend their fences. Completely told in dialogue. Droll, happy, honest, and gorgeous for ages 4 and up.

Pandamonia, written by Chris Owen, illustrated by Chris Nixon
first published in Australia in 2016; first American edition 2017 by Kane Miller

Prepare for a boisterous hullabaloo when you open the covers of this riotous, rhyming read.

It starts placidly enough with one quiet panda, dozing among the eucalyptus at the zoo. The only hint of the chaos to come is the warning we are given: “Just don’t wake the panda whatever you do.”

Well, I mean. What’s the worst that can happen if one cuddly, jelly-belly of a panda awakens?

Wild things! Careening, crazy things! Romp your way though the aftermath of a rudely-awakened, grumpy panda in this pandamonious tale plum full of all sorts of down-under animalia and plenty of familiars, too. Slapstick silliness, raucous art work, and rhythmic verse will bring giggles to  kids ages 2 and up.

Lily’s Cat Mask, written and illustrated by Julie Fortenberry
published in 2017 by Viking

Not every child meets the world best by running full tilt towards it, performing nicely for strangers, and putting a smiling face forward on command.

Some children, for one reason or another, prefer to size things up a bit first. Evaporate like Cheshire Cats in overbearingly social settings. Carefully tread towards friendships.

Lily is that kind of kid, and lucky for her, her dad gets it. He’s totally cool with Lily wearing her favorite cat mask here, there, and everywhere. Well, not everywhere. There are a few places Lily’s got to play by other rules. How will she manage that?

This understated, clever, upbeat account will make every introvert feel a little happy vibe of connection. Interestingly, the other day I re-read one of Tove Jansson’s short stories called The Invisible Child. An Orange Marmalade reader had alerted me that Oxfam and the Moomin world have teamed up on a book (find that volume here) to raise money for fighting poverty. Invisible Child is one of two in the book and it is masterful! Anyway, reading that in proximity to this story of Lily, I sensed some similarities between these two children who needed to be invisible at times. Insightful and loving, for ages 3 and up.

Bruce’s Big Move, written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins
published in 2017 by Disney Hyperion

The chronicle of Bruce the Bear and his adopted band of geese children continues with this funny, cranky, warmhearted, installment. Bruce is a mom that every mom can relate to!

The little mice who have barged into Bruce’s household are driving him nutso.  So busy. So messy. And so blame noisy! No matter what Bruce tries, he cannot seem to get these little buggers to move on, so he does the only thing possible — packs up and moves himself. With the geese. And without the mice.

This brings a boatload of peace, quiet, and order to Bruce’s life. So great, right? But the geese are despondent. What’s a mom to do?

Amusing, genuine, hearty in text and illustrations, the Bruce books are happy fare for ages 3 and up.

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Searching for just the right gift for an adult on your list?
 Books marketed for children can be spot-on for grown ups, too!

Here are a few ideas:

Are they passionate about immigration?

Her Right Foot, written by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Shawn Harris
published in 2017 by Chronicle Books

This is the only book on today’s list that hasn’t been on my blog yet so just let me say: It is tremendous!

Dave Eggers, with his nonchalant, conversational tone, wows us with fascinating tidbits about our treasured Statue of Liberty, all building up to a surprising reveal about that Lady’s right foot! Shawn Harris knocks it out of the ballpark with his strong, vibrant artwork. 

This one sneaks up on you with understatement, then moves you to tears. One of the best of 2017, for ages 5 through Adult.

Do they treasure the beauty of flora and fauna?

Try: The Lost Words (review here)

Are they enamored with words?

Try: Ounce Dice, Trice (review here)

Do they dream of world travels?

Try: City Atlas (review here)

Did they recently become parents after a long, difficult wait?

Try: Wish (review here)

Have they loved books since they were knee-high to a grasshopper?

Try: A Child of Books (review here)

Are they allergic to morning?

Try: Pug Man’s 3 Wishes (review here)

Is Norse mythology their thing?

Try: Odd and the Frost Giants (review here)

Do they cry every time they watch You’ve Got Mail?

Try: Skating Shoes (review here)

Need a book for your favorite feminist?

Try: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls (review here)

Have someone interested in African-American history? 

Try: Freedom Over Me (review here)

Or: Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph (review here)

Or: One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance (review here)

Or: March Trilogy (review here

Would they appreciate a gorgeous Minnesota read?

Try: Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold (review here)

Are they jazzed by Art Deco?

Try: Snow White: A Graphic Novel (review here)

In addition, you might consider…

…a children’s book written by an author they love. I’ve reviewed children’s books by Sylvia Plath, Salman Rushdie, Aldous HuxleySherman Alexie, Chinua Achebe, Jane Gardam, Frank McCourt, Sigrid Undset, and a number of others you might consider.…a favorite book from their childhood that’s out of print now. It might take some tricky questioning to find out which stories they loved best decades ago, but especially for friends or family members getting on in years, this might be a lovely gift. Amazon and Abe Books are great sources for purchasing out-of-print titles.

Know any other children’s books that feel like perfect grown-up gifts? Let us know in the comments!

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The first order of business today is awarding the give-aways of that splendid nature journal and those jazzy magazines. As always with these giveaways, I wish I could give one to everyone who enters! However…

Charity — congrats on winning the Small Adventures Journal!
Kristie Hammond — congrats on winning the Anorak and Dot issues!

Please e-mail me at jillswanson61@gmail.com with your shipping addresses and I’ll get those right out to you in time for gifting 🙂

Today I have some new Christmas stories to brighten your holiday bedtime reading stack. There are every so many more titles in the Subject Index under Holidays: Christmas so look there to find lots  of favorites.

The Little Reindeer, written and illustrated by Nicola Killen
first published in Great Britain in 2016; first American edition 2017 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

This simple, dear story is about a little girl named Ollie who awakens on Christmas Eve to a jingling sound. Out into the frosty night she goes, speeding on her sled to find the source of that ringing.

Turns out it’s a scarlet collar trimmed with silver bells, caught on a bare branch! Ollie returns it to its antlered owner, and in exchange receives a breathtaking ride back home! Beautiful, tender, gray-scale illustrations feature smidgeons of crimson, shimmers of silver, and enticing cut-outs to make the whole story feel magical. Ages 18 months and older.

The Princess and the Christmas Rescue, written by Caryl Hart, illustrated by Sarah Warburton
first published in the UK in 2016; first US edition 2017 by Nosy Crow

Princess Eliza lives in an ethereal palace, blush pink, festooned with crystal icicles. What she loves most is inventing, spending her days tinkering all by herself. This, her royal parents decree, is not what princesses do. Too dusty. Too lonely. Time for her to play normal games with other children.

In her quest for neighborhood friends, Eliza comes upon a small house overflowing with chaotically-busy elves. It seems their boss has the flu and they’re swamped with toy orders. Just the kind of problem Eliza’s schematic drawings are made for!

Vivacious rhyming, wonderfully appreciative of science-y girls, this is a bright blast of fun for ages 3 and up.

A Christmas for Bear, written by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

I do hope you know these two by now — Mouse and Bear. If so, your heart will skip a little happy beat to discover this new tale about two unlikely friends.

Christmas rolls around, and what to our surprise but Bear is feeling some Christmas spirit! Some, mind you. He’s particularly fixated on poems and Christmas pickles! Mouse, of course, is more interested in presents. Read this warm, funny story to discover how each enjoys a merry holiday. A treat for ages 3 and up.

Finding Christmas, written by Lezlie Evans, illustrated by Yee Von Chan
published in 2017 by Albert Whitman & Company

Hare, Squirrel, and Mouse are happy housemates. The air in their snug burrow is festive with tree-decorating and hazelnut cookie baking. There’s just a wee bit of shopping left before the celebrations can begin.

Suddenly, an emergency presents itself in the form of a swallow, sick, collapsed on a drift of snow, who needs tender nursing care to survive. Bit by bit, the gifts our friends secretly bought for one another are urgently needed to treat their ailing guest. These sacrifices prove to be the truest display of Christmas in this heartwarming story. Charming illustrations will captivate ages 2 to 3 and up.

The Lost Gift: A Christmas Story, written by Kallie George, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
published in 2016 by Schwartz & Wade Books

A group of animal friends huddle atop Merry Woods Hill. It’s Christmas Eve, and they are terribly excited to spot Santa flying by on his sleigh. But as he whooshes past, one package tumbles out!

 The tag says it’s for the New Baby at the Farm. Delivering it will take some doing, and not all members of the party are happy about it. But generous hearts prevail, and in the end everyone happily gets a share of Christmas treats. Ages 3 and up.

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Have I saved the best for last? Giving books and bookish gifts is obviously what I love to do! Here are some great ideas for the kids in your life, plus a give-away

Litograph t-shirts

Text and illustrations make up these clever t-shirts. I am partial to Blueberries for Sal, but there are lots of choices so check them out.

Out of Print t-shirts

Favorites old and new beautifully printed.

Bookplates for those special books

I had bookplates as a child. It is lovely to feel ownership of a really special book, one to keep for always.

Anorak magazine or Dot magazine subscription

Magazine subscriptions sashay into a child’s mailbox all year long.
I recently discovered these tremendously creative magazines coming out of the UK. Gorgeous graphic design. A lalapalooza of imagination-sparking, brain-fizzing stuff for ages 2-5 (Dot) and 6-12 (Anorak.)

Visit their awesome webpage to get the details. Keep in mind these are British magazines so embrace the British English and some UK-oriented features. To me, that is an added bonus!

GIVE AWAY ALERT! If you’d like to win the two copies Anorak so graciously sent me — the Food issue of Dot and the Art issue of Anorak — just comment with a “sign me up!”. Winner will be notified on the blog, December 4th, so don’t delay!  U.S. mailing addresses only, please.

Literary cookbooks

Jama Rattigan’s delectable blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup, has a round-up of delightful cookbooks based on favorite characters from Goldilocks to Star Wars.  Kids will love mixing up Diana Barry’s Favorite Raspberry Cordial or Hans Soloatmeal!! You can find Jama’s entire list here.

A boxed set of classics

Wow. Gorgeous design work courtesy of Rifle Paper Company. Many happy getting-lost-in-a-book moments all packaged up for you! I love tempting new readers with old classics.
Amazon Link

And a few more ideas for book-giving — one classic and one new title for each age group. I had to limit myself or the list would get too long! Browse through my blog for gobs more ideas.

 One for the whole family: The Lost Words

Read my review here to see what’s in store in this gorgeous, remarkable book.
Amazon Link

Ages 0-2:

something old: More More More Said the Baby (regular and board)
Amazon Link
review here

something new: Night and Day: A Book of Opposites, by Julie Safirstein
published in 2017 by Princeton Architectural Press
I haven’t reviewed this on my blog but it’s exploding in clever, exciting pop-ups for careful fingers! And yes, many small children can be careful with books. Plus: tape.
Amazon Link


Ages 2-5:

something old: My Father’s Dragon
Amazon Link
review here

something new: The Street Beneath My Feet
Amazon Link
review here

Ages 5-8:

something old: A Bear Called Paddington
Amazon Link
review here

something new: This Is How We Do It
Amazon Link
review here

Ages 8-12:

something old: Swallows and Amazons
(The new paperback from David Godine has a wretched cover! Here’s a link for this one which is available from 3rd party sellers.)
Amazon Link
review here

something new: The Wonderling
Amazon Link
review here

If you are able — please shop at a local Independent Bookstore. That’s who will keep the great books coming to us, trust me.

If you’re going to shop at Amazon anyway, then consider using my Amazon affiliate links. If you click through to Amazon on one of my links, I get a small dab back from Amazon no matter what you purchase. Thanks to those of you who do.

That’s it for 2017’s gift lists.
I’ll be back next week with some cheery new Christmas titles!

 

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Here in the Great North we’re looking forward to wearing our woolies, sipping our chai, and watching candlelight flicker in windows as December approaches.

I love winter! What about you? Today’s books will warm your heart towards cold weather, even if you prefer the tropics.

Singing Away the Dark, written by Caroline Woodward, illustrated by Julie Morstad
first published in 2010; special edition published in 2017 by Simply Read Books

Julie Morstad’s elegant artwork graces the pages of this nostalgic, glad story of one little girl’s mile-long walk through morning dark and winter frost to catch her school bus.

At age six, she’s stalwart enough to sing away the sometimes-eerie woodland shapes and sounds she encounters along her way. Tender, delightful, gorgeous. Ages 4 and up.

When the Moon Comes, written by Paul Harbridge, illustrated by Matt James
published in 2017 by Tundra Books

Those of us who grew up in small northern towns where ice skates were standard issue and ponds froze for the sole purpose of hockey will revel in this fiercely glad story of a bunch of kids anticipating their first frosty game on perfect ice under a full moon.

The hardiness and happiness of those freezing cold nights, breath forming icicles on scarves, pale rings encircling the moon, pucks cracking against sticks, cocoa scalding tongues, is perfectly captured in text and masterful illustrations in this book, coming to us from where-else-but-Canada. I love this collaboration!! Outstanding for ages 4 and up.

Pablo in the Snow, written by Teri Sloat, illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet
published in 2017 by Henry Holt and Company

Pablo has never seen snow before and it turns out to be quite the curious stuff. Meeting one woodland friend after another, this undaunted lamb joyfully discovers what those falling pieces of cloud are for! So much fun!

When a snowstorm covers his tracks so his path home is lost, suddenly the fun is over, until Mama and Papa appear to usher him home to a cozy barn. Sweet and comforting for ages 2 and up.

Snowflake In My Pocket, written by Rachel Bright, illustrated by Yu Rong
first American edition 2017 by Kane Miller

Burly old Bear and small, enthusiastic Squirrel are dear friends. One icy night, Bear suggests snow might be on its way and sure enough, a magical fairyland awaits Squirrel in the morning!

He cannot wait to explore it all with Bear! But, oh dear. Bear has the sniffles and can’t go out. What can Squirrel do to share this perfect winter morning with his old friend? Charming and warmhearted, just right for ages 2 and up.

Lines, by Suzy Lee
published in 2017 by Chronicle Books

Suzy Lee again infuses a wordless story with sparkling artistic creativity.

Starting with a blank page, a pencil, and an eraser, what can the artist bring to life with a line? A scribble? What happens when her graphite world spins out of control in seeming failure? Or when the artist forges ahead, fashioning a world bustling with icy energy? Elegant, joyous, fantastical for ages 4 and up.

The Storm Whale in Winter, written and illustrated by Benji Davies
first published in the UK, 2016; first American edition 2017 by Henry Holt and Company

If you haven’t followed the story of this small boy and his father over the years, you can pick up the series’ opener with my review here.

Noi and his dad live a spare life by the sea, warmed by their close-knit relationship, and buoyed by Noi’s friend, the whale. In this wintery installment, Noi grows worried when his fisherman dad doesn’t return home one evening. The sea is iced over around their island and darkness has firmly set in, but Noi is sure that faint light flickering out at sea is his dad, and he’s determined to rescue him.

It turns out to be quite the harrowing adventure, and Noi’s dear whale plays a heroic role. Exciting stuff, anchored in love, for ages 3 and up.

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You’re busy.
I get that.
Holidays approach.
Voila!
10-word teasers to tempt you towards books I adore!
Guaranteed to make your day better.

Fort-building Time, written by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Abigail Halpin
published in 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf

Orange Marmalade gold! Charming forts, outdoor fun, every season. Jubilant!

City Moon, written by Rachael Cole, illustrated by Blanca Gómez
published in 2017 by Schwartz & Wade Books

Gorgeous jaunt to spy peek-a-boo moon. Sweet togetherness. Preschool brilliance.

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day, written and illustrated by Beatrice Alemagna
originally published in France, 2016; first U.S. edition 2017 by Harper

Explore outdoors! Ditch electronic games. Doing “nothing” can be spectacular!

No One Else Like You, written by Siska Goeminne, illustrated by Merel Eyckerman
originally published in Belgium, 2016; first U.S. edition 2017 by Westminster John Knox Press

Diverse people make a captivating world. You make it lovely.

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way), written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell
published in 2017 by Little, Brown and Company

Clever, funny, surprising, hair-raising alphabetical adventures!  Jolly, surefire pleaser!

Hilda and the Runaway Baby, written and illustrated by Daisy Hirst
first U.S. edition 2017 by Candlewick Press

Rapscallion baby rescued by indefatigable, racing pig! Sweet, happy friendship. 

Wee Sister Strange, written by Holly Grant, illustrated by K.G. Campbell
published in 2017 by Schwartz & Wade Books

Enchanted nighttime woodsy ramble…searching for what? Lush, hushed, magical.

But I Don’t Eat Ants, written by Dan Marvin, illustrated by Kelly Fry
published in 2017 by POW!

Loquacious anteater gourmand, plainly peeved at ant-eating expectations! Wowzer!

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse, written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

Quackily-quirky! Howlingly-ingenuous! Home is where the wolf is?!

Terrific, written and illustrated by Jon Agee
published in 2017 by Dial Books for Young Readers

Curmudgeonly Eugene + plucky parrot = crack Caribbean sailing team! So droll!

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Coming up a week from today, Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving.

Carl Larsson “Potato Harvest”

A fitting response to gratitude is generosity towards others, and Thanksgiving finds cooks everywhere preparing ample, artistic feasts for gatherings of family, friends, neighbors and strangers…

… while a myriad churches and community groups work to fill up food banks and dish up meals for the homeless.

I love the connection between giving thanks and goodwill. Today I’ve got three grand picture books that link these for us beautifully. Starting with one that’s brand new:

Thanksgiving in the Woods, written by Phyllis Alsdurf, illustrated by Jenny Løvlie
published in 2017 by Sparkhouse Family

Author Phyllis Alsdurf based this book on an incredible, 20-year tradition for one family in upstate New York who annually host an outdoor, woodland, Thanksgiving feast attended by a couple hundred relatives, friends, and newcomers. 

Experience the whole day through the eyes of one young boy, from gathering kindling for the bonfire, to watching the throngs come bearing pots and platters of food, to listening to the fiddling and singing under the stars.  It’s a lovely tribute to community, common ground, sharing, and celebrating the simple gifts of life together. Ages 2 and up.

And a couple older favorites:

The Thanksgiving Door, written and illustrated by Debby Atwell
published in 2003 by Houghton Mifflin

Here’s another story of welcoming.

Ed and Ann are alone for Thanksgiving this year and unfortunately, Ann has just the thanksgiving door illustration debby atwellmajorly burned their dinner. 

As black smoke curls from the oven, Ed suggests they try the little restaurant down the street. The doors are open, and a long Thanksgiving-looking table has been set, so all seems well.

What they don’t see is the ruckus they’ve caused in the back kitchen as the restaurant owners — an extended family of Russian immigrants — debate what to do about these folks who have wandered into their private family gathering.

the thanksgiving door illustration debby atwell

Leave it to Grandmother to step up and extend an Old World welcome.  3 and up.

How Many Days to America?: A Thanksgiving Story, written by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Beth Peck
published in 1988 by Clarion Books

This ever-relevant story traces the harrowing flight of a group of refugees towards peace.

Fleeing from an ominous threat of soldiers, a family of four hurries out in the night. Secrecy, fear, an overcrowded boat, a miserable journey are all part of the ordeal. Finally they arrive to the welcome arms of strangers, and it just happens to be Thanksgiving Day. Clearly the giving of thanks for safety in a new land has double meaning for this particular dinner party.

how many days to america illustration beth peck

Beth Peck’s beautiful illustrations portray these seekers handsomely, with dignity, throughout their plight. Ages 4 and up.

 

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