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Archive for the ‘picture books’ Category

All the books in today’s post have one thing in common: they make readers wonder.

 Children love to discuss crazy scenarios, what-ifs, and imagine-thats. Their funny bones are tickled by nonsensicalness. They love to stump one another with riddles. Children also mull all manner of existential ideas. Posing deeply philosophical and spiritual questions is not just something adults do.

All of it is rich food for the mind. Open up the gate to wondering with these curious titles.

Imagine a City, written and illustrated by Elise Hurst
originally published in Australia; first American edition published in 2014 by Doubleday Books for Young Readers

Elise Hurst’s marvelously imaginative realm opens up the boundaries between the real and the magical, fuses them together so seamlessly that you might expect to see rabbits reading the daily news on your next subway trip or carp-zeppelins zumming through the sky over your city.

Imagine this sort of place! Imagine fantastical bridges and a Narnia-like jumble of human and animal citizens. Imagine “a world without edges” and gargoyles taking tea.

Many illustrators would choose to use waterfalls of color to bring such a place to life, but Hurst masterfully captures our hearts with her gorgeous pen-and-ink work. Somehow that makes this dreamland all the more real.

With so much to absorb on every page and so much fantasy to expand our thoughts, this is a gem for ages 3 and up.

If I Was a Banana, written by Alexandra Tylee, illustrated by Kieran Rynhart
first published in New Zealand by Gecko Press in 2016

“If I was a banana I would be that one, all yellow and fat and full of banana.”

What a wonderful thought to think! Of course that would be just the sort of banana to be. Who would want to be one of those brown, oozy, gloopy ones? Yecch. A plump, bright banana would be my choice, too.

Alexandra Tylee clambers right inside a small boy’s mind and considers all kinds of ordinary pieces in his world — a bird, a cloud, a ladybug — from a refreshingly childlike perspective. The honest, artless, vulnerable thoughts here are precious as gemstones and offered only when there is leisure and trust and space for such things.

Rynhart’s handsome illustration work is, again, muted, displaying a commendable respect for these intriguing ideas which might seem otherwise merely shallow and silly.

Quietly happy, I’d love to see this one slow folks down to a pondering pace. Share it with ages 4 and up.

The Liszts, written by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Júlia Sardà
published in 2016 by Tundra Books

I am realizing as I write this post how international this group of authors and illustrators is! No Americans thus far. Hmmm…does that mean anything about this subject matter? I wonder. Here we have a Canadian author and Spanish artist. Fantastic.

This book is pure delight, from the marvelously eccentric characters created by artist Júlia Sardà to the highly-original story of these list-making Liszts.

This offbeat bunch, who somehow resemble a mash-up of Gatsby-era Russian aristocrats and the Addams family, love to make lists. Great lists. Ever-so-long lists of admirers and ghastly illnesses, kinds of cheese and dreaded chores.

The Liszts become so encumbered by their lists, however, that they are unable to entertain any person or notion not on the list. Their lists have become a barricade, as it were, to anything new.

Edward, the middle child (hallelujah for a heroic middle child!) makes quite a different sort of list, however. His is a list of questions. And because his mind is awash with questions and possibilities, his world opens up in startling, wonderful ways.

I love the way this off-the-wall tale unbolts the doors on an exultant, curious, open mindset that welcomes a thirst for new ideas. And I love the handlettered text and phenomenal illustration work here. A clear winner for ages 5 and up.

Why am I Here?, written by Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen, illustrated by Akin Duzakin, translated from the Norwegian by Becky Crook
originally published in Norway in 2014; first US edition published in 2016 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

The most pensive book on today’s list is this highly-unusual title coming to us from Norway.

Crediting children with the deep, soul-searching thoughts which they do indeed muse about if given adequate time, space, and freedom from the noise and frenzy of our culture, Ørbeck-Nilssen poses the existential and important questions of a young child. Duzakin portrays the child in such a way that it could be a boy or girl — a nice touch.

He wonders why he is here, “in this exact place.” She asks what would it have been like if she had been born as someone else, in some far distant place?

What would it be like to be homeless? Or in a land where war rages? What would it be like to dwell in the desert or the Arctic? What would it be like if home was washed away in a flood? Why are we here, anyway? Why am I me?

These heartfelt concerns certainly land on young children, though they may not articulate them in just this way. What a beautiful tendency, to consider what life would look like in someone else’s situation. Duzakin’s dreamy, emotive illustration work conveys wonder and transports us masterfully into others’ scenarios. He imbues the pages with tenderness and respect. A lovely entry point into conversation and compassion for ages 6 and older.

The Curious Guide to Things That Aren’t, written by John D. Fixx and James F. Fixx, illustrated by Abby Carter
published in 2016 by Quarto Publishing

Finally, this quirky (American!) book features riddles — guessing games you might say — all leading to answers that are intangible. No chickens crossing roads. No orange-you-glad-I-didn’t-say-banana. These clues will lead you to answers such as darkness, breath, an itch, or yesterday.

There’s one for each letter of the alphabet. Traipse through the book reading the clues and guessing together — What is it? Flip the page to learn the answer and find out a little bit about air, reflections, fog, and other “things that aren’t” as well as the way we use these words figuratively.

Crammed with curiosity and the odd tidbits that tickle the mind, this book was begun by the author’s parents and lovingly brought to us with Abby Carter’s clever, friendly illustrations and appealing design. For little brainiacs, ages perhaps 5 and up.

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Today’s Women’s History Month post highlights motherhood, one of the most challenging, exhausting, all-encompassing responsibilities on the planet, with few accolades and really lousy hours but so much possibility.

Does this qualify as false advertising?!

Often moms in children’s literature are background characters, yet even there we notice some flashes of genius. For instance, there’s Ferdinand the bull’s mother,

who initially worries about her son sitting quietly just smelling the flowers, but “because she was an understanding mother, even though she was a cow, she let him just sit there and be happy.” Way to go, mom. Individuality starts here.

I adore the moms in several of Jonathan Bean’s stories — At Night and Big Snow — who empathetically care for their children while giving them space and freedom to explore and dream and be.

One of my favorite storybook moms is Alfie’s mother, whose house is always unapologetically mussy, whose hair has not seen a salon recently, whose breakfast table is a jumble of milk splotches, egg smears, and the odd sock. Hers is a happy, creative household and she makes no pretense of keeping it all completely under control. Plus, she gets her kids out of doors a LOT!

The women in the following books (gleaned from my archives) are not famous for their accomplishments, yet live quietly heroic lives, nurturing small human beings with love, wisdom, courage, creativity, patience, cunning, fortitude, conviction, selflessness, empathy, resilience, comfort, contentment, and the list goes on.

Represented here are tired mothers, grandmothers, single moms, veiled moms, nannies, adoptive mothers, refugee mothers, harassed mothers, black, white, latino and native mothers, camping moms, berry-picking grandmas, hospitable mothers…

To all of you coping with the demands of motherhood, perhaps quailing before the superhero women featured in most Women’s History Month posts — hats off to you and the epic job you do every day!

Tromping around outdoors moms…

Alfie Weather

Oh so tired moms…

Are You Awake?

taking time to listen grandmas…

The Baby on the Way

uber clever moms…

Bread and Jam for Frances

hardworking single moms…

A Chair for My Mother

deeply religious moms…

Deep in the Sahara

profoundly there-for-you nannies…

The Friend

warmhearted grandmas…

Grandma’s House

bighearted adoptive moms…

Hattie Peck

magically creating spring moms…

How Mama Brought the Spring

incredibly brave refugee moms…

The Journey

wise in life grandmas…

Last Stop on Market Street

harassed but not quitting moms…

Leave Me Alone!

ordinarily awesome moms…

My Mom

spunky world-opening grandmas…

Nana in the City

lively ditch the rules grandmas…

Peeny Butter Fudge

carrying you with me moms…

A Ride on Mother’s Back

creative, content grandmas…

Sunday Shopping

canoeing, camping moms…

Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe

berry-picking grandmas…

Wild Berries

hospitable, merciful moms…

A Year of Borrowed Men

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When I read biographies of women, I am often flabbergasted by the variety of activities once considered off-limits to females.  Such perverse undertakings as riding a bicycle, voting, being a nurse, were scandalous not so very long ago.

1967 -- Women were not allowed to run the Boston Marathon.

1967 — Women were not allowed to run the Boston Marathon.

What a concerted effort there has been to convince us that women are simply not apt to be strong, athletic, brave, scientific, reliable, level-headed, smart, capable.

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I am grateful for the determined courage of so many women who buck the constraints of gender and racial restrictions to pursue their dreams, gifts, and callings, opening the door for all of us who follow.

Mary Jane Patterson, the first African American woman to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree!

Thankful for women and men who choose to expand opportunity rather than hinder, honor rather than degrade, spotlight rather than ignore, listen rather than silence, empower rather than oppress.

Today I’ve got a dozen+ biographies of women whose stories inspire us. There are lots more in my Subjects index under Biography which I encourage you to seek out. Plus, I’ve put links to last year’s Women’s History posts at the end of today’s blog.

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Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles, written by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
published in 2016 by Candlewick Press

Roaring with lemon-yellow verve, this is the account of Nell Richardson and Alice Burke, who in 1916 set out in their jaunty yellow car to drive around America. That was a skyscraper-tall order in those days of “bumpy, muddy, unmapped miles” when automobiles were still newfangled contraptions.

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Their purpose was to campaign for the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment giving the vote to women. This creative, lively telling is plum full of optimism and joy in both text and Hadley’s retro prints. Afterwords tell more about early automobiles and the women’s suffrage movement. Fantastic for ages 5 and up.

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Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women’s Right to Vote, written by Dean Robbins, illustrated by Nancy Zhang
published in 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf

Convincing Woodrow Wilson and the U.S. Congress to support women’s suffrage required dogged determination and out-of-the-box creativity so good thing Alice Paul owned copious amounts of both qualities.

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Planning lavish parades, plunking herself down across the president’s grand desk for a chat, unfurling scrolls down the marble steps of the Capitol with banner-large lettering, organizing massive letter-writing campaigns. Check, check, check, and check. This spirited account of a spirited woman will bolster a can-do attitude in all its readers, ages 5 and up!

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, written by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
published in 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

This fabulous biography of Justice Ginsburg pulses with strength and determination. Text, typography, and illustrations work together masterfully to present a portrait of one who faced down stinging discrimination based on both her gender and her Jewish heritage.

I loved learning more about how Ruth’s early resistance to narrowly-drawn boundaries prepared her for a career of profound objecting and dissenting.

And, at this moment in our culture, I am especially glad Debbie Levy includes Ginsburg’s dear friendship with one whose ideas were so often adamantly opposed to her’s, Justice Scalia. Oh, for more friendships across the divides. Excellent, lengthy Author’s Note. This is a strong choice for ages 7 and up.

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Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer, written by Diane Stanley, illustrated by Jessie Hartland
published in 2016; a Paula Wiseman Book from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

The daughter of Lord Byron, Ada was an irrepressibly curious tinkerer, an imaginative, out-of-the-box thinker, from childhood on. Her friendship with Charles Babbage, the designer of what was essentially the first computer, led to her brilliant collaboration with him and her writing of the first computer program in 1843.

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Ada’s story has recently been told in two wonderful books. This one, written by Diane Stanley, reads beautifully, effortlessly, and is illustrated in Jessie Hartland’s delightful, colorful, sunny, style, full of quirk and bustle. Largely accessible to ages 6 and up.

Another equally great choice is:

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Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer, written and illustrated by Fiona Robinson
published in 2016 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

The text in this book delves a bit more into the mathematics of what Ada worked out and has just a slightly more elevated feel — more technical, more sophisticated language. It’s better suited to slightly older children, I’d say.

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Robinson’s artwork is fantastic, mirroring the creativity and inventiveness of Ada with its cut-paper designs, mechanical and mathematical references; even the end-papers launch us into the story with their spread of hole-punched programming cards. Ages 8 and up.

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Caroline’s Comets: A True Story, written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
published in 2017 by Holiday House

Caroline Herschel was another early female scientist. In fact, she was “the first professional woman scientist,” who teamed up with her brother William in the 1700s to make groundbreaking discoveries in the field of astronomy.

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Such obstacles she overcame as a woman in that society to pursue science! Such perseverance, attention to detail, wonder over the skies, and love of learning were hers to enjoy and employ, making her mark on the world. McCully is one of the best of the best in children’s nonfiction. Her beautiful account of Herschel’s life and legacy is a joy to read, easily accessible to ages 6 and up.

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Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse, by Catherine Reef
published in 2017 by Clarion Books
161 pages

This lengthy biography of the groundbreaking nurse, Florence Nightingale, might put you off with its serious look and bulk, but for girls ages 12 and up who are interested in her life or in a medical career, it’s a fabulous, absorbing read. Excellent choice for adults as well.

For me, the images of The Lady with the Lamp somehow reduced Florence Nightingale to a kindly little helper in the soldiers’ wards when in reality she was an incredibly stalwart person who agonized in her struggle against her family’s and society’s small-minded ideas of what was suitable for a woman to do. Nursing the sick certainly wasn’t one of the proper occupations of a lady, but Nightingale felt called to it and would not relent.

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“Why, oh my God, cannot I be satisfied with the life which satisfies so many people?” she asks. The journey was lonely and difficult. Her courage, fearlessness, iron strength and will turned the field of nursing upside down. I loved bumping into others in this account whose stories I’ve included in my blog previously, including Elizabeth Blackwell, Alexis Soyer, and John Snow.

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Joan of Arc, written and illustrated by Demi
published in 2011 by Marshall Cavendish Children

Demi’s regal, detailed, gold-leaf illustration work is perfectly suited to this story of the unlikely medieval French warrior.

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From her childhood in France with her sensitive heart and early devotion to God, we watch stunned as Joan’s teen-age visions propel her to undertake dangerous journeys, deliver messages that appeared crazy, and lead the French army to dumbfounding victories. Her tragic downfall, burning at the stake, and canonization complete this thought-provoking biography. Ages 7 and up.

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Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education, written by Raphaële Frier, illustrated by Aurélia Fronty, translated by Julie Cormier
first published in France, 2015; first US edition 2017 by Charlesbridge

Aurélia Fronty’s stunning artwork zooms this account of Malala straight past previous children’s biographies about her. Wow. Gorgeous pages, exploding with brilliant color and gorgeous textile patterns make it irresistible!

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Frier unreels a lucid, strong narration of Malala’s life, her relentless pursuit of education for girls. Journey from her childhood, past her attack, through the Nobel Prize, before dipping briefly into her current activism. 8 pages of back matter provide lots more information about Pakistan, the Pashtun people, worldwide education for girls, Islam, other historical peacemakers, and Malala’s ideas. Inspirational and eye-opening for ages 7 and up.

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Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina, written by Maria Tallchief with Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Gary Kelley
published in 1999 by Viking

Maria Tallchief was born on an Osage Indian Reservation in 1925 and went on to become one of the greatest American-born ballerinas.

Music and dance coursed through her from the time she was a little girl. Maria was fortunate enough to have parents who supported her dreams. Against all odds, with a fierce work ethic, years of relentless practice, and a love of the dance-music language of ballet, Maria rose to the top.

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Rosemary Wells sat down with Tallchief before her death and helped record her life experiences through her joining the Ballets Russe at age 17. It’s a lovely, fascinating narrative, handsomely illustrated. Ages 7 and up.

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Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic, written by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Wendell Minor
published in 2011; a Paula Wiseman Book by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

When I was a little girl, Amelia Earhart was one of my great heroines. I loved reading about her.

This poetic account of her solo night flight across the Atlantic in May, 1932, illustrates the grit and marvel that mark Earhart’s life. Terrible storms. Broken instruments. Iced-over wings. Seemingly certain disaster. Freezing cold. Toxic fumes.

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With skill and tenacity, Earhart manages to pull through this tremendously difficult adventure. Taut, gripping text from an award-winning author and images from Wendell Minor that strap us right in the cockpit make this a winner for ages 7 and up.

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Nothing by Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson, written by Sue Stauffacher, illustrated by Greg Couch
published in 2007 by Alfred A. Knopf

Althea Gibson broke the color line in international tennis, winning the Grand Slam in 1956 and the Wimbledon in 1957-58.

All that strength and energy had to be channeled in the right direction, however. As a child, she was “the tallest, wildest tomboy in the history of Harlem,” so they say, who ran right into trouble every way she turned. Sport was just what Althea needed, yet even there, learning to reign in her high emotions and carry herself like a true champion — those were tough lessons.

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Stauffacher spins a vivid account and Couch’s meaningful, vibrant illustrations swirl with the mad energy and spirit of Gibson. Great read about an athlete I knew nothing about. Ages 6 and up.

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America’s Champion Swimmer: Gertrude Ederle, written by David A. Adler, illustrated by Terry Widener
published in 2000 by Gulliver Books, Harcourt Inc.

Gertrude “Trudy” Ederle didn’t learn to swim until she was seven years old. At that time, immediately following her near-drowning in a pond, her father tied a rope around her waist, plunked her in the river and told her to “paddle like a dog.”

Turned out Trudy was a masterful swimmer who loved competition! She began long-distance swimming when she was just 16 years old, swam on the 1924 Olympic team, and then began work on the ultimate challenge — the English Channel. When a newspaper chided her, saying that she and other women ought to forget such things and admit they would “remain forever the weaker sex” it spurred Ederle on all the more.

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But what a formidable challenge! Read her harrowing experiences and triumphs in this riveting biography. Handsome illustrations capture the tumultuous swim and the 20’s era. Ages 6 and up.

Here are links to last year’s Women’s History posts. There are many more bios in the Subject listing as well so don’t miss out!

Baby, we’ve done a lot for the world

Frailty, thy name is not woman!

Marching to our own heartbeats

Embracing a worldful of callings

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Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille, written by Jennifer Bryant, illustrated by Boris Kulikov
published in 2016 by  Alfred A. Knopf

On one hand, Louis Braille doesn’t need any introduction. His name speaks for itself. It must be among the most recognizable in the world.

On the other hand, the story of his childhood, appalling accident that led to blindness, quest for learning, and sheer brilliance and dogged persistence in developing a written code to uncloak the world for the blind — this fascinating story does need telling and hearing.

And there are numerous biographies of Braille for children. This newest one by Jen Bryant, though, tells it exceptionally well, ushering us right into Braille’s experience. As Bryant says in her Author’s Note, she wanted to answer the question, “What did it FEEL like to be Louis Braille?” By digging into the emotions of Braille’s story rather than only the facts, she gifts us with this superb book.

Boris Kulikov’s inspired illustration work plunges us into darkness right alongside Louis, then gorgeously illuminates his world.  Little wonder it received a 2017  Schneider Family Book Award, a category honoring the artistic expression of the disability experience for children.

Braille spent years slaving over his code, determined to craft one efficient enough to give the blind opportunity to read anything and everything available to sighted persons. And he did this as a child, producing his nearly-final code at age 15. What a fitting story to share with children, ages 6 and up.

A Q&A at the end of the book reveals lots more about Braille and his marvelously curious, inventive mind.

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Grab your oatmeal and orange juice. Flip some flapjacks. Spread some peanut butter on that toast. And while you’re munching, go bananas with these silly breakfast stories!

monkey-with-a-tool-belt-and-the-maniac-muffins-cover-imageMonkey with a Tool Belt and the Maniac Muffins, written and illustrated by Chris Monroe
published in 2016 by Carolrhoda Books

Duluth-author (hooray!) Chris Monroe’s busy monkey, Chico Bon Bon, is back with his epic tool belt!

Chico’s buddy Clark is making giant pancakes for breakfast and things have gone completely lulu in a hot minute. Serious structural damage is happening in the kitchen courtesy of Clark’s bad aim and his ultra-dense pancakes!

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Not to worry. Chico’s tool-belt apron is loaded with everything from a pickle squeezer to a tofu toggle and he’s ready to step in and help. However, even as Chico cleans up a bit here and welds a bit there, Clark has moved along to the next item on the menu, his supersecret blueberry muffins.

This time, actual explosions result!

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Watch the pandemonium unfold, cheer as Chico’s brilliant problem-solving ability comes to the rescue, then use the recipes in the book to make your own delish breakfast treats, hopefully without any of the accompanying mayhem!

An uproarious delight for ages 2 and up.

the-worst-breakfast-cover-imageThe Worst Breakfast, written by China Miéville, illustrated by Zak Smith
published in 2016 by Black Sheep Books

China Miéville is a British author known for his outstanding fantasy novels, including Un Lun Dun which I reviewed here. I believe this is his first picture book. And it’s a doozy.

Two sisters are about to eat breakfast when they discover to their distress that the orange juice today has got “bits.” Pulp, if you will, that doesn’t go down well at all.

This spurs one sister to regale the other about the worst breakfast ever, a hideous affair of burnt toast, “severely underdone” eggs, gluey porridge…and a wild, tongue-twisting inventory of dozens more terrifying menu items! Jellied eels and salmagundi and rumbledethumps…oh my!

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There is grossness and nastiness here by the bowlful, illustrated with frenetic, fantastical abandon by Zak Smith.

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All is resolved in one simple, clever solution and the breakfast turns out to be pretty good after all. My guess is this book will turn the stomachs of a few and result in fiendish giggles for many others. Check it out for ages 3 and up and prepare to serve pulp-free OJ for awhile.

woodpecker-wants-a-waffle-cover-imageWoodpecker Wants a Waffle, written and illustrated by Steve Breen
published in 2016 by Harper Collins

Benny the woodpecker awakes one morning to a wonderful, “tummy-rumbling” smell wafting out from Moe’s “Home of the Hot Waffle Breakfast” grand opening.

Well, if you smelled some toasty warm waffles, you’d want a nibble, wouldn’t you? Benny certainly does, but try as he might, he can’t manage to sneak inside Moe’s restaurant. Woodpeckers, it seems, are not wanted!

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Benny takes his dilemma to a gathering of forest friends who initially mock his taste in waffles, but come around to conspire with him in carrying out his stupefying, spectacular solution. It’s a genius move on Benny’s part, full of last-minute twists that’ll surprise and delight you!

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Steve Breen is a fantastic storyteller. This one is dripping with good humor and maple syrup. Sure to please kids ages 3 and up, with a side dish of waffles, of course.

lady-pancake-and-sir-french-toast-cover-imageLady Pancake & Sir French Toast, written by Josh Funk, illustrated by Brendan Kearney
published in 2015 by Sterling Children’s Books

“Deep in the fridge and behind the green peas,
way past the tofu and left of the cheese,
up in the corner, and back by a roast,
sat Lady Pancake beside Sir French Toast.”

The contents of a refrigerator might seem to be a placid lot, but not in this tale! These two friends turn into fierce competitors when it’s discovered — horrors! — that there’s only a single drop of syrup left! And both of them want it for themselves.

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A galloping, careening race is on, up Potato Mash Mountain and through Chili Lagoon. Rappelling down linguini, sailing through soup, parachuting via lettuce leaf, these two run amok in an all-out sprint to that maple syrup bottle. Only to make a shocking discovery!

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Josh Funk knows exactly how to tickle kids’ funny bones with his dancing rhyme, while Brendan Kearney’s energized, anthropomorphic fruits and veggies, broccoli forests and stinky Brussels sprouts rocket the mayhem up deliciously. A second episode featuring all these same foody-friends comes out this year, The Case of the Stinky Stench. Read this one with ages 3 and up, and get in line for the sequel.

everyone-loves-bacon-cover-imageEveryone Loves Bacon, written by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Eric Wight
published in 2015 by Farrar, Straus, Giroux

Everyone loves bacon, and ol’ Mr. Bacon feels mighty smug about that. A bit hoity-toity. Lovin’ all that attention, you know.

As his celebrity star rises, Mr. Bacon becomes so obsessed with himself, he quite forgets his old friends back home. Who needs ’em? Bah! He’s got fans, my dear, fans!

Pride goeth before a fall, as the old proverb says, and in this case, Mr. Bacon finds out a bit too late that when everyone loves bacon…well…he’s just one mouthful away from a most startling finish!

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Wight’s bold food portraits and that strutting Mr. Bacon blast off the pages in jazzy, retro style. A cautionary delight for ages 3 and up.

You can find more breakfast goodies on a post I wrote several years ago, here. Happy breakfasting!

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I have long loved a good troll yarn. I guess it’s the ancient Viking blood in me! These massive, usually dim-witted creatures with any number of heads and toes, pop up everywhere in Norse folklore adding spice to the story and a golden opportunity for the illustrator!

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Curiously enough, I’ve noticed a number of troll-festooned graphic novels emerging in the children’s lit world recently. I thought I’d alert you to them in case you share my fondness. Or not. Either way. Plus bring to light some older troll stories you might enjoy.

the-heartless-troll-cover-imageThe Heartless Troll, written and illustrated by Øyvind Torseter, translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson
published in 2015 in Norway; first English edition 2016 by Enchanted Lion Books

First up is this graphic novel retelling loosely based on an old Norwegian fairytale called The Troll With No Heart In His Body.

As with many fairy tales it all starts with a king with a bunch of sons — in this case seven — the youngest of which is treated differently than his elder brethren. Prince Fred, the youngest in this household, has to watch his olders vault off on their fine steeds, decked out in resplendent clothes, set to find beautiful brides for themselves. And oh! they promise to fetch him one, too. But of course, an evil troll waylays them and turns them to stone.

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Nothing for it but for Prince Fred to set off on an epic quest to free his brothers by destroying the troll’s heart. Problem is, that troll hasn’t got his heart in his body. THAT’s how nasty a fellow he is!

Fred, with the able assistance of a beautiful princess, an elephant, octopus, saxophone and much Bravery, manages everything in the end and he and the princess live happily ever after. Phew!

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Torseter’s rendition is as quirky and casual as it comes with fairy tale elements and contemporary ingredients nestling happily cheek by jowl. A great spot of fun for ages 10 and up.

You can read a more traditional telling of this tale, as well as a number of other Norwegian troll tales in this book:

the-troll-with-no-heart-in-his-body-cover-imageThe Troll with No Heart in His Body and Other Tales of Trolls, from Norway, retold by Lise Lunge-Larsen, illustrated with woodcuts by Betsy Bowen
published in 1999 by Houghton Mifflin

With an author and illustrator who share Norwegian heritage  and make their homes among the exceedingly-trollish rocky landscapes of Minnesota’s North Shore (one of my favorite places on Earth), this collection of nine tales has a lovely authentic air. 96 pages long. It includes the most familiar, Three Billy Goats Gruff. Serious troll-lovers and fans of all things Nordic will enjoy this.

hilda-and-the-stone-forest-cover-imageHilda and the Stone Forest, written and illustrated by Luke Pearson
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books

Luke Pearson’s Hilda stories are marvelous, and immensely popular right now. About to come in animated form to Netflix, so they say.

The first book, introducing spunky Hilda, her mom, their pet fox, Twig, and their hauntingly-beautiful, fantasy-Norwegian homeland is, appropriately, Hilda and the Troll. I’ve reviewed it here. It really helps if you read it before launching into one of the later volumes.

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In this their fifth adventure, Hilda, Mom, and Twig wind up accidentally whooshed into a mysterious forest occupied by — you guessed it — trolls. So. Many. Trolls. Yikes!

Escape is of the essence, but that is much, much easier said than done.

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Run, clamber, dodge, sneak, and run faster in this breathless, dangerous episode. Sheer delight for a wide age range, about 7 to adult.

bera-the-one-headed-troll-cover-imageBera the One-Headed Troll, written and illustrated by Eric Orchard
pubished in 2016 by FirstSecond

There’s always an individual in every crowd, and Bera is certainly that. Although she’s a troll, she’s a quiet, modest sort, glad to mind her own business and tend her pumpkin patch on a lonely, tiny island. Her boon companion is an owl named Winslowe.

One day Bera hears a raucous, most unpleasant uproar in the cove. Investigating, she’s shocked to see that a human baby has arrived, somehow, and is being most roughly treated by the nasty mer-trolls. Risking their wrath, Bera scoops up that baby and begins an epic adventure to try to return it to wherever it came from.

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Bera’s journey is plagued by quite a passel of hideous creatures. Goblins! Wolves! A wretched witch! Goons! Thankfully, she is helped along the way by hedgehog wizards, kindly mice, and Nanna the Great.

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By turns, Orchard’s tale is uncanny, menacing, warm-hearted, and heroic, just as all good fantasy should be! Great story for ages 8 and up.

in-the-troll-wood-cover-imageIn the Troll Wood, pictures by John Bauer, text by Lennart Rudström; English version by Olive Jones
first published in Sweden; English version 1978 by Methuen Children’s Books Ltd.

John Bauer was a Swedish artist known for his prolific work illustrating legends and fairy tales. He died, tragically, at age 36 in a shipwreck. That was in 1918.

This collection of some of his magnificent  work is sadly out of print but a peek on Amazon shows there are a few floating around for sale.

Just take a look at these paintings:

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The text tells little stories inspired by the pictures. It’s quite nicely done, with bits of juicy troll lore and outlandish goings-on. In one, an “ugly old woman with long greenish hair and only one tooth” accosts a young boy, only to fade into a twisted tree stump when he calls her bluff. In another, stubborn Grandpa Troll insists on heading out to steal a cow in wintertime although the hunting hounds are out and about. His tail pays a painful price!

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My children would have loved this volume when they were quite young, despite the unusual format.  We devoured Norse mythology and troll tales. If you can find a copy, try it with apt listeners ages 3 and up.

a-ride-on-the-red-mares-back-cover-imageA Ride on the Red Mare’s Back, written by Ursula K. Le Guin, paintings by Julie Downing
published in 1992 by Orchard Books

Finally, this picture book holds a delightful fantasy by the renowned Ursula K. Le Guin. It’s the story of a young girl whose brother is stolen by trolls!

With her father undone by despair, and her mother occupied with care of the new baby, it’s up to the girl to find and rescue her brother. She does this with the aide of her little Dalarna horse which magically comes to life in full, snorting, thundering glory!

Up the two of them venture to High House, the cavernous home of dozens and dozens of fiendish trolls where the girl has just one night to put their plan to work before the magic wears off.

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She’s a brave one! And a clever one! And by day break (which if you know anything about trolls you know is a particularly momentous time) she’s snatched that brother of hers from the heart of troll land.

Paintings replete with ugly trolls, that beautiful red horse, and the cold stillness of a Norwegian winter, help bring this story to life. 48 pages. For brave 5 year olds and up.

I’ve reviewed a couple of other delightful troll stories in the past. My clear favorite is D’Aulaire’s Book of Trolls, reviewed here.

D'Aulaire's Book of Trolls cover

The D’Aulaire’s have also written and illustrated The Terrible Troll Bird, reviewed here.

the terrible troll-bird cover image

 

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I think we could all use a smile, and today’s books are overflowing with good cheer, simple pleasures, yummy goodies, and even a wish or three.

So break out the jam tarts and peppermint tea, cuddle up together, and journey towards joy.

the-littlest-familys-big-day-cover-imageThe Littlest Family’s Big Day, written and illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin
published in 2016 by Random House

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Pure, tender charm spills from this book like blueberries from my grandmother’s pie!

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This little family of bears reminds me littlefurfamilyquite a lot of Margaret Wise Brown and Garth Williams’ Little Fur Family. Does anyone remember that book?

We’re paying a visit to these bears on quite an eventful day.  They’re settling into a new home. Meeting their creaturely neighbors.  Then exploring the outdoors, feasting upon strawberries, and returning to a snug home after a wee bit of an adventure.

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Like a spoonful of sugar for your day, this is a sweet story to share again and again with ages 2 and up. Love it!

paul-and-antoinette-cover-imagePaul and Antoinette, written and illustrated by Kerascoët, translated from the French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick
published in 2016 by Enchanted Lion Books

Paul and his sister Antoinette are as different as plum cake and salsa.

Antoinette goes at life with reckless abandon, piling jam and chocolate on her toast like nobody’s business, exulting in worms, galloping through mud puddles.

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Paul, on the other hand, is a deliberate, sensitive, quieter soul who feasts on new knowledge sponged up slowly, enjoys tidiness, tinkering, and thinking.

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Life with one another, then, has its challenges, but at the end of the day, with patience and love, they manage. Antoinette’s jolly Everything Tart definitely helps matters along! Whipped cream mountains of good cheer, here, for ages 3 and up.

hedgehugs-and-the-hattiepillar-cover-imageHedgehugs and the Hattiepillar, written by Steve Wilson, illustrated by Lucy Tapper
published in 2015 by Henry Holt and Co.

Horace and Hattie Hedgehug are back, these two dear friends. This time they’re out and about exploring the beauty of the great outdoors when they spy something oh-so-interesting. Small. Shiny. Smooth.

This interesting little pea turns out to be an egg, and out crawls a “wriggly, stripy thing” that proceeds to eat. A lot! And then spin itself a “soft, silky bed.” And then make a grand entrance as something terribly exciting, “something beautiful, colorful, and wonderful.”

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Horace and Hattie decide that eating a great lot, then curling up to sleep in a lovely, soft, silky bed sounds like a terrific idea. They hope they’ll emerge from this just as colorful and wonderful!

I’ll let you see what comes of their grand experiment. I think you’ll agree that it sounds like a hypothesis any number of us would be pleased to test out! Darling, cheerful fun for ages 2 and up.

pug-mans-3-wishes-cover-imagePug Man’s 3 Wishes, written and illustrated by Sebastian Meschenmoser, translated from the German by David Henry Wilson
first published in Germany in 2008; English version published in 2016 by NorthSouth Books

For dry, droll humor, you just can’t beat Sebastian Meschenmoser. This book will tickle the funny bones of young children and adults alike.

Pug Man is a curmudgeonly fellow at best, but this morning everything is going wrong. Groggy and unmotivated after oversleeping, Pug Man goes through the motions of getting ready for the day only to find no milk in the fridge, no coffee in the cup, and a soggy, dripping newspaper.

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Seriously bad day.

Much to Pug Man’s consternation a bippety-boppety-boo chipper little fairy appears at that moment, determined to Cheer Him Up!!! With saccharine glee she offers him three marvelous wishes!

Pug Man makes use of those wishes. You’ll have to see just what he wishes for! A funny tale for ages 3 and up, and especially well-suited to any anti-morning persons!

motor-miles-cover-imageMotor Miles, written and illustrated by John Burningham
published in 2016 by Candlewick

Coming from one of the most beloved children’s lit author/illustrators, this story brought me cheer at the first glimpse of the cover.

Burningham’s carefree line, scribbly hair, smart auto, and sunny fields bring back memories of reading the Mr. Gumpy books umpteen times with my children, and loving them just as much every time.

This book is not about Mr. Gumpy, despite those visual similarities. It’s about a dog named Miles. Miles “was a very difficult dog.” Have you experienced one of those??

Here is John Burningham with the real, difficult, Miles!

Here is John Burningham with the real, difficult, Miles!

Doesn’t bother to come when called. Balks on the leash. Barks unnecessarily. Turns up his nose at his food. His owners, Alice Trudge and her son Norman, are fond of dear Miles, but a bit at their wits end until Mr. Huddy from next door offers to build Miles his own little car.

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Miles loveloveloves his little roadster. In a jiffy, his attitude clears up, his appetite returns, and he and Norman carry off a bundle of jolly adventures to boot!

This is a lark of a story, guaranteed to spark imaginations and put a big smile on the face of readers ages 2 and up.

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