Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘picture books’ Category

I live in Minneapolis. Sure, it’s not nearly the global city that London is. Yet Minnesota is one of the top states in our nation for refugee resettlement, with refugees from 25 countries arriving here in just the past year.

Minnesota is well-known for its large populations of Hmong-, Somali-, and Liberian-Americans, as well as immigrants from the world over.

That means when I move around my city I’m likely to hear a lovely variety of languages, see clothing reflecting numerous cultures, find restaurants cooking up delicious ethnic foods. It’s one of the things I love about my home.

Having raised my children for some years outside of the U.S. — in both Quebec and West Africa — I have learned to highly value a multicultural mindset. This is easier in a place like Minneapolis than it is, for example, in the small northern Minnesota town where I grew up. There are ways, though, to increase our engagement with the world wherever we are, and one of those ways is: books. (You knew I was going to say this.)

It’s more important than ever to cultivate an attitude of boundary-less love in ourselves and our children if we want to build societies that reach out to one another with peace, kindness, and warmth. We can start simply by learning about other ways of life.

I’ve always been partial to books that open a window onto another part of the world and its fascinating array of cultures. There are dozens and dozens of these titles in the Marmalade archives already.

Over the past months I’ve been searching out more gems for you that present global cultures. My goal has been to publish a world tour of sorts for you to embark on at your convenience. Perhaps with summer’s lingering days and pushed-back bedtimes, this is a good time to launch off.

On my quest, I’ve been looking for quite particular kinds of stories. Not folk tales from other lands. Not books on the wildlife of different regions. Not fantastical stories. My search has been for at-least-somewhat-realistic fiction and creative nonfiction picture books that really help us see what life looks like for children growing up elsewhere.

I have researched and read stacks and stacks of books to find the ones I’ll be sharing. Although there are some regions sadly unrepresented at this point, and some unfortunate tendencies in the narratives of other regions which I’ll point out, overall I’ve been excited to see the breadth of coverage that’s available. 

Every “elsewhere” is someone’s familiar. As we share these stories with our children, I hope we can learn to savor differences and marvel over commonalities that mark the human race. I hope by tasting far-flung cultures via picture books, we can begin to approach differences in our own cities and neighborhoods with warmth and respect.

I’ll be sprinkling in posts most weeks throughout the summer with what I’ve unearthed. They’ll be grouped by region. You might try checking out a few titles and then seeing what more you can discover about that part of the world by cooking something yummy together, visiting an ethnic neighborhood in your city, listening to ethnic music…I would absolutely love it if you would share your ideas with us in the comments so others can be inspired along the way.

To start us off, I’ve got some unique atlases and dynamic birds-eye-view-of-the-world type books!  Get your bags packed and head out to meet the kids in the global tour, coming soon!

Read Full Post »

June 20th is designated by the United Nations as World Refugee Day.

I have no idea, really, how your heart cannot break for the plight of refugees, fleeing unspeakable violence, crushing famine, and intense persecution. Some are so terribly young, to have experienced such trauma.

These innocents then face long years in crowded refugee camps, repeatedly dashed hopes, painful losses. When they do finally arrive in a new land of hope, they are sometimes met with suspicion, resentment, and meanness.

Oh, dear world. We must do better. Let’s cultivate compassion in ourselves and our children. Today’s books are stepping stones in that direction. I’ve arranged them in order of accessibility by age. Links to past posts with many other excellent titles are included at the end of the post.

Where Will I Live?, written and photographed by Rosemary McCarney
published in 2017 by Second Story Press

Coming to us from Canada, this striking photoessay brings the contemporary refugee situation into brilliant focus for young children.

McCarney provides Mr. Rogers-esque words to explain this tragedy to the very young. “Sometimes scary things happen to good people. When soldiers fight or danger comes, families must pack their things and search for a safe place to live.

As she traces their varied journeys, one little refugee girl wonders aloud where she will land and live. Brief photo captions essentially tell the story while McCarney’s excellent, child-centric photos reveal harsh realities in a palpable yet cushioned, non-traumatic way.

If you want to build a heart of compassion in young children, this is a fabulous, top-of-the-list title. Ages 18 months and up.

My Beautiful Birds, written and illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo
published in 2017 by Pajama Press

A young Syrian boy flees with his family to a refugee camp in Jordan when their home and city are destroyed. The hardest part of leaving is saying goodbye to his beloved pigeons.

Although this may strike us as surprising, it really does reflect the workings of a child’s heart, doesn’t it? The pieces of ordinary life and familiarity which glue a child to his home are often unknown and undervalued by adults, yet fasten these little ones to a place or a person with emotional superglue.

In his new refugee camp home, anxiety and grief weigh the boy down, silence him, while his family and friends try to begin new routines of life, until the day when a group of new, beautiful birds flutters into the camp and resurrects joy in his young heart.

Based on the experiences of a young boy in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, this glimpse of the overarching as well as deeply personal, individual losses for refugee children is poignant but not too heavy. Colorful, clay-sculpted illustrations create friendly, engaging visuals as well. Ages 4 and up. Thanks, Canada.

Azzi In Between, written and illustrated by Sarah Garland
first published in the UK in 2012; first U.S. edition 2013 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

War in an unnamed Middle Eastern country creeps ever closer to Azzi’s family, then with one pounce drives them from home in a sudden, frantic rush. Azzi flees with her mother and father, but her dear Grandma must stay behind.

Hiding under blankets, driving through darkness, anxiously making their way through checkpoints, racing to an overfilled boat, crossing tumultuous seas — fear and panic engulf each stage of their journey. Next comes the confusion of learning new ways in an utterly new land — new language, new clothes, new etiquette, new everything.

Gradually Azzi grows accustomed to her surroundings, but the separation from Grandma remains so very hard to bear. Their final reunion resolves this story happily, a necessary ingredient for this book’s young audience.

This superb graphic-novel narrative of the refugee experience will immensely help children (and adults) better understand and have compassion for refugees in our midst. Highly recommended for ages 4 and up.

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey, written by Margriet Ruurs, artwork by Nizar Ali Badr
published in 2016 by Orca Book Publishers

The incredible artwork in this book has been created by a Syrian artist from stones he finds along the Mediterranean coast near his home of Latakia.

Canadian author Margriet Ruurs glimpsed his work on-line and a global collaboration began, resulting in this poignant narrative. Ruurs weaves a simple, poetic account of a young Syrian girl, her happy life grounded at home, harrowing flight from war, and warm welcome to a new land of hope. The depth and spirit of the book come from Nizar Ali Badr’s powerful sculptural pieces. It is remarkable how much emotion is conveyed through his artistic compositions.

An Arabic translation is included along with a lengthy explanation of how the book was created. Inspirational in a number of ways, for ages 5 and up.

The Color of Home, written by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Karin Littlewood
first published in the UK; published in the U.S. in 2002 by Phyllis Fogelman Books

Hassan is a young Somali refugee, an overwhelmed newcomer in his school. Despite the children’s kindness, there is a dark cloud in his heart and an inability to communicate in those difficult English words.

At painting time, Hassan uses brilliant colors to create a picture of his former home, the sunbaked land and piercing blue sky flooded with light and happiness. When he layers angry strokes of black bullets, bruised purple skies, and snarls of blood red atop this scene, however, his teacher glimpses the pain he carries.

Through the help of a Somali translator, Hassan is able to tell his difficult story and move towards healing. The terror and violence of war are portrayed here, though with some subtlety and a rapid, hopeful resolution. Vibrant watercolor illustrations will draw young children into the story. I’d guess this would suit ages 5 and older but you will need to use your judgement.

Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival, written by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch with Tuan Ho, illustrated by Brian Deines
published in 2016 by Pajama Press

This stunning book tells the story of Tuan Ho, who at age 6 was forced to flee Vietnam with his mother and sisters.

It was 1981. Tuan’s father, who had worked for the American army as a translator, had fled a year earlier as communist soldiers descended to execute all “enemies of the people.” It was now too dangerous for the family to wait any longer for word from him, and in a hail of bullets, Tuan races away from his home.

His flight would be traumatic: terror, grief, gunfire, strangers, and perilous days adrift at sea. This taut account conveys exceptionally well just what refugee children endure, enlarging our compassion and will to be among those who welcome, comfort, and receive them today.

Deines’ brilliant paintings easily carry the weight of this story and knit our hearts to Tuan’s family. An afterword, accompanied by some personal photographs from Tuan,  provides background to the exodus of the “boat people” from Vietnam and tells more about Tuan’s family’s journey. This picture book is clearly meant for very young children but because of it’s content, I’d encourage you to use your judgement. Probably ages 5 or 6 and up. Again, this one’s from Canada.

The Banana Leaf Ball: How Play Can Change the World, written by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
pubished in 2017 by Kids Can Press

Again from Canada, this book is part of the fantastic Citizen Kid series from Kids Can Press. I have reviewed quite a few of these titles over the years.

Deo Rukundo flees from his war-torn home in Burundi only to be separated from his family in the midst of the chaos. He makes his way, barely, to a refugee camp in northwest Tanzania. There he finds enough food and water to survive, yet also bumps up against tough gangs which have formed and which make life miserable for other boys.

When a man arrives with a whistle round his neck, a real, leather soccer ball, and a plan for these rival boys to play soccer together, Deo initially declines, but his world and relationships are transformed when the coach succeeds in drawing him in.

Highlighting the transformative power of play to help bring healing to children of conflict, this book soars via Shane Evans’ gripping mixed media illustrations, It includes an afterword about the man on whom this story is based and the work of Right to Play and other similar organizations. Ages 7 and up.

Dia’s Story Cloth: The Hmong People’s Journey of Freedom, written by Dia Cha, stitched by Chue and Nhia Thao Cha
published in 1996 by Lee & Low Books in cooperation with the Denver Museum of Natural History

Those of us in the Twin Cities remember well the arrival of thousands of Hmong refugees from Southeast Asia to our bitterly cold state back in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Most of us knew almost nothing about them let alone the heroic roles many had played on behalf of our own nation. Now we have several Hmong state senators, hundreds who have earned doctorate degrees — yet many still do not really understand all that this people experienced.

This story of one 15-year old’s terrifying journey out of Laos to Thailand and eventually to the United States, dramatically informs us about their sweet life in Laos destroyed by war, the terrors and losses endured, the harrowing journey made, while simultaneously highlighting the incredible artwork of Hmong embroiderers.

The book is illustrated by photographs of an immense, detailed story cloth stitched by the author’s aunt and uncle in a Thai refugee camp. This painful story should be required reading for any Minnesotan as well as those in Denver, Fresno, and elsewhere who rub shoulders with Hmong Americans. Share it with ages 9 and up. The lengthy, fascinating afterword tells more Hmong history and craftsmanship.

Mohammed’s Journey: A Refugee Diary, written by Anthony Robinson and Annemarie Young, illustrated by June Allan
published in 2009 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Mohammed was just six years old when he and his mother were forced to flee for their lives from Kirkuk, Iraq, but the dark times for his family had begun years before that. As ethnic Kurds, members of his family were harassed and killed by the Hussein regime. The last straw was a vicious beating for all, including little Mohammed, and the disappearance of his father at the hands of soldiers.

His harrowing flight was only bearable because there was literally no choice. Mohammed arrived in the UK an emotionally scarred boy, but through the compassion of those welcoming refugees there, he and his mum were able to begin new lives.

This book is part of a series from the UK in which young refugees tell their stories in their own words, accompanied by family photographs and illuminating illustrations. Harsh realities, made accessible to kids ages 10 and up.

Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees, written by Mary Beth Leatherdale, illustrated by Eleanor Shakespeare
published in 2017 by Annick Press

So many excellent humanitarian titles come from Canadian presses and I’ve tried to highlight this fact today.  I am so thankful for this Canadian priority. Here’s a final one for today.

In a book geared towards older readers, probably ages 10 and older, Mary Beth Leaderdale unfolds the distressing, true stories of five children over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries who have fled persecution.

Ruth is a Jewish girl who fled Naziism by boat to Cuba. Phu is a Vietnamese boy who fled the communists as one of the “boat people” in the crisis of the 1970s. José fled Cuba in the Mariel Boatlift of 1980. Najeeba is an ethnic Hazara who fled Afghanistan for Australia. Mohamed left the Ivory Coast as an orphan and eventually crossed the Mediterranean from Libya.

Their stories are wrenching, with many shocking details spelled out. They bear the grit of reality and spare few punches for governments who denied or attempted to deny safe harbor to refugees or abused them upon arrival. Succinct background notes on the conflicts the children fled and maps of their journeys help give context. By-the-numbers lists provide bold relief from the longer narratives. Sections telling about the lives each of these kids grew up to lead, provide hope.

It’s an eye-opener for older kids prepared to grapple with painful realities.

Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood, written by Ibtisam Barakat
published in 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
170 pages

Ibtisam Barakat was just 3-1/2 years old when the Six Day War erupted, displacing, traumatizing, and utterly changing her life, her family, her people. 

Her powerful, gorgeously-written memoir of those childhood experiences brings us into the world of Palestinian refugees with eloquence and sorrow. The profound importance of home and family, the trauma of abandonment and separation, the grief of loss, are remarkably imparted through her lyric prose. 

Understanding the on-going Palestinian heartbreak is critical for us. This year marks 50 years since the Six Day War. That’s an intolerably long time to be displaced, while simultaneously short enough to keep these memories sharp. 

I highly recommend this book for ages 14 through adult. The cultural details are fascinating, and her war-time experiences offer universal insights into the lives of  refugees fleeing other conflicts. It’s catalogued as children’s nonfiction in my library but this is really not a children’s book. War, trauma, memories of a sexual assault, and even some graphic descriptions of her brothers’ circumcisions at ages 7 and 8 — all are written with a measure of subtlety, yet with candor and vigor. They are emotionally challenging. There certainly are those younger than 14 who could handle this book, but I’ll leave that to your discretion.

I’ve reviewed many other excellent books about refugees in the past. I strongly encourage you to find them through these links to earlier posts. 

compassion ought not to be political: read about refugees

sowing seeds of peace and refuge

I’ll highlight a few of those picture book titles here:

The Journey

Refuge

Four Feet Two Sandals

How Many Days to America

And here are links to some chapter books/middle grade novels about the refugee experience, any of which would make a fine read for an adult as well:

The Day My Father Became a Bush (undefined; vaguely European)

Home of the Brave (Sudan)

The House of Sixty Fathers (China)

Inside Out & Back Again (Vietnam)

A Long Walk to Water (Sudan)

The Red Pencil (Sudan)

Join me throughout the rest of the summer for a world tour introducing children to cultures from Greenland to Zimbabwe through fabulous picture books. Just follow the blog to receive notice of these posts via e-mail.
.

And spread the word on these excellent resources for growing understanding and compassion by sharing this post via social media or word of mouth!

 

Read Full Post »

Every season has its splendors. Now’s the time to celebrate the radiance of summer!

Summer is …old-fashioned outdoor playtime!

And Then Comes Summer, written by Tom Brenner, illustrated by Jaime Kim
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

Flip-flops and lemonade stands; parades and fireworks; ice-cream cones and swimming; campfires and marshmallows to toast. It’s all here. The jubilant best of summer is on full display in this happy catalogue of summertime. Whet your appetites for summer fun. Ages 2 and up.

Summer is…time for high-dive bravery!

Jabari Jumps, written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

Every kid either remembers or anticipates with tummy-flutters their first leap off that talllllll diving board. Jabari and his dad tackle those jitters with aplomb and splashy success in this glad story. I love this book! Share it with ages 2 and up.

Summer is…full of creeping things!

My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis, written and illustrated by Paul Meisel
published in 2017 by Holiday House

A praying mantis keeps a summer journal in this genius book. Beginning with his birth on a beautiful May day, P. Mantis tells us about his favorite foods, his tricky camouflage moves, his molting episodes, and his pretty dastardly habit of…well, you’ll have to read it to believe it. All in his matter-of-fact, engaging voice. Masterful creative nonfiction and nature lore for ages 2 and up.

Summer is…mud pies!

Mud Book: How to Make Pies and Cakes, written by John Cage, illustrated by Lois Long
published in 2017 by Princeton Architectural Press

This pint-sized book contains just two recipes — Mud Pie and Mud Layer Cake; with a variation on the layer cake to turn it into a birthday smash hit. The startling thing is — it was written by avant-garde composer John Cage!!! I was astonished to see this. And illustrated by textile designer Lois Long. In the 1950s. A limited edition print was done in the early 80s by these two. And now you, too, can enjoy this happy, eccentric little piece. Thank you Princeton Architectural Press. A delight for ages 2 and up.

Summer is…camp-outs!

The Camping Trip, written and illustrated by Sven Nordqvist, translated by Tara Chace
first published in Sweden in 1992; English edition 2017 by NorthSouth Books

The popular Swedish duo, ol’ Pettson and his cat Findus, are headed for a camp-out. But of course one thing after another goes awry for these two in this silly, affectionate adventure. The Pettson and Findus tales are classic Swedish fare so if you’ve got a Scandinavian bone in your body you really mustn’t miss them. Nordqvist is an excellent storyteller and there is so much additional mayhem in his illustrations for kids to spot. Ages 4 and up.

Summer is…red-white-and-blue Independence Day celebrations!

Long May She Wave: The True Story of Caroline Pickersgill and Her Star-Spangled Creation, written by Kristen Fulton, illustrated by Holly Berry
published in 2017; Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

Meet Caroline Pickersgill, a gal who grew up surrounded by women stitching truly historic American flags. In 1812, at age 13, Caroline set to work on the most colossal flag ever. Turns out it was the very one that inspired our national anthem! Read her true story, deftly handled by Kristen Fulton. No draggy sawdust history here. Perky text, with clever inclusions of phrases from the anthem, and bold, dynamic illustrations to match. Lively and patriotic for ages 4 and up. 

Summer is…beach time!

There Might Be Lobsters, written by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Laurel Molk
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

One sweet but timid dog heads to the beach with her owner, Eleanor, but has the dickens of a time due to her boatload of fears. Especially…lobsters. (They do have such pinchy pinchers!) Eleanor does her level best to coax and cajole dear Sukie to join in the beach fun, but it takes a small emergency for Sukie to leap into action. A darling read for ages 3 and up. Dog-lovers, your hearts will melt!

Summer is…bursting with garden produce!

The Children’s Garden: Growing Food in the City, written by Carole Lexa Schaefer, illustrated by Pierr Morgan
published in 2017 by little bigfoot, an imprint of sasquatch books

Bursting with all the colors of luscious summer fruits and veggies, this book has a lovely old-fashioned feel to it. It’s the breezy account of a garden tended by kids in one Seattle neighborhood. Turning the earth, planting the seeds, watering, harvesting, weeding and resting is all happier when it’s done with a group of friends.  Inviting and inspirational for ages 3 and up.

There are lots more great summer reads in the Orange Marmalade archives. Find them by clicking on the Subject tab, then scrolling down to Seasons.

 

Read Full Post »

Each of today’s picture books features fairly ordinary animal fare — dogs, ducks, wolves, a groundhog — but that’s the end of the commonplace as we pull out the stops on creativity and have some good fun!

Beginning with…

Little Wolf’s First Howling, written by Laura McGee Kvasnosky, illustrated by Laura McGee Kvasnosky and Kate Harvey McGee
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

Introducing one wolf pup and his irrepressible personality which bubbles up at the most surprising moments!

Tonight is a red-letter night for Little Wolf. It’s his first chance to howl at the full moon, to unleash that mournful AAAAAOOOOOOOOOOOOO! from mountaintop into starry skies. Big Wolf gives him a demonstration howl, then turns things over to the cub.

But what comes out is a dancing, prancing mixture of wolf and scat singer! Howls punctuated by diddily skedaddily bipping and boppitting!

Try as he might to lasso this thing, swirls of razzamatazz jazz just can’t stay out of Little Wolf’s howl. And you know what they say: If you can’t beat ’em, you might as well join ’em!

A singing, swinging good time full of primal howls and prime beats, this one begs for gleeful participation from ages 2 and up.

Frankie, written and illustrated by Mary Sullivan
published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Frankie is the new eager-beaver pup just adopted from the shelter and headed for his new home.

He is greeted there…well, not exactly greeted…let’s say he encounters there the old, I’ve-been-here-awhile-sonny-and-don’t-you-forget-it dog, Nico. Nico is not amused by this new family member, least of all when Frankie enthusiastically tries to play with his toys and occupy his bed. Grrr.

It’s looking a bit bleak for Frankie when — surprise! — he receives his very own welcome-home-package from the family. Suddenly, it’s Nico who wants in on this sharing business!

With minimal text, almost entirely confined to thought bubbles for the two dogs, this could make a vibrant, untraditional early reader as well as a read-aloud that kids will memorize quickly and enjoy “reading” again and again by themselves. Doggy cheer, for ages 2 and up.

A Greyhound a Groundhog, written by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Chris Appelhans
published in 2017 by Schwartz & Wade Books

It’s nearly impossible, I think, to capture the essence of this book in a paragraph of mere words. The waltz of text and illustration which create a virtual whirlpool of dog, groundhog, and higgledy-piggledy language just won’t sit still long enough for that!

Suffice it to say that we start off with one staid, sleeping greyhound and one small, peeping groundhog and, just as an old-fashioned merry-go-round gradually picks up speed, the rhythmic text and racing, chasing creatures slowly, then wildly spin and churn themselves into a dizzying circle of mixed up animalia!

It’s a tongue-twisting, breathless blast of fun, brilliantly illustrated in surging, streaming, joyful abandon. Enjoy it with ages 4 and up. Older readers especially may appreciate the fanciful wordplay in this one.

On Duck Pond, written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Bob Marstall
published in 2017 by The Cornell Lab Publishing Group

We’re quieting way down here, drifting back into the realm of reality, of quiet marshes with their water-loving populations of herons, frogs, and ducks.

Jane Yolen has written a lovely narrative-poem about a morning’s walk by Duck Pond, witnessing the small dramas of wildlife there. Ducks chittering. Water spattering. Turtles slipping from logs into the murky depths. Gangly-legged herons and quicksilver minnows, skitterish frogs and a shy bunny in the grasses, all play their parts in this hushed spectacle.

Taking the time to pause and absorb the flurries of panic, the calming of waters, the noiseless stillness, the hidden lives in this one small piece of nature, Yolen awakens us to these spellbinding communities, to the allure of nature’s small theaters.

I love this book and its appealing call to slow down and observe the natural world. Handsomely illustrated with watercolor scenes bathed in the rosy glow of dawn, the book includes back pages of information about specific ducks, birds, and other animals seen in the pictures. Share this window to wonder with ages 3 and up.

Animal Colors and More, written and illustrated by Katie Viggers
published in 2017 by POW!

I’ve loved Katie Viggers’ work in her previous books including Almost an Animal Alphabet, reviewed here.

Once again, the exquisite line, charm, humor, delicacy, and unexpectedness in this book about colors leaves me smitten.

Explore colors and patterns through pages of brilliant animal illustrations, plus have some fun naming colors, matching pairs, and naming species via the artwork on the endpapers in this engaging little book.

If I had toddlers, I’d snap up all 3 of Viggers’ books — alphabet, numbers, and colors. They are that good! Ages 15 months and up.

Read Full Post »

Just looking at this stack of books today warms my heart. Lush illustrations and tenderhearted characters bring a palpable response of peace, security, belonging, and healing.

These days are filled with turmoil and conflict, and assuredly children pick up on that. It’s the perfect time to snuggle up together and read reassuring, beautiful picture books.

The Way Home in the Night, written and illustrated by Akiko Miyakoshi
first published in Japan in 2015; English edition published by Kids Can Press in 2017

Akiko Miyakoshi is making a name for herself with her gorgeous, flannel-soft, rosebud-tender illustration work and the rich themes of imagination and belonging thrumming through her books.  (See my review of The Tea Party in the Woods here.)

Here she explores the many varied life stories which surround us, the array of homes cocooning our neighbors, each holding an aroma of mystery, a tease of the unknown, and our common desire for repose.

As one little bunny goes for a quiet evening stroll with Mama, the glow of lamplight from within apartment windows gives glimpses of neighbors’ lives and piques curiosity. What are they talking about? What are they cooking up for supper? What happens next, after we lose sight of them? So many different narratives, yet ultimately bound together with deeply human needs — home, and a place to lay our heads to sleep.

Attuned to universal wondering, this hushed story will resonate deeply with young and old, ages 2 and up. Outstanding.

Little Fox in the Forest, a wordless book by Stephanie Graegin
published in 2017 by Schwartz & Wade Books

My word! This book is flooded with wave upon wave of adorableness, kindness, and imagination, with one well-shot arrow of childhood angst piercing through to create pitch-perfect tension for preschoolers.

It’s the ol’ lovey-gone-missing plot, portrayed with panache. A little girl’s favorite stuffed fox accompanies her to the playground one day. While she’s enjoying a hearty swing, a real fox kit spies the toy, snatches it, and hot-foots it into the forest.

With determination borne of desperation, the little girl tracks her beloved fox, a host of darling woodland residents and one schoolmate assisting her. What they discover — a splendiferous woodland village that’ll set your heart a-flutter — plus one small, pathetic fox kit, leads to a resolution sweet as a butter cookie.

Could anyone not feel their heart flood with warmth upon reading this story? I think not. A perfect picture book for ages 2 and up.

Home and Dry, written and illustrated by Sarah L. Smith
published in 2016 by Child’s Play Inc.

Coming to us from Australia, this quirky charmer features the Paddling family whose home on a rocky outcropping of an island looks mighty idyllic; plus a rainstorm to end all rainstorms; and dear Uncle Bastian, a lonely old fellow whose busy life has heretofore superceded pleasant holidays but who has decided to finally pay a long-overdue visit to his family.

The collision course of events here — picnics and paddlings and Paddlings and predicaments — makes for a rollicking series of near-misses and thorough wettings until all ends in coziness, hospitality, belonging, and everyone “home and dry.”

With a plot and illustrations crammed with affection and the humble joy of home and family, this is a delight for ages 3 and up.

The Giant Jumperee, written by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
originally published in the UK; first U.S. edition 2017 by Dial Books for Young Readers

Two UK childrens’ literature rock stars teamed up to create this sunny, funny, jolly tale, and what a joy it is!

Something is lurking in Rabbit’s burrow! It calls itself the Giant Jumperee! Good heavens! What can it be?

Rabbit is affrighted! And as each of his animal friends stoutly offers to help remove this unseen monster, they become just as alarmed! After all, it shouts out such dire warnings!

When even Elephant is left cowering, Mama Frog calmly steps up to the challenge and what do you know — that Giant Jumperee is heading home to tea in a merry minute.  Timeless and happy, for young lapsitters, ages 18 months and up.

Time Now to Dream, written by Timothy Knapman, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
published in the UK in 2016; first U.S. edition 2017 by Candlewick Press

Here’s another book awash in the perfection of Helen Oxenbury’s art, with a story brilliantly balancing delicious ingredients: tingly mystery, tenderness, bravery, sibling camaraderie, and the warmth of home.

Alice and Jack are enjoying a fine day when, coming through the forest, a sound disrupts their playtime. It’s a weird sound. An uncanny howl. It goes something like this, “Ocka by hay beees unna da reees…”

Is it the Wicked Wolf?! Into the shadowy woods they go with a mixture of trepidation and curiosity, only to discover a most surprising scene! For at the height of tension, sunlight and warmth break through.  Despite Jack’s worries, everything really is all right, and the dreams they dream tonight will be full of sweetness. Absolutely top notch for ages 18 months and up.

Like this? Helped by this? Share it with others or on your favorite social media site!

Read Full Post »

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my quest for the best new nonfiction titles out there as I lovelovelove a good nonfiction picture book! Here are some of the juicy best I’ve seen thus far:

The Street Beneath My Feet, written by Charlotte Guillain, illustrated by Yuval Zommer
first published in the UK; published in the U.S. in 2017 by words and pictures, part of The Quarto Group

Truly, this is one of the most exciting nonfiction books I’ve seen!

The mysterious depths of the earth, nature’s unseen surprises and buried treasures, the murky pipes and wires of urban networks — all of this lurks beneath our feet, hidden from view. Perhaps so utterly unseen, it even evades our curiosity!

Until it’s unfolded in splendor by Yuval Zommer  — just look at the way this book opens up as we descend down, down, down, to the Earth’s inner core, then turn about and travel back to the surface. About 9 or 10 feet long when it’s all stretched out, with different illustrations on each side.  How cool is that?! Along the way, we get a guided tour of all the fascinations beneath our feet. Earthworms and storm drains, subways and stalactites, badger setts and precious gems.

Phenomenal illustration work. Just the right amount of information. An utterly inviting format. This comes with my highest recommendation! Grab a copy for kids ages 3 and up.

Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics, written by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López
published in 2017 by Henry Holt and Company

This rich sequence of poetic and visual portraits brims with promise, passion, courage, and LIFE!

Unreeled for us in chronological order, eighteen free-verse poems celebrate a tantalizing diversity of amazing Latinos. Meet Juan de Miralles who is said to have saved his friend George Washington’s troops from scurvy by delivering Cuban fruit to them. Botanist Ynés Mexia who explored Mexico and South America at the turn of the century identifying hundreds of new plant species. The well-known Roberto Clemente, and the lesser known, fascinating Fabiola Cabeza de Baca — what an amazing life she led!

Each brief poem is matched with a powerful, vibrant illustration in sizzling color. Wow, these pages pop!

Brief, prose sketches of each individual are included as well as a rhythmic listing of many more Latinos to learn about. What a fantastic fusion of history, culture, artistry for ages 6 and up!

Penguin Day: A Family Story, written and photographed by Nic Bishop
published in 2017 by Scholastic Press

Who can resist penguins? And who can top Nic Bishop’s outstanding nature photography?

There you have it — the perfect recipe for a charming photoessay. Witness a day in the life of a rockhopper penguin family as Mom and Dad care for their baby, guarding him and undertaking an extraordinary journey to collect food.

So much chub, fluff, drama, and cuteness! Dominated by Bishop’s crisp, stunning photographs with a minimal narration of events, this book will entrance children ages 2 and up. An Author’s Note provides scads more information about these Antarctic residents for parents or older siblings.

Karl, Get Out of the Garden!: Carolus Linnaeus and the Naming of Everything, written by Anita Sanchez, illustrated by Catherine Stock
published in 2017 by Charlesbridge

Karl Linné, or Carolus Linnaeus, is one of Sweden’s great figures, whose name is borne by a delicate pink wildflower found in the far north, the Linnaea borealis. My dear mother-in-law, Elsie Linnea, child of Swedish immigrants, is named after that Swedish beauty. I love that!

Linnaeus is famous for having developed the classification system for all living things which we take so for granted that most of us don’t pause to think how it originated. A man with insatiable curiosity and wonder who was devoted to botany, Linnaeus began by gathering and using plants for medicinal purposes. What he encountered was chaos due to no uniform method of naming and conversing about anything from a dog rose to a honeybee. So he set about creating order — an enormous task!

Catherine Stock’s gorgeous watercolors beautifully present Sweden in the 1700s and the world of plants in particular which Linnaeus loved. This little gem is accessible to children ages 5 and up.

Animal Journeys, written by Patricia Hegarty, illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle
first published in the UK; published in the U.S. in 2017 by 360 Degrees, an imprint of Tiger Tales

Such a beauty! Small but chunky, nature-sketchbook-sized, crammed with lovely illustrations and morsels of text about all manner of animals on the move, it’s a book that’ll lure you into discovering more.

Migratory animals, swimmers, animals coping with challenging environments, surprising animal antics. Wildebeest and pond skaters; wolf packs and dung beetles; echolocation and piggybacking. Dabble here and there in the animal kingdom and be amazed by the variety of travelers.

Graced by Jessica Courtney-Tickle’s captivating artistry, this one’s accessible to kids ages 3 to much older.

Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot, written by Matthew Clark Smith, illustrated by Matt Tavares
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

Just take a look at that lemon-chiffon light, soaring candy-striped balloon, impossibly-lithesome wings buoying Sophie and her wicker basket high above the French countryside. What a dreamy entryway to this fascinating story of the first woman pilot.

Sophie Blanchard lived in France in the 18th century when balloonomania had swept the nation. Having married a famous balloonist, Sophie thrilled to accompany him into the air, to watch villages turn miniature below her. Ascending alone, however, without a male pilot — that was unacceptable in her society. Did Sophie let that stop her? No, ma’am.

Matthew Clark Smith tells Blanchard’s compelling life story while Matt Tavares’ stunning illustrations evoke French elegance, ethereal thrills, and the brooding storms of Blanchard’s life. A fascinating foray into the world of ballooning and a woman I’d never heard of, for ages 5 and up. The author’s and illustrator’s notes are gems as well!

Lesser Spotted Animals: The Coolest Creatures You’ve Never Heard Of, written and illustrated by Martin Brown
first published in the UK in 2016; U.S. edition in 2017 by Scholastic by arrangement with David Fickling Books

If you’re a bit bored with bears, zzz-ed by zebras, deluged with dogs; if you seek a bit more exotic fare…well, look no further!

This catalog of uncommon creatures is just the ticket. It’ll wow you with splendidly-diverse populations that humbly inhabit Earth, yet never made it into a children’s picture book…until now.

Say hello to the Numbat, the Zorilla, and that darling, pink, Lesser Fairy Armadillo. No, these aren’s Seussian inventions — they are real animals. Martin Brown’s upbeat, folksy descriptions of these guys make for great reading, with a nice touch of humor and swell illustration work to boot. Even the glossary is a delight! Ramp up wonder with ages 5 and up.

Read Full Post »

It’s full-on May. Green swathes the earth, tulips paint gardens, socks and shoes lie discarded. Time for some fresh, glad picture books for hammock and lemonade time. Every one of these is guaranteed to be a juicy pleasure for thirsty, curious minds.

Everybunny Dance!, written and illustrated by Ellie Sandall
originally published in Great Britain; published in the U.S. in 2017 by Margaret K. McElderry Books, and imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Oh, these darling bunnies! Plump bottoms. Jovial splotchy fur. Cheerful capering. Just…irresistible.

How merrily they dance, play, and sing! UNTIL!! Egads! It’s a fox! Everybunny run!

When these worried-yet-sensitive bunnies see a tear trickle down that fox’s long nose, however, they respond with the sweetest bunnywarmth of all. There is so much gladness and good will in this book, you’ll feel your heart expand a couple of sizes. A gem for ages 18 months and up.

Under the Umbrella, written by Catherine Buquet, illustrated by Marion Arbona, translated by Erin Woods
originally published in French; English edition published in 2017 by Pajama Press

A sodden day brings out the grumpies for one curmudgeonly fellow, striding down the avenue under his black umbrella, scowling, dashing, spluttering…

Meanwhile, a lemon-yellow bakery window shining out upon the grey day attracts a little boy like a moth to lamplight, those mouthwatering mousses and razzledazzzle tarts beaming sunshine into his soul.

What happens when a gust of wind whooshes these two people together? A smile. A kind gesture. A spilling over of sweetness. This dynamic book will gladden you, not to mention precipitating a trip to the local patisserie! Striking illustration work emotes the changing moods of this story with tremendous pizzazz. A joy for ages 2 and up.

Round, by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Roundness. Such a simple concept, carried out brilliantly by Minnesota poet Joyce Sidman, illustrated with tender warmth by the talented Taeeun Yoo.

This ambling exploration of round things gently unfolds in Sidman’s pristine text.  Words reflecting the incisive wonder of a child are pared down to those quiet, perfect few that resonate within the reader, stimulate more wonder.

Yoo’s print-like illustrations are impeccable, gracing every page with physical and emotional beauty that stops us in our tracks.

I adore this book — timeless, thoughtful, curious, warmhearted. Perfect for sharing with ages 18 months and up.

Mr. Postmouse Takes a Trip, written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc
originally published in French, 2016; English language edition 2017 by Kids Can Press

Mr. Postmouse stole my heart with his first round of deliveries, reviewed here.

Now he’s off for a whirlwind, ’round-the-world vacation with his family. Ever responsible, Mr. Postmouse brings along a cartful of parcels to deliver along the way.

Whether on a volcanic isle or at a desert oasis, the Postmouse family enjoys meeting new friends. What a jolly treat to visit these places with them! Best of all are the peeks into many, tiny, clever homes and shops along the way. Home in a cactus or a tiny yellow submarine. Home on a cloud or in a dragon’s lair. Darling wee furnishings and details make this a treasure to pour over with ages 2 and up.

Arthur and the Golden Rope, written and illustrated by Joe Todd Stanton
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books

Welcome to a fabulous Norse tale about young Arthur of Iceland, a lad destined for epic quests from his earliest days.

When the brutish wolf, Fenrir, blots out the town’s great cauldron of fire, plunging them into icy darkness forever, it’s Arthur who’s chosen to venture off to Valhalla, track down Thor, and urge him to use his thunderbolt to rekindle their flame.

But oh! this is much easier said than done! Incredibly appealing panels of illustrations carry us into a legendary Nordic world as Stanton spins this wildly adventurous tale. This appears to be the only title available in the Brownstone’s Mythical Collection. I’m definitely hoping for more. Fantastic storytelling for ages 5 and up.

This House, Once, written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman
published in 2017 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

The door in this house once was part of “a colossal oak tree about three hugs around and as high as the blue.”

Now there’s an intriguing thought. What about the foundation stones? The red bricks in the walls? Or these glass window panes?

What were all the things that make up this house, before they turned into our house?

Quietly thought-provoking, this dreamy book will spark ideas and questions and wonder about not only houses, but all manner of objects we take for granted. What were they once? How are they made? Who made them?

An immensely clever, ethereal prod towards wondering, for ages 4 and up.

Bob the Railway Dog: The True Story of an Adventurous Dog, written by Corinne Fenton, illustrated by Andrew McLean
published in 2015 in Australia; first U.S. edition 2016 by Candlewick Press

If you’re a dog lover, you’ll warm to this engaging story about a homeless dog adopted by a railway guard back in 1884 Australia.

It took no time at all for this shaggy dog named Bob to attach himself to Mr. Ferry, to learn how to hop aboard the caboose and ride the rails, to switch trains at will in order to see a sizable stretch of the Australian countryside.

Bob was welcomed everywhere, and you’ll welcome him into your hearts, too, as you steam along from Adelaide to Kalangadoo! Sweet story, handsomely illustrated with gentle watercolor illustrations that bring the era and the land to life. Ages 4 and up.

Tony, written by Ed Galing, illustrated by Erin Stead
published in 2017; a Neal Porter Book from Roaring Brook Press

If I handed you this book and you didn’t know it was new, you would likely guess it was a vintage picture book from, say, the 1940s. A velvet soft, yesteryear quietness breathes out from every ounce of it.

The poem which comprises the text was written by Ed Galing just prior to his death in 2013. It’s a reminiscing poem about a sweet-tempered white horse, Tony, who pulls the milk wagon for driver Tom on their early morning rounds. Straightforward, free of soppiness, rich with adoration for this beloved horse, Galing’s poem narrates the routine, cherished interactions between Tony, Tom, and a customer.

Erin Stead’s dove-soft pencil drawings sweep us into a sweet relationship with these three. Her palette of grey-green whispers, while patches of lamplight cast a welcoming glow in the cool dawn shadows. Every element is just so quiet.

I love quiet books, in a world too often dominated by loud, frenetic offerings for children. Soak in the beauty, the stillness, the human pace of Tony. A treat for ages 2 to 100.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: