Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category
Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius Cat, written and illustrated by Katie Harnett
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books
Blossom Street is a quaint lane edged with charming brick rowhouses. It’s home to a lovely jumble of folks, from Madame Betty, lounging most elegantly, swathed in plush pinkness, to the Sikh gardener who grows his perfect pumpkins at Number Fourteen.
It’s also the home to this plump cat.
The cat has a great gig going. Visiting each household along the avenue, he’s treated to affection and goodies from every hand. Fish from Mr. Green. Tea at the Hoskins’. His appointed rounds are as much a part of the routine as the sun coming up in the morning.
Until. One day Archie stops visiting. Where has he gone?
Discover the warmhearted conclusion to that mystery in this exceptional story. Harnett welcomes us into this beautifully-diverse community with her gorgeous palette, vivid personalities, and oodles of charm. Every page is a treat and the final spread is as heartening as a mug of tea on a cold afternoon. I see a bit of a Maira Kalman influence in her work. Don’t miss this! Ages 2 and up.
The White Cat and the Monk: A Retelling of the Poem “Pangur Ban”, words by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrations by Sydney Smith
published in 2016 by Groundwood Books
An anonymous Irish Benedictine monk paused in the midst of his studies one day, over a thousand years ago, probably at an abbey in the south of Germany.
His brief reflections, written in Old Irish, were about himself and a quiet companion in his small room – a fluffy, white cat. These thoughts are at once tranquil, simple, insightful. They are both humble and elegant in their perspective, as he compares his scholarly pursuits with those of this skillful hunter.
Sydney Smith’s handsome watercolor and ink illustrations hugely magnify the impact of this book. Such spare elegance! He evokes the focus, strength, solitude, and gentleness of the monk’s world while Bogart’s rendition of the poem gracefully leads us through the monk’s train of thought.
It’s a transfixing combination that can be appreciated on several levels. A rare gem for ages 2 to adult.
Have you ever thought about what the world looks like from another vantage point? What would it be like to be 7 feet tall? Or to have extra color receptors in your eyes? What does the world look like to an ant? Or an eagle?
Brendan Wenzel explores this idea in his fabulous, thought-provoking book. One cat is just minding its own business, walking through the world where it is encountered by many different creatures. Children. A skunk. A fish. What do they see? How do their physical eyes and their views on cat-ness, affect their perception?
A bee sees the cat in a pixilated image.
A mouse sees the cat as just about the devil himself! Yikes!
This book is a marvel, start to finish. Fantastic idea, fabulously carried out. Don’t miss it, for folks ages 3-Adult.
This is Not a Cat!, written by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
published in 2016 by Sterling Children’s Books
Today’s lesson in the cheery woodland school is “Recognizing Danger.” A cat, for example, is a Danger!
While Miss Mouse flips through her handy chart of Things That Aren’t Cats — cute bunnies and yummy ice-cream-cones — the attention of her class wanders mightily. Yawn. This lesson is a bore.
What neither teacher nor students are observing, though, is a huge marmalade cat looming just outside the door!
Hysteria and pandemonium break out when finally everybody recognizes this Clear and Present Danger! Run for your lives!!
Surprises, plot twists, thrills, dangers, escapes — are all crammed into this guaranteed-to-please story. There is so much going on in Wohnoutka’s illustrations! Hilarious! Take your time to take it all in. Quite a merry choice for ages 2 and up.
It’s the holiday season but things aren’t looking so merry for this patchy fellow.
He’s a poor, homeless thing and wherever he turns for shelter, he’s treated to the bristly side of the broom. Scat, cat!
His luck turns when he zips onto a city bus and finds a seat next to a kindhearted grandpa. Watch what happens next, in this warm-as-toast, “purrrrr-fect” story.
Bold, colorful illustrations tell almost the whole tale here, with just a word or two sprinkled in. Lots of absorbing details are tucked in for a slow, happy wander through with ages 18 months and up.
It’s time for a poetry-writing unit in young George Slair’s classroom. Thanks to George’s oh-so-clever teacher, though, there’s nothing wearisome about that. She’s found pen pals for each of her charges. Their letters to one another will be written in rhyme. Awesome sauce.
George has been assigned a pen pal named Blaise. And presto-pronto, these two begin an enthusiastic correspondence telling about their adventures and outings, likes and dislikes, hobbies and pets and families. Before long they’re hitting it off like old friends! No wonder they can hardly wait to meet one another at the pen pal picnic.
But what on earth?! When these two kids meet up, they discover something crazy: Blaise is a dragon! George is a human boy! They never imagined it this way. Can dragons and humans be pals?!?! But of course.
This is a smart book on so many levels, sneaking in all sorts of good things under the radar. There’s the whole incentive to write letters, maybe even to a pen pal! The delights of poetry. A cunning how-to lesson on conversing with a new friend.
Then, courtesy of Rodolfo Montalvo’s brilliant illustrations, there’s a marvelous display of alternate perspectives, the way our life experience leads us to interpret another’s words. Absolutely fantastic.
And, wrapped in and under and around the whole story is the lovely idea that such very different people can be so very much alike. That these folks who seem so other-ish, can be our friends.
It’s all packed in without losing a morsel of friendly warmth or being encumbered by an atom of moralizing. Enjoy this with kids ages 4 and up, taking your time over the illustrations. And while you’re at it — just give the names of the two main characters a ponder. Some excellent punning and allusion going on there!
Oooh. Autumn is my favorite season.
And everything wonderful about fall — the brisk air and crisp leaves, coolness and coziness, smoke in the air and spiced cider in my mug — gets prime treatment in autumn-themed picture books. There are so many beauties out there! Here are five stand-outs:
Minneapolis author-illustrator Lauren Stringer knows the core, heart-of-goodness about the seasons and loves to show us an unusual perspective on them as she’s demonstrated before. (See her magnificent Winter is the Warmest Season, reviewed here.)
Her newest title exults in fall. Yellow time. Yes, those maples turn crimson and flame, but look again. The birches and aspen and ash simply glow in the autumn sunshine, a fluttering, spangly yellow mass. Breathtaking. “A symphony of yellow,” Stringer says. You folks in Colorado know all about this, don’t you.
Stringer’s pristine, lyrical text bursts with yellow joy and her illustrations swoosh an exaltation of yellow happiness across every page. I love this book! Ages 2 and up.
This book is delight-fally clever!
Michael Hall has played on words and played with words to bring us 15 clever word-inventions and teeny poems celebrating fall.
Explore this beautifall…
plentifall, resourcefall time of year as we move from late summer to the first snow of winter. A bold autumn palette, simplified shapes, and spare text create a warm, quiet, glad collection, perfect to share with children ages 3 and up.
Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn, written and illustrated by Kenard Pak
published in 2016 by Henry Holt and Company
One little girl takes a walk, through woodland and field, past stream and into town, greeting everyone and everything she sees along the way.
Foxes, birds, beavers and insects — all are busy preparing for fall. Even the flowers and clouds, the wind and air flaunt changes that signal a new season.
By the time she’s made her rounds, we’ve walked from late summer into chill autumn and right back into her snug house.
Such a pleasant journey. One of the things I love best about this book is the racial diversity in a non-urban setting. Her community is a quaint village nestled in the woods — Stars Hollow, if you will — and Kenard Pak has peopled it with a lovely array of skin tones. Thank you! Share it with children ages 2 and up.
Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall!, written by Anne Sibley O’Brien, illustrated by Susan Gal
published in 2016 by Abrams Appleseed
Following their magical springtime treat (Abracadabra, It’s Spring! reviewed here), this dynamite team has cooked up some hocus pocus for fall! Hurray!
Immerse yourselves in the glory of autumn with Gal’s swimmy, spattery, rosy, cozy renditions of apple picking, milkweed bursting, leaf reddening, jack-o-lantern carving, fall days.
Each two-page spread holds the start of a clever poem, with a magical flourish…
“Busy squirrels fill their cheeks. Abba zabba!”
…and a gate-fold page that opens to reveal the presto! change-o! surprise fulfillment of the scene:
“Food for weeks!”
Splendid and jolly for ages 18 months and older.
If you’re looking for something a tad more rough and rowdy, you can’t go wrong with Bobby and his pudgy, round-faced, hedgehog-haired crew!
These kids love heading home from school because they’re chomping at the bit to get outside and PLAY! Hurrah for them!
Time for a little pick-up football. Add an earnest, grabby dog and a gargantuan pile of leaves and you’ve got all the ingredients for a lovely spot of mayhem.
Only a little, though. For as you know, dusk comes mighty early in the fall. That’s okay because other Cozy Bits come right along with nightfall for this lovable bunch. Charming, for ages 3 and up.
There are lots more autumn reads in my Subject Index under Science: Seasons. Grab a cinnamon doughnut and settle in!
In honor of Star Wars Day coming up on the 4th, here are five glittering choices:
Stars, by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Marla Frazee
published in 2011 by Beach Lane Books
This tender exploration of stars is sweet, meandering, childlike, glowing with wonder, touched with empathy, redolent with innocence and community.
It’s a bit like A Tree is Nice…for stars. And that’s saying something. Marla Frazee’s delicate lines and tints, and her down-home figures of this cast of multicultural children are the perfect, graceful accompaniment. Such a treat, for ages 2 and up.
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, by Jane Cabrera
first published in Great Britain; first American edition 2012 by Holiday House
One of the most well-loved nursery rhymes gets some additional verses in this darling book for toddlers.
Not only does that star twinkle, it sparkles, flickers, shimmers, and glistens all over the world, while animal babies and their mommies from the arctic to the oceans, in forests and jungles, watch and wonder. Jane Cabrera’s jolly, bright illustrations will delight children ages One and up.
My Friend, the Starfinder, by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Stephen Gammell
published in 2008 by Atheneum
In a sweetly-intergenerational tale, one little gal and her dear friend — an old man who sits in an old chair on his old green porch wearing his soft old clothes — enjoy folksy togetherness while he regales her with stories.
Stories of stars falling to earth and rainbows washing him in color. Stories so amazing, it isn’t any wonder he’s got to tell ’em! Whimsical and dear. Stephen Gammell’s illustrations drip and slosh with color, and his quirky human figures bulge and frump just the way real folks do. Ages 3 and up.
Nora’s Stars, written and illustrated by Satomi Ichikawa
originally published in Japan; first American edition 1989 by Philomel Books
This is a blast from the past, a charming, imaginative story we enjoyed when my kids were small. Satomi Ichikawa became one of our beloved illustrators as we found our way from this story to her Tanya series with Patricia Lee Gauch. She is worth the finding!
Nora is visiting her grandmother in her beautiful country house set amidst lovely gardens. Little wonder that her imagination is sparked, and when she heads to bed a magical night journey transpires, right up into the stars. In fact, she brings all the stars home to play with. But is that such a good arrangement? Pure charm, especially for little girls, ages 4 and up.
Hopper and Wilson Fetch a Star, written and illustrated by Maria Van Lieshout
published in 2014 by Philomel Books
Hopper is an elephant. Wilson is a mouse. These two are best buddies. One night, while gazing up at the starry sky, they decide it would be dandy to head on up and fetch a star for their own. It could be a swell nightlight, to be sure.
Zoom along into the night skies with these intrepid friends as they search for just the right star and manage a momentary space emergency! It’s a cheery tale, illustrated with darling, friendly figures and dazzling nighttime color. Ages 2 and up.
My name is Han Solo, and I approve of these books.