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Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

Today our tour lands in the islands of the Caribbean. When I started working on this tour six months ago, I surely did not imagine the way it would overlap with the devastation of hurricane Irma. 

In addition to these island nations, we’ll travel through the diverse, artistic land of Mexico as well, a portion of which is reeling from the recent earthquake

I’m glad, though, for the chance to highlight these extraordinary homelands at this particular moment and invite you to give towards needed relief. 

In fact, here and here are links for donating to Save the Children, a long-term, reputable charity coordinating care for children and families.

I had much more difficulty than I was expecting in finding titles about life in Mexico. By far the majority of  books I ran across were set in the U.S. featuring children with Mexican heritage, while I was looking for stories that open a window onto life in contemporary Mexico itself.

And those titles set in Mexico are nearly invariably about Day of the Dead celebrations. Which is a fascinating subject! But it’s just one day a year.

What is ordinary life like in cosmopolitan Mexico City?

In fishing villages along the Pacific Coast?

In the rugged, hot north?

Or towns tucked in the mountains and hillsides? Why are these neighbors of ours so little known to us?

As always, if you know of great titles that fill these gaps, please tell us in the comments. Meanwhile, grab your flip flops and come along with me to…

The Caribbean

Caribbean Dream, written and illustrated by Rachel Isadora
published in 1998 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Rachel Isadora’s beautiful, warm portraits of the people and scenery of the Caribbean captivate us at every turn of the page in this small, sweet book.

Her brief, poetic text lulls us, coaxes us to fall in love with the islands and the children who call them home. Simply lovely. Share this gem with ages 18 months and older.

La Isla, written by Arthur Dorros, illustrated by Elisa Kleven
published in 1995 by Dutton Children’s Books

An explosion of tropical colors greets us in Elisa Kleven’s joyous illustrations of this unnamed Caribbean isle.  Get swept up in a tutti-frutti-coconut-confetti dream when you open this book!

Rosalba and her Abuela travel in their imaginations to visit grandmother’s homeland, la isla, to reminisce and meet old relatives, cool their toes in turquoise waves and feast on juicy mangoes. A delightful flight of fancy crammed with love. A Spanish glossary is provided for the words sprinkled in the text. I’ve loved this book for many years. It’s a treat for ages 3 and up.

Malaika’s Costume, written by Nadia L. Hohn, illustrated by Irene Luxbacher
published in 2016 by Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press

It’s Carnival time but this year for the first time, Mummy is not home. She’s gone to Canada to find work, to make a better life so Malaika and Granny can join her there.

Right now Malaika has just one thing on her mind and that’s her costume. She’s been waiting for Mum to send a bit of money so she can dazzle in the parade, but when Mum writes it’s to say there’s still not enough for costumes. Grandma has an old, dusty, pitiful one from when she was a girl, but Malaika wants no part of that.

Happily, Malaika and Grandma’s love and creativity find a way straight past the obstacles.  The patois of the Caribbean is used to tell this contemporary story, with lots of cultural bits worked in alongside the main storyline. Luxbacher’s cool, mixed-media artwork sparkles with tropical colors and Caribbean textiles. Ages 4 and up.

Cuba

All the Way to Havana, written by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Mike Curato
published in 2017 by Henry Holt and Co

A lush, warm, contemporary Cuba affectionately spills across the pages of this delightful story about one boy and his parents making the drive in to Havana to celebrate a birthday.

The sights and sounds of Cuba roll by — its colorful homes, laundry flapping in the breeze, colonnaded buildings, chickens pecking the sun-baked earth — but it’s the array of vintage American automobiles that are front and center here. An Author’s note explains very simply why these classic cars are so common in Cuba. Politics aside, the joy this boy feels as he and his dad manage to jerry rig his family’s car, the happiness of hearing her “purr cara cara and glide taka taka along,  are infectious. 

A brand new gem to enjoy with ages 2 and up. Vintage car lovers — this is your book!

Drum Dream Girl, written by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López
published in 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Hot pepper oranges and Caribbean blues saturate the pages of this poetic celebration of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, the first female drummer in Cuba. As a young girl, the varied drums’ beats tantalized her, but it was taboo for women to play them. Until Millo changed that. 

Winner of the 2016 Pura Belpré Illustration Award, the gorgeous artwork in this book explodes with color and Cuban culture, while the text dances along lithely. Superb introduction to Millo, who became a world-famous drummer, for ages 3 and up.

Haiti

Painted Dreams, written by Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Catherine Stock
published in 1998 by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books

Ti Marie has the soul of an artist. With just a chunk of orange brick, a bit of charcoal, and a cement wall, she creates beauty in her small world. What she really would like, though, are tubes of paint like Msie Antoine’s.

Mama thinks its all foolishness. She’s got troubles of her own with puny sales in her unlucky corner of the marketplace. But when Ti Marie’s charming artwork transforms Mama’s business, her dreams do start coming true. A cheery story incorporating ordinary life and Haitian religion, with an Author’s Note telling more about Haitian artists’ practices.  Lovely, for ages 4 and up.

Tap Tap, written by Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Catherine Stock
published in 1995 by HMH Books for Young Readers

As Sasifi walks to market with Mama she looks longingly at the brilliantly-colored tap-taps — the truck taxis of Haiti — and recommends to her Mama that they ride one.  Mama is too frugal, though, and they continue on foot all the weary way.  

At the market, Sasifi works hard and manages to sell so many oranges that Mama gives her some coins to spend on whatever she pleases.  What will Sasifi choose?  Peanut candy?  Icy cold juice?  No, siree.  Sasifi buys two spots in a tap-tap so they can enjoy a thrilling ride home.  It turns out to be quite a squished ride…but a happy one, nonetheless.   Along the way we learn why the trucks are called tap-taps!

Catherine Stock’s watercolors bring the landscapes, people, markets, and tap-taps of Haiti to vivid life. An old favorite of mine for ages 3 and up.

Running the Road to ABC, written by Denizé Lauture, illustrated by Reynold Ruffins
published in 1996 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Haitian poet  Lauture weaves a lyrical story of a group of six children who run “up and down steep hills six days each week, forty weeks each year, for seven years of their short lives.”

Waking up to roosters, cooking up yucca and Congo beans, flattening slugs with the bottom of their running bare feet, passing acres of sugarcane — they run and run and run. Where are they going?

Gorgeous depictions of the Haitian countryside and the hopes of the children are accompanied by vivid paintings in this joyful story for ages 5 and up.

Haiti My Country

Poems about a “ripe mango, fresh mango, yellow mango” and the dancing Haitian trees. Poems telling of the cool shelter of a humble hut, of Haiti’s “dazzling greenery,” and the tastiness of the peppers and sweet potatoes in a peasant’s garden.

All written by Haitian schoolchildren, and illustrated stunningly by a Quebecois artist. Read my full review of this exquisite book here

British Virgin Islands

Little Man

Amid the tall, swaying palms, sparkling turquoise waters, and skimming brown pelicans of Little Scrub Island, a boy named Albert Quashie feels squashed under a boatload of troubles.

Discover how joining a troupe of Mocko Jumbies makes him –literally! — soar above his problems in this delightful chapter book for ages 9 and up. Such an unusual setting. Read my full review here.

Montserrat

My Little Island, written and illustrated by Frané Lessac
first published in the UK; published in the U.S. in 1984 by HarperCollins

This little jewel just exudes 1980s with its smallish size and page layouts. I love it!

Frané Lessac has lived in many places around the world. At the time of this publication, she had spent some years on the island of Montserrat in the Lesser Antilles and recorded her love for the land and its people in her trademark naive paintings. Lessac’s observations of the stone houses, frangipani blossoms, delicious tropical fruits, bustling markets, fresh catches of fish, calypso bands, and even the neighborhood volcano, have a marvelous authentic ring.

 You’ll fall in love with this place in the few minutes it takes you to journey through these pages. A vintage gem for ages 3 and up.

Trinidad and Tobago

Drummer Boy of John John, written by Mark Greenwood, illustrated by Frané Lessac
published in 2012 by Lee & Low

Everybody in John John is busy getting ready for Carnival. They’re sewing beads on outrageously bright costumes and decorating flamboyant masks. The Roti King is cooking up a storm to get ready for crowds who’ll come for his “famous folded pancakes filled with chicken and secret herbs and spices.” He’s even promised free rotis for the best calypso band in the parade.

Winston loves rotis. He wishes more than anything that he were part of a band so he might win that prize. But the chac-chac players, the tamboo bamboo band, the bottle-and-spoon orchestra, the shango drummers — none of them needs an extra player.

 Things take a happy turn, though, when Winston stumbles across an idea for a new band that’s simply terrific! This ebullient story springs off the pages with Frané Lessac’s uber-bright colors and patterns. An Author’s Note tells about the real Winston, a pioneer in the development of the steel drum. Great piece of culture for sharing with  ages 3 and up.

 An Island Christmas, written by Lynn Joseph, illustrated by Catherine Stock
published in 1992 by Clarion Books

Rosie is helping Mama prepare for Christmas in their home on Trinidad. She gathers juicy red sorrel fruits for a tangy Christmas drink. She lines cake pans with wax paper for the sticky, sweet currants Tantie is mixing with spices, molasses, and eggs for luscious black current cakes.

She barefoot-runs into the warm night to join the parang band, then doles out ham sandwiches to the musicians as they tingalayo off to the next street.

There’s lots more sweetness here …soursop ice cream, the sugar cane man, alloe pies, and the jumble of family together, all told in Rosie’s wonderful Caribbean dialect. A sweet treat for ages 3 and up.

Mexico

Salsa Stories, written and illustrated by Lulu Delacre
published in 2000 by Scholastic
75 pages PLUS 20 pages of recipes and an extensive glossary

Several of our recent destinations throughout Latin America merge in this excellent chapter book, so while it’s not about Mexico per se, I’m including it here.

I love this account, in which a young girl collects fascinating childhood memories from family members who have grown up in Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Cuba, Argentina, Mexico, and Peru. Each of their stories references a beloved food; authentic recipes for each of these dishes are gathered in the final pages of the book. It’s a delightful read with an extensive glossary for Spanish terms.

Armando and the Blue Tarp School, written by Edith Hope Find and Judith Pinkerton Josephson, illustrated by Hernán Sosa
published in 2014 by Lee and Low

Armando is a young Mexican boy whose family lives in a neighborhood near the city dump.  They make their living as pepenadores, trash pickers, sorting through stinking mounds of garbage each day to find bottles and cans to sell.

  One day Armando spies a pick-up truck rolling into town.  It’s Señor David!  He has come back again!  Señor David pulls out a large blue tarp and spreads it on the ground.  He sets up a chalkboard and papers and paints.  Children gather on the blue tarp, and Señor David begins to teach, for the blue tarp is actually their school. 

A heartwarming story based on the work of David Lynch, for ages 4 and up.

Dear Primo, written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh
published in 2010 by Abrams

Two cousins — one in Mexico, one in the U.S. — write letters back and forth, telling one another about their lives. See how their neighborhoods, schools, sports,  foods, holidays, are delightfully different, even while their overall lives are full of strikingly similar patterns. 

Duncan Tonatiuh has earned many accolades by now for his extraordinary illustration. This was his first book! Ages 4 and up.

Dia de los Muertos, written by Roseanne Thong, illustrated by Carles Ballesteros
published in 2015 by Albert Whitman and Company

There are dozens of books about Day of the Dead celebrations. This one is jubilant with color, illustrated with zest and style, and written in rhyming couplets that include a hefty sprinkling of Spanish words (and a glossary to help with that.)

From dawn to dark, join the festivities by adorning altars, munching on sweet calaveras, decorating the graves of ancestors and settling in for a grand picnic. Then get dressed up for the parade, the mariachi bands and dancing. An afterword fills in lots of cultural detail. Great choice for ages 3 and up.

To learn more about the origins of the calaveras, you can’t do better than:

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras, written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh.

A multiple award-winner, ingenuously formatted, told, and illustrated, for ages 5 and up.

M is for Mexico, written and photographed by Flor de María Cordero
published in 2007 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

This book in the Frances Lincoln series alphabetically surveys life in Mexico, from the zocalo in Mexico City to ancient pyramids still standing, baptism ceremonies in this highly-Catholic nation, and the sweet treats children like to buy in the market. Ages 3 and up.

Mayeros: A Yucatec Maya Family, written and photographed by George Ancona
published in 1997 by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books

The small town of Teabo in Yucatán, Mexico, is home to Armando and Gaspár, two little boys who are the shining stars of this lovely photodocumentary.

Journey to this sun-baked place, where the women adorn their white dresses with fabulous embroidery, the fathers build a bullring for the upcoming fiesta, and the boys go to school, play, help with branding and planting at their grandparents’ ranch, surrounded by the clearly tight bonds of this family. Warm and inviting, rich with cultural detail and excellent photography, the book includes an Author’s Note describing the fascinating and difficult history of the Mayan people. Ages 4 and up.

The Fabulous Firework Family, written and illustrated by James Flora
published in 1994 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

In the picturesque village of Santiago, Pepito and his family are known as the Fabulous Firework Family for their Gandalfian incendiary displays. This year, to celebrate the birthday of the town’s patron saint, the mayor himself commissions a showstopper of a castillo! One that makes “more noise than thunder, more smoke than a volcano, and more sparks than there are stars in the heavens.”

Watch this family collect the ingredients for those outbursts of color, build the fanciful structures of the castillo, and unleash the grandest spectacle ever. I’ll admit, I didn’t even know what a castillo was until I read this book and then looked them up on youtube! Quite epic! Bits of Spanish language and a confetti-shower of color bring this tale to life. Ages 4 and up.  (A completely different version of both text and illustration was published by James Flora in 1955. I have not seen it.)

Saturday Market, written by Patricia Grossman, illustrated by Enrique O. Sánchez
published in 1994 by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books

The lively Saturday market in Oaxaca, Mexico, bustles with people visiting stalls crowded with wares. Sacks of chile peppers, brilliant rebozos, vibrant woven rugs, delicious coconut bread, fresh tortillas, and of course, the delightful Zapotecas carved and painted by artisans.

Join the throngs, walk through the market with all its enticing fare, and learn about these makers and traders. A warm story with lots to notice in the warm, colorful illustrations, for ages 3 and up.

Julio’s Magic, written by Arthur Dorros, collages by Ann Grifalconi
published in 2005 by Harper Collins

Furthering our understanding of the Oaxacan artisans is this tender story of a young boy named Julio, his dreams of winning the annual carving contest, and his dear mentor, the talented carver, Iluminado.

Ann Grifalconi’s inspired collages carry us into Julio’s village and display some of the wildly-colorful, imaginative sculptures Oaxacan carvers are famous for. A quiet, charming read for ages 4 and up.

That’s it for today! Our next and penultimate stop zooms us way up north to visit our other neighbor, Canada.

  This round-the-world jaunt is nearing its conclusion. I hope you’ll invite folks who would enjoy making the tour to check out all our destinations — past, present, and future.

Here are the links thus far:

Destination: Central and South America

Destination: West Africa

Destination: Central and South Africa

Destination: East Africa

Destination: Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa

Destination: Indian Subcontinent

Destination: East Asia

Destination: Australia, New Zealand, and Micronesia

A Sampler of Cultures

Buckle up for a World Tour

Musings: a world of swiss cheese

 

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Welcome to another school year, whatever your schooling looks like.

Today I’ve got five top picks for those heading to what my kids fondly called “real school.” But if you’re a homeschooling family, let me just remind you that Jonathan Bean’s This is My Home, This is My School is the best thing out there for celebrating that rumply, freewheeling, juicy-living lifestyle some of us have happily embraced. You can find my review of that here.

I’ve gathered all my school-ish sorts of titles in one new list on my Subject page, so if you want more school-oriented reads, take a look there. All are linked to their original reviews.

A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices, written by Sally Derby, illustrated by Mika Song
published in 2017 by Charlesbridge

I love this book’s clever, honest, tender introductions to six children beginning a new school year. One each from grades K through 5. Girls and boys. White, Black, Hispanic. Hearing impaired. Latch-key. Each one with tiny trepidations, misgivings, longings.

In free verse, these kids tell what’s on their minds as they manage the first day of school. Four chapters usher us from “The Night Before” through “After School” with entries from all six kids in each section. The honesty and vulnerability expressed make this a very relatable book that can also help grow empathy within child and adult readers. Mika Song’s soft, fresh illustrations clearly, unobtrusively introduce kids we care about.  Share this with ages 5 and up.

Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten, written by Candice Ransom, illustrated by Christine Grove
published in 2017 by Doubleday Books for Young Readers

I fell in love with Amanda Panda on page 6 of this funny, warm story of mismatched personalities, vexing disappointments, and finding the way to kindness.

Amanda is a gal who knows her business. Likes brown. Speed. Vehicles. And being important. Her plans for kindergarten are big and bold.

The first inkling of a spanner in the works comes at the bus stop where Amanda meets “a girl in head-to-toe pink. So much pink it gives Amanda a headache.”

In fact, this pink girl gives Amanda more than one headache, so Amanda up and quits kindergarten. Joins her big brother in the second grade. As you might expect, this choice is not actually allowed.

Read this story, groan with Amanda, and cheer her on as she chooses kindness in the end. Christine Grove has captured the larger-than-life personalities here perfectly. Great fun for ages 4 and up.

Daddy Long Legs, written by Nadine Brun-Cosme, illustrated by Aurélie Guillerey
originally published in France in 2015; English edition 2017 by Kids Can Press

Meet a fashionable, contemporary, father-centric, school story that echoes the steadfast love of Margaret Wise Brown’s Runaway Bunny.

At least, that’s what this charming tale recalled for me. 

Daddy is driving his small charge to kindergarten. The old green car was having a bit of trouble this morning, however.  Sounded like it had a case of the hiccups. This sets small Matthew to worrying —

— what if, this afternoon, when Dad’s supposed to come pick him up, the car plum won’t start??

Not to worry. If the car won’t start, says Dad, “I will come and fetch you in the neighbor’s big red tractor.” And if that won’t work — still no worries. Dad’s got every possible wrinkle covered. He’ll be there at the end of the day. You can bet your bottom dollar!

Zesty design makes every page sing with retro happiness in this warm, loving story for ages 2 and up.

Monkey with a Toolbelt and the Silly School Mystery, written and illustrated by Chris Monroe
published in 2017 by Carolrhoda Books

Huzzah for Duluth, Minnesota author Chris Monroe and her manic, handymonkey, Chico Bon Bon! These are dandy stories, if you haven’t already made their acquaintance.

In this episode, Chico Bon Bon and his pal Clark are off to school. And of course, Chico has got a specialized tool belt for the occasion. Wowza! He did not kit this out at any school supply store I have ever seen. Complete with sparkle sprinkler, maple-scented glue, light-up scissors, calming fluff…you name it. Seriously.

Chico’s tool belt comes in super handy for fixing all manner of defective items around school, but it’s especially advantageous in solving a great mystery involving Many Curiously Missing Things, from library books to taco shells. Learn all about the bizarre goings-on at Chico’s school and the surprising discovery he makes in this splendid adventure, perfect for ages 4 and up.

A Perfect Mess, written and illustrated by Steve Breen
published in 2016 by Dial Books for Young Readers

Henry is a great kid. He loves to play hard, share, make his mom proud, do the right thing…

There is just one problem: Henry is an incredibly messy little rhino. He has the dickens of a time staying clean.

Most days that’s okay, but today? Today is a special day and Henry has vowed to keep his shirt spic and span. All. Day. Long.

And you know what? He does it. Henry manages to emerge at Class Picture Time just as neat as a pin. How does he do it?

I predict you and your kids will laugh out loud at this comical, warmhearted story. Dear Henry, and dear Mrs. Williams, his unflappable teacher. I love ’em both. A riot for ages 3 and up.

 

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Welcome to a cherry-sweet helping of cheery stories.


Whether you need a story to match your sunny mood or one to relieve the gray, these’ll quench your thirst!

Raymond, by Yann and Gwendal Le Bec
first U.S. edition 2017 by Candlewick Press

Raymond is happy to be part of the family, enjoying lavish birthday parties, snug spots by the sofa, and copious scratching in just the right spot behind his ears, when it suddenly occurs to him that he has no seat at the table. Literally. Why am I eating out of a bowl on the floor ?

His mission to become as human as possible takes him everywhere from the movies to the corporate world, the rest of the canine population keeping right up with him. But exhausted by this frenetic pace, Raymond makes a huge, doggy discovery.

What is the good life anyway? Raymond is a brilliant, charismatic character. The artwork here is sophisticated and contemporary, with many hilarious visual puns to keep adult readers in good humor. Check it out for ages 4 and up.

A Perfect Day, written and illustrated by Lane Smith
published in 2017 by Roaring Brook Press

What makes a perfect summer’s day for you?

For cat, it’s that golden sun pouring warmth onto his back as he lounges amongst the daffodils.

For dog, it’s the sparkling cool water that his buddy Bert hoses into the wading pool, just for him.

Discover how one person’s perfect day just might clobber all the others in this playful, surprising tale. Jolly for ages 2 and up.

Gus’s Garage, written and illustrated by Leo Timmers
first published in New Zealand, 2016; first American edition 2017 by Gecko Press

Gus is a first class collector of the odd bits and bobs. His motor garage overflows with what appears to be useless junk!

Yet as one friend after another arrives with car troubles of all sorts and sizes, Gus’s salvage yard, fueled by his enormous cleverness, sends each one off with a curiously, marvelously improved vehicle!

Great fun, with Timmers’ gleaming artwork boinging off the pages. Watch the way that junk pile disappears little by little as the story progresses. Ages 2 and up.

The Frog in the Well, written by Alvin Tresselt, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin
originally published in 1958; republished by the New York Review Children’s Collection in 2017

Here’s a charming vintage classic by a talented duo. There was once a frog who lived in a well. He loved everything about his well and believed it to be the whole world! What a lot he was missing. The freshness of a daisy. The rustle of a spring breeze. The cool shadows of a forest.

When necessity forces this little fellow to clamber out of his well, he discovers what a wide and interesting world is indeed out there! Such wisdom he gains, as well as lots of new froggy friends. Great story with splendid illustrations by Duvoisin.  Share this with ages 3 and up.

Things to Do, written by Elaine Magliaro, illustrated by Catia Chien
published in 2016 by Chronicle Books

Lushly imaginative, this book sparks ideas and wonderings that are rich food for the mind.

What would you do, if you were the Dawn? “Shoo away night. Wash the eastern sky with light…Rouse resting roosters. Set songbirds singing.

And what if you were a honeybee? How about an eraser?! Each ordinary object has resplendent purpose in these lyrical, brief musings. They’re accompanied by warm, dreamy artwork — great collaboration going on here. This will surely prompt new ways of seeing, thinking, imagining in children, ages 2 and older.

How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea, written by Kate Hosford, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
published in 2017 by Carolrhoda Books

Tea, that elixir of comfort, that afternoon companion of sweets, that spicy morning aroma! Around the world there are such varieties of tea, such strong traditions for preparing and serving it!

This fantastical story finds the Queen in a dither. Her cuppa is just not making the grade. In fact, it tastes downright horrible. So off she sets in her hot-air balloon, traveling the world to discover the perfect cup of tea. Landing in Japan, India, and Turkey, the Queen is treated to a lovely tea at each stop.

What makes the perfect cup? Her warmhearted conclusion will make you smile. Charming illustrations and an author’s note telling more about tea round this one out. I wish they’d included more precise directions for each brew but you’ll have to experiment on your own. That sounds like the recipe for a lovely summer’s day! Ages 4 and up.

Norton and Alpha, written and illustrated by Kristyna Litten
published in 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books

Norton lives in a nearly-dystopian landscape, grey factories looming above a wasteland of industrial scrap. For all that, he’s quite a happy fellow because Norton is a collector and an inventor. All these odds and ends are useful for building doohickeys and thingamabobs of one sort and another. His latest invention is Alpha — an immensely satisfying robot companion.

One day Norton and Alpha find something highly unusual. What on earth is it? Try as they might, they cannot discover what particular use this thing has, until with the miracle of seeds and blooms, their world is transformed and they discover its purpose: Beauty. Share this unusual, surprising ode to beauty and growing things with children ages 3 and up.

A Song About Myself: A Poem by John Keats, illustrated by Chris Raschka
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

At age 22, John Keats tramped off to the hills of Scotland for a good think. There he wrote a letter to his sister, Fanny, which included this homely, eccentric little poem.

Four verses describe a naughty little boy who scribbles poetry and runs away from home to Scotland and what he finds there. It’s a poem full of nonsense and merriment, nursery rhyme rhythms, delicious wordplay, and a pinch of audacity.

Chris Raschka’s wildly loose line, swashy colors, and preposterous figures bring this song to life in the best way. Like a tart strawberry mousse, a squirt of lime, a juicy smack of bubblegum — taste and enjoy with kids ages 3 and up. An illustrator’s note gives more background information on Keats.

Go Sleep in Your Own Bed!, written by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Lori Nichols
published in 2017 by Schwartz & Wade Books

It’s nighty-night time on the farm but when Pig waddley-jogs his way to the sty what does he discover?! The cow, sleeping in his bed. Harrumph! “Go sleep in your own bed!” grumps Pig.

So off cow tromps to her stall. But — you guessed it — someone else has curled up in cow’s hay. The hilarious sequence of unwelcome bed-stealers that unfolds here is absolute picture book perfection for children ages 18 months and up. Perfect page turns. Merrily inventive language. Humorous illustration work. And a repeating chorus of “Go sleep in your own bed!” perfect for joining in all together. This is one to read again and again and again…

The Three Little Pugs and the Big Bad Cat, written by Becky Davies, illustrated by Caroline Attia
published originally in Great Britain; published in the U.S. 2017 by Tiger Tales

Plum silly, that’s what you get here with these three ridiculous pugs dressed to kill and taking the parts of the famous pigs.

The two younger brothers are as lazy a lot as those other straw-and-stick builders, and the third one even cleverer, I dare say, than the original, with both a brick house and a wily escape plan.

Their nemesis, a mean and clever kitty who wants to snitch their food in the worst way, is quite a success at the huffing and puffing. But you’ll be shocked — shocked, I say! — by her true identity and comeuppance! Giggles galore here with utterly brilliant, preposterous illustration work that will rivet children to the pages. It starts and ends on the endpapers so don’t miss those! Ages 3 and up.

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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.

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Storytelling is an old craft. Old as humankind.

prehistoric cave art, ennedi plateau, chad

While countless stories have been lost, shrouded in time, we do know some mighty ancient tales that, having been passed down orally for centuries, were written down and later recovered.  It’s mind-boggling, really, to think of the long journey these stories have taken from their original telling to our comfortable, 21st century lives.

13th century Islamic illustration

I started collecting some of them for a blog post and rapidly ran into trouble as it was so hard to resist researching and reading endless numbers of ancient tales from many cultures. In a saner moment I realized I did not really have time to do all of that! So today I’ve got just a few stories coming from the Mesopotamian and Minoan cultures. I hope they entice you to unearth other gems from elsewhere around the globe.

Lugalbanda: The Boy Who Got Caught Up in a War, told by Kathy Henderson, illustrated by Jane Ray
published in 2006 by Candlewick Press
73 pages

One of the oldest written stories in the world is this 5000-year-old tale from Ancient Sumer, recorded millennia ago in cuneiform on clay tablets which were discovered and finally deciphered in the 1970s. What an exciting mystery to be part of solving!

Lugalbanda was a prince who eventually became king of the ancient city of Uruk, and father to the hero of another of today’s stories, Gilgamesh.

When his father goes to war for the glory of his kingdom, Lugalbanda, though young and weak, joins the throng of soldiers. His frailty overwhelms him, though, and he is left alone to live or die at the will of the gods. Lugalbanda’s ensuing adventures, recovery, and cunning dealmaking with the monstrous Anzu bird, equip him to play the part of the unlikely hero in this marvelous, eminently readable account.

Jane Ray’s masterful, jewel-like illustration work adds elegance and vitality to every page. Gorgeous! Notes on the story provide fascinating information on Sumer, the archaeological discoveries that brought this civilization to light, and the ancient poems which Henderson has rendered into prose for us. Fantastic, for ages 6-7 and up.

The Epic of Gilgamesh, retold by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by David Parkins
published in 2003 in the U.S. by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers and the UK by Oxford University Press
95 pages

Another of the oldest of stories is the incredible Epic of Gilgamesh, carved onto stone tablets which “over thousands of years, were smashed into thousands of shards,” then pieced painstakingly together by scholars.

Geraldine McCaughrean’s exceptional retelling of it makes this accessible to readers and listeners ages about 9 and up. We read this aloud when my kids were young. It is riveting stuff, I am telling you!

Immensely strong, godlike in fact, Gilgamesh, king of Uruk was both “a dream and a nightmare” for his people. His great friend, Enkidu, a half-wild, beast of a man, joins him in defeating monstrous Huwawa –Evil Guardian of the Forest — as well as the Bull of Heaven, thus angering the gods. The gods’ ensuing punishment — Enkidu’s death — strikes Gilgamesh to his core, driving him on a quest to discover the meaning of existence, to grapple with sorrow and the reality of mortality.

Heady, rich material, narrated with clarity, flair, and respect. Parkins’ powerful, atmospheric illustrations convey emotion, ancient origins, and the mythical qualities of its characters. This is a long, much more challenging story than Lugalbanda.

The Winged Girl of Knossos, written and illustrated by Erick Berry
originally published in 1933; reissued by Paul Dry Books in 2017
218 pages
on shelves June 13, 2017

The Minoan culture based on Crete preceded the Ancient Greek civilization that is better known to most of us. Mythical King Minos of Knossos would fit into an era around 1700 BC I believe. Please, ancient scholars, correct me if I’m wrong!

In 1934, Erick Berry won a Newbery Honor for his novel mixing the stories of Theseus and the Minotaur, and the inventor Daedalus’ audacious winged-flight, into one exciting adventure. Astonishingly for the time in which it was written, Erick Berry changed the gender of the novel’s hero and Daedalus’ co-conspirator– rather than Icarus, Daedalus’ child is a girl named Inas. The book fell out of print for decades, but is now being reissued thanks to Paul Dry Books.

Inas is an adventurer from top to toe. A sponge diver. A bull-vaulter. A frequent-flyer, experimenting with her father’s massive, newfangled wings as she leaps from cliffs to glide out over the sparkling Aegean Sea. She’s also best friends with King Minos’ daughter, Ariadne.

Our heroine falls into danger from two sides — her father’s reckless experiments raise the hackles of superstitious Minoans, and her assistance to Ariadne in freeing the handsome Greek, Theseus, means she’s in big trouble at the palace as well. Hair-raising moments aplenty move this story along. Gobs of rich detail about the Minoan world are woven in as well.

Despite the girl-power features to this novel, there are some less-than-contemporary moments, but honestly, for its age it reads very well today. I love when these excellent, long-forgotten Newbery Honor books become available. This would make a dandy choice for voracious readers ages 9 and up.

The Hero and the Minotaur: The Fantastic Adventures of Theseus, retold and illustrated by Robert Byrd
published in 2005 by Dutton Children’s Books

For a much more traditional, picture-book-length telling of the Theseus myths, check out this beautiful selection by Robert Byrd. 

His stunning illustrations sparkle from the pages like gems on a necklace as we read of Theseus’ colorful encounters with the strongman Cercyon, Sinis the pine-bender, a brute of an ogre named Sciron, and of course, King Minos’ maze and Minotaur. Icarus makes his ill-fated flight, Ariadne’s crown becomes a constellation, and Theseus forgets about those black sails causing tragedy to cap his tremendous successes.

These myths have stood the test of time for a reason — they are fabulous! Treat your kids, ages 5 and up, to these larger-than-life stories for the ages.

Jason and the Argonauts: The First Great Quest in Greek Mythology, retold and illustrated by Robert Byrd
published in 2016 by Dial Books for Young Readers
48 pages

Ah, Robert Byrd! He creates such magnificent nonfiction for young readers — and older ones like me, too! Here he presents the journeys of Jason in vivid prose and oodles of detailed, stunning illustrations.

In his introduction, Byrd describes Jason’s tale as “full of wonders: not only a flying sheep, but also fire-breathing bulls, a many-headed monster, a serpent who never sleeps, and men turned into beasts. Greedy kings hungry for power and riches, murderous queens, scheming magicians, and a wondrous ship to brave the dangers of the high seas.” Well! Need I say more? I think not. Irresistible.

From his superb maps decorating the endpapers, to the cameos of famous Argonauts, through epic battles with harpies and those warriors sprouting up from the soil — Byrd’s colorful, imaginative, impeccable illustrations pull us into this world at every turn of the page. Sidebars highlight the various gods who are mentioned in the briefly-narrated stages of the quest.

If you want your kids to fall in love with Greek mythology, do not pass go, do not collect $200…just get this book. Ages 5 and up.

 

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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.

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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.

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