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Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

My stack of books today glows budding-leaf green and robin’s-egg blue. Oh, what is as cheery and hopeful as spring? Soak up some gladness with these books, bursting with life, growth and new beginnings.

What Will Grow? written by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Susie Ghahremani
published in 2017 by Bloomsbury

For the littlest crop of sweet potatoes, don’t miss this sweet ode to seeds. Susie Ghahremani’s lovely artwork sweeps across the pages with luscious hues of springtime, summer, fall, straight through to the blue-cold of winter. Along the way we peek at seeds — round wrinkly peas, stripey sunflower seeds, snug prickly pine seeds packed into a cone — and discover what will grow from them.

Jennifer Ward’s minimal text provides just the right, lilting clues. She cleverly describes each seed with just three or four words, wisely choosing not to weigh down the delight and wonder of the illustrations.

A few gatefolds along the way augment the thrill of discovery –such fun to see that tall sunflower stretching up-up-up! End pages tell how to sow each of the seeds mentioned. This is a beauty of a book to enjoy with ages 18 months and up.

Over and Under the Pond, written by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
published in 2017 by Chronicle Books

Gliding along the quiet waters of a pond, observing the burble of life above the surface and the secret worlds below comes this elegant book.

The third collaboration between Messner and Neal, it’s as visually striking and wonder-filled as their previous titles which I’ve reviewed here and here.

Messner’s text revels in the jeweled glory of this watery world with skittering whirligig beetles, mussy busy beavers, ghostly-quiet herons a-stalking, and all the shimmering, dappled light. Neal’s handsome artwork captures the hush, the aqua-depths, the muck and reeds and secretive small worlds. Ingenuous changes in perspective keep every page fresh.

I’m thrilled that he places an African-American boy and mom in this wild, out-of-doors setting. Far too little diversity in children’s literature occurs outside of urban settings.

Learn more about each one of the species presented in several pages of  Author’s Notes. I have to say, as a boating enthusiast, I was bugged by the paddling faux pas here, but truly, this is another winner from this team for ages 3 and up.

Robins!: How They Grow Up, written and illustrated by Eileen Christelow
published in 2017 by Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A couple of robin siblings narrate the story of their lives in this information-soaked, immensely-engaging book from one of the best picture book makers, Eileen Christelow.

From the migration north of their parents, through nest-building, egg-incubating, and all the care and feeding of those scraggly chicks, Christelow’s text brims with intriguing detail, perfect pacing, and the appealing voice of these young robins. This reads like a story — not a mite of dry, merely-factual tone.

Christelow tracks their growth as they leave the nest, learn to feed themselves, and at about five months of age take to the skies to fly south. True to the realities of nature, two of their fellow nestmates don’t make it that far. Those harsh episodes are taken in stride by Christelow. It’s a fabulous presentation.

Colorful, captivating watercolor illustrations dominate the pages, bringing us eye to beak with these awkward chicks, right into the nest as it were. An Author’s Note tells how Christelow became so enamored with these birds, plus there’s a glossary and a couple Q&A pages with more Robin Facts. A gem for ages 4 and up.

Plants Can’t Sit Still, written by Rebecca E. Hirsch, illustrations by Mia Posada
published in 2016 by Millbrook Press

The ravishing colors of Minneapolis-artist (woot!) Mia Posada’s cut paper collages are the first thing you’ll notice when you open this book and oh! they will enchant you!

The fresh-lime burst of green leaves, blushing apricot tulips, twilight-purple morning glories, the seductive red of berries lurking in the bushes — every page surges with color, texture, and beauty.

Rebecca Hirsch’s text is every bit as enticing because although you may think of plants as sitting still, rooted in place, Hirsch leads us on a waltz of discovering otherwise. In fact, plants squirm, creep, climb, snap, nod, tumble, fling, whirl, drift…why, they just can’t sit still!

Back pages tell lots, lots more about plants and the particular species discussed in this book.  Genius concept, brilliantly carried out by this team. Full of the wonder of discovery for ages 2 and up.

Pig & Goose and the First Day of Spring, written and illustrated by Rebecca Bond
published in 2017 by Charlesbridge

This charming early-reader knocked my socks off and warmed my heart. I don’t know if Rebecca Bond plans any more adventures for these too, but I have my fingers crossed!

The freshness of a spring morning has put Pig in a fine mood. A glorious sun and clear blue sky will do that! “Goody gumdrops!” Pig exclaims, and immediately makes plans for a picnic by the pond.

Pig soon meets up with Goose whose magnificent flying and swimming abilities make her wilt a bit with envy. Goose tries to coach Pig in these goose-y skills but…pigs really aren’t built for such things. Poor Pig! What is it she can do well?

Many things, it turns out, as she hosts a superb First-Day-0f-Spring party! Wow! You will want to be Pig’s guest at her next fiesta I’ll bet! Delectable details, spritzes of beauty, good humor, gladness of heart, and a dear friendship — that’s what’s here. Bond’s fetching watercolor work is the cherry on top. Readers who can manage Frog and Toad can read this on their own, or share it with listeners as young as 3. Lovely!

Wake Up! words by Helen Frost, photography by Rick Lieder
published in 2017 by Candlewick

This is the latest collaboration for poet Helen Frost and photographer Rick Lieder. Each one provides a breathtaking pause from the cacophony of noise, the jungles of cement, a step away, a redirect of our gaze towards the glorious spectacle of nature. All done in whisper quiet.

Feast your eyes and soul on the magenta swoosh of a peony, the emerald wetness of a frog, the fuzzy warmth of a newborn lamb. Wake up to manifestations of new life “exploding outside your door!”

I love the work being done by this team, simply bringing children up close to the wonders of nature, quieting them with few words, thoughtful questions, enticing them to wander out of doors. Find my reviews of two of their other titles here and here. Share them all with ages 18 months and older.

Birds Make Nests, written and illustrated by Michael Garland
published in 2017 by Holiday House

Michael Garland’s arresting woodcuts adorn the pages of this book and captivate us with the extraordinary wonder of bird nests.

Minimal text describes some of the vast variety in construction from a hummingbird’s tiny woven cup, to the giant mounds made by flamingos, and one house sparrow’s nest lodged in the pocket of a stop light.

The bulk of what we learn comes via Garland’s handsome prints, flooding the pages with earthy colors and rich texture. I love the minimal interference between the child reader and these wonders of nature. No back pages, even, with more info. Just — soak in the craftsmanship of both bird and artist. A lovely, leisurely wander for ages 3 and up.

First Garden: The White House Garden and How it Grew, written and illustrated by Robbin Gourley
published in 2011 by Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Children earnestly digging in the soil. Heirloom seeds passed down from Thomas Jefferson. Beehives and ladybugs, eggplants and blueberries. But no beets!

The story of Michelle Obama’s gardening initiative dances with the joy of the earth’s fruitfulness, the brilliance of children learning by digging, sowing, weeding, harvesting, and cooking delicious food in the White House kitchen!

Add in the history of White House gardening down through the centuries from John Adams’ first vegetable and fruit gardens through Patricia Nixon’s garden tours. Sprinkle atop some delicious recipes to try straight from the White House. Then illustrate with Robbin Gourley’s sunny, vivacious watercolors. Ta da! You’ve concocted this delicious book!

A delight to share with ages 4 and up. Plus, you can discover why there are no beets!

There are lots more spring-y titles listed in my Subject Guide. Look under Science: Seasons. And Happy Springtime to one and all!

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Take a piece of prose.

Filter out all sawdusty, throat-clearing, bush-beating, throw-away words. That rich, full-bodied elixir remaining? That’s poetry.

Small but mighty.

Whether you’ve shied away from poetry in the past or cherish poetry like the scent of a spring peony, I invite you to check out these superb new books, plum full of the power of words.

First up, for the youngest among us…

The Owl and the Pussy-cat, by Edward Lear, illustrated by Charlotte Voake
poem first published in 1871; illustrations copyright 2014; first U.S. edition 2017 by Candlewick

Feast upon this classic, delectable verse accompanied by the gloriously swishy, Oz-ishly emerald, tropical illustrations by one of my favorite illustrators, Charlotte Voake.

What child can resist that beautiful pea-green boat, the moonlit guitar-strumming, a land sprouting up in Bong-trees, slices of quince and one mysterious runcible spoon?

Introduce children ages 15 months and up to the ticklish wonders of words, dancing rhythms, luscious colors with this thoroughly happy piece. It’ll nestle down in their minds and entertain them their whole life long.

Steppin’ Out: Jaunty Rhymes for Playful Times, written by Lin Oliver, illustrated by Tomie DePaola
published in 2017, Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers

This collection of small poems for small people radiates charm, simplicity, and childish innocence. Wide-eyed, we step outside our door to discover, greet, soak up the sparkling pleasures of life. What a lovely breath of fresh air!

The glory of the ordinary is here. Library visits and Sunday pancakes. A dipping, diving elevator and snippety barber shop. Friends. Grandparents. Ants. Rainy days. Lin Oliver captures the grandeur of the small in her light, playful rhymes.

Tomie dePaola needs no introduction. Eminently warm and friendly illustrations, with the marvelous diversity you’d expect from him; he makes each page sing. Perfect for preschoolers. I’ve reviewed an earlier volume by this team here.

Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market, poems by Michelle Schaub, illustrated by Amy Huntington
published in 2017 by Charlesbridge

The sun’s just rising. Wooden crates of plump tomatoes and bundles of basil are loaded into the pick-up as this farm-fresh crew heads out.

All the bustle of an urban farmers’ market — stalls laden with colorful produce, tables groaning under mouthwatering bakery fare, earthy mushrooms, fiddling buskers, speckled eggs — calls to us from these short poems and sunny, lively watercolors.

While you’re enjoying the events narrated in the poetry, there are also a couple of dogs whose antics are revealed throughout the day — great fun for children to spy on. It’s an enticing, cheerful collection and a great way to get motivated to visit the farm-fresh markets popping up all over starting now. Ages 4 and up.

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, written by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjory Wentworth, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
published in 2017 by Candlewick

Take a look at that cover and you’ll get a taste of the explosion of wonder, the celebration of life that’s bound up in the pages of this stunning new collection.

Award-winning author Kwame Alexander here introduces us to twenty of his favorite poets —  a marvelously-diverse grouping as you would expect — by ingenuously riffing off of their famous styles, ideas, and ethos.

The innovative lowercase lackofpunctuation styling of e.e. cummings is adopted by Alexander in a blooming poem about shoes (but really companionship). A poem basking in the earthy loveliness of a Chilean forest echoes the subject matter of Pablo Neruda. An explosion of rainbow-sherbet color, a soaring joy, thunders from a poem expressing the indomitable spirit of Maya Angelou.

Twenty original poems; twenty homages to poets. Brilliant. But that’s not all, because the heartbreakingly-beautiful artwork of Ekua Holmes — Oh, I love her work!! — thrills, rejoices, commands every page. Excellent short bios of each poet take up six additional pages. A stunner for a wide age range — 6 through teens.

Emily Dickinson: Poetry for Kids, illustrated by Christine Davenier
published in 2016 by Quarto Publishing Group

One  of the poets featured in Out of Wonder, Emily Dickinson is an American treasure, a homebody with an outsized knack for observation, a naturalist who reveled in the beauties of nature surrounding her Massachusetts home, a gingerbread-baker who treated neighborhood children but kept herself mostly to herself.

This gorgeous volume of her poetry is part of a series from MoonDance Press and Quarto introducing a variety of poets to children. It’s arranged by seasons and includes almost 3 dozen of her small poems.

French artist Christine Davenier’s exquisite watercolors fill these almond-cream pages with gems of color, graceful line, fragments of fragile beauty, as well as exultant gladness. Beautiful layouts and typography add to the immense sensory delight. Several pages of explanatory notes aid in understanding the poems. Splendid for ages 8 and older.

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance, poems by Nikki Grimes, artwork by Cozbi A. Cabrera, R. Gregory Christie, Pat Cummings, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Ebony Glenn, Nikki Grimes, E.B. Lewis, Frank Morrison, Christopher Myers, Brian Pinkney, Sean Qualls, James Ransome, Javaka Steptoe, Shadra Strickland, Elizabeth Zunon
published in 2017 by Bloomsbury

This phenomenal volume is so powerful, I really just want to say nothing more but urge you to experience it for yourself.

An amalgamation of the ideas and energy flowing out of the Harlem Renaissance, the poetic mastery of Nikki Grimes, and the artistry of a roster of gifted African American illustrators — that’s what’s bound up in this small, thought-provoking book.

I had never heard of the Golden Shovel form of poetry. Even if I tried to explain it to you, the audacious difficulty of it and ingenuous nature of it will not really land on you until you experience it in poem after poem here. Suffice it to say, it is another of the elaborate structures of poetry which frame poets in, force them to chisel and plane and bevel their words to fit the form, all of which ramps up their potency, augments the ideas.

You can see by reading down the bolded words that the Golden Shovel form involves repurposing lines from others’ poems, using them as the framework for something new. Illustration by Frank Morrison.

Grimes employs that in her riffs off of a number of poems by Renaissance poets. The original poem stands alongside Grimes’ innovation. These are deep, rich pieces with themes relevant to real children living in this challenging world. They are accompanied by gorgeous artwork in a wide variety of styles.

Illustration by Shadra Strickland

Short bios of each of the Renaissance poets and each illustrator, background on the Harlem Renaissance, and an explanation of the poetic form round out the volume. Highly recommended for ages 10 to adult. Many children will want to try their hand at this poetry form, I’m sure.

Many more wonderful volumes of poetry are listed in my Titles index — it’s the last section entitled Poetry and Lyrics.

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The beauty of a fresh snowfall is hard to beat in my northern-Minnesota-girl opinion.

Today I have five dazzling books celebrating snow. Each one is splendid!

before-morning-cover-imageBefore Morning, written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes
published in 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Minnesota-poet Joyce Sidman has won high honors for her work for children, including the handsome volume, Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night.

Here she employs just one poem to tell a frosty story full of hope and happiness. It unveils the deep wishes of one little girl whose mom, an airline pilot, has to literally jet off to work. Again. Sad, unimpressed by explanations of responsibilities, this child breathes a prayer to the universe.

Please, can it snow?

Can “the earth turn to sugar” and “pathways be hidden” so that those planes — and her mom —  can’t budge? And while she sleeps, that is exactly what happens.

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Sidman’s gentle, exquisite words are paired with Krommes’ stunning scratchboard illustrations which actually tell most of the story for us. The quaint New England neighborhood and filtering snowflakes that gradually fill up the town, sculpture new softened scenes, blanket the world in snowy eiderdown — are just so gorgeous.

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Despite this being such a snowy book, it’s also as cozy as the whipped-cream-topped cocoa this snug family shares in the end.

An utter gem to share with ages 2 through adult.

into-the-snow-cover-imageInto the Snow, written by Yuki Kaneko, illustrated by Masamitsu Saito
published in 2016 by Enchanted Lion Books

Snow brings exuberance and electrifying color to this joyful story. Anyone who has seen the brilliant colors of children’s snow-clothes polka-dotting snowy landscapes will understand that.

This little guy is eager to rush out and play in the new snow. Bundle up! Pull on that hat and gloves! Grab a sled! Let’s go!

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There are gossamer wonders to notice, glittering icicles to spy, but all that quiet wonder is gone in a mighty whoosh once the sledding begins. Yippeeeeeeeeeeee!

Masamitsu Saito has captured the blur, the frozen spray of snow pelting a sledder’s merry face, the thrill of careening, down the hillside, catapulting into the plump of a snowdrift, like I have never seen before. There is so much motion, icy nip, and joy in these pages!

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Cocoa warms up the ending in this story with a fiery glow of sweetness and love.  I adore this, for ages 2 and up.

best-in-snow-cover-imageBest in Snow, written and photographed by April Pulley Sayre
published in 2016 by Beach Lane Books

April Pulley Sayre follows up her visual exploration of rain (Raindrops Roll), with this gorgeous photo-survey of snow.

And I love that she does not muddy the waters here with over-many words. A brief, elegant poem meanders through the book, calling our attention to the frost, ethereal flakes, and glittering ice in this woodland world. The addition of the darling way these whirling snowflakes decorate the tip of one squirrel’s nose adds a cute, child-friendly touch.

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Stunning photographs draw us into the glory of a wintry wonderland. No condescension here. Close-up looks of frosty tracings. An ice-coated spread of branches gleaming in the sunlight. A flurry of snow, fuzzing the forest. Beautiful.

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Short explanations about why snow drifts, how crystals feather, where snow forms, and more follow. It’s a marvelous piece of nonfiction to share with children ages 2 and up.

first-snow-cover-imageFirst Snow, written and illustrated by Bomi Park
originally published in South Korea, 2012; first U.S. edition 2016 by Chronicle Books

This debut work of Korean artist Bomi Park is packed with gentle charm, augmented with playful imagination.

One rosy-cheeked girl wakes in the night, hears a “pit, pit, pit” of snowflakes against her windowpane and quick-as-a-bunny, bundles up and heads out to the backyard to play.

Alone, yes, but for some pudgy puppies. In the middle of the night. We’re in fantasy territory here, which becomes clearer as she rolls a growing snowball right down the steps, through the town, across a meadow, and into a magical, snow-laden forest.

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Polar bears and dozens of snow children await to help her create a fantastical world of snowmen.

Park’s illustrations are tender, almost ethereal in the deepest section of the fantasy, completely in gray scale but for the flashes of cherry red hats, scarves and mittens. A wonder-filled, captivating tale for ages 2 and up.

walking-in-a-winter-wonderland-cover-imageWalking in a Winter Wonderland, based on the song by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith, illustrated by Tim Hopgood
published in 2016 by Henry Holt and Company

Sleigh bells ring
are you listening?
In the lane,
snow is glistening.

One of the quintessential songs of the holiday season has now been illustrated in the ebullient style of Tim Hopgood.

Colors that zing.

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Snowflakes that sparkle.

Icy cold and fireside warmth. Snowy owls and horse-pulled sleighs. Frosted forests and the brilliant blue skies of a cold winter’s day. 

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It’s all here, just waiting for you to sing along. There’s so much good cheer wrapped up inside these pages, it’s guaranteed to put a smile in your heart.

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archie-snufflekins-oliver-valentine-cupcake-tiberius-cat-cover-imageArchie 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?

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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-cover-imageThe 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.

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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.

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It’s a transfixing combination that can be appreciated on several levels. A rare gem for ages 2 to adult.

they-all-saw-a-cat-cover-imageThey All Saw a Cat, written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel
published in 2016 by Chronicle Books

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?

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A bee sees the cat in a pixilated image.

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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-cover-imageThis 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.

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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!!

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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.

cat-on-the-bus-cover-imageCat on the Bus, written and illustrated by Aram Kim
published in 2016 by Holiday House

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.

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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.

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dear-dragon-cover-imageDear Dragon, written by Josh Funk, illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo
published in 2016 by Viking

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Oooh. Autumn is my favorite season.

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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:

yellow-time-cover-imageYellow Time, written and illustrated by Lauren Stringer
published in 2016 by Beach Lane Books

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.)

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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.

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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.

wonderfall-cover-imageWonderfall, written and illustrated by Michael Hall
published in 2016 by Greenwillow Books

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…

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…thankfall…

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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-cover-imageGoodbye 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.

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By the time she’s made her rounds, we’ve walked from late summer into chill autumn and right back into her snug house.

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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-its-fall-cover-imageHocus 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…

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“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:

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“Food for weeks!”

Splendid and jolly for ages 18 months and older.

fall-ball-cover-imageFall Ball, written and illustrated by Peter McCarty
published in 2013 by Henry Holt and Company

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!

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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!

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Today I’m celebrating my daughter and the four years of strenuous studies she’s completed to earn her English Literature degree! Huzzah!

12644922_10208658263281851_4874906015764804054_n (1) Ingrid is one of the most caring human beings on the planet. She’s a sunny, strong, deeply-thoughtful, peacemaker, with more organizational savvy in her pinky finger than Leslie Knope! Yup.

And Ingrid is that person who, when you see the little quizzes to find out how many of the Top 100 Novels of All Time you’ve read — she clicks off nearly all of them. She’s amazingly well-read. Yet when she comes home to my stacks of picture books, she happily settles in to enjoy them.

So, I thought it fitting to post, in her honor, a list of children’s books written by folks known for being “adult” authors. I’ll start with one of the most recently published…

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Twenty Yawns, by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
published in 2016 by Two Lions

Pulitzer-prize winning Jane Smiley has written a rare gem for little ones ages Just-One and up. It’s one of those deceptively-simple stories, gorgeously crafted, which speaks intuitively to a child’s experience of the world, intelligently, without condescension. Timeless, warm, satisfying, it burrows right into your heart.

twenty yawns interior smiley and castillo

Lucy and her parents spend a happy day at the beach, thoroughly wearing themselves out by the time the sun is setting.

twenty yawns interior2 smiley and castilloYet when it’s time for bed, Lucy has a wee bit of trouble falling asleep. Several distractions and concerns niggle at her.

Only when they are properly attended to can Lucy relax into sweet slumber. Lauren Castillo’s monumentally-comforting artwork is the perfect match. Her chalky textures, shaggy lines, toasty-warm color palette, and amiable human figures welcome us into the story like…like what?…a friendly dog, a favorite quilt, a genuine smile. Castillo exudes warmth in every story she touches.

twenty yawns interior3 smiley and castillo

Sprinkled in the story and pictures are twenty yawns to discover and count — such a delightful added spritz of happiness. Don’t miss this one. It’s been on shelves for just about a month.

Moving on to another bedtime story, this time with quite a different flavor:

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The Bed Book, by Sylvia Plath, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
first American edition published in 1976 by Harper & Row

Dark and broody, Sylvia Plath is not the name I’d expect to find on this utterly delightful, imaginative poem, but there it is!

I don’t know just when she wrote this. It was published after her death. In Britain, it was published with Quentin Blake’s maniac line drawings…

the bed book interior plath and blake

while in the U.S. it appears with Emily Arnold McCully’s watercolors. It’s all about the fantastical sorts of beds one might have which would definitely make going to bed a much more exciting prospect. For example, this submarine bed:

the bed book illustration emily arnold mccully

or this elephant bed:

the bed book interior2 plath and blake

You might not be able to locate the McCully edition, 40 years old and out of print. But you can purchase a collection of the three children’s stories Plath wrote in one volume, The It Doesn’t Matter Suit and Other Stories and…why would you not want her other two stories as well? Ages 2 and up.

Sharing a similar flavor of rambunctious playfulness is:

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Peeny Butter Fudge, by Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison, illustrated by Joe Cepeda
published in 2009; a Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

All the rule-breaking benefits of being a grandmother, firecracker out in this happy account by the great novelist Toni Morrison.

peeny butter fudge illustration joe cepeda

As our story opens, Nana is left with three grandchildren while Mom exits for the day, having left detailed instructions for just what the children should do and eat at strictly-assigned hours. So organized. So responsible. So…not going to be adhered to by Nana.

peeny butter fudge interior morrison and cepeda

Nana’s not got time for television. She’s too busy careening along in potato sack races and swing dancing with her grands. She’s got an entirely different menu in mind for lunch. And to top it off, she declares they ought to stir up a batch of an old family recipe — Peeny Butter Fudge. All this means the house is rather a disaster when Mom comes home, but oh, are they ever happy!

Illustrated in pulsing, neon colors and rambunctious line. The fudge recipe is included! A gallon of fun for ages 2 and up.

A longer, but heavily-illustrated story is next up…

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The 13 Clocks, by James Thurber, illustrated by Marc Simont
published originally in 1950; published by The New York Review Children’s Collection in 2008

In his Introduction to the NYRCC edition of this book, Neil Gaiman calls this “probably the best book in the world.” So…fairly high praise from a guy who knows.

13 Clocks is quite a story! It’s a fantasy like you’ve never read before. It contains all the usual fairy tale tropes, but they’re given a huge licorice twist — somewhat of a Princess Bride, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy flavor.

the 13 clocks illustration marc simont

There’s a princess and an evil duke and a gallant prince and a quest. There are magic spells and creepy spies and cascades of precious jewels. So — yes, it’s a fairy tale. But there’s a leapfrogging, shot-out-of-the-blue quality to the narrative that zings us around like a tilt-a-whirl. Mightily eccentric.

the 13 clocks illustration2 marc simont

Besides the storyline shenanigans, the most obvious delights of this story are Thurber’s uncanny use of words. Made-up words. Crazily strung-together words. Mesmerizing, tantalizing, sparkly words! All of which make this a Read-Aloud confection.

Marc Simont, one of the most beloved illustrators, supplies fantastic characters and aura. What a team. A rollicking read-aloud for ages 6 and up. 124 pages.

Another, longer fantasy, plum-perfect for reading aloud is…

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Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
published in 1990 by Penguin Books

Haroun is the son of the famous storyteller Rashid Khalifa. They live in the saddest city in the world, “a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name. It stood by a mournful sea full of glumfish” and its factories manufacture sadness for export. Rashid’s stories are the only source of laughter in Haroun’s world.

But one day, the stories dry up.

And that’s not just a quirk of fate nor an accident. A really-really bad guy named Khattam-Shud, the Arch-Enemy of Stories, has ordered Iff the Water Genie to turn off the story spigot in the Sea of Stories. Haroun and Rashid and a growing band of fantastical allies are determined to put an end to that villain and his gloomy vision for a cold and storyless existence.

haroun and the sea of stories illustration marika chew

It’s an Alice-in-Wonderland world filled with extraordinary characters and plot twists. Rushdie is a wizard of a storyteller himself, of course, and his marvelous words magically, effortlessly, gather us into this adventurous tale.

In fact, this is also an allegorical tale, one in which it’s hard not to see elements of Rushdie’s own life and the fatwa which threatened to cut off his storytelling days. Young children reading or listening will enjoy the tale at its lively surface level, while older readers may make many interesting connections or observations to their own world, to the silencing of some voices, to the power of stories, or to various forms of governance.

It's been produced as an opera.

It’s been produced as an opera.

My library shelves this as adult fiction. It is certainly fiction that adults will thoroughly enjoy, but it is written as a children’s story, so don’t be afraid of checking this out for reading together. Ages 8 and up can listen; independent readers will need a stout vocabulary. 200 pages.

Finally, a turn towards poetry:

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Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, by T.S. Eliot, illustrated by Edward Gorey
poems copyright 1939; this edition with Gorey’s illustrations published in 1982 by Harcourt Brace & Co.

Cascading with playful verses and with peculiar, industrious, marauding, persnickety, comedic cats, this is a volume of verse guaranteed to tickle the fancies of young and old.

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If you or your children think, for instance, that poetry’s a bore, please make the acquaintance of the Rum Tum Tugger, Skimbleshanks, or Macavity the Mystery Cat. Marvelously entertaining stuff.

This is the basis for the Broadway musical "Cats" ( Marlene Danielle -- Photo by Thomas Monaster/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

This is the basis for the Broadway musical “Cats” ( Marlene Danielle — Photo by Thomas Monaster/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

Delicious wordsmithing, frolicksome rhythms, idiosyncratic personalities — all served up abundantly in the collection of more than a dozen poems. Edward Gorey’s genius, droll, Victorian, line-drawings are a fantastic pairing. Share these with ages 2 to Adult.

Over the years, I’ve posted quite a few other titles that would fit in this category. Here are a few of them, with links to their reviews:

Angela and the Baby Jesus, by Frank McCourt
Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor — Mervyn Peake
The Crows of Pearblossom — Aldous Huxley
Many Moons — James Thurber
The Wedding Procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle and Who Was In It — Carl Sandburg
Whitefoot — Wendell Berry
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang — Ian Fleming
Sigurd and His Brave Companions — Sigrid Undset
The Negro Speaks of Rivers — Langston Hughes
A Child’s Calendar — John Updike

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