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

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

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

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

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

This time, actual explosions result!

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

An uproarious delight for ages 2 and up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This year marks the 120th anniversary of Labor Day as an American holiday.

I love that we set apart a day to honor the dignity of work. Draw your kids’ attention, respect, and gratitude towards the multitudes of makers, cultivators, researchers, peacekeepers, caretakers, thinkers, restorers… with these titles:

before we eat cover imageBefore We Eat: From Farm to Table, by Pat Brisson, illustrated by Mary Azarian
published in 2014 by Tilbury House Publishers

Being thankful for those who provide our food is perhaps one of the most natural ways to raise awareness of the industrious folks that serve us. Plowers and planters, harvesters and milkers and fishers. Crate-packers. Truckers. The friendly lady who checks us out at the grocery store. And oh yes, the ones who buy our food and make a family meal. 

before we eat interior brisson and azarian

Mary Azarian’s gorgeous woodblock prints anchor every page of this brief, lyrical text in strength, dignity, and beauty. Her Vermont roots give it a distinctly New England vibe. It’s a warm, peaceful, deeply-satisfying read for ages 2 and up.

Along these same lines, you might try a few other gems:

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Who Put the Cookies in the Cookie Jar, reviewed here.


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To Market To Market, reviewed here.


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On the Farm, At the Market, reviewed here.

migrant cover imageMigrant, by Maxine Trottier, pictures by Isabelle Arsenault
published in 2011 by Groundwood Books

Little Anna and her family are migrant workers, a way of life that makes her feel a bit like a migratory bird or a rabbit that lives in an abandoned burrow. 

Anna wonders what it might feel like to be stationary. Like a tree, perhaps, “with roots sunk deeply into the earth.” Watching others come and go, but remaining, season after season, in one, comforting home.

migrant interior trottier and arsenault

This remarkable book exploring the life of a migrant-worker’s child is deeply reflective and thought-provoking. Isabelle Arsenault’s inventive, dreamlike images escort us into Anna’s realistically-sophisticated mindspace: children really do process such profound ideas. An Author’s Note tells more about the community of Mexican Mennonites  from which Anna’s family comes. 

It’s a fantastic window into another’s world, for ages 4 and up.

If you’d like to read about campaigns for the just treatment of migrant workers, try:

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Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

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Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers

mr. cookie baker cover imageMy Cookie Baker, written and illustrated by Monica Wellington
published in 1992 by Dutton Children’s Books

Some people have jobs just so plum full of kid appeal. The Cookie Bakers of the world have to be right up near the top!

Watch Mr. Cookie Baker mix, roll, bake, frost, and dole out hop-skippety-doo cookies for all the children swarming  his adorable shop!

mr. cookie baker interior monica wellington

There is so much jolly good cheer on every one of these pages, I dare you not to smile! Deliciously-charming fare for little ones ages 15 months and up, with four scrumptious recipes to try for yourselves. You can be a cookie baker, too!

who will i be lord cover imageWho Will I Be, Lord? by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by Sean Qualls
published in 2009 by Random House

Here’s another deeply-contemplative child, observing the callings of those around her and pondering what her own future holds.

Her strong, multiracial family and community engage in salt-of-the-earth occupations — preaching, teaching, and making music, as well as homemaking and mothering. I am so grateful for the dignified portrayal of these monumentally-important undertakings. Even her uncle, a rascal of a pool shark, gets his moment under her gaze, and a gracious conclusion. 

who will i be lord interior nelson and qualls

Who will I be, Lord? What will I be? is the repeating question lurking in her mind, just as it weaves itself through the thoughts of every child. Sean Qualls’ mixed media work is, as always, warmly-human with a jazzy, contemporary vibe. A really lovely read for ages 4 and up.

mary smith cover imageMary Smith, written and illustrated by Andrea U’Ren
published in 2003 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Some jobs grow obsolete. Mary Smith’s job, sadly, is one of them. Sadly, I say, because it is an enormously-intriguing job which I would guess would have great appeal to some members of your household!

There really was a Mary Smith who lived in the East End of London

The real Mary Smith!

The real Mary Smith!

at the outset of the Industrial Revolution, a time when folks had to report for work at the factory on time, but might not own one of those new-fangled alarm clocks. 

Enter the “knocker-up” who would, for a few pennies, come to your window at the right time of daybreak, and shoot dried peas — ping! — at your window until you appeared, frowsy-haired. Mission accomplished, and on to the next window. This short, delightful story about Mary’s pea-shooting prowess will tickle the fancy of you and listeners ages 3 and up!

ella takes the cake cover imageElla Takes the Cake, by Carmela and Steven D’Amico
published in 2005 by Arthur A. Levine Books

Finally, this enthusiastic little elephant named Ella! Such an earnest desire she has to be helpful to her mother in their bakery by the sea. But hot ovens and sharp knives do not mix well with small elephants, much to Ella’s dismay.

Ella comes up with a brilliant idea, however, which is very helpful and which requires tremendous perseverance! Cheer her along the way in this exuberant story, cram-jammed with charm.

ella takes the cake interior d'amico

There’s a bit of a Babar feel to the vintage, European-look illustrations, to my mind. Ages 3 and up. There are a bunch more Ella books if you like this one.

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This summer, again, I’m planning to create lists all-a-jumble with goodies from this year’s crop of picture books. Each one holds powerful seeds of ideas, wonder, imagination, creativity to germinate in our minds and hearts.

I’m getting a head start today with 10 outstanding titles. Take your pick!

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Spot, the Cat — a wordless book by Henry Cole
published in 2016 by Little Simon

Henry Cole’s brilliance in storytelling through his ink line drawings is on full display here in this captivating, cat-navigating, adventure.

spot the cat interior henry cole

A bird. A cat. An open window. Spot, the cat, leaps at the opportunity, but where does he go next? Tag along with Spot’s owner as we weave all over the city, trying to spot Spot! And nestle in with the coziest of endings. A most-satisfying journey for ages 3 and up.

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Leaps and Bounce: A Growing Up Story, by Susan Hood, illustrated by Matthew Cordell
published in 2016 by Disney Hyperion

Metamorphosis has never been so merry!

From the blobby mass of “round and spotted, polka-dotted” eggs to the “leaping, peeping, hopping, bopping” frogs who eventually emerge, this energetic guide entertains and informs seamlessly. It is a grand splash of fun!

leaps and bounce interior hood and cordell

And Matthew Cordell’s frogs! Have you ever seen such…

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happy…

leaps and bounce illustration detail matthew cordell
frogs?!

It’s a read-aloud winner, with exciting pages to unfold! Just right for this froggy time of year. Ages 2 and up.

the pancake king cover image

The Pancake King — story by Phyllis LaFarge, pictures by Seymour Chwast
originally published in 1971; republished by Princeton Architectural Press in 2016

Wow. I am loving the Princeton Architectural Press catalog! See for yourself what they’re up to at their website here.

This funky, remarkably-prescient story stars young Henry Edgewood who, one fine morning, decides to mix up some pancakes for breakfast. And oh my. They are delicious.

the pancake king illustration seymour chwast

Henry moves on to “buckwheat pancakes, blueberry pancakes, cornmeal pancakes, onion pancakes, and even blini. He ate them with maple syrup, blueberry syrup, sour cream, whipped cream, and apple butter.” And Henry was a whiz of a wiz if ever a wiz there was at flipping those flapjacks.

the pancake king illustration seymour chwast

However! What happens when Arthur J. Jinker swoops in ready to capitalize with a capital-C on Henry’s talents? A wild and sagacious tale for kids and grown ups ages 5 and up. *Includes Henry’s Famous Pancake recipe!

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Ideas Are All Around — written and illustrated by Philip C. Stead
published in 2016,a Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press

I suppose one of the most-frequently-asked questions of fiction writers is, “Where do you get your ideas?”

Deeply-thoughtful, award-winning author/illustrator Philip Stead ambles through an apparently idea-less day with us in this unusual, inspired, quiet, book. In the process he, and we, discover the tiny, interesting, nuggets of ideas that surround us in our ordinary spaces.

ideas are all around interior by philip c. stead

Formatted with photos and drawings that turn us toward what Stead sees with his eyes and in his mind’s-eye, it’s a book that calls us to closer observation and deeper wondering. A lovely, thought-provoking ramble for children as young as 4, and for grown-ups, too.

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Fairy Tales for Mr. Barker — written and illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg
first published in 2015; first U.S. edition 2016 by Candlewick Press

This is the first of two peek-through stories on today’s list, and it’s brought to us in Full-On Charm by Jessica Ahlberg, daughter of Alan and Janet Ahlberg of The Jolly Postman (and many many other marvelous books.)

Little Lucy is reading to her wee dog, Mr. Barker, when floop! he chases a butterfly right out the window. When Lucy follows, she lands in another place altogether — a cozy room with a table that’s set with large, medium, and small bowls of porridge. That small bowl is being eaten right up by a young, golden-haired girl. “I know where we are,” says Lucy. Do you?

fairy tales for mr. barker interior by jessica ahlberg

Follow Lucy and Mr. Barker on their fairy-tale escapades, hopping from one room to the next and using the clues to figure out where you’ve landed. A perfect treat for ages 2 and up who know their fairy tales.

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Apples and Robins — written and illustrated by Lucie Félix
originally published in France in 2013; first U.S. edition 2016 by Chronicle Books

And here’s the second story featuring fabulously ingenuous die-cuts.

The narrative of this book follows an apple tree and a nest of robins through the seasons. But — Félix’s genius graphic design makes magic happen on every page in such surprising ways that the book also becomes a feast for the imagination.

Die cuts transform an initial set of shapes, like these five short rectangles and one long rectangle…

apples and robins interior lucie felix

into objects with the turn of a page. See the ladder?

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It’s a mind-fizzing set of transformations to accompany the changes taking place in the natural world. A marvel, for ages Under-Two and up.

little why cover image

Little Why, written and illustrated by Jonny Lambert
originally published in Great Britain; published in the U.S. in 2016 by Tiger Tales

There are gobs and gobs of books telling children that, “You are special.” This one does it with copious amounts of good-humor, tangy language, and wonderful, vivacious illustrations. Nothing sappy about it, thank you very much.

little why interior by jonny lambert

Little Why is a dinky elephant, gamely trying to keep up with the herd but distracted at every turn. Understandably. Those “spiny-spiky” horns of the wildebeest and “long-lofty” legs of the giraffe are mind-boggling. And Little Why wonders why-oh-why he can’t have some, too. This gets him in wayyy more trouble than you can believe! A joyous romp for ages 2 and up.

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How to Find Gold, written and illustrated by Viviane Schwarz
first U.S. edition 2016 by Candlewick Press

Anna and her pal Crocodile are off to find gold. This is a dangerous and difficult venture! It requires secretive behavior, uncommon strength, cartography skills, and navigation in perilous seas!

how to find gold illustration viviane schwarz

But never fear. They’ve got this. This story is a heap of fun, an outrageously imaginative adventure, made possible by the faithful camaraderie of two brave friends. Enjoy it with ages 3 and up.

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Ten Kisses for Sophie! — written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells
published in 2016 by Viking

Aunt Prunella is having a birthday and Sophie’s mama is making her “favorite chocolate kisses with pistachio buttercream filling.” Wow. My mouth is watering.

ten kisses for sophie interior rosemary wells

Sophie is an able and enthusiastic cook’s-helper. What’s more, she shows incredible restraint, waiting to eat her chocolate kiss until everyone’s gathered for the party. But wait a second… One extra cousin has showed up and suddenly there aren’t enough kisses to go around!

See how this picklish, ticklish situation turns out in this charming book from one of the masters. Ages Two and up.

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Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois, by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
published in 2016 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

Louise Bourgeois was a world-renowned sculptor who is known, strangely enough, for her giant sculptures of spiders.

Why would anyone want to create a 30-foot-tall spider? 

cloth lullaby illustration isabelle arsenault

It’s quite a story. Louise’s mother was a weaver. She worked at restoring tapestries in France and taught Louise all about warp and weft, dye and wool, thread and intricate pattern. When Louise was a young woman, her mother died, and in her grief, Louise sculpted her first enormous spider, naming it Maman. For Louise, the spider did not represent something hideous, but an ingenuous thread-spinner, a repairer of broken filigree.

cloth lullaby illustration2 isabelle arsenault

Read this astonishing biography of Bourgeois, illustrated in the equally-astonishing lines, colors, and compositions of the amazing Isabelle Arsenault. Adults will love this, as will children ages 6 and up.

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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:

peeny butter fudge cover image

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…

the 13 clocks cover image

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…

haroun and the sea of stories cover image

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:

old possum's book of practical cats cover image

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.

practical cats illustration2 edward gorey

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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from the urbanhousewife dot com

Earth Day is coming up this week. I hope you take the opportunity to marvel at the wonderland around us and resolve to learn more about proper stewardship of this precious, interconnected home of ours.

For those of you in the Twin Cities, I’d also like to draw your attention to a lecture co-sponsored by the MacLaurin Institute and the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. Dr. Katherine Hayhoe will be speaking on Climate Change: Facts, Fictions, and the Christian Faith” on Thursday, April 21. You can find out more details at the link here

I’ve got a whole stack of excellent books today. I’ll proceed in order from least to most technical, and end with a gorgeous new cookbook to inspire all of us!

this is the earth cover imageThis is the Earth, by Diane Z. Shore and Jessica Alexander, paintings by Wendell Minor
published in 2016 by Harper

Wendell Minor’s magnificent paintings are the first thing you’ll notice in this gorgeous survey of the eons of life on Earth. Wall-to-wall color embraces us beginning with the clean, unspoiled beauty of savanna, river, and sky, explosive with wildlife, plant life, sparkling water, pure air.

this is the earth illustration wendell minor

As humans make homes and lives for themselves and increasingly subject the land to industrial spoilage and environmental damage, the pictures are not so gladsome. But the story doesn’t end there. The authors continue their poetic account of our interactions with Earth into the present, when better care-taking is practiced and begins to heal the planet.

It’s a tender, beautiful appeal towards greener living that is perfect for children ages 3 or 4 and up — the ideal time to begin forming sustainable habits.

nature's day cover imageNature’s Day: Discover the World of Wonder on Your Doorstep, by Kay Maguire, illustrated by Danielle Kroll
published in 2016 by Wide Eyed Editions

UK botanist Kay Maguire and Brooklyn-based artist Danielle Kroll have teamed up to create this lavish, beautiful guide to nature lore through the seasons. As with every Wide Eyed Edition, the production quality is impeccable. Everything is lovely!

nature's day interior maguire and kroll

Each season hosts its own glories, and they’re parceled out here in tidbits of information and charming, fresh illustrations. Learn about the fascinating Dawn Chorus of springtime. Investigate the vegetable garden in summer. Snoop in the autumnal leaf litter to see what’s lurking there. Check for surprising signs of life in wintertime. And so much more!

nature's day interior2 maguire and kroll

80 over-sized pages of beauty and wonder to meander through again and again. An inspiration for gardening, nature walks, trips to the farmer’s market, and appreciation for the natural world. Ages 4 and up.

buried sunlight cover imageBuried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth, by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm, illustrated by Molly Bang
published in 2014 by Blue Sky Press

This is the fourth book in Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm’s fascinating series on sunlight. What an astounding star that sun of ours is! 

Here they explain how oil, coal, and gas — fossil fuels — were formed, like tiny treasure chests with precious supplies of energy from the sun trapped inside of them, then buried deep in the earth.

buried sunlight interior2 bang and chisholm

And how, fairly recently, humans discovered those treasure chests and unlocked their potential by burning them to power our world. And how the rapidity of our use of these fossil fuels is affecting Earth’s climate like never before due to the enormous release of carbon dioxide that is occurring.

buried sunlight interior bang and chisholm

I am not a scientist. But Penny Chisholm is an MIT professor and Molly Bang has an uncanny knack of writing these complex facts in accessible language that even I can understand! This book has been vetted by my dear son, a PhD student in Environmental Microbiology, and some of his environmental cohorts and gets all thumbs up. Grab it to share with kids ages 5 or 6 and up. You adults will benefit from it, too!

a warmer world cover imageA Warmer World: From Polar Bears to Butterflies, How Climate Change Affects Wildlife, by Caroline Arnold, illustrated by Jamie Hogan
published in 2012 by Charlesbridge

I suspect most of us have heard about the difficulties polar bears are having in the arctic with the changes in the duration of sea ice which decrease the length of their hunting season.

But what about the impact of climate change on penguins and walruses. On butterflies and fish? The interconnectedness of the natural world is explained in a nature-notebook format in this informative book. You will learn how changes that affect plant life, water temperature, and ice conditions, go on to impact a wide collection of animals.

a warmer world interior arnold and hogan

With its succinct, clear, text and appealing illustrations geared to kids ages 7 and up this book shows some of the furry and feathered reasons we work to limit climate change.

what's the buzz cover imageWhat’s the Buzz?:Keeping Bees in Flight, by Merrie-Ellen Wilcox
published in 2015 by Orca Book Publishers

Author Merrie-Ellen Wilcox loves bees and raises them in six hives at her British Columbia home. Her enthusiasm for this hard-working insect shines through in this book that covers all things Bee.

Learn about the amazing bee, its life, work, and hive-home. Discover the astoundingly-huge job bees do as pollinators for enormous amounts of crops — apples, almonds, blueberries and more — that we eat every day, as well as the way they aid other species such as bears and fish. Find out all about the delicious honey bees produce and the many ways honey and beeswax benefit us. 

what's the buzz photos by rob cruickshank and christopher butterfield

Finally, and sadly, learn the enormous problems bees face today. This will come as no surprise to most of you, but oh, it is distressing! How can you become a Bee-Friendly Kid? A number of realistic steps are listed here which makes this book one of the most practical of the batch today. We can make a difference! Highly-accessible writing and lots of color photographs make this a great read for ages 9 and up.

inside biosphere2 cover imageInside Biosphere 2: Earth Science Under Glass, by Mary Kay Carson, photographs by Tom Uhlman
published in 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The ability to conduct controlled experiments in the great outdoors is enormously difficult, obviously. So many variables complicate the findings.

Enter Biosphere 2, a massive, glass-enclosed structure containing an amazingly-devised rain forest, desert ocean (yes, you’ll find out what that is), savannah, hillsides of soil, and teams of cool scientists researching important questions.

inside biosphere 2 photo by tom uhlman

How do rainforests respond to ever-increasing amounts of carbon dioxide? How will climate change alter the acidity of water and what difference does that make? How are Earth’s landscapes reshaped by climate change? What’s the best way to harvest rainfall?

This lengthy account is superbly written and documented for budding science enthusiasts who are chomping at the bit to take their place among the people asking these questions, devising experiments to find answers, and developing policies for the long-term good of Earth-dwellers. Thorough and intriguing for ages 11 to adult.

the forest feast for kids cover imageThe Forest Feast For Kids, by Erin Gleeson
published in 2016 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

A couple of years ago, Erin Gleeson published her bestselling cookbook, The Forest Feast. Lavishly decorated with her lovely watercolor illustrations and filled with simple, fresh, vegetarian recipes, it charmed the socks off of everybody.

Now, with the same touch of beauty and simplicity, she’s written an edition for kids. And it is sooo lovely! Look, here are the end-papers:

the forest feast for kids endpapers by erin gleeson

The pages of this book are bursting with gorgeous, full-color photos. Recipes with hand-lettering and watercolor flourishes cover everything from Pomegranate Hot Cider to Butternut Quesadillas and Plum Tartlets. All of them contain only a few, simple ingredients. Here is food that is a feast for the eyes as well as the palette. Food prepared as a gift of love and care. An artistic endeavor in which we appreciate the colors, textures, and flavors of fresh food.

the forest feast for kids interior by erin gleeson

So, why include this cookbook in an Earth Day post? Because the biggest impact you can make on your carbon footprint — even  beyond not driving your car —  is to give up or greatly reduce your consumption of beef. These recipes not only taste good, look splendid, and provide opportunity for community — they actually contribute to the health of the planet. 

A beautiful choice for boys and girls ages 7 and up. It would make quite a good birthday gift, I think!

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To be honest, I often feel overwhelmed gazing at the graphic novel section of my library. So many superheroes! So many ninjas! There’s nothing wrong with these. They just aren’t my cup of tea. However, I have found a number of graphic novels with quite a different voice, and besides being a delight for reluctant readers, they are a fabulous genre for anyone to explore. Here are four I’ve read recently and enjoyed, plus one illustrated novel:

little robot cover imageLittle Robot, by Ben Hatke
published in 2015 by First Second

I wouldn’t have guessed I’d call a robot book “sweet,” but this one is! It’s tender and daring. Darling and hair-raising. And it stars a resourceful, friendly little gal, her diminutive robot friend, and some handy tools.

From Little Robot’s first wobbly steps, he and the little girl who discovers him are on quite a journey together, exploring what friendship looks like between such different persons.

little robot interior by ben hatke

When a gang of giant, creepy robots pursue them, their friendship, bravery, and loyalty save the day . It’s a thoroughly-satisfying, enjoyable story, for ages 8 and up.

bake sale cover imageBake Sale, by Sara Varon
published in 2011 by First Second

Any story starring a cupcake is worth at least a second look, right?

Sara Varon is a delightful storyteller with an uncomplicated, friendly drawing style.

Cupcake runs the Sweet Tooth Bakery with panache. He dearly loves to create awesome confections for his patrons.

bake sale illustration sara varon

When Cupcake’s good friend, Eggplant, announces that he’s traveling to Istanbul to visit his Aunt Aubergine, and when Cupcake discovers that this aunt is a long-time friend of Super-Chef Turkish Delight — Cupcake’s dream-goddess-chef-hero! — he begins furiously working to make enough money to travel along.

bake sale illustration2 sara varon

It’s a delightful story, and as a delicious bonus, a number of Cupcake’s Sweet Tooth recipes are included so you can make Raspberry Squares, Peppermint Brownies, and more. A treat for ages 8 and up.

zita the spacegirl cover imageZita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke
published in 2010 by First Second

Zita and her friend Joseph are blasted into another world at the outset of this sci-fi adventure, the first of an extremely popular trilogy by Ben Hatke.

Joseph is immediately seized by a grim creature, all diving helmet and scurrilous tentacles. It’s up to Zita to navigate  the new species, mechanisms, and dangers of this place, find Joseph, and get them both safely back home. Can she do it?

zita the spacegirl interior ben hatke

If anyone can, it’s the intrepid Zita! It’s a thrill a minute, with explosions, humor, and a heap of loyal friendship, sure to win the hearts of readers, ages 9 and up.

sunny side up cover imageSunny Side Up, by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm, with color by Lark Pien
published in 2015 by Graphix

With this novel, we move from riotous space adventure to a poignant story of family, brokenness, and healing, based on the childhoods of brother-sister team, Jennifer and Matthew Holm.

It’s 1976, Sunny is 10 years old, and she’s heading to Florida to spend some time with Grandpa. That sounds idyllic, right? Disney World. Beaches. Sun. Ice Cream Cones. But that isn’t what’s in store for her. Grandpa lives in a retirement village with a bunch of batty old women and their cats. And he thinks Disney World is a tourist trap.

sunny side up interior jennifer holm matthew holm

As the weeks roll by, Sunny navigates this new pace of life, meets a new friend named Buzz, discovers superhero comics, rescues a lot of cats, and processes some painful, confusing memories from home. Concurrently, she discovers that masks, duplicity, and alter-egos can be tremendously hurtful, and both she and Grandpa learn that telling the truth can be a freeing proposition.  

A remarkable story addressing the pain of a loved one with substance abuse issues, with a lovely, personal note to readers from the authors. Ages 10 and up.

a year without mom cover imageA Year Without Mom, by Dasha Tolstikova
published in 2015 by Groundwood Books

Finally, this poignant, spare, illustrated novel set in 1990s Moscow. It’s not a graphic novel, but it’s so heavily illustrated that it sort of defies categorization.

Dasha is a 12-year-old girl whose mother is moving to the U.S. to study in a master’s program. Dasha will be left behind, living with her grandparents, and navigating an entire year without her mom. Nobody asks her if this sounds like a good idea.

a year without mom interior tolstikova

Friendships. School. Growing up. Exploring new identities. All of this is hard enough to handle with a mom at your side, but it feels overwhelming to Dasha.

a year without mom interior2 tolstikova

As the year progresses, Dasha comes into her own, starts to feel comfortable in her new independence. So what happens when Mom comes back? And what happens when she wants to take Dasha with her to America?

a year without mom interior3 tolstikova

It’s a fascinating, thought-provoking book, offering a window into Russian culture as well as the universal bond between daughters and mothers. The hushed, mostly monochromatic pages, splashed with cherry red, are gripping and lovely, with compositions and portraits that brilliantly reveal personality and powerful emotions. I truly enjoyed this book. Ages 11 through adult.

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