Archive for the ‘wordless books’ Category

wolf-in-the-snow-cover-imageWolf in the Snow, by Matthew Cordell
published in 2017 by Feiwel and Friends

My top pick for Valentine’s Day might seem unusual at first glance, but believe me — this is a book about love! Love within a family — anchoring, steadfast — and sacrificial love for the stranger. It touched my heart deeply.

Cordell’s wordless story features a little girl living in a northerly home where wolves dwell and blizzards swirl. On her way home from school one day, snow begins falling so fast and furious that she becomes utterly enveloped in it. Lost.


She’s not the only one. One frowsy wolf pup gets separated from its pack. As the little girl plods her way along, she comes across it, shivering, scared, whimpering. From far across the snow-covered hills she hears the mournful howling of the pack.

What to do?

The safe thing, of course, is to apologize to the pup and keep on her homeward journey! She’s cold and forlorn herself. Fatigued from pushing through that deep snow. Night falls early. Wolves are toothy! It’s certainly much more sensible to worry about her own self rather than that scruffy pup.

But scooping him up in her arms, she sets off across the snowy wasteland. It’s quite a journey and Cordell’s masterful pacing and artwork sweep us right into it. Not only do we experience the physical exertion, but also a powerful range of emotions.


 I was stunned by all that is stuffed into this small tale — beauty, heroism, courage, kindness, gorgeous wolves, the warmth of home, and above all one little girl’s willingness to put another’s needs ahead of her own. Brilliant, for ages 3 and up.

thelinesonnanasface-cover-imageThe Lines on Nana’s Face, written and illustrated by Simona Ciraolo
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books

This is truly one of the dearest books I’ve seen in a long time.

It’s Nana’s birthday and her granddaughter is excited to celebrate with her. She knows how much Nana loves to have her family all together. Yet this little girl has a niggling concern.

Sometimes it’s hard to read Nana’s face and know if she’s entirely, completely happy because of all the lines wrinkling across it.


Nana assures her that those lines don’t bother her a bit, because “it is in these lines that I keep all my memories!” Doubtful, her granddaughter quizzes her on each wrinkle. Which memory is tucked in that one, Nana? And in this one?

Nana easily relates the happy — and one sad — memories creased into her beautiful face. That includes one of the most precious memories of all.


Ciraolo’s palette of luscious pinks, sunshine yellow, warm biscuit browns, and glowing spring greens washes through this book like a glad smile. The rounded baby shapes of granddaughter and dignified angles of grandmother fit together, hand-in-glove, while life swirls and curls happily around them. A treasure of grandmotherly love to share with ages 2 and up.

i-love-you-too-cover-imageLove You, Too, written by Alastair Heim, illustrated by Alisa Coburn
published in 2016 by little bee books

Mama pig and her little porker move through a merry day together in this charmer. From morning wake-up and pancake breakfast, to jolly outings, baths, jammies and stories at day’s end, these two thoroughly enjoy one another’s company.

It’s the call-and-response text in this book that separates it from the rest, and it’s an absolute blast! “When I say ‘I love,’ you say ‘you.’ I love…YOU! I love…YOU!


Passing the words back and forth with young children in this singy, swingy rhythm can’t help but bring out the smiles!


Alisa Coburn’s pigs are hugely endearing. Her delicate line and candy-colored palette fill the pages with breeziness and jovial energy. Great fun for ages 2 and up.

delivery-cover-imageDelivery, by Aaron Meshon
published in 2017 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Grandma looks at her calendar at the start of this almost-wordless story and spots a big red heart on it marking a very special day. It’s coming up quick! She’d better hurry!

Bustling away in the kitchen, Grandma zips together trays full of lipstick-red, heart-shaped cookies, then packs them tenderly in a box and seals it with love. The delivery man takes it from her doorstep, and we’re off!


Off on the wildest, craziest, most exciting delivery route ever! By truck and ship, train and helicopter! Even by whale-spout and dog-sled! The package must go on! Hand it off! Hold on tight! Move it along!


Meshon’s exuberant imagination and bold, stylish designs will utterly entrance young children. At story’s end is perhaps the most surprising picture of all! Don’t miss it — it’s on the endpapers.

Packed with smiles and love, for ages 2 and up.

i-heart-you-cover-imageI Heart You, written by Meg Fleming, illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright
published in 2016 by Beach Lane Books

This sweet book is flush with tenderness, as soft and gentle as a lullaby.

Animal mamas and babies snuggle in burrows, romp in grassy patches, gather in nests, while a quietly-rhyming text describes all the ways those babies are loved.


All this takes place near a bright red house with a large garden where another mama and her little girl are picking raspberries. In the dusky twilight, they enjoy loving one another, too.


It’s a mellow, sweet refrain to share with little ones 18 months and up.

There are more Valentine’s-oriented titles in the Subject Index, if you like. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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I’ll start this week’s list with three gorgeous books about wildlife…

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Wild Animals of the North, written and illustrated by Dieter Braun, English translation by Jen Calleja
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books

This spectacular piece of work by German illustrator Braun introduces us to feathered, scaly, antlered, furry, sleek, tiny and enormous creatures who inhabit the great northern tier of the globe.

wild animals of the north illustration dieter braun

Stretching across North America, Europe, and Asia, on land, air, and sea, the 80 amazing animals in this catalog range from the unusual markhor to the well-known striped skunk; from the mysterious snow leopard to the lounging walrus.

wild animals of the north interior spread by dieter braun

Braun’s arresting shapes and muted, natural colors flood these pages with awe and dignity, while small patches of text converse with us engagingly about quite a number of the entries. It’s a beauty to pore over again and again for ages 3 to 100.

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Animal Doctors: Incredible Ways Animals Heal Themselves, by Angie Trius and Mark Doran, illustrated by Julio Antonio Blasco
published originally in Spain; English edition published in 2016 by Laurence King Publishing Ltd

Did you know that capuchin monkeys rub their fur with bits and pieces of various plants in order to rid themselves of parasites? Or that African elephants know just what to munch in order to kickstart the birth of a calf?

animal doctors interior by trius, doran, and blasco

This fascinating book explains some of the extraordinary, clever ways creatures use nature’s pharmacy to rid themselves of fleas, clean wounds, neutralize venom, disinfect nests, and lots more! Just the right amount of information, masterfully laid out in a pleasing format, covers 14 widely-varied animals and their cool skills. A brilliant approach for curious persons ages 5 and up.

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Amazing Animal Journeys, by Chris Packham, illustrated by Jason Cockcroft
originally published in Great Britain; published in the U.S. 2016 by Sterling Children’s Books

Charming, pleasant illustrations make this book about intriguing migration habits a perfect fit for young children, ages 2 and older. Lovely!

amazing animal journeys packham and cockcroft

Discover the forths-and-backs of some of the planet’s migration stars, from the pretty little Golden Jellyfish to the mammoths of the seas, the Blue Whale. Perfectly-pitched, brief bits of text feed the curiosities of children and make them more nature-aware.

We’re in the midst of  baseball season, so here are a couple great titles for young fans:

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The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton, by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Steven Salerno
published in 2016 by Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

This lively biography of a spunky gal introduces Edith Houghton who began playing professional baseball when she was — I am not making this up! — 10 years old. The focus of this story is the slice of her life from ages 10 to 13 making this immensely relatable for young readers.

the kid from diamond street interior vernick and salerno

Edith played for the Philadelphia Bobbies back in the 1920s and even made an epic journey with the team to Japan where they played before tens of thousands of fans. Salerno’s vivid, colorful illustrations whisk us into the 20s and around the world. Enjoy it with kids ages 5 and up.

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The William Hoy Story: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game, by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Jez Tuya
published in 2016 by Albert Whitman & Company

Perhaps you know the story of William Hoy, a ballplayer from Ohio who was immensely popular back at the turn of the century. Hoy had to overcome ridicule and unusual obstacles in order to play professional baseball. Because Hoy entered the sport before there were any hand signals used. And he was deaf.

the william hoy story interior churnin and tuya

This brief, upbeat account shows Hoy’s perseverance and the bright idea he had for umpires to use hand signals instead of only shouting out the calls. Where would baseball be without ’em?! Happy, cartoon-style illustrations keep things light. Ages 4 and up.

And a final, eclectic, fivesome:

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City Shapes, by Diane Murray, illustrated by Bryan Collier
published in 2016 by Little, Brown, and Company

I love the decades of work Tana Hoban did, photographing urban sights that invited children to observe and delight in their world. This new book reminds me of her vision.

city shapes interior murray and collier

Collier’s strong, vibrant collages swizzle us into summer in the city. Murray’s upbeat verse draws our attention to shapes to be spotted in those scenes. Marvelously diverse, inviting us to look and see in new ways. Great mind fodder for ages 2 and up.

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Nobody Likes a Goblin, written and illustrated by Ben Hatke
published in 2016 by First Second

Oh, Ben Hatke, what you do with a pen!!

nobody likes a goblin interior ben hatke

Atmospheric, personality-laden, magnetizing illustration work pulls us effortlessly into this story of a plucky little goblin and his frantic search for an old friend, pursued by hosts of folks who really, really don’t like goblins!

nobody likes a goblin interior 2 ben hatke

Pandemonious delight! Read it again and again! Highly recommended for brave children ages 3 and up.

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Now You See Me, Now You Don’t, a wordless book by Silvia Borando
originally published in Italy, 2013; first U.S. edition 2016 by Candlewick Press

This book is a complete hoot!

Put a crew of Crayola-bright creatures onto Crayola-bright pages and watch the ones whose skin color matches the background fairly disappear. It’s camouflage like you’ve never seen before, with just a pair of eyeballs left to blink out at us.

now you see me now you don't illustration silvia borando

No matter what the background color, though, there’s one creature that never seems to materialize. Who could it be? Jolly good fun for little peepers ages 18 months and older.

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The Mixed-Up Truck, written and illustrated by Stephen Savage
published in 2016, a Neal Porter Book from Roaring Brook Press

Stephen Savage is back with another earnest, amiable truck. You just can’t help loving these guys!

the mixed up truck interior stephen savage

This time it’s a cement mixer who’s new on the job. His task is to mix up some white powder and water to make cement for the construction site. This is not as straightforward as it sounds. Watch, groan, smile, cheer! A delight for ages Under-Two and up.

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Alfie Outdoors, written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes
published in 2016 by Red Fox

Here’s another classic Alfie story, republished by Red Fox who is bringing (thank you!!!) all the Alfie stories once again into U.S. markets. No reason for any child to not know Alfie and Annie Rose!

This story fins Alfie and Dad prepping and planting a new vegetable garden where Alfie is growing carrots as a treat for a special friend of his named Gertrude.

alfie outdoors illustration shirley hughes

Simple, non-electronic, outdoor play is a lovely element in so much of Hughes’ work and this certainly exhibits that. Get inspired for some gardening of your own, with ages 2 and up.

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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…

leaps and bounce illustration detail2 matthew cordell

leaps and bounce illustration detail matthew cordell

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!

ideas are all around cover image

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.

fairy tales for mr. barker cover image

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?


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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How’s Old Man Winter treating you? A stack of warmhearted books is probably what you need…whichever way the wind is blowing.

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Grandma’s House, written and illustrated by Alice Melvin
published in 2015 by Tate Publishing

Peek through clever windows, slip through doors, and climb into the unfolding-attic in this quaint household where a young girl is searching for her grandma.

Can you see the die-cuts to spy through and flaps to peek around? So much fun!

Can you see the die-cuts to spy through and flaps to peek around? So much fun!

She often stops at Grandma’s after school, pouring up a glass of milk from the blue-and-white china cow, fetching a chocolate biscuit from the tartan tin on the top shelf. But today, Grandma is nowhere to be found, until the girl scurries through a hole in the hedge and discovers…a lovely surprise! From an acclaimed Scottish illustrator, this is an absolute delight for ages 3 and up.

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Ketzel, the Cat who Composed, by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Amy June Bates
published in 2015 by Candlewick

An adorable black-and-white kitten named Ketzel plinkety-plunks her delicate paws down the piano keyboard in this story, based on true events.

ketzel the cat who composed illustration amy june bates

Her musician-owner, Morris Moshe Cotel, listens to her miniature melody, jots down black notes on white paper, and turns that cat into a bonafide, prize-winning, composer. Read this surprising, serendipitous tale with kids ages 4 and up. Amy June Bates’ warm-as-toast illustrations will steal your heart.

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Lost. Found. by Marsha Diane Arnold, illustrations by Matthew Cordell
published in 2015, a Neal Porter Book from Roaring Brook Press

One blustery winter’s day, a burly brown bear’s cranberry-red scarf skivvers off — whoosh! — in a blast of wind. Lost.

A couple of rapscallion raccoons find it, but — whap! zoom! — they get into a tiff and race off without it. Lost. Again.

lost found illustration matthew cordell

Follow that scarf through forest and field; watch it switch hands like a hot potato until, alas!, it turns into a woeful mess.  Is there any hope of restoring its cozy redness? Madcap, humorous, and redemptively-warm illustrations by Matthew Cordell tell this raucous, two-word story. A blast for ages 2 and up.

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Where’s Walrus and Penguin? a wordless book by Stephen Savage
published in 2015 by Scholastic Press

It’s starting to rain at the zoo. All the patrons are scurrying home. Walrus and Penguin seize their chance to slip out the gate, too, and cavort around the city for the day. Can you spot them in all their tricksy hiding places?

where's walrus and penguin illustration detail stephen savage

Following his huge success with Where’s Walrus, artist Stephen Savage has created another handsome, jolly book in which we cheer for the two escapees and their savvy, silly disguises. Plus, discover the surprising turn-of-events for our tusky friend! Ages Under-Two and up will love this.

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The Story of Diva and Flea, as told and shown by Mo Willems and Tony DiTerlizzi
published in 2015 by Hyperion Books for Children

Diva is a small white dog living in a posh Parisian mansion who very seriously guards his cobblestone courtyard.

Flea is a scrawly Parisian cat with a precise occupation –he is a flâneur. That is to say, he “wanders the streets and bridges and alleys of the city just to see what there is to see.”

When these two cross paths one felicitous day, one of the dearest, sweetest friendships results, happily documented here for our pleasure.

the story of diva and flea illustration tony diterlizzi

Read this small chapter book — 65 pages including un début, 13 teeny chapters, and a happy ending — with children 4 and up or give it to a 2nd-grade-ish reader. Tony DiTerlizzi’s retro illustrations masterfully capture the Parisian ambience ala The Aristocats, from the endpapers straight on through. Charming.

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The Bear Report, written and illustrated by Thyra Heder
published in 2015 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

If only every homework assignment could turn out like this!

Sophie’s short worksheet on polar bears feels dull and tiresome, so she zips off a few lame remarks and plops down to watch TV.

the bear report interior thyra heder

But when a glorious bear named Olafur shows up in the next-door-armchair and whirls her off for a tour of his Arctic home, Sophie’s outlook is dramatically changed.

Stunning artwork, perky personalities, and  an exquisite glimpse of the Far North. Really lovely for ages 3 and up.

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Ace Dragon, Ltd., story by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Quentin Blake
published in the UK in 1980; first US edition in 2015 by Candlewick Press

While strolling down a street, young John hears a “KLONK” coming from beneath a manhole-ish kind of lid. Turns out it’s a dragon. Wearing wellies. And what an affable dragon he is!

ace dragon ltd. interior hoban and blake

Champion battles, flying stunts, and an emergency landing on a little golden moon — all in a day for these two pals. It’s a rambunctious tale, with Quentin Blake’s marvelous, off-kilter illustrations to match, infused with a splash of Affection. Ages 4 and up.

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Mother Bruce, written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins
published in 2015 by Disney Hyperion

Silly and warmhearted. If that sounds like just the ticket for your brood, come meet Bruce, a grumpus of a bear who gets saddled with a brood of his own, most unwillingly!

mother bruce interior ryan t. higgins

I mean! A bear turns his back for one second and — whamo! — a batch of goslings erupt on the scene calling him Mama! What?! An Un-bear-able situation if there ever was! You don’t want to miss Bruce’s muddlesome pathway to motherhood  in this ridiculous, zippy story. Read it with ages 3 and up, and prepare to laugh right along.




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from cheshirecat66Halloween was always a much-anticipated holiday for me and for my kids. Carving pumpkins, inventing costumes, collecting sacks full of candy from friendly neighbors, then settling in for The Great Candy Swap — “I’ll give you 10 Laffy Taffies for one giant Snickers!” — all made for a pretty great night.

Here are a few titles to help set the mood for your Halloween adventures:

it's raining bats and frogs cover imageIt’s Raining Bats & Frogs, by Rebecca Colby, illustrated by Steven Henry
published in 2015 by Feiwel and Friends

A little witch named Delia has been waiting all year for the annual Witch Parade, but when it begins to pour, everyone’s spirits are sadly dampened.

With a flick of her wand and a little hocus pocus, Delia makes it rain cats and dogs instead. This cheers her fellow witches up only a short while, though, so she resorts to hats and clogs, and bats and frogs. What is the ideal weather for a Witch Parade, anyhow?

it's raining bats and frogs interior colby and henry

Delia is a delight, the pandemonium at the parade is silly and imaginative, and Steven Henry’s friendly illustrations are not the least bit shivery. Good fun for kids ages 2 and up.

boo la la witch spa cover imageBoo-La-La Witch Spa, by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Isabel Roxas
published in 2015 by Dial Books for Young Readers

After all the commotion of Halloween, a witch needs some serious pampering. That’s why these gals are heading on down to the fab-BOO Witch Spa complete with toadstool-scented candles, bat-whisker tea, and a sauna heated by dragon breath air.

Trolls and gnomes, warlocks and werewolves, are all in attendance here, ready to cater to the needs of their harried clients. No wonder these witches come back year after year.

boo la la witch spa interior berger and roxas

Ridiculous and clever beauty treatments in an other-worldly spa are illustrated in vibrant colors that scream of jollity. Ages 4 and up.

leo a ghost story cover imageLeo: A Ghost Story, by Mac Barnett, pictures by Christian Robinson
published in 2015 by Chronicle Books

Leo is a small house-ghost who has been occupying himself quite nicely in a deserted house for many years. Now he’s looking forward to warmly welcoming the new residents.

Much to Leo’s chagrin, these folks don’t seem at all happy to have a ghost around. Off he goes to search for other spots to ghost about, whereupon he meets Jane. Will Jane accept Leo as a true friend? Or will she disdain his ghostliness like the others?

leo a ghost story interior barnett and robinson

It’s a friendly, sweet swirl of a ghost story. Christian Robinson’s dynamic artwork brings a contemporary, urban vibe and pluckiness to this little tale that you will love. Ages 2 and up.

the troll and the oliver cover imageTroll and the Oliver, written and illustrated by Adam Stower
published in 2015 by Templar Books

Troll is raucous and bulgy and blue. Oliver is puny and carefree and quick.

Every day at lunchtime, Troll valiantly attempts to eat Oliver! But every day, Oliver is too quick, too sneaky, too elusive for Troll.

Until!!! Egads!! One day Troll lunges out of the cupboard and GULP! Note: This is a Very Scary Moment in the story. If you can brave your way past it, however, you are in for a most delectable surprise!

the troll and the oliver interior adam stower

Lots of laughs, plenty of hair-raising moments and a bombastically-sweet ending in this zingy story for brave children ages 3 and up! Includes a recipe for Troll Cupcakes.

bow wow's nightmare neighbors cover imageBow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors
, a wordless book by Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash

published in 2014 by Roaring Brook Press

This sophisticated, wordless book has a  Buster-Keaton-meets-The-Twilight-Zone feel to it and will captivate older readers than the other titles on today’s list.

Bow Wow is a little terrier with some mighty odd neighbors — a creepy mansion-ful of ghost cats. At the outset of our story, several of these neighbors enter Bow Wow’s house and in one well-executed swoop, steal his teal doggy bed right from under him.

bow wow's nightmare neighbors interior2 newgarden and cash

After a terrific howl of despair, Bow Wow sets out to retrieve his cushion, but he’s entering the Fun House and his surreal expedition will be full of weird passages, bizarre sights, a robber, a wicked storm, and one Seriously Large Cat.

bow wow's nightmare neighbors interior newgarden and cash

Don’t let the clean, bold look of these illustrations fool you into thinking it’s a simple story for the preschool crowd. Loads of clever details and gags are tucked in which you’ll find in subsequent readings — the first time, you’ll be turning pages quickly to find out what on earth happens next! Ages 8 through adult.

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This week — ten gracefully-aging books celebrating summer at the beach.

a beloved Frank Asch favorite

sand cake cover image

Sand Cake, written and illustrated by Frank Asch
originally published in 1978; this edition 2015 by Aladdin

One of my favorites from when my kids were small, this story shines with imagination and warmth.

sand cake interior by frank asch

Baby Bear and Papa Bear concoct one clever, make-believe Sand Cake, while Mama Bear provides a scrumptious alternative. Soooo imaginative and affectionate. A bunch of Frank Asch’s old titles are being republished. My advice: Scoop them up! Ages 2 and up.

a pleasant Swedish beach story

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Will Goes to the Beach, by Olof and Lena Landström
originally published in Sweden in 1992; English edition 1995 by R&S Books

Will and Mama are heading to the beach in this carefree, comfortable tale from the team giving us the Pim stories.

will goes to the beach interior by olof and lena landstrom

After a long bike ride, they finally arrive just in time for the rain to start. But does that stop Will and Mama? Not a bit! A briefly told, calm & happy story of seashores and swimming and picnics. Ages 2 and up.

heading down under for an Aussie holiday

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Greetings from Sandy Beach, written and illustrated by Bob Graham
published in Australia in 1990; first U.S. edition 1992 by Kane/Miller Book Publishers

Quintessential Bob Graham goodness here, with this  marvelously-average family jaunting off to the beach for a couple of days.

greetings from sandy beach illustration bob graham

Carsickness. A motorcycle gang. A busload of schoolkids. Difficulties with tent set-up. Graham excels at making the mundane feel as endearing as it truly is. Enjoy this sweet, funny glimpse of real family life, with ages 4 and up.

off to the Oregon coast with Grandma

grandma summer cover image

Grandma Summer, written and illustrated by Harley Jessup
published in 1999 by Viking

Young Ben is being whisked off to spend time with his grandma at her old cottage on the shore. Ben is not a fan of this plan.

grandma summer illustration harley jessup

It doesn’t take long, though, for the simplicity and beauty of this place, and the moxie and joy of his most excellent grandma, to capture Ben’s heart. A delightful, warm, and refreshing read for ages 4 and up.

British beach superheroes, up next

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Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey, written and illustrated by Mini Grey
published in the UK in 2011; first U.S. edition 2012 by Alfred A. Knopf

If you haven’t met Traction Man yet, you’ll want to make his acquaintance. He’s a small action figure whose best pal is his pet Scrubbing Brush. Together, these two have some mighty adventures.

traction man and the beach odyssey interior by mini grey

This time it’s off for a holiday at the beach where they encounter underwater creatures, accidentally wash out to sea, and meet some dollies named Beach-Time Brenda! Funny and action-packed, with a bit of a Toy Story feel, for ages 5 and up.

a tender toddler tale from Helen Oxenbury

tom and pippo on the beach cover image

Tom and Pippo on the Beach, written and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
published in the UK in 1992; first U.S. edition 1993 by Candlewick Press

Tom and Pippo are some of Helen Oxenbury’s most enduring and endearing characters. If you have toddlers, you should seek out some of these little books; they’ll be loved to death.

tom and pippo on the beach illustration helen oxenbury

In this episode, Tom and Pippo (his snuggly monkey) spend a day with Dad at the beach and have some interesting encounters with hats. Extremely simple and simply perfect, for ages 1 and up.

sheer craziness, along the coast of Maine

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Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee, written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
published in 2000 by Chronicle Books

Chris Van Dusen’s electric-bright illustrations, bursting with vigor, sunshine, and pandemonium will draw anyone into this wild tale.

down to the sea with mr. magee interior by chris van dusen

Magee and his faithful dog Dee are heading out to sea for a pleasure ride when they run amok with a pod of whales and Whoa Nellie! — does the day ever turn out unexpectedly! A blast of crazy adventure and humor, for ages 4 and up.

one helpful chicken at the beach

lottie's new beach towel cover image

Lottie’s New Beach Towel, written and illustrated by Petra Mathers
first published 1998; this edition 2001 by Aladdin Paperbacks

Lottie the chicken receives a cheerful new beach towel — cherry red with white polka-dots — just in time for her beach picnic with her pal, Herbie.

lottie's new beach towel interior by petra mathers

And what a handy towel it turns out to be! Find out all its fortuitous uses  including saving the day for a beach wedding, in this perky little story, for ages 2 and up.

town mouse and the country mouse — the beach sequel

charlie and tyler at the seashore cover iamge

Charlie and Tyler at the Seashore, written and illustrated by Helen Craig
published in 1995 by Candlewick Press

From the illustrator of the darling Angelina Ballerina books comes this second episode in the lives of Charlie, the country mouse and his cousin, Tyler, the town mouse.

charlie and tyler at the seashore interior helen craig

This time they’re off to the beach and what a lot of adventures await them! Far too many for Charlie’s tastes. Boat rides, toy theaters, and a peckish spell in a seagull nest! Home sweet home never felt so good. Ages 4 and up.

an epic adventure for some kittens, courtesy of John Goodall

the surprise picnic cover image

The Surprise Picnic, a wordless book by John Goodall
published in 1977 by Atheneum

No one does wordless quite like John Goodall.  With his half-page turns that change the scene and advance the story, and his adorable small creatures in their charming English environs. Fantastic.

the surprise picnic interior by john goodall

It’s a beautiful day and Mama Cat is taking her kittens on a picnic. Off they row across the bay to a secluded beach where they spread out the tea and tarts. That’s when the surprises begin however, as the most extraordinary sequence of adventures unfolds! Will this trio ever return to their comfy home? A treat for ages 2 and up.

More beach and summer titles are listed in the Subject Index under Seasons — Summer.
Why not beat the heat with some lemonade and a good book!

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It’s full-on summer. Time once again for me to change-up my blogging for a few months so I can soak up all this green-ness and daylight…and enjoy time with a couple of my children home from college.

Summertime by Mary Cassatt

Summertime by Mary Cassatt

This summer I’m planning to share my absolute top, favorite, cream of the crop picks from the stacks of books I look at each week.  No themed lists. Just whatever I find astonishingly good.

I could write an entire post on every one of this week’s picture books. I loved them all. I think you will, too!

Especially for big and little sisters:

tell me what to dream about cover image2

Tell Me What to Dream About, written and illustrated by Giselle Potter
published in 2015 by Schwartz & Wade Books

An exceptionally-imaginative older sister tries to come up with ideas for her little sister to dream about so she can go to sleep.

tell me what to dream about illustration giselle potter

This big sister has Seriously Awesome Ideas for dreamland, such as the “furry world” pictured above, yet has a dickens of a time coming up with something that suits her younger sibling. Gloriously imaginative and colorful! Ages 3 and up.

Humor for dog-lovers:

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The Bear Ate Your Sandwich, written and illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach
published in 2015 by Alfred A. Knopf

A clever dog offers an extraordinarily convoluted tale to explain the disappearance of his little girl’s sandwich.

the bear ate your sandwich illustration julia sarconne-roach

It’s all down to a bear, you see, who was lured from his den by the smell of some ripe strawberries…and off we go. Funny, with a most charming bear and dog. Ages 3 and up. 

Exquisite and Wordless for Children and Their Grown-ups:

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Sidewalk Flowers, conceived by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Sydney Smith
published in 2015 by Groundwood Books

This gorgeous, wordless book follows a little girl and her father as they walk through the city to their home.sidewalk flowers interior jonarno lawson and sydney smith

As she trots along, she sees snippets of beauty scattered through the concrete landscape which all the adults around her overlook, and she sweetly, generously shares that beauty with a variety of others. Incredible book. Hopefully it will garner some awards. Ages 6 and up.

Stylish Diversity to Ponder:

the world in a second cover image

The World in a Second, by Isabel Minhós Martins, illustrated by Bernardo P. Carvalho, translated by Lyn Miller-Lachman
originally published in Portugal in 2008; first American edition published in 2015 by Enchanted Lion Books

Jaw-dropping gorgeous design/illustration in this fascinating book about all the things that might be happening at the same second all over the world.

the world in a second illustration bernardo p carvalhoIncludes a world map showing all the places referenced. Fantastic and thought-provoking. Ages 5 and up.

Sweet Scandinavian Delight for Wee Ones:

where is pim cover image

Where is Pim? by Lena and Olof Landström, translated by Julia Marshall
originally published in Sweden in 2013; first American edition published in 2015 by Gecko Press

This is the darling sequel to Pim and Pom which I reviewed here. Pim is the little pink bunny. He is Pom’s special lovey. And egads! He goes missing!

where is pim interior lena and olof landstrom

Simple and dear for the very youngest — 18 months and older.

Poignant, Thought-Provoking, with Family Love at the Core:

yard sale cover image

Yard Sale, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
published in 2015 by Candlewick Press

If you’ve held a yard sale, you know how tough it can be for kids to part with their stuff, no matter how much dust has gathered on it since they last realized it existed.

For the child in this story, Callie, it’s a different matter. Her family has to drastically downsize due to money troubles, and nearly everything familiar is being sold.

yard sale interior eve bunting and lauren castillo

That’s a heavy premise for a picture book, and this one’s got some raw emotions in it. Still, there’s a warm recognition of family sticking together come what may. Plus, Lauren Castillo’s illustrations are as heartwarming and lovely as always, providing the needed embrace of comfort.

If I were reading this with a child, I would definitely help them distinguish between the average yard sale which is sheerly a decluttering of excess stuff, and a situation as heart-heavy as this one. Ages 5 and up.

A Dream of a Tale for Introverts:

pool cover image

Pool, a wordless book by JiHyeon Lee
originally published in South Korea in 2013; first published in the U.S. in 2015 by Chronicle Books

This soft-as-a whisper story tenderly and imaginatively leads us through a chance meeting of two quiet children.

Pool illustration JiHyeon LeeThey’re at a public swimming pool, nearly overwhelmed by the brash, noisy, rambunctious crowds of kids, when with a dive and a swish, these two strangers meet and explore an imaginative, watery world together. Elegant and meaningful, especially for the quieter ones in this raucous world. Ages 5 and up.

Eccentric and Delightful:

crabtree cover image

Crabtree, by Jon & Tucker Nichols
published in 2013 by McSweeney’s McMullens

Alfred Crabtree has lost his false teeth.  Uh-oh. He’s searching through all his belongings to find them, and it’s quite a task.

crabtree illustration jon and tucker nicholsMarvelously absurd. Drily humorous. It’s a total lark to comb through these groupings of Crabtree’s possessions, from his Hat & Helmet collection to his Small Yapping Dogs collection. It’s all here, laid out and labeled. Ages 7 and up.

Subversive Humor Guaranteed to Make Kids Smile:

meet the dullards cover image

Meet the Dullards, by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri
published in 2015 by Balzer & Bray

Mr. & Mrs Dullard run an exceedingly gray, bland ship, which is just how they think things should be. Books, outdoor play, even chunky applesauce, are all verboten.

the dullards illustration daniel salmieriLaugh together at the boring-est parents ever, and watch the Dullard children conspire to grab some excitement. Over-the-top silliness for ages 5 and up.

Do Try This At Home:

the secret life of squirrels cover image

The Secret Life of Squirrels, written and photographed by Nancy Rose
published in 2014 by Megan Tingley Books/Little, Brown and Company

The photographs in this book are not photoshopped!

the secret life of squirrels photo by nancy roseThey’re taken by Canadian photographer Nancy Rose, who builds tiny sets for these fuzzy fellows, adds some peanuts to lure them in, and then stands at the ready to snap the charming, unbelievable photos. These will tickle the fancy of you and your kids and maybe beckon you into some wildlife photography. Q&A with Nancy is included. Ages 4 and up.

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