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Posts Tagged ‘curiosity’

What is like a summer evening?

The luxurious length of daylight, the satisfying, sun-kissed fatigue after a day of bumbling about out-of-doors, barefoot-and-happy kids wafting an aroma of chlorine, sunscreen, and popsicles. All of it breathes magic into bedtime story hour. These gems will do just fine.

Me, All Alone, at the End of the World, written by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
originally published in 2005; reissued in 2017 by Candlewick Press

One of my small peeves is the preponderance of plots in kids’ books that go something like this: child is quiet and likes solitude; child meets loud, friendly sort; child realizes that life is ever so much sweeter when constantly surrounded by friends. Heaven knows friends are treasures and no man is an island, yada yada yada. But there seems to be such an undervaluing of a healthy contentment in keeping one’s own company.

Enter this gem, a combination of fantasy and social commentary that applauds serenity, untrammeled quietude, and the simple life, and does it with the magic and spectacle of Willy Wonka. Have you met any book like this before? I think not.

In the beginning, this entirely-stable, self-reliant young boy lives by himself at the end of the world. He spends his days inventively, messing about with fossils and treasure maps, drinking in the sound of the wind and the great “chuckling beasts” who growl outside his snug shack with “voices like plumbing.” Life is grand. Until one odd, bespectacled fellow comes along — Mr. Shimmer by name — promising to improve the place, drag in cartloads of friends, produce a land of “fun all the time.”

What does life look like when solemn silences are banned in favor of “nothing but laughter”?

This is a vibrant, meaningful story, illustrated with fantastical colors and perceptiveness by Kevin Hawkes. I’m confident that any true introvert will love it, as well as all who appreciate natural spaces and a dash of loneliness. Great read for ages 4 and up.

Blue Sky White Stars, written by Sarvinder Naberhaus, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
published in 2017 by Dial Books for Young Readers

I wish I could have reviewed this in time for your Fourth of July celebrations, but this is a spectacular book for any time. It’s a phenomenal meditation on the meaning of our flag and the meaning of America.

Phrases of Americana — Stand Proud, Old Glory, All American — are represented by two different images on mirroring pages reflecting two ways of thinking about these stirring words.

Nelson’s paintings are stunning, as always, and his treatment of these thought-provoking ideas immerses us in the beauty of the land, the strength of our diversity, and the honorable elements of our history. What rockets the significance of the book even higher is the fact that author Sarvinder Naberhaus is an immigrant from Punjab to Iowa and artist Kadir Nelson is an African-American. I am astonished by the work they have created together. Notes from both with their thoughts on this book are included.

Whether you are a fervent patriot, or perhaps an American Vet, or you feel a bit jaded and weary just now, I am telling you — this book will make your heart glow with a bit more hope and a bit more brotherhood. Ages 3 through adult.

The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry, written by Danna Smith, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

Enter the world of castles and keeps, where one young girl accompanies her father as he trains his goshawk.

Learn about preferred perches, feathered hawks’ hoods, and the exhilarating dive of a hawk when it spots its prey. Discover the use of bells, gauntlets, lures, and the mews. And be swept into the middle ages via Bagram Ibatoulline’s evocative paintings. It’s a beautiful, fascinating trip into history.

The bulk of this story is told in brief, rhyming verses, easily accessible to children as young as 2 or 3. Short, more in-depth explanations are added to each page pitched for children ages 4 or 5 and up. And a lengthy Author’s Note goes into even more detail for middle-grade through adult readers. So you see, this book is smartly adapted to a wide age range.

Little Blue Chair, written by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Madeline Kloepper
published in 2017 by Tundra Books

I love this clever, unassuming story demonstrating the interconnectedness of our world and the serendipitous events that sometimes come about because of that.

It all starts with Boo and his favorite little blue chair. It’s his prize possession. Just right for sitting on while munching a peanut butter sandwich, parking in the garden for a flowery reading nook, hanging a blanket over for a secret cave. Just an all around great little chair.

When Boo outgrows it, the chair finds a new home with a sweet, grey-haired lady who uses it for a plant stand. When the plant outgrows that little blue chair, its off to yet another home. And another.

You can’t imagine the journeys of this small chair, the far-flung locations and different owners it encounters. Until it comes full circle, straight back to Boo. How does that happen? What’s the chair’s story? Read this soft-spoken account and prepare to be dazzled. Surprisingly comforting and heart-warming for ages 2 and up. Madeline Kloepper’s illustration work is the bees knees. Bit of a Carson Ellis vibe. I can’t wait to see more from her!

Midnight at the Zoo, written and illustrated by Faye Hanson
first US edition 2017 by Templar Publishing

Max and Mia are two irrepressibly curious children — and that is one great quality!

Today they’re on a class trip to the zoo. The busload of their squirrelly classmates descends in raucous abandon, careening down pathways, goggling for glimpses of lemurs and flamingos, meerkats and lions. But! Not a whisker do they see. I don’t wonder!

Max and Mia, meanwhile, take things at their own pace. Which is: slower, quieter, more observant, curiouser, if you will. Which means: they are inadvertently left behind for Quite the Night at the zoo!

Fantastical events galore are in store for these two marching-to-the-beat-of-their-own-drum kiddos. Readers will love spotting the shy animals hiding from the brouhaha, and adore the treats in store for Max and Mia. Pizzazz on tap, for ages 3 and up.

How Long is a Whale? written and illustrated by Alison Limentani
first published in North America in 2017 by Boxer Books

Following up on her smart book, How Much Does a Ladybug Weigh, here is veterinarian-turned-illustrator Alison Limentani’s next winner, all set for curious young minds!

This time we’re exploring the lengths of animals, using other animals as our measuring devices. Starting with 10 sea otters who all together are as long as 9 yellowfin tuna, we swim our way through captivating undersea worlds until it’s time to size up the biggest granddaddy of ’em all, the Blue Whale.

He needs a super-duper gate-fold page to convey his entire incredible size! It’s awfully exciting!

Bold, beautiful prints with just the facts, ma’am. That’s the recipe for a book that’ll rivet the attentions of kids as young as 2, pique their curiosities, and spark their imaginations. How many squirrels long is your dog? How many bananas long is your bed? Endless possibilities ūüôā

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It’s full-on May. Green swathes the earth, tulips paint gardens, socks and shoes lie discarded. Time for some fresh, glad picture books for hammock and lemonade time. Every one of these is guaranteed to be a juicy pleasure¬†for thirsty, curious minds.

Everybunny Dance!, written and illustrated by Ellie Sandall
originally published in¬†Great Britain; published in the U.S. in 2017 by Margaret K. McElderry Books, and imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Oh, these darling bunnies! Plump bottoms. Jovial splotchy fur. Cheerful capering. Just…irresistible.

How merrily they dance, play, and sing! UNTIL!! Egads! It’s a fox! Everybunny run!

When these worried-yet-sensitive bunnies see a tear trickle down that fox’s long nose, however, they respond with the sweetest bunnywarmth of all. There is so much gladness and good will in this book, you’ll feel your heart expand a couple of sizes. A gem for ages 18 months and up.

Under the Umbrella, written by Catherine Buquet, illustrated by Marion Arbona, translated by Erin Woods
originally published in French; English edition published in 2017 by Pajama Press

A sodden day brings out the grumpies for one curmudgeonly fellow, striding down the avenue under his black umbrella, scowling, dashing, spluttering…

Meanwhile, a lemon-yellow bakery window shining out upon the grey day attracts a little boy like a moth to lamplight, those mouthwatering mousses and razzledazzzle tarts beaming sunshine into his soul.

What happens when a gust of wind whooshes these two people together? A smile. A kind gesture. A spilling over of sweetness. This dynamic book will gladden you, not to mention precipitating a trip to the local patisserie! Striking illustration work emotes the changing moods of this story with tremendous pizzazz. A joy for ages 2 and up.

Round, by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Roundness. Such a simple concept, carried out brilliantly by Minnesota poet Joyce Sidman, illustrated with tender warmth by the talented Taeeun Yoo.

This ambling¬†exploration of round things gently unfolds in Sidman’s pristine text. ¬†Words reflecting the incisive wonder of a child are pared down to those quiet, perfect few that resonate within the reader, stimulate more wonder.

Yoo’s print-like illustrations are impeccable, gracing every page with physical and emotional beauty that stops us in our tracks.

I adore this book — timeless, thoughtful, curious, warmhearted. Perfect for sharing with ages 18 months and up.

Mr. Postmouse Takes a Trip, written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc
originally published in French, 2016; English language edition 2017 by Kids Can Press

Mr. Postmouse stole my heart with his first round of deliveries, reviewed here.

Now he’s off for a whirlwind, ’round-the-world vacation with his family. Ever responsible, Mr. Postmouse brings along a cartful of parcels to deliver along the way.

Whether on a volcanic isle or at a desert oasis, the Postmouse family enjoys meeting new friends. What¬†a¬†jolly treat to visit these¬†places with them! Best of all are the peeks into many, tiny, clever homes and shops along the way. Home in a cactus or a tiny yellow submarine. Home on a cloud or in a dragon’s lair. Darling wee furnishings and details make this a treasure to pour over with ages 2 and up.

Arthur and the Golden Rope, written and illustrated by Joe Todd Stanton
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books

Welcome to a fabulous Norse tale about young Arthur of Iceland, a lad destined for epic quests from his earliest days.

When the brutish wolf, Fenrir, blots out the town’s great cauldron of fire, plunging them into icy darkness forever, it’s Arthur who’s chosen to venture off to Valhalla, track down Thor, and urge him to use his thunderbolt to rekindle their flame.

But oh! this is much easier said than done! Incredibly appealing¬†panels of illustrations carry us into a legendary Nordic world as Stanton spins this wildly adventurous tale. This appears to be the only title available¬†in the Brownstone’s Mythical Collection. I’m definitely hoping for more. Fantastic storytelling for ages 5 and up.

This House, Once, written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman
published in 2017 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

The door in this house once was part of “a colossal oak tree about three hugs around and as high as the blue.”

Now there’s an intriguing thought.¬†What about the foundation stones? The red bricks in the walls? Or these glass window panes?

What were all the things that make up this house, before they turned into our house?

Quietly thought-provoking, this dreamy book will spark ideas and questions and wonder about not only houses, but all manner of objects we take for granted. What were they once? How are they made? Who made them?

An immensely clever, ethereal prod towards wondering, for ages 4 and up.

Bob the Railway Dog: The True Story of an Adventurous Dog, written by Corinne Fenton, illustrated by Andrew McLean
published in 2015 in Australia; first U.S. edition 2016 by Candlewick Press

If you’re a dog lover, you’ll warm to this engaging story about a homeless dog adopted by a railway guard back in 1884 Australia.

It took no time at all for this shaggy dog named Bob to attach himself to Mr. Ferry, to learn how to hop aboard the caboose and ride the rails, to switch trains at will in order to see a sizable stretch of the Australian countryside.

Bob was welcomed everywhere, and you’ll welcome him into your hearts, too, as you steam along from Adelaide to Kalangadoo! Sweet story, handsomely illustrated with gentle watercolor illustrations that bring the era and the land to life. Ages 4 and up.

Tony, written by Ed Galing, illustrated by Erin Stead
published in 2017; a Neal Porter Book from Roaring Brook Press

If I handed you this book and you didn’t know it was new, you would likely guess it was a vintage picture book from, say, the 1940s. A velvet soft, yesteryear quietness breathes out from every ounce of it.

The poem which comprises the text was written by Ed Galing just prior to his death in 2013. It’s a reminiscing poem about a sweet-tempered white horse, Tony, who pulls the milk wagon for driver Tom¬†on their¬†early morning rounds. Straightforward, free of soppiness, rich with adoration for¬†this beloved horse, Galing’s poem narrates the routine, cherished interactions between Tony, Tom, and a customer.

Erin Stead’s dove-soft pencil drawings sweep us into a sweet relationship with these three. Her palette of grey-green whispers, while patches of lamplight cast a welcoming glow in the cool dawn shadows. Every element is just so quiet.

I love quiet books, in a world too often dominated by loud, frenetic offerings for children. Soak in the beauty, the stillness, the human pace of Tony. A treat for ages 2 to 100.

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magnificent, tiny sparks of wonder

small wonders cover image

Small Wonders: Jean-Henri Fabre & His World of Insects, by Matthew Clark Smith, illustrated by Giuliano Ferri
published in 2015 by Two Lions

My clear favorite for this week is this fascinating biography of a wonderful entomologist. This Frenchman was a keen observer who took time to wonder and look and discover.

And he was an excellent writer with a passion to lure all of us “to see the world through fresh, patient eyes — to appreciate the mystery and wonder of even the smallest creatures.” For his beautiful writing about nature, he was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature.

small wonders illustration giuliano ferri

Matthew Clark Smith has the background and heart of a naturalist, and communicates the beauty of Fabre’s pursuits in his captivating text. Ferri’s watercolor and pencil illustrations are radiant¬†and lovely. Highly recommended¬†for ages 5 and up.

darling and bursting with helpfulness

whose shoe cover image

Whose Shoe? by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
published in 2015 by Clarion Books

This brilliant author-illustrator team have concocted an immensely satisfying tale of a conscientious little mouse who finds one, lone, shoe. 

whose shoe illustration sergio ruzzier

He is determined to find its owner, who must be missing it dreadfully. When his task is accomplished, his reward is sweet indeed! Charming to the nth degree, for ages 2 and up.

a lovely ode to the annual beach vacation

see you next year cover image

See You Next Year, by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Todd Stewart
published in 2015 by Owlkids Books

Coming to us from Canada, here is the quintessential family week at the beach. From the long drive to the coast, to the ever-present seagulls, beach umbrellas, and soothing rhythms of the days. Nothing changes, and that is why this little girl likes it. 

see you next year interior larsen and stewart

This year, though, she makes a new friend. Together they share the familiar, and when they leave, they know they can count on one more common thread to their beach vacations — seeing one another the next year. Great little beach read, with striking illustrations, for ages 2 and up.

a magical glimpse of nighttime

the night world cover image

The Night World, written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein
published in 2015 by Little, Brown and Company

Award-winning author/illustrator Gerstein artistically, creatively explores nighttime in his latest book. One little boy and his cat, Sylvie, are the only ones awake and creepity-creep, out they step into the mesmerizingly-different back yard night world.

the night world interior mordicai gerstein

Chalky-black illustrations, sinuous and mysterious and fabulous, ¬†hold so much¬†to discover! Then, the star-studded sky slowly brightens and swooosh! — daylight spreads with color galore. Fantastic book full of wonder and discovery for ages 2 and up.

gorgeous look at the fascination and elegance of a whale

the blue whale cover image

The Blue Whale, written and illustrated by Jenni Desmond
published in 2015 by Enchanted Lion Books

British artist Jenni Desmond has taken a marvelously creative approach to simply telling us all about blue whales.

the blue whale interior jenni desmond

Gorgeous artwork cleverly communicates an outstanding amount of interesting information about these intelligent, graceful giants. This is science that tastes like chocolate fudge ice cream. Brilliant work, for ages 5 and up. Here’s hoping she tackles more books that get published in the U.S. Thank you, Jenni and Enchanted Lion!

outstanding story bubbling with warmth and contentment

sunday shopping cover image

Sunday Shopping, by Sally Derby, illustrated by Shadra Strickland
published in 2015 by Lee & Low Books Inc.

This exceptional story is based on Sally Derby’s childhood memories. Evie and her grandma have a Sunday night tradition that’s delightful and heartwarming, and Evie is here to tell us all about it.

sunday shopping interior derby and strickland

It involves dressing in nighties and fancy hats, gathering scissors, tape, and the Sunday newspaper, and “going shopping.” But the real ingredients of this memorable routine are love, companionship, strength, contentment, optimism — profound treasures that belong to this dear pair. Shadra Strickland’s brilliant illustration work exudes imagination¬†and vitality. I love this offering, for ages 4 and up.

ridiculous and seaworthy

yak and gnu cover image

Yak and Gnu, by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Cat Chapman
published in 2015 by Candlewick Press

Yak in his kayak and Gnu with his canoe, are out for a paddle.

yak and gnu interior maciver and chapman

Along the way they encounter a host of other sailors and their various craft. Goats in boats! Flotillas of gorillas! Join the nautical party and enjoy a crazy splash of humor, lilting rhyme, and the friendliest yak and gnu you’ll ever meet. Great fun for ages 2 and up.

jaunty crows in a peppy rhyme

counting crows cover image

Counting Crows, by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey
published in 2015 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

One, Two, Three…crows in a tree!

counting crows interior appelt and dunlavey

Flap on over and join the rollicking rhythm of this snazzy flock of crows. Kathi Appelt’s rhyme is marvelously contagious, toe-tapping, sunny…all of that. Plus you get to count up to twelve…eventually. Love the jaunty red, white and black artwork here. It fits the text smashingly! Delightful, for ages 2 and up.

all aboard for Antarctica

sophie scott goes south cover image

Sophie Scott Goes South, written and illustrated by Alison Lester
published in 2012 in Australia; first U.S. edition in 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Alison Lester is a favorite Aussie author/illustrator of ours. Probably one of our all-time favorite books is her The Journey Home.

sophie scott goes south interior alison lester

Lester went on¬†a real journey to Antarctica, then fictionalized it in this fascinating, upbeat, travelogue by nine-year-old Sophie Scott. Find out about life on board a massive icebreaker, witness iceberg and penguin sightings, explore Antarctica in a special snowmachine, get caught in a blizzard, enjoy a King Neptune party — and much more. Photos and Lester’s charming drawings accompany Sophie’s 30 days of entries. Fantastic read for ages 7 and up.¬†

simply ducky

just ducks cover image

Just Ducks, by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino
first U.S. edition 2012 by Candlewick Press

Here’s a title I’ve been meaning to fit in to my blog for years. It’s Nicola Davies’ vivid, child-friendly introduction to all things ducky, masterfully tailored to preschoolers.

just ducks illustration salvatore rubbino

And the amazing Salvatore Rubbino’s equally friendly, exceptionally-striking illustrations. Ducks are one of those parts of nature that so many of us have access to, making them a perfect starting point for observation and learning.

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I’ve written a new post on my Musings page about the power of books to spark wonder and wondering. Find it by clicking on the Musings tab and again on the article link.

Next week, I’ve got some great fodder for just this kind of marveling and curiosity:rojankovsky book week poster
**some intrepid arctic journeys,

**a fascinating piece of historical fiction about a cholera epidemic in London,


**and a gorgeous little book coming out of Canada packed with blueberries. 

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on a beam of light cover image radunskyOn a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein, by Jennifer Berne, pictures by Vladimir Radunsky

When I first noted that a new picture book about Albert Einstein was out, I admit, I was skeptical. Albert Einstein in a picture book? The theory of relativity for 5 year olds? Isn’t that reaching a bit far?

I am pleased to say that I was utterly wrong about this one. It’s brilliant.

Jennifer Berne’s introduction of Einstein, the person, is fascinating and light-handedon a beam of light illustration3 vladimir radunsky at the same time. Einstein’s personhood is front and center — his slowness to speak as a young child, his playful eccentricities as a grown up, and always, always his wonderings and imagination. ¬†For Einstein was, above all things, a question-asker, a guy who said, “I wonder why?” and “I wonder how” perhaps more than anyone else. Who took his sailboat out in order to be alone with just the breeze and the open water and his thoughts. Marvelous.

Berne also touches on some of Einstein’s scientific ideas including atoms, motion, and the speed of light. Her adeptness at lucidly introducing these ideas without talking down nor bogging down is astonishing. The simple, clear sentences that remain here must be the work of a tremendous amount of thinking and paring and devising on her part. An Author’s Note allows her to speak just a bit more in-depth about some Einstein details she didn’t want us to miss, geared for mid-elementary and older.

on a beam of light illustration2 vladimir radunskyVladimir Radunsky’s loose pen and ink and gouache artwork adds to the friendliness of this book. Sketchy, flowing lines, a quirky, childlike quality to his shapes, warm swashes of color, all on a homemade textured paper, communicate the messyness of creativity, the unconventionalness of Einstein, the humanness of this subject rather than the intimidating,stuffy, ¬†intellectual feel it might have, and make the book supremely accessible to early-elementary children.

You know by now that I am a strong advocate of non-electronic pastimes for children –for quieter lives and unstructured time and outdoor play and individuality — so this book warmed the cockles of my heart with its strong call for “wondering, thinking, and albert einsteinimagining.” Further evidence that the secret to developing significant scientific achievers is not to cram more and more facts into younger and younger children, but to give our children time, space, and freedom to be alone with their thoughts, to wonder, imagine, and ask qustions.¬†

New in 2013. Check this one out for anyone age 5 and up.

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