Posted in fiction, picture books, wordless books, tagged book reviews, children's literature, families, grandmothers, love, parents and children, picture books, Valentine's Day on February 13, 2017|
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Wolf 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.
The 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.
Love 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, 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, 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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Posted in fiction, picture books, wordless books, tagged book reviews, children's literature, dragons, grandmothers, humorous stories, mothers, paris, picture books, polar bears on January 25, 2016|
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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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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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Posted in fiction, picture books, wordless books, tagged beach vacations, beachcombing, book reviews, books for toddlers, children's literature, families, grandmothers, humorous stories, picnics, picture books, summer, summer holidays, wordless books on July 27, 2015|
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This week — ten gracefully-aging books celebrating summer at the beach.
a beloved Frank Asch favorite
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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, 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.
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
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.
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, 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.
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
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.
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, 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.
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, 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.
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, 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.
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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Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books, tagged antarctica, beach vacations, blue whales, boats, book reviews, children's literature, counting books, curiosity, ducks, entomology, family, friendship, grandmothers, insects, jean-henri fabre, nature, nighttime, picture books, wonder on July 6, 2015|
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magnificent, tiny sparks of wonder
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.
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? 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.
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, 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.
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, 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.
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, 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.
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, 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.
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, 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.
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, by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey
published in 2015 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
One, Two, Three…crows in a tree!
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, 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.
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.
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.
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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Posted in fiction, picture books, recipes, tagged blueberries, book reviews, children's literature, Cree, First Nations, grandmothers, native americans, nature on February 6, 2014|
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I’ve stumbled on a simply gorgeous book, coming out of Canada, which I want to highlight today.
Wild Berries = Pikaci-Minisa, written and illustrated by Julie Flett
published in 2013 by Simply Read Books
Oh, I love this book, for many reasons.
First, there are far too few books centered in the world of the First Peoples. This is a painful gap in our children’s literature. Furthermore, the vast majority of what I’ve seen focuses on memories of former times, and while that is rich and important, the absence of stories entwining these cultures with current, ordinary life, is troubling. We need to do better, and this stunning book is exactly what I’m looking for.
Second, c’mon! it’s about picking wild blueberries! It’s the graceful, quiet, story of a boy and his grandmother out in the beauty of the woods, finding those plump,
My grandma and her beloved blueberries!
purplish-blue, sweet-tart glories. As a little girl, I picked wild blueberries with my grandmother — the pluckiest, most devoted blueberry-picker there ever was. She made a blueberry pie to die for, bursting with tiny, juicy berries; purple treakly sweetness trickling out of a buttery, flaky, sugar-crisp crust. Mmmmmmmm! At our cabin on Lake Vermilion, wild berries polka-dot the shrubby underlayer beneath towering pines, and we pick as many as we can while beating off the biting ants, to fill our Swedish pancakes and munch by the handful. So — wild blueberry picking is right up my alley, as well as grandmothers, of course.
Third — the artwork is incredible. Hushed by white space, and elegant in its compositions, lines, and color palette of mossy greens, bittersweet chocolates, and warm splashes of persimmon. Beautiful, striking, simplicity.
Fourth — Flett, who is Cree-Métis herself, includes Cree translations of just over a dozen key words as we walk through the book, one on each page. Blueberries are ininimina in this dialect, for example. A pronunciation guide is included. I am intrigued by languages, and the Native American languages are especially poignant to see in print. These key words are set in a beautiful type font which adds to the grace of the pages.
Fifth — there’s a recipe for wild blueberry jam. Perfect.
As you can tell, I’m smitten with this little book and hope you’ll find a copy to enjoy with children ages 2 and up, or just for your own indulgence.
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