Posts Tagged ‘picture books’

The first order of business today is awarding the give-aways of that splendid nature journal and those jazzy magazines. As always with these giveaways, I wish I could give one to everyone who enters! However…

Charity — congrats on winning the Small Adventures Journal!
Kristie Hammond — congrats on winning the Anorak and Dot issues!

Please e-mail me at jillswanson61@gmail.com with your shipping addresses and I’ll get those right out to you in time for gifting 🙂

Today I have some new Christmas stories to brighten your holiday bedtime reading stack. There are every so many more titles in the Subject Index under Holidays: Christmas so look there to find lots  of favorites.

The Little Reindeer, written and illustrated by Nicola Killen
first published in Great Britain in 2016; first American edition 2017 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

This simple, dear story is about a little girl named Ollie who awakens on Christmas Eve to a jingling sound. Out into the frosty night she goes, speeding on her sled to find the source of that ringing.

Turns out it’s a scarlet collar trimmed with silver bells, caught on a bare branch! Ollie returns it to its antlered owner, and in exchange receives a breathtaking ride back home! Beautiful, tender, gray-scale illustrations feature smidgeons of crimson, shimmers of silver, and enticing cut-outs to make the whole story feel magical. Ages 18 months and older.

The Princess and the Christmas Rescue, written by Caryl Hart, illustrated by Sarah Warburton
first published in the UK in 2016; first US edition 2017 by Nosy Crow

Princess Eliza lives in an ethereal palace, blush pink, festooned with crystal icicles. What she loves most is inventing, spending her days tinkering all by herself. This, her royal parents decree, is not what princesses do. Too dusty. Too lonely. Time for her to play normal games with other children.

In her quest for neighborhood friends, Eliza comes upon a small house overflowing with chaotically-busy elves. It seems their boss has the flu and they’re swamped with toy orders. Just the kind of problem Eliza’s schematic drawings are made for!

Vivacious rhyming, wonderfully appreciative of science-y girls, this is a bright blast of fun for ages 3 and up.

A Christmas for Bear, written by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

I do hope you know these two by now — Mouse and Bear. If so, your heart will skip a little happy beat to discover this new tale about two unlikely friends.

Christmas rolls around, and what to our surprise but Bear is feeling some Christmas spirit! Some, mind you. He’s particularly fixated on poems and Christmas pickles! Mouse, of course, is more interested in presents. Read this warm, funny story to discover how each enjoys a merry holiday. A treat for ages 3 and up.

Finding Christmas, written by Lezlie Evans, illustrated by Yee Von Chan
published in 2017 by Albert Whitman & Company

Hare, Squirrel, and Mouse are happy housemates. The air in their snug burrow is festive with tree-decorating and hazelnut cookie baking. There’s just a wee bit of shopping left before the celebrations can begin.

Suddenly, an emergency presents itself in the form of a swallow, sick, collapsed on a drift of snow, who needs tender nursing care to survive. Bit by bit, the gifts our friends secretly bought for one another are urgently needed to treat their ailing guest. These sacrifices prove to be the truest display of Christmas in this heartwarming story. Charming illustrations will captivate ages 2 to 3 and up.

The Lost Gift: A Christmas Story, written by Kallie George, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
published in 2016 by Schwartz & Wade Books

A group of animal friends huddle atop Merry Woods Hill. It’s Christmas Eve, and they are terribly excited to spot Santa flying by on his sleigh. But as he whooshes past, one package tumbles out!

 The tag says it’s for the New Baby at the Farm. Delivering it will take some doing, and not all members of the party are happy about it. But generous hearts prevail, and in the end everyone happily gets a share of Christmas treats. Ages 3 and up.


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Here in the Great North we’re looking forward to wearing our woolies, sipping our chai, and watching candlelight flicker in windows as December approaches.

I love winter! What about you? Today’s books will warm your heart towards cold weather, even if you prefer the tropics.

Singing Away the Dark, written by Caroline Woodward, illustrated by Julie Morstad
first published in 2010; special edition published in 2017 by Simply Read Books

Julie Morstad’s elegant artwork graces the pages of this nostalgic, glad story of one little girl’s mile-long walk through morning dark and winter frost to catch her school bus.

At age six, she’s stalwart enough to sing away the sometimes-eerie woodland shapes and sounds she encounters along her way. Tender, delightful, gorgeous. Ages 4 and up.

When the Moon Comes, written by Paul Harbridge, illustrated by Matt James
published in 2017 by Tundra Books

Those of us who grew up in small northern towns where ice skates were standard issue and ponds froze for the sole purpose of hockey will revel in this fiercely glad story of a bunch of kids anticipating their first frosty game on perfect ice under a full moon.

The hardiness and happiness of those freezing cold nights, breath forming icicles on scarves, pale rings encircling the moon, pucks cracking against sticks, cocoa scalding tongues, is perfectly captured in text and masterful illustrations in this book, coming to us from where-else-but-Canada. I love this collaboration!! Outstanding for ages 4 and up.

Pablo in the Snow, written by Teri Sloat, illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet
published in 2017 by Henry Holt and Company

Pablo has never seen snow before and it turns out to be quite the curious stuff. Meeting one woodland friend after another, this undaunted lamb joyfully discovers what those falling pieces of cloud are for! So much fun!

When a snowstorm covers his tracks so his path home is lost, suddenly the fun is over, until Mama and Papa appear to usher him home to a cozy barn. Sweet and comforting for ages 2 and up.

Snowflake In My Pocket, written by Rachel Bright, illustrated by Yu Rong
first American edition 2017 by Kane Miller

Burly old Bear and small, enthusiastic Squirrel are dear friends. One icy night, Bear suggests snow might be on its way and sure enough, a magical fairyland awaits Squirrel in the morning!

He cannot wait to explore it all with Bear! But, oh dear. Bear has the sniffles and can’t go out. What can Squirrel do to share this perfect winter morning with his old friend? Charming and warmhearted, just right for ages 2 and up.

Lines, by Suzy Lee
published in 2017 by Chronicle Books

Suzy Lee again infuses a wordless story with sparkling artistic creativity.

Starting with a blank page, a pencil, and an eraser, what can the artist bring to life with a line? A scribble? What happens when her graphite world spins out of control in seeming failure? Or when the artist forges ahead, fashioning a world bustling with icy energy? Elegant, joyous, fantastical for ages 4 and up.

The Storm Whale in Winter, written and illustrated by Benji Davies
first published in the UK, 2016; first American edition 2017 by Henry Holt and Company

If you haven’t followed the story of this small boy and his father over the years, you can pick up the series’ opener with my review here.

Noi and his dad live a spare life by the sea, warmed by their close-knit relationship, and buoyed by Noi’s friend, the whale. In this wintery installment, Noi grows worried when his fisherman dad doesn’t return home one evening. The sea is iced over around their island and darkness has firmly set in, but Noi is sure that faint light flickering out at sea is his dad, and he’s determined to rescue him.

It turns out to be quite the harrowing adventure, and Noi’s dear whale plays a heroic role. Exciting stuff, anchored in love, for ages 3 and up.

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You’re busy.
I get that.
Holidays approach.
10-word teasers to tempt you towards books I adore!
Guaranteed to make your day better.

Fort-building Time, written by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Abigail Halpin
published in 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf

Orange Marmalade gold! Charming forts, outdoor fun, every season. Jubilant!

City Moon, written by Rachael Cole, illustrated by Blanca Gómez
published in 2017 by Schwartz & Wade Books

Gorgeous jaunt to spy peek-a-boo moon. Sweet togetherness. Preschool brilliance.

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day, written and illustrated by Beatrice Alemagna
originally published in France, 2016; first U.S. edition 2017 by Harper

Explore outdoors! Ditch electronic games. Doing “nothing” can be spectacular!

No One Else Like You, written by Siska Goeminne, illustrated by Merel Eyckerman
originally published in Belgium, 2016; first U.S. edition 2017 by Westminster John Knox Press

Diverse people make a captivating world. You make it lovely.

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way), written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell
published in 2017 by Little, Brown and Company

Clever, funny, surprising, hair-raising alphabetical adventures!  Jolly, surefire pleaser!

Hilda and the Runaway Baby, written and illustrated by Daisy Hirst
first U.S. edition 2017 by Candlewick Press

Rapscallion baby rescued by indefatigable, racing pig! Sweet, happy friendship. 

Wee Sister Strange, written by Holly Grant, illustrated by K.G. Campbell
published in 2017 by Schwartz & Wade Books

Enchanted nighttime woodsy ramble…searching for what? Lush, hushed, magical.

But I Don’t Eat Ants, written by Dan Marvin, illustrated by Kelly Fry
published in 2017 by POW!

Loquacious anteater gourmand, plainly peeved at ant-eating expectations! Wowzer!

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse, written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

Quackily-quirky! Howlingly-ingenuous! Home is where the wolf is?!

Terrific, written and illustrated by Jon Agee
published in 2017 by Dial Books for Young Readers

Curmudgeonly Eugene + plucky parrot = crack Caribbean sailing team! So droll!

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Coming up a week from today, Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving.

Carl Larsson “Potato Harvest”

A fitting response to gratitude is generosity towards others, and Thanksgiving finds cooks everywhere preparing ample, artistic feasts for gatherings of family, friends, neighbors and strangers…

… while a myriad churches and community groups work to fill up food banks and dish up meals for the homeless.

I love the connection between giving thanks and goodwill. Today I’ve got three grand picture books that link these for us beautifully. Starting with one that’s brand new:

Thanksgiving in the Woods, written by Phyllis Alsdurf, illustrated by Jenny Løvlie
published in 2017 by Sparkhouse Family

Author Phyllis Alsdurf based this book on an incredible, 20-year tradition for one family in upstate New York who annually host an outdoor, woodland, Thanksgiving feast attended by a couple hundred relatives, friends, and newcomers. 

Experience the whole day through the eyes of one young boy, from gathering kindling for the bonfire, to watching the throngs come bearing pots and platters of food, to listening to the fiddling and singing under the stars.  It’s a lovely tribute to community, common ground, sharing, and celebrating the simple gifts of life together. Ages 2 and up.

And a couple older favorites:

The Thanksgiving Door, written and illustrated by Debby Atwell
published in 2003 by Houghton Mifflin

Here’s another story of welcoming.

Ed and Ann are alone for Thanksgiving this year and unfortunately, Ann has just the thanksgiving door illustration debby atwellmajorly burned their dinner. 

As black smoke curls from the oven, Ed suggests they try the little restaurant down the street. The doors are open, and a long Thanksgiving-looking table has been set, so all seems well.

What they don’t see is the ruckus they’ve caused in the back kitchen as the restaurant owners — an extended family of Russian immigrants — debate what to do about these folks who have wandered into their private family gathering.

the thanksgiving door illustration debby atwell

Leave it to Grandmother to step up and extend an Old World welcome.  3 and up.

How Many Days to America?: A Thanksgiving Story, written by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Beth Peck
published in 1988 by Clarion Books

This ever-relevant story traces the harrowing flight of a group of refugees towards peace.

Fleeing from an ominous threat of soldiers, a family of four hurries out in the night. Secrecy, fear, an overcrowded boat, a miserable journey are all part of the ordeal. Finally they arrive to the welcome arms of strangers, and it just happens to be Thanksgiving Day. Clearly the giving of thanks for safety in a new land has double meaning for this particular dinner party.

how many days to america illustration beth peck

Beth Peck’s beautiful illustrations portray these seekers handsomely, with dignity, throughout their plight. Ages 4 and up.


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2017 has been quite the banner year for picture books about authors.

I love learning about these creators and seeing how fragments of their lives are woven into the fabric of their stories.

I’ll refrain from making lengthy remarks today and try to woo you with images! I’ve also listed a few more author bios from the Orange Marmalade archives you won’t want to miss.

Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton, written by Sheri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by John Rocco
published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


Read about the creator of beloved figures like Mike Mulligan and Katy the snowplow while you watch her at work! A total delight for ages 4 and up.

A Boy, A Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E.B. White, written by Barbara Herkert, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
published in 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.


Illustrated with warmth and tenderness by Lauren Castillo, this brief account of the creator of Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan suits ages 5 and up. Especially relevant for those who have already heard those stories read aloud.

John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of J.R.R. Tolkien, written by Caroline McAlister, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
published in 2017 by Roaring Brook Press


Meet young J.R.R. and hear the earliest rumblings that led to Smaug’s appearance in The Hobbit. A lush beauty for ages 4 and up.

Agatha Christie, written by Mª Isabel Sánchez Vegara, illustrated by Elisa Munsó
first published in Spain in 2016; first U.S. edition 2017 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books


Visually arresting, this peek at the grand dame of mystery will tickle the fancies of folks age 5 and up, even if they haven’t met Hercule and Miss Marple yet.

Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote, written by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Raúl Colón
published in 2017 by Peachtree Publishers


Engle’s fascinating free verse provides intriguing insights and Raúl Colón’s masterful illustrations bring medieval Spain to life. Fabulous extras make this a gem for ages 6 through much older.

Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books, written by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
published in 2017 by Chronicle Books


You may not recognize Newbery’s name unless you track the prestigious Newbery Award in American children’s literature, but trust me — this guy is the father of children’s literature and this delightful book will make you wish there were a national holiday on his birthday! Fascinating and joyous!

Here are a few more author bios you won’t want to miss, linked to my earlier reviews.

Beatrix Potter & the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig

A Boy Called Dickens

The Journey that Saved Curious George

Lost Boy: The Story of the Man who Created Peter Pan

The Perfect Wizard: Hans Christian Anderson

A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day

The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White

Wanda Gag: The Girl who Lived to Draw

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Looking for some great reads for those little shavers, say 15 months and up? Bold, jolly books, short in length but long in painstakingly-crafted ideas and artwork, coming right up!

Truck, Truck, Goose, written by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Zoe Waring
published in 2017 by Harper

One oblivious duck goes on a picnic. How much trouble could that cause?

Plenty and more! Jazzy bright color, gobs of jolly trucks, great humor, and a sweet ending. Fabulous.

Goodnight World, written and illustrated by Debi Gliori
published in 2016 by Bloomsbury

Debi Gliori’s chalky, curving, comforting images spill across the pages in this lovely book…

… simply saying goodnight to all kinds of good things in the world. A creamy dreamy treat that’ll end your day with a warm glow.

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

An impeccably gorgeous book with a deceptively simple premise — exploring the round bits in our world.

One of my favorite books of the year. Warm, full of wonder, and beautiful.

Which Way? written by Marthe Jocelyn, illustrated by Tom Slaughter
published in 2010 by Tundra Books

Slaughter’s bold-as-brass graphic design and bright primary colors will arrest a child’s attention as you ponder together all the ways to get around and reach your destination.

Simple. Classy. Intelligent. This same team has several other cool titles for toddlers as well.

Stack the Cats, written and illustrated by Susie Ghahremani
published in 2017 by Abrams Appleseed

So stylish.

Beginning with one cat sleeping, we count up by cats. When enough of them arrive, we can stack ’em. But too many cats in a stack teeters and totters. Add a few more, and we can stack cats in a couple of equal, smaller stacks. Effortlessly mind-stretching number awareness on tap here with a side of wit.

I Know Numbers! written and illustrated by Taro Gomi
published in Japan in 1985; first U.S. edition 2017 by Chronicle Books

Taro Gomi’s genius explores the numerous places numbers show up in our world from thermometers to bus stops, team jerseys to dice…

… all delivered with aplomb and massive child-appeal.

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Looking for a new gem for your stack of bedtime reading? Check out these titles that have risen to the tiptop of a towering stack of books I’ve read recently. (And that takes some doing!)

Want something wildly imaginative, slightly off-kilter, with adventure spilling over the rim?

The Only Fish in the Sea, written by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Matthew Cordell
published in 2017, a Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press

Oh, my dear Sadie, you are back!! That indefatigable gal from Special Delivery is here with a new challenge: Rescuing a birthday-present-goldfish that’s been cold-heartedly pitched into the sea by snooty Little Amy Scott!

Sadie and her pal Sherman won’t let the odds of finding such a small fella in such a large ocean daunt them. Just collect one boat, twenty-one pink balloons, and plenty of hot tea, and they’re ready for anything.

Sadie’s nonchalant narration is offset by the jazzy illustration work of Matthew Cordell. Non-stop, hyper-energized, careening fun. His intrepid band of monkeys alone would ordinarily steal the show except for Sadie’s sheer splendidness. Do I love this book? Yes, I do. Ages 4 and up.

Want something racy, happy, and generous?

Mama Lion Wins the Race, written and illustrated by Jon J Muth
published in 2017 by Scholastic Press

Drawing inspiration from Italian motorcar races and loved-to-the-nubbins stuffed animals, this brilliant tale of speed, strategy, and a massive dose of warmhearted friendship is one to read over and over again with ages 2 or 3 and up.

Goes well with a cup of cocoa.

Want something beautiful, nature-adorned, and clever?

Plume, written and illustrated by Isabelle Simler
first published in France; published in the U.S. in 2017 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Stunning illustrations of birds and their whisper-soft, dazzling feathers dominate the pages of this quiet book. The only text until the last two pages consists of the name of each bird.

from the French edition

Look closely, though. There’s someone occupying each page besides the main attraction. What is that black cat up to? A lovely beacon to observation; inspirational for those drawing from nature. Ages 4 and up. 

Want something fairy-tale dark, tingly with suspense and warm with neighborliness at the same time?

When a Wolf is Hungry, written by Christine Naumann-Villemin, illustrated by Kris DiGiacomo
originally published in France in 2011; first U.S. edition 2017 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

When a toothy wolf is hungry, and a “grain-fed, silky-haired rabbit with just a hint of sweetness” is living, obliviously, on the 5th floor — well, that’s a recipe for “hare-raising” adventure, right?!

And we’ve got that, dished up with theatrical aplomb in this highly-satisfying story. Sharp knife?  Check. Weber grill?!  Check. Chainsaw?!! Check, check, check. Only thing is, Mr. Wolf has a modicum of politeness and a load of neighbors who keep inadvertently foiling his plans. What can they be up to? Brave children ages 4 and up will love this.

Want something friendly, welcoming, and quiet?

That Neighbor Kid, a wordless book by Daniel Miyares
published in 2017 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

And I don’t mean quiet just because there are no words. Miyares’ mood, artwork, and storyline all unreel with a lovely unrushed, yesteryear flavor that draws us in the way a whisper does in a cacophony of noise. Hush. Be still. Watch.

Gray-scale ink and watercolor illustrations wash the story’s opening with tranquility, hesitancy, even loneliness. The new kid on the block barely has the courage to peep out her window at her new neighbor. As the story unfolds, walls are literally torn down between them and collaboration begins, a prime tree house emerges from their joint efforts, and a sunny wash seeps its way into the spreads.

Warm-hearted as a cup of cocoa and just the note of welcome and friendship we sorely need in these divisive days. Ages 3 and up.

Want something nautical, classic, and gripping?

Mighty Moby, written by Barbara Da Costa, illustrated by Ed Young
published in 2017 by Little, Brown and Company

Snippets and sea chanteys from Herman Melville’s classic whale-of-a-tale narrate this heart-pounding adventure that with one swish sails itself into a calm harbor just right for pillows and peace.

Astoundingly inventive collaboration for brave young skippers ages 3 and up. Bound to win some illustration prizes.

Want something full of happy-birthday anticipation?

When’s My Birthday? written by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson
published in 2017, a Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press

Julie Fogliano captures the anticipation of waiting, waiting, waiting for a birthday to come in her ambling, poetic text.

How many days until my birthday, this child asks again and again. There’s wishing for presents, dreaming of lots of chocolate and “tiny sandwiches with soup,” inviting one and all…and waiting, waiting, waiting until finally, the glorious day is here.

Christian Robinson can do no wrong, can he? His naive cut-paper collages, smiley kids and bunting, excellently-huge chocolate cake, and warm diversity are the perfect accompaniment. Happy and utterly relatable, for ages 2 and up.

Want something elegant, historical, gorgeous, and  slightly haunting?

Town is by the Sea, written by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith
published in 2017 by Groundwood Books

What an unusual picture book, this account of a young boy living in a mining town on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

The vast, sparkling sea spreads out before him. Lupines line sunny roadsides. A baloney sandwich and tall glass of milk are what’s for lunch. Ordinary as Opie Taylor. Yet punctuating his narrative, interrupting the light, are thoughts of his dad, at work deep under the sea, digging for coal.

It’s a gripping juxtaposition, emphasized by Sydney Smith’s fabulous illustrations, sepia and sea-blues giving way to body-buckling darkness, tons of coal hulking over hunched miners. Wow.

An Author’s Note tells how from the late 1800s up to the 1950s when this story takes place, young boys grew up knowing they would follow in the footsteps of their fathers and grandfathers who spent twelve-hour days in “the harsh, dangerous, dark reality underground.” A stunning slice of life for ages 5 to 100.

Want something rich with grandfatherly hope?

Sing, Don’t Cry, written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
published in 2017 by Henry Holt and Company

There are only a few people in your life who can tell you to sing when you’re feeling low, and you don’t want mainly to punch them.

But a grandfather like Angela Dominguez’s abuelo is one of them. That’s because his long life has been streaked with troubles, sorrows, difficulties, and he offers what has been a balm for his soul during those hard times — the gift of music. “Sing, don’t cry, because singing gladdens the heart,” he says, his warm eyes smiling into ours.

This affectionate tribute to Dominguez’s real abuelo — a mariachi musician from Mexico City —  is clearly a work of love. It’s a brief, hope-filled offering that, again, arrives with timeliness just now. Ages 2 and up.

Want something vintage and fresh?

If Apples Had Teeth, by Milton and Shirley Glaser
first published in 1960; reprinted in 2017 by Enchanted Lion Books

Take one of the most celebrated graphic designers in America, pair him up with a series of quirky, clever, imaginative, if-then statements and here’s what you get:

Pure, brain-fizzing delight.

Shirley Glaser’s brilliant text is wonderful fodder for minds that refuse to be hemmed in by the ordinary. A book to make you smile and see possibilities! Ages 2 and up.

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