Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘picture books’

Today our tour hovers in the central region of Africa and journeys all the way to its southernmost tip. Let’s begin in…

Chad


Rain School, written and illustrated by James Rumford
published in 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

The children in this village and their indomitable teacher rebuild their school building each year after the tremendous rains of rainy season wash the old one away. 

Making mud bricks, building mud desks, drying them in the hot sun, thatching the roof, until finally, finally it’s time to take their seats and begin learning. Vibrant in both story and illustrations. Ages 4 and up.

Cameroon

The Village of Round and Square Houses, written and illustrated by Ann Grifalconi
published in 1986 by Little, Brown and Company

This Caldecott Honor winner from 1987 brings us to Tos, a small village in the Bameni Hills of Cameroon, where for time immemorial the men have lived in square houses while the women live in round ones!

Find out how this tradition came about in this account, illustrated in gorgeous pastels by Ann Grifalconi. Superb storytelling, cultural details, and an old local legend will all leave kids spellbound, ages 3 or 4 and up.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Monkey for Sale, written and illustrated by Sanna Stanley
published in 2002 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

A little girl named Luzolo is given a 5-franc coin to spend at market. Determined to barter for the best thing she sees, she sets off, passing stands of mango candy, spicy peppers, fresh roasted peanuts, handwoven baskets.

What will Luzolo purchase? How much might a monkey cost? Can Luzolo and her best friend Kiese contrive to get that monkey? It’s a cheerful, clever story revealing effortlessly a typical, lively market, the bartering system so familiar to this much of Africa, and the workaday world of Luzolo’s village. Ages 3 and up.

A Walk Through a Rain Forest: Life in the Ituri Forest of Zaire, written by David Jenike and Mark Jenike, photography by Mark Jenike
published in 1994 by Franklin Watts

This book is old enough that the name “Zaire” appears in its title, but the fascinating life of peoples whose home for thousands of years has been the rain forest of central Africa is just as compelling.

You’ll notice the cover, in keeping with its publication date, doesn’t look particularly zoopy, and it’s certainly not one of the newer creative-nonfiction styled books. But for slightly older children, the text is packed with intriguing information about the way of life of the Efe and Lese peoples and the creatures with whom they share these forests. This area of the world is scarcely covered in children’s lit. A bit lengthy. Try this with ages 7 or 8 and up, a bit at a time.

Malawi

Galimoto

One of my kids’ all time favorite books growing up, this delightful story describes the ingenuous toy cars that Malawian children, as well as kids in many other parts of Africa, make with the odd bits and bobs of metal they can scavenge. Read my full review here. It’s a gem for ages 3 and up.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, written by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
published in 2012 by Dial Books for Young Readers

William Kamkwamba’s story has been told in longer works for older readers. This picture book brings his life in Malawi alive for young children.

Learn about the impact of drought on William’s community, the dread hunger that threatened their lives when crops would not grow through lack of rain, and of his brilliant engineering feat that transformed the village. It’s such an inspiring, hopeful story, for ages 5 and up. A lengthy afterword fills in lots of details.

Mozambique

Street Children Across the World, written by Anthony Robinson, illustrated by June Allan
published in 2014 by Frances Lincoln Books

This is a sad title to stand alone under Mozambique, but the children featured in this title live there, as well as in Zimbabwe and Guatemala. And honestly, I am pleased to see this UK title spotlighting an enormous population that exists in our world.

There are an estimated 100-150 million street children currently. Just think about that number!

What are their lives like? Why are they on the street instead of in a home with a family? The answers to these questions are extremely tragic and raw, and at times dumbfoundingly vague and strange. In his short, excellent introduction, Anthony Robinson explains why that may be the case. It’s very helpful to read that before you begin your journey through this troubling book.

Photographs, colored pencil sketches, and the children’s own words comprise the whole account which differentiates between street-living children, street-working children, and street-living families. Eye-opening and important, I’d suggest ages 8 or 9 and up.

Madagascar

Torina’s World: A Child’s Life in Madagascar, photography and text by Joni Kabana, edited by Benjamin Opsahl
published originally in 1997; this edition 2008 by Arnica Publishing, Inc.

This is such a unique and lovely book. It’s a photo essay. The photographer was guided by a little girl — whose image is on the book’s cover — through areas near the village of Marovoay, Madagascar, allowing her to gain the access and welcome needed to take these pictures.

The photographs are gorgeous, all produced in sepia tones. Accompanying them are only brief sentences of text, one telling simply what is going on in the photo, one asking how that compares to the reader’s experience. We get rides in the pousse-pousse. What do you ride in? Simple, but immensely engaging, effectively drawing children’s attention to the similarities and differences we share with people far and near. A  short afterword updates us on Torina ten years after the project, and tells more about Madagascar. Ages 2 and up.

Zimbabwe

Gugu’s House, written and illustrated by Catherine Stock
published in 2001 by Clarion Books

In the dry grasslands of Zimbabwe, down a long, dusty path, a most extraordinary house stands, created by an extraordinary woman named Gugu. She’s Kukamba’s grandmother, and what an artist she is, crafting giant zebras and elephants, jet planes and striking patterns that burst upon the eyes of the villagers like a fantasy.

Kukamba wants to become an artist, too. She has to learn how to create, and how to persevere, and how to see, and Gugu is just the one to lead her on that journey. Brilliant story based on a real woman and her fantastical compound in Zimbabwe.

Where Are You Going, Manyoni? written and illustrated by Catherine Stock
published in 1993 by Morrow Junior Books

Catherine Stock’s gorgeous watercolors open up the world of the veld along the Limpopo River where one little girl named Manyoni lives. Her walk to school is extraordinary! You won’t want to miss tagging along with her.

A lovely read for ages 2 and up, with an Author’s Note, and a guide to the veld wildlife included.

South Africa

A South African Night

A child in Johannesburg falls asleep with visions of the plains animals dancing in her head. Beautiful work from Rachel Isadora for ages 2 and up. My full review is here.

Goal, written by Mina Javaherbin, illustrated by A.G. Ford
published in 2010 by Candlewick Press

Football — the beautiful game — ignites passions around the world. Not the least in this South African township, where Ajani and his buddies are elated to play with the new, federation-size, leather ball Ajani has won for being best reader in his class.

Their after-school game is full of the joy of young boys’ championship dreams except for one thing: a gang of bullies that  makes the streets unsafe. Is there any way for Ajani and his friends to outwit the bullies, keep their prime football, and become truly unbeatable?

I’m so happy to see this contemporary, urban setting, and one featuring sport to boot. Dynamic, robust illustrations. Great choice for ages 4 and up.

A Song for Jamela, written and illustrated by Niki Daly
published in 2009 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Niki Daly has brought contemporary South Africa to vivid life with his Jamela series. In this story, Jamela is consumed with the Afro-Idols TV contest. Her grandmother, Gogo, wants her off that couch and doing something interesting so she sends her to Aunt Beauty’s hair salon to “help out” for the day.

When the entrancing Miss Bimbi Chaka Chaka, Jamela’s favorite Afro-Idol contestant, comes in the shop to have her hair done, it turns out to be a most surprising day for everyone involved! Funny and upbeat and a great urban African setting. Ages 4 and up.

The Herd Boy, written and illustrated by Niki Daly
published in 2012 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Malusi herds his grandfather’s sheep and goats on the sunny South African veldt. It’s a big job for such a small boy, but Malusi is dependable, a quick learner, a hard worker, comfortable in solitude, and fierce in protecting his herd from many dangers. His friends dream of playing professional soccer, but Malusi has a much bigger dream.

It sounds preposterous to some, but one dignified visitor to Malusi’s village thinks otherwise. Rich cultural insights, an inspiring story beaming with hope, and a cameo appearance by Nelson Mandela. Ages 4 and up.

At the Crossroads, written and illustrated by Rachel Isadora
published in 1991 by Greenwillow Books

In many South African homes, fathers spend a great deal of time away from home, working in the mines. Rachel Isadora beautifully captures the longing and excitement as these children await the homecoming of their fathers after ten long months. This book was written several years before apartheid was abolished, and takes place in a shanty town in a segregated township. I honestly don’t know how this scene might have changed in the past 25 years.  Meanwhile, it’s a warm, rich story for ages 3 and up.

Our next stop is West Africa. Be sure to join us!

Here are links to our previous destinations:

Destination: East Africa

Destination: Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa

Destination: Indian Subcontinent

Destination: East Asia

Destination: Australia, New Zealand, and Micronesia

A Sampler of Cultures

Buckle up for a World Tour

Musings: a world of swiss cheese

Read Full Post »

Still a few weeks of summer left. These books are full of warmth and joy. A perfect fit.

Dog on a Frog?, written by Kes & Claire Gray, illustrated by Jim Field
published in 2017 by Scholastic Press

Cats on mats and pigs in wigs are standard fare for kids’ books.

In this funny romp of a story, the dog prefers to sit on …a frog. Which is none too pleasant for the frog. This leads the frog to create a whole new list of Rules Pertaining to Where Animals Sit. Dogs, according to this very bossy frog, now sit on logs. Not frogs. So.

And what about cats? And bears? Or gnus? And even canaries? Yup, this frog has got everyone covered. Great fun and cram-jam with bouncy rhyming pairs that will have kids eagerly pitching in to the storytelling. And wait’ll you see where the frog ends up sitting. He is one smart cookie. A barrel of fun in bombastic colors for ages 2 and up.

Wet, written and illustrated by Carey Sookocheff
published in 2017 by Godwin Books

I love this book with its gentle exploration of a truly child-friendly subject — wetness. Its ambling pace, conversational tone, child’s perspective, quiet observations, are early childhood gold in my estimation.

There’s the wetness of a pool. The possibility of cannonballing in to get wet all at once, or of dipping in just a toe. There’s the wetness of paint on a park bench, and the wetness of tears damping a dad’s shoulder. Tender and joyful, accompanied by warm, minimalist drawings.

 Brilliant for ages 2 and up.

Miss Jaster’s Garden, written and illustrated by N.M. Bodecker
originally published in 1972; reissued by Purple House Press

Dear Miss Jaster lives in a grand old house by the sea. In the gardens surrounding her home lives a small hedgehog named, obviously, Hedgie. The two are cordial friends, Miss Jaster setting out bowls of milk in the evening for Hedgie, Hedgie listening dreamily to Miss Jaster’s piano playing.

One day Miss Jaster, planting her flower gardens, accidentally showers Hedgie with seeds of Sweet William and Baby’s Breath. Waters him, too. (She is a bit near-sighted after all.)  When Hedgie blooms, then breaks into rapturous cavorting about the lanes, Miss Jaster is convinced that a thief is absconding with bits of her garden! 

In 1972, this was a New York Times Best Illustrated Book. It was the first story both written and illustrated by N.M. Bodecker, a Danish-American illustrator whose work graces many children’s books including the classic Edward Eager fantasy novels. Purple House Press is dedicated to bringing rare gems back into print, and this is indeed a gem. Ages 4 and up.

Little Sister Rabbit Gets Lost, written by Ulf Nilsson, illustrated by Eva Eriksson
first published in Sweden in 1987; English edition 2017 by Floris Books

The classic Swedish stories of Little Sister Rabbit are available in English now, and this one is a sweet starting spot.

Small and enthusiastic, Little Sister Rabbit is off today for an adventure All By Herself. It starts off swimmingly with puddle stomping and pebble plopping. Her heart swells with independence. But happiness ebbs swiftly when she discovers that she’s lost.

Peeping into one burrow after the next, Little Sister Rabbit wanders her way into many places a young rabbit does not belong. The night feels like a mighty lonely place until rescue arrives. Who could it be? Pure charm for ages 2 and up.

Chirri & Chirra In the Tall Grass, written and illustrated by Kaya Doi, translated from the Japanese by Yuki Kaneko
published in 2017 by Enchanted Lion Books

Chirri and Chirra are tiny sisters, so tiny the white clover in the lawn are towering trees and bumblebees make cunning companions.

Join them on a bicycle-and-tea adventure through the lawn-forest as they dine on honey sponge cake balls courtesy of the local hive, sip freshly squeezed juice flavored with yumberry fruit by the flower chafers, and in general have a fantasy-filled afternoon.

Miniature worlds delight us all, and this one is so beautifully drawn and realized by Kaya Doi. Pure charm for ages 3 and up. There are more Chirri & Chirra books to investigate if you love this one.

Garcia & Colette Go Exploring, written by Hannah Barnaby, illustrated by Andrew Joyner
published in 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Garcia and Colette are great friends but disagree on what the most enticing place is to explore — outer space or ocean depths. So they agree to disagree, build a rocket ship and submarine, and go their separate ways.

And they each discover realio coolio stuff about space and the ocean. But they also discover that venturing off is not quite as fun with no compatriot by your side. After a splashy reunion, they figure out how to have their cake and eat it, too! Singing language, a wonderfully-paced story, and Andrew Joyner’s brilliant illustrations combine to make this a thoroughly enjoyable story. Perfect for ages 4 and up.

King of the Sky, written by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

Finally, this gorgeous, poignant story, a perfect example of why picture books are not only for young children. This beauty strikes a chord in the hearts of middle grade through adult readers perhaps even more so than the very young.

Our narrator is a school-age boy, a war refugee who has fled his beloved home in Italy, land of “sunlight, fountains, and the vanilla smell of ice cream in my nonna’s gelateria.” He now resides, apparently, in Wales. In this new place, his spirit is sodden as the ceaseless rain, lonely as the smoke from a hundred grey chimneys , hopeless as the smell of coal dust and mutton soup. Nothing about it feels like home.

A vital ray of light emanates from Mr. Evans, a kindhearted, retired coal miner who trains racing pigeons.  Their growing friendship, the thrill of these home-coming birds, the distances spanned, and one champion racer, all touch the boy’s life with the modicum of belonging and miracle needed to heal his heart and make this contrary place — home.

Laura Carlin’s stunning illustrations are complex, emotive, deftly conveying both dreariness and camaraderie, doubt and joy. She is brilliant. Check this out for older-than-typical picture book readers, ages 7 and up.

 

Read Full Post »

As we continue our way through the vast continent of Africa, I’m recommending a book that counters an unhelpful perspective, which is to discuss Africa as though it were a country.

Too often in various collections, stories are listed from, say, Japan, Brazil, Poland… and Africa. Of course, these are not equivalents.

Africa is really, really big.

Africa is huge.  Maps like this one help us get perspective on just how large it is.

And Africa is incredibly diverse. When we lived in West Africa many years ago, our home was near the Sahel. My kids grew tired of American children asking what it was like to live near lions, or in the jungle. 

Actually what it looks like where we lived. No lions. No jungle.

This massive, diverse, and misunderstood continent deserves better! One of my favorite books treats just this topic and it comes highly recommended as a starting point for this portion of our tour:

Africa is Not a Country, written by Margy Burns Knight and Mark Melnicove, illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien
published in 2000 by Millbrook Press

Take a quick hovercraft tour of the continent visiting markedly different cultures, peoples, and settings from an urban family in Eritrea to a family living among the snowy mountains in Lesotho; schoolgirls in uniforms on the busy streets of Cairo, and islanders on Cape Verde farming the steep hillsides. Tantalizing paragraphs give just a glimpse of the local culture while warm, colorful illustrations show us the look of life in each unique location.

Back pages list every country on the continent with a little tidbit of information about it. This book is nearing 20 years old so there will be some outdated facts but for the most part it is a fabulous introduction to the continent. Ages 4 and up.

Now let’s tour East Africa!

ERITREA

Trouble, written by Jane Kurtz, illustrated by Durga Bernhard
published in 1997 by Harcourt Brace & Co.

Tekleh is a little boy who always seems to find trouble, from kicking up dust onto the roasting coffee beans to losing track of the family’s goats.

His father thinks a new gebeta board (you probably know this as mancala) will keep Tekleh busy and thus keep him out of trouble. But he has no idea the wild series of events that gebeta board will instigate! This delightful tale takes us through the hillsides of Eritrea introducing lovely bits of the culture there through Tekleh’s encounters. Wonderful illustrations fill in a great deal of cultural detail as well and an afterword tells more about this relatively new country. Fantastic, for ages 3 and up.

ETHIOPIA

Ethiopian Voices: Tsion’s Life, written by Stacy Bellward, photographs by Erlend Berge
published in 2008 by Amharic Kids

This photo-essay of a young girl named Tsion, age 11, might not be easy for you to find but I love it for its realism and warm portrait of family life in contemporary Ethiopia.

Tsion and her family live in Kechene, a slum in Addis Ababa. She describes her community as kind and very friendly, and tells us about her family, home, neighborhood, Ethiopian Orthodox traditions, school, food, and the special places in Ethiopia she’d love to visit. Accompanied by excellent photographs, this is a fascinating, wonderful window into her world for ages 4 and up.

The Best Beekeeper of Lalibela: A Tale from Africa, written by Cristina Kessler, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins
published in 2006 by Holiday House

Sitting at over 5,000 feet in the Ethiopian mountains, Lalibela is renowned for its incredible, rock-hewn churches and its honey. Wouldn’t I love to visit! Meet Almaz, a young girl who longs to be one of the Lalibela beekeepers. In fact, she wants to make the best honey of all.

But beekeeping is traditionally a man’s work and Almaz is met with scorn. A wise Orthodox priest opens the way for her to pursue her dreams, and Almaz’s tenacity and inventiveness win her success and respect in the marketplace. Fascinating story with mixed media illustrations that reveal the sun-soaked beauty of Ethiopia and her people. Ages 3 and up.

Only a Pigeon, written by Jane and Christopher Kurtz, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
published in 1997 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, a young boy named Ondu-ahlem lives with his loving family, but little else. Life is immensely enriched, though, by his pet pigeons. Ondu-ahlem cares for them diligently, guarding them from a hungry mongoose, tenderly feeding an orphaned chick, admiring the bravery and speed of his favorite bird, Chinkay. Ondu-ahlem and his friend have a game in which, at a set location,  they each release one bird, then try coaxing their own bird plus the other bird, back home. The winner gets to keep his buddy’s pigeon. When your favorite bird is at stake, it’s quite a nerve-wracking event.

Both of the authors grew up in Ethiopia and their affection for the land and people glows in this lovely story. E. B. Lewis brings it all to life with evocative, sun-dappled illustrations. An intriguing Author’s Note tells more about pigeons and the raising of them by Ethiopian boys. Ages 4 and up.

 

The Fastest Boy in the World, written by Elizabeth Laird takes place in the highlands of Ethiopia and the capital city of Addis Ababa. It’s a great little read emphasizing the adoration the Ethiopian people have for the sport of running. You can read my review here.

SOMALIA

Muktar and the Camels, written by Janet Graber, illustrated by Scott Mack
published in 2009 by Henry Holt and Company

Muktar lives in a Kenyan orphanage throughout this story, but his childhood memories are of Somalia. In those early years, before drought and war engulfed his homeland, Muktar and his family lived a nomadic life there with their camels, and oh! how he longs for that. Working with camels is what life is all about for him.

When a visiting librarian comes from Garissa, Kenya, with loads of books strapped to the backs of a train of camels, Muktar’s deep knowledge of these beasts, passed down to him from his father, ends of saving the day. In return, Muktar’s wildest dreams really do come true.

A rare glimpse of the desert north of Kenya and  Somali refugee children, beautifully illustrated, for ages 4 and up.

KENYA

Beatrice’s Dream: A Story of Kibera Slum, written by Karen Lynn Williams, photographs by Wendy Stone
published in 2011 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Millions of children live in urban slums, vast enclaves of desperate poverty in some of our largest global cities. Yet there are very few books about their lives among the multicultural titles for children.

I am so pleased to acquaint you with this title which spotlights a 13-year-old girl living in one of the largest, most infamous slums in the world, the Kibera Slum in Nairobi, Kenya. The author and illustrator have used great care to portray Beatrice with dignity, with hopes, dreams, and routines to which your children can relate. It’s an immensely important window into tremendously challenging living conditions that can be shared with children ages 4 or 5 and older.

Only the Mountains Do Not Move: A Maasai Story of Culture and Conservation, written and photographed by Jan Reynolds
published in 2011 by Lee & Low Books

The Maasai are perhaps the ethnic group in Kenya who appear most often in children’s literature. Their colorful red cloaks and intriguing lives as cattle-herding nomads lend themselves well to that, I guess.

This photo essay brings us into the everyday lives of one group of Maasai in northern Kenya. Enter their community, learn about their homes, chores, and the way their lives revolve around herds of cattle and goats. Reynolds uses this story to explore, too, how deforestation and climate change impact the Maasai way of life as well as the land and wildlife in East Africa. That sounds like a lot, but it’s presented in a way easily accessible to kids ages 7 and up.

Planting the Trees of Kenya, reviewed here

and

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees, reviewed here

are both beautiful accounts of the Nobel-prize winning Kenyan woman and her reforestation efforts in Kenya.

UGANDA

Beatrice’s Goat, written by Page McBrier, illustrated by Lori Lohstoeter
published in 2001 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

In the rolling hills of Uganda, in a small village called Kisinga, a little girl named Beatrice lives with her mom, brothers, and sisters.

As subsistence farmers who must carry water, hoe the fields, grind cassava flour, tend the chickens, life is a series of daily chores for Beatrice and her family which means that school — that enticing place where children learn such interesting things — is out of reach.

Until one goat changes everything. Discover life in rural Uganda and learn about the huge impact of organizations like the Heifer Project whose gift of a goat sets the economic tables in an upward spiral for Beatrice’s family and many others. Joyful, vibrant paintings accompany this upbeat, intriguing story. Ages 4 and up.

TANZANIA

Kele’s Secret, by Tololwa M. Mollel, illustrated by Catherine Stock
published in 1997 by Lodestar Books

Tololwa Mollel is an Arusha Maasai who grew up on his grandparents’ coffee farm in Tanzania. This fabulous account of a small boy named Yoanes and his search for the eggs laid by grandmother’s hens in such strange places…even frightening places…rings true in a delightful, transporting way.

Catherine Stock’s masterful watercolor work brings the countryside and marketplaces of Tanzania to vivid life. Wonderful story for ages 3 and up.

In a Cloud of Dust, written by Alma Fullerton, illustrated by Brian Deines
published in 2015 by Pajama Press

This brief, touching story is set on the hot dusty plains of rural Tanzania. Anna has a long walk to her school so she’s awestruck to see a truck full of bicycles bearing a sign — Bicycle Library — pull up in front of the school. It would be a dream to have a bicycle of her own! In a realistic, poignant twist, Anna and her friends learn to make do and share the bikes they are given.

Gorgeous paintings bring a hot glow to the Tanzanian countryside. An Author’s Note gives further information about the role of bicycles in Africa and some charities working to bring bikes to people who need them. Lovely and thought-provoking for ages 3 and up.

The Elizabeti books are sweet stories set in Tanzania. I’ve previously brought you:

Elizabeti’s Doll

Here’s a sequel to that story:

Mama Elizabeti, written by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, illustrated by Christy Hale
published in 2000 by Lee & Low Books

Mama’s had yet another baby, this time a darling sister named Flora. That means Mama’s got her hands full and it’s up to Elizabeti to care for her toddler brother, Obedi.

Elizabeti has had lots of practice taking care of her rock doll, so how hard can this be? Turns out — very hard indeed! Obedi is a busybody! He’s quite a stout load for Elizabeti to carry on her back and causes no end of trouble while she goes about her other daily chores. How on earth is a young girl supposed to manage all this?

This story warmly presents a reality for young African girls who bear extraordinary responsibilities at such tender ages. Elizabeti is a resourceful, kindhearted sister and her solution to her troubles will win your hearts. Ages 4 and up. Look for other titles in this series as well.

Our next stop is Central and Southern Africa.

Here are links to our previous destinations:
Destination: Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa

Destination: Indian Subcontinent

Destination: East Asia

Destination: Australia, New Zealand, and Micronesia

A Sampler of Cultures

Buckle up for a World Tour

Musings: a world of swiss cheese

Read Full Post »

We’re veering west this week, exploring Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa.

Islamic cultures weave amongst all these areas somewhat uniting them, so although many of the titles in my  post about Islam in children’s literature aren’t country-specific, most of them would work to supplement this leg of the tour.

Central Asia was by far the least represented region as I looked for children’s literature. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan — just a void in the ol’ card catalog. Middle Eastern titles are predominantly about recent wars. I’ve Mused about the significance of all this recently. The link for that is at the bottom of the blog along with links to earlier stops on our tour.

We’ll start at our easternmost point and move south and west today.

Kyrgyzstan

Caravan, written by Lawrence McKay, Jr., illustrated by Darryl Ligasan
published in 1995 by Lee & Low Books

Jura lives in the Pamir Mountains of Central Asia. He’s a young Kirghiz boy, the son of a caravaneer who treks over some of the most rugged mountains in the world, camels laden with felts and furs, to trade in the city for food. This year Jura is 10 and finally old enough to ride in the caravan.

See the craggy mountains, experience the frozen altitudes and snug warmth of a fire-lit cave, enter the city with its grand mosques and bustling bazaar, right along with him. This is such an intriguing window onto a rich culture. Handsome illustrations capture the grandeur of Jura’s homeland and the warmth of his relationship with his father. Ages 3 and up.

Afghanistan

I See the Sun in Afghanistan, written by Dedie King, illustrated by Judith Inglese
published in 2011 by Satya House Publications

This is part of the I See the Sun series from Satya House that follows one child through her day in various cultures. It’s a very well done introduction to ordinary Afghani life for ages 4 and up.

Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad, written and illustrated by James Rumford
published in 2008; a Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press

Wow! This book is so beautiful. It’s the account of a young boy in modern Baghdad who loves the ancient art of calligraphy.  James Rumford has infused his pages with these sweeping lines, like the sketched path of a figure skater gliding effortlessly across the pages. The exquisite Islamic tiles featuring these same shapes also serve as backdrop to his warm, gorgeous human figures.

Although little Ali’s story harks to the ugly, fearful war around him, and the way that the loveliness of calligraphy is like a shelter for his mind from that terror — still, the bulk of this book is not about war; it’s about an amazing part of Ali’s culture and for that, and for the gorgeous representation of his world, I am really thankful. A small stunner, for ages 4 or 5 and up.

Nasreen’s Secret School

A story of the courageous young girls and their teachers who, under the Taliban, stole in secret to schools despite laws forbidding their education. Read my full review here. Ages 4 and up.

Razia’s Ray of Hope

Also about a young girl’s dream for education. Razia has to overcome the objections of her father and oldest brother with the help of her grandfather. Part of the excellent Citizen Kid series. My full review is here. Ages 6 and up.

Afghan Dreams: Young Voices of Afghanistan, written by Tony O’Brien and Mike Sullivan, photographs by Tony O’Brien
published in 2008 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Documentarians O’Brien and Sullivan traveled to Afghanistan to interview children, asking them questions about their families, lives, and hopes. Asked what their wishes would be. Asked what they would like to show children visiting from America.

Meet street workers and pickpockets, girls and boys, children from Kabul and from the countryside. Hear the common theme of longing for an education. Striking, photographic portraits bring us face to face with these young, dear witnesses of devastation. Their own words serve as captions.

It’s a poignant, beautiful collection, best suited to slightly older readers, ages 9 through adult.

Oman

The Turtle of Oman

An absolutely gorgeous, lyric story of one young boy who must move away from Oman for a time, and all that his homeland means to him. This is a chapter book suited to ages 9 and up. My full review is here.

Leopard Boy

I found this when searching for fantastic fiction under 100 pages. It’s a suspenseful tale about a goatherd named Khalid in the mountains of Oman and his struggle to protect these mysterious creatures. Great for ages 8 or 9 and up.

United Arab Emirates

Jamal’s Journey, written and illustrated by Michael Foreman
published in 2017 by Andersen Press

The unusual setting of Dubai makes this book shine out from among the rest. I am always excited to see new parts of the world appear in children’s books.

Follow a little camel named Jamal as he treks through desert dunes and sandstorms as part of a Bedouin caravan heading for the colorful marketplace in the great city of Dubai. Simple story, evocative illustrations, just right for ages 3 and up.

Saudia Arabia

Going to Mecca, by Na’ima B. Robert, illustrated by Valentina Cavellini
published in 2012 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

This is one of the books you’ll find in my blog post about Islam in children’s literature. It’s a fantastic, guided tour to all that’s involved with making a hajj to Mecca, for ages 5 and up.

Kuwait

The White Nights of Ramadan, by Maha Addasi, illustrated by Ned Gannon
published in 2008 by Boyds Mill Press

Find out about the special celebrations that occur half way through Ramadan as a little girl named Noor prepares to celebrate with her family. Ages 5 and up.

Lebanon

The Three Lucys, written by Hayan Charara, illustrated by Sara Kahn
published in 2016 by Lee & Low Books

Hayan Charara based this poignant story on his family’s experiences in Lebanon during the July War of 2006. A little boy named Luli loves to sit in the shade of an olive tree and play with his cats, the three Lucys. He loves to travel with his family to visit relatives in the bustling city of Beirut and then return to his peaceful home near the sea.

When war breaks out and bombs drop on his village, Luli’s family must flee. Sirens, sheltering, and worry over the Lucys dominate his life until a cease fire allows them to return home. There they discover that all is not lost, but all is certainly not well. Luli learns to grieve his losses while looking forward with hope. A steady but not overly harsh look at the costs of war, for ages 5 and up.

Oranges in No Man’s Land, by Elizabeth Laird, illustrations by Gary Blythe
published in the UK in 2006; this edition 2008 by Haymarket Books

A poignant short chapter book about one young girl’s experience in war-torn Beirut — the traumas, dangers, courage, heartbreak, and generosity of spirit she encounters. For emotionally-mature readers. Short, but packed with a punch. Ages 10 and up.

Syria and Jordan

My Beautiful Birds

I featured this book in a blogpost about refugees. It’s the story of a little boy who flees Syria with his family and lands at the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. The book is more about his experience as a refugee than it is a window into either of this places, but as a refugee camp is newly-home for so many Syrian children today, it’s fitting to include it. My full review is here.

Palestine

Tasting the Sky

This fabulous, sorrowful memoir of life as a Palestinian refugee is a great choice for ages 12 through adult. Read my full review here.

Israel

Sharing Our Homeland: Palestinian and Jewish Children at Summer Peace Camp, written by Trish Marx, photographed by Cindy Karp
published in 2010 by Lee & Low Books

The sad truth of Israel is that generations of children have grown up regarding their neighbors as their mortal enemies. This is everyday life for far too many kids. At Peace Camp, Palestinian and Jewish children come together to spend time side by side and hopefully learn a little about one another, grow in respect for one another, begin to trust one another.

Spend time with the children at this summer day camp, find out how the camp attempts to bridge this gap, and learn the history of the conflict in this documentary-style book, accessible to ages 7 or 8 and up.

Everybody Says Shalom, written by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Talitha Shipman
published in 2015 by Random House

Meander about Israel in this warm, sunny, holiday scrapbook. Visit open-air markets, a kibbutz, the Dead Sea, the Western Wall. See Marc Chagall’s stained glass windows and Jerusalem’s gates. Munch some dates and ice cold yogurt.

Minimal text and cheerful illustrations provide a thoroughly happy and almost-entirely Jewish perspective in this book. Added information on the sites visited is included in the back pages. No complexity here. Just sightseeing. Ages 3 and up.

Sudan

Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan, written by Mary Williams, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
published in 2005 by Lee & Low Books

I’ve reviewed several middle grade novels about the Lost Boys of Sudan as well as others impacted by the horrific civil wars in that country. This picture book provides a way for slightly younger readers to learn about these refugees, some of whom have made their way to the U.S. and Canada.

Garang is a young boy who once lived a happy life with his family in southern Sudan. He is thrust into a world of violence and fear, into roles of leadership well beyond his 8 years of age, into arduous journeys and heartbreaking losses, when his village is attacked and his family killed. Follow him among the thousands of boys walking to Ethiopia, and then to Kenya when further war forces them to flee once again.

It’s an incredible, gripping story of what life has been like for some of the children in our world, boldly illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. I’d suggest ages 8 and older.

For middle graders and up who want to read more about Sudanese refugees, see my reviews of A Long Walk to Water, Home of the Brave, or The Red Pencil.

Egypt

The Day of Ahmed’s Secret, written by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, illustrated by Ted Lewin
published in 1990 by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books

Ahmed is a young boy who works on the streets of Cairo driving a donkey cart laden with bottled gas canisters. Travel with him on one of his typical work days and see the sights of modern Cairo, a melange of the very old and new.

Ahmed is proud to be helping support his family, but today he has a new source of pride. It’s such a big secret, his heart is about to burst with it! As he holds that secret close to his chest all day, our curiosity mounts.  What could it be! The revelation is a joy and an inspiration. I am so glad this book exists. It’s a rarity for all the reasons I’ve mused about earlier.  If you can find it, you’ll love reading it along with children ages 4 and up.

Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books, written by Susan L. Roth and Karen Leggett Abouraya, illustrated by Susan L. Roth
published in 2012 by Dial Books for Young Readers

During the tumult of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, the library of Alexandria was threatened by vandals. One brave librarian was not enough to protect this treasure, but many brave protestors who linked hands and formed a ring of safety around it were enough.

This is their story, and a lovely look at contemporary Egypt. Includes back pages with photographs of this stunning library, and more information about Alexandria’s ancient library, current library, and the revolution itself. Great little read for ages 5 and up.

Morocco

The Butter Man, written by Elizabeth Alalou and Ali Alalou, illustrated by Julie Klear Essakalli
published in 2008 by Charlesbridge

Most books about Morocco are centered in the colorful souks of Marrakech and Fez, but this touching story takes place in the High Atlas Mountains, so that’s the first great point in its favor!

It’s the story of a young girl named Nora who is impatiently awaiting the delicious lamb-and-vegetable couscous her dad is making for dinner. It smells so good. Her tummy is rumbling so loudly. Finally she groans aloud: “I’m staaarving!”

Her father, who really did live through a time of starvation in his childhood, does not scold Nora for her outburst, but he does tell her the story of the butter man. It’s a personal story of endurance as his Berber community faces a severe shortage of food, and the unique way his mother tries to distract him from gnawing hunger pains. Illustrated with colorful, naive artwork, the book brings this rather hidden region to life. An Author’s Note tells lots more about the Berber culture.

Great read, well worth sharing with children ages 5 and up.

My Father’s Shop, written and illustrated by Satoma Ichikawa
first American edition 2006 by Kane/Miller Books

Head into the souk and meet young Mustafa who is helping out in his father’s rug shop. Those fabulous carpets draw tourists from around the world, and Mustafa’s dad thinks he ought to begin learning some of the many languages the customers speak so he can grow into a fine market man one day.

Mustafa’s method of learning languages is quite unusual, humorous, and entertaining, but in the end, he certainly does manage to bring in the business!

Beautifully drawn with all the spicy colors and liveliness of a souk in Marrakech, this is a funny, lighthearted story, ideal for ages 2 and up.

The Storytellers, written and illustrated by Ted Lewin
published in 1998 by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books

Winding among the ancient, cobbled streets of Fez, young Abdul and his grandfather walk to work. As they squeeze past donkey carts piled with brass bowls, wool dyers wringing water from scarlet skeins, brassworkers hammering noisily on metal, weavers clickety-clacking at their looms, Abdul compares all the various jobs with the work lying ahead of him.

Every time, he feels lucky. Lucky to be doing…what? What is it that occupies Abdul and his grandfather?

So much admiration for the sights, sounds, and traditions of Morocco are tucked into this really eye-catching book. It’s a delightfully tangy read for ages 5 and up.

Mirror

This outstanding, unique book is equal parts Australia and Morocco. You won’t want to miss it. Read my review of it in the Australian portion of our tour, here.

Our next stop will be East Africa. Please do invite others along who would benefit from these listings!

Earlier stops can be found with these links:

Destination: Indian Subcontinent

Destination: East Asia

Destination: Australia, New Zealand, and Micronesia

A Sampler of Cultures

Buckle up for a World Tour

Musings: a world of swiss cheese

Read Full Post »

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 🙂

Read Full Post »

Just looking at this stack of books today warms my heart. Lush illustrations and tenderhearted characters bring a palpable response of peace, security, belonging, and healing.

These days are filled with turmoil and conflict, and assuredly children pick up on that. It’s the perfect time to snuggle up together and read reassuring, beautiful picture books.

The Way Home in the Night, written and illustrated by Akiko Miyakoshi
first published in Japan in 2015; English edition published by Kids Can Press in 2017

Akiko Miyakoshi is making a name for herself with her gorgeous, flannel-soft, rosebud-tender illustration work and the rich themes of imagination and belonging thrumming through her books.  (See my review of The Tea Party in the Woods here.)

Here she explores the many varied life stories which surround us, the array of homes cocooning our neighbors, each holding an aroma of mystery, a tease of the unknown, and our common desire for repose.

As one little bunny goes for a quiet evening stroll with Mama, the glow of lamplight from within apartment windows gives glimpses of neighbors’ lives and piques curiosity. What are they talking about? What are they cooking up for supper? What happens next, after we lose sight of them? So many different narratives, yet ultimately bound together with deeply human needs — home, and a place to lay our heads to sleep.

Attuned to universal wondering, this hushed story will resonate deeply with young and old, ages 2 and up. Outstanding.

Little Fox in the Forest, a wordless book by Stephanie Graegin
published in 2017 by Schwartz & Wade Books

My word! This book is flooded with wave upon wave of adorableness, kindness, and imagination, with one well-shot arrow of childhood angst piercing through to create pitch-perfect tension for preschoolers.

It’s the ol’ lovey-gone-missing plot, portrayed with panache. A little girl’s favorite stuffed fox accompanies her to the playground one day. While she’s enjoying a hearty swing, a real fox kit spies the toy, snatches it, and hot-foots it into the forest.

With determination borne of desperation, the little girl tracks her beloved fox, a host of darling woodland residents and one schoolmate assisting her. What they discover — a splendiferous woodland village that’ll set your heart a-flutter — plus one small, pathetic fox kit, leads to a resolution sweet as a butter cookie.

Could anyone not feel their heart flood with warmth upon reading this story? I think not. A perfect picture book for ages 2 and up.

Home and Dry, written and illustrated by Sarah L. Smith
published in 2016 by Child’s Play Inc.

Coming to us from Australia, this quirky charmer features the Paddling family whose home on a rocky outcropping of an island looks mighty idyllic; plus a rainstorm to end all rainstorms; and dear Uncle Bastian, a lonely old fellow whose busy life has heretofore superceded pleasant holidays but who has decided to finally pay a long-overdue visit to his family.

The collision course of events here — picnics and paddlings and Paddlings and predicaments — makes for a rollicking series of near-misses and thorough wettings until all ends in coziness, hospitality, belonging, and everyone “home and dry.”

With a plot and illustrations crammed with affection and the humble joy of home and family, this is a delight for ages 3 and up.

The Giant Jumperee, written by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
originally published in the UK; first U.S. edition 2017 by Dial Books for Young Readers

Two UK childrens’ literature rock stars teamed up to create this sunny, funny, jolly tale, and what a joy it is!

Something is lurking in Rabbit’s burrow! It calls itself the Giant Jumperee! Good heavens! What can it be?

Rabbit is affrighted! And as each of his animal friends stoutly offers to help remove this unseen monster, they become just as alarmed! After all, it shouts out such dire warnings!

When even Elephant is left cowering, Mama Frog calmly steps up to the challenge and what do you know — that Giant Jumperee is heading home to tea in a merry minute.  Timeless and happy, for young lapsitters, ages 18 months and up.

Time Now to Dream, written by Timothy Knapman, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
published in the UK in 2016; first U.S. edition 2017 by Candlewick Press

Here’s another book awash in the perfection of Helen Oxenbury’s art, with a story brilliantly balancing delicious ingredients: tingly mystery, tenderness, bravery, sibling camaraderie, and the warmth of home.

Alice and Jack are enjoying a fine day when, coming through the forest, a sound disrupts their playtime. It’s a weird sound. An uncanny howl. It goes something like this, “Ocka by hay beees unna da reees…”

Is it the Wicked Wolf?! Into the shadowy woods they go with a mixture of trepidation and curiosity, only to discover a most surprising scene! For at the height of tension, sunlight and warmth break through.  Despite Jack’s worries, everything really is all right, and the dreams they dream tonight will be full of sweetness. Absolutely top notch for ages 18 months and up.

Like this? Helped by this? Share it with others or on your favorite social media site!

Read Full Post »

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my quest for the best new nonfiction titles out there as I lovelovelove a good nonfiction picture book! Here are some of the juicy best I’ve seen thus far:

The Street Beneath My Feet, written by Charlotte Guillain, illustrated by Yuval Zommer
first published in the UK; published in the U.S. in 2017 by words and pictures, part of The Quarto Group

Truly, this is one of the most exciting nonfiction books I’ve seen!

The mysterious depths of the earth, nature’s unseen surprises and buried treasures, the murky pipes and wires of urban networks — all of this lurks beneath our feet, hidden from view. Perhaps so utterly unseen, it even evades our curiosity!

Until it’s unfolded in splendor by Yuval Zommer  — just look at the way this book opens up as we descend down, down, down, to the Earth’s inner core, then turn about and travel back to the surface. About 9 or 10 feet long when it’s all stretched out, with different illustrations on each side.  How cool is that?! Along the way, we get a guided tour of all the fascinations beneath our feet. Earthworms and storm drains, subways and stalactites, badger setts and precious gems.

Phenomenal illustration work. Just the right amount of information. An utterly inviting format. This comes with my highest recommendation! Grab a copy for kids ages 3 and up.

Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics, written by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López
published in 2017 by Henry Holt and Company

This rich sequence of poetic and visual portraits brims with promise, passion, courage, and LIFE!

Unreeled for us in chronological order, eighteen free-verse poems celebrate a tantalizing diversity of amazing Latinos. Meet Juan de Miralles who is said to have saved his friend George Washington’s troops from scurvy by delivering Cuban fruit to them. Botanist Ynés Mexia who explored Mexico and South America at the turn of the century identifying hundreds of new plant species. The well-known Roberto Clemente, and the lesser known, fascinating Fabiola Cabeza de Baca — what an amazing life she led!

Each brief poem is matched with a powerful, vibrant illustration in sizzling color. Wow, these pages pop!

Brief, prose sketches of each individual are included as well as a rhythmic listing of many more Latinos to learn about. What a fantastic fusion of history, culture, artistry for ages 6 and up!

Penguin Day: A Family Story, written and photographed by Nic Bishop
published in 2017 by Scholastic Press

Who can resist penguins? And who can top Nic Bishop’s outstanding nature photography?

There you have it — the perfect recipe for a charming photoessay. Witness a day in the life of a rockhopper penguin family as Mom and Dad care for their baby, guarding him and undertaking an extraordinary journey to collect food.

So much chub, fluff, drama, and cuteness! Dominated by Bishop’s crisp, stunning photographs with a minimal narration of events, this book will entrance children ages 2 and up. An Author’s Note provides scads more information about these Antarctic residents for parents or older siblings.

Karl, Get Out of the Garden!: Carolus Linnaeus and the Naming of Everything, written by Anita Sanchez, illustrated by Catherine Stock
published in 2017 by Charlesbridge

Karl Linné, or Carolus Linnaeus, is one of Sweden’s great figures, whose name is borne by a delicate pink wildflower found in the far north, the Linnaea borealis. My dear mother-in-law, Elsie Linnea, child of Swedish immigrants, is named after that Swedish beauty. I love that!

Linnaeus is famous for having developed the classification system for all living things which we take so for granted that most of us don’t pause to think how it originated. A man with insatiable curiosity and wonder who was devoted to botany, Linnaeus began by gathering and using plants for medicinal purposes. What he encountered was chaos due to no uniform method of naming and conversing about anything from a dog rose to a honeybee. So he set about creating order — an enormous task!

Catherine Stock’s gorgeous watercolors beautifully present Sweden in the 1700s and the world of plants in particular which Linnaeus loved. This little gem is accessible to children ages 5 and up.

Animal Journeys, written by Patricia Hegarty, illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle
first published in the UK; published in the U.S. in 2017 by 360 Degrees, an imprint of Tiger Tales

Such a beauty! Small but chunky, nature-sketchbook-sized, crammed with lovely illustrations and morsels of text about all manner of animals on the move, it’s a book that’ll lure you into discovering more.

Migratory animals, swimmers, animals coping with challenging environments, surprising animal antics. Wildebeest and pond skaters; wolf packs and dung beetles; echolocation and piggybacking. Dabble here and there in the animal kingdom and be amazed by the variety of travelers.

Graced by Jessica Courtney-Tickle’s captivating artistry, this one’s accessible to kids ages 3 to much older.

Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot, written by Matthew Clark Smith, illustrated by Matt Tavares
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

Just take a look at that lemon-chiffon light, soaring candy-striped balloon, impossibly-lithesome wings buoying Sophie and her wicker basket high above the French countryside. What a dreamy entryway to this fascinating story of the first woman pilot.

Sophie Blanchard lived in France in the 18th century when balloonomania had swept the nation. Having married a famous balloonist, Sophie thrilled to accompany him into the air, to watch villages turn miniature below her. Ascending alone, however, without a male pilot — that was unacceptable in her society. Did Sophie let that stop her? No, ma’am.

Matthew Clark Smith tells Blanchard’s compelling life story while Matt Tavares’ stunning illustrations evoke French elegance, ethereal thrills, and the brooding storms of Blanchard’s life. A fascinating foray into the world of ballooning and a woman I’d never heard of, for ages 5 and up. The author’s and illustrator’s notes are gems as well!

Lesser Spotted Animals: The Coolest Creatures You’ve Never Heard Of, written and illustrated by Martin Brown
first published in the UK in 2016; U.S. edition in 2017 by Scholastic by arrangement with David Fickling Books

If you’re a bit bored with bears, zzz-ed by zebras, deluged with dogs; if you seek a bit more exotic fare…well, look no further!

This catalog of uncommon creatures is just the ticket. It’ll wow you with splendidly-diverse populations that humbly inhabit Earth, yet never made it into a children’s picture book…until now.

Say hello to the Numbat, the Zorilla, and that darling, pink, Lesser Fairy Armadillo. No, these aren’s Seussian inventions — they are real animals. Martin Brown’s upbeat, folksy descriptions of these guys make for great reading, with a nice touch of humor and swell illustration work to boot. Even the glossary is a delight! Ramp up wonder with ages 5 and up.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: