Posts Tagged ‘picture books’

I think we could all use a smile, and today’s books are overflowing with good cheer, simple pleasures, yummy goodies, and even a wish or three.

So break out the jam tarts and peppermint tea, cuddle up together, and journey towards joy.

the-littlest-familys-big-day-cover-imageThe Littlest Family’s Big Day, written and illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin
published in 2016 by Random House


Pure, tender charm spills from this book like blueberries from my grandmother’s pie!


This little family of bears reminds me littlefurfamilyquite a lot of Margaret Wise Brown and Garth Williams’ Little Fur Family. Does anyone remember that book?

We’re paying a visit to these bears on quite an eventful day.  They’re settling into a new home. Meeting their creaturely neighbors.  Then exploring the outdoors, feasting upon strawberries, and returning to a snug home after a wee bit of an adventure.


Like a spoonful of sugar for your day, this is a sweet story to share again and again with ages 2 and up. Love it!

paul-and-antoinette-cover-imagePaul and Antoinette, written and illustrated by Kerascoët, translated from the French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick
published in 2016 by Enchanted Lion Books

Paul and his sister Antoinette are as different as plum cake and salsa.

Antoinette goes at life with reckless abandon, piling jam and chocolate on her toast like nobody’s business, exulting in worms, galloping through mud puddles.


Paul, on the other hand, is a deliberate, sensitive, quieter soul who feasts on new knowledge sponged up slowly, enjoys tidiness, tinkering, and thinking.


Life with one another, then, has its challenges, but at the end of the day, with patience and love, they manage. Antoinette’s jolly Everything Tart definitely helps matters along! Whipped cream mountains of good cheer, here, for ages 3 and up.

hedgehugs-and-the-hattiepillar-cover-imageHedgehugs and the Hattiepillar, written by Steve Wilson, illustrated by Lucy Tapper
published in 2015 by Henry Holt and Co.

Horace and Hattie Hedgehug are back, these two dear friends. This time they’re out and about exploring the beauty of the great outdoors when they spy something oh-so-interesting. Small. Shiny. Smooth.

This interesting little pea turns out to be an egg, and out crawls a “wriggly, stripy thing” that proceeds to eat. A lot! And then spin itself a “soft, silky bed.” And then make a grand entrance as something terribly exciting, “something beautiful, colorful, and wonderful.”


Horace and Hattie decide that eating a great lot, then curling up to sleep in a lovely, soft, silky bed sounds like a terrific idea. They hope they’ll emerge from this just as colorful and wonderful!

I’ll let you see what comes of their grand experiment. I think you’ll agree that it sounds like a hypothesis any number of us would be pleased to test out! Darling, cheerful fun for ages 2 and up.

pug-mans-3-wishes-cover-imagePug Man’s 3 Wishes, written and illustrated by Sebastian Meschenmoser, translated from the German by David Henry Wilson
first published in Germany in 2008; English version published in 2016 by NorthSouth Books

For dry, droll humor, you just can’t beat Sebastian Meschenmoser. This book will tickle the funny bones of young children and adults alike.

Pug Man is a curmudgeonly fellow at best, but this morning everything is going wrong. Groggy and unmotivated after oversleeping, Pug Man goes through the motions of getting ready for the day only to find no milk in the fridge, no coffee in the cup, and a soggy, dripping newspaper.


Seriously bad day.

Much to Pug Man’s consternation a bippety-boppety-boo chipper little fairy appears at that moment, determined to Cheer Him Up!!! With saccharine glee she offers him three marvelous wishes!

Pug Man makes use of those wishes. You’ll have to see just what he wishes for! A funny tale for ages 3 and up, and especially well-suited to any anti-morning persons!

motor-miles-cover-imageMotor Miles, written and illustrated by John Burningham
published in 2016 by Candlewick

Coming from one of the most beloved children’s lit author/illustrators, this story brought me cheer at the first glimpse of the cover.

Burningham’s carefree line, scribbly hair, smart auto, and sunny fields bring back memories of reading the Mr. Gumpy books umpteen times with my children, and loving them just as much every time.

This book is not about Mr. Gumpy, despite those visual similarities. It’s about a dog named Miles. Miles “was a very difficult dog.” Have you experienced one of those??

Here is John Burningham with the real, difficult, Miles!

Here is John Burningham with the real, difficult, Miles!

Doesn’t bother to come when called. Balks on the leash. Barks unnecessarily. Turns up his nose at his food. His owners, Alice Trudge and her son Norman, are fond of dear Miles, but a bit at their wits end until Mr. Huddy from next door offers to build Miles his own little car.


Miles loveloveloves his little roadster. In a jiffy, his attitude clears up, his appetite returns, and he and Norman carry off a bundle of jolly adventures to boot!

This is a lark of a story, guaranteed to spark imaginations and put a big smile on the face of readers ages 2 and up.

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

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

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


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

What to do?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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I’ve drawn the winner of What Will Danny Do Today? It was lovely to read everyone’s wishes for what to do on a free day! If only I could grant each of those!


At any rate, the book winner is…my dear friend, Julie Steller! Julie, I guess we need to have coffee soon so I can get that to you!


I have books full of mother-love and grandmother-love and another gold-star winner from Matthew Cordell, all coming up on Monday, just in time for Valentine’s Day.


Happy stories. Troll stories. Bonkers breakfast stories. And some gorgeous photography perfect for book-lovers. All coming in the next weeks. I love sharing these gems with you and being part of a wonderful, worldwide, reading community. How cool is that?!

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February is Black History Month and I’m so happy to pass on these five excellent titles. The more we seek to understand others, the more we are enriched and the more harmonious and peaceful society can become. This is what we all want! 

I love the breadth of contributions to society and our common history these stories introduce and represent. Although they are all picture books, today’s set seems best for ages 7 and up. You can find lots more Black History titles including those well-suited for younger readers, in my Subject Index.

a-poem-for-peter-cover-imageA Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day, written by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson
published in 2016 by Viking

I’ve always felt that The Snowy Day is one of the truly perfect picture books out there. Its art, understanding of the child, genius economy of words, continue to stand the test of time. With all the absolutely stunning work that’s been published since this book came out in 1962 — still, it’s at the top of my list of what to give a new baby upon entrance into our world.


And those aren’t the only elements that make Ezra Jack Keats’ book such a gem. It was unheard of at that time for a black child to be the main character of a story. Having his sweet brown face featured on the book’s cover was an important step forward in children’s literature and our society.

Read this lilting, expressionist, free-verse story to learn all about Keats and how his particular life led him to create that “brown-sugar boy” named Peter, to place an urban world in our hands and help us embrace the formerly-invisible . The illustration work in this book, incorporating Keats’ distinctive vibe and media, is fabulous.


This is a picture book best appreciated by those who have met Keats’ work. I’d hand it to kids ages 8 and up. Adults — it’s for you, too.

the-book-itch-cover-imageThe Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
published in 2015 by Carolrhoda Books

Lewis Henri Michaux was a feisty, independent-minded soul from the start, and he had something in common with me, and probably with you: He loved books.

All of which led him on a winding pathway to create something sadly unusual: a bookstore in Harlem. Michaux had a hard go of it. He was turned down for a loan on the premise that “Black people don’t read.” Good thing Michaux had the moxie to discard such ignorance and push ahead.


Michaux was full of pithy advice for all: “Knowledge is Power. You need it every hour. Read a book!” And his shop — the National Memorial African Bookstore —  was full of books, conversation, ideas, and famous folk. Muhammad Ali. Langston Hughes. Malcolm X.


This biography, crackling with the same grit and gumption as Michaux, introduces readers ages 8 and up to a man who believed in the intellect of his fellow African Americans and challenged them to make their mark through knowledge and independent thinking. Christie’s robust, vigorous artwork easily bears the weight of his rugged subject.

jazz-day-cover-imageJazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph, written by Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Francis Vallejo
published in 2016 by Candlewick Press

In 1958, a fellow named Art Kane came up with a wild scheme to gather as many jazz greats as he could and take their picture.

The magazine he worked for was doing a jazz issue. It seemed like the perfect place for that kind of historic photo. But getting in touch with all these folks, finding a date when they could join up, all in the days before e-invitations — that was a challenge. Happily for Kane, and for us, a river of jazz musicians flowed into Harlem one hot summer day and cooperated — mostly — with the photo session.

Click. A moment, and an entire movement, preserved.


Roxane Orgill has ingenuously recreated the unfolding action from Kane’s initial idea to the arrival on the newsstands of a magazine with a crisp photo of 57 musicians: black and white; male and female. Plus 12 little neighborhood boys who just happened to be there, too.


She’s done this through a series of poems from the perspectives of a number of folks involved. Massive, delightful, effervescent personalities exude from her pieces which are accompanied by gorgeous, stylish portraits by artist Francis Vallejo. I love his work!

This is an outstanding picture book that older children and adults will thoroughly enjoy. Ages 8 through adult.

how-to-build-a-museum-cover-imageHow to Build a Museum, by Tonya Bolden
published in 2016 by Viking and Smithsonian

Are you one of the lucky ones who has had a chance to visit the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture? I understand its popularity right now makes that a tricky ticket to get ahold of.

Historian Tonya Bolden is here to tell us how this museum came about and I’m telling you — it will whet your appetite to go!


If you can believe it, this is a 100-year-long dream-come-true. A vision that began in 1915 and persevered through lots of halts and left turns and snags until finally, on September 24, 2016, the museum was open for visitors.

Learn the history of this long process and go treasure hunting to find all manner of items. A beautiful gown designed by Ann Lowe and a plane flown by the Tuskegee Airmen. Satchmo’s trumpet and Michael Jackson’s fedora. Gabby Douglas’s leotard and a couple of Woolworth’s lunch-counter stools from Greensboro. Posters. Photos. Medals. Harriet Tubman’s hymnal.


Illustrated with photographs. If you are making a trip to D.C. and hope to visit the museum, you should definitely read this first. Ages 8 to adult.

let-it-shine-cover-imageLet It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn
published in 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Finally, a collection of bite-sized biographies of some persevering, courageous women. Chosen after long hours of reading, research, and conversation, these 10 women represent hundreds of others who have set aside their own comfort and security, who have gone out on a limb, to fight for freedom and equality.


In her preface, Pinkney discusses the breadth of freedoms she considered as she chose her subjects. What is striking is how basic these freedoms really are. Freedom to choose housing. Freedom to ride public transportation. I hope that by reading Black History, we can put to rest the simplistic notion that “all you have to do in America is work hard to change your future.” No, the cards have been stacked against certain populations. The opportunities have been made unavailable to some and granted to others. Women and men and children have been beaten and killed for trying to improve their lot in life.


In about five pages each, Pinkney tells the compelling stories of both famous and lesser-known women: Sojourner Truth, Biddy Mason, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Mary McLeod Bethune, Ella Josephine Baker, Dorothy Irene Height, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Shirley Chisholm.

Each bio is accompanied by one full-page and one small-sized painting, bursting with vibrancy and strength. These accounts make great additions to anyone’s grasp of American history. Ages 8 and up.

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atlas-of-animal-adventure-cover-imageAtlas of Animal Adventures, written by Rachel Williams and Emily Hawkins, illustrated by Lucy Letherland
published in 2016 by Wide Eyed Editions

Here’s another gorgeous atlas from Wide Eyed. What a shelf full of fabulous books they’ve given us!

Explore the seven continents, learning about the amazing wildlife that lives in various locations — their behaviors, migrations, habitats, uniquenesses — all while feasting on Lucy Letherland’s phenomenal illustration work.


This oversized book is cover to cover food for curious minds. From the spectacular annual migration of the wildebeest in Kenya to the exotic courtship ritual of decorative homebuilding carried on by bowerbirds in New Guinea and Australia; from the collective might of leaf-cutter ants in the Bolivian rain forest to that mysterious unicorn of the Arctic waters, the narwhal, whose spiral horn can grow up to 9 feet long.


These scenes are full of interesting tidbits of information. Maps along the way set the animals in their proper locales. And two pages of illustration details to try to spot help turn the book into an I Spy game. Absolutely top-notch, for ages 4 through much older.

animals-by-the-numbers-cover-imageAnimals by the Numbers:A Book of Animal Infographics, written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins
published in 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Steve Jenkins is brilliant at finding intriguing angles for learning about wildlife. I love his approach, not to mention his truly beautiful work in paper collage.

This book is like candy for mid-elementary kids on up — I was enthralled by it! — who have arrived at the age where they gobble up statistics and record-breakers of all sorts.

Each two-page spread addresses a different capacity or quality — leaping distance, tongue length, deadliness of venom, speed. Jenkins uses immensely clever infographics and crisp, attractive page layouts to compare a number of different animals so we can see at a glance who are the winners and losers.


Bars radiate out like radio waves to illustrate differences in decibel level of various animals, from a tiny water boatman through hyenas, cicadas, whales, wolves… I bet you’ll be surprised who are the loudest creatures on the chart! And what about those tongues? The winner of Overall Tongue Length does not come nearly close to winning the record for tongue length when it’s compared to body size. If your tongue was just as long, how far would it reach?

Hand this to kids ages 8 and up to pour over and prepare to be peppered with new data points!

giant-squid-cover-imageGiant Squid, written by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann
published in 2016, A Neal Porter Book from Roaring Brook Press

Time to focus in on just one of the world’s stunning creatures. Let’s pick one of the largest animals on the planet. One that remains quite a mystery despite centuries of seeking it out. In fact, in her intriguing afterword, Fleming tells us that “we have more close-up photos of the surface of Mars” than of this ginormous creature, the giant squid.


Such an eerie, downright terrifying being! Rohmann accentuates the mystery and fright with his cold, dark, murky palette and closer-than-you’d-ever-want-to-be perspectives on those razor-sharp suckers and dinner-plate-big eyeball. Yikes. I don’t advise reading this right before a snorkeling expedition!


Fleming introduces us to this creepy sea monster with incisive, sensory-laden free verse. She’s done a fabulous job, creating a visceral sense of strangeness and wonder, almost a ghostly mystique. Her afterword fills in a great deal of fascinating information for middle graders and up. The book itself is for brave kids ages 6 and up. It won a Sibert Honor, just last week.

step-right-up-cover-imageStep Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness, written by Donna Janell Bowman, illustrated by Daniel Minter
published in 2016 by Lee & Low Books

If a giant squid is one of the most exotic and unknown of earth’s creatures, surely the horse is at the other end of the spectrum. But although horses are so familiar and loved, one horse and his amazing owner proved to be extraordinary beyond belief!

This is the story of a man named William “Doc” Key. Though he was born into slavery, the willingness of his owners to educate him and Doc’s sharp, curious mind meant that he learned, advanced, and transitioned into freedom with purpose, capability, and a hunger for success.


Doc wildly succeeded as a businessman, so much so that he became one of the wealthiest men in town. But it was his rich store of kindness, patience, and trust that enabled him to nurse to health one spindly colt and teach that horse an absolutely jaw-dropping amount of skills. We’re talking spelling. Telling time. Making change out of a register. I know you don’t believe me, but just read the book!

If you had been around in the 1890s, you could have seen Doc and his horse, Jim Key, perform to amazed audiences. Read this book and prepare to be astonished! Daniel Minter’s handsome block prints bring the era to life and bathe us in the golden warmth of the kindness Doc was known for.

A lengthy afterword provides lots more interesting information on both Doc and Jim Key. Enjoy this with ages 6 and older.

the-amazing-animal-adventure-cover-imageThe Amazing Animal Adventure: An Around-the-World Spotting Expedition, text by Anne Claybourne, illustrations by Brendan Kearney
published in 2016 by Laurence King Publishing

Finally, here’s a game-in-a-book that brings us to 21 particular habitats around the world, tells us very briefly about them, and provides jolly lists of animals to spot in each scene.

Visit the tundra in Greenland, a British rock pool, the Gomantong caves on the island of Borneo, hydrothermal vents in the Pacific Ocean, a mangrove forest in India, and spot familiar and unusual animals who love living just exactly there — a mugger crocodile, a frilled-neck lizard, burrowing owls, harbor seals, and gadzooks! a mighty lot of wrinkle-lipped bats!


You won’t read scads of information here, but you’ll be introduced to a wide variety of intriguing places and amazing creatures. Hopefully your curiosity will be piqued to investigate some of them a bit more. Great fun for ages 5 and up.

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I have a winner for my giveaway of Fancy Party Gowns!!


Rhapsody in Books — your name was drawn! Contact me at jillswanson61@gmail.com with your shipping address and I’ll get that beauty off to you!

Meanwhile, the biggest book awards in U.S. children’s literature were awarded this week. You can find a list of all the winners here.

I’ve reviewed a number of those that were recognized and am always happy to have my attention drawn to other titles I haven’t yet had time to read.

Here are links to the reviews you can find here at Orange Marmalade:

The most prestigious prize is the Newbery Medal and it went to a Minneapolis author this year! Woohoo! That was:

the girl who drank the moon cover image
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

One of the books that won a Newbery Honor was just recently on my blog. It well deserves this honor, and was also awarded Coretta Scott King Honors for both its text and illustrations:

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams, written and illustrated by Ashley Bryan

The Caldecott is the big prize for illustration work. I have loved and previously reviewed all four of the Honor Books:


Leave Me Alone!, illustrated by written by Vera Brosgol

freedom in congo square cover image

Freedom in Congo Square, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, written by Carole Boston Weatherford. This book also won a Coretta Scott King Honor for its illustrations.


Du Iz Tak?, illustrated and written by Carson Ellis


They All Saw a Cat, illustrated and written by Brendan Wenzel

I’ve reviewed one of the Sibert Honor books thus far — a gripping account for teens through adult:

we will not be silent cover image

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Hitler, by Russell Freedman

One of the delightful Theodor Seuss Geisel awards went to:

oops pounce quick run cover image

Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run!: An Alphabet Caper, written and illustrated by Mike Twohy

I hope you’ll take the time to check these out if you missed them the first time. Every one is a gem!


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What’s black and white and read all over? It’s a riddle that has spanned generations.

Today the answer is: A passel of books full of black-and-white critters.

penguin-problems-cover-imagePenguin Problems, written and illustrated by Jory John
published in 2016 by Random House

This hilarious tale of a dismal, grumpy penguin made me laugh out loud in the bookstore.

The dour commentary begins, actually, on the jacket flap, with yours truly, one flumpy, fractious penguin grousing that we probably won’t even finish reading this book about him because why would anyone and you’ll probably get a bunch of paper cuts in the process anyway. Hrumph,hrumph,hrumph.


What seems to be the problem? Well, for one, it’s too early in the morning. And his beak is cold. And the sun’s too bright and the ocean too salty.


This guy clearly got up on the wrong side of the iceberg today and nothing, but nothing, is going to cheer him up. You wanna talk about problems? I have so many problems! he cries. This guy is the Bob Wiley of the penguin world.


There is a moment. A chance encounter with a sage walrus who attempts loquaciously to lift the penguin’s eyes up from his troubles and out onto the beauty of the world, but…well, have you tried that with a grumpus? Do you think it works?

Exactly the right touch of wry humor leads us skippeting through this very funny book, all to the tune of Jory John’s priceless illustrations. So brilliant, the volume of personality and emotion he can cram into one small lump of a penguin. Sure to put a smile on your faces even on One of Those Days. Ages 3 and up.

the-polar-bear-cover-imageThe Polar Bear, written and illustrated by Jenni Desmond
published in 2016 by Enchanted Lion Books

Jenni Desmond won me over in one swish with her first title, The Blue Whale, reviewed here. Now she’s back with another gorgeous book about those burly arctic giants, the polar bear.

Desmond’s genius is in providing the fascination of non-fiction, written with clarity and not a snitch of talking down, combined with her superb artwork that incorporates a zephyr of imagination. The results are at the pinnacle of enticing nonfiction. Can I say it again — I love her work!


Read about these marvels, with foot pads “covered with small bumps much like the surface of a basketball” to give them a good grip on that polar ice. Whose eyes have “built-in sunglasses” and whose cubs, despite their mama’s massive size, are tiny and pink at birth, only “the size of a guinea pig.”


Soak in the mysterious, icy beauty of the Arctic, the shaggy, chuffing glory of the polar bear, and the merry antics of a small girl entering their world the same way we are — through the pages of a book.


Exceptional. For ages 4 and much older.

black-and-white-cover-imageBlack and White, written and illustrated by Dahlov Ipcar
originally published in 1963; reissued by Flying Eye Books in 2015

Flying Eye is painstakingly reissuing Dahlov Ipcar’s extraordinary books for which we should give them three cheers. This makes them accessible to you once again, even if you don’t have an archival library near you with copies of the originals.

Black and White is the simple story of a “little black dog and a little white dog [who] were friends” and together play happily in a world full of black and white creatures. Why, even their dreams are populated by things black-and-white — dark jungles with black-and-white colobus monkeys, plains teaming with black-and-white zebras, arctic regions bounding with snowy arctic foxes and galumptious black walruses.


All of this provides the platform for Ipcar’s iconic artwork. Stunning pages that are simply alive with pattern and motion and the magic of Ipcar’s way of seeing. The text is gently rhyming and full of poetic wonder.


Do yourself and your kids a favor and introduce them to this artist who helps us see the world with boundless curiosity and flair. Ages 2 and up.

black-cat-white-cat-cover-imageBlack Cat, White Cat, written and illustrated by Silvia Borando
published in Italy in 2014; first U.S. edition 2015 by Candlewick Press

Coming to us from Italy, Silvia Borando’s graphic stylishness is such a treat. This book makes a great companion to Ipcar’s story.

This time it’s two cats, one entirely white, one entirely black — but they’ve never met. Black Cat only goes out in the day, while White Cat ventures out only at night.


One day they become curious about the other side of things and venturing off to explore they meet up and guide one another into their lovely worlds. The wonder of the night with its “glittery fluttery fireflies” and the wonder of the day with all the “busy buzzy bumblebees” are deeply satisfying to these two newly inseparable friends.


Before you know it, Black Cat and White Cat have a batch of kittens. And can you guess what color they are? That’s the suspenseful teaser before the very last page turn! The answer is such a delight, I’m certainly not going to spoil it for you! Share this happy, simple story with children ages 18 months and up.

poles-apart-cover-imagePoles Apart, written by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Jarvis
published in 2015 by Nosy Crow

This is certainly the most colorful of our black and white stories today, as you can tell by the cover image alone.

Here’s a merry collection of penguins, who as you know inhabit the South Pole. Never the North Pole. Except that one fateful day, Mr. and Mrs. Pilchard-Brown and their penguins three — Peeky, Poots, and Pog — get lost on their way to a picnic and float on a small chunk of ice allllll the way up to the Arctic, where they bump into an enormous, furry fellow named Mr. White.


Mr. White gallantly offers to help these bird-brains find their way back home. And what an epic itinerary it is! Setting not exactly a straight course, the intrepid crew meander through the U.S., England, Italy, India, and Australia, before finally arriving at their destination.


Vivid, personality-laden illustrations, the antics of Peeky, Poots, and Pog, and gallons of friendliness warm up this story of the frozen reaches and creatures of our globe like cocoa on a winter morning. Jolly fun for ages 3 and up.

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