All the books in today’s post have one thing in common: they make readers wonder.
Children love to discuss crazy scenarios, what-ifs, and imagine-thats. Their funny bones are tickled by nonsensicalness. They love to stump one another with riddles. Children also mull all manner of existential ideas. Posing deeply philosophical and spiritual questions is not just something adults do.
All of it is rich food for the mind. Open up the gate to wondering with these curious titles.
Imagine a City, written and illustrated by Elise Hurst
originally published in Australia; first American edition published in 2014 by Doubleday Books for Young Readers
Elise Hurst’s marvelously imaginative realm opens up the boundaries between the real and the magical, fuses them together so seamlessly that you might expect to see rabbits reading the daily news on your next subway trip or carp-zeppelins zumming through the sky over your city.
Imagine this sort of place! Imagine fantastical bridges and a Narnia-like jumble of human and animal citizens. Imagine “a world without edges” and gargoyles taking tea.
Many illustrators would choose to use waterfalls of color to bring such a place to life, but Hurst masterfully captures our hearts with her gorgeous pen-and-ink work. Somehow that makes this dreamland all the more real.
With so much to absorb on every page and so much fantasy to expand our thoughts, this is a gem for ages 3 and up.
If I Was a Banana, written by Alexandra Tylee, illustrated by Kieran Rynhart
first published in New Zealand by Gecko Press in 2016
“If I was a banana I would be that one, all yellow and fat and full of banana.”
What a wonderful thought to think! Of course that would be just the sort of banana to be. Who would want to be one of those brown, oozy, gloopy ones? Yecch. A plump, bright banana would be my choice, too.
Alexandra Tylee clambers right inside a small boy’s mind and considers all kinds of ordinary pieces in his world — a bird, a cloud, a ladybug — from a refreshingly childlike perspective. The honest, artless, vulnerable thoughts here are precious as gemstones and offered only when there is leisure and trust and space for such things.
Rynhart’s handsome illustration work is, again, muted, displaying a commendable respect for these intriguing ideas which might seem otherwise merely shallow and silly.
Quietly happy, I’d love to see this one slow folks down to a pondering pace. Share it with ages 4 and up.
The Liszts, written by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Júlia Sardà
published in 2016 by Tundra Books
I am realizing as I write this post how international this group of authors and illustrators is! No Americans thus far. Hmmm…does that mean anything about this subject matter? I wonder. Here we have a Canadian author and Spanish artist. Fantastic.
This book is pure delight, from the marvelously eccentric characters created by artist Júlia Sardà to the highly-original story of these list-making Liszts.
This offbeat bunch, who somehow resemble a mash-up of Gatsby-era Russian aristocrats and the Addams family, love to make lists. Great lists. Ever-so-long lists of admirers and ghastly illnesses, kinds of cheese and dreaded chores.
The Liszts become so encumbered by their lists, however, that they are unable to entertain any person or notion not on the list. Their lists have become a barricade, as it were, to anything new.
Edward, the middle child (hallelujah for a heroic middle child!) makes quite a different sort of list, however. His is a list of questions. And because his mind is awash with questions and possibilities, his world opens up in startling, wonderful ways.
I love the way this off-the-wall tale unbolts the doors on an exultant, curious, open mindset that welcomes a thirst for new ideas. And I love the handlettered text and phenomenal illustration work here. A clear winner for ages 5 and up.
Why am I Here?, written by Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen, illustrated by Akin Duzakin, translated from the Norwegian by Becky Crook
originally published in Norway in 2014; first US edition published in 2016 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
The most pensive book on today’s list is this highly-unusual title coming to us from Norway.
Crediting children with the deep, soul-searching thoughts which they do indeed muse about if given adequate time, space, and freedom from the noise and frenzy of our culture, Ørbeck-Nilssen poses the existential and important questions of a young child. Duzakin portrays the child in such a way that it could be a boy or girl — a nice touch.
He wonders why he is here, “in this exact place.” She asks what would it have been like if she had been born as someone else, in some far distant place?
What would it be like to be homeless? Or in a land where war rages? What would it be like to dwell in the desert or the Arctic? What would it be like if home was washed away in a flood? Why are we here, anyway? Why am I me?
These heartfelt concerns certainly land on young children, though they may not articulate them in just this way. What a beautiful tendency, to consider what life would look like in someone else’s situation. Duzakin’s dreamy, emotive illustration work conveys wonder and transports us masterfully into others’ scenarios. He imbues the pages with tenderness and respect. A lovely entry point into conversation and compassion for ages 6 and older.
The Curious Guide to Things That Aren’t, written by John D. Fixx and James F. Fixx, illustrated by Abby Carter
published in 2016 by Quarto Publishing
Finally, this quirky (American!) book features riddles — guessing games you might say — all leading to answers that are intangible. No chickens crossing roads. No orange-you-glad-I-didn’t-say-banana. These clues will lead you to answers such as darkness, breath, an itch, or yesterday.
There’s one for each letter of the alphabet. Traipse through the book reading the clues and guessing together — What is it? Flip the page to learn the answer and find out a little bit about air, reflections, fog, and other “things that aren’t” as well as the way we use these words figuratively.
Crammed with curiosity and the odd tidbits that tickle the mind, this book was begun by the author’s parents and lovingly brought to us with Abby Carter’s clever, friendly illustrations and appealing design. For little brainiacs, ages perhaps 5 and up.
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There’s a new Musings post up on my blog.
It stems from some reading I was doing this morning and a serendipitous connection I found between G.K. Chesterton’s thoughts on human longings and the stories I seek out for sharing with you all.
What longings, what ingredients for happiness, do we share with the rest of the human race? Chesterton’s response might
from Oscars Half Birthday, by Bob Graham
surprise you, as it did me, but with reflection I found it to be a sort of summary of the key ingredients in children’s books.
See what you think, by clicking on the link here, or navigating through the Musings tab on the top of the page.
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Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books, tagged adventure stories, belonging, book reviews, British royalty, children's literature, fantasy, forest fires, funny stories, illustration, imagination, nature, picture books, spelunking, tapirs, wonder on November 2, 2015|
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November feels like a hunkering down sort of month. The damper and chillier the weather, the better it sounds to light some candles and snuggle up with a good book. These ten are just the ticket. I promise you won’t want to miss a single one!
How the Sun Got to Coco’s House, written and illustrated by Bob Graham
published in 2015 by Candlewick Press
Brilliant as always, Bob Graham beautifully, quietly, leads us around the world, tracing the journey of sunlight. Its golden rays skidder over lonely ocean waves and tinge a snowy woodland with violet shadows. It glints off minarets and washes palely over villages.
Finally it beams into Coco’s window, awakening her to the delights of a new day. Graham’s uncanny ability to portray a hush of wonder, to explore the simultaneous vastness and intimacy of our world, to make a puddle of sunshine feel like the miracle it is — is unrivaled. Another beauty for ages 2 and up.
The Queen’s Hat, written and illustrated by Steve Antony
originally published in the UK; first published in the U.S. in 2015 by Scholastic Press
Queen Elizabeth herself, accompanied by one faithful corgi, are off to visit someone verrrrry special, but with a mighty swirl, the wind sweeps her favorite hat right off her royal head!
Follow that hat! Scamper through the streets of London, scramble up and over those Trafalgar lions, tumble over the turrets of the Tower Bridge, right along with the queen, her corgi, and a vast number of red-coated palace guards. It’s an incredibly delightful British romp!
Stylish illustrations, buckets of energy, and you will LOVE the special someone she’s rushing to visit. Ages 2 and up.
The Tea Party in the Woods, written and illustrated by Akiko Miyakoshi
originally published in Japan; English translation edition 2015 by Kids Can Press
Little Kikko has an important errand — she’s to deliver a pie to her grandmother. Through the silent, snowy woods she struggles until she finds herself at a mysterious house.
To her surprise, a curious party of forest creatures are gathered there, who warmly welcome Kikko to tea. Such a delicious tea, too, and afterwards the kindly animals form a merry parade, guiding Kikko straight to her grandmother’s door.
It’s a richly, fanciful tale, illustrated in such loveliness it about breaks your heart. Gorgeous and magical for ages 4 and up.
Tiptoe Tapirs, written and illustrated by Hanmin Kim
first published in Korea; first US edition 2015 by Holiday House
I’ve got a soft spot for tapirs. They were my youngest daughter’s favorite animal once upon a time, and they’re Hanmin Kim’s favorite, too! So…
This irresistible tale whisks us into the jungle — the noisy, raucous jungle — where only Tapir and her Little One practice a gentle quietness, tiptoe-tiptoeing their way along. How their silent ways and Little Tapir’s generous heart save the day for someone quite ferocious — that’s the jaunty tale in this book.
Energetic illustrations in watercolor, drawing ink, and marker give a marvelously bold, exotic vibe to these pages. Splendid, for ages 2 and up (with some scary, toothy parts!)
Wait, written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis
published in 2015 by Roaring Brook Press
It’s a typical morning for this mom and her young son — she’s in a rush to get where they’re going, and he’s in no hurry at all.
With simplicity and clarity, Antoinette Portis ushers us into these scenes. Mama remains focused on hurrying along, eyes forward, resisting all the tugging and pleading to “Wait!” Until finally, one showstopper makes even Mama agree that pausing, waiting, is a beautiful idea. I love Portis’ warm encouragement to slow down.
Masterfully rendered with a bare minimum of words, kids ages Under-Two and up will love this.
Two Mice, written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
published in 2015 by Clarion Books
Two little mice have three yummy cookies to share, and you don’t have to know much about math to figure out that this equals one pesky problem!
That’s just the beginning of a brisk set of one-two-three adventures in this adorable book for very young children. Sergio Ruzzier’s warm, colorful illustrations are packed with personality and charm. It’s got all the right ingredients for reading again and again to Under-Two’s and up.
What in the World?: Numbers in Nature, written by Nancy Raines Day, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus
published in 2015 by Beach Lane Books
This lovely book beckons us to look at the world, to wonder, to notice. “What in the world comes one by one?” A nose. A mouth. The moon. The sun.
Count up to ten and set your minds to work, considering what comes in different sized sets. Plus, what comes in numbers too big to count? Striking, cool illustrations cast a spell of beauty and grandeur throughout. The whole concept begs to be turned into a wonderful way to pass the time, whether in the city or wilderness. Great choice for ages 2 and up.
The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy, written and illustrated by Beatrice Alemagna
originally published in France; first American edition in 2015 by Enchanted Lion Books
Edith — or Eddie as she is known — is five-and-a-half years old. She is at that difficult stage in life when all the folks around her seem to be especially brilliant at something, while she does not have any particular talent at all.
Now it’s her mom’s birthday, and Eddie is determined to find her a present. She has a hazy notion that her mom would like something Fluffy and Squishy. Well, you cannot believe the trouble it is to find something to fit that description, but Eddie does! Turns out that it’s just the best birthday gift EVER!
Beatrice Alemagna’s brilliant, and brilliantly-colored illustrations blast this slightly off-kilter story to the moon. So full of love and earnestness and that deep urge to find your place in the world. Ages 4 and up.
The Mellops Go Spelunking, written and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer
first published in Germany in 1978; this edition published in 2015 by Phaidon Press
Our family has adored the Mellops for all these many years so I’m uber-excited that Phaidon is republishing these and I hope to goodness sake you grab any Mellop title you see and gobble it up.
They are an adventurous, warm-hearted family of Pigs, and in this episode they’re off spelunking. Stalagmites and cave paintings and glittering caverns, ho! But there’s much more to this adventure than that! Rollicking good fun, and as always, Mother’s delicious cream cake. Ages 3 and up.
Out of the Woods: A True Story of an Unforgettable Event, written and illustrated by Rebecca Bond
published in 2015 by Farrar Straus Giroux
This strange-but-true story takes place in 1914 in the forests of Ontario where young Antonio Willie Giroux lived in a sort of hotel that his mother ran. Travelers stayed there as well as the trappers, lumberjacks, and miners who worked nearby. It was a marvelous place to spend a boyhood.
But when a raging forest fire roars through the woods heading straight for the Giroux hotel, it’s a deadly serious place to be. As Antonio and the hotel folk escape to safety, an incredibly curious thing takes place which you will have to read to believe. Rebecca Bond should know…because Antonio was her grandfather.
Handsome, atmospheric illustrations will whisk you back in time and give you a front-row seat to an extraordinary occurrence. Ages 5 and up.
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Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books, tagged animals, art, book reviews, children's literature, creative problem solving, creativity, habitats, ideas, imagination, multicultural books for kids, nature, picture books, wonder, world atlas, world travel on October 19, 2015|
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To wonder why…or how…or if. To stand in wonder; amazement. Making time for a sense of wonder is monumentally important for our kids, and ourselves. These books can help get you there:
The Wonder Garden, written by Jenny Broom, illustrated by Kristjana S. Williams
published in 2015 by Wide Eyed Editions
The stunning illustrations in this book beckon us to wander through the Wonder Garden…
Step through the elegant, golden tracery of a tantalizing gateway. Find yourself transported to “five extraordinary habitats where you will meet real-life animals in fantastical environments that are inspired by nature.”
The dense Amazon Rain Forest, brilliantly-colored Great Barrier Reef, prickly Chihuahuan Desert, shadowy Black Forest, and craggy Himalayan Mountains — these are our destinations. Introduce yourself to each new place with Broom’s brief, vivid description of the habitat and its conditions that uniquely challenge flora and fauna. Then zoom in to focus on a few inhabitants.
What can I say to adequately convey the striking beauty of these illustrations. Williams’ black line yields a printmaking quality, while the bisques, slates, and mosses connect us to the natural world. Then these screaming-flamingo, electric-cherry blasts — colors we’d expect in a bowlful of Skittles — zing in with an eye-popping flourish! Glory!
In the introduction to this book, Jenny Broom observes that, “For many centuries, we humans lived on Earth in coexistence with nature, but today, more and more of us live a life apart, with the Wonder Garden on our doorstep left forgotten.” What an apt depiction of the lack in so many of our lives and what a sweet allurement to wander and wonder more. Ages 4 and up, up, up.
The Wonder, written and illustrated by Faye Hanson
published in 2015 by Templar Books, an imprint of Candlewick Press
The little boy in this book has a head “filled with wonder.”
Lucky fellow. His rich thoughts fill his mind with questions all the day long, wondering where that bird is flying to, or what a zippy sign might taste like.
Not so lucky, though, because the adults in his world get irritated at his daydreaming ways. Scoldings and scowlings nip at him like bad-tempered dogs. Until he gets to art class. And there, the loveliest of words meet his ears: “Just use your imagination.”
What follows are pages of fantastical visions, unleashed in mind-blowing splendor, that have been racketing about in his head. Finally, his gift of imagination earns praise, and we get a little peek of what lies in his future.
A colorful, effervescent tribute to the creative spirit. Ages 4 and up.
Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking, by Elin Kelsey, with artwork by Soyeon Kim
published in 2015 by Owlkids Books
Have you ever watched a squirrel figure out how to nab the seeds in a bird feeder? We used to watch as they leapt to our roof, then hung upside down by their toenails to raid our suet feeder! When they stole the whole thing one time too many, we had to think of a new way to foil their tactics.
In this unusual book, Elin Kelsey invites us to take inspiration from the many ways animals work at solving problems. Do you know what animal folds leaves into little spoons to get a cool drink of water? Or what kind of insect is guided by the Milky Way?
What kinds of creative problem-solving might be sparked in us by observing the astonishing solutions worked out in the animal kingdom? Watching, wondering, and considering some more.
Colorful, imaginative diorama illustrations really add to the sense of new angles on thinking here. Ages 3 and up.
Atlas of Adventures, written by Rachel Williams, illustrated by Lucy Letherland
published in 2015 by Wide Eyed Editions
In this gorgeous atlas, the focus is not on cities or borders, isthmuses or coastlines. It’s all about adventure! Travel around the world and discover boatloads of activities and sights to relish in the wide world.
Two pages with attractive maps introduce each continent. Following that are pages focusing on one location — Finnish Lapland, a steamboat on the Mississippi River, a Senegalese football match, the Elephant Conservation Center in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It’s a tantalizing variety of thirty destinations.
Rachel Williams’ immensely-pleasing graphic design on these pages pulls us in like a candy store window, while dozens of captions fill in some details. This is the kind of book that makes the world of differences feel splendid, makes us want to cross borders and learn how others live, experience the world in new ways. As a bonus, there are pages of spot-art images readers can search for in the book.
An absolutely delightful volume to pore over together, bring along on a car ride, or gift to a child in the hospital. Ages 5 and up, up, up.
You Choose, words by Pippa Goodhart, pictures by Nick Sharratt
published in Great Britain in 2003; first hardcover American edition 2014 by Kane Miller/EDC
A giant gumball machine has nothing on the brilliant colors and possibilities crammed between these two covers!
Like a catalog of wishes, these pages invite kids to ponder and choose:
Where would you like to go?
Who would you like for family and friends?
What kind of home would you choose?
So much to wonder about. Talk about. Imagine.
Brilliant choice to take along on a babysitting gig, a long airplane ride, or just to pull out on a rainy day. The UK’s Nick Sharratt has lots of other peppy titles, some of which are trickling over to our side of the pond, so look for his bold blasts of fun for preschoolers. Ages 2 and up.
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Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books, tagged antarctica, beach vacations, blue whales, boats, book reviews, children's literature, counting books, curiosity, ducks, entomology, family, friendship, grandmothers, insects, jean-henri fabre, nature, nighttime, picture books, wonder on July 6, 2015|
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magnificent, tiny sparks of wonder
Small Wonders: Jean-Henri Fabre & His World of Insects, by Matthew Clark Smith, illustrated by Giuliano Ferri
published in 2015 by Two Lions
My clear favorite for this week is this fascinating biography of a wonderful entomologist. This Frenchman was a keen observer who took time to wonder and look and discover.
And he was an excellent writer with a passion to lure all of us “to see the world through fresh, patient eyes — to appreciate the mystery and wonder of even the smallest creatures.” For his beautiful writing about nature, he was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature.
Matthew Clark Smith has the background and heart of a naturalist, and communicates the beauty of Fabre’s pursuits in his captivating text. Ferri’s watercolor and pencil illustrations are radiant and lovely. Highly recommended for ages 5 and up.
darling and bursting with helpfulness
Whose Shoe? by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
published in 2015 by Clarion Books
This brilliant author-illustrator team have concocted an immensely satisfying tale of a conscientious little mouse who finds one, lone, shoe.
He is determined to find its owner, who must be missing it dreadfully. When his task is accomplished, his reward is sweet indeed! Charming to the nth degree, for ages 2 and up.
a lovely ode to the annual beach vacation
See You Next Year, by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Todd Stewart
published in 2015 by Owlkids Books
Coming to us from Canada, here is the quintessential family week at the beach. From the long drive to the coast, to the ever-present seagulls, beach umbrellas, and soothing rhythms of the days. Nothing changes, and that is why this little girl likes it.
This year, though, she makes a new friend. Together they share the familiar, and when they leave, they know they can count on one more common thread to their beach vacations — seeing one another the next year. Great little beach read, with striking illustrations, for ages 2 and up.
a magical glimpse of nighttime
The Night World, written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein
published in 2015 by Little, Brown and Company
Award-winning author/illustrator Gerstein artistically, creatively explores nighttime in his latest book. One little boy and his cat, Sylvie, are the only ones awake and creepity-creep, out they step into the mesmerizingly-different back yard night world.
Chalky-black illustrations, sinuous and mysterious and fabulous, hold so much to discover! Then, the star-studded sky slowly brightens and swooosh! — daylight spreads with color galore. Fantastic book full of wonder and discovery for ages 2 and up.
gorgeous look at the fascination and elegance of a whale
The Blue Whale, written and illustrated by Jenni Desmond
published in 2015 by Enchanted Lion Books
British artist Jenni Desmond has taken a marvelously creative approach to simply telling us all about blue whales.
Gorgeous artwork cleverly communicates an outstanding amount of interesting information about these intelligent, graceful giants. This is science that tastes like chocolate fudge ice cream. Brilliant work, for ages 5 and up. Here’s hoping she tackles more books that get published in the U.S. Thank you, Jenni and Enchanted Lion!
outstanding story bubbling with warmth and contentment
Sunday Shopping, by Sally Derby, illustrated by Shadra Strickland
published in 2015 by Lee & Low Books Inc.
This exceptional story is based on Sally Derby’s childhood memories. Evie and her grandma have a Sunday night tradition that’s delightful and heartwarming, and Evie is here to tell us all about it.
It involves dressing in nighties and fancy hats, gathering scissors, tape, and the Sunday newspaper, and “going shopping.” But the real ingredients of this memorable routine are love, companionship, strength, contentment, optimism — profound treasures that belong to this dear pair. Shadra Strickland’s brilliant illustration work exudes imagination and vitality. I love this offering, for ages 4 and up.
ridiculous and seaworthy
Yak and Gnu, by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Cat Chapman
published in 2015 by Candlewick Press
Yak in his kayak and Gnu with his canoe, are out for a paddle.
Along the way they encounter a host of other sailors and their various craft. Goats in boats! Flotillas of gorillas! Join the nautical party and enjoy a crazy splash of humor, lilting rhyme, and the friendliest yak and gnu you’ll ever meet. Great fun for ages 2 and up.
jaunty crows in a peppy rhyme
Counting Crows, by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey
published in 2015 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
One, Two, Three…crows in a tree!
Flap on over and join the rollicking rhythm of this snazzy flock of crows. Kathi Appelt’s rhyme is marvelously contagious, toe-tapping, sunny…all of that. Plus you get to count up to twelve…eventually. Love the jaunty red, white and black artwork here. It fits the text smashingly! Delightful, for ages 2 and up.
all aboard for Antarctica
Sophie Scott Goes South, written and illustrated by Alison Lester
published in 2012 in Australia; first U.S. edition in 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Alison Lester is a favorite Aussie author/illustrator of ours. Probably one of our all-time favorite books is her The Journey Home.
Lester went on a real journey to Antarctica, then fictionalized it in this fascinating, upbeat, travelogue by nine-year-old Sophie Scott. Find out about life on board a massive icebreaker, witness iceberg and penguin sightings, explore Antarctica in a special snowmachine, get caught in a blizzard, enjoy a King Neptune party — and much more. Photos and Lester’s charming drawings accompany Sophie’s 30 days of entries. Fantastic read for ages 7 and up.
Just Ducks, by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino
first U.S. edition 2012 by Candlewick Press
Here’s a title I’ve been meaning to fit in to my blog for years. It’s Nicola Davies’ vivid, child-friendly introduction to all things ducky, masterfully tailored to preschoolers.
And the amazing Salvatore Rubbino’s equally friendly, exceptionally-striking illustrations. Ducks are one of those parts of nature that so many of us have access to, making them a perfect starting point for observation and learning.
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I’ve written a new post on my Musings page about the power of books to spark wonder and wondering. Find it by clicking on the Musings tab and again on the article link.
Next week, I’ve got some great fodder for just this kind of marveling and curiosity:
**some intrepid arctic journeys,
**a fascinating piece of historical fiction about a cholera epidemic in London,
**and a gorgeous little book coming out of Canada packed with blueberries.
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A while back, I posted some remarks from Kate Banks, an exceptional children’s author, who recalled an editor telling her that one of her books was “too quiet” for today’s market. Meanwhile, I’m reading (slowly) the intriguing book, Quiet, by Susan Cain, exploring the power of introversion in our society and how we’ve trampled quietness. I have long been an advocate for quietness for children (and the rest of us)– quiet in terms of space in their days and minds to think their own thoughts without incessant background noise, programmed activity, media. Here are five lovely books that invite children to wonder and imagine.
How To, written and illustrated by Julie Morstad
published in 2013 by Simply Read Books
Julie Morstad is a Vancouver-ite, seriously one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. Her artwork is pristine, innocent, and simply lovely. Just go ahead and look up all her books!
How To contains a collection of phrases — how to feel the breeze, how to wash your face — one per page. Julie’s playful, child-centric, whimsical means of doing these things will tickle your fancy and invite you to see new possibilities. Hopefully it will also coax children to relish imaginative, joyful, simple pastimes.
Her illustrations are graphic elegance, with loads of white space, charming children, muted yet cheerful colors, and charming pattern. I fell in love with this book at first sight. Ages 2 and up.
If You Want to See a Whale, by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin P. Stead
published in 2013 by Roaring Brook Press
Julie Fogliano is a lyrical, poetic writer, whose previous book with Erin Stead, And Then It’s Spring, is one of my all-time favorites.
Here she provides instructions for something quite extraordinary: how to see a whale. What ingredients are necessary to spy one of these mysterious, massive, gentle creatures?
A window, for starters. with an ocean beyond, and then…lots of time. “Time for waiting and time for looking and time for wondering.”
There are lots of helpful tips here, such as not snuggling up with a blanket that’s too-too cozy so you don’t snooze and miss it! The seamless intermingling of imagination and childish logic and tender observations of the world around us amble quaintly through these pages.
Of course, giving such a text to Erin Stead to work her magic on is quite brilliant. Her dreamy linoleum prints bathed in sea green and rainwater blue, accompanied by charmingly-light details in pencil …well, they are entrancing. Plus, this small, ginger-headed boy and his faithful dog will win your hearts in a minute. Ages 3 and up.
Wait! Wait! by Hatsue Nakawaki, illustrated by Komako Sakai, translated by Yuki Kaneko
first American edition published in 2013 by Enchanted Lion Books
This exquisite book for toddlers follows one little dumpling out for a tiny stroll.
A yellow butterfly whispers across her path, inviting inspection. “Wait! Wait!” she cries. (Actually, the child could easily be a boy or a girl.) But with a teasing, fluttering, arabesque, that butterfly eludes her.
Now, at toe level, the child spies a stripey lizard with a sleek “s” for a tail. “Wait! Wait!” But with a squiggle, it skivvies between rocks.
Exploring her small world and its curiosities, then caught up on Dad’s tall shoulders for a happy ride — that’s the simple beauty, engagingly presented in this book.
Komako Sakai’s lovely illustrations in acrylics and oil pencils are gentle, charming, with a soft, shaggy texture and loads of white space. We are looking at just the small sphere which this toddler inhabits, seeing and experiencing the world from her vantage point. Perfect choice for the youngest lap-readers.
I Wish I Had…written by Giovanna Zoboli, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani, translated by Leslie Mathews
published in 2010 in English by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
This stunning book is an Italian import, and its gorgeous, oversized pages will knock your socks off!
Don’t you ever wish to ride the thermals with the wings of a hawk, or cozy up in a luxurious polar bear coat on a frigid day? This book is full of wishes for the eyes or ears or stealth or contentment of the animal kingdom. These are fanciful, intriguing wishes, just enough to spark your own imagination — what might you borrow from a lion or hummingbird?…Hmm?
Simona Mulazzani’s ravishing colors and patterns and compositions flood the pages with whimsy and beauty. Intensely striking! You’ll wish you could frame them all. Even the paper it’s printed on is satisfyingly creamy. A truly delightful book for ages 3 and up.
Follow Me, written and illustrated by Tricia Tusa
published in 2011 by Harcourt Children’s Books
There is something about swinging that’s so full of dreams and freedom and glorious prospects. I spent hours swinging as a child. I wonder…do children still just swing, and swing, and rise to the sky in their heads? Feel that tummy tickle as they whoosh down to earth, and the breathlessness of soaring high-high-high?
Tricia Tusa’s little girl “wander[s] through pink and get[s] lost in blue” in this sunny, highly-imaginative ode to swinging. I hope its fetching portrayal of the magical world of swinging lures children to take a fling on a swing (once this snow has melted!)
Tusa’s illustrations are airy, popsicle-colored portraits of blue skies and blossoms and happiness. A sweet read for ages 3 and up.
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