Category: Picture Books

The National Council of Teachers of English has announced the winners, honor books and recommended titles for the Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children.  This award was established in 2014 and promotes and recognizes excellence in writing.  “This award recognizes fiction that has the potential to transform children’s lives by inviting compassion, imagination, and wonder.”

2015 Charlotte Huck Award Winner

Rain Reign

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin


Honor Books

Absolutely Almost The Crossover El Deafo

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

El Deafo by Cece Bell

The Farmer and the Clown Revolution

The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee

Revolution by Deborah Wiles


Recommended Titles

A Snicker of Magic Draw! The Madman of Piney Woods

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Draw by Raul Colon

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Meaning of Maggie The Most Magnificent Thing

The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Otis and the Scarecrow The Secret Hum of a Daisy

Otis and the Scarecrow by Loren Long

The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer

The Turtle of Oman: A Novel

The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye

first snow

First Snow by Peter McCarty

Pedro is visiting his cousin Sancho.  While he is there, snow starts to fall, something that Pedro has never seen before.  But he knows already that he won’t like the snow since it’s so cold.  The next morning, his cousins are thrilled to head outside into the fresh snow that fell all night long.  Pedro is very doubtful, saying again how cold it is.  When the other children make snow angels, Pedro doesn’t even want to try.  Other children in the neighborhood arrive with their sleds.   One of them shows Pedro how to catch snowflakes on his tongue.  They all take their sleds to the top of the big hill.  Pedro is too cautious to go first, but soon he finds himself joining everyone else riding down the hill.  He is thrown off his sled and lands in the cold snow, but he no longer finds it too cold to have fun.

McCarty deftly shows the reluctance of a child experiencing something for the first time. He handles it with a delicacy that shows the hesitation clearly and the hanging back.  Yet Pedro still tries things as the day goes on, and the other children don’t force him to try anything he doesn’t want to.  By the end of the day, Pedro is just as merrily playing in the snow as the others.  This book shines with a gentle spirit and allows children to see themselves clearly on the page.

As always McCarty’s illustrations are a treat.  I particularly enjoy seeing characters from his other picture books in this story.  Plus you have the added bonus of little creatures in snow suits with room in the hoods for their ears! 

An ideal pick for snowy days or a way to discuss trying something new in a gentle and supportive way.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

my three best friends and me Zulay

My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Zulay is in first grade along with her three best friends.  She starts the day by linking arms with them and singing in the hallways and then waiting in line to hug their teacher hello.  When she finds her desk, she feels with her legs to make sure she is sitting right and then readers see her cane, which she pushes to the back of her desk.  It is at this point that it becomes clear that Zulay is blind.  She still studies what everyone else does, but she also has extra classes to learn to use her cane.  When Field Day is announced, Zulay surprises everyone by declaring that she wants to run in a race.  Will Zulay be able to make her dream come true?

Best introduces Zulay as a person first and then reveals her disability.  It offers readers a chance to meet Zulay as a first grade girl and see how she is just like her friends first and then realize that she is still just like the others in her class but with the added component of blindness in her life.  Best also incorporates all of the details that children will want to know.  How does Zulay find her desk?  How does she do class work?  What is her red and white cane for?  The result is a very friendly book that celebrates diversity in a number of ways.

Brantley-Newton’s illustrations add to that friendly feel.  They feature children of many different races together in school.  She clearly shows the emotions of her characters too from worry to pride to joy.  The illustrations are bright and cheery.

This is a book about diversity and meeting challenges head on.  It’s a great addition to public libraries of all sizes.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

dear mr washington

Dear Mr. Washington by Lynn Cullen, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Based on a true story, this enchanting picture book will have everyone smiling.  When George Washington comes to the Stuart house to have his official portrait painted, the children must all by on their best behavior.  But it doesn’t quite work out that way.  With each visit to the house, Charlotte has to write another letter of apology.  She has to apologize for the cat racing up his shoulder, for the baby chewing on his hair ribbon, and much more.  She shares a list of how they will be better behaved the next time.  But then there are her many examples in the following letter of how very good they had been, which was not actually true.  In each and every letter though, she is cajoling Mr. Washington to smile in his picture.  Can a very serious president handle the wild and silly Stuart clan?

A large part of the joy of this book is that it’s based on a true story.  You can read the author’s note at the end to see just how much.  The interplay between Mr. Washington and the children is lovely.  He mutters under his breath, ignores them as best he can, and yet it all ends up a mess anyway.  And the children themselves are cheery and playful, undeterred by either their parents demanding they behave or the scowling Mr. Washington.

Carpenter’s art adds to the fun.  She merrily depicts the naughty children from the baby chewing on Mr. Washington’s shoe to the entire group falling asleep all together on top of him.  It’s great to see a historical book that is playful and fun.

A great read aloud, this book is funny, silly and filled with history and art.  What more could you want?  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial.


Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker, illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss

When Harry Colebourn saw a bear cub at the train station, he immediately asked about her.  Since she was for sale, he bought her for $20 and took her aboard the train with him, naming her Winnipeg.  He was on his way to military training in Quebec and there the two of them bonded even further.  Winnie helped Harry in his veterinarian duties, caring for the military horses and searching the pockets of his uniform for treats.  Harry fed her condensed milk and she slept on the floor under his cot.  When news came that they would be leaving for England, Harry took her along.  But when they were going to head to battle in France, Harry knew he had to do something else with Winnie since she could be hurt in warfare.  So Winnie was placed in the London Zoo where she quickly made friends with the other bears.  It was there that she met one special little boy named Christopher Robin and his father, A. A. Milne.

Walker writes a warm story here.  Though they are surrounded by preparations for World War I, the book focuses on the relationship between Harry and Winnie.  Happily, Walker also shares information on how Winnie was cared for, showing the freedom that she had and the loving care she was given by Harry and the rest of the soldiers.  Just as fascinating is her time at the zoo where she was so gentle that children were allowed to ride on her back.  This was one special bear indeed.

The book’s endpages are filled with photographs of the real Harry and Winnie.  Voss’ illustrations are realistic and detailed, staying true to the photographs that readers see first.  The result is a lovely continuum from the real to the story of what happened, with no jarring differences.

A delightful and cheery story of a bear who is found by one man and then adored by many.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt & Co.

earmuffs for everyone

Earmuffs for Everyone!: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs by Meghan McCarthy

Chester Greenwood is credited with being the inventor of the earmuffs.  The story goes that he was a boy with big ears that were sensitive to cold so he had his grandmother create him a pair of earmuffs from wire and cloth.  However, the author also shows that earmuffs were actually invented before Greenwood was even born.  He did however get a patent himself at age 19 for ear-mufflers.  Chester had a great business sense too, one that he honed even as a boy.  He also invented other things besides ear-mufflers, designing new features into kettles and rakes and even creating a portable house.  It was an article in Life Magazine in the 1930s that credited Greenwood with the invention and that continued into the 1970s when there was a day named after him in Maine that continues to be celebrated today.

McCarthy immediately invites readers into the earmuff mystery, showing the early patents by others and then turning to Greenwood.  Readers will see how convoluted stories can become in history, how distorted credit for inventions can be, and also how hard it can be to piece together the truth fully once again.  It is to McCarthy’s credit that her focus is on more than the inventor but also on the others in history and the patent process.  Don’t miss her notes at the end which detail even more fully her search for the truth about earmuffs.

McCarthy populates her books with friendly characters with big googly eyes.  Her paintings are fresh and colorful.  They range from double-page spreads to smaller images on the page.  All of them exude a cheery feeling and invite readers to explore.

This nonfiction picture book embraces the complexity of the past and demonstrates the search for the truth behind an everyday object.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

raindrops roll

Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre

The author of Eat Like a Bear returns with another great nonfiction picture book.  In this book she offers the joy of rain and water.  Told in a poetic way, the text conveys the anticipation of rain that you can feel coming and the changes in the sky.  When the rain arrives, it makes noise, makes things wet, including animals out in the weather.  There is running water, mud, all sorts of changes take place.  When the rain stops, the raindrops remain and weigh things down, dot and cling.  They change things as they linger until the sun returns to dry them away.

Sayre’s poem dances like the rain itself, pattering along and showing the beauty of the rain.  This is a book that celebrates darkening skies and weather, showing the importance of rain, the way that insects protect themselves from it, and the dazzle that it leaves behind.  Sayre manages to convey science along the way, though the focus of the book continues to be the loveliness of this type of weather.

Her photographs are part of the dazzle of this book.  They are large, clear and brilliantly done.  She captures insects before and after the rain, drops that merge together, rain as it runs and dots.  Her photos are colorful, filled with water and gorgeous.

A perfect book to share in the spring or just before heading out with umbrellas into the garden.  This is just the sort of book we need to encourage children to get outside and play in the rain.  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.

whale trails

Whale Trails: Before and Now by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Released January 20, 2015.

A little girl and her father run a whale boat that takes people out onto the water to view the whales in the sea.  Her family has worked the sea there for generations, so she explains how different their search for whales is from those in the past where the whalers were hunting whales.  Each pair of pages shows modern day and then turns in sepia tones to the past.  From changes to the pier and the businesses along it to the design of the boats themselves to the routes and tools used, each pair of pages show how things have changed.  Yet at night as they head home, the bay is the same and so are the whales that live there.

Cline-Ransome has cleverly combined history with always-popular whale watching, creating a book that invites exploration.  Not only is this a look at the changes of the boats over time and what they do with the whales in the bay, but more subtly and importantly, it also looks at the changes in attitudes towards wildlife.  Throughout it is a hopeful book, examining the past with a frank and factual approach. 

Karas’ illustrations clearly show the modern and the historical side-by-side.  His sepia tones spread all the way to edges of the page while the illustrations themselves are framed by lines.  The more colorful modern pages have illustrations that take up the entire page and are less formal feeling thanks to the lack of framing.  These cues will help children keep the two time periods clear.

Clever, smart and engaging, this mix of modern and historical whaling is a superb addition to any library collection.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt & Co.

leontyne price

Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Raul Colon

This picture book biography looks at the life of Leontyne Price, an African-American opera singer who burst through the color barrier.  Born in Mississippi in 1927, Leontyne grew up poor in money but rich in music from both her parents.  They also taught her that she was just as good as anyone else, no matter what their color.  Leontyne was inspired when she saw Marian Anderson perform and then got to sing in the church choir when Anderson performed in 1939 after being barred from a whites-only concert hall.  Leontyne headed to Ohio to college where she planned to be a teacher, but when her voice was discovered she changed her major to voice.  She then went to Julliard and on to the world stage where she sang on Broadway in Porgy and Bess.  She became the first black singer to star at La Scala and broke wide the door that Marian Anderson had first opened. 

Weatherford writes in prose that reads like poetry, broken into stanzas and offering celebrations of this inspiring woman on the page.  From the pride and power of her upbringing by her parents to the final pages that show how far she has come, the book captures the strength and determination that it took to take a natural gift and break down barriers with it.   Weatherford’s words are filled with moments that are inspiring, times that are amazing, but she also keeps things down to earth, showing even on the final page that Price is entirely human even as she reaches incredible heights in her career.

Colon’s illustrations are beautiful.  Filled with his trademark scratches and lines, they have a beautiful flowing texture that carries from one image to the next.  He uses sweeping colors to show the beauty of the music coming from both Price and Anderson, filling the world with the colors of music. 

A beautiful and powerful testament to one of the ground breaking artists of our time.  Appropriate for ages 7-9. 

Reviewed from copy received from Knopf Books for Young Readers.

This is my last list for 2014, but I saved the biggie for last.  There are many more that could have been on the list, but this is where I could bear to cut it off.  Enjoy!

Baby Bear Big Bug

Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson

Big Bug by Henry Cole

Blizzard Blue on Blue

Blizzard by John Rocco

Blue on Blue by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes

The Book with No Pictures Cat Says Meow: and other animalopoeia

The Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak

Cat Says Meow by Michael Arndt

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream Draw!

A Dance Like Starlight by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Draw! By Raul Colon

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas The Farmer and the Clown

Elizabeth Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox, illustrated by Brian Floca

The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee

Firebird Flashlight

Firebird by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

The Fox and the Crow 21413862 

The Fox and the Crow by Manasi Subramaniam

Fox’s Garden by Princesse Camcam

Hannah's Night 19156005

Hannah’s Night by Komoko Sakai

Hunters of the Great Forest by Dennis Nolan

Jim Curious: A Voyage to the Heart of the Sea in 3-D Vision It's an Orange Aardvark!

Jim Curious by Matthias Picard

It’s an Orange Aardvark by Michael Hall

Jacob's New Dress The Lion and the Bird

Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case

The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc

May the Stars Drip Down Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters

May the Stars Drip Down by Jeremy Chatelain, illustrated by Nikki McClure

Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers

The Promise Remy and Lulu

The Promise by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin

Remy and Lulu by Kevin Hawkes

The River Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

The River by Alessandro Sanna

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Shh! We Have a Plan The Storm Whale

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

The Storm Whale by Benji Davies

Take Away the A Telephone

Take Away the A by Michael Escoffier, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

Telephone by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jen Corace

This Is a Moose Three Bears in a Boat

This Is a Moose by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman

Viva Frida What If...?

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, photographs by Tom O’Meara

What If…? By Anthony Browne

Winter Is Coming

Winter Is Coming by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim LaMarche


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