Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk, illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis
Kulu has just been born and is being welcomed by the world. Kulu is Inuit and as the world comes to welcome the baby, traditional Inuit beliefs are shown in the story. It is the Arctic summer, so the first to welcome Kulu is Smiling Sun, who stays bright all through the night. The Wind arrives and teaches Kulu the importance of listening closely. Then the animals start arriving. These are not your normal animals, but ones that are specifically from the Arctic and of importance to the Inuit. With each animal comes a blessing: the Snow Bunting reminds Kulu to always believe in himself, Fox tells Kulu to get out of bed as soon as you wake and to help anyone who needs it. The entire book sings with a connection to nature, to this specific region of the earth, and for the love of a baby.
Kalluk, who is an Inuit throat singer, has beautifully captured the values of her people in this picture book. It is done so organically and naturally that many will not realize that this is more than a sweet picture book. The fact that it also weaves in traditions and values of the Inuit makes the book all the more special and noteworthy. Kalluk writes very lyrically, creating moments for each of the animals that are unique to them which keeps the book from becoming repetitious.
The illustrations have a lovely cartoon quality to them, one can almost see them leaping to life from the page. The large animals dwarf little Kulu by their bulk, but the tenderness they all feel for this tiny baby shines on the page. There is a respect between human and animal that is warm and tangible too.
A gorgeous and meaningful book welcoming a baby to the world, this picture book is unique and special. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from ARC received from Inhabit and Myrick Marketing.
Draw! by Raúl Colón
In this wordless picture book, Colón recreates his love of drawing as a child and the way that it could take him to new places. Here a boy is sitting on his bed looking at a book about Africa. He sets the book aside and picks up his drawing pad and a pencil. Soon readers can see the images in his head as he puts them on paper. The boy is transported directly to Africa, setting up his drawing easel in front of each of the different animals of Africa. The elephant is first and after seeing his picture gives the boy a ride to met the zebras. The book moves from one animal to the next, the boy changing how he approaches them according to what animal it is. Until finally a group of monkeys make a picture of the boy. Readers and the boy return to his bedroom, now littered with all of the drawings of the animals.
This book nicely captures without using any words at all the transformative power of art and creativity. It beautifully shows how art can transport you to a different place and time, moving you into the flow of creating a work. It also demonstrates how inspiration can strike and the flow of creativity can overtake you in the best possible way.
Colón’s illustrations are done in pen, ink, watercolors and pencil. They move from line drawings with pastel tones of real life to a more lush and rich color and style when we are inside the boy’s imagination. Colón uses lines on these more colorful pages to give texture and movement to the image. They are illustrations that invite you to walk right into them.
Imagination, creativity and art come together in this book to transport readers right into Africa. Now it’s time to get out your own pencils and see where they will take you. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.
Sleep Tight, Little Bear by Britta Teckentrup
Winter is coming and Little Bear and Mommy Bear have been getting their den ready for the cold weather. Soon it will be time for them to hibernate for the winter and wake up again when the warmth of spring comes. Little Bear is excited about hibernating, but before he and his mother go to sleep, he has to say goodbye to all of his friends. Little Bear goes to each animal, wishing them a good winter and they all wish him a good sleep and promising to watch over him as he rests. As they return to their den, the snow is starting to fall and the winds are blowing cold. Inside their den, it is warm and cozy and Little Bear is fast asleep before he can even finish saying goodnight to his mother.
First published in Germany, Teckentrup’s picture book celebrates community and diversity without ever using those words on the page. It is clear throughout the entire book that the bear family is beloved in the woods. While some of the animals, like Owl, are not so friendly, the others are warmly affectionate to Little Bear. Many of the animals speak about watching over and taking care of the bears as they hibernate. They also speak about how different the bears are from them and sometimes briefly say what they will do in the winter. The messages are subtle and woven into this story about animals.
The illustrations are a strong mix of textured trees and animals and more simple elements that allow the textures to stand out on the page. One of the first pages in the book shows the entire forest as well as the animals that the bears will be visiting before they hibernate. It’s almost a map to the story and offer a peek into what will come.
A book about a friendly community of animals, this picture book is perfect for reading on chilly autumn evenings and ideal for a bedtime read. It will also be a welcome addition to seasonal story times and units on hibernation. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley received from NorthSouth and NetGalley.
Winter Is Coming by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim LaMarche
A stunningly gorgeous picture book about the changing seasons, this is a perfect way to welcome winter even when you don’t want it to arrive. The book begins on a cold day in September with a girl out in nature watching the animals. She has along her drawing pad and climbs into a tree house to see even better. From that platform, she sees a red fox stealing the last wrinkled fall apple from a low branch. A mother bear and her cub are also in the woods searching for food. As fall progresses, she sees different animals: a family of skunks, rabbits, woodpeckers, a lynx, chipmunks, deer and geese. All are preparing for the approaching winter in their own way. As winter gets closer, the animals stop appearing until the day the snow arrives when the red fox is out to see it too.
Johnston has created a book that truly shows children what it is like to be surrounded by the wonder of nature during one changing season. Her poetry sparks on the page, showing not only the different animals but also explaining what is beautiful and special about each one. Even more mundane animals like the chipmunks get this honor. Young readers will be inspired to get outside and sit still and just watch.
The art from LaMarche is stunning. He takes advantage of the length of the pages and creates wide landscapes that embrace the changing colors of the seasons. They turn from the bright yellows of early fall to the deeper reds and browns and then to the chill grays of winter. He uses light beautifully throughout and various perspectives that all center around one tree and one girl. It is extraordinary.
Perfect pick for just this time of year, get your hands on this beautiful picture book and then be ready for adventures outside, hopefully with your own pen and paper along. Appropriate for ages 4-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Daytime Nighttime by William Low
A simple and lovely introduction to the creatures that children can see around their houses in both day and night. The book starts with daytime and the question “What do you see in the daytime?” The large images throughout show animals like butterflies, rabbits, beavers, and more. In the middle of the book, a new question is posed about the nighttime. Now the animals shown are bats, frogs, fireflies and raccoons. The book ends with the final animal, a teddy bear held by a little girl as she falls asleep in bed.
Ideal for toddlers, this book only has two full sentences and the rest of the text are single words that identify the animal on the page. Adults can make it into a game where the child names the animal on the page. The illustrations of the animals are large and vibrant. They capture the feel of light and dark in a way has elements of both a photograph and a painting.
A great pick for bedtime reading, this book will be enjoyed by very small animal lovers. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from library copy.
Who Was Here? Discovering Wild Animal Tracks by Mia Posada
The riddle of animal tracks is deciphered here in a fun guessing game. The tracks of each animal are displayed along with information about the tracks and the animal that left them. Readers then turn the page to see whether they guessed right about what animal left those tracks. The pages with the animal have scientific information about the animal, their size, weight and their tracks. Tracks are left in mud, snow, sand and more. These too are hints about the animals, making the book speak to habitat too. This interactive book will have children embracing science and learning about animals without even realizing it.
Posada encourages children to learn more in the final pages of her book. She gives hints to decode animal tracks, offering ideas of what to look for in unknown tracks to help identify them. The book ends with links to websites and recommended books to read. Posada uses the page turn to great effect in this book, allowing the reveal to be a big part of the delight of reading this book. The guessing game element will be popular in story times but also for single readers.
Done in watercolor and collage, the illustrations have dimension and texture. The animals pop on the page and their tracks are clear and beautiful. When Posada has two creatures from the same habitat, their tracks are well defined and clearly different from one another. This adds to the fun of the read.
A nonfiction picture book that children will enjoy, this readable and accessible book will be a hit at any story time. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Netgalley and Millbrook Press.
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
Released August 12, 2014.
The author of the fantastic Inside Outside returns with another wordless book featuring the same little boy. Here the boy is outside in a tent at night and uses his flashlight to explore. As he moves around, his flashlight shows white and color against the deep black and greys of the rest of the scene. He locates his lost yellow boot, finds different animals out at night, sees plants and fish, and finds an apple to eat. But then he trips and his flashlight goes flying until it is found by a raccoon who uses it to show the boy himself in the beam. Then all of the animals get a turn with the flashlight until they lead the boy back to his tent.
I adore this book. It is so simple with the pitch blackness of the page, the grey lines that show the characters and nature, and then that surprising and revealing beam of light that cuts a swath through the darkness. One reason it works so well is that the rest of the page is not complete darkness, instead you get a feel of the woods around and the animals, but when the light does shine on them even more is shown.
Boyd uses small cutouts on the page to great effect. They reveal dens, flowers, small touches. In their own subtle way, they too shine a light of attention on even smaller components of the illustrations. They are a subtle but important part of the book.
Beautiful, dark and mysterious, this picture book is a wordless story of exploration and wonder. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt, illustratedc by Joyce Wan
Head out on a journey in the night to find out where different creatures are sleeping. Each one is tucked into the space they like best at bedtime. There is the bear in his cave, the otter rocking back in the water, the pig in the hay, and many more. Then the owl is on the page, not sleepy at all. The book then turns to the house and the pets sleeping, but the little human bed is empty! Where can that last little sleepyhead be? Safe asleep in Mama’s arms.
Simple and beautiful, this book has a gentle rhyme that soothes also with a rhythm that is like rocking to sleep. Young listeners will get to identify the different animals as the pages turn, since the book leaves that up to the reader. The quiet mystery of where the last sleepyhead is found is a wonderful little twist at the end, just right as children snuggle down to their own beds.
Wan’s art is dark and beautiful. The night is lit with fireflies and the moon, the darkness deep and velvety but not frightening at all. As the reader visits each dark page, there is always a source of light beyond that in the sky so that the characters themselves shine on the page.
A wonderful bedtime read, this one shines with moonlight and dreams. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.
A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by CaTia Chien
This is a stellar autobiographical picture book written by and about a wildlife conservationist. Alan was a boy who could not speak clearly. He battled stuttering all of the time except when he talked with animals. When he visited the great cat house at the Bronx Zoo, he could whisper fluently into the ears of the cats. He also spent a lot of time with his pets at home, speaking to them and telling them that if he ever found his own voice, he would serve as their voice since they had none and would keep them from harm. Alan became the first person to study jaguars. In Belize he felt at home in the jungle. He worked to protect the jaguars and eventually had to speak for them in front of the President of Belize, hoping to save their habitat from destruction. But can he speak clearly in the short 15 minutes he’s been given?
This book is made all the more compelling by the fact that it is true. It gives readers a glimpse into the world of a child struggling with a disability, one that mars every verbal interaction he has. And thanks to his ability with animals, readers quickly see beyond the stutter to the boy himself and to the gifts that he has to offer. Even better, once Alan becomes an adult, readers get to see a man who is taking advantage of his uniqueness to make a difference in the world and for the animals he cares for so much.
Chien’s art is rich and varied. She moves from backgrounds of wine red to brilliant yellow to the deep greens of the Belize jungles. She shows an isolated boy, alone that contrasts beautifully with the man working happily alone in the jungle – so similar and yet so very different.
An extraordinary autobiography, this book shows readers not to judge anyone by how they speak but rather by what they do. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World by Steve Jenkins
Explore different types of animal eyes in this gorgeous nonfiction picture book by the amazing Steve Jenkins. In this book, Jenkins not only talks about the different kinds of animals eyes, explaining them in just the right amount of detail, but also looks at specific animals and their unique eyes. Jenkins shares lots of facts, carefully chosen to be fascinating and fun. One never knows what will be found on the next page and whether it will be looking right at you.
Jenkins makes sure that children will learn about evolution in this picture book. His emphasis throughout is on the evolution from simple light-sensitive eyespots to the complex camera eyes of humans and hawks. As always, his information is well-chosen and interesting. It is accompanied by large-format images that are paired with smaller images that show the animals entire body. This is science information at its best.
The eyes have it! This is a book that belongs in all public libraries. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from library copy.