Little Cub by Olivier Dunrea
The author of the Gossie books returns with this companion book to Old Bear and His Cub that explains the way that Old Bear and Little Cub met. Little Cub lived all alone near the forest with ono one to take care of him. He was often hungry and slept alone and cold outside. Old Bear lived alone too. He had plenty to eat and a warm place to live, but no one to share it with. Then one day, Old Bear heard odd noises coming from a pile of rocks. It was Little Cub, trying to sleep curled into a ball. It was Old Bear who named him Little Cub and Old Bear who took him home, gave him food, tucked him into a warm bed, and promised to teach him how to fish. And it was Little Cub who filled up that empty bed so that neither of them had to be alone any more.
This is such a warm story. Showing the way that Little Cub and Old Bear came together to be a family is honey rich. Dunrea takes him time showing the parallels between the two bears’ lonely lives. Though they are different in age, in being able to care for themselves, they are alike at heart and searching for something new.
Dunrea’s writing is simple but also cheery. Though it explores a child alone in the cold wilderness, one doesn’t worry because there is a sense of safety throughout. Children will understand the hunger and chill and also that level of joy that is clear. A large part of this are the illustrations that show blustery winds but also have the security and solidity of Old Bear right there too. He is the hope for Little Cub, one that radiates across the pages.
Fans of Dunrea will enjoy this new series and those who read the first in the series will cheer to see Old Bear and Little Cub return. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Philomel.
I Haiku You by Betsy Snyder
This diminutive book is filled with equally small haiku poetry. Each poem is a celebration of either love for someone else or a warm moment in time. There are poems about warm soup, purple popsicles and lemonade. Each one is a tiny look into a universal and noteworthy moment. Turning from one page to the next, the book manages to avoid being overly sweet through its humor and the sense of joy that pervades it. In other words, these are far more organic and natural poems than Hallmark ever manages to create. Instead these are wonderful little gifts of haiku that are invitations to celebrate the small moments of life that we share with one another.
Snyder has created illustrations that are equally warm and special. Done on cream paper, the illustrations have pops of purples, oranges, reds and yellows but still have a softness. The result is a book that is cheery and warm.
A perfect Valentine’s Day gift, this book should also be useful as an introduction to the haiku format. Or one could just curl up at bedtime and share some short and lovely poetry. What better way to create beautiful dreams? Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House.
The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever by Brenda A. Ferber, illustrated by Tedd Arnold
Leon has a crush on a girl, so he makes her a construction paper heart for Valentine’s Day. But when he tries to put the valentine into an envelope, the valentine runs away insisting that Leon can’t tell Zoey Maloney that he loves her! In fact, the valentine thinks love is “mushy and gross and just plain YUCKY!” He says that Valentine’s Day is not about love, but about candy. Soon Leon is chasing after the valentine, trying to get him to stop. They pass a group of boys, a group of girls and a group of teens before finally coming to Zoey Maloney herself, and a valentine that she has made for Leon. Maybe Valentine’s Day is about more than candy after all?
Ferber marries Valentine’s Day and the pacing and style of the Gingerbread Man together very successfully in this book. This is a book about crushes and valentines that is far from being too sappy. It is full of humor, action and lots of silliness, mocking the entire idea of love and then in the end turning around and seeing that life (and Valentine’s Day) is sweeter than candy.
Arnold’s style plays perfectly with this story. His swirling lines add to the motion and action. His characters are always clearly showing emotion and the large-headed child characters have an endearing quality to them.
This is one Valentine’s Day book that will appeal to boys and girls alike, those with crushes and those who are just looking for candy. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.
Charley’s First Night by Amy Hest, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Pure bliss, that’s what this book is. This is the story of Henry who brings Charley, a new puppy, home. When they get home, Henry makes sure to show Charley all around his new home, even showing him where his mother hides the birthday presents. Henry’s parents inform him that he’s the one in charge of walking Charley and feeding Charley. Henry is thrilled and can’t wait to do those things forever. Then there’s the discussion of where Charley is going to sleep. Henry knows that Charley wants to sleep in his room, but his parents want Charley to sleep in the kitchen. Henry worries about Charley alone in the kitchen, but goes about setting up a pillow, a bear to keep him company, and a ticking clock for a heartbeat sound. Henry stays with Charley until he falls asleep, but Charley doesn’t stay asleep for long.
Hest’s writing here is so dazzling. She captures perfectly the swooning adoration of a child with a new puppy. She shows the instant connection, the small memorable moments together, and the communication and understanding that flows. Henry loves Charley with a purity that is piercing and Hest’s text makes it all the more real and true. She uses quiet repetition and brings the reader into the intimacy of this new relationship, allowing them to notice the small things that Henry is seeing and feeling.
Oxenbury’s illustrations are classic and lovely. They lift the story up, making it feel all the more timeless. There is a beautiful warmth to her art that works particularly well for this subject. The small images of Charley eating, romping and even making a mess will be sure to charm.
Two master picture book creators have come together to give readers a radiant book about the first love of child and puppy. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Every Day by David Levithan
A wakes up as a different person every morning. All A knows is that it is going to be someone different and somewhat nearby the last person. After living life this way for 16 years, A has gotten used to it and doesn’t know any other way of life. A can jump into either a girl or a boy, straight or gay, abused or adored, each day is completely different and each life and family exists for just a day. There is freedom in this life but also loneliness. A has rules, trying not to do any damage to the person whose life is being borrowed, trying to pass tests and live a normal day. But then A meets Rhiannon as A spends a day in her boyfriend’s body. The two of them spend an amazing day together at the beach, skipping class. A is in love for the very first time, but how can a person who moves from body to body even go on a first date?
This beautifully written book is told in the first person from A’s point of view. The concept of the book is immensely strong and makes for a read that is so strong and vibrant that it lingers with you and you think about it afterwards. A is an amazing character whose life is wildly different from our own and yet it’s a life that also sheds light on what we should be celebrating as we live our more stable lives. A manages to show how truly broad human experience can be. Moving from body to body, there are no longer judgments about straight and gay, race or religion. It is all about being immensely and breathtakingly human.
Levithan also examines many facets of being human, from family ties and relationships to being different in profound ways to self acceptance. His writing is a gorgeous mix of fast-paced storytelling and lingering thoughts. It is in those moments where he puts words to love, life and being human that his writing is transcendent.
A strikingly bold concept, a vibrant main character who is impossible to define and amazing writing make this one of the best teen novels of the year. Appropriate for ages 15-18.
Reviewed from digital review copy received from NetGalley.
Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Perfect for spring and Valentine’s Day, this book celebrates the way that love can grow. A little girl plants a kiss in the ground using a shovel and watering can. Then she gives it sun, water and attention. For awhile she doubts if it is going to grow into anything, but then there is a sprout of glittery yellow and pink emerging from the ground. Others gather around and she decides to share it, she hands out glowing yellow and pink wisps to everyone, even though others try to warn her that it is too rare and precious to share. When she runs out, she heads back to her plant where she discovers that there is even more to give away!
When glitter is added to a book, it does a lot to create immediate appeal. Unfortunately, many glitter-filled books don’t live up to that shimmery hype. This one though is one that is designed to share, just like the kiss itself. Rosenthal’s writing is light, airy and offers just a few words per page. While her message of sharing love is clear, there is nothing preachy about the book, thanks to the cheery writing.
Reynolds’ art has that same light feel, including the wafting glittery clouds of kiss. His young protagonist has a great quirky quality to her. The glitter is incorporated into the story very successfully, adding to the book rather than distracting from it.
The perfect snuggling book for the little one that you plant kisses on. Appropriate for ages 3-5 and could be used as a gift for adults as well.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
One Love by Cedella Marley, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Marley has adapted her father Bob Marley’s famous song into this picture book. The book follows the same arc as the song, but is simplified considerably. Fans of the song will definitely try to sing along with the words since they are so iconic. Children who don’t know the song will discover a vibrant picture book where the words give the emotion, but the pictures tell the story. It’s the story of a community coming together to turn a vacant lot into a park, One Love Park.
This simple picture book owes much to the original song. It’s where the book gets its heart. The words are pulled directly from the song and in picture book form read aloud well. Just like the song, the emphasis is on community, love, and creating a new world together.
Brantley-Newton’s illustrations add so much joy to this book. They are full of color and movement, the multicultural cast of characters are vibrant and glowing. Readers can also keep an eye out for visual references to Bob Marley.
Simple, lovely and powerful, this book is definitely worth celebrating. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Here’s the book trailer:
And I Love You by Ruth Krauss & Steven Kellogg
A celebration of parental love, this book has verse that pairs large and small together in relationships. The big forests love little trees. Big seas love little shells. And my favorite: Big stories love little words to fly around in. Each large element is shown and then the page turns to reveal the other smaller element that matches it. Krauss’ poem is lovely, gently showing the devotion of a parent in ways that are tangible and in relationships that children will understand. The book will work equally well for any adult with a child, whether it is a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or guardian.
Krauss’ poem is very brief, just a few words per page. Her verse captures love in so few words that it is amazing, making it very accessible for young readers.
Kellogg’s art has his signature style, but also an added dimension that is very interesting. His usual characters with their bright eyes are featured. On some of the pages, where appropriate, a texture has been added to the illustrations, sometimes organic like grass clippings and other times thicker paint that is built up for the background. His friendly characters are shown on these textured pages as well, creating a wonderful mixed media picture book.
The perfect book for a new baby gift or for adoptive parents, this book would also make a great board book too thanks to its few words and gentle spirit. Appropriate for ages 2-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Released April 2010.
Will Grayson is gay, depressed and only has one friend, Maura. She’s more a friend of convenience with their snarkiness holding their friendship together. Will heads out to Chicago to meet a boy he’s fallen for online, only to find out that Maura has been pretending to be that boy online. This puts him on a path to meet another boy. The other Will Grayson is straight. He has lived most of his life in the large shadow of his gay best friend, Tiny. Now he has started to like a girl, Jane, that goes to school with them. Meanwhile Tiny is working on his very fabulous and very gay musical that is all about his life and prominently features Will as a main character. Though both boys are different, there are similarities. They both want to avoid feeling things too deeply, but their lives change after meeting one another.
These two great authors have created an incredible novel that is the best work of their of their careers. Each author writes alternating chapters in the voice of their Will Grayson. Green writes the straight Will Grayson with his trademark intelligence and humor. Levithan writes the gay Will Grayson with equal humor that has a snap and darkness to it. The two combined really make for a novel that readers will never want to end. Add to this the genius that is the character of Tiny, a huge boy with an even bigger heart who lives life to the fullest. He forms the hub of the novel, the voice of the musical, and the applause for both Will Graysons in all their differences and similarities.
I love finding books that are savvy, smart, silly, funny, intelligent, irreverent, and honest. This is one of those books. Put it in the hands of teens, let them see themselves in it because we are all of us there in this book. Gay and straight, we are there, and we can hear the truth and love being spoken in this novel.
Highly recommended, this is the best novel of the year so far. Brilliantly written, gorgeously complex characters, and humor. What more could you want?
Reviewed from Advanced Reader Copy from publisher.
Henry in Love by Peter McCarty
How do you create a great romantic picture book? Well, first it must include fresh-baked blueberry muffins.
Henry woke up to the smell of muffins baking and was given one to take to school for snack. Henry thought Chloe was the loveliest girl in his class. Whenever he looked at her the wind started to blow and he saw poppies, flowers and grass. At recess, Henry decided to go up to Chloe even though his friends thought it was a bad idea to talk to a girl. After Henry demonstrated his best somersault, Chloe showed him her perfect cartwheel. Then a game of tag started and Henry chased after Chloe. Back in class, the teacher rearranged their desks and guess who Henry got to sit right next to? Just in time to share his blueberry muffin. Now that’s true romance!
A large part of the reason this book is so successful is the art. As you can see from the cover it is done in inks with touches of watercolor. Color is used subtly here to great effect. Even the slightest color is magnified by the bare backgrounds. The result is a book that is modern and charming. McCarty includes small moments in the book that really make it a treat. It made the book difficult to summarize because it is the collection of the small moments of Henry’s day that make this book such a delight. Just as with color, words are used sparingly and offer just the right amount of story to carry the book forward.
A very sweet, honesty picture book, this story captures childhood crushes with dignity and appeal. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.