Sidewalk Flowers by JoArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith
As she heads home with her father who is distracted by his cell phone call, a little girl dressed in vibrant red picks wild flowers. Along the way, she takes a moment to smell each of them, creating a bouquet of bright colored blooms. The flowers grow unnoticed by the others on the street in this urban setting, but the little girl spots them all growing out of sidewalk cracks. When the girl and her father reach the park, she notices a dead bird on the sidewalk and leaves some of the flowers there with the bird. A man sleeping on a park bench is given a sprig too. Then she decorates the collar of a friendly dog with more flowers. As they reach home, the little girl gives each of her family members flowers, leaving a trail of them on their hair and heads. The final flower is used to decorate her own hair at the very end.
This wordless picture book is immensely lovely. The story arc really works well and has moments of sophistication that create a vibrant urban world for this girl to live within. As she gathers the flowers, other beautiful parts of the city that would have been overlooked too light up with color or are captured in small moments. From the display of bright fruits in the market to the pigeons on the street, each small piece adds together so that readers “see” the beauty of the city along with the young protagonist.
The art is expressive and lovely. The city is shown in black and white against which the red girl pops like a bright ruby. Portions of the city are done in color, like flowered dresses and the small flowers that the girl gathers too. Then when the girl starts sharing her flowers, the entire world becomes colorful and bright. It is a dynamic shift in the middle of the book, showing the power of generosity and community.
Subtle and powerful, this picture book celebrates seeing the beauty in everyday life and sharing it with others. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson
Award-winning Nelson tells a story about the power of sharing in this simple and striking picture book. The story begins with a rabbit and a mouse planting a tomato seed, a carrot seed and a cabbage seed in their garden. Then the two wait through all kinds of weather for the seeds to sprout and grow. Until finally, they have three lovely plants and are able to feast on their bounty. Then the birds arrive and silently ask for the rabbit and mouse to share. But no sharing happens and instead there is a struggle and the plants are destroyed. One small red tomato survives and the mouse offers it to the birds. The birds in turn repay that kindness with seeds of their own which then sprout into a much larger and more diverse garden for them all to enjoy, along with even more animals.
Nelson’s writing here is simple but also to the point. He shows young readers what is happening in the story. Using the symbolism of the garden throughout, he explains the importance of sowing the seeds of kindness rather than selfishness and finally how beautiful it is in the end when you do that. There is little subtlety here and the symbolism is beautifully integrated into the story as a whole.
As always, Nelson’s illustrations are pure delight. His animals shine on the page, showing emotions clearly and beautifully both in their eyes and the positions of ears and tails. Other details bring the entire scene to life. Perhaps my favorite page is the birds silently watching the rabbit and mouse feast on the produce. It’s funny and yet the tension is clear too. The entire book is filled with small lovely moments like this told in images rather than words.
Community, sharing and kindness come together in this splendidly illustrated picture book that is sure to be enjoyed along with other spring gardening books. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The New Small Person by Lauren Child
The creator of Charlie and Lola returns with a new picture book sibling pair. Elmore Green has always been an only child. He has his own room, no one moves his toys around, and no one eats his jelly beans. But suddenly a new baby enters the picture and soon Elmore finds himself sharing a room, unable to leave any of his toys unattended, and no one pays him attention. Perhaps worst of all, his jelly bean collection is licked by his little brother! Just as all seems to be falling apart, Elmore discovers that there are some parts of having a new sibling that aren’t so bad after all like laughing at TV shows together, sharing toys, and even sharing jelly beans (maybe).
Child has a wonderful way of understanding what children are thinking. While other new sibling books have more focus on the loss of parental attention, Child shows exactly how a small sibling can bother an older one. She merrily skips quickly past the baby stage and directly to toddlerhood where the most disruption can take place. Young readers will enjoy a book that has plenty of humor but also is realistic too.
Child’s art is done in her signature style. Her collage work incorporates pieces of cloth and patterned paper. I appreciate that her new family are people of color and also that it is not a focus of the book but just a visual component, natural and not remarked upon.
Perfect for Charlie & Lola fans and also for older siblings experiencing their own toddlers at home. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Twins’ Little Sister by Hyewon Yum
This follow-up to The Twins’ Blanket features the same twin girls. The book is told from their shared perspective. In this book, the issue is that there are two of them, but they only have one mother that they have to share. During nap time, both girls want their mother to look at them, but she can only look in one direction at a time. Being pushed on the swings is also a problem, since their mother can only push one of them at a time. Now they have a little sister arriving soon too and there will be even more demand for their mother’s time. When the baby arrives, the girls are not impressed. They can no longer be in the big bed with their mother because the baby is there. Their mother can’t push the swings at all anymore, because her arms are full. Then the girls discover that they get lots of attention for helping with the baby. Soon the girls are adoring big sisters, but there’s still one problem, they need another little sister so they don’t have to share!
This is a clever twist on sibling rivalry that shows the closeness and competitive nature of being sisters and twins. It is particularly good to see that the rivalry existed before the younger sibling arrived and that it was just another factor in the family dynamic. The voice of the two girls together is clear and bright, they are strong-willed little girls but that is not a bad thing. I appreciate a book that shows children being less than perfect on the page.
Yum’s illustrations are done in pencil, watercolor and cut paper. The girls are distinguished by their dresses and barrettes but are otherwise identical. Emotions are clear on their faces, their eyes shining with feelings above their rosy cheeks.
A great choice for new siblings, this picture book shows human children grappling with being siblings and sharing. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won
Elephant wakes up very grumpy until he finds a present waiting for him on the doorstep and it has one amazing hat inside. He puts it on and heads off to show Zebra, but Zebra is grumpy too, so Elephant gives Zebra one of his hats. Soon they have helped Turtle and Owl be less grumpy too by sharing hats with them as well. They came to Lion who was feeling sad and giving him a hat didn’t help because he was worried that Giraffe was feeling sick. So they all came up with a great plan to help Giraffe feel better. I bet you can guess that it involves…hats!
Won has created an entirely jolly book that shows just how small things can change a person’s mood or emotions. The book is very simply written and repeats nicely as each animal is introduced. This makes it a great pick for toddlers who will enjoy the repetition as well as the different animals in the book. It is also a nice book to talk with the smallest children about feeling grumpy and also how important sharing things can be.
Won’s art focuses on the animals themselves with only touches of backgrounds or even ground around and underneath them. The colors pop when the hats enter the pages, bright and vibrantly different, they are all a hoot.
Cheery and friendly, this book is a happy look at changing emotions and sharing good fortune. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Peanut & Fifi Have a Ball by Randall de Seve, illustrated by Paul Schmid
Peanut had a brand new ball. It was blue and special. But Fifi wanted to play with the ball too. She tried grabbing it away from Peanut, and she tried being polite and asking “Please.” But Peanut would not share it. Then Fifi got creative and started coming up with ideas of how they could play with the ball. It could wear a hat. It could be a crystal ball and Fifi could tell fortunes. It could be bread dough and Fifi could be a chef. This book about sharing as siblings ends with a believable twist that is clever and satisfying.
De Seve’s text really comes alive when Fifi starts to imagine what she can do with the ball. He is consistently simple and clear throughout, allowing the story to play out with a natural rhythm and flow. The pacing is nicely done as well, allowing both sisters to have their space to think and react.
Schmid’s art is what makes this book really stand out. His hip and modern visual style uses strong black lines and tropical colors. In just a few lines, Schmid manages to convey a character’s mood clearly but not in an over-the-top manner. His art is simple and very effective.
A great pick for toddlers and early preschoolers that would make a nice addition to story times or book lists about sharing. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.
Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman
The Bear series by Karma Wilson continues to impress with its latest entry. There are only a few children’s picture book series that have maintained the quality of both writing and illustration as this series has. In this latest tale, Bear has an idea to create a big feast and invite his friends over to share. The only problem is that Bear has nothing in his cupboard at all. Mouse shows up with a pie to share, and Bear says “Thanks!” Bear continues to fret that he has nothing to share when Hare pops by with a batch of muffins to share. Badger then arrives with fish, Gopher and Mole bring warm honey nuts, and Owl, Raven and Wren have herbs for tea and pears to munch. But with no food to offer at all, what in the world can Bear give his friends?
I’ve always enjoyed the rhythm of this series and the repetition that makes them ideal to read aloud to toddlers. There is also a wonderful friendly warmth to the books, captured both by the colors of the illustrations and the story itself. That same warmth is here, friends offering food and sharing time with one another with no expectations. Chapman’s illustrations stay true to the series, offering pictures large enough to share with a group.
While this book is perfect for Thanksgiving story times, I’d also use it throughout the year when talking about sharing. This is a bear’s den that any of us would love to crawl into and spend some time in no matter what time of year it is. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry Books.
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.
A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka
Daisy, the dog, adores her red ball. She plays with it and even sleeps next to it on the couch. When her owner takes her for a walk, Daisy brings along her ball. At the park, she plays and chases after it. When it gets stuck behind a fence, Daisy frets until it has been retrieved by her owner. But when another dog tries to play with Daisy’s ball… it pops! Daisy is broken-hearted, carrying the tattered remains of her ball. And there is nothing that will make her feel any better. Or is there?
This wordless book works because of the gorgeous illustrations. Daisy is a black-and-white dog and her world is colorful and bright. From the bright red of her ball to the striped couch in green, the book embraces color. Raschka also uses color to convey emotion, which is particularly effective when the air itself is colored with purples and blues after Daisy’s ball is popped. Before that, the background was done in pale blues and yellows, light and airy, even playful.
The storyline is clear with the illustrations filling double page spreads or broken into panels. Children will immediately relate to Daisy’s loss of a favorite toy and to her emotions throughout. It is a book that naturally leads to discussion of when the child lost something, or something was broken, and the way that they felt about it.
A winning wordless read, this book is a joy to share with children or perhaps with your favorite furry friend. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
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The Bear Who Shared by Catherine Rayner
Norris, the bear, knew that the plorringes were the best fruits. So he waited under the plorringe tree because he knew something special was going to happen. Tulip and Violet, a mouse and a raccoon, knew that plorringes were the best too. They were able to climb up in the tree to get closer to the single hanging plorringe. They could see how delicious it looked and smell its delicious scent. They listened to it and hugged it too. They were just about to lick it when it fell off of the tree and down right onto Norris’ head. Now Norris was closest to the plorringe and had it all to himself. But just as Norris was patient, he was also a very nice bear. The type of bear who would not only share but would make some new friends doing it.
The story here is one that has been shared in many picture books. Rayner’s writing has a gentle repetition that is almost not noticeable. She has a playfulness and a warmth to her writing that makes it a pleasure to read aloud.
It is the illustrations that make this book something extraordinary. There is the brawny brown of the bear done in overlapping paint that show his girth and weight, but also his sturdiness and steadiness. Then the raccoon is a mash of black and grays, blending and merrily mixing, capturing the dynamic movements. The mouse is all delicate line and a whisper of pink expression for the tail. The plorringe is yellows, reds and pinks, a mix of mango, plum, and guava.
A book about sharing and friendship that will be loved due to the illustrations. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books for Young Readers.