Month: June 2016

Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd

Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd

Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Abigail Halpin (InfoSoup)

Two children set off to discover the wild, leaving their urban world and heading into a nearby park filled with trees, ferns and birds. There are moments of wonder and some shivers too. Wild smells different from the city too and demands that you breathe it in deeply. Wild can be dangerous, prickly and poisonous, but it can also be filled with softness and soothing. It can be hot and cold. It is filled with secrets to explore and even discoveries to eat and savor. Even in large cities where there doesn’t seem to be room for wild to exist, you can see it if you follow the subtle clues.

Lloyd’s writing is a poem about wilderness and the importance of it in our lives. She doesn’t lecture about it in any way, allowing nature itself to invite readers in more deeply. She allows nature to sing on the page, showing its many sides. She does not shy away from showing that nature can be slightly frightening but balances that nicely with more positive sides of being outside and enjoying the outdoors.

Halpin’s illustrations are done in watercolor and colored pencil. She creates a wild that is filled with huge trees, large leaves, flowers and shadow. It is also full of water, places to swim and berries too. Her art covers the entire page at times, filling it to the brim with nature. Other times, the wild is surrounded by white space on the page, allowing young readers to both feel immersed in green wonder but also able to glimpse it from a distance at times too.

A lovely encouragement to find your own wild in your neighborhood, this picture book should be wildly successful. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Penguin Random House and Edelweiss.

 

Painting Pepette by Linda Ravin Lodding

Painting Pepette by Linda Ravin Lodding

Painting Pepette by Linda Ravin Lodding, illustrated by Claire Fletcher (InfoSoup)

Josette lives in 1920s Paris with her toy rabbit, Pepette. At home, their great room’s walls were covered with paintings of the family, including Josette and her sisters as well as their dog. But there was no picture of Pepette! So the two of them set off to Montmartre where the best artists painted. Josette finds one famous painter after another to paint her toy bunny, but none of the paintings is quite right. Picasso gives the bunny too many ears and noses. Salvador Dali makes him too droopy. Chagall has Pepette flying in the clouds. Matisse painted him in the wrong colors. Finally, Josette heads home, realizing that it is up to her to create an appropriate portrait of her beloved rabbit.

Lodding’s glimpse of the wonder of Paris and the incredible artists at work all at once at Montmartre is very enticing. It will help for the adults reading the book to guide children through the artists afterwards, allowing them to understand who the artists were and how their signature styles are reflected in their portraits of Pepette. It is a lovely introduction to those painters for young children and may be ideal before a visit to a museum. Josette herself is a wonderful young character as well, showing real determination to get the right portrait of her toy and yet also showing respect to the artists and their unique vision.

The watercolor illustrations by Fletcher are a huge success. They have their own artistic quality and also capture the styles of the other artists as well. The watercolors have a vintage style that works particularly well in showing 1920s Paris, allowing the light to play across the colors of the city where Josette stands out with her red bow, polka dot dress and striped stockings.

A lovely historical picture book that invites readers to explore Paris and art. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Little Bee Books.

Cloth Lullaby by Amy Novesky

Cloth Lullaby by Amy Novesky

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (InfoSoup)

Louise grew up alongside a river that wove through her life. Her mother restored tapestries and from age 12, Louise helped too by drawing in the missing bottom edges of tapestries. At her mother’s side, Louise learned about weaving and patterns. Louise eventually went to school in Paris and studied mathematics and cosmography at university. While at college, her mother died and Louise turned to art to express her feelings. She created enormous spiders out of metal and stone, naming them “Maman.” She took the fabrics of her life and cut them apart, working to put them back together in new ways. It was a tribute to her mother and her childhood expressed in art.

Novesky’s picture book biography keeps the magic of Bourgeois’ childhood intact. The book ends with an image of the artist and one of her spiders as well as a quote that speaks to her never having lost touch with the magic of her childhood. That quality weaves throughout the book where both the river and the restoration work create moments of inspiration and amazement. There is such beauty in the quiet work of restoration as well as the knitting activities of spiders. Readers will immediately understand the connection of wool and web in her art.

Arsenault’s illustrations are alight with that same magic and inspiration. In one image of Louise’s mother, there is a certain spider-ness there, subtle but also clear as she works with her black wool. All of the illustrations in the book celebrate pattern and weaving. There is a limited palette of reds, blues and grays that evoke the richness of tapestries and the excitement of art.

A top pick for picture book biographies, this book pays homage to a female artist that many may not know. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson (InfoSoup)

Topher, Brand and Steve know that they have one of the best teachers in Ms. Bixby. She is the sort of teacher that everyone hopes to have. But then she announces that she is sick and will have to leave without finishing the school year. She tells the class when her last day is, however her health worsens and she doesn’t make it to her planned final day. That’s when the three friends decide that they must follow through and give Ms. Bixby the final day she has dreamed of. Even if it means skipping school, taking the city bus, buying a very expensive dessert, finding a perfect book, and even illegally buying some wine. Ms. Bixby would do that and more for them, so they must do this for her. As the boys tell their stories of what Ms. Bixby did for each of them, readers too will see that this is the sort of teacher you break all the rules for.

Wow. This book is incredible. It is one that teachers will adore, showing how one teacher can impact so many of her students on a personal level. It is one children too will love, showing their own dedication, bravery and heart. It is a book that skirts along the line of heartbreak and hope, allowing readers to soar at times, fall down and smash like a backpack filled with cheesecake, and then soar once more. It’s a wonderful roller coaster of a book filled with so much emotion and connection.

The three lead characters are all wonderfully depicted. Their voices are unique from one another and stay separate and distinguished. Though they are friends, they have secrets from one another, ones that Ms. Bixby is part of and they all have connections to her that the others don’t know about. It’s a look at the harshness of childhood, the ways that adults can help and the importance of one teacher.

A powerful read that calls on all of us to be heroes in each other’s lives. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Walden Pond Press.

 

The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock

The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock

The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock, illustrated by Sophie Casson (InfoSoup)

Told from the point of view of a child in Arles, France, this book looks at how unique people in the world have their own way of viewing things. The boy joins with the adults in the town to mock and bully painter Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh was seen as a wild man, living in poverty who wasted his days creating art that didn’t sell and that went against everything that people knew about art. Yet he just kept on painting. The boy eventually finds himself in a field with the artist, suddenly seeing the world as something amazing and vibrantly colored rather than the same place it has always been. The artist offered the boy his painting but the boy refused, only to see it years later on the wall of a museum.

Peacock has created a picture book about bullying but also about so much more. It is about the way that society reacts to a genius who refuses to follow their rules, who walks his own path through the fields, painting as he goes. The child is clearly following what the adults around him are saying. He is also intrigued in many ways by the strange artist and the way he lives. Plus he is drawn in by the paintings that he can glimpse. It’s a lovely balance of rejection and attraction that makes the book surprising and effective.

The art by Casson uses vibrant colors to capture the French countryside. The golden of the wheat fields, the purple of the sky, all tied together with reds and blues and add depth and even more color. The result is a different style than Van Gogh, but a nod to his use of color and sense of freedom.

A book that works on many levels, this picture book looks at bullying, genius, art and the power of connection. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The Long Dog by Eric Seltzer

The Long Dog by Eric Seltzer

The Long Dog by Eric Seltzer (InfoSoup)

Dog after dog appear in this easy reader that is reminiscent of the classic Go, Dog. Go! The very simple text shows opposites. There are hot dogs and cold dogs. Wet dogs and dry dogs. Dirty dogs and clean dogs. Each shown with a simple illustration that will help new readers decode the words. Throughout the book, a particularly long dog appears again and again, adding a touch of whimsy and humor. This is a simple yet very engaging beginning reader with tons of appeal.

Seltzer uses very simple sentences throughout his book, appealing directly to new readers. The use of opposites also helps with new readers figuring out the words as well as the repeating simple sentence structure. The illustrations have a winning cartoon style that is simple as well. Each sentence is clearly matching to a corresponding image aiding in new reader skills. The added touches of humor throughout make for a book that is fun to read as well.

A nice pick for beginning reader collections, this is simple, easy and full of humor. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts

A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts

A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts, illustrated by Hyewon Yum (InfoSoup)

Hee Jun loved living in Korea where he fit in with his classmates at school and his grandmother was a respected teacher. She was also able to have an extraordinary garden there. When his father moves them to West Virginia, everything changes. Hee Jun does not fit in with his classmates due to the way he looks and the way he talks. His grandmother too is different, her inner spark gone. His little sister has problems at school too, taking out her fear physically on her teacher. So their grandmother is asked to go to school with her. Slowly, the family begins to find their place in West Virginia, even discovering a beloved flower with a new name.

Watts tells the story of immigration with an eye towards giving people time to adjust and find their footing both with a new language and a new culture. The sense of loss for the characters is palpable on the page, eliciting a real understanding of the immense change they are undergoing. The little sister’s violent reaction to school is handled with sensitivity and understanding, offering the grandmother a chance to connect with her new surroundings. The entire book is filled with deep emotions combined with a gentle nurturing attitude.

Yum’s illustrations are done in watercolor. They show a loving family that manages to thrive despite the changes. The differences between their lives in Korea and West Virginia are shown on the page, particularly with regards to the grandmother and her vibrant life in Korea compared to her lonely existence in the first weeks in the United States.

A strong and thoughtful look at immigration that beautifully explains the huge changes children undergo as they move to a new country. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.