Happy Holidays!


I will be taking a holiday break to spend time with family. May your holidays be filled with lots of great books and other treats!

See you in January.

10 Great Snowy Picture Books

I always loved reading books about snow and snowmen around the holidays in public libraries since it still spoke to the season but included people of all faiths. Here are ten of my recent favorites:

Big Snow 20663046

Big Snow by Jonathan Bean

First Snow by Peter McCarty

Footprints in the Snow Into the Snow

Footprints in the Snow by Mei Matsuoka

Into the Snow by Yuki Kaneko, illustrated by Masamitsu Saito

The Smallest Snowflake Snow

The Smallest Snowflake by Bernadette Watts

Snow by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Lauren Stringer

The Snow Day Snow Sounds: An Onomatopoeic Story

The Snow Day by Komako Sakai

Snow Sounds: an Onomatopoeic Story by David Johnson

Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A Book of Changing Seasons Winter is for Snow

Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A Book of Changing Seasons by Il Sung Na

Winter Is for Snow by Robert Neubecker

A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins


A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Chris Appelhans (InfoSoup)

Released January 3, 2017.

This is a picture book that will leave you breathless in two ways. First, it is an astounding feat of wordplay that romps and gallops. Second, if you read this aloud I guarantee you will be out of breath by the end, much to the delight of your little listeners. A long lean greyhound that is round when it curls to sleep meets a very round brown groundhog and the two of them spend time playing together. They run and dash, filling the pages with movement and speed. The book takes a lovely pause suddenly when the two spot a butterfly and then more butterflies. And it ends with the two exhausted friends dozing side-by-side. Be ready to read it again and again, if you can do it!

Jenkins takes wordplay on a wild ride in this picture book that is pure mad joy. Readers not caught up in the swirl of words will notice that they all make sense, the wordplay is not at the expense of the story, rather it builds it and allows the play to happen. It is a wonder of rhythm and rhyme. The pacing is very well done from the blazing pace of the playing together to the delicious stop for the wonder of butterflies to the dozy ending. It is masterfully built and executed.

Appelhans’ illustrations are buoyant and bounding. He uses watercolor to create the two characters who whirl across the page, jumping and leaping, dashing and darting, the two becoming one joyous act of play together. Appearing on a white background, it the characters who shine on the page, simple and sunny.

A truly breathless read aloud, this picture book will be a wonderful addition to any story time. Save it for the end! Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from ARC received from Schwartz & Wade.

Penguin Problems by Jory John


Penguin Problems by Jory John, illustrated by Lane Smith (InfoSoup)

One rather grumpy penguin takes readers on a tour of all the things that are wrong in his penguin life. There is the cold, the snow, the crowd of other penguins who make too much noise and all look like him. The sea is too salty. The sun is too bright. There are predators in the water. He waddles when he walks and can’t fly. It goes on and on. Then a wise walrus overhears the penguin and explains that he is wasting his one life focused on the negative rather than the spectacular beauty around him. But is the penguin ready to hear this? Maybe for a moment or two.

John’s text is uproariously funny. The litany of complaints is cleverly written and ends up having a rather jaunty if petulant rhythm to it. Even children will recognize that there are some people who just complain all the time. The walrus’ wisdom is rich and lovely, delivered as a lecture and something that makes this book even more fun to share aloud. Even better is the penguin’s reaction, which ends the book in just the right way.

Smith’s art adds to the humor. The penguin looks like all the others but has a personality all his own. The illustrations use a subtle color palette filled with shades of whites and grays to create the snowy landscape. Against that, the penguins pop. The dark underwater scenes are deep and menacing, setting a great contrast to the snow.

Don’t miss the book jacket where the penguin greets readers with his attitude right from the start. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Books for Young Readers.



One Last Word by Nikki Grimes


One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes (InfoSoup)

Released January 3, 2017.

Master poet Grimes has created a book of poetry that celebrates the poets from the Harlem Renaissance who influenced her. Through her amazing skill, she pays homage to their original poems by creating her own from their words. Using a form called Golden Shovel, she takes lines from their poems and uses them as the final words in the lines of her poems. Both the Harlem Renaissance poetry and Grimes’ speak to the experience of African Americans and for Grimes, African American children and teens. These are poems about difficulties, about racism, about hate and about love.

As I read these poems, I realized over and over again how very skilled Grimes is. It is most stunning when you remember the form she is using, because her poetry flows and dances as if entirely unrestricted. Still, the bold words tie the two poems together and one remembers the strict form she is using and the grace with which she handles it. Grimes speaks directly to children and teens of color in this book, making sure they see themselves and their experiences on the page. That they see the racism, the bullying and the dangers around them. She also makes sure though that they see a strong community, voices to raise in protest and the familial love around them.

The book is beautifully designed with each page washed with yellows and sometimes lined in blue. It is illustrated by some of the top African-American children’s book illustrators working today. It is a stunning collection of art, filled with emotion, pain and endurance.

Masterful, skilled and very timely, this book of poetry elevates us all and sings to the skies that African-American children are valuable and vital in this world. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from ARC received from Bloomsbury.

10 Great Wintry Picture Books

Celebrate the winter solstice and the chilly season with some wonderful warm winter picture books! Here are ten of my favorites perfect for a cozy cuddle:

Before Morning Lemonade in Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money

Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes

Lemonade in Winter by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

28814781 Peter and the Winter Sleepers

Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Peter and the Winter Sleepers by Rick De Haas

Waiting for Winter 18636916

Waiting for Winter by Sebastian Meschenmoser

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen

Winter Candle 17197795

Winter Candle by Jeron Frame, illustrated by Stacey Schuett

Winter Is Coming by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim LaMarche

43128 Winter Trees

Winter Is the Warmest Season by Lauren Stringer

Winter Trees by Carole Gerber, illustrated by Leslie Evans

Teacup by Rebecca Young


Teacup by Rebecca Young, illustrated by Matt Ottley (InfoSoup)

A boy sets off in a boat, leaving his home behind with only a book, a bottle, a blanket and a teacup of earth from his homeland. The journey is long and filled with changing days at sea. Sometimes it is quiet, other times dangerous, other times dramatic. Then one day, the earth in his teacup begins to sprout, growing into a tree that shelters him, gives him food, and offers hope. Eventually, his boat bumps into land where he moves his tree to a hill and it grows taller. He waits for a whisper and when it comes, he discovers another traveler has joined him.

This is such a gentle book yet it speaks to larger issues of displacement, refugees and homelessness. Young’s text is poetic, creating moments of quietness and moments of wonder, often side-by-side. While we don’t truly get to know the boy himself, the book embraces the journey that people take into the unknown, whether that means leaving your family and country behind or starting a new school.

Ottley’s illustrations are stunningly beautiful. He captures the sea journey with a feeling of expansiveness, the boy and his boat small in the image and sky and sea vast around him. The clouds are immensely lovely, conveying menace and hope as appropriate to the story. These are illustrations to linger over and just feel.

A gorgeous allegory picture book sure to speak to those of us on longer  or shorter journeys in our lives. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from ARC received from Dial Books.


The Water Princess by Susan Verde


The Water Princess by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (InfoSoup)

Gie Gie imagines herself to be a princess with a kingdom as big as the African sky. She can tell the wind when to blow, the grass when to sway. But she cannot move the water closer to their home. Every day, Gie Gie and her mother walk to get water, a walk that takes almost the entire day. As they walk, they sing and dance together, stop under the shade of a large tree for a snack. When they reach the water, others are there and Gie Gie plays with her friends as her mother waits in line. Soon it is their turn and they start their long walk back balancing the water in pots on their heads. Back home, Gie Gie finally gets a drink of the precious water and falls asleep, knowing she must make the same walk the next day.

This picture book is based on the childhood of supermodel Georgie Badiel, who has a foundation working to bring clean water to Burkina Faso and other African countries. Verde writes with a poetic touch throughout, the prose light as a breeze carrying the story forward. There is no lecture here about clean water, rather it is a look at the hard work and endurance it takes to bring clean water to African villages.

The illustrations by Reynolds are done in his signature style with a flowing beauty that works particularly well here. He uses deep colors that show the dry landscape in yellows and oranges that are occasionally punctuated with greens and blues, the colors of water and hope.

A light feeling picture book that has a deep story to tell, this is a compelling read. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC received from GP Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Imagine a City by Elise Hurst


Imagine a City by Elise Hurst (InfoSoup)

Enter a world filled with rabbits, tigers and bears mixed in with humans. It’s a world where fish serve as buses and then fly through the air. It’s a world where art reaches beyond its frames. Dinosaurs still fly, cats play chess, umbrellas lift you into the sky. Told in simple yet soaring text, this picture book invites young readers to enter a world that is reminiscent of Narnia in its magical qualities, a wondrous place where mid-century cars mix with elegant trains  and dreams of all sizes come true.

The poetic text of this picture book serves as a broad invitation to dream along with the author. And though the text is lovely, it is the illustrations that truly shine. They are done in ink and are filled with small details that bring the world fully alive. I appreciate that this imaginary world is an urban setting, offering even more children the ability to see their world as magical.

I’ve taken photos of some of the interiors of the book to give a better sense of the world that Hurst has created. It is one filled with double spreads of detailed art but inside and outside of galleries:imagine-a-city-interior

It is one with bears and foxes happily on the same page with people:


This is a beautiful book that is just right for sending children off to their own nighttime dreams or creating new ones during the day. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Doubleday Books for Young Readers.