Secrets I Know by Kallie George, illustrated by Paola Zakimi (9781101938935, Amazon)
A little girl spends a rainy day playing in her backyard and sharing secrets with the reader. She knows lots of secrets like secrets are for whispering and whispers hide in trees. She uses the tree as an umbrella and then her umbrella as a boat for her toys. She and her puppy play in the sandbox and have a tea party there, the sunshine sweetening the tea. A friend joins her and they play dress up and then head outside to the trees once again when darkness falls and the stars come out.
George writes with a poetic simplicity here. In the little girl’s voice, she chains together the different experiences she is having, each one leading naturally to the next. It’s rather like a daisy-chain of a picture book spent outside and having a wonderful time whether on her own or with a friend.
Zakimi’s illustrations are detailed and filled with warmth. The blustery and rainy day is shown as an opportunity to play outside and have fun, not as anything that limits activities. Even darkness can’t stop the little girl from enjoying herself outdoors as stars fill the sky. The use of just one backyard as the canvas for the day shows how large imagination can be and how much fun can be had.
A simple book with lots of big ideas, this picture book shows how any day can be a special one. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade Books.
The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Freya Blackwood (9780763690847, Amazon)
Nominated for the CBCA Picture Book of the Year, this picture book is exceptional. In a time of war, the library is burned and only one book survives. Peter’s father has that book and creates an iron box to keep it safe. When Peter and his father flee their town, they carry the book with them. Peter’s father dies on the journey and he continues to carry the book with him, even leaving behind his suitcase to manage it. Finally, Peter must leave the box behind, but he hides it safely first. Years later, Peter is able to return to the box and rescue the book, restoring it to his hometown and its library.
Wild’s lovely and simple text allows the drama of the story elements to speak for themselves, never injecting more horror into it. That approach allows the reader to feel deeply the loss and pain of losing one’s homeland. Even the death of Peter’s father is subtle and gentle, allowing the grief to permeate more fully. It makes the focus on the importance of the book all the more tangible and vital.
It is Blackwood’s illustrations that truly make this book amazing. She has created layered illustrations that have shadows and depth to them. Throughout the images, there are pages of books shown. They fall as scraps of paper with words of hope on them, dash across the page as rain, and form the smoke of the burning town. They create the landscape and the foundation beautifully. Here is an image from the book and Blackwood’s blog:
A war-torn book that speaks to the power of history and knowledge along with resistance and resilience. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.