Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (9780763690526)
Poet Laureate of the United States, Herrera here writes a poem that is filled with wonder and possibilities. He invites young readers into his own childhood, filled with tadpoles in creeks, sleeping outside, and feeding chickens. Though his childhood also had goodbyes to people when he moved away and fetching water through the forest. Herrera shares moving to the United States and learning English. Filling pages with words and ink, creating poems and songs. The book ends with him speaking on the steps of the Library of Congress and then asks readers to imagine what they could do.
Herrera’s poem is exquisitely crafted for young readers. He takes them on a full journey of his childhood, showing them the beautiful side, the hard work and the difficulties of learning a new language and moving to a new country. It is a powerful work just right for small children about immigration and the impact the immigrant voices have on our country in so many ways.
Castillo’s art is filled with a sense of memory and longing. She lights her pages with bright sunlight and then haunting moonlight appears. There is a sense of being a witness to Herrera’s life in her work, of watching things happen right at his shoulder. It’s a beautiful way to view someone’s life.
Rich, memorable and timely, this picture book is something special. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Eye Spy: Wild Ways Animals See the World by Guillaume Duprat (9781999802851)
This science-focused nonfiction picture book takes a close look at animal eyes and the ways that different animals see the world. Incorporating flaps to lift, readers can lift the eyes of the animals on the pages to see the way that they do. What does it look like to only see things clearly that are a few inches away? How does it change things to only be able to see three colors instead of five? What happens when a bird can see all the way around in a 360 view? How do insect eyes work to form a full image of what they are perceiving? All of these questions and more are answered in this engaging nonfiction picture book.
Beautifully designed, this picture book offers an engaging format combined with fascinating facts. While reading about how other creatures see the world is interesting, being able to actually see what that means in a visual way is incredible. The book includes mammals like cats, dogs, horses, and cows and then moves on to other types of animals like reptiles, insects, and birds. Each page turn brings a new animal with a new flap to peek behind.
The art here is vital. The flaps to lift offer a hidden view into the way these animals perceive the world. The art invites us to look right at the creature and then look at the world through their eyes. It is beautifully done, with all of the animals looking at the same scene so that readers can see the differences clearly.
An eye-opening look at the science of vision and animal eyes. Appropriate for ages 5-9.
Reviewed from copy provided by What on Earth Publishing.
Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo (9780763694630)
Fans of Raymie Nightingale are in for a treat with this new novel that focuses on Louisiana Elefante. Louisiana is thrown into an adventure when her granny wakes her in the middle of the night and drives across the state line from Florida into Georgia. Along the way, she talks about feeling unwell and eventually is incapacitated by a toothache. Louisiana takes the wheel and drives them, with a few mishaps, to a small town to find a dentist. After granny’s teeth are all removed because of advanced decay, they find a place for her to recuperate. Louisiana longs to return to Florida and her friends, but with granny in no state to travel, she is stuck. She meets a boy with a crow for a best friend, discovers the sweetness of a pink house filled with cake, and learns that a minister may not have all the answers but can still help. Louisiana’s life has been filled with goodbyes, perhaps this small town can break that curse.
DiCamillo tells Louisiana’s story with a deft humor and a deep empathy. The book begins as a strange road trip in darkness, becomes a comedic romp of a kid driving a car, but then starts to ask big questions about honesty and family. As Louisiana learns more about her own personal history, she begins to question everything that her granny has told her over the years. Still, even the truth is hard to accept at times.
Louisiana herself is a wonderfully compelling character and one of the most interesting ones from Raymie Nightingale. Here readers get to know her better and will find her even more compelling. The book has a gentleness to it, a tenderness, that lifts it up. The supporting characters add to that, treating Louisiana with a care that her granny has been unable to provide her.
Beautifully written and filled with amazing characters, this one is a winner from a master storyteller. Appropriate for ages 8-12.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Candlewick Press.
Auntie Luce’s Talking Paintings by Francie LaTour (9781773060415)
A little girl heads to Haiti from her home in America to visit her Auntie Luce, a painter. The girl has sat for a painting year after year since she was seven and first visited. She leaves the snow and cold behind for the tropical world of Haiti with its heat, bright buses, pink cathedral and green hills. She asks her aunt why she never left Haiti, and her aunt explains that she wants to stay in Haiti her entire life and that she is simply different than the girl’s mother who moved to America. There are many things different in Haiti, including the paintings that cover the walls of Auntie Luce’s small home. The girl sees portraits of national Haitian heroes as well as generations of her own family. As her portrait is finished, Auntie Luce encourages the little girl to see herself as both Haitian and American, not one or the other.
This picture book cleverly incorporates small pieces of the history of Haiti into the story line. The little girl has many questions about Haiti in particular but also about why some family members choose to stay while others leave. Small bits of Haitian life are also mentioned, showing the differences between Haiti and America very clearly. The book also looks at art and the way that it offers a chance to speak in a different way about difficult things. Even the paintings themselves are described in gorgeous language that will have readers seeing even more details than they might have.
LaTour’s illustrations turn this picture book into a real look at Haiti through the eyes of someone who clearly loves it. The images come alive as they show a bustling street, the mountain home of Auntie Luce, and the images of ancestors and heroes from Haiti.
A vibrant look at Haiti in a picture book. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Groundwood Books.
We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices edited by Wade Hudson (9780525580423)
An incredible collection of diverse authors and illustrations come together in this collection to offer poems, short essays, and encouragement to young readers struggling to find their place in today’s troubled and divisive world. The pieces encourage children to be activists in this dark world, to shine their light where they can, and also to be careful and aware of dangers along the way. Each piece of writing is accompanied by a work of art that also inspires young readers to step forward and make the world better.
Authors like Jacqueline Woodson, Kwame Alexander, Sharon Draper, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Ellen Oh are part of this collection. They speak personally about challenges and what it means to step forward. Their writing is paired with art by artists like Ekua Holmes, James Ransome, Floyd Cooper, and Javaka Steptoe. The poems are wrenching and honest, revealing the world that people of color live in every day, the challenges they face and the ways they find a way to make change despite the obstacles. There are poems that are poignant, other pieces that are angry, none that are ready to give up.
A call to action for young people, this book is an anthology that belongs in every library in our country. Appropriate for ages 6-10.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Crown Books for Young Readers.
The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke, illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd (9781536200317)
An award-winning poet and spoken-word artist, Clarke has created a picture book that shimmers and sings. It tells the story of a little girl whose brothers have created a bicycle out of scraps. Their family lives on the outskirts of the no-go desert and there is little all around them. The best thing though, is their bike. Built out of tin cans, buckets, bark and wood. It is enough to carry all of them back and forth, ignoring their fed-up mother as they whisk past.
The words in this picture book are meant to be shared aloud, coming alive as they are spoken. The rhythms emerge and the various invented and evocative words shine, such as “winketty wonk” and “shicketty shake.” Even the words she uses to describe the setting around them become tangible with the “stretching-out sky” above it all.
The illustrations are somehow equal to the glorious poetry. Done in acrylic on recycled cardboard, they have ghosts of tape and printed words still on them. The smooth texture of the cardboard is used next to ripped areas that show the corrugation and offer new textures to the images. This use of recycled material to tell the story of a scrap bike, sets just the right tone. And on that cardboard is a story of celebration and childhood.
One of the best picture books of the year! Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (9780545902472)
The author of the wildly popular Lunch Lady series has now created a graphic memoir of his childhood. Raised by his colorful grandparents, Jarrett grew up not understanding why he couldn’t see his mother more often. It turned out that she was in jail or recovery centers dealing with the consequences of her addiction. Jarrett didn’t even meet his father until his teens. Jarrett told only one friend when he found out that his mother was an addict, trying to keep the veneer of normalcy in place. He even tried to keep his grandparents from attending school events for the same reason. As Jarrett grew older and became focused on being an artist, he discovered who his father was and that he had two half-siblings. Soon his unusual family grew another branch.
The story here is personal and painful. It is a tale that so many children will relate to, that will show them how success can blossom from pain and how art can help to express that which can’t be said aloud. It is a brave book, one that tells tragic pieces of his life, and yet a hopeful one as well with the humor of his grandparents and the relationships Jarrett has and had with his extended family.
This graphic novel is quite simply gorgeous. It uses a color palette that is refined and limited, combining gray with a subtle orange. The entire feel of the art has a more clouded feel and less crisp lines than his previous work, creating a work that exudes memories and the not-so-distant past.
Personal, painful and profound, this graphic novel is honest and deep. Appropriate for ages 10-14.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Graphix.
Here are my favorite tweets and pins from this week:
Best Halloween Picture Books (an Entirely Subjective List) —
“I am living, walking proof in the power of libraries and librarians to change lives.” –
Top 10 Arts Books for Youth – https://t.co/AynsX01rJm
Americanized being made into a film by Reese Witherspoon – https://t.co/rn8FyRSmKT
“I was such a huge Greek mythology geek as a kid, it’s impossible for it not to come into play in my storytelling,” says Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games trilogy – https://t.co/6pInJbymJx
“Legend” author Marie Lu has multimillion-dollar book deal – https://t.co/x2v0BQKVhX
Writing Girls and Rethinking Fairytales: https://t.co/L25Xl82Xp2
Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art by Hudson Talbott (9780399548673)
In this picture book biography, the life of artist Thomas Cole is explored. It begins with his early years in England and his love of drawing. He and his sister explored the area they lived in, looking for new things to draw. But when the Industrial Revolution came, it brought hard times for his family. So Thomas moved to America where his family settled down in Steubenville, Ohio and opened a workshop making decorative items. Thomas handpainted many of them. When he saw a book of fine art for the first time, his dream was born. He went on the road, selling his portraits. He eventually got a patron who sent him on a journey up the Hudson River where Thomas painted the wilderness. Soon his paintings were the toast of New York City. Thomas went on to travel to Europe and was inspired to paint a series of paintings about the fall of an empire. Thomas continued to capture the spirit of America and founded his own school Hudson River school of painting along the way.
Talbott tells the complicated story of Cole’s life with a refreshing ease. He has a real clarity in the story he is telling, keeping the tale focused on the results of Cole’s early struggles and then when he obtains success on the new inspirations Cole found on his travels. The book reads well and Cole’s story demonstrates tenacity and resilience as he followed a winding way toward being well known. It is also the story of a young America, what it said to a young immigrant and how its wilderness was worth preserving.
The illustrations combine a friendly lightness even during Cole’s struggles with Cole’s own paintings. It is a treat to see his actual paintings as part of the book. They are hinted at in other sections, but when it truly is his own they are dazzling. They demonstrate firmly why his art caught on and he became a famous painter.
A particularly timely book about an immigrant artist who loved America and caught her essence in paint. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy provided by Nancy Paulsen Books.