The Ramble Shamble Children by Christina Soontornvat

Cover image

The Ramble Shamble Children by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (9780399176326)

From two award-winning artists comes this picture book about children who are definitely not the traditional family. Merra, Locky, Roozie, Finn and Jory all live together in their “ramble shamble house.” They have chickens in the yard, a nice big mud puddle that Jory loves to play in, and a bountiful vegetable garden. Their lives are merry and busy with working in the garden together. Then one day, they discover a picture of a beautiful pristine house that is far more proper than theirs. So they set out to make their rustic house into something closer to the lovely model home. Out go the carrots to make way for rose bushes. The mud puddle is covered up. The chickens get an ornate home of their own. They even make their own chandelier. Things may be proper, but they aren’t quite right the next day. The hens refuse to use their new house, the chandelier is carried off by crows, but worst of all, Jory has disappeared. They find him in a new patch of mud, helping them all realize that they may just need to accept they are a ramble shamble family.

As the proud owner of a wild natural garden outside my front door and a house covered in vines that please me immensely, I firmly embrace being ramble shamble. With this picture book, Soontornvat proves that she can write almost anything from children’s fiction to nonfiction to picture books. Her tone here is cozy and warm, embracing the way the children live from the very first page. The hard work the children do, their closeness and care for one another, and their desire to have a proper home all speak to the importance of having a family around one.

Castillo’s illustrations show the children arriving together at the house and then show how they live together. The children are diverse and range in ages from little Jory who is close to a toddler to Merra who is an older child. The illustrations show their connection to one another, how they all help out, and the beauty of their ramshackle life they have built together.

A charmer of a picture book sure to warm the heart and ease the need for a proper life. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Nancy Paulsen Books.

Barnes & Noble Children’s & YA Book Awards Shortlists

The shortlists for the first annual Barnes & Noble Children’s & YA Book Awards have been announced. The awards will be given in three age categories with the winners announced on May 3. Here are the six shortlisted titles in each category:


All Because You Matter by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Every Night Is Pizza Night by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt; illustrated by Gianna Ruggiero  

Fern & Otto by Stephanie Graegin

Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor

The Whatifs by Emily Kilgore; illustrated by Zoe Persico 

What the Road Said by Cleo Wade; illustrated by Lucie de Moyencourt


Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston

Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri

The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

Twins by Varian Johnson; illustrated by Shannon Wright

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

Wink by Rob Harrell


The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yuself Salaam

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong