The Scarecrow by Beth Ferry, illustrated by The Fan Brothers (9780062475763)
Throughout the seasons, Scarecrow guards the fields, keeping the deer, crows and other animals away. He has no friends and none of the animals have any contact with him. He is alone. Then one spring, a baby crow falls from its nest. Scarecrow does something he has never done before. He beds down and saves that little crow, tucking it safely into his overalls. The two become immediate friends and steadily the crow grows larger and is able to fly. They spend their days and nights together, until one day the crow flies away. Scarecrow is left along again, on a broken pole in the winter snow. Still, seasons change and as spring returns there is hope.
Ferry has written a captivating story about a very lonely scarecrow who makes one compassionate choice that changes his entire existence. Ferry takes time to make sure that readers understand the profound loneliness of the scarecrows time on his pole and then the delight of him moving is a wonderful surprise. The story has a great structure and arc that children will love, watching the relationship build and the seasons change.
As always, the Fan Brothers are superb. In this book, the illustrations are done in pencil, ballpoint and digitally. The landscapes are lush are seasonal, the golden sun of autumn, the muted colors of winter. The painted face of the scarecrow manages to show real emotion somehow without really moving until he is truly distressed.
A great fall read that will work for springtime too. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds (9781481438285)
In ten separate but linked stories, award-winning author Reynolds creates an entire neighborhood of ten blocks. The book begins, and refers throughout, with a school bus falling from the sky. There is one story per block, different kids on each block living their lives, going to school, facing various things in their futures, pasts and presents. There are best-friend boogers, petty theft for a good cause, complicated but important handshakes, stand-up comedy, body odor and body spray, and fake dogs. It’s a book about what happens after school, whether it is friendship or bullying, loneliness or comfort.
This one deserves a medal. Period. It’s one of those books that reads so easily, since it’s written with such skill. The voices of the characters are varied but all intensely realistic and vibrantly human. Reynolds plays with the reader but invites them into the joy of the joke, showing the layers of what children are and what they feel and do. He demonstrates that ten times here, always deeply exploring each character before moving on to the next and celebrating them.
The stories arc together moving from humor to pain to loss to fear to freedom and everywhere in between. The characters form a community on the page, streets unfold before the reader and they get to journey them with friends they just met opening the book. The final chapters are masterful, the text moving from narrative to spoken word to rap. The rhythm of the book throughout is a dance, here it becomes a heartbeat of life.
Look for this incredible read to win some big awards this spring. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.
Here and Now by Julia Denos, illustrated by E.B. Goodale (9781328465641)
The team who created the award-winning picture book Windows returns with a look at mindfulness. The book walks readers through a different way to view their own place in the world. It closely examines the ground under our feet and what is happening all around us at any given time, like rain collecting in a cloud. Animals around us are living their lives. We are on a planet spinning in space. New friends are waiting and new connections are being formed. And you, you are becoming something too!
Denos writes in a poetic manner that draws lovely connections between us and our entire environment. She places the reader right in this moment, acknowledging the changes happening all around us and the fact that we ourselves are changing too. This is a book that looks at us as individuals but even more as part of something much larger than ourselves. The illustrations by Goodale are dramatic and impactful. Her diverse cast of characters travel through spinning space along with the reader, enjoying the stars, nature and community along the way.
Inclusive and universal, this book invites you to think differently. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy (9780062473097)
Sweet Pea’s parents have gotten a divorce and came up with the brilliant idea of living just one house away from one another on the same street to make it easier on Sweet Pea. The houses are decorated very similarly too, particularly Sweet Pea’s room in each of them. In between the two houses is one that belongs to the town’s resident advice columnist, a woman known to be eccentric and a loner. So when she asks Sweet Pea to be responsible for picking up her mail and sending it to her, it’s a big surprise. As Sweet Pea’s own life continues to get more complicated with friend issues and her mother starting to date, she keeps one secret all her own. She has started to reply to some of the letters asking for advice herself!
This is Murphy’s first foray into middle grade writing and it’s a great way to start! In Sweet Pea, she has created a female protagonist who isn’t obsessed with boys, isn’t thinking about hair and makeup, and is much more concerned with her family, her cat and her friends. Sweet Pea is funny, intelligent and brave. She also procrastinates, takes a few too many risks, and fails sometimes at friendship. She is also not a small girl, all of which makes her a breath of fresh air in middle grade books.
As always, Murphy’s writing is light and readable even when dealing with large emotions or issues. In one of the best scenes of the book, Sweet Pea pukes at a birthday party she crashed. The scene offers humor mixed with deep empathy and then addresses the bravery it takes to return to school afterwards. This book is all about giving people second (and even third) chances, including yourself.
The author of Dumplin’ has another winner here. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Balzer + Bray.
My First Busy World by Eric Carle (9781534443914)
Beloved author, Eric Carle, brings us a board book to explore and touch. The pages are filled with special cut outs, a mirror to look at yourself in, and textures. There are flaps to lift, sparkly elements, and windows to look through. The book is also filled with elements that are labeled. These are basic things like different foods, what you see outside, and what is in your bedroom. Parents can also talk about colors, the child’s own family members, and much more along the way.
Just right for the youngest of children, this board book is done in a larger format than most. The design is one that invites talking about what is on the page with little children. They are encouraged to count stars, touch different items, and explore the universe inside the book fully. Done in a robust format, the book will stand up nicely to use in a public library setting too.
An inviting book to explore. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy provided by Little Simon.
You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood by Aimee Reid, illustrated by Matt Phelan (9781419736179)
Celebrate the life of the person who became Mister Rogers, a beloved children’s television creator. As a child, Freddie was often sick and filled his days with puppets. He found it hard to make friends and was bullied sometimes. Freddie found that piano was a way he could express his feelings. His mother also told him to look for people around who were helpers, which made him feel safe and supported. His grandfather allowed Freddie to take risks as a child and know that he was adored. When Fred Rogers created his television show, he incorporated all of these childhood inspirations. His show had lots of helpers who shared their talents, talked about difficult subjects, and always told children that they were valued.
Reid draws clear parallels between Fred Rogers’ childhood experiences and the television show he eventually created. The use of his own childhood as inspiration resonates with the readers, allowing them to better understand the impetus behind the iconic show. Even his own talents with puppetry and piano which were highlighted on the show are shown as ways that he expressed himself in the darker times of growing up.
Phelan’s art is done in watercolor and pencil. Special small moments are created in the images such as Freddie Rogers wearing a cardigan or the simple images of Rogers on the television in a variety of situations.
A book that vibrantly captures one of the pioneers of children’s television. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
YALSA has announced the winners of the 2019 Teen’s Top Ten List. Here they are:
#MurderTrending by Gretchen McNeil
American Panda by Gloria Chao
Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll
Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
Wildcard by Marie Lu
This Book of Mine by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small (9780374305468)
A lovely quiet book about the power finding that book that is just for you. Told in simple words, this picture book explores the joys of reading at all ages. From being so young that you chew on books while you read to having that perfect book of music that you play all your life. From needing a great bedtime after-lights-out read to being inspired to make your own illustrations for a book you love. There is the pleasure of burying your nose in a book and breathing in that smell and the joy of becoming a character from your favorite book. There are books that teach and book that are just for pleasure.
All bibliophiles will adore this book written by a gifted husband-wife team who have brought us award-winning books in the past. This one is such a warm tribute to the immense pleasure of books and reading. It escapes being overly sweet nicely by having a wry sense of humor in its images. Small’s illustrations are done in a dynamic purple with pops of color from the covers of the books. He fills his illustrations with diverse people and makes sure to capture the steps and lions of the New York Public Library.
A wonderful read all about books! Appropriate for ages 3-5, and any age of book lover.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Farrar Straus Giroux.