At sunset the garden needs its rest, but the vegetables are tossing and turning. Turnips are “tucked in tightly” while potatoes are closing their eyes. Tomatoes are humming lullabies and cauliflowers cuddle by droopy pea pods. The baby lettuce and baby carrots are snuggling while rhubarb reads stories to the broccoli. Soon the other vegetables are calm as the cucumbers. As the moon gets bright all of them are sleeping, tired from growing all day and all night.
Written in a musical rhyme, this picture book is ideal for reading aloud to toddlers and preschoolers. It takes a spring theme of gardening and turns it into a bedtime book that will make everyone tired, since little children are growing day and night too. Throughout the book, humor cleverly used alongside alliteration, making the book a treat for adults as well.
The art by OHora is marvelous. Readers can follow a worm through the garden as he tunnels past the tired veggies and finally falls asleep himself. The images move from showing root vegetables to garden beds from above, creating a winding path through this abundant garden.
Clever and seasonal, this spring bedtime book is one worth picking. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
The little girl who narrates the story loves to build sandcastles. She doesn’t just build regular ones though, she builds huge and elaborate creations. It has turrets and a moat. Inside are curving staircases and large windows. Soon the sandcastle brings kings and queens from around the world to visit. The royalty loved the castle, particularly the endless supply of ice cream. But the next morning, troubles started as the food got sand in it. The next day, the knights got sand their armor. The plants in the greenhouse started to wilt because they were not meant to grow in pure sand. Everything was being spoiled by the sand: locks wouldn’t open, baths were sandy, and the beds were itchy. Everyone was angry. So that’s when the little girl created one more thing out of sand: a sand ball to have a sandy fight. But suddenly, the waves came and washed everyone out to sea, the sandcastle and all. There was just one thing left to do: build a sandcastle.
This delight of a summer read captures the wonderful tales that children making sandcastles tell themselves as they build. Their creations may not be as grand and large as this one, certainly not big enough to enter, but they will recognize their own visions of grandeur and the marvel of creating a castle of their own. The entire book is wry and funny, from the variety of royalty who visit to the various complaints that living in a sandcastle creates. When the water finally rushes in, there is a moment of contentment in a job fully completed. And then started again.
The illustrations are done digitally and have a sharp crispness to them. The first pages are filled with others crowding the beach and are a joy to explore visually. That then makes way to the opportunity of building a sandcastle near the water and the marvelous details provided there.
A funny sun-drenched sandy delight. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
This nonfiction picture book takes the tremendous tragedy of April 19, 1995 and leads readers to hope and a way forward. It looks deeply at the loss of life, at how so many people were lost and so many more were impacted by the deaths. It looks at the many broken bones and also the broken minds that resulted from the bombing too. The book then moves to after the bombing and the one tree that remained standing nearby. That American elm tree was battered and scorched by the blast, yet it remained upright. It survived and became a beacon of hope for those who were impacted by the bombing. In spring, someone collected its seeds which then became part of the annual memorial service for the victims. As new tragedies happen, and they did and will in the future, those seeds and seedlings from Oklahoma City start the healing process and show that survival is possible and hope can return.
Barton’s words ache on the page. They are impossible to read without a deep feeling of mourning and loss, without recognizing what happened and what will continue to happen. The weaving of the story of the elm tree into the book is masterfully done, offering a glimpse of green and a path to the future. Barton writes with such empathy here. He allows the story to be told in all of its anguish and pain, and yet makes sure that hope has its place there as well.
The art by Xu is extraordinary. She uses the roots of the tree to intertwine with and embrace those in mourning, to show how interconnected we all are to one another. Done in ink and digitally, the art is a strong mixture of ethereal colors and grounding tree roots, people and spaces.
A powerful and evocative book about tragedy that celebrates life. Appropriate for ages 8-12.
Khalil and his family moved into a new house with two floors. They lived on the top floor and Mr. Hagerty lived downstairs. Khalil’s family was loud while Mr. Hagerty was quiet. Both Khalil and Mr. Hagerty loved the backyard. Mr. Hagerty gardened there while Khalil looked for bugs and rocks. On a hot day in the summer, the two of them had a disappointing day where the carrots were small and shriveled and the ground was too hard to dig for treasure. They took a refreshment break in Mr. Hagerty’s place, sharing chocolate cake and cold milk. Later, both of them had an idea. The next day was much better when Mr. Hagerty found big carrots in his garden and Khalil found buried treasures! It called for more shared cake!
Springstubb shows how two very different people: quiet and loud, old and young, different races, can form a friendship that builds slowly and steadily over time. She keeps her story very focused, allowing many of the details to be shown in the illustrations rather than told in the text. The characters first bond over helping one another with words, which grows into something quite special. It’s that initial acceptance, the creation of a shared space of the backyard, that makes this book work so naturally.
Taherian’s illustrations are done in collage with oil and colored pencil. They have a great depth to them, the layers of the collage offering a real backyard to explore alongside the characters. The colors are vivid and glow with the summer heat and sun.
A lively look at emerging friendship and what it means to be neighbors. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick Press.
Yolanda’s family has lived on the pecan farm for generations, but they aren’t accepted by the townsfolks who call the brujas, or witches. Yolanda herself seems to have not gotten a magical gift though. Her younger sister has hers, with bees flying around her head and the ability to make plants grow and flower. It’s similar to her Wela’s gift with butterflies. Now though, Yolanda’s family is dwindling with only her sister and grandmother left. As her grandmother falls into a strange sleep, Yolanda sets out on a journey across their property. Joining her is her ex-best friend, her sister whom she also isn’t really speaking to, and a boy who may have a big crush on Yolanda. The grass has magically grown over the last few days, obstructing the view across their land, lengthening the journey to several days rather than hours, and putting real dangers in their path. They must all work together, Wela included, to complete the journey and find the answers to their family puzzle.
Impossible to summarize in any way that makes sense, this novel is a marvel of natural magic, connection to a place, and an in-depth exploration of a family. The connection to nature is evident throughout the novel both in the way that characters can work their magic with insects and plants but also through the grass that grows and the way the land stretches to create a world to explore. Throughout the book there is an intensity, a focus that allows the strange world to become solid and real.
A large part of that intensity is Yolanda herself, a character who holds grudges and demands to walk her own path, even if it’s foolish. She has lost contact with the people she had been closest to in the world, her best friend and sister, and had also lost connection with her grandfather before his death. The journey is just as much about her finding a way back to these people as it is about solving the larger family puzzle.
Strange and unique, this magical realism novel is an enticing summer read. Appropriate for ages 12-15.
Grandparents by Chema Heras, illustrated by Rosa Osuna (9781771645669)
When Grandfather hears an announcement of a party in the main square, he knows just who to invite. He rushes home to ask his wife, Manuela, to join him. But Manuela isn’t quite as eager as he is to head to a party. Grandfather picks Grandmother a flower and tells her how beautiful she is. Grandmother heads inside to put on eyeliner, then mascara, then skin cream, but each time Grandfather tells her that she is lovely just the way she is and to hurry up so they can go dancing! Lipstick, hair dye and a change of clothes are the next delays, but Grandfather is ready to cajole Grandmother along. Finally, the two of them go dancing together, and Grandmother realizes that Grandfather is just as beautiful as the moon too.
First published in Portuguese, this charming picture book explores the power of love and of being oneself. Heras uses a series of metaphors to describe Grandmother’s beauty. Her eyes are “as sad and beautiful as stars at night.” Her white hair is like “a midsummer cloud” and her skin is wrinkly like “nuts in a pie.” Grandmother herself uses negative metaphors to describe herself, but those are all countered by Grandfather’s love and adoration for her.
The illustrations are quirky and interesting, filled with surreal combinations of spaces and objects. As they are together in the house, the couple sometimes appear sideways or upside down as well as right-side-up nearby.
A warm and lovely look at love and self-esteem. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greystone Kids.
Why Do We Cry? by Fran Pintadera, illustrated by Ana Sender (9781525304774)
After a quiet morning, Mario asked his mother why we cry. His mother explained that people cry for many different reasons. Sometimes crying is due to sadness that can’t be contained. Other times we cry because of the anger we feel like a storm cloud raining and feeling lighter afterwards. Sometimes we are confused and searching for answers. Crying helps us grow and keeps us from turning to stone. Tears can be the best medicine when we are feeling pain inside and out. And then of course, there are times when we cry for happiness.
Pintadera beautifully explores the emotions that we all feel and how they can be expressed through our tears. This is such a heartfelt book, framed by a mother talking to her son about crying. It’s so critical that boys feel that they can express emotion and cry rather than feeling emotions as rage. This book not only supports that but explains the complexity of emotions and how they change and develop.
Sender’s illustrations are gorgeously emotional. She captures the feelings of isolation, loneliness, anger and confusion with real skill, moving from one color palette to another to convey each type of emotion.
A marvelous book about emotions and emotional intelligence. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kids Can Press.
This cumulative tale focuses on the environmental impact of our garbage, or the mess that we made. Four children in a little boat float in a sea of nets, bottles, plastic and more. As they watch, a seal is caught in a broken net, a turtle is trapped in a plastic bag, and the landfill near the water grows and grows. Then the book takes a turn and shows how people, large and small, can make a real difference by cleaning up the beach, recycling, using clean energy, protesting problematic fishing, and cleaning up the oceans.
It is the cumulative format that really works here. Lord never makes it into a towering and overwhelming “This is the house that Jack built” sort of story. She instead plays with the format in a shorter structure, creating a clear cause and effect for young readers both in the destruction of our oceans and in cleaning them up. The result is a cumulative tale that reads aloud really well and smoothly. Her twist of showing how people can help is a call to action that clearly shows how even children can make a difference in our world.
The art is particularly effective when showing underwater scenes and the huge amount of garbage in the ocean. The light from above illuminates the struggles of ocean life and yet also shows the lingering beauty of the habitat and the blue green waters.
A strong environmental message about our oceans and our responsibility. Appropriate for ages 2-4.