Author: Tasha

Librarian for over 20 years who loves children's books, blogging and reading.

Deep in the Woods by Christopher Corr

Deep in the Woods by Christopher Corr

Deep in the Woods by Christopher Corr (9781847807267, Amazon)

This picture book is a retelling of a classic Russian folktale. In the woods, there stands a little wooden house with nine windows and a red front door. When a little mouse discovers that it would make a perfect home, he is soon joined by several other animals until all of the windows and rooms are filled with happy animals living together. When a bear discovers the house though, he is far too large to even get in the red door. He keeps trying to enter the house and climbs onto the roof which collapses the house and smashes it. What can be done to fix everything?

Corr keeps the text nice and simple throughout the story, creating almost a cumulative tale as one animal after the other joins in the group living in the house. For each animal, there are repeated phrases used and they approach, ask to live there and are accepted one after the other. This repetition is nicely done, not overworked and will make the story work well for very small children. The bear’s approach cleverly breaks the pattern established and signals how different he is from the others immediately. The writing is smart and effective.

The cover of the book does not fully show the brightness of the illustrations inside. They are neon bright and almost light the page with their neon pinks, oranges and reds. The red door of the house is wildly bright as are the animals themselves. The illustrations have stylized elements like the sun in the sky and the different trees in the woods. Toadstools and mushrooms carpet the ground that can be yellow, green, purple or blue.

Wild colors add a modern touch to this traditional tale. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Secrets I Know by Kallie George

Secrets I Know by Kallie George

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

The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild

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:

Treasure Box Image

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.

 

Blood Family by Anne Fine

Blood Family by Anne Fine

Blood Family by Anne Fine (9781481477734, Amazon)

At age seven, Edward was saved from his abusive stepfather, Harris, when a neighbor saw him peeking out of their apartment through a boarded-up window. He had been shut in with his mother for three years, unable to leave. The only glimpse of the real world that he had was through a series of videotapes that the previous resident had left behind. Thanks to those videos, he was able to learn about the world and mentally escape the horror of his life. After he is rescued, Edward struggles to adapt to real life. He is smart and fascinated by everything, but his peers realize how different he is. When Edward becomes a teenager, he is suddenly confronted by the idea that Harris might be his real father after all. Is there a monster waiting inside him to break free?

Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, this novel is heartrendingly realistic.  The book is told in many voices. They include Edward himself and also the adults around him from the social worker who first rescues him from the apartment to the couple who foster him to the family that adopts him and his adopted sister. This is necessary as Edward begins to spiral out of control, so that readers can still view him clearly and better understand the hidden impacts and scars that his tortured upbringing have left on him.

Edward is a strong and interesting protagonist who is vastly human and easy to relate to. Fine uses the videos of a Mr. Rogers like figure to explain how Edward’s mind survived intact. As Edward seems completely fine much of the time, it is his fall into darkness that makes the book believable and allows readers to more fully understand the deep despair that has been lapping at him all along. Fine’s writing allows us hope for Edward’s future, then takes that away, only to restore it once again, showing that all of us have the potential to lose ourselves and find ourselves over and over again.

A powerful read that will be popular with those teens who like A Child Called It. Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Fresh-Picked Poetry by Michelle Schaub

Fresh-Picked Poetry by Michelle Schaub

Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmer’s Market by Michelle Schaub, illustrated by Amy Huntington (9781580895477, Amazon)

Through a series of poems, take a visit to the farmer’s market. From the early work done by farmers long before their customers are awake to the market itself, this book celebrates one of the joys of summer. There are poems about how markets transform empty parking lots, the displays of heaped produce, the friendly sharing of samples, tempting baked goods, and the feeling of community that markets bring. It’s also a collection that celebrates the food too, the freshness of the produce and the bounty that people bring home.

Schaub very successfully has captured the summer joy of farmer’s markets across the country. One can hear the bustle and busyness of the market, captured in her poetry. Throughout there is a sense of humor and immense pleasure at what the market provides beyond the food itself. The poetry has a lightness that reflects the feel of summer and sunshine.

Huntington’s illustrations are equally bright and sunny. She incorporates people of a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures in her images, making sure to fully celebrate communities in her images. She also cleverly weaves a story in her images with a loose dog who adds to the energy of the day.

A fresh and vibrant look at farmer’s markets that is perfect zest to a summer day. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

This Week’s Tweets, Pins and Tumbls

Here are some cool links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week:

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

The 9 Strangest Books You Absolutely Loved As A Kid – https://t.co/PIWtSi1OZs

The Biblioracle: The best summer reading? Not mandatory via

Margarita Engle Named Young People’s Poet Laureate

New Picture Books for Young Vehicle Lovers

This diagram & the accompanying text is amazingly useful to those who work w/ children who have experienced trauma.

Why Twenty Yawns Almost Made Me Cry by Deana Metzke via

LIBRARIES

The American Writers Museum, an interactive playground for writers and the people who love them, opened today:

How Denver Public Library Balances Books and Being A Homeless Shelter

Portraits of librarians celebrate America’s bookish unsung heroes – https://t.co/3aihdO45AY

TEEN READS

25 Classic YA Books Every Woman Should Read At Least Once

Six YA Titles That Epitomize ft. THE LINES WE CROSS