I’ll Love You Till the Cows Come Home by Kathryn Cristaldi, illustrated by Kristyna Litten (9780062574206)
Take a jaunty trip with this picture book that looks at all sorts of animals and vehicles going on grand journeys. The book begins with cows heading to the moon in a rocket ship with the promise that “I will love you till the cows come home.” Then the verse moves on to yaks who eat grass and then take off in a fire truck. The refrain changes to match the yaks and work with the rhyme. The book progresses to sheep setting sail, wolves returning, frogs riding past, deer dancing, geese flapping down, and ants marching in. Until finally, all of the animals end up fast asleep on the final pages, exhausted from their adventures.
What could have been a saccharine rhyming tale turns out to be an active picture book filled with plenty of giggles, lots of animals and all sorts of vehicles. The rhymes are jaunty and fun without being sing-songy. The message of love is present in each of the stories but doesn’t overwhelm the dynamic fun happening on the page.
The illustrations are friendly with animals that smile and often look directly out at the reader. They are also filled with action and activity, with leaping frogs, flying geese, zooming rockets, racing trucks and much more.
A fast-moving and funny picture book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
My Heart by Corinna Luyken (9780735227934)
The author of The Book of Mistakes returns with another amazing picture book. This time she focuses on empathy and self-awareness as she speaks about the power of your heart. The heart here can be open or closed, small and hidden or ready to grow. It can separate you from others or invite them inside. It can break but also be mended as well. The power of the heart is for its owner to decide.
Written in rhyme that swirls, this picture book invites readers to explore their own hearts. It looks through a poetic lens at the dark side of life, such as isolation, loneliness, fear and anger. These elements are balanced with a strong feeling of hope throughout the book, a tone of mending, care and resilience. This is a book that can start conversations about negative emotions as well as positive ones.
The art carries the simple verse forward. Done in a beautifully limited color palette, this picture book has gray, black and yellow. The yellow is used as sunlight, glimmers of heart on dark pages. It goes from tiny touches of yellow to drowning the page in its light. The illustrations are delicate and show the emotions in the text through images very successfully.
This is one heartfelt picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle (9781408896884)
Fionn has never visited his grandfather on Arranmore Island. His mother left and never returned after his father died in a storm. So Fionn is surprised to find that his grandfather is seen as a very important man on the island. He is the Storm Keeper and it is his job to capture memories and weather in candles that are then released when lit. As Fionn learns of the magic of the island itself, he discovers that another boy from a different island family is planning to use up the single wish given to their entire generation. Now Fionn must race him to find the hidden sea cave and make a wish that could save his family. Fionn grows more and more connected to the island as he spends time and explores, but something dark is also reaching out to him, something that wants Fionn’s very soul.
Doyle weaves a complex and intricate tale in this book for middle-grade readers. The island setting of the book is truly a character in the tale since the island is aware and able to control certain things. The island is rough and rugged, a place filled with opportunities, magic and danger. Fionn is connected to the island in a deep way that is revealed throughout the book. Doyle’s writing is fresh and honest. She gives Fionn and the reader a chance to explore for themselves and discover the layers of magic on Arranmore as the story progresses. There is a lot going on in this book with a magical island, a historic mage battle, family problems, dementia, depression and more. But it written in a way that allows readers to steadily take on the information. The book is a complete world rather than a narrow peek inside.
Fionn is a strongly-written character as is his grandfather. Those two are the most robustly drawn characters in the novel. Fionn is a younger sibling, tormented by his older sister most of the time. He is excluded from being with the others his age and spends much of his time alone with his grandfather or out on the island. His tie to his dead father is a major theme, since the islanders know he looks just like him. Fionn’s grandfather is a man steeped in magic. His candles surround him filled with memories even as his own mind fails him. He exudes warmth and charm, working to make sure the next Storm Keeper will succeed against the darkness that is coming. Their relationship is bittersweet, one of lost opportunities with Fionn’s father and a sense of impending loss due to the grandfather’s worsening memory.
Unique and dynamic, this novel is full of magic. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy provided by Bloomsbury.
I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon by Miranda Paul and Baptiste Paul, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon (9781512449143)
When Tantoh was young, he visited his grandmother’s farm and tried to plant onions on his own. They shriveled and never grew, but it inspired him to learn more about all sorts of things. As a teen, his father got him his how shovel and gardening supplies even though his father was ill. Tantoh is called Farmer by his classmates and takes pride in it, even writing it on his school uniform. His brother encourages him not to be a farmer, wanting him to get a good job in an office with high scores on his exam. But Tantoh is drawn to be a farmer and deliberately fails his exams. He starts working on the land and someone pays for him to go to college and study agriculture. At college, Tantoh contracts typhoid and it takes seven years for him to fully recover. This shows him the value of clean water. He goes to the United States to study, returning to Cameroon to build gardens that will hold water in the soil and a catchment to capture spring water for a village. One project leads to another and now Farmer Tantoh has many young farmers wanting to learn from him.
This nonfiction picture book offers a close and personal look at an environmental hero who changed the face of Cameroon and brought water conservation and clean drinking water to his country. Farmer was clearly pressured as a young man not to follow his dreams of being a farmer, so this book looks at following one’s dreams and having the ability to live the life you wish to lead. The book also looks at barriers to his success such as his battle with typhoid, which also serves to speak to his strength, courage and resilience.
The illustrations in the book are done in mixed media with paper collage, paint, pen and pencil. The images range from the hills of Cameroon to images of Tantoh as a child, student and adult. The pictures are filled with bright colors, strong shapes and vibrant design.
A look at a man who changed his country by following his dream. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Millbrook Press.
Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins by Michelle Meadows, illustrated by Ebony Glenn (9781250127730)
This biographical picture book shares the story of Janet Collins, the first African-American principal dancer at the Metropolitan Opera House. Growing up in the 1930s, Collins ran into segregation and racism as she followed her dream to be a dancer. Though she was excluded from some dance schools and also asked to lighten her skin, she found her way to a school that accepted her thanks to her immense work ethic and talent. Collins became a principal dancer in 1951 after being noticed by the ballet master from the Met when he saw her perform.
Meadows has written a picture book biography that reads like a story book. She uses a repetitive structure that echoes that of folklore tales to make the book very readable and approachable for young children. Each new stanza in the book starts with “This is…” and shows a point in Collins’ life. Within each stanza there are also rhyming couplets that add to the spirit of the book. The structure works to make a book that shares aloud well and invites readers fully into this historical tale.
The illustrations by Glenn are digitally rendered. They range from dramatic images of Collins on stage or streetcars at night to more ethereal images of dancers and times with her family. The illustrations place the story firmly in mid-century America.
A well-written nonfiction picture book that tells the story of one remarkable artist. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Henry Holt.
Is That You, Eleanor Sue? by Tricia Tusa (9781250143235)
Saturdays are the days that Eleanor Sue gets to do her favorite thing: dress up. So she dresses up, climbs out her window and knocks on the front door. When her mother opens the door, Eleanor Sue introduces herself as Mrs. McMuffins, the new neighbor. She is invited in for tea. Twenty minutes later, Eleanor Sue is back at the door as a witch. She is invited in for lunch. Then Eleanor Sue is a wise wizard, a ferocious bear, a delivery person, and a cat. Her next outfit is being dressed as a grandma, specifically her Grandma. But her mother may just get in on the act too, just in time for Grandma herself to appear and join the fun.
Tusa’s picture book is a delight. She shares not only the story of Eleanor Sue’s imaginative play but also a supporting mother and family who enjoy Eleanor Sue’s antics. The stories that Eleanor Sue tells as each character are a large part of the book, adding funny details that interplay between the various costumes. There is one fast-paced portion where Eleanor Sue has to hustle with costume changes that adds to the fun. As always with a Tusa book, the illustrations are beautifully done. She has a knack of capturing children at play complete with wrinkled, drooping cloth, and wry expressions.
Full of imagination and playfulness, this should be read while sipping tea. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.
Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt (9780544790858)
Carter’s family is a bit of a mess. On their first day of school, there are lunches to pack, socks to find, ribbons to tie, and dog vomit to clean up. So when an English butler appears on the doorstep just as Carter is heading out to buy milk, it solves a lot of immediate problems. Still, there are other issues that Carter is still grappling with, including grief and loss. As the story continues, readers learn more about the darkness in Carter’s family and his role as the oldest to be strong for everyone. As Carter matches wits with the butler who seeks to control all of Carter’s free time, the two become a team and along the way start a cricket league at Carter’s new school. As the past becomes too much for Carter to bear alone, he learns about the power of sports, teams and a good butler.
Schmidt takes the spirit of Nanny McPhee and Mary Poppins and gives us a male version in Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick. The book demands a certain amount of setting aside of disbelief for things like cricket being embraced by an entire middle school and a twelve-year-old driving a car. It is mix of lighthearted storytelling and deeper subjects, moving from eliciting laughter into moments of real tragedy with skill. Readers may not fully understand cricket by the end, but will know what a sticky wicket actually is and how the basics work.
Carter is a protagonist who is dealing with a lot. As the book progresses, he learns how vital he is for his little sisters and how his interacting in their lives is powerful. He steadily builds confidence as the story continues with the final scenes fully demonstrating not only his person growth but also the depth of his struggles. As the tragedies of his family are revealed, readers will be amazed that Carter continues on as he does despite it all. He is a figure of resilience and humor.
Another winner from a master storyteller, this novel for middle graders introduces cricket and one amazing butler. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Clarion Books.
The shortlists for the 2019 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize have been announced. The UK book prize focuses on identifying rising talent in the world of literature for children and teens. Category winners and the overall winner will be announced on March 21.
ILLUSTRATED BOOK SHORTLIST
100 Dogs by Michael Whaite
The Girls by Lauren Ace
Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
The King Who Banned the Dark by Emily Haworth-Booth
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black by Vashti Harrison
Mini Rabbit Not Lost by John Bond
YOUNGER FICTION SHORTLIST
The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Rauf
The Boy Who Grew Dragons by Andy Shepherd
Brightstorm: A Sky-Ship Adventure by Vashti Hardy
The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson
The Mystery of the Colour Thief by Ewa Jozefkowicz
The Train to Impossible Places by P. G. Bell
OLDER FICTION SHORTLIST
Boy 87 by Ele Fountain
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Me Mam, Me Dad, Me by Malcolm Duffy
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
The Truth about Lies by Tracy Darnton
A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos
Here are the items I shared on Twitter this week:
Ah, Love: 18 Children’s Books About Love
ALSC’s Notable Children’s Books – 2019
‘The Grimm Legacy’ YA Books In Works As Disney+ Film; David Gleeson To Adapt
Jane Goodall’s Lovely Letter to Children About How Reading Shaped Her Life
LIBRARIES & READING
Librarians abroad: ‘None of us thought we’d grow up to be one’
New Study: Reading Fiction Really Will Make You Nicer and More Empathetic – https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/reading-fiction-really-will-make-you-nicer-more-empathetic-new-study-says.html
Recap: Interviewing John Hendrix, author of The Faithful Spy, 2019 Nonfiction Award Finalist – The Hub
68 LGBT YA Books to Get Excited for in 2019
Angie Thomas’ ON THE COME UP is Gonna Be a Movie!
Author Angie Thomas On Colorism and Black Girl Representation in YA Books
‘Havenfall’: Bloomsbury Locks In New YA Fantasy From ‘Everless’ Author Sara Holland
How TLC’s Left Eye Helped Save ‘The Hate U Give’ Author Angie Thomas’ Life
Penguin Mini Format Expands with More Kids’ Books