3 New Picture Books about Nature

All the Animals Where I Live by Philip C. Stead

All the Animals Where I Live by Philip C. Stead (9781626726567)

Stead has created another picture book that invites you into his everyday world. Filled with stories of a bear chased off my an elderly woman and a teddy bear that Stead has had his entire life, stories of maple-syrup scented blankets, a dog named Wednesday, loud cranes, a falling turtle, and much more.

There is a beautiful simplicity to the book, one that slows the reader down to look out their own windows and think about the animals that live near them. The illustrations are simple too, washed with colors that suit the season and time of day, they move from yellows to blues to the oranges of autumn and to the ethereal greens of winter. A quiet and marvelous picture book. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)

The Sockeye Mother by Hetxw_ms Gyetxw

The Sockeye Mother by Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett David Huson), illustrated by Natasha Donovan (9781553791395)

This picture book combines biology with a storytelling feel to create a very special tale. It is the story of sockeye salmon. From their time as a small fry just losing their yolk sac through to adult sockeye returning to their birthplace to spawn before they die. The picture book is also about the Gitxsan people of the Pacific Northwest and their connection to the river and the salmon. The book looks at the various stages of the live of the salmon and offers scientific information about them, the bears, environmental impact of humans, and much more.

The book is deep and lovely, the tone unique and lush. Seasons are captured in words but also in the senses. The scent of pine and cedar, the replacing of old snow with new snow, the run of water in the river, all fill this book with elements of the Pacific Northwest. The illustrations are large and mostly focused on the river and the salmon. Even the smoke from a fire flows across the dark sky like the river flows on other pages. A picture book written and illustrated to honor the Xsan river and the animals and humans who depend on it. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayre

Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayre (9780062697349)

Sayre provides a love letter to the Earth in this picture book. With a reverential tone and gentle rhymes, the book swoops the reader up on a photographic journey around Earth with all of its wonders. Thank yous go out for mountains, water, air and trees. Then the book moves to smaller things like patterns, sounds, seasons and plants. The book once again widens to look at the beauty of the sky and the amazement of lifetimes.

Embracing and filled with just the right tone of enthusiasm, this picture book is celebratory and filled with big thoughts that children will find mesmerizing. The photographic illustrations are varied and filled with color, mists, water, stone and more. A diverse look at life on earth and our privilege to be here. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

3 Artistic New Books for Children

The Amazing Collection of Joey Cornell by Candace Fleming

The Amazing Collection of Joey Cornell by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Gerard Dubois (9780399552380)

When Joey Cornell was a child, he collected all sorts of things that interested him. Both of his parents helped find small treasures for his collection. Year after year, his collection grew and grew as he added to it. There were bright colored feathers, butterfly wings, doll heads, leaves, a safe, and much more. After the death of his father, when he was thirteen, Joey began to spend even more time with his collection and began to put the objects together into new combinations. He showed his family the art he had created and continued to collect and create new magical art. Joseph Cornell became a famous artist known for his objects placed in small wooden boxes. The final pages of the book show some of the boxes and the incredible combinations he found of disparate objects that seem to belong together and tell a complete story.

Fleming writes this book with a focus on Cornell’s childhood and the collection he created even then. Her writing invites young collectors to explore and find their own voices. Dubois’ illustrations show the growing collection and young readers can see objects stay year after year and then appear in Cornell’s pieces. There is a strong sense of continuity in the book, a stretch of time held together by the collection and by Cornell himself. This is an entrancing and fascinating look at the childhood of a famous artist. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from copy provided by Random House Children’s Books.)

Bloom A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Kyo Maclear

Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Julie Morstad (9780062447616)

Raised as an unwanted second daughter who was considered ugly due to the moles on her face, Elsa grew up attracted to the bright colors of the slower market in Rome. Her imagination soars as she dreams of the stars, tries to fly and finds ideas in books and objects in the attic. Elsa become an artist and soon is designing dresses for herself, her husband, friends and her daughter. After years of work, Elsa has joined a group of artists and starts to design modern clothes that take Paris by storm. Elsa finds her own style, freedom from the harshness of her parents’ criticism and brings everyone else along on her journey to bloom.

Maclear has created a picture book biography that shows how a harsh upbringing can be overcome with imagination and hard work. The author’s note at the end of the book offers more insight into Schiaparelli’s designs that could not be shared in the short format of a picture book. It is very impressive therefore how much they did manage to share in the book itself, the illustrations and text applauding Schiaparelli’s life and her accomplishments. The illustrations move from Schiaparelli as a little girl to her designs and the incredible pink that she made famous (that is also the color of the end papers.)

This is a bright and well-designed look at Schiaparelli’s life and her designs. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from library copy.)

World Make Way edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins

World Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins (9781419728457)

This collection of children’s poetry was inspired by a Leonardo da Vinci quote: “Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art were paired with poets who wrote poems inspired by those paintings. The result is spectacular, a book that shows each poem along with the art that is tied to it. The poems reflect the paintings in unique and interesting ways, showing readers details, emotions and the feel of each one. The book ends with information on each of the poets and each of the artists. A book that invites young readers to look closely at art and see it from their own point of view. Appropriate for ages 8-12. (Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams.)

Hidden City by Sarah Grace Tuttle

Hidden City by Sarah Grace Tuttle

Hidden City: Poems of Urban Wildlife by Sarah Grace Tuttle, illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford (9780802854599)

In a series of poems, this book celebrates nature in an urban setting, showing how wildlife continues to thrive. Mice and dandelions start the book, then it reaches farther to moss, mushrooms, and several kinds of birds. Slugs, ants and worms too have poems dedicated to them. The book moves gracefully through the seasons as well, moving to autumn and into winter as the book concludes. With even the smallest creatures celebrated here, there is a poem for everyone whether you like ladybugs, raccoons or owls.

Tuttle’s poems are short and very accessible. They offer brief glimpses into the lives of animals, birds, insects and plants thriving in the city setting. There is a quiet to most of the poems that shows how things continue to grow and live in parks, alleys and outside of the bustle of the city for the most part. The illustrations are bright and poetic too, capturing the green spaces of the city, the movement and each of the animals featured in the poetry.

A winning collection for children from both city and country. Appropriate for ages 6-8. (Reviewed from copy provided by Eerdmans.)

3 New Picture Books about Amazing Women

Brave Jane Austen Reader, Writer, Author, Rebel by Lisa Pliscou

Brave Jane Austen: Reader, Writer, Author, Rebel by Lisa Pliscou, illustrated by Jen Corace (9781627796439)

This picture book biography looks at the childhood and life of Jane Austen, focusing on how she was raised in a poor family where her father ran a boarding school in their home for boys, including Jane’s six brothers. Jane’s mother worked hard keeping the house, the garden and the animals. It was a bustling household and Jane spent her childhood listening and learning. Her father had a large library with hundreds of books and they spent their evenings being read to. Jane knew that boys and girls were treated very differently from one another and that her family was struggling financially. She was sent away to a boarding school herself but returned home after becoming ill. She spent her recovery time reading the books from her father’s library. She returned to school once more, but money soon ran out and she came home. She began to dream of being a writer and started creating characters who did not match society’s expectations either. Jane continued to write, even though her books were not published at first. Once published, she began to live more comfortably than before but died at a young age of 41, not seeing the last of her books come to publication.

Pliscou shows Austen’s tenacity in this picture book biography. This is not a biography for very young children, but one with plenty of detail and interesting tidbits for those in elementary school. The focus here is on Austen’s personal struggles, her intolerance for societal norms, her wit and her skill. Corace’s illustrations are filled with rosy-cheeked characters surrounded by detailed settings that embrace them. The greens of the countryside, the purple blush of first love, and wallpapers all wrap this book into a colorful package for readers.

A nonfiction picture book about one of our greatest women writers, this belongs in all public libraries. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Girl Running Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon by Annette Bay Pimental

Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon by Annette Bay Pimental, illustrated by Micha Archer (9781101996683)

At school, Bobbi is not allowed to be on the school’s track team because she’s a girl and those are the rules. But after school, Bobbi loves to run. She lives near where the Boston Marathon is held and she longs to join the race, but women are not allowed to participate. Bobbie trains anyway, running longer distances than even the marathon. She takes a trip across the country in the summer and runs in her nurse’s shoes through several states. She runs in all weather, but still she is not allowed to join the marathon. Bobbi does not give up, instead she comes up with a plan to join the marathon unofficially and run. When she takes off her bulky sweatshirt disguise, people realize that a girl is running the race. As Bobbi runs in her new shoes, the pain of blisters slows her down. But she completes the race, coming in 124th. The officials refuse to give her a medal, but Bobbi has proven something far more valuable.

The afterword in the book provides more information on how long Gibb trained and the fact that in 1996 she retroactively was named the female winner of the 1966, 1967 and 1968 Boston Marathons. Gibb’s story shows tremendous resolve and a desire to break through patriarchal boundaries that were artificially holding women back in sports and life. Told in very simple prose, this picture book biography is approachable and easily relatable to anyone who wonders about how women finally were taken seriously in sports. The illustrations are friendly and bright, filled with dazzling yellows and deep blues.

A strong picture book about an inspiring figure in women’s sports. Appropriate for ages 5-8. (Reviewed from ARC provided by Nancy Paulsen Books.)

Libba The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten by Laura Veirs

Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten by Laura Veirs, illustrated by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh (9781452148571)

When Libba was a little girl, she heard music everywhere, so she would borrow her brother’s guitar to play the music in her head. Her brother was right handed though, so Libba would need to play his guitar upside down and backward. When her brother left home, he took his guitar with him so Libba worked small jobs to earn enough money for her own guitar. She wrote her first song at age thirteen and played the guitar all the time. But then life happened and Libba stopped playing. Late in her life, Libba got a job as a housekeeper for a musical family, the Seegers, connected to many of the great musicians of the time. Eventually, she picked up a guitar and played it and the family heard her play. Soon she was playing large venues and her first song, Freight Train, was heard around the world.

In this delicate and gentle biography, first-time picture book author Veirs who is also a musician, captures the life and the music of Cotten. She includes an author’s note that speaks more to the limited options for an African-American woman in the segregated South. The illustrations are very special, done in the organic warmth of graphite with digital color added, they glow on the page.

Share this picture book biography with musicians of all ages and then listen to Cotten’s songs together as she plays upside down and backwards. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.)

Inspiring Women in 3 Picture Book Biographies

Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor by Patricia Valdez

Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor by Patricia Valdez, illustrated by Felicita Sala (9780399557262)

Ever since she was a little girl, Joan Procter loved lizards and other reptiles and amphibians. She dismissed dolls in favor of her animals, even having a baby alligator as a pet and taking it to school with her. But Joan was born in the late 1800s, so girls were not expected to study science, still she sought out the curator of reptiles and fish at the Natural History Museum rather than going to dances. With England at war, Joan was asked to work at the museum and eventually took over as curator. She designed the Reptile House at the London Zoo, using her artistic and scientific skills and created a habitat for their new Komodo dragons. Joan grew especially fond of Sumbawa, one of the Komodo dragons, who was gentle enough to walk outside with her and attend tea parties with children.

This picture book biography takes just the right tone about Joan’s life, filled with delight at her bringing an alligator to school and also relishing in her series of high-profile successes. The final pages of the book offer more details about Joan’s life and her early death at age 34. It also has more information about Komodo dragons and a robust bibliography. The illustrations has just the right mix of playfulness and science, showing the reptiles up close and also Joan’s own connection with them.

A brilliant look at an amazing woman who broke into science thanks to her skill and passion. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Alfred A. Knopf and Edelweiss.)

A Lady Has the Floor by Kate Hannigan

A Lady Has the Floor by Kate Hannigan, illustrated by Alison Jay (9781629794532)

The incredible and impressive life of Belva Lockwood is depicted in this nonfiction picture book. Belva grew up playing outside with the boys and soon became a teacher in her community. Though women did not attend college, Belva did and graduated with honors in 1857. She taught school, but didn’t like that the girls in the class were not called on or asked to recite in front of the class. She worked with Susan B. Anthony to demand that New York public schools teach public speaking to all students and that girls be able to have physical education as well. Belva went to law school in a time when women were not allowed to be lawyers. She was at first denied her diploma, though she finished her courses. Even after becoming an attorney, some judges refused to hear her in their courtrooms. In 1879, Belva convinced law makers for women’s rights to be attorneys and got the laws changed. Belva fought for women’s rights to vote as well, becoming the first woman to run for president in 1884.

Belva Lockwood is a woman that we should all know better than we do. This biography of her is filled with impressive moments, ones that set her apart from even the other women working on the same issues. Belva is incredibly tenacious and resilient, never giving up and managing to get change to happen after years of work. She is a great model for today’s women’s rights movements. The illustrations by Jay have her signature folk style with cracked paint that perfectly evoke the time period and invite readers into the past.

A biography of an inspiring figure in American her-story. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington (9780062651730)

As a little girl, Dr. Mae Jemison dreamt of becoming an astronaut. Her mother in particular supported her dreams even when one of her teachers explained that someone like Mae should consider being a nurse instead. Looking at Dr. Jemison’s career through the lens of her childhood dreams makes for a powerful picture book for children who have their own big dreams for their futures. The focus here is on staying true to your passions and not allowing others to dash your dreams before you even begin to try. The mantra from Jemison’s mother is “If I can dream it, if I can believe in it, and if I work hard for it, anything is possible.”

Told in very simple sentences, this picture book biography is for younger children than many biographies. The illustrations have a luscious watercolor palette with images filled with stars and colors. A great pick to share aloud with young children and talk about dreams. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)

3 New Biographies of Great Women

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James R. Ransome (9780823420476)

Told in reverse chronological order, this picture book biography of Harriet Tubman is stunning. The verse walks readers through her life, from her work with runaway slaves to her speeches as a suffragist. The book touches on other parts of her life that readers may not be aware of such as her work as a Union spy and a nurse. The book moves all the way back to Harriet saving her family from slavery and then her own time enslaved on a plantation when her father taught her about the woods and the stars, creating an opportunity for Harriet to become the amazing woman she was. The poetry of this book is beautiful and spare, it moves from one important moment in Harriet’s life to another, spooling out her life’s story. The illustrations by Ransome are beautiful, playing with light and dark. The images stop readers just to gaze when the page is turned as they capture one moment after another. An important and lovely book about Harriet Tubman that belongs in all libraries. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (ARC provided by Holiday House.)

Grace Hopper Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by Katy Wu (9781454920007)

This picture book offers a friendly and approachable look at the life of Grace Hopper, one of the most important and influential computer geniuses of history. Even as a child Grace spent her time figuring out how things worked and designing devices. She attended Vassar College where she studied math and physics and also found adventures like going up in a plane. She attended graduate school in Yale, one of two women in her class. When World War II came, Grace wanted to help and tried to join the Navy. At first they would not accept her, but after a year she convinced them. She wrote programs for the first computers, coining the term “computer bug” when a moth flew in and stopped the computer from working. She created the way that computers can be programmed using language rather than 1s and zeroes.

Wallmark also shares a timeline of Hopper’s life at the end of the book that shows even more of her accomplishments over her long career. She also makes sure to share Hopper’s personal verve for life and her approach to creativity, moving the book away from what could have been too distant and factual into one that children can relate to easily. Wu’s illustrations capture that feeling as well, showing Hopper hard at work and yet enjoying daredevil time and teamwork. A great picture book biography that will add a lot to STEM collections. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Nina Jazz Legend and Civil-Rights Activist Nina Simone by Alice Briere-Haquet

Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil-Rights Activist Nina Simone by Alice Briere-Haquet, illustrated by Bruno Liance (9781580898270)

This picture book is a completely engrossing look at the life of Nina Simone. Done in a way that welcomes even small children to hear her story, the book opens with a greeting and a lullaby. Using piano keys as an allegory for race, the book looks at the keys through the eyes of a young Nina, who notices that white keys are whole notes while black keys are half notes. She sees something similar in society as well. Nina used music as a way to unite and to protest. Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., her music spoke to people of all color and united them. While the story follows a linear path in time, the information shared focuses on important events in Nina’s life rather than feeling like a chronological list of accomplishments or dates. Instead readers get to see what influenced her and how she grew into her voice as an activist. The illustrations are particularly compelling. Done in black and white, the image of people who arranged as piano keys and the one of dandelion seeds floating downward are particularly compelling. Smart and beautifully designed. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Write to Me by Cynthia Grady

Write to Me by Cynthia Grady

Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind by Cynthia Grady, illustrated by Amiko Hirao (9781580896887)

This nonfiction picture book tells the true story of a librarian who stayed in touch with the children she served even after they were moved forcibly away. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were sent to prison camps. As a librarian in San Diego, Clara Breed served many children of Japanese descent. Before the children left, she gave them books and postcards to correspond with her. While they were gone, she continued to send them small things, even visiting once and delivering boxes of books. The children wrote to her during the three years they were gone as she offered them a way to stay connected to the outside world.

This book shows the Japanese internment in a way that children will understand. The letters shared in the book are excerpts from actual children’s letters written to Miss Breed during this time. They reflect the different ages of the children, their focus on everyday moments and their strong connection to books and their librarian. It is a book that shows how importance and life changing kindness is.

The illustrations  are done in pencil on paper and have a softness and glow to them. They do not shrink from showing the desolation of the internment camps and the sorrow and fear of those being placed in them.

A very timely nonfiction book that will show young readers a horrific point in American history and how just one person can make a difference. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Charlesbridge and Edelweiss.

2017 Top Nonfiction Books for Children and Teens

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater 

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater (9780374303235)

The skill evident in this book is remarkable. This is the nonfiction book that teen readers today need.

A Boy, A Mouse, and a Spider by Barbara Herkert

A Boy, A Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White by Barbara Herkert, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (9781627792455)

The illustrations by Castillo are wonderful, creating moments of time and beautiful spaces that show White on his journey to becoming one of the most beloved children’s authors.

Bravo by Margarita Engle

Bravo!: Poems about Amazing Hispanics by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael Lopez (9780805098761)

An important book for public libraries, this is a celebration of Latino impact on the world as a whole.

Creekfinding by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Creekfinding: A True Story by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Claudia McGehee (9780816698028)

A fascinating topic that is just right for environmental units or Earth Day, this picture book is a celebration of nature and man working together.

Danza! by Duncan Tonatiuh

Danza!: Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México by Duncan Tonatiuh (9781419725326)

Tonatiuh uses his signature illustration style that is a delightful mix of folk images and modern edge. The illustrations are a match for the topic, each strengthening the other.

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra (9780735842694)

An appealing and unique look at Frida Kahlo.

Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers

Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers (9781452162812)

Rumbles of awards surround this title. It deserves all of them. Unique and fabulous.

lets-clap-jump-sing-and-shout-by-patricia-c-mckissack

Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn It Out!: Games, Songs & Stories from an African American Childhood by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Brian Pinkney (9780375870880)

This book is almost an encyclopedia of games and songs. Page after page will have readers humming along, singing aloud and looking for a partner to play a newfound or best-loved game.

Muddy the Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters by Michael Mahin

Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters by Michael Mahin, illustrated by Evan Turk (9781481443494)

A strong and special book about a musician who didn’t do what he was told and succeeded because of that.

A New School Year by Sally Derby

A New School Year: Poem Stories in Six Voices by Sally Derby, illustrated by Mika Song (9781580897303)

A great book to start the new school year with poetry.

Out of Wonder by Kwame Alexander

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (9780763680947)

This book belongs in every elementary school collection and every public library. It is extraordinary.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Jonah Winter

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Stacy Innerst (9781419725593)

This is a strong biography of Ginsburg and her importance to the entire country.

Silent Days, Silent Dreams by Allen Say

Silent Days, Silent Dreams by Allen Say (9780545927611)

Filled with grace and a deep understanding, this picture book biography is truly exceptional work from a master.

This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe

This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe (9781452150185)

Wonderful for classrooms and libraries, this nonfiction picture book is exceptional.

The World Is Not a Rectangle by Jeanette Winter

The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter (9781481446693)

Winter has a gorgeous way with biographies, keeping them brief enough for even preschool audiences but detailed enough to intrigue and to speak to the individual and their life.

3 Art-Filled Books for Children

Art Up Close From Ancient to Modern by Claire dHarcourt

Art Up Close: From Ancient to Modern by Claire d’Harcourt (9781616894214)

This large format picture book invites readers into a Where’s Waldo type exploration of art. Exploring over twenty works of art, children can search for over 200 details, asking them to look more closely at art than they may have before. Along the way, they will discover new details too. The back of the book provides more information on each piece of art as well as a clever lift-the-flap way to give answers. This book is gorgeously done, the images are crisp and large and span a vast number of years and cultures. A great introduction to art through a vehicle that children will find irresistible. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Review copy provided by Princeton Architectural Press.)

Fallingwater The Building of Frank Lloyd Wrights Masterpiece by Marc Harshman

Fallingwater: The Building of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Masterpiece by Marc Harshman and Anna Egan Smucker, illustrated by Leuyen Pham (9781596437180)

This picture book focuses on just one on Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings, Fallingwater. It looks at the process that Wright used to design the building, from viewing the site itself to thinking for a very long time about what he would design. It was at the very last moment that Wright actually put the design on paper so that the owner of the site could see his vision. That vision came to life in Fallingwater, where you can hear the waterfall from every room in the house, stand outside on the balconies, and the floor feels like rocks in a streambed. All of these details will help children better understand the architectural process and how it begins with a vision and idea. The illustrations have a lovely vintage sepia tone and feel with the blue water of the site flowing from page to page, swirling and enlivening the images. A lovely and focused look at a famous architect’s work, this picture book is inspiring. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Review copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)

Vincent Can_t Sleep Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky by Barb Rosenstock

Vincent Can’t Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary Grandpre (9781101937105)

The duo that created The Noisy Paint Box, which won a Caldecott Honor, return with this look at the childhood and work of Van Gogh. The book focuses on the insomnia that plagued Van Gogh his entire life, even in his childhood when he would head outside in the middle of the night and go out into the heath to watch the stars. He spends much of his time at board school alone and working on his art. As a young man, he has problems working in his uncle’s gallery because of  his moods. The book shows him becoming a full-time artist and heading into the countrysides of Belgium and England. He is a man who understands darkness and night more profoundly than most. This picture book carefully captures the symptoms of Van Gogh’s mental illness, showing him struggling with mood and even hospitalized for a time. The book doesn’t dwell on this, but shows it as part of the complexity of the artist and his gifts. The illustrations are rich and layered, paying homage at times to Van Gogh’s work but at other times standing apart as a witness. Another strong artist biography from this pair that is worth the read and the space on your shelves. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from copy provided by Random House Children’s Books.)