Category: Picture Books

3 Picture Books Filled with Empathy

These three picture books all look at empathy in different ways and all are worth exploring.

Come with Me by Holly M. McGhee

Come with Me by Holly M. McGhee, illustrated by Pascal Lamaitre (9781524739058)

Seeing the news about anger and hate in the world, a little girl wonders what she can do to help. So each of her parents take the little girl out in their diverse and urban community. They are kind to others on the subway. They greet their neighbors and shop at stores owned by people of different races and faiths. Then the little girl asks to walk the dog on her own. Will her parents be brave enough to let her leave fear behind and head into the world on her own?

Told simply and with great kindness, this picture book shows children and families exactly the small steps they can take to bring love and joy back into their lives during these stressful fear-filled times. The illustrations are simple, showing the diversity of the community with clarity. Families looking for ways to get beyond worry and fear will embrace this picture book. It is exactly what our world and our children need. (ARC received from Penguin.)

A Different Pond by Bao Phi

A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui (9781479597468)

Written and illustrated by two Vietnamese-Americans, this picture book captures the author’s experience as a child accompanying his father to a local fishing pond. The two of them are up early since his father has to head to second job that he just got. They stop at the bait shop and pick up minnows. Then head to the pond, where the boy’s father fishes and the boy builds a fire for them. It’s cool during this Minnesota dawn. The two share sandwiches, a small memory from Vietnam about fishing, and catch fish for dinner. When they return home, the extended family is there and that evening they all feast on the fish together.

Phi’s prose is filled with the skill of a poet. He stitches the past and present together into a richness that is poignant. He welcomes young readers into the life of a refugee family in Minnesota. The illustrations have a modern edge to them, sometimes framed like a graphic novel and other times soaring to the sides of the page. Bui uses her format skillfully and enlivens this quiet tale of fishing and new lives. Told with grace and strength, this picture book is wondrous. (Reviewed from library copy.)

King of the Sky by Nicola Davies

King of the Sky by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin (9781406348613)

A boy is now far from his Italian home and only one thing in this new place reminds him of Italy and where he used to live. It is Mr. Evans’s pigeons and their cooing that reminds the boy of Rome. The boy spends time with Mr. Evans and the pigeons. Mr. Evans gives him one as his own, a gray pigeon with a white head that the boy names “King of the Sky.” But the pigeon is slow to return home as the pigeons train, though Mr. Evans insists the bird will be a champion. Finally, the bird gets the perfect long distance race, flying back from Italy. But will he make it or will he stay in Italy like the boy would long to?

Davies is a masterful writer, inviting the reader into the pain of a boy who has left the country he loves and hasn’t found a place that feels right in his new country. It is a book about loneliness and finding your way forward. It’s a book about connection with your neighbors and community to find that way. The illustrations by Carlin are quirky and beautifully layered. They have a dreamlike quality to them, filled with soft edges and even softer light. This is a picture book that invites readers to understand what home really is. Appropriate for ages 5-8. (Reviewed from library copy.)

3 Scary-Good Picture Books

 

Creepy Pair of Underwear by Aaron Reynolds

Creepy Pair of Underwear by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown (9781442402980)

Jasper returns for a second gently-scary story. In this picture book, Jasper needs some new underwear. He decides to get one pair of green creepy underwear, because he is big enough for them. When he wears them to bed, he finds out that they glow with a green light. Jasper quickly changes to plain white underwear, hiding the creepy underwear in the bottom of the hamper. Waking up the next morning, he realizes that he has the creepy underwear on! Jasper tries all sorts of things to get rid of the underwear, from mailing it to China to cutting it into bits, but the underwear keeps on coming back. What is a bunny to do? This picture book is a delightful mix of funny and scary with echoes of classic monster movies. Exactly the right pick for Halloween reading. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster.)

The Pomegranate Witch by Denise Doyen

The Pomegranate Witch by Denise Doyen, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler (9781452145891)

Deftly written in rhyme, this picture book features a mouthwatering pomegranate tree that is watched over by a witch. Still, the children of the town desperately want a pomegranate from the tree and are willing to go to war with the witch to get one. The children tried again and again, but the witch stopped them with water cannons and rolling walnuts. In the end though, the children got one delectable pomegranate to split among themselves. The next day, the tree was picked bare and the war was over. It was time for Halloween where a Kindly Lady gladly shared out pomegranates from her home. A lady that looks a lot like the glimpses readers get of the witch.

Doyen’s writing is spooky and rich. This is not a picture book for preschoolers, since the writing demands a longer attention span. Elementary classes would enjoy it or it could be added to a read aloud for older children on Halloween. Perhaps with pomegranate seeds to try. Appropriate for ages 5-7. (Review copy provided by Chronicle Books.)

The Scariest Book Ever by Bob Shea

The Scariest Book Ever by Bob Shea (9781484730461)

A spooky ghost lives by a frightening dark forest in this picture book. The ghost is the one who is scared, asking the reader to keep on checking on what is happening in the forest. But the forest isn’t nearly as scary as the ghost expects, which adds a zingy humor to this story. The tone of the book is deftly handled, walking a line between shivery ghost story and Halloween party for friends. It’s a book that will invite children to be just as scared as they might like, but also enjoy doughnuts and some costumes too. The art is lovely and graphic, filled with zaps of bright color emphasized by white and black. A great read aloud for slightly older children. Appropriate for ages 5-8. (Reviewed from library copy.)

5 Brilliant Board Books (Plus a Bonus Book!)

Looking for some great new board books for your library or classroom? Here are some of the best of the new ones:

33160332

Flora and the Ostrich by Molly Idle (9781452146584)

This board book pairs Flora with an ostrich to demonstrate opposites. With fold-out pages, there is plenty for small hands to explore here. The unfolding pages add to the feel of dance and movement that are present in all of the Flora books. Expect the youngest Flora fans to adore this one. The flaps are sturdily made and should withstand library and classroom use. (Review copy provided by Chronicle Books.)

Hello Humpback!

Hello Humpback by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd (9781550177992)

This board book is a glorious look at the West Coast shown through the eyes of a First Nations artist. The illustrations glow with light, whether it is dawn appearing through the pine trees with a bear nearby, an eagle on a branch silhouetted against the setting sun, or an orca breaching into a rainbow sky. The animals and trees are done in raised ink on the page, so little hands can explore the book in a tactile way as well. This is an exceptional board book that belongs in all public libraries. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Lines

Lines by Sarvinder Naberhaus, illustrated by Melinda Beck (9781481490740)

Lines combine on the page to form squares and circles. Then children can locate those shapes in the town and on the road. The book then swoops outward, showing how entire cities and roads are created from these building block shapes until readers are finally looking at the solar system going round and round in circles. A simple concept book about shapes that shows how our entire universe features squares and circles. (Review copy provided by Simon and Schuster.)

32894569 32894570

Motor Mix by Emily Snape and Rilla Alexander (9781452148380 & 9781452148397)

These two books in a new series offer flaps that let young readers mix and match their vehicles into crazy new ones. As the vehicles change, so does the text of the book, allowing them to explore different regions, make different noises and use different verbs to describe what they are doing. It’s great fun and just right for little vehicle lovers. These are sturdy enough to stand up to public libraries and classrooms. (Review copies provided by Chronicle Books.)

BONUS BOOK! This picture book is just right for the toddler crowd too!

I See a Cat

I See a Cat by Paul Meisel (9780823436804)

Told in the simplest of text, this book invites children to enjoy a dog’s day as he looks out the window. He gets intrigued when he sees a cat and then a bird, lazily looks at a fly and a bee. But when a squirrel passes the door, he gets very very excited! The day goes by with rounds of wild barking and calm sleepiness until the dog’s boy returns home and they can go outside together. And there’s a squirrel out there!

This picture book from a Geisel Honor winner shows a clarity and understanding of children’s sense of humor. The book reads aloud wonderfully and the pace changes swiftly adding to the fun. Share this with toddlers who will join in barking at the squirrels. (Review copy provided by Holiday House.)

 

 

 

Flowers for Sarajevo by John McCutcheon

Flowers for Sarajevo by John McCutcheon

Flowers for Sarajevo by John McCutcheon, illustrated by Kristy Caldwell (9781561459438, Amazon)

Drasko sells flowers with his father in the marketplace in Sarajevo. They sell the best roses in the entire city. But when war came, Drasko’s father leaves to fight and Drasko is alone selling flowers. He is pushed out of their usual spot to one at the edge of the market. The only good thing is that he can now hear the symphony playing. Suddenly, the market is hit by a mortar and 22 people are killed. Drasko returns to the market the next day, but all is silent and empty. Then a man with a cello enters the square and sits down to play. For 22 days, he plays, once for each person who died. Around him, the market returns and Drasko works to find a way that he too can be courageous each day.

Based on the true story of Vedran Smailovic, the cellist who played, this picture book focuses on the impact of the bombing and the bravery of the cellist on one boy. Readers will realize that Drasko is brave from his approach to his father leaving and his returning day after day to sell flowers. The power of the music and the musician though brings that bravery into the light and shows how it’s important to be visibly brave for others too.

The illustrations by Caldwell are layered and misleadingly simple. They show Drasko’s loneliness but also his discovery of a community around him that will support him. The illustrations have inset pieces with frames that shatter with the mortar shell and then return to being whole as the story progresses.

A look at war and acts of bravery and art. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Mighty Moby by Barbara Dacosta

Mighty Moby by Barbara Dacosta

Mighty Moby by Barbara Dacosta, illustrated by Ed Young (9780316299367, Amazon)

This thrilling picture book tells the story of Moby Dick in a way that children can understand. The sailors sing of their travels and exploits. Then the captain shouts at a whale, giving chase. Finally, they reach the huge beast and send out boats that quietly row to his side. The captain throws his harpoon, spearing the beast who tows the captain down into the deeps. The whale again returns to the surface and then. Then the story takes a little twist away from the classic tale and into more familiar picture book territory: bath time.

In the author’s note, readers discover that the book was made backwards. Young created the art first out of collage and then Dacosta created the text,  the words all taken from the original tale except for one. It is quite an endeavor to turn the huge classic of Moby Dick into a picture book. This one works surprisingly well thanks to a clear focus on the whale and the captain and their battle with one another.

As always, Young’s art is superb. He creates true drama on the page here, as can be seen in the cover image. The spearing of the whale introduces scarlet streams of blood onto the page along with the white of the whale and blue water. They dramatic dive into the water, keeps the red tinge to the whale and emphasizes the size difference between man and whale.

An exceptional work of picture book art. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Me and You and the Red Canoe by Jean E. Pendziwol

Me and You and the Red Canoe by Jean E Pendziwol

Me and You and the Red Canoe by Jean E. Pendziwol, illustrated by Phil (9781554988471, Amazon)

In this incredible poetic picture book, two children wake up in their tents on the shore of a Canadian lake. Quietly, after drinking some hot chocolate, they head out onto the water with their fishing tackle and rods in a red canoe. Paddling quietly through the water, they see a moose in the shallows, a beaver repairing its home, and hear a chattering squirrel. As the sun rises the light changes and they see an eagle flying and an eagle’s nest. The children start to fish, battling and landing a trout before heading back to the campsite. The morning continued with fish for breakfast for everyone.

Pendziwol is a gifted writer. Her verse bring the Canadian wilderness to life with all of the creatures going about their morning business, the silence of the lake and the wonder of it all. The fishing is a dynamic contrast to the quiet of the morning, the battle with the trout and the final win. It punctuates the book much like the appearance of the animals do, in little bits of delight. Her poetry flows much like the water on the lake, clean and clear, quiet but not ever dull. It invites readers into exploration of their own in canoes and on lakes.

The illustrations by Phil are rough and rustic. They are painted on wood with nail holes and cracks running straight through the pictures. These illustrations suit the entire book perfectly, creating a feeling of natural warmth and timelessness.

A winning picture book for those spending their summers on lakes or those who only dream of it. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Mama Lion Wins the Race by Jon J. Muth

Mama Lion Wins the Race by Jon J Muth

Mama Lion Wins the Race by Jon J. Muth (9780545852821, Amazon)

It is race day for Mama Lion and Tigey. Tigey works on their car while Mama Lion reminds him that winning isn’t everything. In fact, she may have spotted just the right prize for Tigey and it isn’t the big trophy. When the race starts, Mama Lion and Tigey are immediately in the lead. Unfortunately though, when swerving to avoid an obstacle, their wheel comes off. Nicely, one of their competitors, the Flying Pandinis stops and helps them repair their car. They are soon passed though by Bun Bun who is scattering seeds as she rides her motorcycle and the Knitted Monkeys who are always a little naughty. As they race toward the finish line, Mama Lion and Tigey have a decision to make. Should they win the race?

Muth is the author of the acclaimed Zen Shorts series of books. It’s a joy to see him use those same ideas and concepts in a picture book about racing that is also about so much more. Muth has embedded Buddhist thought and ideals in this picture book in a way that is natural and never didactic. This is a picture book with a message that is so deeply ingrained in story itself that the message flows and never feels forced. The characters of Mama Lion and Tigey along with the other toy animals are dynamic and complex. This is a rich picture book that turns the concept of winning entirely on its head.

Muth’s illustrations have a zingy energy to them that matches the subject matter beautifully. They are filled with animals that are clearly toys. The Knitted Monkey team is exactly that. The Flying Pandinis are small round stuffed pandas. Mama Lion and Tigey are clearly beloved stuffed animals with whiskers, buttons and of course racing goggles.

A truly special picture book, this one is for those kids who love racing and those who love toys and those who love a great read. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.