Category: Picture Books

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon (9781481468244, Amazon, GoodReads)

Born into a family of educators and activists, Lena Horne grew to be an African-American star and civil rights activist. As a child, Lena’s parents dreamed of making it big. Her father was a street hustler and her mother was an actress. As a small child, she was left with her grandmother in Brooklyn while her parents sought their fortune. From her grandmother, Lena learned about the value of education, good manners, and black pride. But soon Lena’s mother returned and took Lena on the road with her. During the Great Depression, her mother decided to put Lena on stage. Lena soon outshone her mother, becoming the first African-American actress to get a studio contract. She eventually also found her voice in the civil rights movement.

Weatherford shows Horne as a small child torn between the dreams of her grandmother and her mother. Then in the middle of the book, a transformation happens and Lena takes to the stage, becoming a star. The book beautifully weaves together the two dreams of grandmother and mother, showing how Horne’s life honors them both and how her career evolved to become large enough to encompass everyone’s wishes. Weatherford uses text carefully and deftly, making sure that the book remains readable by younger readers. There is a feeling of verse to her prose that invites readers in.

Zunon’s illustrations are done in oil paint and cut paper collage. The paper collage adds patterns and texture to the images. The paintings provide the people, expressions, and emotions. They show Horne growing and changing, transforming before the reader’s eyes into a star.

This is a gorgeous picture book biography honoring a woman who broke new ground in civil rights using her career and her voice. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Bird, Balloon, Bear by Il Sung Na

Bird, Balloon, Bear by Il Sung Na

Bird, Balloon, Bear by Il Sung Na (9780399551550, Amazon, GoodReads)

This is another beautiful picture book for the smallest of children from this author/illustrator. Bird is new to the forest and hoping to make a friend. He spots Bear but can’t quite get up the courage to speak with him. Suddenly though, he sees that Bear has a friend already: a red balloon. Bear plays all day with Balloon, even watching the sunset together. Then one day, a wind gust carries Balloon up into the sky. Bird who has been watching the entire time, tries to rescue Balloon but it’s too late. Balloon pops. Over the shreds of the balloon, Bird and Bear finally meet and soon they have become real friends.

This picture book looks at the pressures of trying to make a new friend, the shyness that naturally arises during that time, and how to move beyond it. The use of a balloon as the other friend is very clever, allowing Bear to have a close friend of sorts but also allowing even the youngest child to realize that Bird would always have made a much more fun and compelling friend from the start.

The illustrations are playful and light. Done on white backgrounds, the bright colors shine on the page. The forest is filled with purples, blues and greens while the sunset emerges with yellows and reds. Still, the illustrations are simple and friendly. Bear is round and cuddly while Bird is a burst of red color and quiet inquisitiveness.

The complications of new friendship have never been lovelier. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith (9781626725362, Amazon, GoodReads)

On a sunny day, all of the creatures are having a perfect day. Cat can feel the sun on her back as she walks in the daffodils. Dog is sitting in the cool water in his wading pool. Bert, a little boy, fills the birdfeeder and Chickadee enjoys the seeds. Down below, Squirrel is trying to reach the birdfeeder and Bert gives him corn to enjoy. Everyone is having a perfect day. Until Bear arrives.

This book is incredibly simple and exceedingly perfect itself. Smith uses only a few short sentences to tell the story. Repetition is used to keep the book focused and also to make it nicely accessible to even the smallest children. There is a lovely quiet to the book, a joy in the simple and everyday that then becomes something surprising and entirely unusual in the end.

I love that the cover has the bear on it, foreshadowing the twist for little children. The illustrations are done in mixed media that is deeply textured and warm. One can almost pet the cat on the page, feel the cool water in the pool, and run fingers over the cob of corn. It adds to the simple delights of the book immensely.

Perfection to share with toddlers and preschoolers, expect this one to become a favorite. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

The Road Home by Katie Cotton

The Road Home by Katie Cotton

The Road Home by Katie Cotton, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby (9781419723742)

A variety of animals travel on their way home. Birds fly to warmer places, escaping the chill of winter. Mice build nests in the grass that offer safety and warmth. Wolves hunt for food to fill their hunger. Rabbits hide in the brambles, chased clear by the wolves on their heels. They reach their burrow and safety. The next day, the wolves and rabbits are outside again along with the birds and the mice. All sharing a larger home with one another.

Cotton’s poem is delicious. From the initial rhyming stanzas on the first page, she builds a full story of the importance of home and the strength of parent/child pairs in survival. Throughout the poem there is a sense of arrival or approaching home, defined in different ways for the different species. There is also a focus on security and warmth, on being together despite the odds and filling small burrows and nests with love.

Jacoby’s illustrations embrace the natural setting. They keep readers from realizing that all of the animals are in the same area by using a different feel for their habitats. The mice are in golden nests of straw, the birds soar in the sky, the wolves hunt through a forest and the rabbits are close by. Then the final reveal of them together is like the sun returning, a beautiful reveal.

Gorgeous poetry combines with strong illustrations to create a celebration of home no matter what species you may be. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Tony by Ed Galing

Tony by Ed Galing

Tony by Ed Galing, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (9781626723085)

Tony was a big white horse who pulled the milk wagon for Tom every morning. Tony pulled the wagon full of eggs, butter and milk. When Tom stopped to make a delivery,  Tony would wait patiently. One child, the narrator, would go outside and greet Tony every morning when they pulled up, giving Tony a hug and a pat. Tom greeted the child too, saying that Tony looked forward every morning to the greeting. Then they went on with their route, and Tony had a little dance in his step in farewell.

This poem by the late Galing makes a wonderful picture book filled with spare language and power. The book walks forward with the solidity of a large horse, the delicacy of breakable eggs, and the spirit of dancing footsteps. It is entirely lovely, creating a sliver of time where horses were used for deliveries and children could greet them eagerly if they were willing to wake early enough.

Stead’s illustrations are exceptionally lovely. Her fine lines bring memories to life. The dreamy nature of the illustrations help us look back in time. She floods some pages with a bright yellow light, welcoming and warm. Others echo the mist of early morning and the quietness.

A lovely poetic picture book that slows you down to another time and place. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

 

 

 

 

Creekfinding by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Creekfinding by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

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

This picture book tells the true story of a lost creek that used to cross a prairie meadow. Then a farmer bulldozed dirt into the creek to create more farm land. Years later, another man purchased the field and heard from a neighbor about the creek that used to be there. He decided to try to find that creek. So he dug a creek bottom after consulting historic photographs of the land. He hoped that the water would return and it did. But a creek is more than running water and now it was up to him to bring more rocks, more plants and eventually trout in his newly rediscovered creek.

This book focuses on a compelling topic. That the land we live and farm on once used to be very different from the way it is now and that we can work to return it to its more natural state. The picture book has wonder at its center, the amazing notion that water once buried will return to a dry creek bed. It also focuses on the hard work that it took and the incredible problem solving that went into rebuilding the creek from literally the bottom up. Slowly it become reality with lots of work and patience.

The illustrations by McGehee are based directly on her visit to the land the book is about. Done on scratchboard, the illustrations have a wonderful weight to them, capturing the deep greens of the prairie, the richness of the biodiversity, and the transformation of the land.

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. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

Laundry Day by Jessixa Bagley

Laundry Day by Jessixa Bagley

Laundry Day by Jessixa Bagley (9781626723177)

Tic and Tac are brothers and are horribly bored. Ma Badger tries to get them to read books or build a fort or fish. Finally, she asks if they’d like to help hang laundry. The two of them merrily agree since they have never tried doing that yet. The two help their mother and do so well that she leaves them working and heads to the market. Soon the two little badgers have finished hanging the laundry and find even more clothes to hang. They gather more rope and more items from the house, hanging them all on the line! Luckily, their mother knows exactly what else needs to be clipped to the line.

Bagley, the author of Boats for Papa, has created a delightful mischievous picture book. The two little badgers are naughty in the best possible way, carrying the game as far as possible before their mother discovers what they are up to. Children will love to see the household items hanging on the lines and wonder what is coming next. The ending is entirely satisfying as well.

The art is bright and colorful. The final reveal of the clothes lines and all of the objects is amazing. There are plenty of details in the illustrations to linger over and enjoy. The bright colors add to the playful feel of the entire book.

Not just for naughty children, though they will laugh the loudest! Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.