Review: Captain’s Log: Snowbound by Erin Dionne

Captain's Log Snowbound by Erin Dionne

Captain’s Log: Snowbound by Erin Dionne, illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler (9781580898256)

All set to give his presentation on Ernest Shackleton, a boy is instead stuck at home due to a major snowstorm. The boy chronicles his adventure using journal entries like Shackleton’s to tell the tale. It all starts out fine with lots of food to share and a light heart. Then items begin to disappear and as the food dwindles, the boy must find out who the thief is before he ruins them all. Along the way, there is sledding, clearing the deck of snow and other merriment. Yet it may all lead to mutiny in the end.

Based on the author’s Facebook posts during the Boston snowstorm in 2015 that dumped 95 inches of snow, this book’s wry take on being stuck at home moves from being a joyous look at a snow day to a possible mutiny and lack of food. Still, the voice is always funny and the look at being a family stuck with one another for a length of time with resonate with children stuck home due to a storm or because of a holiday.

The illustrations are funny and detailed with cross-sections of the home, glimpses into windows, and vintage images from the Shackleton crew as well as objects of the time. The entire book cleverly plays on the Shackleton experience for laughter and context.

With a voice that makes for a great read aloud, this one is ideal to read with snow falling outside. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy provided by Charlesbridge.

Review: The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee (9780525555452)

A little knight is very happy to be on his side of the wall. After all, there are dangerous animals on the other side as well as an ogre who would eat him up. Unfortunately, he doesn’t notice that there is water starting to fill his own side of the wall. Then large dangerous creatures start to enter too, including a snapping crocodile and big fish. Just as the water fills the entire side though, the ogre comes to his rescue and brings him to the other side of the wall. But will our little knight be devoured there too? Or perhaps the other side of the wall isn’t quite as dangerous or evil as he might have thought.

I love that this book can be read on two levels. There is the  simple story of a wall in a book and then there is the political climate about walls right now in America. Agee shows that making the opposite side dangerous and “othering” them is unsafe for everyone. He also clearly demonstrates that blindly believing that we are better than others can be our own downfall. And at the same time, the picture book works incredibly well as a simple story of a little knight, a wall and an ogre.

The illustrations tell a major part of the story as the little knight does not realize what is happening. Children listening to the book will love seeing the dangers before the knight does and will likely shout warnings when this book is shared aloud.

Political and entirely pleasing, this picture book is just what we need right now. Appropriate for ages 3-7.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Dial Books.

Review: Rain by Anders Holmer

Rain by Anders Holmer

Rain by Anders Holmer (9780802855077)

Haiku tells the story of different types of rain in this poetry picture book. The haiku are all about nature, some about rain directly and others about other things like falling newspapers or cascading petals. The poems form a series of vignettes that show different parts of the world and various environments from the arctic to the Himalayas to the desert. They are bound together with the rhythms of the poems and the journey together to explore rain and our world.

The haiku poems range from solemn to merry, some carrying serious weight and others lighter. They mirror the weather, some with lightning and dark clouds while others fill with pink petals and friendship. The illustrations themselves are large and have the feel of traditional tales mixed with a modern edge. They show different parts of the world and take readers on a fascinating journey as rain descends on each page and yet each type of rain is different from the others.

A skilled book of haiku that explores our wide world and the nature we find there. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Not My Idea: A Book about Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham

Not My Idea A Book about Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham

Not My Idea: A Book about Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham (9781948340007)

This picture book takes on the subject of white privilege in a way that makes the subject accessible to children. The book tells the story of a white child seeing news about a police shooting on the television while their mother tries to distract them and tells them that they are safe. But that is not what the child is concerned with, they want to know why they are treated differently in stores than black children and how this happened. The book grapples with what white children and adults can do to combat racism and get involved in social justice. It pushes children to speak out, even to their own family who are expressing racist ideas. It talks about the concept of “not seeing race” and then clearly explains why that is not true.

Higginbotham writes books about difficult subjects for children. She has taken on divorce, sex and death in the past. Still, this new one may be the most fraught subject yet. The way that she tackles the subject clearly puts the onus on white people to figure this all out, since it is a problem that they are responsible for. The book has just enough history to clarify that this is a long-standing problem and is systemic. Yet it is not willing to rest there, calling for action, clarity around the subject and a responsibility to step up.

The book is hand made and the illustrations and design of the overall book embrace that. The text is hand-lettered on brown paper, creating a book that is approachable and immensely personal. The illustrations, like the text, demonstrate the racism in our society and beautifully never put people of color in the position of having to teach or correct white people in the book. That is the job of white people, including children.

A strong primer on being white in America, examining our privilege and getting involved in tackling racism in our communities. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

2018 Best Picture Books!

What a year for picture books! This is always the hardest list for me to select for because I have so many favorites. I managed to keep it to my top 30 this year:

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin (9780316404488)

This is a beautiful tribute to the phases of the moon that tells the story in an original and modern way. – My Review

Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (9781626720664)

The images are grand, beautiful and full of depth. They invite readers into this world of blue. – My Review

The Day War Came by Nicola Davies The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

The Day War Came by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb (9781536201734)

There are very few picture books that can make me truly weep. This was one of those. – My Review

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael Lopez (9780399246531)

A marvelous pick to speak about diversity and acceptance with children. – My Review

Drawn Together by Minh Le Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Drawn Together by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat (9781484767603)

This is pure storytelling in art form and is exceptionally done. – My Review

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales (9780823440559)

A dazzling and incredible picture book that is sure to win awards this year. – My Review

35297103 First Laugh - Welcome, Baby! By Rose Ann Tahe

The Field by Baptiste Paul, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara (9780735843127)

The entire book is filled with energy and action as the children take the initiative to create a field and play together. – My Review

First Laugh – Welcome, Baby! By Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood, illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (9781580897945)

A warm look at the Navajo First Laugh Ceremony and a great depiction of a modern Native American family. – My Review

The Funeral by Matt James Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel

The Funeral by Matt James (9781554989089)

James captures going to a funeral as a small child with a poignancy and beauty. Anyone who attended a funeral as a child will see their own memories come to life. – My Review

Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel (9781452150147)

Inviting, fresh and friendly, this picture book is exceptional thanks to its art. – My Review

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall (9780316362382)

This is a quiet yet dramatic book, exquisitely written and illustrated. – My Review

A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Lane Smith (9781626723146)

Seriously one of the best picture books of the year. This is treat by two master artists must be shared with children! – My Review

I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoeet Imagine by Raul Colon

I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoeet (9781524769567)

This picture book takes the large issue of bullying and gives children a way to not only talk about the issue but to do something about it. – My Review

Imagine by Raul Colon (9781481462730)

An exceptional wordless picture book, this one is a must-have for libraries. – My Review

Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love The Little Barbarian by Renato Moriconi

Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (9780763690458)

This one belongs in every library, it is sublimely diverse and accepting. – My Review

The Little Barbarian by Renato Moriconi (9780802855091)

A delight of a wordless read, this is one that children with their own toy swords will love. – My Review

Love by Matt de la Pena Marwan_s Journey by Patricia de Arias

Love by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Loren Long (9781524740917)

Readers are guaranteed to fall for Love. – My Review

Marwan’s Journey by Patricia de Arias, illustrated by Laura Borras (9789888341559)

An important book that beautifully captures the dangers and loss of a refugee child. – My Review

Mommy_s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins- Bigelow On the Other Side of the Garden by Jairo Buitrago

Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins- Bigelow, illustrated by Ebony Glenn (9781534400597)

This lovely picture book beautifully ties a child’s playful imagination to wearing a hijab or khimar. – My Review

On the Other Side of the Garden by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yonkteng (9781554989836)

It is a journey of opening up, of finding new friends who warm you when the wind blows and who surprise and delight you. – My Review

The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke, illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd (9781536200317)

This use of recycled material to tell the story of a scrap bike, sets just the right tone. And on that cardboard is a story of celebration and childhood. – My Review

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld (9780735229358)

An intelligent look at big emotions and how best to deal with them and support one another, this picture book is exceptional.  – My Review

The Rough Patch by Brian Lies The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer

The Rough Patch by Brian Lies (9780062671271)

One of the top picture books of the year, this is a dead dog picture book worth reading. – My Review

The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (9780763678838)

Her poem soars through the primordial darkness, journeys directly into the Big Bang, floats beside emerging planets, visits Earth, and welcomes children to life. – My Review

Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora Groundwood Logos Spine

Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora (9780316431248)

A top read-aloud of the year, this picture book should be shared just like red stew. – My Review

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki (9781419728518)

This is one of those books that you can read over and over again, different words and illustrations touching you each time. – My Review

Up the Mountain Path by Marianne Dubuc The Visitor by Antje Damm

Up the Mountain Path by Marianne Dubuc (9781616897239)

This gentle picture book has such depth to it. – My Review

The Visitor by Antje Damm (9781776571888)

Great illustrations lift a book about empathy and community. – My Review

We Are Grateful Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell Zola's Elephant by Randall de Seve

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frane Lessac(9781632896339)

A wonderful modern look at Cherokee traditions and our universal gratitude for community and family. – My Review

Zola’s Elephant by Randall de Seve, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski (9781328886293)

Beautiful and rich, this picture book is unique and imaginative.

Review: The Epic Adventures of Huggie & Stick by Drew Daywalt

The Epic Adventures of Huggie & Stick by Drew Daywalt

The Epic Adventures of Huggie & Stick by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by David Spencer (9780399172762)

The adventures of Huggie and Stick are told in diary format from each character’s point of view. Stick is an eternal optimist, always seeing the best in every situation. Huggie, on the other hand, is a delight of a pessimist and is regularly complaining and seeing all of the problems surrounding them. As the two friends make their way around the world and visit each continent, readers will delight in the humor on the page and enjoy the way the two points of view show the same voyage from very differing points of view.

Daywalt has a way with humor, creating wonderful timing on each page. He knows when to use plenty of text and other times to let the humor just sit for a moment on the page. The juxtaposition of the two characters is written with flair. Readers may at first be drawn to Stick the optimist but by the end I was entirely in Huggie’s camp as he bore the brunt of the journey. The humor is all the better for the illustrations which show Huggie steadily falling apart on their journey and the ramshackle ways that Stick helps patch him back together.

A journey definitely worth taking, this one would be great to share aloud with elementary-age children. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

2018 Best Poetry Books!

I didn’t manage to read a lot of poetry in 2018, unfortunately. The ones on my list of the Best of 2018 though are worth treasuring:

Can I Touch Your Hair by Irene Latham and Charles Waters For Every One by Jason Reynolds

Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko (9781512404425)

In this book, there is a feeling of safety to explore difficult subjects that the poetry itself creates. – My Review

For Every One by Jason Reynolds (9781481486248)

It is a book about perseverance and resilience, a poem about life, hard knocks and getting up and continuing onward. – My Review

The Horse_s Haiku by Michael J. Rosen Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera

The Horse’s Haiku by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by Stan Fellows (9780763689162)

A stellar book of focused haiku. – My Review

Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (9780763690526)

Rich, memorable and timely, this picture book is something special. – My Review

Seeing into Tomorrow by Richard Wright

Seeing into Tomorrow by Richard Wright, illustrated by Nina Crews (9781512498622)

A dynamic look at one of the top African-American poets of the 21st century, this book of poetry is a celebration. – My Review

Review: Red Sky at Night by Elly MacKay

Red Sky at Night by Elly MacKay

Red Sky at Night by Elly MacKay (9781101917831)

A series of weather-related sayings form the words in this book while also telling the story of a family heading out on a fishing trip for the day. The book begins with sayings like “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight” and “When the dew is on the grass, no rain will come to pass.” They indicate that it’s a great day to head out to fish and camp, so a grandfather takes his grandchildren out. There are sayings about sunset, about the moon, about rain. The next day on their way home though, the weather begins to change. Even the morning begins ominously with a “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.” The little family makes it home before the rain begins, cozy and warm inside.

MacKay takes these sayings and weaves them together in to a story arc that guides young readers through the outdoors and the changing weather. Her illustrations are exceptional. Done with paper, light and photography, she calls them “lightbox illustrations or illuminated papercraft.” Her illustrations have such depth that one almost expects them to be physically layered pages in the book. The light in the illustrations bathes the reader, creating a physical experience of the weather at that moment.

An exceptional picture book about weather and beauty. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: Elvis Is King! by Jonah Winter

Elvis Is King! by Jonah Winter

Elvis Is King! by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Red Nose Studio (9780399554704)

This picture book biography features a perfect match-up of author and illustrator. It tells the story of Elvis’ life from a young boy singing in church and in talent shows to him becoming a star. It is the story of a boy growing up poor with a father in jail and discovering many of life’s joys like gospel music and hamburgers. When the family moves to Memphis, Elvis needs to work to make money to keep them housed and fed. As a teenager, he turns himself into something new, coloring his hair black and adding his trademark hair wax. He falls in love, discovers blues music, and decides to be the biggest star in music. The speed of his journey into stardom is incredible, as he gets more inspiration for his unique music style.

Winter writes with a focused poetic style here, each page a short poem about Elvis’ life. Winter captures the poverty that Elvis is born into without romanticizing it at all. His story is particularly captivating because of how quickly he went from being entirely unknown to being a star. Another fascinating piece of the story is how Elvis realized that he needed to move and shake his hips to be able to sing the way he did.

Red Nose Studio has put their signature style in this book, elevating it into something really special that children will love to explore. There are certain page turns that are particularly effective, like the one where in a single turn of the page Elvis emerges with his well-known look. Red Nose completely captures the way that Elvis moves in their clay figures, something entirely remarkable for a still photograph.

A great pick for libraries, I’d recommend sharing some of Elvis’ music alongside the book. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade.