Category: Picture Books

Fresh-Picked Poetry by Michelle Schaub

Fresh-Picked Poetry by Michelle Schaub

Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmer’s Market by Michelle Schaub, illustrated by Amy Huntington (9781580895477, Amazon)

Through a series of poems, take a visit to the farmer’s market. From the early work done by farmers long before their customers are awake to the market itself, this book celebrates one of the joys of summer. There are poems about how markets transform empty parking lots, the displays of heaped produce, the friendly sharing of samples, tempting baked goods, and the feeling of community that markets bring. It’s also a collection that celebrates the food too, the freshness of the produce and the bounty that people bring home.

Schaub very successfully has captured the summer joy of farmer’s markets across the country. One can hear the bustle and busyness of the market, captured in her poetry. Throughout there is a sense of humor and immense pleasure at what the market provides beyond the food itself. The poetry has a lightness that reflects the feel of summer and sunshine.

Huntington’s illustrations are equally bright and sunny. She incorporates people of a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures in her images, making sure to fully celebrate communities in her images. She also cleverly weaves a story in her images with a loose dog who adds to the energy of the day.

A fresh and vibrant look at farmer’s markets that is perfect zest to a summer day. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Still a Family by Brenda Reeves Sturgis

Still a Family by Brenda Reeves Sturgis

Still a Family by Brenda Reeves Sturgis, illustrated by Jo-Shin Lee (9780807577073, Amazon)

This important picture book shows how a family who is experiencing homelessness continues to foster connections that demonstrate their love for one another. The little girl who narrates the book must stay in one shelter with her mother while her father stays at a different one. They sleep on cots among other people and the little girl must share her doll with the other children there. Sometimes they meet her father in the park to spend time together, though most of the time her parents are out looking for work and taking turns watching her. They have to stand in line to get food and celebrate holidays even though they are apart. It’s hard but they are still a family.

This book offers a gentle way to explain homelessness to children. It shows what life is like living in the shelter, how family members are separated from one another, and how difficult it is to live in this way. This is one of those important books that serves as a window for some children but also as a mirror for those living with homelessness. Throughout the young narrator shares her positive outlook despite the challenges.

The illustrations by Lee are childlike and explore seeing the subject from the point of view of the little girl. They have a rough quality to them and have the feel of being drawn by colored pencils and crayons.

An important book for urban libraries, this picture book fills a need in many of our communities. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Short Stories for Little Monsters by Marie-Louise Gay

Short Stories for Little Monsters by Marie-Louise Gay

Short Stories for Little Monsters by Marie-Louise Gay (9781554988969, Amazon)

A series of cartoons make up these short stories for children. The stories are so short that most of them take up only a page or two. They are very short stories about imagination, becoming invisible (maybe), and whether there are sharks in the water. Other stories are about the speed of snails, the wonder of worms and the secret powers of mothers. In each story, children are the stars and they are busy asking questions, making messes and being creative.

Gay is the author of Any Questions? and it has the same energy of that book. In this newer book there is less of a focus, giving lots of opportunity to find something that captures your attention or makes you think differently. The children are questioning, sometimes rather naughty and easy to relate to. They make messes and figure things out. Readers will love the running snail jokes and the sharp humor.

Thanks to its comic-book format, the book is more for elementary-aged children than preschoolers. It may actually do better in your children’s graphic novels and find the right audience there. The illustrations have a dynamic feel to them, capturing children running, playing and creating. The loose lines add to the playful nature of the entire book.

A welcoming book of super short stories that is sure to appeal. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz

Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz

Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith (9781554988716, Amazon)

In a coal town in Cape Breton, Canada, a boy wakes up to a summer day. He wakes to the sound of the sea, spends some time with his friends. Still, his mind continues to think of his father mining for coat deep under the sea in the darkness. He runs errands for his mother and visits his grandfather’s grave which looks out over the sea. His grandfather too was a coal miner and the boy knows that it is his future as well.

Schwartz has created a book set in the 1950s in a coal town where families worked in the mines for generations. Even as the book shows a richness of a well-spent childhood, it is overshadowed by the presence of the coal mine in the boy’s life and how it impacted his family and his father in particular. She wisely works to contrast life above the ground with that below, showing a childhood of fresh breezes and sunlight that will turn into a life spent primarily in darkness.

Smith’s illustrations clearly depict the claustrophobia of the mines, filling the page with smothering darkness and only a couple of men in a tunnel. This contrasts with his illustrations of days spent near the sea, sometimes the sun nearly blinding as it shines off the water. There is a sense of the inevitable in the book, of life paths already formed.

A glimpse of Canadian history, this picture book will appeal to older readers. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Carpenter by Bruna Barros

The Carpenter by Bruna Barros

The Carpenter by Bruna Barros (9781423646761, Amazon)

In this wordless picture book, a little boy is playing with his electronic device. His father works near him on a carpentry bench. Suddenly, the little boy is distracted by the zigzag folding ruler that his father has been using. He imagines at first that it is a snake hissing at him, but is soon building with it by folding it into shapes. He creates a house, a car, a large tree, an elephant and even a whale! When the whale spouts water that floods the floor, his father saves him by pulling him up onto the table and into the boat that he’s been building. Now they can float safely and the ruler can become the sail.

Barros embraces the nature of children at play in the modern world by capturing the little boy’s love of digital devices at the very beginning. The ruler though sparks new creativity in the boy, allowing his imagination to guide him through all sorts of playful ideas. The wordless format also invites readers to use their imaginations to fill in the story. The bright pictures have a great graphical nature to them that has a strong boldness.

As a child I managed to break my share of zigzag rulers, so I completely understand their appeal. This book is filled with imagination for children and memories for us older folks. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Little Wolf’s First Howling by Laura McGee Kvasnosky

Little Wolf's First Howling by Laura McGee Kvasnosky

Little Wolf’s First Howling by Laura McGee Kvasnosky, illustrated by Kate Harvey McGee (9780763689711, Amazon)

Little Wolf and his father head to the top of a hill for Little Wolf’s first try at howling at the moon. They watch as night falls and then Big Wolf demonstrates how it is done with a pure AAAAAAOOOOOOO. Little Wolf goes next, trying to imitate his father. But he can’t help but share his joy at it being his first howling as part of it with an “I’m hoooowling!” Big Wolf tells him that he started well but the ending was not proper form and demonstrates again. This time Little Wolf starts well again but soon adds his own interpretation. Once more Big Wolf demonstrates and again Little Wolf does his own things, this time getting his father’s paws to tap along. Soon the two of them are joining together in Little Wolf’s way of howling.

Kvasnosky’s text is simple and friendly. It will invite young listeners to howl along, so expect to fill your own space with lots of howling. As Little Wolf comes into his own in his personal way of howling, children will love the rhythms and jazzy nature of his voice. There is a great relationship between father and son in this book, a sense of patience emanates from Big Wolf while a wild playfulness exudes from Little Wolf.

McGee’s illustrations are done in gouache relief and capture the vibrancy of nature at dark. They are sprinkled with starlight and light from the moon. The medium also has lots of darkness and texture, creating its own shadows and organic qualities that add to the experience.

A howling good time, this picture book will be a pleasure to share aloud to your own group of little wolves. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Niko Draws a Feeling by Bob Raczka

Niko Draws a Feeling by Bob Raczka

Niko Draws a Feeling by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Simone Shin (9781467798433, Amazon)

Niko loves to draw. He carries paper and colored pencils with him all the time because he is always finding new inspiration. But he doesn’t draw like other people. If he draws the ice cream truck, he’s actually trying to capture the sound of its bell. Instead of drawing the sun, he draws the feeling of it on his face. The image he makes of the robin building her nest is of the hard work, not the robin or the nest. No one seems to understand his pictures at all. But then he meets Iris, a new girl, who can understand the feelings he is showing on the page.

In his text, Raczka really shows how the mind of young artist works and the different way in which Niko sees and experiences and depicts his world. There is a feeling of isolation when people can’t see what he is trying to convey in his art. That moment soon passes though when Iris can connect with the art that Niko has created. There is a real heart to this book, shown through Niko himself and his connection to the world.

Shin’s illustrations help readers understand Niko better and the art too. Children will want to discuss what they feel when they see the abstract swirls of Niko’s art. Shin also shows a vibrant and bustling urban community where Niko gets all of his inspiration. Done in mixed media, digital and acrylics, the illustrations have a solidity that supports the looser illustrations that are Niko’s.

A welcome look at artistic process and imagination, this picture book also is about finding kindred spirits. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.