Evelyn and Daniela are best friends. Evelyn tries to act like today is just like any other day, but it’s not. Daniela goes across the street to find a big truck getting filled with boxes and their furniture. The two climb the stairs two at a time, the way they always do. They go past Evelyn’s neighbors who they know so well, into the apartment which is a twin of where Daniela lives across the street. The furniture is all packed and just a few boxes are left, so the girls play in an empty box until it is time for Evelyn to go. In the empty apartment they spin together, then discover stickers to share. A heart pressed to a cheek to seal the promise of a future visit together. Then it is time to go, knowing they will always be best friends.
Medina proves here that she can write just as beautifully for preschoolers and elementary age as she does for older readers. Focusing on the long goodbye, this picture book shows how farewells can be done with smiles and promises. Medina invites us into their shared imaginative play, the joy of big empty boxes, the pleasure of hiding from adults together, and finally the sadness of goodbyes. The twinning of the two girls with their similar apartments and attitudes works so well here, showing their connection in a physical way.
Sanchez’s art is glorious. Full of the deepest of colors, saturated reds and oranges, cool blues and greens. They are paired with textures of wallpaper, cardboard corrugations, red bricks, and floorboards. This is an entire world of apartments and friendship.
A great picture book with an empowering final page. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Picky eaters take center stage in this picture book. A young monster is disinterested in all of the delicacies his parents keep bringing out of the kitchen. To each one, he replies with “nerp or nerpy nerp” in refusal. His parents make more and more different options, but he doesn’t want anything. Until, suddenly he is clearly slurping food off the page. His parents are delighted at first, until it’s clear that he’s munching pet food. With a blurp, he finishes eating, with the pet finally getting what they have been drooling over all along, the food for the child!
This picture book invents its own language, full of nerps, yerps, schmerps and blurps. Each of the types of food is wildly named too but in a way that makes it wonderful to say it all aloud: Hotchy-potch, mushy gush bloobarsh, picklefishy verp, yuckaroni smackintosh. Each one is a dance on the tongue that will have children laughing along.
The illustrations are digital drawings done over photographs of cardboard models. They have a marvelous three-dimensional quality to them with furniture, rugs, and an entire house. They are engagingly unique and also bright and humorous too.
Perfect for reading aloud, maybe just before snacks. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Mama greets the little girl who narrates this story when she comes down early in the morning. The others are still sleeping on the rainy morning. They decide to head outside into the rain together. First they must get ready with drinks from their cups, teeth brushing, showers and hair combing. Then it’s time for breakfast and barrettes in their hair. They head out into the rainy morning with boots, umbrellas and raincoats. Max, the dog, doesn’t need any of those things. Together they sing and splash. In the evening, there are stories, laughter and cozy blankets that lead to dreams filled with moments from their day together.
My summary above skims the surface of this picture book that deeply explores the relationship of mother and daughter. Cabrera deftly uses language to explain the connection between these two: “I want to be everywhere Mama is.” She also uses lovely comparisons by the little girl who looks at their boots, hair, laugh and other elements of their day and sees how similar and different they are. It’s a beautiful look at the small pieces of our days that create such deep connectivity.
Cabrera’s art is done in acrylics, illustrations that are filled with deep bright colors that glow on the page. They too reveal the connections between the characters, deepening them even further than the words can.
A marvelous mother and daughter book. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Little Fox by Edward van de Vendel & Marije Tolman (9781646140077)
Little fox is chasing two butterflies because they are purple. He runs so quickly that he doesn’t notice the ground falling away and takes a horrible tumble. He lands hard and starts to dream. It’s a dream about his life from when he was a very small baby to growing up with his brothers and sisters. It’s a dream of smells, of mice and deer, of wind and water. Daddy Fox warns Little Fox not to be so curious but he can’t help but wonder about the little human with the camera. It turns out that that little human saves Little Fox from getting his head stuck in a jar. Then after his terrible fall, the little human arrives just in time to save Little Fox one more time.
While some might read the description above as a cautionary tale, this book doesn’t take that tone at all. Instead it celebrates the small things in life, a mother’s love, a father’s attention, siblings, food, and exploration. Throughout there is a feeling of joy and marvel, such as the memory of licking drops of water off of a deer’s nose. The book is also peppered with smaller moments, blackberries, birds, and orange balls.
The illustrations are unique and ethereal. Using photographs to create her landscapes, which are then depicted in vibrant orange or cool teal, Tolman places her characters in them with precision. Other pages are done on creamy paper where the landscapes and characters are drawn. Still others play on the white background of the pages.
This European import is quiet and profound. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from egalley provided by Chronicle Books.
This is the third book in the Over and Under series that explores ecosystems with children. The young narrator hikes into the rain forest with Tito, their guide. They discover the hidden world in the canopies of the trees, filled with monkeys, insects and birds. They cross a rope bridge that sways above the sleep crocodiles in the river. As they get higher, they see monkeys swing in the trees. Sloths ignore the rain as it starts to fall while blue morpho butterflies take shelter on the tree trunks. Everywhere there is life, small and large, predator and prey. The two people make it home for dinner, as darkness falls.
Messner creates a story that wraps the reader in the experience of walking through a rain forest. Every page offers new animals, the sound of rain, the sway of the bridges. She shows it all with such wonder and fascination that one can’t read the book without also getting curious and wanting to learn more. She offers that in her Author’s Note as well as providing more information on the animals in the book.
Neal’s art is vibrant and beautiful, showing the play of light through the huge trees. He depicts each of the animals, some well known and others that will be new to the reader. As fog descends in the book, it fills the pages creating mystery and beauty.
A journey worth taking. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Chronicle Books.
Open Bud Ranch is a place that took in all kinds of animals. When Jack the goat first arrived, it was clear to all of the other animals that Jack liked his space. But Charlie the horse didn’t even see Jack, since he was getting used to being only able to see from one of his eyes. After getting stepped on, Jack made sure to keep an eye on Charlie at all times. That’s when he noticed that he and Charlie liked a lot of the same things like sunlit pastures and smelling the honeysuckle. But Charlie often got turned around and had to move really slowly. One day, Jack decided to help and led Charlie to the best place to graze and then down to the river. Soon the two went everywhere together. Then Charlie lost the sight in his other eye, leaving him entirely blind. Jack still liked his space, so when a storm blew in, Charlie left the warm barn to protect Jack from the rain. After an argument, Charlie got in an accident and that left Jack the only one to save him, even though it meant talking to the others on the farm.
Levis offers a rich story arc in this picture book that tells a full tale and also manages to be a great read-aloud. The tale of these two unlikely friends is based on the true story of Charlie and Jack. The book gently shows that animals have value even if they aren’t technically productive in a farming sense, and that they have emotions and the ability to help one another when they are in need.
Santoso’s illustrations beautifully show the farm with glowing pages of sunlit pastures. He moves easily into action and drama as the story demands it with the same animals distraught or scared. The illustrations capture the personalities of Charlie and Jack.
An engaging and warm look at animal rescue and friendship. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.
This preschool-friendly picture book explores the basics of bird watching. There are many ways to find a bird, such as offering seeds. Sometimes you may need to blend in, such as near a pond. Being very quiet is also key. Birds aren’t just flying in the sky, they are also down on the ground foraging. Birds also eat, swim and wade in the water. Sometimes it can take having good eyes to detect a hidden bird. And of course, looking up at telephone wires and trees is a good idea too. Putting up feeders and bird houses helps and lets you watch birds right from your window. But the best way of all to find a bird is to close your eyes and listen for their song.
Told in the simple language, this picture book invites readers to enter nature and look for birds. With various birds on the pages, the book offers examples of different birds and their habitats. The text is encouraging, showing readers how easy it is to find birds all around them and become a bird watcher themselves. The author’s note at the end of the book offers more tips for bird watching, encouraging using a field guide and creating your own list of birds you have spotted. It also mentions becoming a Citizen Scientist and helping with bird counts.
The illustrations are key in this book, showing various birds on the pages nicely labeled. The images are bold and colorful, filled at times with a myriad of birds and other times with birds the reader must spot. The pictures invite conversation and discovery.
A merry introduction to birds and bird watching just right for preschoolers. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Beach Lane Books.
This nonfiction picture book is about the life and music career of Blind Willie Johnson. The book begins with the fact that Willie Johnson’s music was sent into space on Voyager I in 1977. The year then turns to Johnson’s birth in 1897. Johnson was a musician from a young age when he could still see, losing his sight around age eight. Music continued for him in church choir and changing gospel songs to the blues. Grown up, Johnson traveled Texas by train, performing on the street corner and in churches. Eventually, a man from a record label heard him and his first record sold thousands of copies. Time passed and one of those songs launched into the darkness of space.
Golio keeps his text tight and brief, giving young readers plenty of opportunity to witness the remarkable gift of music that took a man from being a blind child to making a record that made history. Written in the second person speaking directly to Johnson, the book has the feel of a gift laid before him as well as being a reminder to young people of what hard work and skill can create in your life.
Lewis’ illustrations are remarkable. Done in watercolor they are filled with light, yellows glowing, stars shining, and hope emerging on each page. There are several great images of Johnson in the book, playing is guitar in each.
Make sure to listen to “Dark Was the Night” while reading this with children. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Nancy Paulsen Books.