Freedom Soup by Tami Charles, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara (9780763689773)
Celebrate the New Year in Haitian style with this picture book. It shares the tradition of making New Year’s soup that honors freedom and the end of slavery in Haiti. The soup is made every year by Haitians around the world and this year, Ti Gran is teaching Belle to make it. They turn on Haitian kompa music that sets the beat for their cooking. Herbs are ground in a mortar and pestle with meat then added. A boiled pumpkin is skinned by Belle. More ingredients are added to the pot after being chopped up. Then Ti Gran shares the story of Freedom Soup with Belle and the story of Haitians fighting for their own freedom from slavery. Soon family members come to celebrate freedom and the new year together, feasting on the soup that celebrates their history and traditions.
Charles’ writing has so many wonderful moments inside it. From Ti Gran telling Belle that she has “a heart made for cooking” to her descriptions of Ti Gran’s “dark-sky eyes” and the “pumpkiny-garlic smell” of the soup cooking. She takes the rhythm of the music and reflects that in her words too, so that one can almost hear it playing. The warmth of the kitchen, the beauty of generations working together, and the spirit of freedom all play across these pages.
The illustrations pick up the rhythms of the text and the music with Belle’s braids flying to the beat and her feet moving across the floor. Her sharp edges next to the soft curves of her grandmother make a visual music of their own.
This is a delicious picture book worth celebrating. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.
Cherry Blossom and Paper Planes by Jef Aerts & Sanne te Loo (9781782505617)
Adin and Dina lived on the same farm. The two of them spent long days together picking cherries on the farm and climbing high in the cherry trees. They ate the cherries and kept the pits, planting them around town in the hopes that trees would grow. But then one day, Adin’s family decided to move to the city. Adin moved to an apartment building, far from any cherry trees. Dina gave him a bag of cherry pits to take with him. He spent time creating paper airplanes, loading them with pits and launching them off his balcony. Dina did get to visit once during their year apart. The two of them quickly fell back into being close friends. When spring came, the cherry pits were gone but a path of blooming trees led right back to the farm from the city. A path that just had to be followed.
This Dutch import has a lovely quiet to it. From the quiet friendship spent together in trees eating cherries to the quiet of loneliness for a close friend, all are captured on these pages. The emotions of a friend leaving are captured beautifully too as is the lasting connection between people and places. The writing is superb, celebrating cherries and trees and steadily building to that moment in spring when trees burst into bloom.
The art of this picture book celebrates the countryside and nature. The book captures the seasons with different colors and silhouettes of the trees. The rich green of summer turns to the browns of autumn to the whites of winter and then to a vibrant light green of spring that reaches to the city with its illumination on the page.
A lovely look at a cherry of a friendship. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Floris Books.
Numenia and the Hurricane by Fiona Halliday (9781624149993)
Numenia was born in the Arctic with her two whimbrel sisters. At the autumn equinox, they faced a long migration from the far north all the way to the Caribbean along with thousands of other birds. On their journey they are hit by a hurricane, with winds and rain. Numenia is knocked off course, away from her sisters and the other birds. She finds herself tumbling into a city and landing on a windowsill. She rests there for awhile, but is drawn to fly south once again, only half the weight that she had started at. She flies alone until she gets farther south where she sees other birds and finds her sisters waiting for her.
Based on the true story of a whimbrel who was wearing a tracking device when she ran directly into a tropical storm. The device allowed scientists to see where she stopped to rest, how fast she went, and the impact of the storm on her long migration. She both battled the storm and then used the wind to her advantage and flew even faster with their help. Told in poetic lines, this picture book really explores the drama of the arduous migration that covers half the globe. From tiny chicks to quickly flying long distances, these birds are clearly heroes on our planet, their worlds larger than ours by far.
Halliday’s illustrations are dreamy, filled with downy chicks and feathery birds. She uses the natural settings to create moments of beauty, including the triumphant arrival in the south. The scenes in the city are hard and angular, adding to the drama of Numenia’s fall into the hardscape of the city away from nature.
A poetic and haunting look at migration. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Page Street Kids.
The Children’s Cooperative Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin has announced the 2020 Charlotte Zolotow Award winners. The award is given for outstanding writing in a picture book. Here are the winners:
Johnny’s Pheasant by Cheryl Minnema, illustrated by Julie Flett
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
A Map into the World by by Kao Kalia Yang and illustrated by Seo Kim
Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe
Saturday by Oge Mora
Truman by Jean Reidy and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins
HIGHLY COMMENDED TITLES
Beware of the Crocodile by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura
Daniel’s Good Day by Micha Archer
Goodbye Friend! Hello, Friend! by Cori Doerrfeld
My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero and illustrated by Zeke Peña
One Fox: A Counting Thriller Book by Kate Read
Small in the City by Sydney Smith
The Thing about Bees by Shabazz Larkin
Octopus Stew by Eric Velasquez (9780823437542)
Inspired by her grandson’s picture of Super Octo, his grandmother decides to make octopus stew. So the two set off for the fish market where she gets the biggest octopus in the store. The boy gets a warning about octopi on his phone, but she won’t listen to him. She starts the water and gets out the biggest pot when they get home. As the two sit together in the living room, a strange noise comes from the kitchen. The octopus is now so big that it has blown the lid off the pot! It grabs grandmother and holds on to her. Now it’s up to her grandson to figure out how to get an octopus to let go!
Velasquez has won both a Pura Belpre and a Coretta Scott King John Steptoe Award. Here, he writes a layered story that has a gatefold in the middle where the entire story is revealed to be just that, a tale being told. Cleverly, the book can be read both ways either as a story being shared aloud or as a full-on monster tale. However you choose to read it, the book has brisk pacing and plenty of action. It features a Latinx family with Spanish words and phrases sprinkled throughout the text.
The illustrations offer a dynamic superhero feel that works well, since the main character is a superhero fan. The action is captured with plenty of drama and the size of the octopus is enough to pose quite the threat.
Grab this picture book and squeeze it tight! Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Holiday House.
The Hike by Alison Farrell (9781452174617)
Three girls head out on a hike together. It’s their favorite thing to do. They bring along a notebook, a flag and some feathers. At the beginning, they run as fast as they can, stopping only to eat some thimbleberries. They make leaf baskets to try to bring some berries along with them, but end up eating too much. They get lost, pull out maps and find their way again. They get tired, get carried, and eventually make it all the way to the peak. That’s where they let the feathers go on the wind. Then they head back down and back home.
Farrell captures all of the stages of a hike from the initial burst of energy at being in nature to the discovery of things in the forest to startling deer to making it to your destination after being quite tired by the walk. She adds all sorts of details into her book, offering images and names of some of the most common items children will find on their own hikes. The book ends with images from the notebook brought along on the hike, that show even more information about what the characters have seen and experienced.
The illustrations serve as a merry invitation to join the three friends on their hike. Filled with labels and details, they are worth taking the time to pore over with a child and have discussions about what you may have seen before and what is new. Various animals, plants and birds are labeled on the pages which are also filled with the exuberance and friendship of the three girls as they all take turns leading and solving issues.
Any day is a grand day to take this hike. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
In a Jar by Deborah Marcero (9780525514596)
Llewellyn was a rabbit who loved to collect things in jars. He collected small things from his days like bright yellow leaves in the autumn which would remind him of what he had done and seen. One night when the sunset turned the sky “the color of tart cherry syrup,” Llewellyn went down to the shore with a lot of jars. He gathered the light of the night into his jars and gave one to a girl who came by. Evelyn was amazed to find that the in the jar glowed all night long the color of sunsets. Soon the two of them were gathering all sorts of things in jars like rainbows, the sound of the ocean, and even entire seasons. Their collection got very large, until one day Evelyn’s family moved away. For some time, Llewellyn felt like an empty jar but then he had an idea. He went out one night and collected a meteor shower in a jar and sent it to Evelyn. In turn, she collected the sounds and lights of the big city she now lived in and sent it to Llewellyn. Llewellyn set out on an autumn day to gather a jar for Evelyn and that’s when he met Max, and Llewellyn happened to have a jar for him too.
Marcero sets the tone for this book right from the first page. You simply know that something amazing and magical is about to happen. She does this with simple words that children will easily follow and then also throws in lines like the sky the color of “tart cherry syrup” and “the wind just before snow falls.” Each of these lines creates a beautiful image and moment for the reader, indicating that something special is happening. This continues through the book, reminding readers that it is these moments that make life magical, whether you can bottle them or not.
The art here is tremendously gorgeous. Marcero creates pages of meteor showers, sunsets filled with birds soaring, and entire seasons on two pages that are filled with moments of wonder and amazement, and yet that are also moments we could all have and share. There’s a beautiful tension between the beauty on the page and also the normalcy of it all.
A picture book that shows everyone that these magical moments are there for us all to collect and share. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
Our House Is on Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet by Jeanette Winter (9781534467781)
Greta was a quiet girl living in Stockholm until she learned about climate change. Once she heard a little bit about it at school, she started reading and watching films to learn even more. Greta soon realized that the world was in serious danger of fires, floods, droughts and catastrophic environmental change. She was sad and depressed for a long time, then she decided to go on strike from her school to protest the lack of action on climate. She protested outside the Parliament building every Friday, at first alone and then with other students. Soon children around the world were joining the protests. The quiet girl from Stockholm has become one of the leading young voices for climate change in the world.
Winter makes this book not only about Greta but also about climate change itself. As Greta finds her passion for working on climate, readers learn alongside her about the dangers that climate change brings to the world. As with all of her nonfiction picture book, Winter distills the story of Greta into something digestible by small children. Her pages are full of illustrations with words that explain but never become narrative or overwhelming. Her illustrations are bold and fresh, depicting climate disasters in images on the wall, the dangers to wildlife in Greta’s thoughts, and also the resilience and determination it took for Greta to continue to protest when no one seemed to be listening.
A timely and strong biography about one of the most important people working in climate today. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.
Squeak! by Laura McGee Kvasnosky and Kate Harvey McGee (9780525518150)
When a summer breeze tickles a little mouse’s ear early one morning, an entire cacophony follows. With one loud squeak, the mouse starts the world waking up. The chipmunks wake up, sending a pine cone into the river. The trout jump. The elk bonks into a tree launching the eagle off. The sound of her huge wings wakes the bears, whose growls wake the wolves. The wolves howl waking the bighorn lamb who leaps high. Finally, the bison bellows and all of the other creatures in the area awaken too. Except for one little mouse, who is now asleep.
The author plays with sounds in this book as they ripple across an ecosystem in this nature-focused read. From the small mouse squeak to the huge bison bellow, all of the sounds are unique and interesting. Children listening to the story will love the chance to howl like wolves, leap like trouts, or fly like eagles along the way. The book is filled with a sense of joy and wonder as the series of noises awaken all of the animals.
The art is done in two steps by the two creators, one who did the black lines and the other who colored them in digitally. The result is almost like stained glass. The sense of the glow of morning light carries through all of the illustrations. They are united by a strong feeling of being in a shared place too.
A great read aloud for a group, expect lots of participation. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.