Review: Hum and Swish by Matt Myers

Hum and Swish by Matt Myers

Hum and Swish by Matt Myers (9780823442867)

Jamie spends her time at the edge of the quiet beach near the waves. She is hard at work making something, but she isn’t sure what quite yet. People walk past and ask her pesky questions, but Jamie just wants to be alone with the swish of the waves and her own humming as she works. Then someone else comes to the edge of the water. She has a lot of things along with her and sets up an easel to paint. She starts to work, and Jamie asks her what she is making but the painter isn’t sure yet. Jamie agrees. The two work side-by-side silently with only the hum and swish of their work making noise. Still, they are clearly friends. Finally, Jamie is done with her sandcastle, bridge and creatures made of rocks and objects. The painter is done too and they share their work with one another.

Myers captures the intensity of a young artist who just wants to be left alone to quietly work on their project. The importance of silence and space to think and be creative is emphasized here, along with the need to not explain during the creative process. The simple and limited text in the book is used very successfully to show Jamie’s brisk responses to those who ask her questions and also her connection to the ocean and her kindred spirit.

Myers, who has illustrated several picture books previously, shows great skill in his illustrations here. From the images of Jamie and the ocean together in their isolation to the lovely connection she forms with the painter. There is a strong sense of place, of art and of introversion on the page that is very welcome.

A lovely look at creating art and finding space to be quiet. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: This Beach Is Loud! by Samantha Cotterill

This Beach Is Loud! by Samantha Cotterill

This Beach Is Loud! by Samantha Cotterill (9780525553458)

A little boy is so excited to be headed to the beach with his father! He even made breakfast, packed and got dressed before his father woke up. On the way to the beach, he keeps up an excited chatter. But once they get there, the beach is crowded and loud. They set up their umbrella and towel a little apart from the crowd, but it’s still too sandy and hot. The boy wants to go home, right now! But his patient father helps him breathe and count. They set up a quiet fort and take some time. Soon everyone is ready to build sandcastles and have some ice cream together.

Cotterill looks at sensory overload in this picture book in the new Little Senses series. Children on the autism spectrum or highly sensitive children will recognize their response to new situations that are loud and crowded here. It is dealt with using sensitivity and exercises that are soothing and give back some control to the child. The tone here is reassuring that children can do it, with a little help.

The illustrations are bright and friendly. On the title page, readers will notice that the family has been planning and working up to going to the beach for awhile by using a chart. The noises of the beach are shown as overwhelming and loud, the chatter in the car forms the hills along the way, and the eventual shared noise making is smaller and more enjoyable. It’s a clever way to use words to create the environment around the characters and show the impact of noise.

A welcome subject for all libraries, this one is also a good read. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Waiting for Chicken Smith by David Mackintosh

Waiting for Chicken Smith by David Mackintosh

Waiting for Chicken Smith by David Mackintosh (9781536207712)

A little boy waits for his friend, Chicken Smith, who usually stays at the same beach for the same week in the summer. The boy comes to beach every year and knows it very well, just like Chicken Smith does. Chicken can do all sort of things like ride his rusty bike without any brakes, just using his foot to slow down. As the boy thinks about Chicken Smith and anticipates his arrival, his sister starts to call him, but he is too busy waiting for Chicken to come. He looks forward to spotting whales together like they did last year. But his sister is still calling, so he heads up to the lighthouse to see what she wants. Out in the ocean, they can see a whale together. Maybe Chicken Smith won’t be coming this summer after all. But hanging out with his sister may not be so bad anyway.

This picture book is about a summer friendship and by exploring their connection with one another, the book also shares iconic summer moments at the beach. Finding a buoy, seeing a flying fish, swimming all day. Mackintosh has fully developed the voice of the little boy, who tells the story from his personal perspective. It is his voice that makes the book come alive and that tells of the ache of not knowing when or if a friend will arrive and what that might do to an entire summer vacation.

The illustrations are modern and move from white sand with a clearly hot sun to images of whales swimming in the sea. Macintosh plays with color, using reds, blues and greens to fill some pages while leaving others bleached out.

Ideal summer reading that mixes sunshine fun with summer friendships. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.

 

Review: The Book in the Book in the Book by Julien Baer

The Book in the Book in the Book by Julien Baer

The Book in the Book in the Book by Julien Baer, illustrated by Simon Bailly (9780823442430)

This picture book features three nested books, each smaller than the last. Thomas and his parents are on vacation at the beach in the first and largest book. His parents decide to take a nap and Thomas is bored, so he heads off and explores the beach. When he can’t find his parents, he stops and sits down, noticing a small book abandoned in the sand. He opens it and discovers the story of Thomas who is on vacation with his parents in the snowy mountains. His parents take a nap; Thomas wanders off. Thomas can’t find them and notices a book nearby. When he opens it, he discovers the story of Thomas and his family visiting outer space. Each book ends with Thomas finding his family right near him and as the smaller books close, the reader is once again back in the beach story and the family heads home.

Originally published in France, this book is very unique and exploring it for the first time is a remarkable experience. The nesting of the books physically represents the way that the stories nest together, rather like a Russian nesting doll where the smaller ones are on the inside. Still, in these books the stories get wider ranging as the books shrink down. The text is simple and accessible, feeling almost like a vintage tale until the nesting begins.

The art and book design here are fantastic. The nested books even feel right inside the larger images that form a frame around them. Each book has a cover that represents what is inside it, much like the main cover does with the boy in snow gear reading on a beach under a ringed planet.

Clever and funny, this is a rewarding book to explore. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Holiday House.

3 New Summery Picture Books

Grains of Sand by Sibylle Delacroix

Grains of Sand by Sibylle Delacroix (9781771472050)

Two small children return home from a beach vacation. The little girl notices that her shoes are still filled with sand. When her brother asks her what she will do with them, she decides to plant them in the garden like seeds. Perhaps they will grow into yellow beach umbrellas, or huge pinwheels, or lemon ice cream. They could form a huge sandcastle, big enough to live in. Or best of all, maybe a beach will form at home. Before they can think of more ideas though, it’s time for bed and their father promises another trip to the beach next year. This picture book has a lovely mix of boisterous imaginings and also a steady quietness. The two children dream of what would grow from the grains of sand, thinking together about the possibilities even as they settle in at home. The illustrations are beautifully done in pencil with bursts of blue and yellow, the yellow setting the page aglow. This is a winner of a summer read, just right for bedtime. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Sandcastle That Lola Built by Megan Maynor

The Sandcastle That Lola Built by Megan Maynor, illustrated by Kate Berube (9781524716165)

This summery picture book offers a riff on The House That Jack Built. Lola is busily building a sandcastle on the beach. She makes a tall tower and tops it with a piece of sea glass that will signal the mermaids. But then a kid playing frisbee accidentally knocks her castle down. He stays to help rebuild this time with a wall around the castle to protect it. A little boy pushes a bulldozer into the wall and he stays to help dig a moat around the wall. A girl trips and spills her shells. She stays to build too. But then a wave wipes all of their building away. Lola is ready to quit until the others inspire her to keep on building.

Using the format of The House That Jack Built as a place to build from, this book does not stick solely to that structure. Instead it adds walls, moats, and friendship to the tale, creating a looser storyline. The illustrations are friendly and bright with a diverse cast of children who play together and others who fill the beach in the background. A great book to enjoy with your feet in the sand. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Alfred A. Knopf.)

Summer Supper by Rubin Pfeffer

Summer Supper by Rubin Pfeffer, illustrated by Mike Austin (9781524714642)

Told entirely in words that start with the letter S, this picture book is a celebration of summer, seeds and sunshine. In their garden, a family grows spinach, squash, spuds, strawberries and sunflowers. The story begins with the sowing of the seeds, watering them and the sprouts growing. It moves quickly on to harvest where the vegetables are made into salad and succotash. The night ends with music, cleaning up and bed. And maybe one final snack.

Told in very simple words, the story is accented by “s” words shared right in the illustrations. The book is fast moving which will be welcomed by small children who are eager to see the results of the hard work of gardening. The celebratory nature of the book revolves around the harvest and the family. The illustrations are bright and merry, showing the color of the garden. A yummy book to share throughout the spring, summer and fall. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Random House.)

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins (9780062499684)

Released May 15, 2018.

Newbery-Medal winner Perkins returns with a charming story of a summer vacation on the beach. Alix and Jools are heading out with their parents for their first beach vacation ever. It means leaving Alix’s best friend behind as well as their dog for a whole week. Both Alix and Jools are nervous about the trip, but they soon discover the many pleasures of being on a beach: sandcastles, long walks on the shore, bike rides, a local bakery, and maybe even a new friend. There are also surprises for them like eating periwinkles they gather themselves, seeing horseshoe crabs, and making a connection with a wounded falcon. It’s a week they will never forget and one that they hope to repeat again.

Perkins writes with a light hand for young readers. There is a sense of adventure on the pages and yet the discoveries and experiences are wonderfully mundane and things that children might experience themselves. The two sisters are quite different with Alix being a person who jumps in and tries things and Jools being more mature about things and less likely to take risks. As their vacation week progresses, they both learn that the other sister wishes they had some of the same qualities.

The art in the book breaks the text up nicely for young readers and also invites the reader to better understand what is happening the story. From horseshoe crabs to the landlady to releasing a falcon, the images are sand-filled and merry.

A great summer read for younger readers. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greenwillow Books and Edelweiss.

Over the Ocean by Taro Gomi

Over the Ocean by Taro Gomi

Over the Ocean by Taro Gomi

Released May 17, 2016.

Originally published in Japan in 1979, Gomi has created a timeless picture book that will speak to modern children beautifully. A child is standing on a beach looking over the ocean. The child wonders what is beyond the ocean. Is it more ocean? Perhaps many boats. The land beyond may be filled with farms, or huge cities, or small houses. Children may live in those houses, ones who could be friends or could be bullies. Are there icebergs? Is it night? Or perhaps there is another solitary child looking right back across the ocean.

So simple, this Japanese picture book offers an imaginative look at what is in our world from a child’s point of view. Gomi captures that childlike view perfectly, allowing jumps of attention and new thoughts to create a natural flow to the narrative. The ending is a gorgeous cap to the book, showing throughout that the people on either side of an ocean are more similar than they are different in a subtle way.

The art is filled with deep colors that are so rich they almost bleed on the page. The art is so vibrant, each page anchored by the child looking across the ocean with small waves breaking. It is a place where imagination soars and a journey is made from right there without ever getting wet.

A vibrant picture book from Japan that offers a glimpse of what lays beyond our doors. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

 

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (InfoSoup)

Lucy spent a long time playing at the beach with her mother and father. The three of them played in the waves, dug holes in the sand, and rolled down the dunes. Soon they were all yawning and Mom declared it was a day for early bedtime! As they got ready for bed, everyone was yawning and Lucy’s mom even fell asleep reading the bedtime book. In the middle of the night the moon shone brightly through Lucy’s window and she was suddenly wide awake. She tiptoed out of bed and through the living room where her father was asleep in a chair. Lucy was looking for Molasses, her bear. She found not only Molasses but all of her stuffed animals who all wanted to come with her to bed. Once again everyone was yawning, even the pictures on the wall, as Lucy fell asleep with her bed full of stuffed friends.

Smiley has done a brilliant job of capturing a day at the beach and then the wonder of being awake at night as a small child. She keeps the language simple, so this book can be shared successfully with very small children who will relate to the joy of playing at a beach, the quiet of early bedtime and then the pure loveliness of moonlight, tiptoeing to find a treasured toy and the imagination at play.

Castillo’s illustrations are glorious. She captures the brilliant light of summer sun at a sandy beach, the hours of play, and the languid sleepiness that rolls over you after a day like that. Her illustrations keep the dark night from being dangerous or frightening, instead keeping the house dimly lit and easily navigated. It is much more a delight than a fright to be alone and awake.

A lovely book of celebrating the warmth of both family togetherness and then the joy of being little and awake alone. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Two Lions.

 

 

Review: The Forget-Me-Not Summer by Leila Howland

The Forget Me Not Summer by Leila Howland

The Forget-Me-Not Summer by Leila Howland (InfoSoup)

Marigold, Zinnie and Lily are sisters. They live busy lives in California where Marigold is hoping to have a real kiss for the first time, not one done on set. Zinnie is trying to get her curly wild hair under control and hopes to be able to spend time with Marigold and her friends. Lily is five and wants nothing more than to stay home with her nanny and eat great food. But then their parents get jobs out of town and the sisters are sent to spend the summer with an aunt they have never met across the country in Cape Cod. The three girls suddenly have to share a room with one another, live without a TV, not have cell phone service, and even the internet access is outdated and slow. Marigold is furious at losing a chance to be in a major film and having to spend time with her little sisters. Zinnie finds herself talking to trees for advice and watching for surprises created by special brownies. Lily longs for the food she had at home but also enjoys a good clambake too. Just as things seem to be starting to turn around, parts of California life appear and set everything askew again. These three sisters will have to figure out how to be themselves even when kisses, peer pressure and fame appear.

This book will inevitably be compared to the Penderwicks and rightly so. The sisters have that same spunk about them and the setting offers that timelessness that works so well. Though in this book, the girls chafe against the loss of TV and Internet, struggling to get along with one another. These sisters have fights, that are so well done that you understand both sides of the problem and can take the side of either one. The two older girls in particular both are human and far from perfect. Lily may look angelic but she too can throw tantrums and have horrible days, especially if baths are not negotiated properly.

It is that human quality that makes this book work so very well. The sisters are realistically portrayed and their relationships develop and change right in front of the reader in a way that makes sense. The unknown aunt turns out to be a very special person, kind and caring and someone who is a leader in the Cape Cod community. It’s a treat to see such a great female adult portrayed in a children’s book. One who is strong, enjoys children and gives them plenty of space to learn and grow without being overly odd or incompetent in any way.

A great summer read for fans of The Penderwicks, I’m hoping for another book featuring these girls. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.